That's Ms. Potato Head To You

Transsexuality, Transhumanism, Transcendence, and Ecstatic Rites of Highly Conspicuous Consumerism

The New York Magazine profile on transsexual tycoon Martine Rothblatt opened with a photograph of him sitting smugly in his all-electric Tesla Roadster.

His interviewer presented him as a being who has transcended all gender roles and stereotypes, but it’s really not so shocking that a bright young Jewish boy became a lawyer, or a successful businessman, or bought a sports car, or learned how to fly a helicopter, or became obsessed with technology or science fantasy. Actually, I used to hang out with a Jewish college student whose dream was to help finance the first manned mission to Mars. Without the body mods and eccentric pronouns, Rothblatt is another Zuckerberg, or another Kurzweil, who is one of his good friends.

Like gays before them, when appealing to the general public, the transgendered generally engage in a maudlin pantomime of being victimized. Canadian transgendered activist Christin Scarlett Milloy, for instance, wrote a description of a baby’s sex being identified in the hospital that read like a dystopian horror story.

“Just because an infant may survive being left alone in a car on a hot day, while the parent runs to the store, doesn't mean that parent made the right decision—in fact, they made a dangerous decision and just got lucky with the outcome.

Is it better to play the odds, or play it safe? Think carefully. Infant gender assignment might just be Russian roulette with your baby's life.”

Rothblatt published a manifesto applying the narrative of racial segregation and oppression to his own desire to become a lesbian, titled The Apartheid of Sex.  

But there’s another side to many transsexuals, especially high-functioning transsexuals.

They also think they’re better than you.

They believe they are the future, and you are the past.

When asked by an OK Cupid user, “So do you have a penis? Or like what exactly are u?,” Milloy responded, “I’m your worst nightmare.” Milloy was so proud of this response that he saved a screen capture from his cell phone and posted it to his public Facebook page.

With a subtlety more appropriate to his superior station, Rothblatt hinted to interviewer Lisa Miller that “the naysayers and skeptics might be left behind to suffer on Earth,” when his transhumanist successors--or his own uploaded consciousness, or his wife’s robot doppelganger Bina48--finally settle other planets. There’s an undercurrent of ressentiment there, like a zealot fantasizing about sinners and non-believers suffering in hell or being left behind after the rapture to endure unfathomable torments at the hands of roving cenobites. 

“The people who laughed at me will get theirs.”

When Katy SteinMetz’s essay heralding “The Transgender Tipping Point” as “America’s next civil rights frontier,” made the cover of TIME in May 2014, media elites signalled that they were going add men who want to cut their dicks off and women who want to cut their tits off to the list of misunderstood angels whose sanity, motives, ends and means must never again be questioned. If the transgendered collectively make claims about themselves, the rest of us are expected to accept them. If anyone of consequence questions or criticizes the transgendered, he or she will be put to the Twitter-pillory and squawked about on talk shows until he or she is reduced to a morally untouchable and totally unemployable pariah.

But the profile on Rothblatt reminded me that, while social justice warriors and click-chasing content providers are selling you on the idea that the bearded ladies and ladyboys just want a little understanding, their choice of public toilets, and maybe a complimentary vaginaplasty, there is a current within the transgender movement that is also trans-everything-else.

Rothblatt’s enterprise is admittedly a techno-religious endeavor. He started a “trans” religion, using Judaism as a template, because he sees it as a religion focused on the acquisition and retention of information. Whereas early Futurists glorified technology as the product of the violent dynamism of the masculine spirit, Rothblatt’s futurism is more in tune with the contemporary progressivism that sees the reality of human nature and the limitations of the human body as obstacles to the perfection of humanity and the healing of the world. His transgenderism is part of a transhumanism that is fundamentally anti-human.

The goal of this transhuman, progressive futurism is to use technology to escape the gravitational pull of human nature, and become one with the machines that will deliver these harmonious post-human hybrid consciousnesses across space like a dust cloud of silicon glitter and plastic daisies. It’s a materialist’s conception of spiritual transcendence.

This transhumanism is the bleeding edge of progressive thinking, a sci-fi fantasy only half-imagined by most in the mainstream who claim to “fucking love science” and get warm fuzzies every time someone “challenges our ideas about” some fairly consistent feature of the human experience. It’s implied in every feel-good campaign to “end” or “stop” something as un-endable or un-stoppable as rape, sexual objectification, hunger, violence, or really mean thoughts--because the techno-nirvana of progressive transhumanism is to end death, strife, and pain by disappearing into circuitry.

“Nirvana” literally means “blown out,” as a candle would be blown out. Progressive transhumanism is the “blowing out” of human life to make way for a master race of presumably peaceful machines who will theoretically carry on the human legacy in some edited and altered form. It’s a prayer for species-wide genocide that’s regarded as both desirable and inevitable by an alarmingly large number of people who worship technological advancement for its own sake.

Occasionally, someone argues that the transgender acceptance movement is just one of those overblown media fads that will die out, but escaping the boundaries biological sex fits into this larger progressive transhumanist fantasy, so I expect to see more of it.  

It’s been a long time coming. Mutant dreamers like Genesis BREYER P-ORRIDGE and Orlan pioneered a kind of magical  self-transformation through plastic surgery, and H.R. Giger foresaw a more sensual melding of biology and mechanics in his work.

However, the everyday outcome of “better living through technology” has for the most part been reliably banal and consumeristic. As with the Internet, the promise of the fantastic yields electronic oceans of pornography and cat pics. The marvel of the smart phone captures gazillions of selfies and broadcasts an inconceivable number of mundane status updates like my own drunken, harmlessly racist approval of the latest Godzirra movie. The latest buzz is about wearable technology, and I’m not sure what that will be used for, but I’m pretty sure most of it will be stupid and make someone a lot of money. Rothblatt’s own pioneering project in robotics and artificial intelligence has been to upload and immortalize the consciousness of a quirky middle aged black woman from Compton. It’s tragically inane.

People spend billions every year on supplements and drugs to make themselves thinner, stronger or faster. The difference between getting an unsightly mole removed or getting a face lift or liposuction or hair implants is a difference of degree. More tactically oriented types become dead-ringers for cyborgs with pricey night vision optics. We’re all engaged in some kind of lite consumer transhumanism.

This brings me to the second reason I believe the unquestionable goodness of transsexuality is destined to become a part of progressive dogma package. People behind the 8-ball keep calling progressives communists, but modern progressives only make rote, symbolic gestures of anti-capitalism. They’ve accepted the reality that neverending technological and social progress will require a lot of money, and that corporations have in many ways lept over cumbersome governments in their embrace of the new and the breaking of taboo. Social justice activists partner with the companies that sell them the future. Apple, Microsoft, and Google are all on board. Or maybe the other way around.

The transsexual is, for theoretical purposes,  the ultimate consumer. The transsexual proves, or seems to prove, that even the most basic aspects of human identity are up for sale. Everything is a consumer choice, and nothing is sacrosanct. If Mr. Potato Head wants to become Mrs. Potato Head, he merely purchases the Mrs. Potato Head’s Silly Suitcase package and trades out his plain eyes for a pair with flirty eyelashes. The transsexual makes man into a potato whose parts are interchangeable.

If you thrive on the wrong kind of attention and have some extra cash, you can put things where they don’t belong, like Jasmine Tridevil, the three-boobed woman.

According to the Potato Head theory of gender, where 1970s feminism meets 21st Century technology and consumerism, gender is little more than a “look,” and it is increasingly fashionable in some circles to describe yourself as “agender” or “non-binary.” This means that you’re probably an effeminate man or a woman who tries to look like an effeminate man, but you want a special snowflake awareness ribbon for playing in ALL of the Mr. Potato Head-brand silly suitcases.

A recent article in The Washington Post explained that the “non-binary” or “agendered” are on a “quest” to be seen as “just a person.”

Just a potato.

I’d rather be a man than a person.

To be a man is to be a man in a line of men that stretches back through human history, connected to other men by the experience of inhabiting a male body that is normally fixed not at birth but at the very moment of our conception--to be “XY.” Like heredity, it’s a non-disposable identity.

To be a mere “person” is to be a blank, a nothing, an empty hard drive loaded with a capricious collection of applications to be installed and uninstalled according to fashion or whim. The sexless, genderless person is the perfect, completely interchangeable cog in the global corporate machine. The potato-head has no nation, no honor, no loyalty, no connection, no people, no sex, no identity that cannot be altered for convenience. Just hardware with a few quirks, limitations, and abilities.

Personhood is an amoebic state of post-humanity that can conform to any trend or adapt to any workplace. If the human attachment to gender is made officially taboo, the person becomes as perfectly inoffensive as the abstract expressionist art hung in the world headquarters of every GloboCorp. It’s inoffensive because it doesn’t mean anything. It isn’t about anything--just a spread of random colors and shapes--so it can be about anything. Personhood solves the inconvenience, inefficiency, and troublesome complication of gender difference in the workforce.

When we cease to be men and women and ethnicities and races, we are all just berry pickers and knob turners, and the trans-humanists working on robotics are working to do away with those, too. When cashiers demand too much, they will be replaced by touch screens. That’s the end of progressive transhumanism, anyway--to become machines. Reducing men and women to “persons” is a transitional step to becoming “non-persons” or “post-persons.”

Advocates for a neutered world pretend to be humanists, but sexual dimorphism is a fundamental part of the human experience, and has been not only for all of human history, but for all of human prehistory. “Changing what it means to be human” by removing the human universals of differentiated sexes and genders is like “changing what it means to be mammals” by engineering mammals without female mammary glands or hair. At that point, humans are no longer human, but something else.

I’d rather be a human than a transhuman. I’d rather have a connection to the past than a religious devotion to the erasure of humanity. I don’t want to “solve” human nature or negate it through technological neophilia. I’m not willing to castrate myself like some cultic priest, some despiser of the body preparing itself to succumb the motherboard.

I prefer the epic human struggle and the dance between men and women to the dead, sexless hum of electronic evolution.

Perhaps that makes me a true humanist.