“And once again Einar became exhausted by the world failing to know who he was.” — The Danish Girl
Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your pronouns. That is — or at least was — the tepid opinion of Natalie Wynn, a video-essayist who was recently ensnared by the queer politics of America’s increasingly doctrinaire left wing. The scene, as decadent as one of the sets in Wynn’s videos, unfolded in the following manner.
Diana Tourjée, a journalist for Vice who primarily discusses trans issues, wrote on Twitter: “Sometimes it’s funny when you’re the only trans person in a space where everyone is announcing their pronouns. Like it gets to you and a hush falls over the room and you can just like check your phone because only cis people need to be working on their pronoun game.”
Wynn, who is transgender, responded to the tweets several hours later, and expressed agreement: “This has happened to me before in hyperwoke spaces. Like it’s me and a bunch of cis women and we all have to go in a circle saying ‘she/her’ because I’m there. There’s this paradox where I can go to a sports bar in North Carolina and be miss/ma’am’d all night no question, but in self-consciously trans-inclusive spaces I have to explain my pronouns & watch woke people awkwardly correct themselves every time they say ‘you guys.’”
Wynn then added the following caveat: “I guess it’s good for people who use they/them [pronouns] only and want only gender neutral language. But it comes at the minor expense of semi-passable transes like me and that’s super f—ing hard for me.”
So, Aggies, here’s a pop quiz. Upon reading the preceding exchange, what followed?
A) People thought it was interesting but ultimately moved on with their lives
B) There was an educational exchange of ideas between two groups of people — non-binary trans-folks and “semi-passiable transes” — both “exhausted by the world failing to know who they are”
C) Wynn had her home address published online causing her to deactivate her Twitter account.
D) All of the above
This column won’t condescend to its readers by providing the answer, but suffice it to say the old chestnut “this is why we can't have nice things” is applicable.
Wynn returned to social media several days later, one of her many fabulous hats in hand. She spoke of her regret for “expressing [her] feelings in a glib way” and made clear that her “discomfort with gender-neutral language and explaining [her] pronouns does not outweigh the needs of other trans, non-binary, and gender-non-conforming people.” She then thanked those who criticized her in a “measured and constructive way” before announcing that “Twitter is not a good platform for me, and I have turned this account over to my assistant”.
The ordeal is reminiscent of a passing line in Camus’s essay “The Myth of Sisyphus,” in which the philosopher defended Galileo’s famed recantation. The philosopher noted that “Galileo, who held a scientific truth of great importance, abjured it with the greatest ease as soon as it endangered his life. In a certain sense, he did right. That truth was not worth the stake.”
Wynn is no Galileo — and her opinion is deservedly controversial — but a reasonable onlooker justifiably interprets the publication of her private information as a credible threat of violence. Therefore, while it is entirely possible that Wynn’s retraction was heartfelt, we will never know for sure.
All this has the unfortunate consequence of quelling the controversial political speech in which minorities often engage. Members of the transgender community — here a synecdoche for minorities generally — are more likely to express politically controversial ideas than most. This is so for two reasons: First, in democracies, majorities get to define what constitutes “controversial” or “dangerous” political speech and often use these classifications as a form of political oppression. Second, because mainstream political discourse has traditionally ignored issues which specifically affect minority groups, the latter often lag behind in teasing out the philosophical nuances of their positions, a necessary process which inherently involves controversial speech.
This final type of discourse is that in which Wynn was engaging. It is a discourse that has now been silenced, not because it was bested by clear, concise and coherent arguments, but because it was threatened with political violence. This is the consequence of doxxing: no matter what else happened, no matter what other reasonable points were made, the dialogue is forever tainted, and social justice is pushed that much further away.