Do Queer Theorists from the Academic Left Promote Trumpism?
In Patrick J. Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed he offers a cause for Western civilization’s descent and our experience of disconnectedness fueled by a strange concept Deneen calls borderlessness: “the arbitrariness of almost every border [where] any differentiation, distinction, boundary, and delineation…come under suspicion as arbitrarily limiting individual freedom of choice.” Be they barriers to spending, barriers imposed by nature, or national borders, they “must increasingly be erased under the logic of liberalism.” Which happens to be the terrain of Queer Theory, another postmodernist spinoff taught in university humanities departments throughout the Western world. “Queer Theory,” writes Pluckrose and Lindsay in Cynical Theories, “is about liberation from the ‘normal,’ especially [but not only] where it comes to norms of gender and sexuality. This is because it regards the very existence of categories of sex, gender, and sexuality to be oppressive.” On the surface, central to Queer Theory is the explicit annihilation of norms. Just beneath that surface is their post-Marxist, postmodernist heritage with its explicit goal of dismantling the West through postmodernism’s assault on rational thought the West is built on.
Queer Theory engages a touchy subject, not least because of Trump’s sanction, weaponization, and employment of nationalist white supremacy, which has increased harassment of LGBT people, including murders. Queer Theory (QT), which has been around far longer than Trumpism, rightly opposes this. But far from QT scholars opposing Trumpian intolerance, norm-breaking, and the normalization of nationwide discord, such scholars and Trump prove themselves to enter different sides of the same bed. “Pre-Theory liberal activism and thought focused on changing prejudiced attitudes towards people of a certain sex, gender, or sexuality by appealing to our many commonalities and shared humanity, and to universal liberal principles,” writes Pluckrose and Lindsay. QT changed all that. Like Critical Race Theory we considered last time, QT can “sound” like it accords with Enlightenment goals of freedom and equality, but its postmodernist heritage demands the eradication of Enlightenment thinking. While QT seeks to destroy all categories as oppressive, three of them — Eurocentric, white, and male— could not be more firm, and thus, in a convenient reversal, targets for oppression by QT scholars. The QT project, like the rest of postmodernism, is not about principle; it’s about politics as vendetta. A vendetta against the West for crimes it did indeed commit — like every other people and civilization — but with rejection of Enlightenment’s capacity for self-assessment and correction.
“Queering is about unmaking any sense of the normal in order to liberate people from the expectations that norms carry. According to queer Theory, these expectations — whether explicit or implicit — generate a cultural and political power… referred to as normativity, and which constrains and oppresses people who fail to identify with it. This phenomenon may not have anything to do with gender or sexuality, and has even expanded to include time and space… Queer Theory, then, is essentially about the belief that to categorize gender and sexuality (or anything else) is to legitimize one discourse — the normative one — as knowledge and use it to constrain individuals.” University of Michigan’s professor of sexuality, David Halperin, extols queering as “whatever is at odds with the normal, the legitimate, the dominant. There is nothing in particular to which it necessarily refers. It is an identity without an essence.” An all-purpose tool to debase any system of norms, morals, ethics, laws, tradition, or any remaining remnant of communitarian meaning.
According to QT, sex, gender, and sexuality are purely social constructs, “binaries of power,” with zero contribution from biology. “Because Queer Theory derives directly from postmodernism, it is radically skeptical that these categories are based in any biological reality.” But if so, were we to socialize children to believe they can fly, could they? No? But why? Perhaps, because biology is real? However, if QT is right and these are purely social constructs, then what about the animal world? Fish? Insects? Do they invent these categories from nothing as well? And if biology has no role in sexual determinism, aren’t these matters of individual free choice? If so, are churches that pressure gay men and women in their Conversion Therapy courses wrong to do so? But if sex, gender, and sexuality are biologically determined — as in human biology, which by default confers human rights — then conversion would be a kind of socially approved torture. Imagine the reverse: heterosexuals forced to be gay. “Unfortunately, [Queer Theorists] seem to have missed the point that biologically legitimizing sex, gender, and sexuality [tends] to lead people to become more accepting, rather than less…”
That the vast majority of humanity — and every other species on earth unencumbered by cultural norms — are bimodally correlated to sex must be “problematized” and “suppressed by Queer Theory.” Hence, QT is, like all postmodernism, profoundly anti-science because biology shows there are “normal” categories dominant in the animal world of which humans are a part. This animal norm does not, however, also mean an absolutist universal. There are examples in nature, though still by the numbers notoriously rare, of gender swapping: female whiptail lizards imitating intercourse with other females; clown fish that begin life as male then change to female; sex-like acts imposed upon primate beta males by alpha males. The first two are pure biology. The very biochemistry of these animals changes. The last example might be interpreted as a social construct, but even that is an affirmation of masculine dominance, not a tribal announcement that alpha Frank decided he was Francis. Biologist E. O. Wilson said, “No serious scholar would think that human behavior is controlled the way animal instinct is, without the intervention of culture.” What he did not say is that human behavior is solely under the control of culture with no instinct or biological imperatives. It’s that Rush Limbaugh-like absolutism that keeps putting QT scholars in a corner their forced to try to…wait for it…reason their way out of, despite postmodernism’s rejection of reason.
That politics is paramount and biology is kryptonite is made clear enough by University of Michigan gender theorist Gayle Rubin. “It is impossible to think with any clarity about the politics of race or gender as long as these are thought of as biological entities rather than as social constructs,” writes Rubin. “Similarly, sexuality is impervious to political analysis as long as it is primarily conceived as a biological phenomenon or an aspect of individual psychology.” That is, we are to believe sex, gender, and sexuality are categories uniquely concocted by societies rather than facts of biology, not because it’s true, but because it’s easier to politicize them if we do. No wonder these people are anti-science. Like Trump’s New Right, the truth of science is an obstacle to their lies. As QT academics play right into the hands of Republican state legislatures in their nationwide defunding of universities “where liberals are made.” “It undermines public trust in the academy, which is generally considered a guardian of what is, by making it more like a church, [conveying what] people ought to think and believe.” Religion in the Ivory Tower. Imagine that.
Per City University New York professor and QT pioneer the late Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, we should resist Enlightenment temptation to resolve contradictions as we should instead accept many perspectives at once even when mutually contradictory and incoherent, “not attempting to make rational sense of anything.” For Sedgwick, contradictions are politically valuable, the way Big Oil adopted Big Tobacco’s claim that “doubt is our product.” “Sedgwick finds it useful to generalize from [the] understanding of binaries that apply to sexuality to other binaries in society, as a way to destabilize hierarchies of superiority and inferiority.” Like morality versus immorality, the environment versus corporate profits, or democracy versus tyranny. Congratulations. Mission accomplished.
Reading history from the QT perspective, Hitler queered (as a verb) the norms of 1930s Germany. Germans resistant to Hitler were resistant because he violated Germany’s norms. Those resistors were the first to visit and never leave the concentration camps. How can people oppose and create laws against discrimination, murder, genocide if there are no norms? Is Putin a war criminal, or is this label an exercise in binaries and oppressive power? If science is not an accurate description of nature, QT scholars need to abandon all that tech they use — cars, smartphones, televisions — working just as science designed them to work. Such is the chronic self-contradictory nature of postmodern disciplines unhindered by testing their “theories” in the real world. QT’s attempt to free groups instead borders them from others in a common humanity, nursing victim “identities.” Their attempt to explode oppression through evisceration of norms mimics Trump’s destruction of norms, replaced by his standardization of lies, normalization of violence, and regularization of racism that lit the torches of marching boys shouting, “Jews will not replace us!” And where was that? In Charlottesville, on the University of Virginia campus, trooping between buildings that house the New Humanities where postmoderns roam. Did that mob intend to face down one of postmodernism’s many strongholds, or were they just lucky?
Paragraph 1: “the arbitrariness…” Patrick J. Deneen, Why Liberalism Failed, Yale University Press, 2018, p. xviii. “Queer Theory…”, Pluckrose and Lindsay, p. 89
Paragraph 2: “Pre-Theory…”, Ibid., p. 109
Paragraph 3: “Queering…”, Ibid., pp. 94, 95. “time and space”, Judith Halberstam, In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives, New York University Press, 2005. “whatever is…”, David M. Halperin, Saint Foucault: Towards a Gay Hagiography, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 62
Paragraph 4: “Because Queer…”, Pluckrose and Lindsay, p. 89. “Unfortunately…”, Ibid., p. 93
Paragraph 5: “suppressed…”, Ibid., p. 96. “The last…”, Alphas keep reproducing with females and otherwise have almost zero interaction with other males. “No serious…”, E. O. Wilson, “From Sociobiology to Sociology,” in Evolution, Literature, and Film: A Reader, ed. Brian, Joseph Carroll, and Jonathan Gottschall, Columbia University Press, 2010, p. 98
Paragraph 6: “It is impossible…”, Gayle Rubin, “Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality,” in The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader, ed. Henry Abelove, Michèle Aina Barale, and David M. Halperin, Taylor & Francis, 1993, p. 7. “It undermines…”, Pluckrose and Lindsay, pp. 99, 100
Paragraph 7: “not attempting…”, Ibid., p. 104. “Sedgwick finds…,” Ibid., p. 107