The Transphobes are Losing at the Voting Booth

Conservatives, as a rule, lie to win elections. This isn’t some unique observation I’ve just made, it’s a pretty well-established fact. Their policies are almost always bad for a majority of people, and so they can’t run on what they actually want to do. They have to distract people. At their most honest, they lie about the effects of the laws they want to pass, like when they insist that cutting taxes for the rich will cause that wealth to “trickle down” to everyone else. They make similar claims about keeping wages low, and deregulating businesses, but they’ve been saying that stuff for so long that most people can see the lie for themselves.

Their preference, at least right now, is to focus on what we’ve come to know as “the culture war”. This narrative relies on the much more vague overarching lie that the reason everything’s getting worse (whether or not it actually is) is all those cultural evils and bad people they’ve been warning against. Immigrants, secularism, homosexuality, anti-racism, and – their current favorite – the terrifying existence of trans people. They’re playing on nostalgia – the idea that things used to be better in “the good old days”, and drawing a spurious correlation: All this stuff that seems new and makes us uncomfortable has been increasing at the same time as things have been “getting worse”, therefor the new and uncomfortable stuff must be the cause of things getting worse. If we can just make the bad people and bad stuff go away, things will go back to the way they used to be, and everything will be good (for us) again.

It’s an old lie, but an enduring one. I think part of its tenacity, at least in the United States, comes from the ubiquity of certain kinds of Christianity. We grow up hearing about how God causes societal calamities as a way to punish people who’ve “gone astray” and do evil things. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because the people there just wouldn’t stop sinning, and so God killed them all. The entire planet was flooded, and every terrestrial life extinguished (except for a handful on a boat), because they were all just so evil that God didn’t have any other choice. All those evil, evil babies just had to go!

I think if you directly challenged them on this connection, many conservatives would say they don’t actually believe that there’s a direct link, but rather that it’s all coming from the same people. Maybe some would say that God is “allowing” bad people into government as punishment for tolerance, or something like that, but there seems to be this general belief that all this “decadence” and acceptance is somehow making everything worse, so we need to return to the Old Ways.

This has had varying levels of success. A majority of people don’t seem to think this way, but our laws are built so that you don’t need an actual majority of people to gain power. You need a majority of voters in key locations, which can be a clear minority of the overall population. That means that there’s power to be gained from collecting a small number of dedicated people, and keeping them enraged at all times.

The go-to over the last few years has been attacking trans people, and lying about them to scare gullible bigots. It’s been observed by others that they tend to make the perfect target. They’re a small enough minority that a lot of folks can go through life never (knowingly) meeting a trans person, which makes it easy to lie about them without getting caught by the target audience. They’ve also shown that their sense of self is strong enough that they won’t just go away in the face of an oppressive society. The fact that trans people are who they say they are means that they will keep fighting to live as themselves, as anyone would, and so there’s a movement for conservatives to push against, and lie about. When you break it down, it seems like a reliable strategy, and the Republican Party has certainly made it central to their efforts.

Fortunately, it doesn’t seem to work quite like they want it to.

Youtuber Three Arrows did a video about this about a year ago, pointing out that the vicious campaign against trans people was failing, as an electoral strategy. The blog Ettingermentum has been making a similar case, and recently went on The Majority Report to elaborate:

It’s just not working. People at large aren’t buying the bullshit the way the hardcore Republican base are, and all the hateful rhetoric isn’t translating to electoral success. In some cases, it’s even hurting them, and it’s wonderful to see.

That does not mean that the problem is going to go away by itself. Bigotry does still motivate a lot of people, and the US is set up to heavily favor a conservative minority in a number of ways, meaning that they’re fully able to pass laws and foment violence against trans people (and any perceived as such), and that means that the fight for trans rights is as important as it’s ever been. Transphobia is still widespread in the general population.

The thing is, it’s not something that’s actually motivating new people to go vote for the oppression of trans people. Those who do vote for it were already reliably going to vote Republican, and most other people – even if they’re transphobic – view the focus on trans people as some great existential threat as the bizarre obsession that it is. At times, it can feel as though we’ll be stuck fighting the same battles forever, but in many ways, that feeling itself is a lie told by the bigots themselves – that they will never go away, never stop hating, and that they never lose. The truth is that they are losing on this issue, because humanity as a whole is simply better than them. Keep fighting and keep loving, because it is making a difference!


  1. johnson catman says

    I think the only thing that I am nostalgic for from the “good old days” is the 90% tax bracket for people making lots of money.

  2. sonofrojblake says

    the reason everything’s getting worse (whether or not it actually is)

    (Note – what follows is written by someone in the UK). This was the bit where I choked a bit – that bit in the brackets. A little while ago the comedy X-formerly-Twitter account anon-opin had a great entry which simply stated “There isn’t a single fucking thing that isn’t worse now than it was ten years ago”. I had a little think about it, and I couldn’t really argue with that opinion, other than to say it’s almost exactly ten years ago since I met my wife for the first time and she and everything she brings to my life has been absolutely brilliant, including our two kids… but if you’re not me, everything external to that, no – I think you’ll have a hard time convincing me that ANYTHING has got better over the last ten years… actually the last thirteen years, if you’re going to be picky.

    And none of it is a result of anything the Conservatives talk about, least of all trans people. ALL of it is a result of Conservatives being in power. The only light on the horizon, such as it is, is that the current crop of barrel scrapings have at best a year or so left to do their worst, and then they’ll likely be out of power for at least another decade. Whether the Labour party can actually make anything better (like they did the last time they replaced a moribund bunch of Conservatives) is questionable – Blair inherited an economy in actually not too terrible shape, whereas Starmer is going to have to try to drive off from a car crash where not the just wheels came off but the bodywork and most of the moving parts of the engine. The UK is going to take a lean slightly to the left of where it is now next time there’s an election. Unfortunately, most of the rest of Europe seems to be accelerating to the right.

    Transphobes are losing in the US? That’s excellent news, and long may it continue. Good on the voters there, the more so if that’s even part of the reason they’re voting that way. There’ll need to be a lot more of that, and more of it in the UK, before I’ll admit that things are actually getting better again like they did starting in 1997.

    Sorry if that came across as a rant but I’m just fucking sick of living under this shower of bastards.

  3. Allison says

    I wish I could believe that the hate-mongers (here in the USA, they’re bigoted against and lying about all the usual hate-objects) are losing. But it still feels like it could go either way, and in terms of implementing their hate agenda, especially against trans people, they’re still winning. Since I’m trans, “going either way” isn’t a lot better for my anxiety than them winning. I’m wondering at what point I should start taking concrete steps to emigrate, and indeed, where I could go. (Most 1st-world countries are pretty picky about who they will allow in, and being 70, I’m not in any category of people they are encouraging to immigrate.) Note that the UK doesn’t sound any better than the USA, and the fascists are taking over in more and more countries.

    This is too reminiscent of Germany (and Europe in general) in the 1930’s.

  4. says

    On things getting worse or not, I was thinking about the conservative insistence that violent crime is higher than it’s ever been, when that’s just objectively false. I’m currently persuaded by the hypothesis that the banning of leaded gasoline for cars played a role in that. In terms of quality of life, personal autonomy, climate change, environmental destruction, and so on – yeah, most things do seem to be getting worse in most ways that matter.

    @Allison – Yeah, I share your fears. They’re absolutely pushing ahead with this stuff wherever they have power, and there’s absolutely a lot of money funding the hate campaign. I honestly don’t know how widely accepted trans and gay people actually were in Weimar Germany, or how that compares to acceptance today. There are real differences between then and now. Whether that’s enough to let us change course, I don’t know.

    All of this sucks, and I wish I could do something to help you, or to make things be different. We used grad school to get permission to live in Scotland and now Ireland, so maybe that’s something you could do?

  5. StevoR says

    Yes – a very good sign that people are sick of and see through the reichwing. Here in Oz, we’ve recently seen notorious Transphobic bigot and “captain’s pick” of Scummo our worse ever PM, katherine Deves :

    lose really badly and get utterly rejected at the ballot box along the LNP govt getting an absolute thrashing metaphorically speaking :

    which was one of the many joys to see last federal election here.

  6. sonofrojblake says

    @Abe Drayton, 4:

    On things getting worse or not, I was thinking about the conservative insistence that violent crime is higher than it’s ever been, when that’s just objectively false,the%20year%20ending%20March%202022.

    From the UK Office for National Statistics website (a government body, and among the most reliable sources for this kind of data):
    “the police recorded 2.1 million offences of violence against the person in the year ending March 2023. This was a 20% rise compared with the pre-coronavirus pandemic year ending March 2020 (1.8 million offences) and a slight increase (1%) compared with the year ending March 2022.[…] There have generally been increases since the year ending March 2012 “.

    That’s not a conservative insistence, that’s the civil service statistics.

    That said: from the same page, there’s a graph showing rate of violent crime peaking in 1995, with the current trend less than a quarter of that peak and falling slowly. Leaded petrol was banned in 1999, but cars using it hadn’t been on sale since about 1990. The correlation is provocative, even if the causation is unproven.

    But yeah – if the only thing you can think of that hasn’t got worse is actual violent crime, we’re not living in a golden age.

  7. says

    @Sonofrojblake: Maybe you hadn’t noticed it, but conservatives have been leaning heavily on the idea that violent crime is at an all-time high as justification for expanding police power. It’s pretty common for them to include a little truth in their propaganda, so it withstands a cursory glance.

    I find it hard to believe you don’t know this, so it seems like you’re fighting just to fight.

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