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Article by:
Gio Bruère-Dawson
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June 27, 2024
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Transphobia and neo-fascism are two sides of the same coin

"Socialists and Marxists, as usual, want to corset women in an ideology that suits their political needs [...] We're changing our language, adapting it to gender, but we're also making women invisible [...] What is a woman? There is only one possible answer: it is an adult female person."

On March 12 at the European Parliament, Christine Anderson, a member of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, made the above transphobic speech in the name of her political group at the European Parliament, Identity and Democracy (ID). 

On June 9, the EU election results came out : the two far-right groupings, ID and the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), respectively won 9 and 7 additional seats, making up a total of 131 seats in the European Parliament. This terrifying number does not take into account AfD’s 15 lawmakers, as the party was kicked out in May after the former head of the list told an Italian newspaper that not all members of the Nazis’ SS unit were war criminals. 

If mainstream media have been discussing the rise of the far-right or radical-right (or even just the right, as a frightening understatement), they fail to convey the gravity of the situation. Because it’s not only the electoral rise of the far-right we should fear: it’s the banalization of neo-fascist discourse, a discourse feeding from racism and islamophobia, Zionism and the genocide currently happening in Gaza, and, what we will be discussing today: transmisogyny in particular and transphobia as a whole.

The rise of neo-fascism and the shift in the Overton Window

Neo-fascism is a post-World War II ideology that includes significant elements of Benito Mussolini’s fascism, namely ultra-nationalism, racial supremacy, and xenophobia, but also a profound opposition to liberal democracy and left-wing ideologies (in their diversities). Neo-fascist parties in Europe, such as Germany’s AfD, France’s Rassemblement National (RN) and Reconquête or Italy’s Fratelli d'Italia, sell an ideal of national unity against internal and external enemies like immigrants, non-white citizens, and gender-non-conforming individuals. 

Despite these parties having recently won power like Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia or being close to doing so, like Marine Le Pen’s RN, political spheres and mainstream media are downplaying their dangerousness. Right and center-right politicians consider them as valid opponents, and even prefer them to traditional left-wing parties, like in France where Emmanuel Macron calls on people not to vote for "the extremes", painting the neo-fascist far-right and the traditional left with the same brush. This shift in the Overton window means a shift in the European political divide, now being between the traditional right and the neo-fascist right. This dangerous shift has been encouraged by the spread of fearmongering misinformation, particularly concerning transgender people.

How neo-fascists use transphobia as both a recruitment and a repression tool

As historically demonstrated, bigotry against minority groups is a way fascism takes root. In the case of transphobia, this mechanism is even more efficient, as it is a fairly recent topic for many, and more insidious, as it uses feminism as an invisibility cape: trans people have become a scapegoat, to which we associate the ills of modern society: the loss of reference points and (gender) roles, the endangerment of our children (by so-called surgeries performed on easily-influenced young people) or, as a supposedly feminist and progressive argument, the loss of 'women's' spaces and lesbian erasure. 

This last argument is notably used in the strategy of normalization of neo-fascist discourse, through association with TERF groups. A telling example can be found in France with the figures of Dora Moutot and Marguerite Stern, both campaigners against trans people's rights: originally involved in feminist movements, they now give interviews to far-right media and recently published a book of transphobic propaganda at Magnus, a far-right publishing house. Their past as “feminist activists” is used to legitimize their discourse, allowing neo-fascist transphobic rhetoric to gain ground.

Thus, the neo-fascist far-right is using transphobia to court public support through this trans-panic rhetoric, of which the idea of “contagion” of transness is also a part. It's an argument that's been used a lot since trans people managed to gain a little visibility in the media: influential teens are being manipulated by “pro-trans” discourses and thus becoming trans themselves. The notion of contagion, together with the notion of perversion and degeneracy, are used by the far right as a pretext for surveillance, control, and repression.

Don’t be fooled: the links between capitalism, neo-fascism and transphobia

We went through how the conventional right is condoning the rise of the neo-fascist far-right and how the latter is using transphobia as a tool to gain ground and enforce repressive policies. Now allow me to link everything together. 

The rise of transphobia, just as the rise of fascism, is a global problem, not just nation-specific. We have seen it in the last decades all across the globe. The reason behind this scale is simple: it’s because our economic system, capitalism, is facing a global crisis, and fascism is a form capitalism takes when in crisis. Fascism uses transphobia as a recruitment tool, and its spreading is made easy by the media conglomerates, also products of capitalism.

Thus, more than ever, we have to stay strong and actively fight against both neo-fascism and transphobia, because it works both ways: to be antifascist, you have to actively fight against transphobia, and to be a true trans-ally, you have to be antifascist. We will never gain rights through negotiation with the right, let alone the neo-fascist far-right. 

Sources :
Bassi, Serena, and Greta LaFleur. “Introduction: TERFs, Gender-Critical Movements, and Postfascist Feminisms.” TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly 9, no. 3, 2022.
Higgins, Penelope. “Fascism and the Trans Villain: Historically Recurring Transphobia in Far-Right Politics.” The Graduate History Review, 2023.
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