Warring over Teens and the “T”

Miriam Ben-Shalom, a lesbian Army Reserve veteran who was the first person the Pentagon reinstated for being discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” sharply criticized those who encourage trans children and adolescents to transition before they are adults, the Washington Blade recently reported.

“As a teacher I care about my students and I believe it’s abuse,” said Ben-Shalom. “In this culture you cannot vote until you’re 18. You can’t drink until you’re 21. You can’t have a credit card of your very own that you applied for until you’re after 18 years of age. How the hell is it that you’re going to allow kids in kindergarten and 11-year-olds take all kinds of chemicals?”

There’s some merit in this, as studies show that some children who identify as transgender stop doing so once through puberty, when they may start to see themselves as gay young men or lesbian young women instead (as referenced in an earlier post).

Somewhat more problematically, the story continues:

“I don’t care if a biological male wants to wear a dress and put on a wig and put on make up,” she said. “That’s his choice and as long as whatever he does doesn’t hurt another human being and whatever else he does is with a consenting adult human being, I don’t have a problem with it. I don’t care.”

“I do have a problem with their insisting that they’re something that they are not,” added Ben-Shalom.

The Blade notes that organizers of the Milwaukee Pride Parade last year invited Ben-Shalom to serve as their grand marshal. They rescinded the invitation after they discovered “anti-trans” comments that she had posted to her Facebook page (Ben-Shalom denies she is transphobic).

In Texas, controversy is swirling around high school wrestler Mack Beggs, born female but who identifies as male and is taking testosterone that has increased his muscle bulk. Under Texas policy, he must compete in women’s wrestling, where’s he’s winning handily, and some say posing a physical threat to the girls he’s going up against (performance-enhancing drugs don’t bar one from Texas high school competition if they have been prescribed by a physician). According to press reports:

In an interview with ESPN this weekend, the 17-year-old junior discussed being forced to wrestle girls when he would rather wrestle boys, how it felt to win a state title, and what he thought of those who felt he shouldn’t be allowed to compete in high school sports at all. The prep governing body, the University Interscholastic League, passed a rule in 2016 that uses a student’s birth certificate to determine student athlete participation in sports.

“It’s not like I’m doing this because I want to, like, call myself a boy and just dominate all these girls,” Beggs told ESPN. “What do I get out of that? I don’t get anything out of that. I was put in this position. Change the laws and then watch me wrestle boys.”

This week, Beggs won the girls regional championship after a female opponent forfeited the match.

Virginia high school student Gavin Grimm, born female but who now identifies as male, is suing to use the boys restroom and locker room. The school district offered him a private restroom and changing area, which he rejected. The Supreme Court has remanded the case to be reheard by a lower court after President Trump rescinded Obama’s order that students nationwide be able to use public school facilities based on how they gender identify.

I can’t find the cite, but I recall reading about another high school transgender teen boy, born female, who was requesting to use the boys restroom, except that he was more comfortable using the girls restroom when he was menstruating.

The left’s response, to let anyone use any restroom and locker room based on how they self-identify, isn’t going to work. The right’s response, to limit intimate facilities to birth certificate gender, isn’t going to work. This is a social issue that will have to be played out over time and through the courts. While I hope reasonableness prevails, the history of the culture wars doesn’t particularly lead to optimism.

If You’re Pro-Gay but Offend Progressives, You’re ‘Anti-Gay’

An ugly and violent protest at Middlebury College in Vermont kept scholar and author Charles Murray from addressing students and put him in danger—students tried to overturn his car as he left, and they physically assaulted the professor who had agreed to serve as the event moderator, pulling her hair and twisting her neck; she emerged from a hospital emergency room wearing a neck brace.

Murray had come to discuss his ground-breaking book about class in America, Coming Apart (reviewed here by the New York Times), which contends that the white working class is, literally, falling apart while the wealthy elites profit mightily. He draws a distinction between residents of what he calls “Fishtown,” who are down and out of work, and those of “Belmont,” who are getting richer.

You might think this would be an interesting topic to discuss and question him about given recent political developments that caught the left off-guard, but the students decided otherwise, shouting Murray down as a “white nationalist.” This was apparently triggered by Murray’s 1994 study The Bell Curve, in which he argued, as the New York Times review above puts it, that “that those with high I.Q.’s have replaced the old WASP elite in a modern economy that rewards brains over bloodlines.” And yes, he presented data on I.Q. distribution by factors including race. The findings and their accuracy were not at issue (although the objectivity of the I.Q. test itself has been debated). Following the angry response that The Bell Curve received from the left, in Coming Apart Murray looked only at the white working class and elites.

(Last year, Murray responded to distortions being spread about The Bell Curve by those who’ve never read it.)

Here’s why I’m blogging this. As noted in a roundup of press reports by the Unz Review:

Several groups in the audience stood as Murray began to speak. They turned their backs and spoke over him. Single voices merged into a call and response that included “Who is the enemy? White supremacy,” and “Charles Murray go away. Racist. Sexist. Anti-gay.”

Here’s the deal: Murray has been an advocate of marriage equality within conservative circles, even making the case for recognizing same-sex marriage at CPAC, as the New Yorker reported.


Whatever anyone might think of Murray’s arguments on I.Q. and economic success in modern America, he is certainly not “anti-gay.” The Middlebury students, ignorant as they are, just assumed he was.

Also, I liked the Unz Review commenter who noted: “The children of Belmont don’t want to hear about the woes of Fishtown.” Indeed.

More. In response to those alleging that the students seeking to prevent Murray from speaking were possibly small in number or outside agitators, in the comments below Josh remarks that “none of the students are reported to have responded by shouting back ‘let him speak,’ did they.”

Also, prior to his speaking, “More than 600 Middlebury College students and faculty have signed a letter to President Laurie Patton condemning the invitation of Charles Murray to speak at the college….”

Furthermore. From Murray’s own account of the event, which clarifies that he had been invited to speak by a small group of conservative students:

About a week before the event, plans for protests began to emerge, encouraged by several faculty members. Their logic was that since I am a racist, a white supremacist, a white nationalist, a pseudoscientist whose work has been discredited, a sexist, a eugenicist, and (this is a new one) anti-gay, I did not deserve a platform for my hate speech, and hence it was appropriate to keep me from speaking. …

Some were just having a snarky good time as college undergrads have been known to do, dancing in the aisle to the rhythm of the chants. But many looked like they had come straight out of casting for a film of brownshirt rallies. In some cases, I can only describe their eyes as crazed and their expressions as snarls. Melodramatic, I know. But that’s what they looked like. …

I didn’t see it happen, but someone grabbed Allison’s hair just as someone else shoved her from another direction, damaging muscles, tendons, and fascia in her neck. I was stumbling because of the shoving. If it hadn’t been for Allison and Bill keeping hold of me and the security guards pulling people off me, I would have been pushed to the ground. That much is sure. What would have happened after that I don’t know, but I do recall thinking that being on the ground was a really bad idea, and I should try really hard to avoid that. …

The pressure to refrain from suspending and expelling large numbers of students will be intense. Parents will bombard the administration with explanations of why their little darlings are special people whose hearts were in the right place. Faculty and media on the left will urge that no one inside the lecture hall be penalized because shouting down awful people like me is morally appropriate.

A progressive education.

Finally, Prof. Stanger’s account of the attack.

Ok, one more addendum. Andrew Sullivan writes:

They then expel the heretic in a unified chant: “Hey hey, ho ho! Charles Murray has got to go.” Then: “Racist, Sexist, Anti-gay. Charles Murray, Go away!”

Murray’s old work on IQ demonstrates no meaningful difference between men and women, and Murray has long supported marriage equality. He passionately opposes eugenics. He’s a libertarian. But none of that matters. Intersectionality, remember? If you’re deemed a sinner on one count, you are a sinner on them all. …

The final climactic chant is “Shut it down! Shut it down!” It feels like something out of The Crucible. Most of the students have never read a word of Murray’s — and many professors who supported the shutdown admitted as much. But the intersectional zeal is so great he must be banished — even to the point of physical violence.

Along similar lines:

Better Times for Gay Youth?

An interesting story on a study that finds young gay males are growing up in a world with far greater acceptance, increasingly making their sexual orientation a non-issue (yes, there are always exceptions, but this is a major cultural change).

Ritch Savin-Williams, professor emeritus in developmental psychology at Cornell University, interviewed 206 millennial men for his book Becoming Who I Am: Young Men on Being Gay, published last year. From the Cornell Daily Sun:

“There are few differences between gay and straight youth other than their sexual and romantic histories,” Savin-Williams insisted. “They are just as close to their parents, they have just as many friends, they have the same kinds of relationships in terms of closeness … you cannot distinguish between gay and straight.”

Savin-Williams further stated that, while his findings paint a far more positive picture of the lives of young gay men than other scientific studies, homosexuality is not the life-defining issue some think of it as.

“Most of these young people believe that their sexuality will make no difference in their lives, in terms of their future, their income, their jobs, or whatever. They just assume that their culture is going to evolve to the point where sexual orientation is a non-issue,” he said.

Much attention is now being focused on the struggles of transgender high school kids, perhaps because gay kids are doing so much better nowadays.

This was also interesting:

Savin-Williams found that young gay men feel more accepted by their families and peers and lead much happier lives today than studies may suggest. …

He specifically mentioned a government-funded CDC study which portrays gay youth as characteristically having depression, anxiety and highly suicidal tendencies, results which Savin-Williams disputed as highly inaccurate. Savin-Williams attributed these inaccuracies to the fact that the CDC’s study of “gay youth” included women who identified as bisexual for reasons other than their sexuality.

When I was young and moved in activists circles in NYC, I met more than a few “lesbian activists” who identified as lesbian, they admitted, as a feminist statement while dating both men and women, and some who only dated men (but kept that quiet).

More. Subsequently I came across this piece at at HuffPo by Michael Hobbes, on why despite so much social progress gay men—those who came of age post-AIDS and on the cusp of marriage equality—are unhappier than straight men. He writes:

Like me, Jeremy did not grow up bullied by his peers or rejected by his family. He can’t remember ever being called a faggot. … Still, even as we celebrate the scale and speed of [social] change, the rates of depression, loneliness and substance abuse in the gay community remain stuck in the same place they’ve been for decades.

Hobbes points to the lingering stress of discovering that your sexuality makes you different during adolescence, and its PTSD-like lingering effects:

The term researchers use to explain this phenomenon is “minority stress.” In its most direct form, it’s pretty simple: Being a member of a marginalized group requires extra effort. … All of us were deeply confused or lying to ourselves for a good chunk of our adolescence.

The young men he profiles seem to be leading pretty vacuous lives around drugs, lots of hookups and constant partying, with no mention of any spiritual grounding.

Nor even much interiority. As the author’s friend Jeremy tells him:

“The drugs were a combination of boredom and loneliness,” he says. “I used to come home from work exhausted on a Friday night and it’s like, ‘Now what?’ So I would dial out to get some meth delivered and check the Internet to see if there were any parties happening. It was either that or watch a movie by myself.”

Here’s a thought: Maybe the drugs and compulsive hookups/partying aren’t symptoms of “minority stress” leading to depression and dysfunction, but the root cause.

Breaking Ranks

D.C.’s MetroWeekly interviews Anthony “Rek” LeCounte, a young, black, gay Republican. Excerpt:

“There’s a saying in politics that ‘personnel is policy,’” he says. “A lot of these nonpartisan [LGBT rights] groups are staffed by aggressively left-wing progressive folks who, even if their organization say, ‘We believe X, Y, and Z,’ have their own biases which then affect their decisions. If an LGBT candidate is pro-life, or supports gun rights, or holds a bunch of other conservative positions that run deeply counter to what the progressive movement is doing, a lot of these groups don’t want to be associated with those kind of candidates. So they’ll either endorse against or they’ll just pretend the candidate doesn’t exist.”

True.

Perfect Enemies, Redux

A New York Times article asks Are Liberals Helping Trump? by declaring, “Agree with us 100% or you are morally bankrupt.”

Well, yes.

Times national correspondent Sabrina Tavernise writes:

Liberals may feel energized by a surge in political activism, and a unified stance against a president they see as irresponsible and even dangerous. But that momentum is provoking an equal and opposite reaction on the right. In recent interviews, conservative voters said they felt assaulted by what they said was a kind of moral Bolshevism — the belief that the liberal vision for the country was the only right one. Disagreeing meant being publicly shamed. …

Mrs. O’Connell is a registered Democrat. She voted for Bill Clinton twice. But she has drifted away from the party over what she said was a move from its middle-class economic roots toward identity politics. …

“The Democratic Party has changed so much that I don’t even recognize it anymore,” she said. “These people are destroying our democracy. They are scarier to me than these Islamic terrorists. I feel absolutely disgusted with them and their antics. It strengthens people’s resolve in wanting to support President Trump. It really does.”

I believe “identity politics” should not be construed here to mean support for equal rights for minorities, as progressives would claim, but rather what they have delivered in practice, which Daphne Patai characterized as the proliferation of oppressed identities so that “the game is openly played in hiring and even in the exercise of free speech—who is entitled to teach, to speak, to pose challenges, and who had better shut up if lacking the requisite identity.”

Along similar lines, The student Left’s culture of intolerance is creating a new generation of conservatives. But I’d quibble with the author, Charlie Peters, and suggest that it’s not so much that the student left has abandoned support for free speech as that they never really favored it to begin with, at least for their ideological opponents. The 1960’s campus Free Speech Movement was about allowing leftwing organizing. Once the left became dominant in university administrations and hegemonic on faculties, there was no longer any need for the ruse.

Gender Is a Construct, Except When It Isn’t

Daphne Patai writes, provocatively, Why Can’t a Woman Be More Like a Trans? It’s well worth reading. An excerpt:

Today, for all the academic talk of “diversity”—written into all levels and aspects of American universities, with growing numbers of administrators and officers designated to oversee it—a new and rigid orthodoxy is upon us. …

But in the happy world of American academe, categories of sexual and gender identity just grow and grow, and acronyms along with them. Today we have not only the labels, but courses and administrators devoted to LGBTQIA (the A, for asexual, is merely the latest accretion).

In recent years, the proliferation of identities has gotten completely out of control and the game is openly played in hiring and even in the exercise of free speech–who is entitled to teach, to speak, to pose challenges, and who had better shut up if lacking the requisite identity.

Transgender Scouts

Via the Washington Post, the Boy Scouts of America will allow transgender children who identify as boys to join:

…the organization will now accept boys based on the gender a parent puts on a child’s scouting application, ending a policy of accepting boys based on the gender listed on a child’s birth certificate.

Hope the new policy proves helpful and isn’t misused. We’ll see.

New York magazine, no rightwing rag, on why the issue of what’s best for transgender kids is not always so simple:

A lot of people don’t realize that there is a genuine scientific debate over how to best help out children with gender dysphoria, or those who feel discomfort — sometimes extremely intense discomfort — with the body they were born into….

A concern is that young “effeminate” boys and “masculine” girls, many of whom would otherwise grow into either healthy and happy gay men and lesbian women (or, sometimes, somewhat “effeminate” heterosexual men and “masculine” heterosexual women), are told they’re transgender, perhaps by well-meaning parents, and put on that course.

More. Alternate facts, via an op-ed by Debra W. Soh, a sexual neuroscientist at York University in Toronto, in the Los Angeles Times:

[T]ransgender activists firmly believe that gender is a biological, rather than social, reality—but of course they don’t believe that it’s necessarily tied to sex at birth. They also believe that gender identity is quite stable early on, warranting a transition not only for transgender adults, but also young children who say they were born in the wrong body.

From a scientific perspective, they’re partially right: Gender identity is fixed, but only in adults; the same can’t be said for children, whose gender identity is flexible and doesn’t become stable until puberty.

Currently available research literature—including four studies published in the last nine years—suggests that 61% to 88% of gender dysphoric children will desist and grow up to be gay adults. … They won’t continue to identify as the opposite sex in adulthood. In one study of 139 gender dysphoric boys, 122 (88%) of the boys desisted.

While transitioning can be beneficial for transgender adults, it therefore doesn’t make sense to treat trans children in the same way. Nevertheless, transgender activists and their allies have branded desistance as a “myth,” and those who suggest otherwise are called bigots or, dismissively, trolls.

Kirchick: The Symbiotic Relationship Between the Alt-Right and PC Left

The always interesting James Kirchick has penned an essay titled Enemies, A Love Story. Here’s an excerpt:

The rise of a majoritarian (i.e., white male) identity politics is the lamentable yet entirely predictable reaction to decades of minority identity politics. The alt-right is literally a reactionary movement, reacting to the perceived denigration of mainstream American culture by grievance-mongering radicals for whom the very word “white” is a slur. Absent the intellectual totalitarianism and bullying hypocrisy of the ascendant social-justice-warrior left, the Trump phenomenon would have lacked potency. The two sides exist in a sick, codependent symbiosis. …

Of course, racism, sexism, and nativism existed long before Trump, and nothing can excuse the demagogy and divisiveness engaged in by the president-elect and his surrogates. But we should be able to critique the excesses of identity politics without being called racists.

That’s what Columbia professor Mark Lilla tried to do in a postmortem essay for the New York Times titled “The End of Identity Liberalism.” A liberal in good standing, Lilla reassessed the prominence afforded to identity politics as the engine of the left’s value system and appealed for a return to a more universalistic politics that focuses more on broad economic concerns than narrow racial, sexual, and gendered ones. “American liberalism has slipped into a kind of moral panic about racial, gender, and sexual identity that has distorted liberalism’s message and prevented it from becoming a unifying force capable of governing,” he wrote. For this, a Columbia colleague angrily likened Lilla to David Duke, both men being accused of “contributing to the same ideological project, the former cloaked in a KKK hood, the latter in an academic gown.”

Kirchick concludes, “Those wanting to deflate the allure of the Trumpian right must also tackle the excesses of the social-justice-warrior left.” But from what I’ve seen, it’s “circle the wagons” all round on both the right and the left.

Further Annals of Progressivism

Tammy Bruce, who is lesbian and conservative, writes:

A funny thing happened on the way to the Donald Trump inauguration — liberals suddenly became champions of people being allowed to decline participating in something if it violated their conscience.

She was remarking about the response on the left to the story, albeit “fake news,” it turns out, that the Radio City Rockettes were requiring dancers to perform against their will at the Trump inauguration (in actuality, participating in the inauguration is voluntary). Writes Bruce:

During the brief hubbub, actors and other performers understandably came out in support of the dancers’ right to refuse to perform if an event violated their conscience. I also believe there should be an escape clause in cases such as this allowing a performer flexibility. After all, who wants anyone to be forced to do something against their conscience?

Yet it’s fair to say the same liberals who support the Rockettes’ right to not perform are the same people who have no problem with Christian businesses being attacked for declining to participate in something that violates their conscience and faith. In their cases, the refusal to cater or bake a cake for a gay wedding. …

It’s the same double standard we saw recently when, as the Portland (Maine) Press Herald reported:

On the coldest day of the season, a Skowhegan-area propane dealer has a pointed message for would-be customers. “If you voted for Donald Trump for President, I will no longer be delivering your gas, please find someone else,” is the message left for customers that call Turner LP Gas Service, on Canaan Road in Skowhegan.

But if this were a bakery that refused to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple….

As instapundit Glenn Reynolds likes to say, if not for their double standards, progressives would have no standards at all.

Added: More mendacity:

Writing in Bustle, Cate Carrejo said the government should force Christians to participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies but the Rockettes should not be obligated to perform at the inauguration “because one is discriminatory and the other isn’t.”

And a response:

Pointing to the case of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, an Oregon bakery that was fined $135,000 and forced to close for refusing to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple, Mr. Gainor said Christian bakers are happy to serve gay people.

“And that’s different — it’s a creative labor,” Mr. Gainor said. “If you wanted something that was in the shop, help yourself, happy to provide it. But if you want me to be involved in your wedding, I can’t do that. It’s a very clear line.”

It’s unfortunate we have to rely on social conservatives to point out the obvious.

Added: Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby: Freedom of association isn’t just for the Rockettes. Right, it isn’t.

More. I’ll segue into another story. Students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) are petitioning the school to ban a campus conservative group, Young Americans for Freedom, which has numerous chapters on U.S. college campuses:

The petition further faults YAF for creating a “hostile environment” by “misgender[ing] LGBTQIA+ students” making members of the student government feel “unsafe.”

”We, the undersigned are asking that UW-Madison administration take a hard look at the charter of Young Americans for Freedom … and ideally put the involved students through intensive diversity training and have the charter revoked so Y.A.F. is no longer a campus organization that can create a hostile environment on campus,” the petition reads.

YAF’s thought crime was to invite conservative political commentator, columnist and radio host Ben Shapiro to speak on campus. Shapiro, as it happens, is a never-Trumper, which, as Wikipedia recounts, has brought him under fire from the alt right swamplands. Which you might think would cut him some slack with progressives—if you didn’t actually know any progressives.

Furthermore. Out magazine is still complaining that “It’s telling that when Donald Trump awkwardly waved a rainbow flag during a Colorado rally in October, the banner was upside down.” Which, apparently, was a sign that “Trump’s White House will effectively act as the nation’s largest anti-LGBT hate group.” Oh.

It’s reminiscent of the dismissal of Trump’s July acceptance speech at the GOP convention, when he said: “Only weeks ago, in Orlando, Florida, 49 wonderful Americans were savagely murdered by an Islamic terrorist. This time, the terrorist targeted our LGBTQ community. No good. And we’re going to stop it. As your President, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.” [applause] “I must say as a Republican it is so nice to hear you cheering. Thank you.” (Progressive response: pandering.)

At the October rally, Trump was handed the flag by gay supporters and held it out for the audience, leading Zack Ford, the LGBT editor for ThinkProgress.org, to tweet:

Putting a slogan [“LGBTs for Trump”] on a flag is considered desecration. Also, the flag was upside down (red goes on top). What am I supposed to respect here?

Mind you, it’s not that the words were upside down, it’s that the rainbow flag should have the red stripe on top. Which means it’s not Trump’s fault, but that some incompetent gay person supporting Trump didn’t know which way the flag goes or that writing on the sacred object was an act of “desecration” and probably a hate crime. Sad!

Some, of a more rational bent, might think that Trump’s holding up the rainbow flag was, in itself, what was significant, and in a good way. Such people, however, would not be progressives.

As I noted, the conservative Washington Times ran a supportive op-ed titled “ Donald Trump holds high the flag for gay equality,” which indicated that conservatives were more comfortable with a gay-inclusive GOP than the LGBT establishment is.

Life at ‘GULPTAB’

The leftwing site Huffington Post “Queer Voices” has posted a funny video take-down of LGBT advocacy groups.

If you didn’t know it was intended as a protest against “the modern climate of corporate LGBT activism,” showing that “Corporates commodify LGBT activism with the same zeal that they’ve commodified self-love,” as the video’s creators state in the accompanying “Queer Voices” article, you’d just think the satire was spot-on (unless, of course, the description is part of the satire).