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CastleBravo

On Transgender / Transsexualism

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I was watching Nip Tuck (I'm generally not a fan of popular TV, but this show presents a great deal of moral and ethical issues that I find interesting) yesterday and there was a Trans-gendered man (a man by sex who thinks as if he's a woman) featured wanting to get a sex-change operation.

Does a man wanting to be a woman violate the law of identity? Even if the sex change operation is done, is a man still, and always will be, a man regardless of how he mutilates his body? I think so, but I am curious as to what my fellow critical thinkers believe.

I will admit I don't entirely understand how anyone can think they are anything but what they are, but does this come from my having "not experienced" the confusion of a gender identity crisis or has a trans gender individual abandoned logic and reality altogether?

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Based on what I've read and seen, it seems to me transgendered individuals are no more immoral or illogical than a man born without legs who gets prosthetic limbs. It's simply an accident of birth that a female mind could be born into a male body.

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Based on what I've read and seen, it seems to me transgendered individuals are no more immoral or illogical than a man born without legs who gets prosthetic limbs. It's simply an accident of birth that a female mind could be born into a male body.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't Objectivism reject the "mind/body" dichotomy? I'm pretty sure I just read something about it in the first chapter of OPAR.

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Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't Objectivism reject the "mind/body" dichotomy? I'm pretty sure I just read something about it in the first chapter of OPAR.

I refer to the mind in the same sense that I refer to an arm or leg. Just a part of the individual, no dichotomy.

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Why would it be a violation of an axiom? A man who feels like a woman is a man who feels like a woman, not a man and non-man at the same time. His feelings are real, his body is real. There are no contradictions.

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Why would it be a violation of an axiom? A man who feels like a woman is a man who feels like a woman, not a man and non-man at the same time. His feelings are real, his body is real. There are no contradictions.

Why wouldn't it be a man trying to change reality to suit his feelings of being a woman? If he were to die and most of his body were destroyed and he could only be genetically identified, would he not be labeled "male"? Even if he had undergone surgery, therapy and hormone treatment would the reality still not be that he is male?

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More crucially, there might be a little bit of confusion here by invoking the Law of Identity in the context of gender classification. The Law of Identity is an axiom that applies no matter how "mutiliated" something is. Metaphysically, a mutilated object is still itself.

There might be a question as to what gender concept a specific person belongs to, i.e. what makes a person "male" or "female"? But that goes to the meaning of those concepts, specifically the differentia. The Law of Identity tells us that a person cannot belong to two mutually exclusive concepts, i.e. be a male and a female at the same time. If a third gender concept (e.g. "transgender" or even "nongender") is necessary, it tells us that a person cannot be a male, female, and/or transgender/nongender all at the same time. An objective definition and logical application of such concepts will yield a correct answer in a given case, but the subject then is the validity and application of those concepts, not the Law of Identity.

Furthermore, what one "wants" is irrelevant. I may want to be a dog or a leaf or a stone, without breaking the Law of Identity (though such a desire would be impossible, hence obviously irrational). There's only a contradiction if I accept the premise that I actually am a dog or a leaf or a stone. If a man actually believes that he is a woman when he in fact is not according to those concepts, there is a contradiction. But the real argument, I suspect, is over the meaning of those concepts.

I think I am asking the wrong question. The right one might be "Does sex determine gender?"

Precisely.

Edited by Seeker

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In my (controversial) opinion, gender identity is a misnomer. There is sex, and then there is sexual identity. In all the "transgendered" individuals I have come across, they don't seem to actually be a woman trapped in a man's body but simply a man deluding himself that he should act a certain way. I do not think these people are acting like women, because I do not think all women act in any particular way. That sort of generalization seems as inaccurate as 'all men think with their genitals.' I think any personality traits which are commonly seen as 'feminine' such as enjoying conversation or listening well are a result of psychological influences upon female children after birth, not genetics. What's more in my experience usually transgendered males seem to want to absorb the entitlement and stereotypes of females more than anything. She'll demand that you open the door for her, want you to be the breadwinner, and feel entitled to manipulate you with guilt or sex. These are not aspects of femininity at all, merely bigoted (though in some cases accurate) assessments of some females from a male point of view.

To sum it up, I do not believe genetics has any deterministic function over a person beyond body composition and reproductive organs. I do not think a person can be born to be anything other than what they are.

I do, however, believe that it is not morally wrong for a human to work to change that which is given. If some men would prefer to be seen by the public at large as women, that is within their right, IMO, just like if a Jew or Italian wanted to get a nose job because he didn't want to be constantly identified as 'Jew' or 'Italian.' This is not a judgement in the nose section, I know some people with very big, oddly shaped, or stereotypical noses whom I regard as very good looking.

A sex change would not change the metaphysics that the person is in fact a man, however if he wants that badly to be regarded as a woman I see no reason not to grant that request.

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A sex change would not change the metaphysics that the person is in fact a man, however if he wants that badly to be regarded as a woman I see no reason not to grant that request.

The reason to not regard a man as a woman is that he isn't one. I would be very concerned about allowing false identifications based on how badly someone wants something. Some people are parasites. Should I grant their request to be regarded as non-parasites because they want it very badly?

I would argue that the very purpose of a sex change is to make real the change from one gender to another. In that case, I would be (correctly) regarding a woman as a woman without undermining my own rationality.

Edited by Seeker

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I think I am asking the wrong question. The right one might be "Does sex determine gender?"

No, it doesn't.

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Supposing I take a prefabricated wooden chair and knock it into pieces. All of the slots and pegs and design of the individual pieces reflect that it was a chair. Then I chop and re-arrange the pieces and glue them back together as a table, only there's a leg missing, so the table lies crooked. It's a table, but it's a broken table that can't function as a table. It's a broken unit, but it's still a table now and not a chair.

A male has the capacity to fertilize an egg cell in sexual reproduction; a female produces ova and bears young. A unit of either of these types that cannot perform these functions is a broken unit. That could be due to age, or it could be due to having gender re-assignment surgery that falls short of complete transformation. It is what it is, but it is not the best, and it is not up to the individual's subjective whim to alter this one way or the other. So I would say that, yes, sex determines gender -- but unless the transformation is complete, i.e. enables reproduction, that male or female is fundamentally a broken unit of the concept.

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That could be due to age, or it could be due to having gender re-assignment surgery that falls short of complete transformation. It is what it is, but it is not the best, and it is not up to the individual's subjective whim to alter this one way or the other.

Of course it shouldn't be up to whim. Any transgendered person should have rational reasons to have a sex change operation. I would suspect many of those who are transgendered that have sex change operations do it for irrational reasons. Any elaboration on that point would be essentially what Jackethan posted.

So I would say that, yes, sex determines gender -- but unless the transformation is complete, i.e. enables reproduction, that male or female is fundamentally a broken unit of the concept.

Your point seems to be just that one would be a "broken unit," and at this point I'm inclined to agree with that, but does that mean it is bad for an individual? Not always. Who really cares if they can't function as a male anymore, in the sense they can no longer fertilize eggs, the only characteristic that would defines a person as male? What would that even change, besides the single thing I already mentioned?

I'm curious as to why you think sex determines gender (I don't agree).

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Your point seems to be just that one would be a "broken unit," and at this point I'm inclined to agree with that, but does that mean it is bad for an individual? Not always. Who really cares if they can't function as a male anymore, in the sense they can no longer fertilize eggs, the only characteristic that would defines a person as male? What would that even change, besides the single thing I already mentioned?

I'm curious as to why you think sex determines gender (I don't agree).

I don't want to equivocate here on the meaning of the word "male" and "female". I am using these as nouns, not adjectives. I think that the fundamental reason why those concepts exist is because a way is needed to differentiate people in choosing reproductive partners. So for that purpose, it's completely relevant whether or not one can function reproductively qua male or female. But suppose that I'm wrong, and the purpose of the concept isn't to choose sexual partners for reproduction but simply for sexual intercourse. Even then, you wouldn't necessarily have a broken unit, but you would still have a male or female depending on the sex organs, so I would still say that sex determines gender.

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As I said, I have asked the wrong question. It is clear that gender is too complex an issue to link to sex alone as I tried to do initially.

I think that that's the correct answer.

If your original question was, "is a mule a donkey or a horse?" Then the correct and obvious answer is that it is neither, which is why we call it a mule. It still is what it is, regardless of the nomenclature we choose to apply. Objectivism is not Nominalism, so the object exists first, and then for conceptual ease, we try to categorize and abstract it and give it a name if it needs one.

In the case of your original question, a transexual is a transexual (m2f or f2m if you want to be more specific.) I'm sure some would argue that a m2f transsexual is, in point of fact, a woman. Legally that may be true, but culturally, few males I know who are interested in dating would view her as being in the same category as a biological woman during their pursuit of a relationship.

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To something in the first paragraph of Jackethan's post, the part about just wanting to act like some sort of stereotype, I've come across examples of some like that and some that aren't. One of my oldest and closest friends is a male to female transsexual and she is far from a stereotype and not married to traditional ideas about gender roles or entitlements. She's a very unique and interesting person. There was one other male to female transsexual person a year ahead of us in high school and once out of curiosity my friend went and had a conversation with this other person. My friend was absolutely horrified at what she encountered. This person indeed was a terrible stereotype. All they seemed to care about were things like shoes and purses and such. My friend was just aghast and so much wanted to be distanced from something like this, just thinking how much that is NOT like her and that she does NOT want to be casually lumped in with and seen as like that other person. Though my friend does seem to look and act a lot more like you would expect of a female than a male, she doesn't seem really hung up on focusing on things like the gender stuff, really it seems more like the issue is just about being really freaked out and disturbed at having been born with a type of body that just doesn't seem like what it should be. Interestingly in my friends case, maybe something really did just go screwy since a few years ago while examining something else, a doctor found out she actually does have XX chromosomes, if I'm recalling what she told me correctly.

As for the larger question of what these people are and how to treat them, the way I've always viewed my friend is that she is what she is - as we've labeled it, a transsexual person, male-to-female. She's a person born with one type of body that for whatever reason seemed to not line up with something else about her in how she could think of herself, so she sought to do something to make the two of them line up with each other. Neither I nor she is trying to deny her medical history, the fact of the type of body she was born with, but I treat her as a female basically because for all my intents and purposes, she effectively is. (Though since I don't have much difference in how I treat people based on if they are male or female, it mostly just means I refer to her by female designated pronouns.) There is nothing in our daily doings and interaction with each other or other people which makes her past physical state a relevant factor. Maybe she takes some sort of medications or something regularly, but it isn't as if there aren't plenty of regular females that do. Maybe she's infertile, but so are many females, especially ones over middle age, and she doesn't want to have kids anyway.

Edited by bluecherry
Rhonda Wilson likes this

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No matter what they have done to themselves, they still have an adam's apple, big hands and feet and male bone structure.

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Feet are actually proportionate to a person's height. A person's arm span is just about the same as their height and your foot is the same as the distance of your elbow to wrist. (Go ahead and check it out on yourself if you want for some confirmation of this.) So, a male and female of the same height should have the same size feet pretty much. Males only typically have larger feet because they are typically taller, but there are people born male who end up being shorter and people born female that end up taller anyway. Not sure, this is a guess, but there may be some fairly standard hand to height ratio too since the arm spam is so closely tied to height. As for the adam's apple: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chondrolaryngoplasty

Edited by bluecherry

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I can understand the validity of the concept "transgender" insofar as it applies to someone having (for want of a better phrase) mixed metaphysical attributes -- something along the lines of someone having male genitalia but a "female" brain structure, let's say. So, okay, that person is transgender. But then, isn't the whole point of the medical treatment (surgery, medication, whatever) to eliminate that mixture so that the attributes are in harmony one way or the other? The correct designation then would not be "transgender, male to female" but (for the procedure) "transgender to female" and (for the gender designation) simply "female". Or alternatively, if the treatment fails to correct the disharmony, then they simply remain "transgender". I don't see how it can be both.

Edited by Seeker

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A person who has modified his/her birth-gender ends up being what he/she is. It is a fait accompli. How can that violate the principle of identity? Everything in the cosmos is what it is, when it is, where it is. Any successful modification is an instance of the principle of identity.

Bob Kolker

Edited by Robert J. Kolker

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Feet are actually proportionate to a person's height. A person's arm span is just about the same as their height and your foot is the same as the distance of your elbow to wrist. (Go ahead and check it out on yourself if you want for some confirmation of this.) So, a male and female of the same height should have the same size feet pretty much. Males only typically have larger feet because they are typically taller, but there are people born male who end up being shorter and people born female that end up taller anyway. Not sure, this is a guess, but there may be some fairly standard hand to height ratio too since the arm spam is so closely tied to height. As for the adam's apple: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chondrolaryngoplasty

Still a man that wacked their parts off. Not a girl.

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Even then, you wouldn't necessarily have a broken unit, but you would still have a male or female depending on the sex organs, so I would still say that sex determines gender.

I think I may have been confused on what you mean by 'sex determining gender'. Can you give a specific example, hypothetical or actual, of how it is true?

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