Guest post: You even get a whistle

Originally a comment by Arty Morty on True Selves.

His “true self” being the woman he is not. His fake true self, his pretend true self, his fantasy true self. Back in the before times a true self meant something along the lines of a self not repressed and stifled by convention. It didn’t mean childish fantasy. Adults didn’t prance around saying their true selves were birds or race cars or space travelers or Nobel laureates or ponies. Fantasy and delusion are now what’s real, so I guess truth and sanity are fake.

How are we supposed to even try to show compassion for people who may or may not have debilitating dysphoria when so many of the most vocal claimants spout endless “true self” cultspeak bullshit? The conditions we’re being asked to accept aren’t just slowly creeping up, they’re exploding in our faces like a joke can of nuts filled with spring-loaded snakes.

Part of the problem with gender dysphoria — or any identity disorder, I guess — is that it’s a disorder relating to one’s relationship with their social environment, as in everyone else, as in their relationship with us — a kind of social contract that we were at one time merely asked to sign up to. At first this new social contract that the trans rights movement was establishing, with the help of the fields of psychiatry/psychology, seemed like a much more modest ask. Something like, if someone has this debilitating disorder, they’re doing the best they can to manage it, and that might entail some unconventional appearance and behaviour… and that point is where you and I and the rest of society come in: a humble request that people be understanding and compassionate and offer some leeway towards their unconventionality because of this rare condition which creates a difficult situation.

And that fits fairly well generally with liberalism: not unlike feminism, it involves chafing against social norms. Not unlike homosexuality, it involves an atypical set of behavioural preferences that others might not understand but they’re merely being asked to tolerate and to open up space for a modest footprint in the social space to go about their business in; and not unlike mental and physical disabilities, we’re being asked to apply some of our collective capital towards better accommodating those whose needs are greater than ours. It’s not unlike economic egalitarianism, too.

Not that that ideal of a functional kind of transgender rights ever worked so well in practice. It was always unstable. Because of the disorder part of the equation, and because many of the people who purported to have gender dysphoria were not being honest at all about their innermost motives. (Not honest to themselves or to others.)

The transgender social contract is no longer voluntary — we’re not being politely asked to play along but forcefully commanded, and on top of that, it’s been rewritten so that it puts 100% of the onus on us, the rest of society, and requires no work at all on the part of the patients themselves — in fact they’re not even supposed to be understood as patients anymore! Anyone can declare a transgender identity. Once you do, you’re free to make up whatever fantasy story you like about yourself, and everyone else is obligated to bend over backwards to make your fantasy seem as real as possible to you. You are automatically the boss of everyone. (Come to think of it, I’m rather surprised more men with trans identities don’t sign up to be referees. All that power to order everyone around, and you even get a whistle! Seems a natural fit.) It’s that Twilight Zone episode where the bratty kid obtains omnipotent powers and terrorizes the townsfolk, only we’re giving that power to every single fucked up, narcissistic man (and more than a few women). What were we thinking?

The field of psychiatry and psychology bears some of the blame for this: they set the ball rolling on the idea that if we ask everyone else (women especially) to carve out more and more exceptions for these patients, they’ll be better off. They didn’t see that the cost to everyone else in society was rapidly climbing, and that the sense of entitlement they engendered among many unstable people would prove too alluring to resist.

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