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How do you define woman/man?

The source of gender identity is the mind. Neuroscience doesn’t to my knowledge have the ability yet to explain this fully, but it looks like some combination of brain structure, hormonal environment, and other brain chemical environment causes a brain to perceive itself as being a woman or a man. Most of the time this lines up with chromosomal sex and primary and secondary sexual characteristics but not always, so there is no way to know from the outside whether a person is a woman or a man. So being a woman or a man (or some other kind of person) is defined only by the person themselves.

In practice, whether someone is a woman, a man, or neither is not very useful information about what they are like as a person. Most of the time I don’t see a point in defining “woman” or “man” in either direction. By that I mean that considering a person and deciding that they are a woman or a man based on appearances doesn’t give me new information, and also that learning that someone is a woman or a man (or neither) doesn’t have much in the way of predictive value. So it’s easier to leave these terms pretty much undefined except in the case where someone wants to define themselves in those terms.

What are your opinions on the cotton ceiling?

Trans-exclusionary radical feminist lesbians believe that having male genitalia, being assigned male at birth, and being raised socially as a boy make a person fundamentally a man in a way that cannot be changed. So they might be polite to trans women and claim not to be transphobic – but they still don’t think trans women are “real” women and they won’t even consider having sex with them. This is bigoted and transphobic, or at least is a result of years of being acculturated into a bigoted and transphobic society, which teaches all of us that trans bodies are not desirable and that trans people are not suitable life partners.

Of course all people have a right to choose which sex partners they do or don’t want, consent is critical, and nobody should ever try to bully others into having sex with them. But even so, if lesbians were to try harder to reject the transphobia instilled in them by the patriarchy and become philosophically open to having sex with trans women (instead of insisting on defining people by their genitals) their lives would on the whole likely be improved by this openness.

Why are trans women disproportionately likely to be programmers?

I don’t think this is known. But because the source of gender identity is in the mind, it seems likely and uncontroversial to hypothesize that people who have bodies that are assigned male at birth but the mind of a woman tend to be unusual, tend to be unusual in a way that is similar to each other, and that this particularity of mind makes programming or similar tasks more congenial than these tasks are to the rest of people.

The other possibility that presents itself to me is that most careers involve a lot of interpersonal contact with strangers and coworkers. For most people, even most introverts, this is no big deal. But for people whose gender identity is different from their outward appearance, interacting with people all day and at best being constantly misgendered (while at worst being actively harassed) is liable to be deeply personally painful and difficult. Programming and other IT-related jobs pay a decent wage and are reasonably stable, but usually allow a minimum of in-person or over-the-phone contact with strangers.

Why do many trans women experience sexual fantasies about being or becoming a woman?

They are women. The biggest sex organ for any person is the brain, and fantasies about sex are an important part of sexuality for any person. People whose bodies and partners match their gender identity and sexual orientation may have sexual fantasies about themselves as themselves and this is totally unremarkable. And indeed it should be unremarkable that a woman would have a sexual fantasy about herself being a woman even if her body does not look at that moment like the body most people expect a woman to have.

In addition to this, women are known to have a much more fluid sexuality than men and to be sexually interested by and fantasize about a wide variety of sometimes surprising topics. It shouldn’t be surprising for women of any description to have sexual fantasies that include her body being different than its current state in any particular way – if they want to, women can have sexual fantasies about themselves as men, as dolphins, as robots, whatever. I’m not entirely sure why this finding (that trans women experience sexual fantasies about being women) even needs an explanation.

When taking the poll, if you can POSSIBLY round yourself off to Blanchard-Bailey or gender identity, please do so. Please do this even if you have major disagreements with the side you are leaning towards. Only use “neither” if you really really really cannot in good conscience round yourself to either.