Confused about what an Intellectual Turing Test is or what “gender identity” and “Blanchard-Bailey” mean? Click here! Please read, then vote at the end of the post.
Hello, there, Ozy’s readership! I’m thrilled to be speaking to you today about the incomprehensible quagmire of gender discourse. I’m technically in the camp that believes in gender dysphoria as Ozy defined it for this ITT: “gender dysphoria is a sense of dissonance because either one’s social role or one’s physical sex does not match one’s preferred gender.” I believe in this and I don’t believe in autogynephilia. You’ll see why I say I only technically fit in the category in a minute.
I’m not sure what to say about Ozy’s first question. The definitions of “man” and “woman” aren’t exactly handed down from on high, carved clean through a stone tablet with a little stone circle levitating magically in the middle of the “o” to make it perfectly clear that the author is God. I think Slate Star Codex has a good post on this topic, The Categories Were Made For Man, Not Man For The Categories. There’s enough blog readership overlap between here and there that I can just say I agree with Scott, right? Up to a point. I’ll get into my disagreement later.
I guess I just go along with whatever definition people around me use. But, like Scott says, different ways of drawing the line have different effects for the people who have to live with them. For example, trans people. We have, for some reason, the completely inexplicable, nonsensical primary experience of gender dysphoria. It’s honestly almost like a delusion, except that we make all the same empirical predictions a cis person would make. I’m not constantly being surprised by what I’ve got in my crotch. I’m aware of it. In fact, that’s the problem.
Here’s the problem with defining a woman as someone with XX chromosomes and an estrogen-dominant hormone balance: it leaves trans people miserable.
Here’s the problem with defining a man as anyone who says they’re a man: it robs the word “man” of all meaning. If someone asks me, a trans man, how I know I’m a real man, what am I supposed to say to that? Because I said so? I did say so, but that’s not exactly the epistemic standard we apply to other categories. I’m not a traditionally-published author just because I identify as one; if I tell you I’m a published author, I’d better be able to point to some books on a bookstore shelf with my name on the spine. Publishers might not be fair about choosing books and maybe it’s important to treat self-published writers as real published authors, but they can still point to books with their names on the spine. Maybe we care about the environment and believe that ebooks are just as legitimate as actual books with spines you can put names on. Fine. Then you can still point to an ebook that someone wrote to prove that that person is a published author. Maybe we don’t want to make a distinction between fanfic and other fiction. Fine! Point to your AO3 account with your 200,000-word slow burn Loki/Nick Fury a/b/o Sandman crossover in alternating sections of iambic pentameter, free verse and haiku. (Please do. I want to read it.) All of that is just an argument over which empirical fact counts as evidence that someone is a published author; it’s still all about describing the world. Even if you believe in taking people’s word for it because “oh, really? I don’t believe you; prove it!” is a little rude as an answer to someone telling you about getting published, you still expect that they’re making a claim about an empirical fact and that that fact is about something besides how much they want to be published. For people who merely want to be published, the phrase “aspiring author” works fine.
I have a burning psychological need for the statement “I am a man” to be true, so it would be nice if it weren’t meaningless. It would also be nice if it weren’t immutably false.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any good alternatives being seriously debated. There are possible alternatives, but none of them are serious possibilities. No one is proposing or living under the rule that everyone who joins the military automatically gets male pronouns used for him. No one in America is currently proposing or living under the rule that everyone who can spell “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” gets female pronouns used for her. Maybe we should; trans women who can spell that deserve to be able to pass without needing to do anything else!
Then again, I deserve to pass, too, and I can spell pretty well. Of course, we could have a solution based around sufficient but unnecessary conditions and necessary but insufficient conditions; a woman could be anyone who identifies as female and satisfies one other thing off of some list (XX chromosomes, verbal ability, presence of a vagina…) and no one who doesn’t identify that way or doesn’t manage to check off even one thing off the list. Or we could solve it by using only sufficient unnecessary conditions and treating “man” and “woman” as compatible with each other; say, anyone literate is female, but might also be male if they like trucks. Then you could choose which gender to identify with, out of those you have the right to… which reduces to the first possibility, with identity as a necessary but insufficient condition.
Here’s the problem with defining womanhood and manhood in any of those ways: you’ll never be able to get anyone on board.
So I guess I don’t have a definition.
Moving right along…
The cotton ceiling is a dumb wank and I’m not comfortable telling people they should have sex with someone they don’t want to or shouldn’t feel bad about being rejected by everyone in ways that invalidate their identity. Does that count as an answer? I don’t have any more of one.
Interests seem to correlate with ASAB more strongly than with gender identity. Maybe that’s because AMAB people have to fear bullying if they’re interested in certain things; maybe it’s because only AFAB people receive encouragement in interesting and fulfilling hobbies like knitting and cooking, causing AMAB people to stick to what they’re allowed to be interested in while AFAB people sometimes get involved with more attractive feminine hobbies. Or maybe it’s because of the effects of hormones on brain development.
Another thing to note is that autistics are disproportionately likely to be trans. Given that trans people are a tiny fraction of the population, if more than half of autistics are trans, then at least a supermajority of trans people are probably autistic. This makes it absolutely shocking that trans women are so often programmers, since, as we all know, autistics are most known for our disproportionate representation in positions such as Wal-Mart greeter, used car salesperson, politician and other fields requiring good social skills, a specific uniform, working on site or traveling a lot, and maintaining specific hours and a consistent schedule. Except, no, we’re known for hating jobs like that and becoming programmers instead because you can pass a job interview in jeans and a T-shirt.
There are two or three possible explanations that I can think of off the top of my head and might be more that I can’t. I have no idea which one is the biggest factor but I’m not very surprised by this correlation.
I’m not in a great position to talk about why other people have the sexual fantasies they do. I think most sexual people have sexual fantasies and I think most people’s sexual fantasies are about themselves. I think most people who sexually fantasize about themselves might have fantasies where things that annoy them in real life aren’t true. I’ve heard that most people who fantasize, for example, about prolonged bondage scenes featuring total immobilization aren’t fantasizing about bedsores and needing to pee. If non-sexual fantasies tend to be similar to sexual fantasies, then we can look at Mary Sues and see that people fantasize about being more attractive by their own standards and more like they wish they were. People have fantasies about being beautiful and loved. Self-insert characters usually match the gender of the author.
But then after I wrote that last paragraph, I read Ozy’s RPF and it turns out this isn’t true. Maybe the actual reason is that trans women are all deliberately conspiring together to pretend to have fantasies that would be in line with the Blanchard-Bailey hypothesis, in order to confuse everyone as much as possible. That sounds plausible enough to me so let’s go with that!
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.