Is there any doubt that the uptick in the number of people coming out as transgender is the result of the following two distinct but closely related factors?
(1) Suggestibility. Children and young adults who, in the course of going through normal maturation processes, explore non-heterosexual ideas or behaviors are being encouraged to think of themselves as transgender. Arguably, some are even being compelled to. Further, many with non-heterosexual desires who would otherwise simply identify as homosexual or bisexual now see “transgender” (and other “identities”) as an equally live option for self-identification, and so are choosing to so self-identify. Why?
(2) Social currency. Having minority and/or victim status is right now the highest form of social currency. Human beings are social creatures, and as such evolved with sophisticated cognitive modules that select for behaviors that increase social standing. The social cachet that comes with identifying as homosexual has been superseded by the cachet that comes with identifying as transgender, so we’re seeing more people choosing to identify as the latter (or some other non-heteronormative “orientation”).
This is a point made before, but it is no less the better for not being novel: if you want to know who has privilege in a given society, look at how people choose to self-identify. Race is maybe the best example. In pre-Civil Rights America, people of mixed ancestry quite understandably chose to identify as white. Now we see Shaun Kings, Rachel Dolezals and Elizabeth Warrens trading in their white privilege cards for something better.
But a non-hetero sexual orientation is becoming the second fastest route to privilege. Not long ago homosexuals faced tremendous pressure to remain closeted. Now one’s coming out cannot be met with banal indifference; it must be celebrated with such excessive exaggeration of approval that your anti-homophobic credentials cannot be doubted. Homosexuals are lavishly praised as brave, courageous, and beautiful, awarded medals of honor for their heroism in the battle defending a “love” so indiscriminate its only enemy is an amorphous “haaayte” (i.e., whatever progressives disagree with). Shrewd heterosexuals get a share of their glory by propping them up and proving their allyship. But as that drama has faded, a new brand of cultural hero is needed. Enter transgenderism, etc. Next thing you know, Bruce Jenner is Woman of the Year and is on the cover of Vanity Fair.
The aspiring Bruce Jenner of professional philosophy is Robin Dembroff. Dembroff started at Biola University in 2008, leaving with a BA in Philosophy and BA in Humanities in 2011. You would not know that by looking at her CV, though, because she is now apparently too embarrassed by her Evangelical beginnings to list Biola there. She also omits her contribution to an e-book called Proud to be Right, edited by Jonah Goldberg, in 2010. We are instead led to believe she started her academic career in Notre Dame’s PhD program in 2012, right about when she came out as “genderqueer” (remember our advice?).
Dembroff does not hesitate to mention her “Bible college” beginnings, however, when doing so is instrumental to creating a narrative of her as having transcended such Neanderthalsim. It’s as if all the people at Biola who went out of their way to help her get started and established (John Mark Reynolds, Tom Crisp, Gregg Ten Elshoff) didn’t even exist. And why would they? They are no longer useful to her. In fact, association with them is now a social liability. So, *poof*. Dembroff is the sole exception to the principle ex nihilo nihilo fit. She just appears at Notre Dame in 2012. What’s more, she is there only two years before being discovered by talent scouts at Princeton.
Yes, even Notre Dame and the people there who helped advance her (e.g., Michael Rea) proved to be beneath her. How did she really get into Princeton, one wonders. Here her CV is informative. Judging by the “professional” activity she lists, she met the right people and went to the right conferences and workshops. Feminism this, queer that, sex this, oppression that… If I had to guess, one of the right people Dembroff met around this time is the de facto matriarch of the Society of Christian Philosophers, Calvin College’s Christina Van Dyke, who “works” on similar nonsensical topics. Because next thing you know, Dembroff’s name is alongside Van Dyke’s on a $100k subgrant from the John Templeton Foundation, the SCP’s favorite slush fund.
And it was at Princeton that Dembroff seems to have become an official darling of the profession, having gotten her paper “What is Sexual Orientation” published in Philosopher’s Imprint. Her dissertation on the same timeless topic seems to have been giddily passed in record time (no surprise there: one of her advisors, Sarah-Jane Leslie, happened to be dean of the graduate school and, most conveniently, a rabid SJW). Now, with virtually no teaching experience and exactly one published article in a mid-tier journal, lo and behold, at the ripe old age of twenty-something, Dembroff lands a tenure-track position at Yale University.
The latest installment in professional privilege came just the other day, when it was announced that a conference honoring the recently deceased SCP legend Marylyn McCord Adams will feature Dembroff keynoting on “The Construction of Oppressive Categories”—a topic students of Adams will recognize as central to her work on scholasticism and the incarnation. Those slow to appreciate sarcasm need only glance at the contact for the conference to see what’s going on: Christina Van Dyke.
In terms of social currency, Dembroff is the 1%, raised in the lap of luxury in the form of an entire profession acting as her wealthy parents pulling strings on her behalf. In this sense, Darling Dembroff is not the Bruce Jenner of philosophy, because Jenner at least earned a gold medal as a stepping-stone to superstardom. Dembroff was merely awarded one for being “genderqueer.”
- Will the Real Privileged Person Please Stand Up? - January 11, 2018
- How to Bypass Peer Review in Publishing in High Profile Venues - January 2, 2018
- Why Do Progressives Hate History? - September 29, 2017
- Philosophy Professor Assaults Trump Supporters - April 20, 2017
- An Even More Modest Proposal - February 17, 2017
- The Girls Who Cry Wolf - November 29, 2016
- How to Thrive in Philosophy as a Woman - November 14, 2016
- Why the Alt-Right is Ult-Wrong - October 29, 2016