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Blogs Coffee House Culture House Daily

‘Call me Caitlyn, or else’: the rise of authoritarian transgender politics

2 June 2015

11:10 AM

2 June 2015

11:10 AM

The Vanity Fair photo of Bruce Jenner in a boob-enhancing swimsuit is being described as iconic. Bruce, one-time American athlete, now wants to be known as Caitlyn, having recently undergone some gender transitioning. And he’s using the cover of the latest Vanity Fair to make his ‘debut as a woman’. Next to the headline ‘Call me Caitlyn’, he’s all photoshopped svelteness, pampered hair and look-at-me breasts, in what many experts are already describing as ‘an iconic image in magazine history’.

The photo is indeed iconic. And not just in the shallow celeb meaning of that word. It’s iconic in the traditional sense, too, in that it’s being venerated as an actual icon, a devotional image of an apparently holy human. It’s an image we’re all expected to bow down to, whose essential truth we must imbibe; an image you question or ridicule at your peril, with those who refuse to genuflect before it facing excommunication from polite society. Yesterday’s Jennermania confirms how weirdly authoritarian, even idolatrous, trans politics has become.

Vanity-Fair-front-cover

There is a palpable religiosity to the wild hailing of Bruce/Caitlyn as a modern-day saint, a Virgin Mary with testicles. Within four hours, more than a million people were following Bruce/Caitlyn’s new Twitter account, hanging on her words like the expectant horde waiting for Moses at the foot of Mount Sinai. Her every utterance, all banal celeb-speak, was retweeted tens of thousands of times. Celebs and commentators greeted her as a kind of messiah. ‘We’ve been waiting for you with open arms’, said an overexcited editor at Buzzfeed. Across the Twittersphere Caitlyn was worshipped as a ‘goddess’, a ‘goddess in human form’, a ‘goddess made manifest on Earth’. ‘Caitlyn Jenner could fucking stab me right now and leave me for dead and I’d die fucking overjoyed we are not WORTHY OF THIS GODDESS’, said one trans tweeter, and she wasn’t joking.

[Alt-Text]


In the media, the talk is of how Caitlyn and her iconic likeness might give an adrenalin shot to humanity itself. A writer for the Guardian describes Caitlyn as a ‘queen’ and instructs us to ‘bow down, bitches’, telling us her icon on the front of Vanity Fair is ‘life-affirming’. Treating Caitlyn as a kind of Christ figure, only in a push-up bra rather than smock, Ellen DeGeneres says this goddess brings ‘hope for the world’, and we should all try to be ‘as brave as Caitlyn’. Susan Sarandon celebrated Bruce/Caitlyn’s mysterious ‘rebirth’ while Demi Moore thanked him/her for sharing with humanity ‘the gift of your beautiful authentic self’. A writer for the Huff Post says the name Caitlyn means ‘pure’ – ‘what a perfect meaning, right?’ Truly, yes, for St Caitlyn, reborn to educate us all, is most pure.

With its millions of agog followers, its worship of an iconic image, its insistence we all ‘bow down’, the Cult of Caitlyn gives Catholic mariolatry a run for its money in the blind-devotion stakes. And of course, as with all venerated icons, anyone who refuses to recognise the truth of Caitlyn’s Vanity Fair cover has faced mob punishment or finger-wagging corrections of their goddess-defying blasphemy.

So when Drake Bell, a former American child star, tweeted ‘Sorry… still calling you Bruce’, he became the subject of global fury. The Cult of Caitlyn went insane. Even after Bell deleted his blasphemous comment, tweeters mauled him, suggesting he deactivate his Twitter account, or better still, ‘deactivate his life’. Meanwhile, a Twitter robot called @she_not_he has been set up to correct any ‘misgendering’ of Caitlyn. Winning high praise from much of the media, this bot is ‘scrubbing Twitter, looking for anyone who uses the “he” pronoun in conjunction with Caitlyn Jenner’s name’. The bot’s inventor says he is delighted that these misgendering miscreants have been ‘apologetic in their replies to the bot’, and ‘some have even deleted their original tweet’.

In short, they’ve repented. Just as those who denied the divinity of Christ were once expected to recant their heresy, so those who deny the gender of Caitlyn Jenner are hounded by bots into apologising for their moral error. The American gay-rights group GLAAD is scouring the mainstream media for any use of the word ‘he’ in relation to Caitlyn, like a modern incarnation of the Vatican’s Index Librorum Prohibitorum, which monitored the public sphere for any less-than-gushing commentary on God. It has issued speech-policing guidelines for the media. ‘DON’T refer to her by her former name… DO avoid using male pronouns and Caitlyn’s prior name, even when referring to events in her past.’

The worship of Caitlyn, and the hectoring of anyone who refuses to scrape before her icon, has graphically exposed the intolerant edge to trans thinking. The insistence that we not only refer to Bruce/Caitlyn as ‘she’ but also project this backwards – recognising, in the words of the Guardian, that she has ‘always been a woman’ – is borderline Orwellian. It’s a rewriting of history, a memory-holing of old inconvenient facts. Strikingly, the Guardian writer says people like Bruce/Caitlyn have ‘always been women… even when they were “fathering” children’. Notice it’s the ‘fathering’ bit that is in scare quotes, suggesting it wasn’t real, while the description of Bruce as a woman is treated as an incontestable truth. War is peace, freedom is slavery, man is woman.

This trans Orwellianism is increasingly finding expression in the law itself. In Ireland last year, a trans woman won the right to have her sex changed to female on her actual birth certificate. This is alarming. The midwife who said ‘This is a boy’ when this trans woman was born was telling the truth, and that truth was recorded on a public document. No matter — truth and history are putty in the hands of the trans lobby. Just as Big Brother thinks it can force people to accept that 2 + 2 = 5, so trans activists want us to chant: ‘Bruce Jenner is a woman and has always been a woman, even when she was producing sperm, impregnating women, and winning gold medals in men’s sports.’ And the small matter of Bruce’s birth certificate, his proven paternity of children? Forget all that; shove it down the memory hole.

What the Cult of Caitlyn confirms, beyond a doubt, is that there is nothing progressive in trans politics. It is shrill, censorious, unreal, demanding compliance, punishing dissent. Progressives should reject it. Jesus was not the Son of God, Bruce Jenner is not a woman, and, I’m sorry, but 2 + 2 = 4, and it always will.

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