It’s really really really hard to pick the worst thing about Trumpism, but certainly one of the top five worst things is Entitled Aggressive Assholism.
Yesterday morning at the farmers’ market…wait. First, let me say that one of the many things I love about both my small local farmers’ market and the larger Des Moines Downtown Farmers’ Market is that they bring so many different communities together. There are Amish farmers selling rye bread next to some Salvadoran immigrants selling pupusas and some second generation Laotian-Americans selling sien savanh. There’s a young Black man with orange hair playing an acoustic guitar and singing old Beatles songs and just down the street is an old white guy with a ridiculously small electric organ playing Muzak versions of Bob Marley tunes. There are young couples with kids, old folks with walkers, dozens of breeds of dogs (and by the way, I’m always worried about the small dogs; I’m afraid they’re going to get stepped on in the crowds), gay couples holding hands, teens wearing Future Farmers of America t-shirts, cyclists in their helmets and spandex, suburban goth eye-shadow junkie kids, folks handing out flyers letting us know Jesus forgives us or that pollinators are at risk because of chemicals or reminding us that one of the voice actors from Pokemon will be signing autographs at the event center where the comic-con is taking place.
What I’m saying is that the farmers market is all about different folks coming together and getting along. And then there’s the guy wearing a t-shirt that says Transgenderism is a Mental Disorder. My phone was in my pocket, so I didn’t have time to get a photograph of him. But he was a classic Entitled Aggressive Asshole, a prime example of asshole culture.
The ONLY reason to wear a t-shirt like that in public is to provoke a reaction. This asshole deliberately set out to offend others, knowing he was unlikely to be seriously challenged about it. Unlikely to be challenged because those of us who are offended also believe in the right to free speech, and the right to believe in things others find objectionable, and the right to move around freely in public without somebody knocking you flat on your ass for being a colossal dick.
One of the worst things Trump released on the world is the fierce joy bullies and cowards find in the freedom to punch down without consequence. Right now, trans folks and drag artists have become primary targets of that twisted joy. I see articles complaining that Link (from the Legend of Zelda games) is trans-friendly, I see drag shows under attack by asshole politicians, I see concentrated efforts to prevent trans kids from getting the medical care they need. A year or two ago, none of this was much of an issue. Trans-hate has been largely manufactured for political purposes (and, of course, as another conservative grift).
My guess (and I have no actual evidence of this) is that a year ago, that asshole at the farmers’ market probably didn’t give a moment of thought to trans folks. But now that they’ve become a popular MAGA-target, he 1) found a vendor who was happy to make and sell the objectionable t-shirt, 2) spent his money to buy one so that he could 3) wear it in public in a place that encourages diversity in order to 4) offend the fuck out of people who are 5) too decent to knock him on his ass.
To be clear, I’m NOT an advocate of knocking people on their ass simply because they’re assholes (even if they deserve it–although I’d consider buying a t-shirt that says Vertical assholes deserve to be horizontal). And I’m not suggesting folks accept that asshole’s challenge and confront him in public. I mean, these assholes LIKE pretending they’re victims.
What I am saying is that it’s no longer enough for us to be silent allies. I suspect most of the folks who’ll read this have taken a relatively laissez faire approach to trans folks. Trans folks exist, not a big deal, end of story. But the movement to prevent trans folks from existing, that IS a big deal. Trans folks can’t afford for us to maintain a laissez faire approach. We need to stand up, speak up, and keep it up. We can do that without being assholes ourselves.
EDITORIAL NOTE: We really need to burn the patriarchy. Burn it from stalk to stem, then gather the ashes, grind them into dust, dig a hole and chuck in the dust, piss on the dust, cover the hole, and salt the earth over the hole. Then have tea and some nice cookies.