A reader sends in this clip from a Camille Paglia discussion at last fall’s Battle Of Ideas festival in the UK, in which the lesbian scholar and provocateur identifies transgenderism as a mark of a civilization deep into decadence, nearing collapse. The good stuff starts at the four-minute mark.
She says that androgyny becomes prevalent “as a civilization is starting to unravel. You find it again and again and again in history.”
“People who live in such times feel that they’re very sophisticated, they’re very cosmopolitan,” she says. But in truth, they are evidence of a civilization that no longer believes in itself. On the edges of that civilization are “people who still believe in heroic masculinity” — the barbarians. Paglia says that this is happening right now, and that there’s this tremendous “disconnect” between a culture that’s infatuated with transgenderism, and “what’s going on ‘out there’.” She sees it as “ominous.” And she’s right to. This insanity cannot last. Again and again I say unto you: if you don’t like the Religious Right, wait till you get the Post-Religious Right. The post-Christian people who are coming don’t give a damn about your feelings.
Said the reader who sent that clip to me: “Did you ever think Camille Paglia would say something to validate the BenOp?”
Along these lines, here’s a clip from a post I put up last year, about a Q talk given by political scientist Dale Kuehne. He studies the family and society, and he says we have reached “a gender tipping point.” Excerpt:
No wonder journalists are noticing that this is a significant time. But most are still missing what’s most important: while today’s conversations push the boundaries of how we understand gender, they don’t understand that this brave new world of identity is about more than gender.
The students with whom I associate—from middle school to college students—have understood for several years that we now reside in a world beyond gender. The youngest of them probably don’t realize that TIME’s article announced anything “new.”
For many of them, gender discussions, even of the transgender variation, are just so yesterday. When we talk about personal identity, we don’t include the mundane questions about being male and/or female. A person can certainly identify as male or female if they wish, but there is little expectation that one would do so.
After all, today Facebook gives us over 50 “gender” identities to choose from. (Conversations about this can involve questions about why there are so few options.) And rather than looking to gender or variations on a gender, more and more young people are seeking to discover their identity by widening the options to include “otherkins” (people who consider themselves to have a non-human identity, such as various animals, spirits, mediums, and so on).
Young people today are much less binary when it comes to understanding identity because “male” and “female” as categories don’t express a unique or comprehensive identity.
When I tell this to many adult audiences, they laugh, believing that young people will grow out of this “stage.” They’re surprised that I don’t share their sense of the immaturity of our youth.
That’s because the young people with whom I interact are extraordinarily perceptive, compared to adults. As one high school student recently asked me, “Why does our school demand that we figure out if we are male or female or some variation? How could we figure it out even if we cared about gender? Can you tell me what it feels like to be woman? Can you tell me what it feels like to be a man? Of course not. No one knows.”
If everything is reduced to gender—even liquid gender—then how can anyone know by a solely internal exploration if they feel male or female?
What does it feel like to be a man? It can’t just mean that I am attracted to women, because it is okay to be attracted to men. It can’t just mean I feel like a lumberjack—because what does it mean to feel like a lumberjack? It can’t simply mean to be drawn to women’s clothes because what makes some garments women’s clothes?
In short, if the ultimate source of reference is the self, and if no other self than the individual is a reference point, how can you know who or what you are?
Indeed. The kids are right.
We don’t live at a tipping point; we already live beyond the tipping point. Whether adults realize it or not, the most important conversation today is not about gender, but about identity, as released from the confines of gender.
Kuehne thinks this is a very bad thing, because it is part — indeed, perhaps the end point — of the total deconstruction of the relational bases of society and its refashioning to serve the needs of the sovereign Self. You see Paglia’s point. She said this in one of her 1990s essays; it’s still applicable: