No, you are not a cat simply because you “identify” as one. And we should all be wary of where the rise of the Politics of Identity is leading us
When future aliens discover the ruins of human civilisation and wonder what set our demise in motion, they will likely identify the period through which we are now living – the time where we finally became so arrogant that we believed we could bend objective reality to our will, physically becoming something simply because we mentally “identified” as that particular object or state of being. They will say that we sowed the seeds of our destruction when we abandoned reason and put our faith in verbal alchemy.
A story is going viral today (see video above) which would be hilarious if it wasn’t so terrifying. It involves Nano, a twenty year-old woman from Norway who identifies as a cat, having come to this “realisation” when she was sixteen and apparently indulged in her belief by friends, family and psychologists alike.
The Telegraph reports, totally deadpan:
The young woman shows off her cat characteristics by wearing fake ears and an artificial tail. She communicates by meowing.
“I realised I was a cat when I was 16 when doctors and psychologists found out what was “the thing” with me. Under my birth there was a genetic defect,” she explains in the video.
[..] The cat woman wears a pair of pink fluffy paws with which to groom herself, and feels especially like doing so when she is in contact with water.
When asked if she was born as the wrong species, she said: “Yes, born in the wrong species.”
But terrifying it is, because stories like this are no longer so far-fetched, and Nano’s claims are not so unreasonable – at least not according to the insistent logic of modern day identity culture, which makes each one of us the little tin-pot god of our own reality, able to pick up and discard identities as core as gender or even species, in some cases on a whim.
And this is not the first such case. Just last month in Canada, a 52 year old formerly married father of seven revealed to the world that he no longer identified as a man, but rather as a six year old girl called Stefonknee.
The Daily Mail reported at the time:
Stefonknee (pronounced ‘Stef-on-knee’) Wolscht, 52, of Toronto, says she realized she was transgender – rather that simply a cross-dresser – at age 46, and split from her wife, Maria, after she told her husband to ‘stop being trans or leave’.
Now, Stefonknee lives with friends who she calls her ‘adoptive mommy and daddy’ as a six-year-old girl, dressing in children’s clothing and spending her time playing and coloring with her adoptive parents’ grandchildren.
Stefonknee says her ‘adoptive’ family, which consists of an older couple and their children and young grandchildren, are completely accepting of her identifying as a little girl.
She says she’s living as a six-year-old girl because it’s something she could never do when was in grade school.
‘I can’t deny I was married. I can’t deny I have children,’ she says in the video. ‘But I’ve moved forward now and I’ve gone back to being a child. I don’t want to be an adult right now.’
She’s moved forward, so that’s fine, then. Good for Stefonknee. Never mind her abandoned wife or seven young children who are doubtless hurt, confused and humiliated by what their father is doing. Stefonknee just doesn’t have time for all of that adult stuff right now, so she is going to put on a gingham dress and regress to a pre-pubescent age, until she gets tired of that and wants to try something different.
This is pure narcissism, plain and simple. He didn’t want to be an adult anymore, so he clicked his fingers and became a six year old girl instead? How are we to unpack this? Are we to accept his Wolscht’s statement that she is now female, since transgender acceptance is now (rightly, I believe) much more widely accepted and tolerated?
But if we do so – if we accept Wolscht’s statement that she is now female – do we not also then have to accept her insistence that she has also turned the clock back and become six years old again?
The ludicrous thing here is that Wolscht’s own identity is floating, as she freely admits later in the article:
She says she previously lived as an eight-year-old girl, until the couple’s granddaughter asked her to be the younger sister instead.
‘A year ago I was eight and she was seven. And she said to me: “I want you to be the little sister, so I’ll be nine.” I said: “Well, I don’t mind going to six.” So I’ve been six ever since.’
So according to this jaw-dropping reasoning, our identity is not even fixed and core to ourselves (if unmoored from reality). Now, our identity is a commodity which can be haggled over and traded. And if winning the friendship of a young girl means that a formerly 52 year old man has to downgrade from being an 8 year old to a 6 year old girl, that’s absolutely fine, apparently. Who are we to judge in any of this?
Never mind the callousness of a father of seven doing such a thing to his own children, putting them through this ordeal in pursuit of an identity which he openly admits is free-floating and liable to change again in future anyway. That’s bad enough. But how are we all – individuals, employers (the six year old girl apparently has a job driving a slow plough in winter) or government agencies – supposed to relate to somebody who decides that they “identify” as a different age and gender?
If Stefonknee is really six years old she should be in school, and the local authority should by current laws be hounding her adoptive “parents” to ensure that she is receiving a proper education. But would the identity culture cheerleaders seriously propose sending what was once a 52-year-old man to primary school with young children? Surely, under today’s logic they have to?
Stefonknee has identified as a young girl, and therefore she must be treated like one in every way. Anything less – such as homeschooling – would be discrimination against 6-year-old girls who happen to have the bodies of 52-year-old men. The kind of women who are harmed by a performance of the Vagina Monologues.
Meanwhile, Stefonknee’s employer when she drives the snow plough in winter will need to be hauled before the court and prosecuted for infringing on child labour laws. The courts would probably take a very dim view indeed of any business hiring a young girl to operate heavy machinery, and since justice must be blind, Stefonknee’s carefree decision to become a little girl should put her employer’s livelihood and liberty in grave jeopardy.
It’s easy to laugh at these scenarios, but they are going to come up more and more frequently if – as will inevitably happen when stories like this gain traction – more people are tempted to follow in the dangerous footsteps of Wolscht, or the somewhat less threatening (but no less absurd) paw prints of Nano the Norwegian cat woman.
For what is to say that Nano and Wolscht are not the “new normal”? The people being hounded and “No Platformed” for their old-fashioned views on transgender issues are guilty only of holding thoughts which were incredibly mainstream just a couple of decades ago, yet in that short space of time they have been completely overtaken by received wisdom and the new orthodoxy of intolerant tolerance. What is to say that in thirty years’ time, those who question a person’s ability to discard their entire life and “become” a cat or a young child are considered as bigoted as today’s “transphobic” holdouts?
Nobody can say that this is unlikely to happen. The world has changed so much in just a few decades, and promises to change even more in the coming years. Social attitudes have changed enormously in this time – what is to say that the warm, fuzzy embrace of unquestioning tolerance and affirmation will not expand to embrace people like Nano and Wolscht by 2050?
In 2050, maybe the future version of Eddie Redmayne will be starring in a movie, not just playing a male-to-female transsexual person (how boring that will be by then) but turning in another Oscar-winning performance for his sensitive portrayal of the pioneering early 21st century woman who identified as a cat, or the brave Canadian man who threw away his family in pursuit of his new identity as a pre-pubescent girl.
But that’s fine. Since we seem intent on burying our heads in the sand and denying that there is anything wrong with our new Politics of Identity, by that time our Prime Minister will probably identify as a Beagle, the Home Secretary will be a barn owl except on Tuesdays, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be a goldfish who looks suspiciously like George Osborne’s grown-up kid wearing a wetsuit, Number 11 Downing Street having been converted into a walk-in aquarium in deference to their “mental safety”.
And Nona the Norwegian cat woman will be the very least of our problems.
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I’m in contact with a lot of feminists who are outraged by the IOC ruling and looking for ways to protest, as it effectively signals the end of women’s athletics. One of the things that comes up consistently is a fear of speaking out in public. People are saying ‘I’m furious, but I can’t say anything publicly because I work for [insert institution that supports identity politics] and would lose my job if accused of saying something transphobic’.
It would be easy to say ‘well then, it serves those feminists right for silencing voices they find offensive, let’s see how they like it now’. But that would be to prioritise point-scoring over the realisation that something absolutely chilling is going on: namely that some strands of identity politics have gained so much traction that people fear dismissal from their jobs for pointing out observable facts, such as that the physiology of male and female bodies is different. To put it more plainly, in some sectors people risk being sacked for refusing to tell lies to make someone feel good. We are seeing the development of a new and frankly insane orthodoxy that privileges individuals’ unverifiable inner experience over anything observable, and enacts fanatically over-the-top punishments on anyone who dares to dissent.
This has to stop. Making people feel accepted and validated does not have primacy over observable reality. And warm-and-fuzzy ideas of inclusivity often obscure under a haze of censorious virtue-signalling the truth that competing rights groups often have conflicting aims and interests. (The cover-up of the Cologne assaults springs to mind here.) The Left has been devoured by this madness, and has become anything but the ‘progressive’ movement it still claims to be.
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Beautifully put. This is a deadly serious issue which is going to require serious, sustained and thoughtful resistance.
I’m going to continue making the case on this blog, but could do with educating myself better on the rise of identity politics a little more. Do you know any good suggested readings / books that I should particularly focus on? Cheers.
I found this useful as a primer on the philosophical origins of identity politics: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/identity-politics/ It has a good bibliography as well.
If you cross-reference that with the work of Jonathan Haidt and others on the new ego fragility in modern students…
(I’m sure you’ve seen this already: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind/399356/ and this is good too, on moral cultures and microaggressions: http://www.academia.edu/10541921/Microaggression_and_Moral_Cultures and lots on on Heterodox Academy – http://heterodoxacademy.org/2015/09/23/how-marcuse-made-todays-students-less-tolerant-than-their-parents/)
…and amplify it all through the way internet simultaneously gives individuals a sense of having found ‘people like me’, while also isolating them in their own little bubble, then I think the picture starts to emerge.
By way of light relief, have a look at the YouTube series on Tumblrisms and especially this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8y1GbBhu9hA
…but don’t watch too long or you will be forced to gouge your own eyes out.
Always enjoy your blog, many thanks and keep writing 🙂
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Brilliant, many thanks for this. Some of the sources (such as “the coddling of the American mind”) I am familiar with, but others that you have mentioned here I am not. I shall read and learn with interest!
Just the other day it was announced that the IOC were updating their rules on transgender athletes so that MTF trans athletes could compete against natal women without a sex change operation and with only a year’s hormone treatment. The maximum permitted blood testosterone level for trans athletes is also set considerably higher than the normal range for a women.
Male bodied people are generally taller, have higher muscle mass, greater cardiovascular capacity and numerous other differences. Female athletic world records are consistently 90% of male records. A year’s hormone treatment will not offset the effects of 20-odd years growing up as male-bodied. And yet, permission to join a *physical* competition will henceforth be allocated not on the basis of an athlete’s physicality but on the basis of how the athletes feel inside.
It’s a pure Alice In Wonderland moment, and the whole world is just nodding and smiling and saying ‘oh how nice, some equality for those nice transwomen’.
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I agree wholeheartedly. I’m all for inclusivity so far as it means respect, politeness and non-discrimination in terms of civil rights. But when we start allowing male-born athletes to compete in female competitive sports, I genuinely don’t know what we are trying to achieve any more. Clearly any idea of Olympic sports as an athletic competition to identify and celebrate the “best” performance has been subordinated by the far more important need to make people feel accepted and validated at all times, and to hell with everything else.
I have every respect for transgender people and every sympathy for the mental anguish and hostility that many of them sometimes face. But does that mean that we should start bending the rules of athletics, of reality itself, to prove our tolerance? No, absolutely not.
Thanks as always for reading, and for your forceful comment.