Gender totalitarians and the memory hole
“No one will understand Aimee better by knowing the fact of her deadname,” writes attorney Chase Strangio of the American Civil Liberties Union. “It is not relevant to who she was or how anyone will actually remember her” — which is weird, given that Strangio’s late client Aimee Stephens will be named soon in a historic Supreme Court decision for trans rights.
You see, including Stephens’s birth name “in an obituary is a final act of disrespect so cruel that it undermines whatever respect was meant to come from memorializing a person in an obituary,” Strangio complains.
A centuries-old journalistic practice (“background research and reporting”) is thus transformed into a hate crime (“deadnaming”).
Gender lobbyists have succeeded in pressing major media outlets to alter their obit policies, of course, and now the civil rights pressure groups are all lining up to link hands with the ACLU against the evil of deadnaming.
When Aimee Stephens died, she was fighting for an end to anti-LGBTQ employment discrimination. Deadnaming and misgendering her erases her identity and dishonors her legacy. #LetTransFolxLive https://t.co/u455e4eQ8g
— Southern Poverty Law Center (@splcenter) May 26, 2020
Begging our empathy, Strangio accidentally tells a revealing anecdote about a phone call with the New York Times regarding a different trans woman friend who had died.
“I am not telling you that, and I don’t even know,” I responded. “And wait, why do you need to know that?”
“It is customary to include someone’s birth name in an obituary,” the reporter explained.
Which is true. As anyone who has ever taken a Journalism 101 class would know, birth names are important matters of public record.
Women who take a partner’s name in marriage are always subject to this so-called “deadnaming” in death, for example, because they have living relatives with their “maiden name.”
Celebrities often have screen or stage names that differ from their birth names, and fans like to know that sort of information.
But Strangio maintains that all such norms invalidate trans people. Using a birth name “cedes that authority [defining one’s own identity] to a structure of power and discrimination that would rather I never existed at all,” Strangio opines.
Strangio is not talking about patriarchy, ladies.
No, this is about a power structure in which everyone who is not trans (that probably means you) is systematically oppressing trans people.
The ambitions of this program go far beyond special pleading within the ethics of journalism.
Consider the rest of Strangio’s anecdote about a dead trans woman friend — that is, someone who actually died in body, not just in name:
What the reporter didn’t understand was that my friend had not only died from COVID-19 but also that her death was directly related to the kind of systemic refusal to honor trans existence that causes the paper of record to insist on publicizing our deadnames. Lorena had feared going to the doctor when she first became sick with COVID-19 because, as a trans person, she had faced so much discrimination in the health care system over the years — including the repeated use of her deadname — that it had become hard to endure unless it was a true emergency.
COVID-19 does not care about anyone’s gender identity. Having a Y chromosome is the single biggest risk factor for contracting COVID-19, being in the intensive care unit for COVID-19, or dying of COVID-19, but heaven forbid that a trans woman should seek medical attention because they might have to explain to a doctor that their male body has the symptoms of a deadly virus.
A fate worse than actual death!
It is no accident that Strangio reckons the actual life of a supposed friend as being less important than their mere sense of validation. This may seem a strange calculation, but it is basic to the logic of gender totalitarianism: to invalidate me is to murder me.
In the sense that ego death is painful, that idea is true enough, and too-easily weaponized. After all, who wants to hurt anyone else’s feelings so much?
“The ongoing understanding that our identities are not valid is what every trans person sees and hears whenever someone insists on referring to a trans person by using their deadname,” Strangio complains.
Consider that statement in light of a now-deleted tweet in which Strangio described the mental health impact of being a trans person in a cisgendered world:
I still get mail in my old name. Because of this, I am afraid to check my mail. Because of that, I sometimes miss bills that I need to pay. Because of that those outstanding bills have gone to collection. Because of that, my credit gets worse.
Aimee Stephens also left behind a pile of debts thanks to transition expenses and losing a job, but heaven forbid we should listen to transwidows, or allow family members to have any responses to adult transition of a father figure other than total, enthusiastic, smiling affirmation.
Because that would be invalidating.
We must not examine Aimee Stephens’s life in such a light, or Chase Strangio’s credit rating, or a trans person’s medical history, or else they will feel like dying.
What they all seem to want is a world in which Bruce Jenner never won any Olympic medals, appeared on the Wheaties box, married a Kardashian, or developed autogynephilia before taking his daughter-in-law’s name. No, we are supposed to celebrate the life of Caitlyn Jenner, an Olympic medal-winning woman who did not “father” any children at all because she was always a woman on the inside. She has a new birth certificate that says she was a girl the whole time, see?
The rest goes down the memory hole.
In our brave new world of 137 genders, we are going to have all sorts of interesting new gaps in the public record. The abuse is already happening.
This pressure has worked on both institutional and corporate America in ways that other human rights campaigns could never imagine.
For example, credit card companies have proven to be very accommodating to transgender demands for name changes.
By comparison, credit cards have only been available to women for a few decades, and for most of that time, feminists have complained about the difficulty of changing the name on a card for a marriage or divorce.
People get misgendered all the time; only recently has it become a crime. People get deadnamed all the time; it is only just now becoming a crime. Literally no one ever gets to decide how they are remembered; only people with “gender identities” get to make these special pleadings and be taken seriously.