Well, I have posted on this subject and subsequently deleted each post because I just can’t be as tactful as the matter seems to require. I cannot, however, shake a feeling of obligation to speak against the grain regarding an important issue.
Here’s a post over at philosoraptor which may or may not have been spurred by an offline conversation between Winston Smith and myself, but for what it’s worth, I think his points are the right ones. I will cross-post a bit from my comment on his post below to add what I would like to add to the subject:
This may be some masterful trolling, but it demonstrates the issues which will inevitably arise if you try to enforce the denial of reality. In fact, the recent revelation of an NAACP leader lying about her ethnicity seems to show that the majority of people reject the idea of being born in the “wrong skin” as laughable, and yet, I wonder what subsection of those individuals simultaneously accepts the idea of being born in the “wrong sex.”
The important point here is: “identifying” as something does not make one into something. A male can claim to be female, and he can even get surgery to try to make himself appear as though he is biologically female, but none of that actually makes him female. Even if he completely believes that he is female, he is not, and anyone who believes that he is actually female merely on account of believing it to be so is going to have to endorse some obvious insanity.
It’s pretty plain to see that assertion and/or belief does not mold reality on its own in this way. I’m afraid the idea that biological sex is purely relative to one’s beliefs/mental state/emotions/assertions about oneself would be laughed out of the room if people weren’t so painfully invested in it. As WS notes (see the link to philosoraptor above), feminists have struggled for decades to point out that gender and sex are distinct from one another, and that one’s sex does not dictate one’s gender in some normative manner. It is true that most men are more masculine than not, and most women are more feminine than not; this is not some arbitrary distinction formed by society. Yet, the important feminist point is that the distinction is not normative. You don’t have to be feminine because you’re a girl. You don’t have to be masculine because you’re a guy. Anyone who says otherwise is being an asshole.
And yet, after these decades of struggle to free ourselves from irrational normative inclinations, we are now witnessing more and more people become so obsessed with gender and sex that any discrepancy between the two is viewed as life-ruining, sometimes to the extent of requiring cosmetic surgery and increasingly vocal confirmation of lies on behalf of society out of fear that, should we not recognize the lie so desperately sought after, the only possible explanation for our reluctance must be bigotry or some other like vice.
I’m with WS, and hopefully every sane person out there: I want people to be able to live as they choose, within reason. Clearly I have no problem with women enjoying their masculine traits or men embracing their feminine side. In fact, I hardly find the distinction important or useful in my life at all. Hopefully it is also clear that I certainly do not advocate for any sort of discrimination or bigotry against transgender or transsexual individuals, and you can rest assured that I would stand with them in the face of persecution for their rights to do as they choose and to be treated with dignity and respect. Nonetheless, it is a disservice to everyone, transgender/transsexual individuals as well, to try to reject reality. Knowingly endorsing falsehood is bad. It leads to all kinds of insanity and problems.
As Zhuangzi said, “The sage labors not over that which life cannot do.”
While I think this point is extremely important, it isn’t the reason I am compelled to write on this subject. If I wrote about every single lie in the world, I’d never do anything else. However, this particular strand of deception is insidious, for it relies for its persistence on our inclination to compassion and empathy; we don’t want others to feel so miserable, and it often seems that, if we could just let someone have this one little lie which he or she so desperately desires, one which can be seen as largely otherwise inconsequential to everyone else, then we should.
I have to argue that we shouldn’t fall into this position; the truth is too important to reject for any reason. In fact, life’s greatest challenges are frequently the result of temptation to do just that, and we must remind ourselves that our duty is to the truth, and the way in which we deal with emotional turmoil at the hands of reality is not to simply reject reality. Fortunately for us, I don’t think it’s in any way better for us to do so, though it may seem to be in the short term.
So I worry for those who have become so convinced of the importance of biological sex that they will go to extraordinary lengths, alleging that they are trying to live “as they truly are” when they are, in fact, doing the exact opposite. I can’t help but notice irony in that the movement which makes such a scene out of an abhorrence for persecution-begetting stereotypes seems to be gripped by a dramatic and incessant need to conform to them. We need to free ourselves of this nonsense and stop worrying over needless correlations between relatively unimportant distinctions.
It does not matter if you are male or female when it comes to what you like to wear or do. Enjoy your life – you need not modify your body to appease anyone’s perception of appropriate gender-sex correlation. And further, such modification is purely a cosmetic exercise in deception – it’s not worth any effort, and certainly not the pain and suffering endured by those who undergo it.
Unfortunately, as WS notes, it’s nigh impossible to calmly discuss this with anyone intimately connected to the matter at hand. And it’s not hard to understand why – we’ve all had theories to which we found ourselves dogmatically committed in the face of reality, and getting past those issues is part of the human experience. In this case, while I wish I could help, it seems I can do only very little (this blog post is about it, and it ain’t much). I fear that my lack of gender identity issues weakens my voice in this regard, and I must admit I have never suffered from gender dysphoria (I very rarely think about my gender or sex, and it seems I am in league with most people I know in this regard). Of course, I’ve never really experienced any gender euphoria either – my sex and gender are purely accidental to more important pursuits in my life. If I were female, then so I would be. Being that I am male, that’s what I shall be. I find discontent with neither option, and it seems to me that one ought not to have great preference for one or the other. Whatever I am in this regard, my goal is righteousness, and I see neither femininity nor masculinity as impedance to this pursuit.
As I wrote above, I’ve posted and near-immediately deleted posts about this matter because I just can’t be as tactful as I want to be. I don’t want to hurt anyone, and neither does WS, but we can’t deny reality for others, no matter how badly they may want it. It is a disservice. I understand that it must be unbelievably painful to live in such a condition as that which is described by transgender/transsexual individuals, and I want for them to have relief from that pain, but that relief just can’t come from living a lie. Even if everyone is obligated to address that lie as though it were true, ultimately, you cannot engineer around the truth, and I would argue, you needn’t feel that you must.
I don’t know all the reasons that people feel they ought to “transition,” but I do know this: you don’t need cosmetic surgery to be who you are.
And you certainly don’t need to be what you’re not to be who you are.