Jordan B. Peterson’s transphobic, pseudo-academic, alt-right attitude deserves protesting 

Queer & There

From the Stonewall Riots in 1969 to the contemporary movement Abolish ICE, transgender and gender nonconforming people have been on the front lines of almost every major social movement and protest. There must be something about having to fight for the very right to exist in public that contributes to our reputation as social justice warriors. Within a year of coming out as trans I attended my first protest, against Milo Yiannopoulos (former Breitbart contributor and notoriously transphobic anti-feminist) speaking at UCCS, so it would make sense for me to be out in front of the Pikes Peak Center next Monday, Oct. 8, to protest Jordan B. Peterson’s speaking event. Unfortunately I won’t be there.

To be clear, Peterson, a University of Toronto psychology professor, deserves to be protested. Emphatically. He rose to a kind of national notoriety in November 2016 after he decided to rail against the use of gender-neutral pronouns that was mandated by the Canadian government. “I’ve studied authoritarianism for a very long time — for 40 years — and they’re started by people’s attempts to control the ideological and linguistic territory, there’s no way I’m going to use words made up by people who are doing that — not a chance,” he said at the time, echoing the sentiments of many an Anglo-Saxon after the Norman invasion of 1066. In his defense, Peterson is a professor of psychology, not linguistics. If you were to ask to any trans person, they will probably tell you that Peterson’s “principled” stance against gender-affirming pronouns stems more from his personal biases than from any well-thought-out, academic position on prescriptivist approaches to grammar.

Peterson’s lack of academic substance in his specious analogies about lobsters representing human hierarchy; his critiques of Disney’s Frozen, which he called propaganda; and his historically flawed, inaccurate statements about feminism — he attributes the historical oppression of women to an inability to regulate menstruation, and postulates the gender essentialist notion that women are “optimized for infant care” — have made him a darling of the alt-right. He is another Milo Yiannopoulos, but with a Ph.D. and without the habit of pedophilia apologia. When Peterson makes the same absurd claims about feminists and communists as your drunk, Infowars-watching uncle, his veneer of academia gives him a sense of credibility, in much the same way that Dr Pepper is superior to Mr. Pibb.
Peterson owes much of his brand-recognition to the efforts of the Heritage Foundation (funded by the Koch brothers and others) and similarly ideologically aligned media outlets like Breitbart and Prager University. His acolytes mention him in the same breath as “race realist” Stefan Molyneux, and Palestinian genocide advocate Ben Shapiro. His media appearances and new book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote for Chaos (which contains gems like “If men are pushed too hard to feminize, they will become more and more interested in harsh, fascist political ideology”), appeal to a wide range of ethno-nationalists, men’s rights advocates and thin blue line flag-owners.

While Peterson should be unequivocally and enthusiastically protested, I will not be doing the protesting. His success is a testament to the dogged persistence of bigots. Transphobia is like a hydra, and as soon as one fallacious, discriminatory head is chopped off, two more will grow to take its place. So instead of physically protesting someone who is doing his best to prevent society from becoming an accepting and affirming place for gender diverse people, I’m going to a punk show.

I’ll be attending Against Me!’s performance of their groundbreaking 2003 album, As the Eternal Cowboy, at the Summit Music Hall in Denver that night. I can’t think of anyone more diametrically opposed to Peterson than Laura Jane Grace, Against Me!’s frontwoman. Grace, whose early songs have a distinctively anarchist tone, publicly came out as transgender in 2012. Against Me!’s 2014 album, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, had a profound impact on a generation of trans women, and Grace’s AOL documentary series, True Trans, showcased the reality of existing as a trans person in society. I actually showed her documentary to my kids when I came out to them.

I’m going to spend the night of Oct. 8 listening to a transgender woman sing songs about her lived experience to an audience of transgender people and their allies, because despite the best efforts of people like Jordan Peterson to push back against the “social justice warriors,” we’re winning.

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