Well meaning people still say unnecessary things
By Matthew Fraser, Opinions Editor
These decisions are not meant to be dragged into the political arena at all. If anything, the fact that this has become such a political divide should be evidence of the hubris of those who feel they must use the government to control others.
By now, most people have seen that there are certain things you just can’t talk about.
Many high-profile cancellations have made it clear that certain ideas are considered unacceptable or at least hazardous to one’s career. When JK Rowling tweeted her now infamous comments on transgenderism this was documented by the media response and fan backlash. Mario Lopez was roundly criticized and condemned for his skeptical comments about children transitioning and Richard Dawkins has recently had his “Humanist of the Year” award stripped for comments he made on the same subject. Clearly, this is a conversation where one side is seen as right and humane and the other is wrong if not evil.
But in the process of rushing forward to defend and always protect against the truly hateful attacks against transgender people, it seems the movement has run full tilt in the opposite direction with little regard legitimate caution. Despite this, I have noticed a strange but not at all disheartening thing: there are people who don’t quite agree with the parameters of this conversation though they fully support transgender rights. For some people, kids are just too young to decide on their own as these decisions are too permanent and should not be rushed. This is usually said not with malice but with a somewhat confused air of good will. For a lot of people who have not dedicated time to this debate it’s almost bewildering that someone would say otherwise. Though I have been following the debate for awhile now, I was almost always one of those people who could never shake the unease that things were going too fast.
However, it was not the science or the statistics that forced a shift in my opinion, it came from reading the stories of transgender people recounting their youth and coming of age. I was struck not so long ago by the story of Abby Stein. Stein grew up an ultraorthodox Hasidic Jew in New York; her upbringing was so strict that she did not learn English until the age of 20 despite living in New York her whole life. In a column for the BBC, she recalled a prayer that she used to recite as a child before bed saying: “Holy creator, I’m going to sleep now and I look like a boy. I am begging you, when I wake up in the morning, I want to be a girl.” Clearly, no one can know the totality or diversity of human experiences, but I never really got what was meant by “born in the wrong body” until I read that. The concept of rejecting the physical manifestation of yourself never quite seemed real to me until the image was displayed in such a simple way.
The tragedy of the circumstance was further displayed by a recent Redfish Stream mini documentary on Kenya Cuevas. In it, Cuevas recounts the abuse she suffered at the hands of her own family, driving her into homelessness at the age of nine. She recounts becoming a sex worker the following year and contracting HIV by the age of 13. As she grew older, she began to make close connections with other transgender sex workers and was present at the murder of one of her closest friends. Again, it’s clear to me that experiences of others are almost totally unknowable, but they are certainly no less real.
As I watched the ongoing political developments south of the border, I was shocked to find myself agreeing with Republican governor Asa Hutchinson after he vetoed an anti-trans bill. In an interview with conservative firebrand and Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson, Hutchinson defended his veto by saying that the state need not be involved with the medical decisions concerning a family as Carlson pushed and cajoled, Hutchinson held firm against the accusation that his choice was unconservative. Ultimately (and I’m likely late to this conclusion), Hutchinson is right.
It’s not up to those uninvolved to throw our hats in the ring and demand speaking time. At best, we are only required to consider someone else’s story and protect their freedoms. We need not approve or even argue our disapproval; we can feel whatever, but it was never our choice to begin with. These decisions are not meant to be dragged into the political arena at all. If anything, the fact that this has become such a political divide should be evidence of the hubris of those who feel they must use the government to control others.
Just a few weeks ago, Vancouver was host to a rally decrying transgender rights led by former MP Derek Sloan and the People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier. Though I understand the ideas of the recent protestors here in this city, their goals seem less to do with protecting children, and more to do with bludgeoning the opposing ideolog. Simultaneously, in a horrifying misuse of power, a Florida law proposed genital inspections to prevent transgender children from competing in sports with similar laws being proposed in other Conservative-led states. Any proposition that requires an official to inspect children’s genitalia for sporting events can’t be seen as anything but disgusting. Still, people should be able to say that which they wish no matter how disagreeable it may be, however, using the government to push these acts must remain out of bounds.
Unfortunately, for society to work we must tolerate a level of intolerance despite are strongest urges not to. I doubt that this debate will cease to be any less contentious anytime soon, but its worth at least separating the truly transphobic from the well-meaning expressing concerns where they have no involvement. We may never be able to get a consensus on this issue but moving it out of the political arena will likely be the best we can hope for.