A thing about being fifty-something at the moment is that I have the compulsory perspective of middle age, while still feeling that I haven’t actually lived through very much. Generation X had it drilled in to us that we “missed” the twentieth-century wars and the civil rights movement. We were mostly small children during the Women’s Liberation and Gay Liberation movements of the 70s, too. What that means is that I have seen a huge amount of change over the course my more-or-less adult life, merely because it has been forty years long so far, but that I am also aware of the huge amount of change that I “missed” over the previous forty years or so.
So I can’t help thinking of (f’r’ex) the attacks on the rights of trans people in 2023 in the context of how quickly (in generational terms) trans rights have advanced over my lifetime, and also how new the issue appeared to be when I was young. Obviously, that doesn’t help anyone in the moment, but having some states outlaw gender affirming care and effectively authorize the police to beat up trans people is in objective fact better than the situation in 1983, when good medical care for trans folk was largely unobtainable anywhere in the US and police could beat up trans people with impunity everywhere. It’s not that I think that everyone needs to sing “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby”—Young People Today are correct to be outraged. It’s just that I can’t help instinctively thinking that only one of the two major political Parties is attacking trans people.
And similarly—it’s absolutely appalling that abortion is illegal again in many US states! There are appalling attacks on women’s rights throughout the country, and where there are not appalling attacks, there are insidious biases, and it is very important that we pay attention to what is actually going on right now, and it’s very hard for me not to think about how much worse I personally can remember it being—and even more than that, it’s very hard for me not to think about people making a huge deal about how much better it was in the 1970s than it had been in the 1950s. Thinking about that is not any more helpful than thinking about how much worse the situation is in Afghanistan than in the US right now, or thinking about how much worse it could get. But it’s where my instincts are.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,