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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Identity politics, Politics

Fast and Fascist: Our youthful despots

What is the ultimate difference between a Stalinist, totalitarian state, and the average, 21st century university campus, populated by the fluorescent-haired, bespectacled creature known as the “Tumblr feminist” or the “social justice warrior”? (A better-suited term would be social justice pariah.) The answer: one was headed by an overweight, sadistic despot, whereas the other is propagated by your average tax-evading teenaged son or daughter.

Universities possess their very own hierarchy, almost reminiscent of the blatant class warfare of the 1930s-50s, so successfully satirised by Tom Sharpe. However, we are no longer trading in old English surnames, country estates and inheritance funds (although there are, of course, exceptions to this rule) – instead, it’s an endless competition, a continuous swarm, a catwalk of connivance: the battle over who is the most racially, sexually and religiously ostracized. Step aside, Miss Universe, and welcome Miss Diverse to the stage. There is no longer a middle ground. According to O’Neill, university students have effectively transposed the “fascist model” of the 1930s; they are akin to the Brown Shirts of Hitler’s book-burning, intellectual-murdering regime, obliterating all semblance of free speech. You step into a lecture theatre; they’ll take your coat, whilst they check your white privilege. You’re pale: check. Heterosexual: check. Christian? Check. Your coat’s made of tweed? You must be middle class: check. You’ll have to dodge the flying pens and hard-backed copies of Critical Race Theory as you make for the nearest exit.

But how did this police state begin? It didn’t simply spring up overnight; it’s a product of a prolonged roasting inside a scholastic prison, in which we are condemned to boil from childhood to young adulthood. I served my sentence in a multitude of these, where I was introduced to identity politics and “social justice warriors” in all their youthful, untried, 21st century flesh. Yet I survived. I’m torn, scratched, bleeding, doubting my sexuality, ethnicity and indeed, my sanity, but I survived. How’s that for a victory?

Yes, Millennials are annoying. They’re whiny, bratty, selfie-obsessed; they spend inordinate amounts of time watching funny cat videos and tweeting under: #relationshipgoals. But we are all, to a certain extent, moulded by our environment. Repeated exposure to radiation will leave you with cancerous cells – just as constant dipping into the educational bloodbath may eventually leave you infected with AEDs (Avaricious Entitlement Disorder). According to social learning theory, we tend to reproduce behaviour displayed in our immediate environment – which for most millennials, has largely consisted of the warm, stifling, deodorant-peppered air of the high-school classroom. It sends us forth, armoured in Benjamin Zephaniah, clutching our rape kits to our educated bosoms. These are the people trawling university campuses across Britain and the U.S, armed with their fascist fanaticism. You can’t clap or whoop in order to express your appreciation; perhaps it will “trigger” a few delicate females within the audience. One cannot use the word “slave” without having their current livelihood snatched from under them before they can say “Martin Luther King”.

Such is the regurgitated result of our current education system, in all its mangled glory. Perhaps some of the blame can be directed towards those who have, arguably, helped create these mini-monsters? If you repeatedly pacify a bratty, wailing toddler, it will continue to stamp its feet and wail some more – because it knows that this works. Every single stage of our adolescent lives has been managed by an elusive, extraneous source, which is fiercely rooted within our “auspicious” education system. Some have referred to it as the “nanny state”; the oppressive, governmental influence, robbing us of our fundamental rights in a manner which is largely incongruous: “we can have sex, publicly, on Brighton beach – but we’re not allowed to smoke on it”. (Brendan O’Neill, people – talking about the real problems). Kicking these rather inane issues aside, let’s carve down to the bones.

It’s largely a matter of operant conditioning. You felt safe, secure, validated within school classrooms: each time you highlighted a so-called “minority opinion” in all its stinging fluorescence, you were rewarded with a gold star, a house point, a glowing remark on your report. English literature exams: “Jane Eyre is built largely upon colonial wealth”, “Atticus Finch is a segregationist” – tick, tick. Drag out the injustices, the more the better. Mandatory appreciation of a marginalised race every October – bang. We played the diversity card. The human resources department gets another smattering of government funds.

Two more years of gruelling advanced qualifications aren’t enough for some; instead, it is necessary to popped back into the fiery ovens of academia for a second roasting. University modules: “Empire and the Colonial: Race, Genders, Sexualities”. Let’s break out the brush of the marginalised, and flick multi-coloured drops across our whitewashed curriculum. The real squirts of knowledge and logical reasoning can only be drizzled on a university-cooked pie. Young adults must march directly from the cooking pot to the slaughterhouse, where they must pay to be eviscerated. Seated upon an intellectual throne, they are free to survey the masses, whilst aping the behaviour of their esteemed lecturers, who repeatedly cave to their demands.

Millennials are not a monolithic group. Those shaking their heads and declaiming in horror: “Jesus, this lot are our future policymakers!” – have no fear. There are tons of other young whippersnappers roaming free from the cage, already with one leg up the industry ladder; there’s more than one way to get into parliament, and university is no longer the sole option. They’re out there, people. You just need to get better at looking.

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