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CPAC Speaker Called for the Trans Community To Be ‘Eradicated,’ Is Now Splitting Hairs Over What Constitutes ‘Genocide’

A man (Michael Knowles) waves his hand and looks irritated sitting at a TV news desk.

Anti-trans policies in the United States have hit a record high in recent weeks, and discriminatory bills continue to pass in state legislative bodies across the nation. While most of these bills are targeted at preventing people under the age of 18 from accessing trans-related healthcare, more and more lawmakers are drafting bills that would prevent both children and adults from transitioning. As Republican politicians continue to rile up their supporters against the LGBTQ community, it appears that trans people’s very right to exist has been called into question.

One Republican pundit believes that trans people shouldn’t exist at all.

Meet Michael Knowles. He’s a right-wing commentator for The Daily Wire and an absolute gremlin of a human being. He recently took the podium at the Conservative Political Action Coalition and launched into a tirade against trans people, in particular trans women, and flat out said that trans people should not exist. Now here’s the thing, Knowles doesn’t actually believe that trans people exist in the first place. The rhetoric of his speech breaks the “issue” down into a binary (always the binary with these people). “If transgenderism is true, then it is true of all ages,” he said. “If transgenderism is false, as it is, if men really can’t become women … then we should not indulge it.”

Knowles and his ilk view “transgenderism” as a disease that needs to be “eradicated” entirely in order to for society to function. And yes, he really does say the word “eradicated”. His exact words were: “For the good of society … transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely, the whole preposterous ideology, at every level.”

If this strikes you as a rather genocidal way of putting it, you would be correct. His audience didn’t seem to mind. They responded with thunderous applause.

News outlets across the nation thought similarly. Rolling Stone published an article titled, CPAC Speaker Calls for Eradication of ‘Transgenderism’ — and Somehow Claims He’s Not Calling for Elimination of Transgender People, while The Daily Beast published a similar article featuring the quote “this is genocidal”. Both raise a similar argument, that the eradication of trans people from American society is tantamount to genocide, despite Knowles’ claims that his statement was not a call to liquidate trans people. Knowles wishes to eradicate the “ideology” of being trans, while conveniently refusing to state what will happen to real trans people should trans expression be outlawed entirely. In keeping with the longstanding traditions of conservative politics, Knowles feigned outrage for being allegedly misquoted. He called the articles “libelous” and demanded that their headlines be changed, and railed against other outlets for “defaming” him. Both of the articles mentioned above did see their headlines changed after Knowles threatened legal action over what were ultimately accurate quotes.

Knowles has been feigning outrage over being “misquoted” by these outlets because he says he called for “transgenderism” to be eradicated, not trans people but 1) “Transgenderism” is a made-up word used by the far-right in order to mistakenly identify a person’s trans identity as an ideological point of view. 2) You cannot eradicate an identity without eliminating actual people. And 3) He himself has used the terms interchangeably in the very recent past.

This is not the first time Knowles has spouted anti-trans rhetoric. He’s had a lot of practice. During a segment on The Michael Knowles Show, he attempted to downplay his notions of trans genocide in an equally genocidal way, saying: “I don’t know how you could have a genocide of transgender people because genocide refers to genes, it refers to genetics, it refers to biology … and the whole point of transgenderism is that it has nothing to do with biology.” Aside from being bigoted, this statement offers an extremely narrow view of the definition of genocide. While genocide has primarily been a “final solution” against members of certain ethnic groups throughout history, the practice is not exclusively related to one’s genetics or ethnicity. Most infamously, the practice was carried out by the Nazis based on the ethnic and religious identity of the Jews. Nazis also used the practice for dealing with Catholics, disabled people, and the LGBTQ community.

“Nobody’s calling to exterminate anybody because the other problem with that statement is that transgender people is not a real ontological category,” Knowles said in that same segment. “It’s not a legitimate category of being.” What he fails to realize is that calling the “legitimacy” of a group of people into question is the definition of genocidal rhetoric. According to the 10 Stages of Genocide, the dehumanization of a group of people meets the criteria for Stage Four, where people are equated to animals, diseases, or vermin. It should be noted that “murder” is not used to describe the act of killing persecuted groups by attackers. People are murdered, rats are “eradicated”.

(Stanton, Gregory)

But Knowles’ statements don’t just constitute Stage 4. His remarks were made at a major conservative conference, where high-profile Republicans including former President Trump also made statements. The air of “legitimacy” that this lends to Knowles’ statements and their widespread acceptance by the Republican party meet the criteria for Stage 6, where government officials “broadcast propaganda to turn the populace against the group”. This is already occurring in state governments across the nation, and one could argue that Stage 7 legislation against trans people is currently being passed. Statewide “anti-drag” laws that make it illegal for “male or female impersonators” to appear in public spaces are a coded attack against trans people. The term “male or female impersonator” is conveniently ill-defined. By refusing to recognize trans people as illegitimate and “fake”, Conservative pundits are quietly framing trans people as “male or female impersonators” who are therefore subject to prosecution and arrest.

Transgender activist Erin Reed thinks similarly. In response to the statements that Michael Knowles made on his show, she tweeted that anti-trans people are so “rattled” by accusations of genocidal rhetoric that it has caused them to begin saying the “quiet part out loud”. Refusal to recognize trans people as a “legitimate category of being” is in fact doubling down on genocidal rhetoric, not reducing it. The “quiet part” isn’t so quiet anymore, is it? After all, Michael Knowles said it in front of the movers and shakers of the Republican party.

In a way, Knowles did us a favor. By using the word “eradicate,” he has uttered the thesis of the Republican party’s view on trans people aloud: that they must not be allowed to exist. No more “protect the children”, no more “defend the rights of women”. Women and children were never a priority (their overturn of Roe v. Wade and refusal to restrict guns taught us that). What Republicans want is to use legislation to inflict conditions on trans people that are calculated to bring about our physical destruction. They say they want to murder the “idea” of trans people, which will in reality bring about trans people’s corporeal downfall. While they’re not actually ordering someone to pull a trigger, this murder is just as cruel and cold-blooded.

(featured image: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

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