As a principle of common courtesy, it is a good thing to respect a person’s right of self-definition. If someone who has been known as a man in public and for a long time, but then declares that Chelsea or Caitlyn will be the person’s statement of identity from now on, so be it. I’m not being asked all that much to go along.
Note that I am not obliged to agree with the person’s claims. It’s simply that in many cases, I’m being asked to participate in a kind of cosplay. And I mean no disrespect in saying that. So much of life is theatrical, and the play’s the thing, as Bill said. Courtesy does often involve some measure of a suspension of disbelief, but the willingness to do that is one of the things that keeps us from killing each other.
There is a question of rationality here. If I understand, for example, that Sherlock Holmes is a fictional character and that Napoleon is dead, and if a person presents himself as being either of those two — or presents herself, indeed — I have good reason for having doubts, even if, again out of courtesy, I refrain from saying anything. At times, it’s worth re-evaluating my settled conclusions, and so I do well to consider the claims of those who seem misguided or outright insane, but that does not mean that I must give up facts and logic As I said, the things to keep in mind are time, place, and purpose, and it’s worthwhile asking what is to be gained by challenging a person’s identity. Sometimes, there are good reasons, but we all must be clear on what they might be.
In the case of the self-proclaimed alt-right, however, these scruples are not relevant. I have no wish to extend to such barbarians any courtesy. Nothing is to be gained by regarding them as a reasonable or practical alternative to the varieties of thought on the right wing. And enough of this nonsense about their being neo-Nazis.
Nothing in the ideology of this vile movement is alternative or new. It’s all just the same old fascism that the world saw in the first half of the twentieth century in its extreme expression, the same hate that drove inquisitors and witch hunters. Nazi is simply one succinct way to express the evil that they represent, and there’s no need to pretend that they bring anything fresh to the discussion.
Whatever I think about the phenomenon of transgenderism, a person who is born one sex but identifies with the other does not harm me. A fascist whose pathetic rage drives him — and yes, they are typically loser males — to work to deny the existence and expression of the rights of others is doing damage to us all. Such a person deserves neither courtesy nor accommodation. To him, I have this response, borrowing the rhythm of Woody Guthrie:
This writer fights fascists.
For more of my writing, go here.