Little Miss Trouble
Why I’m Not Waiting for the Gender ‘Pendulum’ to Swing Back
This piece was originally published in Abigail Shrier’s Substack, The Truth Fairy.
I began my talk in a suburb of Tel Aviv last week, as I always do, by scanning the audience for trouble. In the second row, a tall woman sporting a flat-top and a decidedly non-binary aspect, stared fixedly at some middle distance, something apparently on her mind. A few questions in, she rushed the stage, backpack slung over one shoulder, arm extended like a jousting lance: “Mrs. Shrier! I was wondering if you would shake my hand.”
I thought I held still, but videos don’t lie: I hopped back in my seat, while I waited for security to wrestle her to the ground. “I am a person! I am not a disease!” she cried again and again, in an accent I know as well as my own: American.
Does Israel have a Gender Ideology problem? From the many concerned parents of daughters who have contacted me over the last year, I gather it does. Gender Ideology is undoubtedly an American export, though that’s of little consolation to the frightened parents in Ra'anana and Tel Aviv—or for that matter, so many cities in Spain and France and elsewhere across the West where young people watch “Euphoria” and march for George Floyd.
So why poke the bear? Why travel to Tel Aviv, one of the world’s most left-leaning cities, where hundreds marched against the publication of my book, Irreversible Damage, in Hebrew, blaring horns and pounding bass drums? Why speak out in leftist hotspots like Tel Aviv—so many people asked me—when there are perfectly rational cities like Jerusalem, where I could meet fans and make common cause? The questioners often imply the reaction is my fault—that I am deliberately causing trouble.
A mistake lies at the heart of this question, a false conceit borne of metaphors like tides, and pendulums and fashion fossils like bellbottoms: That if we all stay quiet, the trans extremism will swing back or die down, like feathered bangs and breakdancing.
Gender Ideology is not a pendulum, and it will not swing back with a little help from inertia. Gender Ideology is a fundamentalist religion—intolerant, demanding strict adherence to doctrine, hell-bent on gathering proselytes. I do not here use the term “religion” metaphorically or lightly.
Gender Ideology is a fundamentalist religion—intolerant, demanding strict adherence to doctrine, hell-bent on gathering proselytes.
Induction into this religion begins with a baptism: the selection of pronouns and often a new name, greeted with all the celebration (and more) of a conversion. It evangelizes aggressively: through social media influencers, who claim to know a teen’s truest self better than her parents and to love that teen so much more than they ever could. Therapists, teachers, and school counselors play evangelist to numberless kids at American school.
There’s no physical evidence that any of us possesses an ethereal gender identity, of course. It may actually be disprovable; there is a good deal of evidence against it. No matter. The adherents take it on faith. The notion that each of us is born with a gender identity, utterly separable from our physiology, known only to us, imagines gender identity as the secular version of the ‘soul.’
Gender ideology is policed by blasphemy laws. Gender identity is the secular version of the ‘soul.’
Gender Ideology is policed by blasphemy laws – like those passed in California and New York, which assign criminal and civil penalties to healthcare workers who intentionally misgender patients and landlords who intentionally misgender tenants. And outside of statutory law, most social media services will quickly exile you if you’re caught blaspheming (ie. misgendering, deadnaming et al.). College campuses enforce these blasphemy laws with such smug severity, they are rarely violated. Much as the instances of public blasphemy in Mecca round down to zero.
Adherents to the gender orthodoxy reserve their greatest ire for apostates, “detransitioners,” those who once identified as ‘transgender’ before reversing course and resume identification with their biological sex. The level of ostracism and hatred detransitioners face in America today would be familiar to anyone who has tried to leave a close-knit orthodox faith community.
And, finally, Gender Ideology is full of holidays—one or two in every calendar month, except August. (No need for a celebration - it seems - when there is no school.) These are regarded with all the sanctity of religious festivals. As in, “I can’t believe Abigail would schedule her talk just before Pride Month.” All major institutions are expected – or is it compelled? – to celebrate Pride by changing their logos to incorporate the look of the Pride flag. They don’t do that for any other holiday – not even Christmas.
All of which is to say, Gender Ideology is not a tide, and it will not turn with the gravitational pull of the moon.
Its adherents were willing to threaten every venue in Tel Aviv that dared host a talk by me and demand that Israel’s few dominant book chains refuse to carry my book. (Amazon commands a negligible slice of the book market there.) Much like the Amazon and Spotify employees in America who quit over the companies’ refusal to delete my book or interviews, it is insufficient for adherents to criticize me or decline to read my book themselves: they demand a world in which no one can hear my sacrilege, read my writings, or obtain my book.
All of which is to say, Gender Ideology is not bellbottoms or feathered bangs. It is no pendulum, and it will not swing back with a little help from inertia. It is not a tide, and it will not turn with the gravitational pull of the moon.
That isn’t bellbottoms. It’s not even similar to other raucous debates in America, like those over abortion or gun control. When Gender Ideology remakes American institutions in its image and polices their language, it represents the establishment of Shariah Law. Societies policed by religious law don’t abandon it on their own.
So why do so many Americans believe this ‘tide’ will turn? Because the adherents excel at deceit.
Consider, in the last year, the moments in which Liberal and Left publications like New York Times appeared to have broken ranks, finally allowing publication of important pieces that defended J.K. Rowling three years after she was pilloried across the globe for daring to reject gender orthodoxy. Or the recent pieces admitting the risks of gender medicine, two and half years after my book pointed out those same risks, and more than a year after England, Finland, France and Sweden all halted or curtailed pediatric gender treatments because of them. These pieces do not represent the start of genuine debate at publications that all but refused it, and they ought not to be misinterpreted as such.
They are a pawn sacrifice, offered with an eye toward winning a larger war. Conservatives like Tucker Carlson, who one once hosted the highest-rated cable news show among both Republicans and Democrats, placed pressure on establishment media in the form of millions of viewers. When enough heat gathers in the kitchen, even the New York Times must crack open a window.
So why do so many Americans believe this ‘tide’ will turn? Because the adherents excel at deceit.
But Tucker is gone, banished from cable news, and the true believers who were never interested in debate will insist their publications turn away from it once more. They tie off a limb when they must, cut loose from their more embarrassing losses, air token dissent, and return to fight another day. Consolidate their wins. Concede the absolute minimum, and only after it is so obvious that they are propounding a lie, that it would be ruinous to stay the course. This is a tactical pivot, not retreat, and it does not signify a new era of real debate on these issues in mainstream media or elite institutions.
When I published Irreversible Damage three years ago, I predicted that medical malpractice lawsuits would end the social contagion and irresponsible disaster of pediatric gender medicine. I’m no longer so sure. As of now, too few doctors are willing to testify in trials. Always the same handful of names—the courageous and honorable few—against a growing legion of ideologue “experts,” newly-minted and prepared to die on the sword of ideas so fanciful, only the True Believer could hold them.
If Gender Ideology (or Wokeism -- that constellation of extreme, academically-birthed progressive orthodoxies -- more generally) were a pendulum , DEI administrators hired in staggering numbers, would be let go. Conservative faculty would be recruited by academic departments, and conservative students, wooed to campus with new programs. States like California would repeal laws that allow male felons to self-identify into women’s prisons. Girls would again be permitted to flourish on the field and in the Olympic pool, and made safe in their changing rooms once more.
We aren’t likely to see those reversals. Not until concessions are compelled by those with equal conviction in counterpoise.
They are the stakes. I speak to audiences to the tune of a ticking clock: so many gender evangelists graduating medical school and law school, attaining degrees in social work, and ascending to the bench.
So no, I don’t love the sensation of young people screaming in my face. But there is something I fear more than the furor of hundreds of zealots, blaring horns and banging bass drums: the world they aim to create, where truth finds no foothold and fairness, no purchase.
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