As someone who has been openly skeptical of the trans movement for years, I've recently had a lot of friends and colleagues—every single one of whom would describe themselves as liberals or progressives—reach out to me to ask questions and express their own serious reservations about trans activism. So I do get the sense that the tide is turning in the US.
Excellent article. Charles Mackay wrote in 'Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds' (1841), “Is it a dull or uninstructive picture to see a whole people shaking suddenly off the trammels of reason, and running wild after a golden vision, refusing obstinately to believe that it is not real, till, like a deluded hind running after an ignis fatuus, they are plunged into a quagmire?” Mackay covers an eccentric miscellany of popular delusions, from the witch mania of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to alchemists, magnetizers, slow poisoners, and the “influence of politics and religion on the hair and beard.” Much more recently in 'The Delusions of Crowds: Why People Go Mad in Groups' by William J. Bernstein (2021) writes 'Errors appear when individuals become overly influenced by what others think. The more a group interacts the more it behaves like a real crowd, and the less accurate its assessments become…. As put most succinctly by Friedrich Nietzsche, "Madness is rare in the individual - but with groups, parties, peoples, and ages it is the rule." Mackay also recognized this in his 'Extraordinary Popular Delusions' "Men, it is said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses more slowly, and one by one." I suspect the latter observation refers to why there will be no sudden and 'contagious' end to the transcult, no clearcut 'ending of a tide', as there was at its start. The return to sanity will be gradual, enduring, a slow 'one by one' recovery as deluded individuals emerge on their own from this monstrous nightmare (Goya: "The Sleep of Reason produces Monsters"). There is no arguing or debate to be had with transcult members, for, as Swift observed centuries ago, "... it is futile to reason someone out of a thing that he was not reasoned into." We can conclude that the transcult, like other cults, owes its remarkable power to survive every criticism to the fact that it is not directed towards truth but towards the power needed to maintain a delusion.
At my job, the 30-and-unders definitely fell under the ‘even more feverishly than before’ category. And THEY are the ones who volunteer on the DEI team, making bulletin boards and sending out ‘Inclusion’ emails. During Women’s History Month, there was a bulletin board celebrating 12 (yes, TWELVE) memoirs by trans women. I’m bracing myself for Pride month. When I speak to the older people (first I have to carefully bring the subject up because people are too scared to talk about it) there does seem to be apprehension and even some anger, so I do hope the tide is turning. But I think these people need to speak up more. And sooner. I was thinking about this recently--if one vocal, angry person had balked and spoken out after the first pronoun bulletin board went up, then maybe it would’ve been enough to get it taken down. And we wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in now, with pronoun bulletin boards around every corner.
I'm not a woman (though who knows what the future holds!) but if I was, the sight of some bloke in a dress telling me I can't be a feminist unless I bow down to him and grant him super-privileges ("yes, please use our bathrooms! Show us lady cyclists and swimmers how it's done, using your superior bone structure! Come join us in our prisons - obviously, as someone who has raped women in the past, your comfort and safety must take precedence over ours!") would really get on my tits.
Really interesting Eliza, I’ve noticed similar, but it’s hard to know for sure.
In my circles people late 40’s + seem bemused or enraged and younger people seem to be disengaging. However, as Helen Joyce has written, what I see hugely at my university and associated orgs is that the EDIs are on warp drive. Even if majority of actors in them don’t agree with GI they are bound by these directives to sound and look like they do. Also yes, very much those in 30’s on board seem fanatical. One in particular openly declaring this a war with some very questionable calls to action. Troubling they are linked with major organisations and funders too.
Complicating things even further is that many of the EDIs goals are blended with old school, equality concerns so going against them/questioning them positions people problematically as being against all equality concerns. For many on the left and certainly in education this is the last thing they would want to do.
And then there’s the issues with funding....and with work in this sector. For example, if I applied for a post without pronouns in my bio would the PI privately discriminate against me et cetera? (Or vice versa). This wouldn’t persuade me to use pronouns, but many others might feel they have to.
So at least in my environment at university (UK, Oxford), it’s hard to know what people outwardly do and what they inwardly really think, even if others speak up. I’ve spoken with several people at my Uni on issues of GI, VAWG, and data collection particularly and they just politely listen but say nothing. Not only are they feeling unable to speak freely (likely for a variety of reasons including being knowledgeable, I mean how many of people have time to read all of the in-depth articles, pseudoscience and understand all of the discussion points!?), but also, perhaps they don’t want to be finding themselves in agreement with ‘the right/TERFS/fascists/bigot [insert social shame label here]’ like us!
Ok, I guess I’m going to be the contrarian here: no, the tide definitely is not turning in the US.
- Most liberal and centrist people are not deep in the weeds of this issue like you and your readers are. They’re not reading or hearing about the excesses. They’re not reading the long Reuters articles that very cautiously bring some me of these issues to the mainstream media for the first time. They didn’t read Jesse Singal’s Atlantic article and they certainly haven’t read his long substack articles picking apart the research. They’ve probably heard of Lia Thomas and will say the sports issue is complicated, but they don’t see it in the sports they watch. The whole Bud Light controversy reinforces the idea that a lot of what they hear on this issue is just internet drama that is best ignored.
- This recent poll from the Washington Post. Yes, they report a “clear majority” doesn’t believe you can be a different gender than what you were at birth, but I would argue that 43% saying it can differ is not a turning tide. https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2023/05/05/trans-poll-gop-politics-laws/
- As long as this issue is as politicized as it is, NOTHING will change in the US. We’re about to have a repeat of Trump vs Biden in 2024 with Biden being 100% for transitioning children and Trump promising he’ll make laws to ban it. The politics and culture war forces are powerful. I know many liberals who privately have deep concerns about what’s going on with teen girls but they fall in line with the official Democrat position.
I think you’re right that many older people have started to see the light, but my worry is that the young people are so fully indoctrinated that they’ll never come around. The activists are playing a long game - it doesn’t matter much what people over 40 think if your goal is that in 40 years we’ll live in a society where this has completely taken over all aspects of life.
I’ll admit I changes my views. I remember reading stories about young kids who had insisted for years that they were the opposite sex, and I thought there must be something biological to it - why would people lie? So I supported the idea although I hadn’t thought too deeply about it. Then my 14 year old daughter fell down the rabbit hole. And I saw the narrative I’d been fed wasn’t true at all. The people saying they’d “always felt this way” WERE actually lying, and had actually been brainwashed by some weird cult. I found substack and started reading and became a terf (although a very closeted one for now because I can’t alienate my daughter any more than she already is). I see other parents proudly proclaiming their kids’ trans identities and it’s unfathomable to me that someone could be so indoctrinated that they don’t see the truth even when it’s their own child, and that they are willing to sacrifice their kid to this cult.
I do hope you’re right that the tide is turning. But I don’t think I’ll be convinced until I see high school and college students start to doubt the ideology, and I’m not seeing that yet.
By the way, Eliza, I think you’re one of the best and most convincing writers on this topic and I appreciate all your articles. If the tide really is turning, I think you and some of the other writers who aren’t afraid to say what you think are playing a part in that!
Another good article, Eliza. Does this article mean you are a liberal overall? I was never sure, sometimes thinking you might be a conservative. Unfortunately, another anti-trans person I admire, Blaire White, proudly showed off her automatic weapon in a recent video, and then started to bash pro-abortion liberals. (Love affair over.) The trans debacle is only going to end when BOTH liberals and conservatives are against it.
The continued somnambulism of the media surprises me. My long love of the Washington Post ended over this issue. It became clear to me that someone in power at the Post had a trans family member, and so their entire editorial stance becamee *unquestioning affirmation*. Their subsidiary publication, The Lily, was supposed to be for women, but now it is mostly devoted to trans people. (One would think that trans people were 20% of the population. I keep wondering how they find enough of them to write about. Of course, most trans people these days are people who jumped on the trans bandwagon and don't have actual dysphoria.)
I have a very special relationship in my life these days, a disabled woman who was once one of my mother's aides. She is one of those people who has incredibly sharp radar for bullshit. Because she is poor, she wanted to do housework for me, and I agreed (and I pay her extremely well, although she works slowly). We got to talking about transgenderism yesterday evening, and it turns out she knows a lot of transgender people, including trans children. She was surprised when I told her that I count myself as "anti-trans" (anti-trans ideas, not anti-trans people). When I explained it to her, she understood everything I said, and I think she may be a convert now. As I was explaining it to her, she even filled in the blanks as I went. "Oh, I see. Figuring out you are not gay just requires sleeping with someone of your own sex, but figuring out you are not trans can lead you down a road that ruins your body and your life." She understood immediately. So I think I may have gotten us a convert. We need to keep converting them one at a time.
The tide IS turning, but the undercurrents of institutionalization are very strong and very well-funded. Just today on NPR, the narrative was skewering us from the "what about the children?" angle, reporting that our concern about kids is clearly a smokescreen for our bigotry and supposed genocidal aims. I want to ask them: are you saying you don't care about the children? The newly peaked in my life believe it is all falling apart like a cheap suit and are confident it cannot last. I think they are right (the truth of this medical scandal IS getting through) but also wrong because of who holds power, who is teaching the children, who is running the hospitals, the media, etc. Details changed to protect identity, but here's a recent exchange. My dental hygienist yesterday told me a horror story about a 17 year old in her family who has undergone surgeries (breasts amputated, also phalloplasty!) and has a full beard. "Her eyes are dead!" Julie said. "The parents didn't know what to do, but they wanted her to be happy, so they supported it. If it had helped her I'd be cheering and waving a trans flag, but she is miserable." When I suggested she contact PITT with her story, she said, "Oh no, this is very private!" I suspect there may be many families who are going through this hell privately, who don't even know of any resources. Nobody is helping them. They may or may not listen to NPR, but they know it's not right. I am heartened by the changes, but we are still up against these powerful industries and institutions who benefit from gender ideology.
Can you define what you mean by “the tide is turning?” What you are reporting is that an increasing number of people in your broader social circle are becoming more skeptical or even peaking. Yet under 30s are holding their beliefs even more tenaciously, and major institutions remain captured. Are you actually supposing there is a scenario in which these institutions can be recaptured?
I would say that there is increasing public awareness of the issue and a shift in our direction among certain demographics. A turning tide? Not so much.
I think that the situation is so awful and so absurd that we want to believe that it cannot sustain itself. There is an implicit belief that historical trends will self-correct. That’s possible, and there are hopeful signs. But it’s also possible that things will get a lot worse.
This could be a very long haul.
Thank you for confirming what many of us are starting to see- instead of screaming "Transphobe" and blocking us for posting GC articles and comments on social media, my online friends and acquaintances are "liking" the comments, and even responding with cautiously-worded questions. Back in 2015, I used to preface any remark about trans ideology with some kind of disclaimer, along the lines of "Of course trans people should be protected from discrimination, but..." Now I have dropped any kind of appeasement, in favor of blunt disgust and OUTRAGE over the imposition of trans ideology on our rights, and the blatant denial of science that so many braindead virtue-signaling lemmings have cosigned. I am THRILLED to finally see a women's cycling competition podium EMPTY, except for the lone troon asshole sheepishly gripping his medal. Those optics are priceless. The UK press has doggedly followed every single case of a trans assaulting a woman or child, and every man being held in a woman's prison. And it couldn't have happened too soon, as Australia attempts to shut down free speech on their own continent and ours. Riley Gaines and Meghan Kelly are pulling no punches. It's refreshing to observe the sea change from "Let's have some more research on puberty blockers" to "GET MEN THE HELL OUT OF OUR SPORTS AND SPACES RIGHT NOW!!!" The Emperor is indeed buck naked, and we are calling his ass OUT!
I think the tide is turning a bit in that greater numbers of people are speaking out and finding they can manage the hostile tides. But the stupid hive mind still succeeds in labeling all opposition as “right-wing” and thus automatically negligible. For the most part college administrators and media managers, even if they don’t drink the Kool Aid at home, are too afraid of resisting the twenty-something’s they oversee. And what will happen when these twenty-something’s are forty-something’s? Will maturity bring wisdom? I fear it may not. The damage has been done.
Another thing — further progress will be impossible as long as the cult and its minions continue to get away with the alphabet trick, the pretense that “LGBTQ” is actually a thing. I don’t think it’s widely appreciated how powerful this trick is. It means that you can’t be opposed to trans without being an anti-gay bigot at the same time. The very fact that our entire society has accepted the moral and legal rights of gay people is, ironically, what gives this trick its power because no one wants to be thought of as anti-gay.
And yet what gives me hope is that reason will triumph because without it we are nothing. Human beings who deny that 2+2=5 are not going to go away.
Excellent. Yesterday, the Times had a long article on how the red states were banning transgender care for children based on just a few regret stories (I will not link to it), making it a typical left-vs-right issue. No "Here's what the rest of the world is doing," in fact, it was totally fact-free.
Instead, to see how the tide is turning, just read how the readers tore the story and the reporting apart. Not a single comment that I read (especially the ones most liked - sort the comments by Readers' Picks) argued for the "points" made by the article. It included parents, teachers, you name it.
And now the Times has completely hidden the story. It was a page-one news article last morning, and now you cannot find it on the Times' home page (and Times has a HUGE homepage that runs for miles), which is so rare for the Times. Even if you search for it, it is buried deep down on the search page.
"One of my closest friends made an interesting observation the other day: she said can't think of any other social cause that ‘progressive’ people are expected to support so loudly and passionately and often viciously."
This seems wrong to me. It's true that trans issues are the worst for this this year, but overall black lives matter and (in Canada at least) indigenous rights are issues in which you are required to be just as loud and vicious and to ignore contrary evidence just as much.
Remember in 2020 when we had health professionals who weeks before said florida was commiting mass murder by opening beaches coming together to declare that violent mass protests were okay because 'racism is a public health crisis'? At the time I was a member of a nationwide covid information group on facebook for canadian physicians that was explicitly non-political until the day in july where they posted a petition to abolish the vancouver police department because it was 'a legacy of slavery and jim crow'.
Think about the reaction in Canada after the residential school 'mass graves' story, we literally had people burning down churches and mainstream figures were applauding it. Or the weird situation we're in now that it's been debunked but nobody respectable is willing to acknowledge that out loud.
There are ways in which trans issues are unique but there are plenty of mainstream leftwing causes which demand crusading fervor and willful ignorance of common sense or contrary evidence.
“It’s a sobering process to witness because every single person, without exception, got worse: more fragile and less able to function in day-to-day life, more rigid in their thinking, more self-obsessed and self-surveilling—not to mention less interesting to talk to.”
I think this is an underrated point. Whether it was the 100% untransitioned male “woman” in my Women in Art History class in college who would always chip in to share his agonizing emotional pain at looking at art depicting female bodies, or my sensitive, emotionally-fragile but kind high school stem teacher who transitioned (can’t imagine how his wife and kids felt- especially since his daughter had severe anorexia), and promptly went off the deep end- getting fired for apparently making multiple lewd comments to a female student about her “tits,” or the friend of a friend (who got into “queer culture,” announced herself a man, got a mastectomy and started T, announced her engagement to her girlfriend and decided to celebrate that by getting on tinder and pursuing “ethical non monogamy”) wheedling my lesbian friend about her own passé “identity”…even before I had my own personal experience with gender identity theory and trans, these examples were always at the back of mind mind like “yes they’re trans, but that person has problems, and them being trans has nothing to do with that.” Until I realized, it did.
So I went to the early-onset gender dysphoria/homosexual group to see if THESE people were leading mostly happy and functional lives with the gender dysphoria mostly reduced…and listened to Blaire White (the poster child of the trans med “I did this to treat a mental condition and I know what sex I am and am so glad I transitioned” camp) talk about how he has to go off hormones every once in a while bc it gives him cognitive problems and he “can’t get anything done” bc he can’t think clearly, and how he lets his testicles kick back into gear to clear his head, and how when he’s on hormones, he has no sex life whatsoever even though “it seems like I do from pictures,” but actually doesn’t, as in, none, and is mostly alone, and I’m like…who does this actually help?
Well said! I just hope this cult is going to fall apart! It reminds me way too much of the Germany of the 30’s where everyone had to go along with the lies put forth by the regime! Of course, there are many differences, but there are too many similarities as well Since I lived that nightmare, I want this one gone.
Eliza, I just saw your article on Unherd about the NYT getting detransitioning all wrong. Congratulations if this was your first article for them. That is a highly thought of publication. If it is not your first, then more congratulations!