Yesterday in our podcast interview, Ezra Klein asked me to explain why it is that when he looks at this blog, he sees lots of anxious material about LGBT stuff, when that kind of thing doesn’t appear in the actual life he lives as a New York liberal. It’s a fair question.
Here’s what I told him — or rather, the overall message you will have received from listening to the entire interview.
The Sexual Revolution is the most important social event of our era. It has overturned many of the structures, practices, and ways of thinking that ordered human life for ages and ages. It has radically changed the meaning of family, marriage, male, female, even what it means to be human. It is changing the way we use language, which itself changes the way we frame our experiences of the world. And its principles negate the Christian religion, which I passionately believe to be true. You cannot reconcile the Sexual Revolution to orthodox Christianity. You just can’t.
You can think this is a great thing, a terrible thing, or some of both, but what you cannot deny is that it is a momentous thing. Writing in the 1960s, sociologist Philip Rieff said it was a more radical revolution than the Bolshevik one.
The LGBT — especially the T — experience is the ultimate manifestation of the Sexual Revolution, because it stands as the total negation of normativity and nature. As I write in The Benedict Option:
Americans accepted gay marriage so quickly because it resonated so deeply with what they had already come to believe about the meaning of heterosexual sex and marriage.
We have gay marriage because the straight majority came to see sexuality as something primarily for personal pleasure and self-expression and only secondarily for procreation. We have gay marriage because the straight majority, in turn, came to see marriage in the same way—and two generations of Americans have grown up with these nominalist values on sex and marriage as normative.
To be modern, as we have seen, is to believe in one’s individual desires as the locus of authority and self- definition. As philosopher Charles Taylor writes, “The entire ethical stance of moderns supposes and follows on from the death of God (and of course, of the meaningful cosmos).”
Gay marriage and gender ideology signify the final triumph of the Sexual Revolution and the dethroning of Christianity because they deny Christian anthropology at its core and shatter the authority of the Bible. Rightly ordered sexuality is not at the core of Christianity, but as Rieff saw, it’s so near to the center that to lose the Bible’s clear teaching on this matter is to risk losing the fundamental integrity of the faith. This is why Christians who begin by rejecting sexual orthodoxy end either by rejecting Christianity themselves or by laying the groundwork for their children to do so.
“The death of a culture begins when its normative institutions fail to communicate ideals in ways that remain inwardly compelling,” Rieff writes. By that standard, Christianity in America is in mortal danger.
In short, there is a clear connection between the decline of the Christian religion and the disintegration of marriage and family, and the Sexual Revolution. This was happening before LGBT became the cultic religion of American elites, especially the Manhattan parish newsletter (as Father Neuhaus called The New York Times). But it has greatly accelerated in the past decade or two. If Ezra Klein can’t see it, this is perhaps because he has become so acclimated to it, because of where he lives, his social circles, and his beliefs as a secular person, that it all strikes him as normal.
All of that is background to this piece in today’s NYT. You thought that the end of June meant the end of the pro-LGBT advocacy journalism at the Times, maybe? Wrong! Today we have short profiles celebrating sexual diversity among contemporary New Yorkers. This is a classic example of the re-norming of society around queer categories. I’ll explain more in a second. First, these quotes. The first one is from Katie Bishop, whose photo and self-description lead this blog post:
“Queer has become lacking in punch lately,” she said. “It feels safe.”
Bishop feels there’s a growing danger, particularly as a member of the L.G.B.T.Q. community, in getting too safe and too innocuous.
But dyke? Pervert? “There’s power in stigma,” she said.
To understand the words Bishop employs to describe herself is to understand Bishop herself. “I exist very politically,” she said.
She considers her use of ‘femme,’ for example, strategically chosen for etymological focus on the feminine. “There’s something powerful in the erasure of the masculine,” she said.
Here’s a passage from the item about Jacob “Jayne” Gervich, who describes himself as “nonbinary trans femme”:
For Jacob “Jayne” Gervich, an assistant film editor from South Slope, Brooklyn — who uses the pronouns they, them, and theirs — identity felt like an elusive concept. Gervich, who was assigned male at birth, went from small-town Midwest boy to a self-proclaimed nonbinary trans-femme film editor and homemaking spouse. And one description they hope to attain in the future: a loving parent.
“My wife and I are trying to start a family in the next few years, and we’re trying to do it the old-fashioned way,” said Gervich, whose wife, Allison, was assigned female at birth and identifies as a woman. The two have been together for about a decade and were married two years ago at a farm in Hillsdale, N.Y.
“My wife would be ‘Mom,’” they said. “And I think what we settled on is that our child would call me ‘Baba.’”
They are considering female hormone therapy, but they put the idea on hold in an effort to start a family.
“Times are different but the journey is still hard, and you never really figure yourself out and you can still have doubts,” Gervich said. “Especially for nonbinary people, the doubts aren’t just, ‘Do I really want this thing?’ But it could even feel like a question of ‘Am I real? Am I really feeling this?’”
Gervich thought of the adversity their child might face, but took comfort in the idea of being able to console them through experience and insight.
“For my own child’s journey,” Gervich said, “I would tell them: ‘Listen to yourself. Trust yourself. And really listen to what your heart says because the world is filled with these competing voices telling you to doubt yourself.”
Great, Daddy is a nonbinary trans femme whose philosophy of life is taken from the films of Walt Disney. What a life that kid is going to have!
Why is this important to pay attention to? I’m not pointing to them like Ignatius at the Prytania; I’m trying to get my readers to see that something radically, and radically important, is happening. People who aren’t media professionals probably don’t recognize the importance of The New York Times in setting the agenda for the rest of the media, especially the New York-based broadcast media. In NYC itself, the Times is seen as stodgy and behind the curve, but see, that’s why it’s so important when the Times decides something is normal, and to be promoted. That the Times sees people like Katie Bishop and Jacob “Jayne” Gervich and the way they choose to live as something to be celebrated tells us a lot about how the Overton window has shifted towards disintegration of old norms.
To me, the most sinister aspect of all this is the way the Times is normalizing, in that Orwellian way, changing the language. Gervich was born male, but the Times writers, adopting the ideological framing of the LGBT movement, says he was “assigned male at birth.” Of course the Times writers, as is policy at the paper, use preferred pronouns. This is what Orwell, in 1984, calls Newspeak. He defines it like this:
The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of Ingsoc [English Socialism, the ruling ideology of Oceania — RD], but to make all other modes of thought impossible. It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought—that is, a thought diverging from the principles of Ingsoc—should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words.
Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meanings and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods. This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words and by stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings, and so far as possible of all secondary meanings whatever.
If you change the language at this deep level, you change the way speakers of that language conceive of reality. This is the essence of totalitarianism, in Orwell: the idea that reality itself is mutable, has no objective existence, and can be made to be whatever the Party says it is. More Orwell:
In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy. The heresy of heresies was common sense.
And what was terrifying was not that they would kill you for thinking otherwise, but that they might be right. For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable—what then?
The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.
That there is male and there is female — two of the most basic biological facts — that is now heresy. You are to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears, or you are a bigot. You are, to use another Orwell term, a thought criminal.
Reality is being “queered,” in the broad sense of the term used by queer scholars. “To queer” means not only to apply queer categories to cultural analysis, but also, according to this from Wikipedia:
In a more current context, methods of queering extend beyond critiquing literature to examine topics from popular culture to more abstract topics like theology and time. In her essay about the benefits of queering theology, Thelathia “Nikki” Young, says that queering is a way to “[deconstruct] the logics and frameworks operating within old and new theological and ethical concepts.” In addition to these deconstructions, she argues that queering “dismantles the dynamics of power and privilege persisting among diverse subjectivities.”
In other words, “queering” is about dis-integration, and in fact politically motivated dis-integration. The basic belief here is that there is no objective truth to be learned and discovered, only interpretation. That being the case, revolutionaries should use their power to re-norm society according to queer categories.
More from 1984:
Already we are breaking down the habits of thought which have survived from before the Revolution. We have cut the links between child and parent, and between man and man, and between man and woman.
We are living through a version of this, in real time. This is what I mean by “soft totalitarianism.” It’s not about learning to be more compassionate towards sexual minorities. It’s about re-ordering reality. Already they — academia, media, Woke Capital, and others — are breaking down the habits of thought which survived from before the Sexual Revolution. They are abolishing man.
It’s funny, but if Pat Robertson’s CBN had broadcast the same material as in the Times piece today, it would have been denounced as engaging in homophobia, for drawing negative attention to people the network regarded as freaks. You see here an example of what I call the Law Of Motivated Noticing: You may only take note of sexual perversity if you are prepared to affirm it as progressive.
For example, Katie Bishop describes herself as “perverted,” which she certainly is. You can only use that word if you are doing so to approve of Katie Bishop’s perversity, or perversity in general. If you call her, or people like her, “perverse,” but mean it pejoratively, well, then you are a thought criminal.
Another example: if you read the Times story, and say, “How wonderful it is that society is changing to notice and to affirm all these gender identities and sexualities, and how marvelous that the Times is finally paying attention,” you have not committed crimethink. But if you read it and say, “How terrible it is that society is deconstructing itself, and embracing a form of madness, and how bizarre it is that mainstream media like The New York Times writes about this stuff constantly, in total advocacy mode” — well, then you must be a bigoted right-wing obsessive.
One of the most totalitarian aspects of this stage in the Revolution is that it demands that you not notice how radical it is. This is what Orwell meant by doublethink, which he said is a form of “reality control.” More:
Winston sank his arms to his sides and slowly refilled his lungs with air. His mind slid away into the labyrinthine world of doublethink. To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which canceled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself—that was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word “doublethink” involved the use of doublethink.
What’s happening is not happening. Perversity Is Progress. Male Is Female. Truth Is Lies. Freedom Is Slavery. War Is Peace. As Sir Roger Scruton has written:
This is how the Revolution institutionalizes itself. Winston Smith began by believing that “nothing was your own except the few cubic centimeters inside your skull.” But the Party would show him that if it wanted to, it could invade and tame his mind as well, and make him love Big Brother.
Maybe it will come to that. But we should give these bastards a fight. We shouldn’t concede territory to them, inside our heads or anywhere else. You begin to see why Solzhenitsyn’s fundamental counsel to the anti-Soviet resistance was: “Live not by lies.” In this recent clip, a faceless Scottish student named Murray, punished for crimethink, shows us one way of resistance: