Literature, recent

The Narcissistic Fracturing of LGBT Literature

In late 2016, I was featured prominently in an article that appeared in Quill & Quire, entitled Out in the open: Is it time for Canadian gay literature to leave its comfort zone and respond to the Grindr generation? As a young gay writer, this felt like a big deal. While Quill & Quire is an obscure publication, it serves as a sort of bellwether of popularity within Canada’s tiny, tightly controlled literary community. Plus, I was appearing alongside more famous LGBT writers: veteran gay writer Sky Gilbert (now of Quillette fame) and trans author Vivek Shraya. The professional stakes were high for me because this was my first appearance in the national media following the publication of my debut novel, Candyass.

The author of that 2016 article, Elio Iannacci, interviewed each of us about the state of “queer” art and representation, with the premise being that market forces still prevent gay writers from fully expressing themselves. Vivek, who had come out as trans in her mid 30s, stated: “All we hear is ‘love is love,’ or ‘love wins,’ or ‘love won,’ and I find that is a way to ignore desire…A lot of queer people are growing up in a much more liberal environment than what I grew up in, and these younger writers can speak to what it is to be queer in this particular moment in a way that a lot of us can’t.”

That’s exactly what I was trying to do in Candyass, a gay coming-of-age story about the lives of modern sexually-liberated young men living in Montreal, where I’d attended university. As a young writer in his 20s, I wanted to explore the idea of how, even once you strip away the specificity of sexuality or identity, you’re always still left with lonely people longing for human connection. Digital distractions and hookup culture notwithstanding, the “more liberal environment” we now inhabit hasn’t altered this basic human need to forge one-on-one bonds. Gay or straight, trans or cis, black or white, we all have the same desires.

It seems strange to me now, looking back on that Quill & Quire piece, with the three of us all being listened to in an open, fair and inclusive way. In the 27 months since the article was published, the world of LGBT politics has been turned upside down. Gilbert and Shraya, in particular, recently found themselves entangled in a literary-world controversy when Gilbert published a poem about his misgivings regarding the current ideological climate, and was promptly subjected to a Soviet-style shaming session at the very theatre he had founded decades ago.

Of course, infighting always has been a feature of modern Canadian cultural industries, which rely heavily on government grants and subsidies, and so are beset by a climate of ruthless competition for scarce resources. What started as a publicly funded, socially-engineered initiative to form a national literary identity distinct from that of the United States now has become an arena for embittered call-out mobs, all of which have weaponized identity politics as part of their social-media battles.

This was the mindset that Gilbert had sought to highlight with his poem. And it scares me that we now live in age when a poem can get someone fired. As Clint Margrave recently wrote in Quillette, the last time poetry could get people de-platformed in this way was when Allen Ginsberg published Howl. In that case, the censors were conservatives. But these days, it’s leftists who are playing that role, closing ranks against anyone who isn’t deemed sufficiently woke.

My own first encounter with this attitude came in Toronto. I had been booked by my publisher to read at the Naked Heart LGBT literary festival. The event in question was titled “Out of Bounds,” which supposedly was aimed at gathering “outsider” literary voices of a transgressive and experimental variety. I read a few short vignettes from my book, one in which the narrator recounts a conversation he had with a character he suspects might be a sociopath. The scene is about the suspension of disbelief we sometimes instinctively engage in when being told an upsetting story. The sociopath character casually recounts to the narrator an episode in which he purportedly coerced an underage boy into sex—which leaves the narrator questioning whether he’s been told something that’s true, or whether he’s just been played for shock value, the slippage between reality and fiction being a hallmark of the sociopath.

When I was done reading, the writer after me made a comment before starting their own work: “It would have been nice to receive a trigger warning before listening to a story about child abuse in what is supposed to be a safe space.” The writer then commenced to read from their own story about suicide—without a trigger warning. I brushed the whole thing off as a performative exercise in virtue signalling.

But that wasn’t the end of it. I later received an email from my publisher informing me that there was “negative” feedback about my attendance from the organizers. There was even a possibility, I was told, that my book would be pulled from the bookstore that hosted the event. I couldn’t shake the irony that all of these supposedly hyper-tolerant and artistically transgressive literary-festival types were basically treating me the same way I’d once felt among high school bullies.

In a widely read 2015 piece for Briarpatch magazine, titled A Note on Call-Out Culture, Toronto-based writer Asam Ahmad wrote: “It isn’t an exaggeration to say that there is a mild totalitarian undercurrent not just in call-out culture but also in how progressive communities police and define the bounds of who’s in and who’s out.” Such essays now have become common, but Ahmad wrote this four years ago, marking him as a perceptive observer of this new threat to free speech. “When people are reduced to their identities of privilege (as white, cisgender, male, etc.) and mocked as such, it means we’re treating each other as if our individual social locations stand in for the total systems those parts of our identities represent. Individuals become synonymous with systems of oppression, and this can turn systemic analysis into moral judgment,” he wrote. “Too often, when it comes to being called out, narrow definitions of a person’s identity count for everything.” Readers may scoff at terms like “systems of oppression” and similar jargon. But I wholeheartedly agreed with Ahmad’s call to avoid ascribing too much importance to “narrow definitions of a person’s identity.”

I only wish Ahmad continued to agree with himself—for within the space of just a few years, his own writing would come to perfectly exemplify the “mild totalitarian undercurrent” he’d identified in 2015.

* * *

There is a long tradition of writers lashing out against critics who give bad reviews to their books. And I will admit that I wasn’t happy when Ahmad wrote a negative review of Candyass in an LGBT magazine when my book came out two years ago. But over time, whatever ire his review originally elicited has dissipated. The reason I revisit the article now is because it speaks perfectly to the moment that Sky Gilbert—and all the rest of us—now are living through.

Ahmad’s problem with my book was, in a word, it’s whiteness. “It would be one thing to script this prevalent white gay cultural voice in order to do something with it—problematize it, mock it, parody it, historicize it, etc.,” he wrote in his February, 2017 review. “Instead, all we get is the voice itself, as if it is communicating something real and authentic rather than being the fantasy that white gay male culture has immersed itself in.”

But of course, the narrator of my novel (named Arthur) isn’t a “white gay cultural voice.” It’s a narrator’s voice. The voice of an individual. Ahmad allows that it would be okay to situate the narrator as white (as I am, in real life) if my intent had been to “problematize,” “mock,” “historicize” or “parody” this whiteness—which suggests that he views an entire swathe of humanity to have literary value only insofar as it can be used as a punching bag. This is the same writer, recall, who just two years previous had warned us against “reducing people to their identities of privilege” and embracing “narrow definitions of a person’s identity.”

In this new world we inhabit, can white gay men not have a voice, a story, a perspective? Does anyone’s categorization within some group identity permit others to deny them individual agency? I’d hope not. If whiteness is fine only insofar as it acts as a shallow prop fit for mockery, one wonders what Ahmad would do with a novel about drug addiction set in, say, rural West Virginia. Are Appalachian whites also boring and “privileged,” fit only for racial parody?

The narrator of my novel is an American living in a French-Canadian city. (Yes, we all write what we know.) He immerses himself in the local culture, learns French, and educates himself about the “Two Solitudes” that separate English- and French-speaking Canadians. Arthur was, in some senses, an immigrant. And like every other character in the book, he is dealing with either outright poverty (the plot begins during the 2008 recession) or something close to it: Characters have trouble paying for tuition, food and rent. To see all of this as nothing more than an unending sea of “whiteness” is to erase the complexities of individuals in favour of a sort of nihilistic tribalism—otherwise known as racism. In some cases, I realize, “whiteness” is taken as a flip stand-in for boring, bourgeois, straight, sexless middle-class consumers. But I wasn’t even writing about middle-class characters. I was writing about impoverished gay youth.

Ahmad criticizes the protagonist for exploring his own “subjective experience of marginalization” because, Ahmad concludes, such subjective experience does not encompass Ahmad’s own subjective experience. From the review: “Arthur’s experiences of gay life are coloured by what he looks like, but he rarely seems to be aware that different people with different bodies might have different experiences with gay life and gay sex than he does…The novel inadvertently lays bare the all-consuming narcissism at the heart of so much white gay male culture today…Arthur is a skinny, smooth, good-looking white twink [slang for a stereotypically attractive, youthful-looking gay man] who calls his desire ‘picky,’ but cruel would be more appropriate.”

This is more than mere cattiness: What Ahmad is attacking is the very idea of aesthetic preferences and distinctions—despite the fact that such thoughts and feelings lie at everyone’s core. He sees Arthur’s very existence as an affront to the utopian conceit that no one’s feelings should ever be hurt, that no one should ever feel excluded. And by couching this demand in the language of race, Ahmad shows us the end point of intersectionality: a world in which no one can express anything sincere, since sincerity always requires choices, rankings, judgments.

The idea that anyone and everyone should have the right to see themselves represented literally in every story is condescending—for it presupposes that a reader from an excluded group doesn’t possess the empathy or imagination required to make the leap that the author invites. It’s also astonishingly narcissistic: Ahmad isn’t mad that Narcissus is staring into the river that drowns him by dint of his own vanity. He’s just mad that Narcissus is obstructing his own view of the water as all of this happens, and so he doesn’t get to behold his own reflection.

I can understand the sense of frustration you get when you can’t find literature or art that speaks to your experience. But that is what motivated me to write a book in the first place. If someone’s already written your book, why write it again? The solution to alienation isn’t to tear down other people’s experiences. It’s to hone your own artist’s craft.

As a consumer of someone else’s art, on the other hand, a sense of detachment from the characters on offer isn’t the end of the world. When I watched Moonlight, I didn’t focus on the lack of white characters in that acclaimed 2016 drama. I recognized that Moonlight wasn’t about me or my experiences. But I found it moving anyway, because I still had the opportunity to observe the lives of the characters and explore our shared humanity. I’d imagine that anyone watching that movie, gay or straight, could relate (to some degree) to its portrayal of a complicated man balancing toughness, tenderness and masculinity. This is what powerful art should do.

What powerful art doesn’t do is avoid locking eyes with the true human condition. In real life, when you choose to love someone—when you privilege that person in your mind over every other person—someone else is, by necessity, losing out, being unchosen. This is why totalitarian regimes are so suspicious of, or even hostile to, the authentic love that exists between lovers and family members: because it freezes out everything, including politics.

The world of the left generally, and of LGBT identity politics specifically, wasn’t always focused on infinite fragmentation within sects. As I noted at the outset, just two years ago, I felt part of an artistic culture, symbolized by those Quill & Quire interviews, that gave all of us license to retain our individual agency, and which gave voice to Ahmad’s earlier, proper admonition not to reduce people to “narrow definitions of identity.” Too often we forget that there are those on the far right who want to erect real walls under auspices of national security, while not so long ago there were those on the European far left who built walls to stop people from escaping their communist “utopias.”

The divisive psychology of these two personality types, however, is much the same. And it pains me to see it replicated in a literary culture that once held free expression and individual agency as firm values, and which encouraged artists to gaze upon (and build off of) one another, rather than gazing downwards in search of nothing but their own reflection.

Nick Comilla is a New York-based writer.

Featured image: “Narcissus,” by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, circa 1597–1599.


  1. Eurocrat says

    Nick Comilla: “The world of the left generally, and of LGBT identity politics specifically, wasn’t always focused on infinite fragmentation within sects.”

    Sorry, Nick, but it was. It all started when you let the majority define you by your sexuality. Then you adopted this majority attitude, just changed the obvious insulting definitions of your sexuality with the once you liked more. Once you let yourself be divided from the rest of the humanity, by a self-exile into minority groups, the infighting could start. The infighting for the most pure one among the queer ones, which will finish somewhere along the lines of People’s Front of Judea fighting Judean People’s Front.

    The fact is – someone’s sexuality is nobody’s business. Just like race. Nobody should feel obliged to state what turns him on, or what is his ancestry.

    So, the real problem is there at the start of your article: “As a young gay writer…”, when, in a really liberal world, it would be: “As a young writer”.

    • The Judean People’s Front? SPLITTERS!
      But, slightly more seriously, Quillette readers may wish to know that ‘Life Of Brian’ is being rereleased in cinemas for its 40th anniversary.

      • TarsTarkas says

        What about the Popular Front? You’re being exclusive!

    • I would argue that the gay community didn’t let the majority define them by their sexuality but began to define themselves by their sexuality. An excellent example of this would be the row stemming from the lack of emphasis of Freddie Mercury’s sexuality in the film Bohemian Rhapsody.

      • Someone says

        It is easy to state that gays let themselves be defined by others while until recent years homosexuality has been considered a depravation or an illness.
        For example, now that lefties are attacking masculinity we are seeing masculinist movements.

      • TarsTarkas says

        Because they always want to define everybody and everything by sex instead of by avocation or philosophy.

    • Hub 312 says

      “The world of the left generally…wasn’t always focused on infinite fragmentation within sects.”

      This is the fatuous ignorance that passes for education that the takeover of education by the left produces. If one traces the emergence of the political left back to the French Revolution, infinite fragmentation is its most salient characteristic.

      History also shows it ends only when one dominant sect is able to terrorize them into submission and conformity with the dictates of the dominant sect, or, failing that, extermination. This pattern is universal and arguably the real basis of leftism. Today’s postmodern left not only repeats the pattern, but, having denied the efficacy of reason and individualism in principle, really leaves no other avenue but “power” to resolve differences.

    • Marina says

      Yep. If you accept the benefits that come from marketing your writing to a target audience you have to take the lumps that will inevitably come with that.

    • Eurocat: “It all started when you let the majority define you by your sexuality.”

      I don’t know anything about being gay, but do know a thing or two about being oppressed. I don’t believe it was Nick’s choice to be defined by his sexuality. Nick didn’t “let” them . . .
      They did it all by themselves. Nick was singled out as being “different” before he had the ability to walk. To blame him for “letting” the majority define him is the very definition of “blaming the victim.” How shallow can you be? To just casually presume that there are no boundaries – ANYWHERE! – and that we spring from the womb fully formed like Athena from the head of Zeus, is just delusional.

      We all have to start somewhere. The human project is exactly that process of emerging from the collective background – be it familial, historical, cultural, biological, racial, etc. – to become a sovereign individual. And this process is what constitutes the grist for the literary mill. What would you have Nick write about? How could his characters “come to life” as it were if they all just blend into a monochrome majority culture? (of which we all participate equally in a Cloud 9 Utopia)

      “Then you adopted this majority attitude . . . ”

      No he did NOT! He set himself up against it. Which is, again, the human project. His only other choice was to lose himself in it. And if he did that there would be no story at all. Maybe that’s something you’d prefer, but I’d rather have the benefit of his unique voice.

      • Paul Hawkins says

        This is a great response and defense of Comilla, jcp. Eurocat seems to suppose that any mention of group affiliation — “young gay writer” — cancels out common humanity, when we all belong to groups, and the only relevant thing is whether the group affiliation is paramount, or one’s sovereign individuality is paramount (i’m borrowing from something Jordan Peterson said recently on Australian TV, to cite my source).

        And since the whole thrust of Comilla’s writing (as he describes it himself near the top of the article) is on the common problems of loneliness and search for love, he is most definitely connecting himself to the rest of humanity and not reducing himself to the group.

        There is a genre of response in Quillette comment sections that Eurocat’s comment exemplifies: any mention of group affiliation or left-wing politics, and instantly assumptions are made that one is practicing identity politics (Eurocat doesn’t use that label, but I take it that’s the thrust of their remarks).

        You can be a gay writer or straight writer or black writer or white writer and you can be on the left without committing the cardinal sin of identity politics.

        A larger question for another day is, are identity political struggles always wrong? And I don’t think they are — there’s a time and a place for that purpose under heaven, though there are dangers we must be aware of. But I say, that’s a question for another dwy, because I don’t think Comilla is practicing identity politics just because he claims a group affiliation.

    • Alice Williams says

      So, the real problem is there at the start of your article: “As a young gay writer…”, when, in a really liberal world, it would be: “As a young writer”.

      Or even, ‘As a writer.’

  2. Philip Davies says

    I am increasingly finding it difficult to have sympathy for this situation which is now frighteningly common. It starts with the left attacking everyone who does not think like them and results in a vicious destruction of reputations and livelihoods. Everyone on the left seems happy another victory against society is won and a another outsider humiliated. And then as it lays down tighter and tighter boundaries backed by bitter intolerance it turns upon its own. Someone puts a foot over the line and says the wrong thing. The full force of righteous indignation explodes on someone in their own community and they are savaged and ostracized in their turn. They are shocked and confused and turn to open places like this to look for support and understanding. Well it should be a lesson to us all that if you make friends with the vicious and intolerant they will always in time turn on you and tear to you pieces.

  3. Interesting article! Just had to note that the “narcisistic” in the title appears to be spelt wrong. Should be “narcissistic”.

  4. Nicholas says

    @philip I agree this seems like about half of all Quille articles, but I think for people who don’t read Quillette, it’s still largely comes as a surprise.

  5. I hope the author joins the #walkaway group founded by a NYC gay man. Because the only solution to this madness is to turn your back and face the sun. If your novel is good, it will find an audience in the larger, sane world.

    Thanks for sharing your story. It’s always delightful when the left eats their own.

  6. Fionn says

    There’s an error in the fourth paragraph, the first hyperlink is a “mailto:” hyperlink rather than a link to the article in question.

  7. Steve S says

    Common Humanity.

    This was something I was taught to look for above all else. Find the similarities, treat others as you wish to be treated.

    And now, from the supposedly ‘enlightened’ left, now we’re told to find and acknowledge the differences. And behave like spoiled brats and bullies when you don’t get your way.

    This is a particularly insightful piece of writing. As segregation is revived, as judgement based on skin colour returns to the forefront, as sexuality becomes a source of shame once more…all these things we were putting behind us now returning to life in the very name of stopping them…remember history, and remember what forms hatred can take.

    People scoff at the idea that white people, straight or otherwise, could be in any danger…but remember Germany, and how it began with the Jews. It started with mocking, and derision…moved into denial of rights and segregation….and then into outright and accepted violence. There is a powerful undercurrent of hatred guiding the actions of today, both external and internalized, and if it continues to be allowed to fester and grow…just watch what happens when whites become a minority in the countries they built. This may sound like racist propaganda…but ask yourself, if someone from any other group of people suggested this, would you have the same reaction?

    I hope, and if I was an overly religious man I’d pray, that everyone gets sick and tired of this nonsense before it’s too late. I want to be alive when the human race finally wakes up and realizes that things like skin colour do not matter, that only content of character does.

    Because the alternative is not palatable, a blood soaked and hate-filled future.

    • Joseph Ratliff says

      @Steve S — nailed it. MLK is rolling in his grave.

      We’re going backwards, towards a disgusting time in history where human beings were hosed down in the streets based on the color of their skin.

      This time it may be white people, but just as disgusting.

      “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

      “I want to be alive when the human race finally wakes up and realizes that things like skin colour do not matter, that only content of character does.” – Steve S

      I hope the human race wakes up too, Steve.

    • Lightning Rose says

      Reality Check: In the US, white/Caucasian as of the last Census is around 76% of the population.
      Hispanics have little beef with us–they believe in work and are assimilating as Americans. I don’t know of any violent black women capable of emulating the Nazis.

      Black males are 6% of the population.

      So if we think 6% are going to exterminate 76%, maybe it’s time to trade those soy lattes and veggie wraps for a little target practice down in Red-State land and find out how people live and vote outside the leftist bubble!

      • Stephanie says

        Lightening Rose, of course that’s precisely why disarmament is a key Democratic platform issue.

        I also wouldn’t underestimate black women. And certainly not their white “allies.” And don’t forget the Islamists who have hitched their bandwagon.

        You ought to revisit the article about how a small number of uncompromising people can dictate their beliefs on the rest of us. Or else people will start to think you comment without reading.

  8. I thought the purpose of reading a book was to walk in another’s shoes for a few hours. It appears I was wrong. All this time I should have been reading books to validate my own experiences instead of trying to grow beyond them.

    On the issue others have mentioned about carving ourselves into smaller in vs out groups, Jordan Peterson put it best last year:

    “The logical conclusion of intersectionality is individuality. There are so many different ways of categorizing people, if you take that all the way out to the end, you find the individual is the ultimate minority. The intersectionalists will get there — if they don’t kill everyone first.”

  9. pardoner says

    We boring, bourgeois, straight, sexless middle-class consumers are people too.

    • El Uro says

      @pardoner, I like to be a homo-, xeno-, trans-, islamo-, …(please fill in all the required fields) phobic old man. There is something exciting about it – I used to be an ordinary person, now I am the cause of all the troubles on this planet.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @El Uro

        I describe myself as an omniphobe, it covers all the current bases and all those yet to come.

      • George G says

        @ El Uro

        How about Trans-Homosexual for being straight ?

        following from the quilette article on the importance of language last week and ineffectual language policing by activists, whenever I read TRANS – xxwhateverxx I just read it to mean NOT a xxwhateverxx. activists can attempt to redefine words all they like, but language has a life of its own, whilst people may not actively be aware of the slight of hand these activists are pulling, people still quickly adapt and remain aware of the truth even if they are prohibited from expressing it.

        How about just adopting normal for a prefix? the activist your speaking to must respect your preferred prefix and your lived experience of being an ordinary normal.

  10. Morgan Foster says

    Mr. Camilla informs us that there is a problem (of which we are aware) but he does not offer any solution. Nor does he tell us what he is doing on his own behalf. I was hoping for more.

    • Joseph Ratliff says

      What’s your solution to this complex societal problem, Morgan?

      • Morgan Foster says

        @Joseph Ratliff

        My solution is to ask those who contribute articles to Quillette to go one step further than complaint about the way they’ve been treated.

      • TarsTarkas says

        Constantly yell at them to f**k off. Scare them. Make them beg for OUR mercy. They are cowardly bullies who’ve never been taught to be polite and reasonable, because they’ve been rewarded for their behavior.

  11. ga gamba says

    Appears the purpose of these incidents is to snooker you and scare off others.

    Write what you know and you’re damned for it being too white, too middle-class, and too wrong. Dare to write from the perspective of the people of the people of and you’ll be tarred and feathered as an appropriator who can’t speak authentically, shouldn’t have dared to do so, and, even worse, stole an opportunity from a person of the people of the people of.

    That’s the game.

    Surveying the landscape, I fear you face dismal prospects. If you can get past a publisher’s desire to emphasise the non-white gay people of the people of you’ll bump into a sensitivity reader who will toss a spanner into the works. The theatres appear to be hostile. The journalists who cover the literature and theatre beat only put your name in public to further pummel you. Watch what happens when you google your name. You’re being unpersoned.

    In the bad ol’ days when someone was in your shoes they defected. It seems the number of your cohort is growing exponentially, so you may be able to organise a dissident community. You’ll need to own the whole kit and caboodle, which means vertical integration of publishers, theatres, and reviewers.

    You’re young enough that you missed the battles of the ’70s and ’80s, so you’ll get to relive a similar experience now. Instead of being called fag or pederast, it’ll be fascist.

    Too often we forget that there are those on the far right who want to erect real walls under auspices of national security, while not so long ago there were those on the European far left who built walls to stop people from escaping their communist “utopias.”

    Take care with the false equivalences. No one on the right is imprisoning citizens; denying freedoms to associate, to speak, and to participate in the economy; hosting 100-member panels to discuss problematic people and why they ought to be unpersoned; and ruining your life.

    • “Too often we forget that there are those on the far right who . . .”

      I’m reminded of the “Forbidden Planet” and the monsters from Dr. Morbius’ id.

      Tucker Carlson has characterized the malignants’ perpetual rage against monsters from the right as Freudian projection in the context of the projector’s underlying narcissistic personality disorder.

    • Bonnie says

      And many prominent democrats throughout the years have called for a border wal: “We simply cannot allow people to pour into the United States undetected, undocumented, unchecked…” Barrack Obama, 2005. I voted, when I was a Senator, to build a barrier to try to prevent illegal immigrants from coming in…” Hillary Clinton, 2015.

      • TarsTarkas says

        His comment about walls was the obligatory SJW swipe a the current President of the United States. Have to keep your woke creds up to date!

  12. Farris says

    Excommunication, shaming, tar and feathering these are all weapons of mobs and mob justice. The Left finds itself in a position similar to Islam. In Islam the radicals run the show and the remaining Muslims are too frightened to speak out. It will be incumbent upon the reasonable members of the Left to seize control of their movement or watch it dwindle into a totalitarian regime. Zealots seldom prevail but do a boat load of damage before their time ends. Hats off to the author for being one of the ones to stand up. Purging the Left of SJWs will make the movement stronger. Currently the biggest beneficiaries of SJWs are the Right.

    • @ Farris

      “In Islam the radicals run the show and the remaining Muslims are too frightened to speak out.”

      Poppycock! More correctly most Muslim societies have not accepted modernity values and that is why those “radicals” exist in such large quantities.

  13. Lightning Rose says

    All of this seen in the broader context is the music of a very tiny violin, played by a very tiny fish in a very tiny bowl. Meanwhile, out on the ocean . . .

  14. Morgan Foster says

    Next it will be a white trans man getting kicked out of his identity group.

    Then white straight women, followed by gay white women and then white trans women.

    • Actually straight white women and gay, white women are already being kicked out. I refer you to the story of Martina Navratilova. And straight white women have been being kicked out for quite awhile.

  15. Pinkot says

    “This is more than mere cattiness: What Ahmad is attacking is the very idea of aesthetic preferences and distinctions—despite the fact that such thoughts and feelings lie at everyone’s core. He sees Arthur’s very existence as an affront to the utopian conceit that no one’s feelings should ever be hurt, that no one should ever feel excluded. And by couching this demand in the language of race, Ahmad shows us the end point of intersectionality: a world in which no one can express anything sincere, since sincerity always requires choices, rankings, judgments.”

    This is a good point. The sort of analysis of value that explodes current values leads for an empty life. When all things a person desires are problematized as part of structures that perpetuate the oppression of some other, and then to be done away with, then what is left for people to live for?

    • @Pinkot
      An image of Ayn Rand suddenly flashed before my eyes. (Scary)
      Sounds like one of her criticisms of “modern” society i saw on an interview.

    • jakesbrain says

      The sort of analysis of value that explodes current values leads for an empty life. When all things a person desires are problematized as part of structures that perpetuate the oppression of some other, and then to be done away with, then what is left for people to live for?

      “There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — for ever.”

  16. Harrison Bergeron says

    If “Schindler’s List” had just been published I suspect reviewers would say that it is a laudable attempt to highlight the horrors of the Holocaust but it falls short because it spends too much time centering and reinforcing the whiteness of the the stories main character.

    • Harrison Bergeron says

      edit reinforcing the whiteness of the story’s main character

    • The Ulcer says

      @Harrison Bergeron – I love that you picked that name as a handle. I’ve referred to this wonderful short story by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. a few times as the perfect example of what progressives are attempting to accomplish when they ask us to “check our privilege”. At what point are we required to handicap our innate talents to ensure we never exceed the maximum allowable human advantage?

  17. we’re only three percent of the population. we’re free-thinking for each other, not for retards. they’re not going to love us just because we don’t offend them. why would we want the love of the ordinary joe anyway? so he’ll bake our cake?

  18. Sydney says

    As a Canadian ex-lefty I’m happy to see the author waking up to realities of the left. May I nitpick? As a writer he’s awfully loosey-goosey with language. Quebecois culture and language aren’t French-Canadian: the culture is francophone and the language is Quebecois. French-speaking nations throughout the world aren’t French-hyphenated; they’re francophone. They share heritage and history with France, but in most (not all) cases not much more.

    And “…the far right who want to erect real walls…” is an accident waiting to happen. A commenter already pointed out that nobody is planning walls to imprison. And the author should question the left’s mantra of everything to the right of Ghandi being ‘far right.’ Am I really a Nazi and a white supremacist because I resist globalism and open borders? Am I really ‘far right’ because I’d like Canada’s borders closed and secure? No, I’m not, and 95 percent of conservatives or centrists today are nowhere near the ‘far right’ of the left’s torrid imagination.

    The unfortunate, pejorative term ‘cis’ can’t disappear fast enough, and we all have a duty to make this happen. Rad-fem threads alerted me the much better terms ‘natal male’/’natal female,’ which work for everyone. Language is alive, so let’s all kick ‘cis’ to the curb.

    I only mean to be “mildly totalitarian” in my language policing here. Hope the author isn’t triggered!

  19. DBruce says

    Narcissus was the last step before the hero figure could enter mythology. He didn’t achieve lift off but that blob of cum he left behind changed everything.

  20. markbul says

    The editors of Quillette seem to have a thing for these “I was one of them until they turned on me” lefties. Each expects sympathy from those they would have kicked in the balls yesterday, when they were still safely within the bosom of their tribe. I have very little sympathy. De-jargon yourself, and come back again clean. Then, I’ll listen.

    • Peter from Oz says

      ”De-jargon yourself, and come back again clean. Then, I’ll listen.”
      Well said

    • George G says

      @ markbul

      yeah I think your right on that, so far I think we’ve had an exilled drag queen, theatre writer/producer, several authors, excommunicated activists…. I’m sure there was a radio personality too, maybe?

      to all of them I’d say welcome to the grown up table and we are happy to have you here, but please don’t start any sentences with “speak as a ….” that world kicked you out, here we just have “speaking for myself”

    • You realize not everyone on the left is a former or current supporter of witch hunts, right? I see no evidence the writer above ever supported anything like that.

  21. Mazzakim says

    If this piece is anything to go by, I suspect my critique of the author’s book would just be the banality of it all. Coming-of-age stories, both gay and straight, written by people in their twenties are less than a penny a dozen. While whatever experience described may be terribly vital to the person who lived it, it’s going to be really hard to come up with anything that is close to a truly original and/or compelling and/or interesting insight about the human condition.

  22. Donald Collins says

    The gay community wanted to be not only accepted but praised for their differences.

    Then the gay community features into different sects of differences each wanting to be praised for their differences.

    At some point, and this is the point of the story, the gay community and society as a whole, will understand the individual is the ultimate minority and thus we as a whole should celebrate what we have in common and that we are able to tolerate each other despite our differences rather than act as if group differences are somehow special thus rises us above one another

    • @ Donald Collins

      Nope. You will find most gays wanted to accepted. And other than being gay – there is no other homogeneous factor that unites them. Hold on, as it might come as a shock that not all gays are synonymous with the Left.

  23. Ray Andrews says

    Most grand alliances survive at least long enough to defeat the common enemy, at which point they turn on each other. But The Patriarchy (western civilization) is not yet entirely smashed, and already the Victims are turning on each other. We all understand the Victim totem pole and how things work. Up till now the sin of whiteness was absolved by the virtue of sodomy, but it seems that the balance has tipped, and the sin of whiteness is no longer washed away as the author has found out.

    I saw an interview with some black lady who was organizing a protest of something, and she said that white women were not invited. The sin of whiteness was not absolved by the virtue of being female. Sisterhood is fracturing. And of course just recently the feminists were shocked to discover that the trans outranked them on the totempole. Dare we hope that Victimocracy self-destructs shortly? Things happen fast on the internet. It seems to me just barely possible that we could wake up one morning to find that Victimhood is just over.

    • George G says

      @ Ray Andrews

      “Dare we hope that Victimocracy self-destructs shortly? Things happen fast on the internet”

      great point, technology (social media combined with smart phones) has acted as an accelerant to this whole “uncivil” rights movement. it makes sense that it can also accelerate its demise. We can hope so anyway.

      another thing I think has started pushing these coalitions of victims a part is that they have moved from equality movements, (everyone now being equal under the law, at least in the UK)
      to inequality movements (preferential treatment for only their group) obviously that inequality must come at someone else’s loss, and so every other group becomes a target for them to take from.

      Total tangent here but I’ve been waiting for a relevant article to raise it and haven’t seen one, (I’ve also been afk for a couple weeks.)

      I’d welcome anyone’s thoughts on it, as sometimes I feel like I’ve woken up in a Bizarro world where these “progressive” activist are effectively promoting a modern apartheid.

      I know, I know, its The Guardian so when you wade through a sewer don’t complain that you come out smelling like shit but even so there it is in black and white.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @George G

        “(preferential treatment for only their group)”

        That’s just it. Day by day there is only so much Victimhood to go around. If my group gets more, your group will get less. The only way to make the pie bigger for all Victims is to displace the non-Victims (whites, Jews, Asians) more and more which they are of course doing, but that doesn’t stop the cat-fights between, say, the radfems and the transwomen. It could get to the point where the woke don’t know who today’s victim is. And what was woke enough yesterday might not be woke enough today. The Green Book would have been very woke only a couple of years ago, now it is Oppressive. It really could just collapse.

        • Song For the Deaf says


          “The only way to make the pie bigger for all Victims is to displace the non-Victims (whites, Jews, Asians) more and more which they are of course doing”

          This is largely correct, except that Jews overwhelmingly support unlimited immigration, they’re the ones who wrote the 1965 immigration laws that are undermining white Americans, and the legal organizations fighting Trump every step of the way on immigration, like the ACLU, are mostly Jewish.

          We have a few Jews on our side but most of them are not.

        • TarsTarkas says

          The pure always find someone more pure to purify them.

      • @George G

        JD Vance has begun to sketch his thoughts about this. He speculates that what we are seeing in the US is the result of all the affirmative action and diversity set-asides that the Supreme Court have found to be constitutional since 1978.

        The first case was Regents of U. Cal. v. Bakke (1978) followed by similar cases involving the University of Texas and Michigan systems. The precedent established by those cases, coupled with the related protected class legislation and Court decisions, the grim economic outlook since 2008 and the absolute of glut of poorly educated, deeply indebted but university credentialed job seekers have made the competition for any sort of career ladder position literally cut-throat.

        Vance also observes that since at least 1933, the Democrats have been genius at using legislation to create and subsidize positions and programs in education, psychology, medicine and law aimed at creating an educated cadre dedicated to supporting their social welfare programs. This, Vance suggests, is the economic link that unites the professional class with the Democrats’ class likely voters.

        This problem has been at least 50 years in the making. It has metastasized globally and has reached a crisis but there is no political will to admit that a crisis even exists, let alone will to address the crisis. As recently as 1998, the Supreme Court was hinting that all the affirmative action, diversity and protected class legislation had lasted long enough. But that was 20 years ago so I guess they’ve lost interest, too.

        Remember, all this has the bipartisan support of both wings of the ruling class in the US.

  24. R Henry says

    “Vivek, who had come out as trans in her mid 30s”

    In observance of the Quillette piece proceding this one, about the need to not self-censor for reasons of political correctness, I declare the quote above to be silly in the extreme.

    There is no such thing as “transgender.” We are conceived in our mother’s womb as male or female, a condition which is wholly permanent. That some “feel” the opposite sex is a treatable mental illness.

    • George G says

      @R Henry

      I think I can help with this one, your stuck on a outdated meaning of the word TRANS.
      In the style of Post Modernism you just have to subjectively reinterpret the word “TRANS” to the meaning of “NOT A”. So a “Trans”-man becomes “not a”- man.

      • R Henry says

        You must mean “transmodernism.” Turing a blind eye to objective reality is a return to the Dark Ages as far as I am concerned.

    • Gender dysphoria (also known as gender identity disorder) is, indeed, a mental illness. The people who undergo sex reassignment in order to attenuate the symptoms of gender dysphoria are called transgender or transsexual. Whether you agree with their choices or not doesn’t make the word itself “silly.” There needs to be a word for the people who have made this choice and belong to this particular subculture. Ryan T. Anderson, a conservative writer who wrote When Harry Became Sally, would agree with you that male and female are inborn and immutable conditions, but he still used the term transgender in his book because there would be no other way to talk about this particular political controversy without it. Similarly, feminist Meghan Murphy—who has written for Quillette—doesn’t accept that transwomen are women, but she does acknowledge that transwomen exist. That’s because they do.

      • R Henry says

        ” their choices or not doesn’t make the word itself “silly.” There needs to be a word for the people who have made this choice and belong to this particular subculture. ”

        The word remains “ill.” Putting on a costume and modifying your behavior in an effort to deceive other is NOT a cure.

        • No one said it was. But “ill” would not be the appropriate word to use because it’s not specific enough. Lots of people are ill. Nick Comilla is not trying to say that Vivek Shraya has the flu or leukemia. He’s saying that Shraya is a male with gender identity disorder who has decided to become a facsimile of a woman. That’s a mouthful, so we have a word for it: transgender or transsexual. You don’t have to approve of transgenderism to use the word. There’s no other way to efficiently describe the phenomenon without it.

        • The word “ill” is not specific enough and would not give the reader enough information in this context. Lots of people are ill. As far as I know, Vivek Shraya does not have leukemia or influenza. Shraya is a man with gender identity disorder who has decided to become a facsimile of a woman. That’s a mouthful, so we have a word for it: transgender or transsexual. You don’t have to agree with transgenderism to use the word.

    • @ R. Henry

      “That some “feel” the opposite sex is a treatable mental illness.”

      Yet, no one actually has. It would be a great help if it was…

      It is a fact that a very small minority of people around the old globe are unhappy with the sex & gender they were born with. And resort to some pretty extreme measures. If “gender dysphoria” actually did not exist…

      • R Henry says

        Look up Walt Heyer. He has written extensively about transition regret.

  25. Who would imagine that Quillette would emerge as a forum for young, sometimes white, gays or any LGBTQ+ to offer articles to a straight “conservative” audience.
    Welcome. Logical thinking favors no particular groups.
    There are many social activities that really don’t care about how we all got here. e.g. Pink Pistols.

  26. peanut gallery says

    So, part of the problem seems to be that you’re segregating into books for a narrow audience. It’s not diverse on purpose. It may also not be a good book. I dunno, your lubing experiences aren’t that interesting to me. I can see why collecting in the niches is popular. There’s less competition. Why be one of the BEST writers when you can be one of the best gay writers.

    As someone that once wanted to be a writer, many writers suffer from narcissism. If I’m gonna throw shade, I should throw it everywhere here. YMMV.

  27. Song For the Deaf says

    So a gay Muslim racist wrote a douchebag review of this guy’s book. Meh.

    To the gay guy who wrote this essay: your own kind are some of the biggest purveyors of Left-wing victim culture and you guys always condone minority racism towards whites as long as the whites in question are straight. Don’t come to us looking for sympathy now that your minority allies have turned on you, as they inevitably must. Either tell them to go f—- themselves or go f—- off yourself.

    • @ Song For the Deaf

      “So a gay Muslim racist ”

      Presumptuous, likely false accusation of Racism.

      “your own kind”

      You mean homosexuals? Who are or are not Progressive Lefties – often and in the past criminalized by “your kind”. Perhaps understandably why so many gays are lefties in the first place. It might help you if you looked up the words “Prejudice” and “Stereotype”. Once again you are assuming things without actually knowing.

      • Song For the Deaf says


        “Presumptuous, likely false accusation of Racism.”

        No, the essay quotes him saying the only reason to write fiction about white people is to mock or problematize us. That’s the attitude of a brown racist, the sort of people we need to stop allowing into this country.

        “Your kind”… yes, and we see what happens when we stop criminalizing them. No sooner do they achieve mainstream acceptance than they immediately turn around and use their newfound power against us at every turn. Like every other liberal minority group in this country. Shows how stupid we were to grant them/you a tolerance that they/you never had any intention of reciprocating.

        Victims sucks and gay victims are often the worst. Gay leftists love victimhood as much as anyone. Right-wing gays are a different matter but like right-wing Jews, they’re a distinctly uninfluential subsection of their community.

  28. Huh? This would have been a far better article if the author wasn’t using it to settle personal grievances.

  29. Fickle Pickle says

    But narcissus is the nature of human society now with the I-phone and selfies being the “perfect” medium (pond) for everyone to gaze at their own carefully crafted self image. Desperately waiting/hoping for their cyber-“friends” to validate their desirability. Or being crushed by the rejection of their cyber-“friends”.
    People are regularly turned into road kill while gazing at their image or taking selfies.

    Narcissus is the key symbol of the the dreadfully sane un-enlightened normal individual. The perpetual seeker obsessively enamored of his or her own self-image and separate self consciousness.

    Narcissus is the ancient one in the Greek myth, who was the universally adored child of the gods, who rejected the loved-one and every form of love and relationship, and who was finally reduced to the contemplation of his own self image, until, as a result of his own act and obstinacy, he suffered the fate of eternal separateness and died in infinite solitude.

    • Fickle Pickle says

      PS: and of course the Golden Golem of Greatness (me-me-me-me-me-me-me) is narcissus writ large on the world stage – the perfect role model for the zeitgeist of the times.

  30. Tom More says

    I have a lot of sympathy for people who have to deal with same sex attraction but see a far greater problem in the redefinition of human identity based upon sexual behavior. More specifically we have in Canada removed one’s actual physical biological identity as intrinsic to the nature and proper function of a human person. And this we impose upon children and expose people who insist upon following the actual science and natural philosophy to Wynne Trudeau “tribunals” without our right to trial and of course no actual human identity beyond whatever we might exclaim. This is frankly madness and tyranny and should be resisted. Eyes really are for seeing and legs for walking. Our sexual organs are no less organ-ized.

  31. The issues really started when the LGBT movement shifted from securing non-discrimination laws and equal protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, decriminalizing homosexuality, and removing homosexuality from the APA disorders list to a performative “queer” cultural paradigm around sexual orientation and gender identity. As a gay person, all I ever wanted was to feel safe and to be free from harm on the basis of my sexual orientation and my effeminate presentation. I fell into the “queer” cultural paradigm trap for a while – it was nice to be receiving positive attention for once. But it ultimately perverts the idea of universal human rights. And it alienates people who don’t want to be defined by sexual orientation and gender identity – which is the majority of us. Many of us will have to work through issues in therapy based upon how family members, communities, et cetera have treated us on the basis of our sexual orientation or gender identity. But that doesn’t mean we need to be praised for our sexual orientation or gender identity. It means we simply accept it as something that is morally and ethically neutral.

    To an extent, I do agree with some of the posters above – it has become more about receiving positive attention, special recognition, enacting some sort of revenge on heterosexual and cisgender people, and challenging the so-called “normative” culture than it is about securing equal treatment under the law. There are still almost 30 states without employment and other protections for LGBTQ people, and I fail to see how these elite literary forums are changing policies. The symbolic victory in literary forums for one writer or the presence of LGBT characters or writers has never improved the material realities faced by the majority of LGBT people. It’s nice to have LGBT people in films and what not, but we ultimately have to get to a place where a political Left is united across differences around an agenda that challenges economic inequality and secures a better future for all. As Leftist writer Adolph Reed so eloquently stated, a cultural politics is worse than no politics at all:

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