I have asked at multiple points in my time here on FTB whether those taking various anti-trans positions have bothered to read the material they claim to be criticizing. The answer, at this point, is most often “no,” but sadly ignorant cisgender editors of otherwise respectable media outlets continue to publish these dog awful jokes.
So how do they get away with it? Zinnia Jones explores that. Her answer–“through denialism.”
This exercise, of searching outward from a given state of the world in order to map the many tendrils of its implications, can be a very efficient way of detecting errors, distortions, or outright nonsense. If you have an idea, does that idea imply anything about reality, or concretely connect to the world in any way? At which points does it come in contact with reality? Does it make testable predictions? Can it be disproven, and what would disprove it? What elements of the world changing would affect the validity of this idea?
The facts of the world generally don’t support transphobic arguments, and transphobes don’t really have the option of making robust arguments based on an honest assessment of the current state of our knowledge. They know this – they make use of this same technique of pondering counterfactuals. The difference is that they work backwards to fabricate an entirely new counter-reality, tailored to support their positions and vast enough that it can substitute for reality itself in a person’s mind. It’s called denialism: an entire ideological support system made to preserve a desired belief by rejecting the overwhelming evidence that would threaten this belief.
Denialism is wrongness with an infrastructure – ignorance with an armored shell, a whole fake world weaponized against the real world. Denialism can be observed in the various forms of “scientific” creationism, where facts of evolutionary biology and earth science contradicting certain readings of the Bible are targeted for incompetent rebuttal by non-experts working for various conservative Christian “institutes” of “creation research”, which is not a real field. It can be seen in climate change denialism, where the scientific consensus on human-caused global warming is discarded in favor of fringe nitpicking, oversimplified misunderstandings of the science, and so very many conspiracy theories.
Some forms of transphobia have grown so well-organized that they, too, now constitute an instance of denialism. Diethelm and McKee (2009) describe five core themes of the phenomenon of denialism:
Jones outlines the following themes of denialism, and just to help support her point, I’ll link to some of the works I’ve examined to corroborate them.
- Allegations of conspiracy are used as grounds to dismiss a well-established and consistent body of science.
- Fake experts are presented to lend apparent authority to denialist claims.
- Denialists will be extremely selective when it comes to the evidence and facts that they accept as valid.
- Standards for scientific findings are shifted in order to be practically impossible to meet.
- Shoddy arguments, fallacies, and deliberate misrepresentations are deployed to mislead the public.
As Jones concludes, if the factual arguments for transphobia existed, transphobes would just use them. Instead a heavy reliance on
lies fiction gets them where they want to be.