Taylor Swift Thinks Prenups aren’t Romantic



Jezebel reported that Taylor won’t sign a prenup because it’s unromantic.  Whether her marriage (if it happens) will last or not depends upon what she means by romantic.

If she means romantic as an ideal love bubble, she’s in trouble. However, I am reminded of my favorite quote by Alfred Adler: “The chief danger in life is that you may take too many precautions.”

In one sense a prenuptial agreement can be viewed as a lack of trust in the partner. In another, it can imply a lack of commitment, hedging your bets.

A prenuptial agreement can  reflect a lack of trust in yourself. In the boxing world, Bernard Hopkins famously bet $100,000 on himself in a fight against Felix Trinidad. What would it take for you to bet everything on yourself? How much would it be worth to you to actually believe in yourself? I dare say it can be worth everything, even if you lose, to know you really fought.

If someone asks you for a prenuptial agreement, tell them they can have everything you own right now, and if they don’t apologize, leave and don’t turn back. This is neither practical nor sober, but it might be worth it in a world where very little else is.

I’m not saying marriage should be this serious for you, or even that it is good.  However, it can be this way.  And if it isn’t, then I hope you find something else that is.  If you do have something else that is this important to you, then that is a very good reason for a prenuptial agreement.

Being able to talk about the possibility of a future separation can be a good demonstration of maturity – akin to being able to talk about money, sex, family and other adult responsibilities.  However, what people ultimately feel is fair cannot be decided in advance.  Moral feelings supervene on actions, what others actually do.  The prenup is an effort to preempt this, ironically, to commit to something that may not feel fair in the future.  The value of this I suppose depends on how much you trust yourself and how you think your emotions represent the reality of your experience.

The possibility for the romance of marriage in the 21st century is to acknowledge that dreams aren’t real, but that awake, you can dream nonetheless. No commitment, no promise, no obligation exists without your living into them. Marriage is not and never was sacred, but the good news is that you already always are.


Home Ownership at an All Time Low

Chart via Businessweek

Taken straight out-of-the-box, the authors at Time want this study from Harvard University to mean that home ownership is at an all-time low.  I’ll get to that in a minute, but first it’s worth noting that they mean this is bad, or at least morally unfortunate.  This is implied in the conclusion if you at least scan the executive summary whereby the outlook focuses on what could be done to improve participation in home ownership.

The issue, as always, gets worse in the secondary sources which take one or more angles on the data from the study.  This includes Gen-X loosing homes in the 2008 economic crisis (Time demo?), millennials saddled with student loan payments and reduced job prospects, or urban poor facing increased rental costs with stagnant wages.

To avoid crapping yourself when you read these kinds of articles, ascertain with me what home ownership means to you.  Then ask yourself why the title of the article is not that mortgage debt is at an all time low?  For one, it isn’t (it’s a ten year low), and for two – stop asking questions!  (On a related noted, consumer debt and college debt are at all time highs)

Nobody owns a home anymore.  My next door neighbor Kafka is a perfect example.  He knows home ownership is a 30 year commitment to sleep and eat there, paying taxes and keeping the lawn neat when he isn’t working his second job.

We don’t have a finance economy, we have a debt economy.  And in a debt economy growth is made possible by the expansion of credit.

First, most of the data displayed in the Harvard report only goes back to 1980.  Second, the U.S. census data upon which it is based only goes back to 1964.  This temporal snap-chat is about as historically relevant as saying Caitlyn Jenner is feeling fat today.

The executive summary concludes with two tentative recommendations:  Ease lending and build more public housing.  So, goes the logic, this will also help millennials since a rising tide lifts all ships and surely continued economic growth will help undo the stagnant wages that keep them from participating more fully in the market.

The Joint Center is funded primarily by the Ford foundation.  This may mean they think the government can help the poor by encouraging participation in the markets through reduced lending requirements, or that we are responsible for using public money to pay private companies to build market rate housing.  If you can’t tell which political party is involved I’ll give you a hint:  It doesn’t matter, the same company caters the inaugural ball either way.

The last recession taught two possible lessons both of which have vanished:  (1)  The role of the government should not be to encourage market participation through the expansion of credit, but to protect the citizens from it, or (2) Maybe the government should not be involved the markets to begin with.

An even more radical lesson may be that we collectively get to create what we mean by ownership and the responsibilities we have towards each other in this regard.  I wonder if we’ll talk about that before, like has always happened in the past, people stop asking for you to let them have more debt and start demanding that you cancel it all and redistribute the land.

Regardless of whether you believe any of the above three lessons I’d suggest at the least that you as an individual consider that since your debt is a corporate revenue stream, you may not actually own your home qua capital.

Bonus question:  If mortgage debt has decreased by 22% what has become of it?

*Final bonus:  Free blog topic pick for the person who comes up with the best Jesus joke about the Resurrection of the Debt.


A Fast and Loose Marxist Critique of Cultural Appropriation

Cultural appropriation is a buzzword which caught my attention recently and is a fine demonstration of some of the issues I discuss on this blog.  Loosely defined, cultural appropriation is the adoption of elements of one culture by members of a different cultural group, especially if the adoption is of an oppressed people’s cultural elements by members of the dominant culture.

To put that in my language, it’s the masters playing as slaves.  I do specifically mean this in the Nietzschean sense.  One thesis of this blog is that the dominant phenomenological perception of social organization is that of the master/slave dynamic due to people perceiving hierarchies everywhere.  This presents in ethical systems of rights/duties, entitlements/obligations and debtor/creditor dynamics.  The question people are constantly in search of answering is justifying their experience in these terms because this runs so deep that I dare say this entitlement dyad (superior/inferior) is the fundamental ontological relationship between people.  Note, I am not saying that this is the only relationship.  Hierarchy, economic exchange and communal exchange all exist at one level or another in every society.  (Graeber, 2011)  But economic exchange is easier because of the neatness and finality of the obligations created while communal exchange exists as a safe and relaxing contrast to status relations and always implies an other (See Derrida on The Guest)

Of course, everybody hates a tourist, as best expressed for this aging punk rocker by Pulp (Common People, 1995).  I like the William Shatner version for the irony of using a cover song:

It’s clear that people feel a sense of loss when imitation violates the meaning of their practices.  This is because the practices are objectively meaningless and the subjective illusion has been punctured by the violation of sybmolism.  This is where I want to problematize the issue.

Return to the definition above:  To experience this sense of loss and the ensuing resentment, the imitated person has to believe they are not part of the dominant culture.  If your peers imitate you, it’s a roast.  If your inferiors do it, it’s flattery.  True or false, identifying as an outsider is a powerful self focused belief.  My problem with this is that those who feel marginalized are fighting for the right to remain separate and avoid contact rather than fighting for some material advantage such as to better their lot in life, take care of their community, or hell – take power.    Power exists in the lived experience of the ontological system of entitlements.  This means fit in with the dominant culture or enjoy your resentment.

This issue is obfuscated in understanding by linguistics and psychodynamics.  A signifier (the phrase “cultural appropriation”) has been created to refer to a signified concept (oppression = master/slave relationship = resentment = they are bad and we are righteous victims).  This prevents change because it substitutes the content (any cultural symbol in question) with the underlying struggle (comparative desire).

As an example, today Kylie Jenner was accused of cultural appropriation for styling her hair in corn rows by the likes of Amandla Stenberg

Amandla had this to say:

“While white women are praised for altering their bodies, plumping their lips, and tanning their skin, black women are shamed although the same features exist on them naturally,”

There is some evidence of projection at work in her attitude. (Praised by whom?  Shamed by whom?)  I would ask Amandla whether she wishes she could have access to these supposed privileges and whether she feels ashamed of her black features.  If she isn’t jealous of white women, then maybe these aren’t privileges after all.  If she isn’t ashamed of being black then whoever is supposedly shaming her isn’t doing such a thorough job that it needs to be taken seriously.  In Ego Analytic terms She is ashamed of being ashamed.  Or, in an Id Analytic framework you could say there is evidence of denial of feelings of inadequacy about her appearance.

Even if I make no comment on the reality content of the praise/shame claims made by Amandla I must point out that for those who have endured long term feelings of inadequacy (economic or otherwise) it becomes impossible to differentiate between oppression (active/other) and shame (passive/self). 

Of your gods you will make horrible idols.

The main point you need to take home is that if you are going to be mad you should be mad at Kylie because her family is rich and contributes nothing of importance to society.  Hell, they even make money off of your criticism!  Even better, you should be mad at the media corporations she is making money for.

Social justice warriors and those concerned with cultural appropriation are tilting at windmills.  You are fighting for the victory of maintaining exclusive rights to symbolic identity, an identity that traps you, for the purpose of retaining a separateness as a shamed underclass.  (You prove you are not ashamed by defensively maintaining your position).  You are defending against shame and not against tyranny.

To get others to agree that you have the exclusive right to cultural symbols and they have the duty to acknowledge that is to admit that they have power and you do not because it is your separateness which establishes your identity.

The actual powers that be don’t give a shit about assimilating your culture.  If anything, they want you to keep it because they can continue to sell it to you and profit from it.

*Note:  As an update I thought I’d deal with the obvious rebuttal from minorities, feminists, gender theorists and others to this position.  It’s easy to hear what I’m saying as “Don’t worry about the issues which are important to you, we’ll take care of those after we make important changes.”  It’s obvious that this received message would feel even more infuriating and marginalizing.  You are who you are and what matters to you matters to you.  How I’d like people to hear this message is that focusing on symbolic issues may produce satisfaction which, while important and worthwhile, does not address the causal relationship at play.  

**Note:  An expanded ego-analytic perspective on Kylie/Amandla could look like:

  • Amandla felt ashamed due to the narcissistic injury endured by Kylie’s perceived slight.
  • She responded with counter-blaming and a benign narcissistic anger (being offended).
  • This may be successful in counter shaming but is not effective in producing compassionate change because she was not vulnerable.  What comes through her message is not how much pain and grief she has experienced but how bad she thinks white people are.  That is obviously a hard message for someone else to hear who isn’t already prone to feeling bad about themselves.  Notice too that the net amount of suffering has not been reduced, but increased.
  • What makes it impossible for Amandla to be vulnerable is that she is ashamed about being ashamed.  This is evidenced in narratives about pride about cultural emblems.  As if black women just should be proud of their hair.  It’s natural to feel bad about oneself and admire the physical traits of others.  But instead of vulnerability, contact, compassion and growth we are left with defensive entitlement, counter-blame and a reinforcement of the existing difference.  A similar issue arises in education among the poor where trying to be bookish produces shame in others and there is blame cast about siding with the enemy.
  • What could help those who feel ashamed by immitation would be to greive the pain and suffering they feel as a result of shame.  Unfortunately, most of their peers would just tell them there is nothing to be ashamed about, you should be proud and thus invalidating their feelings and driving them further underground.  One who actually is authentically proud is not easily vulnerable to shame.

***Note:  A market criticism would point out that Kylie and others are imitating a culture that is being sold to them by the very people who are complaining.  Hip-hop culture, for instance, like all music culture, represents a whole aesthetic gestalt to the consumer.  You don’t just buy the album, you buy the t-shirt, too.  A recommended solution if this bothers you could be for black people to refuse to support commercial hip hop musicians. In a very libertarian way  If you can’t keep the market out of your life, keep your life out of the market.  This solution is much less relevant to other forms of asserted cultural appropriation like native american head dress, but it is very relevant to pop culture like anime. My house is full of hand made ethnic art.  I like to buy it in my travels.  It seems to me like second and third world cultures I’ve visited have always been thrilled and proud to have outsiders participate in their cultural events and eager to have outsiders buy their crafts.  The sensitivity to this in first world nations among the privileged bourgeoisie (the Kylie dreads example was an argument between two wealthy young women neither of whom are members of the working class) makes me again suspicious that it is a sign that points to a problem, and is a symbolic struggle that relieves tension rather than relieves the underlying structural issue the sign refers to.

****Thanks to the respondent who pointed out that Amandla is a common ethnic name, not a neologism.  I edited out the following aside, reprinted here in full:  “…as an aside, is the refusal to accept standard names an attempt to master or perpetuate a stigma.? Why not “Amanda?”  While I fully retract this point in the case of Amandla, I think the rhetorical question is still worth considering for new name creation in stigmatized communities.  I do, however, disagree with the statement that “saying there are standard names is a pretty big claim.”  My rejoinder is that smaller communities tend to anthropologically have more duplication of similar names.  A teleological attempt to name outside the bounds of existing names in the community, I dare say, means something.  I offer two possibilities above, but am by no means saying these are the only ones.  It could, for instance, be an attempt to merge one cultural pronunciation and phrasing with another as synthesis – or something else.  But it is on purpose.

Ban Bossy


Go ahead, do it.  You should ban “bossy” because there is no reason to be nicer to women than to men.  It’s said with kid gloves.  A woman who is being disrespectful deserves the same criticism of her male counterparts without pulling any punches on account of her gender.

Women can be arrogant, narcissistic, controlling, disrespectful and domineering just like men.  Don’t call them bossy.  Call them douche-bags.

High level leadership has much more to do with creating and managing relationships than it does with forcefully getting your way.  Aren’t those supposed to be traditional female qualities?  Ask the female CEO of General Dynamics, not Beyonce.  

If this bothers you, do a search for “leadership traits” and compare how much more often traits like humility and communication are used than assertiveness and boldness.  Hell, just THINK about what you are saying.  Do you really admire assertiveness in others?  Can you even tell the difference between assertiveness and controlling behavior born from transparent personal insecurity?  Think about the real world, not movies.  Don’t you actually admire people who are encouraging and contribute value rather than throw their weight around?

Some of the great leadership qualities seem more feminine than masculine.  But nothing will ruin your credibility as a leader faster than expecting unearned special treatment or taking task-oriented disagreements personally. As a leader, you will often be blamed for things well beyond your control and have to deal with people who take personal offense when you are trying to be objective.  You have to eat a shit sandwich on a regular basis.  If you take and express offense at peoples reactions, you are controlling.  

If more than one person in your life has told you that you are bossy then you are bossy.  This goes for men and women for any negative quality.   And if you respond with accusations of sexism, you’re also defensive.  As Marshall Goldsmith notes, people usually don’t tell you the truth about your negative qualities out of shame and fear of confrontation.  Great leaders learn from people’s criticism. You have just as much right as a man to maintain these qualities.  They may take you far, but not as far as cultivating communication skills and actual leadership traits.

So ban bossy.  Stop being so nice, women can handle criticism.  Tell them when they are being unprofessional jerks.  And if someone calls you bossy, show them how much of a leader you are by having a conversation with them about what they meant. Disrespect can become an endless carousel of blame.  Leaders know how to get off the ride.

Analysis of True Detective S2-E2: Night Finds You

Image Courtesy of Lacey Terrell/HBO
Image Courtesy of Lacey Terrell/HBO

Episode two of this season continued my suspicion on the key underlying drivers of guilt and shame.  A tag line for the show in both season 1 and 2 being “We get the world we deserve.”

Frank & Jordan Semyon (Vince Vaughn and Kelly Reilly):  The opening scene by Vaughn introduces the dream like feel of this episode and,really, the show.  The Kafkaesque open questions of episode one (Ani’s sex act, Paul’s guilt or innocence, Ray’s killing the rapist) play well with the dream like atmosphere.  Jordan continues as a window character into Frank.  In this case, I’d say a mirror.  She helps convey things about him he can’t convey himself – maybe because they aren’t true?  He appears to have been scammed out of his money.  A traditional interpretation of gullibility is a desire for loss or punishment.  This is one of the ways the return of his dark side is being foretold.

  • Raymond Velcoro (Colin Farrell):  Raymond’s denials crumble beneath him in episode two as he loses his son, the illusion of importance as a father and former husband.  Encountering the reality of himself, much like in a dream, wakes him up – or in our case encounters death in a Lacanian sense of encountering the real.
  • Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch):  I found it hard to say much about Paul in this episode.  In his breakup he was mostly concerned with responsibility – fitting with the overall theme.  Is Paul getting the life he deserves?  What is he being punished for?
  • Antigone “Ani” Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams):  One of the problems with responding to audience expectations for important female leads is that it puts the creator in an awkward spot of trying to figure out what conveying something authentic and meaningful is.  Most action movies just turn chicks into ninjas or archers, with plenty of sass.  I was pleased to see Ani’s interest in the call girls she was researching – that hanging moment of passing curiosity.  Further, her exposition about knives to Velcoro as I said in episode one will reveal whether the directors are hacks (who will make her a ninja) or visionaries (who will reveal her use of knives as a ridiculous paranoia which belongs in high fantasy).  The correct move will be for her knives to be taken from her and then used against her, representing the collapse of her defenses and her encounter with her own warded off self.
  • The Night Finds You reminds me of The Appointment in Sammara – where running from death runs you straight into his arms.

True Detective – S2-E1: Character Analysis and You

The Western Book of the Dead

(Image via HBO.com)

Here are my notes on the first episode, the characters, and a bit about shame.


First of all, the ensemble cast was a mistake.  If there is one thing that Breaking Bad taught us it is the lesson that years of therapy will teach you:  Even spending an hour a week, or a day with someone’s deepest secrets only scratches the surface of who they are.  Season one of TD allowed the partnership of the detectives to play off each other to accomplish a mutual character arc of sorts.  I predict there is nowhere near enough time to develop four characters.  That leaves the writers with the choice of making the characters take back stage to the story.  We’ll see how it works out.

  • Raymond Velcoro (Colin Farrell):  Raymond was never much of a husband or father to begin with.  Murdering his wife’s rapist was a magic gesture to defend against that realization.  The marriage didn’t end because of the rape, or the fact that they couldn’t have children (because of his weak swimmers).    The same goes for his “son.”  If this red-headed punching bag weren’t his son it would mean he was less of a man.  Read that again.  He takes the bullying personally because it’s not his son.  He needs to win custody because he knows he’s a bad father (read: prove he’s a good father).  His reason for why his visitation rights should be expanded was to blame the mother.  His curious use of the voice recorder to send his son messages (this may be a lie and just a diary, or a message in the bottle for after his expected death) leads to monologue.  Again, he needs to record it because it isn’t true.  He enjoyed beating two people up, proving he’s not powerless.  Violence is driven by shame – usually repressed (defended against) shame.  (Gilligan, 1996,1997,1999, etc.).  Will his shame be relieved by bringing the truth to the light of day?  Or will he spiral deeper into his attempts to disprove his sense of inferiority?
  • Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch): Here we see a repetition of the unknown known we saw for Raymond (“Did he get the blowjob?”  “Did he kill the rapist?”).  In Paul’s case we see male sexual response anxiety.  The ego analytical way of looking at this is that Paul feels inadequate, and furthermore is ashamed about feeling inadequate.  It’s no surprise he picked a girlfriend who objectifies him narcissistically in order to feel her own sexual adequacy.  She thinks his boner is for her.  This is a delusion they both share.  If Paul was fucking for his own sake, it would never occur to him to pop a pill in secret to please his partner if he wasn’t in the mood.  Instead, he’s probably thinking he’s supposed to be in the mood.  Like the good soldier he was? (We’ll see).  For the record, if he told her he wasn’t in the mood she would erupt in a histrionic lamp-throwing rage where she projects her feelings of inferiority onto him.  He seems to suffer shame and loneliness during the closeup.  Maybe he is distanced from his feelings and thus needs a strong sense of duty combined with thrill seeking to get through the day?  *Blogger Gadfly, a former military man himself, noted that Blackwater=Black Mountain and thought that perhaps Paul also has PTSD and can’t sleep in the same bed as his girlfriend (NB:  who he also can’t talk to.).  If you interpret his traffic stop as that he actually really did receive the blowjob from the celeb, then we’re dealing with guilt.
  • Antigone “Ani” Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams):  Ani likes it in the pooper, which wouldn’t ordinarily intimidate guys.  The way this came up (or didn’t, in the Woodrugh sense) is what put him off.  That’s because she’s doing it to prove her superiority – and the received message is the transference effect which makes her partner feel inferior.  What comes across is not how much she wants it but how much she needs you to believe she wants it.  The fact she thinks he’s inadequate (“nice guy”) is also why she picked him in the first place.  The other thing I like about Ani is the fact that she carries knives.  In the real world, this means you’re a paranoid delusional who thinks a woman will beat a criminal in a knife fight.  In the movies, it usually means the woman is an invincible ninja warrior.  Which do you think it will be?  She seems to present as if she cares about people, but is constantly ignoring what everyone around her has to say.  She can’t risk the threat of empathizing with their perspective because she is on the run from her own sense of vulnerability.  Loss of mother, withdrawn (eclectic version:  non-responsive) father.  I am reminded of Nietzsche (Thus Pake Zarathustra, 1954 p. 100) and his warning to mistrust anyone in whom the desire to punish is strong.   Ani lashes out in censorship at her love interest, partner, sister and father.  She also responds with marked disappointment when no evildoers were nabbed at the sting operation.  She is driven by resentment. (Feinburg, 2008).  This contrasts with her father who noted he does not want to impose his will (guilt) upon anyone.  Her resentment is wrapped up in the need to be punished, possibly with guilt over her dead mother or shame from being abandoned.  Thus the gambling (need to be punished).  Finally, moralizing and disgust can be seen as reaction formations against your own repressed desires.
  • Frank & Jordan Semyon (Vince Vaughn and Kelly Reilly):  They have the kind of relationship only co-conspirators and  people who think they want to be swingers can have (until the girl wants to bring another guy).   I read them as either (a) sharing common secrets, (b) deceiving each other.  I predict their character arc will be about guilt, not shame.  The Semyons are the guilty nobles, the rest of the cast the rag-tag bunch of bloody-kneed wayward crusaders, hoping the next big case will absolve them and  make it all go away.  It won’t.  I have odds that Jordan will be murdered since she is presented as a humanizing extension of Frank.  This will drive him back to his criminal roots.
  • You:  What you need to know is that this show is full of fucked up people whose unique problems will help them crack the case and find salvation, with some rough spots along the way.  The thing to note is that you want life to work this way.  In reality, their problems (much like yours), would not help them.  People without problems would just be doing their jobs (without hangovers).  Neither can a solved case (or you cracking one of your problems) produce transformation of the self and relieve the guilt and shame.  This is because guilt and shame are not a thing that can be escaped, they are a process.  The process won’t be stopped because you are watching the process.  
  • The book of the dead, the Egyptian one, was a funerary text.  This refers to the removal of Ben Caspere’s eyes and implies a sex-cult tie in.  People ritualize sex because it helps with the boredom and allows you to avoid your partner.  A ritual is something you can be good at, after all, and perform correctly.   The same cannot be said for sex unless, like Paul Woodrugh, you’re not having it for yourself.  That’s right, hyperbolic sexuality comes from being unable to enjoy it, not from hedonism.  If you can’t enjoy it, flaunt it.




Rachel Dolezal is _____ than Bruce Jenner is _____

LEFT: Caitlyn Jenner. (Annie Leibovitz/Vanity Fair via AP) RIGHT: Rachel Dolezal. (Colin Mulvany/Spokesman-Review via AP)


…And you are freer than you feel and poorer than you realize.

Apparently the problem is that Rachel’s experience involved telling people she was something she wanted to be but wasn’t until she admitted she wasn’t something they thought she was and expected her to be and care about while Bruce’s involved telling people he was something he didn’t want to be until he admitted to them he was something he isn’t  and they don’t care about.  Phew.

Bruce can be Caitlyn because Caitlyn’s identity serves a role in the system which promotes class interests (or at least doesn’t threaten them) but Rachel’s is an embarrassing reminder that this is all a distraction from power and economic inequality.  The system needs minorities to believe their problem is about skin color and not poverty, while it needs everyone else to believe that your place in life is the result of your authentic identity and free choices as opposed to the socio-economic and psychodynamic factors which comprise everyone’s sense of identity.  All of this so that finally, at long last, poor people feel sorry for the rich – all you have to do is add sexuality, gender, race, mental health or addiction.  (NB:  All of these are things which don’t threaten business.)

Here’s a fill in the blank game about why Rachel will be burned at the stake:  She pimped the system while Bruce became its ______.

The Problem with Bruce Jenner

Picture by Mike Mozart on Flikr


America is accepting a wider range of attitudes about gender and identity.  My problem is that we’re doing this for the wrong reason.  We should do it because identity is irrelevant and nebulous, not because it is important and robust.  The current approach reifies the importance of identity.  This leads me (along with the odd bedfellows of some feminists and radicals) to two important problems:  The first is about gender theory and the second is about capitalism.

We’re having a problem noticing the difference between accepting people (not creating a social underclass  or restricting access to the common goods of life) and accepting what people claim about reality.

Bruce Jenner is a citizen, that’s enough for me.  Everything else is spectacle.  In a Baudrillardian way, I predict gender issues will expand as it becomes increasingly clear that gendered bahavior has always been mostly a learned simulacrum.  I see it as the expression of an anxiety about how thin and tenuous all of our identities are.

I remain unconvinced by the transgender narratives I’ve encountered because I don’t accept the distinction of gender these entail which presume a metaphysically confused notion of the self.  I think being a man or a woman refers to your body.  Bodies have brains, and one thing a brain does is create a consistent sense of relationship to others.  Identity to me refers to the way your desires to belong, thrive, contribute and be significant come in conflict with your introjections of perceived societal values and the unique meaning of your life experiences.  In other words, what have you learned about yourself from others and from your self directed comparison of these impressions to others.

It bothers me, too, that identity is so elevated because for identity to become a social role requires signaling.  Signaling under capitalism encourages the purchase of brand products.  It’s no surprise to me that Bruce’s transformation included expensive wardrobes, procedures and cosmetics to signal his important inner experience, as if it wouldn’t be taken seriously without them. (See Baudrillard, The System of Objects and Deleuze and Guatarri’s Anti-Oedipus.).  The key point is that production/consumption have been viewed as a dyad with production being paramount and consumption understood as passive.  Consumption, in the alternate view that I’m speaking of is an act of identity production as social roles have become increasingly subsumed by markets.

Here’s a pro-tip:  If an important authentic inner experience requires the purchase of products to be legitimate, chances are you’re a consumerist puppet.  Somehow market forces have conspired to make you feel inadequate or incomplete without some object relation to things.

It’s no surprise that important issues about human nature and our social world are not being discovered or discussed,   but are being marketed by entertainment media because the system will encourage anything that captures attention or enhances consumption.  This includes the promise of signaling nuances about your identity with trappings.

*Updated:  Based on comments, I thought I’d add to this.  It’s not just about brand products but about object relations under western liberal democracy and capitalism.  Transformational Objects (Bollas, C,  International Journal of Psychoanalysis 1979;60(1):97-107) manifest as a hyperbolized sort of object seeking – and I am in this case suggesting that the desire for transformative gender experiences enacted through association with object signifiers represents the trace of an ongoing process, a relationship to a signified concept, not a destination or the transformation of a self state.   In other words, don’t hear me saying that it’s bad/weak/immature to want to signal your role in society through relationships to objects (which in the broad sense includes things, jobs, relationships, etc.) – just realize that it will not produce an inner transformative experience.  Only a changed relationship to other people can tilt toward transformation.  I think the language of desire (how you want to be in society) is more productive, liberating and enjoyable than the language of authenticity (who you really are).

**Revised conclusion:  Another way to express my objection is that trans-gendered people are asserting an authenticity narrative.  They are hinging respect based on who they really are.  One good reason to adjust this view is that many people feel trapped by who they really are and can’t distinguish between this and who others expect/will allow them to be.  In other words, you can’t be a sexed male who is really female gendered because sexed females aren’t female gendered since gender is a signified concept.  You can’t be a concept, you can only relate to it.  I want the freedom to relate to concepts based on desire, not on identity because identity entails an absolute relationship to a concept.

I am asserting a more radical acceptance, to accept people’s expression of their desires rather than their identity.  This can have the effect of liberating everyone from the oppressive way we relate to ourselves and the defensive way we relate to others from feeling threatened.  You can enjoy yourself without appeal to a signified metaphysical concept of gender.  The internalization of this concept is itself the problem and I am uninterested in the reification  of categorical concepts. (See Feldman, 2011. Against Authenticity).

This is the psychology of innocence, radically opposed to the ethic of responsibility.