An excellent article on how liberals should address transgender issues

Helen Pluckrose, whose essays I’ve highlighted several times, has turned out a number of superb articles on how genuine progressives should deal with the political madness around us. (Areo describes her as “a researcher in the humanities who focuses on late medieval/early modern religious writing for and about women. She is critical of postmodernism and cultural constructivism which she sees as currently dominating the humanities”). Now she’s teamed up with James A. Lindsay to turn out a remarkably clear-thinking and empathic essay on how progressives like us (you are one, right?) should deal with the rise of the transgender rights movement. The essay, “An argument for a liberal and rational approach to transgender rights and inclusion,” is also in Areo, and impressed me with how right it was.  They set up the issue this way:

The rights and social inclusion of trans people is a heated topic right now and, as usual in our present atmosphere, the most extreme views take center stage and completely polarize the issue. On the one hand, we have extreme social conservatives and gender critical radical feminists who claim that trans identity is a delusion and that the good of society depends on opposing it at every turn. On the other, we have extreme trans activists who claim not only that trans people straightforwardly are the gender they experience themselves to be but that everyone else must be compelled to accept this, use corresponding language, and be fully inclusive of trans people in their choice of sexual partners.

The problem is that most of us are not extremely socially conservative, radically feminist, or intersectional trans activists, and our ethics do not align with any of these rationales or approaches. Nevertheless, people are pressured to take a “yes or no” position in relation to both trans rights and the scientific reality of trans identity. This essay is aimed at everyone, transgender and trans-skeptical, who consider themselves to be liberal (in the broadest sense). Such people value gender equality, racial equality, and LGBT equality alongside freedom of speech and belief and a rational, evidence-based approach to the world.

Their general conclusion is that we should respect transgender people’s rights and identities and, as they say, “let them do what they want.” The only areas where, they argue, we needn’t accept transgender claims at full face value are these (my characterization, not quotes):

  • The claims that sex and gender are pure social constructs lacking a biological basis should not be accepted prima facie. They cite evidence showing that transgender people may have biological features that confer gender dysphoria. This, of course, shouldn’t affect how we treat trans people at all; but it affects whether or not we must accept what they assert. In fact, that’s the only argument Pluckrose and Lindsay have with the transgender movement: the claim that we must to believe all its assertions. They are in full agreement with the need to treat trans people as equals, accommodate their special needs, and be sympathetic to their feeling that they may be outliers.
  • The authors are strongly opposed to allowing children before puberty to choose a gender and then undergo medical treatment to facilitate changing their gender.
  • The “bathroom” issue. Pluckrose and Lindsay say that the concern about women being exposed to trans women with penises (and the fear of assault) should be taken seriously, but they then say it’s way overblown, as there’s no evidence this is a real issue, and we can always arrange bathrooms so it becomes a total non-problem. We have some mixed-sex bathrooms in my building, and nobody finds them problematic.
  • The claim by some trans people that straight men who won’t have sex with trans women are being “transphobic”. As the authors say, if you’re a man and don’t want to sleep with someone who looks female but also has a penis, that’s your choice and you shouldn’t be demonized for it. The same goes for women who don’t want to have sex with a trans man. As they say, such attitudes constitute “. . . dangerous, illiberal nonsense reminiscent of the most intrusive forms of conversion therapy. People do not have to justify not being attracted to any set of genitalia or not being attracted to trans people. No-one has to justify their attractions at all.”
  • Excessive language policing by trans people about the proper use of pronouns, particularly those people who claim there are up to 114 genders, and the “genderfluid” people whose identities—and pronouns—change over hours or days. They have no objection to calling someone what they want to be called, but do object to a form of gender activism that “appears to many like an unappealing combination of ideologizing and attention seeking.”
  • The issue of sports, especially when it comes to trans women competing against biologically-born women. Trans women may have a natural advantage based on developement before any medical intervention, and defining people by hormone titer may not solve that. The solution, say Pluckrose and Lindsay, may rest in having to develop “trans” categories in addition to men’s and women’s sports.

I’m emphasizing here where Lindsay and Pluckrose are at odds with the most radical forms of the transgender movement, but their attitude is generally one of empathy and sympathy. They end like this:

The solution to this is relatively simple from a liberal perspective: Let adults do what they want (also deal with practical issues as well as possible as they arise and let emerging science inform decisions we make as we come to know more).

For trans activists, this requires accepting that they cannot dictate the language that other people use, the beliefs they have about gender, or who they have sex with. These attitudes can be painful for trans people, but other marginalized identities slowly gained acceptance, and the world seems ready to do that with trans people, though less fast and to a lesser degree than trans activists would want. It is true, whether trans is innate or otherwise (and more so if it’s innate), that trans people face a harder-than-average lot with things. They are statistically rare, and they challenge largely bedrock notions of sex and gender for most people. Their dating options will be more limited than average. Some people will remain uncomfortable with them, almost certainly, merely because of who they are. It sucks, and we can care and help—and we can encourage people to grow up around them and offer counselling to manage remaining pettiness—but ultimately, being trans is harder than not being trans, and it is not going to be made easier by “progressive” attempts to bully people.

For anti-trans people, this requires accepting that trans identity is none of their business. If the problem is authoritarianism or pretentious ideologizing rather than gender identity, authoritarianism and pretentious ideologizing are the grounds for avoiding or criticizing an individual rather than their gender identity. The problem with authoritarians and gender ideologues expands way beyond the gender identity issue and is rife within both the SocJus left and far right generally. Reasonable people manage to be critical of intersectional feminism, however, without being hostile to women and of critical race theory without antagonism towards non-white people. It may seem as though the Venn diagram which would show trans people and trans activists is almost a single circle but this is largely wrong because most trans people aren’t activists. They simply want to identify as their gender and not draw attention to the fact that it is also trans.

A liberal attitude on the part of trans people requires accepting that other people may or may not support your gender identity. If you are discriminated against or intimidated, you should be able to expect protection from a liberal society. Of course, reasonable activism to ensure this protection can be engaged in and supported by liberals generally. A liberal attitude towards trans people is the same as a liberal attitude towards everyone else: treat them as individuals. If they turn out to be pretentious, authoritarian ideologues, they can be responded to as such perfectly reasonably and ethically. If they turn out not to be any of that, there is no justification for negative generalizations and collective blame.

I’d call that remarkably thoughtful—and liberal. This article is a Professor Ceiling Cat Must-Read Selection™.

h/t: Grania

172 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    sub

  2. GM
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    I fully agree with the “let them do whatever they want” approach.

    However, there is one more item I would add to the list of things not to compromise on, and it is that there should be absolutely no tolerance towards changing pronouns — if you were born male, not only nobody should be forced to call you a “she” once you transition, but nobody should call you a “she”, period.

    You are still male, no matter what you decide to do with your body, because sex in mammals (and most other species) is immutable (there are various weird exceptions in other lineages, but not in mammals).

    So to call someone who transitioned with the opposite pronoun is an act of denial of objective reality.

    And denying objective reality should never be tolerated under any circumstances.

    • GBJames
      Posted September 28, 2017 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      I think you miss the point of being trans.

      • GM
        Posted September 28, 2017 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

        I think you miss the point about denial of objective reality and voluntary delusions

        • GBJames
          Posted September 28, 2017 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

          And you the difference between objective reality and relevant objective reality.

        • hugh7
          Posted September 29, 2017 at 4:10 am | Permalink

          Sorry but you have chosen to take one small facet of objective reality and call it “objective reality”.
          I don’t even know which facet you have chosen: is it
          Chromosomes? (Then what of XXY?)
          Hormone titre? (Then what of very masculine women and vice-versa?)
          External genitalia? (Are they any of your business?)
          Internal genitalia? (In most cases, who knows?)
          Or (and this is the liberal position) identity? In which case we call people by thee pronouns they prefer.

          • hugh7
            Posted September 29, 2017 at 4:19 am | Permalink

            ^the (with a nod to Quakerism)

            But I see you’ve gone with gamete-production, with a strange codicil: “(or rather, what gametes you would have been producing if everything had gone correct with your development)” – which begs the question that there is a “correct” developement and that we know what it is, making your argument circular. It also seems to leave children, post-menopausal women, old men and other non-gamete producers in a strange sexless condtion.

            • GM
              Posted September 29, 2017 at 5:26 am | Permalink

              Yes, there is a correct development — what evolution has selected for and, correspondingly, incorrect development is what evolution is selecting against.

              It is quite an objective definition

              • GBJames
                Posted September 29, 2017 at 6:28 am | Permalink

                That’s a pretty dumb definition of “correct”, IMO. Evolution doesn’t select for one thing. Evolution produces variation. You seem to have a teleological notion that evolution defines things. It doesn’t.

                Then there’s the naturalistic fallacy lurking there as well.

              • GM
                Posted September 29, 2017 at 6:36 am | Permalink

                Both selection and drift eliminate variation the vast majority of the time.

                And yes, evolution does define things and there is nothing teleological about it. We are what we are because of the action of evolutionary forces over billions of years. Also, the selective unfitness of newborns with anencephaly is quite invariant across environmental conditions.

                Finally, you can cry all you want about the “naturalistic fallacy”, but that will not change the way the world is.

              • GBJames
                Posted September 29, 2017 at 6:49 am | Permalink

                Think about it GM. Think about the vast variety of life forms on our little planet. Selection reduces variation but evolution generates variety.

                Definitions of “correctness” for pronoun usage have nothing to do with simple-minded characterizations of (sloppily selected) bits of “objective reality”. I’m not “crying” about the naturalistic fallacy. I’m simply pointing out that you’re using it.

              • Posted September 29, 2017 at 11:35 am | Permalink

                Ignoring the naturalistic fallacy for the moment, what *is* being selected against? Perhaps one should *expect* a certain proportion of this and that and the other thing, not just the “two easy bins”?

              • hugh7
                Posted October 1, 2017 at 4:41 am | Permalink

                GM: “Both selection and drift eliminate variation the vast majority of the time.”

                Nobody denies that the vast majority of people are either male or female, however you define it, the vast majority of the time. It is precisely the small minorities of people who are transgender or intersex that we are talking about. That doesn’t make them “wrong”, or we could argue that left-handedness or red hair were also “wrong”.

    • Craw
      Posted September 28, 2017 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      That’s not an addition, it’s a contradiction. When they say “let adults do what they want” they include letting them choose what pronouns they are comfortable applying to others. I am comfortable applying “she” to the penis-attached transgender person in my office. I’m an adult, doing what I want in regard to that pronoun.

      • Posted September 28, 2017 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

        I agree. I would call the person in question “she” out of courtesy but that doesn’t mean I have to ignore the fact that this person isn’t indistinguishable from most women.

    • Helen Pluckrose
      Posted September 28, 2017 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      Part of letting people do what they want is letting them use the pronouns they want. You can go by biological sex in relation to the reproductive system if you choose and consider gender differences in brains and hormones and genetic evidence re trans identity irrelevant. No-one else has to. By ‘she’ they might not mean ‘person who was born with a vagina’ and therefore will not be denying objective reality if they use it for someone who wasn’t.

      For many of us, other people’s use of pronouns fall under the banner of ‘things that make them happy without affecting anyone else’ and we really can’t get too worked up about insisting they use the ‘right’ ones.

      We said this to people who take your position:

      First of all, you do not know that trans identity is a delusion. Nobody does. At the most, you can only think that there is insufficient evidence to think it is real. If you insist that gender is entirely determined by the biological sex of a person’s gonads, you necessarily dismiss the neuroscientific and endocrinal evidence that gender differences exist. In this case, we can only ask that you consider leaving individual trans people alone and making your arguments less ideologically and more generally upon universal principles of human rights and dignity.

      and

      If you still feel that it’s important to keep opposing trans identity, we’ll leave you here. We respect your right to state your view and will oppose any attempt to silence you or force you to use terms you don’t believe are valid. We’d hope that you, in return, would limit your objections to your own spaces and general conversation and not harass trans people going about their own business. We think most of you will.

      If, on the other hand, like most liberals we speak to, you neither blindly accept that every trans person is deluded nor feel it is absolutely necessary to oppose their acceptance and to contradict their identity at every opportunity, there is another option that is liberal and rational and it is very simple.

      Let adults do what they want (also deal with practical issues as well as possible as they arise and let emerging science inform decisions we make as we come to know more).

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted September 28, 2017 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

        I agree with you entirely, and with the rest of your article too.

        It’s so good to have an article where liberals are being liberals. Too many so-called liberals these days are just as authoritarian as those on the right they oppose. Further, they fail to see the irony in any of the positions they take in ordering people how to think or feel.

        I hope it’s widely read and accepted.

        • Helen Pluckrose
          Posted September 28, 2017 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

          Thank you! I agree.

      • Mark R.
        Posted September 28, 2017 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for your informative and pragmatic essay and for this comment, further distilling your thoughts. You’ve clarified and reinforced some of my thinking on this issue and I thank you for that.

      • Inigo Montoya
        Posted September 29, 2017 at 5:28 am | Permalink

        I posted this comment on the article page, but since we have one of the author here in the comment section, I’ll repost it here so Mrs Pluckrose can (hopefully) respond.

        Original comment below:
        What is lost when a teenager transitions even though their dysphoria might have resolved on its own? I’m shocked that the article calls their bodies “damaged”. Implicit in that argument is the idea that we should “conserve cisness” and not transition people unless absolutely necessary. That’s a completely unjustified value judgement.

        Also, maybe Jones has made some other tweet that is more radical, but in what you quoted I don’t see her (or anyone else) arguing that it’s okay to deceive partners about being trans. If you want to know my thinking on the matter, yes, I think accepting trans people as potential sexual partners is objectively better than not accepting them, and people should indeed be encouraged to work through their irrational phobia of dicks. It’s the demonisation and deception that I oppose.

        • Posted September 29, 2017 at 11:38 am | Permalink

          I don’t think the argument needs “conserve cisness” as an premiss. I think rather the premiss is that surgery and hormone treatments are not free of side effects and should be done carefully. I don’t have any answer about whether a parent or guardian can choose for their children to have them receive these for the purpose of gender reassignment, however.

          Personally, I think puberty blockers for this purpose sound horrendous, but I admit I haven’t thought it completely through yet.

        • Helen Pluckrose
          Posted September 29, 2017 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

          Yes, I think bodies can be considered damaged if primary and secondary sexual organs are removed or altered to conform a body to a gender identity that is then rejected. If it turns out this was done unnecessarily and the individual wishes it hadn’t been. I’m not sure why this needs further explanation.

          No the quotes from Ms Jones were examples of someone saying people should work through not being attracted to certain genitalia or gender identities. Of course, accepting trans people as potential sexual partners is objectively better than not. It is more inclusive. But attraction need not be inclusive. It is neither rational nor ethical and no-one should have to justify it or pretend to be attracted to people they are not. A non-attraction to penises is not an irrational phobia and no-one needs to work through it. People’s sexuality is their own business. Trying to shame them can only produce defensiveness and hostility. Let people do what they want,

          • Inigo Montoya
            Posted October 2, 2017 at 3:59 am | Permalink

            But see, here you conflate “unnecessary” with “later rejected”. To be fair, it’s a very common and somewhat “bipartisan” mistake. You don’t know how many successful transitions were “unnecessary” in the sense that the dysphoria might have resolved on its own. In fact no one can possibly know that information, since it requires knowing the person’s life outcomes had they not transitioned. But assuming that a good transition is a necessary transition smacks of bias. We have limited information and we are required to make decisions based on what’s expected to be good for the person, not on what’s expected to be necessary. But like is said, it’s a mistake that doesn’t come with an (R) or a (D) after it; many trans right activists, who are biased against rather than for cisness, nevertheless fall in the same trap of assuming gender identity is some kind of Platonic ideal form, and thinking of transition in terms of people being transitioned to the gender they were “meant” to be. Like all oversimplifications, it describes some cases well but others not so much.

            As for your second point, I think you’re being too rash when you say that attraction doesn’t have the property of being rational. Non-attraction can definitely be irrational if it’s based on a wrong premise. Case in point (and this is honestly what I was thinking of when I wrote my first post): yours truly once found pre- or non-op transwomen’s bodies disgusting, but that was almost solely due to seeing commercial “shemale” porn on the Internet, which is indeed disgusting. Once I realised that transwomen are just normal people who are (un)attractive in all the ways people can be, that disgust disappeared. Add to that the elephant in the room, internalised homophobia (you can’t find a woman with a penis attractive because that would make you gay), and I think you’ve explained a good deal of the rejection of transwomen’s bodies.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted September 28, 2017 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

      Who appointed you pronoun czar?

      • Rita
        Posted September 28, 2017 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

        Good one, Ken!

    • Markham Thomas
      Posted September 28, 2017 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      So how would you go about policing your “one more item to not compromise on”? Would you go around lifting skirts and pulling down zippers to determine the “correct” pronoun to use? Would we require trans people to wear an armband identifying the “correct” pronoun to use?

      The sex you are born with, in most respects, is immutable on paper, but thanks to modern surgical procedures it can be changed physically. I hope you understand the problem with your argument of using “objective reality”. If I have a wall that is white and I paint it blue, objectively is the wall white or blue? Would I point to it and say, look there is a white wall? No I would say it was blue.

      Cheers,
      Markham

      • GM
        Posted September 28, 2017 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

        The sex you are born with, in most respects, is immutable on paper, but thanks to modern surgical procedures it can be changed physically

        I think you are misunderstanding how sex is defined — it is what gametes you produce (or rather, what gametes you would have been producing if everything had gone correct with your development) that matters the most.

        Surgery changes external appearances, not your inherent biological nature.

        If you are a male, you can chop off your genitalia, pump yourself with hormones, get some bolt ons, hair implants, lip implants, lots of makeup, etc. etc., but you are still never going to produce eggs or give birth.

        And you can never be a “she” as a result

        • Posted September 28, 2017 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

          The way I see it you are mixing together three concepts; biological sex, gender identity and sexual preference.

          Biological sex is determined by the actions of our genes and in humans it results in a near binary situation with almost (but not all) people either biologically female or biologically male; the rare inter(biological)sex people only prove the case. Biological sex is is determined by our genes – this is what you are referring to.

          Gender identity is only partially impacted by genes – much of our gender identity comes from a complex interaction of our genes, development and the environment.

          Sexual preference is even further removed from genetic causes as it reflects personal likes which are mostly affected by development and the environment.

        • Markham Thomas
          Posted September 28, 2017 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

          Female – 1. of or denoting the sex that can bear offspring or produce eggs, distinguished biologically by the production of gametes (ova) that can be fertilized by male gametes.

          She – 1. used to refer to a woman, girl, or female animal previously mentioned or easily identified.

          Based on the definitions, I can assure you, that a male going through all the procedures that you mention, would be identified as a “she”.

          Cheers,
          Markham

          • GM
            Posted September 28, 2017 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

            Seriously, WTF? Read your definition of “she” — how in the world does an M2F trans individual fit that definition?

            He’s neither a woman, nor a girl, nor a female animal.

            • Markham Thomas
              Posted September 28, 2017 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

              I can use it in a couple of sentences which might help:

              “This is Margaret, she is new here.” or “Wow, she is very pretty”. The first usage of “she” is predicated on the prior usage of the name Margaret. It is unlikely that a Male would be named Margaret. In the second example, the word “she” is implied by what most would consider to be a visual identification. If it was a Male, the term typically used would be handsome.

              Using your example:

              “If you are a male, you can chop off your genitalia, pump yourself with hormones, get some bolt ons, hair implants, lip implants, lots of makeup, etc. etc., but you are still never going to produce eggs or give birth.”

              I do agree with you, that the likelihood of that person producing eggs or giving birth are on the low side… yet I can guarantee that if you were introduced to her, you would use the pronoun “she”.

              Cheers,
              Markham

              • GM
                Posted September 29, 2017 at 5:27 am | Permalink

                No, I wouldn’t, I am actually fairly good at playing “spot the tranny”

    • Posted September 28, 2017 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      “denying objective reality should never be tolerated under any circumstances”

      And you seem to be worried about authoritarianism on the Trans “side”?

      I actually think such denials should be tolerated, almost all the time. We do this constantly with religious colleagues and family members, do we not? And people who accept, for instance, homeopathy.

      Do you propose everyone become an objective reality warrior?

      I agree with more or less everything in the article to which PCCE linked. (My only reservation is that I think that the (cis) women who are fearful of men issue is somewhat glossed over in my opinion.)

      • GM
        Posted September 28, 2017 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

        And you seem to be worried about authoritarianism on the Trans “side”?

        See, the problem here is that nature is fundamentally totalitarian. There are certain laws of physics and nobody can vote or voice any meaningful opinion on what those should be, they are what they are.

        Totalitarianism of the trans side is a problem because it involves denial of objective reality, not because it is totalitarianism.

        I actually think such denials should be tolerated, almost all the time. We do this constantly with religious colleagues and family members, do we not? And people who accept, for instance, homeopathy.

        I don’t tolerate such things on any occasion when I can get away with actually voicing my real opinion.

        Do you propose everyone become an objective reality warrior?

        Yes

        • Posted September 28, 2017 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

          Thanks for your clarity.

        • Posted September 28, 2017 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

          I don’t tolerate such things on any occasion when I can get away with actually voicing my real opinion.

          … Must be the life of the party, eh?! 🙂

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted September 28, 2017 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

            Such self-deprecating humility can be so refreshing, no?

    • Posted September 28, 2017 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

      There is no such “objective reality” as you construe it, and ironically, evolution is one of the best cases against it. That does not mean that “anything goes” or any of the postmodernist rubbish.

      Consider that there are also no animal “kinds” that objectively exist, even though there clearly are elephants, tigers or birds. The situation with gender/sex appears to be similar somewhat to cladists vs pheneticists.

      […] Cladists will put [coelacanths] with rhinos, pheneticists with tunas; traditionalists will hone their rhetoric to defend a necessarily sub- jective decision… I do not believe that nature frustrates us by design, but I rejoice in her intransigence nonetheless. (Gould, 1983; discussion on this, Lakoff, 1985)

      Let´s be careful here: your statement is about language, pronouns, and about what is the “correct” way to refer to something. We can say mothertongue and fatherland. There are strictly speaking no mothers or fathers involved in either of these. There can be mothers that only give birth and do nothing associated with mothers. And there can be foster moms that might even be virgins. You can be the father of some discipline, just by thinking and writing smart papers. Alice in Wonderland and Dorothy of Oz are girls, aren‘t they? How can they be, if there is nothing biological about them?

      This is because we apparently can stretch categories and make them include additional members that are “kind of” similar to what we know, until we accept them as another variety. Also, we can use different criteria, even several sets of them that are clustered together, as meaning. Lakoff argues there that the concept of mother includes several ideas, from a female who gives birth to a female parent and more, creating prototype effects.

      Doing that does not mean it all becomes literally the same. Nobody has a problem to call the things orbiting Jupiter also moons, and just as there are Jupiter moons there can be trans woman, or men; you can father a new field in the sciences, perhaps without expending sperm, and so on.

    • eric
      Posted September 28, 2017 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

      …there should be absolutely no tolerance towards changing pronouns…

      Who made you Lord High Dictator of English? I suggest you re-read the section on how to be an adult. You are free to use whatever pronouns you want. And the rest of us are free to do the same.

    • Posted September 28, 2017 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

      I can’t figure out why I would not use someones chosen pronoun if I know what it is. It’s not up to me to decide. So, if I know to address a person by a certain pronoun, I do. It’s just being courteous. I’m not exactly 100 percent sure about the whole transgender thing. It is complex and not being transgender, I have no clue what it’s like. And it isn’t up to me to determine. I’ll just let them be them and be nice along the way.

      • GM
        Posted September 28, 2017 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

        I can’t figure out why I would not use someones chosen pronoun if I know what it is.

        Because you are perpetuating a lie if you do so.

        It’s not up to me to decide.

        Neither is it up to the trans individual.

        Basically you are saying that if someone is telling you that the speed of light in a vacuum is 100 m/s rather than what it actually is, you should agree with him because you like being courteous. That is exactly your logic.

        Do I need to give other examples to illustrate its absurdity, or that is enough?

        I’m not exactly 100 percent sure about the whole transgender thing. It is complex and not being transgender, I have no clue what it’s like.

        It is not complex at all — successful reproduction in mammals can only occur through the mating of a male and a female organisms and the fertilization of an egg by sperm. The only normal states that have been selected for by evolution are therefore cis-het-male and cis-het-female. Occasionally chromosomes get messed up or development goes wrong and that gives rise to a small fraction of intersex individuals, but those are errors in the process in much the same way a Patau syndrome newborn is an aberration (and nobody in their right mind would claim Patau syndrome babies are healthy expressions of normal human variation). On other occasions people develop mental disorders and they decide they want to be the other sex (or they follow fads that make such behavior fashionable).

        But mental disorders are once again disorders, not healthy expressions of normal human variation, and the delusions of the individuals who suffer from them bear no relevance to what objective biological reality is

        It really is quite simple.

    • Posted September 28, 2017 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

      It’s called being polite.

      I don’t call my neighbor Michael, because he hates the name. Everyone calls him Bubba. He won’t respond to Mike or any variation thereof.

      I could ignore his wishes and be a jerk about the whole thing. Or I could be polite to an individual and learn what they prefer to be called.

      It’s not biology, it’s not social activism. It’s being polite and considerate of others.

    • pck
      Posted September 28, 2017 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

      The only reason I can see why anyone would steadfastly insist on calling trans people by the opposite pronoun is that they’re a huge dick.

  3. tomh
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    So you’re in full agreement with “let them do whatever they want,” but you strenuously object to letting them call themselves whatever they want. Perhaps you don’t realize that no one can be “forced” to call someone else by a particular pronoun. You can use whatever pronoun you like to refer to anyone you want. As for what should “never be tolerated under any circumstances,” well, that sounds kind of intolerant.

    • Paul S
      Posted September 28, 2017 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      Assuming this is a response to GM, I partly agree. Pronouns and titles, are a sign of respect. Simply being trans doesn’t grant respect, you can be trans and still be an asshole.

      • busterggi
        Posted September 28, 2017 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

        Death, taxes and assholes – the three certainties of life.

      • josh
        Posted September 29, 2017 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

        Traditionally, no, pronouns are not a sign of respect, they are a matter of grammatical correctness based on the factual situation. (At least in English, there are pronoun issues in other languages that don’t have to do with gender, but do convey social status.) Titles are also factual: one either is or isn’t a Dr., a Lord, etc., although it may be a matter of respect whether one *uses* titles or not.

        This is not me objecting to people who decide to adopt trans-preferred pronouns, but it’s not a straightforward application of existing rules.

    • jay
      Posted September 28, 2017 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      Actually it’s heading toward the forced situation of gender pronouns. Laws are being enacted to legally require playing along with the gender du jour. California (of course) is working on making it a prosecutable offense in some situations.

      I’ve always gone with the atheist mantra: a delusion, no matter how strongly believed, is still a delusion.

      • Paul S
        Posted September 28, 2017 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

        Ridiculous, pronoun blasphemy, I can’t see that holding up on judicial review.

      • Historian
        Posted September 28, 2017 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

        Do you have a cite or link regarding your comment on California?

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted September 28, 2017 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

          Beware the passive voice when told “laws are being enacted” …

        • Posted September 28, 2017 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

          This was recently addressed at Politifact;

          http://www.politifact.com/california/article/2017/sep/26/claims-mislead-about-california-bill-forcing-jail-/

          • Historian
            Posted September 28, 2017 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

            Here is the Politifact summary of the bill per the article you cited:

            ————

            “We found groups such as Breitbart and Fox News crammed misleading information into short news headlines, greatly distorting the facts about the use of pronouns or leaving out key information that would have given a different impression.”

            “But we also found an element of truth: Violations of the bill could, under limited circumstances, be treated as a misdemeanor with punishment of up to one year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.”

            —————-
            It concludes:

            —————
            “There’s no doubt conservative media groups wrote misleading and inflammatory headlines about California’s LGBT Senior Bill of Rights. They seized on the small chance that one could face criminal charges for using the wrong pronoun to identify a transgender resident in a long-term care home.”

            “But the headlines, and some of the articles that follow, don’t fully explain the high bar necessary for criminal prosecution. Calling someone by the wrong pronoun would have to be repeated and willful, as some articles detail. But this action would also have to put a resident at risk of death or serious physical harm — though at least one religious liberty group disputes that this would be necessary to bring criminal charges.”

            —————–

            In other words, conservatives and the religious have made a big ado over nothing. Conservatives and the religious have mastered the technique of driving their base into a tizzy over one in a million possibilities. Rest assured, the base will be duped as always. It’s so easy to do.

            • Craw
              Posted September 28, 2017 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

              No, what we learn was Jay is strictly accurate. An indictable offense was proposed for some situations. What Fox News had to say is quite irrelevant to the question whether Jay was correct. He was and is.

              • Historian
                Posted September 28, 2017 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

                No, it’s irrelevant if Jay was strictly right. The issue of an indictable offense is a red herring. It’s an absurd distraction from a measure designed to secure LGBT rights. People who raise the issue either don’t know anything about probability or just ignore it to advance their agenda. Probability tells me that the latter is the likely reason.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted September 28, 2017 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

                The proposed California legislation, Senate Bill 219, would make it a misdemeanor in certain limited instances to deny seniors admission to long-term care facilities because of their being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered. How does that make “strictly accurate” Jay’s claim that “California … is working on making it a prosecutable offense” to use the wrong “gender pronoun”?

              • Craw
                Posted September 29, 2017 at 8:06 am | Permalink

                So that’s how it works here? If a bill says A and B, you can quote just the section saying A and deny therefore it says B? Here’s B:

                “Among other things, the bill would make it unlawful, except as specified, for any long-term care facility to take specified actions wholly or partially on the basis of a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) status, including, among others, willfully and repeatedly failing to use a resident’s preferred name or pronouns after being clearly informed of the preferred name or pronouns”

                http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB219

  4. busterggi
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Next up – Transgenderism and Free Will.

  5. DrBrydon
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    Not a progressive, but, as a conservation, this makes perfect sense to me. Live and let live, I say. There are issues to be worked out, as they authors say, but democracy is founded upon legal equality, and I’ve yet to hear any argument that justified treating trans people, women, blacks, gays, etc. differently. (People often get that the wrong way around, and ask people to justify equality.)

  6. jay
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    I believe in the original meaning of tolerance. From the word tolerate: one should not harass or interfere with another’s life choices, but neither is one obligated to affirm, approve, participate or pretend that one feels it’s all OK.

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted September 28, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

      …Bless their hearts.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted September 28, 2017 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      Does your “tolerance” extend to granting them the full and equal protection of law (same as it does, let us hope, to those who, in your view, harbor religious delusions)?

  7. Posted September 28, 2017 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Re: sports: I’ve viewed the “female” category as a restricted category (to give statistical fairness) and the “male” category to be the “open” category.

    If you don’t meet the criteria for the female category, you are “open” category.

    • Travis
      Posted September 28, 2017 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

      Would an exception to this rule be gymnastics or something like that? I’m not actually sure which sports women excel in over men but I presume it’s just the flexibility sports and iirc some kind of long-distance running

      • Posted September 28, 2017 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

        Oh yes, of course. I was thinking more along the lines of track, swimming, wrestling, weight lifting, etc.

      • barael
        Posted September 29, 2017 at 7:02 am | Permalink

        This has become a bit of a pet-peeve of mine; the often surfacing claim that women are somehow superior in (ultra) endurance sports, usually backed by nothing but some feel-good, speculative blog posts about things like lower center of gravity leading to less fatigue and/or some example of a woman doing well/winning in a recent ultra endurance event.

        The annoying thing is, this is dismissed in mere seconds by a quick glance of the pages for ultra-marathon, ultra-triathlon, “English channel swimmers” on Wikipedia or Race Across America (cycling) records page.

        Tbh I bought it myself when I first heard and read the rationales. I think the penny dropped for me when the (womens’) winner of some marathon was declared simply “the winner”on media when in fact she crossed the finish line some 10 minutes after the mens winner.

      • GM
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:48 am | Permalink

        Men are far superior in gymnastics too.

        The one area where women are “better” is rhythmic gymnastics. But this is because rhythmic gymnastics is judged subjectively and a vaguely defined “aesthetics” is of great importance. Thus, women being more flexible, they “dominate”.

        However, “dominate” is a misnomer because there simply has never been any real men’s version of the sport (they have it in Japan, but it’s never going to be an Olympic sport).

        So we simply can’t say who is actually “better” — yes, women are more flexible, but men can do much more complex acrobatic moves, so who knows…

        But in more traditional gymnastics it is no contest whatsoever.

        Neither is it in figure skating.

        The thing about “flexibility sports” is that they are usually not just about flexibility — strength and balance play a significant role too, and men are vastly superior there. Most good jugglers (and juggling is purely about those two things) are men for a reason.

    • Posted September 28, 2017 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

      Just the other day Lindsay Vonn appealed to FIS World Cup Skiing to let her compete against men in the upcoming season. I think this is argument she made – that if men were to compete in the women’s races they would be at an unfair advantage but what do the men have to fear from her competing in theirs where they have the advantage? This essentially makes the men’s competition “open”.

      WC authorities have not (AFAIK) responded yet but is unlikely to approve.

      • Paul S
        Posted September 28, 2017 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

        There’s precedent. Michelle Wie played in 13 men’s tournaments. She made the cut once on the Asian Tour.

  8. Linda Calhoun
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Re: the pronoun thing – I have learned, for the most part, to speak and write in the plural. Saves a lot of hassle, and is still grammatically correct.

    L

    • GBJames
      Posted September 28, 2017 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

      Shouldn’t that be “We have learned…”?

      • Linda Calhoun
        Posted September 28, 2017 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

        Snort.

        That reminds me of Mark Twain’s comment about the “royal we”, that the only people who should be allowed to use it are kings, pregnant women, and people with tapeworm.

        L

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted September 28, 2017 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

          Hey, Kemosabe, how ’bout French folks and people with mice in their pockets? 🙂

  9. Randy schenck
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Very good article and one to go by. Now, what to do about all the conservatives out there? On a much lighter note, it has been discovered that Kushner registered to vote in NY in 2009 as a female. Also, Bannon and Spicer registered to vote in two states. I wonder if Trump’s voter fraud committee are looking into this?

    • DrBrydon
      Posted September 28, 2017 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

      I replied above, Randy. 😉

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted September 28, 2017 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

      “Kushner registered to vote in NY in 2009 as a female.”

      It’s the principle “one Javanka, one vote.”

  10. Posted September 28, 2017 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    Great article. The next step is for liberals to incorporate this into their thinking so that when attacked by people on the extremes they can defend themselves with some intellectual and moral confidence.

    So when will Pluckrose and Lindsay tackle the other 527 issues that are dividing liberals?

    • Helen Pluckrose
      Posted September 28, 2017 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      We’re on it! We’re on it!

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted September 28, 2017 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

      I can’t speak for other liberals, but this article is the way I always argue the situation, and it’s great to have a worthy link to use to back up what I write.

      • Posted September 28, 2017 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

        Yes, it reflects my thoughts in general too. Very nice to have it handy.

      • BJ
        Posted September 28, 2017 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

        Agreed. An excellent point-by-point rebuttal to both extremes.

    • Posted September 28, 2017 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

      What the writers of the article are showing is true liberalism. Unfortunately, too many on the left have completely abandoned liberalism.

  11. Posted September 28, 2017 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Re: ‘The claim by some trans people that straight men who won’t have sex with trans women are being “transphobic”.’

    A friend of mine was really struggling with this recently, as a gay man. On the one hand, he simply doesn’t feel attracted to trans men, but he felt considerable pressure by some people to feel differently, and that this made him transphobic.

    I asked him, since you don’t want to have sex with women, does that make you “heterophobic”? If you aren’t sexually attracted to people 20 years your elder or your junior, does that make you ageist?

    Sexual desire is one of the most difficult (and probably foolish) biological impulses to control. Personally, I have a rather limited set of characteristics that I find sexually appealing in a woman. For example, I am very rarely sexually attracted to women who are not of Indo-European descent. I can certainly recognize great objective beauty in non-Indo-European women, as well as many men, but that recognition of beauty does not necessarily translate into sexual desire.

    This claim of transphobia against people who don’t find trans people sexually attractive is particularly absurd.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted September 28, 2017 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

      “I have a rather limited set of characteristics that I find sexually appealing in a woman.”

      Let’s hope a pulse and sufficient cortical activity to confer consent are among them …

      I kid!

    • Travis
      Posted September 28, 2017 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

      uh oh I think that makes you a racist!

      jk, ofc, but I’ve seen this sentiment.

    • Posted September 28, 2017 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      Most of us have a ‘type’.

      Blonde, brunette or redhead.

      Tall or short.

      Curvy or petite.

      With a penis or without.

    • Posted September 28, 2017 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

      So I guess that the many young women who chose not to have sex with the recently deceased founder of Playboy were Heffophobic

  12. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Just read the Pluckrose & Lindsay article. Wow, not sure I can take that much commonsense in a single sitting. 🙂

    In dealing with this issue, we should bear in mind that, for the Right, trans issues — especially the one relating to bathroom use — has become a proxy fight for the battles it lost over gay rights and same-sex marriage. This was glaringly obvious a while back when el presidente rage-tweeted (apropos nothing at all) his command that transgenders be 86ed from US military service. This he did solely to shore up his deplorable support, which was flagging owing to his criticisms of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a venerated hero of bigots and xenophobes on the alt-right.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted September 28, 2017 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

      Yes, he really accomplished the foot in mouth on this one. The military does not want to kick them out for many reasons and they do not want to refuse entry either. Maybe they will just stall until Mueller is done.

      • Travis
        Posted September 28, 2017 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

        Really? There is plenty of reason to exclude trans from the military. The US military already excludes people for much less severe reasons than transgenderism.

        Note that I am not at all in favor of kicking out those already in the military. They already signed a contract so the government is responsible for them from here on out.

        • Posted September 28, 2017 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

          Really? There is plenty of reason to exclude trans from the military. The US military already excludes people for much less severe reasons than transgenderism.

          Does it?

          If have thought, given the physical advantages of being born and developing as male, a transwoman soldier would have distinct physical advantages over a cis-woman soldier.

          • Travis
            Posted September 28, 2017 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

            While helpful that’s not the only important attribute for someone in the military.

        • Posted September 28, 2017 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

          “There is plenty of reason to exclude trans from the military.”

          Then you should have no trouble citing one.

          • Travis
            Posted September 28, 2017 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

            Suicide risk 23x higher than the general vet population.

            Suicide (and attempts) causes serious harm to group cohesion and morale.

            Putting a population demographic who is already at high risk into a high stress position (which as mentioned raises their risk even further) is irresponsible to not only the individual but the country.

            • Travis
              Posted September 28, 2017 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

              I forgot to mention that those with depression are excluded from the military. IIRC even those who have taken ritalin at SOME point in their life are also excluded, whether they needed it or not.

              Being in the military isn’t a right, it’s a privilege (and sacrifice)

            • Posted September 28, 2017 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

              You assess suicide risk on a one to one basis, you don’t go ‘You are trans so you are a suicide risk’

              That’s not how statistics work.

              • Travis
                Posted September 28, 2017 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

                Then why don’t they take in all depressed people?

                Also, we’re talking about cost-benefit, here. Proper evaluation of each candidate is costly and as I said trans folk make up such a tiny fraction of the population that there’s no reason to dip into that pool. Plenty of people in the much lower risk pools to choose from.

            • Posted September 28, 2017 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

              This sentiment has been roundly rebutted here;

              https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/09/12/are-transgender-military-members-be-more-suicidal-than-others-a-careful-look-at-the-data-puts-that-in-doubt/?utm_term=.c6d2d45318eb

              “Suicide risk 23x higher than the general vet population”?

              Says the WaPo article;

              “These arguments often compare groups that aren’t comparable. Studies do report that transgender individuals have high aggregate rates of depression, anxiety and suicidality — at least compared to the general population. A more relevant comparison is to the U.S. military, but this comparison requires caution…..Using the entire military as a reference group masks the fact that some parts of the military have rates of suicidality that are considerably higher than the general population, or even the military as a whole…..But even comparing the military population with the transgender population at large is a problem. We know that the military population is different from the U.S. population as a whole; we can’t assume that transgender people who enter the military are representative of the broader transgender population…..”

              Your addendum to the comment doesn’t help your contention that “There is plenty of reason to exclude trans from the military” either. As you note, the military already excludes people with depression, meaning there is no reason to single out transpeople. This was addressed in the very article this WEIT post is about. Perhaps you should re-read Lindsay and Pluckrose.

              • tomh
                Posted September 28, 2017 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

                The article also points out that reliable data on suicide attempts within the military are not available, which makes such generalized claims questionable at best.

              • Travis
                Posted September 28, 2017 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

                I don’t want to back away without digging into the claims but I’ve got a lot on my plate atm so I’ll just let you know where I got my numbers, though it has been a month or 2 since I looked at it.

                Here were the reports I looked at.
                https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3780758/ (page 4)
                https://www.data.va.gov/dataset/suicide-among-veterans-and-other-americans-2001%E2%80%932014-report

                One of the numbers I used is below

                Suicide is a particular concern for this population. Results show that suicide-related events occur at significantly elevated rates among this population, which corroborates results from other transgender samples.8–10,26,27 Estimates for each year—ranging from 4000 per 100 000 to 5000 per 100 000—were well above any general population metric related to suicidal behavior. For example, general population data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System indicate a past year crude rate of self-harm injuries of 150.61 per 100 000 in the year 2010.35 Among VHA veterans in general, the rate of suicide-related events in FY2010 was approximately 202 per 100 000 patients,36 which makes the FY2010 rate among veterans with GID more than 20 times higher.
                —-

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted September 28, 2017 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

          Many Western militaries welcome trans people. I know that of my own country (NZ) actively encourages LGBT people to join. The research that has been done in the US since Obama’s order has mostly fallen on the positive side re trans military personnel.

          • Travis
            Posted September 28, 2017 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

            and many western militaries are nothing compared to the US military.

            What research question are you claiming has been answered? From what I’ve seen, trans folk present an unusually high risk (in particular via suicide) and make up such a tiny fraction of the population that it is better to just exclude them altogether (minimal loss of potential soldiers, while dropping the high risk)

            • Heather Hastie
              Posted September 28, 2017 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

              The NZ military is held in very high regard. Our SAS is just as good as your most elite. Same with the British, who also welcome trans people.

              Trans people commit suicide at such a high rate because of the way they are treated by society. Being accepted in the military in a country like yours that is so passionate about its military would go a long way to changing that.

              Further, it’s not as if trans people would have to meet lower standards than anyone else. They would have to meet the same ones as everyone else and prove their ability just like everyone else.

              Those currently serving are also just like everyone else. Some are bad, some are great, and most are somewhere in between.

              • Travis
                Posted September 28, 2017 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

                If you think suicide risk among trans folk is solely due to society’s attitudes, I think you’re excluding a likely major biological component. After all, their brains are different than expected for their bodies.

                Anyway, trans folk have a much higher suicide risk in the military itself compared to both transfolk outside the military and the general vet population, so this doesn’t really agree with your model.

                I didn’t say anything about lower standards, except for the psychological standards

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted September 28, 2017 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

                Vets themselves have a high suicide rate, and that combined with the higher rate for being trans likely has a multiplier effect.

              • Travis
                Posted September 29, 2017 at 12:41 am | Permalink

                Heather,

                I made another comment for someone else linking to the stats showing a 23x higher rate (you have to multiply the numbers from 2 studies together, to compare to the general population, but even just comparing within the vet population there is a 20x multiplier between general vets and trans vets… this factor is gigantic!)

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted September 29, 2017 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

                I don’t see this as a reason not to employ trans people. There is a major problem in your country with the way trans people are treated. The military, however, are revered. As long as they meet the requirements there should be no reason for them not to serve. Those trans people already in the military mostly do a great job. The only reason Trump made this rule is he needed to do something at the time as a sop to evangelicals. It’s disgusting. His next idea will be getting Muslims out of the military, and there would be plenty supporting that too. This wasn’t done because he thought trans people don’t make good soldiers, it was done because he’s an a$$hol€.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted September 28, 2017 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

          The point you’re missing is that no one inside the military was asking to have transgenders excluded (or had any idea that Trump was going send out his tweet directing the military to do so). All that prompted this was a few right-wing crazies (still fighting a rearguard action against the repeal of DADT) were bitching about the military agreeing to pay for transitioning operations (even though such operations account for just .1% of military spending on medical care, which itself accounts for but a small fraction of the Pentagon’s massive budget).

          Nevertheless, the Donald — in a foul mood, wanting to change the topic from Russiagate, and needing to shore up his right flank — capriciously took it upon himself to announce this policy change, throwing the military brass and the lives of many into disarray.

          Such is the leadership of our commander-in-chief.

        • eric
          Posted September 28, 2017 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

          Randy: “There is plenty of reason to exclude trans from the military….”

          RAND study commissioned by DOD: “In no case [of the 18 foreign militaries that allow trans soldiers to openly serve] was there any evidence of an effect on the operational effectiveness, operational readiness, or cohesion of the force.”

          I think I’ll believe RAND over Randy.

          • Travis
            Posted September 28, 2017 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

            You’re quoting me not, Randy

            But I’d like to look at your source at a later time, if you can link it for me

  13. Helen Pluckrose
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Jerry. Having spent two days fielding accusations that we are pandering to far-right or radical feminist or far-left identitarian ideologies, it is so encouraging to be recognised as making a liberal and progressive argument by someone with your reputation for rationalism and humanism.

    • Travis
      Posted September 28, 2017 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

      The intellectually lazy will always try to smear those who disagree as an out-group. The problem is that I think the vast majority of people, the vast majority of the time, are intellectually lazy. Even some of the people I respect the most are seemingly unable to address some topics in a completely honest way.

      I’m no angel, either

    • Brian Davis
      Posted September 28, 2017 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      If both sides are angry at you then you must be closing in on the truth.

  14. Posted September 28, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    I got shrieked at recently for mentioning Bruce Jenner. I was talking to a former decathlete who was competitive in college and mentioned Jenner in the context of his(!) record breaking performance at the 1976 Olympics – one of the first nationally televised decathlons and Jenner’s gold over the Russian world champion was almost as good to see as the defeat of their hockey team at the ’80 Winter Olympics. I was in high school and a competitive track athlete myself, so that performance by Jenner impressed me mightily.

    Anyway, a stranger(!) overheard us and harangued us for “dead naming” Jenner because I used his(!) original name.

    *sigh*. Wish I had read Pluckrose & Lindsay. Would have been better prepared.

  15. Mary Drake
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    I worry when I read about children choosing their gender – it seems to me that it is way too early. I was a tomboy and if I had been given the chance, I probably would have chosen to be male, and then perhaps regretted it later. If it were up to me, I would tell kids to wait until they finish high school before they choose their gender. That would give them time to get to know themselves a little better…..Thanks for the good article.

    • eric
      Posted September 28, 2017 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

      Me too. It seems reasonable to me that (a) as a general rule we should not unnecessarily screw with a body’s development while it’s still going on, and (b) as a general rule we should be cautious about momentous and essentially permanent life-changing decisions being made by humans before their brains are fully developed.

      I’m sure there will occasionally be reasonable exceptions to both. That’s fine too. I think part of good social policy is being able to recognize when the 90% solution is not appropriate to apply to an individual. Nevertheless, I do think withholding such major surgery until adulthood is the 90% solution.

    • Posted September 28, 2017 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

      The poster child for early transitioning advocacy, Jazz Jennings, has experienced considerable disappointment. First, she was heartbroken that boys did not want to date her, but was told that would change once she physically transitioned. But she recently was shocked when doctors informed her that, because of the puberty-blocking treatment she received, her genitals did not develop sufficiently to yield enough … raw material … to perform ‘bottom’ surgery. She will thus be stuck for life with little boy parts.

      NB: Jazz’ considerable behavioral & emotional problems have not dissipated despite early transition, a very accepting family & support group, and a syndicated TV show.

    • Posted September 29, 2017 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      In Quebec, at least, 14 year olds can elect medical treatment without their parents consent. I don’t know of any cases of people at that age deciding to get reassignment surgery. I *have* heard of some that have decided to “simply” be transsexual, however, with no obvious effects. (This is less permanent, needless to say.)

      • Posted September 29, 2017 at 11:51 am | Permalink

        Er, transgendered, and “be” should be “self express as”.

  16. ladyatheist
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    It must be a rather giddy feeling to go from feeling like a powerless minority to being a powerful minority. By changing your name, you can bully someone who forgets to use the new name by accusing them of “dead-naming!” An ugly man who can’t get a date because he’s ugly becomes an ugly woman who can’t get a date because of “transphobia!” Instead of being bullied for being effeminate, you can bully well-meaning people and bigots alike for not reading from your script. It’s a magical transformation!

    I don’t have a problem using they/them for someone who prefers that pronoun, but I have a serious problem with any movement toward forcing the rest of us to use it for ourselves. I think I should have the same freedom to embrace my female identity as a trans person has to embrace their identity.

    Embracing diversity doesn’t mean erasing diversity! It means vive la differences!

    • Posted September 28, 2017 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

      I’m not going to go there with the ‘ugly’ pop-psych, but it is important to recognize that the most vocal trans-activists are not necessarily representative of all transgender people. Indeed, the most strident activists in general tend to to be acting out personal issues.

      And for every Zinnia Jones or Riley Dennis, there is a Blaire White or Theryn Meyer.

      It’s interesting to note that of the unsolicited communications from trans people that Jordan Peterson has received, the overwhelming majority have been supportive.

  17. Travis
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    “The “bathroom” issue. Pluckrose and Lindsay say that the concern about women being exposed to trans women with penises (and the fear of assault) should be taken seriously, but they then say it’s way overblown, as there’s no evidence this is a real issue, and we can always arrange bathrooms so it becomes a total non-problem. We have some mixed-sex bathrooms in my building, and nobody finds them problematic.”

    Why is this painted in a singular direction of men abusing women?

    • ladyatheist
      Posted September 28, 2017 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

      How many men have been raped by women?

      • Travis
        Posted September 28, 2017 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

        Depends what definitions you’re using. If you include “made to penetrate” (as you should) the numbers are close.

        But honestly, unless you’re suggesting that it’s <10% of all rapes I wouldn't be so dismissive… even then I wouldn't be so dismissive unless it is vanishingly small

        • Travis
          Posted September 28, 2017 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

          I would also add that we shouldn’t be focusing solely on adults, either.

        • Posted September 28, 2017 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

          “If you include “made to penetrate” (as you should) the numbers are close.”

          Alright, since you claim knowledge about this topic, could you please direct us to a source for this interesting statement?

          • Travis
            Posted September 28, 2017 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

            in class, so I’ll dig it up later tonight

            • Posted September 28, 2017 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

              Wait! You’re in class?! Dude. Pay attention. What you’re missing might be on the next exam! 😉

              • GBJames
                Posted September 28, 2017 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

                Maybe he’s teaching the class?

              • Travis
                Posted September 28, 2017 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

                Home now, and no I wasn’t teaching. Just taking a moment to read the blog since we were just doing a programming exercise and I don’t have a compiler on my laptop yet…
                —–

                See table 4.5 and 4.6 here
                https://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/NISVS_Report2010-a.pdf

                I had to think back to where I first saw these numbers but you get mixed results if you look at FBI vs CDC vs NIPSV etc. especially when “made to penetrate” is excluded as rape (it IS rape, but legal definitions vary). This leads to the minimization of male suffering. Lifetime vs 12-month periods differ as well.

                That said, I’m not a statistician not an expert in the field nor do I have all these sources handy so there’s plenty of room for me to be wrong. That said, I don’t think the magnitude is so different that we should erase male victims, or erase female perpetrators by claiming men are only raped by other men.

                And of course boys and girls are also victims, not just adult men and women.

              • BJ
                Posted September 29, 2017 at 7:56 am | Permalink

                And, I would note, Travis, that most men who are raped or abused suffer it at the hands of women: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/11/the-understudied-female-sexual-predator/503492/

                That article lists all the information on just about every type of sexual abuse men suffer. Unfortunately, as that excellent article notes, the phenomenon of women sexually abusing men is wildly understudied because of societal attitudes. I imagine it’s also understudied for the same reason “made to penetrate is excluded from rape statistics by the government (that would be because when they discussed the idea of redefining made to penetrate as rape, organizations like RAINN actively fought against it).

      • Craw
        Posted September 28, 2017 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

        Do 12 years count as men?

    • Alex
      Posted September 28, 2017 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

      The notion that bathroom bills will protect women from sexual assaults is absurd. There is literally nothing stopping a man from entering a woman’s restroom and camping out there until a victim arrives. A trans identity is not required for this.

      • Adam M.
        Posted September 28, 2017 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, it’s such a silly argument. If you’re willing to commit a violent felony, you won’t be dissuaded from committing the misdemeanor of going into the wrong bathroom to do it…

        There have been cases of guys filming women in women’s bathrooms and claiming to be allowed to be there because they’re trans, but that can be solved in a neutral way by outlawing nonconsensual photography in bathrooms (and I’d bet it’s already illegal).

        • eric
          Posted September 28, 2017 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

          If you’re willing to commit a violent felony, you won’t be dissuaded from committing the misdemeanor of going into the wrong bathroom to do it…

          Some crimes are crimes of opportunity. I would fully expect that if more men started using the womens’ room (and vice versa), then some higher number of assaults of opportunity would indeed take place in the bathroom than happen now.

          But that’s not a reason to prevent trans people from using the bathroom of their identified gender, any more than we should prevent trans people from shopping at 7/11 because some of them might steal.

    • Brian Davis
      Posted September 28, 2017 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

      I don’t know why the bathroom issue gets so much attention. I can’t remember the last time I saw exposed genitals in a public restroom. What someone exposes behind a closed stall door is no one else’s business.

      Locker rooms are a harder problem to solve. A trans woman with a penis may feel like a woman, but the other women in the locker room have no way of knowing that. All they know is that a naked guy just walked out of the shower. Is it a trans woman, or just some jerk with the emotional maturity of Donald Trump? I don’t see a practical solution to this problem that won’t leave some people feeling uncomfortable.

      • Travis
        Posted September 28, 2017 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

        I agree with you and Alex. There’s no clean solution to what I consider to be pretty much a non-issue to begin with.

        My problem is primarily with 1) framing it as a big concern and 2) painting a focus on it being only an issue with women… as if men being abused by women is out of the question

      • Posted September 28, 2017 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

        If transwomen voluntarily sit down, the bathroom issue becomes a non-issue. I personally couldn’t care less.

        The locker room issue — especially in high schools, involving individuals who have not physically transitioned in any way, shape or form — is real. Locker rooms are segregated by sex, and most people want it to stay that way. This is a losing proposition, which undermines the entire trans-rights movement by waging an offensive Kulturkampf against a vast majority of people.

      • Carey Haug
        Posted September 28, 2017 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

        I think this could be especially tricky for adolescents in schools. When I was a teen aged girl,I would have been mortified to see a penis in the locker room. Even as an adult, I would hope that trans women with penises would be considerate and change/shower in a private stall.

      • Maroon1990
        Posted September 29, 2017 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

        The locker room thing is the only issue that does get to me. I just can’t get around the idea that it’s unjust to force children to see the genitals of the opposite sex, and to display their own genitals to that person.

        • Maroon1990
          Posted September 29, 2017 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

          Oh, sorry. Sports, too. I think they should have their own leagues.

          • tomh
            Posted September 29, 2017 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

            “I think they should have their own leagues.”

            Really, their own leagues? That sounds like the most impractical solution possible, heck, in some places you’d have 2 or 3 people in a league. And what do you do with someone like Caster Semenya, a world class women’s runner, whose body naturally produces far more testosterone than the average woman, so much so that at one point she was banned from the sport. What league does she fit in?

    • Harrison
      Posted September 28, 2017 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

      Because the bathroom issue is primarily an argument between two different flavors of feminism, and the crux of the issue has always rested on access to restrooms specifically designated as Women’s Rooms.

      This is why the availability of unisex restrooms is not going to solve the problem. Women who want exclusivity and a “safe space” away from men will demand womens’ rooms, transwomen who want to be included will demand access, and anti-trans women will demand they be excluded.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 28, 2017 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

        The bathroom matter may be a frequent point of contention between different flavors of feminism, but they lack the political clout to do anything about it. It becomes a legal issue only when right-wing legislatures get involved, as for example happened with North Carolina’s infamous HB2 bathroom ban.

        • Harrison
          Posted September 28, 2017 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

          It should be no surprise considering liberals are split on the issue and conservatives reliably come down on one side.

          However this is often used as a bludgeon against liberals and feminists who are in favor of women-only safe spaces. How dare they hold a position which some conservatives also hold, albeit for vastly different reasons. For shame.

        • Posted September 28, 2017 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

          It became a legal issue when the obama administration arbitrarily equated “sex” with “gender identity”. The drafters of Titles VII and IX clearly had biological sex in mind.

  18. Harrison
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    The sports problem is definitely NOT solved by separate trans brackets because, although this is easy to forget in the social media world when so many people loudly trumpet their trans status, the majority of trans individuals want to pass and be accepted as their chosen gender. And being segregated off in the “women’s (but not really)” bracket will be hugely insulting.

    • Posted September 28, 2017 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      The solution, it seems to me, is simple and was noted above. Make mens competitions open to all genders. Women compete against women (however that’s defined) but men compete against all.

      • Harrison
        Posted September 28, 2017 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

        But do you not see how that does not solve the underlying problem at all? Transwomen want to be recognized as women, not men, not a third category.

        There is simply no “simple” solution which does not step on somebody’s toes. There cannot be a compromise which fully satisfies all parties.

        • Posted September 28, 2017 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

          I suppose I mean simple in the logical sense; it removes the problem of unfairness in competition.

          The Lindsay/Penrose article discussed this; no solution will be acceptable to all. Transpeople just have to accept that somethings are not going to be exactly to their liking.

        • tomh
          Posted September 28, 2017 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

          Only because one party is comprised of medieval bigots.

          • Harrison
            Posted September 28, 2017 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

            You didn’t think I was talking about political parties, did you?

            • tomh
              Posted September 28, 2017 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

              No.

              • Harrison
                Posted September 28, 2017 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

                Well then which party is the medieval bigots? Is it the women who don’t want to compete with MTFs who have decided physical advantages, or the transwomen who don’t want to be told they’re “not really women” by being forced into separate competitive brackets?

                Both seem sympathetic to me, which is why I don’t see a clear resolution.

              • tomh
                Posted September 28, 2017 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

                Both the IOC (Olympic committee) and the NCAA have a workable solution. It’s important to remember that while it’s true that cisgender (not trans) men have a hormonal advantage over cis women, this advantage doesn’t apply to trans women (MTF) who are on hormone replacement therapy (HRT). According to NCAA rules, a trans female (MTF) may compete on a women’s team after completing one calendar year of testosterone suppression treatment.

                In addition:
                A trans male (FTM) who is not taking testosterone may participate on a men’s or women’s team.
                A trans female (MTF) who is not taking hormone treatments may not compete on a women’s team.

                IMO, this is not a difficult issue, and is only complicated by bigots who insist that the whole transgender issue is a fake. As if someone would decide they want to be ridiculed and discriminated against.

              • Harrison
                Posted September 28, 2017 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

                But HRT does not undo a lifetime of physical development under the influence of hormones, as Pluckrose points out in her article.

                I think ascribing malevolent bigotry to anyone who would even question the issue is highly counterproductive.

              • BJ
                Posted September 29, 2017 at 8:03 am | Permalink

                MTF have an enormous advantage over other women, tomh. They have the bone structure and musculature (higher percentage of upper body muscle to fat, greater percentage of twitch muscle) of a male. Taking hormones reduces the advantages from ridiculous to just huge.

                Go look up Fallon Fox and see what happened when she fought MMA against other women.

        • Posted September 29, 2017 at 11:55 am | Permalink

          A physiological psychologist I encountered at UBC suggested that competition where the muscle mass etc. is the concern to have several (at least three) levels based on testosterone. (I guess one would have to do this historically, which might be hard.) This was in the context of doping, mind you.

      • Brian salkas
        Posted September 28, 2017 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

        “The solution, it seems to me, is simple and was noted above. Make mens competitions open to all genders. Women compete against women (however that’s defined) but men compete against all.”

        I think that sounds like it creates even more problems than it solves. I do not know if trans women can even compete with men, but still might be too powerful to compete with women. But we will find out, I guess its worth a shot. The fact that you still cannot define what “woman” means is the biggest issue I have with your idea.

        • Posted September 28, 2017 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

          Good thing I don’t have to make that decision.

    • Posted September 28, 2017 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

      Is it any less insulting for a woman, who’s devoted her time and energy and passion to a sport, to be beaten by an opponent with unfair advantages?

      • Harrison
        Posted September 28, 2017 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

        No, which is again why I don’t think there’s a solution that will make everyone happy. Although I heavily suspect it will be the smaller population of trans individuals that will lose out in the end.

  19. Posted September 28, 2017 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    Overall, an excellent review of the issue, with a reasoned appeal to a true liberal response.

    Though Pluckrose and Lindsay overly trust certain studies (of note: the ‘41% suicide’ study which has not withstood scrutiny, and which the authors themselves acknowledge employed methodology that tends to double positive responses; the autopsy study on a very small sample), downplaying alarming evidence of ‘transition regret’, and ignoring research that, by finding an extremely high comorbity with other mental health pathologies, indicates a non-genetic etiology, they have attempted to even-handily present the evidence and accurately noted that the data are too sparse to form definitive conclusions.

    It was also refreshing that they rejected the more strident and offensive activists such as Zinnia Jones. In the past, Jones has made even more offensive comments than those quoted, repeatedly calling for “curing” “cishetdudebros” by actions that can only be described as nonconsensual sex.

    There is a reasoned, compassionate and liberal response to this issue. It is a pity it’s being polarized by both the far Left and the far Right. Yet primary blame must fall on the SJW Left, for: 1) prioritizing this issue which affects c. 0.3% of the population, 2) framing it as a highly caustic Kulturkampf, and; 3) adopting a ‘with us or against us’ false dichotomy that leaves no room for the rational, compassionate approach that Pluckrose and Lindsay advocate.

  20. Rich
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    My one real quibble is that, having pointed out that most folks, and that, of course, includes most conservatives as well as most liberals, are neither radical social conservatives or radical trans activists, the author then proceeds to tag the common sense middle ground with the label “liberal.”

    If I had to label it, I would label it libertarian. Personally, and I’m speaking as a conservative here, I am in almost complete agreement with the approach outlined here. It really comes down to “get out of people’s lives”.

    The far left and the far right are both about control. The only sane future is in getting our opinions out of other people’s lives.

    • Posted September 28, 2017 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

      Charles Manson stole “Liberal” from the Beatles; we’re stealin’ it back.

    • Helen Pluckrose
      Posted September 29, 2017 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

      We did define the term in its most general sense. Liberals can be libertarians, lefties or conservatives. That’s why we used it. We have avoided it before because there is a tendency in America for it to be associated with the left. I am a lefty but James doesn’t take a label. Recently someone described our approach as ‘pragmatic liberal humanism’ and I personally intend to adopt that.

  21. Posted September 28, 2017 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    This is spot on. I have run across the extreme views of the activist movement where I once saw a friend admonished for using the phrase “men and women” because it is exclusive of other gender identities. Of course, this type of mentality often goes hand in hand with the notion that anything a white cis male says is lowest on the totem pole, as defined by intersectionality.

    As a reasonable person who doesn’t like to stir the lot for no reason, I’ll happily address someone by whatever name or pronoun they like, in return I expect understanding that I mean no offense by using standard English pronouns.

  22. somer
    Posted September 29, 2017 at 2:06 am | Permalink

    I’d qualify my earlier comment (in other post) about trans in bathrooms somewhat. I meant where practical (organisations that can afford it) its a good idea to provide Unisex toilets that are each secure rooms – I do not accept that women should just be happy with someone large, plainly male, of male genitalia can just come in whenever. Its been commented that theres nothing to stop any male heterosexual just walking into women’s public bathrooms to use the cubicle (or anything else). Of course. Femme toilets with multiple cubicles are not locked vaults nor should they be. However if a male heterosexual entered female public toilets on a routine basis – by law they could be arrested or charged with sexual harassment or even some form of assault – its legally recognised. Someone – “Randy” commented at the bottom of Helen Pluckrose’s Areo article that trans should be able to just flop out their genitals for women to see and not be offended by. The fact is this is *Not* actually just a matter of offense its potentially threatening. It is a good idea if secure unisex toilets are provided for the benefit of trans people – though not compelled by law – unless for organisations defined as able to afford it and even then incentivised legally rather than mandated.

    Secondly Helen mentioned that the science of sex differences in the brain is well established and neuroscience indicates that trans people are between male and female – elsewhere she indicates some transexuals are much more towards one gender than the other and they vary. Moreover she at least implies this may change over puberty and its not understood how and whether its influenced by environment because some people who think they are trans in childhood can come to genuinely identify with their genital sex after puberty. So trans people vary in perception – some don’t even feel a gender identity at all hence the (to my mind) social reproductively unsustainable debate about gender pronouns (for coherent anything in society its got to be male or female). Moreover whilst the female identifying male-bodied trans is often attracted to males they may not be. And the article admits science is at yet unclear the extent to which trans phenomenon is gender identity and how much sexual orientation not to mention those cases where it appears to be mainly psychological orientation. My feeling is society cannot cater to everything and we have more pressing needs than meeting every type of trans sensitivity.

    I accept trans people have a hard time – but life is hard for ordinary genders – and there are only so many causes and so many resources society can devote to numerous tiny minorities. Can we not freely talk about relationships or family in the workplace?? Do small businesses have to have transgender staff rights plans and special toilet arrangements? We have to prioritize, If they want rights codified into an array of laws constraining businesses with penalties and worker behaviour no I don’t agree – this is not a matter of simple business or organisational greed or tax evasion – its about ever expanding regulation and difficult work conditions to the point of business collapse or increased suicide risk in hetero majority workers. Majority people who lets face it have the de facto burden of reproduction or at the very least economic sustenance (by goods, technology and services) of the society that allows reproduction of other people. Hetero people must be sensitive to the difficulties of trans people but they should not be tying themselves in knots – or suffering as businesses providing special facitlities, monitoring employees with expensive plans and programs – transexual awareness should just be cultural movement to be sensitive to their hardships not yet more rights and laws for minorities. And the psychological element of uncertainty between genders can only receive a certain amount of accommodation. I believe that worthwhile morality is that which makes less oppression, want etc possible in PRACTICAL TERMS IN TERMS OF WHATS POSSIBLE for overall well being of the society, avoiding extreme injustice of minorities – but not accommodating tiny minorities imposing highly disproportionate or materially unsustainable burden. My problem with many forms of modern liberalism is every concievable need and small group cause be it economic, medical, psychological, or genetic – requires special rights and legislation which imposes special behaviour, service and resource costs on business, government and workers until the majority society – indeed all society costs drive us into a tailspin or send us into a worse quality of life overall. The suicide rate amongst young people in the west today is terrible and I would suggest all this uncertainty and all these endless demands add to it. Yes we have a duty as individuals be sensitive to the plight of trans people but we don’t have special legal obligations to them and we don’t have to accommodate the more unreasonable demands.

  23. a-non
    Posted September 29, 2017 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    On sports categories, this is exactly right. There’s an open 100m category, and a women’s category. The latter is designed to encompass the 50% of the population, not the 1%.

    We also have a good precedent for how to deal with tiny (sub 1%) categories of individuals in sports. It’s called the special olympics. They slice every event into many categories, essentially based on how well someone of that background can hope to perform. This is the appropriate venue not only for transgender people, but also most other edge case people like Caster Semenya and Oscar Pistorius. These conditions are all, let us remember, less common than birth defects forcing you to be in a wheelchair. They all deserve our sympathy, and some efforts should be made to accommodate them. But their physical achievements (among such a small pool) cannot be sensibly compared with those among the full population.


%d bloggers like this: