S1: This is the waves. This is the wave is the wave. This is the way. This is the way. This is the waves. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick,
S2: tick, tick. Welcome to the Waves Slate’s podcast about gender Feminism and messing with Texas. Every episode you get a new pair of feminists to talk about the thing we can’t get off our minds, and today you’ve got me. Evan Urquhart. I’m a writer on video gaming and trans issues and the community manager for Slate.
S3: And I’m Jill Scott Peterson. I’m a trans historian and writer, as well as a co-host of the Outward Podcast here at Slate.
S2: And we’re here today to talk about the Texas Governors Directive to treat gender affirming health care for trans youth as child abuse. This topic hits so close to home because as someone who’s been a foster parent for queer youth, I’ve had close dealings with the world of child welfare and the idea that trans youth could be taken from supportive homes and put into the system with the intent of removing support for their identities as well as removing necessary medical interventions is just absolutely horrific for me, and I know a lot of people are feeling the same way. So, Jules, why did you want to talk about this?
S3: Well, you know about a year ago when this kind of unprecedented wave of anti-trans legislation that we’re still experiencing really started ramping up its attacks on kids? You know, I began writing and advocating alongside so many other tireless trans folks like yourself. And I’ve also been working to try to understand the political context and stakes of these assaults so that we don’t lose sight of the real scale of the threat. But like you, this time in Texas, it hit me hard. I’ve really never seen such a violent, disinformation laden and authoritarian policy directed at trans kids before, and the effects that this is already having are nothing short of horror. I agree with you. I really think we have to be talking about this, and it may be a decisive turning point. I really worry that if we don’t collectively reverse this situation and say enough is enough that we’re going to be picking up the pieces for a lifetime.
S2: I share those concerns and we’ll have more about what’s happening in Texas after the break. Jewels, I wanted to talk about affirming care for trans youth, which is what Greg Abbott of Texas has decided constitutes child abuse. With everything that entails. So what is affirming care and can you tell me a little bit about like why it’s supported by the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association? The American Academy of Pediatrics? Basically, mainstream medicine says this is OK.
S3: That’s right. I mean, it’s like you really couldn’t assemble a more gold star kind of roster of medical associations, but also all of the peer reviewed research on, you know, trans health care, all of the evidence based research. And of course, like everything that trans activists and trans people have been saying and have been fighting for for a long time. So we’re actually kind of living in the beginnings of this affirming care model for trans health care. And, you know, for a long time, trans health care was the sort of, you know, uniquely cruel form of health care that tried to explicitly limit how much of it was available to people. Right. It’s like, you know, the old 1960s idea of the trans sexual, this really narrow kind of diagnostic criteria and all of these, you know, gatekeeping hoops people had to jump through to access care, including psychiatric evaluation. All of these things, basically, you know, when trans health care was invented, doctors really tried to exclude as many trans people as possible from it. That made it really hard for children and youth to access things that we know are really important and often lifesaving, like hormones and other medications and therapies and surgeries. And so in recent years, we’ve seen the switch to a gender affirming model. And you know, the great thing about the gender affirming care model is that basically it just does what it sounds. It’s it’s a medical model where when you go to the doctor, you know, the doctor’s role is not to determine if you are really trans or not, right? Because of course, doctors famously, as they’ll tell you, have no idea how to do that and I’ve never been able to. And you know, there’s all sorts of problems that come up when you go to the doctor. And the point is to decide if you really deserve to get access to things that you need or not. So this gender affirming care model is more of a supportive model. It’s much more of like a team based kind of medicine model. When it comes to young people, it really means that, you know, doctors are there to play a supportive role with young people in their families or guardians in helping them explore their gender, get access to things that may help them feel more comfortable. And if they want at the right time to get access to, you know, medications like puberty blockers and hormones and other things like that. But I think more broadly, right? You know, we can think of gender affirming care as sort of a new set of best practices that are we’re really starting to improve the lived experience of trans people in medicine, especially young people, right? And really starting to, you know, challenge some of those longstanding prejudices, biases and discriminations that trans youth in particular really suffered from because of course, they’re not able to consent to medical care, you know, without their parents or guardians signing off on it. What’s really important to note here is also that there’s a lot of disinformation circulating around what gender affirming care looks like, and some of that’s actually reiterated by the attorney general and the governor of Texas. But we see it more broadly in anti-trans moral panics and just this, you know, larger anti-trans political climate. So, you know, people have probably seen these kinds of contentions that are gender affirming care, trans medicine, it’s all experimental. It’s new, it’s untested. No one knows anything about it. You know, it gets to really ridiculous places where it literally makes it look like doctors are like engaging in conspiracy to experiment on young people. And of course, in reality, trans health care is well over a century old. And you know, I know from my historical research that kids and youth have been accessing, you know, forms of gender related care for that long as well. So nearly a century. And then we see all sorts of lies about it, like in particular, you know, that it sterilize as children or it’s irreversible or, you know, it causes harm to them. And of course, none of these things are true. And so in that sense, although you will rarely hear me come out on the side of the American Medical Association in this case, like, you know, I appreciate how unambiguous they are, like, this stuff is just like standard practices of care that have been long researched, their outcomes are very well known. And if you ask any trans person, including trans young people, right, the good thing about gender affirming care is it gives people choice. It gives you the latitude to access what you need, rather than being actually forced into a model of transition that you’re not comfortable with. So it’s actually really disturbing to see it be weaponized like this. But that’s sort of the bird’s eye view, right? And you know, I think one of the things I’m excited to talk to you about in particular having is that, you know, in part what this kind of looks like firsthand, you know, when trans kids are actually supported and a. Firmed because gender affirmation isn’t just about medical care, and so I wonder if you could kind of pull us down from the bird’s eye view more into the realm of what does that actually look like when when a trans youth has a supportive environment where the adults around them are helping them become who they are?
S2: It’s funny to see some of this crazy interpretation of affirming trans youth as if people are like just rushing off to, you know, to the doctor to get kids surgery. When as a foster parent dealing with kids who are in the system who had a lot of trauma, just getting kids to like, go to their doctor’s appointment when they were super anxious about it and had had, you know, bad experience with the doctors in the past, you know, it was a struggle just to get them to kind of go to the appointment and start to engage in the process. And, you know, I’ve never been more sure that I was doing a good thing than when I had the chance to be a foster parent of trans and gender nonconforming youth. I can’t, because of confidentiality, speak about, you know, the specifics of anyone’s story. But I can say more broadly that I parented kids who had on paper so many issues and just were really, really not expected maybe to do that well as teenagers who are in the foster care system and just seeing them open up and thrive and smile and be kids again. It’s just the most wonderful thing. And you know, that started with just being in a place where people took them seriously. People met them where they are. People consistently used the name. They wanted to be used. People, you know, would check in and say, Hey, what a different pronoun, you know, feel good for you. Do you want to try it out a little bit? You know, it wasn’t about pushing a child to be anything other than, you know what? They would feel comfortable with, what would help them to go to school every day to show up for their life again. And it’s just an amazing transformation that you can see in a young person when they start to trust adults a little bit around them and they start to relax and just be a kid again. And so it’s just horrifying to see the child welfare system be sort of taken in the opposite direction to try and take a child who’s lucky enough to have that in their family. And, you know, try and take that away and maybe put them in a situation where they won’t be affirmed. And I know that, you know, about 30 percent of youth in foster care identify as LGBTQ, which is about three times as much as youth in the general population. And you know, there are a lot of factors that go into that, but it boils down to families really having trouble understanding and supporting, you know, children who are different in the system. There aren’t enough foster homes for LGBTQ youth, especially since many of the families who volunteer to foster are highly religious and they’re anti-gay and anti-trans. And so taking kids out of homes where they’re loved and supportive and or even just threatening to do so is the polar opposite of what’s needed for queer youth to thrive. What can you tell me, Jules, about the history of trans and LGBT kids in the child welfare system?
S3: Well, I can tell you that things have been pretty dire for a long time, and you know, as I was listening to you talk about the care and thoughtfulness that you’ve brought to TFR fostering and your understanding of that kind of ethic of care. I mean, you know, it makes me feel emotional in part because that is just not been the common experience of trans kids in these systems, which, you know, have not just been weaponized against some of them, but we’re also really designed, you know, in some ways to be para carceral. And it’s taken a lot of advocacy from the part of people who understand and care about trans kids and LGBT kids in general to undo some of that damage and be able to actually offer care through this system. I mean, it’s I wrote a book about the history of trans kids and I looked at in particular beginning in the 1960s and 70s as there started to be, you know, medical diagnoses for trans people and more broadly, what was happening to kids that got caught up in the system. And you know, one of the difficult stories that I think is important to tell here is a story about race and the police in this country and the way that the foster care system was used and continues to be used against black and brown trans kids in particular. And this is a pattern that I’ve seen operating now for almost 70 years, and there were a lot of particularly black trans girls that I encountered in the archive who never made it into a hospital or into a doctor’s office. And instead, you know, they weren’t even being acknowledged as trans. They understood themselves to be trans. They could speak quite plainly and self-evidently about their gender. And but that was often taken evidence that they were delinquent or rebellious or that they were mentally ill or that, you know, in some way that they were already labeled deviant because, you know, the state was sort of looking at them through this racist lands to begin with. We know there are larger histories through which, you know, child protective services and the foster system has been weaponized against especially African-American communities to try and break up black families. And you know, a lot of a lot of children who are gender nonconforming kind of become the collateral damage in that process. And so, you know, I saw quite a number of examples, particularly of poor trans girls and transgressive colors who had just been in and out of these kinds of para pastoral contexts, including a kind of vicious form of foster care. Right. We’re like, you’re saying, you know, they were clearly placed with families that were trying deliberately to erase who they were and suppress them and just frankly abuse them. But I think that, you know, if we see this sort of like dark history of these sort of state services or state administrative power that can be so easily turned into a form of police, right? And that often enlist citizens to become sort of a police, I think that helps us understand why this move felt so possible for the state of Texas, right? I think, of course, and I share this feeling, too. It’s like it’s really offensive and perverse to see the state of Texas basically using an infrastructure designed to prevent child abuse, to force child abuse on trans kids, right, to force everyone to abuse trans children, that’s really disturbing. But unfortunately, it is also kind of one of the historical legacies of this system, right, that people have been working to dismantle and retool and put to much better ends, but that ultimately the state has retained this kind of power. And I think, you know, it’s no coincidence that this is happening in Texas. You know, the state that has also been the site of breaking up families of migrants and having children separated from their families. I mean, that’s a federal action, right? But in any case, there is this long history of targeting children right through systems that are supposedly designed to protect people or to keep them safe in theory, right? And that that’s not actually those are not actually really opposites in a lot of cases, right? And so I think unfortunately, the history of foster care as a tool of attacking trans people and attacking trans youth in particular just kind of goes to show you how much unfinished business we have from that really, you know, kind of horrifying era. I mean, it’s so wonderful that that there is trans affirming foster care today, right? But in many ways, I think what this policy is is trying to do, among other things, is completely nullify all that hard work.
S2: Yeah, there’s a core part of my training as a foster parent was reinforcing that that most of the time kids do better in their families. And for the most part, the foster care system, at least in California, where I was fostering at the time, has become oriented around trying to keep kids with their families and trying to reunite kids with their families. And it can be really complex. Hated with LGBTQ youth, with with trans youth where, you know, there are situations that I’ve seen where they just can’t go back to their families because their families will never support them and don’t really want them as they are. But the system has to be really delicate and really careful with these families because so often it is families of color. It’s families in poverty who are being sort of viewed through a very, very harsh, you know, dominant mainstream lens. And things are being called as dysfunction or things are being called as unfixable. That that’s not really the reality, and kids are better off with the people who love them rather than with, you know, foster families. And I say that as a foster parent. Anyway, let’s talk about a particularly oppressive aspect of the situation in Texas, which is the mandated reporting aspect. And I think a lot of people who haven’t who don’t have experience with the child welfare system don’t necessarily know about mandated reporting. But these are laws that are designed to prevent people, teachers and doctors and therapists who have, you know, direct experience with kids, especially to prevent them from kind of turning a blind eye. And, you know, sweeping situations under under the rug because, you know, sometimes people are afraid to get involved. And so this is kind of direction that says, no, you get involved and then the child welfare system will take it from here. But in Texas, I think as I understand it, everyone’s a mandated reporter, and the governor has specifically sort of highlighted that as saying basically that everyone has to inform on trans kids and get them into the child welfare system because they’re defining this as abuse. So what can you tell me about that?
S3: It’s a really stark situation, and those of us who have been mandated reporters like, you know, I’m a university professor, I’m a mandated reporter in in certain respects. Obviously, I don’t work with kids, but you know, one of my students discloses something that has happened on campus. You know, there are certain circumstances under which I have no choice but to, you know, pick up the phone and report that there are imperfections to that policy. But you know, when this system was put in place in the 70s, you know, the sort of intention right is to, you know, on the one hand, you know, sort of say like, yeah, people who work professionally with young people like have a higher burden. They have responsibility. They need to in some ways, you know, not turn a blind eye. But there’s something sort of lurking in it right here that I think the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, is trying to capitalize on. And that’s that although this is a bureaucratic system, it has a sort of latent policing quality to it. And I think the sort of twist that’s happening right now is to try and maximize that policing aspect and minimize any of the actual goals of mandated reporting, right? And then there is this sort of interpretation, right, that in theory, mandated reporting might actually extend to every adult in Texas, right? Every adult resident. And you know, the governor’s letter actually says in instructing, you know, the relevant State Department to make plans for professional mandated reporting to also think about how the quote general public would be at least encouraged to do the same if not required, right? Basically, what this means is the state would be compelling people, compelling adults to inform not just on their clients, their patients, their students, but on their community, on their neighbors. Right. It is a really ghastly way to create a powerful police state right, whose only purpose is to compel people to scapegoat a small minority that you know, is being targeted for political violence right now. We’re already working from that axiom here that there is no child abuse to be discovered, right? That’s a fantasy on the part of these conservatives. In fact, it’s sort of a disturbing kind of projection that’s for Slate Psychoanalysis podcast. So we won’t get into that right now. But what I kind of want to say about this, right? The governor sort of weaponized, you know, sort of weak infrastructure that we had in place to try and address child abuse, right? Instead, it’s been converted into the tools of a kind of nightmarish police state, right? You know, journalists have been reporting on these are not hypothetical scenarios anymore because there are well-organized anti-trans groups out there, including in Texas, that have already succeeded in causing real world harm right before this policy came into place. A Dallas clinic that provided gender affirming care to young people already shut down because they have been relentlessly targeted and harassed by anti-trans agitators. Right. And so when we stop and basically think about what does this look like, they can look like a number of things it can look like, OK, you’re the parent or guardian of a trans child and your kids at school, and they fall on the playground and break their arm. And so you would, of course, want to take them to the emergency department to get medical. But now you have to say, how am I going to do that because if the nurse discovers, quote unquote, that my child is trans, they might be legally required to inform on me. It’s this very disturbing scenario. And then it’s like for everyone else, OK? It’s like, you know, if I’m just me and I know people who are trans, I know trans kids, well, how am I going to, you know, basically navigate this legal presumption that I have to against my own will turn in people in my own community. I mean, it’s disgusting and it’s horrific. And it is this sort of backdoor way to create a really authoritarian situation. And I think, you know, people have been talking about like, well, of course, these are not legally binding. You know, attorney generals of pain is not legally binding. The governor cannot just in one fell swoop of his pen make all of this a reality. I don’t think the people who are out there, you know, putting these hypotheticals into reality already care, whether it’s legal or not. They’re going to start. And I’m already hearing reports that parents have received calls from Child Protective Services, parents of trans kids in Texas. So, you know, I don’t know how widespread this is. You know, it’s just emerging details, but it’s like there’s people out there who are just waiting for a green light. Whether or not they believe that it’s legal or not, and they’ve just gotten a huge green light.
S2: Yeah, I mean, I think it could get even worse. But even just as it is now, there are a lot of of kids who are going to be really scared. There are a lot of families that are going to be really scared, and there is absolutely the possibility that children’s lives are going to be significantly disrupted and that they’re going to have trauma inflicted on them, even if it turns out not to be legal. Even if you know the best case scenario happens, real young people are going to be really hurt by this where things are now, and it’s not to speak of, you know, kind of how horrific it could get if we don’t stop it here. So I think we’re going to take a break here. And when we come back, I think I really want to talk about the larger GOP obsession with trans people, including recently blaming trans people for Russians and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. I’m saying it as if I don’t believe it, even though I know it’s true. And if you want to hear more from Jules and myself on another topic, check out our Slate Plus segment. Is this feminist where today we’re debating whether trans exclusionary radical feminism is feminist?
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S2: And we’re back, Jules, I wanted to talk about the larger context for all this Texas stuff. Meaning the just obsession many people on the right seem to have with transgender people. And I pulled an example. This is a tweet from US House of Representative Republican Clay Higgins of Louisiana, who tweeted, You millennial leftists who never lived one day under nuclear threat can now reflect upon your book Sky. You made quite a Nonbinary fuss to save the world from intercontinental ballistic tweets. So that’s a U.S. congressman, and all he could think about to talk about in the light of Russia invading a peaceful country is this kind of transphobic culture war, a word salad? Have you been seeing these tweets and Fox News segments where someone on the right blames trans acceptance for the Russian invasion of Ukraine? What is going on in their minds?
S3: I made a new bet that I’ve seen them, and let me say I am ever astonished just how nakedly people will confess their open sympathy for fascism on Twitter.com. But there really is a kind of broader global context here in which anti-trans politics has kind of united a really, really broad constellation of authoritarian political movements. And those are movements mainly on the far right, but also on the on the left in some places. And so, you know, I think it’s important to see Texas in this broader context of networks that run from certainly from the US to the United Kingdom, but actually also to Poland, to Hungary to Russia, Brazil, India and the Philippines. And we’ve really seen in the last few years that strongman politics, especially when they tip over into forms of dictatorship or open fascism, often run this playbook that emphasizes scapegoating small minorities as internal threats to the nation. And one of those prominent small minorities has been trans people. Right. And so the elimination or cleansing of those threats has kind of been recast as legitimate political and social violence that’s meant to secure the nation or secure the people. And if this all sounds a little disturbingly like a chapter in history, well, yeah, right? In Nazi Germany, as well as in fascist Italy and Spain, LGBT people, including trans people, were targeted in precisely that way. We’ve already seen this happen before, but now we’re seeing a sort of 21st century version of that underway, right? And so, yeah, there are updates, right? Woke sky, I guess I’m going to have to put Nonbinary fostered to buy into my glossary of idiotic right wing yeah, word salad. But this sort of language of gender ideology or Marxist postmodernism, the idea that the West is falling apart auto destructive over its kind of cultural gender relativism, you know, that’s sort of a kind of ideological smokescreen, I think for some real serious cozy political links between particularly the US, right, and Eastern European far right movements. So I think these people who are flubbing what they are saying about the Russian aggression against Ukraine and invasion are, you know, in some ways caught off guard because, you know, we might remember that people like Tucker Carlson, who is, you know, really throwing a fit right now about just how anti-Russian. The US media is also recently traveled to Hungary and extolled the virtues of the far right President Viktor Orban, you know, who many describe as a fascist politician and who had used a total ban on trans people’s legal recognition as one plank of his anti-democratic rule? So I really think when we see these bizarre sentiments from pundits and politicians that somehow Russia is stronger for being so viciously anti-trans, like once again, these people are telling on themselves. But those links are important, right? And I really think we should, you know, not see the global or international context as competing with the domestic context or what’s happening in Texas.
S2: And I really want to make it really explicit the links between this idea of decadence and that accepting of gay and trans people is is weakness is femininity. This is extremely anti-woman. This is toxic masculinity, posturing macho. It’s about tearing down the rights that all groups, but especially women, have won and using kind of the fact that trans people are a little bit less known, that people are a little less comfortable to like, sort of sneak in this Trojan horse of just the most virulent anti-woman anti femininity pro, you know, toxic masculine macho posturing and get people to accept that. As you know, I sort of step two with step one being, you know, highlighting trans people for ridicule and for, you know, very oppressive, you know, legal treatment. And you know, speaking of legal treatment, the the obsession doesn’t stop with tweets. There were nearly 150 bills targeting trans people introduced in 34 states in 2021. And I believe there’s, you know, maybe a dozen more that have been introduced already this year. Many of these bills concerned schools, including bathroom bill banning trans youth from using a school restroom that accords with their gender, their bills preventing trans youth from playing on any kind of youth sports teams. There are also bills banning discussion of gender identity in school, along with other topics relating to LGBTQ identities and relating to racism. And there are proposed bills in Texas and elsewhere to codify Governor Abbott’s belief that affirming care is child abuse, at which point any chance that this is going to to go away because it’s illegal under current law would no longer apply. It’s difficult to know sometimes which of these laws are going to pass and which are political grandstanding. But you know, what’s clear with with all of these laws is that there’s an all out assault on on trans people and on trans rights coming from the Republican Party.
S3: Yeah, that’s exactly right. And you know, I want to say something about that because I think people are understandably a little shell shocked. I mean, everyone, I mean, trans people are used to living, you know, in that state. But I think the general public, you know, you and I, you know, so many other activists, advocates, journalists, scholars, public figures have been really pushing people right to say like, Hey, do none of you care that there is like an openly far right movement in this country targeting children for the for, you know, not just disenfranchisement, right? Not just open abuse, but these are eugenic and ultimately genocidal state projects. They are declaring an entire population of people undesirable, incompetent and unfit for public life and are attempting to remove any possibility that we have for living in the world as a pretext for destroying the population. I mean, you go after children when you want to disrupt a population from existing in the future. These are not coincidences. I’m very careful about ever wanting to sound like a moralist myself, because obviously, like moral language is so often the weapon of transphobia. But I just want to say something, you know, to folks who are feeling a little caught off guard don’t know what to do. Right. And I say this first as a historian, but I say this also as a trans woman of color. However much, we like to think that there has been progress in trans cultural recognition or civil rights in recent years. I can tell you there has never been a time in U.S. history where any state took such outright police powers and attempted to compel its populace to investigate and report on their trans neighbors. That has never bid state policy before. This is unprecedented in its scope and in its intensity, right? And so, you know, I really, really worry about where we’re at and what kind of what kind of precipice we’re on. Except, you know, we’ve been on the precipice every single year for how many years now, right? And every year it gets a little bit worse. And I think there’s something to that. You know, one year, the policy shows up, as you know, a bill that dies in the legislator the next year. They try to, you know, pump it through right by administrative fiat. Well, they’re going to find some other way to make it work, right? We’ve already seen this playbook play out when it comes to the loss of abortion rights in Texas through a really kind of unusual vigilante kind of civil legal slights of hand. And I really think people need to understand that what the state of Texas is doing in here is it is becoming an abuser, has a state right, and I don’t say this glibly right. I say this as someone who thinks very deeply about the legacies of abuse in our communities and as a survivor of abuse myself, right? One of the things that’s so pernicious about intimate abuse is that it makes people complicit. Right? You know, the abuser in your life will gaslight you and manipulate you and will basically, you know, co-opt and force you right against your will, but nevertheless make you complicit in in your abuse. And I really think that’s what the state of Texas is trying to do here, right? It’s wanting to say that regardless of how you feel about trans people, even if you support trans people, even if you love and care for trans people, even if you don’t know any trans people but you know you are pro trans, well, too bad because if these kinds of policies are implemented. You will be complicit with the direct abuse of children because it will be explicitly your legal responsibility to harm them. And whether or not that comes to pass. What I worry is that we’re already way past that line. We are all collectively complicit with the harm being directed at trans kids today. That is a fact, and it’s one of the reasons that I have been saying we have failed trans children collectively because they are the central targets of this massive campaign and moral panics, and they don’t have any viable means to defend themselves. They can’t even vote. What are they going to do? Vote out, Governor Abbott, right? You know, it’s a really disturbing moment, but I think the fact and the logic of abuse is a call to action to understand that we are all implicated in this right? A lot of us don’t want to be. But we need a kind of collective mobilization to stop this policy from going into effect and to stop this avalanche that has been imperiling trans people in ways that they have never been imperiled before. It’s easy. I mean, it’s it’s it’s not easy. It’s painful, but I think there’s a way that, you know, a lot of us feel consistently recently like, Oh, we’ve reached rock bottom, we’re in the nadir, right? This is how could things have gotten so worse? But I really want to say to that what worries me most is that we actually haven’t hit rock bottom. Things could get worse and we are in unprecedented territory. And so I don’t see any of that to be alarmist. But I really think we have to understand that the harms that these kinds of policies provision don’t really depend on them being legally successful or not. They’ve already started happening and they’ve already been happening. This is the product of years of political organizing against trans people, and we’re going to have to match that assault with a kind of collective mobilization if we’re going to hope to interrupt and not just save and go back to the status quo, but radically transform the world that we’ve built for trans kids. You know, trans kids come into this world like all children without having chosen to be of this world. We build the world for them and then we ask them to try to survive into adulthood. We know we need to build a better world for them. We need to build a world for them in which this situation could never come to pass and.
S2: All right, before we head out, let’s talk a little bit about what people can do and how they can get involved. You know, part of the reason that trans people are here is because we have had some successes. I mean, the fact that transition care is supported by the mainstream medical establishment, the fact that, you know, we’ve, you know, achieved some visibility, the fact that people are starting to instead of laugh at us, understand that we’re just human beings. You know, I grew up in the 90s and everything was a joke about a trans woman. It was you just you can’t watch a movie from the nineties without seeing a cruel minded joke about a trans woman. And, you know, so we have had some progress. But I think that this is a hobby horse of mine and you are the historian. But people have this idea in their head that progress only moves forward. And there have been times in the history of the world. I often kind of think back to, you know, the roaring 20s where there was a limited, but, you know, real flourishing of gender non-conformity and the fact that 30 years after that we have the 1950s, which was, you know, one of the most conformist and and frightening authoritarian times to be different in this country’s history. The result is not foreordained, like we can do something to stop things from going in a really scary direction. But it is not for a danger that things are just going to get better and better forever, or that something is going to be, you know, a little bump in the road and then and that we don’t need people’s help. So. So what can people do to support? And the first thing I always say is is get informed because one of the things that transphobes like to say is that, oh, you know, the science, this is against science or this is against common sense. And I always want to tell people like trans people have no fear of you informing yourself more. Look into the research. Really? Take a look at this, and I am very confident that people who aren’t starting from a deeply, deeply fearful and transphobic place will end up understanding that we’re just people and that we deserve support. So what else can what else do you think people can do?
S3: As much as we gave an analysis of what’s in play in Texas? It’s not an especially complicated thing to oppose. It’s pretty on its face, draconian based on false ideas about trans youth, and it will have disastrous outcomes. So, you know, take that and move to action points, right? You know, there are lots of different trans organizations in Texas on the ground that are providing support to families and to young people right now. And of course, you can take time to to lend support to those, if you can. And but I also think it’s about mobilizing a strong public collective voice against these policies to not just challenge them on their own terms, but simply say, no, we reject this in its entirety. It is wrong and we as a public support and love trans kids. And so that means, of course, doing that nitty gritty kind of organizing work, picking up that phone, calling that, you know, the Texas governor’s office if you live in Texas writing letters. But also, if you don’t live in Texas, right, you know, make sure that you hold other elected officials accountable and get them involved, right? A lot of people have been saying Hello, where is the White House on this issue? Where are Democrats right? They’re not really doing that much about this. The cause of trans kids is not really being championed by anyone outside of trans kids, own communities and families and, you know, trans activists. So I think intervening and helping to establish that strong and equally strong and powerful sense that actually no people reject entirely this ridiculous, tabulated world view and reject these policies and want to see the extension of gender affirmation in the world and not the opposite is really important. And so that’s not just a sort of hearts and mind thing. I think that’s actually about like talking to people who championed this issue in your life. Talk to the people who you have sway with in your life. We have clout with take the time to engage with your political officials at all levels, right? Stand up and speak out. You know, go to protests organized and support the activist organizations already doing work on all fronts, right? Not just legal challenges to these policies, but also, you know, the people who are organizing to help keep trans kids and their families in Texas safe, right? And trying to figure out, you know, sort of what the practical kind of harm reduction is in the short term support that but also think about, you know, moving us towards a much broader demand. I don’t see the same groundswell demand drowning out these false representations of trans youth. And I think, you know, that’s to me the most powerful goal that we can work towards, right? But we’re going to have to actually work towards it. So lots of people already are getting for, you know, do your research drop in any kind of support that you’re able to give and make this your issue when we all understand that having trans kids in the. World is a beautiful and wondrous gift, and we are so lucky to know them. And when we really work for that kind of standpoint that we want trans kids to be in this world, we want not just to celebrate the ones that are here, but to welcome all of them and make their lives as as rich as possible that we are enriched by that too. I think once we, you know, begin to to name that as as a collective value, we’re going to find that we have a lot of power. The power is in the hands of the people, too to say no to this and to and to lift up these remarkable and wonderful and resilient kids who we are so lucky to know.
S2: Yeah, we’re hoping that our cis allies are listening to this program and that they’re going to join us in fighting and that we can turn this one around
S1: and stick to it.
S2: That’s been our show this week. The Waves is produced by Shane Arraf.
S3: Shannon Palus is our editorial director with June Thomas providing oversight and moral support.
S2: We’d also love to hear from you. We’re currently working on a show about infertility and IVF. If you have experience, please email us a voice memo with your thoughts about IVF, a bit about your journey, why you decided to do IVF, or even just to yell about it a bit because you’re so frustrated. We’re here for you. Email us at The Waves at Slate.com.
S3: The waves will be back next week. Different hosts, different topic, same time and space.
S2: Thank you so much for being a Slate Plus member, and since you’re a member, you get this weekly segment, is this feminist? Every week we debate whether something is feminist. And this week we’re talking about trans exclusionary, radical feminism. This ideology has got to be feminist since it’s got feminism right there in the name Rachel’s, right?
S3: I’m totally imagining like a trans Seinfeld bit here that goes something like, you know, George is like, You’ve got your radical Feminism and Jerry’s like, right? And you know, and then you’ve got your trans exclusionary, radical feminism. They want to exclude the trans from the Feminism, right? And George, just like, I don’t get it. It’s got Feminism right in the name Jerry right in the day. But you know, I guess I gotta, you know, want to ruffle some feathers here. But that’s silly, because it actually really bothers me when people are like turfs, trans exclusionary, radical feminist. They are not feminists. This isn’t really feminism because it doesn’t include trans people, particularly trans women. I actually want to say I think it does matter to say that, yes, they are feminists. That’s exactly the problem because, you know, feminism isn’t a monolith. You know, for one thing, and I think there has been a dominant form of middle class feminism that, you know, a lot of people have named white feminism that has really understood the category of woman or the category that feminism is designed to advocate for or protect in really narrow terms. And you know, this is a kind of feminist movement that started in the late 19th century and really was, you know, about white, middle class women’s property owning rights and, you know, their sort of sense of wanting equality to white men on that basis on that Exclusionary basis to begin with. And you know, I’m really compelled by by folks like, you know, Sheila Schuller, who has this wonderful book, The Problem with white women, where I’m sort of, you know, tried some of these ideas from where she talks about trans Exclusionary Feminism in that way, as part of this history of state facing conservative, very narrow white women’s Feminism, and there is a sort of intellectual and political lineage there that Shuler makes the case for in talking about this sort of moment in the 1970s where we first start to see, you know, certain feminists declare themselves to be trans Exclusionary. So, you know, I guess the end to my Seinfeld scene has them concluding that it is in fact feminist. But what do you think about that? I think it’s somebody in some ways. It’s kind of a controversial
S2: reading of, I love that we’re getting so deep into it here. I love that I’m kind of talking with someone who’s maybe a little more expert than me. But as I understand, I mean, the history of academic feminism certainly includes trans exclusionary, radical feminism as a branch. And I think I would sort of agree with you that it’s silly to say that an academic branch of feminism isn’t Feminism. But you know, what I’ve been noticing more recently is there’s sort of been a shift where there are things that are being called Feminism, you know, by by turfs or by transphobic people that really boil down to a belief that there is an inherent male and female essence that everyone is born with, and that this essence makes men superior to women. And this is really the opposite of anything recognizable as feminism to be. So if we’re talking about a strain of academic feminism that claims that by having genders that differ from our birth assigned sex, trans people are reinforcing gender roles. You know, while trans people are much less likely to conform to strict gender roles than says people, that’s at least recognizable as feminism to me. But this newer stuff where people who purport to be feminists believe that males are born to be abusers and women are born to be abused, and you can’t change it. All you can do is sort of hide the women away forever and special women only spaces. I feel pretty confident in saying that that’s not feminist. You know, that is everything that feminism as a movement has always fought against. It is a movement that aims towards, you know, keeping women out of the public sphere because they are too inherently vulnerable and inherently fragile to and need to be protected from men at all times like that is that’s not Feminism and when. That’s what anti-trans supposed feminists, you know, how they present their feminism as being about protecting women from the evils of men? I don’t. I can’t go that far.
S3: Yeah, I hear you on that. And you know, I be certainly from the way that you know my feminism. You know, the way I am. I understand feminism in my own life. I would certainly agree with that, but I hate to say it. I think that this really is a kind of unfortunate legacy of what I would call colonial imperial white women’s Feminism. And I’m talking. And about like this sort of moment in the late 19th century where middle class white women in the US and and also in England, you know, really saw themselves as stewards of both the nation, right? They saw themselves as morally superior to men who were, you know, all drunkards and gamblers. And you know, it’s not a very nice view of men and women. I agree with you. It’s very essentialist, right? But they also saw themselves as stewards of the entire world, right? You know, whether it’s through the kind of, you know, anti-Black and anti-Indigenous paternalism in the United States or, you know, in the case of the British Empire, you have these sort of white women that see themselves as moral crusaders, you know, trying to reform all of the non-white peoples around the world that are being oppressed by the British Empire. And you know, although that may seem somewhat unlikely as a form of Feminism, a lot of those people do go on to be, you know, suffragists. But but they really do have this kind of view that actually, yeah, women women are best at home, you know, asserting their moral authority. I mean, it’s like this, you know, it’s interesting to me, like the Echo or the reverberation, right? Because I think part of what you’re pointing to here that actually is important is that sort of turf Feminism is like a very 1970s, 1980s thing. And today there is a sort of distinct, I think, version of this that, you know, maybe those people will call themselves so-called gender critical roles. And these are the ones who, like you said, have the most disturbing view of humanity, right? I mean, they are worse kind of than the worst caricature of patriarchal thinkers because they really believe the world is. All penises are not penises. And you know, anyone that has a penis is a violent, dominating kind of person who only seeks to hurt others. And then the people who don’t have penises shared their view are women are so weak and fragile that they have to be protected by a kind of like robust police force. Otherwise, they’ll be overrun. And it’s just like, what are disgusting? Obviously, not very feminist worldview. But I think it really echoes. I guess I would put it this way. I think these people happily inherit the white woman’s burden. Right. And if we want to quibble over whether that’s feminist or not, I’m kind of OK with that. You know, I’m not super anxious to label it feminist, but unfortunately, you know, I think there is a long history of feminism being weaponized, you know, in these kinds of outrageously, biologically essentialist or gender centralizing ways, but also these really racist and colonial ways. And you know, I guess that’s that’s something that I I would want to see talked about more often, right? It’s I think this sort of battle over like, are you or aren’t you right? Sounds so perfect. It’s like our trans women. Women are not women in this. I feel kind of the same way about like our terrorist feminists are not feminists and like, I don’t really care. I don’t really think that’s like the issue. For me, the issue is more like, you know, this sort of style of the idea that, like white women’s job is to be in charge of everyone else in the world in this really like patronizing way. I find that very disturbing, and I do find that very, you know, anti-feminist in a certain sense. But that’s because, like for me, feminism comes from women of color. Black women, colonized women, indigenous women around the world. So, you know, I guess I was trying to be a good, belligerent debater. But I find myself coming around to your point of view in the end.
S2: Yeah, I mean, I definitely think we kind of don’t really disagree on this one. There’s a strain of turf ism that can rightly be called feminist. You know, I mean, women is such a large group. Obviously, there’s just going to be, you know, untold multitudes of viewpoints and perspectives. But I do. I do feel like at the end of the day, if you believe that men are, you know, superior to women that you know, to the extent where you know, women can kind of always have to live in this fear and need to be protected that I’m not going to call that feminist now.
S3: It’s it’s gross that it’s kind of just reprehensible and dehumanizing for everyone involved. And yeah, you know, I’d love to see. I love to see it called out as such. And, you know, I guess a big shock to our our slate plus listeners here. But on the feminist podcast, we ultimately did not find turfs to be a very feminist.
S2: So many of them and
S3: many of them, yes. That’s a happy place for me to land.
S2: Is there something you were dying to know if it’s feminist or not? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at The Waves at Slate.com.