Dispatches of a Gender Heretic
Thoughts on the prominence of gender heresy among gay men, cultural appropriation, and some updates on my latest work
I want to apologize for the large gap of time between posts. I’m working on a book (Cis White Gay: The Making of a Gender Heretic) and the manuscript is due in January. Suffice it to say, I’m spending most of my time and mental energy on that project. As it turns out, writing a book is hard!
First, I want to talk about a recent City Journal article, “America, Exporter of the Gender Revolution,” written by Leor Sapir. It’s about the U.S. State Department’s plans to carry out President Biden’s Executive Order 14075, which instructs federal government agencies to do what they can to stop conversion therapy for “LGBTQI+” youth at home and abroad. Sapir notes that a State Department memo about the order includes simple “talk therapy” in its definition of conversion therapy, which is alarming, considering that the proper first response to children and adolescents who identify as transgender is often just that. The alternative—to immediately affirm a trans identity without properly exploring the possibility of past traumas and other comorbidities, as well as internalized homophobia—could mean we’re medicalizing individuals who do not need to be medicalized. The article contains the following passage:
I can’t tell you how surprising it is to read these words in a conservative publication. And I’m so grateful to Sapir for writing them. He and I have been in touch over the past few months, and he recently asked me whether I thought we would see more acceptance of gays and lesbians among conservatives as a result of the proliferation of radical gender ideology, which many conservatives recognize exponentially harms gays and lesbians. I said, yes, I was hopeful of that, and I’ve already started to see some of it. Besides Sapir’s work for City Journal, I recall Matt Walsh stating on that infamous Dr. Phil episode that there’s nothing wrong with boys who like to play with dolls. Or maybe he said “wear dresses.” Whatever it was, it was refreshing to see such a stalwart conservative defend gender-nonconformity in his criticism of gender ideology.
On the other hand, though, I fear the opposite. I fear that the progress we’ve made will backslide. I’ve seen right-wingers remark how gender ideology seemed to come along right after marriage equality became the law of the land, as if we’re the ones who ushered in this insanity and therefore deserve most of the blame. Since, you know, as one big happy LGBTQIA+ family, we all think and believe the same things.
Another question Sapir had for me was this: “What percentage of gay men are opposed to gender identity ideology? I don’t mean just letting trans adults do what they want as long as they don’t impinge on the rights of others. I mean everything that’s going on with medicalizing kids, Lia Thomas [the transwoman swimmer who competed on UPenn’s men’s team, took about a year off to medically transition, and then went on to destroy women’s records on the women’s team], etc.”
I told Sapir that it was complicated. I said I think 100% of gay men who have thought long enough about it—that is, those who are aware of its regressiveness, its erasure of the homosexual identity, its impingements upon women’s rights and interests, its origins in pseudoscience, and its fundamentalist religious elements—are opposed to it. Whether they have the guts to admit it to others, or even to themselves, is another thing. Then there are gay men who don’t want to think too deeply about it. They just want to be “good.” They might have heretical thoughts about the ideology, but they suppress them, or they doubt them.
I explained to Sapir that many gay men carry a lot of shame. They’ve been told, since childhood, that there is something inherently wrong with them—or even evil about them. They’ve lived much of their lives as chameleons, becoming whomever others needed or wanted them to be. For many, the only place they’ve found acceptance or a sense of peace is among other gay people. Since the political merger of LGB and T—and especially since the takeover of LGBT society by radical gender ideology—the thought of being rejected by the only “community” they’ve ever belonged to is too devastating to contemplate.
Then there are gay men, most of whom identify as queer (or perhaps nonbinary), who have been indoctrinated with queer theory and gender ideology, either in their schools and universities or via social media. They believe what the high priests have told them, that this ideology is the key to liberation, social justice, and the possibility of some sort of Marxist utopia. They are unaware of how much this ideology hurts them. These men, I added, often numb themselves with illicit drugs. After all, an inebriated mind is a malleable mind.
If you haven’t had a chance to read any of Leor Sapir’s work for City Journal, please do. He’s doing unbelievably important work.
Now to talk about another one of my faves: Lisa Selin Davis, the author of Tomboy: The Surprising History and Future of Girls Who Dare to be Different. Selin Davis also writes on Substack at BROADVIEW, and, along with Sapir, is one of the best journalists covering the debates about gender-affirmative care, childhood and adolescent transition, and other gender-related controversies.
Recently, we recorded a conversation for what Selin Davis dubbed “Gender Heretics Radio Hour.” During the ninety-minute-long convo, Selin Davis asked me about my childhood in a religious cult, my gender-nonconformity as a little boy, and my own path to gender heresy. Click below, if you want to check it out.
A few months ago, someone on Twitter shared an old tweet written by the transgender ACLU lawyer, Chase Strangio. In the tweet, Strangio writes about how he felt validated in his gender identity when someone called him a “faggot.” My immediate reaction was one of anger. How could Strangio not see how offensive it was to say he felt validated by a vile antigay slur, when that slur has long been used to mock, threaten, and invalidate gay men?
Welp, apparently this is a thing. The trans academic/activist Jules Gill-Peterson has written about it on her Substack (the really memorable quote is when her partner, a trans man, talks about “becoming” a faggot). And check out this ad for an upcoming event in London:
Talk about cultural appropriation!
Seriously, one of the maddening things about all of this is how many topics have become off-limits—because to point them out would be to speak the truth, and the truth is, well, transphobic. Which, I guess, is why it helps to be a heretic. Because, in this case, as a heretic I can point out the very obvious parallels between transgenderism and transracialism, as well as the contradiction between validating a straight female who claims a gay male identity (and uses a gay slur to self-identify, no less) and condemning a white Londoner who claims a Korean identity.
Anyway, I decided to write about Strangio’s tweet and my reaction to it, and what came out was a sort of meditation on resentment and victimhood. Yesterday, it was published in Queer Majority. Click here if you want to read it.
Lastly, about a month ago I participated in a virtual roundtable, hosted by the writer and academic Pamela Paresky, with Sapir and Selin Davis, as well as author and psychotherapist Joseph Burgo, media producer and sex educator Buck Angel, and writer and host of the Heterodorx podcast Corinna Cohn. We talked about the recent news that England’s National Health Service was shuttering the Tavistock child gender identity clinic after an independent review conducted by Dr. Hilary Cass found that health staff felt under pressure to adopt “an unquestioning affirmative approach,” patients’ other health issues (like autism spectrum disorder) were being overlooked, proper data was not being collected, and no answers had been properly sought as to why the clinic was now seeing so many more female than male patients, among many other concerns. We talked about why, after the U.K., Sweden, and Finland have begun to adopt a much more cautionary about child and adolescent transition, the U.S. appeared to be going full steam ahead. You can check out the conversation below.
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