Why Deadnaming Matters | The American Conservative
If we allow the other side to set the terms of the discussion and the police abide by them, the battle is already lost.
WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 25: Rachel Levine, nominee for Assistant Secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services, says at her hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on February 25, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington DC from Levine was previously Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health. (Photo by Tom Brenner-Pool / Getty Images)
Richard Levine was born in 1957 in Wakefield, Massachusetts, an affluent suburb 20 minutes north of Boston. He went to Hebrew school and had a bar mitzvah before going to the very tony (very expensive) Belmont Hill School where he played as a linebacker on the soccer team. From there he went to Harvard Undergrad before going south to the medical school in Tulane. While still at school he married his classmate Martha Peaslee; The couple had two children, a boy and a girl.
Richard’s career began with a residency and fellowship at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan. From there, he moved to Penn State Hershey Medical Center, where he established himself as a leader in his field, building both an adolescent medicine department and an eating disorders clinic. But even with a loving family and a meaningful career, something was wrong in Richard Levine’s world. Eight years after moving to Pennsylvania, the doctor began seeing a therapist. Another eight years later, he publicly announced his decision to present as a woman. Now, a decade after that announcement, Richard – now Rachel – stands as Joe Biden’s nominee for United States Deputy Secretary of Health.
The general situation has moved dramatically, even since Levine’s transition in 2011, when roughly a quarter percent of American adults were identified as transgender. Just five years later, that percentage had more than doubled, and now the country’s (potential) first trans-federal official is awaiting Senate endorsement.
This would have been inconceivable a few years ago – as even supporters acknowledge and boast Levine’s “historic” nomination. In fact, the idea of a transgender officer remained decidedly off-limits long after gay and lesbian politicians broke legislation across the country. In 1992, for example, Althea Garrison – a black, Conservative Republican and perennial candidate for state office – ran a close election to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Two days later the Boston Herald reported that in a previous life in Georgia, Garrison was known as A. C. Garson – and as a man. Garson / Garrison were defeated by a ten point lead in the next cycle, and despite continued efforts – a total of 32 campaigns to date – the former legislature never managed to win another election.
The glass ceiling was cracked at times, but showed no serious signs of breakage. As recently as 2017, according to a glow, “only three elected transgender officers and a few appointed officers” were deployed across the country Washington Post Profile of Levine, who then served as a general practitioner in Pennsylvania. To understand how the situation has evolved at such a rapid pace, we need to see how quickly and willingly social conservatives have treaded the ground on the progressive left.
Consider the terms of the argument: none of them are ours. Even conservative writers tend to use only the preferred pronouns and newly chosen names of the people when dealing with a previously controversial subject. They know deadnaming is a grave and unforgivable sin. It would be practically inconceivable for any respected journalist to use “he” or “him” when referring to Dr. Levine, not to mention the gender-specific maiden name, refers to Richard. This ban leads to bizarre constructions like “She has two children from his marriage to Martha” and this from the Washington PostThe parody of Rachel Levine working as Keystone State’s top doctor is lined with family photos, including one high on a shelf that was taken on vacation long ago when her kids were young and she was broad-shouldered Man named Richard. “
Words matter, and not just because it is nearly impossible to win a fight in which every rule is set by your opponent. In practice, the use of the other side’s terms means giving substance to its points – or at least looks like it. Every time we see Dr. By calling Levine “her” or even “Rachel”, we reaffirm our belief in it Richard Levine – linebacker, husband, twice father –can Become Rachel Levine – female public health agency – out of sheer willpower and against the dictates of his body. We deny reality for the sake of courtesy. We are exposing what we know to be true – that the human person is a hylomorphic creature, a union of body and soul that is not (and should not be) divided against itself – for what? Afraid of being called Bigots by the editors of Vox?
The semantic concession is tied to a tangible loss – or rather a long series of losses – in politics. The conservative mainstream has taken a general stance of “this far but no further”, recognizing transgender claims as either legitimate or a lost battle. and only to try to limit the enforcement of these claims in the public space (while they are retreating). Therefore, we are not talking about whether dysfunctional people should get medical help to mutilate because of feelings, but rather whether these people should use men’s or women’s toilets after being mutilated. Not about whether young men and teenage boys whose self-image has been destroyed by incessant attacks on masculinity should be encouraged to give up the masculine altogether; only about whether their task should be accelerated medically before or after puberty and whether or not they should be allowed to run a university course in the girls’ team. There is never a substantive question of if we should give in to the agenda of the left; just a procedural one of how we should proceed.
Conservatives must recapture hastily abandoned ground. The question is not whether Doug should join the field hockey team, but whether Doug can even become a Daisy. (He can’t.) The best and most honest way to stifle the overall force of the transgender agenda is not to cut off at its edges, but to target its roots. We let this twisted tree grow unhindered – and even watered it when we found the time – and now it’s in the Capitol from the keel, ready to tumble and cause real damage.
We can only blame Rand Paul’s investigation into whether Dr. Levine would support hormone therapy, puberty blockers, or mutilation surgery for minors who are confused about gender, have encountered allegations of “transphobia” and extremism. It doesn’t matter that it is absolute to protect children from harmful treatment in the service of a political agenda at least We should expect a respectable right in the debate on transgenderism. Conservatives have so completely given up our role here that a mild, moderate portrayal of the conservative position is now almost universally denounced as miles beyond the pale. No one can pretend to be surprised that Ryan T. Anderson’s book was banned from Amazon. For years we have tacitly believed in the leftist belief that trans-skepticism is a heresy against the ever-changing science of ever-changing genders latae sententiae Excommunication from the ranks of respected, intelligent people. We invite them to trample us and then squeal in disbelief when they accept the offer.
No Republican senator has ever thought that a man who believes he is a woman might have personal problems that keep him from holding a high position in the country’s public health system. The very idea that one of them couldAfter years of giving up on a completely winnable subject, it’s ridiculous. We’ve admitted to the world that Richard is Rachel and Bruce Caitlyn and everything they tell you is completely correct, but please don’t let them sway it too much (although we can’t explain why you shouldn’t).
Voltaire got very little right, but one warning still applies: “Anyone who makes you believe that absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” We might find that the atrocities are both much rarer and much easier to fight if we could at least manage to keep the obvious absurdities out of our own mouths.