Living on a campus where the student body is always brimming with ludicrous outrage, a second-year student should be resigned to the fact of life that a protest is never far away. In recent weeks, the American University (AU) populace has focused its white-hot spotlight of rage onto Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) and its upcoming spring speaker, Milo Yiannopoulos.
For the purposes of full disclosure, it’s important for my reader to note that I serve as Treasurer for the YAL chapter here at AU, and I was a part of the decision-making process that led to Yiannopoulos’s speaking arrangement. I’m writing of my own accord and my views do not necessarily reflect those of any other members of the executive board, or YAL as a whole.
Much of the controversy surrounding Yiannopoulos revolves around his various statements concerning the transgender community. He recently penned an article entitled, “I Am So Done With The Trans Outrage Brigade: Why I’m Supporting ‘Drop The T’” and included some admittedly inflammatory statements such as, “If you ask me, when a guy says he needs to cut part of himself off for the world to make sense, we should start with his head.”
Understandably, this has generated a lot of anger from the trans community at AU. They have used this sentence to justify banning Yiannopoulos from appearing on campus, in that he is an advocate for violence against trans people. However, not more than a couple sentences later, Yiannopoulos explains, “I say all this in language designed to provoke the self-appointed arbiters of speech.” The politically correct student base obliged and played right into his hands.
Yiannopoulos does not advocate for violence any more than any person who has hyperbolically said, “I’m gonna kill you” in an argument. The Left’s focus on the extreme nature of his language represents a clear attempt to dismiss him without having to address some of the real arguments he makes. This is a disturbingly popular trend within the community at AU, and is most common when transgenderism is injected into an argument.
One of the most common arguments I have heard when trans people are discussed is that any skepticism directed towards trans people is transphobic and that, as a cisgender person, I cannot possibly understand anything about the decisions trans people make and the issues they face. Any intermediate school debater will notice that this is not, in fact, an argument, but a line of attack.
Even to the most well read Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) major, is it really so incredible to believe that some people might be confused about these theories? They are proposing that sex and gender are completely different and that people can be biologically male, but identify as a female. They also propose that gender is not a question of male or female, but a nebulous cloud, or spectrum, of various options. However, trans advocates will meet skepticism with epithets despite the obvious outlandish nature of the claims.
If I were to ask a trans rights advocate what it meant to “identify” as a woman, and I have numerous times before, I would be met with the claim that I should not deny the experiences of trans people, just because I do not understand them. They will ignore the obvious irony that my question was, in fact, to try and better understand the experience. This is a fairly basic question at the heart of all this, and I have not once received a direct, specific answer.
Another question that should be fairly basic for trans advocates is that if gender is not a binary construct, then what are the other options, and what does it mean to identify as a non-binary option? Again, I will be told that I am narrow-minded for thinking in binaries, without, of course, any concrete argument as to why binaries are inherently wrong. Even if I wanted to think outside of the binary, I have not been given any semblance of a justification for doing otherwise. Claiming that binaries are bad does not answer a single question about why that is so, and conveniently cloaks a fundamental lack of logic.
The trans advocates on this campus have risen to the epitome of arrogance with their tactics. Their refusal to directly address the claims of their political opponents echoes the warning that English philosopher John Stuart Mill issued in his book, On Liberty, where he proclaims that refusing to hear out a “devil’s advocate” is to mistake one’s personal certainty for absolute certainty. This is arrogance in its purest form.
However, the social tyranny stretches beyond mere dismissal. Not only is not believing what trans advocates believe incorrect and bigoted, it is also, in their minds, akin to promoting violence. They say that standing idly by to allow people like Yiannopoulos to express his opinion is to condone the murder of trans individuals. Opponents of trans rights advocates cannot merely be wrong. They have to be accomplices to murder. Otherwise, trans advocates would have to address the arguments point by point, and they know they simply cannot do it.
Let’s say, however, for the sake of argument (because America is built on dialogue and argument) that there may be some merit to this argument that trans skeptics condone murder. After all, there were a record number of trans people murdered in 2015. How many, you might ask? Twenty-one. For perspective, more people were killed by being bitten by ants, and over twenty times as many people dies from rolling out of bed. There is simply no epidemic of trans murders, and the assertion is both ridiculous and lazy.
The assertion, unfortunately, was furthered by the presence of a group called Dark Matter on campus a few short weeks ago. They are a South Asian transgender duo of poets, and they made much the same claim in their performance. They also ridiculed the white, cisgender community for “stealing the gay movement from non conforming Black and Brown people.” They also asked that people interested in being allies to their cause “get the hell out of their way.”
The arrogance to think you solely own a movement, unrelated to race, because of your race rivals that of claiming dissidence is complicity in murder. However, no one publicly took issue with their arrival out of fear of being labeled any number of bigoted terms by the leftist thought police that set up the event. Their sentiment also echoes some of Yiannopoulos’s claims that the transgender community is attempting to phase out members it does not deem fit from their movement, (as Yiannopoulos is a gay man) and is why he advocated “dropping the T” from the LGBT acronym. Dark Matter continued their arrogant tirade by asking, “What the hell are you going to do to fight to make sure that trans people are no longer murdered?” While, the truth is, there is not much anyone can do, because they’re not actually being murdered very much at all. These claims that that they fear constantly for their safety are utterly ridiculous and meant to intimidate others from voicing opposition.
An aside, once again, for full disclosure: I am currently romantically involved with the author of the article I hyperlinked concerning Dark Matter’s performance at AU.
The suggestion that trans people may suffer from some sort of mental illness is met with the same vitriolic attitudes. The argument I have heard most commonly is that transgenderism is real, because these people kill themselves because they aren’t accepted for who they truly are and it is not because of a mental illness, but because of a deeply held identity. To be frank, regardless of whether or not the suggestion of mental illness has any merit, to offer mass suicide as proof that mental illness is not in play would be laughed out of almost any other discussion on mental illness.
The Leftists who like to claim they are the side of science rebuff renowned psychiatrists like Dr. Paul R. McHugh, the former psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Dr. Joseph Berger, a life fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, who both suggest that trans people suffer from a form of mental illness and are removed, in part, from reality. I suppose, though, that they too must be transphobic, and must not know anything about psychiatry. Again, regardless of the merits of the claim, there is a substantive discussion to be had, that trans rights advocates don’t want to have.
Trans advocates turn their hatred not only to the cisgender community, but to members of their own movement as well. I have heard various assertions that Caitlyn Jenner (formerly Bruce Jenner) has internalized transphobia for her endorsement of Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) in the presidential race. The same claims have been made about Yiannopoulos, that he must be internally homophobic to believe what he does as a gay man.
I am hard pressed to think of anything more conceited than believing that anyone who disagrees with your perspective must hate themselves inside. Of course, if you confront the Left and challenge their claim on principle, and ask them about members of the Jewish community who support Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction measures against Israel, the Left will rail against you. They will put down your experience and hastily, lazily, and incorrectly redefine Zionism to fit their narrative, even though it conflicts with the principle of their previous arguments.
The argument over Israel and Palestine is one better left for another time, but it illustrates a key point that has been demonstrated throughout this article. Trans advocates have no principles. Their attacks drip with arrogance and are caked with vitriol. When they do try to make an argument, they often lack substance and will quickly and undoubtedly resort to personal attacks to divert from the real point.
As absolutely miserable as it has been trying to deal with all this butchering of civilized debate and free speech, I am oddly okay with this. As Mill warns in On Liberty, a point must be held up for debate or “it will be held as a dead dogma, not a living truth.” The repeated attempts to dodge discussion on this issue will render the Left’s position worthless, if it has not already, and I very much look forward to that day, so I can focus on more important issues like the future of our economy or the prospect of a nuclear Iran.
However, in the interest of civility and dialogue, I invite each and every reader who has hated everything I have had to say to this point to come to hear Yiannopoulos speak on April 21st when he comes to campus. Don’t try to drown him out with screams or fake blood. Listen, and come prepared with substantive, challenging questions to preserve the continued discussion of this issue you apparently hold so dearly. Only then, will you have proven me wrong.
The author can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and for comments related directly to this article, please title the subject line, “Milo Article”.