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Schrödinger’s (Wo)Manhood

Much like Schrödinger’s unfortunate cat, which is simultaneously dead and alive, manhood and womanhood in our era are held to be simultaneously entirely in the brain and everywhere except the brain. In matters concerning gender equity in STEM, one must profess that the differences between men and women manifest solely in the pelvic and chest anatomy, not the brain. Consequently, if women constitute less than 50 percent of the people studying or working in a field, the only acceptable explanation is sexism, not a difference in the typical preferences of the two sexes.

On the other hand, transgender activists maintain that the distinction between being a man or a woman is entirely in the mind, and a person’s reproductive anatomy is not what defines them as male or female. Whatever a person states about his or her gender identity reflects their authentic inner nature, and may not be challenged. Scholars who raise questions about transgender identity face not only criticism and counterarguments (fair game for anyone making a claim), but also demands that their published work be removed from the written record rather than rebutted in open debate. Increasingly, journal editorial board members and university administrators side with these demands for retractions of articles rather than encouraging reasoned rebuttal, as scholars like Lisa Littman of Brown University and Rebecca Tuvel of Rhodes College have learned.

Now, in many ways, these issues are irrelevant to my work in a male-dominated STEM discipline. I don’t teach anything related to the biology of sex or the brain. My colleagues may or may not have traits that are typical of their respective sexes, but what matters is their competence as individuals, not whether their abilities are abundant or rare in the wider populations of women or men. I have worked productively with transgender scientists, and I don’t need to subscribe to any particular narrative about identity in order to treat them with common decency. So one could see the argument that I should just stay in my lane.

However, my lane is a bit wider than just teaching and research in my specialty. I am involved in faculty hiring and tenure decisions, as well as other operational matters in my university. I serve on committees that conduct some of the work of scientific societies. My colleagues and I are exhorted to consider issues of gender equity and diversity as part of our decision-making processes in these roles. Clearly, understanding the causes of gender disparities is relevant to that work. Additionally, I mentor students who seek guidance in navigating the political and interpersonal minefields of working in science. Finally, my department has hosted speakers who cite questionable statistics on matters related to gender, and these remarks have been presented to students as authoritative. If my department encourages students to accept certain narratives then critically analysing those narratives should be among my responsibilities.

Since I cannot simply ignore these narratives, here I will try to make sense of them. For now I am less concerned with whether these narratives can be reconciled with data (on that matter I defer to experts in the relevant branches of social science and biology) and more concerned with whether these narratives can even be reconciled with each other.

One possible path to reconciliation is that there are indeed personality differences between the average man and the average woman, but those differences are irrelevant to one’s choice of a career path or course of study. (Of course, given the wide variety of personality traits and skills that women and men display, these differences would have to be only statistical rather than essential, i.e. there’s no single trait that is definitive of a man or woman, but certain combinations of traits are far more common in one group than the other. We would then say that a transgender person was born with a brain that is more typical of people born into the other sex.) It would certainly be comforting if gender differences were narrow enough to avoid intersecting with educational and career preferences. It would also mean that nature is no match for nurture in professional and educational endeavours!

Alas, one problem with such a theory is that career preferences surely intertwine with lifestyle preferences and social traits. A job is not just a narrowly delineated set of tasks that one performs before going home to their “real” life. Even a person with a very healthy work-life balance will still spend roughly 40 hours per week at work in most industrialised countries. Assuming a rough average of 8 hours of sleep each night, work constitutes more than a third of an adult’s waking hours, and a non-trivial portion of one’s social interactions. Preferences between working with people or with things, or between the concrete and abstract, will thus loom large in career decisions.

Likewise, a choice of college major is not just about the sorts of classes in which one is likely to perform well. It’s a decision to spend time reading, discussing, and working on a specific area of endeavour. Additionally, many students pursue extracurricular activities tied to their major (e.g. engineering student associations, volunteer work in medical facilities for students preparing for medical school), further deepening the role of a college major in one’s daily life. Thus, a choice of major is a decision about how one will invest a significant amount of time.

So, even if (for the sake of argument) various mathematical, verbal, technical, social, or spatial abilities are evenly-distributed between men and women, people’s personalities and wider interests surely affect how and in what settings they wish to utilize those abilities, and which abilities they wish to emphasize at work. I doubt that gender-associated personality traits would be so fine-grained as to affect a preference between specific subfields (e.g. organic versus inorganic chemistry), but personality could easily affect one’s preference between pure and applied science. Or between natural science and social science. Or between engineering and the health professions.

Consequently, reconciling the two official gender narratives requires threading a needle fine enough to separate matters of personality and identity from preferences for how one spends a large portion of their waking hours. This needle might be easier to thread if gender transitions were entirely medical rather than social. However, transgender women in particular desire recognition as women in professional settings, the arts, in literature, and so forth. Implicit in these requests is an insistence that their transition is as much a social change as a medical one, affecting many facets of their lives and interactions with other people.

(Interestingly, transgender men make remarkably few demands concerning their status as men. One reason is surely that modern Western society has fewer spaces that are explicitly male-only, and those that remain mostly face pressure to admit women rather than expand their concept of manhood. Facing a dearth of explicitly men-only spaces to which they can demand access, some transgender men have actually demanded access to women-only spaces.)

Another prospective way to reconcile these narratives is to say that there is no mental distinction between men and women, that all traits are equally distributed among the sexes, but some people accept social conditioning better than others. In this model, transgender people simply resist society’s pressures and exhibit preferences that sharply violate what is expected from people of their sex. They consequently seek to identify with the sex for whom society’s expectations fit more easily with their own natural preferences for appearance and behaviour.

This second model might explain sex changes by gays and lesbians in Iran (where a sex change means that they are now attracted to the opposite sex, and hence compliant with religious rules), but it would not explain the growing demand for medical and surgical transitions in more liberal Western societies. On the contrary, if transgender people are simply atypical members of the gender that they were assigned at birth, one would expect that, as acceptance grows for people who eschew gender norms, atypical people would feel less need for acceptance as authentic members of the other gender.

Moreover, if all sex/gender differences arise from social pressures to deviate from what people would be in the absence of sexist conditioning, then the only truly free people are non-binary and genderqueer people, who refuse to live solely within the strictures of either masculinity or femininity. However, unlike genderqueer or non-binary people, transgender people don’t hold “male” and “female” to be artificial categories. Rather, they whole-heartedly endorse the concept of distinct genders, and seek recognition as authentic members of one of those categories.  Consequently, genderqueer or non-binary identities will not help us resolve the matter of transgender people who identify as authentic men or authentic women.

My arguments thus far are not, of course, airtight proof that the two gender narratives in question are irreconcilable. Nonetheless, I think they illustrate why it is exceedingly unlikely that these two narratives about gender can be simultaneously true. Given that, the most obvious way forward is to examine the literature on the behaviours and abilities of women and men, and have a robust and ongoing debate about the meaning of the data, the strengths and limitations of comparisons based on available data sets, and the validity of different analytical methods.  In short, scholarly debate and inquiry.

However, these narratives about gender exist not as products of inquiry, nor as hypotheses for examination in ongoing inquiry, but as tools to fend off inquiry for fear of what might be uncovered. That fear is unfortunate but, of course, not entirely unfounded. There certainly are people who would try to justify discrimination against women if well-conducted and widely-replicated research conclusively demonstrated that scientific aptitude and/or interest were more common in men. However, ignorance will not fend off unjust discrimination. A better solution is to make the liberal distinction between individuals and groups, recognizing that the abundance or rarity of a trait in a group should have no bearing on how we judge an individual from that group.

Likewise, there certainly are those who will support mistreatment of transgender people if their condition lacks some sort of scientific basis. Again, ignorance and sophistry will not help us here. The best defence for transgender rights is a liberal recognition that people with atypical preferences and appearances are equally deserving of respect, opportunity, and bodily autonomy (children are another matter, but liberal-minded people should at least be able to agree on the bodily autonomy of adults); there is no need to replace neuroscience research with a morality-driven narrative about authenticity.

Of course, if we establish norms that prevent well-meaning people from asking certain questions about sex and the human brain, those questions will not go unasked. Great scientific rebels have carried on underground, but plenty of unsavoury people also operate underground, and it would be a shame to wholly cede these topics to them. Sex is a fundamental issue in biology, of equal import for both applied science (e.g. medical research) and basic science (e.g. evolutionary biology). Likewise, the functioning of the human brain is one of the most tantalizing frontiers of science. We should cede our understanding of these matters to neither comforting narratives nor to those lacking a sense of common decency.

For all these reasons, we should not intellectually circumscribe discussion by insisting that people contort their minds into painful doublethink on matters of sex, gender, and the human brain. Small doses of doublethink may be intellectually healthy, if they help us to remain open to multiple ideas concerning multifaceted phenomena. However, the dose makes the poison, and excessive doublethink will only impede inquiry, not advance it. I don’t know where to draw a “proper” line between men and women, but parroting ritual narratives on pain of sacking is no way to run an academic community.

 

The author is a tenured professor in a STEM discipline. Sebastian Cesario is a pseudonym.

118 Comments

  1. Farris says

    This is well written and explained article. The author does an excellent job of dissecting the issues and presenting multifaceted arguments for consideration. Unfortunately, even reasonable discussion (without hyperbole or moralizing) of these issues is verboten and subject to mob enforcement. It would appear that this lack of tolerance for questioning or debating the present dogma is the reason the author chose to write under a pseudonym.
    The current climate of refusing to accept contrary facts or arguments has led to an Inquisition type atmosphere. If one does not parrot the prescribed doctrine, he or she is subject to excommunication and ridicule. This is anti-science regardless of the degrees or titles possessed by the persecutors. Intolerance of contrary ideas infers fear of correctness of one’s position. These enforcers dare not debate but prefer to resort to insults and epithets. Students need to be taught that those who resort to such tactics are anti-intellectual, retrograde and harmful to the better understanding and progress of mankind. Increasing volume and rage will not produce a better world but will ultimately be judged by history as those who were the impediments to development and betterment.

    • dellingdog says

      I completely agree. On average, male brains and female brains differ from one another in significant ways. This doesn’t mean that men are more intelligent than women, but they’re likely to have greater aptitude in certain disciplines than women. Likewise, women tend to surpass men in some areas. Of course, these generalizations don’t necessary apply to individual men and women, who may be at the far end of their respective bell curves. It’s astonishing (and deeply unfortunate) that these statements are controversial and that the author felt pressure to remain anonymous to avoid backlash.

    • If there is no difference between all these “types” of people, why do we have types and why can most people easily identify the types in short order? The issue is putting someone down (or elevating someone) based on traits rather than actual behavior that is meaningful to your judgment.

    • I, as an old white queer, think you are all overthinking this and have accepted an assumption, which is false, on which to build this pointless exercise. And that false assumption is that being an authentic person requires acceptance and recognition from the tribe of your choice – even if it is a forced acceptance and a false, pandering recognition.

      On “why” there are so many Western youth seeking to identify as such- it is because Hollyweird has made it “cool”. Young people frequently attempt to test boundaries as they form their own identities- and when so called adults are in constant validation mode – for every emotional expression they utter – one has to go pretty far to find resistance in the culture.

      It’s a theory. If, like when dealing with an Fetal Alcohol Syndrome youth the push back is immediate but gentle -an invisible fence at say, blue hair, one might never get to the idea they have to cut off body parts to be seen.

      In fact, it is not cool to be homo or truly unable to conform – it is personally costly in any group of otherwise homogeneous humans unless one wants to be the center of attention and not just allowed to be – it just is for some people, and not so long ago was extremely dangerous to one’s health. We had a whole lot less of this confusion then.

      And it is anecdotal – but I find these folks who wish to cloak themselves in public deviancy to be very self-centered, self-obsessed, and very attention seeking. Those words don’t quite sum it up – but something akin to those of us who have been a misfit all our lives generally don’t expect to be the tail that wags the dog.

  2. Stephanie Greene says

    Interesting article, it’s nice to see this contradiction discussed.

    I think the career preferences of the sexes are more disparate that the author suspects. In my own STEM field, geology, men are more likely to study geophysics and ugly or boring rocks, while women are more likely to study beautiful rocks, shells, diamonds, ect. This is particularly striking among current students.

    • David says

      This is a very interesting observation. Has anyone written on this? A ‘truth’ yet to be revealed?

  3. R Henry says

    I simply accept the observable fact that males and females are biologically different, and with those bioligical differences come behavioral differences. I also accept that there are broad behavioral variations within each sex. That Western society is now unwilling to recognize these facts does not make them any less true.

    • dellingdog says

      R Henry, do you think denial of this commonsense view is widespread? I hope not. I think the view that gender differences are entirely caused by socialization is mostly confined to a narrow set of academics and activists who follow a “blank slate” ideology.

      • Peter from Oz says

        I think that 95% of people understand the truth, but unfortunately the noisiest and most vile people are in the 5% who find they can exercise power though puritanical self righteousness. It doesn’t really matter what sort of truth they are denying, this angry 5%would seek power through banning others. For example, I’m sure that if someone could put up a plausible argument that the existence of homosexual festivals causes difficulties for muslims in western countries, then the self-righteous 5% would not hesistate from persecuting any gay person who spoke out against islam.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @Peter from Oz

          You’re probably right that 95% of people remain sane, but how is it that the lunatics rule the social agenda? Is it perhaps time to reestablish normalcy? For decades the ethic has been that no outlier must ever feel that zer peculiar peculiarity is not absolutely, warmly accepted as perfectly as wonderful as anything else. The tail must wag the dog least the tail feel marginalized, which would hurt feelings. The tail is a Victim of Oppression and needs to be liberated.

          But the dog now has any number of Victimized tails, and sometimes those tails want to wag the dog in different ways, eg. the conflict between trans and radfem. IMHO this all started with the normalization of sodomy, which is not normal (tho I think what people do with their orifices is their own business). Let’s rediscover that some things are normal and that society will design itself around them, and that some things are not normal and that whereas we will always endeavor to be kind to everyone, outliers do not have the authority to demand that society as a whole conform to their abnormalities and delusions. Trans people are suffering from gender dysphoria which is most unfortunate and society should do whatever can be done to help such people. But we do not have to pretend that the problem is ours if we do not agree that a person with a penis is not a woman.

          • Peter from Oz says

            Ray Andrews

            Yours is a very prescient and briliant comment.
            It’s about time society was run for the benefit of the normal. The truth is that the outliers are really quite capable of looking after themselves.
            Quite few old queens I know really dislike the modern push to normalise gaydom. They liked being different and can’t see why young queens want to become so mainstream.
            My reponse was that I think that a lot of the modern outliers of all kind are not in truth outliers at all, but bourgeoise fakers who want t be a little bit outre, but still be solidly respectable. I know it’s hard to believe that chaps would do it with chaps just for social aadvancement. However, we can see that this is the case when we look back at the the culture of Ancient Greece where homosexual affairs were the expected thing amongst some classes. There’s a reason why sodomy is also labelled as ”greek style”.

          • I am assuming you are asserting that those you deem to be “suffering” gender dysphoria are to be helped if they asked.

            I personally, for instance, want soul saving religious types to worry about their own souls and leave mine to my own management.

            There is no persecution quite like the convinced normals that seek to fix the patient who has not come to seek treatment.

      • R Henry says

        My home state of CA, and many others, now require all public facilities to include “gender neutral” restroom facilities. Target, a major US retailer, encourages its shopper guests to use which ever restroom the feel appropriate:

        https://corporate.target.com/article/2016/04/target-stands-inclusivity

        When a society can no longer broadly recognize and accept biological and social fact (such as the difference between a man and a woman, and all the cultural reality those biological differences bring), that society can only collapse.

        • R Henry

          Changes in sexual dimorphism do not generally lead to collapse. It appears they’re strategies that emerge collectively to adapt selection to changes in a variety of conditions (e.g.: population).

          • R Henry says

            Collective rejection of objective reality is the problem. Sex is established at conception, and is unchangeable. This is fact. That the medical and psychological establishments reject fact in favor of ascending to cultural tides is inexcusable, and points to existential cultural weakness. When correctness trumps fact, we are doomed.

        • dellingdog says

          My employer has designated a gender-neutral restroom as well, which is provided in addition to 10 gender-specific public restrooms (all of which are much larger). The former is intended for the tiny percent of people (less than 1%, according to most studies) who don’t identify with their biological sex, and who otherwise might experience discomfort and possibly abuse when using the bathroom. I don’t see how a minor accommodation for transgender people implies that society can no longer differentiate between men and women and is in danger of collapse. I’m honestly mystified by the amount of hysteria surrounding the increased visibility of transgender people and corresponding efforts to accommodate them. Personally, I have a great deal of compassion for individuals suffering from gender dysphoria and don’t begrudge policies meant to make their lives slightly less difficult, especially when they have no impact on me.

          • Peter from Oz says

            Well said delingdog.
            I only complain when the activists take things further and want o enforce their beliefs on us all.
            When governments intervene to change social norms that affects us all.

          • ccscientist says

            dellingdog: The problem comes in when there is a demand to share locker rooms, and not accept small separate facilities.

          • This bathroom issue is one I find most ridiculous. If a trannie, say Caitlyn without her fame, goes to enter a public restroom dressed in heels, makeup and a dress to the ladies room – none of you would look twice. A butch woman with a wallet – better have big tits – or you idiots will race up to inform them they are entering the wrong restroom. High school? Haha – I avoided the restroom because of other kids that intermittently wanted to kick my butt because of my mouth not because of my non-femme appearance – but I went to a small high school where everyone knew everyone. If the goal is to be more comfortable using a restroom- I can hardly imagine insisting everyone acknowledge you’re a girl with a penis is the path.

        • We can no longer accept the simplification of sex being established at conception since physical anatomy and the brain’s wiring may not be one in the same identified strictly through a male of female dichotomy. There appear to me variations beyond the dichotomy. It’s that simple, dude.

        • ccscientist says

          This points out another contradiction: trans people can use the restroom they choose at the same time that women in particular have become hair-trigger ready to claim assault and offense. The only reason there isn’t more clash is the rarity of trans people and the fact that some pass.

    • Look at any of the numerous personality based assessments used in the business world, like Myers-Briggs and others, and the distinction between typical male and typical female is clear. The outliers, when one considers the subprofession, becomes obvious as well. To deny that there is a difference between the genders is anti-science. It is the flat-eartherism permeating through academia at this time.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @Bill
        The world is flat. Otherwise the rampant north-centeric Oppressors will continue to Privilege the Northern hemisphere and Ozzies will have to pick up globes and turn them upside down to see their country; or crick their necks. Why is north always at the top of maps? Because of implicit bias. 50% of globes need to be Austro-positive as well as 50 of maps. But wait! … there is no difference between north and south anyway! Thus, I put it to you that the world is flat. Equity demands it.

  4. Andrew Leonard says

    “Whatever a person states about his or her gender identity reflects their authentic inner nature, and may not be challenged.”

    Just as an architect authors the identity of a building, so does the modern individual see themselves as the author of their own identity. Neither nature nor nurture dimensions may conflict or be allowed to play a role in this self-authoring.

    Whereas this trend would seem to stem from the collectivist left, the trend itself is not collectivist, rather the situation is the result of uninhibited individualism. Individualism has gone mad, and is taking all of us down with it. We live under the tyranny of the individual.

    • Tony Edgin says

      I don’t think I’m smart enough to tell if you are insane or a genius. 😉 You have given me something to think about.

    • ga gamba says

      Just as an architect authors the identity of a building, so does the modern individual see themselves as the author of their own identity.

      Yet the architect must work within many constraints beyond his identity. There are the constraints of the materials’ properties. There are the laws of physics. There is the natural environment such as wind and geologic tremors. Architects must also take into account other buildings beside their own because of the Venturi effect. They rely on engineers, who themselves face constraints, to advise them. Architects aspire to push beyond these constraints by using new materials, enhancing old ones, and devising new methods, yet the architect will never stop the wind nor change the laws of gravity.

      Neither nature nor nurture dimensions may conflict or be allowed to play a role in this self-authoring.

      And I’ve shown you this is untrue.

      We live under the tyranny of the individual.

      Nonsense. All of us live under a variety of constraints, some legal and others social. I suppose one’s own physical limitations play a role too. What happens when two tyrannical individuals most determined to express their conflicting individuality collide? Now multiply that by millions. We have societies that allow the expression of individuality to a large extent, yet it’s not given free rein. I’d say North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un is the world’s most powerful tyrant. His individuality should be able to be expressed completely at will. Yet, he still depends on his cohort to keep him in power by use of their monopoly of weapons and near complete control of information. A personality cult helps as well, though his is not as strong as his grandfather’s. And this precedence of his grandfather’s and father’s ideology also limits his freedom. His tyranny exists because sufficiently enough others who dominate the tools of power find it in their advantage to go along, and Kim still must balance these interests. Sometimes by use of an anti-aircraft gun.

      • Andrew Leonard says

        @ga gamba

        “And I’ve shown you this is untrue.”

        You’ve shown all of us that you’ve missed my point. I’m describing the current situation, not arguing for it. On the contrary …

        “What happens when two tyrannical individuals most determined to express their conflicting individuality collide? Now multiply that by millions.”

        Exactly. Too much of a good thing … is a bad thing.

      • I find that most of the idiots “representing” the truly peculiar are just bored with themselves and playing around with “dress up”. Like bisexuals – or straight women seeking attention they don’t get from their husbands and boyfriends- bet you don’t see a lot of that in Iran. All them types be cloaked in their banal normalcy to avoid the price of the authentically peculiar. I detest that more than straight people who just admit they think homos are to be shunned – they infiltration of authentics society by the bored to amuse themselves -some of us will always pay the price – it’s only when insecure hetero males figure out lesbian does not equal two women who want their body aka Hugh Hefner style that life gets dangerous for the true homo women. That has not changed, it will never change and bored housewives need to stay in their lane. Hollyweirds kissing each other on stage? Give me a break.

    • Peter from Oz says

      Andrew
      I think you are not quite right here. On the surface there does seem to be a paradox. But I would argue that when you look deeper into this it isn’t really about individualism, but about collectivism. WHat transgenders are doing is defining themselves by a GROUP identity: gender. If you ask most people to define their identity, their sex or sexuality does not come first. I do not identify myself as a man, but as my own unique person. Transgender people sublimate their personal identity and promote their collective identity, so that their sex becomes more important than individual character.
      I do agree that the in some ways, the revolt against norms looks on the surface like a cry against conformity. But really it’s just a cry for a new kind of conformity, except it is a conformity that is out of sorts with reality.
      I am reminded of a phenomenon I noticed as a child in the days of glam rock in the early 70s. In those days it was de rigeur for the frontman (vocalist) of a band to try and be as different as he could be from all other frontmen. However, after a while, the frontmen started being ”different” in a very similar way. In other words they were not displaying their own personalities so much as representing a groupidentity, i.e. of a socially transgressive artiste.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @ Peter from Oz

        ” this it isn’t really about individualism, but about collectivism”

        This is troublesome for me. Somehow it seems to be both at the same time. Perhaps the thing needs to be framed differently. The screaming snowflake is surely an individualist is ze not? The world will conform to zer wants and zer fantasies, no? Penis or not, I *am* a woman and I’ll be using the ladies’ change room and to hell with anyone who has a problem with that. Yet, as you say, the Victims do seek power via their group Identity. But the group is only formed to advance the individual’s special rights to impose on society as a whole. If my group does not give me exactly what I want, then do I not form another group? Thoughts?

        • Perhaps the problem is narcissism. For the narcissist, others don’t exist as individuals. Rather, they exist only to feed the narcissist. Narcissists become enraged at anyone who doesn’t play their game.

          I would call the transgender cult a kind of group narcissism. Narcissism explains the resistance as well.

          I need to go reread Lasch.

        • Peter from Oz says

          Ray

          Could we argue that it’s all about being in a tribe, which is a small collective. This means ze can prove that ze are different from most people but that ze are not alone.
          It would seem that the huge jump in people suffering from this problem are those who don’t fit into ”normal” paramaters and cannot live with their individuality.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @Peter from Oz

            This gets interesting. I wander around the internet looking for constructive engagement on this stuff, but little is to be found. I wish Quillette had better tools for discussion, rather like The Conversation, alas, the latter has too much censorship and Quillette’s articles are better too. If you wish, contact me privately: rayandrews@eastlink.ca, I’d like to dive into the deep end of your comment above.

      • Andrew says

        @Peter from Oz

        “WHat transgenders are doing is defining themselves by a GROUP identity: gender.”

        Are you seriously suggesting that a transgender person born female, who identifies as male, is motivated by some sort of male identitarianism? Do you consider yourself partly collectivist when you tick male on a form, and therefore define yourself by a group identity?

        “However, after a while, the frontmen started being ”different” in a very similar way. In other words they were not displaying their own personalities so much as representing a groupidentity”

        That’s a fairly superficial reading of culture. I doubt anyone could successfully argue that Nazism was not a form of collectivism, because the Aryan race was fake. What I’m arguing is that for transgender identity to apparently trump scientific knowledge in a scientific society, the individual must reign supreme, at least in some sense. The rights, comforts, sense of security, sensibilities and beliefs of the individual are now prioritized over every and any other concern, regardless of cost. Note that in similarly advanced best less individualistic cultures like those of South-East Asia, this is not the case. On the contrary, they look at what is going on in the West, and laugh.

        • Peter from Oz says

          ”Are you seriously suggesting that a transgender person born female, who identifies as male, is motivated by some sort of male identitarianism? ” No. I am saying that those trans people (mostly activists) who want to change thw world so that it fits in with their problem are defining themselves by their gender, or more properly by their illness. They are identitarians, because they feel they have to be. A man who tick the ”male” box on a form is not therefore being identitarian. He is merely confirming a fact.

          • The problem isn’t their self image… it’s that they are the velveteen rabbit and think they need your acceptance

        • I disagree. As I said, I am an old white queer that does not care what you call me. Identifying where I fit on a spectrum is important to you idiots, not to me. What you decide doesn’t change me. Whether I live in a house or a trailer doesn’t define me. What society decides I deserve or don’t deserve doesn’t define me. Whether or not a company feels I should be promoted doesn’t define me. This is an exercise in stupidity in my opinion. You may as well devote resources to why some people like Brussel sprouts and how to get the rest to enjoy them or pretend to enjoy them when they don’t.

          I guess I am just not that into you as a society haha

    • TarsTarkas says

      What if they change their minds about their gender identity? Or start calling themselves genderfluid? So now facts and truth and reality are infinitely mutable?

      The problem is the spectrum of simply troubled all the way to batshit crazy is not just not being called for what it is, variations on insanity that need curing (or in the worst case encapsulating), but are being actively aided and abetted by a far too high number of people who are (or pretend to be) our leaders and social and moral superiors. This ‘criticism is bigotry’ BS has got to go.

  5. Jade Astoone says

    This whole topic is starting to get incredibly boring. Not only is it silly, but it also trivial (except when it goes after the kids of course).

    • Peter From Oz says

      You are right, Jade. It is pure madness that a lot of bright people have become part of this strange left wing shadow world where so much time has to be taken up with adolescent definitional arguments. I think it stems from the fact that liberals have become such sophists that they can’t see that indifference is tolerance.

    • This whole topic is starting to get incredibly boring. Not only is it silly, but it also trivial (except when it goes after the kids of course).

      It’s not trivial when the number of girls in the UK identifying as trans has increased 4000% in ten years.

      25% of them are on the autistic spectrum according to the Tavistock clinic’s own statistics, and they are being put on puberty blockers that can permanently sterilise them.

      So no, there’s nothing trivial about the sterilisation of autistic children. It’s the greatest medical scandal since poisoned blood.

  6. Steve Smith says

    So unfortunate that a tenured professor should feel so threatened as to have to use a pseudonym for writing an article that concludes we should be respectful of one another regardless of gender identity. So unfortunate that I should feel I have to use a pseudonym in this reply. The current climate of intolerance for what should be barely controversial thought is frightening.

  7. Don_in_Odessa says

    A sick mind knows no boundaries; other than, those imposed on it by it’s own illness.

  8. E. Olson says

    A perfectly rational and reasonable discussion about theories and possible implications regarding gender differences, which required a tenured professor to use a pseudonym to espouse. The question is why is this topic so threatening to a relatively small subset of the population that they would go on a rampage and attempt to fire or physically and mentally harass/hurt the author if they knew his identity? I suspect a major reason is the feminist movement that has evolved from seeking equal opportunities for women to seeing men as an enemy who must be subjugated and punished for thousands of years of patriarchy and misogyny that have unfairly kept women down. This feminist theory of toxic masculinity and unfair male power has been subjected to empirical test over the past 100+ years as women have gained the right to vote, equal reproductive freedom, get educated/employed in any field they wish, get equal (or better) protection under the law including the right to equal pay, and despite these advancements in equal opportunity women continue to lag behind men in positions of power, status, and wealth generation. This lack of equality in elite outcomes naturally leads the inquisitive to develop/consider other theories that might explain gender differences such as IQ, personality, interests, risk adverseness, and socialization, which all threaten the toxic masculinity narrative of modern feminism. If males are demonstrated to possess higher IQ or IQ dispersion, physical attributes, or personality characteristics and interests that make them on average or at the tails to be more suitable/inclined to volunteer/seek high risk/high return professions and ventures that bring fame, fortune, power, and opposite sex attention (or bankruptcy, injury, and death), then the feminist investment in the theory of toxic male sexism and discrimination becomes valueless. Even socialization differences that many feminists espouse become problematic if research is allowed that demonstrates innate/genetic gender differences as explanatory factors in life success outcome, because that would mean it is highly likely that “traditional” gender role socialization evolved from thousands of years of observable differences in gender abilities and preferences. In fact, if might be argued that feminist indoctrination of girls and women where they (and society) are taught they can do anything and be anything, and are fully equal (or better) than men on all important characteristics, is in fact a socialization process that goes against nature (as indicated by declining female happiness and fertility rates), but such discussion must of course also be violently stopped to protect feminist identity and doctrine. And in the end, this violent reaction to research and discussion of gender differences leads to less kindness, respect, and courtesy towards the individual.

    • Peter From Oz says

      Well said, E Olson
      The hypocrisy or cognitive dissonance of a lot of left wingers is quite astounding. One great example is the idea that there is no absolute truth. However, everything these new puritans do is steeped in trying to protect their political view of the world as absolute truth. This means that they don’t wish to stop oppression, but merely substitute themselves as the new oppressors.
      I have always said that left wing philosophy is all about what people can’t do, whilst right wing philosophy is about what people can do. It’s Cavaliers against Roundheads.

      • E. Olson says

        Peter – Thank you and you are absolutely correct Leftist ideas. I think the many hypocrisies, irrationalities, and untruths that Leftists choose to live with are why they are generally so unhappy and stressed out, and so violently opposed to debating the other side.

      • Ken A. says

        Well, hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance are quite different conceptual beasts. Google ’em, you’ll see what I mean.

      • Not. Neither you nor the previous have the chops to analyze this piece. Go back to plainville.

        “Going against nature” indeed.

    • TarsTarkas says

      We are entering fourth wave feminism, the drive to eliminate male rights and opportunities. Just wait until cloning and zoom-wombs requiring no sentient male participation become available. Then fifth wave feminism, the elimination of males, will start revving up.

      • What’s so great about male domination anyway? Begat illusions of resurrection, salvation, domination, conquest, control, of territory out of sight. Males have dreamed up some wacky novella shit to keep the population in turmoil.

        What’s so great about 9 billion human ants vortexing resources until the sun don’t shine?

          • We KNOW the evidence from 10K years of male domination. The problem is we DON’T know from any evidence what a single year of female domination (or better, a shared cooperation) has in store for us.

        • Peter from Oz says

          You need to read a bit more widely, Kal. You sound like a first year undergraduate reading womens’s studies in a redbrick university.
          People have dreamt up some weird ideas that have not befited the population. But then other people have come up with ideas that have made life better. Whether the people who came up with the ideas were men or women is really irrelevant.

          • You’re failing the argument threshold first by characterization. Whatever you THINK I write like is irrelevant. I’m none of those identifications.

            Secondly you’re wading what we call in peer-review the vague shallows, this has nothing germane to offer either my discussion or the writer’s

            “People have dreamt up some weird ideas that have not befited the population. But then other people have come up with ideas that have made life better. Whether the people who came up with the ideas were men or women is really irrelevant.”

    • ccscientist says

      E.Olson: as an example of what you say, during the Houston hurricane, virtually all of the rescuers with boats were men. The only official woman I saw was a female park ranger…who was being rescued. Women were prominent at the shelters, taking care of those rescued. There is nothing wrong with this, but it is not the “same”. Where were the feminists in boats saving men? Never happened. Also disrupting the narrative is that women in the US now make up 60% of college students, dominate vet school, a majority of medical school. Where is the oppression? If you question the narrative under these conditions it might collapse.

  9. Philip Davies says

    *The question is why is this topic so threatening to a relatively small subset of the population that they would go on a rampage and attempt to fire or physically and mentally harass/hurt the author if they knew his identity?*

    Perhaps the question is why do we have laws which are so uneven that so called hate speech againt a favoured group is regulated against but real hate in the form of harassing/hurting/firing individuals for their views is completely acceptable and even expected. Law which protected everyone equally would go a long way to preventing real harm.

    • E. Olson says

      Philip – the laws are so uneven because governments are almost always run by the Left (even when the Right wins elections, the Left continues to dominate the bureaucracies that interpret and enforce laws), and the Left believes only the Right unjustifiably hates and that words are violence. Thus it is OK (justified) to literally or figuratively punch a Nazi (i.e. a right leaning white person), and it therefore becomes a prosecutable offense to cite IQ or crime statistics showing group differences, or suggest transgenderism is a mental illness, or that immigration laws should be enforced, or that government should prioritize the welfare of citizens, or any of the other “hateful” things that Right leaning people regularly try to bring into policy discussions. And unfortunately the Leftist “punch a Nazi” mentality also dominates corporate HR departments, academia, and public employee unions, which makes communicating the Right point of view a firing offense. Equal rights under the law and free speech are only for those with the correct (Leftist) viewpoints.

  10. yes the current gender ideology is inherently contradictory but th emost obvious example is not to look at transgender ideology versus feminist ideology but on the treatment of men. It is simultaneously argue sthat gende ris a social construct and that wherever men are disadvantaged it is due to inherent defects within masculinity itself for example, reduced life expectancy, worse educational outcomes, increased liklihood of imprisonment, increased probability of suicide etc. At the same time it is asserted that society massively advantages men. These assertions simply cannot be reconciled.

    None of this matters. The idea that gender is a social construct, that differences other than physical are a social constriuct is utter nonsense with strong evidence against it from multiple source and disciplines. This is what should be being argued. That gender studies academics argue the opposite is like geologists that argue the world is only a few thousand years old or biologists who argue against evolution. in order to hold thsi viewpoint it is necessary to ignore medical evidence on the effects of hormones on mood and development and physical differences in the brain, biological evidence from related species, psychological evidence on differences from a yong age, sociological and anthropological evidence on comparisons between societies and the effect of more egalitarian socities. It also asks us to assume that physical differences in strength, height weight and menstruation have no effect on mental attitudes, moods etc. That the social constructionist theory of gender is pervasive if not dominant in gender studies, amongst femnists and ‘progressives’ and th humanities generally says a lot about the rigor and quality of these fields of study.

  11. Ken A. says

    Much overwrought and overwriiten churning here, but the generally polite tone (other than the occasional rant about “leftists”) was welcome.

    My advice is to keep science, and not ideology, in mind when you discuss these issues, It is by far the better path to truth.

    Try to keep in mind that “masculinity” and “femininity” were not eternal principles guiding the universe prior to the evolution of sex a couple of billion years ago on the planet Earth. Gender differences are pretty local and fungible, because that is how the trial-and-error process of evolution by natural selection actually works.

    • dellingdog says

      If you’re interested in thoughtful and substantive responses to an article, I recommend avoiding any and all comments from “E. Olson” and “Peter from Oz.” Regardless of the topic, they will engage in overgeneralized, unfounded, ad hominem attacks on the “Left.” They are the mirror image of radical Leftists who demonize their ideological opponents.

      • In agreement. They’re into nouns and can’t escape dichotomy.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @Kal

          Disagree. Everyone is into nouns and dichotomy is quite appropriate when one is examining what almost everyone seems to agree is a sort of chasm in society now. That chasm forms a dichotomy even if, naturally, individual beliefs are a bit more nuanced.

          • Then you don’t understand how the brain (thought) and most language (speech/writing/motion sequences – not music) are in opposition. For that you’ll need something like Deacon to make the discoveries.

            No, not everyone is “into nouns”. Some of us, like me, just use them. But there are those here and in the article, that use certain nouns that label specific cultural codes over and over until they don’t comprehend their associated relationships and references.

        • Peter from Oz says

          There are issues that need to be examined by way of dichotomy on the way to establishing the the whole intertwined mesh of concepts that we live with everyday. As a forensic practitioner my job is to tease out the arguments and tickle the concepts. That sometimes involves building up a fiction in order to dismantle it through cross-examining the facts. You don’t appear to have the training to understand the complexities. All your comments are pretty banal, reactionary stuff. You are the dichotomist’s dichotomist.
          And like many people I see arguing for the new morality, you seem to have an inability to understand that criticism of the activists is not akin to hatred or fear of the actual members of any victim group. For it is the activists who make things awful. If those activists were mostly on the right we would still criticise them. Hence, my distaste for MRA and MGTOW activists. Although I would like to see individuals establish their own moral code and give back a little of the curry they get from the self-righteious left-wing moralisers, I strongly disagree with the manicheans who want to make every argument to be about bigotry.
          They remind me of the famous Moty Python argument sketch where the whole argument is about what argument is.

      • Peter from Oz says

        And here was I agreeing with you on another post above:)

        I am not really against leftists but the ideas of collectivism and statism. Often we use what Weber called ”ideal types” to make arguments. They are a shortcut that assists us get past the definitional and into the substantive.
        If you can’t see the subtlety of the argument sometimes I can only suggest you open up your mind more. Don’t get stuck in the mud of ”scientism”. Enjoy the poetics of the forensic debate, which over 1000 years has proved to be the real mine of facts.
        Laugh with the Cavlaiers, don’t get trapped with the Roundheads

      • It does look that way – they have the imposition of acceptance in common. There is a critique of mental health assessments that I hope follows. Criteria for diagnosis? I would even dispute the wisdom of taking anti-depressants after a life event for which sadness is a predictable result. One should not dance nor be overly distraught lest one be diagnosed.

        It’s not like the “resistance” to queers and trannies is a result of the insanity of the gatekeepers trying to force it into mainstream acceptance. Some are extremely threatened by the mere existence of peculiars – which is curious to me as an old queer – always have been, I suspect always will be.

        Those two seem to fit.

    • Joe B. says

      Agreed, and I wish the founders of this site the best of luck that it is not run over by frustrated ideologues. Factual, scientific, well-researched, structured arguments and essays that break out of the mainstream stuff would be most appreciated.

      I think the biggest “mainstream” thing that could be avoided is left/right ideology. Both extremes ruin everything for everyone.

  12. This article is an example of someone trying desperately to avoid understanding something, and succeeding.

    Yes, astounding as it may seem, sex and gender differences are in fact simultaneously in our bodies and not, in our minds and not, naturally occurring and socially constructed.
    Humans have natures that are simultaneously universal and unique, occurring in groups and across groups.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @Chip

      But that is exactly what the author understands. He/she opposes the idea that gender differences must be seen as entirely contructed.

  13. First of all, Schrodinger’s Cat is only dead and alive simultaneously under the Copenhagen interpretation. Just saying.

    Secondly, the author neglects to address even the basics of sexual dimorphism, bias (use Lauweryens), the outright confusion between ethnicity and racism (which academia does a terrible job of identifying and actually is distinctly different on all scales, from country to country, region to region, even school to school), the slippery slope of nepotism and how it affects the previous in both society and in more exclusively in academia, and the total failure of behavioral aspects of psychology and sociology to address ALL the above.

    There are some sentences and whole paragraphs in here that are not only lost, off the mark or downright absurd from a scientific standpoint (the one about sex and ’cause’.. oh my god!) that it’s not only irrelevant to the subject, this whole article appears to be a moronic misdirect of the challenges that lay ahead for studies of these fields.

    The questions are many: what is REALLY happening with sexual identity across all fields at the moment? What REALLY is ‘race’? Just what was ‘race’ before we introduced the concept of ‘race’ and ‘tribe’ (both are from dominant systems labelling others).

    The author wants to “establish” norms using the existing failed concepts, categories and labels?

    And what, use the results of these failed systems “trans-racial”?

    Sorry, pseudo-scientist, you’re a cultural practitioner. Get outta Dodge before we start looking up your skirt for answers.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @Kal

          How do you know that the author is ‘into’ nouns and is not just using em as well?

          “that use certain nouns that label specific cultural codes over and over until they don’t comprehend their associated relationships and references”

          In social/political subjects like this one I don’t know how anyone could avoid using the nouns that label specific cultural codes since it is just such codes that are being discussed. How do you know that these nouns are being used without comprehension? The author’s thoughts seem quite comprehending to me. And even if they are without comprehension, merely announcing that is not as useful as explaining why it might be so.

          I admit I haven’t read Deacon, but perhaps you can give a simple fellow some idea what’s wrong with dichotomy in respect of the current political situation. Even people who have not read Deacon vote, so people as advanced as yourself are well advised to do what you can to help us simple folk see things more clearly. As it is, I am quite comfortable speaking of the situation in the States as a dichotomy between the Dems and Reps, with almost everyone feeling the need to be on one side or the other and both sides viewing the other as evil. Seems like a dichotomy to me.

          • Because I did some grammarian look-see into his piece and started with the ‘heroic statement paragraph,’ which is the paragraph he’d been waiting to write for however long he’s been conceiving this dreck. It’s the paragraph with the phrase ‘scientific rebels’ and if you work back from there into the conflict areas preceding, you’ll notice he stays at a very light conceptual level. He has no deep comprehension of where sexual or ethnic categories are developed, either culturally or biologically. So he’s repeating certain nouns almost as placeholders wherever an actually knowledgeable person would fill us in to the backstory. Which means he’s more likely an applied engineer in STEM than an anthropologist or psychologist. And if you don’t know the difference in regards to these issues, the latter would give him a good base with which to parse these ideas the former won’t get him to first base. Wildly one of the thinkers he’s citing isn’t even a scientist, so there’s even problems of reference (in an article this short!) Bad news.

            Onwards. Well, no political scientist worth their weight would EVER characterize the situation in the U.S. as a dichotomy between two parties using statements like these: “with almost everyone feeling the need to be on one side or the other and both sides viewing the other as evil.”

            That’s an unprovable statement. It might work as an opinion that many people use, but it falls apart word by word under closer scrutiny. There are quite a lot of people who could care less about voting, people in power, politics etc. It might seem like a dichotomy to you, but how we see things is taught and learned.

            To get into the realm of dichotomy and the brain (not mind), meaning, inference, reference, symbol, word, thought, concept category, index, gesture, syntax is necessary. There’s no possible way I can give you the skinny here, but the basics are that thinkers have spent lives dissecting knowledge, speech and thought in regards to categories and labels and dichotomy is perceived as the impoverishment of thought, and unfortunately, its how many people are taught to see the world. Right? The mass murderer is evil. The victims are good. There’s a winner and a loser. People can call me white and others can be called black yet none of those dichotomous colors (or total lack of them) are actually on any of those people.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @Kal
            Your reply below has no ‘reply’ button beneath it, so I’m inserting my response here.

            “He has no deep comprehension of where sexual or ethnic categories are developed, either culturally or biologically.”

            It was an essay not a multi-volume tome. He did not deconstruct the entire structure of the mind nor the deep roots of his categories, I grant, but heck, it was an essay.

            “Wildly one of the thinkers he’s citing isn’t even a scientist”

            Is that a problem? Many non-scientists have something useful to say.

            “Well, no political scientist worth their weight would EVER characterize the situation in the U.S. as a dichotomy between two parties”

            I disagree. In fact I can’t recall any thinker or scientist or pundit who seems to hold any other view. Left or Right, one and all say that the country is horribly polarized on an ideological chasm. You disagree?

            “It might seem like a dichotomy to you, but how we see things is taught and learned.”

            Certainly taught and learned, but no less real for that.

            “The mass murderer is evil. The victims are good.”

            I quite agree that dichotomies are often made in a sometimes even comically silly way. The black/white dichotomy is perhaps the archetypical example. The Victim/Oppressor dichotomy beloved of the neo-Marxists is IMHO equally counter-useful. But surely in wars we tend to have dichotomy? Allies vs. Axis? Commies vs. ‘free world’? Politically surely we have one coalition vs. the other coalition? The postwar tradition has been — especially in Europe — rather vague and shifting alliances with no hard split between them. But surely that is not the case anymore in the States? If you disagree you’re about the only person I know who does.

          • I’ll simplify it for you. He didn’t parse the framework. The simplification of the transgender as a state of mind bears no fruit for him because he isn’t looking at the sciences too hard. To say it’s in the mind may not be true, to say that it’s in the brain may actually be true. I’ll get to that below. On a more specific note the near equalization to female advancement is inevitable after the 10K years of male domination. It’s that simple. Clearly the academic world can shed a few logs an make way, not lose TOO much sleep. Like at jingoists like Corsi who kept a seat warm at Harvard. Clearly he put his degree to decetful usage, just slowly weed out some males. Give way, the women are elbowing in. Take it like a man.

            “Since I cannot simply ignore these narratives, here I will try to make sense of them. For now I am less concerned with whether these narratives can be reconciled with data (on that matter I defer to experts in the relevant branches of social science and biology) and more concerned with whether these narratives can even be reconciled with each other.”

            First of all, the framing of a reconciliation is observer dominant. Why bother reconciling them?

            The Brown study is behavioral. Do you know the work of behavioral science, it is riddled with studies gone bad and generalizations made from remarkably similar occurrences that were guaranteed by mistake. As for the transracial philosopher, the idea is great, the framing is terrible. I don’t quite think the functional parts of the states of gender and ethnicity are at all similar. So the framework from a basic level is either unwarranted or worse, the wrong way. (Had she used ethnicity instead of race, she would have started a new tangent, but by using the Gobineauist euro liberal concept of race, however accepted, adopted into modern culture as a frame of identity that organizes ethnicities into larger, vast groups, it retains its colonialist, European idea of identity as punishment somewhere in its perception.) How do we get beyond the ideas of domination through ethnic and now racial frames is a mystery. Until we start grappling with the paradoxes inherent in race and the phenomenon that is ethnicity, we will be little children stuck with barriers to meaning along numerous borders resulting in futile conflict. (see The Ethnic Phenomenon). It is apparent from the establishment of racial identity on top of ethnicity in the 1700s, the question really is if racial groups prefer to control over who can chosen to be called in their name, then what are racial groups? Maybe one might think this very strange, but applying the distinction may be backfiring on Europeans. What was began as a labelling separation for domination, has become identity that is starting to rival gender. Europe, people like Gobineau basically started the identity wars and we’re here to finish them, continue them, who knows.

            Let’s get to m-f diff. This simplification of differences in females isolated to “chest and hips”, is poor; there are differences in the male-female brain. They’re subtle but they’re there, off the top of my head Neural Basis of semantic memory, Hart and Kraut. I forget what else there is, There are other papers since. But what’s really funny is that this brain structure differential does not matter because brain level belief is hot wiring likely other core areas, like the amygdala, which seems to correlate gay men and women.

            https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn14146-gay-brains-structured-like-those-of-the-opposite-sex/

            Let’s go into the mind. The entire frame of the piece is assuming a semantic or functional crossover for orders of information we can’t find at any one level, in the brain that comes with sapiens and the mind that comes from exaptation. The hot-wired adaptation to the brain that runs language mind is probably integrated through a slightly variable gender preference/identity wiring, perhaps to the one that wires brains female and gay male similarly and straight men differently. There may be subtle wirings of emotions and amygdala that trigger these differences, moreover, there may be wiring shifts that change when the identity switch is believed that distinctly alters gender identity.

            Add to the mix Pylyshyn-Fodors Minds without Meaning. Which suggest that constructs of minds have no meaning. They’re in the brain and beyond reach, yet they stand as the differentiation from the primate basis for thought. What this means is quite literally there may not be meaning in the constructs of minds. Yet in counter to this comes neuroscience to suggest beliefs in gender status and sexual preference may be varied by wiring schemas in the brain. They may be real, and may be the only real differentiation in how we perceive, a functional source of meaning. While the rest of our consciousness conjure concepts and beyond we are able to share across the various gender variations.

            In any case, the article is simply too simplistic. That’s why it’s anon.

  14. Asenath Waite says

    Both of those ideas are wrong, of course. There are strong average mental differences between men and women that certainly affect career choices and aptitude on a population level, but the differences are not so universal as to be a legitimate basis for defining individuals as men or women, as there is a large degree of overlap in personality traits between members of both sexes.

    The transgender situation poses a unique problem because it’s impossible to adopt a live-and-let-live attitude towards it. I’m fine with people dressing and behaving in whatever ways make them happy, just as I’m fine with people sleeping with and marrying whomever they want. However, unlike the case for homosexuality where it is simply a matter of accepting people’s lifestyle choices, to be accepting of transgender people one is required to actively endorse an illogical belief system. It’s not enough for me to say that I’m completely fine with a man wearing a dress if he wants to. I’m required to believe that the man is actually a woman, even though this concept seems nonsensical to me, and it’s an act of cruelty on my part if I don’t express this belief. Furthermore, because of the pronoun issue it is very difficult to even discuss the topic without actively taking a side. It’s impossible to be polite to a transgender person without endorsing their belief system through the use of their preferred pronouns. It’s sort of like if one were required to state that there is no God but Allah, and Mohammad is His prophet before beginning a conversation with a Muslim person or you would be considered to be a hateful islamophobe and the conversation would not be allowed to continue.

    Also, under the currently popular definition of gender, vaguely referring to the societal norms associated with the sexes, there are infinite genders and everyone who has ever lived is non-binary since no one has ever conformed absolutely 100 percent to all gender stereotypes for their sex. As such, it seems like an inefficient basis for trying to label and categorize people. It seems easier and more logical just to use biological sex for that purpose, while accepting that people of either sex should not be required to conform to gender norms.

    • “To name is to know, to know is to control” Paglia, Sexual Personae

      You guys are creepy. The collective you have lost all sense of awe for unique humans and I, as an old white queer, feel you would dissect our brains whilst in our heads like Hannibal Lechter.

      • Asenath Waite says

        @Vicki Heal

        It’s creepy to want to not be condemned for viewing the world in a rational way?

  15. Andrew Roman says

    There is much confusion and needless dispute created by the ambiguous use of the words “sex” and “gender”. They are quite distinct concepts, and should not be used as synonyms or as having overlapping meanings.

    The author wrote that some transgender men have even sought admission to women-only spaces. Several years ago I saw this when I was retained as a lawyer defending the owner of a women-only gym (with one big, open shower room and locker room) against the accusation by a pre-operation transgender man of unlawful discrimination, in a legal proceeding before the Ontario Human Rights Commission. My client had refused him membership in the gym because his women clients strongly objected to it. As I knew nothing about the subject at the time I retained an expert to advise me. She had completed hormone therapy and a sex change operation, and was now a successful woman athlete, transgender consultant and advocate. She advised me to understand clearly the difference between sex and gender, explaining it this way: “Your sex is what you have between your legs. Your gender is what you have between your ears.” With this understanding, I could see how a person can have an internal conflict between their sex and their gender.

    Some persons with this conflict may choose to live with it, while others may wish to change their sex to be the same as their gender. Also, some persons may be gender fluid, unwilling or unable to decide at a particular time whether they are primarily one gender or the other, and this fluidity may continue or may end in a decision. Whatever the person’s sex or gender situation at any time, I agree with the author that they should be treated with respect and free from unlawful discrimination on the basis of either sex or gender. (I won’t try to define in this short comment what is or should be unlawful discrimination because that is a large topic.)

    Finally, I would suggest that the author stop using the word “narrative” repeatedly to describe a number of different things. Sometimes it is a written document for a specific purpose (such as a thesis or a job application); other times, an oral discussion of a friendly nature; or an accusation; or advocacy on one side or another of a sex or gender debate; or a communication full of anger or hatred. Sometimes the author is discussing communication from one or more individuals, at other times a discussion in society at large. Describing all of these functionally and emotionally different communications as a “narrative” obscures the nature and intention of the communication, and the author’s reaction to it. Unless there is a compelling need to be vague about both the surface message and the meta-message, as well as the emotional context, please be clear. It will help both our understanding and yours.

    • Asenath Waite says

      @Andrew Roman

      From your account I can’t tell if the person wanting to use the gym was a biological male or female. I’d guess male based on context, but “transgender man” is usually supposed to refer to a biological female who identifies as a man.

      “Sex” and “gender” were used synonymously until very recently. Technically “gender” is a grammatical term that basically just means “category”, but it was used as a synonym for “sex” throughout the 20th century, as “sex” became used more often to mean “sexual intercourse”. The widespread idea that the two terms have very distinct meanings is pretty much a 21st century development.

      The idea that “your sex is what you have between your legs” and “your gender is what you have between your ears” presupposes that all men have something completely different between their ears than all women, which is false. There is not a set of personality traits that can serve to define an individual as a man or woman. This is a fundamentally flawed (and highly regressive) concept.

      Glad to hear of another successful transgender woman athlete! I have a feeling this group is really going to make its mark on the world of women’s sports!

      • Andrew Roman says

        The person wanting to use the gym was tall, masculine in appearance and had a penis and testicles. However, he wished to become a woman.

        I am glad that at last, in this century, we have a vocabulary that distinguished between sex and gender.

        I don’t think the idea that “your gender is what you have between your ears” is necessarily limited to a binary choice, or that it assumes that all men have something different between their ears than all women. That is why the word “your” is important. You (i.e. anyone, not everyone) may have any kind or degree of gender identity, which may be similar to or different from the genital and other biological sex characteristics of either sex. There is no assumption of universality.

        • Asenath Waite says

          @Andrew Roman

          “I don’t think the idea that “your gender is what you have between your ears” is necessarily limited to a binary choice, or that it assumes that all men have something different between their ears than all women. That is why the word “your” is important. You (i.e. anyone, not everyone) may have any kind or degree of gender identity, which may be similar to or different from the genital and other biological sex characteristics of either sex. There is no assumption of universality.”

          The problem with this thinking is that people are applying the binary terms “man” and “woman” to this extremely vague concept of a gender spectrum. Either gender is a spectrum (which it is by your definition) or it is binary, which would be required in order to apply binary terms to the concept. It doesn’t work logically to try to have it both ways. What is the problem with leaving the binary terms “man” and “woman” as applying to sex (which is actually binary) while not attempting to categorize and label the infinite (and therefore unsuited to to discrete categorizations) permutations of “gender?” If “man” and “woman” apply to gender rather than sex, by your definition of gender, no one is a man or a woman but rather everyone is an amalgam of both, rendering the terms essentially useless.

          • Andrew Roman says

            I agree that it is difficult or inapt to use “man” or “woman” along a gender spectrum, and likewise “male” and “female”, as these are binary, not spectral concepts. However, I don’t find the concept of gender to be vague. I find it to be a highly variable concept, one of degree between two poles which might for convenience be labelled “masculine” and “feminine”.

            If we don’t use these words, how should we characterize the stories we see on TV of parents saying that since the age of 4 their now adult son wanted to play with dolls and wear his hair like the girls and dress in dresses because in his mind he was a girl — in a boy’s body. Where the mind is in conflict with the body we can readily label the body as either man or woman, male or female, but how do we label the mind, what’s between his ears?

            Don’t most of us have a masculine side and a feminine side? If so, we may be 80% one and 20% the other most of the time, but maybe not 100% of either side. That should give most people no gender versus sex conflicts in their identities as long as these percentages don’t vary largely.

            A small percentage of the population may have an 80% feminine side in a man’s body. If we don’t call this a feminine gender identity, what should we call it?

  16. Burlats de Montaigne says

    ” Just what was ‘race’ before we introduced the concept of ‘race’ and ‘tribe’ (both are from dominant systems labelling others).”
    Although you might have a bias against the use of those particular expressions, for whatever reason, they do serve a useful purpose and to disregard them because they might be perceived somehow to be “toxic” seems to be dancing about with semantics.. For ‘race’ one might substitute ‘ethnic grouping’. For ‘tribe’ perhaps ‘clan’ is more acceptable? Both these categories exist today and have existed far back into mankind’s history. Objecting to the way they are expressed doesn’t really contribute anything positive to their examination.

  17. I never labeled them as “toxic”, merely implied they were never applicable as concepts or labels.

    I’ll put it even simpler: Bias, conflict and domination are the germane issues, not ‘race’, gender or identity. Use the latter grouping and you’re bound to be stuck on the left OR the right, not in an aware Venn.

    • Montaigne

      Tribe is not clan. They’re not even close. And if you study the history of the word tribe (I recommend Mallory’s Proto Indo-European), the earliest cities called ANYONE outside city walls ‘barbarians’, members of a ‘tribe’, so you see the inherent dichotomy in using either word is built on geographic bias, which then obviously leads to all other biases.
      Go learn up, tis time.

      • Burlats de Montaigne says

        Notwithstanding your tiresome pedantry, the units of people or the nouns used to describe them have no bearing on the study thereof. You are mixing a philosophical judgement with a scientific observation. It is a category error. No one cares whether you call it a ‘clan’ or a ‘tribe’ or whatever. It is as pointless as questioning whether the amoeba ‘minds’ being called an amoeba.The description does not circumscribe the study. It makes no difference.
        BTW, this seems to be something of a hobby horse with you, as far as I can tell. You are paddling in the very shallow end of interesting debate but…. whatever floats your leaky boat I suppose.

        • Of course the labels/categories have bearing because calling anyone a member of a tribe places the speaker in the dominant role, and dominance is at the center of debates on archetypes and stereotypes, whether they are skin-color/appearance in nature or gender. Are you a member of a tribe?

          Using a Frege like argument whether an amoeba has a ‘mind’ to ‘mind’ things with is proof of your levels of misdirection.

    • Wait, what? 1) the argument for the dichotomy of left and right is in Hitlers first national election victory. You want 10 viable nuanced political parties? You seem like a smart mathematical type – what % of the small % of US citizens that bother to vote would be necessary to elevate a true fascist nutjob to the Presidency then?

      2) proposed: these distinctions are finessed by controlling asswipes that won’t and can’t just let people be – which accounts for unrivaled genuis in the arts from 350+ years ago like Bach – who I propose you idiots would have harassed, studied, diagnosed and medicated into banality.

  18. The fact that the author used a pseudonym, even though he/she is a tenured professor, tells us everything we need to know about this subject. The article is spot on but the use of Schrodinger as a symbol, while clever and witty, fails to address what is actually going on. Schrodinger’s cat stems from science–he was describing a phenomenon he observed and hypothesized this – playfully – as a way of describing the facts and numbers.

    The hysteria- and irrational- driven gender movement, on the other hand, stems NOT from science at all. It is anti science. It is anti fact. There is no science that supports it, it drives away any science that even remotely threatens it (eg at Brown) and its core motivation is not to rigorously use observable data or math to describe reality but instead to invent a narrative and then impose it by force through threats, intimidation, fear, and shame, on everyone else. The fact that it argues two contradictory things at once is a symptom of its irrationality, not its science.

    • You don’t comprehend sexual dimorphism and adaptation. Go back to school.

      • TarsTarkas says

        Your response to ‘D’ seems to be a nonsequitur. I can’t see how you can refute his second paragraph. When pseudonyms have to be used in on-line discussions, it’s a clue that hate and hysteria have taken over the conversation.

        I tried but failed to find anything on-line by Johan Lauwereyns pertinent to your various responses. Can you be so kind as to provide a link?

          • Ray Andrews says

            Na, his putting on of airs is bothersome, but he does have something to say. Ignore the pretension and focus on the signal.

        • You can’t unless you read his book from MIT.

          The response to D was to his second paragraph: “The hysteria- and irrational- driven gender movement, on the other hand, stems NOT from science at all. It is anti science. It is anti fact.”

          You really don’t see the issue of gender wars and sexual dimorphism? If that’s true you’re slumbering.

          I have no beefs with anonymous writing.

      • Peter from Oz says

        This isn’t about sexual dimorphism or adaptation. It’s about activists using bullying tactics to stop others seeking knowledge.

        • The examples used to exemplify “others seeking knowledge” are failures of research, so therefore, this article is hysterically trying to convince us that a treasure of underground research made by heroic outliers will continue away from the watchful eyes of a big-brother leftist cabal. Nothing of the sort, champ.

          I’ll repost here and explain to you why the examples proffered as examples of “activists using bullying tactics” are really peers who were shocked by lax approaches to complex issues.

          ‘The Brown study is behavioral. Do you know the work of behavioral science, it is riddled with studies gone bad and generalizations made from remarkably similar occurrences that were guaranteed by mistake. The study, from reading its premise and its conclusions, was pulled most likely because it’s sample size was too small to prove anything.

          As for the transracial philosopher, the idea is great, the framing is terrible. I don’t quite think the functional parts of the states of gender and ethnicity are at all similar (having studied gender and brain and ethnicity and identity). So the framework from a basic level is either unwarranted or worse, the wrong way. (Had she used ethnicity instead of race, she would have started a new tangent, but by using the Gobineauist euro liberal concept of race, however accepted, adopted into modern culture as a frame of identity that organizes ethnicities into larger, vast groups, it retains its colonialist, European idea of identity as punishment somewhere in its perception.) How do we get beyond the ideas of domination through ethnic and now racial frames is a mystery. Until we start grappling with the paradoxes inherent in race and the phenomenon that is ethnicity, we will be little children stuck with barriers to meaning along numerous borders resulting in futile conflict. (see The Ethnic Phenomenon). It is apparent from the establishment of racial identity on top of ethnicity in the 1700s, the question really is if racial groups prefer to control over who can chosen to be called in their name, then what are racial groups? Maybe one might think this very strange, but applying the distinction may be backfiring on Europeans. What was began as a labelling separation for domination, has become identity that is starting to rival gender. Europe, people like Gobineau basically started the identity wars and we’re here to finish them, continue them, who knows.

      • I know, but it’s good practice cause I meet a lot of lab rats in teaching situations. This is a site for lemmings.

  19. btw tribe is not clan. They’re not even close. And if you study the history of the word tribe (I recommend Mallory’s Proto Indo-European), the earliest cities called ANYONE outside city walls ‘barbarians’, members of a ‘tribe’, so you see the inherent dichotomy in using either word is built on geographic bias, which then obviously leads to all other biases.

    Go learn up, tis time.

    • Burlats de Montaigne says

      “You really don’t see the issue of gender wars”

      Cat out of bag time. Gender studies ingénue schools the world… again!

      • That’s characterization, not argumentation. Doesn’t hold.

  20. rusty shacklefjord says

    New to this site, articles are very good.
    Comments are closed but, I had to say ….while I’m very sorry that Barrett Wilson was
    black-listed and the subsequent pain his family is experienceing, he should have known better.
    That “SJW- greivance- mob- hysteria” is just an old-fashioned “purity test” and it always ends the same way. Every. Single. Time.

  21. ccscientist says

    Good thing the author uses a fake name. Dangerous territory.
    The view that all male/female differences are simply due to social conditioning can be refuted in another way. 1) All societies, even those isolated from the world like the mountains of New Guinea, agree on the basics of maleness and femaleness. 2) Parents and schools try to instill many things into children, such as get good grades, stay out of jail, don’t marry a deadbeat, don’t get tattoos, stay in our church, brush your teeth–and fail miserably at a high rate. Yet it is presumed that they succeed almost 100% in gender socialization? Preposterous.

    • They all have their freaks and queer peculiars too – dissecting our brains while we are alive is a specialty peculiar to you brainiacs/religious fanatics/macabre social engineers though

  22. jonfrum says

    The inmates aren’t just running the asylum, they’ve escaped, and they’re running our istitutions as well.

  23. Joe B. says

    I think this article actually represents the Academic Monoculture of STEM thinkers more than it says anything interesting about sex/gender. There’s an area I wish Quillette would take on: STEM people subverting social sciences because they question what they don’t know and are incredibly uncomfortable being under-informed in a conversation.

    I’ve worked in education at medical schools for a decade and this is pervasive. Neuroscience is a young and fledgling field compared to psychology and sociology. Right now these scientists promise us the answers to everything but they are likely to go the way of geneticists – doing important work that’s not nearly as impactful as they once promised. In fact, we now know that the vast majority of a person’s biological life is actually impacted by other things -including social factors.

    This is a long-winded, circuitous, and virtually empty thought by a STEM Monoculture thinker on a social science topic. I can’t even tell what the point is really…that you can counter a thought with another thought but arrive at the same ‘common sense’ conclusion others did? I just don’t see a strong thesis stated or proven here. This is not intellectualism, it’s a rant.

    • Joe B. says

      And also, what the author is talking about is CULTURE. It’s torturous to read this because they are so obviously avoiding that word, despite its very clear basis and impact in science – just not neuroscience.

    • Joe B.

      Are you really this simplistic?

      You’re approaching this too simplistically. STEM is never one big grouping that adheres in ANY way functionally. It is NEVER monoculture. The writer of this piece PROVES this by using obviously an applied engineering perspective with which to debate a psychologically relevant topic.

      An applied engineer a mathematician, a physicist, a behavioral psychologist, a neuroscientist are all employing VASTLY different standards to their research.

      Add to that doctors ARE NOT SCIENTISTS, they will ALL admit this. If they have an MD they are practitioners. They are not looking for answers they are looking for solutions to prolong life. If a novel problem comes along, their job is not to apply the scientific method, but to statistically fetter out what it is not to try and isolate a solution.

      Research scientists PhDs with MDs are also distinct. Yet if they treat patients in hospital setting they are STILL practitioners. ONLY in the case of specific research studies and medical testing do MDs ever switch from practitioner to scientist.

  24. An insightful article. My position on gender studies is that once one is studing the human, regardless of the field or branch, it must be premised first on acceptance of the equality of us all as humans and then on our ignorance of the full spectrum of the endeavour and then on a sincere desire to understand without moral judgement. It is not our physical presentation that lessens our humanity, whatever its origin.

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