It was a bit ambitious of me to plan a total hip replacement surgery and schedule only one week off from the Dish. I thought I’d pulled it off last Friday but over the weekend, I had a very bad opioid drug interaction on an empty stomach, and was knocked out with violent vomiting and nausea for a day or two. It’s always fun to have puking when you can’t physically get yourself to the bathroom! Then serious physical exhaustion for two more days. So I had no choice but to take a week off, despite all the news, especially the unfolding horror and hope in Ukraine, I wanted to cover. The planned podcast on the Russian right also had to be postponed a week. Frustrating — but what am I gonna do?
The good news is I’ll be back to normal next week — my hip and leg are healing, the grotesque swelling has almost disappeared, I can walk with a cane now, and the meds (plus grinding nausea) will be done with. I have to say that the appeal of opioids is a bit lost on me after all this. But the power of them is ever more obvious. Sorry for the TMI, but it’s a Dish tradition. What follows is an abridged Dish, with apologies.
Realism On The Trans Question
A brief bloggy post on a domestic issue that isn’t going away. Lia Thomas’ triumphs at the NCAA swimming finals are never going to be treated as completely fair by most people. Inclusion is important and trans athletes need to be treated with dignity. But the core biological differences between men and women simply cannot be wished away, and when we’re talking about high-level competition, the unfairness is simply unmissable. Yelling TRANS WOMEN ARE WOMEN! will not persuade anyone, and it isn’t designed to. It would be wonderful if this were true in every respect, but it isn’t. Ask yourself: if you knew nothing else but the interview above, what would you think was going on?
Maybe it’s worth trading off fairness for inclusion. I’m open to that idea. But activists need to understand that demanding people not believe what is in front of their ears and eyes is a mark not of a civil rights movement, but a form of authoritarianism.
There’s also been some new polling on the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law just passed in Florida, and for those in the woke bubble, it is sobering news. Most people — believe it or not — don’t think kindergartners or second- or third-graders should be introduced to the concepts of critical gender and queer theory. They believe that the issues of homosexuality and transgender experience should be taught in a way that is “age-appropriate.”
Who would have thought that? Here’s the Morning Consult poll, which finds 51 - 35 percent majority for not teaching K-3 about trans or gay identity; and a 52 - 33 percent majority in favor of “age-appropriate” teaching thereafter. In what I take as a hopeful sign, though, a 44 - 40 percent plurality oppose the ability of parents to sue teachers — which is also part of the law.
A Daily Wire poll provided the actual wording:
“Below is a passage from a new state education law. Please indicate whether you support or oppose it. ‘Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through third grade or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”
That passage had a 64 - 21 percent majority support. Another ABC/Ipsos poll has a quite different response. Here’s the question, without the context provided in the other polls:
On another topic, would you support or oppose legislation that would prohibit classroom lessons about sexual orientation or gender identity in elementary school?
That got a different result: 62 - 37 percent opposition.
What to make of all this? I’d say simply: people don’t want to ban teachers from doing their job, but they’re leery of indoctrination of the very young. And the context for this leeriness is a revolution in the teaching of these topics to incorporate critical queer and gender theory — that relegates biology to an afterthought, describes sex as a “spectrum,” and conflates sex with gender.
There’s an obvious sane compromise on this — age-appropriate sex ed in the most neutral manner possible after elementary school — but the radicalism of the critical queer and gender theory left and the moral panic of the religious right precludes it. Yes, the bill is too vague and encourages chilling lawsuits, which is why I’m against it. But yes, too, telling 5 year olds that boys can have periods and girls can have penises is completely inappropriate. It’s bewildering and, more to the point, untrue.
And the rhetoric on both sides is disturbing. The alphabet movement calls any restrictions on teaching sex ed to elementary school kids a form of “hate” and argues that the law “will kill kids.” How’s that for crude emotional blackmail? And the Christianist right has now deployed the slur “groomer” to any teacher instructing on homosexuality or transgender identity. The deployment of the pedophile smear against gay and trans people, especially teachers, is from the very bottom of the barrel — rendering any compromise completely impossible. It’s disgusting.
This is why we’ve ended up where we are in Florida — a chaotic way to organize the teaching of children. With any luck, this will calm down, some lawsuits will backfire, an equilibrium will emerge. The good news is that most Americans support equality for trans and gay people (and, in terms of civil rights, we already have it); they’re just leery of the extreme forms that queer ideology is taking, and certainly don’t want their young children caught in the crossfire. If we start from that premise, there are places we can go and compromises we can reach. If we don’t, it’s culture war all the way down.
New Transcripts For The Dishcast
Yes! You asked for them and we’ve been able to put them together for a handful of classics, with many more to come (e.g. Cornel West, Jon Rauch, Julie Bindel, Glenn Greenwald, Briahna Joy Gray, John McWhorter).
My full conversation with Wesley Yang on the successor ideology is here — reading it shows just how deep a thinker Yang is. It’s a great intro to the topic. We also have my Christmas reflections on mortality and faith with the great and powerful cancer survivor, Caitlin Flanagan; a swash-buckling, non-woke three-way with transman Buck Angel and detransitioner, Helena Kerschner, which is a pretty good (and fun) intro into what many gays, lesbians, and trans people actually think about the transgender question — in contrast with the rote pabulum usually wheeled out by the MSM; and there’s also John Mearsheimer’s pellucid realist case for a neutral Ukraine here. One more: Michael Shellenberger on urban collapse, homelessness, and addiction.
Speaking of which, we also have dissents and other responses to our latest episode with Maia Szalavitz — who made a direct counter-case to Shellenberger on drugs and harm reduction. More and more, I’m trying to use the Dishcast to air out difficult topics, host different perspectives, and push back on everyone, so that the best arguments prevail. I’m not trying to win an argument every time — losing one can be just as instructive. What we’re trying to do here is model a genuinely pluralist media, which is what liberal democracy desperately needs. So grateful, as ever, for your making this possible.
(Note to readers: This is an excerpt of The Weekly Dish. If you’re already a subscriber, click here to read the full version. This week’s abridged issue also includes: four robust dissents over my characterization of Trudeau et al. as “woke authoritarians to the north”; ten money quotes for the week in news, mostly about Ukraine; two Yglesias Awards on Ketanji Brown Jackson and free speech; ten recommended articles by other Substackers; an MHB video of an unorthodox country singer; a vibrant window view from China and a wintry one from Moscow, Idaho; and, of course, the results of the View From Your Window contest — with a new challenge. Subscribe to get full issues every Friday!)
The View From Your Window Contest
Where do you think it’s located? Email your guess to email@example.com. Please put the location — city and/or state first, then country — in the subject line. Proximity counts if no one gets the exact spot. Bonus points for fun facts and stories. The winner gets the choice of a VFYW book or two annual Dish subscriptions. If you are not a subscriber, please indicate that status in your entry and we will give you a three-month sub if we select your entry for the contest results (example here if you’re new to the contest). Happy sleuthing!
The results for last week’s window are coming in a separate email to paid subscribers later today. The previous contest was a relatively easy one, and our resident postcard artist whipped this one up:
See you next Friday.