Katie Herzog and Andrew Sullivan on the extinction of lesbians (and Sully on the wokeness of the Biden administration)

November 28, 2020 • 11:15 am

I suppose one could have predicted this happening, what with the exponentially increasing numbers of gender-dysphoric girls asserting a transsexual identity. (The disproportionality between dysphoric girls and dysphoric boys may explain why the extinction of gay men isn’t imminent).  In fact, given the social approbation and support that attaches to gender-dysphoric girls—discussed in the latest article on the Weekly Dish (click on screenshot)—compared to the “meh” reaction to girls who say that they’re lesbians, you might expect that the lesbian identity would fade compared to the transsexual-male identification.  The point of this article is not only to note the morbidity of the category “lesbian” in favor of “non-binary” or “transsexual”, but also to suggest that this is due to social contagion, as it’s cooler to be in the latter two categories than to be a lesbian.

Although Sullivan is listed as a co-writer here, the voice is Herzog’s. She’s a lesbian journalist (it bothers me a bit to write that, as she’s both a journalist who writes about all kinds of stuff as well as a lesbian), but it’s easier to say that than “a journalist who is also a lesbian”); and she mourns the death of her gender’s culture.

A bit about the death of the genre (Herzog, whom I’ll credit with the piece) begins by noting the declining numbers of lesbian bars and dating apps):

When I came out in North Carolina in the early 2000s, the term “lesbian” was fading and “queer” was rapidly rising. Most of my peers saw lesbians as stodgy, old-fashioned, and uncool, whereas queers were hip, edgy, and inclusive. Yet “queer” is vague enough to mean nearly anything, so the label says less about your love life and more about your politics. (I propose we all start using the Kinsey Scale instead.)

The flight from “lesbian” has accelerated since. An academic in the Southeast, who asked to remain anonymous, told me that when she mentioned to a colleague that she’s a lesbian, the colleague “reacted like I’d confessed to being a Confederate Lost-Causer. She told me that the term is outdated and problematic, and I shouldn’t use it.” So the lesbian keeps quiet about her identity: “It’s like living in a second closet.”

Not long ago, it would have been the Christian right stigmatizing homosexual women. Today, it’s also from people who call themselves queer.

As “lesbian” has waned, countless variations have emerged: not just hetero, homo, or bi, but pansexual, omnisexual, sapiosexual, asexual, autosexual, and many more, each with their own little flag. The same is true of genders — now counted in the dozens — with “nonbinary” being the most popular. Asia Kate Dillon, the nonbinary TV star who goes by the pronouns “they/them,” described the term as including those “who feel that their gender identity falls outside the traditional boxes of man or woman.” (Dillon is one of many formerly gay-identified celebrities who have come out as nonbinary, including Sam Smith, Judith Butler, Masha Gessen, and Jonathan Van Ness — who prefers “he/him” but is okay with “she/her” or “they/them.” Why be confined to just one?)

Why is this? It’s not just that lesbians can now be folded into “nonbinary” or “transgender” categories.  Lesbianism tacitly accepts a sexual binary, and lesbians happen to be women who are attracted to other women rather than men. (“Nonbinary” could be women or men who are attracted to both sexes.) And lesbians are not transgender people, for, so far as I know, they identify as women who seek other women instead of men, again tacitly accepting a male/female binary. What’s clear is that the tremendous increase in gender nonconformity among young people seems to be coming from the tide of girls who identify as men. (This is my impression as well as Herzog’s, though I know of no hard data save the huge increase in gender-reassignment surgeries shown here.) Transsexual men born as biological women may be sexually attracted to women, but they see themselves in the gender role of male, not female.

Why is this happening, and where have the lesbians gone? A clue comes from a student Herzog interviewed named Halle (my emphasis):

“Lesbians are pretty thin on the ground for Gen Z,” a student I’ll call Halle wrote me. “I have one other lesbian friend, and together we have collected reports of five other lesbians between the U.S. and Canada, of which three are in our generation…. I do not know how things were in olden times for the elder gays, so I admit that a paucity of lesbian friends may in fact be normal for twentysomething gay women in left coast liberal cities, but I like to imagine there was some Arcadian past where short-haired women in Carhartts could gather in groups greater than two.”

Halle doesn’t live in Tehran. She lives in Seattle. Another young lesbian I spoke to told me she used to identify as both nonbinary and trans. “There’s a really thriving, active online and in-person trans community and queer community,” she said, “but there’s hardly anything for lesbians, and if you try to create that, you get pushback. It’s not cool to be a lesbian in the same way that it’s cool to be queer or trans or nonbinary.

Queer” apparently encompasses all “gender minorities” that aren’t heterosexual or cisgender, and there are many of these categories: asexuals, pansexuals, incels and the like.  And, reading the Zeitgeist, it’s apparent that young people who come out as transsexual, whether or not they seek medical transformation, are given more attention and approbation than are lesbians. In other words, if you’re gender dysphoric, you get more naches by coming out as transsexual than as lesbian.

Now clearly this doesn’t explain 100% of teenage (or younger) girls who feel that they are of a male gender. It would be churlish to deny that there are a substantial number of genuine transsexuals among young folk, and that much of it has a biological basis. But it would be equally foolish to deny that troubled, gender-dysphoric teens will go the route that offers them the most comfort: saying that they trans or nonbinary.

Herzog actually offers two explanations: the social-contagion one and this one, which she doesn’t favor (“enbies” are “nonbinaries” or “NBs”):

Some feminists argue that women are so oppressed in society that opting out of womanhood is a way of opting out of oppression. I’m skeptical. Why didn’t women do this decades ago, when oppression was objectively greater? Besides, enbies are more likely to be Smith undergrads than, say, immigrants getting assaulted at the border.

And then she suggests the social explanation, which of course will get her labeled as a “transphobe” for even suggesting a role for faddishness:

And there’s another not-so popular explanation: that it’s a fad, a form of social contagion.

I’m aware that this will be offensive to some people. The concept of a fixed, internal gender identity has become sacrosanct, and it’s viewed as something deeply personal and meaningful, like the soul. But humans are social creatures and we are easily influenced by our peers. This isn’t a moral judgment, just a fact, and I’ve seen how it plays out in my own peer circle. First one person comes out as nonbinary, then another, then another, and then one day half the dykes you know go by “they.” Add social media to the mix, and fawning profiles of nonbinary people in the press, and you’ve got yourself a mass cultural phenomenon.

But social contagion is surely worth considering rather than dismissing, for it does account for the extremely dramatic rise in the number of women in their teens, or younger, who declare themselves transsexxual (see some data here). Herzog ran this explanation by “a therapist who specializes in LGTBQ issues,” and the therapist, after hemming and hawing, went off the record and said “Yes. But I really can’t say that to anyone.” Such is the rigidity of ideology these days. Explanations that should be discussed—and in view of the seriousness of medical intervention, must be discussed—are taken off the table because they’re labeled “transphobic.” We have encountered one of the many taboos plaguing political and ideological discourse in the past few years.


In his “Dissents” section, in which Sullivan answers beefs from readers, he’s concerned with whether wokeness will remain with us under a Biden administration. One can argue that it won’t, saying that wokeness was a kneejerk reaction to Trump’s bigotry and fascism, but I think we’re in for more wokeness. Now that the extreme Left sees itself empowered, even arguing that the election vindicates “progressive Democrats”, seen wrongly as contributing to Biden’s election, wokeness is likely to grow. And so the camel is about to stick its nose even further into the Democratic tent. Given the readiness with which centrist or moderate Democrats cave in rather than be labeled bigots, both Sullivan and I remain worried, all the while realizing that things are still much improved now that Trump has been defeated. But we’ll still have to contend with the pollution of the Left by the extreme Left, which endangers further gains of Democrats. Remember, besides the Presidency, Democrats lost ground elsewhere in American politics.

Responding to a “dissent” that argues, correctly, that the dangers of the extreme Right are far greater than those of the extreme Left, and that the “progressive” Left is not a threat, Sullivan says this:

Point taken. But here’s my rejoinder: just because the extremists have more thoroughly captured the GOP than the Dems doesn’t mean they aren’t a problem. I’m not saying both sides have equal problems with extremism — the GOP is worse, in my view. I’m saying the far-left hurt the Dems down ballot. They didn’t get their preferred nominee, and if they had, I think it’s pretty clear by now that she or he would have lost to Trump. But have they successfully rebranded the Dems as the party of wokeness, open borders, cancel culture, LatinX and LGBTQIA+ and other impenetrable language, and mandatory struggle sessions in which white people have to read Robin DiAngelo? You bet they have.

As for Biden, we’ll see. I voted for him in the full knowledge that a woke phalanx is probably going to come into government with him and do their best. But maybe I’m wrong, and Biden will stick to Obama-style centrism. I sure hope so.

Me too!

58 thoughts on “Katie Herzog and Andrew Sullivan on the extinction of lesbians (and Sully on the wokeness of the Biden administration)

  1. As a teenager in the 70s, I realized that what would now be termed “homophobia” was misogyny by other means. I didn’t have those words, but understood it. I also understood that gay rights was a pendant of feminism….alas, very few gay men, adult ones that is, understand that equation.

    (It’s really amazing how clueless most gay men, even the political ones, are unaware of identity politics. They are stuck in the 90s.)

    When I started reading and understanding about trans ideology, I had the suspicion that ultimately, women, and especially lesbians, would undergo a kind of cultural erasure. At heart, a kind of performative ritual instantiating the on-going status of women as parenthetical.

    It’s very interesting to see how these issues are affecting lesbians, but not so much gay men.

  2. Anecdata ahoy: a relative, then a lesbian, told me that if transitioning had been mainstream when she was a youth, she totally would have. Fast forward to last year, they began the transition. His marriage fell apart, his old-school lesbian, short haired, goddess worshipping partner was left alone.

    So I wonder how many other lesbians would have transitioned in the past, but it didn’t seem like a viable option.

  3. I guess I’m just disheartened at your repeated assertions that the extreme left is less harmful than the extreme right. This seems like a gut reaction, more than anything. on your part. I’m willing to be persuaded that the extreme right is more dangerous, but the extreme left has more power in academia, entertainment and the media, whereas extreme right wing stuff is far more limited. There are scores more dangerous woke folks out there than there are white supremacists, and the former control much of the industries I mentioned, while the latter don’t.
    Some of the problem I feel is the lack of a good third political party in America to which sensible centrists could belong.

    1. Has PCC(E) repeatedly asserted that? I don’t think so.

      There are scores more dangerous woke folks out there than there are white supremacists

      I’m also skeptical of this. How are they more dangerous, and are there really more? Maybe it seems that way because of your particular bubble, but academics and celebrities are in the minority.

      1. A white supremacist is someone who believes whites are the supreme race, or who believes whites should rule over other races. (It’s not simply a white person who favors a restrictive immigration policy or doesn’t want to be reduced to a minority.) Unless you twist the meaning of the phrase “white supremacist” into something very different, I think you’ll have a pretty hard time finding such people, especially in any positions of power.

        1. It’s not simply a white person who …. doesn’t want to be reduced to a minority.

          I wouldn’t call such people “white supremacists”; I’d call them “white nationalists.”

        2. Apparently Adam M. thinks that white people that don’t want their race reduced to a minority are not white supremacists. One can only conclude that racial identity is somehow important to him. I wonder why this is. He seems to think that there are inherent differences in the races and that there is something in the white race that for him makes it desirable over other races, hence the panic over its future status as a minority. Does this argument sound familiar? It reminds me of the “good old days” under slavery and Jim Crow. It also reminds me of the Nazis marching in Charlottesville chanting “the Jews will not replace us.” He may not call it white supremacy, but I do.

          1. What makes someone a US American isn’t their race or their ethnicity or their national origin or their religion. What makes someone a US American is their allegiance to this republic’s foundational principles.

            The fuck’s it matter what color they are?

          2. More often than not, minorities suffer discrimination and mistreatment. I find it quite reasonable for any member of a majority group to wish to retain that status.

          3. Therein lies the difference between a creedal nation like the US of A and traditional European ethnostates.

            We aspire to something different.

          4. What are European ethnostates? I can think of no Europen country that has not been multiethnic since ever, at least linguistically. Maybe Iceland or Portugal, that seem to have no historical language minorities, but I might be wrong.

          5. That’s a lot of assumptions about me. But no, I don’t think that not wanting to be reduced to a minority makes you a supremacist. It’s a matter of definitions. “White supremacist”, like “racist”, “sexist”, “transphobe”, etc., has lately been redefined so broadly by some people that it’s almost meaningless. I still maintain that the number of actual white supremacists, as traditionally defined, is very small and they are a highly marginalized group in this country. What is the actual group being referred to here? White conservatives? White Republicans? Racists? Those who dislike illegal immigration?

        3. I don’t think I would have a hard time finding such people in the PNW, more so when I lived on the east side of the state near Idaho. Maybe you missed WA Representative Matt Shea in the news this last year? He wrote that neat ‘Biblical Basis for War’ manifesto. I’d highly recommend the podcast The Remnant produced by Longreads and Oregon Public Broadcasting.

    2. I would prefer to hold out for graphs and charts. But for the moment I do think the far right has been more dangerous. Think about murders. How many have been committed by white extremists? I can think of several over just the past several years. How many by woke anti-fascists? One that I can think of in the recent demonstrations.

      1. Right wing terror and hate crimes lead the charts, no contest. Left wing terror was a thing in the 1970s. To check this, peruse the documentation of the FBI for the United States.

    3. Agreed. The right are so lunk-headed you can see ’em coming a mile off, while the left has captured the policymaking hill in all areas of civic life. They’re dictating terms now. They are mightily more dangerous than the right.

  4. I agree with Herzog about social contagion. At our middle school non-binary swept through about 10 years ago. I happen to be buddies with a science teacher at the school and he confirmed it happened. He likened it to a virus. My child came out as bisexual 1st. There are so many labels that she drifted about trying out different identities for a several years but seems to have settled on gender fluid and they/them.
    Which is funny since in the 80s I used to say (with no evidence btw) 10% of the population is strictly straight and 10% gay. The rest of us could go either way.

    1. That is interesting. Of course it should be perfectly ok to experiment with these things in an open and supportive environment, and maybe there is more fluidity on this area in young people than we had considered. Its like trying to choose whether to be a goth, nerd, or jock.

      1. “Its like trying to choose whether to be a goth, nerd, or jock.”
        Only until surgery and hormones enter the equation. Then it becomes important to factor in the behavior of young people in the face of cultish social pressures.

    2. I know quite a few parents of trans kids, and it is simply a fact that often groups of kids in the same social circles will become trans. So ti is either social contagion or some kind of virus. Even a virus would almost certainly spread in unpredictable patterns, so I think that is excluded from possibility.

      Also, people want to be edgy and transgressive. Lesbians were once that, at least the “very out” ones, but not any more. Most people feel that they are a perfectly natural phenomenon, thus unremarkable. We knew my sister was a lesbian long before she even knew what one was. Now she is a middle aged conservative scientist. Nobody cares what sex her partner is.

  5. The role of sheer faddishness in the development of culture is undeniable, if not as widely recognized as it should be. But a mystery remains: what distinguishes those fads that catch on, as opposed to those that do not. Many, many years ago I read
    a haunting sci-fi story about this very subject. I cannot remember the author, and have a hazy notion that it was entitled “The Source of the Nile”. The story recounts how an advertising copywriter discovers a couple (or maybe it was a whole family) that serves as an infallible windsock in this arena: whatever engages their enthusiasm turns out to be the next killer fad. So, trying out ideas on this test family always puts the copysmith ahead of the game. My vague recollection is that the story came
    to an unhappy ending.

  6. As someone who has experience with the GLBT community, I can say this: “lesbians” were a very close knit group of people who would not date others unless they also identified as “lesbian.” Whereas gay men tend to be tolerant of promiscuity, lesbians were not. There are many people who are attracted to the same sex, but who do not feel it appropriate to identify as “gay” because it would not accurately describe their sexuality. I can tell you that I have more than one friend who is transexual, and the majority of them (who happen to be MtoF trans persons) are MORE HAPPY after transitioning. There is hostility towards those who don’t act in a way which is considered socially appropriate for their assigned sex. What if you don’t want to transition, but don’t feel (or act) overly masculine or feminine? What if you don’t fit neatly into a little “box?” This group self defined themselves to create a community and an understanding. As far as FtoM transgenders being more unhappy, I think there are various reasons for that which would take me writing my own blog entry to cover. I will say (thankful for the ability to say this anonymously) that it might be a little too easy for people to transition nowadays. Young people make stupid mistakes including drinking too much, taking drugs, engaging in sex without precautions, and making a life changing, largely irreversible decision before you have matured enough to gain life experience can be devastating.

  7. Please be careful about speaking of “the woke” as corresponding to “the left.” There are many on the left (e.g., Adolf Reed) who find wokeness antithetical to economic justice. In fact, if one were conspiracy minded, you could see where focusing on queer life and antiracism makes for a very nice distraction from wealth concentration.

  8. A tangent: Conservatives speaking about what they see as “the left” or “extreme left” cannot be very accurate and it isn’t. They continue to warp the political spectrum around to suit themselves. I wish you’d stop a moment and consider if their oft-repeated assertion is actually true.

    For this, I invite anyone to compare wokeness with this older WEIT Guest post: Linda Calhoun reviews “The Authoritarians”

  9. I am glad that K. Herzog has come out about the gender dysphoria phenomenon, since (I hope) there will be a bit more immunity granted to her as a lesbian.
    As in the old Vulcan proverb: Only Nixon could go to China.

    1. The non-binary/trans thing is most likely a fad. In 10 years we’ll start to see an increase in detransitioners and the lawsuits will begin. Unfortunately, while kids who experimented with being gay/bi, goth, punk etc could grow out of it with no lasting damage, kids being put on puberty blockers and testosterone and/or undergoing surgery will face lifelong problems.

      As for gay men not being affected, LGB Alliance held a recent discussion on this topic: https://youtu.be/ESLURet1PFg.

    1. The whole sex and gender thing right now seems to revolve around attention-seeking more often than not. I look forward to the day when all this is so ordinary that we talk of other things. I am sure it all needs to be sorted out but I will be happy when it is done. Wherever it ends up, I hope the hoops we have to jump through (eg, pronouns) are few.

  10. Well many of these comments just make another point. Which is: if you can’t see the danger posed by identity politics, cancel culture, and ‘wokeness’, or of education and the media being dominated by the left of the political spectrum, you’re just refusing to entertain the idea that ‘your’ side in this increasingly tribal game of politics has wrong or dangerous ideas and behavior. It’s intellectually dishonest not to try to find evidence that disproves your position or to only dig up evidence that supports your position.
    I’m conservative about somethings I guess and liberal about others. But this reaction to anything conservative as inherently bad or evil is just as benighted as the view that the world will be better once all the democrats are out of office and the Supreme Court is filled with pro-lifers.

    When I was in academia I was frequently disappointed that any attempt to have a conversation about these topics quickly degenerated into us (liberal) vs them (conservative) name-calling and mockery.
    More good would get done and political tensions would be lessened if people could try to see the truth in the ‘opposing’ side or at least just politely agree to disagree.

  11. A lesbian woman I knew called herself ‘gay’. It was, I think, an attempt to find a better term than ‘lesbian’, although I don’t really know what the terms mean to her.

  12. The whole trans ideology is the patriarchy on steroids. Transing gay & lesbian children is the new gay conversion therapy. It has nothing to do with “wokeness”. The fact that the left has latched on to this shows how totally superficial that side has become. It’s quite conservative in nature. It just looks liberal & cool. It really isn’t. It’s marketing at its finest.

    1. Wags have said of trans ideology that it’s “The Patriarchy Strikes Back”.

      In terms of transing as the new gay conversion therapy, it’s like when people gave up smoking, and later they became obese.

  13. Dang, I’m gonna miss lesbians. Glad some of my salad days overlapped with lesbian-chic. There were a pair of lipstick lesbians in law school I used to take out dancing on the weekends. Then, later, my wife had a good friend from work. She’d come over the house and help me pitch batting practice to the kids in the neighborhood. Had a pretty good arm on her. She and I would pick up a 12-pack and go over her dad’s house to watch the pay-per-view boxing matches with him on cable tv.

    Simpler times, I guess.

  14. As you say, it doesn’t seem to have affected gay men very much. Still, I feel a tad old-fashioned being just a white gay man. I need more points!

    Incidentally, I remember hearing that transgender people tended to be born males who transitioned to woman whilst the other way round was much rarer. That could be false, of course, but if it’s true I wonder why, now, it’s young girls who are adopting these identities? I think part of it might come down to the fact that more people are perhaps joining in with the fad because it’s relatively easy and risk-free rather, than, say getting gender reassignment surgery. I’d still assume that the majority of people who get such surgery are males transitioning to women. But what do I know? I’m just splurging.

    1. Maybe among true transgender people, male-to-females predominate. However, if a fad comes into the play, I’d expect it to affect females much more than males, because I think that we females are more succeptable to social pressure.

    2. It’s been suggested that one reason so many young girls are declaring themselves to be boys has to do with the sudden ubiquity of pornography, coupled with its increasing tendency to be violent or degrading to women. It’s easily accessible online, and I’ve read some surprising statistics involving younger and younger children being familiar with darker and darker kinks, with girls expected to “enjoy it.”

      Adolescence is already fraught with fear and anxiety. One way a girl can opt out of too much, too soon sexual pressure is to not be a girl. It seems an extreme solution — and to my mind unlikely— but some desisters and detransitioners say that older people have little idea how influential it is.

  15. During the last century, as the left-hander was no longer frowned upon, the number of recognized left-handers multiplied until all the left-handers manufactured by nature could come to light without fear. Similarly, as being transgender ceases to be frowned upon, the number of recognized trans people will continue to grow until all trans people that nature makes can come out without fear.

    It is therefore about fashion: anti-trans fashion will pass, just as anti-left-handed fashion has disappeared.

  16. Sullivan mentions “LGBTQIA+”, but that’s already out of date, as I noticed when the subject of Queer Ecology came up here at WEIT the other week. According to the topic’s Wikipedia article, nowadays it’s “LGBTTIQQ2SA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, intersex, queer, questioning, two-spirited, and allies)” though I’m not sure that asexuals and pansexuals will be too happy about being overlooked! https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queer_ecology#Definition

  17. Recently I was speaking with my neighbor who is not afraid to use the “L” word in describing herself. She introduced me to her friend who is visiting – I didn’t ask but assume that the friend was an “L” too. My neighbor’s friend chimed in and said; “My pronouns are they or them”.
    I said; “Shouldn’t that be ‘our’ pronouns”?
    Misunderstanding, they said; “No, for me.”
    I said; “Don’t you mean for us”?
    They said; “I don’t understand.”
    I replied; “Yes, I don’t think you do”.

    Pretty much verbatim. My neighbor thought it was funny and after a time, so did her friend.

    1. This must all be much more complicated in French or other languages where “tu” and “vous” are both singular versus plural as well as familiar versus formal.

      1. I don’t imagine this is a problem since, I assume, the preference for people to be referred to as they/them applies only to situations when they are referred to in the third person. There is no reason for them to mind someone saying ‘Would you like a cup of tea?’ because it makes no assumption regarding their gender’ in contrast to ‘she (or he) is invited to tea’ which does.

        The problem for French speakers, rather, is that their third person plural pronouns are gendered – ils/elles, eux/elles. I presume they have found alternative linguistic work-arounds.

  18. I think it’s probably impossible to know whether the lesbians of earlier millennia would have preferred to identify as trans or male, since they were not given those choices. So without that control group, we can’t say whether this is a fad or genuine.

    1. This is the third time I’m letting you know this: you won’t be allowed to comment here any more unless you correct your earlier (and false) claim that there was a case of racist bigotry at Smith College, which justified the accusations of systemic racism. I told you that Smith’s own investigation (and others as well) showed that there was no racism. You still have not retracted your assertion.

  19. I don’t know that there is any hard and fast rule, but I would be inclined to make a case that properly the term “lesbian journalist” should (or at least could) be used to mean any journalist who chronicles the lesbian community regardless of the journalist’s own proclivities. Certainly, adjectives are always used this way to modify “historian”. A “German historian” is someone who specializes in the history of Germany regardless of their own ethnicity.
    Yes, we don’t use adjectives that way in terms of artists such as painters or film-makers. A German painter is one who is ethnically German. But a journalist is more like a historian than a creative artist.

    1. I doubt that anyone reading the description “a lesbian journalist” would understand it to mean a person of unknown sexuality who specializes in writing about lesbianism. There may be many journalists who are lesbians who would not object to being described as such (at least if relevant to the matter under discussion) but who write about subjects other than sexuality.

      To be honest I also think that most people encountering a description of someone as a ‘German historian’ would understand it to mean a historian of German nationality rather than a historian specializing in Germany history. A quick look in Wikipedia turns up accounts of various historians described as ‘English’ (or other nationality) but whose main subject area is the history of countries other than their own.

  20. While I do think it’s very important to support freedom of speech and thought when pondering these topics, on the topic itself, I’m undecided and think there could be a number of causes. It’s possible, for example, that women just care less about sex in general (and / or are more likely to conform to societal norms) and so women who care ardently enough to make a choice that is still somewhat societally stigmatized tend to be further along a continuum of preferences / identity and more likely to be trans. Perhaps, as other commenters have noted, this was always the case but being trans is now more accepted while previously it was only homosexuality that was more accepted. Or perhaps the social pressures around marriage have changed (I’ve read in a few places that marriage is now more associated with financial stability, for example,) so that women who could go either way have new incentives to live a heterosexual lifestyle which would, again, limit those in same sex relationships to women who have a more pronounced preference. I think social contagion is certainly one explanation, but in the absence of much evidence, I’m agnostic on the topic.

    In his “Dissents” section, in which Sullivan answers beefs from readers, he’s concerned with whether wokeness will remain with us under a Biden administration. One can argue that it won’t, saying that wokeness was a kneejerk reaction to Trump’s bigotry and fascism, but I think we’re in for more wokeness.

    I think the thing about Wokeness is that it’s hard to find anyone who actually likes Wokeness. At best, people feel bullied into it or shrug and go along with it, and in many cases, I think there is a ‘silent majority’ factor where people quietly resent it. I do think Wokeness will continue towards a crescendo in the next few years but I continue to think that ultimately the backlash against Wokeness will be worse. Wokeness is rule by the loudest and screamiest and is therefore, to my mind, inherently unstable – but whatever replaces it will, I think, be both somewhat authoritarian (it will have to be, to stare down Wokeness) and also legitimately popular (again, it will have to be, to serve as a viable alternative for the majority,) which might be a worrisome combination. Wokeness is unbearably smug and annoying but at least no one is going to die in the streets for the cause of Wokeness. Whatever authoritarian populist movement counteracts it? That, I don’t know. It seems to me that we are at a moment of ‘cultural power void’, as are old institutions quickly become irrelevant and there is nothing new to replace them. Wokeness is a pop-up answer to this dynamic but I don’t see it lasting more than, say, 4-6 years.

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