The Washington Post’s Anne Branigin wants you to know that “The surge of anti-trans attacks has made the stakes higher than ever for trans storytellers and performers.” The attacks are almost too heinous to recount: the nine-year-olds shooting up drag bars; the NCAA swimmer who, with malice aforethought, tried to say hurtful things about brave transgender athletes who just want to compete as the women they weren’t born to be.
As for the stakes – well, that sounds dramatic, but it really isn’t. This installment of the The Post’s “Trans in America” is just a reminder that, no matter what your eyes and ears tell you, trans people are still victims. “Trans rights are being rolled back around the country,” Branigin writes, “and some trans creators are facing fervent backlash against their work.”
We’ll have to take her word for it on those “rights,” and it really stinks that people don’t like your solipsistic books or movies or whatever. (At some point, even the most skilled self-portraitist slams into the laws of supply and demand.) But being misunderstood is an important part of the victim ethos. Branigan says so:
“For most of American history, the trans people seen in popular culture were products of the cisgender imagination: direct reflections of the fears, fascinations, impulses and misunderstandings that cis people had about being trans.”
That’s right, because for most of American history, the only way to come in contact with someone with these particular mental problems was to frequent disreputable waterfront taverns.
Sadly, that’s no longer the case. You can’t swing a dead cat meme on the internet without hitting some 300lb dude twerking for 6th graders, or a green-haired Tiktok kindergarten teacher showing off her classroom smut collection. And when you have drag queens on stage at the County Music Awards, well, you’ve come a long way baby.
And that fact is what exposes Branigin’s piece for the special pleading it is. She quotes on Trans person saying “The very fact that I have a career at all is beyond what I even hoped for when I started advocating for change in this industry.”
Branigin admits as much:
Trans visibility has surged in recent years. Because of the internet and social media, it is easier than ever for trans people, young and old, to find community and get more information. The work of trans artists and stories depicting trans characters have funneled into the mainstream. This is especially true of television.
But here’s the thing: when you go from a dockside bar to Nike spokes-whatever, you’re gonna get pushback from people who respect biology, theology and 5,000 years of civilization. You can accuse those people all you want of being the aggressors in the culture wars, but it doesn’t make it so. And it doesn’t make trans people victims.