The NYT gives the bully pulpit to someone trying to “trans” Louisa May Alcott
Post-modernism, a destructively narcissistic ideology, says that nothing has an absolute meaning. Instead, things only have the meaning people wish to ascribe to them. To give themselves greater societal legitimacy, LGBTQers routinely use ahistoric post-modernism to reshape the past. They blithely posit that historic figures, such as King David, William Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln, and Norman Rockwell, were themselves LGBTQ++. The latest historic victim is Louisa May Alcott, whom we’re now assured was transgender.
Peyton Thomas wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times entitled “Did the Mother of Young Adult Literature Identify as a Man?” Thomas, who identifies as a “trans man,” wants to claim that Louisa May Alcott did too.
It’s correct that Alcott envied the world of men and deeply disliked the constraints imposed upon women in mid-19th century America. With a weak father and a much put-upon mother, she dreamed of living the life of the men she saw around her. To that end, Thomas’s quotations are accurate:
She wrote of herself as the “papa” or “father” of her young nephews. Her father, Bronson, once called Alcott his “only son.” In letters to her close friend Alfie Whitman, Alcott called herself “a man of all work” and “a gentleman at large.”
As I pored over letters, journals and personal papers, I found evidence that Alcott thought of herself as more of a man than a woman — someone, as she wrote, in one letter to Whitman, “with a boy’s spirit” under her “bib & tucker.”
Thomas also quotes some experts to reinforce Alcott’s yearning for the life of a man. Kansas State Professor, Gregory Eiselein, says, “I am certain that Alcott never fit a binary sex-gender model,” while John Matteson, who wrote an Alcott biography, says Alcott herself believed “she should have been born a boy.”
Image: Louisa May Alcott. Public domain.
However, Thomas admits that these same scholars warn against applying today’s theories to yesterday’s people:
Still, these scholars hesitate to use the word “transgender” to describe Alcott. “I’d like to be cautious about imposing our words and terms and understandings on a previous era,” said Dr. Eiselein. “The way folks from the 19th century thought about gender, sex, sexual identity, sexuality is different from some of the terms we might use.” Dr. Matteson shared Dr. Eiselein’s hesitation and pointed to the particularities of Alcott’s social circle. “Emerson, Thoreau and Louisa’s father, Bronson, all believed that human beings were fundamentally spirits who happened to be in a particular physical form,” he said, “but that the spirit should not be limited, that the spirit has an obligation to develop itself according to its own unique genius.” Alcott’s description of the divide between her female body and her male nature was certainly trans, suggested Dr. Matteson, but transcendentalist, perhaps, more than transgender.
I agree with the scholars. Alcott could not have been either “transgender” or “non-binary” because people back then accepted biological reality. No matter their emotional desires, they understood that there were only two sexes. You might be a feminine man or a masculine woman, but your sex was immutable. Women who, like Alcott, rebelled against the roles assigned to them, and yearned to have the physical and professional freedoms given to men, still knew they were women.
That remains true whether Alcott was lesbian or simply asexual. No matter their sexual desires or lack thereof, neither she nor her peers ever strayed from biological reality.
Thomas, however, is undeterred. She is certain that Alcott, who would have laughed to hear that people become the opposite of their biological sex just because they say so, was “transgender.” Thomas is so certain of her theory that she sees Alcott as something of a trailblazer of transgenderism. Writes Thomas, “I believe Alcott’s own statements give the lie to the notion that transgender identity is strictly a modern fad.”
To give weight to this pronouncement, Thomas points to Susan Stryker, a “gender and women’s studies” professor emeritus, who says, “The historical record shows that people have felt in remarkably similar ways to contemporary transgender people.” Feelings? That’s a terrible argument coming from the same people who insist that transgenderism is real. If a woman says she is a man, we’re told, then she really is a man.
People in the past, untouched by postmodernism’s rejection of facts and truth, were never so deluded that they confused their desires with reality. Alcott may have wished she’d been born a man, but she knew she was born a woman.
What makes Thomas’s ahistorical, postmodern argument consequential is that it will inevitably have legs. Soon, teenage girls will assure their baffled parents that Louisa May Alcott was transgender, so trangenderism is real and, by the way, their pronouns are now “he, zer, and woof.”
In today’s mad world, it’s getting increasingly difficult to hang onto the truth as this kind of piffle gets the bully pulpit. Thomas is a hammer and transgenderism is her nail but, like all hammers, she’s ultimately a blockhead.