Nearly two centuries ago, the Scottish poet and journalist Charles Mackay published an influential book titled Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, in which he recounts the histories of many popular follies, including such topics as financial bubbles, witch mania, quacks, and popular fads. In his preface, Mackay wrote, “Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.”
I imagine that if Extraordinary Popular Delusions had been written today, Mackay would have had a few words to say about our own extraordinary popular delusion: transgenderism.
It’s been two weeks since Olympic decathlete Bruce Jenner came out as “Caitlyn,” posing for an interview and a cover photo for the July issue of Vanity Fair. The reaction from the media and the general public was predictable. Everyone remarked on Jenner’s “bravery,” and ESPN went so far as to instantly award him the 2015 Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at this year’s upcoming ESPYs.
Most interesting, however, is the near-instantaneous switch to female pronouns to refer to Jenner. The usual crowd of social-justice warriors sprang up to offer the usual vicarious outrage at anyone who still insensitively spoke of “Caitlyn” as if he were a man. One person even programmed a bot to scan Twitter and automatically correct anyone who “misgendered” Jenner as male.
I noted this phenomenon last fall when American Atheists staffer David Moscato came out as “Danielle.” Despite the evidence of his headshot that he is a balding, hirsute dude, and his position as director of public relations for an organization that supposedly believes in rationalism and the scientific method, hordes of supporters immediately accepted the change of pronouns on nothing more than Moscato’s fiat declaration that it was so. The uncritical acceptance of transgender persons on nothing more than their own ipse dixit is, in fact, non-rational. It has a quasi-religious fervour. It’s certainly a textbook example of the kind of herd thinking that Charles Mackay was writing about.
I’m a couple weeks late to chime in on the whole Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner thing, and I would have let it pass entirely, had the more recent Rachel Dolezal controversy not offered up a plum opportunity to juxtapose.
Dolezal is the woman who, until yesterday, was the president of the Spokane, WA chapter of the NAACP. Last week, a story in the Spokane Spokesman-Review quoted Dolezal’s parents as claiming Rachel was not the black woman she presented herself as: in fact, older pictures of Rachel show her to be a pale Caucasian with straight, blonde hair. It was also discovered that in 2002, Dolezal unsuccessfully sued her alma mater, the historically black Howard University, for anti-white discrimination when she was passed over for a TA position. The controversy escalated over the weekend to the point that Dolezal resigned her position yesterday. Ironically, the NAACP has no rule that its leadership must be black; had Rachel Dolezal simply not pretended to be something she isn’t, it’s possible she would still be employed today.
I have friends on Facebook who complimented Jenner for being “brave,” but then two weeks later, criticized Rachel Dolezal for being “offensive.” This is just the mainstream thinking of the average person on the street. But I wonder: Why? If Bruce Jenner can be transgendered, then why can’t Rachel Dolezal be transracial? If a man can repudiate an immutable biological characteristic like his sex and declare himself to be a woman in defiance of all his chromosomes, then why can’t a blonde woman born to Caucasian parents also defy the immutable biological reality of her skin colour and declare herself African-American?
In fact, what was discussed satirically only a few days ago is already being discussed seriously. A Wikipedia page on transracial identity, created only today, offers an un-ironic discussion of the topic. I wonder whether this is because, positively, advocates for transgenderism realize that the logic of the one applies equally to the other, or negatively, because the illogic of transracialism exposes the folly of transgenderism.
The harsh reality is that all transmania, whether transgender or transracial or anything else, is a form of rebellion against truth and reality. And, therefore, it is a rebellion against the Creator who made us the way we are. As Albert Mohler has said in the past on his podcast:
The Bible says that we are not who we think ourselves to be, but who our Creator made us to be. And that means that no matter how we say we know ourselves, or what we claim about ourselves, the key issue for eternity is what our Creator thinks of us, because he knows us better than we know ourselves, because he made us.
If Bruce Jenner wants to be known as Caitlyn, then I’m OK with that. A name is an identifying label, and it can be legally changed. But while he is entitled to change his name, he is not entitled to change his pronouns, which describe not who he is, but what. Whether Bruce or Caitlyn, Jenner is a man, and no amount of plastic surgery, hormone treatment, lingerie, or Photoshop can change that. Maleness is embedded in his molecules. And Rachel Dolezal might surround herself with black friends, dye and perm her hair, or spray on a layer of can-tan, but that disguise can do nothing to help wish away her ancestry.