When I was about five years old, my friends and I invented for ourselves, as little boys will, a gang. We had a name (I cannot recall what it was), colors, insignia, rank, etc. But we were missing the most important element: an enemy. So we made one up, assigning various eccentricities to its more infamous members, filling in the backstory to explain our eternal hatred and rivalry. The challenge of that sort of recreation is that it demands absolute imaginative buy-in from the participants; as soon as somebody points out that there isn’t really an enemy sniper in the apple tree, it’s all over.
Perhaps the connection here to Bruce Jenner is not entirely obvious to you.
Bruce Jenner is a man who pretends to be a woman called Caitlyn Jenner. (He is, under California law, a woman named Caitlyn.) Until about five minutes ago, the relevant term of art was “transgender” or “transsexual,” but these things mutate with alacrity, and the expression of the moment is “trans woman,” the “woman” being inserted to remind us of the game of make-believe in which we are participating. Like a small but very visible number of other men, Jenner has been undergoing a series of ritualistic surgical and chemical mutilations to turn himself into a parody of femininity as traditionally understood, though it is somewhat unclear what that might even hope to mean in a time when all the best people insist that we use the phrases “women with penises” and “men who menstruate” with straight faces and utter sincerity.
Our friends on the left spend a great deal of time insisting that “diversity is our strength,” but that is pure women-with-penises talk. What’s meant by “diversity” is “absolute conformity, ruthlessly enforced.” Jenner, though, has not learned the rules of this game, and it is driving the self-appointed referees crazy.
The fantasy doesn’t work without complete buy-in, and so Jenner’s nonconformist habits are the stuff of scandal: He remains a Republican. He is pretty mellow about pronouns. He thinks that it is important for a man in his situation to look like a woman rather than “a man in a dress” and sympathizes with people who are creeped out by stubble-faced stevedores in Manolo Blahniks. He’s pronounced himself conflicted on the question of homosexual marriage. On the matter of the social and legal status of men pretending to be women, he pronounced himself “pretty comfortable” with the situation here in the United States. (He resides in Malibu: “Pretty comfortable,” indeed.) Jenner’s relative conservatism and his Republican affiliation ought not be surprising — as my friend Rob Long says: “Of course Jenner’s a Republican. She’s a rich old white lady.”
#share#Slate’s J. Bryan Lowder, self-appointed censor on these issues, is among those fuming. Jenner’s insistence on the merit of looking like a woman is oppressive to those who can’t or don’t. (Others object fundamentally to the idea that there is any such thing as “looking like a woman.”) Lowder is offended by the aroma of self-promotion around Jenner (who is, after all, a reality-television performer), but it’s the politics that particularly twists his Underoos as he laments Jenner’s voting for “a party in which there is currently no candidate that a self-respecting LGBTQ person could imagine endorsing and still be considered sane.” That’s an interesting formulation: Pay a surgeon to amputate perfectly healthy organs and that’s just you being true to yourself, but if the experience leaves you thinking that Ted Cruz might have some good ideas about health-care reform, that — that — is madness.
But there is a nasty reality underneath the fantasy.
Under the current rules of the progressives’ game, a gay man’s mind — a black man’s mind, an immigrant’s mind, Bruce Jenner’s mind — is not his own.
Under the current rules of the progressives’ game, a gay man’s mind — a black man’s mind, an immigrant’s mind, Bruce Jenner’s mind — is not his own. If you are a gay man, you are forbidden from finding your situation “pretty comfortable” and hence believing that it is more important to enact Marco Rubio’s national-security agenda than Hillary Rodham Clinton’s gay-rights agenda, whatever that is this week. That simply is not permitted. The price of enjoying the special status associated with cultural victimhood is mandatory conformity with the self-appointed progressive advocates who tell others what to think about you and tell you what to think about you, too.
That is one of the reasons why the Left works so tirelessly to destroy prominent conservatives who are not white men, savaging the likes of Clarence Thomas and Nikki Haley. That is why the success of immigrants from India and Nigeria so scandalizes these so-called progressives: These immigrants aren’t going along with the game, which insists that we pretend that this is an oppressive, abusive, racist society that hates blacks and the foreign-born even as its armed forces salute a black man with a Kenyan father. Amy Chua became a hate totem for suggesting that “tiger moms” see to the success of these communities by declining to coddle their children too much, rejecting the ethos of minority victimhood for the practical proposition that nobody can look down on you if you’re at the top. That kind of thinking, left unchecked, would mean a lot of unemployment among kindergarten diversity officers and media censors tut-tutting about celebrities’ oppressive attitude toward parts of speech.
And that is not how the game is played. One wonders why so many people choose to be pawns in it.
— Kevin D. Williamson is National Review’s roving correspondent.