The newest episode of English comedian turned "spiritual guru" Russell Brand's podcast featured Jordan Peterson talking about a variety of topics, including one that has gotten in him trouble in the past: the transgender community.
In the 46th episode of his "Under the Skin" podcast, Brand delves into the sticky topic of identity politics with University of Toronto professor, Dr. Jordan Peterson.
Backstory: Peterson has become notorious among progressives for his comments about gender politics and free speech. He has drawn particular ire for his opposition to bill C-16, an amendment to Canada's Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code that places gender identity and gender expression under prohibited grounds of discrimination. Peterson has characterized the law as an open attack on freedom of speech.
Talking Points: The Brand-Peterson conversation ran the gamut from the Gospels to capitalism.
At one point, Brand asked Peterson whether he felt he has offended or hurt vulnerable populations, such as transgender people.
Peterson said he'd received "at least 40 letters from transgender people saying it’s no picnic to be the poster boy of the left."
His nuanced view: “If someone identifies as a minority they can't speak for all of that people ... there is no transgender community … [because they are] just as diverse as everyone else.”
Peterson on accusations he's a member of the extremist alt-right: "I know absolutely that I've brought thousands of people away from identification with the right because they write me all the time and tell me that."
Takeaway:The identities of racial minorities, immigrants, LGBT people and women, have moved to center stage in a political debate featuring progressives fighting and supporting the rights of these populations and conservatives arguing for progress through social unity.
The point Peterson takes issue with is the idea that identifying as a minority makes one an expert on and representative of that minority. He argues there is no way one individual can speak for a group of people because that single group is far too diverse to be represented by any one person.
As Peterson points out later in the interview, the left does not have a monopoly on radical identity politics: White identity played a large role in Donald Trump's victory in the 2016 presidential election. The danger of identity politics lies not within the group itself, but with the group's use of identity to push an ideology onto others, which can repress freedom of speech and expression.