Why Kristi Noem's Transgender Turn Is Good for the Pro-Family Movement
South Dakota governor Kristi Noem transitioned — at sprinting speed — from Miss Thing to Miss Nothing. On March 8, Gov. Noem expressed joy over a bill passed by the South Dakota Legislature, which would have banned males from women's sports.
Then, on March 19, she "returned" the text to the Legislature requesting changes that undid the basic purpose of the bill. Her office issued a Shakespearean press release (except far less interesting than Hamlet's soliloquies), doddering to explain her veto.
Life is short, and word limits are tight, so let's not scan the infamous press release. However it's couched, she sank a key bill opposing the imposition of transgenderism on people whom it could harm.
And the conservative world finally erupted.
The homeschooled right cried out, "Et tu, Regina Dakotae Meridianae? You on whom we hung all our hopes for a Trumpian comeback?"
As a pro-family activist who has gotten mobbed and run out of multiple jobs for defending functional heterosexuality against its many detractors, I can understand why everyone is outraged. But I am not outraged. I would like to explain why this is good.
An overdue wakeup call
Whether you want to call it "pro-family" or "socially conservative policy," there exist political positions based on preserving the family unit of mother, father, and child. In earlier decades, the main threats to family were abortion, divorce, and unwed parenthood, so pro-family conservatives focused on respect for life and marriage. Now the main things threatening the mother-father-child unit deal with sexual orientation and biological sex.
Pro-life warriors have faced a backlash. But anti-abortion activism is easier than dealing with your trans "niece" who just had a baby by surrogacy with his "wife." Abortions could be relegated to the "do not discuss at Thanksgiving" list, but you can't simply pussyfoot around the existence of people loved by everyone you love. The LGBT movement teaches millions of people that gayness or transgenderism is not only the central part of their identity, but also the whole basis of their "existence." They see criticism, no matter how thoughtful and correct, as a denial of their being, like a death threat. Simple discussions turn, therefore, into life-or-death battles that nobody prepared for.
The bravest flee before the gayest
Shockingly, people who risk their lives in combat surrender rapidly to LGBT pressure. Celebrated politician Dan Crenshaw wrote to the Republican Party of Texas pressuring them to endorse the Log Cabin Republicans and give them a booth at the party convention, implicitly telling Republicans to dump traditional sexuality from their platform entirely. Kurt Schlichter, who delights in online machismo and swaggers about his military service, recently wrote a column telling Republicans to accept homosexuality for the sake of unity.
Both men now try to claim they will stand up to trans politics. This weakens the movement by sowing confusion. They showed themselves entirely unwilling to stand up to homosexuality, which jeopardizes heterosexual procreation as much as transgenderism does (possibly more, since there are "trans men" in technically heterosexual marriages to "trans women").
Christians must acknowledge that Bible verses condemning sodomy and promoting heterosexuality are more numerous than verses condemning cross-sex behavior, which are nonetheless also found in the Old and New Testaments. Not all pro-family advocates are Christian, but most are. Leaders who want Christian support while denying these biblical imperatives have to engage in soul-endangering trickery. Play too many games with religious voters, and at some point, you'll trip.
How can someone give up an eye for America, but not be able to tell the Log Cabin Republicans that the anus is not a sexual organ and every child has a mom and a dad?
That's what we're dealing with. "Courage" gets cheaper the more discussion veers into sexuality. I've seen that happen many times.
The job nobody on the right is willing to do
Every right-winger wishes someone else would deal with the LGBT stuff. "Someone, somewhere, must be taking care of that," popular activists think. "I'll touch on it here and there, but if that becomes the thing I'm known for, I won't have a career." Nobody wants to become the Westboro Baptist Church.
I've become cynical. I admit it. Every time a new conservative face comes around — a Madison Cawthorn, Kim Klacik, etc. — I assume that his "bold, new, fresh" approach to the movement will be the "lame, old, stale" libertarianism pulled out of the freezer and reheated. I assume we will be told that a bright future and election victories await us if we ride the rainbow slide and define "conservatism" purely as opposition to socialism and Black Lives Matter. All of this, we have heard before, from the olden days, when the topic was repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, to our present tense, wherein the president of the Southern Baptist Convention tells us we have to use trans pronouns for sake of "hospitality" and Presbyterian ladies write books telling us that to share the gospel, we have to give men who call themselves women our house keys, allowing them access to the places where our daughters sleep and shower.
"Trust us this time" sounds less compelling after you have heard it enough times. Instead of that bright future, these compromises usually just move us farther into insanity, from "let gays adopt kids in the foster care system" to "let lesbians conceive sons through sperm banking and then make them girls through puberty-blockers."
Those of us who have become known for conservative positions on sexuality hear many of the same refrains from our peers in the movement. "God bless you, you are so brave," folks will say privately. But nobody will hire you. Heck, they don't even want to be seen talking to you. There's always something they need to protect: their donors, their grantors, their friends, their kids, etc. At the core of it, they are protecting themselves by not fighting something they know is wrong.
Just ask Denise McAllister. Just ask Peter LaBarbera. Just ask Linda Harvey. Ask anyone who took a stand against LGBT, armed with the best arguments, solid research, and a perseverance in the face of opposition. When you are that person, thrust into a scorching spotlight, you learn things nobody else can learn. You figure out that 98% of famous conservatives will sell out on the LGBT issue. The knowledge of the movement's deep phoniness haunts you like a Fury.
A popular influencer might make a video mocking the canceling of Mr. Potato Head, but see what happens if you ask that person to stand up to gay adoption. If you'll notice, the bans on conversion therapy ("stay gay laws") have gained ground whether leaders are Republicans or Democrats. The movement against conversion therapy is perhaps one of the most ridiculous initiatives in our country's history; it is literally based on the notion that nobody, even someone who's been molested, can ever discuss ways to avoid sodomy. Conservatives do not want to stand up for ex-gay counseling because it's harder to challenge the myth that people are born gay than it is to complain about a character from Toy Story.
Noem was the unlucky one holding the bag
While I can denounce Noem's duplicity, I have to celebrate the fact that the bluff no longer works.
"Courage" against the LGBT movement has been a mirage for a long time. Like so many bluffs, it couldn't work forever. Sooner or later the masses were going to find out that this issue had been sacrificed even by those who claimed most vigorously to be fighting over it.
The conservative public has usually accepted any rationalization in order to preserve their frail trust in cultural authorities.
They did not want to believe that Chick-fil-A was actually discriminating against pro-family Christians while projecting an image of wholesome bravery.
Nor did they want to believe that the president of a Baptist seminary was undermining pro-family advocates behind the scenes as a favor to pro-gay benefactors, regardless of any grandstanding about the definition of marriage.
They didn't want to believe that Mike Pence had actually sold out the pro-family movement as governor of Indiana, back when the most daring thing such leaders were being asked to do was to protect a handful of pâtissiers from being forced to make cakes for ceremonies that gay people wanted them to call weddings. While the LGBT movement pushed to legalize prostitution, globalize grooming as part of school curricula, and lower the age of consent, we listened to years of debate about wedding cakes. As part of the narrow legal argument, our side even said these Christian bakers didn't have a problem with homosexuality as long as they would not have to cook for a same-sex "wedding." But even that was too much for Mike Pence, who was supposedly our "staunch" pro-family option.
They didn't want to believe that Jan Brewer, the fierce proponent of immigration standards in Arizona, was the totally un-fierce governor who vetoed a similar religious rights bill in 2014.
Having seen groups like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council trumpet family values in the past, average conservatives don't want to hear about the backdoor deals, the phone calls placed, and the secret horse trades that so often involve getting rid of the troubling "fanatics" in favor of controlled opposition.
Conservatives didn't "know" how bad the pro-family movement had gotten, for the simple reason that they didn't want to hear about any of that. They were happy to reward leaders for telling them what they did want to hear.
This is finally getting interesting
Noem's veto is good. People got a chance to pull back the curtain and see why the conservative leadership they have funded and supported all these years wasn't resisting the march of LGBT ideology at all, but rather enabling it wholesale.
People might gain something by claiming to stand up to LGBT ideology, especially if they can package it in something as innocent-sounding as simply "defining marriage as between a man and a woman," "defending religious liberty," or "standing by the word of God." So don't get me wrong. I am not claiming that you can't name a bunch of conservative pundits who have taken a public stand against LGBT. But social conservatism has been abandoned by the entirety of the right wing. Not just the libertarians or Paul Ryan types. Not just the Guilfoylesque and Kushnerian MAGA friends of Dave Rubin and Brandon Straka, whom we made peace with during the Trump years for the simple reason that we had no other choice.
Even many pro-family groups that shout the loudest have been part of the big betrayal. That includes a lot of the public figures currently tut-tutting about Noem's veto as if they haven't taken the infamous "phone call" from wealthy pro-gay bigwigs and fired pro-family advocates in their own separate fiefdoms — under the cover of darkness, of course.
The Daily Wire's Matt Walsh tweeted a scathing reaction to Kristi Noem's veto. The Alliance Defending Freedom issued a strongly worded press release about it. The Federalist ran several pieces on it. So did PJ Media.
Two years ago, all these groups canceled Denise McAllister for coming out too strong against the LGBTs. You can learn more in the chapter I contributed to Church and State. It took a village to fail the American family.
I don't want war with any of these conservatives who contributed to the collapse of pro-family advocacy; I just want us all to be honest about what's happened. And change for the better. Many are still fighting this tooth and nail, so it's not too late to pitch in.
Don't accept Noem's excuses, but go easy on her. She was just the one stuck holding the bag.
Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.
You can find the MeWe post for this article here.