Conservatives Embracing Extremists on Trans Issues Will Lose the Fight | Opinion

The internet is exploding right now over a speech Daily Wire host and right-wing commentator Michael Knowles gave at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where he called for the "eradication of transgenderism." "There can be no middle way in dealing with transgenderism," Knowles said at CPAC. "If it is false, then for the good of society—and especially for the good of the poor people who have fallen prey to this confusion—transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely. The whole preposterous ideology, at every level."

Muddying the waters, many liberal media outlets claimed that Knowles called for the eradication of transgender people, a claim Knowles rejected as libelous and for which he demanded a correction.

He is right that that's not what he said. He didn't call for the eradication of trans people but for the eradication of transgenderism. And that was bad enough.

What's the difference? Banning transgenderism would not mean killing trans folks or putting them in camps, as some have suggested; instead it would mean forcing transgender people to live as their original sex. It's the same way that if someone says "eradicate poverty," you do not interpret that to mean eradicating poor people and someone suggesting we "eradicate homosexuality" would most likely mean putting gay people like myself through conversion therapy or legally forcing us to live as straight.

But even though Knowles stopped short of advocating genocide, his view is authoritarian, impractical, illiberal, and frankly evil.

Transgender people always have and always will exist. There has always been a tiny percentage of the population that experiences gender dysphoria, an intense incongruity between their birth sex and their gender identity. This often causes extreme levels of depression and even suicidal ideation, and for some adults, socially transitioning and living as the other gender makes that dysphoria resolve and improves their lives astronomically.

Michael Knowles
Michael Knowles is seen on set of "Candace" on April 19, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. This episode will air Tuesday, April 26, 2022. Jason Davis/Getty Images

What Knowles is saying here is that these people should not be able to live their lives in the way that makes them happiest. They should be forced back into a life that caused them dire mental health problems, just because he doesn't personally agree with them.

This is totally immoral. There is nothing in line with traditional conservative principles of limited government and individual liberty that entails trying to outlaw lifestyles different than your own or forcing your way of life onto others

It's also wildly impractical. Consider trans commentator Blaire White, for example. She is a transgender woman who passes as female.

Under Knowles's authoritarian framework, if people like White were allowed in public at all, they would be legally forced to use the men's bathroom.

How does that make any sense? Not only would that potentially put them in danger, but it would confuse children and do all the very same things people like Michael Knowles say they want to prevent.

This is all a prime example of what happens when the pendulum swings too far. The far Left has taken its gender extremity to truly absurd heights, pretending there are unlimited genders, embracing "neopronouns," denying biological realities that exist in things like sports, defending sexually explicit drag performances for kids, pushing irreversible medical treatments for minors, and viciously attacking women like J.K. Rowling who dissent on gender issues. All of that is worth scrutinizing and pushing back on.

But one can and should do that without embracing the complete polar opposite extreme.

In fact, if the Right goes on to fully embrace the extremist, absolutist anti-trans position like Knowles has, it will be handing the Left a massive victory.

After all, if the debate is between the Left's extreme stances and a commonsense approach of letting adults live their lives while acknowledging biological reality in sports and protecting children, the Right will win that debate all day with the American public. But if the Right's alternative is the complete elimination of transgenderism, a zero-tolerance, authoritarian approach, many more people will not be on board with that.

I know I sure won't.

Michael Knowles' position is not just morally untenable but wildly impractical and politically suicidal. It will get him the attention he ordered and the hate-clicks he's made a career around chasing. (And yes, I know I'm probably contributing to that in a small way.) But if his ideas catch on, it will do immeasurable harm, not just to the transgender community but to the principles and political prospects of the American Right.

There's a much saner and humane approach to be had.

Brad Polumbo (@Brad_Polumbo) is a libertarian-conservative journalist and the co-founder of BASEDPolitics.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.