Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Progressive Journalist tries to help with my identity crisis

Me:
I have an Identity Crisis! I don't know if I'm a Straight Man or a Butch Pre-Op Lesbian Transwoman. And according to the current concept of gender identity, there is no way of knowing one way or the other. Gender identity is really silly.

PJ:
If that confusion is causing you distress, I’d recommend seeing a therapist.

If you are lying, I’d point out that the fact that you know you’re lying disproves your point quite neatly.

Me:
There’s no way of knowing because gender identity is an unintelligible black box.

PJ:
Well, if you are a Butch Pre-Op Lesbian Transwoman, then you should come out as such and help others better understand your identity. Only you can make sense of what it means to you.

Me:
It’s a thought experiment to show that gender identity has absolutely no functional meaning. Once again, according to the current conception of gender identity, you may not say that the penis determines maleness. Ian Mcewan said just that and was, as you know, pilloried for having said so. Gender identity cannot attach to certain ways of thinking because that’s neurosexism. Gender identity cannot attach to any sort of appearance such as dress, facial hair, etc., because that would be evil gender stereotyping. I’ve exhausted all the outward expressions to which gender identity can attach, and if gender identity has no outward expression, it is incommunicable and, thus, unintelligible. My thought experiment picks out two “gender identities” that are to all appearances EXACTLY the same, the only difference being the name of the “gender identity”. If two things are exactly the same, then, well, the different names they have cannot make a difference. This whole business with “gender identity” is a silly name game, and until you can come up with something other than a wholly incommunicable private feeling to which gender identity corresponds, I shall continue to stand by this point.

PJ:
Are you a Butch Pre-Op Lesbian Transwoman? If not, how do you know?

Me:
There is no way for me to know given the current conception of ‘gender identity’. That’s the point.

PJ:
Well, how do you think about yourself? How do you dress yourself? How do you carry yourself? When you’re referred to as “him,” does that seem to fit? When you look in the mirror, do you see a body that represents who you feel you are? In particular, do you feel like having a penis matches your sense of self? Do you think it matches the way you feel most oriented toward sexuality?

And for all of these questions: Why or why not?

Me:
I think I’m a man, but I’m going by criteria that are horribly heterosexist, and the new wave of political correctness has forbidden the use of those criteria. I am supposed to use the criteria of ‘gender identity’, and according to those I do not know what to think. "Straight man” and "pre-op butch Lesbian woman" become synonyms, and the only reason why I would opt for the former is that it takes less time to pronounce.

I usually dress in pants and a shirt. Again, dress cannot determine my gender identity because that would be subordinating my identity to the vicissitudes of social construction.

I never got a chance to choose my pronouns. They were imposed upon me from the moment the physician said, “It’s a boy,” at my birth. I have never objected to this imposition but that’s only because I took the heteronormativity behind it for granted. I’m not allowed to do that anymore. I don’t object to masculine pronouns used to refer to me, and I would get very irate if someone would call me “she” but that’s only because I have internalized the heteronormativity that was imposed upon me. It has nothing to do with ‘gender identity’.

I cannot tell if I am a man or a woman by looking at my body in the mirror. To say that the body has anything to do with gender identity is to suggest that there are no women with penises, and that’s a horridly transphobic thing to say, as Ian McEwan found out.

I can view my penis as a membrum Viri or as something that obviates my need to purchase a strap-on. Does not solve the dilemma at all.

PJ:
I think the problem is that you’re trying to use an overgeneralized understanding of political correctness to obviate what actually defines gender.

The issue isn’t that dress, or appearance, or bodies do or don’t conform to heteronormativity. We have the spectrums of gender and expression that we have. The problem is trying to impose those on people who don’t identify the way you think they should. That doesn’t mean you can’t use them to define yourself.

It’s not a problem to say, “I have a penis and it matches how I understand my gender and so I’m not transgender.” It’s only a problem to say “all people who have penises are men regardless of whether their anatomy matches their identity and sense of self.”

Just because most of our concepts of gender have been socially constructed over time doesn’t mean they aren’t powerful forces, nor does it mean they cannot be internalized, nor does it mean that they are not significant factors for how we understand our identities and achieve positive mental health outcomes.

Me:
And, again, if the determination of gender identity varies so wildly from person to person such that there can be no reliable outward markers, then gender identity is not amenable to any kind of objective definition and, therefore, certainly not to a legal one.

And while I’m at it, I might as well ask this: As I understand it gender in gender studies used to be a social construct. Whereas sex was a given, the interpretation of it, i.e. gender, was purely a societal imposition. Now it is a core part of one’s identity. When exactly did this complete switcheroo take place? Of course, I am assuming that social construct is the opposite of core part of one’s identity. I suppose this assumption could be challenged, and even the core part of personal identity is a social construct, but if it is, then what are we to make of the central claim of transgender activists, namely that their gender identities are being squashed by unfair social constructs? That one social construct is at war with another? Well, it’s possible, I guess, but if even one’s core identity is a social construct, then how the devil can it be a personal identity at all? Not in any Aristotelian sense according to which identity inheres in the person and is not imposed from without. And not in a Sartrean sense, if identity is understood to be personal meaning, for aren’t we all supposed to make our own meanings and not have them foisted upon us by society? 

 So, I ask you, when did gender cease to be a social construct and start being a personal identity or, if you doubt the premise of the question, how can a social construct be a personal identity? If you argue, as you do above, that social construction becomes a personal identity by internalization, then I still must ask how is that identity in any way personal? It sounds to me that instead it is an absorption of the personal into the general and is, therefore, a nullification of the former.

PJ:
Take a queer studies course, already. I’m not your gender identity tutor — particularly given you’ve shown no desire to actually learn about or respect people.


Me:
According to you one must have a birth certificate to know that one has been born and take a queer studies course just to know the difference between a man and a woman. Did you have some college professor or some government agency teach you which hole of yours takes food, too? Geez.


[Postscript:
Me:
Do you think people who deny that women have penises and men vaginas are morally bad people?

PJ:
It depends.

First, I'd ask why they care.

If they just don't know anything about trans people, I'd probably just call them ignorant. I'd still say they bear responsibility for learning about trans people so they don't propagate harm.

If, like you, they claim to know better and engage in the space every day and constantly badger and reject transgender people, then yes, definitely morally bad. You're ego-driven and only care about being right (which you aren't anyway), with zero concern for the harm you've been told you do.

Isn't that the very definition of being morally bad? Knowing you're doing harm and continuing to do the harmful thing anyway?

Me:
Yes, that’s a good definition. It attaches to something communicable unlike “gender identity” which does not. Look, if you can come up with a definition to replace the one that involves sex organs, then I’ll gladly abandon the notion that men have penises and women have vaginas. But you can’t come up with any definition because any definition will involve the very heteronormative stereotyping you and the LGBT movement profess to repudiate and want to demolish. So, “gender identity" remains undefined, and yet you castigate me for knowing what it is and yet not respecting it. No, PJ, I don’t know what it is. How the deuce am I supposed to know what something is that eludes definition? Something that lacks definition, and "gender identity" lacks definition, is unintelligible, and that means it is unknowable. I am sure that you as an atheist have made a similar or even the exact same point about the “soul”. Believers cannot define the “soul” because it has no definition. Therefore, it is unintelligible and, thus, unknowable. Well, “gender identity” has the exact same status as the “soul” does for atheists like you. And if you are not a bad person for not respecting the “soul”, you hardly can say that I am bad for not respecting “gender identity”.

PJ:
I don't believe in souls, but I don't reject people who do.

Me:
(I should have made the rather obvious point  that if you can't ask atheists to believe in souls, then you certainly can't demand that people believe in "gender identity", which is just as metaphysically nebulous as atheists suppose souls to be.  PJ, as his is wont, committed the sophistry of conflating the rejection of the person's belief with rejection of the person.  If he followed the logic of the analogy, which he decidedly did not do, then he would have to say that acceptance of people who believe in souls entails the belief in souls, but he did not want to do that and, thus, he fucked up the analogy.)

Again, you miss the point. If you want the law to make classifications according to “gender identity”, and you’ve made it very clear that you do, then “gender identity” must have a definition. But you’ll continue to ignore this obvious difficulty (which has been pointed out to you ad nauseam) because you have no answer for it except to offer the incredibly lame definition of facial hair, make of watch, and hair length. And I’m sure that my pointing out your repeated failure to acknowledge this definitional problem makes me a bad person in your eyes.]


No comments: