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The "Trans Child" Is the New Totem of the American Left

President Biden wants to codify child sex change operations into federal law—revealing a disturbing new metaphysics.

President Biden has announced his support for federal legislation requiring states to allow hormone treatments and sex change operations for “transgender kids.” He blasted recent restrictions on such practices in Florida as “close to sin” and said that access to transgender medical procedures should qualify as a basic civil right.

The president’s message is dystopian on its face, but, at a deeper level of analysis, reveals the disturbing new metaphysics of the American Left, which has elevated the “transgender child” into a totem. In primitive societies, tribal cultures would use totems to connect with nature, mediate their relationship with the spirit world, and honor the categories of the masculine and the feminine. In modern America, by contrast, political activists use the “transgender child” as a post-modern totem to connect with a utopian, technologically-perfected future and to create a new category beyond man and woman. Through chemical and surgical intervention, they believe, they can smash the patriarchy and transcend the limitations of human nature.

In truth, however, these procedures will not usher in a utopia. As we are beginning to see with the first cohort of “detransitioners,” so-called “gender-affirming care” denies biological reality and often results in horrific complications and regrets. The American doctors who are performing mastectomies on healthy young girls and penectomies on healthy young boys are not the saviors of the future—they are the butchers of the present, enacting a post-modern form of child sacrifice.

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Joe Biden recently proposed in an interview that he would support federal legislation to force states such as Florida, Texas, and Tennessee to allow doctors to perform hormone therapies and sex change operations on children. This is all under the rubric of a deeply misleading term, “trans-affirming care,” that has become a deep conviction on the political Left. I’d like to analyze the clip in which Biden is talking about this and show that, for the Left, the so-called “trans child” serves almost as a religious totem. Let’s take a listen.

[President Biden:] Transgender kids is a really harder thing. What’s going on in Florida is, as my mother would say, “close to sinful.” It’s just terrible what they’re doing. It’s not like a kid wakes up one morning and says, “You know, I decided I want to become a man” or “I want to become a woman” or “I want to change.” I mean, what are they thinking about here? They’re human beings. They love, they have feelings, they have inclinations that are, I mean, just to me is, I don’t know. It’s cruel. And the way we do it is we make sure we pass legislation like we passed on same-sex marriage. You mess with that, you’re breaking the law and you’re going to be held accountable.

Let’s break that down. In a certain sense, Biden’s comment sounds reasonable, it sounds humane, it sounds fairly rational. But this is all based on manipulative language and a hidden ideology that operates under the surface.

First, the category “transgender kids”: that’s the first thing he says and he lays down the marker that that’s the category we’re talking about. But as my friend and colleague Colin Wright has pointed out, there’s no such thing as a “transgender kid.” And what Wright means by that is that a child is not innately transgender, but becomes transgender once the child enters the process of medicalization—hormones, surgeries, and other medical interventions. It’s not that they cannot have feelings of discomfort or dysphoria—that’s certainly true—but they only become transgender when adults intervene. These are parents, doctors, and psychotherapists, and then that child is put on Lupron, put on testosterone or estrogen, has the double mastectomy, or gets the penile inversion surgery.

Second, Biden then says it’s not as if kids wake up one morning and decide that they’re transgender or decide that their identity is different than their sex at biological birth. This is preposterous. That’s exactly what’s happening. We have reams of data that show this is a classic social contagion. If you look at the graph of young people identifying as transgender, it’s like the tulip bulb mania, it’s like a stock market bubble. And this has to crash. This is not sustainable. It’s not driven by a deeper reality. It’s driven by these contagious social factors. Look: for most kids, if you listen to what Biden calls their “feelings” and “inclinations,” these are fleeting. They resolve on their own, especially as they’re discovering perhaps new gender identities while they’re going through the very difficult period of puberty.

All of this boils down to the third component where Biden says that this is “close to sinful.” He’s providing a religious judgment. He says that preventing kids from undergoing hormone therapies and surgeries is the sinful act. So, any prohibition against forcing kids on the path of medicalization is considered a violation of the basic worldview of the Left. And, again, this is a moral inversion. He has it exactly backwards. In reality, it’s sinful to put kids on the path to permanent medicalization, to put kids on the path to irreversible surgeries, especially at a moment when other nations are starting to turn against that kind of unproven and deeply destructive medicine. But Biden says no, we’re going to double-down, because the people who are running policy for the president—who showed no passion for these issues in the past—are telling him that this is how you put together the coalition. This is where the energy is. This is what you have to say and what you have to commit to.

The “Trans Child” As Post-Modern Totem

Let’s look at this. What is actually happening under the surface? What does this phenomenon mean? What does the ontological category of the “transgender child” suggest?

I think that what it means at a deeper level, at an archetypal level, is that for the political Left, the so-called “trans child” serves almost as a totem for their political ideology. In primitive civilizations, the tribes of North America or the Aboriginal tribes in Australia used totems to connect with nature, to connect with past ancestors. They had actual totems for male and female, for the masculine and the feminine, to create these basic categories of “man” and “woman.” In our modern civilization, we’ve turned this on its head. The political Left is now using the totem of the “trans child” to connect with a metaphysics of the future, to say that any holding back from this scientific and medical future is a violation of our deepest principles.

They’re creating a new totem beyond the categories of “man” and “woman,” beyond the categories of the masculine and the feminine. Because in this new metaphysics, they believe in an ideology against Genesis. They believe in an ideology against the idea that we’ve created a world in God’s image, male and female. They believe that they can actually transcend all of this. They believe that there is a gender utopia beyond the basis of reality, beyond the basis of human nature. They believe that if we can only harness scientific progress and apply it to the repressive categories of the patriarchy, we can unleash a trans utopia beyond the world of necessity.

But in truth, of course, this is a lie. Beyond the realm of the masculine and the feminine is not a utopia. It’s a dystopia in which man is stripped from his nature and forced into these brutal medical procedures, then, as we’re already seeing with “detransitioners,” stripped of the basic building blocks of reality and human dignity.

At the end of this road, what we’re seeing is that the political Left is willing to engage in child sacrifice—removing the breasts of healthy young women, and, as we know from the medical literature, castrating young boys, removing their penis, and then transforming it into what they call a “neo-vagina,” or an artificial vaginal cavity, which has just horrific medical consequences, in a way, almost reminiscent of the Aztec child sacrifice rituals. We’re castrating kids in service of a political ideology that uses them as totems to move humanity into the new left-wing metaphysics. It’s something that we’re going to see in the next few years yielding horrific consequences, dystopian consequences, because it’s fundamentally at war with the reality of the universe, the reality of human nature. It cannot stand.

The Path Forward

Conservatives have to be tough and, with our friends on the Left who are revolted by this ideology, must have the strength of conviction to know that this metaphysics is ultimately going to backfire. And we cannot back down one inch because we have the moral high ground, we have the metaphysical high ground. I know that, in the future, despite the folksy rhetoric of people like Joe Biden, we’ll have the political high ground as well, as long as we fight this fight on principle. If we protect these kids from these experiments, then we will ultimately conform our politics to the basic nature of reality.

Christopher F. Rufo is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

This video is sponsored by Manhattan Institute.

Christopher F. Rufo
Christopher F. Rufo
Christopher F. Rufo