Let me start off by saying I shouldn’t have been browsing on LinkedIn at all. It’s literally Facebook with more Gary Vee worship, somehow. However, I came across a hot take from someone who bills themself as an LGBTQ+ educator and I have some thoughts.

I don’t have the exact post anymore, which is honestly a good thing. I would never want to bring unwanted attention to a fellow trans person online. Beyond the potential for harm, I try to avoid directly responding to individual personal opinions I come across on the internet. But I am making an exception because I feel so strongly on this issue, and I feel the amount of positive response this persons perspective received could indicate a larger acceptance of their opinion.

This person expressed a disdain for the rising popularity of the phrase “we need accomplices, not allies”. Their interpretation of this phrase was that trans existence is not criminal, and being associated with criminals/criminality is morally wrong. Therefore they preferred having allies to accomplices. Thus completely missing the political backbone of this deliberate word choice. Let’s explore some reasons why I, and many who are in this fight for trans liberation, choose to use this specific wording, “accomplices, not allies”.

Are trans people criminals?

While I definitely agree that trans people shouldn’t be criminalized anywhere in the world, this is simply not the reality in which we live. The 500+ anti-trans laws currently in front of state and federal legislatures in the U.S. serves as direct contradiction to this author’s primary point. There are thousands of people in this country that would have the very existence of trans and gender expansive people made criminal. In some places, the existence of transgender minors is currently illegal. Legislation that is tantamount to cross dressing laws has already passed in Tennessee. Ron DeSantis is on the warpath in Florida. How can you really sit there and say that trans people aren’t considered criminals?

Criminals vs. The State

It is, in fact, in everyone’s best interest that those deemed “criminal” by the state retain some measure of human and civil rights. The state has the power and sole discretion to define what is “criminal”. Who can really say that this power will not be applied to groups that have historically escaped it’s clutches?

To argue as much is to rely on what is known as normalcy bias. This fault in reasoning occurs when one makes the assumption that because something has not happened, it will not happen in the future. In the case of this LinkedIn author, they have made the assumption that because they are not currently being criminalized where they happen to live, they will never be. These last few election cycles should have been enough to disabuse anyone of this notion, but alas, here we are. I hope those trans people who have not already, can collectively overcome this human tendency to think things will continue to be as they have always been. We cannot afford to ignore these threats to our existence.

The Anti-Trans Hate Machine

What exactly are these threats to trans people? There is a political machine that is well funded and largely hidden from the public eye, that seeks to eradicate trans people from public life.

This machine accomplishes it’s goal through spreading misinformation about trans people and supporting political candidates that are sympathetic to the evangelical ideology at it’s core. The team at Translash Media has put together an insightful podcast series entitled “The Anti-Trans Hate Machine” which illuminates the evangelical Christian origins and funding sources that fuel this machine. Just recently, Mother Jones, Vice News, and many other large media outlets have reported on thousands of leaked emails that expose how these elected officials talk about trans people when they think no one is listening. It disgusts me, but it does not surprise me in the least.

The true history of the “criminal” in the U.S.

Unsurprising because the system of law enforcement in U.S. is rotten to its core. It is only an extension of state sponsored enslavement into the modern day. The roots of the policing system in this country lie in the “slave patrols” of the mid to late 19th century. These informal patrols which were originally tasked with hunting down, capturing, and returning enslaved people to their enslavers, eventually organized into the formal state run systems of law enforcement we know today.

Many people have covered the basics of this better than I ever could. You can take a look here, and here for resources to learn more about the history of law enforcement and prisons in the United States. I make note of this history to highlight the fact that law enforcement agencies are nothing more than state sponsored gangs that can be turned on anyone, at any point in time, for truly any reason, as long as that reason is reason enough for the state to deem you a “criminal”.

Wrapping it all up

To my mind the only recourse we have against this machine is advocating for the abolition of the system of criminality in this country. We need people who are willing and able to use their privilege to take a stand against the state and alongside trans people. If this means being seen as a criminal, so be it. As long the state continues pouring more funding into these systems, imperialism, and white supremacy will continue to affect everyone, though these effects are not equally felt across demographics. Everyone is not currently a criminal, but anyone could be.

Complement this article with a deep dive into how modern iterations of transphobia have used racism’s political playbook to maintain power or with an excellent lecture by author and abolitionist Dean Spade on the necessity of an anti-state approach to dismantling carceral infrastructure in the U.S.