Identity, Identity politics, Politics

Dilemma of the Diaspora Darlings: #BlackisBeautiful, #TransisBeautiful – Minority Mania in its prime

The concept of identity is a vibrant one, but although currently susceptible to increasing regression, at least according to the estimable Brendan O’Neill. Certainly – he’s got a leg to stand on (an Irish, Catholic, lower middle class leg – we mustn’t forget that!).

During the “Identity politics dissected” debate at the most recent Battle of Ideas festival, O’Neill was heard to branded gender fluidity as “the weakness of identity” and named the phrase “I identify as” as both “weak and contingent”. Additionally, the concept of an “aerogender” – a newly coined term fresh from Tumblr’s ample uterus, referring to a gender dependent upon one’s surroundings/situation. According to O’Neill, this proposal is “insane”, reminiscent of a “split-personality”, indicative of the irrevocably “fragile, hollow” nature of identity. (My exaggeration detector just went off like mad.)

O’Neill’s attitude is as unhelpful and puzzling as those he criticises. By feeling the need to justify why the existence of an “aerogender” bothers him, he instead appears threatened by these freshly “ludicrous” developments in transgender politics. One is able to envisage a boa constrictor striking forth, immediately imbibed with the need to defend. Is he the white knight, mounting the brave opposition against our teenaged termagants? No. Instead he’s tilting towards the Conservative, traditionalist angle: “this is ludicrous – because I say so”, revitalising the archaic “hysteria narrative” of a bygone age – PC run amok.

“Identity politics”, as it is commonly known, is appealing to the needs of a “minority” or a “marginalised group”. It needs to exist, because our harried, put-upon society does not possess the wherewithal to address each and every concern of these minorities. In its more useful manifestations, it can be pretty darn effective: during the 1960s and 70s, “positive discrimination” allowed for certain economic gains for people of colour, particularly those unfortunate enough to be interred within the stifling, stagnant confines of that ethological horror: the “Southern state”. Now, however, doubts have been cast upon the relevance of its existence.

Currently, to our deepening sorrow, racism has become the only way to beat racism. If being “racially superior” is what gains rights and power, minorities must also prove themselves superior, in order to gain these rights. Let’s consider a black and white example (no pun intended), in which the tables are gradually being turned. White individuals are increasingly being viewed as “weak”, due to their distinct lack of melanin – that esteemed, now enviable chromosome, guaranteed to banish all quenchable “pastiness” and transform you into the much desired, glowing brown goddess. The term “strong, black woman” is now ubiquitous; “strong” and “black” are almost interchangeable within our 21st-century sociolect. Hatred begets hatred – or rather, disdain begets disdain. And how do the non-marginalised respond? Now they’re bemoaning the onset of “white guilt”, and are now compelled to deliver reparations (peruse at your own risk): Each side clinging onto their identity caps, with the tenacity of a small child embracing a much mangled teddy bear. Never was a small child so dissatisfied.

Certainly, regarding the mandatory need these days to “identify as X”, O’Neill clearly has a point. The need to impress diagnostic labels upon ourselves demonstrates our society’s fundamental need to compartmentalise. According to O’Neill, the assertive “I am” scotches all sense of fragility. However, let’s indulge our inner-grammar Nazi for a brief moment – the terms I “am” and I “identify as” are largely interchangeable; both are conditional, based upon context. What is present, exuding potential, within the core of both, it the implacable need for transformation – the desire for a metamorphosis, a transfiguration, a bid for self-advancement. For now, let’s address O’Neill’s biggest concern – the “aerogenders”. So, people feel like a change in accordance with their environment. How exactly does this entreaty pose a threat?

Transformation is the name of the game. ’Fess up to it. Although transgender and gender-fluid teens may cling desperately onto the shores of their “identity”, in the manner of a Catholic priest threatened with a condom, all of us deal in flexible identity cards, hoarding them on the sly. If it’s not your race/class/sex/religion it is instead your position, your Marxist past, your political affiliations, which are transitive. You are the esteemed “education correspondent”, the “luxury automated communist”, the “tech evangelist” or even worse, the “prime minister”. These names also smack of self-importance – another example of a “desperate need for validation”, this time discernible within a wider demographic. An unsettling number of the parental population also feel the need to include their familial status within Twitter bios, alongside their hard-earned noteworthy positions, as if to celebrate the “achievement” of succumbing to one’s biological urges. Again, this is an example of an inherent, congenital fragility – or, in the words of the venerable O’Neill, the “fragile self” in need of a “therapeutic scaffolding”. (Maybe they need to reassure themselves that two years of nappy-changing and vomit-cleaning was worth it. Either way, we don’t need to hear it.) All of us are slaves to our self-image, known to members of our youth as the “#imagegang” epidemic: the evidence is scattered, yet apparent. We are all guilty.

The gender politics advocated by our young, transgender-aware populace – e.g. the usage of the recently coined pronoun “ze” – may, at first glance, appear entirely perverse when compared with the plight of homosexual males in Chechnya. I get it. They’re complaining of a first-degree burn, whilst there are others roasting out there on the spit of their humanity. Get off that cross, kids; someone else needs the wood. As the estimable Joanna Williams  observes, dictats upon language:  “reveals the narcissism inherent in much of the current obsession with the idea of gender as a construct […]The truth about gender, […] is located not in objective reality, and definitely not in biology, but in an individual’s head. People are to be referred to as what they say they are, irrespective of all evidence to the contrary.”

Yes, Mrs Williams, perhaps narcissism is at the root. Regardless, don’t besmirch the narcissistic state – it’s not necessarily a bad thing. What’s wrong with a good, honest narcissist? Half of them are ruling the country – scratch that, the world. If transgender teens were indeed narcissistic, they would be demanding recognition each and every second. Your eight year-old daughter’s desire to hurriedly change clothes every hour is not deemed “fragile” – your small son’s penchant for Disney princess dresses is not viewed as repugnant, or as O’Neill so skilfully articulates, “a bit tragic”. Both are infant expressions of transformation, a desire to regenerate. In a similar manner, the introduction of the pronoun “ze” is by no means revolutionary. This level of disparagement is hardly expedient, nor should it be directed solely towards the “gender-fluid” youth of our society.

Journalists such as Brendan O’Neill have a pay check motivation to criticise the young, I understand. All’s fair in love and business: exaggeration is the aim of the game. But consider this: I’ve never been directly bullied. I have no issues with the gender I was assigned with at birth, when I stop to give it a passing thought. Did I incessantly long for the chance to slam The Second Sex into the face of every classmate who pronounced herself bisexual? (There were ten born every minute; you’d need the I-Spotter’s guide.)

Yes. But I abstained; my fingers stilled, albeit reluctantly, on the sword hilt.

To unequivocally deride those who campaign for social justice is to entirely disregard those who are religiously indoctrinated from birth, and consequentially deprived of knowledge: there is another way of life, in which you are not shunned for your sexuality.  They are not simply “reading a blog post and deciding ‘I feel like that too'” (O’Neill, verbatim). This assertion, whilst exuding  an unpleasant odour of paltry concern infused with arrogance, is also an entirely facile judgement. Not all of us have the good fortune to exist within a heretical, atheist-ridden world, blissfully drenched in hedonism, devoid of such nonsensical, exemplary values. Not all protestors are “Tumblrinas”. Some are facing increasing abuse, and imminent death.

I look upon our young, aerogender, “pro-ze” campaigners as the lesser of two evils. Better to raise the issue than to completely disregard it, or deny its existence. I’m not standing up for Tumblerina caterwauling – I am standing up for sexual assignment therapy in the U.S. I’m standing against the rising occurrence of transgender suicide and self-harm – now at a staggering 30% and 42% respectively. And so what if they use social media as their principal forum? Tumblr may be populated with #fandom, squealing teenaged girl diatribes and the immortal “nyan cat”; however, at certain times of need, it can be put to good use.

If I gave you a gun, or pack of hand grenades, you wouldn’t simply fling them out in all directions, and then proceed to shoot yourself in the head. Or maybe you would. However, if you were of an inquiring disposition, you might instead think: hey. What do I have in my hands? The ability to get others to respond; an indomitable Valyrian-steel sword; imbibed with the power to defend. They will listen to me, when I’m holding a gun to their head. No, I’m not comparing a Twitter feed to being shot in the conk. Perhaps a slight peppering of bullets instead. 

The mainstream media is certainly responsible for shoving a brutal spotlight onto transgender rights: articles consist of purely nonsensical assertions, circulated by anxious parents, who, blinded by false media rhetoric, believe that social media is “convincing” their darling little Tommy that he instead harbours a strong desire to become Tilda. Tumblr, circulating useful information regarding gender fluidity (aero-sexual notwithstanding), can be viewed as an alternative source of information – one of paramount importance to those unfortunate youngsters who remain interred within the tomb of fundamentalist prejudice. These aerogender fanatics may be still in their pre-operational, toddler-tantrum stage of development, but they’ll grow up soon. And they’ll come for you, trailing their social media barrage. O’Neill, you’d better start hiding. We’ll discover your tattered remnants during the next archaeological dig through Twitter.

Screen Shot 2017-06-18 at 18.55.03Above: Final tumblr post of Leelah Alcorn, 17 years old transgender teen: 1997-2014). Just remember: unwavering, derisive indifference can culminate in an execrable end.

Older generations may regard the rise of transgender rights and visibility something that have been manifested through Beatniks – simply a lapse into classic counter-culture, easily disregarded as a “phase”. However, these young activists are also precipitating our society into shades of understanding; scrubbing away the cobwebs of self-doubt, the need for a binary gender. Certainly, those who regard themselves “gender-fluid”, transgender, or aero-sexual are coining rigid, almost absurd terms of identification – but they are present, in all their undisguised, angst-ridden, Tumblr-fuelled nonage. These ideas are gradually trickling into our present rhetoric, flitting from cyberspace, across the border to the “real world”, rootling their way into every waking mind across the world. And that makes them tangible. Their oscillation can be viewed as strength – for an idea to gain such traction, it is satisfying a lingering drought with a long-desired drenching of spring rain.

Ideas are created in response to deprivation. Every social media hashtag, each tweet proclaiming oneself as x/y/z – is comparable to peeling off a wet stocking with ease, allowing the skin beneath to breathe at last.

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(Day 5) “Love me, hate me, don’t ignore me” Ally Ross, TV critic, the Sun

To start with: Today, I was tired. And completely not in the mood to drag my butt up to Canary Wharf once again, with a twisted ankle to boot (it actually might very well be a sprain. I’ll have a limp for the rest of my miserable life).

And then to hear a shit ton of people boasting the fuck out about their results:

Ally Ross, TV critic for the Sun, reminded me of a scraggly pigeon and looked in need of more than a few breadcrumbs. He began with the word “passionate, a word so overused by many of the visiting journalists this week: “Make sure you’re passionate; it will show through your writing.” However, we were also told to avoid pandering to the audience. Ross also enlightened us with the following surprising information: “As you grow older, you become more cynical.”

You certainly don’t have to tell me that. I can’t remember the last time I uttered a sincere word to anyone, at least without a mocking tone of voice peppering my words. An apparently, criticism is worth all the hassle as long as you can “take what you dish out.” Though I have to admit, the freedom of writing for tabloids certainly does appeal to me, as it also does to Ally Ross. And of course, the wonders of being a TV critic are boundless. But, as cushy a number as it might be, I’m not suited to spending my career glued to the TV screen even if it is a brand new expensive one, free of charge from my editor, and watching crappy television. I doubt that my acute, language sensitive nerves could stand those 10-12 hours a day, to be perfectly honest, although all Sky channels are paid for. What unimagined luxury!

One question that really grabbed my interest was “How do you avoid writer’s block?” I doubt that any writer, old or young, exceptional or mediocre, has not come to grief stumbling upon the dreaded writer’s block at some point during their career. We were assured that as long as none of the pages you turned in were blank, you were onto a good thing. Personally, I’d rather turn in blank paper rather than a whole bunch of crap that I regret spending an hour of my life writing and would give anything to change. But of course, in this hard, remorseless world of journalism, it is virtually impossible to have your own way in anything. There is no real way to avoid writer’s block: you must simply deal with it as if it were a turn of the season head cold, bound to pass after a bit of cosseting and some prescribed medicine (in this case, I suppose it would be strenuous TV watching).

The title of this post may sound like the lyrics from a cheesy American love song, but it is in fact Ally Ross’s mantra, proving that all criticism is worthwhile. Especially your own. Therefore, I feel fully justified in giving my own opinion about his career. Journalism, as I am fully aware, encompasses all different types of communication whether it be on TV, reviews, news reports, websites, the lot. And all are similar, linked together in some way like missing pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle. The question is, are all the pieces needed?

Answer: yes. A jigsaw with a missing piece would be incomplete, there’s no doubt about that, and it would be impossible to replace it with a different piece. Therefore all the pieces are necessary, and it is all these separate pieces that create the world of journalism, that giant sphere of communication and contact that envelops us in its wireless connection embrace. Right, let’s go for another analogy: a tower of wooden blocks. Remove one of the lowest bricks, and the whole tower topples. But do the bricks crumble? No, they do not. They remain as unchanged as ever. And no, I’m not saying that the world of journalism can do without television reviews. I am simply saying: Would the absence of it made a great impact? Thanks to social media, there is little need to catch up on reviews of the latest shows and rely on the  journalist’s critical comments to piece together gossip about the actors.

I am for once aware of how satirical I may sound throughout this blog post. Now that I am aware, I am obliged to end it here: there is absolutely no fun in satire if you know you are trying too hard. I blame the influence of our esteemed critic. But maybe, Mr Ross, if you point me in the direction of a few good internships, yourself and your work will grow visibly more appealing before my eyes.

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Society’s Need For Role Models

I myself am of the opinion that we as a society should rid ourselves of the need for role models. Why can’t youngsters simply look to their parents for guidance, or other influential adults in their lives? Why do we feel the need to instate role models into our children’s lives?

In any case, footballers are terrible role models. Whether they are swearing at the referee, racially abusing each other or hiring OAP prostitutes in between burning their houses down with fireworks, it’s not exactly how we’d want our children to lead their lives yet they are still referred to as role models. It seems that no matter what immoral act they carry out the media still thinks we’re all aiming to be like them. If you absolutely must choose someone to raise onto a pedestal at least let it be those in a profession of some merit, such as doctors, lawyers, brain surgeons, soldiers. At least those whose work may have an impact, however small, on our lives and the lives of generations to come. What moral advice and support do millionaire footballers provide to us lowly, average earning mortals apart from a vague sense of patriotism and a chance to live voraciously through another? The various skills needed for a footballer can be counted on the fingers of one hand: perseverance, courage, leadership qualities, determination. And a fine helping of egotistical maniac.

In any case, who are footballers when it really comes down to it? They are people. People just like you and me, however cliché that sounds. Well, maybe not like me. Maybe just like you. People earning on average £676000 a year, that is. And for what? Kicking a ball round a stretch of grass. I respect that to me, the novice soccer player (scratch that: I’ve never gone near a ball in my life) it may not seem as if any sort of higher skill is required. But then, what would I know? All I do know is that society chooses to reward athletes so highly, compared to those who do the real work, saving lives. But hey, we, the wonderful and knowledgeable people, have had a hand in creating this monstrosity. The football market is huge, and the market dictates the salary, unfortunately. So all’s fair in love and football, or so it would seem.

Of course, you may tell me that “footballers are only human”. And if they are, why feel the need to look up to them in the first place? It may the innate human need for someone you look up to, an idol to worship, for our feeble, simple minds to be focused on an unattainable object placed much higher than we could dare to reach, with the hallowed name of “celebrity”. According to the media, each time a celebrity farts or wipes their nose is worthy of note and holds extreme importance for the rest of us. And who would dare disagree with such extreme intelligence? Far be it from me to criticize those of the Poisoned Pen. I consider myself an aspiring pen jabber myself.

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