This is very, very spot on. Which might sound unusual coming from a transwoman like me. But . . .
One of the things that bothers me about a large chunk — hardly all — of the trans community is a sense of proportion about aggressions against us. Yes there are macro aggressions — the shocking murder rate for transwomen of color. And yes, it hardly needs saying that bigotry is evil. But there are macro-aggressions and micro-aggressions, and the micro-aggressions, though insidious, are tagged as “micro” for a reason. If someone were to beat me to a pulp because he (and it would be a “he”) discerned me as trans, that’s pretty macro. If someone were to misgender me (I pass reasonably well, and I am well aware of that privilege), I would be annoyed and judge the guy to be either ignorant or an asshole or both. But as things go, this is pretty micro. Maybe it’s a function of my age, but I can’t get too agitated about this kind of stuff: if your institution won’t let me use the women’s room, well I just won’t frequent your institution, and if your state is hellbent on using the law to give me a hard time, well, fuck your state I simply won’t visit it. Your problem, not mine. None of this is on the same plane of outrage as the concentration camps on our southern border, or the not-creeping-anymore fascism of Trump and his Republican bootlicks. Being trans is as important as it is, but only as important as it is and not more than that. I have a lot better things to do than obsess over being trans all the time — trans is who I am, but not all that I am. Compared to my being an Episcopalian Christian, or a democratic socialist, or a philosopher, it’s not that big a deal. It’d be nice, as Jennifer Boylan once put it, for being trans to be boring, like being cis or straight. That it isn’t is as much a function of the alt-right demonizing it as the alt-left sanctifying it. As you said, narcissistic demand, albeit of two different forms.
I think, however, that the alt-left, like the left in general has another problem. There is a lot of biased cognitive filtering going on these days, exhibited in the decay of rational debate and genuine rhetorical persuasion into something like verbal abuse. Most of this sewage lives on social media, and the lion’s share is on the right, alt or otherwise. But the left has its own alternative realities, and its big one is that The United States of America is a country whose heart is really on the Left. That the long arc of history leans toward justice, but we don’t really need to push it that way — just cheerlead for it. The hearts and minds of all America will follow!
I think even a cursory reading of US history shows this to be utter bullshit. From its inception, infusing Jeffersonian individualism and Hamiltonian corporatism and Madisonian proceduralism alike, the USA has been in thrall to a kind of contempt for limits on individual aspirations. C.B. MacPherson called it “Possessive Individualism”; I’ve called it “The Cult of Wealth”; it’s generally known as “The American Dream.” That is: more is better (well, more for me that is). Well, sometimes it isn’t.
While this Orphic Cult of acquisitiveness has had its moments of eclipse — the New Deal, Midwestern Populism and Progressivism, Lincoln and abolitionism, the Civil Rights Movement — these moments are short-lived. And this should be taken for granted, given that US history is drenched in violence, racism, macho posturing, endless hustling and grabbing, and a total lack of fit between self-image and reality. “City on a Hill” is merely an emblem for US self-congratulatory hubris.
I admire Warren and Sanders for their attempts to challenge this hubris, and show that social democracy/democratic socialism is not a bad thing. But many of their most enthusiastic supporters are as infantile as every other candidates’, not to mention Trump’s, whining for narcissistic supply and throwing Twitter tantrums when everyone doesn’t see things their way. Why would they? They are Americans. And like good Americans, the Democrats prattle on and on about democracy while basically trying to manipulate things to go their way, ignoring democratic substance which is after all centered on debate and well aware that one’s opponents might have a point, and that you might be wrong. The American problem is a deep-seated cultural one. A Warren or a Sanders presidency is not going to change that. The Left needs to grow up and notice that it will for the foreseeable future be hard for it to take root in US soil, and to that extent one can assume it will be marginal to US political culture. It is not the hidden culture of the USA. It is its counter-culture.
‘Nuff said. Good job.