Why ‘Transgenderism’ is a dangerous word

2023 seeing wave of anti-transgender laws across many states



Michael Knowles speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference on March 4 where he denounced transgenderism

“For the good of society … transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely — the whole preposterous ideology, at every level.”

Those are the words of far right commentator Michael Knowles at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Saturday, Mar. 4. He said that this year, in 2023. 

Knowles used transgenderism as one would say fascism, communism, or nationalism— as an ideology, not an identity.

In the room where he spoke, there were no audible boos or gasps, only applause. 

In his speech, Knowles referred to the existence of transgender people or transgender identities with a different term: “transgenderism”. 

Transgenderism as a phrase had been used in the past to describe the state of being transgender. However, Knowles is not using the word in this context. Knowles used transgenderism as one would say fascism, communism, or nationalism— as an ideology, not an identity. 

This interpretation of the term is dangerous. Here’s why.

The suffix ‘ism’ is defined by Merriam Webster as describing “a distinctive doctrine, cause, or theory”. Using the suffix ‘-ism’ to describe gender-nonconforming people implies they are subscribing to an ‘ideology’, subsequently painting transness (the more modern, non-political phrase used to describe the state of being transgender) as a choice and not an identity. 

To Knowles, transgender people don’t identify with another gender from the one assigned from birth, but instead are people who subscribe to, follow, and promote transitioning. 

Knowles is not an outlier within his party. Republican lawmakers at large have been moving to pass laws that will do precisely what Knowles has called for. In this year alone, 543 bills have been introduced nationwide restricting transgender people from “receiving basic healthcare, education, legal recognition, and the right to publicly exist”, according to Trans Legislation

According to the New York Times, Nine States— Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Mississippi, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah — have passed laws banning gender care for minors.

Governor Tate Reeves of Mississippi passed a state law banning transgender girls in public school sports.  

“President Biden as one of his first initiatives sat down and signed an executive order, which in my view, encourages transgenderism –there’s that word again–  amongst our young people,” said Reeves during his signing of “the Mississippi Fairness Act”.

Biden’s executive order Reeves mentioned is the Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation. The bill, as it’s titled, is meant to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination, not to encourage children to transition. 

Somehow, the concept of transness has been bastardized by politicians. Transness has been pictured as a growing movement instead of a label.

After receiving backlash from several news outlets and LGBTQ activists, Knowles claimed that he was, in fact, not advocating for the eradication of transgender people at all, but instead was calling for the end of ‘transgenderism’. In his eyes, they are entirely different things.

So, is Michael Knowles arguing for the eradication of an ideology, or a group of people?

‘Transgenderism’ as an ideology does not exist. There are only transgender people. Knowles, in 2023, is calling for the eradication of all transgender people. 

That is why this word is dangerous.