by Christopher Roach
For a very long time, conservatives had been engaged in a fighting retreat. They might parry a thrust here or weaken a law there, but overall, they were losing. They fought the New Deal, the Great Society, the Sexual Revolution, gay marriage, and affirmative action. In every case, they lost. The social welfare state expanded, the deficit grew, standards devolved, families dissolved, abortion continued, and, in nearly every department of life, things have declined.
Surely, some of this comes from the very nature of what people most often understand to be conservatism. It proposes to defend tradition from change. It does not typically set forth a positive agenda. So in public policy, morality, art, music, and everything else, it simply reacts.
In politics, it often acts as a spoiler, the Left’s accounting department. It would be nice to have free college or universal healthcare, but we simply can’t afford it. Now eat your porridge.
In other areas, conservatism simply has been blindsided, responding too late and with no passion. It starts off with a case for resistance—old issues of National Review combated everything from integration to gay marriage—but it tires of resisting after a time. Official conservatism instead makes peace with the inevitable, and then, in a few years, claim this is what true conservatives have always supported.
There Is No Pendulum
We sometimes hear that political life is like a pendulum. Things might swings left, but—after overreach and disillusionment—things revert, moving rightward for a time. This appears demonstrably false.
On almost every issue the Right has lost, given up, or both. If someone were a liberal Democrat of 1965—or even 2008—and did not change a single thing he believed, he would be roundly condemned today as a hateful bigot and beyond the political pale.
Once in a blue moon, the Right wins what appears to be a victory. California passed Proposition 187 in 1994, restricting state benefits to illegal aliens. In 2008, Florida voters banned gay marriage, with 62 percent voting in favor of the state constitutional amendment. The country even elected Trump. But in the first two cases, the courts got involved and reversed the popular will using results-oriented alchemy derived from the 14th Amendment. And President Trump has faced massive resistance from day one, including from many who call themselves “True Conservatives.”
The system doesn’t allow the pendulum to swing, and the Right lacks its own program to force change in a different direction. Instead of fighting or pushing its own agenda, it is more often ceding the moral high ground to leftist notions of “equality,” “progress,” and “consenting adults.”
“World War T”
The latest front of the sexual revolution is transgenderism. Transgender propaganda is everywhere. The expansion of gay rights to include transgenders takes advantage of our libertarian “live and let live” culture regarding sexuality. While this new phenomenon has been pushed relentlessly, it still strikes many people as very strange. People are especially concerned when it intersects with their own lives.
Transgenders in bathrooms and locker rooms have not been popular, though then-governor Nicki Haley showed the comically bad instincts of legacy conservatism by opposing a bill addressing this in 2016. Transgender athletes also create a massive problem in women’s sports, as the male-to-female transgenders still have the male physical advantages. Feminist activists also are not huge fans; their man-hating is pure and eternal. But almost nothing is being done to fight the transgender phenomenon from the Right.
The case for transgenderism also suffers from real negative outcomes. Transgender people appear no more happy after receiving massive doses of hormones and surgery than they did before. These surgeries in fact are often painful, have serious complications, and these results contribute to the already high rate of transgender suicides.
Mother Nature is a stubborn thing, which I suppose is a gendered truth we’re not supposed to take note of anymore.
Children Are Different
In spite of all these changes and strenuous efforts by the Left, one area where people are still very touchy and inherently conservative is with their kids. People love their own children and want normalcy, safety, and prosperity for them. They don’t want adults preying upon them. And people are concerned about the safety and treatment of children generally.
This is one area where attitudes and policies have moved in a more conservative direction in the form of increased protection of children from sexual predators. Since the 1970, penalties went up for statutory rape, sex offender registration laws were enacted, ages of consent were raised, and scrutiny increased for schools and other institutions where adults have preyed upon children.
Diverse, atomized, overworked, and disorderly communities yield insular, self-protective, and wary parents. The culture of protection has gone so far that the “snowflake” generation emerged, in some cases hobbled by overprotective “helicopter parents.” While these cultural changes may have done harms of their own, the foundations are easy to understand and rooted in a conservative impulse to protect one’s own. The world is a less safe place. Serial killers, mass shooters, and child kidnappers are newer phenomena, avatars of a broken and nihilistic age.
The Left Is Returning Its Attention to Your Children
The ways the sexual revolution of the 1960s and ’70s, at first, directed its attention towards children has been completely memoryholed. This is when “hang ups” were a big concern, and Freud’s theory of repression was everywhere. Self-fulfillment was the name of the game, and the exaltation of youth and castigation of repressive parenting was part of the broader social revolution. NAMBLA was a real group, and it worked to lower the age of consent laws, particularly for homosexuals. But this was a bridge too far, and the deliberate sexualization of children retreated for a time.
With the move to accept transgendered people, the sexualization of children is coming in through the back door of “trans civil rights,” which demands that we accept and celebrate transgendered children. Jazz Jennings began “living as a girl” at the age of seven and had a reality TV show at 15. He even had a massive surgery to remove his sexual organs. The complications were very real. His mother had a lot to do with this whole thing; she even urged him not to complain about the surgery, lest it discourage others.
Transgenderism has also become a battleground in divorce, one more way to stick it to an estranged spouse. A couple in Texas have been engaged in a heartbreaking battle over their son’s gender identity; incidentally, he was the father’s biological kin, but not the mother’s. The mom insisted the son was a girl, and a court in Texas has been going along with it.
Children are impressionable. They want to be accepted and even elevated. Many kids will follow their parents’ and teachers’ lead. Announcing that one is transgender immediately provides fame, protection from the school authorities, and possibly a TV show. There’s a reason such a high percentage of young people now identify as gay, “genderqueer,” or trans. In their environment, such identities are a path to power, novelty, and acceptance. It allows one to join a victim group, the new aristocracy in our victim-oriented culture. Sensitive and unique kids who used to “go Goth” or join a rock band or move to California now have an extreme option to short-circuit the more difficult path of maturity, achievement, recognition, and self-mastery.
In a ray of hope and sanity, a South Carolina legislator, Stewart Jones, is presenting a bill to stop childhood gender transition. Similar bills are pending in Alaska, Illinois, and Texas. Such laws are a good way for the Right to take the offensive. Forcing the Left to defend this insanity demonstrates how its sexual agenda is not merely about allowing “consenting adults” to fulfill themselves. Rather, the Left is waging a multidimensional war on the traditional family and innocent children.
Promoting a Vision of a Healthy Country
While the desires of consenting adults are not absolute, they certainly should function as a bare minimum of sexual morality. Kids want to be birds and dolphins and princesses and do other impossible things. This used to be indulged as harmless fantasy. The intensity of childhood and adolescence makes every feeling seem like it will last forever. Thus, we know teens and young people sometimes do stupid and impulsive things, even into adulthood. There’s good reasons a 13 year old can’t drink or buy a gun. There’s also a reason tattoo removal is a big business. The transgender movement is not in sync with the many ways we recognize the folly of youth and limit the autonomy of young people.
While we might tolerate misguided adults, the law should protect children from an objectively harmful intervention that is also irreversible. The rights of parents are especially limited when objective and permanent harm is involved. Parents can’t lock their kids in a basement or give them meth or do other undeniable damage. They should not be permitted to destroy their child’s body irreversibly because of a fad that one day will be regarded as more barbaric than once-widespread practice of lobotomies.
For the Right, opposing childhood transgender treatment is a way to articulate a positive program of opposing degeneracy and supporting healthy family formation. Creating such conditions—higher wages, higher-trust communities, lower debt, affordable housing—should be the cornerstone of domestic policy for any nationalist program. As in other areas, it is better to be on offense, promoting a vision of a healthy country.
Such a ban is thus both good policy and good politics. It encourages our side and demoralizes our opponents. It forces them to expose publicly their insane goals and misguided premises, undermining their political power. And it might save a few kids from a horrible, painful life whose most likely capstone will be suicide.
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Christopher Roach is an attorney in private practice based in Florida. He is a double graduate of the University of Chicago and has previously been published by The Federalist, Takimag, The Journal of Property Rights in Transition, the Washington Legal Foundation, the Marine Corps Gazette, and the Orlando Sentinel. The views presented are solely his own.
Photo “Transgender March” by Ted Eytan. CC BY-SA 2.0.