Bill Maher is always offensive yet sometimes funny in spite of himself. I don’t watch him. He exudes a haughty arrogance that grows tiresome very quickly. But I’ve seen several articles about one of his latest diatribes and so I had to check it out.
In the May 20th installment of Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO, he rang the alarm against the progress LGBTQ+ people have made in leading authentic lives out in the open. Citing a new Gallup poll (see chart), Maher projects that fully 100% of the American public will be manipulated into becoming LGBTQ+ by 2054. Follow me here.
The Gallup poll found that 0.8% of the population self-identified as LGBTQ+ in 1940. In Generation Z the number has increased to 20.8%. Maher seems quite disturbed by this much progress over 80 years. At this pace, he extrapolates that 41.6% of the population must be LGBTQ+ right now, and everyone will be by 2054.
Of course Maher doesn’t actually believe this, but he’s using this “comedic” absurdity to launch a serious attack against the LGBTQ+ community in general and transgender people specifically. To his credit, Maher took a brief moment to congratulate those LGBTQ+ people who have found the opportunity and courage to lead their authentic lives openly. Thank you, Bill. The rest went unspoken: “But please! Not so many! You don’t all have to come out!”
With this perfunctory nod to the LGBTQ+ community out of the way, Maher got down to business. He zeroed in to attack transgender people, trans youth, and their parents who love and care for them. He bemoans the fact that apparently zillions of young people and their parents in California are getting sucked into transgender insanity — not because they think they might be trans but to be “trendy” and “cool.” The numbers are lower in Ohio, so Maher says California proves it’s a social contagion.
The difference doesn’t prove social contagion, it proves social prejudice and oppression. Fewer trans people are likely to come out openly in areas of greater prejudice. Alabama has passed a law making gender-affirming care a felony punishable by up to 10 years. Texas wants to charge parents of trans youth with child abuse. Of course there are going to be different levels of openness in different states!
Maher paints a picture of evil transgenderism gone epidemic — except I should point something out: That Gallup figure of 20.8% of Generation Z covered everyone in the LBGTQ+ spectrum, not just transgender people alone. When broken out, just 2.1% of Generation Z self-identify as transgender. That’s higher than previous generations, true, but more gays, lesbians and bisexuals are coming out too. Maher is distorting our progress as something ugly and nefarious.
That’s fine, but never let facts spoil a good rant. Maher was on a roll after his dramatic prediction of an LGBTQ+ tsunami, so he had to show how our progress poses a danger to decent people. Most menacing, naturally, is the threat of gender identity. And here he checked all the anti-transgender boxes.
The Transgender Community is Ground Zero for People Like Maher
A few days ago I detailed extensively — Deja Vu All Over Again: The New Wave of Anti-LGBTQ+ Attacks — how the anti-transgender and anti-gay rhetoric today is history repeating itself. The playbook used by Anita Bryant, John Briggs and others has been dusted off and put back into practice. Front and center is the same cynical “Save Our Children” ploy that Bryant used. This has led to an historic number of bills and laws — 261 so far this year — being considered and passed in 37 states across the country. The majority are aimed against the transgender community.
I explain in Deja Vu why the transgender community, especially youth, have been designated Ground Zero in this new wave against LGBTQ+ people. Our opponents hope that anti-trans scare tactics and demagoguery can shatter public support enabling them to topple all LGBTQ+ rights — possibly up to and including same-sex marriage.
Let me be clear: I fully acknowledge that medical intervention is a serious step that carries implications based on the procedure and patient. Concern is reasonable, and it’s prudent and essential to proceed with care and caution. I detail the criteria in Deja Vu that applies. But drill down a bit and soon it’s revealed there’s more going on than just this supposed “concern” for children’s welfare.
Too often I find that people opposed to medical intervention are also opposed to simply allowing children to use names and pronouns or to dress in a way that matches what they feel is their gender identity. These things are fully reversible with no permanent physical effect or harm whatsoever. Opposing names & pronouns isn’t about “protection,” it’s about prejudice. And it’s cruel. It’s no different than forcing a gay kid to remain in the closet as the new “Don’t Say Gay” laws aim to do across the country.
Burst down those closet doors once and for all, and stand up, and start to fight.
The Power of Coming Out
Since Stonewall the LGBTQ+ movement has been calling on as many people as possible to come out — as long as they can do so safely. Our invisibility was our enemy. It’s easy for people to hate an anonymous faceless “them.” Once we come out, we’re no longer faceless. People realize we’re their children, siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, best friends, neighbors, teachers, ministers and so many others. That began to change things. “We Are Everywhere!” became a slogan of our movement. We’ve established a National Coming Out Day that’s celebrated every October 11th.
How to Fight the Bill Mahers Out There
I also discuss in Deja Vu how the LGBTQ+ community needs to respond to the new wave of attacks against us.
Of course there are other views also. I read one perspective in the Advocate yesterday that I strongly disagree with. David Kilmnick, founder and president of the LGBT Network, one of the largest LGBTQ+ advocacy groups in the U.S., is calling for a boycott of HBO with a demand that Bill Maher’s show be cancelled. Most every criticism Kilmnick levels against Maher is spot on, but cancelling Maher is not. Kilmnick talks about the harm “Don’t Say Gay” laws will do to the LGBTQ+ people and to trans youth particularly. He misses the fact that it’s harder for us to demand a right to say “Gay!” while attempting to muzzle those against us.
We shouldn’t silence Maher but instead systematically rebut his nonsense with facts, point by point. I’ve tried to do that here. We need to shine the light on darkness, I guess you’d say.
I hate giving Maher more bandwidth, but here’s his rant if you missed it. (And I confess I laughed at a few points.)
The title image is a screenshot from Real Time with Bill Maher.
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