“We go to the cool high school, everyone’s queer and really creative. It’s super cute.” “So cute. But RIVAL HIGH SCHOOL is high key trash. They’re all like cis white dudes who are obsessed with sports.”   “They sound lame,” I earnestly respond.   “Sooo lame.” “Totally.” Covering the front desk of STARTUP, I observe my colleague’s daughters as they induct me into their world through affectless vocal fry. Draped in vintage accouterments replete with paint stains, they boast of studying art. Clearly drawing from the same cultural cache as myself, they try to impress despite my laconic responses. Sleep deprived and overworked, the conversation assumes a dreamlike quality from my vantage point, like a millennial reissue of Clueless set in San Francisco. “So FYI, I’m bisexual and she’s gay, we both use she/her pronouns. We’re v excited to be here. “Yeah, STARTUP is so lit, it’s like… my fav place. So, what are you?” Struck with existential dread, I am at a loss for words, but eventually find the right response: “I’m gay, I guess. He/his.” “It’s chill to be indeterminate, sexuality is like… a spectrum, you know? Do you mind if I vape in here?” I concede as they proceed to discuss their friend who keeps changing their pronouns and I ponder the degree to which queerness has become a valued commodity amongst coastal elites. Indeed, the ease with which I navigate this hellscape as a young gay man is astounding (and not taken for granted). Here the aphorism “it gets better” appears obsolete and, like much else in the Bay Area, rings of self-delusion. Statistics on mental health, incarceration, and upward mobility tell us it does not get better, and for those ensconced in the liberal bubble espousing the opposite: being gay is already better. “Capital ‘L’ Liberalism” is how Lisa Duggan denotes the West’s governing ideology since the seventeenth century.[1] The individual and their liberty is the core tenet of Liberalism, so that free markets with minimal government intervention grant personal autonomy. The right to sell one’s labor, to buy and own things in the marketplace, have thus become the cornerstone of Western capitalism and, by extension, identity. Naturally, when the right to choose (i.e. to purchase) is the paragon of agency, identity politics are reduced to the issue of market freedom. Alexandra Chasin’s aptly titled Selling Out proves as much, charting the trajectory of gay and lesbian movements alongside the expansion of neoliberalism. Chasin illustrates the contradiction inherent to movements lobbying the state for equal rights, for a state that leaves regulatory power to the market does not protect marginalized groups from the economic inequality the market engenders.[2] Consequently, the success of bourgeois gay and lesbian movements comes at the expense of economic realities (LGBT homelessness, sex work, workplace discrimination). A red flag that “LGBT” might be more useful to marketing campaigns than political ones. Jasbir Puar goes one step further. Her term “homonationalism,” describes how a sanitized, white, heteronormative, gay and lesbian movement is a calling card of U.S. exceptionalism, obscuring racial inequalities and belying class differences.[3] Recent years have seen this identitarian impulse intensify. A seemingly endless drop down menu of marginalized identifications now saturate the media. Influencers and streaming algorithms peddle narratives of oppression, self-care, and individual triumph. Coworkers query your pronouns if your email signature doesn’t beat them to the punch. Indeed, identity is now the premiere site of labor and consumption. Chasin describes this shift as a transition from a production-based society where one identifies with their profession, to a consumer-based one where identity is purchased through material goods.[4] But what do we make of a culture where material objects are increasingly supplanted by digital ones? Moral piety and capitulation to an ascetic political correctness now define the left’s position in online culture wars. Such attributes are a currency amongst privileged classes and increasingly permeate mainstream platforms. Mark Fisher eruditely captures this inclination in his essay “Exiting the Vampire Castle,” demonstrating the careerist incentive to accuse, label, and #cancel peers on the basis of morality.[5] In a digitized landscape where market logics define every interaction and all subjects are in competition, expressing moral superiority delineates the accuser from the barbarous masses. Angela Nagle describes this impulse as a need to create scarcity in a social economy where virtue is the currency that can make or break a career.[6] God is dead and the religion of pure identity politics thrives in an economy predicated on the construction and consumption of identity. This paradigm is easily replicated on either side of the aisle. Whether your oppressor is the patriarchy or man-hating feminists, whether your social economy is rooted in morality or transgression, both elide class ?)   This paradigm is replicated across the political spectrum. Whereas the American left pilfers in political correctness, the right proffers rhetoric of superior logic and nihilistic transgression to signal superiority.   Thus, in much of the Bay Area, a marginalized identity is the hottest accessory. Oppression is now the little black dress of identifications. You can flex it on college applications and in job interviews, gain entry to parties and events, and elide any and all criticism as an act of persecution. Indeed, for Silicon Valley gays, the sort with flexible hours and “content” or “product” in their job title, who brunch and carry Fjällräven backpacks, it pays to be gay. Patriarchal transference of power persists in these circles, as the whiteness of the Bay can be seen from space. So while diversity may get you a foot in the glass door, once you’re inside the old hierarchies still apply. Moreover, not all wealthy LGBTQIA folx are created equal. My narcissism holds dear that I am not a “basic gay,” for example, that I shop at vintage stores instead of H&M, that I live on Haight Street instead of Castro. My lineage is that of Kenneth Anger and Michel Foucault, I tell myself, not Neil Patrick Harris and Modern Family. Deceiving my ego into believing I am not part of the herd, that I am “special,” soothes the disillusionment of living in contradiction to the politics I avow. Sure, I stand out in the bourgeois circuits of Silicon Valley through which I traipse, but this only engenders the careerism and social climbing I decry, negating any delusions of alteriority. For to be the most individual individual under Liberalism is a high honor.   [1] Duggan [2] Chasin [3] Puar [4] Chasin [5] Fisher [6] Nagle