Signal boosting: Some red flags in trans issue “debates”

I’ve not had the spoons to dive into anti-trans nonsense as of late, so I’ve been plundering the interwebs for trans commentators who have. I recently discovered Singularly Bizarre, a blog that has discussed Jesse Singal at length. The author is considerably wordier than I am (and that’s saying something) but they’ve also documented a pretty thorough inventory of well-cloaked dishonesty employed by anti-trans pundits.

One in particular I’ll signal boost is the tendency to start a conversation about trans children, and then make the illogical leap to discussing surgery. Undermining this trope–which does crop up a lot in Singal’s work–is this basic fact: No trans kids qualify for surgery under the prevailing standards of trans healthcare set out by the Worldwide Professional Association of Transgender Health. In fact, if we want to talk about subjecting children to “mutilation,”* we ought to be discussing the egregious human rights violations enacted on intersex children virtually everywhere in the world.

Yes, it’s this peculiar double standard that should immediately be recognized as a red flag. The idea of trans people voluntarily seeking changes to our body seems to reliably get a chorus of hoary-throated screams, but when you point out that the one of the epidemics of genital mutilation happening to children in mature Western democracies is on intersex children and infants, you get nothing but crickets.

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Signal boosting: Interesting critique of hate crime legislation

I adore much of Sam Hope’s work, and recently encountered an old post of theirs where they gave some cogent critiques of hate crime legislation. Unlike reactionary dingleberries who literally complain that the law theoretically acknowledges specific and targeted forms of violence, Hope makes a number of complex points highlighting minorities’ relationship with media representation as well as our elevated rates of incarceration. It’s a refreshing break from the standard “we’re already equal” bullshit apologists for the status quo spew out that still points out flaws in the logic behind hate crime legislation.

We know that many marginalised minorities are over-represented in the prison population. For trans people this is no different, and the reasons are complex and multi-layered. Trans people suffer disproportionately from poor mental health which is directly related to lack of social support, discrimination, poor healthcare, poor housing, unemployment and psychological trauma. Trans people are less likely to be in employment, and more likely to be harassed or discriminated against at work. Trans people are even more likely than other LGBT people to become homeless or be poorly or vulnerably housed. Massive health inequality was recently flagged up in the Government’s Transgender Equality Inquiry as a major issue for the trans community. As with many oppressed communities, drug and alcohol abuse are issues within our community. Some of our medicines, if not prescribed to us, are considered class C drugs, and of course some of us in desperation turn to illegal markets for the drugs we need. Trans people are more likely to live in poverty. Trans people are more likely to find opportunities through sex work when there is a lack of other opportunity, and when we are sexualised and objectified. Trans people are more likely to experience sexual abuse and sexual exploitation. Trans people’s experience of domestic violence is disproportionately high. We are often, as with other LGBT people, considered the aggressors if we defend ourselves against attack, simply because people look on us with prejudice.

So, like most other minorities, we are thought to be over-represented in the prison system, and we might not always feel that prison is the answer in the way others who have never brushed with the law might feel. And we might not feel safe and trusting to approach the police. We might not expect a fair hearing. We don’t always act like the model minority and our sometimes messy lives may invite more judgement than sympathy.

Read more here.

Peter Boghossian: “Critical thinking” apparently means “pretend this field of study doesn’t exist”

Hands up:  Who thought atheism needed another arrogant atheist douchebro who cloaks himself in rationality and then proceeds in a spit-flecked rant rife with fallacious reasoning to tell us we are irrational about stuff?

Peter Boghossian raves about “Gender studies professors” who “are pumping out complete bullshit” in Areo Magazine, producing something resembling less of an argument and more of a rancid onion. And for some fucking reason, I’m feeling masochistic enough to peel back the layers of entitled manbaby whinging. Tears to ensue.

One would think that an example of critical thinking would explicitly identify the premises of a presented argument, compare peer-reviewed literature to see whether the premises are accurate, and use formal logic to determine if the conclusion is sound. But Boghossian’s rant is devoid of any particular specifics–aside from quoting one of Jordan Peterson’s critics–and on top of that he has the gall to represent himself as some kind of model freethinker. The problem is that the sort of freethought that lacks any resemblance to reality is the sort of “freethought” we’d expect to see from mushroom-tripping hippies reacting to psychedelic phantoms rather than what’s in front of them.

Compare, for instance, how Boghossian opens up his interview with some pontificating on critical thinking:

Malhar Mali: What in your opinion is the best way of fostering critical thinking when it comes to religious and supernatural beliefs?

Peter Boghossian: I think the whole way we’ve taught critical thinking is wrong from day one. We’ve taught, “Formulate your beliefs on the basis of evidence.” But the problem with that is people already believe they’ve formulated their beliefs on evidence — that’s why they believe what they believe. Instead, what we should focus on is teaching people to seek out and identify defeaters.

What is a defeater? A defeater is:

IF A, THEN B, UNLESS C.

All of which is sound epistemology…

Then, minutes later, Boghossian expels this adorable piece of absolute claptrap:

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Transition Reactions p14: You need therapy

I still haven’t quite adjusted to the realization that trans rights discourse is so primitive at this stage that some of the most blatantly fucking obvious statements perpetrated in this conversation are treated as “serious points of debate.” One of these is the appallingly clueless “You need therapy,” and it’s ableist cousin “you’re just messed in the head.” It is, in my estimate, the strongest predictor of a fruitless conversation, because anyone who thinks trans folk don’t receive therapy hasn’t bothered to check their most basic assumptions which distort their opinion.

Join me as we run through the gamut of my healthcare process to illustrate why the assumption underlying the response “you need therapy” is an observation as asinine as “you have skin.”

Step one: I need to figure out I’m trans

In order to access any kind of gender related care, I first have to know I need it. In the absence of comprehensive vocabulary, many of us gender variant folk are really confused and disgruntled, which often compels us to seek–wait for it–therapy. If we’re lucky, the therapist might lift the fog and say “you have some gender identity problems,” and either address them or refer us to someone who can, at which point our pre-existing questioning starts to gain traction.

Step two: I have to convince my general practitioner or existing therapist I’m trans

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Labels as relational

Something struck me last week when I was doing my Trans Sex Ed presentation for ASPECC. In order to make sure everyone was on the same page I had to start by making sure the word “transgender” was clear. Ultimately I think this is one area that could turn into an entire presentation itself, because the more I thought about it the more I realized this was a topic that could run deep.

I’ll illustrate with some other identity labels of mine: atheist. I mean, that’s a given on a freethought network, right? But I also live in this progressive little urban bubble where people are largely indifferent to religion. My coworkers, my boss, my previous landlord. Nobody cared. If I had been “outed” as an atheist, I think fuck all would have happened. People would’ve shrugged and moved on. People have shrugged and moved on.

In terms of importance or relevance to me, personally, that makes my relationship with atheism weak at best. I don’t often do posts about the epistemology of the Christian god, mostly because I consider the matter settled, and so do enough people in my life that it’s just not an important question anymore. So I mean, sure, I’m an atheist. And yes, I’ll accept that label because it’s accurate. But no, it isn’t the sort of thing that actually gets the people around me to respond differently, so its relevance is negligible, as long as I do my homework and steer clear of traveling to, say, Iran.

Being trans, on the other hand. Well, every asshole on the internet has a strong opinion. No PhD in gender variance, mind, or even a passing attempt to actually read the research they claim supports their position, but hot-damn does being transgender carry a significant gravity to it, drawing in dickheads and assholes in orbit like some kind of black hole hurdling through a solar system. If were talking about labels in terms of their importance to other people, then hells yes, “transgender” is a heavy and influential label indeed.

So I arrive to a different use of labels altogether, one that doesn’t involve describing my relationship with myself, but one that describes the world’s relationship to meFramed like that, it contextualizes things like how my personal, morally neutral choices such as my clothing or grooming is suddenly subject to public debate on whether I’m reinforcing feminine stereotypes or just doing the trans thing for attention. Now it makes sense to take up the label transgender, not because I may or may not want to grow my hair long, but because a choice of such minimal relevance to other people’s lives is somehow granted importance through some invasive and kindy creepy entitlement to know every detail about my body. An entitlement that is present because of the world’s relationship with being “transgender.”

If I lived in a post transphobia society, I imagine I would feel about my gender identity the same way I do about my religious identity: Meh. Something to be acknowledged and make a few changes to make things comfy, but not the sort of sordid public spectacle that it is now.

The only reason trans issues ranks so highly is because of the damage these hamfisted attempts at policy writing cause, ensuing upon discovery of our existence. That’s a relationship I don’t want denied, how I’m some kind of walking-talking time-bomb for all the comfortable assumptions people make about gender. I may not particularly care about being trans, personally, but I think you’d have an incomplete picture of what it’s like as a cis person to be a trans person if you didn’t comprehend how much mutually contradictory bullshit we’re put through.

Thus, even if you personally don’t have a strong relationship with your gender identity–which is only natural, because nobody reacts to it–you could accept cisgender as a label for those circumstances and that relationship, the same way I accept the label atheist despite living in a peaceful bubble of religious irrelevance. It’s not any kind of commentary on you. It’s more of a commentary on your circumstances. Less of an identity unto itself and more taking stock on the relational behaviour of those around you. How, for instance, nobody has asked you about your genitals, or what your “real name” is. Or, perhaps the most salient to our current political climate, sex-segregated spaces are a no-brainer for you where they reliably get a trans person to start sweating under the collar.

This sidesteps the entire issue of trying to communicate what you do or do not feel, not that the people dismissing gender dysphoria as “just” feelings are the sorts of good-faith commentators who’d actually listen to my alternative (hey, there’s another relationship to describe between trans people and our environments: We’re “just” feeling a certain way, but you? You’re taken for-granted). I don’t have to share any kind of deeply personal struggle with my body. In fact, I can point out that the curiosity for said struggle perhaps better defines my existence as a trans woman than does the struggle itself!

Food for thought. What do you think?

-Shiv

The Vultures of False Equivalency Descend

I really shouldn’t be surprised that even the much beloved Humans of New York decided it was Trump supporters who needed to be humanized in the wake of at least ~700 hate crimes committed since Nov 8.

 

Okay, so, I have some thoughts.

Commentators rushed forth to declare that the working class had been unheard, and that this justified the package deal that came with Trump. The mistake is immediately apparent: “Class issues” has never and will never be separable from the minority’s struggle, as if the middle class somehow has a monopoly on “economic anxiety.”

Poverty manifests in discrimination and it’s minorities of all stripes who are disproportionately represented in the working class–the ungainful labour kind. Marxist analysis is critically useful here: No picture painted merely with the “economic anxiety” brush is complete unless it acknowledges that no member of the proletariat is immune to it, and no proletariat’s struggle is without this anxiety. That includes the weird proletariat.

Of course the proletariat has gone unheard. That’s what the bourgeoisie do, their entire raison d’etre, is to effortlessly coast through life on the backs of the silent. And when you start to smarten up about who is on the other end of the leash, they throw a juicy bone to their shock troops–the middle class, the still-proletariat-but-with-extra-bones–to distract us. Those men bring women with them. And so it goes.

The problem isn’t merely that we are in this position–it’s that the shock troops will accept their mistreatment at the hands of the handlers as long as they keep getting juicy bones, or at least more juicy bones than we do. So along comes someone like me, a Marxist, a feminist, a queer trans woman, and she says “your handler starves you to trick you into thinking its bones are generous.”

How many handlers will take that for an answer? Their juicy bones are at stake! Sure, I could point out that he has the supply of bones and us hounds could take them for ourselves, change the system so they are not given to us at the whim of our handlers. But that terribly inconveniences the handlers, so they wave a bone, point at me, and command “sic em!”

Two problems solved at once. The uppity Marxist is too preoccupied with the snarling in her face, and the hound who might’ve won some dangerous ideas is enticed by the bone in his immediacy. No vision or foresight to question from whence the bone comes.

There needn’t be any discussion of class struggle without minorities. They are inextricably linked. If this is truly your chief concern, however, you will need to abandon any benefits you receive to be the bourgeoisie’s shock troops. You’ll never be one of them, but they’ll tempt you by offering you superiority over someone else. The rest. The other. Enough of you will take that bait, dooming us all to try and survive the infighting while our handlers gorge themselves on fat and meat, chuckling as they prepare the next bones to throw to us. It means putting away the petty hatreds, the racisms and homophobias and transphobias. No, it’s not symmetrical. We weren’t ever the shock troops to begin with, at least not to any appreciable scale, because by definition as minorities we did not have enough bodies to fill out a legion.

This is what I referenced when I said reactionaries didn’t need to benefit from humanization. They’re the pup willing to take an extra bone to kill us. They’re willing shock troops for the bourgeoisie. Sure, some of them are insecure, or at least feel that way, and some may even try to feel bad about being told to attack you. But we would be making a mistake not to recognize the capacity for distraction in the systemic nature of discrimination the rich tolerate and perpetrate. This, in my experience, is the more common reaction. If you can corner a “not sexist/racist” Trump supporter and drill to the core of their issue, they’ll inevitably parrot out something about jobs. And what about jobs of the black in their midst? The gay, the queer, the non-Christian? Who will be awarded our jobs once discrimination is legalized by “religious freedom”–yet another bone for their shock troops?

Why do you accept this dilemma when it is our handlers that deprived us of the nourishment we need to begin with?

Why have you accepted the lie that there aren’t enough bones to go around, even though you can clearly see them stuffed in your handler’s pocket?

Have you no ambition?

-Shiv

Vocabulary’s got nothin’ to do with it

Content Notice: Victim blaming, trans-antagonism, reclamation of t-word slur

Perhaps it was good fortune that I caught a bug and started drowning in my lungs. I recognized earlier this week that I was very tense from working back-to-back for such a protracted period of time and even though I earmarked some time this weekend to unwind, my body decided an illness was needed earlier to get me back on my ass. During this time I’ve had a lot to fret over regarding the fragile and precarious place trans people are in, as a community, and I’m fairly certain only some of it was a fever dream. I don’t know if this marks my “return” proper, since my schedule is supposed to be daily, but I nonetheless feel compelled to say something in the interim.

Previously our struggle as trans folk was chiefly defined by a life of falling through the cracks. We existed in a constant gray area, largely omitted from laws and policies both good and bad. This omission created structural barriers that denied us access to the machinery of prosperity that Western democracies supposedly enjoy, leaving many of us to survival sex work or chronic poverty in underemployment. In essence, it used to be somewhat inaccurate to call us “second-class citizens,” not because we weren’t subordinate but because we barely qualified as citizens to begin with. It was an apartheid, only not one limited by geography or ethnicity. Just a slow genocide of omission, rather than the grand theatrics of fascism.

It had its disadvantages and I certainly wouldn’t keep things that way or seek to return them to that way. But, at the very least, when the village needed a scapegoat, we were largely overlooked outside of the occasional punchline from dickheaded comedians.

The story of the scapegoat was perhaps my favourite contribution from the Bible. It went something like this: Things would go poorly and this would be attributed to sin. Rather than punish villagers, which would surely create more strife and make the matter worse, the village would agree to burden a goat with all their sin, which would then be cast out into the desert to perish of thirst. I liked it not because I celebrated the inane violence thrust upon an innocent goat; I liked it because it demonstrated the lengths to which a human will go to avoid doing the right thing, as long as “the right thing” takes time and effort and work. The goat, being a safe victim who can’t fight back, represents the easy thing.

So I am disappointed, but entirely unphased, to find a Centrist hit my feed scapegoating gender variant folk for the victory of Trump.

During the “Weekend Update” segment, co-anchor Colin Jost made what may have seemed to many like a routine joke playing off both Tinder’s recent update and Democrat Hillary Clinton loss in the presidential election.

“The dating app Tinder announced a new feature this week, which gives users 37 different gender identity options,” Jost set up the joke, his permanent smirk on prominent display.

Then, the punchline: “It’s called, ‘Why Democrats lost the election.’”

The logic goes something like this: 1) Gender plurality is “ridiculous,” 2) The Democrats were supportive of gender plurality; 3) Therefore, the Democrats are ridiculous.

Haha, so funny. /s

Jost, of course, responded predictably when people challenged him on his “joke.” He carried on to do what all assholes do and I probably don’t have to tell you the rest: Doubling down, gaslighting, yada yada, y’all know the drill forwards and backwards.

Just a joke” is a weak-ass excuse, and in general I’m glad more people aren’t buying it anymore. What it does is observe what sits outside the boundaries of socially acceptable and then propose an environment where those boundaries are instead moved to accommodate those unacceptable things. That is the function of a joke.

Most of the time prejudiced people conceal their true beliefs and attitudes because they fear others’ criticism. They express prejudice only when the norms in a given context clearly communicate approval to do so. They need something in the immediate environment to signal that it is safe to freely express their prejudice.

Disparagement humor appears to do just that by affecting people’s understanding of the social norms – implicit rules of acceptable conduct – in the immediate context. And in a variety of experiments, my colleagues and I have found support for this idea, which we call prejudiced norm theory.

Now “tranny jokes” have been popular for decades, and were still popular when people were starting to challenge anti-woman and anti-black jokes. And at the core of all these anti-minority jokes are a number of tiresome themes progressives have been wrestling with for dog-knows-how-long: This notion that the equitable participation of minorities constitutes “political correctness,” implying that it is only by government intervention that We, the Majority, grant access to the machinery of prosperity to those yucky Others.

I just want to make something abundantly clear: I do not believe for a single moment that Jost’s joke has anything at all to do with the ongoing expansion of vocabulary to describe gender plurality; nor do I believe that the people opposed to equal treatment of trans folk do so because they’re called “mean names” like “transphobe.”

That’s because this has never been a debate about which words to use. Language has always been descriptive and is ever changing. For a community as rare and disparate and disconnected as the gender variant community, it makes perfect sense for our community to start organizing with the advent of the internet, a device which allows us to surpass the limitations of geography. It’s only logical that having been omitted from inclusion in broader society and how that manifests in the lack of vocabulary for us that we would create our own language when we came together. This is all predictable and entirely supported by the function and history of language. No one who has even the shallowest background in linguistics is surprised by this.

The opposition to “political correctness” was, always has been, and always will be, about avoiding culpability for one’s own prejudice. They oppose efforts to acquire equitable access to society for minorities not necessarily because they believe minorities are inherently inferior and deserve inequality, but because they refuse to admit inequality exists to begin with*. They don’t want to face the prospect of having at least some of their success attributed to the dumb luck of the station of their birth. They don’t want to admit they are complicit in the continuation of the structures that created this hierarchy to begin with, a hierarchy that they benefit from even if it doesn’t manifest in giant mansions and a coterie of servants at their whim.

That’s why I can write a 2200 word article without once uttering the word “transphobia” and nonetheless have it met with the signature frothy-mouthed resistance of anti-PC types. It’s why I can tiptoe around the word “misogyny” in a post about the ridiculous shit my female Premier is accused of and nonetheless have it met with the desperate flailing of “not sexist” conservatives. The calls to destroy “political correctness” aren’t merely about the elimination of an expanding vocabulary, but moreso represent the restoration of denial regarding inequality to begin with. That’s why you can be nice and patient and diplomatic and nonetheless be accused of namecalling: They aren’t offended by the word “transphobe,” they’re offended by the idea that their inaction has caused harm and continues to do so.

It ain’t about words, meng. Laws that create an environment of legal hostility for trans and gender variant folk only sprang up when we began to gain visibility. They aren’t a punitive response to the words of gender plurality–they’re a punitive response to our demands for equality, designed to punish us for suggesting things were unequal to begin with. Given that we are so badly outnumbered and our “allies” practically evaporated into thin air after Obergefell, we’re a safe victim for this message. We’re the goat onto which the sins of America are thrust. “Don’t ask for equal treatment because we’ll make it unequal just to punish you.” Which, of course, only makes sense if your belief is predicated on the notion that equality has to have existed to begin with.

I suspect this is the sentiment underlying “Make America Great Again.” Go back to the good old days when people were still in widespread denial of inequality. Go back to the good old days when you could coast on the unpaid labour of your wife while working jobs built on the unpaid labour of your black neighbour’s ancestors. Go back to the good old days when words like “sexist” and “racist” didn’t exist because the assumed superiority of white men was simply the air you breathed. Go back to the good old days when nobody compared Thanksgiving to the brutality occurring at Standing Rock. Go back to the good old days when minorities couldn’t even participate in public life, as leaders and politicians and policywriters, because their station never gave them that option.

It’s not the vainglorious, ruckus type of supremacy. No mobs chasing you out of homes or armies marching in lockstep, no smashed windows or broken knees, no torturers or kidnappings. It’s a quieter supremacy. The kind that tuts tuts at protesters protecting clean drinking water, the kind that overlooks police brutality because only “criminals” are targeted by the police, the kind that smugly claims it can agree with our ends but not our means from the safety of an ivory tower. It’s not the supremacy of murder and violence. It’s just the supremacy of inaction and complicity, whispering in your ear that somehow apathy has no moral consequences.

But inaction, too, is a choice.

I don’t think you can logically conclude that the affirmation of 0.6% of the population is what cost the Democrats the election. But I think you can conclude that, if all you’re looking for is a knee-jerk, feel-good answer to failure. Hey, even if we narrow our scope to milquetoast liberals and centrists, trans people are still outnumbered. It won’t be the first time we are blamed for something and cast out from a movement.

Really, our only recourse is that in time, we’ll see you in the desert too.

-Shiv


 

*This sentence was more directed at Centrists or Moderates, the “not-racist” Trump supporters. There are, of course, supremacists of many stripes who do believe in the superiority of one class, and therefore the inferiority of another. Please bear in mind that’s an entirely separate can of worms and is not the subject of this post.

What happens in the US doesn’t stay in the US

The question of what America’s progressives are going to do next is a complex one. There are many US analysts attempting to dissect the bloated carcass of the 2016 election and for my part I’m probably going to take a while to really take stock in terms of action in the United States. I’ve started regular donations to Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union and I strongly urge you to do the same if you have disposable income.

The problem, of course, is that Trump is a symptom–and the disease which caused it knows no borders. Something I do have more direct involvement in is the politics of Alberta and Canada. There are only limited ways I can help in the United States but right here, at home, there’s hot iron for me and other Canadian progressives to strike–because all signs point to our next Trump, too. Most of us will only be indirectly affected by the disaster that is sure to be the Trump administration, but we’re afraid nonetheless. Ideas don’t stick to borders.

After all, I’ve been mocking our very own opportunistic climate change denying xenophobic forced birther Christians-can-do-no-wrong fuck-the-gay-kids alt-right posterboy grifter and conman. This is the same leadership hopeful of Alberta’s so-called “Progressive” Conservatives who got a pat on the back from Michael Gove of all people and who manufactured the niqab outrage in our last federal election. That’s like getting an endorsement from Emperor Palpatine.

The question, of course, is what does it mean for Canadians that the projected winner of the PC leadership, Jason Kenney, is a derivative of Trump-esque beliefs? Specifically, what does it mean for conservative Canadians–the “not sexist/racist” kind who support fiscal conservatism–when at least some of their big tent includes the “proudly sexist and racist”?

If you consider yourself a centrist or conservative in Canada, you are overdue for an honest introspection of who exactly sits in your “big tent.” Like American conservatives, the right-wing has enjoyed successes in the recent past by uniting many different voting blocs under a single banner; indeed, the big tent fracturing is likely one of the largest contributors to the left-leaning New Democratic Party’s (NDP) success. So if you’re one of those more reasonable centrist types, the voting bloc that seems to think Trudeau Sr.’s budgeting was bad but thought he was on to something when he said “the nation has no place in the bedroom,” then you have a problem. Because also sharing space in your tent of fiscal conservatism is, you know, the voting blocs that would put a self-admitted rapist in the White House and bring the government back into people’s bedrooms.

If you’re not convinced, you need only look at how the current race for the Progressive Conservative leadership is playing out. Two centrist candidates, Sandra Jansen and Donna Kennedy-Glans, ran for PC leadership on platforms that fit the bill of fiscally conservative but socially progressive: Jansen in particular was explicit about a woman’s reproductive right to choose and her support of the NDP’s environmental protections. In other words she was just the sort of reasonable voice a progressive could communicate with, since she was less concerned with towing the party line and more concerned with whether individual policies were effective and needed. I don’t think I would’ve voted for her but I wouldn’t be sweating below the collar if she got in.

At the same time Canada was curled up into a ball and crying into its knees as the results of the US election came in, revealing some 60-odd million who actively supported Trump and another ~180 million who didn’t seem bothered enough to vote against him, Jansen and Kennedy-Glans were entering their resignations from the PC leadership. Their reason? Their nomination forms had been returned with misogynistic slurs and rape threats written all over them. I’m sure it’s total coincidence that this sexist harassment coincides with Kenney’s bussing in so-called Bible-boys and signing up youth en masse to PC membership so they can vote for the candidate who just not-so-subtly “incentivized” them. Which, by the way, is breaking the PC charter–you’ll note the PC executives don’t care. All this, by the way, paid for by Kenney’s “charity” dedicated to himself, so he could skirt around election oversight.

Kenney’s playing dirty, and he’s slated to win.

Conservatives of Alberta, this is your big tent. For decades you’ve been able to put respectable conservatives front and centre, courting this other Trump-esque voting bloc implicitly through the use of dog whistles, banking on the fact that the respectables would be able to sit on the trembling Pandora’s Box.

Well, America just demonstrated that the deplorables in Pandora’s Box can break free, and we have the early signs right here in Alberta that the respectables don’t weigh enough to keep the lid on: Kenney just broke a charter rule which requires members to be members for at least 7 days before they can vote, and just had hundreds of youth bussed in from rural Alberta to vote for him after signing them up the same day; he keeps characterizing the NDP’s changes to the education curriculum as “social engineering”–surely you agree the basics of “gay people exist” is not a radical revelation for our rusty and creaky curriculum; Kenney has a long, long track record of voting to erode a woman’s right to choose; women in politics are regularly receiving rape and death threats from his supporters; and he has a soft spot for regressive Christians routinely violating public policy despite pocketing public funds in public contracts. Is that your idea of “fiscal responsibility”–letting scammers who steal from the public purse off the hook because they mumble something about Jesus? How about Kenney grifting national taxpayers to finance his provincial leadership bid? Is that fiscally responsible, too?

You need to soul search, because it’s rapidly starting to look like the fiscal-conservative-socially-progressive types aren’t going to have a party in the next election. Kenney is slated to win the PC leadership and he has been very, very open and forthright about his intention to absorb the Wildrose back into the fold. The problem is that it isn’t the respectables at the helm anymore. It’s the deplorables. The ones who are serious about being socially reactionary. The ones who think death and rape threats are a legitimate vehicle of criticism. The ones Brian Jean has been trying to contain like a beleaguered dog-owner pulling back on the chain of his rabid pup: You know, the ones making targets of the Premier, mocking victims of domestic violence and the assassination of labour-rights politicians, and publicly approving denigrating posts about gay politicians, because there’s apparently not enough policy to criticize?

We have about 3 years to see what damage the deplorables will do under the Republican big tent before our next provincial election. I seriously hope you pay close attention, because here in Alberta the women, trans folk, queer folk, immigrants, people of colour, students, youth, poor, sick, and disabled are all going to be at the mercy of your big tent whose presumed-leadership intends to grind us into dirt. Some of us are even fiscal conservatives ourselves, but our political calculus is tainted by the fact that the party which potentially agrees with our economic policy is bolstered by a highly controlling voting bloc, one that wishes to make life difficult for us “deviants” through a climate of explicit legal and social hostility.

And yes, to head off the accusation that the Left has its own brand of deplorables: It’s true that we have our lunatic fringe as well. The difference is that our Greens bagged 0.49% of the popular vote. Our Communists bagged 0.01%. Neither has a penchant for doxxing their critics, something I can’t say of the right-wing deplorables. Let’s not pretend that radical leftists in this province have a voice. If Kenney succeeds in the creation of another big tent conservatism, that’s well over half the province throwing their weight behind him: And it’s the social regressives at the steering wheel. Your lunatics aren’t a fringe sequestering themselves in Pandora’s Box anymore. The handler’s grip on the leash is slipping, and we’re slated to watch the rabid dog break loose.

There’s two voting blocs this post isn’t addressed to: the capital-P Progressives, and the socially-conservative Conservatives. If you’re the type that has already been convinced by Kenney’s rhetoric that respecting trans kids constitutes an “experiment,” I’m not sure how to communicate with you. We are working with very different data sets and at this point might as well be speaking a different language. This language problem I have no solution for, though if you’re willing to communicate without hurling insults then so am I. We can give it the old college try. And if it fails, you can at least take the liberty of looking me in the eye that my wellbeing matters so little to you that you’d support a reactionary candidate like Kenney. At least be honest about it.

As for Albertan Progressives, I’ll have more detailed plans as we near the 2019 election. There’s too many variables to commit to any given plan just yet, but I am confident I can give you something thorough after the lines are drawn. I know several Pride centres across the province working together with several BLM chapters across the province, so progressives are already teaming up. Start there while we wait for the dust to settle.

To close, here’s the homework for conservative Albertans and Canadians: If it truly matters to you to make a fiscal conservatism that doesn’t deliberately single out minorities for mistreatment, you need to make that clear as your political parties take shape. Albertans, there’s still time to make Wildrose the respectables–Kenney appears to be more-or-less confirmed in taking the PCs hard to the right. And federally? The Conservatives agreed to axe their “one man and one woman” policy on marriage. Push for more of that.

Tonight I attend a federal Liberal party gathering. I intend to raise the spectre of reactionary successes and how the Liberals will almost certainly do what the Democrats did and take the progressive vote for-granted in their next election. Results of that coming soon.

We all have a responsibility to cast informed ballots in our upcoming elections and there’s far too much at stake for minorities to have the respectables become complacent as the deplorables take charge of the conservative apparatus. If you want to be branded as the politics of personal responsibility, then make sure your tent doesn’t have deplorables in it. Denying they exist and are in your tent is anything but responsible.

-Shiv

Reactionaries really don’t need to benefit from humanization

It must be the International Month of False Equivalency because by golly the articles attempting to humanize Trump supporters came out in spades. Whether it was The Advocate trying to delicately explain how and why the white rural voter was disenfranchised in ways that were real or perceived such that it justified a Trump vote or whether it’s Aiden, that trans guy who was turned into a meme by clueless cis folk, trying to say we should “check ourselves” when we see a Trump supporter and think “idiot,” the theme prevalent in these numerous works is that we can’t judge Trump supporters because they’re probably just ignorant.

Okay, so here’s the thing: Hitler had a dog and painted beautiful portraits, Mussolini tucked in his kids at night, Pinochet played a mean game of football (soccer for you yanks), Stalin was an astute scholar, and Pol Pot found a niche in radio electronics. Every mass-scale human rights abuse committed in recorded history has at its helm someone who, if you look closely enough, has entirely ordinary–sometimes supposedly redeeming–qualities.

This does not mean that we should model the eras of Hitler, Mussolini, Pinochet, Stalin, or Pol Pot, all of whom are responsible for stomach-churning atrocities in both depth and breadth. Again, saying we ought to humanize a Trump supporter seems to be operating from the assumption that his critics have been dehumanizing him to begin with.

Because here’s the thing: Good and Evil ought to be understood as things you do, not things you are. If someone tells us we have spinach stuck in our teeth, we do not bristle and say “How can that be? I’m a hygienic person!”

I’m not dehumanizing a Trump supporter when I point out that they are, AT BEST, indifferent to the Republican platform, which features some of the most rabidly anti-woman, anti-black, anti-queer, anti-immigrant, pro-big business, fuck-the-little-guy policies in recorded history. And I’m definitely not at all interested in excusing ignorance in an election like this. The unfortunate truth is that an ignorant vote is equivalent to an informed one, but that doesn’t mean we’re all compelled to stick our head in the sand when it comes to policy.

I don’t support this. I don’t support patting Trump supporters on the head and giving them the permission they so desperately seek to be not be called racist. Motherfucker, you vote for someone whose policy reiterates racial injustice, then you is fucking racist. I’m not giving you that wiggle room. And it won’t make a difference to Trump whether you voted for his racial injustice policy planks or whether you voted in spite of his racial injustice policy planks, the effect is the same: You threw your weight behind him, he potentially gets in office to enact his policy. The ballot doesn’t know the difference. It only knows who you voted for.

The least you can do is pull up your big girl socks and fucking own up to it.

Yes, that applies to Clinton’s supporters. Yes, progressive Americans will need to work overtime to have their interests represented in all levels of government. Yes, Clinton will need to be held accountable to her actions and you ought to strive for that, even if you vote for her. That’s what owning your vote means.

But I charge that Trump supporters haven’t been dehumanized, at least not to a comparable scale to say, black people or QUILTBAG people or disabled people. Me refusing to give them that pat on the head they’re so desperate for is not the same thing as gutting what little social welfare the disabled need to live, or fostering unchecked police brutality to ensure the disproportionate imprisonment of black bodies, or reifying second-class citizenship for QUILTBAG people. It’s me saying “I don’t care whether you consider yourself racist, homophobic, or ableist or not. I care whether you support a political party that intends to dismantle what little progress the country has made in service to vulnerable communities.”

I’m well aware that Trump supporters have dogs and paint paintings and tuck their children to bed and volunteer for homeless shelters and play mean games of chess and pen thoughtful articles in academia. I fucking know, man. The point is, that favour isn’t being returned. It’s the minorities who are being dehumanized to justify or excuse one of the most monstrous Republican platforms in recent memory. It’s trans women being depicted as rapists, it’s black people being depicted as thugs, brown people depicted as terrorists, and cis women being depicted as murderers for exercising bodily autonomy. A single observation from Clinton–that Trump has the support of some seriously questionable characters–is not equivalent to a nationwide sustained smear campaign the way these various groups have been enduring.

And through all this, we have to pat his supporters on the head and assure them they’re not doing harm?

Fuck that shit.

Nobody says we don’t study the terrible atrocities of the 20th century because all of those figures did ordinary human things in their day to day. In fact, we explicitly study those atrocities to learn just how much an ordinary person can do. How much violence we’re willing to tolerate, as long as we’re not the immediate victim. How easily we’re persuaded when we’re in a crowd. How easily we can be persuaded to support the erosion of our own rights.

This is the part the Trump crowd denies. You want to think you’re good people, then start by dismantling this idea that good is something you are, that this simplistic black-and-white thinking is nothing but snake oil salesmanship.

Good is something you do. 

Good is something you can start today.

-Shiv