Psychology, recent, Sex
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Gender’s Journey from Sex to Psychology: A Brief History

There’s no relief from our current cultural conversation on transgender rights. Its implications touch all of us, and the media coverage is relentless. Here at Quillette alone, you may read about the long-term consequences of transitioning for children, the political costs of deadnaming, Twitter’s policies on “hateful conduct” (including tweeting things like “men aren’t women”), the controversy surrounding trans women competing in female sports events, and the widening chasm between trans-inclusive feminists and trans-exclusive “radical” feminists.

Surrounded by this whirlwind, I thought it would be useful to provide a historical meta-survey on the issue, tracing the debate back to its origins, so that we all might be better positioned to digest the next news cycle. Below, you’ll find a brief history of our culture’s “gender” talk: its origins, its philosophical evolution, and its current controversies. Gender as we’ve come to understand it, I will argue, is an idea so shot through with murky confusion. We will soon have to replace it with something more intellectually durable, or abandon it altogether.

* * *

Once upon a time, everyone believed that humans are sexually dimorphic, coming in two sexes: male and female. Of course, we also knew about biologically intersex people—who exhibit rare variations in sex characteristics, and so don’t fit neatly into either category. But, just as it’s true to say that humans have ten fingers, even though a few are born with more or fewer, and just as we distinguish between day and night despite the shades of dusk and dawn, we accepted the idea that humans come in two sexes, despite the reality of intersex individuals.

In that simpler time, we also believed that males and females can be children or adults. When human males and females are children, they’re boys and girls. When they’re adults, they’re men and women. We used man and woman to track the distinction between adult males and adult females in our species, just as we do with other species: doe and buck, rooster and hen, sow and boar, cow and bull, etc. You’ll still find these sex-based definitions of man and woman in most dictionaries. For example, the Oxford English Dictionary’s first three senses of woman refer to adult female humans, and similarly for man. The OED tells us that the word woman comes from the Old English word wīfmann, meaning “female human”: wīf (which meant female, not wife) modifying mann (which meant human, generically). Let’s call this “the Traditional View” of manhood and womanhood: they’re rooted in biological sex.

Things began to change in the middle of the 20th century, when psychologists and philosophers proposed a distinction between sex and what they called “gender.” (A classic text here is psychologist John Money’s 1955 article, Hermaphroditism, gender and precocity in hyperadrenocorticism: Psychologic findings.) The term gender they borrowed from linguistics, and stipulated that it refers to something other than sex—typically the social features of life as a male or female (i.e., the socially learned rules and roles that a culture associates with biological sex). Boys wear blue, girls wear pink, and so forth.

For psychologists, the benefit of this distinction was that it allowed the emergence of a vocabulary to describe people we now call “gender nonconforming,” and people who experience what we now call “gender dysphoria.” To be gender nonconforming, back when this language was emerging, was to be of one biological sex, and yet to fail to behave in a manner typical of that sex. To experience gender dysphoria was to be of one biological sex, and yet to have a sincere belief that one was “meant to be” the opposite sex, or to have a deep-seated desire to be of the opposite sex. Trans author Julia Serano, author of the 2007 book Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity, puts it this way: Trans people “struggle with a subconscious understanding or intuition that there is something ‘wrong’ with the sex they were assigned at birth and/or who feel that they should have been born as or wish they could be the other sex.” More recently, trans writer Andrea Long Chu (author of On Liking Women) described it as follows: “I am trying to tell you something that few of us dare to talk about, especially in public, especially when we are trying to feel political: not the fact, boringly obvious to those of us living it, that many trans women wish they were cis women, but the darker, more difficult fact that many trans women wish they were women, period.”

The sex/gender distinction also helped philosophers speak about (and combat) unjust social norms and conventions that systematically oppress the female sex, as well as biological essentialism, the view that these social norms are justified by biology. As early as 1949, Simone de Beauvoir argued in her book The Second Sex that females are socialized by their former masters (men) to be, as she wrote, “‘truly feminine’—that is, frivolous, infantile, irresponsible: the submissive woman.” And this is unjust. But before one can confront an injustice, one must name the injustice. For that task, we used the word “gender.”

Then, a subtle but important shift happened. Philosophers began to speak as though the ordinary terms we were swapping out for this new category of gender were not merely masculine and feminine, but in fact our familiar terms man and woman. This traces back at least as far as de Beauvoir’s famous dictum that “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” Note the use of “woman,” rather than “womanly” or “feminine.” This practice spread, and became the industry standard: Male and female remained sex terms (rooted in biology), but man and woman became gender terms (and therefore socially constructed). By 2012, feminist philosopher Jennifer Saul wrote that it had become traditional for feminist academics to use the word woman “as a gender term—a term that picks out those who have certain social traits or who occupy a particular social role.”

It was a minor grammatical move, but it had deep implications for our understanding of manhood and womanhood. If “gender” is defined in terms of social rules and roles, and man and woman are gender terms, then manhood and womanhood are no longer defined even partly in terms of sex, as they were with the Traditional View. They become “social constructions,” as philosophers say, like touchdowns and Texas: determined not by physical reality, but by us, our social realities and conventions. On this line of thinking, according to prominent feminist philosopher Sally Haslanger, a woman is defined as “a member of a social class whose unifying feature is social subordination based on one’s presumed or perceived female biological role in reproduction.” That is, she occupies a certain position in society—oppressed—and she does this because she “presents” or is “read” as female, not necessarily because she is biologically female. Likewise, “man” refers to those who are privileged because they’re observed or imagined to be male. Let’s call this “the Social-Role View” of manhood and womanhood, which is distinct from the Traditional View: women and men are not defined in terms of biological sex, but in terms of social positions of oppression and privilege.

It was in the context of this Social-Role View that much of our language for gender dysphoria was developed. Imagine lining people up by biological sex: a spectrum from clearly male on the left to clearly female on the right. And now imagine the Social-Role theorist lining everyone up along the gender dimension: the most privileged men on the left, through to the most oppressed women on the right. To take myself as an example, I would find myself toward the left side in both of these line-ups: a male, and a man. My wife would find herself toward the right side in both line-ups: a female, and a woman. Others would find themselves on opposite sides of each dimension. Now, borrowing the Latin prefixes cis (on the same side of) and trans (across), a distinction emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s as between those male/men and female/women who would be on the same side of these two line-ups—“cis-gender”—and those female/men and male/women who would be on opposite sides of these two line-ups—“transgender.” (The term “transgender” originated in a 1968 article by John Oliven, Sexual Hygiene and Pathology. But the term cis wasn’t coined until many years later, by Volkmar Sigusch.)

Adopting this view of sex and gender allowed the acceptance of transgender people as individuals who genuinely are the gender they take themselves to be—with, one hopes, a consequent reduction in oppression, bullying and medical pathologizing. This was a quantum leap for trans rights (as we now would call them), as it had been common, even in enlightened circles, to dismiss trans individuals as deluded or fetishists, or “evil deceivers and make-believers,” as trans philosopher Talia Mae Bettcher put it. It also was hoped that trans people would be able to pursue more authentic forms of self-identification, which the rest of us would support through, for instance, use of their preferred pronouns. The underlying motivation was to combat oppression based on sex, as well as the oppression of and violence toward trans individuals.

So far, so good. But now we come to perhaps the most interesting twist in the story. In the last few decades, a rival view has emerged. It began with the observation that, on the Social-Role View of gender, not all trans people will count as the gender they take themselves to be. As feminist philosopher Katharine Jenkins pointed out in her 2016 article Amelioration and Inclusion, some trans people who take themselves to be women, for example, either may not intentionally present as female, or they may not be read as female by others. In either case, they could not be oppressed on the basis of being female. Because the Social-Role View ties womanhood to oppression on the basis of being female, if a transgender woman isn’t oppressed for being female, she would not count as a woman on the Social-Role View. The same goes (in reverse) for transgender men. So the concern emerged that the Social-Role View fails to respect the self-identification of many trans people, and therefore is “trans-exclusive.”

And so we reached a turning point in the evolution of “gender.” Originally, the Social-Role View of gender had an underlying appeal for trans-rights advocates, because the view defined gender socially, and not biologically. It decoupled gender from biological sex, and the hope was to locate trans individuals in this conceptual space. However, it began to look like this space did not have the right shape to include all trans people after all. And thus a rift opened between feminists who liked the Social-Role View, and feminists who wanted a fully trans-inclusive view of gender. The latter decided that a satisfactory resolution could be reached only if the sex/gender distinction were collapsed altogether. Which, among progressive intellectuals, at least, is exactly what now is happening.

In this more radical conception—which splits into variants that I call the  Self-Identification View and the Norm-Relevancy View—Caitlyn Jenner isn’t merely a woman, but actually female as well. And she’s a female in virtue of something psychological, not something social or biological. If you remain attached to the view that women are females playing certain social roles, then since Caitlyn Jenner is actually female on this emerging psychological view, and there’s no barrier to her playing the right sort of social role to be a woman. Problem solved.

This reunion of sex and gender arguably began in Judith Butler’s 1990 book Gender Trouble, when she asked: “Are the ostensibly natural facts of sex discursively produced by various scientific discourses in the service of other political and social interests?” Her answer: “If the immutable character of sex is contested, perhaps this construct called ‘sex’ is as culturally constructed as gender; indeed, perhaps it was always already gender, with the consequence that the distinction between sex and gender turns out to be no distinction at all.”

According to this framework, what unites women—and, thereby, adult human females, in a revisionary sense of “female”—is nothing biological, nor social, but rather something psychological: a female “gender identity,” as it’s called. As trans activist Miss Spain recently put it in December’s Miss Universe contest, “I always say: having a vagina didn’t transform me into a woman. I am a woman, already before birth, because my identity is here,” she said while gesturing skull-ward.

As noted above, the two main versions of this are the Self-Identification View and the Norm-Relevancy View. You’ll find the first variant all over popular culture, and also set out explicitly in Talia Mae Bettcher’s 2017 article Through the Looking Glass. According to this Self-Identification View, the single necessary and sufficient condition of being a woman/female is to identify as a woman/female. As for the second psychologically-based view of sex/gender—the Norm-Relevancy View—it is well-described in the work of Katharine Jenkins, who has argued that to be a woman/female is to have the sense that norms about women/females are relevant to one’s own life, even if one does not abide by those norms. And similarly for men/males.

Recall that, originally, the terms trans and cis were introduced in the context of a sex/gender distinction. If that distinction is collapsed, what becomes of trans and cis? The answer may ring a bell. Instead of distinguishing between gender and biological sex as we once did, we distinguish now between gender/sex on the one hand, and sex assigned at birth, on the other. According to either of these psychological conceptions of sex and gender, one now can claim to be, for example, a transgender woman, without implying that one is now or was ever a member of the male sex. One was merely assigned male at birth—but the doctor was wrong. Sex is gender, and gender is in your head, not between your legs. And so doctors are essentially just guessing when they declare babies to be boys or girls, needlessly engaging in psychological forecasting. To be cis is to be on the same side of the sex/gender line-up and the sex-assigned-at-birth line up, and to be trans is to be on opposite sides of those line-ups.

Before we wrap up the history lesson, let’s quickly point out an important implication of the Self-Identification View and the Norm-Relevancy View, an implication which is working itself out as we speak. On these views, sex and gender now reside in the kaleidoscopic world of human psychology, as opposed to the dimorphic world of sexual biology. And there is no theoretical limit on the number of ways in which one might self-identify, or the combination of norms one might sense to be relevant to oneself. So, as “nonbinary” philosopher Robin Dembroff recently put it in The Nonbinary Gender Trap, “the scope of gender identities outside of male and female is vast and effectively unlimited.” This is what lies behind recent conversations about the number and types of novel gender identities, which have multiplied with all possible haste. (Google “tumblr gender master list” to read about colorgender, vapogender, and many others.) This proliferation of gender identities also explains the more recent use of “trans” to mean simply non-cis. One is trans, on the current usage, so long as one’s gender identity (of which there are, according to the Tumblr list, at least 117) does not match the sex one was assigned at birth.

To reiterate: On these psychologically-based views, trans individuals are not merely the gender that they take themselves to be, but also the actual sex they take themselves to be. And this is the origin of recent controversies over whether it is “transphobic” for, say, a lesbian to refuse to date a trans woman. If an adult human who was spuriously assigned a male identity at birth can genuinely be female through and through, and lesbians claim to be attracted to females, what reason could that lesbian have for her choosiness except bigotry and transphobia? Since many lesbians understandably disagree with such logic, and likewise with many gay men, this has become a major fault line separating the “LG” and “T” elements of the LGBT+ community.

This “lesbian erasure” by trans women is what many women have been protesting at the London Pride Parade and other such events. According to the shorthand used to describe this civil war within feminism, “Radical Feminists” or “Gender-Critical Feminists” on one hand are pitted against “Transfeminists” on the other. The former typically advocate a trans-exclusive Social-Role view of gender (and are sometimes denounced as “TERFs”—trans-exclusive radical feminists—which they consider a slur), while the latter advocate the ascendant trans-inclusive psychological accounts of sex/gender.

That brings us to the present day. What does the future hold for sex and gender? I believe the emerging consensus on gender is so deeply flawed that it won’t be long before the tread wears thin and it fails, stranding its adherents in a conceptual limbo. Best to plan ahead.

* * *

The Self-Identification View is appealing because it respects individual autonomy. But it also has, at its core, a serious definitional problem. It is circular: What is a woman? It’s someone who identifies as… a woman. We’ve used the word to be defined in the definition itself. It would be like if you were wondering what an ultracrepidarian is, and I inform you that it’s anyone who identifies as an ultracrepidarian. But that’s about as useful as a decaf coffee. If you don’t already understand the word, the definition is no help. It would be like if your math teacher asked you to solve for x, and you applied the equation x = x. It’s a true statement, but it doesn’t really tell us what x is.

Unfortunately, any attempt to fix this circularity results in definitions of womanhood (or manhood) that leave out some part of the class of people whom Self-Identification proponents seek to include. For example, if you say that to identify as a woman/female is to identify as biologically female—i.e. as someone with some or all of a cluster of features such as XX chromosomes, physiological features oriented toward childbearing, certain hormone levels, etc.—then we’ll exclude trans women. If you say that to identify as a woman/female is to identify as someone who has a unique sort of internal, ineffable feeling of femininity, then, again, women who lack this feeling (whatever it is) will be excluded. (Plus, this option looks like we’re simply plugging in antiquated stereotypical assumptions about what it means to be a boy, girl, man or woman—liking trucks instead of dolls, preferring blue to pink, or vice versa. This move understandably causes some Gender-Critical feminists to protest that old-fashioned gender stereotypes are being brought back into public discourse through the back door of trans activism.)  Or if you say that to identify as a woman/female is to identify as someone who is oppressed as a result of being observed or imagined to be biologically female, then, again, you will exclude or marginalize many trans women, since, as discussed above, many trans women fall outside the Social-Role View definition of women.

The Norm-Relevancy View has a similar problem of circularity. Recall that, on this view, to be a woman/female is to take enough of the right sort of gender rules to be relevant to you, to be about you. But which gender rules are “the right sort”? Presumably, the norms about women/females. But then, as before, we’ve used the word to be defined in the definition itself, which makes the definition literally unintelligible. And, as with the Self-Identification View, any attempt to patch this problem will result in the exclusion or marginalization of many trans women.

* * *

Finally, I’d like to point out two problems with the broader project of intentionally revising our gender concepts for the sake of social justice: it’s logically incoherent, and it’s impossible to complete (at least, in a trans-inclusive way).

When philosophers abandoned the Traditional View of manhood and womanhood to propose novel definitions of man and woman, a major part of the justification was that we needed to advance the cause of feminism. The project philosophers have undertaken was to set aside our ordinary, traditional concepts of manhood and womanhood and then reflect upon possible new, revisionary definitions of woman and man that would best advance this cause.

But, first, by knowingly departing from ordinary linguistic usage—i.e., by consciously abandoning the standard use of the terms man and woman—these philosophers introduce new concepts rather than modifying shared ones. It has been a revisionary project, which has necessarily polluted our discussions about human identity with ambiguity, thus causing people to talk past one another. It’s like when we use old names to dub new cities. “Are you going to London?” means one thing in Ontario, Canada, and something quite different elsewhere: That one word now has multiple meanings. Similarly, if you know full well that “womanhood” is used to refer to the state of being an adult human female, but you decide to use the word “womanhood” to refer to a social role or a certain kind of psychological state, then you have changed the subject. You’re no longer talking about womanhood, but something different, and you cannot reasonably criticize those who say “Caitlyn Jenner is not a woman” on the grounds that what they’ve said is false.

Thus the current cultural impasse, whereby the elites who exist within the same circles as philosophy professors—university administrators, human-rights officials, activists, high-end journalists and publishers—use the English language in a way that strikes others as obfuscatory at best. More importantly, since those engaged in this revisionary project explicitly intend not to change the subject, but rather to continue talking about men and women as we have for millennia, this project is logically incoherent. It has a contradiction in its core. One simply cannot both stay on topic while also intentionally revising the relevant concepts.

A second problem concerns circularity again. To engage in this project of gender revisionism, we’re meant to set aside the ordinary understanding of womanhood in order to reflect on advancing the cause of feminism. But, of course, in order to reflect on advancing the cause of feminism, surely we must know a thing or two about women. Feminism concerns the cause of women, after all.

So, we’re at a sticking point in the process, a gap in the method: How can we reflect on a cause when we’ve set aside our understanding of the very people who are supposedly the focus of our concern? We are asked to do the impossible, when we’re told to bracket off our understanding of womanhood, and then to choose the best definition of “woman” to advance the cause of feminism, i.e. the cause of women. The surprising fact of the matter is that feminism has become stalled in this “bracketing” stage, and contemporary feminism simply has no good answer to the question, “What is a woman?” What should be an easy question for a movement organized around the rights of women, has instead become a real brain-buster. This helps explain why, at some women’s events, it’s now taboo to talk about traditional female sexual-health topics, on the grounds that a male can also have a uterus or breasts. For example, saying “abortion is a women’s issue,” or wearing a vagina-themed hat to a women’s event, are both now considered transphobic, at least to those who have on-boarded this linguistic nihilism about “woman.” But if we don’t know what it means to be a woman then we don’t know what feminism is, and so we cannot complete the project of designing the best definition of “woman” to advance the cause of feminism. And, as discussed above, any attempt to patch this circularity problem will end up excluding some trans women. So, this revisionary gender project cannot be completed (at least, not in a trans-inclusive way).

That’s the current state of our ongoing gender conversation. Gender revisionists consider the Traditional View to be regressive, oppressive, and all-around toxic. The Traditional View does not count transgender women as (real) women, or transgender men as (real) men. So, even many ordinary rank-and-file modern progressives and centrists do not consider the Traditional View to be a live option. But the Social-Role View, which might have once seemed more progressive and enlightened, also seems to exclude many transgender people. That leaves more radically revisionary conceptions of gender—the Self-Identification View and the Norm-Relevancy View—which necessarily change the subject, leading to merely verbal disputes, and also suffer from circularity problems, which threaten to make them either unintelligible or trans-exclusive. In the process, we’ve lost all grip on what it means to be a woman, and so the entire project of feminism has collapsed into philosophical confusion. This is worth publicizing.

It’s hard to see how this situation will resolve itself, and which way the pendulum is swinging. Perhaps we’ll return to the Traditional View of sex and gender, and focus on reducing oppression and violence, but without revising our concepts, as we do with discrimination on the basis of race, age, religion, disability status, etc. (Recent efforts toward transracialism and transageism aren’t exactly catching fire.) Or perhaps the revisionary process will carry forward like a landslide, and we’ll manage to find a non-circular definition of “woman” that includes the wide variety of people that trans-inclusive feminism wants to include: people all over the biological sex spectrum, the social-oppression spectrum, the feminine-masculine spectrum, and the sexual orientation spectrum.

Neither one of these options seems likely. If we’re taking bets, I’ll say this: Our society will sort this issue out far from the ivory tower. Down where the rubber meets the road, in the nitty gritty space of purely practical concerns about sports, bathrooms, prisons, women’s shelters, transphobic bullying, and assault, public opinion will likely settle on a philosophically muddled rapprochement.

There seems to be broad support for a biologically-based understanding of manhood and womanhood when it comes to sports, prisons, locker rooms, and the like. But, at the same time, there’s growing support and acceptance of transgender individuals—including with regard to the use of revisionary gender pronouns—and a rising opposition to policing gender norms through bullying, assault and medical pathologizing.

Absent some dramatic breakthrough or development, we’ll probably strike an unprincipled, incoherent compromise on this issue, as we do with other knotty social issues such as abortion, immigration and economic policy: stumbling like drunks, now to the right and now to the left, down a darkened road that has no end.

It will be messy. But, as we stumble together, let’s agree on this: The issue is more complicated than either side lets on. For those seeking truth in good faith, it’s exactly the wrong time to be shutting down the debate.

 

Tomas Bogardus is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Pepperdine University, specializing in metaphysics and epistemology.

Featured image: A Brazilian activist protests the appearance of philosopher Judith Butler at a conference in São Paulo, Brazil, 2017. 

110 Comments

  1. Alex P says

    Thank you for a thorough, intellectual, and well-written article, which is what I’ve mostly come to expect from Quillette.

    I was born in 1982, and up until about 2015 the definitions of the words female, male, man, woman, girl, and boy were simple. Female, woman, and girl referred to those with the reproductive system that produced eggs and allowed pregnancy. Male, man, and boy referred to those with the reproductive system that produced sperm. Nobody ever suggested otherwise. Likewise, the words gender and sex both referred to this division based on the reproductive system. The dictionary would confirm all of this, not that it was ever necessary since everyone agreed on it.

    Then one day I blinked and half the country was suddenly saying that all these words mean something vaguely defined about social roles or identity. Moreover, they were all pretending like this was obviously true and had always been true. Sometimes it’s worth taking a deep breath and reminding yourself that it’s not you who’s gone crazy.

    • ga gamba says

      I was born 8 years earlier, and throughout most of my life every form I ever completed offered either male or female to tick under the heading of sex. Anyone know when gender replaced sex on documents and at who’s behest? This transition appears to have been pulled off transparently to the general public, though, of course, such changes would have had to pass through a few levels of bureaucracy before the redesign was made and released into the wild.

      • Thank you, you’re article was excellent on the timeline, I studied psychology until 2001.,back then whilst we’d get the odd lecture on intersectionality, we were not downgraded for disregarding the text, providing we could provide an alternative text to support our argument

        Which was done on a large scale by all students.

        Today I don’t think students are educated enough (as opposed to indoctrinated) to successfully put forward an intelligent argument against what was being pre-proposed.

        The problem is much deeper. It literally goes back to kindergarten.

        What is taught? What is allowed ?

        The march through the institutions has successfully created a society where children are taught what is PC, by their daycare provider, and then their kindergarten teacher, teaches them the alphabet ect.

        But never fear, the education system will now allow you to matriculate without reading a book?

        Just write an essay on a TV programme. And then you get a loan for university.

        But now you get the chance to have a debt to go to university, that’s fine you still have the job you took at Kentucky when you were fourteen ????????

        But now you have a degree, and a debt, on the same money?

        And your parents are still “smoking crack”

        • Rev. Wazoo! says

          Unfortunately they aren’t just working for KFC, they’re working in the ever-growing Diversity Inclusion and Equity Depts. which have exploded from unis, and government agencies into your HR dept. and can get you fired pronto if you suggest such positions and their authority are bad ideas.

          It’s already gone further than whining, they have created the jobs with overbearing power to match their ambitions and it’s getting scary.

      • Shatterface says

        I used to tick ‘Yes, please’ under the sex box like every other boy.

        Now I discover that I was ‘assigned male at birth’. Apparently my sex existed in a quantum superposition until some bureaucrat arbitrarily ticked a box on my birth certificate – and should I disagree I can change my pronouns and call the police on anyone who disagrees that my penis is a girlcock.

    • Princess Underlove says

      Intellectual? Are you serious?

      The article starts with a dry, non-partisan recount of how our understanding of gender evolved and, for a moment, I was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t go into a manipulative tirade about John Money and David Reimer like right-wingers love to do nowadays, but towards the ends I started to see why. The non-partisan recount is just to soften the reader for the gaslighting at the end, where the author goes into confusing twists and turns in logic for the purpose of muddying what should be a very simple issue: gender norms are morally wrong, they are a construction of the patriarchy that oppresses and subjugates people for the benefit of cishet white males, end of story.

      Moving past the gender binary is ultimately a road away from patriarchy and from oppression, this is morally right and far more important than having a chain of claims that’s 100% impervious to logic tricks and muddying from right-wingers. After reading the whole thing, I ca only conclude that the author is trying to confuse the reader for the purpose of supporting gender supremacy, because fighting against the patriarchy is “just too complicated” according to him, so he is appealing to laziness and confusion to maintain patriarchal systems of oppression.

      • There are two sexes. I will not be forced to state the obvious genter lies that the LGBT movement is pushing. Your patriarchy and “opression” is a naked grab for power. The power to destroy those who do not agree with everything leftists say. Leftists are trying to create the new Master Race and the New Soviet Man, again. They are enemies of mankind.

        Orwell warned us of Newsspeak and the forced conformance that leftists use to subjugate the people forever.

        You and those like you trying to bully us into repeating lies like “that man is a woman”, are enemies of mankind. There is no patriarchy, but there sure as hell are neoMarxists who are more than ready to bathe the world in blood again like they were so wont to do in the 20th century.

      • Matthias Clock says

        Logical coherence matters. No one is helped by double think.

      • Martin Lawford says

        Would someone please pour a little dressing on this word salad?

      • Tony says

        I find it interesting that the vast majority of “transwomen” try to emulate the gender norms that you are claiming are morally wrong. They desire adhering to those norms to desperately, they will subject themselves to cross-sex hormones, electrolysis on unwanted body hair, up to and including amputation of their penis. They wear makeup, shave their legs and armpits and wear dresses to conform to traditional gender norms.

        If there are no gender norms, there is nothing for transpeople to “trans” to. And if there are no genders, there is nothing for feminists to fight for. This whole thing makes me want to grab a tub of popcorn and watch the fun with a huge smile on my face.

      • Moving past the gender binary is moving away from the reality that humans belong to a sexually dimorphic species and that this is also reflected in differences in character traits.

        We should recognise that men and women share many traits, that there is a distribution of every characteristic you can think of rather than a single typical male or female characteristic. We can treat with sympathy and respect anyone who claims to be living in the ‘wrong’ body although I am not clear this should be treated any differently from any other body dismorphia.

        What we should not do is pretend biological sex and gender are unrelated.

      • Þráinn Guðbjörnsson says

        Could you maybe explain what particular twists and turns in logic you object to? A circular reference is confusing while calling it out is elucidating and takes the debate further.

      • Carolyn Field says

        @Princess
        What do you mean by “Gender supremacy”? Do you mean sexual supremacy instead? Please explain.

    • Aristodemus says

      I felt like I wandered in from a parallel universe around 2015 when this happened. I’d been conditioned for 44 years to believe that “men” and “women” were terms that referred to adult male and female human beings. Overnight, it seemed, that changed, without a word of discussion or so much as a warning: a coup against the language by a tiny minority of the supposedly most marginalized and least powerful members of society. If you weren’t immediately and enthusiastically on board, well, that just showed what an ignorant bigot you were. Had you predicted the development even 5 years earlier, I believe you’d have been dismissed as a paranoid right wing loon.

      I had long been aware, of course, of people who weren’t happy about the sex they were born into, and who take pains to appear as members of the opposite sex, even to the point of surgically altering themselves. I fully supported, and still support, their right to do so. It’s a basic question of bodily autonomy. I was, and remain, happy to refer to them with the pronouns of their preference. It causes me no harm or even inconvenience to do so. (I’m far from sold on “xe,” “xir” and the like, however; its hard enough to remember people’s names, let alone at least 3 unique personal signifiers that you’re suppose to use spontaneously in reference to them. And, like the late great Ursula Le Guin, I find artificial pronouns dreary and annoying.)

      If the ladies are cool with males who identify as women in their restrooms, that’s their business. If females who identify as men want to shit in the same room as me, I couldn’t care less. I’m open to the idea of redefining “men” and “women” as categories of personal identification instead of biological sex (although I also happen to think that doing so still implicitly concedes at least half the biologically essentialist argument). I would leave it entirely up to women, as the physically weaker sex, whether to share their prisons and athletic competitions with transgendered women; I have no bitch in that fight.

      Where I must draw the line is at the indispensable concept of biological sex. It is real. It is a near-perfect binary. And it unalterably pervades the human body down to the last cell. Deny it and you’re denying reality. Reality will win.

  2. Thank you so much for writing this. I have been trying to explain something like this to friends and family but haven’t been able to properly articulate the kind of case laid out – that all of the paradigms have people they exclude and that we are all talking past one another constantly. The issue IS more complicated than most let on and I’m glad you wrote such a nuanced analysis.

    • Harbinger says

      …absolutely correct JJ. The fact that it’s more complicated than most let on, probably tells us that the whole alphabetty business is of no relevance whatsoever to most.

      • Stephanie says

        Is it actually more complicated than it seems, or have we let academics who have never done anything useful and suck on the public teat confuse a very simple concept?

        The traditional definition is obviously correct. The “problem” that it is trans-exclusive isn’t really a problem. They are their birth sex, no matter what superficial changes they make. We can specify that they have a particular mental condition if it is relevant (e.g. women taking testosterone shouldn’t compete against other women in sports), but there is no need whatsoever to tie ourselves in knots over an infinitesimal segment of the population.

  3. Kim David says

    The concept of “Children” is not that old, and the concept of “teenager” only started after World War 2. Now we have “tweens” and “millennials,” and “transgender” the vocabulary is expanding due to the individual having more importance now, and of course the technology changing all options.

    • ga gamba says

      Continuing with neologisms, it has been not only proposed but is actually used: front hole people. Sounds really primitive too, like it was created by genuine cavemen and cave front hole people, so we may socially construct the pretense it’s been with us since forever.

      Another upside, frontholers (I’m coining frontholer as the shorthand) will no longer have to deal with the pesky intrusion of man in their frontholey words that’s lead to the creation of alternatives womyn, wimmin, and the unpronounceable womxn as well as womban and womon. Alternatives the frontholers haven’t found unanimity using, creating headaches not only for frontholers, but men as well.

      I’m seeing only upsides.

      • Saw file says

        @gg
        You made me laugh so hard that I fell off my chair, prior to me weeping in pity for the future of frontholekind.
        😉

        • Ray Andrews says

          @Saw file

          At his best he can make the rest of the day endurable. One good belly-laugh and all the BS goes away for a little while. As the Buddha is supposed to have said: “You can laugh or you can cry, and you may as well laugh cuz it feels better.”

        • Rev. Wazoo! says

          Hilarious! But as frontholers also are backholers though not all backholers are frontholers, how about twoholers and oneholers? Admittedly, that might cause a little confusion when emblazoned on public bathroom doors…

      • Saw file says

        Can’t we all just unite together in the cause of harmony, using the universal commonality of our mutually shared agreement in the existence of our all encompassing human backholery?
        Or do we all simply say, “fk it! I just can’t give a sh*t anymore.”

        • Ray Andrews says

          @Saw file

          “Can’t we all just unite together in the cause of harmony”

          No, because the Warriors are in the business — literally the business — of selling discord. If harmony broke out, they’d have to get real jobs. Were Victimhood to finally go away, what would happen to the Grievance Studies people? They’d be out of work, wouldn’t they?

    • James Hamilton says

      Quite true. This individualising of our culture goes back at least 800 years when our society started to “buffer” (to use Charles Taylor’s term) individuals from the spiritual universe (by rejecting the notion of demons and spirits), onto buffering itself from each other physically and emotionally (we are far less intimate with each other than we were in say 1500-1600), and we now appear to be buffering ourselves from mutually agreed realities. So, your gender is both something you present and other people perceive. In the recent past people accepted that if they were men they would behave in a way that would broadly reflect what other people perceived as the gender norm. I believe this is rooted in biology, but you can’t ignore the social aspects – I’m Scottish and I wear a kilt to special occasions. Don’t you dare call it a skirt! What appears to be happening is that instead of referring to others as a source of reality, people are now able to ignore that reality if it doesn’t suit their outlook. Of course, we’ve always done this to some extent but it now appears to me that any incoherency is subjugated by personal preferences. We are extending our buffers past other individuals and going as far as reality itself.

      • James Hamilton says

        Having given it some further thought, I suspect it is not so much reality we are buffering ourselves from but the impact that other people’s opinions of us have on our perception of reality. I say this because trans people usually believe that their self-identified gender is true, and the activists appear to be determined to ensure that where other people’s perceptions of them disagree, those perceptions are considered de facto wrong

        • Yeah, this whole “you’re denying my LIVED experience” garbage is baloney. You do not get to demand that what you think and believe about your life must be accepted by me. Suck it up buttercup, we’re gonna have to disagree, my belief is that if you have penis you’re a man and if you have a vagina you’re a woman (and stuff that bbbbuuuttt intersex stuff, almost all “transgenders” are fully biologically male or female).

          The idea of destroying people’s lives because they won’t believe what you believe and parrot your insane nonsense is evil, a grab for power over our ability to be a human individual with independent thought.

          Either you accept that I will never agree with your misguided thought, and that that has absolutely ZERO impact on your “lived experience” or you can insist I be forced to parrot your views and eventually we can go to war.

  4. John Lee says

    Ok, I apologize, but there are two (2) Genders(only). Full Stop. You can determine what gender by seeing whether you have an XX chromosome, or and XY chromosome. it is determined at the point the spem and egg combine at inception. FULL STOP
    ‘Transsexuals’ are not real in a biological sense. you can be a man that surgically or chemically alters yourself to appear more feminine, but you are still biologically MALE.
    Sex and Gender are NOT Socially Constructed FULL STOP
    Now, however you want to dress, I don’t care(just as I don’t care what you like to have sex with, Mkay?) you want to wear a dress with a full beard? Fine.
    I draw the line to sharing gender specific bathrooms, athletics, or other gender specific public spaces.
    I won’t be rude, but I refuse to drink that cool-aid.

    • John Lee says

      Apologies for the typos- I have to say that if the democratic candidate salutes the crazy flag of Transgender ism, Feminism, Patriarchy, and all the other Left Wing Identity silliness , I will be forced to vote Trump (again).

      Again I will be forced to vote against insanity, and forced to vote for venality (lesser of two evilism)

      • I am not american so do not have your specific dilemma but those who take politics seriously always end up voting for the lesser of the available evils. The choices seem to get worse and worse. I may be falling into the golden age fallacy but the general quality of political leaders in the UK (home for me) and the US seems far far worse than it used to be.

        Venality is only the start with Trump but I agree that an honest but enthusiastically SJW focussed ‘woke’ government is more frightening than one that is simply venal and corrupt.

      • bumble bee says

        Yes, even now I will be voting Trump. The dems and their supporters are much more dangerous to society, and all life in general. Even if the Dems put forth someone that seems reasonable, I know it is a facade and the wack jobs will destroy every vestige of society.

        Their calling card is when they can take any long held logical issue and twist it so much it defies reason, logic or understanding.

        • @bb – I don’t know about that.

          Trump became McConnell’s sock-puppet last August. I vote for Trump once but I’m not voting for him again. Fundamentally, there is no difference between McConnell and the most extreme Democrat; they’re only aim is to squeeze the last drop out of a collapsing system.

    • You’re committing a childish error here. You say there are “only 2 genders” then have to go back and say “sex and gender”. Are they the same thing? Why? That’s literally what this article is about. This is like the SJWs when Ben Shapiro comes to campus and they just stick their fingers in their ears and scream “NAZI!”.

      Try listening. It’s good for everyone.

      We could have 2 sexes and a million genders, and this doesn’t hurt you at all. There is also a third level, sexual preference.

      One possible layout:
      Sex: Male or Female (or, rarely, intersex for certain genetic and hormonal disorders).
      Gender: Presenting as more male-typical or female-typical (more fluid, you could have more buckets, like “asexual”… I’ve known people just didn’t act like either sex and were their own thing).
      Preference: Who this person likes to have sex with (could be totally fluid for some people).

      Example: Drag queens are still men. But they don’t act like “normal” men. So where do they fit in the “only 2 genders” view? Are they just bad men who need to be punished for not acting like men? That’s silly. They’re biological males who present as female for some portion of the day. That’s fine. Maybe “drag queen” is even its own gender category- men who present as women for part of the time. It’s fine.

      • John Lee says

        Simply- Kevin? I decline to care about your whole issue- Transexuals are no more real than elves, or dwarves, or unicorns. I simply refuse to engage with your religious declarations about Angels, and Djinns, Transwomen, and pixies, OK? I don’t care how talmudic your religion gets, – Not my God, not my problem, not my cool-aid….

        • “Transexuals are no more real than elves, or dwarves, or unicorns.”

          Elves must be real. Otherwise one could not get an accredited degree in Elvish Language.

          Trolls are real. Even a cursory glance at the current state of the internet shows this.

          Unicorns are real. Otherwise why would all the wealthy elite tech venture capitalists be trying to find them all the time?

          Just trying to illustrate the way language gets distorted and abused in order for some people to argue for the sake of arguing, intentionally ignoring the meaning of the speaker to play the semantics and mind f***ery games.

      • Stephanie says

        This article is about how they were always the same thing until politically-motivated actors purposefully confused the topic. Actually, scratch that, gender was a grammatical construct: 2 in Latin languages and I think up to 11 is some others, but never a million and never with any relevance on man and woman.

        Erosion of basic concepts to advance a purity test for the new authoritarian movement can indeed hurt quite a bit. Literally. Don’t be so foolish as to think they won’t turn on you eventually, too.

  5. The article was interesting and insightful but one thing not discussed is empirical evidence that contradicts the strange theoretical journey that the definiiton of gender and sex has undergone. Not only are humans overwhelmingly sexually dimorphic but there is overwhelming evidence that the physical/biological sex has a major effect on the distribution of psychological characteristics between the sexes. Perhaps most fatally for the concept of socially determined gender there is evidence that socialisation reduces rather than produces or increases these sex differences (‘the geneder paradox’).

    When we have whole academic disciplines which advocate positions in direct contradiction to empirical evidence an d continue to do so for decades we have a major puzzle. Why is such theorising in the face of evidence so widely accepted?

    • “overwhelming evidence that the physical/biological sex has a major effect on the distribution of psychological characteristics”

      AJ, everyone knows that men and women are the same, we think the same way, there are no sex-linked psychological differences, and any apparent evidence to the contrary which can not be explained as experimental error must be caused by patriarchal oppression, Especially if the researcher making such findings is white or male (whatever that means) or both.

      And if you think anything else too loudly, you will have to join James Damore in a re-education camp.

    • Rory says

      There’s room to have psychological sex differences as well as socially-determined gender roles. There’s a fair amount of evidence (in the form of differences between societies and between our society now and in the past) to show that some of the stereotypical gender differences are not inborn; ‘boys wear blue’ is a fairly recent phenomenon, makeup is used by both sexes in some societies, etc. Pretending that everything about our social gender stereotypes is biological destiny is just as absurd as pretending that nothing is.

  6. Daath says

    Making gender all about identity opens all kinds of interesting doors. How exactly do you argue against transracialism at that point? If I say I’m a proud black man, you can’t point out my white skin, because that’s a physical characteristic, and tying identity to that is bioessentialism. You also can’t say that I haven’t lived a life of a black guy, and since no one has treated me shabbily on those grounds, I’m a privileged white male appropriating an identity of a marginalized group. After all, that’s the exact argument TERFs use against transwomen, and if modern social justice has taught me anything, it’s that TERFs are the absolute scum of the universe. So, I guess I can drop all the n-bombs* I like?

    But why stop at that? I identify as dragon, and why not? My human body and being treated as human in every respect mean nothing. If you doubt that I actually feel like a dragon, you’re erasing my lived experience, and besides, how would you know what being a dragon feels like? Screw the n-bombs. I’m going to light the world on fire.

    N-word is so straitlaced and boring, but n-bomb sounds like an experimental weapon. I also like Hastur, the evil god in Cthulhu Mythos, which could be summoned by saying the name three times. In our times, you can summon an outraged Twitter mob by saying The Word, and while they might not be gods, they’re certainly evil.

    • Robin says

      You can’t be transracial because the same groups peddling transgenderism also want to replace the liberal system with a racial-spoils system. If anyone can just identify as black their task of allocating power and resources by race gets way more complicated. The cisblacks would have to compete with you and that goes against the whole project of exempting black people from competition.

  7. House of Shards says

    I will never forget meeting my first transgender person back in the early 80’s, a male to female. I naturally deferred to this person’s female identity, but quickly realized that this person was delusional in many ways, a pathological liar, and violent to boot. In other words, numerous issues plagued this person and I was not surprised to learn that she died young, even though she was included — even celebrated — for being trans. Never mind the horrific and abusive personality. To this day on Facebook persons of that milieu will post pictures of this person, lamenting their loss. But no matter which way you slice it, this person was severely disturbed, and a menace. Years later, in San Francisco, I was around people who today would belong to the “trans” community. There could have been no more inclusive place than SF in the early 90’s. Anything went. And yet they were suicidal and addicted to junk and when one of them overdosed, the others lamented that it hadn’t been them. There was a fixation, in both cases, on drama, of being victims, of self-destruction.

    Of course I understand that these persons perhaps do not represent all gender dysphoric persons, However, I had noticed these tendencies across the board. It is a mental illness, no doubt. The activists’ nastiness and outright violence against those who disagree remind me of those people. It’s “you see it my way or you’re toast.” That’s SICK.

    And look what it’s doing to young people, our institutions and discourse. Silly shirts and slogans that decry “I protect trans kids.” (Makes me throw up in my mouth a little.)

    Now the de-transition videos are coming out in droves. Girls with destroyed voices. Gay boys with breasts.

    Some lawyers are going to make shitloads of money on this one.

    • Kim David says

      I worked in a mental hospital for criminals as a teacher and a new pupil was introduced. Before her arrival, I was told never to call her “Bobby.” Her name was “Janice.” Apparently, she became extremely angry if called “Bobby,” because she thought of herself as a woman, and in fact had undergone transition surgery and hormone treatment. I looked up from my desk and a strongly built, heavily tattooed, six foot plus person in a tight fitting dress came through the door. “Hey, you must be Janice!” I exclaimed. She stopped right there turned to me and said “Don’t ever ever call me Janice. My name is Bobby.” I sat there for a moment. “OK Bobby, I said. Sorry about that.” However, next time she came in she said “You can call me Janice today.” I was told she was confused, changed her mind frequently. She had borderline personality disorder. She eventually went back to the regular prison, as she was found to not be mentally ill, just with this personality disorder. A very confused and sensitive person, I had empathy, but always in the back of my mind was the thought that she was there for killing her female lover.

    • Jennifer says

      I’ve often wondered if gender dysphoria is a subset of borderline personality disorder. The black and white worldview, i.e. “splitting”, the sense of self oscillating from grandiosity to self loathing, the self harm, suicidality, the emotional volatility, quickness to anger, perceiving any disagreement as abandonment or ‘erasing”.. it’s all there. If that’s the case, enabling this behaviour is the worst possible avenue. The symptoms will not abate with appeasement. They will worsen.

  8. E. Olson says

    Interesting article, but it is just another reminder of how much thought and effort is devoted to transgenderism. Can anyone think of a topic that has received more attention and involved as few people? Transgenders are estimated to be far less than 1% of the population, which does not place it anywhere close to the top of the most common mental illnesses that receive far less attention. In comparison to articles with a transgender focus, how many articles has Quillette devoted to anxiety disorders, clinical depression, bi-polar disorder, PTSD, eating disorders (Anorexia or Bulimia) which are much more common than gender dysphoria?

    Why is gender dysphoria discussed as anything more than a mental health issue that should be treated as effectively and humanly as possible, rather than some “normal” thing that the 99+% of the rest of us are supposed to bend over backwards to accommodate? Do we treat 80 lb women who think they are grossly overweight as normal? Do we treat former soldiers who think they are under attack by the Vietcong or Al-Qaeda as normal? Do we treat depressed people with a history of suicide attempts as normal?

    • Lightning Rose says

      Great questions you ask, E. Olson:

      (1) Why the attention? Absolutely reliable clickbait. Like old-time circus sideshows.

      (2) Do we treat (x) as normal? Nope, but those others you mention aren’t being used by the Left as the wedge in the door to demand that we all dutifully parrot “2 + 2 = 5.” They’re just seeing how far they can push it, and how fast. Which is why they start the indoctrination in kindergarten.

    • Albigensian says

      ” just another reminder of how much thought and effort is devoted to transgenderism.” Perhaps it’s time for Occam to sharpen that razor?

      The explanations offered for this complexity seem to be, “Accepting this is good because it furthers certain political goals.” Is it necessary to point out that this was the reason offered for rejecting Copernicus?

      Binary sex remains an essential biological concept because we are all as Darwin has made us, and how Darwin makes any species is via differential reproductive rates. “Let’s go back to Ptolemy because it makes some of us feel better” creates problems of the “Emperor’s New Clothes” variety in that many will refuse to accept something that is not so. And, therefore, ever-increasing social (and perhaps legal) pressure must be applied to these non-acceptors so they’ll shut up already with their damned heresies.

    • Shatterface says

      Transgender people are less than 1% of the population but that doesn’t mean that transgenderism affects less than 1% of the population.

      A single member of that >1% can ruin a women’s sport for all women.

      A single member will turn a single sex institution (rape shelters, prisons, girl guides) into a mixed sex one.

  9. C Young says

     by knowingly departing from ordinary linguistic usage—i.e., by consciously abandoning the standard use of the terms man and woman—these philosophers introduce new concepts rather than modifying shared ones.

    And this is a product of the oppressive nature of this project. These activists (not philosophers), let’s call them by their real name, are redefining natural language in ways that are endorsed by around 1-2% of the population.

    Of course, any of us is free to use any word in any way we please.Why should we worry about unknown academics re-defining words?

    Unfortunately, we must care, because this isn’t about the normal practice of free linguistic exchange, it’s about manipulating government bureaucracy. It’s about forcing change on society that would never be possible through democratic channels. It’s a Gramscian (i.e. Marxist inspired) manipulation of institutions to achieve its goals despite democracy. This is unethical and completely counterproductive in feeding red meat to populists like Trump. It should be condemned per se. See this for more detail http://www.zwilo.com/vanguardism-generated-populism/

    The account above misses the political motivated reasoning that underlies these conceptions of gender. Early feminism was simply Marxism with ‘women’ substituted for ‘working class’. Instead of class power struggles, there were sex based power struggles. It was collectivist. The metaphysical oppression experienced by the working class was experienced instead by women. This is, frankly, rubbish, as the arbitrariness of the substitution should indicate. Only those who have been indoctrinated into this ivory tower cult can now comprehend these vintage ideas, let alone believe them. They are the purple loons of the intellectual world.

    The ‘self-identification’ model, on the other, is its mirror image. It’s based on a total rejection of collectivism. This is about achieving the goal of entirely unlimited personal autonomy (see John Gray’s account of this), partly driven by ever rising levels of narcissism. But this is a project that can never be brought to fruition. Every system of thought has its limitations and its losers e.g. “cis males”. Trying to eliminate them is like chasing rainbows.

    In short, if you pile politically motivated reasoning over politically motivated reasoning, delusion over lies, the tower will collapse. This is unremarkable.

     Absent some dramatic breakthrough or development, we’ll probably strike an unprincipled, incoherent compromise on this issue

    Natural language is messy (see Wittgenstein). We have no option but to accept this. But there will be no peace until the fanatics are repulsed.

  10. Stephenitisok says

    The next logical step along this rickerty road to disaster must surely be the freedom and acceptance to identify oneself as being human or non-human.

    • Frances says

      @Stephenitisok
      It’s already here – they’re called ‘otherkins’. And you must, of course, agree with whatever they insist on being called and embrace all their ‘expression’ and behaviours – or you would be challenging their very existence and causing them ‘harm’. You know it makes sense!

      • Citizen XY says

        Indeed, they were designated human at birth, but that was just an error by the medical staff.

      • “And you must, of course, agree with whatever they insist on being called”

        Does that mean that someone who insists they are non-human gives up their human rights? Just wondering?

        Can someone who identifies as a dragon vote? What about serve on a jury? Or, if a dragon-identifying person (a “d.i.p.”) commits a crime, must his jury also consist if dip’s?

        More importantly, does a dragon have to pay taxes?

        • Stephenitisok says

          Non-humans will have what we today understand as rights. Of course these rights will not be be known as human rights. The use of the term human rights when referring to the rights of a non-human will be judged as a form of hate speech and banned (if you live in Europe you may be jailed). Basically, non-humans will themselves decide which rights they should have. I myself identify as a human so I make no claim to speak on behalf of non-human but I do not envisage they will be paying any taxes.

        • Frances says

          @bdvillaneuva
          It is the human right of ‘otherkins’ to identify as same. (It’s a real thing. Google it.) During ‘otherkin’ episodes their human rights are intact and simply being exercised. At any moment they might change identification – as identification is extremely fluid – and re-identify as ‘human’. You just never know….Best to catch them for jury service and taxes during the ‘human’ phase. You know it makes sense!

        • Kathy Hix says

          “Does a dragon have to pay taxes?” Asking for a friend . . .

  11. dirk says

    Since about 5 years, I’ve given up all attempts to understand and feel empathy with the ideas and trends around me enfolding (veganism, transgenderism, orientalism, polyamorism and so many other -isms). And live quite more relaxed, since then. You don’t see the world anymore as a tragedy, or a world to try to come even with, but as a comedy, a Fellini like procession, a moving carrousel, the end and last page of The Catcher in the Rye….Hurry up, the thing’s going to start again!! The way she kept going around and around!!, ..God I wished you could ‘ve been there!!

    • dirk says

      I forgot to have #meToo put as one of the carrousel horses, and a very nice one it is indeed to be seated on!

  12. Jean-Pierre Rupp says

    In my mother tongue, Spanish, living things have sex, and inanimate objects have gender, which is no more than a linguistics/phonetic concept. The social constructionists have a very hard time preaching their imported philosophical approach to gender in Spanish, which amuses me greatly. The word ‘género’ applied to humans is an English mis-translation, and when the gender theorists use it it sounds foreign, prompting a response such as: “that’s just bullshit some people are trying to import from the USA”. It is difficult to overload the words ‘hombre’ and ‘mujer’ to allow for a similar treatment that ‘man’ and ‘woman’ suffered in the Englist language in the last few years without getting on board with the social construction of sex, which raises a lot more skepticism. In Latin languages sexual dimorphism is very difficult to replace with an alternate view, and I’m glad for that.

    • dirk says

      @ Jean Pierre: your first name doesn’t sound very Spanish, by the way, what’s – varon-? That’s what my peruvian friends always said, to discriminate at the birth of some new baby, varon or hembra, either one, and never something in between (this was long ago, I admit).

  13. This article required more attention than I wanted to devote to it. I think there is a simpler approach. SJW’s want to make everybody ignore biological sex differences and adopt the fantasies of psychiatric cases and oppression ideologues. These people are too goofy to bother with. Gender dysphoria was rare until ideologues starting promoting it. Might be more useful to analyze their motivation.

    • Frances says

      @Michael Stewart
      And a good way to do that is to look at the way they treat desisters and de-transitioners, many more of whom at last are beginning to be heard. Disgraceful amount of bullying and intimidation is directed at anyone who, having walked the walk, decides to counter the narrative. Good recent examples are Jamie Shupe and Maritza Cummings.

  14. James says

    Though many do not even themselves realize it, this is just one more of dozens of sorehead complaints designed in the end to bring down Western civilization. The left has never been able to convince anyone that their ideas brought a better way of life, so they drive their agenda via fomenting division and discontent, hoping to take over by force once the chaos reaches a crisis level. They call the least misogynistic nation on the planet “misogynistic.” They call the least racist nation a nation of racists. They try to school us all about what constitutes a man and a woman and tell us that there are 45 “genders.”

    Nonsense. I’m not in the least inclined to legitimize real mental illness any more than I am interested in apologizing for being a member of the sex that built the world from scratch.

  15. Kevin Herman says

    I wont ever stand for 1% of the population that claims to have a condition that hasn’t been close to scientifically proven (it is just as likely garden variety mental illness, a passing phase, or even worse something pushed by progressive parents if there child shows any behavior outside of stereotypical gender norms) distorting reality for the other 99% us. That doesnt mean they shouldn’t be treated with respect and dignity within reason (if a person wants to live as a woman or man that wasnt born that way I’ll call them whatever they want in personal interactions) but no your 16 year old son shouldnt be able to compete with 16 year old girls in athletics and shower with them. No a 28 year old biological male should not be able to compete in the Olympics with women if he can keep his testerone levels below a certain point for a year. If you look reasonably like a woman and are dressed as such I doubt anyone would flip out or notice if you used a woman’s restroom discreetly but no we arent passing laws that guarantee a biological man dressed as a man with stubble to use a woman’s bathroom or locker room because he felt like a woman today. It is a complicated issue with many elements and thats why we need to throw the breaks on the whole thing and keep pushing back on it as much as possible.

    • @Kevin Herman

      If there is a bright side to any of this it’s the fact that trans-beings are getting on the nerves of feminists in a big way.

      With patience, I believe the women will make them disappear from public discourse.

  16. So now sex etc. is simply a mental disorder? Are they trying to gaslight the world? They’re certainly doing well with today’s youth. No matter that this confusion is linked with high rates of suicide. I guess they figure if everyone is sick, no one is.

  17. James says

    This is a well-researched and well thought-out article, but far more time wasted than is necessary. There are men, who have XY, chromosomes, and women, who have XX. There are a few unfortunates that have aberrations like XXY or XO, and they have to be handled individually. Everyone else who thinks he’s/she’s something he/she is NOT is mentally ill.

  18. Charles Woolf says

    How is it possible that rational thought and science has been hijacked by the (tragic) delusions of a few and the pressures of political correctness?

    The reason someone (thoughtful and rigorous) has to write an article like this one explaining such convoluted confusions is that they are based on fundamental untruths.

    No matter how much it might be distasteful to some, healthy human beings are sexually dimorphic. Men are only men, women are only women. There is no reproductively viable in-between biologically.

    Intersex individuals are anomalies in exactly the same way as someone who is born with a bodily defect. Someone who believes that they are in the wrong body suffers (tragically) from a delusion. This does not deny that within each human being there are differing degrees of identification with the specific social manifestations of masculinity and femininity.

    Both intersex individuals and those that believe that they are in the wrong body deserve all our understanding and help (different in each case). But, in the case of the so-called trans individuals, it is profoundly unethical and cowardly to accept someone’s delusions as real and then assist them in irreversibly mutilating their body in order to resemble something they will never be. There is nothing compassionate, progressive, empathetic or humane in this.

    When someone presenting symptoms of body identity integrity disorder asks to have a healthy limb amputated we do not rush to “respect” their delusion and comply with their wishes. Why should we do so with sexual organs?

    Reality, both external and personal, is not a social construct. No matter how much someone identifies with being something that they are not that does not make them into what they say they identify with.

    How much longer are we going to tie ourselves up into ridiculous knots in the pusillanimous attempt to assuage marginal concerns instead of speaking about the truth?

  19. Good “brief history”, sensible and fair.

    I would only point out that the history of the transformation of “sex to psychology” is only a latter manifestation of a more general psychological fragmentation which we’ve undergone for over two hundred years.

    This fragmentation manifests itself with an entropic capacity to see the whole and as a hypertropic awareness of the pieces of reality. Which is to say, all categories (gender, race, hierarchies etc) appear abitrary and oppressive. We begin to experience ourselves as purely subjective beings – everything is “psychology”, everything is mere social construct. As Hegel prophetically wrote over two centuries ago: “The theoretical ego finds itself as the Supreme Being”.

    What we are observing with all this identity politics is this psychological state manifest as political power. It will and must play itself out . . . and apparently it’s not pretty.

  20. Farris says

    Sexism v. Racism

    Both are considered types of discrimination but they differ radically. Why? Both claim victims of oppression from different oppressors but victimhood and oppression appear to be the few similarities.

    For instance it is considered sexist to believe and act as though a woman is weaker and not as capable as a man. Furthermore to insist that women require special assistance or lower expectations is similarly considered sexist behavior.

    Racism recompense on the other hand demands special assistance, set asides and protocols. Racism recompense strives for differing standards and expectations.

    If the feminists are correct then those demanding racial recompense are practicing the racism of low expectations. If the racial justice seekers are correct then the demands of feminists are unreasonable or unrealistic.

    • Citizen XY says

      Logical coherence is not requisite, that’s just an oppressive tool of the white-supremacist patriarchy.
      Whatever serves my self-interest as a POC, or as a feminist (or as a non-male), is (dare I say it) supreme.

  21. vidrio says

    At the very beginning of the article:“Once upon a time, everyone believed that humans are sexually dimorphic, coming in two sexes: male and female.”
    “Believed” or simply “knew”?

    • BrainFireBob says

      As good a place as any for this.

      In the 1980s, D&D was blamed for the suicides of several teens.

      D&D is escapism fantasy, it is welcomly therapeutic to many and a harmless pastime to more, but people with certain kinds of mental health issues are drawn to escapism because of said issues.

      People need to stop ignoring the crazies on their own side. Instead, many activists today embrace their crazies on the basis of loved experience.

      I used to know a trans natal man whose father was abusive, 220 lean 6 ft 6 lbs of physically abusive to him as a child and his 5 ft, delicate, dainty, precious mother. This individual is also north of 200 lbs and tops 6 ft. He hates this. On discussion, his delicate mother was a saint and his father disgusting, and he was always asking for reassurance regarding his delicacy.

      That individual found men, or being Male, crude, brutal, and disgusting. Really, he just hated his super masculine and abusive father and wanted to be his virtuous mother, manifesting in natal gender loathing.

      Validating and including that kind of displaced animus just isn’t doing their cause favors. He’ll never be happy until he deals with that, no matter how many scapegoats he puts it on

    • Citizen XY says

      If you are in the vanguard of the revolution, vidrio, you understand there is no “knowing”, except for aboriginals with their “alternative ways of knowing” and the oppressed with their “lived experience”.
      Everyone else (which comes down to white males) is limited to merely “belief”.

      The modern world, from democratic governance to all the technology, is just an enforced delusion by the white-male-supremacist patriarchy.

  22. Chip says

    I think it is remarkable how the most intense fixation with transgender people is among people who themselves are not transgender, don’t have transgender family members, and don’t particularly have any stake or interest in the issue.

    But they sure have a rabid fascination and powerful opinions about it.

    • @Chip

      Your statement that most people “don’t particularly have any stake or interest in the issue” is a bit puzzling.

      Perhaps you’ve missed all the fuss about men competing in women’s sports and using women-designated public toilets, and, not uncommonly, obtaining gender-reassignment surgery at public expense.

      Anyone whose child attends a public school and is exposed to the issue there has a stake and an interest.

      • Chip says

        I just came back from the restroom here at the office.

        For some reason, it just didn’t occur to me to turn to the man standing next to me and ask him if he was born a man, or was made that way at taxpayer expense.

        Should it?

        • Etiamsi omnes says

          @Chip
          I would advise against suddenly turning to the man standing at the next urinal.

        • Shatterface says

          Maybe if you were the kind of person who has to sit down to piss you might feel more vulnerable.

          • Chip says

            So, you’re in a ladies room and Camille Paglia walks in conversing with RU Paul…
            Do you perform a vigilante vagina check?

            Who gets to stay and who gets the boot?

        • Citizen XY says

          No you shouldn’t Chip, but should the woman at a women’s shelter stuck with sharing a room with a man self-identifying as a ‘woman’ (actual story, not a hypothetical) not have any case for concern?

    • C Young says

      I think that is a reasonable point. Centrists often accuse progressives of catastrophising. They shouldn’t get into the same game themselves. Similarly, I wonder if the number of TERFs who have ever knowingly found themselves in an all female changing with a pre-op transwoman reaches triple figures. We shouldn’t pounce on unusual incidents from distant lands to help reinforce our prejudices.

    • Citizen XY says

      In contrast to what you seem to want to imply Chip, amongst non-trans people, to my observation the most intensely fixated on trans issues are the ‘allies’ or supporters (not the ‘anti-trans’ or pro-biology people).

      So of those trans supporters who are female, how many of them, for example, are sports-women who will actually have to compete against (and lose to) natal males? That is, actually suffer the consequences of supporting “trans-identities”?

    • Blue Lobster says

      Chip,

      If your criterion for establishing the intensity of fixation on transgender people is submitting a paragraph or two of text in the comments section of a Quillette article then I’m not sure that your assertion should be considered reliable.

  23. Hmmm says

    The author misses the final destination of the gender progressives (consciously or unconsciously), where all the seeming contradictions and circular logic he points out will melt away, because we will all live by this ultimate truth:

    The very idea of different genders is a social construct. It may be useful or necessary for now to retain that construct for practical reasons, because our world has been built around it and because we must combat repression based on the perception of gender differences. But we will one day liberate ourselves from the self-imposition of gender, and in the promised land to which we are heading, there will be no binary check boxes nor even 117 Tumblr check boxes; no divided bathrooms, clothing departments, sports teams, names, pronouns; no gays or straights, trans or cis; no assignments at birth, or ever. Only people, who will be free to alter their bodies inside and out any way they deem fit, without anyone batting an eye.

  24. Chad Jessup says

    Cis-man, cis-woman, Um! Wow, I just counted five cis-buck deer and fifteen cis-doe deer in my yard, a pretty sight.

    • Citizen XY says

      Chad, that is so trans-phobic of you. You have no idea how many of those buck deer self-identify as does, or how many of those does self-identify as bucks.

      Or perhaps you interviewed all of them to confirm their self-identities.

      Or perhaps you observed them for long enough to ensure their exhibited behaviour was confirming of cis self-identification. But then you never know how they might identify tomorrow!

      (I enjoy the deer in my yard too, they like to find a little nest spot on a bluff and settle down for a rest.)

  25. Dreadhead says

    As a trans person, I’m simply tired of the media attention though, representation does matter to some extent. I’ve only ever felt oppressed, I think, because I consumed alot of left wing media telling me I was but, I was simply going about my life like anyone else with an odd problem that required some specialized help. Otherwise I’m perfectly fine.
    I am a trans woman, there is no way I could claim to be anything different and there are differences between me and normal women. To really drive this point home, unless planned Parenthood starts offering cheap prostate exams, I’m never gonna have to set foot inside of one. The fact that, to even merely insinuate there are differences, is very transphobic is troubling to me. I simply want to live my life. All the nonsense in the trans movement leaves me believing that trans people in general are looking for more privelage, not equality.

    • Jujucat says

      @Dreadhead

      Sorry you’ve had to deal with more than you deserve. As a lesbian, I feel the way you, although I’m sure to a lesser degree, regarding the community that supposedly represents you but does not. I hope that the large majority of trans/gay people are like you and me and view reality as it is and not what we wish it to be. It is a harder path in the short run, but does pay off. Sadly, what people like us really need to do to stop this insanity is to stand up and say something, however, if you are like me, you’ve spent time trying to not make a big deal out of your being different.

      • Dreadhead says

        Well, for the most part, I really don’t believe it is a big deal. It’s simply a psychological, and if one desires to transition, a medical problem. I don’t really consider it something to take pride in or push in other people’s faces in one degree or another, though I am open about it as, while I generally pass, people aren’t stupid, and often pick up on it. It’s easier to be open rather than deal with the speculation, usually. I want to be more assertive about my political views but, the local LGBT group seems to be firmly inline with postmodernist bs so, it seems more trouble than it’s worth.

      • scribblerg says

        @Jujucat – So why haven’t you stopped your fellow LGBTQAIP BS maniac activists from their insanity? Where have you stood up and decried this in your life? Me? I’m not allowed as I’m 56yo white male, hetero and conservative. So I’m not allowed to comment or I’m dismissed a homophobe (lol, i’m not scared of homosexuals) or worse. I’m also a executive and would lose my job if I went public with my politics.

        The people who claim to represent you and your ilk seem to have little opposition from within their ranks. And they are hurting children now with this BS. Seems it’s high time you and Dreadhead start an opposition movement or join one that exists. We need to hear from trans and LBGTQ folks who disagree with the nonsense if we are to have a chance.

        Fyi, you aren’t the first gay/lesbian/trans people I’ve met who don’t agree. In fact, I know numerous gay Republicans who can’t stand being represented the way they are in the press. But none of you dare ever stick your necks out, and many seem all too happy to play the victim when it suits them.

        Me? After 56 years, my reserve of good will and tolerance has been exhausted. I don’t want to hear about any of this crap anymore. I’ve been set upon for my entire life for being traditional – but it turns our the traditionalists were right about everything and the leftist activists are driving the entire Western world off a cliff in service to their BS Utopian ideology. On every front.

        So I stack ammo, train and organize and await the coming civil war/revolution. The only thing that can stop it now is if people like you – from within their own ranks – stop them. Otherwise…

  26. Doug F says

    A legitimate problem existed when because of gender stereotypes people were not given equal opportunities based on sex or sexual orientation. Those problems have legally been addressed.

    There are biological men and biological women and being one or the other impacts physical and mental averages of many characteristics. Social rules that ignore these average differences will be inequitable.

    All the rest is noise in a victimhood power play.

  27. Jujucat says

    Thank you for the article. Extremely informative and well-written, but the content itself caused the side effect of feeling like my brain has been put through a paper-shredder. And then another one. Aside from that, what is the problem with the general public simply identifying trans peeps as what they are in actual reality and then learning to be cool with it? I can’t think of anyone I know who would be a jerk about a trans person, especially if it were presented as the real affliction that it is. Even if they were dicks, then oh well: People will always find a way to be a dick about something. (No offense to actual penises intended there.) To the perhaps self-inflictedly insane people who spew this postmodernist BS: What’s with your insistence on attempting to change everyone’s perception of reality to your will? It’s creepy and completely unhealthy.

  28. scribblerg says

    John Money was run out of the medical field due to his quackery. And he never had the credentials to even posit the theories he did, and was largely shunned by actual scientists at the times. The entire field is built on an epistemology of nonsense. Watch this video by a pediatric endocrinologist present the actual history of gender theory, without trying so hard to seem intellectual. He’s far more qualified than this author to render a scientific critique and it’s devastating. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mtQ1geeD_c&t=1188s

    Judith Butler is the real villain of “gender as a social construct” though. And her book Gender Trouble is a hash of nonsense as well. Here’s a video giving you a sense of just how insane and detached from reality her ideas are. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yus0cmyRZWM

    Sex is not easily divisible from “gender” and there is zero scientific method behind these distinctions. They are merely rhetoric. A few facts to wrap up. A man can never become a “real woman” – that’s not a traditional or conservative view, that’s a scientific view. 6000 genes express themselves differentlty and each sex is easily distinguished as a separate phenotype. Surgery merely masks the phenotype, and hormones are best seen as helping the person as putting on a costume. Those 6000 genes don’t change.

    And in biology, what determines sex in sexually reproducing species is the “gamete” emitted during sexual reproduction.

    This article is mostly posing and piffle.

    • scribblerg says

      This place is so lame. It’s for folks who pretend to object to Progressive madness, but really, it’s just about saying “I’m not like them, but I mostly believe all the same garbage”. In my comment, the two sources I linked to completely debunk this preening, BS article. But I get zero engagement. Happens a lot here. Turns out this is just another Progressive echo chamber for virtue signaling vs. a place where critical thinking occurs.

      I know why. We are already ruined as a culture. Digital infotainment is about clapping for your side, not actual engagement.

      Prove me wrong, anyone on this thread. Just watch the video I linked, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mtQ1geeD_c&t=1188s in my comment, from an actual pediatric endocrinologist. Not an associate professor in philosophy, lol. After you watch it and the massive amount of science, valid research and facts presented, you will wonder what on earth this author is talking about.

      Hint. Anyone who cites John Money and doesn’t present how he was drummed out of the field and shamed and shown to be wrong is essentially ignorant on this subject. Get that.

  29. OLd NiK says

    Transgenderism a wonderful gift to people who have long condemned feminists for weaponizing the mentally ill. Now even a deluded white male (!!) can get breast implants and sashay into a university or a government office and walk out with a job or a degree. Thus, they leapfrog over the previous flavor of the day, lesbians! Imaging the rage of women like ‘Princess Underlove’ when they get passed-over and ignored. Sweet!

  30. Hmmm says

    Quite a chip on your shoulder, scribbleburg. No one has responded to your comment and your linked videos in a few hours (during which no comments appeared at all — at this point after publication the comment rate tends to die down) and you throw a tantrum.

    Pro tip: Your tone doesn’t encourage anything above “zero engagement.”

    • scribblerg says

      @Hmmm – Giggling. So you’d rather keep score than get into a discussion on the merits. Proves my point as to the purpose of commenting here for most. Carry on, you are living evidence of what I decry.

      You pose instead of engage, get that.

  31. Julia says

    Neither the words “cis” and “trans” make sense since they rely on “sex assigned at birth”. If somebody “assigns” sex they rely on the definition of “sex” which is the same as gender. Hence, we arrive at the conclusion that “sex” and “gender” are the same and different at the same time. Like, blinking depending on what we want to “prove”.

    “Trans women are women” is also interesting. If a trans woman is anybody who “identifies” as a woman, the corollary is “everybody can be a woman”. A man is a woman, a little girl is a woman, a parrot is a woman, a TV set is a woman. A Barbie doll is a woman, a boat called “Caribbean Queen” is a woman.

  32. neutral observer says

    To untangle this convoluted web of always changing nomenclature, there are only 2 things to keep in mind:
    1) EVERYBODY is either XX or XY.
    2) EVERYBODY is an individual and individuals should never be pigeonholed.

  33. Hmmm says

    @scribbleberg — I have a day job. But keep ranting in comment boxes, “decrying” the lack of engagement with your brilliance. Seems to be working well for you.

  34. scribblerg says

    @Hmmm – I run half a tech company, you gibbering poseur. I love when guys like you comment about commenting, it’s as though you don’t realize just how insubstantial you are. Fyi, note, you have yet to engage with the substance of my comment. You must be dull as shit at a dinner party.

  35. Hmmm says

    @scribbleberg — Um, whatever. Some of us have day jobs. I guess you’ll have to find another community more interested in engaging your brilliant posts. If they don’t engage to your satisfaction, and fast, move on the next. Happy hunting. We’ll miss you!

  36. Steersman says

    Fairly decent article covering the history of the “debate”, the main contenders, and their philosophical or logical “arguments” – to be charitable. However, it is also a bit long winded in getting to the crux of the matter, and to a reasonable summary of the problem, to wit:

    I believe the emerging consensus on gender is so deeply fawed that it won’t be long before the tread wears thin and it fails, stranding its adherents in a conceptual limbo. …

    Finally, I’d like to point out two problems with the broader project of intentionally revising our gender concepts for the sake of social justice: it’s logically incoherent, and it’s impossible to complete (at least, in a trans-inclusive way).

    And one might reasonably argue that the reason the issue is “logically incoherent” is that far too many – apparently including the author – are unaware of, or refuse to face, the nature of categories and how we come to define them: they are not entirely arbitrary. And while the concept can be a bit murky – the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy lists some 850 articles on the topic, the crux of the matter is reasonably summarized in an OED definition:

    category, NOUN

    1. A class or division of people or things regarded as having particular shared characteristics.

    ‘the various categories of research’

    And it is rather hard to deny – though some transactivists strive mightily to so deny – that a large percentage of the population share the characteristic of producing the gamete known as “ova”, that a more or less equal percentage share the characteristic of producing the gamete known as “sperm”, and that another non-insignificant percentage share the characteristic of producing neither ova nor sperm.

    Which then justifies and undergirds the standard definitions for “female” and “male”, that is:

    female ADJECTIVE
    1. Of or denoting the sex that can bear offspring or produce eggs, distinguished biologically by the production of gametes (ova) which can be fertilized by male gametes.

    male ADJECTIVE
    1. Of or denoting the sex that produces gametes, especially spermatozoa, with which a female may be fertilized or inseminated to produce offspring.

    ‘male children’

    Of particular note, as alluded to by the author, is the example of “male children” which is logically inconsistent since children are, more or less by definition, prepubescent and can’t produce either gamete. Clearly, consistency is not the forte of lexicographers.

    But while we can of course define and redefine words as we wish (pay them extra as Humpty-Dumpty suggested), in the context of reproduction those definitions clearly encapsulate some important facts – and ones presumably of some relevance in ensuring the survival of the species for whatever lasting benefit that might provide.

    In any case, the point is that the definition of various categories are ideally based on brute facts, and they might reasonably considered a priori – as with the axioms of geometry such as the one asserting that parallel lines never meet. But it seems generally unwise to define them based on pandering to the vanities and the envies, to the ideological preconceptions and misconceptions (Lysekoism) of those who most wish to distort those facts, or to sweep them under the carpets.

  37. Fabio says

    By a mile, the most intelligent article I have ever heard on the gender politics debate.

  38. Monochromatic Spectrum says

    Within the last two years a large number of people I know have changed their self-identification to non-binary. While initially this designation was popular among individuals who would in earlier times have been called “androgynous,” as the number of enbies has multiplied the expectation of non-traditional gender presentation has also fallen away — the latest crop of enbies often self-present as boring old cis people, with an insistence on the singular they being the lone identifying characteristic. This proliferation of singular-they people has, probably not coincidentally, occurred in an environment where the name-tag with a preferred pronoun on it has become a ubiquitous feature at social gatherings. It is not possible to opt out — if you move in these circles you will be expected to give your preferred pronoun and to honor other peoples’ pronouns.

    Since there is little cost to self-designating this way — one doesn’t need to change anything about one’s self-presentation, behavior, or sexual preferences to so identify — it has presented an attractive low-barrier alternative identity for people who are craving that. One can go from boring old vanilla member of the Oppressor Class to noble fighter against the Kyriarchy by simply scribbling one’s preferred pronoun on a name-tag with a Sharpie. Et voila!

    The fact that it effectively undercuts the goals of trans acceptance is rarely discussed, but it must be pointed out that if there’s no binary then there is nothing to transition from or to.

  39. BioEmeritus says

    A welcome and useful updating of the history and controversies.

    1) What is meant by “policing gender norms through …medical pathologizing”? Are you implying that being born with a severe disconnect between brain sex and genitalia sex is not a pathology of development, albeit one that can be corrected with appropriate surgical and/or pharmacological treatment?

    2) Why do many transsexuals insist on being recognized as such? If one has transitioned to their brain sex, they deserve to be recognized as a man or a woman, as the case may be. The use of “trans” as a prefix singles them out as different and not legitimate. They may not have the gonads and complete genitalia of the sex their brain is, but many men and women whose brains developed in concert with their genitalia are not complete either.

    My guess is that those who have transitioned and avoid the prefix are those who are the most psychologically well-adapted. The continued use of the prefix probably says something about the user’s psyche, but I don’t know what.

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