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What Does Michael Knowles Mean When He Calls for ‘Eradication’ of Transgenderism?

Courtesy of Marissa Forte
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The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles caused a collective meltdown on the left when he called for the “eradication” of transgenderism at last weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Naturally, much of the outrage coming from the left was deceptive – an attempt to convince onlookers that Knowles was advocating for going full Hitler on the transgender community.

But, while it is impossible to read minds, does Knowles’ stance on the transgender issue hold water?

It depends. Let’s unpack it.

For those who missed the social media outrage over Knowles’ comments, the commentator took the stage at CPAC and railed against transgender ideology.

“There can be no middle way in dealing with transgenderism. It is all or nothing. If transgenderism is true, if men can become women, then it’s true for everybody of all ages,” he argued. “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.”

Naturally, left-wing propaganda outlets like The Daily Beast and Rolling Stone published headlines claiming that Knowles called for committing mass murder against transgender individuals. When they realized that their blatant lies were likely harming their arguments against his comments, they stealth-edited their headlines to reflect something closer to the truth.

Still, the use of the word “eradicated” continues to rankle feathers even though Knowles was not calling for genocide. In a piece for New York Magazine, author Jonathan Chait noted:

First of all, to “eradicate” an idea is almost impossible within the context of liberal democracy. By its nature, liberal democracy allows competing ideas to circulate and trusts that better ones will ultimately win out. Communism and Nazism have not been eradicated — indeed, Nazis have become a small but vocal part of the Republican base. Eradicating ideas inherently requires authoritarian measures (which would hardly be surprising or inconsistent for Knowles, who spoke at the National Conservatism Conference).

Silly Nazi reference aside, it is true that it is nearly impossible to completely erase an ideology from public discourse. However, if this is what Knowles was referring to, it is not as pernicious as folks on the left would like to think. Chait goes on to claim that “the right-wing stance on trans rights denies the right of any trans person of any age to express their identity in almost any way,” citing a Florida bill establishing that public schools approach sex as an “immutable biological trait” meaning that “it is false to ascribe to a person a pronoun that does not correspond to such person’s sex.”

The author then argues that the conservative stance on transgenderism “would require denying an entire category of people any social recognition whatsoever,” and would “consign them permanently to the category of sub-citizen.”

How one should approach Knowles’ comments depends largely on what he is arguing for – a data point we do not yet have because he has not clarified what he meant by eradicating transgenderism. If he means to argue that transgender ideology must be defeated on the battlefield of ideas, it is difficult to claim he is advocating for something dangerous. After all, does anyone believe that progressives would not relish the idea of eradicating conservative ideology in the public square? The past decade has shown that this is their objective.

If someone like Knowles believes transgenderism is a symptom of mental illness – and he would not be alone in believing this – then of course they would argue for solving that problem rather than allowing it to fester. Indeed, there are valid arguments to make in this regard, especially when it concerns gender dysphoria among children. In this case, he would be arguing for people being mentally healthy instead of facing the myriad of mental health problems that transgender individuals suffer.

However, if Knowles is suggesting that the government has a role to play in this debate, then this raises a problematic issue. Using the state to dictate how adults live their lives is a slippery slope that anyone who favors liberty does not wish to see happen. Note that I used the word adult.

Children cannot consent to undergoing invasive and irreversible medical and surgical procedures ostensibly designed to help them transition to the opposite gender. Moreover, there is evidence that these methods have a high likelihood of causing deadlier consequences in the future, which is why it makes sense for the state to use its monopoly on violence to prevent children from being abused in this manner.

Nevertheless, if an adult individual insists on buying into the illusion that they can become the opposite gender – and wishes to go through medical and surgical treatments to do so – it is still inappropriate to use the power of the state to stop them. Conversely, it is also inappropriate for folks on the left to use the power of the state to force folks like us to encourage and promote the illusion that one can alter their gender identity.

In the end, we will not know what Knowles meant until he decides to explain it further. If he wants to use arguments and persuasion to change the conversation on transgender ideology – it should be supported. But using the government to enforce our beliefs on adults is the very opposite of promoting liberty.

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