What’s missing from this paragraph? What the three men in Oregon understood, but the White House doesn’t, is that in a healthy society, Islamophobia doesn’t disparage just Muslims, racism doesn’t demean blacks alone, misogyny hurts more than women, xenophobia insults more than immigrants. Rather, we are all diminished, so we all have a stake in confronting bigotry.
“Transphobia does not just hurt trans folk.” Why can’t Nicholas Kristof say that? Because it is too “politically correct”? Because no-one really cares about trans folk, because there are not enough of us to matter, because others would deny that and he can’t be bothered to argue? Because he would deny it himself?
He was writing about the murder of Rick Best, who stood up for a Muslim woman against an Islamophobic rant on a Portland commuter train. Rick Best is a hero. I don’t impugn Rick Best by imagining he might not stick up for me in similar circumstances, but I wonder if New York Times editors and writers would, because there is a constant stream of such things. They miss us out when writing about disadvantaged groups, whom it besmirches civilisation when they are demeaned, but include us at other times?
People have to choose between heating their homes, buying food or buying health care and you want them to worry about the survival of the planet or transgender stuff?…White lives matter, too, you know. That woman forgot that — and lost. We lost our discipline and our moral code in this country. So we need honest Trump to shake things up. That’s Roger Cohen imagining Trump supporters, who later he calls decent, thoughtful, anxious, patriotic Americans who felt they were losing some part of their country’s essence. I wish I believed Cohen thought me as important as climate change, but I fear he just feels I repulse Trump voters as much as climate change realism does.
This happens again and again. When the NYT needs an example of Liberal ridiculousness or political correctness gone mad, it picks on us. Opinion articles devoted to trans issues are generally positive, despite the possibly disconcerting article “My daughter is not transgender- she’s a tomboy“- but there is this steady drip of hostile references. Send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee– but, perhaps, not for trans folk.
I have to add George Yancy, published on 19 June. Is your God dead? He writes we should be mortified by the inadequacy and superficiality of our anguish when we witness the suffering of others, the sort of anguish that should make us weep until our eyes are red and swollen and bring sleepless nights and agonizing days. He quotes Abraham Joshua Heschel: “Any god who is mine but not yours, any god concerned with me but not with you, is an idol.” I continue to be haunted by the murder of an unarmed Trayvon Martin in 2012. Hundreds of thousands of children around the world are suffering. We all have known about the cruel and despicable violence toward transgender individuals. We know about the magnitude of human trafficking, the magnitude of poverty, and the sickness of hatred… “Through lamentation, voice is given to pain.” Yet our lamenting, our mourning for those who suffer, is far too short-lived. I need my lamenting to be heard. It is almost bearable, if I am heard.
It was going on since Trump was elected. What is the most boring, irrelevant topic? According to Mark Lilla, it is transgender rights. Fascination with the identity drama has even affected foreign reporting, which is in distressingly short supply. However interesting it may be to read, say, about the fate of transgender people in Egypt, it contributes nothing to educating Americans about the powerful political and religious currents that will determine Egypt’s future, and indirectly, our own. No major news outlet in Europe would think of adopting such a focus.
Ongoing NYT watch:
22 June, Bret Stephens: nominating more progressive candidates isn’t likely to solve the contempt problem, at least with voters not yet in sync with progressive orthodoxies on coal, guns or gender-neutral bathrooms.
6 July, Mark Penn and Andrew Stein, …working-class voters saw the party being mired too often in political correctness, transgender bathroom issues and policies offering more help to undocumented immigrants than to the heartland.
Credit where credit’s due- Lindy West on the need to be unequivocally pro-choice, 2 August: I hear from some people on the left that Donald Trump’s victory was at least partially the fault of “identity politics” — of feminists pushing too hard, of Black Lives Matter being too aggressive, of trans people needing to go to the bathroom — as though the violent suppression of a movement points more toward its irrelevance than its necessity. Lindy West regularly names us in a positive way.
James Kirchick does not like Chelsea Manning’s leaking, even though it exposed American crimes. I find this sentence disgusting: But it’s hard to imagine Ms. Manning receiving such a positive reception — never mind a spread in Vogue — if she still identified as Bradley, transgender being the liberal cause du jour. Ms. Manning’s atypical identity adds a frisson of subversion to her already subversive acts. Transgender, it would appear, trumps treachery. I am not a “cause du jour”. I am a human being.
A more subtle one, 24 September: Americans have rarely disagreed more in recent decades. We disagree about racial issues, bathroom policies, health care laws, and, of course, the 45th president. It’s a list of serious matters affecting the lives of millions, and in the middle is a non-issue affecting the lives of thousands, made scarily important and controversial by Bret Stephens.
6 October: Roger Cohen says that after immigrants and “elites”, trans folk are the people the hard right most hate. In Brandenburg, as in Trump-world, there’s plenty of political energy against globalized, mealy-mouthed, quinoa-loving, inequality-fostering, immigrant-embracing elites with their gender spectra, climate doomsdays, multilateral organizations, mainstream parties and smug no-alternatives views of existence.
30 March 2018: I don’t know what to make of Michelle Goldberg‘s article. She objects to an Atlantic columnist being a transphobe- good for her- but then quotes some of his most objectionable lines.
13 May: This, by Gerard Alexander, is vile: “Gender identity disorder” was considered a form of mental illness until recently, but today anyone hesitant about transgender women using the ladies’ room is labeled a bigot. No. They’re not, they’re lionised. That’s the problem.
I’d stopped updating this, but Bret Stephens wrote of an antisemitic cartoon in the NYT international edition, and complained that it had got through when the paper is otherwise hyper-alert to nearly every conceivable expression of prejudice, from mansplaining to racial microaggressions to transphobia– unimportant prejudices compared to prejudice against him.