A Republican talking head called for the ‘elimination of transgenderism’ – but the UK beat him to it

Michael Knowles speaks at a podium
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On 4 March, American commentator and media host Michael Knowles called for the elimination of “transgenderism” at a Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Knowles hosts a podcast for the right-wing media outlet Daily Wire. His comments rightfully drew intense scrutiny and pushback from commentators and publications on the internet.

In particular, Knowles called Rolling Stone’s chosen headline “libelous” and demanded a retraction:

CPAC Speaker Calls for Transgender People to be ‘Eradicated’

Knowles said:

For the good of society … transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely — the whole preposterous ideology, at every level.

He called for the eradication of “transgenderism”, as if this is not synonymous with the eradication of trans people. However, the problem from a UK standpoint is that transphobic ‘gender critical’ activists have used similar rhetoric here for years. You might have heard it on our national broadcaster or in the halls of our government.

What’s more, it hasn’t received anywhere near enough pushback.

Read on...

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Eliminationist rhetoric

The argument from Knowles and his ilk is that trans people do not exist. We are merely confused people afflicted by ‘gender ideology’ or ‘transgenderism’. Our detractors frame this ‘ideology’ as a set of beliefs and practices, rather than a state of being.

Knowles has made statements similar to his CPAC speech on his podcast. In 28 February’s installment of the Daily Wire‘s The Michael Knowles Show, he said:

I don’t know how you could have a genocide of transgender people because genocide refers to genes, it refers to genetics, it refers to biology. And the whole point of transgenderism is that it has nothing to do with biology.

He went on:

But furthermore, nobody’s calling to exterminate anybody because the other problem with that statement is that transgender people is not a real ontological category. It’s not a legitimate category of being.

It is easy to recognise this wording as fascist. Stating that being trans is not “a legitimate category of being” is dehumanisation. This is one of the hallmarks of fascism. A genocide cannot take place against trans people because there aren’t any trans people, he says. Exactly how Knowles intends to eliminate ‘transgenderism’ is left to the listener’s imagination.

What does elimination look like?

The most obvious course of action would be to make trans people cis. However, so-called ‘conversion therapy’ – the attempt to convince a trans person that they are not trans – doesn’t work. What’s more, it is actively dangerous to the people it is inflicted upon – it doubles the rate of suicide in recipients.

So if a trans person cannot be made cis, what does our eradication look like?

You might try to convert me anyway, and damn the fact that it might kill me. After numerous u-turns, the UK government only saw fit to outlaw this two months ago.

Alternatively, you could take away my healthcare. The British public, at least, believes that trans healthcare should be the purview of the rich, who can afford private access. Just 33% think that the NHS should provide hormone replacement therapy.

Failing this, you might simply try to make trans lives unlivable. Just removing equalities protections would be enough to enable bigots to freely abuse trans people. PM Rishi Sunak has already indicated that he wishes to remove trans protections from the equality act, which would enable this abuse.

Eliminationism in the UK

Of course, there is always the option of outlawing ‘being trans’ altogether. Even if you can’t stop a trans person being trans, you could stop them from saying that they are trans, from participating in public life as a trans person. The UK already treats the recognition of our gender as a reward for compliance; our genders are recognised until that becomes inconvenient, until we become inconvenient. But some transphobes want to go even further.

Back in 2021, the Women’s Human Rights Campaign (WHRC) submitted a response to a government inquiry into the Gender Recognition Act. Referring to a UN convention on discrimination against women, the WHRC declaration said:

The convention calls for the ‘elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women’ (Article 5).

We can all get behind that, right? The elimination of prejudice and stereotypes based on sex – sign me up. However, the document continued:

We consider that the practice of transgenderism clearly falls under this article because it is based on stereotyped roles for men and women.

If this sounds familiar, it should. The reference to “transgenderism”, its framing as a “practice”, the call for its “elimination” – all of it beat Knowles to the post two years ago. UK transphobia recycled in the US: who’d have thought it?

 …And the condemnation?

As reported by Pink News, the signatories to the declaration include the LGB AllianceTransgender Trend, Labour Women’s Declaration, WoLF (Women’s Liberation Front), Standing For WomenSafe Schools Alliance UK, and For Women Scotland.

However, rather than being widely recognised as calling for trans elimination, supporters of the WHRC have been granted media attention and government influence. The Tory Party conference has hosted the LGB Alliance two years in a row. Stephanie Davies-Arai, founder of Transgender Trend, was awarded the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s birthday honours. For Women Scotland appeared before Scottish parliament to argue that new hate crime laws might do too much to stop it from being transphobic.

The eliminationism supported by these groups is the same as that spat out by Knowles to Republican applause. Both work towards the destruction of my way of life, and that of my trans siblings.

I am trans. We are trans. We cannot be stopped from being trans. However, without something fundamental changing in the UK’s attitude to trans people, we can and will be stopped from being.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0, resized to 770*403

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  • Show Comments
    1. Similarly in Russia: “Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed anti-LGBTQ views in his speech following the annexation of four Eastern Ukrainian regions into Russian territory.

      “[Western countries] spit on the natural right of billions of people, most of humanity, to freedom and justice, to determine their own future on their own. Now they have completely moved to a radical denial of moral norms, religion, and family,” Putin said.

      He then addressed “all the citizens of Russia,” asking, “Do we want to have, here, in our country, in Russia, parent number one, number two, number three instead of mom and dad? Have they gone mad out there? Do we really want perversions that lead to degradation and extinction to be imposed on children in our schools from the primary grades? To be drummed into them that there are various supposed genders besides women and men, and to be offered a sex change operation? Do we want all this for our country and our children? For us, all this is unacceptable, we have a different future, our own future?”


      1. Hi Airlane1979,

        Please read my comments below on this article. It is the same Vatican document on gender, sexuality and education, that is also explicity critical of polyamory, and uses terminology, language, phrasing and conceptualisation similar to what you have quoted from Putin.

        The Vatican document:

    2. This aggressive and widespread resurgence of anti-LGBTQI+ and specifically anti-trans legislation in the US and UK, including the specific views, language and arguments used, have primarily come from a Vatican document published in 2019. This is almost entirely right-wing extremist Christian driven. The definition of “transgenderism” and the arguments against it are in this document. Links and some quotes follow:

      The Vatican document:

      “The concept of gender is seen as dependent upon the subjective mindset of each person, who can choose a gender not corresponding to his or her biological sex, and therefore with the way others see that person (transgenderism).”

      This quote from the Vatican document is followed by arguments that can be summarised as stating that this is against “nature” and “the truths of existence” which are defined as being the “Christian vision of man and women”.

      NY Times article on the Vatican document

    3. Here are some more quotes from the 2019 Vatican document on gender and sexuality:

      The following quote from the Vatican document states incorrect information about the complexity and variety of X and Y chromosome combinations, and then states that a person could be born without a clearly defined sexuality, that should be medically altered to create an “identity”.

      “From the point of view of genetics, male cells (which contain XY chromosomes) differ, from the very moment of conception, from female cells (with their XX chromosomes). That said, in cases where a person’s sex is not clearly defined, it is medical professionals who can make a therapeutic intervention with a view to establishing the person’s constitutive identity.”

      The following quote from the Vatican document denies the existence of intersex birth:
      “Efforts to go beyond the constitutive male-female sexual difference, such as the ideas of “intersex” or “transgender”, lead to a masculinity or femininity that is ambiguous, even though (in a self-contradictory way), these concepts themselves actually presuppose the very sexual difference that they propose to negate or supersede. This oscillation between male and female becomes, at the end of the day, only a ‘provocative’ display against so-called ‘traditional frameworks’.”

      The following two quotes from the Vatican document state that children need to “construct” their sexual identity from having a female mother and male father, and that the rights of traditional nuclear family supersede all secular laws.

      “In the family, knowledge of one’s mother and father allows the child to construct his or her own sexual identity and difference.”
      “The family, seen as a natural social unit which favours the maximum realisation of the reciprocity and complementarity between men and women, precedes even the socio-political order of the State whose legislative freedom must take it into account and give it proper recognition.”

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