“Trans Rights” Means Trans Entitlements and the End of Civil Society


by Wendy McElroy, Mises Institute:

A “civil society” is a community of individuals who are linked together by common interests and activities. Common interests include being able to walk the streets safely (peace) and to exercise such rights as freedom of speech (individual freedom). These shared interests allow common activities to flourish, including commerce and the education of children.

Civil society is possible only because most people want to live securely, protect their loved ones, and prosper. This laissez-faire attitude used to be a defining characteristic of Americans, but an engineered and well-financed cultural war is destroying America’s renowned tolerance. If the common interests of society break down and peace and freedom are replaced by violence and privilege, then common activities like free-market commerce and education cannot function.

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One movement captures the raw destruction of this culture war against civil society—a demand for “Trans rights!” blasts across America. But a sharp backlash against it has also developed, epitomized by the boycott of Bud Light beer over the company’s use of trans activist Dylan Mulvaney as a new “woman” ambassador for its brand.

The media characterizes this backlash as antitrans hatred by conservatives, Christians, and other troglodytes. But few people care about the sexual or gender orientation of their neighbors. Critics of the trans movement are rebelling against the forced redefinition of biology, the destruction of women’s sports by trans athletes, the hijacking of children’s education, the medical experiment of gender-transitioning children, and the intrusion of penises in women-only spaces like bathrooms, locker rooms, prisons, and shelters. Critics don’t want to oppress anyone; they want a return to civil society of peace and individual rights.

To understand why the “trans rights” movement has caused such damage, it is necessary to ask three questions. What is a “transgendered” person? What are “rights”? What is produced by the actions the movement takes?

What is a transgendered person? Already we’re in trouble. Many prominent intellectuals today can’t even answer the simpler question, What is a woman? This article uses a common definition: “Transgender describes people whose gender identity does not match their assigned gender at birth.” It is one of many gender categories being advanced by social justice. There are as many as eighty-one distinct categories, all of which are said to be fluid or constructed over time.

Politically speaking, transgenderism and the other gender categories are a continuation of identity politics. This is a fairly standard definition of identity politics: “The politics of group-based movements claiming to represent the interests and identity of a particular group, rather than policy issues relating to all members of the community. The group identity may be based on ethnicity, class, religion, sex, sexuality, or other criteria” (emphasis added). It is an attempt to splinter society into groups and categories, all of which are at war with each other because their interests are said to conflict. What does this war look like?

Consider a controversial example: gender transitioning. This is when a person uses reassignment therapy, hormone replacement, and sex reassignment surgery to change their birth sex. Few argue against the gender transition of adults who pay for the process themselves. But the trans movement demands the gender transitioning of children, often at taxpayer expense; that is, a tomboy might become a “boy” through methods that include irreversible surgery.

There are at least two flash points here. One is the minimum age at which a person should transition. The World Professional Association for Transgender Health claims hormones can start at age fourteen and some surgeries at fifteen—in other words, at the height of a teenager’s sexual confusion. Recently, a licensed social worker at a children’s medical center in Austin, Texas, was reportedly recorded as saying the center provided gender modification to children as young as eight. On April 25, Senator Ted Cruz and Representative Chip Roy submitted a formal request to the center for information on how gender dysphoria is diagnosed, how federal dollars are spent in the process, and whether patients under eighteen underwent “experimental medical procedures.”

The group war here is between a child’s right against physical abuse and trans activists’ demands for children’s access to transition. The other flash point is that transitions are often performed without parental consent or despite parental objections. The rights war here—trans activists are usurping traditional parental rights, and parents are outraged.

The idea that the rights of one group conflict with those of another is perverse because it destroys the very basis of human rights. Human rights are universal because they are rooted in human nature. All human beings possess the same rights to the same degree. Rights are not based on secondary characteristics such as gender; they rest on a shared humanity. In other words, a trans person has the same rights to the same degree as every other person in society. No more, no less.

The “rights” demanded by trans activists are actually entitlements or group privileges. This is made clear by the claim of historical oppression, which is used to justify many demands. What is really being claimed is victimhood, upon which their entitlements are based. For trans activists to sustain their victimhood status, however, those who oppose them must be cast as oppressors and endless haters. Conveniently, this characterization removes the need to deal with any argument the “haters” present, such as the need for real human rights.

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