Colin Haskins

The antisemitic conspiracy theories fueling transphobia

Jennifer Bilek, who has questioned the "[J]ewish aspect" of the "transgender/transhumanist agenda", recently wrote a transphobic article in Tablet magazine which drew on antisemitic canards.

Conspiratorial thinking shapes the global order. This is something the Jewish people have long been keenly aware of.

When a gunman in Buffalo, New York shot and killed 10 Black shoppers in a grocery store this past May, he did so because he subscribed to a white supremacist conspiracy theory. The theory says that powerful Jews, who control the media, academia, and pharmaceuticals, are conspiring to push children into being queer in a concerted effort to diminish the birth rate of white Christians. These Jewish elites, the conspiracy theory says, want to replace white Americans with Black people and immigrants.

In times of social change and acute cultural stress, conspiratorial thinking is to be expected. Stories in which complicated phenomena are reduced to the alleged nefarious deeds of scapegoats — usually racial or cultural outsiders — have been around since time immemorial. These scapegoats are usually accused of deplorable, despicable acts, often against society’s most valued and vulnerable; children.

Perhaps the earliest conspiracy theories Jews had to contend with were leveled before the common era. Even before the rise of Christianity, Jews frequently found themselves targeted by Greek allegations of bizarre and wicked behavior.

In medieval Europe, many Jews faced charges of blood libel — an antisemitic trope that alleges Jews kill Christian children and drain their blood for the purposes of making matzos and performing rituals. In 1255, a ten-year-old Christian boy was found dead in Lincoln, England; 90 Jews were arrested and 19 were hanged. That wasn’t the only incident. By the end of the medieval period, likely more than 100 Jews were killed in connection with blood libel.

In the 1900s, this canard made a resurgence with “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, a phony document that purported to be a Jewish plan for world domination. The text was supposed to be the “Jewish Agenda”, and it helped give rise to the idea that Jews seek to rule the world by controlling banks, manipulating the media, and nurturing conflict. After the Nazis came to power, the text was sometimes used by German schoolteachers to teach students about Jews.

Even as Jews fled to the west, blood libel and conspiracy theories followed them.

A new libel

[T]he LGBTQ+ network (…) is working closely with the techno-medical complex, big banks, international law firms, pharma giants, and corporate power to solidify the idea that humans are not a sexually dimorphic species,

Recently, Tablet published an article by Jennifer Bilek headlined, “The Billionaire Family Pushing Synthetic Sex Identities”. The article focuses on the Pritzkers, a wealthy Jewish family, as well as a number of other “elites” whom the author alleges are responsible for an increase in people who identify as transgender. 

Though Bilek does not mention it outright, most of these “elites” are Jewish.

It isn’t a terribly uncommon narrative these days. Just a few weeks ago, a mob of self-described “Christian fascists” descended upon a family-friendly pride event at an ice cream shop in Dallas. They chanted the word “groomers” and charged at families with small children, telling them the fist of Christ would come down on them. One formerly anonymous Twitter user, Chaya Raichik (@libsoftiktok), has been allowed to rack up more than a million followers by spreading homophobic and transphobic propaganda and sending her followers after teachers, schools, and districts that support transgender students.

Bilek, a cisgender painter who describes herself as an investigative journalist, has made a name for herself writing about “transgenderism”. She has been published almost exclusively in right-wing publications and on her own blog. You can find her byline in The Post Millenial, a conservative disinformation website with an opaque funding scheme, and The Epoch Times, a far-right newspaper that is owned and operated by a secretive Chinese religious sect, and which has been accused of laundering QAnon and vaccine disinformation. She’s a celebrity in the “gender-critical” movement — a group of people who describe themselves as feminists, but who oppose civil rights for women if they are transgender, and who insist that “biology” is the sole determinant of gender.

Jennifer Bilek is neither a doctor nor a psychologist, but she insists that it is not possible to be assigned the wrong sex at birth. Instead, Bilek, who lionizes figures like Aileen Wuornos and Valerie Solanas, derides transgender, genderqueer, and nonbinary identities as “Synthetic Sex Identities”, a phrase she apparently made up. Though she manages to avoid doing so in her Tablet article, Bilek usually makes an effort to use the wrong pronouns when talking about transgender people, and she insists that transgender women are men.

Bilek’s Tablet article pushes the idea that an elite cabal of donors is on a pernicious quest to “medically manipulate the sex of children” by promoting transhumanism and so-called “Synthetic Sexual Identities”. The Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the Williams Institute UCLA School of Law, and the American Civil Liberties Union are all in on it, she says.

Carefully avoiding her personal pronouns, Bilek points to the fact that the world’s only openly transgender billionaire, a Jewish woman named Jennifer Pritzker, has provided funding for a number of healthcare organizations, including Howard Brown Health and Rush Memorial Medical Center; both of which, Bilek laments, “provide some version of ‘gender care.’” Bilek does not address the fact that Jennifer Pritzker is not the primary funding source for these organizations, nor does she note that similar programs exist worldwide, including in institutions with which the Prtizkers are not affiliated.

Moreover, the programs singled out by Bilek are not necessarily solely dedicated to providing gender-affirming care. Howard Brown Health’s Trans and Nonbinary clinic offers a number of unrelated services including Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), STI/HIV prevention and treatment, and OB/GYN care.

But because Jennifer Pritzker privately invests in companies that produce products used in surgery, Bilek says she finds it hard to, “avoid the impression of complementarity between Jennifer Pritzker’s for-profit medical investments and philanthropic support for [Synthetic Sex Identities].”

Jennifer Pritzker’s cousin J.B., the current governor of Illinois, was also a subject of Bilek’s article. She details J.B. Pritzker’s history of supporting pro-LGBTQ+ legislation, like SB0818, a gender-inclusive sex education bill that has been praised by groups like Planned Parenthood, the Illinois Public Health Association, and the National Council of Jewish Women Illinois. Under the new legislation, third graders should be able to “discuss the range of ways people express their gender and how gender-role stereotypes may limit behavior”; Bilek is critical of this, but her personal opinion is contradicted by scholarly research.

She also warns about Martine Rothblatt, an eccentric and wealthy transgender Jewish woman. Rothblatt has been a speaker at a number of events hosted by Out Leadership, a professional organization for LGBTQ+ leaders in the business world, which Bilek ominously refers to as “a business networking arm of the LGBTQ+ movement”. The Tablet article implies that Martine Rothblatt, Out Leadership, and by extension, the “LGBTQ+ movement”, are up to no good, but it’s unclear what Rothblatt is supposed to have done wrong, other than exist as a transgender Jewish woman with money and influence.

This isn’t the first time Bilek has written about Martine Rothblatt. In a post published on a “gender-critical” blog in 2020, Bilek repeatedly misgenders Rothblatt and refers to her as a “[man] with a penchant for wearing women’s undergarments”. She closes the post with a call to action:

The jig is up on this purported ‘human rights movement.’ If we want to hold fast to our humanity, there is no time to waste. We are in the eleventh hour and must end this tech-driven, hubristic flight from flesh, mortality and nature.

The Tablet article also points the finger at Jon Stryker, a gay billionaire who is likely not Jewish, but who is commonly asserted to be Jewish among a certain cadre of anti-queer conspiracy theorists. While Stryker is only mentioned briefly, she has written extensively about him elsewhere.

Stryker, Bilek says, is indicative of a new era of LGBTQ+ people. Gone are the days of “their suffering dramatized by AIDS and Rock Hudson, Brokeback Mountain and Matthew Shepard.” In this new era, Bilek claims that LGBTQ+ people and their supporters, “stand at the top of media, academia, the professions, and, most important, Big Business and Big Philanthropy.” This assertion is not supported by empirical evidence, but Bilek uses Stryker as an anecdotal case study to “prove” her point nonetheless.

Bilek’s observation — that wealthy people invest in things that make them money and then give some of that money to causes they support — is not especially astute. Under capitalism, the money of the wealthy goes a long way. Chaya Raichik, for example, the anti-queer social media provocateur who tweets under the name @libsoftiktok, receives funding from Seth Dillon, the millionaire CEO of the Christian “satire” website The Babylon Bee.

The Jewish aspect

With nearly 80,000 tweets and 12,000 followers, Jennifer Bilek is a prolific Twitter user with a growing audience. Her profile picture displays white text over a green radial-gradient: “Biological Reality”.

Jennifer has been tweeting since 2014, but she’s been online for even longer. An extensive review of Bilek’s digital footprint reveals an unsettling pattern of antisemitism.

A number of Jennifer Bilek’s tweets suggest that she subscribes to antisemitic conspiracy theories. On more than one occasion, Bilek has tweeted praise for David Icke, a notorious Holocaust denier who has endorsed “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, and who believes that reptilians (read: Jews) are trying to take over the world.

At least 80 tweets from Bilek reference George Soros, the Jewish billionaire who has become something of a boogeyman for neo-Nazis. Other tweets refer to unspecified “elites”, often fitting into antisemitic canards, like a shadowy group of powerful people who control the media, quietly pushing their deleterious agenda and sewing chaos.

Perhaps most disturbingly, in January of last year, Jennifer Bilek shared a video created by a neo-Nazi on her Facebook page. She wrote that she has, “often wondered why so many of the men involved in the transgender/transhumanist agenda are [J]ewish,” and complained, “of course I have been accused more than once of promoting a [J]ewish conspiracy theory.”

Bilek insists that she “doesn’t single them out for being [J]ewish”, but it is difficult to ignore the striking similarities between her theories and the ideology that led an 18-year-old white man to enter a supermarket and kill 10 Black shoppers one Saturday in May. He too purported to be fine with the “LGB” community while complaining about “transgenderism”, and like Bilek, the perpetrator was sure that George Soros is up to something nefarious. 

As Christa Peterson, a graduate student of Philosophy who is often critical of transphobia in academia and media has pointed out, Jennifer Bilek isn’t screaming into the void; her ideas about gender have found a warm reception on the right and among so-called “gender-critical feminists”.

Anti-transgender groups like the LGB Alliance and Women’s Declaration International have praised Bilek’s theories and shared them widely. In 2021, Kara Dansky appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight as the spokeswoman for Women’s Declaration International and urged viewers to visit Bilek’s blog.

The Tablet article is already making the rounds on the far-right. 

Sensationalism over substance

Jennifer Bilek’s claims are without merit. 

Her Tablet article shaves off the inconvenient edges of her theory, like the fact that the contemporary western gender binary is far from universal. In Istmo de Tehuantepec, for example, men, women, and muxes have been acknowledged since pre-colonial times. Jewish tradition, too, has a legacy of recognizing a variety of gender expressions.

Bilek also fails to contend with the fact that gender identity is a social construction separate from biological sex characteristics. Even if that weren’t the case, she largely ignores the fact that many researchers now believe that like gender, sex also exists on a spectrum. Bilek admits intersex people exist, but she pits them against trans people and suggests the prevalence of intersex characteristics is so marginal that they’re not worth considering.

But there are more intersex people than there are Jewish people in the world, and intersex advocacy groups have made it clear that intersex and transgender people have a shared interest in the principles of consent and autonomy.

If Bilek’s scientific foundation is weak, her “research” is even shakier. 

While she self-identifies as an investigative journalist, Jennifer Bilek does not appear to be formally trained in the field, and she does not conduct herself with the scrupulousness of a professional journalist.

Her “investigations” reveal little we did not already know. Perhaps the most concrete conclusion one can reach after reviewing Bilek’s research is that rich people donate to things. The paper trail compiled by Bilek is a far cry from a smoking gun. But then again — that’s assuming a gun has been fired at all.

Instead of reporting on a funding chain that reveals a surreptitious plot to groom children, Bilek’s hasty conclusions have revealed her own disturbing preoccupation with “elite” Jews and transgender people.

Jennifer Bilek is a conspiracy theorist who should not be taken seriously. Her personal theories on transgender people and the supposedly Jewish “transhumanist agenda” do not belong in a mainstream publication, let alone a Jewish one.

But to its shame, Tablet published them.

About the Author
Akiva Haskins is a counter-extremism researcher leading the Special Program on Antisemitism at Rise Above Hate and a Jewish Changemakers Fellow at the Jewish Federations of North America. His writing has been published in the Times of Israel, Al-Abwab, and more.
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