At issue is whether the reinvention of human nature is a settled question
The Disney kerfuffle is an onion with many layers.
There’s the bill that the corporation took it upon itself to publicly oppose. Its mischaracterization has taken hold in media coverage:
Recently, leftist activists and their allies in the media had a big success labeling a bill passed by the Florida Legislature as the "Don't Say Gay" bill. They claimed, without evidence, that the Republican-sponsored bill would ban the mention of homosexuality in Florida schools. In fact, the bill, now signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis, prohibited "classroom instruction" on "sexual orientation or gender identity" by teachers or other adults in kindergarten through third grade. It also said such instruction after third grade must be "age-appropriate" or "developmentally appropriate." In other words, it specifically allowed classroom instruction on such matters after third grade. Nevertheless, LGBTQIA+ activists called the bill "Don't Say Gay." Many media outlets and commentators picked it up immediately.
There’s Disney’s initial reluctance to get involved. It eventually kowtowed to activist employees.
There’s Governor DeSantis’s resolve to play hardball in light of Disney’s overt statement of an aim to get the bill repealed. The state of Florida has let Disney have its own government since 1967.
This in turn brings up for debate the entire subject of governmental enticements of corporations in the name of economic development. The lengths to which a municipality or state may go in order to secure a major employer gives that employer a lot of clout. It can be argued that government’s role as an ensurer of a level playing field is irreparably skewed.
There’s the fact that what Disney is up to is not new. In Indiana in 2015, Lily, Cummins and Angie’s List wasted no time in publicly opposing the newly passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which the legislature then revisited and watered down. PayPal, Apple, Microsoft and Coca Cola all opposed North Carolina’s 2016 bathroom bill. The matter was settled by a federal judge in 2019, in favor of letting transgender people use the bathroom of the sex which with they identify.
As a non-Trumpist conservative, a conflict arises for me. A number of people with whom I share that infinitesimal sliver of terrain think conservatism is ill-advised to weigh in on the Disney matter. In a post I wrote at Late in the Day last Monday, I put it thusly:
I am a die-hard fan of the Principles First movement, but I sense from some of its most prominent voices that, since such issues are beyond the purview of public-sector solutions, they ought not to get an airing in the movement's conversations. It strikes me as sort of a big-tent appeal, a reluctance to drive away any possible allies.
That's fine, but it seems to me an argument can be made that the field is thereby ceded to the Left.
Charlie Sykes, who does some important work in a number of areas, devoted a Bulwark piece to pooh-pooing castigation of Disney. He had quite a field day with such low-hanging fruit as Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson, as if their visibility made them the embodiment of those with a problem with Disney.
The problem is that, at the core of Disney’s position, is a bucking of the basic architecture of the universe. People attracted to people of the same sex constitute 3 percent of the population (and, no, I’m not counting the rising number of teenagers who say they identify as either gay or bisexual; they do so because teenagers have been embracing edgy trends for decades) and those who are convinced they are, in their essence, the other sex than what their DNA indicates is about 0.6 percent.
In my previous Precipice post, I reprinted a review I’d written here last November of Carl R. Trueman’s The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism and the Road to Sexual Revolution for the purpose of discussing the four-century history of the West’s move away from a transcendent foundation.
Here I’d just like to share the very first line of Trueman’s introduction to his book:
The origins of this book lie in my curiosity about how and why a particular statement has come to be regarded as coherent and meaningful: “I am a woman trapped in a man’s body.”
Now, here the layers of the onion get a little sticky.
The case could be made that one ought to be wary of Trueman, given his friendship with Rod Dreher. Dreher is one of those once-admirable conservatives - reliably Christian, no less - who have undergone a dismaying and perplexing transformation. Dreher’s been spending an increasing amount of time in Hungary, because he greatly admires Viktor Orban. Orban is poised to seriously dent the European unity that has been such a support to Zelensky and Ukraine. Dreher’s also on record as claiming that Tucker Carlson is the most important - and he means that in a good sense - commentator on American television today.
Trueman has also gone after David French, falsely painting him as motivated to write for Time and The Atlantic to be accepted by secular culture elites.
But even if one doesn’t wade into the internecine squabbles among evangelical intellectuals, there are other grounds on which to argue that we’re treading on entirely unexplored territory.
A look at the sweep of history reveals how recent this experimentation with the basic dichotomy of human nature is. In what culture, anywhere in the world at any time prior to the last thirty years at the outside, did marriage ever mean lifetime union of two people of the same sex? Where were the men who felt that they were women and vice versa, even after Rousseau and Shelly had begun the process of eroding our civilizational foundations?
But wholehearted enthusiasts of such experimentation are hot to silence and marginalize those who point this out. More saddening is the sight of those who claim to want to restore conservatism to its commonly understood foundation saying, “This stuff is a done deal. We’ve expanded the definition of what it means to be human and that’s that.”