This recent comment from an English Steyn Clubber and former UKIPper never fails to cheer me during my present convalescence:
Some years ago we had an Irish comic in the party... This guy opened the party conference. Nigel [Farage] was a bit apprehensive about what he might say, so when this guy began with 'I went to a Muslim strip club the other day', Nigel sunk into his seat.
The joke was worth waiting for:
'Everybody in the audience was shouting "Come on love, show us yer face".'
~Last week we reprised a near-decade-old column of mine on Vanity Fair's unveiling of Caitlyn Jenner in which I posited that previous notions of a "sex change" - from one to the other of the two existing categories - had been replaced by the creation of the separate and superior category of "trans". And so it has proved.
But along the way I remarked:
I have no great objection to a grown man who 'identifies' as a woman and wishes to live as one.
Paul Harmon, a First Hour Founding Member of The Mark Steyn Club, did not care for the cut of my jib:
I do have a great objection to a man identifying as a woman.
To live as a woman is never enough. He must be celebrated as a woman, and he must be grooming children to become his lovers and playthings, or else he's not truly living (in his own mind). The playboy philosophy on which this 'no great objection' is based has turned out rather badly for all of us. It turns out that what goes on between two consenting adults becomes socialized sooner or later, and if we allow it the bad drives out the good. Decades of decline in marital unions and (one of Mark's favorite topics) children in the west derives directly from this unquestioned acceptance of Hefner's maxim. Let us say it nay.
Well, I wasn't really thinking of Hugh Hefner; I was recalling an old colleague of mine from back in the Eighties, when the only "transsexuals" were showgirls plus the occasional eccentric, and there were nine male-to-females for every one female-to-male. Now it's a mass phenomenon - check out a typical American middle-school - and quite often a female-to-male will be dating a male-to-female, which would have been too statistically implausible to pull off even as recently as ten years ago. But I was harking back to the glory days of The Independent, and my comrade the Welsh historian Jan Morris, formerly James Morris.
Jan didn't really make much of a woman (and was actually, so I thought, rather a misogynist), and, as I have had cause to note with others, the old mannishness of her features re-asserted itself late in life. Nevertheless, as Jan or James, he/she was an insightful and fair-minded historian of the British Empire (far superior, in fact, to what I suppose we would now call "cis"-historians) - oh, and of the Venetian Republic too, which I don't suppose many readers give much thought to, but it lasted 1,100 pretty good years from AD 697 to May 12th 1797. Which is over four times as long as the American republic has lasted - or, absent profound course correction, is likely to.
So I regard Ms Morris as a serious person who happened to have a fairly fundamental point of confusion on a critical aspect of life. Yet it was a serious life. As a young man not yet twenty, James Morris served in the 9th Queen's Royal Lancers in the Second World War. So, unlike higher-ranking trannies such as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs "Thoroughly Modern" Milley, Admiral Rachel Levine (America - where being a transgender bureaucrat gets you promoted to "admiral"!), Rear-Admiral John Kirby (America - where being a press officer gets you promoted to "rear-admiral"!), Colonel Mark Wooten (America - where pledging to "stop hiring middle-aged white dudes" gets you promoted only to "colonel" - so far!) ...so unlike those four-star trannies and the rest of the stellar officer class of the planet's biggest laughingstock, Jan Morris knows what it's like to serve in a won war.
When it ended, the young Lancer was in Trieste, where I am currently on my sick bed. And so I chance to be reading one of her final books, Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere. Here's how it opens:
I cannot always see Trieste in my mind's eye. Who can? It is not one of your iconic cities, instantly visible in the memory or the imagination. It offers no unforgettable landmark, no universally familiar melody, no unmistakeable cuisine, hardly a single native name that everyone knows. It is a middle-sized, essentially middle-aged Italian seaport, ethnically ambivalent, historically confused, only intermittently prosperous, tucked away at the top right-hand corner of the Adriatic Sea, and so lacking the customary characteristics of Italy that in 1999 some 70 percent of Italians, so a poll claimed to discover, did not know it was in Italy at all.
I don't particularly agree with all of that - and one can discern even in that opening paragraph that the author sees the city as a metaphor for her own journey: Trieste transitioned from hard masculine Habsburg naval port to the feminine Italian cruise stop it had always been deep down, etc. Nevertheless, it's beautifully written, and Jan Morris knows the terrain. He (as he then was) served in the Anglo-American occupation force guaranteeing the then "Free Territory of Trieste" - 1947-1954, if you're interested. Back then, there was a genuine question about whether the Commies would succeed in putting Trieste over on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain. As a British Army intelligence officer, Jan/James Morris helped prevent that - which was a small accomplishment for the good guys, and certainly a greater victory than any Thoroughly Modern Milley and his beribboned buffoons can claim. In the Piazza della Borsa, a few yards from where I sit, there is an organisation calling for the restoration of the "Free Territory": "USA & UK COME BACK!" - not a sign you're going to be seeing any time soon in Helmand or the Sunni Triangle.
Upon leaving the British Army, Mr/Ms Morris then became the only journalist to get a place on the 1953 expedition that conquered Everest. His coded telegram to The Times (London) scooped the world on the morning of the Queen's coronation.
I have no idea why a serious chap would want to remove his wedding tackle and replace it with a "bonus hole" that the body treats as a wound (which, anatomically, it is) and expends considerable energy (in the first months or even years) trying to close up. But, in contrast to jeannie-come-latelys who "identify" as female, Jan Morris did not just talk the talk but chopped the chop. Our new age of bepenised women significantly lowers the bar to entry - and with predictable consequences, given the support of almost all state and media institutions for such risible but destructive concepts as non-sex-specific "external genitalia" and "internal genitalia". Jan Morris did not insist that "trans women are women". From the frontispiece of Trieste:
A NECESSARY EXPLANATION
Jan Morris lived and wrote as James Morris
until she completed
a change of sexual role
"A change of sexual role." Oh, my: Would that suffice for the zealots on Twitter?
~The other day I was alerted by our former (Mark Steyn Cruise) hotel in Trieste that my colleague Andrew Lawton had failed to settle his bill, and what did we intend to do about it? So a minion was dispatched to sort it out with sufficient of the folding stuff, only to find that Andrew had run up a mini-bar tab close to a four-figure sum. Which was odd. Usually with a Lawton bill the only things that stick out are the specialty porn-channel charges, which in today's market are a mere five-ninety-five.
So the minion looked closer and discovered that the bill was not in fact Andrew Lawton's but Andrew Lloyd Webber's: close enough for Italian hotel work. As I subsequently discovered, Andrew (LW) had been in town for the Trieste opening of Phantom of the Opera. He is always a generous host and it was not hard to imagine him in the hotel's finest suite (where I'd been installed a week or so earlier) toasting the local talent who'd given it their best. The Italian premiere of Phantom will not be a small thing to Andrew, a huge Puccini fan.
So I regret missing him - as I'd missed him in Toronto some years ago on a similar occasion, when he'd chanced to read about my torments at the hands of Canada's "human rights" commissions and put in a supportive word for the right to free speech that few others in the contemporary arts could muster. He's always been pretty principled on things like that,
I was there for the original first night of Phantom of the Opera - in the West End at Her Majesty's Theatre in 1986, back when I was sharing the pages of The Independent with Jan Morris. On that opening performance, I got a lot of the trees right, but I missed a key part of the forest, as I acknowledged to Andrew many years later. And somehow that Trieste hotel bill and the glimpse afforded by the contents of the mini-bar brought swimming back so many memories of post-performance brainstorming in hotel rooms over Toblerone and warm Chardonnay agonising over how to fix some fiddly moment in Act Two Scene Three of whatever. I'm aware of my own Jan Morris-esque transition and, unlike her, I have my regrets.
~Speaking of free speech, many readers, listeners and viewers have inquired about how to support my landmark lawsuit against the UK media censor Ofcom in the English High Court over their throttling of honest discussion of the Covid and the vaccines. Well, there are several ways to lend a hand, including:
a) signing up a friend for a Steyn Club Gift Membership;
b) buying a chum a SteynOnline gift certificate; or
c) ordering a copy of my latest book The Prisoner of Windsor. You won't regret it.
With the first two methods, one hundred per cent of the proceeds and, in the last, a significant chunk thereof go to a grand cause - and you or your loved one gets something, too.
~Speaking of The Prisoner of Windsor, my contemporary inversion of The Prisoner of Zenda set in twenty-first-century London at the dawn of the reign of an unpopular monarch (imagine that):
*If you absolutely can't live without your full-price hardback being personally inscribed, that we can do.
*However, if you disdain my John Hancock, Amazon is selling the book at a discount - and the shipping will be rather less, too. Likewise, if you order from Amazon Canada. (An alternative option north of the border: for a hardback direct from the University of Toronto Press, click here.)
*For digital versions of the book, please scroll down the page.
~Notwithstanding my one-step-forward-three-steps-back health, we had a busy weekend at SteynOnline, starting with the above-mentioned Andrew Lawton back at the helm of our Clubland Q&A. Rick McGinnis's Saturday movie date was (gulp) John Cassavetes at the art house, and my Sunday Song of the Week offered a beautiful ballad for breakfast in Slovenia.
If you were too busy spending the weekend emptying Andrew Lloyd Webber's mini-bar, we hope you'll want to check out one or three of the foregoing as a new week begins.
~Finally, if you are way beyond print copies of books, The Prisoner of Windsor is also available in digital format.
For Nook, see here.
For Kobo, see here.
For the Kindle edition around the world, please click below: