Worldviews, and the Changing Thereof
It seems, lately, that almost every article you read, however tangentially related to transgender issues, managed to namedrop the most controversial, yet most prominent, name currently identified among the trans population. I will try to avoid mentioning that name because (a) I’m not trying to drop search-bait terms here (though possibly management would prefer that I did) and more importantly (b) it’s not my desire to make this about her. Sadly, it’s practically impossible to mention her name in trans circles without provoking a polarizing debate of minutia which only serves to distract from the original point.
That said, my thoughts tonight are in fact inspired by one of those points of controversy – the idea that a prominent trans person would ever be foolish enough to vote for a Republican. The common perception is that left-wing, typically Democrat, politicians are more likely to act favorably towards LGB/T concerns than Republican right-wing politicians are. It’s a perfectly reasonable thesis born out by the political track record of the two parties and, for many, voting decisions can be reduced to a single issue. It’s not my intent here to provoke a discussion about party politics, but to simply use the issue to speak to a broader point.
The person in question, whom you likely have guessed by now, remarked when her transition was first publicly confirmed that she was a Republican, and just in the last several days has stated again that she found the Democrats “unconvincing” and still intended to vote for the GOP. Which, of course, provoked outrage. The point being overlooked, though was a crucial one in my view – there was little more than 6 months of elapsed time between the two quotes. I can’t overemphasize how much that matters.
My background experience informs my argument here. I was born and raised in a rigorously conservative and Traditionalist Christian culture.Through my formative years I doubt I was very so much as exposed to a left-wing idea. Certainly I had no regular source of counter-narrative to the commonly held worldview around me. To such an extent that I’d have been hard pressed to coherently tell you what a liberal believed, let alone someone like a Libertarian. It wasn’t until Reagan’s successful presidential bid that I came to have any half decent concept that anyone could seriously believe things that were in stark contrast to the things everyone around me “knew” to be true. There was a quote about Nixon’s victory in ’72 that may or may not be valid – that a NY liberal journalist was shocked by the outcome since “no one I know voted for him.” That was my world, a right-wing bubble.
On through my adult years, even as I struggled to conform my gender identity “issues” to my worldview, I was a reliable Conservative Republican Traditionalist, even when that meant being opposed to the acceptance of people who shared my struggle. I was in my mid-40’s when I accepted myself and began the process of transition. Even as I did so, my mind struggled mightily to justify my long-held views. Over time it became apparent to me that if my fellow partisans were willing to lie to everyone, willfully or in ignorance, about people like me, then how could I be sure they had been true in all the other matters upon which my views were so firm? But that process took a lot of time. YEARS in fact. Now, I’m not saying at all that I’m a die-hard liberal now (In fact, I’d suggest being a die-hard anything is an invitation to confirmation bias) but I’ve finally, in the last couple of years, come completely out of that echo-chamber mentality of holding a view merely because of the sources it had come to me through.
All that serves as background to say this – expecting a person, particularly in the glare of the spotlight, to flip their entire worldview in six months is ludicrous. Some, in fact, never do. I have not a few friends who still identify themselves as more Conservative than anything else and several who are contented Republicans. And while I agree that such a vote is self defeating, I do understand how that can happen. Most partisans, on either side, exist in a bubble, an echo chamber in which their chosen information outlets sooth their confirmation bias, and feed them a stream of opinion (packaged as “facts”) which reinforces the view they already hold and are comfortable with. Even if you somehow come to dissent on a specific issue (usually because you have a very personal stake in the matter) you are still not well situated to reconsider your overall worldview because your sources likely haven’t changed.
Anyone who supposes that because a person accepts that they are trans (or claims some other “queer” identity) will simply reach back and flip a switch and take a left-wing position on ever issue across the board is likely someone who, themselves, has never changed their political views at all. It simply doesn’t work that way. Perhaps much more importantly, browbeating them or ranting about them is more than likely going to make it LESS likely those views change. But one gets the impression that the critic is much more interested in criticizing than in changing minds. Which is a tendency as deadly to our cause as any Republican.
Photo by: spycup