Nick Henderson-Mayo
Nick Henderson-Mayo

Anti-trans rhetoric is not so different from antisemitism

Trans flag (Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash)
Trans flag (Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash)

Sweeping generalities, unfair comparisons, preposterous falsehoods repeated enough to make them feel true to those who don’t know any better? We Jews are superb at spotting outright antisemitism dressed up as mere ‘legitimate criticism of Israel.’

But the insidious claims trumpeted in the anti-Israel press with the frothing fervour of a QAnon conspiracy theorist are not only the preserve of antisemites rebranding themselves as mere ‘anti-Zionists.’ Age-old distortions and disinformation are also being trotted out in a concerted, media-led effort to intimidate, attack, and delegitimize trans people. The similarities with antisemitism are startling.

Like British Jews, the trans community makes up barely 1% of the UK’s population. But trans headlines, much like Israel-related news stories, are far outsized to the share of the population. With trans issues, we’re not talking about the plethora of non-binary pronouns here, but real people protected under the Equality Act’s characteristic of gender reassignment. This means trans people who have started the horrifyingly complex and bureaucratic process of seeking professional help to become the person they know they’ve always been.

People wait years. even decades in the UK for a simple appointment at an underfunded gender clinic. It’s quicker to go through an Orthodox conversion than to start the process of changing gender. And much like converts, few willingly take on such an arduous, life-altering task without the sincerest of convictions.

So why are trans people, a population where two in three have been discriminated against or harassed, and nine in ten have thought about suicide, treated so appallingly and uncompassionately? We could ask the very same question about why Jews face baseless hate.

Mention Israel, even in a socially distanced pub, and you’ll find a range of views, many uninformed, and quite a few brimming with hate. From a third to a half of people hold antisemitic beliefs, say most surveys. But we know from polls conducted during the recent war that a majority of Britons also support Israel’s right to self defence.

 

Mention trans issues in that same pub, and you’ll likely be hit with a similar range of polarised opinions. Yet more than half of Britons have admiration or respect for trans people, so why is there an avalanche of anti-trans rhetoricsweeping the front pages?

It’s because the space for debate has become littered with falsehoods, most recently in the pages of the Guardian. I bet you don’t know if I am referring to the Guardian’s reporting of Israel or trans issues there. In actual fact, it’s both.

The most recent battle lines are over comments made by the LGBTQ charity Stonewall’s chief executive Nancy Kelley, who likened anti-trans views to antisemitism. Kelley said: “We’re talking about protected groups. We’re talking about people that are protected on the basis of their sexuality, people that are protected on the basis of gender identity, people who are protected on the basis of race and that’s why I think the analogy is apt.”

As unique and ancient as antisemitism is, because we as Jews can smell it from a mile away, it can offer a decent yardstick for measuring deceptive fronts for other forms of hate.

In the recent Israel-Hamas war, front pages, including those of the New York Times, were filled with images of dead Palestinian children. No mention was made of the fact that around half were killed by misfired rockets, or some were child soldiers recruited by Hamas. False equivalence is drawn between the disparity in casualties, while the tragedies inflicted on Israeli lives in this recent conflict and seven decades of war and terror are obfuscated so Israel is always painted as the oppressor, even as it defends its citizens.

The tone-deaf media then have the gall to publish headlines like: Violent antisemitism spiked in America during the Israel-Hamas war. And we don’t know why. Well, we do know why. Non-stop incitement in the press.

Similarly, in the furore around trans issues, there’s hardly ever a mention made of the discrimination and violence trans people face, and the fact that trans hate is surging. Yet the connections between anti-trans rhetoric in public spaces and resulting attacks on the streets is never drawn.

During the Corbyn regime, the man himself was always quick to say he stood against all forms of racism, couching himself in the language of equality while spinning attacks on Israel and Jewish leaders in the very next breath. Attacks on trans people are framed in the same way. They are dressed in the language of defending the sex-based rights of natural born women. But these rights are utterly unaffected by trans healthcare, trans people changing their names, their sex, or even playing sport.

But the Corbyns of the trans issue paint themselves as the sole defenders of sex against deceitful men in women’s clothing, just as anti-Israel activists claim to be merely standing up for Palestinian lives against Israeli aggression. They’re both looking at the wrong enemy. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East where all citizens have full political and social equality. The real threat to Palestinian lives are Hamas terrorists, just as the real threat to women are misogynistic men, not trans people.

Yet so-called ‘gender-critical feminism’ makes it seem like the trans ideology is out to erase women. It’s as false as saying anti-Zionism isn’t just antisemitism dressed up in neutral sounding language to disguise the vile realities hidden beneath it. Gender critical feminists don’t want trans people to exist in the same way anti-Zionists don’t want Israel to exist. What about the millions of Jews already living in Israel, we might ask? Trans people ask that question too, but the answer is the same. They don’t care. They just don’t want us to exist.

Stonewall, the UK’s main defender of LGBTQ rights, is now being hit with BDS tactics over their support of trans people. Jewish groups stick up for Israel because the Jewish state is integral to the Jewish people. Stonewall sticks up for trans people because they are integral to the LGBTQ community. Trans people are queer pioneers. They’re the Haganah who fought for all LGBTQ people when no one else would, and they deserve to be defended.

Jews know exactly how it feels to be misrepresented in the press and have our very existence casually debated over a pint. Being a small segment of the population does not insulate any group from attack, in fact it only makes us more of a target. The same unhinged, nonsensical arguments are being directed at trans people in the same way they have been used to attack Jews. Comparing anti-trans rhetoric to antisemitism shows us the very real places where hate still hides in plain sight.

 

 

About the Author
Nick Henderson is a former Scottish political activist who left Labour under Corbyn, and then the UK because of antisemitism. He now lives in Jerusalem with his husband.
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