What if your identity doesn’t matter at all?


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Stages of a quarantine meltdown

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In a matter of a week, we’ve all been yanked back to reality. Most of us, anyway. It seems some stragglers remain blissfully ignorant, continuing on with their lives much as they would have pre-global pandemic. Refusing to care about anyone but ourselves remains a popular pastime among humans, as ever.

GQ published a badly timed article last week, just days before reality (and panic) set in for most, profiling Ezra Miller — an actor I’ve never heard of and wish I had still not.

Miller is 27 years old, insists on being referred to as “they” or “them,” and has a personality to match these demands. He is intolerable, in other words. The fawning interviewer, who can’t have been more than 30 years old themselves, or they wouldn’t have fallen for the embarrassing charade of faux-intellectualism, conveyed through the use of as many big words as Miller could memorize, quotes the actor saying things like:

“Straightness and cis-ness and whiteness and racism, as in the belief in race, physical appearance as a determining factor for fucking anything, including ethnicity, ethnography — these are all like the circus, the carnival, the Hollywood instead of all the different storytelling practices… All these things are relatively recent colonial inventions.”

Genius! This is a man who knows his history (and can convey ideas in a clear, cogent way). Obviously, the notion that females are women and males are men is a modern invention of oppressors! Same with heterosexuality. Pre-colonialism, no one could tell what sex anyone was and no babies were produced at all. That’s why civilization fully collapsed in the 19th century, and the planet is now inhabited by aliens. Oh did you guys not learn that at college?

To support his historic expertise, Miller adds:

“We’re better at sex than y’all. We’re better at art. We’re better at warfare. These are things carried in the old understandings of so-called, whatever-you-want-to-call-it: non-binary, queer, genderqueer, trans, gay, lesbian. Just like the neurodiverse peoples, these people are all sacred beings, superior to other beings.”

I’m sorry, dear. But you are 27. You are definitely not better at sex than anyone. Moreover, anyone so narcissistic as to insist they exist outside material reality — those who identify as “non-binary, queer, genderqueer, and trans,” in other words — is probably not much of a hero in bed. A chubby, polyamorous inside cat of a human, posting facetuned selfies of themselves in an attempt to force the world around them to validate their fuckability, is unlikely to thrive in warfare.

And here we are: in a time that has been compared, by numerous people, to World War III. It is major crisis, at very least, that will have a major impact. And where are the Ezra Millers of the world? The young trans-identified and non-binary warriors? Well, apparently joking about “boomers” dying from coronavirus; posting dramatic selfies of themselves fake crying outside their mansions; complaining that their cosmetic surgeries have been postponed, due to hospitals being overwhelmed by treating actual sick people; and buying lingerie.

Diana Willow Penrose Thomas — formerly David William Penrose Thomas — who has been writing a column for the Telegraph about his transition at 60 years old, and informed us last week that the pain of childbirth was comparable to having his legs lasered, says what he worries about the most, in terms of the impact of this pandemic, is his hair:

“My wondrous weaves need adjusting on a regular basis because the longer my hair grows, the more they detach from my scalp. If I can’t get to the salon safely before the end of April, my lovely new ’do will be flapping around like a tarpaulin in a force-10 gale…”

It is a “terrible pandemic,” Thomas knows, but nonetheless contributes that, “keeping up appearances feels important.”

“The Four Horsemen may be riding down the road, but sisters are dyeing it for themselves,” Thomas writes, imagining thousands of women across the globe, fists up in solidarity with his vacuous insults.

It is true that we currently don’t have access to the luxuries many are accustomed to, and I’m not sure when we will again. But those of us with rational heads on our shoulders realize not only that what is important right now is not what will become of our manicures, but that, even if we are concerned, now is not the time to complain. Not when so many are suffering very real, very serious problems, and while we are all (or should be, in any case) fearful about what the future holds.

If anything, what we should learn from this is that, in the grand scheme of things, your pronouns; your complaints about “misgendering” and invalidation of your imagined uniqueness; and your overdependence on superficial, unnecessary cosmetic alterations like fillers, botox, weaves, laser hair removal, hormone treatments, and plastic surgery, should not be our top priority.

And don’t get me wrong, I have a rather superficial streak myself. But I also don’t feel it would be the end of the world if I had to file my own nails or if my roots grew out. I do feel it would be the end of the world, if, say, a deadly virus killed tens of thousands and our society collapsed, due to lack of employment, income, and access to food and healthcare. Oddly my existence and sense of self do not depend entirely on my ability to access a boob job, or to get my leg hair permanently removed. Nor would I fall to pieces if someone failed to recognize, based on my outfit, what my relationship to gender was, inside my head.

“Ezra Miller confirming that trans people are superior to other folks? Motion passed,” PinkNews crowed.

But the truth is that anyone who is so heavily reliant on a weave, surgeries, laser treatments, filler and botox, as well as on fashion, for their “survival,” is not going to survive trying times like these. Claims that “misgendering literally kills” or that one’s cosmetic surgeries are a matter of life and death are laughable at best, and contemptible at worst, considering our current circumstances. Those who are so weak of mind that they fall apart without strictly controlled forms of validation will not have the mental fortitude to withstand isolation and a sudden withdrawal of fawning attention from yes-men, due to society’s sudden need to pay attention to, well, things that actually matter. Currently, no one is going to care about your OOTD or the trauma of being “misgendered.”

If you want people to believe you are a “superior being,” you need to work on resilience. You also need to contribute something of worth to society, beyond self-indulgent whining, flagrant superficiality, and profound fragility, manifested as a demand that the entire world become your helicopter parent. People who have chosen weakness as their political manifesto cannot simultaneously announce superiority.

I have noticed a distinct lack of identity politicky hot takes online since COVID-19 threw us all into turmoil, and am interested to see if, when we do return to a version of normalcy, our priorities are reordered. Post-coronavirus, will “My non-binary status is about life and death” seem more clearly like the joke it is? Or will we immediately forget our close call, and go back to the vapid narcissism that passes for politics this decade?

Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist from Vancouver, BC. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including The Spectator, UnHerd, Quillette, the CBC, New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and is now exiled in Mexico with her very photogenic dog.