Right-wing media has been relentless in its attacks on trans people. In a single three-week window in March and April of this year, Fox News aired more than 170 anti-trans segments. And over the past few months and weeks, calling LGBTQ people “groomersand “pedophiles” have been deemed acceptable by the GOP mainstream, with high-ranking Republicans like Elise Stefanik joining the chorus of hate.
This smear campaign is accompanied by an all-out assault on LGBTQ (but especially trans) rights at the state level in Republican-controlled legislatures, as Religion Dispatches has previously reported. And while American readers might think that out-of-the-box culture war rhetoric, which has real and devastating consequences for the lives of all LGBTQ people, is relegated to the United States, think again: the opposite is true. true.
In Europe, hatred against trans people has been simmering for some time. The UK appears to be at the center of this radicalisation, which sees so-called ‘feminists’ associating themselves with right-wing think tanks like the Heritage Foundation spread their sectarianism. In fact, anti-trans hate has been shown to be a pipeline to the right radicalization. United through the biologically essentialist definition of sex and gender as one and the same, right-wing vocabulary and buzzwords like “gender ideology” have been embedded in centrist and even some left-wing circles, often leading those who use them in increasingly extreme positions.
This rhetoric has consequences. English lawyer General Suella Braverman, for example, recently claimed that schools have no legal obligation to affirm trans students — to address them using their pronouns or chosen name.
But while the UK is at the forefront of anti-trans bigotry in Europe – with even some leftists or liberal new electrical outlets as the Guardian or the BBC allowing the effortthe UK is far from the only place in Europe where anti-trans hatred thrives.
Just last week, the well-known, but still ‘respectable’, conservative German newspaper Die Welt, intensified the integration of right-wing talking points. A number of researchers have written a editorial, in which they accused ARD and ZDF, the state-funded independent television news channels (the German version of the BBC) of having “indoctrinated” children with “gender ideology” in order to sexualize them and “re-educate” them. The article hits all the right-wing essentials of a dark conspiracy at work: the media, run by covert ‘trans-lobbyists’, pushes ‘trans ideology’ on innocent and unsuspecting children, in order to indoctrinate them with “gender ideology”. ” and turn them all trans.
The existence of trans people is presented as a “trend”, while proposed changes to legislation that would free trans people from some of the degrading bureaucratic hurdles to legally changing their gender, are presented as children come to a doctor’s office, declare that they are trans and are immediately operated on. Of course, these are absurd lies.
And although German newspapers have already published anti-trans stories, this was a telling escalation focusing on a shadowy trans cabal made up targeting and re-educating children. The authors further claim that they are supported by the “gay and lesbian interest group ‘LGB Alliance'”, which is actually a UK-based organisation. anti-trans, anti-queer organization propagate hate speech against trans and queer people.
The five authors of the article belong to a group of 120 journalists, academics (from various fields) and politicians originally who signed a open letter which calls for an end to so-called “fake news broadcast by public broadcasters”. Interestingly, when looking through the list of signatories, alliances similar to those in the US and UK between feminists and right-wing reactionaries can be identified.
Not only Birgit Kelle, a well-known speaker at German and international Christian right events, but she also showed up at a recent CPAC event in Hungary to deliver a speech against trans rights. She is also a strong anti-choice activist. A significant number of the other signatories are members of a right-wing German think tank called, innocently enough, “Netzwerk für Wissenschaftsfreiheit” (Network for Freedom of Science). This network peddles reactionary talking points about supposedly ‘leftist’ universities and ‘cancellation culture’ while its website treats ‘racial science’ as legitimate learned speech.
The anti-trans movement, not only in the United States, but also in Europe, unites right-wing extremists, conservatives and like-minded people from the political left and centers behind their hatred of trans people. It’s simply the latest “corner problem” that the right has sought to exploit – so far quite effectively – in order to radicalize people and recruit more to their hateful cause.
Die Welt owned by the Springer publishing house which recently acquired Politico, faced a fierce backlash and later changed some of the title’s wording – although claims of a shadowy trans lobby, with its clearly anti-Semitic undertones, stand referring to a secret cabal pushing what the writers perceive as sexual deviance – is still relevant. Its editor, Ulf Poschardt, a right-wing libertarian, published an op-ed in which he claimed the anti-trans editorial was bogus, but still views the trans rights debate as legitimate political discourse. He calls it a “prelude to a debate that we will conduct widely and openly”.
Meanwhile, he adopts the anti-trans talking points from the original article on his LinkedIn page to call on the CDU and the FDP (Christian conservative and liberal/libertarian parties in Germany) “to fight for the reform of the ARD and ZDF”. Poschardt has previously claimed that Cheese fries no longer fears “the West” because its men have become too soft, and because it has succumbed to gender debates. The same talking points were peddled by the Christian Dominionist Eric Prince on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast.
It is also no coincidence that the article illustration previously featured an image of a cartoon mouse, a well-known German children’s cartoon. Julian Reichelt, the disgraced former editor of ‘Bild’, Germany’s biggest right-wing tabloid, who was fired after a New York Times investigation revealed allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate sex in the workplace, the cartoon had previously attacked. In what can only be described as an attempt to channel Tucker Carlson’s rants about clothes and Mr. Potato Head’s GenitalsReichelt had called the cartoon “Zwangs-Maus” (coercion mouse) in Marchbecause the children’s show had aired an article about trans rights.
These are attempts to amplify the culture war rhetoric in Germany, mirroring some of what we have seen and continue to see in American and British public discourse. But therein lies the danger: the current situation in the United States – of families of trans children fleeing red states, trying to protect them from the onslaught of potentially life-threatening legislation – we shows that the path from hateful, conspiratorial rhetoric about trans people to adopting that rhetoric as law can be shockingly short. The international right has chosen its next issue: the dehumanization and demonization of trans people, which is being used as a corner issue to fight democracy itself. And so far, it’s working.