Tired of Substackers’ exhausting trans takes

Hello friends! Twitter has become even more of a cesspool, so I’ve spent less time there. Threads is obviously going to replace it, but I’m not signing up, because I’m just done with the socials. I am done. No more socials. I signed up for Facebook my freshman year, in 2004-2005. I am coming up on TWENTY YEARS of the socials, and it’s been solidly okay. Just don’t want to do it anymore.

Substack is…disappointing. The problem is that every social, in addition to its design decisions, also has a cultural valence that’s a product of its marketing and its early adopters. In the case of substack, it was heavily adopted early on by the Bari Weiss / Katie Herzog type "heterodox" thinker. The person who dispenses bold truths to and about the professional managerial class. And one of these bold truths is that trans women are really men and that systemic racism isn’t real. So now substack is overwhelmingly white and cisgendered and male. And almost every substack is, in my experience, eventually gonna write a thumbsucking just-asking-questions post about race and gender. And that’s fine. There’s no reason white cis-hetero guys shouldn’t write about this shit. But the way they do it is so smarmy. Like, one poster I follow wrote a review of a book about how sexual dimorphism is a biological feature in mammals etc, and how sex differences are real and biological. Which is fine, but as I’m reading this post I’m like…can I go to the bathroom or not? Like, just be honest, kiddo.

I am so tired of the JK Rowling style "If trans women’s rights were threatened, I would march with them" feint. Because sometimes it’s true, and sometimes it’s not, but in the latter cases, the person will never admit it. Like Jesse Singal has made a career out of writing about trans issues, covering trans controversies, pretending to be an expert on transition and on the science. Right now, in 2023, there are a hundred thousand adults in Florida who are in danger of not being able to fill their meds. But his coverage of trans people and trans issues is still relentlessly negative. He just clearly doesn’t view actual trans people as being as worthy as the notional cis-gendered kids who might mistakenly transition. Any reasonable person ought to hold forcibly detransitioning a trans person as being much, much worse than allowing a cisgendered teen to make a mistake. They’re not even remotely in the same ballpark when it comes to harms. But almost every heterodox commentator views the preservation of cis teens’ precious fertility and vocal cords as being a far superior cause than the mental or physical health of trans people.

I’m not in favor of cis teens mistakenly transitioning either! I don’t know how often it happens–the data suggests not often. But if it’s a problem, then it’s a problem. But I know it’s equally bad to make a trans teen go through a male puberty against their will, when they know for certain they want to be a woman. Believe me, I’ve done the electrolysis–it fucking hurts. It’s torture. Expensive torture. Why put someone through that?

But you can’t argue with these heterodox thinkers. They know they’re right. They know you’re just emotional. It’s the same problem I have w the anti-CRT crowd on race. Like, sure, maybe affirmative action has a flawed design and its benefits go mostly to well-off African immigrants. But systemic racism also exists. We know this from countless studies. All else equal, a Black person ought to be treated the same as a white person w similar characteristics, but they’re not. They get worse prices, worse housing offers, worse job offers, etc. How are you gonna fix that? CRT has a simple solution: if someone is Black, let’s just treat them better than we otherwise would. It’s a logical fix. It’s unpalatable, sure, but what’s your idea? If you just don’t have one, then admit that, but don’t pretend the problem doesn’t exist, or that it’s just a function of economic inequality because that is simply not true, and you know it isn’t true.

They’re tired of being called racist, but the heterodox thinkers just come off like they want everyone else to shut up and stop complaining about their problems. And that seems pretty racist!

All I want is for them to be up-front. Like w Singal we know what he thinks because he has a track record. But most of the thumbsuckers only post about trans issues on occasion, so it’s hard to tell! Are you a transphobe or not? Are trans lives equal to cis lives or not? Is trans dignity equal to cis dignity or not? If it’s the former, then I am happy to hear about how you think gender is biologically rather than socially constructed. But if you don’t give a shit about trans people, then fuck you.

In a similar vein, I’ve been reading a lot of Holocaust lit. And in reading it, I’m struck by how binary the distinction is in the cultural imagination between someone who did something and someone who didn’t. Either you risked your life forging false papers for Jewish people, or you stood silent.

But really there was quite a bit you could do rather harmlessly. For one thing it was quite possible to simply refuse to kill. You could refuse to cooperate. You could refuse to rat people out or conduct thorough searches. You could refuse to beat and torment Jewish schoolkids, as many teachers did. Churches could refuse to hand over their baptismal records, to make it easier to identify Jewish people. Companies could refuse to release their slave workers, knowing that if they were sent back, they would be killed. Even open protest was possible. Thousands of Christian spouses of Jewish Germans protested their deportation in 1943 and their spouses were released; many survived the war. In 1942, as the final solution was being enacted, it was possible for German people to protest Hitler’s treatment of the Jews, and to do it openly, in public, and live. And even if you did nothing else, at the very basic level, you could give people a handshake or some basic acknowledgement of their humanity. But people didn’t do anything, either because they agreed with anti Jewish policies or because they feared social ostracism.

And if that was true in Nazi Germany, under Hitler, it’s even more true today. If you see an injustice, you might be afraid to speak out, but the consequences are rarely particularly dire. Like, we are taught, oh, people are inherently evil, people obey authority, people would do whatever someone in power tells them. But you don’t have to. The difference between a good German and a bad German is very small: in one book I am reading, a dude gave a Jewish family some sausage, and the girl still remembers it fifty years later. The guy giving out the sausage was not gonna be sent to the concentration camp. Anyone could’ve given out the sausage.

It’s made me think. I’ve always assumed that if fascism came, I’d be one of the bad ones, but now I’m wondering…would I actually be one of the good ones? Like, if it’s so easy and harmless to be good, then why wouldn’t you be good?

One thing people who read about the Holocaust often do is compare it to the treatment of Palestinians. They might call actions against Palestinians pogroms or say that Gaza is a concentration camp. Seen in this way, the Palestinian people become the ultimate victims of Hitler.

It’s a framing that comes off as a bit antisemitic, because it elides the six million dead Jewish people. Like, if Palestinians are rightfully angry, eighty years later, over the Nakba–the disenfranchisement of seven hundred thousand people–then what should the Jewish people feel over the annihilation of one third of the Jewish people living in the world and of the entire Yiddish language and culture?

My point of view on Zionism and antisemitism is this. In 1939, the Jewish population of the world was spread throughout Europe and the middle east. As many Jewish people lived in Tunisia as did in Lithuania. Today that’s all done. Jewish people were exterminated in Europe and expelled from the middle east. Now Jewish people by and large live in two places, the United States and Israel. It’s a very small, beleaguered ethno-religious group that is actively hated by literally billions of people and has suffered a genocide within living memory–it makes sense that lots of Jewish people would want their own nation state. And I do think it’s a tad antisemitic to not understand that.

The Palestinian people are screwed and oppressed. I would certainly characterize the situation in Israel as apartheid. At the same time if I was Jewish, I don’t see how I could avoid being a Zionist. To advocate for an end to a Jewish state in the middle east is to render yourself helpless. Like, look at it from their point of view. It just doesn’t make sense to abandon half your people to their fate. Moreover, the widespread leftwing antipathy to Zionism, to the extent of calling it, for instance, settler-colonialism, seems a bit out of step with other left-wing beliefs. I mean it’s actually a bit of a problem because left-wing people often simultaneously believe in democratic pluralism and in the self-determination of small peoples. So left-wing people believe in tribal sovereignty, and they start talks by saying, "We are on unceded Ohlone ground", but at the same time, it’s not possible to have a nation-state (a state composed entirely of one people) without ethnic cleansing. Most modern nation states (Greece, Turkey, the Balkans, France, England, Germany, amongst dozens and dozens of other examples) were created either through deportation of minorities and/or the suppression of minority dialects and cultures. What is happening in Israel and Palestine is not historically unique. Personally, I believe in democratic pluralism. Seems to work okay in America–we all just come together and decide things collectively and let people live as they want.

But that’s exactly what they had in Germany before the Holocaust! Why in the world would Jewish people trust in democratic pluralism when it has in the past resulted in such a disastrous failure! And the only alternative to democratic pluralism is the nation-state, and the nation-state cannot be created without dispossessing other people of their land.

So yeah I think it’s fine to be anti Zionist, but to require Jewish people to also be anti-Zionist is simply perverse, and if you make that a litmus test of who is and isn’t a good person, then in practice, you’re just not gonna think most Jewish people are good people. And to create this impossible situation, which requires Jewish people to act against common sense as a precondition for empathy, is just a way of whitewashing antisemitism.

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