The Next Culture War Front
Libertarians have generally been quite supportive of gay rights and the same-sex marriage movement. But after spending last Thursday at the LGBT summit put on by The Atlantic magazine, Elizabeth Nolan Brown of Reason said it’s about time for libertarians and gay rights activists to sign divorce papers.
Brown writes that much of the day was taken up with endless politically correct disputation about whether this or that community was adequately represented. She relates a hysterical example that hugely delayed a panel discussion featuring EEOC commissioner Chai Feldblum, a lesbian and leading light of the gay rights movement. And then:
It was one of many mind-boggling moments during the summit, an event filled with both thought-provoking speakers and brain-numbing PC platitudes; heartwarming displays of how far society has come on LGBT issues mixed with troubling signs of where the wind is blowing. It’s important to note that the summit was organized by centrist publication The Atlantic and underwritten by big businesses such as Deloitte, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, and the American Federation of Teachers. It featured federal employees, former and current legislators, and one Sex in the City star. Nothing about this event could be described as remotely “fringe.” [Emphasis mine. — RD]
Brown says that David Boaz and Andrew Sullivan, both gay men who have for years advocated for gay rights, stood out from most of the speakers because they defended religious liberty at the conference. They were alone. Reports Brown:
Again and again, people scoffed at the ideas of religious liberty and of furthering LGBT equality via non-governmental means.
In contrast, Boaz stated: “I think we have millions of small businesses, and I would like to leave the heavy hand of government out of their relationships with their customers and their employees as much as possible.”
Again and again, people scoffed at the ideas of religious liberty and of furthering LGBT equality via non-governmental means.
Feldblum, however, dismissed the idea that religious beliefs could ever justify discrimination. “When someone has not been educated [about tolerance of LGBT individuals] and wants to keep discriminating,” she said, “there is only one federal government, there is only one state government, one local government that can say: We will not tolerate this in our society.”
The EEOC just brought its first two cases alleging discrimination against a transgender person, she noted, and while one of the employers had already settled, the other, a funeral home, is fighting back.
With a religious exemption to non-discrimination laws, the funeral home owner “could say, ‘well, actually, we’re religiously based,'” said Feldblum, raising her arms high and rolling her eyes. “It’s a funeral home! We do not want to allow that and the only thing that can protect us is a law that doesn’t have [a religious] exemption.”
Chai Feldblum isn’t a minor figure. She is
the head of the on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, having been appointed by President Obama, and will be in that post until her term expires in 2018. Long before she was elevated to the EEOC chairmanship, Feldblum was known for her view that there are almost no situations in which disputes between religious liberty and gay rights should be resolved in favor of religious liberty.
It fell to Andrew Sullivan (whose voice I miss more and more every week) to defend freedom to the crowd. You really should read the whole Reason report to hear what he had to say. It includes a link to Andrew’s presentation, in which he says that the LGBT-industrial complex needs to keep the bogeyman of Oppression alive (“These people’s lives and careers and incomes depend on the maintenance of discrimination and oppression”), and says that religious liberty is just about the most important American freedom.
The hard truth is that Andrew Sullivan, alas for us all, is irrelevant to the debate now. When I saw him this spring in Boston, he told me that he can’t go on some campuses now because the gay left hates him for speaking out for religious liberty, and in particular for Brendan Eich. Think about that: fewer than four years ago, the president of the United States was formally committed to maintaining traditional marriage in law. Now, we have Court-mandated gay marriage from coast to coast, and Andrew Sullivan, who has done as much or more than any single person to make that happen, is now regarded by the gay rights movement as some sort of reactionary because of his liberal views.
The Law of Merited Impossibility: It will never happen, and when it does, you bigots will deserve it.
On Friday, I posted a link to a story in The Column magazine (a piece that had been picked up by The New York Times) reporting on the handful of Christian colleges — less than one percent of the total number of colleges in the US — that had asked for a federal waiver regarding Title IX regulations having to do with LGBT matters. According to the story, the Obama administration had granted most of them in the last year, and the others were pending. The piece quotes a lawyer and an activist who are either filing suit in court to overturn the administration’s ruling, or urging people to do so.
In the comments on that post, several progressives said, in effect, “Hey, the government gave Christian schools what they asked for, so what’s the problem?” Others said, “Hey, if the colleges want the right to discriminate, they don’t deserve federal money.” You see in those responses precisely the Law of Merited Impossibility. We have been to this rodeo so many times that religious and social conservatives who think the status quo will hold and these LGBT activists won’t get what they want, eventually, are fools. The next Democratic presidential administration will stack the relevant posts with Chai Feldblums. The next Republican administration, though unlikely to be as radical, will be, like the Congressional GOP, half-hearted and confused on this issue, and will just want it to go away.
When I was in DC this fall, I learned from knowledgeable sources that the Congressional Republicans will do nothing for religious liberty; for them, they only see down sides to engaging on the issue. When GOP presidential candidates like Marco Rubio say they’re going to appoint SCOTUS justices who will overturn Obergefell, don’t you believe them. It’s not going to happen. No GOP president is going to burn political capital on this cause, especially given that gay marriage is supported by an increasing majority of Americans. If there is hope for religious conservatives on this issue, it’s that actively or passively, a Republican administration and Republican Congress will slow the March Of Progress.
But it will march on, because the sexual progressives have captured the heights of the culture. I’ll give you two recent examples. This kind of thing, happening over and over in the news and entertainment media, is one of the main reasons we have gay marriage now. They’re doing it for transgenders, and they’re not going to stop.
The first example is a story that appeared as a centerpiece this weekend on The New York Times‘s website; I don’t know what its placement was in the print edition, but online, it was given the most important slot, indicative of the priority with which the Times crusades for LGBT issues. For readers who dismiss what the Times has to say on anything as a provincial New York point of view, you have to understand that just as you have to read the Wall Street Journal to get a sense of what the financial elites are thinking, you have to read the Times to get a sense of what the cultural elites (in media, government, law, academia, etc.) are thinking.
Seizing the opportunity, Ms. Nimmons was about to become one of the first low-income New Yorkers to undergo a genital reconstruction paid for by Medicaid. In a few hours, if all went well, her body would be aligned with her identity for the first time, and she would no longer be “a chick with a wiener,” in her words, but “a woman in mind, body and soul, before the Lord and before the law.”
Peering under the sheet that draped her that early October morning at a hospital outside Philadelphia, Ms. Nimmons bade farewell to what she called “my friend” — that “extra part” for which she was pronounced male at birth. Tattooed on her right forearm was her birth name, “Jerome,” complete with quotation marks.
“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.”
Over the course of this year, Ms. Nimmons has often said she never expected to make it to 40, much less to “complete” the long, lonely journey from Jerome through Meeka (her interim name) and Magnolia Thunderpussy (her drag name) to Kricket.
Life after vaginoplasty is filled with opportunity, she finds:
Shortly before her surgery, she had unexpectedly fallen into a relationship with a 24-year-old transgender man who, as Ms. Nimmons characterized it, was “still biologically female.” This confused her.
“I’ve never had a liking to women my whole life, but he’s special,” she said.
Magnolia Thunderpussy, culture-war gladiator.
You have to get it straight in your head that Magnolia Thunderpussy, aka Kricket Nimmons, really is a hero to the cultural left, and anyone who doubts her and fails to endorse her project are villains.
The next example is Ariel Levy’s fantastic New Yorker profile of Jill Soloway, creator of the TV series Transparent, in which Jeffrey Tambor portrays an elderly man who transitions into life as an elderly woman. Transparent is not a fringe show; this year, it had 11 Emmy nominations and five wins, making it one of the most honored programs in the industry. (And like they said about the Velvet Underground in its day, itThe profile is fantastic in that it is filled with rich details about how jaw-droppingly insane Soloway and her world are. Excerpts:
Sometimes, though, Soloway sounds not entirely unlike that women’s-studies professor she played. “A patriarchal society can’t really handle that there’s such a thing as a vagina,” she said. “The untrustworthy vagina that is discerning-receiving.” Soloway, who recently turned fifty, was wearing leggings and blue nail polish and a baseball cap that said “Mister.” She sped past a stretch of Craftsmen bungalows, whose front yards were studded with bicycles, jade plants, and toys. “So you can want sex, you can want to be entered, and then a minute later you can say, ‘Stop—changed my mind,’ ” she continued. “That is something that our society refuses to allow for. You don’t feel like it now? You’re shit out of luck. You know why? Because you have a pussy! To me, that is what’s underneath all this gender trouble: most of our laws are being formed by people with penises.”
Most of our entertainment, of course, has also been formed by people with penises, and Soloway is trying to change that: through her hiring practices, her choice of subject matter, and the way she thinks and acts at work.
This description of the show’s characters and how they behave; “Maura” is Tambor’s male-to-female character:
One consequence of rebirth is a second coming of age, and both Maura and her children act out with the heedless egocentrism of adolescents. The eldest sibling, Sarah, leaves her husband to pursue an affair with her college girlfriend, after they reunite at the school that their children attend. In the second season, their relationship moves from illicit to domestic, and Sarah finds herself trapped in her own escape plan, as restless and unmoored as ever. Her brother, Josh, keeps accidentally getting women pregnant and pitching fits: he throws a chair at his boss, and shrieks at other drivers from behind the wheel. Ali, the youngest, drifts between interests and lovers, experimenting with drugs, lesbianism, yellow eye shadow, and academia. (“You can not do anything!” Maura explodes at her.)
The upside of immaturity is guileless delight, and “Transparent” has a child’s sense of amazement about the world—especially secret places where different rules apply. Maura seems free for the first time at a sylvan cross-dressing camp, where she bikes along the dirt road wearing a purple dress. The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival—which ended this summer, after forty years, largely because of conflicts over whether trans women ought to be included—is re-created in the second season as a muddy, magical oasis where women receive visions by staring into bonfires. “I’m always trying to bring the concept of play into the female gaze,” Soloway told me.
There is even an innocence to the sex scenes, which are radical and plentiful. Sarah gets a spanking—but in the forest, with a grin on her face. In Season 2 (which will become available online on December 11th), Maura has sex for the first time since her transition, with an earth mother played by Anjelica Huston. She says aloud what so many virgins have said in their minds: “I don’t know what to do.”
In the utopia that Soloway envisions, I suggested, there would be no need to transition, because there would be no gender in the first place. Soloway parsed it differently: “In a few years, we’re going to look back and say, ‘When we were little, we used to think that all women had vaginas and all men had penises, but now, of course, we know that’s not true.’ ”
Eventually we learn that Soloway has just left her husband and their seven-year-old son, and taken up with a lesbian poet, who is over the moon about how nothing binds our behavior except our own will. I urge you strongly to read the entire profile, because the ending will hit you like a thunderbolt, and tell you exactly what we are dealing with here. Trust me on this. Read it.
Yes, this stuff is deeply distasteful, but attention must be paid. I hate using some of this language on this blog, but the fact that it’s appearing at all in The New York Times reveals something about the state of our culture — and again, attention must be paid.
Jill Soloway is an increasingly influential culture creator — and she has powerful media institutions like The New York Times on her side. What’s going on in our culture is far, far beyond politics, but it will drive politics and law, and not in a direction that bodes well for religious liberty. At the very least.
This is not primarily a culture war over political power. This is spiritual warfare, as the Soloway piece makes plain for those with eyes to see. A political response is necessary, but a political response alone is radically insufficient, in part because it’s nothing but a delaying action. This Weimar America madness has to run its course. We religious conservatives had all better do everything we can to protect our institutions and our families from it. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s not going to get any easier as the years go by, no matter who sits in the White House, and we had better prepare ourselves.