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March 10th 2017 print

Babette Francis

My Odd-Given Right to be Mrs Thatcher

Bruce Jenner declared himself to be Caitlin and did very nicely in the switch, hailed for "bravery" and dress sense alike while showered with attention and speaker's fees. Forgive me, but that is so unfair! Why will no one accept and endorse my desire to be acknowledged as a deceased British PM?

identityAfter a talk I gave to a group of local citizens in Bendigo, a lady commented somewhat wryly:  “The United States was the first country to put a man on the moon and Obama is the first US President to put a man in a ladies’ bathroom.”  I was reminded of her comment when I read the latest outburst from  the transgendered “Caitlyn” Jenner, nee Bruce Jenner, father of several children and winner of Olympic medals as a male athlete.
I use the word “reality” with some timidity lest I set off a whole new  philosophical debate among those really in the know as to  what  reality really is.  In the politically correct West, Jenner is presented as a hero for ‘coming out’ as “Caitlyn”, but would be regarded as crazy if he/she said he was Napoleon. I was born in India, where Hindus believe in reincarnation, and possibly many would  think  it more likely that Bruce was a reincarnation of Napoleon, given his Olympic feats, than that he had suddenly morphed into a woman.
I am writing about  Caitlyn, aka Bruce Jenner, because of his latest outburst castigating President Donald Trump for excluding men from ladies’ bathrooms. In a video, Jenner, clad in what CNN reported was a “pink ‘pussy bow’ blouse,” takes a  shot at Attorney General Jeff Sessions, implicitly calling him a “bully” who is “picking” on vulnerable transgenders, including children, ostensibly due to his own LGBT-related insecurities.
Jenner published the  video on his Twitter and Instagram accounts. Talking directly to the camera, he says: “I have a message for President Trump from, well, one Republican to another. This is a disaster. And you can still fix it. You made a promise to protect the LGBTQ community”.  Holding up a mock phone to his head, Jenner says to Trump, “Call me.” He and Trump have gone back and forth on the “transgender” issue, with Trump even saying Jenner is welcome to use the female restroom at Trump Tower in New York. As Cosmopolitan reported in April last year,  “Caitlyn Jenner Peed in One of Trump’s Bathrooms and Filmed it.”  This is US politics at the highest level of significance.
In his new video, Jenner also gives a pep talk to “transgender” youth in the wake of Trump’s directive which was lauded by pro-family advocates. Jenner cites the Supreme Court’s hearing of a case next month involving a gender-confused, “female-to-male” transgender Virginia high school student now calling herself Gavin Grimm.  However, legal experts say the prospects of the Grimm case are dimmed because it relied upon Obama’s radical and expansive interpretation of “sex discrimination” under Title IX in the US Civil Rights Code.  Obama’s mandate was  that “transgender” students should be allowed to use the bathrooms of their “gender identity”, not their biological sex, and that those states or schools which did not comply would face financial penalties through loss of federal funding. A federal judge blocked Obama’s mandate after it was challenged by almost half  the  states in the US.
But what exactly did Trump do that incurred Jenner’s wrath? He didn’t say that men who thought they were women could not use ladies’ bathrooms.  He  issued  a new directive  in February  rescinding the Obama  mandate and sent  the issue back to the states to issue their own guidelines.  Some states have tried to implement the Obama bathroom guidelines, while others have opposed them.  Speaking to reporters, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump is ”a firm believer in states’ rights and that certain issues like this are not best dealt with at the federal level.”  Bravo again: surely the President of the US has more weighty issues to deal with than who uses which bathroom?
According to an (US) ABC News legal analyst, the  Grimm case changes without the Obama directive. The Supreme Court could decide that it will not even hear the  case and instead send it back to the lower courts.
And that brings me to Rachel Dolezal.  She is a white former professor who claimed to be black.   She was formerly head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Spokane, Washington, until her parents  blew the whistle and released pictures of her as a young girl with blonde hair and blue eyes.  Rachel claims to be “transracial”, which is really more credible than someone claiming to be “transgendered”  because race can arguably be construed as much a social construct based on appearance as on genetic heritage.
Anyway, Ms Doleza has been accused of “cultural appropriation” by the black community. “This is obviously an issue a lot of people want to say things about,” Dolezal told The Guardian.  “And it needs to be talked about, so it’s kind of helpful to create a punching bag. There’s nobody saying, ‘Well, that’s racist if you say that about Rachel’, or ‘That’s sexist if you say that about Rachel.’ There’s no protected class for me. I’m this generic, ambiguous scapegoat for white people to call me a race traitor and take out their hostility on. And I’m a target for anger and pain about white people from the black community. It’s like I am the worst of all these worlds.”
The uncertainty about her own race is apparently not the only problem facing Rachel Dolezal these days.  She is now reportedly surviving on food stamps, and has only been offered work in reality TV and pornography.  She has  applied for more than 100 jobs, including positions at Eastern Washington University, where she was previously an adjunct professor, but  she claims her former colleagues at the school “pretended to have no recollection of having met her” during the interview process.
Dolezal went so far as to legally change her name, but people still recognize and mock her. A friend is said to have helped her pay this month’s rent, and Dolezal expects to be homeless next month.  Her plight makes a marked contrast to the situation of Jenner, who appears on magazine covers and milks his transgendered status for all it is worth.
The 39-year-old Dolezal says she could count the friends she has left on the fingers of one hand. “Right now the only place that I feel understood and completely accepted is with my kids and my sister.”  Dolezal has written a memoir, titled “In Full Color”, but 30 publishing houses turned her down before she found one willing to print it. “The narrative was that I’d offended both communities [black and white] in an unforgivable way, so anybody who gave me a dime would be contributing to wrong and oppression and bad things … to a liar and a fraud and a con.”
She wrote it, she says, “to set the record straight. But also to open up this dialogue about race and identity, and to just encourage people to be exactly who they are. Some will read it as the first draft of a new version of identity politics, which casts race – just like gender – on a spectrum, and its author as the world’s first trans-black case.”
If the narrative of fluid, non-binary gender identity is now widely accepted, Dolezal believes the same should apply to race. “It’s very similar, in so far as ‘this is a category I’m born into, but this is really how I feel’.”
I love the strange new world of identity politics, which brings me to a story of Margaret Thatcher, who was visiting a psychiatric hospital when a nicely-spoken woman asked who she was. Replied the Iron Lady, “I am Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minister of Great Britain”. The woman patted her on the arm and said “It is okay, dear, I used to think I was too when I first came here, but they eventually cured me. You will be all right”
But why should that nice lady have needed to be “cured”?  If Bruce Jenner can be Caitlyn, why can’t that poor unfortunate be Mrs Thatcher? Why should I be cured? You see I also think I am Margaret Thatcher, and I hope you will applaud my bravery and courage in “coming out”. I just happen to be trapped in this small brown Indian body, but I hope Quadrant and all its readers  will all treat me with the respect my alter ego regards s its due.