The Meaning Of Life
February 10, 2015
Steve Pavlina’s Lightworker/Darkworker Polarity
March 10, 2015

The Transgender “Debate”

up for debate2


If you were a white person and “debated” with a black person about whether slavery should still exist, that wouldn’t be much of a debate, would it?

The black person would probably refuse to even engage in the debate. Other people around would shun you, too.

In this case, the act of debating itself is offensive. By engaging in certain debates, the clear implication is that some things are, well, up for debate. And they’re not. Suggesting that they are is an act of violence.

So it is, very often, with trans people.

I once explained to someone the brain studies that prove that trans people have, physically speaking, the brains of their identified sex. This required first explaining that it’s possible to work out the gender of a brain from its physical structures.

The studies don’t say exactly what the different gendered brain structures do, because no one really knows, but it’s clear that there ARE physical differences between different gendered brains.

This person replied, “No. I don’t believe in the gender binary.”

Excuse me? These studies are clear as day. You have to believe in them, otherwise you’re denying reality.

Hearing that hurt a lot, because the information wasn’t just neutral information, it was information that affected my entire life. Even if somehow the brain studies were disproven, the “I don’t believe in the gender binary” argument hurts us, because binary-gendered trans people know they are one gender or another. Their entire lives are testament to that fact. If the idea of the binary genders were just an illusion, then our entire lives would be based on an illusion.


And perhaps some people do base their lives on illusions. But — it’s hard to fully explain but — being trans goes so deep, so far beyond words and theories, that whatever we believed, it would be still there. Being trans is not a theory or an idea. We literally cannot deny who we are; trying to tends to end up in a suicide attempt.

Our experience makes it impossible to deny who we are. Obviously, other people don’t have such a pressing need to accept this truth. But if they had an iota of respect for us, they would listen to our narratives and understand that they, too, must accept this truth, because our lives depend on it.

The truth of who we are goes to the core our whole lives. It can’t be up for debate any more than it’s up for debate that blacks should be enslaved. You technically can debate it, but doing so is an act of violence.

The only reason that such debates are accepted in our society is because our society is incredibly transphobic as a whole. Some of it you might pin down to plain ignorance, but ignorance can’t be a defence anymore when trans people are out there explaining what their experience is like.

Just because society condones these debates, and participating in them has no consequences for you, doesn’t mean they are not wrong. The consensus of society is wrong, and you must fight it.

Trans people are real. Our lives are real. To say anything else is to attack our very lives. And this is not just theoretical; 41% of trans people have attempted suicide. The reason is because they are ostracised and erased by the society they live in. To debate the existence of trans people is to contribute to a status quo that is killing us.

So let me suggest a little more listening to us, and a little less stubbornly imposing your viewpoint on us.

You might have the luxury of denying the experience of people in other areas. That’s still a silly thing to do, because they experience what they experience and you shouldn’t accuse vast swathes of people to be hallucinating just to be more comfortable with your worldview. But in the case of trans people, if you do that, you contribute to a status quo that is killing us.


 

Related

What It Feels Like To Be Transgender (And Why Trans Genders Are Valid)

How I Experience Trans Oppression: My “Cis Privilege Checklist”

Why Attraction To Trans People Is Not A “Taste”

Transgenderism Is Not An Illness

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2 Comments

  1. Brian Leslie says:

    First, thank you for broaching this debate. It is something I have been thinking about for a long time, and I am still not sure how to articulate my perspective. This comment is my attempt, albeit possible a failed attempt, but still a try, to get my thoughts out of my head. I’d appreciate at least a little bit of consideration (and pushback), given what you will read below, Sophia. 🙂

    I identify as transfeminine. I don’t know that it is appropriate for me to identify as transfemale, given that I don’t have the same feelings of gender dysphoria that you do. I’ve read what you have written about the film that encases the dysphoric person’s experience, and while I have a great deal of anxiety, I still have ambivalent feelings about whether I want to transition. I have fantasies of doing so, they bring me sexual arousal (AGP), and I have dreamt of existing in a female body. But, I don’t feel shock when someone excludes me from the female crowd (e.g., ‘ladies first’ directed at others), nor do I feel anxiety when I see myself naked. Yeah, I don’t know, hence my caveat at the outset…

    Second, you are an amazing writer and a deft articulator, but that is not the same thing as debating. A debate is an adversarial ideological performance between opposing forces/processes (many times with a third party arbiter, such as a judge). If I were given the opportunity to affirm the existence of transness in a debate, I would *relish* it! HELL YES. I would enjoy having the opportunity of beating an opponent who believed that transness did not exist, or at least I would enjoy defeating a competent debater who was assigned to negate my position, because that would mean that I was right! You do exist. And in debate, the truth should win, not lose (given a parity of debate skills and resources).

    However, I do not believe that the gender/sex binary is the whole game. I don’t know if that is necessarily a disagreement. Of course, it exists; it has been created in collaboration between our bodies and our reproductive practices. I am not one of those people who strictly divides the difference between nature and nurture. Epigenetics reveals that nurturing affects nature, and genetics has long shown that genetics affects expression. The story is not simple. I think that there are many people who are involved with the binary. They do involve themselves with the female and the male, both exteriorally (e.g., hey!, or ew!), and interiorally (e.g., that’s me!, or that feels alien…). But, (and here’s my point) there is outside the binary, especially when it comes to fMRI profiles. There are some people, such as me, who doesn’t exclusively identify with or display one side. Without a better measurement (which is a waste of time, and terribly dangerous), I would say that I identify as 70:30 female:male. I guess I am a gender mutt. I ask myself, time and again, am I a girl or a boy inside? And then there are people who are just plain queer. I don’t know what to say about that, but they’re there, at the margins. You’ve met them, you know them: they’re different, exciting, unexpected, and joyfully deviant. I don’t want to say anything that will curse their identities or drive them toward unhealthy thoughts. I want to listen, and perhaps be on the losing side of a loving debate (see below about love).

    While I am not a black person, I would say that there are many black people who would enter into a debate affirming the wrongness of slavery. In addition, *I* would enter into the same debate because slavery doesn’t necessarily have racial dimensions (see Milton Meltzer’s writings, or listen to Dan Carlin’s podcasts, on this topic). More importantly, I want the slavery advocate to lose that debate.

    Nevertheless, my point (for this “2nd” point) is not whether debating is appropriate (sometimes it is not), or whether debating is harmful (sometimes it is), but instead I want to bring attention to the structural affinity between debating and the idea of “binary.” Debating has a strong affinity with binary-ness. If you affirm a binary, you are very likely to find yourself on familiar terms with the arrangement of debating, since most debates are binary in themselves (except, perhaps, this one?). They are adversarial. They set one side in a push with/against another side. It is like the Yin and the Yang (from Taoism), one having no claim to legitimacy without the other side, and no permanence whatsoever. I guess what I am saying is that by affirming a gender binary, you need to be receptive to binary clash, whether that clash occurs in the political realm (government-opposition), the gender realm (male-female), or the Yes/No realm (law of excluded middle). It is an old arrangement, not necessarily violent, that has been around for thousands of years, and it has no western/eastern bias. But, like I mentioned, it is not the whole game.

    Third, you are a sexy princess (I hope you recognize where I got those words). You know that there are people out there who have inherited terrible ideas about gender (you wrote about how you used to be in that population), and that there are people who are friendly but have different perspectives. Some of those perspectives are helpful. I prefer to cherish those friendly differences, because that is one of the best avenues for growth. Can you think about where you would be if no trans person ever engaged in an adversarial discussion with this trans-hostile world? I certainly know I wouldn’t be here at my keyboard writing to you. (Yes, I have contemplated suicide)

    There is something uncomfortable about engaging in debate, especially with people who actually believe what they are saying (instead of people who have been hired or assigned to argue their side), but I think it is more helpful to think of the relation between debaters in a way that one specific professional communicator has done in the past. Wayne Brockriede wrote a professional academic article a long time ago (I can send you a pdf if you are interested) called “Arguers as Lovers.” In that article, Brockriede compared the relationship between arguers to a sexual relationship, and he posited three primary argumentative relationships: rape, seduction, and love. I don’t think I need to go into the specifics, because you have written about the experiences of being raped, of being trained to seduce, and of genuine love. There are debaters of all these stripes, and I have found that it is profoundly satisfying to find a person with whom to engage in debate in a LOVING way. I find it downright erotic! Don’t throw away debate. It can be hard, and alien, at times, but I think that there are so many valuable experiences in the realm of human-ness that involve discomfort. Being someone who is willing to risk self and finding another person with different ideas but who is also willing to risk self, and then debating, is one of the most joyful experiences I have *ever* had as a human being.

    Sincerely,

    Brian

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