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The rock and roll rebellion hits a speed bump

A genre known for pushing the limits runs into transgender dogma

Alice Cooper performs at the Kentucky Exposition Center on Sept. 24, 2022. Associated Press/Photo by Amy Harris/Invision

The rock and roll rebellion hits a speed bump
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Success in rock and roll has long required rebellion against societal expectations. In many cases, these rebellions multiply the artist’s allure. Elvis swiveled his hips on The Ed Sullivan Show, and 60 million Americans tuned in to watch. The Rolling Stones bolstered their bad boy image by hiring Hell’s Angels as their bodyguards and urinating on the wall of a gas station. Fourteen years after removing part of Janet Jackson’s wardrobe at the 2004 Super Bowl, Justin Timberlake was invited to perform again. But rebellion against societal expectations has its limits. In the present moment, one of these limits is any resistance to full affirmation of transgender ideologies. Two classic rock stars recently found themselves in a head-on collision with this limitation.

Alice Cooper has decapitated dolls on stage, and rumors still vary regarding how a chicken met a violent demise at one of his concerts. Still, none of these social transgressions slowed his popularity or his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Yet, when Cooper observed “if you have these genitals, you’re a boy” and “if you have these genitals, you’re a girl,” that was one social transgression too many. When Cooper went further and mentioned that allowing biological males to use women’s restrooms might put females at risk of sexual assault, the uproar multiplied. A cosmetics company canceled their collaboration with him, and Rolling Stone magazine excoriated him for promoting “anti-trans scare tactics.”

Legendary guitarist Carlos Santana rebelled against narratives that treat gender as a fluid social construct during a recent concert. “When God made you and me, before we came out of the womb, you know who you are and what you are,” the Grammy Award winning artist commented. “A woman is a woman and a man is a man.” Despite his concession that “whatever you wanna do in the closet” is “your business,” his statement was dubbed an “anti-trans rant.” At first, the guitarist expressed remorse on social media for his comments. The next day, an ambiguous poem had replaced the apology, resulting in uncertainty about Santana’s actual views.

These media dustups will quickly fade and others will rise to take their place. Some musicians will fall in line with sexual progressivism while others will face the consequences of doubling down on their perspectives. Yet what I find interesting is how frequently the negative media responses return to the same questionable claims. The responses are quick to declare that no one is harmed when transgender persons use public facilities that don’t correspond to their biological sex. Then, ignorance is identified as a key cause of reservations about transgenderism.

Any suggestion that transgender persons have engaged in sexual assault is, the article goes on to say, a “classic canard.”

According to multiple responses to Cooper and Santana, opening restrooms and locker rooms to persons of the opposite sex presents no danger to anyone. The Rolling Stone article excoriating Alice Cooper’s rebellion against transgender ideology declared that “‘bathroom predator’ myths” have been “widely debunked.” Any suggestion that transgender persons have engaged in sexual assault is, the article goes on to say, a “classic canard.” After dismissing Cooper’s concerns, the article emphasizes the harms and abuse that have been directed against transgender persons.

Sexual abuse is a heinous crime, regardless of the victim’s perceived gender identity. Every human being is a precious bearer of God’s image, and abuse directed toward transgender persons should be lamented and reported to every appropriate authority. Yet the reprehensible reality that transgender persons do face abuse does not negate concerns related to allowing biological males to use public facilities designated for females.

More importantly, it’s simply not true that these concerns are mere myths. Multiple credible cases of restroom assaults perpetrated by gender dysphoric persons are currently making their way through the justice system. A 15-year-old biological male in Virginia who attended school in a skirt was charged with four counts of sexual assault, committed in the girls’ restroom. This, despite the school superintendent’s claim that “the predator transgender student or person simply does not exist.” The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights investigated  a case in which a five-year-old girl reported being sexually assaulted by a biological male classmate in the girls’ restroom. Other cases could be mentioned as well, but it’s clear that Alice Cooper’s comment is not a canard but a credible concern.

After dismissing any harms that might result from full affirmation of transgenderism, the next tactic in these responses is to dismiss every reason for resistance as evidence of ignorance. One magazine explicitly ascribed Alice Cooper’s rebellion to “lack of education.” The Rolling Stone response to Cooper condescendingly comments, “To a certain extent, it's understandable that Cooper wouldn't be super well-versed in gender theory or how to raise and treat a child that may be questioning their gender identity.” Carlos Santana’s observation that “a woman is a woman and a man is a man” is described as “scientifically dubious.”

“Rock & roll is supposedly all about rebellion, but it seems like many rock stars didn't get the memo,” the editors of Rolling Stone complained a decade ago. But apparently not every rebellion is created equal. Alice Cooper and Carlos Santana have revealed that, when rock and roll rebellion entails resisting the transgender revolution, that’s one rebellion too far.

Timothy Paul Jones

Timothy Paul Jones teaches apologetics and family ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and directs the Center for Christian Apologetics. He is the author or coauthor of many books, including How We Got the Bible (Rose Publishing, 2015), Perspectives on Family Ministry (B&H Academic, 2019), Why Should I Trust the Bible? (Christian Focus, 2020), and In Church as It Is in Heaven (IVP Academic, 2023). Timothy resides with his wife and four daughters in Louisville, Ky.

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