Aping Isis, trans activists have defaced a historical monument to make a political point. They blacked-up — seriously, with spray paint and afro wigs — the Christopher Street Gay Liberation statue in New York, which commemorates the 1969 Stonewall riots and the birth of the modern gay-rights movement. Their beef? That the monument and a new movie about Stonewall don’t give enough credit to the black and Latino trans women who apparently were among the first to hurl bottles at homophobic cops on that fateful night.
Let’s leave to one side the ugliness of sticking a comedy afro on a statue to make it appear black — a PC version of the black-and-white minstrels show. More worrying is that this infantile gesture, and the bonkers debate about the accuracy or otherwise of the Stonewall film, suggests the infernal politics of identity is now being projected back in time. Not content with colonising Twitter and infecting academia with this bunkum, the identity-obsessives now want to rewrite history according to their nasty, narrow worldview.
Hilariously, the moaners about the Stonewall movie, directed by Roland Emmerich, haven’t seen it yet: it’s released next month. But they’ve seen the trailer, and they’re angry. It has too many pretty white gay boys for their liking. It also features many ethnic minorities and trans folk, but clearly not enough for these self-elected policers of cultural depictions of the past. They want more ‘trans women of colour’. They talk about Emmerich as if he’s a Hollywood version of Stalin: he has ‘erase[d] trans women… from history,’ says one of the many people who hasn’t seen his film.
Yet if anyone’s messing with history, it’s these historically illiterate trans blatherers. There’s a simple reason the Stonewall movie (allegedly) has no trans women in it: because that identity didn’t exist in 1969. At the Stonewall bar there were drag queens, sure, and gender benders, and transvestites. But the modern, mad idea of gender dysphoria — that some men are actually women, real, bona fide women, and we must all refer to them as ‘she’ or else their self-esteem will go up in flames — didn’t exist in the 1960s. Transwomanhood is the pseudo-medical invention of modern activists; putting ‘trans women’ in the Stonewall movie would be like having Shoreditch hipsters in a Flintstones film.
The Sixties was way too chilled for today’s stiff, authoritarian transpolitics. Back then people did what turned them on. Gay men donned dresses because it made them feel good. Gender-bending was a laugh, designed to cock a snook at social mores. In contrast, today’s transpolitics takes itself ridiculously seriously. Using iffy scientific claims and waving turgid PhD theses, trans activists claim some people are physically one gender but mentally another and they need therapy, drugs and sometimes surgery to enable them to become their true selves.
What a striking difference with the lipstick-stained gender-benders of the Sixties. Where those drag queens stuck two well-manicured fingers up at authority, by refusing to be manly and instead advertising their effeminate streak, today’s trans activists appeal to authority; they rely on it, in fact, especially medical authority, which they constantly cite to prove their identity is real and their every drug, nip and tuck is necessary in order for them to become the gender their nerve-endings tell them they are. It’s sad, and needy, a hunt for pseudo-medical validation of their desire to play at being women, where those Sixties queens just did what they wanted and had a hoot, regardless of what doctors or squares or any other figure of authority thought of them.
Indeed, the early gay libbers argued against the idea that they had a medical condition (the American Psychiatric Association listed homosexuality as a mental illness until 1973). Today’s trans activists insist they have a medical condition, and demand both medication and unflinching global sympathy to deal with it. What a bizarre turnaround: from kicking against the psychologisation of one’s sexual interests to demanding the psychologisation of one’s gender identity.
The spat over the Stonewall movie shows how much the politics of identity has changed in the 45 years since that glorious riot. Where the first gay radicals wanted to break free of identity — by refusing to be a typical bloke or girl — today’s deviants are determined to return to the prison of identity, dreaming up utterly fixed, unquestionable, sometimes medically enhanced identities for themselves to live in and live by. And if the rest of us refuse to genuflect before their sainted identity, we’ll be branded transphobes and elbowed out of polite society. Even worse, they now want to re-engineer not only how people speak and think about gender today, but history itself. More trans-Orwellianism, the opposite of the spirit of Stonewall.