By Stuart Parker, July 18, 2023
Since I turned sixteen, I have, to varying degrees, been a minor public figure, associated with various radical protest movements and political projects. In 1988, as founder of the Canadian Green Party’s youth wing, I began a series of protests against McDonald’s Restaurants’ use of ozone-destroying foam packaging, leading to the company personally naming me in a series of newspaper ads defending itself in the following year.
In 1993, I was elected leader of the BC Green Party in part on the strength of that campaign and in part because of my promise to get myself arrested in the Clayoquot Sound logging road blockades that year (a promise whose fulfilment led to me being tried for criminal contempt of court later that year). In 1998, I was arrested again in the Slocan Valley; and in the same year, was forcibly evicted when I tried to crash CBC’s Nisga’a Treaty debate. Whether leading referendum campaigns for proportional representation, campaigning against climate change or protesting government austerity programs, I have consistently courted controversy, taken unpopular positions and aligned myself with those on the far left of the political spectrum– feminists, environmentalists and socialists– over the past thirty-five years. And I continue to serve as president of Los Altos Institute, a Marxist think tank.
And yet today, I am described variously as “conservative,” “far right” and “a literal Nazi” by members of the Woke left. And that is because, beginning in 2020, I began publicly dissenting from the left consensus on one issue: gender identity
Previously, I had mobilized the Green Party to support the first viable transgender city council candidate in Vancouver history in 1996, Jamie Lee Hamilton, and consistently supported trans activists’ causes for most of my life. My proximity to the community made me aware that radical changes were taking place in that community and political movements seeking to represent it in the 2010s, and that leaders like Hamilton were being shunted aside by a new leadership class.
The cultural changes in that community were emblematic of larger changes taking place on the political left as it became “Woke” in the second half of the decade. I use the term Woke, advisedly, as a person holding a PhD in Religious History; it is a perhaps accidental reference to the history of religious movements on this continent. The 1770s and 1820s are referred to as the First and Second Great Awakenings, periods of time when Anglo America was seized with religious enthusiasm and fervour, often taking on political dimensions. Unfortunately, it seems that the Third Great Awakening lacks the democratic character of the First and Second.
As a result, since 2020, I have faced new kinds of political opposition that I never experienced from any political adversary of my past. In all my years of protesting Weyerhauser, Slocan Forest Products, McDonald’s Restaurants, Dupont Chemical and others, and in all my years of facing off against Conservatives, Liberals, Reformers and Socreds on the hustings I have never faced the kind of opposition I have faced from the Woke Left.
None of my prior adversaries ever reported my romantic partners to child protection authorities in an attempt to have their children seized because someone who holds the views I hold was permitted to live in their residence; none has lobbied my employer to fire me from my job; none has contacted my landlord to demand that I be evicted from my home. Yet, all these things have happened to me since I began to dissent from Woke Left orthodoxy in 2020. In 2021, even though I never mentioned my dissenting views on the air, complaints were filed with the radio station with which I volunteered over comments I had made from my personal Twitter account and my show was taken off the air, despite having switched to a completely non-political format, interviewing historians and artists. And then there were the outrageous smears I suffered in 2021 (like those faced by Chilliwack School Trustee Barry Neufeld) baselessly claiming that I was an unprosecuted serial child rapist, amplified by then-Minister of Education, Jennifer Whiteside.
By 2022, I was unemployed, single and had been forced to move back to my hometown to access the support of long-time friends as I attempted to recover from the attacks and the decimation of the life I had been living just a short time before.
But that is when things got weirder. Although this had been taking place all along, without a job, relationship or space in the public square to attack, my detractors could focus on just one thing: contacting my friends, comrades and acquaintances and demanding that they publicly denounce me and sever their ties with me.
A popular target has been my hobby, tabletop role playing games. I have been barred from a convention I had been attending for seventeen years and its associated online community. And individuals in my fortnightly Runequest group received months of personal threats and harassment demanding that they withdraw from our game and publicly denounce me. I’ve lost a number of multi-decade friendships, including my thirty-year friendship with the person who began issuing the threats last year.
And my games have not been the only site. Simply following me on Twitter or being connected to me on Facebook results in people receiving threats and demands that they cut ties and denounce or face the same fate of un-personing that I have. Many friends are now frightened to appear in photos with me on social media for fear of reprisals they will face if they simply share a pint and a plate of food with me.
So, what terrible things must I have said to warrant this reaction, to be labeled “a literal Nazi?” Like the late Jamie Lee Hamilton, the founder of the modern trans rights movement in my city, I oppose what is euphemistically called “life-saving, gender-affirming care” for minors. In other words, I do not believe that pre-adolescent children should be put on chemical castration drugs, followed by cross-sex hormones and then undergo a series of amputations and cosmetic surgery that will permanently sterilize them and leave almost all incapable of ever experiencing an orgasm.
And I certainly do not agree with the BC government’s view that if parents are not willing to do this to their trans-identified children, the state should seize the children, place them in foster care and sterilize them against their parents’ will. Like many transgender adults, like those who run the Gender Dysphoria Alliance, I agree with Chris “Billboard” Elston that children cannot consent to puberty blockers because there is no way a person who does not yet have an adult brain can make adult decisions, especially when the chemical castration drugs they are given inhibit brain development.
I also believe that rape shelters, transition houses and women’s prisons should be single-sex facilities and that men should not be permitted to “identify” into these spaces. Today, aside from Rape Relief Women’s Shelter, which faces constant harassment for its maintenance of single-sex spaces, any man can enter these spaces simply by saying “I am a woman.” No hormones, no surgery, no makeup required. And the Canadian Bar Association has made it its mission not just to place male serial rapists in women’s jails, which they successfully did a few years ago; they celebrated another victory this spring by successfully placing male serial child rapists in prison mother-baby units.
Also, while I support any adult expressing their gender however they wish to whomever they wish and to seek out medical procedures that assist them in doing this, I do not believe that these procedures change a person’s biological sex, which is literally inscribed on every single cell of their body. Nor do I believe that people should be penalized for calling men “he” or women “she” when they talk about them with third parties.
These beliefs are, apparently, “extreme right.” And anyone who espouses them, even if they are a communist, a climate activist, a long-time trans ally or even a trans-identified person themselves must not merely be disputed; they must be purged from society, pushed out of their profession and relentlessly harassed until they either recant their beliefs, suffer a psychiatric collapse or die. Trans extremism or, as I have come to call it, “genderwang,” has become the primary boundary maintenance condition on the Woke Left. Anything less than absolute slavish adherence automatically makes you an enemy of the people, identical to Hitler.
Progressive society under Woke hegemony has become post-political. It has ceased to have meaningful political demands since the rise of mid-2010s hashtag politics. #DefundThePolice, #LandBack and #MeToo are not political ideas; they impersonate politics. Wokes do not make policy proposals and have no capacity to assemble the broad coalitions necessary to enact policy through democratic processes. Instead, these things function as a boundary strategy. If you are not willing to say “trans women are women” or “all cops are bastards” (#ACAB) or that 100% of the land in North America should be handed over to a group comprising less than 2% of the population, you are evil. Energy that would once have been put into building networks and alliances of people are now put into punishing apostates.
So, what does it mean that I am now a “conservative.” Does it mean I have stopped working to arrest the Greenhouse Effect, bring down capitalism, redistribute wealth? Of course not. That is because in post-political Canada, conservative and progressive are less political positions and more social locations. What people are increasingly doing is evaluating and understanding their political affiliations not in aspirational terms, in terms of the society they want to create but in social terms, in terms of the society in which they can tolerate living in the present.
The result is a kind of social partition. You either live under Woke authoritarianism or you live in a society that tolerates heterodoxy to some degree and are understood to be “far right.” It is becoming impossible for people to exist in and pass between the two societies. Communities, friendships, romantic relationships: all of these things are being annihilated by this process of partition.
In the twentieth century, there were not just many long-term inter-faith marriages but marriages that spanned the political spectrum, the couples could be members of opposing parties and would joke about canceling out each other’s vote every election.
Such a thing is unimaginable today. While there are intolerant authoritarians everywhere they have only attained hegemony on the political left. And so, it turns out that I am treated with far more tolerance, far more kindness by the people I have been fighting on climate and capitalism my whole life than I am by my former comrades, unless they, like me, have withdrawn or been expelled from progressive society.
I am reminded of one of the great satirical plays of Classical Athens, Aristophanes’ The Acharnians, from 2500 years ago about an Athenian who, during the protracted war against Sparta, discovers a shop in the agora that sells personal diplomatic treaties. So, he purchases a personal peace treaty with Sparta and a hilarious slapstick comedy ensues, illustrating the absurdity of an individual opting out of a Manichean struggle between two societies, of being at peace with a society at which your neighbours are all at war. I have to admit that I was this risible character for the past half-decade. But I have got the point now. I’m taking up full-time residence in Sparta because I don’t want a pike put through my back.
Stuart Parker is a Vancouver-based writer and broadcaster who serves as president of Los Altos Institute, a socialist think tank.