How Fighting For Trans Rights Is Not In Itself Identity Politics

The problem here is right-wing identity politics, and the solution is universal human rights.

Today, Donald Trump announced that trans people would be banned from military service. This is a rejection of universal rights for all Americans, a policy designed to carve up Americans by identity and open or close doors according to identity alone.

If the right hates identity politics, they should oppose this stupid and illiberal move. What is stopping a trans person from achieving “decisive and overwhelming victory”? The imperial overtones leak into blatant transphobia, implying that trans people are weak or unable to fight. This has no medical basis and is surely a prejudice of Mr. Trump’s, and the Republican Party.

The Republican fantasies about trans people are nigh-infinite. Conservative Ben Shapiro said that trans people shouldn’t serve because they are mentally ill. The great transgender bathroom debate of 2016 featured absurd stereotypes about men masquerading as women to abuse children, without understanding that trans people are all highly differentiated individuals, and that a great deal of trans women act and appear extremely feminine. On the contrary, regulating bathroom usage by birth certificate means that women who have become men are forced into the women’s bathroom. Conservatives simply lack cohesion on this issue and default to stereotype, not realizing that trans people are not a uniform block.

The right’s identity politics are odious and transparent. Chelsea Manning, a trans woman, is one of the most optimistic and hopeful people on Earth despite spending 4 years in a maximum security prison for revealing US war crimes. What moral coward would confuse such bravery and resilience for mental illness? Manning is one of the beacons of our society.

Finally, it is worth briefly addressing the left’s response to Trump’s ban. The response, wholesale, has been to buckle down upon identity politics as the solution to Republican discrimination.

The problem here is right-wing identity politics, and the solution is universal human rights. Trans people are not entitled to join the military because they are trans, but because they are people. This simple distinction is a much stronger angle than any politically correct view that different groups are entitled to different rights. Fighting for trans rights is not in itself identity politics. Believing that equality comes from Otherizing trans identity and focusing on its difference is precisely the form of identity politics we must grow out of.

Alexander Blum is the author of 21st Century Slave. You can read his other writings at www.alexanderblum.net.

CONVERSATIONS