From the Community | Matt Walsh: A dangerous presence on campus

Opinion by Ava Aidala
Feb. 21, 2023, 12:27 a.m.

The right wants to erase trans people. In the last several days, Trump and Desantis have both made incendiary claims about gender-affirming care for minors. Trump himself promised that if elected he would ban transition for all minors nationwide, end federal support for transgender healthcare and “promoting transition at any age,” and criminalize doctors who provide or have provided gender-affirming care to minor children. With a preponderance of evidence showing that gender affirmation dramatically reduces suicide rates, including among trans youth, forcibly detransitioning them is a near-genocidal act. So too are laws that would ban drag in public (using language that may include trans people).

Unfortunately, one of the primary propagandists of this looming erasure is coming here to Stanford to speak. Matt Walsh, director of the transphobic movie “What is a Woman” and self-described “Theocratic Fascist” and “Transphobe of the Year,” is perhaps the most egregious far-right agitator. In the past, among many other things, Walsh has called for the execution of doctors providing transgender healthcare, attempted to trick trans women and girls into interviews for his movie, blamed drag events for inciting the Club Q shooting, referred to youth gender-affirming care as akin to molestation and rape, and cruelly attacked trans women for living their lives. Matt Walsh wants nothing more than to paint all supporters of “gender ideology” as predators of children.

This is the man whom the SCR believes should “inform students … about the facts surrounding gender issues in order to make good decisions for their health and wellbeing.” The trans students at Stanford do not want your faux concern. I know some at Stanford who are under 18 because they skipped a grade. Bills that would forcibly detransition trans minors are not a faraway issue, but one that would affect our own students. Bills in some states want to extend bans on gender transition to the age of 26. If federal funding were dropped for transgender healthcare, it may limit access to care for all trans people who depend on insurance. As one of the primary drivers of this recent pushback against trans rights, Matt Walsh is a threat to queer people everywhere.

For these reasons, Matt Walsh must not speak on campus. This is not a question of freedom of speech, but one of the lives of our queer and trans students. It’s bad enough worrying whether I will be able to safely stay here until 2026 without having to see one of the most ardent believers in erasing people like me. Queer POC have even more to fear with this rise in anti-trans hatred, which has always affected them most acutely. Matt Walsh, the man who wants to put our doctors to death, deny us our identities, and target us as a violent threat, must not be allowed to radicalize an audience of our classmates and neighbors. There is absolutely no room for tolerance of hateful and violent speech. In the 1940s, regarding the Nazis, philosopher Karl Popper put forth the idea of the Paradox of Tolerance: that to maintain a tolerant society, one must be actively intolerant of intolerance. Otherwise, the ability to be tolerant at all will be put into question. This maxim was true then and remains scarily true today.

Despite the best efforts of the ASSU, they could not prevent his slated arrival to campus. According to their bylaws, they may not deny applications for funding that meet all criteria. This decision is deeply disappointing, although understandable on its face. However, what isn’t reasonable is the fear that demonstrators would play into conservative tropes about protests or cancel culture. The simple act of condemning Walsh’s vitriolic hatred was enough to get Republicans up in arms (just read the comments on right-wing articles about the ASSU statement). No matter the level of opposition, they will spin it to fit their aims. Conservatives have never been interested in fair debate, and they will play the political game no matter what — with minority students as their pawns. I would rather let them have their temper tantrum away from our most vulnerable students. 

The upshot of the ASSU’s decision is that the queer students of campus, like many before us, must take our safety into our own hands. For those worried or scared, Queer Student Resources (QSR) will be open, providing a safe place for students during the event. And for those angry, don’t be afraid to make your voice heard (just make sure to keep yourself safe). Whatever it takes, Matt Walsh must not be platformed here.

Rest in power Brianna Ghey, a 16-year-old trans girl who was senselessly murdered. I’m sorry you didn’t live to see trans liberation.

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