Signs, Trans, and the Times

I just became familiar with the journal First Things. The same people that published it have a Facebook page by the same name. I ended up on their mailing list and got a steeply discounted offer to subscribe. The mailer introducing the publication said First Things “is the home of today’s greatest religious thinkers and writers…with…lively ideas, debate, and commentary by noted…scholars and public intellectuals.”
The price was right: the $60 newsstand price for 12 issues was only $19.95; and knowing thine enemy, especially what thine enemies’ “scholars and intellectuals” are up to is, in my book, always a good strategy. So I poked around on their site a found a cache of blogs, essays, and links. The editors were obviously quite proud of a recent short essay “The Semiotics of Transgender Bathroom Signage” by Jordan Zajak, O.P.,  as it got prominent billing on their webpage and on Facebook. The author-priest-scholar responsible for it did his best to give his best hipness-by-association slant by using semiotics (theory of signs) as the thread to drive toward this crash of postmodern confusion: the half-skirted, half-trousered graphic signing a trans-friendly restroom “neither corresponds to nor captures lived reality…but the empty signifier…is an efficacious sign of thdownloade inefficacy and incoherence of the gender ideology it is trying to represent.”
Now, let me say that I know the principle of charity requires one to appreciate that someone advancing an argument is sincere in his belief and should assume that the argument follows a modicum of rationality and may have points well taken. This argument, however, seems absurd on the face of it: their are many trans folks that could verify the sign does indeed corresponds to a “live reality”–their own. Add to this “the inefficacy and incoherence of gender ideology [sic] “, and the only charitable thing I muster would be that the poor fellow got his St. Jerome and Augustine confused with his Saussure and Barthes. Maybe his weakness at  reading signs of the times, is probably no fault of his own. For now though,  I may wait to subscribe.
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