An opinion piece written by Emerson Williams.
Warning: Explicit Content
Explicit phrasing. Detailed quotations with use of cussing, Nazi/alt-right expressions, and transphobic terms are portrayed in this article. Viewer discretion is advised.
For the majority of my adolescence, I have had peers, colleagues, and authority figures dismiss my claims that our society is far away from being fully accepting of transgender individuals. I have had people point out specific pro-trans laws adopted in Democratic states, reminded of the fact that Laverne Cox was in Orange Is the New Black and that Pose is on HBO to discredit my criticisms of how overtly transphobic we are in the year 2021. Seeing the events of the past few weeks affirmed my perspective.
A viral right-wing internet campaign entitled the “Super-Straight movement” swept TikTok on February 21st. User Kyleroyce was the originator of the term Super-Straight. In the video in which he coins the term, he cites his motive as being frustrated over continually being called transphobic for refusing to date transgender women as a heterosexual man. “I’ve created a new sexuality,” Kyleroyce dictates in the video; “straight men as myself get called transphobic because [we won’t] date a trans-women. They’re like, ‘Would you date a trans-woman?’ I’m like, ‘No.’ ‘Why? That’s a female.’ ‘No, that’s not a real woman to me. I want a real woman.’ I’m Super-Straight. I only date the opposite gender: women that are born women. You can’t say I’m transphobic now because that’s just my sexuality.”
The video accumulated over two-million likes before being deleted by the creator. The principle of this ‘new sexuality’ spread like wildfire all over the internet, eventually ending up on the website 4chan: a site highly populated by neo-Nazis who embraced the term Super-Straight at the peak of its virality, now using it to discreetly promote their extremist dogma. An empowered post was made by an anonymous user which reads, “Gay men mutilate themselves to create a p*ssy, so they can be f*cked like a girl. No sane man wants to f*ck an inverted p*nis hole/open flesh wound of a man LARPing as a woman. Mutilated gay men claim they are being oppressed [because] sane men won’t f*ck them, call them transphobic. Zoomers forced to create a new sexuality to conform even though it’s the same as being normal (straight). Call it super straight. SS. We are SS now. Let’s make March SS pride month. Seig Heil.” A .gif of a Nazi Shutzstaffel flag accompaning the post at the top of the page.
Due to the popularity of this trend, it has now been adopted as bait for luring vulnerable youth into the alt-right pipeline; the slow radicalization process of internet users into the philosophies of far-right extremism. Very quickly, users in online spaces were unintentionally aligning themselves with Nazis, posting SS flags all over their social media accounts and commenting lighting insignias in forums and threads. As someone familiar with fascist dog-whistles used in online spaces, I was not shocked that far-right extremists were adopting the concept of Super-Straight; it is very common for neo-Nazis to hijack trends like this. It is necessary and crucial to the alt-right pipeline that typical, conservative memes and interests become a reliable way of spreading propaganda. Admittedly, Kyleroyce was probably unaware of how his “joke” would become an easy technique to manipulate conservative minors on TikTok and Twitter. Considering this though, with the outreach this movement has had and based on what has been observed with similar situations before, it is very probable the alt-right movement will soon be gaining new members, especially due to the young demographic of TikTok users. Far more harm has been caused than can be reconciled, seeing as it is now overwhelmingly common to witness a swarm of fascist rhetoric when entering any sort of Super-Straight-Related space.
The backlash against the Super-Straight devotees took form in a wave of sheer frustration from transgender people. The concept of having a preference to not date transgender people has been accepted in online trans-spaces for quite some time, contrary to popular belief. It is not something the consensus is against, given that there is a justifiable reason to avoid dating a transgender person. In response to the Super-Straight mania, popular transgender TikTok creator Quest.4.con made a video with over one hundred and thirty-three thousand likes, doing an impression of someone describing valid reasons for not dating trans-women: “I don’t want to date trans-women because I have a genitalia preference, but I’m not going to completely exclude them from my dating pool as there are post-operation trans-women who I could find attractive. Also, if I only want to date women who can have kids, I will have the same mindset towards infertile cis-women as well. Not just trans-women. To conclude this, I just say I don’t really date trans-women.”
But is this “new sexuality” about genuine preferences or is it about invalidating the queer experience, denying the science and sociology behind trans identity, arguing that it somehow makes you more straight to exclusively date cisgender people, and spreading incredibly harmful misinformation about a demographic of people that are already incredibly susceptible to hate crime and suicidality? Evidently, it is the latter.
Kyleroyce articulated his position in his initial video with common anti-trans talking points, making the movement inherently problematic. As well, websites and blogs have been created, dedicated to Super-Straight advocates victimizing themselves, sharing their stories of “oppression”. Moreover, many have added themselves to the LGBTQIA+ acronym, now only referring to it as SSLGB. Additionally, tweets from Super-Straight accounts have mocked coming-out experiences of members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Tweets such as, “This is really hard for me, but I’m coming-out as Super-Straight. Please don’t hate me, this is just who I am,” and “Superphobia doesn’t have a place in today’s society,” are just some I have seen on my timeline. As well, there has truly been an influx of misinformation about trans-people, with one tweet reading, “This whole trans-women identifying as lesbians thing has a really rapey, incel vibe. What would make a trans-women think a lesbian would be interested in their p*nis?”, perpetuating the false notion that all trans-women are predatory men attempting to coerce women into sleeping with them, attempting to confuse biological sex with gender.
The fundamental ideology of the Super-Straight movement is that trans-people are not valid, however, copious amounts of credible scientific institutions and human rights organizations in the past decade have come out validating the existence of trans-identity. These institutions claimed that it would be unscientific and medically invalid to not identify as the gender trans-people want to be recognized as. This list includes, but is not limited to: The American Psychological Association, The American Medical Association, The American Psychoanalytic Association, The Human Rights Campaign, The American Academy of Pediatrics, The American College of Osteopathic Pediatricians, The United Kingdom’s National Health Service, and the United Nations. It is improbable that teenagers on social media have more scientific knowledge on the validity of trans-identity than these reputable institutions.
Although gender identity is primarily attributed to sociological factors, recent findings have concluded that there are endocrinological and genetic aspects as well. Harvard University has published several articles over the past several years verifying the science behind trans-identity, indicating that sex and gender are different concepts, similar to the organizations listed above. Third-year graduate student, Katherine Wu wrote for Harvard on how transgender brains are more like that of their desired gender identity from an early age, saying, “Transgender women tend to have brain structures that resemble cisgender women, rather than cisgender men. Two sexually dimorphic (differing between men and women) areas of the brain are often compared between men and women. The bed nucleus of the stria terminalus (BSTc) and sexually dimorphic nucleus of transgender women are more similar to those of cisgender women than to those of cisgender men, suggesting that the general brain structure of these women is in keeping with their gender identity.” She continues by talking about prenatal contributions to an individual being transgender: “The amount of estrogen in the fetal environment is a little tough to measure – but there appears to be some evidence for transgender individuals having poor hormonal sensitivity in the womb. A team of researchers found that the receptor for estrogen (that is, the cell phone receiving the signal) seems to be a little worse at receiving the signal in female-to-male transgender men… Thus, the signal doesn’t come through as clearly, and the externally ‘female’ fetus ends up more masculinized.”
Sociologists over the past few decades have spoken on how gender is a social construct, confirming the idea that self-identification is not an issue, nor is there any objective association with why we force people to conform to specific gender norms based on their biological sex. Suzanne Kessler, an American social psychologist, praised for her work in gender theory, and her colleague Wendy McKenna describe in their highly acclaimed novel, Gender: An Ethnomethodological Approach how gender is a societal fabrication, far different from biological sex, and how gender is a very subjective concept, varying across cultures and centuries: “Our theoretical position is that gender is a social construction, that a world of two ‘sexes’ is a result of the socially shared, taken-for-granted methods which members use to construct reality.” Cisgender people self-identify just as much as transgender people do.
Additionally, the defamatory concept of trans-people, specifically trans-women, being predators is fear-mongering. Historians have been able to find that trans-people have existed as far back as 60 AD. There has never once been a trend in data to indicate that there is an epidemic of trans-women preying on the general population whether that be in relationships, restrooms, or in change rooms.
Furthermore, the mockery of what it means to come out is egregiously tone-deaf. Strong parental support of transgender youth decreases the risk of suicide attempts from 57% to 4%. LGBTQ youth are 2.2x more likely to experience homelessness compared to heterosexual and cisgender youth. A poor coming-out experience can have extreme or fatal consequences.
Given the expert consensus on the validity of transgender identities, dating a trans-person does not make you any less straight. No new “sexuality” is necessary, given that not dating transgender people is not any sort of sexual orientation, and is at most a preference. Creating a campaign to silence the objectivity behind trans-identity is blatant anti-intellectualism. Why is this trend of Super-Straight supported at all if there are experts who are opposed to this kind of prejudice? Because our society has been so saturated with anti-trans rhetoric for so long. Objective findings on the validity of trans-identity do not get pushed to the forefront of mainstream news. I imagine it also has to do with a power imbalance. We have seen it so many times before: all lives matter, men’s rights advocates in response to feminism, or the straight pride movement. When the individuals marginalized by our hegemonic society achieve a glimpse of acknowledgement, the privileged come like a mob to destroy any advancements in treating the shunned as equals. Almost like a young child throwing a fit over their parents paying more attention to their newborn sibling, frustrated at the idea of someone else receiving the same attention. Although the worshippers of the Super-Straight ideology think they are being clever, the creation of the Super-Straight campaign is a reactionary movement and a transparent scapegoat for discrimination.
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