Last year, I selected Ben Trovato, the king of the narrative, as my Person of the Year. As I put it: “Any time there were people with a cause in need of a narrative—and not too particular about whether it was supported by the facts—he was there.”
I had no idea that he was just getting warmed up.
This year, it has gone beyond merely inventing a narrative about events that happened to you or things you want to be true in the outside world. Now it is about who you are. Caitlyn Jenner and Rachel Dolezal? They are living La Vita Trovato. Their own personal identity is a narrative unmoored from facts.
The Jenner case you have already heard more about than you would probably like. And you have no doubt noted the premise that a man can become a woman if he constructs a storyline in his own mind about how he has always felt like a woman, or at least he has felt like what he imagines a woman would feel like. The important thing, from Ben Trovato’s perspective, is that Jenner got everyone to go along with him and proclaim that gender is an infinitely malleable concept that can be whatever anyone feels it is, regardless of irrelevant biological details about one’s sex organs and reproductive system—which somehow, despite their irrelevance to one’s gender identity, all need to be changed to fit it.
Then, as a fitting bookend, came the Rachel Dolezal case, about an obviously white woman—pictured as a teenager with the pale, freckled skin and blond hair that reflects her Central European ancestry—who has been passing herself off as a black woman and head of a local chapter of the NAACP.
This is precisely what some of us had kicked around as a reductio ad absurdum of the Jenner case. If Bruce Jenner can declare he’s a woman, what would prevent a white person declaring himself (or herself, or hirself) to be black? But we should have known better. The problem with reductio ad absurdum arguments is that, all too often, your opponent simply embraces the absurdity and runs with it. And in this case, didn’t it start out at its most absurd? Race is a much more superficial and less clear-cut category than sex.
So after a few days of wavering, it looks like the lefty establishment is coming around on Rachel Dolezal. After furiously rejecting any comparison between Jenner and Dolezal, they finally gave in and said, in effect: yeah, they’re the same. As Whoopie Goldberg proclaimed, “If she wants to be black, she can be black.”
This is a brave new world of self-identity in which we have all slipped the surly bonds of the observable universe and sailed off into a land of imagination. There is literally nothing holding anyone back from being anything they want to be. Or at least they can declare that they are anything they want to be, and everybody else has to play along and humor them.
As usual, Ben Trovato is way ahead of the game. He’s beyond being transsexual or even transracial. He is transontological. He has already transitioned from being a figment of the imagination to being a real person, and you had better check your metaphysical privilege and respect his choice.
Because Ben Trovato is all about defending the narrative of self-identity from the narrow-minded bigotry of those who base their opinions on nothing more than facts.
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