I’m done with being white. It’s boring. From now on I choose to identify as black and I insist that you all refer to me as a black man. Please do not mis-race me. Of course I am not going to do this because it would be mad and also a tad racist. Clearly I am not black. And I expect that calling myself black would be an affront to actual black people, who would rightfully point out that I am as white as the driven snow. ‘You can’t just put on the black identity like a piece of clothing’, they’d say, and rational people everywhere would agree.
So why, then, is it okay for Eddie Izzard to announce to the world that he is switching to ‘girl mode’? More than okay, in fact — since saying on a TV show last week that he wants to be referred to with female pronouns from now on, Izzard has won praise and accolades from newspapers and campaign groups.
Everyone, instantly and uncritically, has bowed down to his request. From the Guardian to Wikipedia, Izzard is now a woman, no questions asked. ‘Eddie Izzard is an English stand-up comedian [and] actress’, Wikipedia informs us. That was quick: from actor to actress with the click of manicured fingers.
Just imagine if a white celebrity said he was switching to ‘black mode’. Imagine the furore that would ensue. In fact we don’t have to imagine. We know. Remember Rachel Dolezal, the former NAACP chapter president, a white woman who passed herself off as black for many years? She still gets flak and ridicule for that. For a white woman to ‘identify as black’ is ludicrous, everyone says.
But it’s fine for a man to identify as a woman? It’s brilliant, in fact, for Izzard to go from ‘boy mode’ to ‘girl mode’? The female identity can be put on like a piece of clothing? Why this double standard?
Izzard announced his move into ‘girl mode’ last week on an episode of the Sky Arts TV show Portrait Artist of the Year. He said he intends ‘to be based in girl mode from now on’. He has previously identified as a transvestite, as transgender, and also as a ‘lesbian trapped in a man’s body’, which, I’m sorry, is bloody offensive to lesbians. Lesbianism is women being sexually attracted to women, not heterosexual men believing that their attraction to women is some fascinating transgressive identity rather than, you know, just straightness.
Izzard’s switch to ‘girl mode’ has been fawned over. Stonewall praised Izzard’s bravery, describing his public declaration of making a shift from ‘boy’ to ‘girl’ as ‘courageous’. Brave? Bravery is running into a burning building to save someone’s life or travelling to Syria to fight with the Kurds against Isis. It isn’t brave for a 58-year-old man to embrace the most media-celebrated identity of our times — genderfluidity.
This Izzard story is important because it forces us to confront the denigration of language, especially the language around biology, sex and gender. Most people are happy to use female pronouns for men who have been through some form of gender transition process. Even many of those who question whether such people really do become women are prepared to use female pronouns as a courtesy.
But Izzard is asking for something a little different. He is very clearly male. He’s the same as he always was. To the best of our knowledge he has not undergone any kind of meaningful medical transition. And yet he wants to be known as a woman. A serious question: what gives him the right to make this request? And shouldn't the rest of us be at liberty to say, ‘I’m sorry, you are male. You may of course wear what you like and do what you like, but you are a 'he', not a 'she'’?
I’m worried about what will happen if we don’t do this; if we fail to stand up for the meaning of words. Confusion will set in, especially among younger generations, and people’s right to describe reality itself will be shot down. Already people are being branded as ‘transphobes’ — and very often hounded and demonised by woke mobs — if they say sex is real, and immutable, and that if you were born male you will die male. These are all truths, but you will be punished for expressing them. It used to be a sin to say the Earth was not at the centre of the solar system; now it’s a sin to say that people with penises are men, not women.
Failing to defend truth and reason will lead to the denigration of what it means to be a woman. I think the reason it is acceptable for men to say they are women, where it wouldn’t be acceptable for a white person to claim to be a black person, is because womanhood has been robbed of all meaning by the more extreme elements in the genderfluidity movement.
It’s sometimes difficult even to say the word ‘woman’ these days. They’re referred to as ‘people who bleed’, ‘birthing people’, ‘womxn’, because apparently using the w-word is offensive to genderfluidity activists. It is this relentless denigration of what it means to be a woman, the transformation of womanhood into mere garb one can put on whenever one chooses, that means even people who are very clearly men can now demand: ‘Call me 'she'.’
Eddie Izzard, like everyone else, deserves to have a happy, fulfilled life. But his needs do not and must not overrule the right of everyone else to talk about the real world as it exists. Someone needs to tell Eddie that womanhood is not a ‘mode’ — it’s a real thing, and it deserves some respect.