Yesterday, the Trump Administration reversed former President Obama’s federal extension of Title IX protections to trans teens in schools and they had help from Christians and Atheists. As a parent of a transgender teen, this hits close to home. I took the picture in this article at the Baltimore Convention Center. I was there at an Anime convention with my son. It was the first time either of us saw a gender neutral bathroom and we were both very happy. Last May, when Obama extended Title IX protections to transgender youth, we felt a little safer and more validated. I’m sitting in front of my laptop feeling like the wind has been sucked out of me.
We knew a long time coming that Pence assured people Trump would roll back rights for trans students. We know that Franklin Graham feels that transgender people like my son are perverts and predators. More recently we have had the provocative darling of the right, Milo Yiannopoulos, spread utter lies about transgender people. He even went so far as to harass a transgender student . We could go on with the list of people of faith and on the right who have vilified transgender people. It is a hobby of many of us in the secular community to mock them for their words. We are often too silent when atheists behave poorly.
In 2015, Sam Harris had Douglass Murray, a neoconservative, on his podcast. Harris was mostly silent to many of Murray’s horrible statements. Worse, Harris laughed along at a trans-antagonistic statement made by his guest. More recently, advisory board member of Harris’ Project Reason and 2009 Richard Dawkins Award recipient Bill Maher joined the fray. He gave Milo Yiannopoulos a platform on HBO. Not only did Maher not challenge Milo on his factual inaccuracies about the trans community, he even claimed Milo’s concerns sounded reasonable. I am grateful that the rest of the panel was not as complicit and kind to Milo as Maher was.
The point can be made that Maher and Harris were merely trans-antagonistic and not trans-phobic. It is a fair point. My counter is that they not only gave unreasonable voices a larger platform to spew lies and hate, but men who claim to value skepticism and reason did not challenge them on their factually inaccurate claims. Martin Luther King Jr said it best when he said, “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” End of the day, silence and laughter and polite agreement is complicity.
I have spent a good part of last night talking to other parents of trans children. Parents are upset, concerned, scared, and frustrated. Every day it feels like we are fighting another battle. Name changes, court systems, school districts, insurance companies, and now the federal government. On one side we have far too many voices in Christian culture comparing our children to pedophiles and rapists. On the other side we have too many voices in Secular culture giving them a microphone, laughing at their jokes and leaving their claims unchallenged. In my opinion, the latter side is contributory to fostering an environment that allowed the Trump administration to feel they could do what they did at the expense of my child and countless other precious children like him.
Closing Thoughts and ChallengesI implore you to consider the heart of a parent who loves his child as he or she is. Research the science of gender identity and challenge not only your assumptions, but the assumptions of the willfully ignorant who are harming children with transphobia. Don’t give the willfully ignorant a platform, laugh at their jokes, or let their false claims go unchallenged.
I do not know if this is true, but I heard that Bill Maher is taking credit for Milo’s downfall. I do not normally do ‘open letters’, but Bill, if you are reading this, I think that is a crock. You gave Milo a voice, why not give a voice to a parent of a child who’s child just lost federal protections? I would love to give your audience facts about the trans youth. I’d be happy to describe the day to day life of the parents who love them, live for them, and would die for them. I may even rescind my cancellation of HBO.