Here’s what I trust will be an instructive analogy. There are very few knock-down arguments in philosophy, but Plato’s Euthyphro is one of them. Does God make something good by approving of it, asks Socrates, or does He approve of it because it’s good? Clearly not the former, since if good just means that of which God approves, then God’s approving of the good amounts to the tautology of God approving of that which God approves. So what’s good must be ontologically prior to God approving it. Now here’s the analog:
Back in the days of affirmative action, a.k.a. quota hiring, I couldn’t have got away with calling myself a black disabled woman. But under the EDI programs currently being adopted pretty much right across the academic landscape, each of us wants to claim we have privileged access to our own identities, and so we can’t very well deny that privileged access to anyone else. So if I were applying for a job today, and I’m shortlisted and invited to campus for the interview, I can’t be found out because there’s no fact-of-the-matter to be found out. What it is to be black just is to so self-identify. Likewise with gender. Likewise with disability. And this, if left unrepaired, leaves any such preferential hiring initiative dead in the water.
Even worse, however, is the only viable alternative, namely race and/or gender and/or disability classification boards, which is how it was done in Nazi Germany and Apartheid South Africa. You say you’re black, but you look pretty white to us. You say you’re trans, but we hear no swish in your speech. You say you’re disabled, but you seem to be walking just fine.
So the question remains unanswered. Is self-identification criterial or merely evidentiary? And what counts as evidence that you’re misreporting what you are? Or worse yet, that you are yourself mistaken about what you are?
I’ve taken to signing my intra-departmental missives as Pauline. I do so so that should we ever get a hire we can claim that three of the seven of us are already women, two of whom are already lesbian.