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I Am A True Progressive
Today's so-called progressives are turning back the clock.
For almost all of human existence, gender roles were simple: men did traditionally masculine things and women did traditionally feminine things. Any deviation from standard gender norms was punished.
Since the rise of second-wave feminism in the 1960s, Western society has increasingly shed those gender roles. Girls didn’t have to just imagine an existence as a homemaker and caretaker, boys didn’t have to just imagine being a super-soldier. Girls could be more assertive and boys could be more sensitive.
So when trans activist organizations like Mermaids show diagrams like the ones below, you’ll see that their views on gender are… traditional.
According to their vision of gender identity, being a girl means playing with Barbies, and being a boy means playing with G.I. Joes. The most female figure is a woman in a waist-tight dress, the most male figure is a man with a muscular chest.
So when a “progressive” parent sees their son playing with a Barbie, instead of thinking about how it’s stereotype-shattering, the parent thinks, “Wow, my child is trans!” Then comes praise from other “progressive” parents, puberty blockers, and a potential “gender-affirming” surgery.
If gender isn’t about genitals, then why do kids need genital surgery as “gender affirmation”? The very idea of “gender-affirming surgery” contradicts gender ideology altogether.
As a boy, I didn’t show any interest in sports. I never “roughhoused” with other boys. I liked reading books, and I still do. However, boys and men read books for fun—especially fiction books—far less than girls and women. So if I had logged onto the internet and saw charts that showed that “gender identity” is about what you do, could I have thought I was trans? Maybe.
This is what’s happening to kids all across the country right now. At special risk is kids with autism, who may not understand gender the same way as others, and are far more likely than other kids to say they’re trans. The fact that there is such a vast difference between autistic people and neurotypical people shows that trans identity isn’t something that just randomly develops. Living in liberal New York City, I’ve met more trans-identifying people than most people ever will—and one thing they all had in common was some sort of neurodivergence: autism, ADHD, BPD, etc.
So, then, what is “progressive” about gender ideology? Nothing.
Let’s move on to race. I’ve been fighting racial stereotyping my whole life. As a kid, I was confused about the way other kids thought of me, versus my own self-identity. Many non-Asian people told me that must Asians like math. Even other Asian kids would make jokes about a supposed Asian affinity for math. Yet I found math boring and tedious. During senior year in high school, when I was given the choice between taking calculus and human reasoning, I chose to take the non-math class.
And instead of a hard science, I took anthropology. While I went to a school known for its STEM programs, I actively avoided STEM in favor of the arts and humanities. I later ended up majoring in literature in college. (This also goes back to the gender issue: I had interests that were stereotypically female, yet that didn’t make me female)
Yet I was told by society that there were things I had to like because of the color of my skin. Some people, including even other Asians, claimed that liking math was an essential part of being Asian, as well as liking bubble tea and raves. Yet I actively enjoyed and pursued my interests without thinking about whether or not something was an “Asian thing” to do. Even this Substack is proof of my non-stereotypicality: Asians don’t exactly have a reputation as people that boldly opine on politics and culture. Asians are also stereotyped as being herd-minded, collectivist, “don’t-rock-the-boat” types, yet I spent my early teenage years admiring Ayn Rand’s fierce individualism and polemical philosophy. Although I’ve since abandoned a lot of Rand’s ideas, especially about religion, she did provide me a valuable lesson about the importance of the individual.
That’s why, when I heard about critical race theory, I recognized it for the regressive ideology that it was. I do not consider myself any more or less Asian for not matching racial stereotypes. Indeed, I’ve written plenty about how Asian American identity is complex and multifaceted and cannot be reduced to any one caricature. Yet critical race theory reduces me to my race, and tells me that I must act a certain way for being a certain race. Despite their claims that race is socially constructed, CRTists also claim that racial identity is an innate force.
Instead of being progressive, critical race theory takes us back to a time where we only are racial stereotypes. It is shocking that I’ve been against stereotyping for so long, and thought that progressives were against it, only for it to come back in another form and become official “progressive” doctrine in schools. Then that ideology demands that only a certain number of kids with the same skin color can get into college or medical school, with the only commonality being that we check off the same racial box on application forms.
There are many other examples where today’s “progressives” are anything but. For example, progressives used to value due process and stood up for the rights of the accused. Yet cancel culture now deems people guilty even if proven innocent, “Believe All [victim group here]” is a regular mantra, and “progressives” want to roll back Title IX due process protections.
Progressives also used to value free speech. Without the freedom to speak, the women’s suffrage movement, the Civil Rights movement, and other movements never would’ve happened, including the transgender movement itself. Since majority groups usually try to silence minority groups, free speech protects minority rights, which “progressives” claim to support.
In fact, the Free Speech Movement was literally begun by leftist student activists at U.C. Berkeley. Fifty years later, the new leftist student activists at U.C. Berkeley have resorted to violent protests against free speech.
The fall of the ACLU is a great example. As journalist James Kirchick writes:
The men and women of the ACLU were liberals in the most honorable, but increasingly obsolescent, meaning of the term. They understood that the measure of democracy lies in the impartial application of its laws, and were prepared to defend anyone whose constitutional rights were trampled upon, irrespective of their political views or the repercussions that mounting such a defense might entail.
Puzzling, that is, until you realize that—like so many other institutions whose worthy missions we naively assumed to be inviolable—the ACLU is no longer itself. The organization known as the ACLU is now led by people beholden to an ideology purporting that the essential function of the Constitution has been to serve as a blueprint for white supremacy, and that its broad free-speech protections are not a tool of emancipation for society’s underdogs but rather the handmaiden of their oppression.
Indeed, this has been the path of pretty much every “progressive” organization in today’s America.
So when I say that I’m against gender ideology and critical race theory, and support due process and free speech, some may say that I’m spouting conservative talking points. But ask yourself: what is intrinsically conservative about any of those things? What’s so conservative about saying that boys and girls don’t have to fit traditional gender stereotypes, or that racial stereotyping is harmful, or that the accused should not be seen as guilty without a fair trial, or that people (especially minority groups) should be free to speak their mind? If anything, these are progressive values. But not for those who call themselves progressive today.