Lately I’ve stopped deriving any particular joy from pointing out hypocrisy in reactionary movements. Ensuring the premises informing a position are rooted in reality has never been important to them; in the more severe examples, even logical structure is not necessary. Instead I’ve started to notice that contradictions are often indicative of a linchpin that holds the wrongness together, which explains the ability to reconcile the conflicting ideas–it’s too important to ever abandon short of a psychological upheaval. A common example in North American contexts is the simultaneously held notion that immigrants are “lazy” but also “taking our jobs;” or how a millionaire who spends a couple hours each week (if that) managing his portfolio is somehow more hard working than the single mom juggling three jobs.
TERFism is no exception. Trans people are simultaneously skilled, hard-hitting lobbyists that bully powerless politicians into giving us money, but also, we’re not meaningful enough to legislate rights for. J. E. Cook captures the linchpin holding it together: “The powerful transgender lobby.” (emphasis added)
These two views appear to present contradictory claims, unless one truly buys into the conspiracy theory that trans people represent both a statistical minority and also a powerful minority elite that has gathered disproportionate socioeconomic power and influence. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve seen people who believe that conspiracy theory. Yet the tenor of much of the transphobic discourse we’re seeing never goes so far as to actually present this idea outright. Instead, the reconciliation of this cognitive dissonance lies in the power of suggestion, and I would argue that we need to pay attention to the way staying vague and relying on the buzzword-esque “trans lobby” enables people to hold these contradictory views without questioning their logical inconsistencies.
Nobody ever defines who or what the trans lobby is. That makes it easy for the word to shift meanings even across individual articles or essays. Let’s create a template for how this can work. You start off an article with the implication trans people are here, loud and organized in pursuit of a single goal, and you end with the implication the trans lobby is some tiny group of people asking for way more than their statistical insignificance justifies, justifying society ignoring them by suggesting we are too small for them being overlooked to truly matter. And since a hypothetical cisgender reader is unlikely to have any particular definition in mind- because every previous article using the term has shifted its meaning around too– there isn’t a point where they can explicitly go “but that’s not right, that’s not what it means”, which might lead to the cognitive dissonance coming to the forefront of their mind.
Read more here.