As you might have noticed, I’ve had a bit of a rant the last few days against Jordan Peterson and his stand against Trans people, refusing to use their pronoun of choice. All his arguments about these being “made up words” and such rather leave me cold; I find them a bit childish. He should know that language is fundamentally malleable and fluid, and that (quite literally) every word in the English language was “made up” by someone… including more recent ones like “hangry” and “face-palm”, and even “gaydar” or “jackass professor”. Just because Peterson didn’t do the “making up” does not mean they’re any less valid. English has fewer pronouns than many languages; I realize it takes extra energy to be considerate toward people who aren’t like him, but I’d give Mr. Peterson the same advice he likes to give young men.
Buck up and deal with it.
Clean your proverbial room.
Giving respect to people you don’t like is one of the qualities that makes our society “civilized”.
But even I was a bit surprised by how strongly I felt about the subject. I rarely go on this kind of “rant”, but this time I almost couldn’t avoid it. I really do want to get back on the idea of how fear impacted my sexuality from an early age, but this got in the way. A little thought and I realized why. As I said yesterday, Peterson is a reflection of the anti-queer perspectives of 35 years ago. He likes to speak about archetypes; Peterson likes to think of himself as the fount of wisdom, the archetypal oracle. Trouble is, he speaks for the majority, the dominant, the straight and the cis. Classically my impression is that oracles spoke with a bit of a surprise, from a perspective that was accurate and wise, but just not what the leaders of the day (mostly men) expected. In this respect, Peterson is the anti-oracle. He speaks to the popular, to the powerful. He speaks to young, straight men. There is nothing surprising in his words.
I listened to men like Peterson when I was young. It was because of men like him that I could not accept myself as gay, that I was insecure in my affections. It was, and is, because of men like Peterson that I am doubtful about my friends who are male even today, and some of them are amazing. He is, for me, the archetype of the dry oracle, the “wise” man who cannot see beyond himself. I take complete responsibility for my actions (and in fact am precisely who I am because of them) but it was because of men like Peterson that I went through counselling to try to change my orientation. Men like Peterson stained the perception of who I am for years.
Words and communities have changed, but bigotry has not.