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Mohan Matthen

There's a certain asymmetry in this particular "debate." The transgender side feels (with some degree of justification, it might be said) personally threatened by the discourse that emanates from the gender-critical side, reasonably civil though the latter may be. But the trans side has been notably uncivil and even abusive in its response. Lack of civility is an issue, here, but not the only issue.


Mohan: I have not observed the gender-critical side being "reasonably civil."

Eric: Thanks for the excellent post.

Daniel Kaufman

for transgender activists and fellow-travelers, commitment to transgender rights is a commitment to formal recognition of trans men as men and trans women as women. After discussion with friendly critics, I now see that my own support for transgender rights would be hollow without such a recognition, so such recognition is the right thing to do.

= = =

I don't see how this follows at all.

Why can't someone be for completely civil rights for transgender people, while also thinking that "man" and "woman" denote sexes, not genders? (Which is what I am inclined to think.)

Eric Schliesser

Daniel, I don't think the position is one of logical/conceptual entailment. And I have not offered an argument or defense for that, or explained why I changed my mind.
But in brief: trans activists are campaigning for formal recognition of who they are. And to withhold support for such recognition is -- as I came to realize -- not wholehearted support for transgender rights.

Daniel Kaufman

Eric, you certainly are entitled to feel the way you do. I was under the impression that you were suggesting that more generally, *one* cannot be a supporter of transgender civil rights, unless one also accepts the "trans X = X" formula. That strikes me as requiring some sort of substantial argument, as it seems to me quite plainly untrue.

The meanings of words like 'man' and 'woman' derive either from scientific usage or from ordinary, common usage, and I would suggest that both sustain the sex rather than the gender reading. Obviously, usage can change and eventually may do so, in this case, although given how fundamental the terms are and how connected they are to so many other fundamental terms and concepts, not to mention concrete legal protections that accrue to women as a sex, rather than as a gender, I suspect that such a change will involve a much broader change across the linguistic and axiological landscape, one that has not even remotely come to pass yet.

What is happening now, however, is an effort to replace common usage with what is essentially a stipulative definition, with the concurrent threat that to fail to do so is going to earn one the label "transphobic," even if one supports every relevant legal and civil protection for trans people. And apropos your first paragraph, I would suggest that *this* is truly unedifying.

Eric Schliesser

I did not offer an argument [it's a footnote after all--and others have already done so], but I did claim -- and this you ignore notably -- that in addition to legal protections there is a demand for recognition at the heart of the transgender rights movement. And given that I claimed to be a *wholehearted supporter* it follows that I can't pass on the demand for recognition. (If you want to pick and choose in your support for trans rights, feel free to start your own blog and explain why; this blog is not the place for that.) You simply ignore the demand for recognition, and from what you say it seems you don't grasp its nature.
I find the rest of your comment truly peculiar. Within the last decade we have seen a dramatic shift in how 'marriage' is used (that counts as a 'fundamental' term in any polity)--this was due neither to science nor, initially to common usage, but due to a mixture of political and cultural action, legal contestation, and practices that ran ahead of meaning.

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Here's a link to my past blogging (and discussions involving me) at: New APPS.


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