There’s something absurdly comic about long hyphenated names in English, something which irresistibly invites ridicule. One of my favourite examples occurs in Evelyn Waugh’s black comedy Decline and Fall — Sir Alastair Digby-Vane-Trumpington. Both comic and decadent, as ADVT is one of a pack of drunken students whose carousal precipitates the hero’s expulsion from Oxford.
This is not something that the po-faced sexual minority lobby seems to have twigged to. Exhibit 1 is this report on this year’s Lavender Graduation from the McGill Recorder, the “journal of record” for Canada’s premier university:
On May 21, graduating members of McGill’s 2SLGBTQIA+ community were honoured in the virtual Launch of the Rainbow (LavGrad) event. Organized by the JBSCE Sub-Committee for Queer People, Queer McGill, PGSS, Queer Grad Club, and the UGE, LavGrad celebrated the achievements of McGill’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Intersex, Pansexual, Questioning, Two Spirit, Non-Binary, and Asexual (2SLGBTQIA+) graduates, and their allies and families.
Once upon a time it was just “gays”, then “gays and lesbians”, and then LGB. After a pause to catch their breath, a T was added, and then in rapid succession, a Q, an I, and a +. But 2SLGBTQIA+ breaks the back of intelligible discourse. And that still leaves out the Pansexual, Questioning, Non-Binary and Asexual. Where is Evelyn Waugh when we need him?
As often happens, comic prose is a symptom of deeper problems, in this instance both for sexual minorities and the broader society.
First, fragmentation. The Digby-Vane-Trumpington Syndrome implies that behind each of the letters is a community of like-minded individuals with the same gender-identity. But that unity is only superficially plausible. Just as Yugoslavia, an artificial state held together with ideological sticky-tape, exploded into hostile linguistic and religious groups, the unity of 2SLGBTQIA+ communities is specious. Whether pansexuality and asexuality even exist is questionable. Some LGBs have already ditched the T. The LGB Alliance, in the UK, claims, for instance, that “attempts to compel women to believe that male genitals can be female is a form of sexual assault, an attack on the rights of lesbians and a threat to their very existence”.
Unity has to be built on a shared future. It’s the difference between philately and forestry, between a hobby and a commitment. Stamp-collectors share an interest which necessarily ceases when governments stop printing stamps; foresters create a growing product which lasts for generations. The 2SLGBTQIA+ community does not have a shared future, while the broader community, founded on traditional marriage, does.
Second, Balkanization. LavGrad ceremonies are happening across the United States as well, not just at McGill. Harvard held its own this year, complete with rainbow-coloured tassels and stoles and a “commencement address” from Miss Peppermint, a drag queen. But why do 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals need a separate graduation ceremony at all?
“This celebration allows for that community to come together and celebrate their accomplishments as folks who have traditionally been marginalized in society and within higher education,” explains an official in Harvard’s Office of BGLTQ Student Life.
This is puzzling. Should there be separate ceremonies for black, Asian, Native American, disabled, Hispanic, Jewish and obese students – all traditionally marginalised? Why not a special ceremony for students from fly-over country, which is seriously under-represented at Harvard?
If inclusion is the aim of diversity accommodation policies, it seems odd to create safe havens from which everyone else is excluded.
Third, Pride. June is Pride Month, or more properly speaking, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Pride Month, according to its proclamation by President Biden, who has drained the Digby-Vane-Trumpington Kool-Aid to the dregs. (Are Two-Spirits and Pansexuals not allowed to be Proud?)
The President describes it as “both a jubilant communal celebration of visibility and a personal celebration of self-worth and dignity”. Isn’t this discriminatory? Why not a Pride in Obesity Month, etc?
It’s about time that the need for unending praise of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community is questioned. The appointment books of psychologists are full of individuals who question their self-worth and need constant cossetting and affirmation and Valium. It’s very, very expensive and is not regarded as normal or healthy. If an entire “community” needs annual affirmation for an entire month, there’s something medically amiss.
US veterans get one day, just one day, November 11, to be feted. But about 41 percent of veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan — about 1.7 million men and women — have a mental health needs. Are Bloomingdale’s, McDonalds, and J.Crew competing to honour them, as they are doing for the 2SLGBTQIA+ crowd? Nope. (Sorry, my bad: on Veterans Day veterans do qualify for a free meal at participating McDonalds outlets.)
In his proclamation, the President says that “we recognize the resilience and determination of the many individuals who are fighting to live freely and authentically”. But people with resilience and determination do not need an entire month of hugs and kisses.
Fourth, self-sufficiency. The 2SLGBTQIA+ movement is married to the government. It needs 24/7 taxpayer-funded pats on the back, abundant subsidies and constant tweaking of legislative protections. “No whining. No complaining. No excuses,” says Angela Duckworth in her best-selling book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. It’s looking more and more as though “grit” is a four-letter word for the 2SLGBTQIA+ crowd.
Americans (and Canadians) pride themselves on their tradition of rugged individualism – although they don’t spend a whole month celebrating it. LavGrad ceremonies and Pride Months are tolling its death knell.
We need to declare Waugh on this absurd Pride business. “Words have basic inalienable meanings,” he wrote in his autobiography, “departure from which is either conscious metaphor or inexcusable vulgarity.” It’s not a popular view nowadays, but he had a point. The 2SLGBTQIA+ crowd is clearly not using “pride” as a metaphor, so perhaps, we must attribute Pride Month to its inexcusable vulgarity.