Saturday, July 02, 2016

The Transgender Debate Is A Train wreck

  I'm not going to say much about this.  Grimm was "born as a female" [sic]. More to the point: Grimm is female. We do not currently have the technology to change a person's sex...so if Grimm was born female, then Grimm is still female. Barring really significant technological improvements, Grimm will always be female. I hope she can be happy. But the rest of us have no moral obligation to participate in the pretense that Grimm is male.
   It is not obvious how to defend the institution of sex-segregated public restrooms and locker rooms. This is one of the main and deepest issues in this discussion. It's ignored because the discussion (or, I should probably say: debate) is conducted in terms of a certain fantasy: the fantastical theory that a male can become female simply by declaring himself so (and vice versa). This theory is entirely false. There isn't a single shred of truth in it. There isn't a single good argument for it. And yet it is virtually unquestioned in polite society, because it has been declared true by (and I can't believe I'm about to use this phrase, but it seems apt) liberal elites. And any attempt to disagree with it is shouted down--"shamed" as one now says.
   The discussion should actually be conducted at a more fundamental level. Is it possible to defend the institution of sex-segregated restrooms if some people find that segregation discriminatory? And if some people find it an invasion of privacy to reveal their sex merely because they have to take a whiz? And if some people risk violence because they appear to be of the sex they aren't?
   Those are the real issues. I don't know what to say about them. They're kind of hard.
   But what we're arguing about now--the biological and metaphysical status of men who want to be women and women who want to be men--isn't hard.
   The public debate is being distorted because the issues aren't being addressed clearly. Instead, they're being addressed obliquely, through the distorting lens formed out of a cluster of highly theoretical, abstract, abstruse, controversial--and false--theories drawn from the intellectual swamp of the postpostmodern mishmash. A cluster of absolutely absurd theories that have gained currency in the weakest regions of academia have been declared true by influential components of the left, and anyone with the temerity to disagree with them is declared a bigot. (They invented a whole new kind of bigotry just to shut up dissenters--"transphobia"! Of course it had to have '-phobia' in it...though it has nothing to do with fear. It has to do with aversion.) Thus false theories are declared true by fiat, and, simultaneously, any discussion of those theories is declared verboten.
   But the theories are false. It is impossible to change oneself from male to female simply by declaring it so, or believing it to be so (and vice-versa). It cannot happen. It has never happened. It never will happen. It is no more possible than changing a dog into a cat  or lead into gold by simply asserting that it is so. Beliefs and assertions do not have such power.
   The fact that people like Grimm wish they were the sex they aren't really has no bearing on the actual issues. The actual issue is that Grimm wants to use the dude's restroom. The actual question is: is it reasonable to deny her that? And so: is it reasonable to segregate restrooms by sex?
   Ah, what's the point?
   There are complicated questions and there are simple ones. The nonsense that's dominating the current public discussion is easy. We should be able to tidy it up and throw it away quickly. But we seem incapable of dealing with it--largely because of the aforementioned ban on discussion...but not only because of that... Eventually this nonsense will probably fade away and the real issue will come into focus...but, hell, we can't even deal with the simple issues... Why think we'll be able to deal with the difficult ones? Social justice warriors are on the rampage, and liberals are their lackeys. Liberals have fallen in line behind an obviously false theory because that's what liberals do. Characterize something as discrimination against a sexual minority, and liberals will leap to the defense...almost no matter how absurd the claim.
   On the psychological side, Alice Dreger reviews the evidence in several places, including in Galileo's Middle Finger. As an actual matter of fact, the woman-trapped-in-a-man's-body (and vice-versa) theory of transgenderism is extremely controversial. An alternate theory--for which there seems to be more evidence--is very different...but it was shouted down and those who advocated it had their academic reputations destroyed. The alternate theory (with respect to men who want to be women) is that there are two different kinds of motives. (a) There are men who have a sexual fetish centered on thinking of themselves as women, and (b) there are homosexual men who believe that they have a better chance of having sex and relationships with men they desire if they can be woman-like. These are not, to my mind, the kinds of motives that ought to convince us to throw out sex-segregation of restrooms. Nor should they compel the rest of us to pay more for health insurance in order to cover plastic surgery and so forth. And the left recognizes these things. And so it pushes the other theory as if it were fact.
   It seems to me that the philosophical case against the new insta-proto-orthodoxy is compelling by itself. And the psychological evidence is compelling by itself. I haven't mentioned the psychological stuff much because I'd like to see us fix this mess with just philosophical arguments. If philosophy can't clear up this simple little bit of public philosophical confusion, then it probably can't do anything to improve public philosophical reasoning.

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