Generally speaking, the “reactionary right” is the right wing faction that specializes in being “anti-SJW” and non-PC. This faction has harbored the online skeptic community, which focuses on free speech, racial and gender issues, and immigration. Their presence is predominant on YouTube.
Leading voices of the reactionary right include figures such as Dave Rubin, Sargon of Akkad, et. al. One of the central criticisms of “SJWs” that the reactionary right has is regarding transgenderism.
But perhaps the most important figure of the reactionary right is Ben Shapiro. He is one of the most outspoken critics of what he calls the transgender “mental illness”. He has debated countless liberal college SJWs, with these videos often plastered on YouTube with clickbait titles.
Shapiro has claimed, with the utmost conviction, that not being part of an arbitrary binary gender system is a mental illness. In his view, the entire movement needs to be confronted as such. He frequently cites “the science” (coming from a theist and global warming skeptic) as his main supporting evidence. Yet, a quick look at the science proves him wrong.
For starters, it is not true that transgenderism is a mental illness. The most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, does not consider transgender identity a mental illness. An older edition of the DSM did consider transgender identity a mental illness, and it was referred to as “gender identity disorder”. The recent shift results from an increase in scientific knowledge, a process that is completely natural to science. However, the new DSM does identify “gender dysphoria”. Gender dysphoria is a feeling of anxiety and restlessness resulting from realizing your body does not reflect your true gender. This is not the same as a mental illness. According to the American Psychiatric Association: ” It is important to note that gender nonconformity is not in itself a mental disorder. The critical element of gender dysphoria is the presence of clinically significant distress associated with the condition.”
That’s not the only front where Shapiro is wrong. An article in the Scientific American suggested that research is growing in favor of a biological basis for transgender identity. This is consistent with a recent study, which conducted a literature review on the subject of transgenderism and concluded that “current data suggests a biological etiology for transgender identity.”
Gender dysphoria exists because of a societal structure that makes it taboo (or considers it a mental illness) for anyone to live outside rigid gender roles. As such, it is crucial to make the distinction between sex and gender, and to accept that gender roles are not as universal as traditionalists think them to be. Individuals like Ben Shapiro should reflect on the fact that their rhetoric is a contributing factor to the shockingly high transgender suicide rate.
For the sake of argument, let’s say I concede that there is no biological basis for transgender identity and that cross-cultural studies supported the idea that gender roles are naturally rigid. I would still argue that there are inconsistencies in Shapiro’s value system. As previously mentioned, when he argues against transgenderism, he frequently cites “the science”. According to this tendency, you’d assume that his beliefs and values are as scientific as possible. Yet, he’s a devout theist and remains skeptical or in denial of, anthropogenic climate change. A man of science, at the very least, would certainly question his faith and be more accepting of the climate reality.
But this isn’t to engage in ad hominem, it’s actually an important point. What science can Ben show me, that supports his religious views? Specifically, science that provides sound, empirical evidence in support of virtually any of the main religions in the US and around the world? Another example. Take human rights. We all believe in human rights. But again, show me something scientifically tangible that provides sound, empirical evidence in support of human rights?
Human rights and religion are similar in a certain respect, in that you can’t necessarily find the science to support them. In other words, there’s actually nothing scientifically tangible that proves either. Yet, our society values them. For the most part, we respect and value religions. And human rights are recognized by almost every country on Earth.
So if Ben claims that there is no science in support of transgenderism, why can’t society still value, and at the very least, provide a space for equal protection and opportunity for transgender folks under the law? Instead, you’ll see that efforts to teach new information regarding gender studies are opposed by the reactionary right at every opportunity. Or more recently, the military ban on transgender personnel in the US military. The list goes on and on.
There’s also a prevalent idea among the reactionary right, that someone identifying as a gender other than male or female is akin to being held hostage by them. From a practical perspective, it makes no sense to believe that a group with limited social power is affecting you personally by wanting to identify as something other than the binary gender paradigm. Transgender and gender non-conforming people shouldn’t have to wait for the blessing of the reactionary right before they can identify with different pronouns, or however they wish. Transgender people have a high suicide rate, are more likely to be discriminated against in the workplace and throughout their social lives, and they are more likely to experience homelessness and are among the lowest status in the economic ladder. Yet, the reactionary right will claim victimhood simply because a transgender person asks to be called by a different pronoun, or use the bathroom that matches their true gender.
The reactionary right is just that, a reactionary movement devoid of critical thinking and analysis that espouses borderline harassment and bigotry toward those they are reacting to. In the war of ideas, I don’t expect the reactionary right to offer anything very insightful other than flashy, clickbait YouTube videos.