In a now familiar scenario, a man with a cherished sense of identity, understanding himself to be something that he’s not, threw a tantrum because someone else refused to play along.
It’s true that the experience of “playing pretend” can be diminished, when someone else refuses to be part of your fantasy world. Most of us learn to cope with this crushing kind of disappointment around age four. Indeed, we might often extend the courtesy of playing along with 4-year-olds, for that reason. Grownups, however, need to keep that sort of hobby within a circle of fellow enthusiasts—like Civil War reenactors. In everyday life, the rest of us have no obligation to suspend disbelief for them.
Which brings me to that tantrum. The tantrum I have in mind, was thrown by a prominent member of that increasingly-besieged group, the Trans-Right.
Now, the Trans-Right blend with conservatives; they dress, speak, behave like and sometimes vote with conservatives; they think of themselves, adamantly, as conservatives. And it’s important to them—dreadfully important!—that the rest of us “play along.” They become angry if we refuse.
Near as I can tell, this is the psychology of the Trans-Right: they have no visceral conservatism. There’s no deep attachment to things the Right seeks to accomplish and, more dangerously, no genuine objection to the progressive agenda beyond its timing. But the man of the Trans-Right is in love with the image of himself as a conservative. He is, after all, a very dignified and important conservative. One might even say he is “severely conservative.” And the very apex of that self-perception, the consummation he has always desired, is the making of a statesmanlike compromise with the progressives.
To have something from which to begin the process of his precious compromise, he has to assert a conservative agenda, but it’s only for fantasy purposes—building up to the great moment of blissful collusion. A Trans-Right activist lives to strut and fret upon our national stage and to be celebrated for his “courage”, a “courage” which consists mostly of seeking media approval.
A conservative legislator woos the grassroots voters of the Right ardently, and learns to regard the media with suspicion at the best of times. A Trans-Right legislator woos the media ardently, and the grassroots only grudgingly and inter-MITT-ently. Indeed, the Trans-Right seems to exhibit a certain masochism where the media is concerned.
But of course, the media plays along enthusiastically with the self-identification of any Trans-Right figure, using all of his preferred self-descriptive adjectives. They never question the authenticity of his self-identification as conservative, the way rude voters might. That the media might be playing along for its own ulterior motives either does not occur, or does not matter to the Trans-Right. Mutual satisfaction is always assured when the media and Trans-Right get together.
The current president, however, has shaken the Trans-Right to its foundations. He doesn’t value the conventions of the kabuki stage which is their playground; he doesn’t prize the dignity to which they aspire. It’s gotten to the point that the Trans-Right may be wondering whether they’re still welcome in the same cloakroom as the Cis-Right. After investing so much time, effort, and money in emulating the appearance of the Right, that must be hard to bear.
Gilbert and Sullivan notwithstanding, however, it’s possible that Left and Right are not biologically determined, and that with a bit of therapy and serious reflection on his own priorities, a Trans-Right person may successfully transition—without surgery! For such formerly-troubled souls, victories may eventually become as satisfying as preemptively submissive “compromises” once were.
You can do it, Trans-Right. We’re your support group. We’re here for you, and we’ll be here for you whenever you need the tough love that will get you through.
And we’re getting awfully good at interventions.
Photo Credit: Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images