Though transgenderism is a far rarer phenomenon than homosexuality, I think most adults could admit it does seem like a rather persistent aspect of humanity. Most can probably recall a transgender person making at least some minor appearance in their life. If we concede that transgenderism is not going away, and is not something anyone intends to exert effort toward ending, then Americans, especially conservative ones, should reflect on our culture’s honest and fair attitude toward homosexuality and acknowledge that the most sensible path out of the present acrimony will probably require similar compromise. Some degree of cultural ceasefire and consensus seems the only path for both sides to maintain a degree of pride while avoiding a more radical, disruptive societal transformation.
Part one of the compromise will be borne by cultural conservatives and traditionalists. It asks for broad tolerance for the reality that transgender men and women exist, and are entitled to basic human dignity, just like everyone else. This does not mean having to morally endorse behavior many may believe runs contrary to God’s plan for a just and healthy society, but it does imply that acts like ostentatiously calling people by pronouns they don’t want, or belittling their personal struggle, are boorish and petty. It means acknowledging that arbitrary discrimination against transgender people is a cruel bigotry like any other.
But part two of the compromise requires sacrifice on the part of progressives, who are currently overplaying their hand in an effort to strong-arm sweeping social change as a flex of their power. There must be a halt in the use of state authority to impose accommodation of transgenderism in a fashion far more totalitarian than is rationally justified. Transgender people constitute a tiny minority of Americans who, in the vast majority of cases, are explicitly eager to opt into the broad two-gender social order our civilization is based around. Tolerance does not necessitate a purge of any and all public manifestations of the gender binary in the name of extreme exceptions to the rule.
This is badly wrong.
One, the Left is in no mood to compromise or be tolerant. They constantly say that their “humanity” is not up for debate. By “humanity,” they mean that everyone must accept everything they demand, or stand guilty of dehumanizing LGBT people. The idea that there is a compromise to be had is something that can only be held by someone too naive or too young to remember how the debates over homosexuality played out.
Second, what does it mean to say that “arbitrary discrimination against transgender people is a cruel bigotry like any other”? Define arbitrary. Do you really think that the Left will accept the distinction between arbitrary and non-arbitrary discrimination?
Third, does McCullough have more than a superficial understanding of what’s at stake in the trans phenomenon? Has he read the 4th Wave Now website, which is for parents and others skeptical of the trans phenomenon? Spend some time on it, reading the accounts of parents, of desisters, of feminists and others who have to deal with this phenomenon. It’s like going into another dimension. In the UK, trans activists — typically male to female transgenders — are viciously attacking feminists who say that women are being erased. This is madness, true madness, and you cannot compromise with it. Read Ryan Anderson’s new book for an in-depth examination of the issues and stakes in this fight.
Fourth, and related, transgenderism is categorically unlike homosexuality, which still works on the gender binary. It is certainly the case that there are males and females who do not easily fit within the gender binary. It is possible to treat them and their disordered condition humanely without surrendering the gender binary, which is encoded into our biology, and upon which the survival of society depends. Give up the gender binary, and you’ve surrendered far more than you can afford to surrender.
McCullough is asking conservatives to accept a lie for the sake of obtaining social peace — a social peace that is unobtainable under any circumstances short of total surrender. We know how this works. A friend read this NR column and wrote to me just now, “I stand by my contention that ‘conservatism’ has conserved nothing. Nothing.”