Sound of Freedom was released July 4th, 2023 by Angel Studios, a Christian-based distributor. The film targets a far-right audience and perpetuates numerous QAnon conspiracies involving child trafficking and the Illuminati. Its star, Jim Caviezel, is a member of the QAnon conspiracy group and a MAGA member. On the surface, Sound of Freedom appears simply a mediocre police procedural in which the “brave cops” (such as the main character, cishet white male, Tim Ballard) save children from “the evil criminals.” Typical Blue Lives Matter propaganda. However, when you look deeper, the true message emerges: a call to violence against queer and trans people. The movie delivers this mainly through the three antagonists of each of the film’s acts. The first, Ernst, is an allusion to Allyn Walker. His character design shares many elements, such as the hair, glasses, and even manner of dress. The movie makes a major plot point in the book Ernst has written on social justice, an allusion to Walker’s own work. There are frequent contrasts between Ernst and Tim. Ernst is queer coded, portrayed as effete and weak, contrasted with Tim’s toxic masculinity. Ernst’s main character flaw is portrayed as his willingness to trust others even under dire circumstances. Tim exploits and turns this against Ernst, similar to how many fake allies will infiltrate the subvert queer organizations. The message here is clear: those who write in defense of social justice and topics related to queerness are all child predators. And only the incorruptible police can save us from them. And that’s why we should be fine when cops infiltrate our organizations and sabotage efforts to bring about change that threatens their fascist masters. Giselle The second antagonist, Giselle, is coded as a trans woman. The film visually portrays her as an otherworldly beauty, scenes are shot with her as the center of attention, and they make clear she was a former beauty pageant winner. These reflect the way cishet men will treat trans women as “exotic” and fetishize them – the movie is exploiting their lust for trans women and depicting it as evil. It’s also a reference to the recent spate of victories for trans women beauty pageant winners. That Giselle is also Black brings in another trope, one that is openly racist, the “magical negro.” This is when dark-skinned characters are handled as having magical or mystical natures, while having little character or agency of their own. The film has Giselle enter people’s lives like a Fairy Godmother, evoking Disney movies. We learn only bare facts about her history. There is nothing to her character beyond “she does evil things and is pretty.” She has the magic of the Pied Piper and casts a spell on parents and children. Giselle ultimately just serves as a plot device for the white main character to find the damsel in distress. The lesson behind showing her in this way and then making her sinister is to teach the audience to embrace a jingoistic rejection of the other. The third antagonist, El Alacran, reads like a caricature invented by MAGA: a Latin American BIPOC Communist Revolutionary. And of course the movie portrays him as a pedophile, as a nod to the popular alt-right propaganda that arose from Kyle Rittenhouse’s murder of two BLM marchers. Up until this point in the movie, Tim has only used deception and infiltration as tactics. It is here, in the third act, that the movie imparts its main message: in a scene played up for tension and cathartic release, Tim murders Alacran in cold blood. Tim suffers no consequences for this, nor does he wrestle with the morality of taking a human life. If anything, the movie suggests it would have been better if he’d killed Ernst and Giselle, too. The lesson is clear: trickery and lies are not enough. QAnon supporters have to resort to murdering those in their way if they want to “make America great again.” And the people they need to kill are BIPOC queer activists and their allies. Their only way of countering recent victories for human rights is to begin killing us outright. QAnon supporters of the movie raise the counterargument that, since Giselle and Ernst are based on real people, the traits are just reflective of reality. This argument ignores the obvious artistic choices by the writers and directors. And this argument is countered by Alacran, who doesn’t exist. Ballard has admitted the entire third of the film never actually happened. That means the writers specifically chose to portray murder as heroic when they didn’t need to. The intentions of this movie become clear in light of the history of sexual misconduct of the real Tim Ballard, executive producer Paul Hutchinson, and major funder Fabian Marta, who kidnapped a child. Those behind Sound of Freedom are not actually concerned with stopping violence against children. They are the ones doing the harm. The real goal here is to vilify the people saving children’s lives. They know that queer couples and drag queens are safer for children than any cishet white male. They are promoting violence to stop us as a last resort. It’s not a coincidence that the hate in the movie aligns with groups like Atomwaffen and others. We need to double our efforts. We need to get every kid in the country access to queer books, queer mentors, and queer events that will save their lives. We need to teach them to shatter the fascist brainwashing behind this movie. That will be actual freedom.Laura Reyna (They/She) is a queer neurodivergent Latinx finding their authentic self. They are sex positive, kink positive, and sex worker inclusive, and they long for the day when every aspect of colonialism, patriarchy, and fascism are dismantled.
Layout G (list + load more)
Vocabulary TransmedicalismThe belief that you need to have gender dysphoria and seek medical transition to “cure” it in order to be transAnthropologyThe study of peopleCraniologyThe study of skulls (of different human races)ZoologyThe study of animalsRace SciencePseudo-science that is used to justify racismBio-essentialismBelief that certain individual qualities are innate in humans Gender EssentialismBelief that gender is fixed in human nature (specifically the European binary “man” and “woman”)EugenicsBelief in getting rid of socially undesirable traits among populations of peopleVaginoplastySurgery that involves constructing or reconstructing the vagina Medical transition for people now known as transgender is a little more than one hundred years old. Hormone replacement therapy and gender-affirming surgeries can save lives– a fact supported by nearly every major medical organization. Despite overwhelming evidence of its positive impact, though, gender-affirming care is being banned and criminalized across the country. Meanwhile, other legislative and policy measures continue to endanger trans people in public. This is an egregious attack on our autonomy, but unfortunately some have adopted a reactionary response: transmedicalism. Transmedicalism is the belief that you must have gender dysphoria in order to be trans, and that you must receive or at least want medical treatment. Some believe trans people who medically transition and “pass” as cisgender should be centered in “the” trans experience, but where does this idea come from? Its history can be traced to the construction of sexual difference and its ties to white Eurowestern supremacy. Colonialism, Slavery, and German Brain Power When people think of colonialism and slavery, they rarely think of Germany. Colonialism is much more often associated with the English, the Spanish, the French, the Dutch, and the Portuguese. They had colonies all over the world and were the main benefactors of the colonization of the Americas and the Atlantic Slave Trade. While the Slave Trade ended in 1836, colonization of the Americas is still an ongoing project. Though the countries mentioned above were the most active, other countries like Germany participated in constructing Western dominance over the world. In fact, Germany provided the intellectual foundation for European colonialism at least up until the early 1900s. Colonial violence gave Europeans access to the bodies of racial Others to use for scientific study. German physician Johann Friedrich Blumenbach had a collection of skulls, and was the “scientist” who helped divide humans into five different races in the 1700s. His contemporary, Friedrich Tiedemann, believed that Black people had smaller brains than white people and were intellectually inferior. These scientists helped found the fields of anthropology, craniology, and zoology. They laid the foundation on which further division is constructed to this day. These scientists, who were tied up in race science, helped essentialize the sexual differences that led to today’s views of gender. The Construction of Sexual Difference and The Feminine Type Contemporary understandings of sexual difference emerged from the work of race science. Before and during the Renaissance era, European thinkers believed that women were just inverted men. This was called the One-Sex Theory, wherein the division between “man” and “woman” was far less rigid. This changed in the 17th and 18th centuries when contemporary gender roles became codified under the guise of science. In European thought, difference helps construct hierarchy. Something cannot just be different; it is different and substandard. Any deviation from white cisgender masculinity was considered inferior. That inferiority then justified oppression and the violences that white men perpetrated overseas and throughout Europe. For the 18th-century race scientists, observation and sight were central to their research method, establishing a dependency on visual “evidence” that persists in medicine today. German researchers such as Christoph Meiners, GWF Hegel, and Johann Alexander Ecker helped establish visual standards for femininity. Their belief that one’s gender is visibly and immediately recognizable underlies today’s assumptions that gender is an outward manifestation that others can diagnose upon first glance. The presumed visual cues that scientists attached to gender stereotypes then also informed racial hierarchies. According to Johann Alexander Ecker, the “feminine type” was defined by having no brow ridge and smaller features. In his view, women were intermediaries between children and men both in biology and social standing. Importantly, this “type” did not just include women but also East Asians. Women who were not white were left out of the feminine type and just took on the racial type of their “men.” In these racialized gender binaries, Black women are regarded as hypermasculine and aggressive and Asian women as hyper-feminine and submissive. The feminine type is defined by what white men see as desirable in white women– a standard that will always render women of other races as lacking. Once the feminine type became a presumed biological “fact,” sexual difference became not only universally gendered but racialized based on this type. Sexual Anthropology and the Origins of Trans Medicine In the mid-19th century, with the division of gender in European societies determined by “biological fact,” the field of anthropology turned its gaze to human sexuality. Karl Maria Kartbeny coined the terms homosexual and heterosexual in a letter to Karl Heinrich Ulrichs in 1868. Ulrichs is considered the pioneer of sexual anthropology or sexology and gay rights, and Kartbeny proposed these terms as alternatives to Sodomite. Before science and biology were used to oppress sexual deviance, it was Abrahamic religion. Kartbeny was one of the first advocates for what we now call LGBT rights. He wrote pamphlets arguing that same-sex relationships were not a morally sinful choice and that sexuality was innate or biological (the foundations of the “born this way” argument). Kartbeny’s approach set the scene for the way we talk about sexual minorities today. The term “bio-essentialism” names this belief that certain qualities are fixed by human nature rather than a matter of choice. This belief endures, which makes sense given how Western discourse has shaped our views of difference and hierarchy. Arguing that homosexuality is innate affirms the idea that being male and female are essentially different and biologically-determined. This concept is called gender essentialism. Bio-essentialism and gender essentialism formed the basis of campaigns for sexuality rights in the West– and the now-worldwide LGBT liberation movement. Among the widespread work influenced by Karl Heinrich Ulrich was that of Magnus Hirschfield. A German physician and scientist, Hirshfeld believed in an innate sexuality and helped establish contemporary Western approaches to gender and sexual identities. He coined transvestite in 1910. Though now outdated, transvestite originally referred to people who dressed as the “opposite sex.” Of course, this too is a cultural construct. Clothes do not have innate gender– and many cultures do not have such strict binaries when it comes to clothing. At the time, however, this belief was a convenient way to stigmatize those who did not conform to European sartorial standards. While Hirschfeld might seem like a progressive force in European thought, his beliefs also stemmed from eugenics, and he was predictably anti-Black. Even though he claimed not to believe in a racial hierarchy, he believed Black people had stunted brains– another form of weaponized biological essentialism. Hirschfeld went on to open the Institute for Sexual Science and provide medical care and counseling for gender-nonconforming people. This institute was the first of its kind in the West, and Hirschfeld helped develop the gender-affirming care practices we know now. Conclusion This is the beginning of trans medical care as we know it. From gender essentialist construction to the first gender-affirming care clinic, you cannot separate advancements in trans medicine from colonialism and race science. An inherently white supremacist and cisnormative standard, it cannot be the standard by which we measure trans identity. In the next installment, I’ll explore in greater depth the origin of transmedicalism.
On the standard calendar, today is Saturday and the end of the week. On the trans* calendar, the “week” is not over until TDOR. This year, Trans Day of Remembrance falls on Monday the 20th. Many have already gathered to remember those we have lost to acts of violence with candle vigils, community fellowship, and message-driven speeches. At least 27 names have been reported in the U.S. this year, the majority Black trans women. We must also acknowledge the violence against our trans men and transmasculine siblings as numbers increase for them. As I mentioned before, TDOR is in its 25th year. Monica Roberts played a pivotal role in not only honoring those we’ve lost, but ensuring that the murders of trans people were covered thoughtfully and with respect. We still have much to do to continue this work, without which anti-trans violence often goes unrecognized– given that reporters still often misgender victims or ignore them altogether. In Hartford, Connecticut, a Black activist DJ Ephraim Adamz plans to honor Rita Hester with a celebration at a mansion across the street from where Hester grew up. This event will also introduce a new trans* flag, the “Black Trans Legacy Flag.” The flag features black as its central color, framed by triangles pointing inward from either side. The triangles are composed of the traditional trans* pride colors (white, pink, blue), with the addition of brown as the final border. On Instagram, Adamz also calls this the “Transgender Remembrance Flag,” which acknowledges the “resilience built off the bloodshed of Black and brown bodies” and memorializes “the Black and brown bodies lost to anti-trans violence.” The celebration will be held on November 28th, the day of Rita Hester’s untimely death occurred. Imagine relying on AI to construct your anti-trans tweets but AI tells you it can’t perpetuate your hateful messages. I am gagging at GAG (Gays Against Groomers). Yeah these fools are back again. Apparently, GAG asked ChatGPT to construct tweets condemning gender-affirming care and was met with some pushback. The AI text generator refused, instead informing GAG that their prompt was harmful and a violation of ethical principles. Elaborating further, ChatGPT explained, “gender-affirming care has shown to improve the well-being of transgender and gender diverse individuals.” When GAG then prompted ChatGPT to write a tweet supporting gender-affirming care, the AI program had no issues. Taken aback by the result of the copy, GAG took to its 400k following on X, denouncing ChatGPT. Followers predictably responding by calling the program a groomer. So AI out here doing the grooming huh? A reminder to those new to the party, Gays Against Groomers opposes the sterilization and mutilation of minors, drag and pride events involving children, propagandizing youth with LGBTQ+ media, and queer theory & gender ideology being taught in the classroom. Once you’ve connected what they use as evidence to justify their purpose of opposition, you’ll chuckle and probably say to yourself, “We are doomed”. The call for Cis Slur Musk’s version of an AI program in comparison to ChatGPT leaves one to wonder will their attempt to program lies and misinformation work? It is intelligence right?