In France as in America, certain right-wing sociopaths are determined to prolong the coronavirus pandemic by opposing sensible public health measures. As the French Senate and National Assembly struggle to finalize legislation on mandatory vaccinations for certain professions (health care workers, firefighters, those working with the elderly) and extensions of the existing passe sanitaire—the health pass already in effect requiring that people entering cultural sites like the Eiffel Tower to show they’ve either been fully vaccinated against or tested negative for covid-19—protestors have taken to French streets to shout for Liberté over Fraternité and Science.
One problematic expression of this resistance to public health comes in this right-wing wise-assery:
I am trans-vax, the placard reads. I am not vaccinated, but I identify as a vaccinated person. Thank you for respecting my choice.
The placard exemplifies the right-wing’s effort to pervert left-wing tolerance into a paralyzing moral relativism that excuses lying about objective truth. I shouldn’t have to explain the difference between gender identity and vaccination status, but such are the rhetorical knots the right-wing forces us to unravel to lay bare their selfish and harmful stupidity.
The placard-holder advocates lying. She has chosen not to take a coronavirus vaccine, yet she tells people she has chosen to take such a vaccine. She thus is not only a liar but a coward, unwilling to admit her choice and accept the consequences thereof. Neither her choice not to get vaccinated nor her lie about being vaccinated deserve respect.
The transgender people to whom the protestor likens herself tell no such lie. Transgender people do not choose their gender identity; they recognize the identity that is wired into their being. When we acknowledge that a transgender woman is a woman, we are not “respecting a choice”; we are acknowledging that person’s factual statement of her gender identity.
The placard-holder’s choice to not get vaccinated and her choice to lie about not being vaccinated put others at risk. If she flashes a fake passe sanitaire to go to work as a doctor, she exposes patients to a greater risk of an infection that may kill them. If she lies about her unvaccinated status to enter large public gatherings, she may help coronavirus spread and mutate and undermine an entire community’s diligent efforts to contain and crush the pandemic.
The transgender people with whom this protestor speciously (and I will contend mockingly, because deep down, the right-wing is always looking for opportunities to sneer at and bully the many people it tries to marginalize) identifies create no such risk for others. If I walk up to a hunky museum docent and say, “Pardon me, sir, which way is the Seurat exhibit?” and the docent says, “That’s ma’am, not sir,” no one gets hurt. I apologize and correct my error, the docent offers direction and some helpful insights about pointillism, and we both go about our business, without endangering ourselves or anyone else in the museum.
The freedom to live according to one’s gender identity is a genuine freedom, a right to live according to an internal truth that no outsider can legitimately deny. The freedom to refuse a safe and effective vaccine is mostly selfish and ignorant posturing, tolerable only as long as it does not mutate into the public lying and public menace proposed by the placard-holder shown above.
Responding not to this specific placard but to the anti-vaccine protests in general, French President Emmanuel Macron shows that he understands the difference between freedom and recklessness:
“What is your freedom worth if you say you don’t want to get vaccinated, but if tomorrow you infect your father, your mother or myself? I’m a victim of your freedom. When you had the possibility to protect yourself and to protect me,” Macron told reporters while visiting a hospital on the island of Tahiti. “That is not freedom, that is irresponsibility and selfishness.”
…”Every person is free to express themselves calmly and while respecting others, except that this virus isn’t vanquished by protests. As far as I understand its functioning, I don’t think it’s very effective to protest against it,” Macron said [Rym Momtaz, “French Senate Approves Vaccine Pass Despite Protests; German Politicians Divided,” Politico: EU, 2021.07.25].
Don’t be tricked by right-wing word games. The coronavirus vaccines are safe and effective. Requiring people to get vaccinated or stay out of certain places to prevent the spread of coronavirus is the equivalent of discrimination against transgender people.
And lying about getting a vaccine is still lying, and lying is not a respectable choice.
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… there’s no getting around the truth that some considerable number of the unvaccinated are also behaving willfully and spitefully. Yes, they have been deceived and manipulated by garbage TV, toxic Facebook content, and craven or crazy politicians. But these are the same people who keep talking about “personal responsibility.” In the end, the unvaccinated person himself or herself has decided to inflict a preventable and unjustifiable harm upon family, friends, neighbors, community, country, and planet [David Frum, “Vaccinated America Has Had Enough,” The Atlantic, 2021.07.23].