The goal for transsexuals was to re-integrate into society, not to parade our differences
Last weekend was Birmingham Pride; I stayed away. England’s second city was my hometown for 26 years but—even as a trans person—I no longer feel welcome among the rainbow brigade. A lesbian friend did attend, but she took to Facebook to lament something lost: “Not sure why I’m sharing this, but on this Pride morning I don’t feel like I belong here anymore … that it isn’t for ppl like me. Maybe it’s for the straights or others?”
Funny she said that. Elsewhere in my social media feed, a former neighbor posted, “If anyone is watching the Pride Parade, look out for me in the NHS block as I’m in a group representing the hospital.”
Now, I’m not one to second guess anyone’s sexual orientation, but that woman is married to a man and they have two grown-up children. So what was she doing at Pride? I don’t mean to be harsh on her; she was excited to be parading through the streets with her colleagues. Maybe I should be grateful for “straight allies” who are willing to stand up and be counted? But what has Pride become, and who exactly is it for now?
One thing is for sure, it’s no longer much of a protest. Indeed, anyone trying to mount a demonstration may well find themselves promptly ejected by the police. Over the border in Wales, a Lesbian group was told to leave Cardiff Pride after their banners—reading “trans activism erases lesbians” and “lesbians don’t like penises”—upset some transgender rights activists.
Maybe we need to look deeper into culture and society to understand why people flock to Pride? Human beings are social animals, and the present generation is much the same as those that preceded us. We can claim whatever we like about being self-sufficient individuals, but we evolved in tribes, groups and societies where social ostracism was practically synonymous with death. Because of this, we have evolved psychologies to avoid exile.
But while humans co-operate for mutual benefit, we also compete to pass on our genes. That is an uneasy balancing act, and one that needs more than logic to prevent it from toppling. Reason alone, for example, does not prevent murderers benefiting from their crimes. Stable societies are underpinned by moral codes but, to be effective, those codes need to work at an emotional level. It’s one thing to be called a bad person, quite something else to be traumatized by the accusation.
Religion has traditionally been the domain responsible for promoting such codes, and for many it still is. It is probably no coincidence that religious traditions blossomed with the advent of agriculture and the extension of private property. The message is clear: if you steal someone else’s crops—and perhaps kill them in the process—then God will see it. Even if you get away with it for now, judgement will still follow because you have sinned. Whether God exists or not is immaterial for religion’s effectiveness at producing social cohesion. All that matters is whether enough people think he does and whether they are bothered by the thought of being a bad person.
There is good reason why “God-shaped holes” might have evolved in us. Societies that feared God were more likely to keep their thieves and murderers in check. But in the West, at least, for better or worse, organised religion has lost its grip on society. Even where it persists, liberal traditions perpetuate the image of a God who understands rather than one who will rain down fire and brimstone on a sinful world. How many people in the US or the UK really care what God might think?
But those God-shaped holes are still there. We still have that innate need to be seen as good people, and that desire is unlikely to evolve out of our species any time soon. So, my former neighbor goes to Pride, because Pride checks the boxes. There is ritual, and there is tradition. Parades are public: simply being a good person is not enough, we need others to see we are good people. If that is insufficient, we post it on social media.
The churches—sorry, organizations—that organize, perpetuate, and benefit from Pride have their creeds and their commandments: Transwomen are Women, and Thou shalt not misgender. They collect donations (tithes?) from individuals and organizations to proselytize their gospel of equality, diversity and inclusion. They ask allies to express guilt for their original sin—straight or “cis”-privilege.
There is a special priestly class—the trans—that supposedly possesses some mysterious special knowledge about what it means to be human. With their claims of a special soul, or rather “gender identity,” they are revered and lauded. But only so long as they keep the faith. Some of us have seen through the ruse and rhetoric, and have publicly denounced it. We have become apostates, outlaws from the trans community on the run for heresy.
That’s why I don’t go to Pride. The last time I was there—in 2018—erstwhile acquaintances accused me of having caused hurt and upset. I was warned to stay among a group of friends I trusted, for my own “safety.” So much for diversity and inclusion; this was about conformity and exclusion of the dissident. Behind the rainbows and the sparkles, and the banners and the flags, there is a totalitarian mindset that demands compliance.
Why should anyone go to Pride? In the UK at least, gay and lesbian rights are secure: the age of consent has been equalized, and same-sex marriage is on the statute books while draconian laws have been repealed. Only the naïve would imagine that homophobia has been eradicated from society, but Pride parades will not change the minds of bigots. However, governments have already passed laws to address discrimination and criminalize hate.
Trans people enjoy similar protections in law. It is illegal to treat us less favorably in employment, housing, and the provision of goods and services. Transphobia is also considered an aggravating factor in hate crime legislation.
I do wonder why we were invited to Pride in the first place, and why we accepted. When I transitioned the goal for transsexuals was to re-integrate into society, not to parade our differences. Transition was not an end in itself, it was a step we took to reconcile ourselves to our bodies so that we could get on with what really mattered—living our lives.
But none of that matters to those who need to fill their God-shaped holes. A narrative has been created—trans people are the most vulnerable in society—and savior-rescuers eagerly jump in to satisfy their need to be recognized as good people.
That is their right, of course. I just wish they would consider who actually benefits.
Debbie Hayton is a science teacher and journalist. As a transsexual, she has written extensively about what it means to be trans and how trans people can be included in society without compromising the rights of others. She Tweets @DebbieHayton
This article was first published by Reality’s Last Stand on 1 October 2022: Why I Stopped Going To Pride.