I have spent a lot of time online defending my existence as a queer person. I have examined the history, biology, philosophy, and more of what it means to be a queer person: all in the hope that others realize that I and the other members of my community are humans deserving of empathy and respect.

While some people have come away with greater understanding, I have noticed a disturbing trend where none of the arguments I present sink in because many conservative critics don't see me as human. Where rights such as equality and freedom might appeal, in the context of another person, I find they don't work with many conservatives when it comes to me because there is a lack of an essential empathetic connection.

Moving the goalpost

I want to back up and explain what I mean here. It should be noted that my definition of conservatism is largely US-centric, where it has morphed into a proto-fascist (and increasingly an actual fascist) movement based on a desire not only to conserve the status quo but to return to a time that never existed. Conservatism has always been susceptible to authoritarianism and fascism, but things have exacerbated to the point where I don't think one can seriously claim that American conservatism is not actively fascist. As Thomas Palley writes for the Political Economy Research Institute Journal in their piece Proto-Fascism Unleashed: How the Republican Party Sold its Soul and Now Threatens Democracy:

"The driving force behind the U.S. drift to fascism has been a Faustian bargain made by the old guard Republican elite which is now being dismembered by Trump. That dismemberment is the payback which the old guard thought it would never have to make. The bargain had Republicans pandering to prejudice by pushing "red meat" politics that advocated nationalism, xenophobia, racism, abolition of abortion, and white conservative cultural values. In return, they got votes that enabled them to push their agenda of tax cuts plus a deregulated economy favorable to business and profits.

For almost forty years, beginning with the folksy charm of Ronald Reagan, the old guard persistently fed its political base that diet. And for forty years the formula worked, with Republicans setting the U.S. political agenda as evidenced in bi-partisan support for both the neoliberal economic policy regime and the neocon foreign policy regime.

As with Faust, the bargain eventually came due...The old guard only broke more substantively with Trump after the January 6, 2021 insurrection. However, by then it was too late as the old guard no longer controlled the Republican Party, whose base had been transformed by the forty year "red meat" diet. Instead, the base now swore allegiance to Trump, in whom they see an alter-ego with which they can wholly identify: a rich vulgar billionaire, a transgressor (e.g. p*ssy grabber and conman) who gets away with it, and a demagogic amoralist who is willing to deliver the punitive intolerant social and cultural agenda they want."

The conservative movement-at-large wants to return to that mythical time of cultural perfection, back when America was supposedly great, and it's obvious my queer, trans, neurodivergent, depressed, left-leaning ass does not fit in that picture. The rise in anti-trans legislation across the country makes that point abundantly clear, even though I am sure there are some conservatives adrift from their party who are not anti-trans.

Yet, I think the rhetoric a lot of bigots use to dehumanize trans people is not always so straightforward. I will increasingly get into online conversations with people, and I rarely see a direct call to have me eradicated (although they do still occasionally happen). When I bring up that my rights are at risk from this rising trend of conservative fascism, these commentators will, at best, ignore the point. Take this one example where one user claimed that the trans issue in the current era is not worth being that stressed about, saying: "The civil rights situation for gay and trans people greatly improved in the 1990s. There are still some serious problems, but few of them are worth being all that militant about."

As anti-trans legislation builds, it is an opinion increasingly detached from present reality, and even when I take time to document that yes, there are serious problems worth being "militant about" (an exhaustive effort on my part), I don't get from conservatives an acknowledgment of that harm.

Instead, the natural counter I hear is a Motte and Bailey type of argument, where people say that they, of course, see me as a human being (i.e., as dehumanizing me would be the Bailey, the more difficult argument to make), they just disagree with my perspective (i.e., the Motte, the more defensible position). People are allowed to disagree, after all. Why am I being "fascist" about this? As one user commented on my article about JK Rowling: "Just because someone doesn't share your deeply-held beliefs doesn't make them phobic of you or of those you feel closely aligned to. It most certainly doesn't mean that they hate you."

However, when that "disagreement," which is a little more severe than people being mean online, is about something so fundamental to who I am (i.e., my rights), this comes off as a deflection. If this person respected my queer comrades as people, they wouldn't be so quick to dismiss the alarming problems we are pointing out. It makes it appear that these commentators do not care enough about our concerns, instead classifying them as "not serious" because they are not serious to them. We are just, at best, silly people with silly problems, and at worst, well, I am sure your brain can fill in the dots.

When trans people talk about our precarious position in society and that humanity instead gets likened to a differing perspective, "an ideology" that can be discarded, it is a type of dehumanization. The trans person isn't a person in this context but a worldview that can be challenged, and you don't have to look too far to see this argument stretched out to its natural conclusion. As Ryan T. Anderson argues hatefully in The Daily Signal of the alleged ideology of trans activists:

"At the core of the ideology is the radical claim that feelings determine reality. ….The movement has to keep patching and shoring up its beliefs, policing the faithful, coercing the heretics, and punishing apostates, because as soon as its furious efforts flag for a moment or someone successfully stands up to it, the whole charade is exposed. That's what happens when your dogmas are so contrary to obvious, basic, everyday truths

A transgender future is not the "right side of history," yet activists have convinced the most powerful sectors of our society to acquiesce to their demands. While the claims they make are manifestly false, it will take real work to prevent the spread of these harmful ideas."

From the perspective of this far-right reactionary, an increasingly common opinion in the conservative movement, trans activists like me can control the levers of society to instill a tyrannical trans agenda but can also be easily defeated. This perspective is coincidentally one of the hallmark signs of fascism (see Umberto Eco's bullet point "the enemy is both strong and weak").

Men like Ryan move the goalpost with this rhetoric from trans identity being a mere "disagreement" to a sign of conservative victimization. Their work is reframed not as bigotry but as pushing back against "liberal coercion." This rhetorical strategy is like a funnel, where an attempt by trans people to document systemic discrimination (and call it out as such) moves from being labeled as a disagreement to then being classified as oppression caused by trans people — it is an argument that requires a basic removal of empathy to work, and it's not just here that it's used.

But the children

The classic counter-example to all of this is "but the children." Conservatives are always claiming to be protecting children in the trans debate (see the "groomer" discourse). Many conservatives have made the case that a child doesn't know the harm such an "ideology" poses. And so, they must remove trans people from the public sphere to prevent social contagion (a theory that has been thoroughly debunked).

This argument does not need much digging to realize how genocidal it is. The rhetoric of social contagion has been used by everyone from the Third Reich to the scientific racism movement of 1900 America. As commented by the Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention:

"The ideological constructions of transgender women promoted by gender critical ideologues are particularly genocidal. They share many features in common with other, better known, genocidal ideologies. Transgender women are represented as stealth border crossers who seek to defile the purity of cisgender women, much as Tutsi women were viewed in Hutu Power ideology and Jewish men in Nazi antisemitism. Trans people in general are framed as figures that threaten the wholeness of the patriarchal nuclear family as well as the strength and vitality of national communities, much in the way that ethnic and national targets of genocide are viewed as cosmic enemies of the perpetrator group."

In making this case, conservatives are asking us to remove our empathy for the scapegoat they are directing their ire toward (i.e., trans people) in the name of protecting children. It is an ideology that is genocidal as it requires force to implement because that is the only way to remove a group of people.

Most conservatives don't care when you point this out because we are being told that "children's" safety always matters more. Yet overwhelmingly, it's not actual children being defended but the concept of innocence that children represent. In the words of the then-Texas attorney general about his decision to prosecute gender-affirming care as child abuse: "In Texas, we cherish all of our children, and we must do everything in our power to keep them safe — free from the influence of a radical liberal sexual agenda they are too young to understand fully."

This politician's view here is that children are young, innocent, and pure — too immature to understand their needs and desires. An almost religious argument is being made. We must protect things that are pure from corruption as long as possible, the argument goes, a concept that sounds more like the theological notion of "original sin" than anything else.

Despite claiming to protect children, empathy has been removed from them even here. Conservatives are not claiming to care for what individual children want and feel, as that would require ceding agency and empathy to some children who are transgender and want to transition. It would mean trying to understand their desires and taking them seriously.

Instead, many parents are being encouraged not to see their children as people with independent wants and desires but to view their wants as coming from malicious outside influences. In the words of Matt Sharp from the Alliance Defending Freedom:

"State lawmakers can protect children and parents from being pressured into agreeing to these harmful, experimental "gender transition" procedures by enacting laws that prohibit the administration of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and surgeries on minors who experience discomfort with their biological sex."

We can see how, in the conservative case of transgender ideology vs. children, empathy has been removed from the equation entirely in this debate — at least, for all the people being openly discussed. What we get is a paternalistic argument using the idea of children as a cudgel to hurt a social minority, and the only people being treated as humans in that situation are the ones with the weapons in their hands.


Genocidal aspirations start with refusing to acknowledge someone's humanity and then using that denial to transform them into the villain. That has been the playbook for as long as there has been fascism, and I see it now with how the conservative movement is treating transgender people in the US.

Some people got wrapped up in this movement out of the admirable desire to protect their kids. It's natural to want to protect the ones that you love, but we should not pretend that that impulse has not been manipulated across history to bolster support for fascist and authoritarian regimes. One's need for safety should not allow them to push for the systemic discrimination (and, let's be honest, elimination) of an entire social group.

Even if we can avert the fascism solidifying now around the Republican party, we still have to recognize when fascist rhetoric is being employed — in fact, to prevent the former, it's vital that we do so.