The state legislature of California has passed a bill to protect self-identification in matters of class and race. If a child in a public school identifies himself as the Prince of Pasadena, and dresses and behaves accordingly, then he must be addressed as such by the teachers and his fellow students. Special care is to be taken in the use of deferent pronouns:
“Might your Lordship be pleased to read the paragraph beginning on page five?”
“Jenny, take this box of crayons to his Lordship.”
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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“Their Lordships will not eat pate de foie gras without Camembert and mineral water. Kindly see to it.”
Since class really is a social construct, the state solons wish to encourage its deconstruction, so that any person may adopt the social role that he feels will fulfill his desires. Some people may self-identify as peasants, or indentured servants, or merchants. The thing to remember is that there is a difference between peasantry as a mere political fact, and self-made peasantry. No one should be compelled to occupy any class because of economic or political happenstance. Freedom of choice is all.
Or not quite all. For the legislators warn all people engaged in business that they too must comply with the self-identification of their customers. If a Queen of San Quentin (there may be several Queens of San Quentin; queenship, again, is no mere political office, but is the crafting of a royal identity) visits a baker’s shop and orders a cake, reading, “Congratulations on Your Coronation,” the baker must comply, or be sued for lese majeste. If a woman identifies as a slave and finds a master, and if she wishes to memorialize the happy occasion by ordering photographs portraying her in fetters and manacles, or tossing a spiked collar over her shoulder to be caught by an expectant slavesmaid, then that photographer had damned well better go along with it and do his job, or be fined so heavily as to put his business in jeopardy.
The legislators stipulate that no differences may be drawn between an actually existent class and a class contrived by the imagination, or between present and past. Someone may insist that he is Napoleon reincarnate, and strut about with the tricorner hat, muttering, “It was that subtle Talleyrand! It was that beef-eating Wellington!” He is to be addressed as Emperor or First Citizen. Another man may brandish a Jedi light sabre bought at the local dollar store; he is to be addressed as Sir Knight.
And then there’s race. What is race, after all? If a student checks “White” as his racial identity, then he will be regarded as white. If a student checks “Black,” then he will be regarded as black. If he checks “Native American,” as did Senator Elizabeth Warren, back when she was a student, in order to snatch a bit of an advantage when she was applying to law school, then we should get out the feather headdress and dance along with her in the sun. Some students, by mere genetic inheritance, may be of African descent, but may wish to distance themselves from their cousins. That is their choice. They may check “Other,” and designate themselves as “black and white,” or “trans-black,” or “trans-white,” as they please. Another student may be of Norwegian heritage, with tow-colored hair and fair skin and blue eyes, but, because he feels he is not essentially Norwegian, he may instead identify with his ancestors on the steppes a hundred generations back, and check “Asian” as his race. That is his choice.
Admissions officers in the state colleges must take note. They’ve done a good job ensuring racial diversity in their enrollments, but this has been diversity of the first degree only. The next degree is meta-diversity, or diversity beyond diversity. Among the “blacks” at Fullerton, there should be a certain percentage of trans-whites, that is, blacks who are blacks by self-identification and not by genotype or phenotype. Among the “wealthy” at Fullerton, there should be a certain percentage of trans-royals, that is, children of plumbers or housemaids, but who occupy a class of their choosing or invention. Fullerton should reach out not only to those who suffer pecuniary poverty, but also to those who are poor by self-identification, regardless of their income. Diversity should not be limited to mere factual differences.
The legislators stopped short of granting legal status to self-identifying amputees. They will consider it during the next session. Some people feel they must be amputees. To be crippled is not just an unfortunate consequence of a genetic anomaly or an accident or an act of violence, but a positive good—so long as it resides in the free choice of the individual. “Why should I be burdened with this right arm?” they cry. “Why should a narrow minded society condemn me to walk about on my two feet, when I can stump around on a crutch and a wooden peg?” “Why must I see out of two eyes, when one eye and a black patch would be so much nicer?” “I am a pirate—it’s what I am—why should I not be free to hire a doctor to make me look like one?”
The Real Offense Against Nature
Well—the legislators of California did not really do these mad things. They did something crazier still. They decreed that children in the schools should be addressed and treated as belonging to the sex of their choice or invention, and that such children should be allowed to participate in team sports, and to use locker rooms and bathrooms, according to their choice.
Why is that even more insane, more evident of a mind determined to hate reality, than what I have described above? How do they hate us? Let me count the ways.
First: class really is a social construct. That’s why the Army was such a democratizing institution in the days of the draft. Strip fifty men naked, and you can’t tell who came from Harvard and who came from the Bronx. You can’t tell, because there are no physical differences. The ancient Athenians understood the principle, and that’s why the gymnasion—athletic complex and school and political hangout all in one—was crucial to their democracy. But sex is not a social construct. It is all too real—and don’t bother to refer to me to a hermaphrodite living in Winnipeg. Sex is the first thing we notice about someone, and the last thing we forget.
A man may or may not be Napoleon, according to circumstance. If our neighbor thinks he is Napoleon, we rightly regard him as mad, because his thoughts and words and actions are not in accordance with reality. If he thinks he is a prince and demands that we bow before him and kiss his signet ring, we call the men in white coats. Sanity is the adequate response of the mind to the real thing: adaequatio mentis ad rem. But at least the would-be Prince of Wales might have been the Prince of Wales; and who knows but by some bizarre concatenation of political upheavals, he might yet enjoy that exalted station. But under no circumstances could he ever be the Princess of Wales. To believe the first is to believe something that is not true, but is at least conceivable. To believe the second is to believe what is not even conceivable. It is not like believing that the moon is made of green cheese. It is like believing that two and two are seven.
Second: race is epidermal, but sex is not. A boy from the Congo and a boy from Italy are pretty much alike. Anybody who travels knows this—boys are boys. Now, if it’s madness for Lars Larsen to say, “I am really the son of a Congolese fisherman,” when his father was an accountant in Trondheim, then it is utter raving insanity for him to say that his name is really Lara, and demand to join the field hockey team or the softball team. But as insane as the lad is, how insane must be the legislators who allow him to do it? It is as if Lars could wave a wand, sprinkle pixie dust, and, ping!—he’s a girl. He doesn’t have the boy’s torso, the boy’s hands, the boy’s muscles, the boy’s heart-lung capacity, the boy’s heavy bones, and so forth. There’s a reason why boys are not allowed to compete on girls’ teams. It is reality. If they were allowed to compete, there would still be two teams; one called the boys’ varsity, and the other called the boys’ junior varsity. People who live in reality may notice that the LPGA has never invited a teenage boy (say, Tiger Woods, Matt Kuchar, or Luke Donald at age 16) to compete in any of their golf tournaments—and they never will.
But the third reason is the most damning. If I say, “I am the Prince of Wales,” I do not imply a rejection of anything healthy and normal. It’s just that I am not sane. But if I say that a boy may be a girl or a girl may be a boy, I do in fact reject the healthy and normal. I do not love boys and girls sufficiently to help them enjoy, and flourish in, the sex with which God has endowed them. I see two boys arm-wrestling at a party, and I’m moved to disdain or dislike; why should there be such ordinary boyish creatures in the world? I see a young woman playing with her small child, wholly absorbed in the play, and I’m moved to disdain or dislike: why should there be so girlish a creature in the world?
The legislators, then, resemble most of all those confused souls who determine to lop off healthy limbs, because they feel they must be mutilated in order to be whole. They cannot endure the normal. They hate reality. They are quite mad.