Loyalty tests: Calling a deer a horse and a 'transwoman' a woman
"Transwomen are women" is a secret handshake for variety of lunatics and opportunists
A true test of loyalty hinges on an invention, a piece of pure fiction. If an issue hasn’t been invented—or distorted beyond recognition—it’s a poor test of loyalty, an experiment contaminated from the start in ways that might skew the results.
There’s a Chinese expression for this: “calling a deer a horse,” derived from a famous 2,000-year-old loyalty test that exposed and thinned the Chinese court and smoothed an Imperial Chancellor’s rise:
Zhao Gao was contemplating treason but was afraid the other officials would not heed his commands, so he decided to test them first. He brought a deer and presented it to the Second Emperor but called it a horse. The Second Emperor laughed and said, "Is the chancellor perhaps mistaken, calling a deer a horse?" Then the emperor questioned those around him. Some remained silent, while some, hoping to ingratiate themselves with Zhao Gao, said it was a horse, and others said it was a deer. Zhao Gao secretly arranged for all those who said it was a deer to be brought before the law and had them executed instantly. Thereafter the officials were all terrified of Zhao Gao. Zhao Gao gained military power as a result of that.
To bring us up to the 21st century, when Trump was newly elected, he tested the loyalty of spokespeople and other sycophants by sending them out to praise the unprecedented size of his inauguration crowds, even though anyone with eyes could see the distortion.
So, loyalty is a function of disparity. The greater the disparity between what actually is and what someone attests to, the greater the loyalty demonstrated.
There are plenty of ways allies can voice support for trans identities. A trans ally might say something like 'transwomen are transwomen,' an (admittedly rather bland) statement that recognizes the unique status of males who identify as women. But 'transwomen are transwomen' isn't saying very much, is it? A male who identifies as a woman is a male who identifies as a woman. Why bother? Better to kick it up a notch: 'Transwomen are women.'
Enforce a line like ‘transwomen are women’ and you'll learn something about the people who repeat it—or don't.
‘Transwomen are women’ is the perfect loyalty test because it’s a conclusion not based on observation or inquiry or even just sitting alone in a room thinking your thoughts all the way through to the end. You have to take some other route to reach such an absurd conclusion.
Maybe you succumbed to emotional manipulation or lack confidence in your own judgment. Maybe you bought the line that it’s not your place to ask questions, just lend support.
Maybe you crib your political positions from your social circle.
Maybe you don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings.
Maybe you think it doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not.
Maybe you’ve been indoctrinated.
Maybe you got there by motivated reasoning (‘if we agree transwomen are women, that would justify and advance my political goals, like putting transwomen in women’s sports and spaces...’).
Maybe you’re craven or just ambitious, and willing to say whatever magic words are currently fashionable to smooth your ascent.
Maybe you’re driven by your self-image as a progressive, and your desire to hold onto that identity makes your thought process easy to hack: progressive people believe X; therefore, as a progressive, I should believe X, too.
Maybe you’re afraid of the consequences—personal or professional—if you don’t go along.
Maybe you’re not willing or able to think your thoughts all the way through to the end.
All this makes ‘transwomen are women’ a useful tool to sort those pesky people who insist on using their own two eyes from those who will let others tell them what they see. ‘Transwomen are women’ exposes both the dissenters and those willing to go along with absurdities, whatever their reasons for doing so—and those private reasons never matter so much as the public willingness to spout and submit to absurdities.