So, stripped of the bad theory, delusion-mongering and cultural railroading, this
would be a heart-warming story. I mean, look, let's put aside the political delusions for a second: Mr. Ralston's daughter did not become his son. (You could say that his daughter became his "son"--but there's all the difference in the world between being an x and being an "x.") Not a big deal, really...or it wouldn't be if it weren't, in effect, a bit of brainwashing. Keep saying this sort of thing over and over with a straight face, and eventually people will believe it I supposed.
Look: Jake should live the life Jake wants to live. I'm happy that Jake's happy. (Though I'm skeptical that this sort of thing will bring happiness with the frequency that's being advertised by its enthusiasts.) None of that stuff is at issue, so far as I'm concerned.
It is, however, too bad that this is yet another in the Post's popular new series Covertly Convince/Pressure Everyone To Accept The Postpostmodern Theory Of Transgenderism Without Thinking About It Much
Alright. I sincerely want to stop all this short of being a kook, so I'm just going to mention some points and then I'm out for now. Philosophy--inter alia
--is supposed to fulfill a kind of hey, wait a minute...
function. So I'm going to quickly fulfill my duty and then go do something productive.
The most salient point here is the business about changing birth certificates.
Look, make-believe has its costs. You can legally allow people to change their birth certificates in this way, of course. It's legal to add and subtract incorrectly, to think that the Earth is 6,000 years old, and to think that the Battle of Hastings was in 1055. Thank God or whatever that we don't try to ban such things. This is, of course, different, though. This is not just having a non-totalitarian state...this is the state intentionally falsifying official records on the basis of a bad and nutty theory pushed by activists and activist academicians. Jake is not male. If technology advances a lot in the next century-ish, Jake might possibly die male...but Jake was born female, and nothing can change the past. Here are our options:
(1) We can maintain birth certificates as sincere efforts to record facts about births and, therefore, not allow people to change them because they wish those facts had been different.
(2) We can allow people to change their birth certificates because they wish those facts had been different, and, therefore, not maintain birth certificates as documents constituting sincere efforts to record facts about births.
But it is impossible to do both (1) and (2).
(Those aren't formulated all that well, but I slept bad(ly?) and don't feel like fiddling with them.)
By allowing Jake et al. to change their birth certificates, we're opting for (2), rather than (1). (This is similar, in a way, to the stuff about calling men women. Nothing much prevents us from doing so, since word-use is a matter of convention. However, such changes to usage necessarily change the meaning. Calling men women won't make men women--but doing so with great enough frequency will change the meaning of 'man', and it will come to mean (as we'd put it in actual current English): either a man or a woman who has undergone certain procedures to emulate maleness
. Men can't become women by decree, and they can't do so with current technology. The attempt to force it to be so by fiat is doomed to fail, as the tension is just released somewhere else. The meaning of the words are changed, or the status and purpose of birth certificates changes. There's nothing that can be done to change this fact. Logical pressure must be relieved somehow.)
One of the many weird things about all this is that logic and facts make it all into kabuki. Jake wants not just to look and act in certain ways, but wants others to think of her as male. That's ok too, so long as there's no substantial dishonesty involved--for example, Jake's going to have to fess up to any clueless sex partners before things get intimate. But everyone involved has to realize that erasing 'F' and writing in 'M' on the certificate changes nothing substantial about the world. Jake was born female and, even if technology might end up allowing Jake to die male, Jake will die having been born female.
There's a bad theory of gender, and bad theory of sex, and bad theory of the relation between the two, and bad theory of how to make people feel comfortable in their skin, and a lot of other bad theories, too, running around in there. But worst of all, from a philosophical perspective, is that there is a strong link between all these bad theories and a more general, even worse, much more general theory that the facts are whatever we deem them to be. That's a disastrously shitty metaphysics, and it's the metaphysics that floats in the background of all this.
Again, just focus on the obvious options. Either but not both of these could be true:
(A) We aren't talking about facts here at all. It's just very elaborate, state-sponsored play-acting.
(B) Thinking/saying that things are so makes them so
(A) is bad. (B) is false (which is worse). So which is it? Do we think we're making Jake a male at birth by erasing 'F' and writing 'M'? Or do we think this is all just for show, and for Jake's peace of mind? (There are a few other confusions we might have instead, but I'm tired of typing.)
Me believing that I was born female doesn't make it so. The state asserting that I was born female doesn't make it so. So the only real option here is (A). And that's...well...not a great thing for the state to be engaged in. Is there any other domain in which we officially and intentionally declare falsehoods to be true in order to make individuals feel better? (Maybe annulment of marriage? Is that supposed to mean the marriage never actually happened? I'm not sure.)
Jake's feelings aren't relevant to the question What sex was baby b when b was born?
Not for any value of b; not even for b=Jake. Feelings do not affect sex, a purely physical/biological characteristic.
Then there are the higher-level issues: the fact that none of this is being discussed, the fact that discussion has been declared verboten
by the powers that be, the fact that the Post
runs poignant story after poignant story with the goal of advancing a certain cultural/political view on this matter... Those are more worrisome things to me, actually.
Even though, yeah, I did find Jake's story poignant when I focused on just the emotional part of it.
Ok, that's it. I'm probably wrong about some of this stuff--but I'm pretty sure I'm not wrong about all of it.