It's the funding, stupid
Trans ideology didn't take over in response to Republicans—it started with top-down funding and the silencing of women pushing back.
A common galvanizing trope among progressives claims the good and open-minded among us are in a constant battle against the evil right, who wishes to stamp out the struggling and marginalized. This holds true in the trans debate.
Just last night at the Met Gala, actress Gabrielle Union told Variety she and her husband, former Miami Heat basketball player Dwyane Wade, had decided to leave Florida on account of the couple’s “trans child.” She explained that “in 2016, there was a move towards a less inclusive world,” going on to imply that their children would have nowhere to attend school were they to stay in Florida, as schools in the state were not “open to teaching facts and accurate history.”
The Same Drugs with Meghan Murphy is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
“Where can they say gay, much less trans?” Union asked, referencing a parental rights bill passed in Florida in March, inaccurately dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. She expressed concern that she and Wade “might get arrested for affirming [their] child’s identity.”
Her commentary was odd, considering that it is those who challenge gender identity ideology and the practice of transitioning kids who are under threat, not the other way around. Indeed, a Vancouver father was jailed in 2021 for refusing to go along with his child’s transition. Bill C-6 (which later became Bill C-4) passed in Canada last year, claiming to ban “conversion therapy,” but in fact criminalizing therapists and medical practitioners who do not practice the “affirmative model” — which means confirming a child’s “trans identity” unquestioningly, and placing them on a path towards medicalization.
These reversals aren’t new. Indeed they have been the go-to narrative in the media for many years now.
Last month, The New York Times published a piece entitled, “How a Campaign Against Transgender Rights Mobilized Conservatives.” In it, Adam Nagourney and Jeremy W. Peters argue that the swift rise of trans rights activism began on account of the right having nothing left to fight against once gay marriage rights were won. They write:
“The ruling stripped them of an issue they had used to galvanize rank-and-file supporters and big donors. And it left them searching for a cause that — like opposing gay marriage — would rally the base and raise the movement’s profile on the national stage.”
It was frankly one of the strangest reversals I’ve yet to read on this issue, blaming conservatives for igniting the fight for trans rights rather than the other way around.
It is true that this movement appeared suddenly, as if out of nowhere, leaving many of us searching for an explanation. What other movement in history has taken hold of every institution, media outlet, and political party so quickly?
The answer, though, is not in Republican strategizing. It is much more simple than that: it was about funding.
In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled by a 5-to-4 vote that same-sex couples had the right to marry. This decision was, as reported by The New York Times, “the culmination of decades of litigation and activism.” This changed things for individual gay people, of course, but it also changed things for the gay rights organizations who had been fighting for this decision for years. The charities and NGOs and civil rights organizations once heavily invested in advocating for same-sex marriage no longer had a raison d’etre, and as such lost a key justification for future funding.
Gluing the “T” to the LGB allowed for an easy transition into a new civil rights movement, using the same language and mantras of “born this way” and “accepting people as they are,” as well as a need to fight for “equal rights” on this basis.
Indeed, it was the Democrats and Democrat-adjacent organizations that were looking for a new way to galvanize their base and solicit funding, and Republicans were frankly the last to catch on.
Trans intrusion on women’s spaces and the women’s rights movement began long ago, but didn’t really take hold until money was involved. While we often hear men on the right demanding to know “Where are all the feminists?!” the feminists were in fact the only ones to notice the advancement of trans ideology and its impending threat to women’s spaces for many years. Second wave feminists like Gloria Steinem, Robin Morgan, and Germaine Greer spoke out against the very sexist lie that a man can transform himself into a woman through stereotypes and cosmetic alterations long before this was on the radar of Republicans.
In 1977, Steinem responded to the situation of James Humphrey Morris, a British army officer who transitioned to become Jan Morris, and the transition of tennis player Richard Raskind to Renée Richards, by writing that, “Feminists are right to feel uncomfortable about the need for and the uses of transsexualism.” While it was important, she believed, to “protect the right of an informed individual to make that decision [to transition], and to be identified as he or she wishes,” it was also clearly not a “feminist goal.” A preferred solution would be to “transform society” so that men feel comfortable stepping outside traditional masculine roles and women can step outside the rigid limitations of feminine stereotypes, without need to “mutilat[e] our bodies into conformity.” Steinem added that, “In the meantime, we shouldn’t be surprised at the amount of publicity and commercial exploitation conferred on a handful of transsexuals.”
In 1973, Morgan, a founder of Ms. Magazine, was even more forthright, responding to a scheduled performance by Beth Elliott, a “male-to-female transsexual” folk singer at the West Coast Lesbian Conference in Los Angeles, by saying in her keynote speech:
“I will not call a male ‘she;’ 32 years of suffering in this androcentric society, and of surviving, have earned me the title ‘woman;’ one walk down the street by a male transvestite, five minutes of his being hassled (which he may enjoy), and then he dares, he dares to think he understands our pain? No, in our mothers’ names and in our own, we must not call him sister.”
Greer, ever outspoken, wrote an article for The Independent magazine in 1989 entitled, “On why sex-change is a lie.” It began:
“On the day that The Female Eunuch was issued in America, a person in flapping draperies rushed up to me and grabbed my hand. ‘Thank you so much for all you’ve done for us girls!’ I smirked and nodded and stepped backwards, trying to extricate my hand from the enormous, knuckly, hairy be-ringed paw that clutched it. The face staring into mine was thickly-coated with pancake makeup through which the stubble was already burgeoning, in futile competition with a Dynel wig of immense luxuriance and two pairs of false eyelashes. Against the bony ribs that could be counted through its flimsy scarf dress swung a polished steel women’s liberation emblem.
I should have said ‘You’re a man. The Female Eunuch has done less than nothing for you. Piss off.’”
Greer went on to describe how this man would mysteriously turn up outside her hotel, and that while he “certainly considered that he was psychologically a female… he behaved exactly like a predatory man.”
Her article could have been written today, though it likely wouldn’t have been published. Needless to say, we were warned:
“Knee-jerk etiquette demanded that I humour this gross parody of my sex by accepting him as female, even to the point of allowing him to come to the lavatory with me. Bureaucratic moves were afoot to give him and his kind the right to female identity, a female passport even…”
Predicting exactly the future that came a couple of decades later, Greer wrote, “The general populace, despite the evidence of their eyes and ears, will go along with this bluff.”
Where were all the feminists?!
Radical feminists continued this fight for the years leading up to 2015/16, which is when gender identity ideology began to take hold across institutions, followed by the passage of gender identity legislation.
I was interviewed for a 2014 article by Michelle Goldberg published in The New Yorker entitled “What is a woman?” My interview was omitted, but she spoke with a number of other feminists who had organized a conference in Portland in an attempt to discuss the encroaching ideological and institutional takeover. Goldberg documents numerous attempts by such women to speak against this, all of whom were subsequently shut down, no-platformed, threatened, and harassed endlessly — cancelled, as it’s known today. Lierre Keith, Sheila Jeffreys, Janice Raymond, and Julie Bindel were among these women, as well as many lesser-knowns.
I interviewed Lee Lakeman, a founding member of the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Collective (VRR), in 2012, about her battle to defend women-only space at the shelter and transition house, beginning back in the 90s. VRR has been plagued by attacks and accusations of “transphobia” ever since, resulting in the City of Vancouver pulling their funding in 2019.
Great efforts were made to suppress debate surrounding not just the social and cultural phenomenon of transgenderism, but the related legislative changes. Because most of the pushback was coming from women with no financial or political power, that was not hard to do.
I am aware of course, that the modern, mainstream feminist — the kind of “feminist” who did have a voice within Democratic organizations, well-funded institutions, the mainstream media, and academia — went along with the whole thing. This baffled me for a long time. I didn’t understand the funding mechanisms behind the whole operation, and was livid at seeing organizations that should be among the most invested in understanding how the female body works — reproductive rights organizations, for example — suddenly and in unison erasing women from their work and politics.
On September 2, 2016, Planned Parenthood tweeted that “Menstruators in New York started to #tweetthereceipt celebrating the repealed tampon tax…” A day later, the Planned Parenthood account reported that “Purvi Patel has been released from prison, but people continue to be criminalized for their pregnancy outcomes.”
These tweets might seem innocuous, but were significant. Where once would have been the word “woman,” we saw “menstruators” and “people.” And Planned Parenthood was not alone. The word we had always used to describe adult human females rather suddenly had cooties.
In 2013, Lauren Rankin, an American reproductive rights activist, wrote that “abortion rights activists have overlooked and dismissed a very important reality: Not everyone who has an abortion is a woman,” adding:
“We must acknowledge and come to terms with the implicit cissexism in assuming that only women have abortions. Trans men have abortions. People who do not identify as women have abortions.”
Rankin explained that an organization called the New York Abortion Access Fund (NYAAF) was “leading the way on becoming more gender inclusive around the issue of abortion,” directing a change in language. NYAAF had changed its language a year earlier, in 2012, replacing sexed language in its mission statement with words like “anyone,” “every person,” and “the people who call our hotline.” In 2013, they explained that “embracing gender inclusivity” meant “not assuming the gender pronouns that our callers use and replacing ‘woman’ with ‘people’” on their website, and had taken it upon themselves to “reach out to the LGBTQ communities and inform them that NYAAF helps fund abortions for all people, not just women.”
In 2015, Fund Texas Women, which pays the travel and hotel costs of women who need to get an abortion but don’t have access to a clinic nearby, became Fund Texas Choice. Co-founder Lenzi Scheible wrote:
“With a name like Fund Texas Women, we were publicly excluding trans* people who needed to get an abortion but were not women. We refuse to deny the existence and humanity of trans* people any longer.”
At the time, longtime feminist and political columnist Katha Pollitt noted that while the idea that the word “woman” was “exclusionary” or “cissexist” might “sound arcane to most people,” this directive had been “quietly effective” in reproductive rights activism.
She was right. But most had not yet caught on to this push to erase women from language.
Why, of all places, is this starting in the reproductive rights movement? A movement that, if nothing else, is centered around about female bodies and autonomy?
The truth is in the funding.
Big name funders and billionaire philanthropists like Jennifer Pritzker, the Arcus Foundation, George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, and Jon Stryker not only fund numerous trans rights and LGBT organizations, but Planned Parenthood. At the same time it was decided the “T” would be added to the “LGB,” the associated New Speak was applied across the board, not just to trans lobby groups and LGBT organizations, but to reproductive rights organizations and clinics across the US.
Journalist Jennifer Bilek has done ample work demonstrating the funding sources behind the trans ideology takeover, pointing out that men like Pritzker also fund the now trans-obsessed American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who joined Planned Parenthood as a major player in the institutionalization of “female-erasing language.”
Not only that, but Planned Parenthood has since moved into the trans market, selling kids on puberty blockers and hormone treatments. Today, the organization claims to be America’s “second largest provider of hormone therapy.”
Embracing trans ideology was rendered mandatory for any organization wishing to continue getting funding from these corporations and donors. If you’ve ever wondered why UN Women has continued to insist “transwomen are women” despite endless pushback from women or why the Twitter accounts of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch appear to be run by woke teenagers, it’s useful to know that Arcus, founded by Stryker, is a key funder. Of course the Democrats are compromised as well. As Bilek also points out, even Obama’s campaign was deeply connected to and funded by Pritzker.
Needless to say, this was no “grassroots movement.” It has never been “the civil rights issue of our time,” as then Vice-President Joe Biden called it in 2012. Certainly it wasn’t “the result of careful planning by national conservative organizations to harness the emotion around gender politics” in response to “gender norms shifting and a sharp rise in the number of young people identifying as transgender,” as Nagourney and Peters claim in The Times.
From the moment men began attempting to identify their way into womanhood, feminists have been there, saying “no.” Some of those women became compromised, as apparently Steinem did, recanting in 2013, claiming that her words were “taken out of time and context” and that what she “wrote decades ago does not reflect what we know today as we move away from only the binary boxes of ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ and begin to live along the full human continuum of identity and expression.” Others always were — careerist in their intentions and profiting too much from their cowardice to veer towards truth.
The reason, I now realize, that radical feminists could speak up against transgenderism was the same reason they weren’t heard: radical feminists aren’t funded by anyone.
Once mainstream feminists made their activism their careers, they became dependent on the same funding sources pushing trans ideology from the top down. While feminists like me who had always worked independently, free to push back against what I saw as the anti-feminist third wave and the big name women who kept their message neat and tidy and confined to Democrat-stamped messaging, struggled to understand why anyone would fall for this clearly anti-woman nonsense, it actually did all make sense.
When you start putting your paycheck ahead of your integrity, you’ll say anything. Even “menstruator.” Even “transwomen are women.”
It’s fair to say that since this debate has finally exploded into the public realm, the fight against transgender ideology has probably become a grift for some men on the right (and beyond). But this is not where it began. It began with the selling of the “T” to people who needed the money, and continued to the point of practically no return because those pushing back didn’t have a bargaining chip.
The Same Drugs with Meghan Murphy is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Yes that is exactly what has happened.
It it worth mentioning that many of the wealthy men funding the trans movement have autogynephilia; that is they transitioned into women later in life to satisfy their feeling of 'wholeness' while wearing women's clothing, particularly their underwear.
Caitlyn Jenner is in this category but he does not support what is happening to children and young people.
Meghan, this is one of the most powerful pieces you've ever written, and that's saying a lot given how powerful your writing is generally. I think this issue of funding is one of the deeper vulnerabilities of the trans movement (in addition to the lack of logical coherence, misogyny, etc.). The public is normally responsive to journalism that connects ideological values to deep pockets, and it seems to be one of the only ways to get people to think twice critically about trans issues.
The connection also applies to activists in general: jumping on the trans wagon assures people (menstruators and ejaculators equally) a quick and simple way of establishing themselves as being on the 'correct' side of history, and protecting themselves from critique or questioning. I work in academia, where trans and race issues are about the only thing anyone talks about...or is allowed to talk about, and from a certain perspective, for that matter. It has created an intellectual environment devoid of curiosity and hostile to difference. I have had many students of colour complain to me about feeling silenced themselves on these issues. Yes, white professors telling students of colour that they're offensive to people of colour, and calling white professors racist for allowing those students to speak. I wonder if this has anything to do with rapidly declining enrolment in arts and humanities?
You can't make this stuff up.