March 3, 2024

Is ‘transphobia’ a kind of eugenics?

Not precisely, but it rhymes, says a journalist

These things come and go, but the current benchmark for evil in public bioethics is eugenics. Even heroes of reproductive freedoms have been toppled because they are said to have been fans of eugenics, like Margaret Sanger and Marie Stopes. If you can make the slur “eugenicist” stick, you’ve deplatformed your opponent.

So it comes as no surprise to hear that transgender activists are accusing their opponents of being eugenicists. ACLU lawyer and trans activist Chase Strangio wrote in 2016 in the CUNY Law Review about a visit to a gynaecologist whose first question was “I assume you’re here about a hysterectomy.” He (or she) wasn’t. The remark was perceived to be insulting, even though the doctor was reputedly “trans-friendly”. It sent two messages: that transmasculine people do not need preventative care and that they don’t want children. “Both messages have strong eugenic undertones contributing to the negative health outcomes for the trans community and the coerced sterilization of trans people,” Strangio wrote.

And Slate columnist Evan Urquhart also detects in a raft of anti-trans legislation in state capitols in the US at the moment a eugenic motivation: “These are bills aimed at cleansing society of the ‘wrong’ sort of people as soon as their difference makes itself visible, and promoting the right sort in their place.” He goes on to argue:

The current youth-focused anti-trans legislative push is about protecting society from undesirable people by suppressing and punishing those people as early as possible, ensuring that future generations aren’t contaminated by their ability to thrive. This should sound very similar to the goals of eugenics movements, which seek to encourage the right people to reproduce while discouraging the wrong sort of people from contaminating others with their inferior genes. In the past, eugenics was often pursued through actual sterilization of undesirables, and I should note that many anti-trans activists want to ensure that the only adult trans people legally recognized as their gender are those who have undergone sterilizing genital surgeries. It’s not precisely eugenics … but it certainly rhymes.

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge

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