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Magnolia Thunderpussy, Weimar American Hero

Think of the high-low awesomeness of that headline, and how much Ignatian (as in, Reilly) fun I had writing it. Magnolia Thunderpussy, you may recall, is the vulgar nom de drag of one Kricket Nimmons,  Jerome, an impoverished ex-con and HIV-positive prostitute who recently achieved his lifelong dream of having a sex change operation, thanks to taxpayer financing. Last year, Jerome moved from his native South Carolina to New York state, where the state’s Medicaid program will pay for sex change operations for the poor. The New York Times paid tribute to Kricket in a massive story this past Sunday, which started on the front page, above the fold.  The Times is now doing the same kind of cheerleading for trans that it did for gay marriage. Plus ça change. 

In related news, the TV series Transparent, about which I wrote yesterday, has reached new heights of greatness, it is reported, by airing an episode in which an elderly male-to-female transgender masturbates his ex-wife to climax in a bathtub. The Daily Beast reporter is overcome with glee:

For [actress Judith] Light (66) and [actor Jeffrey] Tambor (71), both of whom just picked up Golden Globe nominations for their performances in Amazon’s series, it wasn’t a typical day on set, to be sure. But neither could have expected how meaningful shooting it would become.

When asked about the scene in an interview with The Daily Beast, Tambor perks up and immediately looks at Light, who is beaming with pride.

“We’ve known each other for many years and we texted each other afterwards,” Tambor says.

After they shot the bathtub sequence, “He texted me…” Light jumps in, her voice cracking as her eyes well with tears. “I always get emotional when I talk about it,” she apologized. “He texted me: ‘It doesn’t get any better than this.’”

No, I guess it doesn’t.

If the Republican Party can’t make Magnolia Thunderpussy the It Girl of contemporary liberalism, it should just go out of business. In all seriousness, though, Magnolia T. is what social anthropologist Mary Douglas called a “condensed symbol” — shorthand for an entire worldview. She is poor, black, gay, transgendered, unemployed, welfare-dependent, an ex-con who migrated from the benighted South to the compassionate North, where the State, which supports her entirely, also paid for her sex change. It’s hard to invent a character more emblematic of the American liberal worldview, 2015.

It might sound to you like a remark you’d hear on conservative talk radio, but I’m actually serious about this. In my 2013 TAC essay “Sex After Christianity,” I quoted a 1993 cover story in The Nation, praising the contemporary gay rights movement at its outset:

All the crosscurrents of present-day liberation struggles are subsumed in the gay struggle. The gay moment is in some ways similar to the moment that other communities have experienced in the nation’s past, but it is also something more, because sexual identity is in crisis throughout the population, and gay people—at once the most conspicuous subjects and objects of the crisis—have been forced to invent a complete cosmology to grasp it. No one says the changes will come easily. But it’s just possible that a small and despised sexual minority will change America forever.

It did. But understand, transgender is more radical than homosexuality itself, which in most cases affirms gender difference. Magnolia Thunderpussy is a condensed symbol because she represents the essential outsider from the American social order, a figure who achieves her dream through the agency of the State, and is honored as the apotheosis of Progress by the most powerful newspaper in the world, the journal that both epitomizes and leads elite cultural opinion. It is the content of the dream, of MT’s absolute telos, that most essentially defines her as a condensed symbol of American liberalism:

“When I lay down and when I wake up, I’ll be a whole new creature, a whole new being,” Ms. Nimmons declared. “Out with the old, in with the new.”

Novus ordo seclorum! As Patrick Deneen has pointed out, liberalism is based on two foundational principles: the sanctity of individual choice, and the liberation from natural limits. You

Magnolia T.’s celebrated odyssey epitomizes the belief that nothing should stand between a person and his desire to liberate himself from unwanted limits. George Bailey was the symbol of the liberal American dream of an earlier era. Now, it’s Magnolia Thunderpussy.

That fact may be politically inconvenient for liberals, and certainly annoying. But as theologian Carl Trueman points out, with reference to Stefoknee Wolscht, the Canadian trans crackpot who left his wife and children and now lives as a six-year-old girl, this is where the logic of the cultural left takes us:

If everything else which shapes our identity can now be determined by mere personal preference, why single out age as an exception? After all, the way we measure time is a human invention. For example, we arbitrarily build our calendar around the earth’s orbit of the sun. I have always thought that this is a somewhat imperialist imposition of heliocentrism on our lives. We also assume that time moves forward, one moment following another, but that too is really a linguistic construct. “Time” is a floating signifier, a patriarchal myth. To coin a term, the old-fashioned idea of linear chronology now represents a somewhat heterotemporal approach to existence, methinks.

So when it comes to transgender people mewling and puking about how Wolscht is trivializing their cause, let me put this as simply and gently as I can: When you decide that categories of identity are merely psychological and that reality is constituted by language, you consequently have neither the right nor the ability to call a halt to the Promethean process which you have unleashed just because some of the results prove to be distasteful to you and unhelpful to your political cause.  Indeed, whining like a bunch of, ahem, six year old girls is not going to help you at this point.

You do not believe me?  Then perhaps it is time to call the spirit of Nietzsche’s Madman once more from the grave: You who have so derided any notion of human nature and external authority, do you now have the courage to face the world for whose birth you yourselves were the midwives? You who have “unchained the sun from this earth,” can you now live with the consequences of your own actions—where all things, even chronological age, must surely give way before the will to power?  Face the reality you have made, where Mr. Wolscht is  the Nietzschean Übermensch—or, to be precise,  the Überkleinesmädchen—of the new order.

Magnolia Thunderpussy, Weimar American Hero.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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