This article was originally offered to Huffington Post

Living as a transgender woman, I deal with vitriol and love from people from all walks of life. Being transgender is no easy feat. I’ve had my voice shut down and ignored purely because I am transgender, and I refuse to let this discourage me. However, I’ve also had my voice spotlighted purely because I am trans, as if to fill some diversity quota. I’ve always been annoyed by this because of how belittling and dis-empowering it is.

Recently, I came across a thread of tweets from the Deputy Opinion Editor at Huffington Post, Chloe Angyal. In her tweets, she listed her diversity quotas worked out statistically and congratulated herself of achieving many of them.

Throughout the thread, Angyal talks about wanting to raise representation for Latinx, insisting that it is not impossible and if they can do it, so can others — presumably other outlets.

Do not misunderstand me. I know none of this identity engineering is done with malicious intent. I am sure Angyal is acting with the best of intentions, like most people who support intersectional theory. However, this sets a horrifying precedent.

Of course, part of me is tempted to support a system which would have my voice carry more weight than a white cisgender individual. I want to succeed. But on a deeper level, it feels belittling. It makes me doubt myself because it seems to assume that my work is not important in itself and that I need help and preferential treatment to address a topic that a white cisgender person is also talking about, simply because I’m transgender.

The problem with intersectionality is that it avers a system that looks at identity and compares who is more at a disadvantage. You’re a woman? You’re at a disadvantage. You’re a woman of color? You must be given even more precedence than a white woman. Are you an asexual, atheistic genderfluid, non-binary trans woman of color? You’ve won the lottery of probably the most oppressed and thusly get the most attention because you clearly need it.

Not everyone who is considered a marginalized person agrees with this mentality or appreciates it being applied to them as they try to make their way in life.

Brandon, who declined to give his last name, is a mixed-race Englishman and says he’s “completely against it.” He too found it undermining. Over a Skype conversation, he said:

“I believe it’s a fundamental problem when we consider giving opportunities to people based on a person’s race, gender or gender identity, over that of someone who is potentially more qualified. Knowing I could possibly have been employed for the color of my skin would make me feel undeserving. It’s not the basis for which I would be comfortable building a career on, because all of my success would then be partly responsible for a genetic ‘advantage’ which is actually irrelevant to how well I may do a job.”

My own views on the topic are in stark contradiction to the idea that we need to make more of identity to overcome prejudice and discrimination. I believe that a society free of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia or any other phobia and ‘ism can only be accomplished if we stop seeing people in terms of their immutable characteristics. This doesn’t mean they cease to exist. Obviously, we cannot change or help noticing that people have different skin colors, for example, but we can regard this as irrelevant to almost everything. Just as we don’t discriminate against people based on eye or hair color, we also don’t try to hire more people with blue eyes or red hair because they are minorities.

Why should we create categories like “people of color,” transgender,” “homosexual” and so on and give them great social significance? This won’t stop hatred. It will help enable it by empowering the use of divisions and categories. It is a return to segregating people based qualities they did not choose. While some may find it empowering, who is to decide who should be uplifted and supported more? Are we going to use a mathematical system to see who racks up the most oppression points? How is that helping? I don’t want to be told I’m oppressed and that some cisgender white girl needs to speak on my behalf or help amplify my voice because I fit an arbitrary category.

I would rather see a society with no focus on labels and categories. If you are a man who likes men, then you do you. It is a completely neutral matter and neither should we care that you “identify” as homosexual. Identification with a category is not needed.

Kimberlé Crenshaw, an American civil rights advocate, believes that if there’s no name for a problem, you can’t solve it. That’s simply false. I can solve homophobia without saying “homophobia,” “homosexuality” or “gay” by simply not judging other people’s sex lives. I don’t need to categorise the LGBT. If someone dislikes an aspect of who you are and refuses to change, they’re simply a bigot. Your choices are to ignore them or to articulate why you think they are wrong and why it is fine to like someone of the same sex or gender.

To try and fill a quota based on aspects of identity is to appeal to ideological zealots and encourage bad ideas. Publish people’s writing based on its content and clarity and style. To pick people based on some immutable characteristic is to discriminate against people with different immutable characteristics. This kind of discriminatory practice is toxic and antithetical to a civil and rational society no matter how good your intentions are. It is also demeaning to people like me, who can prove our worthiness for a job based on our skills and hard work, not our gender identity, race or sexuality.

I want to live in a world where the color of my skin or my gender identity or sexuality is not a consideration when deciding whether to accept my submission or offer me a job. That’s a morally repugnant ideology, no better than the discriminatory views that intersectionalists and feminists rightly oppose. I want to be known as someone who makes a strong argument and knows how to report in a balanced and unbiased way. I want to know that any writing opportunities and job offers have been based on a recognition of this. When you make my voice heard because you want to fulfil a quota of trans individuals, then you’re treating me as if I’m not the most qualified and you just want to appease those who support an ideological agenda that I utterly reject.

My name is Autumn Berend, and yes, I am a transgender woman, but that doesn’t determine my worth. I’m a writer, journalist, political science major, a classical liberal, free thinker and devout believer in intellectualism and individuality of the person. I should be evaluated based on what I have to say and how I say it. Consider me because of that. Consider me because I am a thinking human with a good brain. I deserve the same opportunity to prove myself as everyone else.

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  1. Thank you for speaking out on this important issue. Intersectionality is dividing people like never before and it is important for people to be brave and to speak out against it. It’s also so important to let well-meaning people who think they are fighting against sexism and racism to know that intersectionality is wrong and is not working.

  2. Well said.
    It is a person’s choices and actions that determine who they are and how they should be treated by others. Not their skin colour, hair colour, eye colour, gender, religion, which school they went to, what accent they have, what race they were born into, or religion they support or no religion etc etc.

    “Positive” discrimination will mean that someone is then being negatively discriminated against. The aims of Positive Discrimination mean well but don’t work. It causes divisiveness and increases hatred and negative discrimination.

    People should get jobs and opportunities based on merit. Do they deserve it because they have worked hard towards that opportunity? Do their choices and actions in relation to that field of work/opportunity make them the best person for the job/opportunity? If so, then they get it. If someone else has a greater edge due to their choices and actions, then they get the job or opportunity.

    Nothing else is important.

    Sadly, this world is still far too immature to realise this. But voices like yours can help to make this idea a reality.

  3. This was an excellent article. We need to fight intersectionality as it reiffies judgements being made on innate characteristics of skin color, gender, etc. Classical liberals must retake the left before it reaches a widely accepted level of authoritarianism.

  4. This is an ancient debate but worthwhile nevertheless, because it has yet to be satisfactorily resolved. The author is arguing against positive discrimination and for a meritocracy based on achievement. But what happens to the people who, for whatever reason apart from lack of opportunity, are unable to achieve as much as others? Everyone is unequal at birth: we all have different physiques, levels of intelligence and other innate advantage. I don’t have an answer, but neither does this author.

    “Meritocracy, along with lavish self-regard, engenders a brutal insecurity. The fractal nature of our inequality—in which the top 10 per cent envy the top 1 per cent, the top 1 per cent envy the top .01 per cent, and the Forbes 400 envy Warren Buffet—means that no one feels satisfied or safe. No matter how well they are doing at the moment, they fear they could with one mistake plunge from their precarious summit. This “destructive and combustible combination of egomania and entitlement on the one hand and insecurity on the other” means that our elites focus on their own position to the exclusion of any other consideration. Bankers don’t care if they blow up their firm, as long as they get their bonus. Pundits don’t care if the policies they advocate might harm the nation, as long as they get on TV. Careerism becomes the only imperative. In such a situation, no wonder our public life is a shambles.”

    “Here’s the problem with “meritocracy.” You can’t have the “excellent” and the “above average” unless you have the “average” and the “below average.” Anyone can make it, but everybody can’t. Most children born into poverty will live in poverty; most people born rich will remain rich. Human beings react with stunning consistency to consistent circumstances. Almost every man I knew in prison came from single parent, abusive households—only a tiny percentage had even made it past high school. (I was very much the exception that proved the rule.)

    So here’s the question society needs to ask itself: Do the “average” and “below average” have the same right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as the “above average” and the “excellent?” Is it a crime to react unexceptionally to your circumstances? Shouldn’t qualities like a willingness to do your best and kindness to your fellows be valued as much as traits like guile, enterprise and risk-taking? Do those born into money and a good education really “deserve” huge slices of the pie because they picked the right parents?”

    “Part of the problem with meritocracy is that it homogenizes in the name of diversity: It skims the cream from every race and class and population, puts all of the best and brightest through the same educational conveyor belt, and comes out with a ruling class that’s cosmetically diverse but intellectually conformist, and that tends to huddle together rather than spreading out to enrich the country as a whole. This is Christopher Lasch’s lament in “The Revolt of the Elites” — that meritocracy co-opts people who might otherwise become its critics, sapping local communities of their intellectual vitality and preventing any kind of rival power centers from emerging.”

  5. Excellent post. You might find some interesting related ideas on the same topics in a couple of recent posts of mine: (see the bit on identity politics in the middle)
    I’m male, white, and straight (and therefore evil by definition ;), but the problems I see in the diversity/identity politics narrative are exactly as you have put them. Interesting, no?
    Let’s get past the straitjacket of innate characteristics and get back to being people…

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