June 17, 2024 • Pinko #3

Against Trans Eradication

Twenty-first century radical queers have long turned our ire against rainbow capitalism and its shallow sexual liberalism. As one historically notable collection put it, we have said we are against equality. The critiques are now easily at hand: corporations offer us rainbow marketing while oppressing their queer workers; politicians espousing pro-gay rhetoric massively expand prisons or launch new wars; the police paint their cop cars in pride colors while beating us and shooting us in the streets; liberals now welcome us into their institutions of marriage and family, their recent homophobia inverted into an expectation that all we want is to conform. “Love is love,” and the sickening machine of racial capitalism continues. We resist assimilation, we speak of gay shame, we refuse their rainbows.

This year, rainbow capitalism doesn’t exactly seem like the main enemy. In the weeks leading up to June 2023, corporate pride displays drew renewed fascist attention, offering liberal managers a chance to halt unionization drives and capitulate to the threat of violence. Far-right politicians, multiple targeted mass shootings, on-site death threats, and a coordinated anti-trans media campaign have changed the tenor of Pride, which only recently seemed fully recuperated by liberal conformity. Though this year the violence was minimal, Boise’s foiled mass terror attack by the Patriot Front last summer weighed on many.

The main focus of the anti-queer fascist violence campaign has had a particular figure in its sights, but it is showing initial signs of broadening. They target their ire at trans children and the adults who support them. Fascists express florid contempt towards parents of trans children, their doctors, and drag queen performers who perform for children and all-ages groups. The trans child has become their obsessive focus.

Initially, the organizing against trans children seemed to emphasize the familiar liberal trope of parental rights. In sensationalized newspaper articles and news clips from both right wing media and the bastions of liberalism, parents hostile to their trans children reported feeling pressured by doctors or liberal media or trans activists to not pursue their desired conversion therapy. These parents seem to panic at the idea their children may be anything other than narcissistic extensions of themselves, worried their offspring would fail at repeating binary gender tropes and normative heterosexual fantasies. Gender reveal parties seemed to embody this parental anti-trans panic with their attendant wildfires and fatal accidents. Trans radicals, of course, have always challenged the notion a child’s gender should ever be up to parents and doctors, let alone chromosomes or birth assignment.

Liberal media pundits, rather than uniting to oppose this fascist onslaught, have instead offered it cover. The Atlantic and New York Magazine have repeatedly published articles developing right-wing talking points on trans children, manufacturing a panic about what they suggest are rash gender transitions. The New York Times went a step further, condemning and punishing the hundreds of staff, journalists, and media workers that publicly criticized the paper’s repeated anti-trans bias.

While liberals see in the fascist mobilization an opportunity to discipline the left, recently the far right has dispensed with the liberal pretense of parental choice. Now trans-affirming parents, who have had little voice in media narratives about parenting trans children, find themselves facing intensifying harassment and hostility. They and their children face a campaign that integrates multiple state legislative efforts to ban gender affirming care, a mounting reality of armed terror violence, and genocidal rhetoric. States are mobilizing their infrastructure of the family policing system against parents of trans children, previously developed and used to target and separate Black families living in poverty. The shift between parental rights to the attack on trans-supportive parents is driven by fascists narrowing who they consider legitimate families.

The far right is increasingly explicit they seek the “eradication” of transgender people from public life. This is not hyperbole about their aims. Within years, it is not implausible that gender transitioning could become extremely legally and medically arduous in much of the US, that institutional support for trans people could be eliminated completely, and that trans people could face open and routine violence. This is already happening, and could spread and intensify. The UK’s anti-trans movement, a bit less Christian and a bit more centered on the false trope of “women’s rights” than the anti-trans movement in the US, seems far along a similar path.

The trans struggle has much to offer an understanding of gender fascism and its imbrication with liberal inclusion. Black trans women have long pointed out the potential trap of equality, visibility, and inclusion. Leading activists like Miss Major have pointed out that visibility can also reveal where we are to the enemy. Liberalism was always a shaky ground on which to advance, always excluded large numbers of BIPOC and poor queer and trans people, and always massively truncated the horizon of freedom. These Black trans activists join a broad historical critique that locates the germs of fascism in the status quo of racial capitalism, imperialism, mass incarceration and day-to-day policing. But however critical we may have long been of the sexual liberalism of equality, there is something terrifying in seeing it under violent assault by those who declare their intentions are our complete eradication.

Like corporate pride, the liberal assumption of parental ownership of their children’s bodies and identities was little defense against fascist attacks. The defense of trans and queer life will require a mass movement with multi-pronged strategies. These strategies include armed self-defense and anti-fascist violence, the collective power of organized labor, and pressuring liberals to extricate themselves from anti-trans rhetoric and politics, as examples. But anti-fascism has also long been deployed, by self-declared communists and others, to suppress insurrectionary and revolutionary working-class tendencies or to force alliances with racist liberalism and capitalist states. Something else is needed, a politics capable of joining a mass multi-tendency force against fascism, while not capitulating to an inadequate and untrustworthy liberalism.

Gay communism has never exactly been an identity for Pinko. We have not often written “as gay communists,” positioning ourselves as the voice of some sort of movement to which we dictate strategy. We have described ourselves as “a collective for thinking gay communism,” treating gay communism as a problematic, a theoretical and practical problem to be worked through and thought alongside. This does not preclude us from making political assessments or calls, but complicates and nuances the position from which we do so. It is self-evident we need an effective movement against trans eradication capable of meeting the current moment. Such a movement will have to be discovered and developed collectively in mass struggle, alongside, perhaps, arguments and conversations we hope to contribute to and join.

One thought that helps us in trying to imagine past the fight against trans eradication: the gender desire of trans children themselves. One of us was involved in the first three years of the (later renamed) Philadelphia Trans Health Conference in the early 2000s. In the first year of the conference a cis mother came asking about programming for parents of trans children. The trans or gender non-conforming child has long been a subject of study and fascination among researchers; but actual child-inclusion in trans health and trans movement spaces was still quite rare. By the third year of the conference, two dozen pre-adolescent trans children came with their families. Now out trans children are present in schools and youth groups across the country.

Fascists ascribe this development to groomers; some liberal transphobes to overactive doctors; others to genetic or chemical contaminants. Whatever changing social circumstances have enabled these children to speak of their rich and complex relationships to gender, it is clear the desire of the children themselves is the central driver of everything that has formed in their support. Trans desire has always long exceeded the existing parameters of sexual difference, racial capitalism and state policies. Trans desire, now taken up by masses of children, is taking us all somewhere new, demanding us to recognize the possibility of a reordered world that comes with it, a possibility that can’t be managed or foreclosed.

This begins simply with individual transitions and their social effects, the articulation of a personal desiring need in a world that does not easily accommodate it. In a liberal politics of inclusion, the political horizon stops here, with a minorly reconfigured world that distributes oppression more proportionately. But in the current furor around trans children and their support networks is another, faintly glimpsed possibility. The collective power of these desires, their shared force in demanding a different kind of world, could push beyond the confines of state approval and parental tolerance. Enduring widespread poverty and state violence, trans people have played leading roles across multiple recent rebellions and revolutionary social movements. Trans radical writers are pushing new theorizations of class society, the state, and struggle. In a society that privatizes care into isolated private households, true shared freedom for trans children could only come through the overcoming of racial capitalism. This shred of possibility is why this moment is both terrifying to fascists and electrifying for the rest of us. Fascists have proven themselves to be strategic. They have chosen this moment to move toward complete eradication because the possibility of this overcoming is so frightening and so powerful.

Some try to reassure panicked liberals by emphasizing that the increasing numbers of trans children will soon level off, inanely equated to left-handedness. What if they are wrong? What if the absurd fabricated fears of transphobic fascists contain a kernel of truth: that trans desire will destroy and remake the world, that trans children are heralding a future horizon that we can’t easily imagine, that trans liberation will be the end of what we know and the beginning of what we could become? ⊱