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"It's just so very, very small"

"It's just so very, very small"
Contemplating the smallness of transgender genitals in the vastness of the cosmos

In the infamous South Park episode, "Chinpokomon", a new Japanese cartoon craze sweeps America. While at first appearing as an incomprehensible anime show for kids, the parents realize that the characters are transmitting subliminal messages to their children as part of a broader strategy to re-establish the Japanese Empire. However, when South Park’s fathers confront the Japanese manufacturers over their subversive product, they encounter a bizarre response. After unconvincingly claiming that the anti-American messages embedded in Chinpokomon were the result of an innocent mistake, the company’s Japanese executives then proceed to effusively confess the smallness of their genitalia. "How could we be a threat? How could we be plotting against America when American penises are so big, and our penises are so very very small." Satisfied with the obsequious performance and assured of their relative masculinity, the fathers withdraw their objections, leaving the Japanese anime merchants to continue their nefarious conspiracy.

This last week, I encountered a similarly self-emasculating and diversionary performance from the writer Freddie DeBoer in his article attempting to assure skeptics of the silliness of their concerns about transgenderism. Once more the apology prominently featured an appeal to the smallness of penises, this time to the insignificance of the trans-penises that have been increasingly appearing in women's locker rooms, prisons, and sporting events since 2020.

You see, man, it might be true that trans-women aren't, you know, actual women. It might be true that we are pushing untested and irreversible medical treatment on minors. We may be compelling speech and forcing people to assert things against their devout principles. But, like, why do you even care man? This isn’t a big deal. You should trust the experts. And in the meantime, can’t you just be kind? After all, this isn’t a big problem in 2023. Just like the penises appearing in girls’ locker rooms, trans-issues are just so very very small.

I find DeBoer’s writing style remarkable because it always sounds like he is saying something substantive when all that is being provided is a hand-waving dismissal of the concerns, paired with the typical self-effacing performance common to progressive men. Yet, despite DeBoer’s total inability to address the salient points of transgenderism’s critics, I found myself thinking back to his article because of how deftly it evoked a previous era of progressivism and a previous version of myself.

For those unaware, Freddie DeBoer himself is a bit of a throwback to an earlier era of leftism. The author is a progressive academic type, described by many moderate dissidents as “one of the good ones”. DeBoer believes all the nice and pious progressive ideals but still somehow clings to the pretense of liberalism and the importance of things like "free speech" and “open discourse” well after virtually all mainstream institutions in America abandoned these concepts.

Characters like DeBoer fascinate me because I could have so easily become a man like him in some alternative-universe timeline. This combination of libertarian ethics with progressive political sympathies and a "take all comers" attitude towards discourse perfectly matches my outlook before 2009. He is the spitting image of the pre-woke, Bush-era progressive, still somehow insisting that there are no taboos and “everything is up for discussion” while tactically steering around the conclusions that would otherwise end his career in mainstream progressive circles.

This all sounds laughable in 2023, but there was a time when this approach made a certain kind of sense, at least in the early 2000s.

It was strange what you could and couldn’t get away with as a progressive in the Bush era. A man could have any opinion on an economic or foreign policy issue, no matter how radical or insane. Even revisionist opinions on science and history were entertained. And, now and again, an abstract socially conservative sentiment might be tolerated. However, venturing into the sacred areas of identity politics was verboten. Any opinion that hinted that a collective concern of a protected class might be illegitimate had to be followed by a set of disclaimers identical in tone to the recent DeBoer article.

Following standard procedure, when any progressive nonchalantly mentioned a conservative talking point in a non-ironic way, it had to be immediately complemented by assurances that, unlike those evil conservatives, “you were completely fine” with the behavior or group in question. This assurance was then typically followed by a straw-man explanation of the conservative opinion, a paint-by-numbers progressive refutation, and a description of the initial concern or hate fact as "not being that big of a deal" typically adding the observation that “this problem is so small, how could anyone care about it?”.

Thinking back to my own time playing this psychological game, it's strange how it worked. People talk about getting "red-pilled" by facts, but by the time I started talking about politics as an adult, I was already aware of many of these inconvenient truths. Due to personal friendships with some right-wingers, I had been exposed to a breadth of thought much broader than others in my cohort. I was familiar with conservative luminaries like Roger Scruton and Thomas Sowell who called out the other contradictions in the modern era. I had read The Bell Curve and even some Sam Francis. And, while far from convinced by these arguments, I understood their core concerns to be sincere. Still, whether true or not, it was never possible to mention these inconvenient ideas to my progressive friends as anything more than a hint. You had to talk around the problem, perhaps mention the concern while assuring the listener that it was probably fixable, or failing that, too small to worry about.

As always I proceeded under the pretense that I was pursuing the truth gently, in the spirit of kindness. After all, there might be gay people listening who could be hurt by social conservative moralism, or perhaps women (even rape victims!) who might be devastated if we questioned the precepts of second-wave feminism. Minorities might very well suffer physical harm if we spoke earnestly about the realities of group differences. Not to mention the offensiveness of talking about things like demographic change and mass migration.

After all, the conservatives who talked about this regularly were the real bad actors. I, as one of the good progressives, had to tolerate a more constrained conversation for the greater good. The ultimate consequences of these concerns would probably sort themselves out in the long run anyway.

I used to assure myself that there was some higher institutional force of academic integrity operating behind the scenes to make sure that these uncomfortable truths were being addressed, or, at the very least, taken into consideration. There were always men like Steven Pinker and Andrew Sullivan, established in their careers and occupying seats in major institutions, who could steer society away from all the crazier conclusions of progressive radicalism.

But, despite the rising falsehoods and policy madness throughout the 2010s, no course correction occurred. No course correction could ever occur. And the supposedly level-headed moderate experts I had previously admired didn't seem to care.

In hindsight, it’s remarkable how important the assumption of a competent self-correcting ruling class was to my progressive understanding of the world and the potential danger of acute uncorrected falsehoods. After all, my own (and everyone else’s) favorite dismissive counterargument against conservatives was calling out the “slippery slope fallacy”. But for the slippery slope to be a “fallacy”, society needed to be ruled by an assertive governing force that consciously chose a direction to enact change rather than following the path dependence of its internal bureaucracy. Otherwise, the expert consensus and the authority of the government didn’t hold weight. Yet, despite how much one heard about “good governance” in the wake of the Obama administration, no such decisive force had existed in the American political system since the end of the Cold War. The system was on auto-pilot, and its mistakes began to metastasize.

Witness post-2012 progressivism where every polite falsehood we embraced in the name of “empathy” in previous decades is reborn as a left-wing religious hysteria. The cultural and biological group differences that we were too polite to address before, now reappear as the motivation for postulating a giant racist conspiracy theory that indicts all white gentiles who have ever lived as irredeemable villains. The contradictions locked within feminism, which we were all too nice to disagree with, now have remolded the face of the educational and professional world, collapsing fertility, capsizing family formation, and driving men and women apart. And all this does not even touch on the consequences of our continued inaction in the face of the debt and immigration crisis, currently devouring the middle classes of America and Europe. We might have done something about it before, but the conversation was uncomfortable. Now an entirely new generation of our ruling class thinks anything less than an open border supported by a Nordic-style welfare state built on a financial system buoyed by printed money, is a crime against humanity itself.

Even when the issues are individually small, in aggregate, the effect of ignoring hard truths becomes very impactful over time. An entire future was destroyed by inconvenient realities that were too small and insignificant to be considered properly.

Amazing Astronomy on X: "The Milky Way without Earth!" / X

And, as the meme above implies, there doesn’t seem to be any limit to this mistake in the human imagination. Any terrestrial problem is small in the grand scheme of things, and can accurately be dismissed as such. So are there any legitimate concerns?

I didn’t fully appreciate the magnitude of this reality until the waning years of the COVID pandemic, when I mentioned to a friend the very real possibility that the Chinese and American establishments had created, via a lab leak, a virus that had killed millions. Once more I heard the same song and dance. “Oh man, why do you even care about this issue? Sure, maybe our government just facilitated an industrial accident that killed more people than Joseph Stalin. But does this ultimately matter? It’s such a small concern now, isn’t it?”.

I am not sure what there is to say to this anymore.

Now, I appreciate the fact that everyone’s time and effort are limited. We are men and women with brief lives and finite intellectual resources. But if a man spends his time and vocation writing about an issue, assuring readers that he cares about culture, sex, gender norms, and the relative truth of public assertions, he cannot then turn around and dismiss questions of this variety with an appeal to their cosmological smallness. At the core, I find these rhetorical tactics to be veiled attempts to shirk ownership over ideas and their consequence. The approach is almost always a self-serving tactic to let the author embrace fashionable nonsense publically while leaving the responsibility of actually managing reality to some unnamed future party with much less clout and class privilege.

For instance, examine Freddie DeBoer’s disorganized apologetics on the trans-issues. Whether or not he considers it beneath his concern, the issue of male bodies in female spaces does offer some rather obvious managerial problems with some pretty obvious downsides for the women concerned. Given DeBoer’s belief that these downsides are just so very, very small, to what extent does he own the belief that embracing transgendersim will not cause significant harm?

Reading his essay, it’s quite obvious DeBoer leans heavily on the assumption that responsible adults will inevitably step in at the last minute to reassert the sanity he denies before things get too out of hand. But is this a responsible position?

Examining the most "benign" concern DeBoer addresses, trans-women in public restrooms, we immediately see problems. As every man who has ever used a men’s room knows, there are plenty of creepy guys who do vaguely creepy things in public bathrooms. Hence the more stand-offish culture inside male-coded public spaces. Will female spaces’ naturally more defensive and casual cultures be unimpacted by the introduction of biological males who, statistically speaking, have a much higher probability of being intrusive and creepy? Probably not.

But actually, the problem is worse than that. As evidence would suggest, trans-women don't only have a higher likelihood of being creepy and intrusive than cis-women, they have a higher likelihood of being creepy and intrusive than cis-men, making problems that stem from these behaviors a virtual certainty in the future.

Who ultimately owns a solution to this problem? Well, that would be the women trying to get creepy men out of their spaces. And it's not hard to see the impact of transgender language since now removing these bad actors involves litigating the definition of “creepy” rather than just asking for the "man" to be escorted out.

The problem becomes further compounded as we move on to girls’ locker rooms, which (contrary to what DeBoer believes) do contain nudity, now regrettably sexualized in concept by decades of pornography. Are we expecting no problems with leering and sexualization after this has been a continuous trope throughout 50  years of modern pop culture? Maybe, like in Starship Troopers, everyone will just be on their best behavior. But it would seem that the hypothetical “trans honor system” is doing a lot of work.

Finally, we arrive at the issue of transgender integration into athletics and correctional institutions where biological realities assert themselves more radically. In sports, if trends in transgender identification continue  as they have in the past, women stand a very real chance of being simply locked out of high-level competition if not seriously hurt when engaging in their chosen recreational activities at a high level.

No doubt, Deboer imagines responsible adults will intervene, at a lower level, to re-assert the reality he denies before things get too insane. So the responsibility to violate the code of niceness in the name of truth naturally falls to the lowest level of power as the coaches and players are forced to make objections to individual acts of abuse, most likely after the fact. And once again there is that familiar progressive pattern of passing the buck ever downward to those least able to intellectually defend themselves.

But I fail to understand the point of this all. Where is the responsibility? Where is the conviction?

Perhaps this is uncharitable? Perhaps DeBoer is approaching this issue with genuine integrity? Maybe the author’s belief about the relative harmlessness of sex-integrated penitentiaries is so strong that he has already penned a piece about the universal insignificance of trans-penises, ready to roll in the Washington Post the moment the news of women raped by men in “female-only” prisons becomes a national scandal. But somehow, I doubt it.

I conjecture that, like other leftist apologists before him, DeBoer will slink away from the issue, sweeping his outspoken opinion back under the rug once its consequences become too publically visible. Then, afterward, we will get the same windy and maudlin rhetoric about “systematic reform” and the “evils of capitalism”, never once addressing the lies of his intellectual class which so directly fomented the tragedy in the first place.

There is a lesson here about responsible politics and why progressive attitudes are so thoroughly unsuited for our (more serious) era. It begins with the understanding that there is no such thing as thought without the application of value, no such thing as principles without ownership, and no such thing as proper decision-making without assertive masculine leadership.

This is why tyrants who fear the truth, are never threatened by it when it proceeds from the mouths of emasculated men. This is why intellectuals can never actually change anything, and why our present order of sleep-walking bureaucrats expects every man who starts "noticing things" to perform an emasculating rhetorical dance where they proclaim each inconvenient truth they observe to be too insignificant to ever address with real action. No matter the level of society's control over thought, there is always a gelded type of intellectual freedom on offer for cowards.

Thus has it always been with tyrannies. The world turns. Inequity and evil emerge as a result of bad government, far from the seat of power. Yet news of the problem travels slowly to the capital, and the ministers begin whispering in the corridors of power. Rumors spread of ruination and the horrible consequences of unwise decisions, the hubris of the king’s government. Perhaps this will finally be the seeds of introspection or broader reform in the kingdom. Yet the moment news of the crisis reaches the ears of the king and before the true magnitude of the problem can fully dawn in his conscience, a simpering court eunuch stumbles forward to defend the status quo in words much like those spoken by the executives of the Chinpokomon corporation in South Park.

“Your Highness, pay no attention to these provincial complaints. They are insignificant. The kingdom is mighty, and what is but one injustice in the scale of the universe? Certainly, there must be more important issues to deal with in your court. For Your Majesty is grand, and this problem brought before you is small. It is just so very, very small.”

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