What is even real anymore?
I was intending to decrease my amount of writing on trans topics, and focus more on other issues that feel very important to me, like the fascism of pornography and prostitution, but the trans movement is only ever getting more absurd and aggressive, so here we are again.
Besides, when I point out to someone the concretely evidenced massive rates and sadistic forms of violence in prostitution and pornography, and they just shrug it off, how the fuck am I supposed to reason with them? If they’re willfully blind to evidence of real physical violence against women (and transsexuals, and gay men…) being normalized and committed in pornography and prostitution, then I suppose they need some sort of emotional wake up call, not intellectual arguments.
Trans issues on the other hand are the epitome of intellectual wank, which I happen to be exceptionally good at, so here’s my take on one of the most recent madnesses of the ideology: the notion that “biological sex is a social construct.”
Not a straw man argument
So the claim goes that the idea of “biological sex” and the categories of “female” and “male” in the biological sense are merely social constructs, illusions collectively held up in society by politically charged cultural forces. Not objective realities that can be observed independently by any intelligent human being regardless of moral values or acculturation.
If this sounds too absurd to be an opinion that could credibly be held by significant public figures and many average individuals in society, I sympathize, but sadly it’s a real thing.
Most obviously, check out Riley J. Dennis, who has a big platform on YouTube, Twitter, and other social media platforms, and writes for the anti-feminist wanksite Everyday Feminism. He was perhaps the main figure to popularize the notion that “trans women are not biologically male” on YouTube and through Everyday Feminism.
A quick Google search reveals that the notion of biological sex as a social construct in relation to transgender issues was previously represented in an Autostraddle article in 2014, by pornographer Zinnia Jones in 2015, and on Sociology In Focus in 2016.
More recently, actress Asia Kate Dillon (most famous for a role in Orange is the New Black) had a lengthy exchange with Sister Outrider on Twitter in which she also represented the viewpoint.
Otherwise, many “small” people around social media have seriously taken up the notion, which you will notice if you spend time talking to people supporting mainstream trans ideology. Hell, here in Germany, a trans-identified male I talked to over a dating app a few months ago came out to hold the same view. The crazy is everywhere.
To counter this notion that biological sex is a mere illusion, a subjective notion rather than an objective reality, let’s first of all remember what an “objective reality” even is…
An “objective reality” is most easily defined as something which every physically and mentally healthy person on the planet can independently verify and agree on, regardless of what culture they were raised in.
Sometimes, cultural or political values cause a person to want to reject reality and latch on to some illusion that’s provably false, but most cultures and ideologies are constructed in such a way that they at least take the most obvious objective realities as a basis, because otherwise the effort of indoctrination is too great and the belief system cannot sustain itself.
For instance, once we establish the meanings of “two”, “four”, and the verb “add”, any person of average intellect can verify that if you have two berries and add another two berries to them, you indeed get four berries. This is an objective reality so obvious that no sane person would try to argue against it.
It doesn’t have to be about numbers. Anyone of average intellect can independently verify that when you punch a rock very hard, your hand hurts, but when you punch someone’s abdomen, it’s not that bad. We can agree on using the words “hard” and “soft” to describe such two types of surface depending on how much they hurt when they collide with a part of your body, and then agree that it’s an objective reality that a rock is hard and a belly is soft.
Contrast this for instance to belief in a deity. Societies around the world have invented a crap ton of supernatural deities, none of whose existence can be verified on any objective terms, and what deity a person believes in depends on what they were taught to believe since childhood. In this sense, deities are social constructs. They are subjective beliefs that are collectively held within a society, but cannot be objectively verified to be real, so a person who wasn’t taught to believe in a certain deity from childhood is likely to call bullshit when introduced to that deity as an adult.
Simple enough, right? But before we can decide whether biological sex is a social construct, we have to touch upon another concept.
To divide entities into categories is one of the fundamental features of human intellect, because it’s essential to communication and other survival skills.
Categorization means that, across a set of entities, one takes note of certain patterns or similarities that are found to repeat among certain entities, forming distinct subsets.
For instance, while two apple trees and two wolves represent four distinct, unconnected piles of atoms in the universe, human intellect is able to discern that two of those piles of atoms follow a specific pattern in their shape, color, behavior, etc., and the other two piles of atoms follow another pattern.
The patterns observed in apple trees would be: they have a brown, thick, column-shaped body that protrudes from the earth, splitting up into several branches and sub-branches, which depending on the time of the year may have green and flat or colorful and round objects coming out of them, which eventually turn brown and fall off to the ground. When all these specific attributes are observed in a collection of entities in the universe, we speak of a pattern observed across entities which makes them similar and therefore puts them in the same category; in this case, the apple tree.
Wolves on the other hand are gray fur-covered creatures walking freely on four appendages, hunting prey by using an opening at the front of their body (“front” relative to usual moving direction) that is filled with white, sharp objects that latch on to the flesh of another creature when said opening is widened, wrapped around an appendage of the creature and then swiftly closed again. They live in packs of many that help each other hunt, and sometimes they look up to the sky and make a distinct howling sound. When all these highly specific attributes are observed in a number of entities in the universe, we again speak of an objectively observed pattern that indicates a similarity across the entities and thus forms a category. Here, the wolf.
Humans couldn’t survive in nature if they couldn’t tell apart apple trees from wolves. One grows edible objects, the other sees you as an edible object. That’s why we evolved intelligence.
There are different categories of categories
Getting there now, bear with me.
A categorization can be objectively real, or it can be a social construct. This depends on whether the pattern upon which it’s based is an objectively real pattern or only a social construct.
Take note, by the way, that a social construct is not merely based on lies and illusions. Usually, it’s also made to become as real as possible through the actions of the people believing in it. Any evidence that it is at odds with objective reality is battled and “corrected” where possible, rather than accepting the natural state of things. Society actively attempts to reshape reality/nature to make things align with the social construct, usually because some political system relies on people’s belief in it.
For instance, historically, many societies believed in two categories of human: one has a penis and is strong, intelligent, self reliant, capable, and courageous, the other has a vagina and is weak, silly, dependent, unskilled, and cowardly. These are the supposed patterns this categorization is based on. However, a careful look at all members of society reveals that these categories are nonsensical, because there are many people with penises who are weak, silly, dependent, unskilled, and cowardly, and there are many people with vaginas who are strong, intelligent, self reliant, capable, and courageous. The enumerated characteristics also appear in totally arbitrary mixes and matches in many if not most people when those people are left alone to unfold their true personalities, so the supposed patterns couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Because all this would be evident to anyone who takes a good look at society, people are constantly forced to mold their personalities into their assigned category. The categories are made to seem as true as possible through this pressure to conform, so anyone who wants to criticize the categorization is left with only few discrepancies to point at, and at that point the person can easily be silenced, and the social construct kept intact.
The first aspect of the above mentioned categories that can be observed in a newborn is whether it has a penis or a vagina. Therefore, the child is categorized on that basis. If later the personality of the child starts to be at odds with the characteristics of the category, the child is punished until it begins to conform.
So this is it then, right? Obviously I’m talking about the categories of male and female, boy and girl, man and woman, and I just proved them to be a wicked social construct!
Now hold your fucking horses.
I haven’t been talking about biological sex here. I haven’t been talking about female and male in terms of biology. I’ve been talking about the social construct of gender, and sex does not fucking equal gender.
Yes, the sciences are always influenced by cultural currents. They are never a hundred percent objective. But they are in a continuous state of improvement, and since the advent of feminism most a sane biologist has accepted that the stereotypes traditionally associated with the sexes are nowhere near as objectively real as the physical aspects of the sexes that any person on the planet can independently verify regardless of cultural values or political beliefs.
Female and male, as defined by biology today, are sex categories that are based on a very clear pair of objectively real patterns that can be observed across the human species in a way that is absolutely independent of cultural values and political beliefs.
The key characteristics of biological sex could be listed as follows:
- Genetic sex (XX, XY)
- Gonads (ovaries, testes)
- Hormone levels (high estrogen, high androgen)
- Internal reproductive anatomy (uterus, prostate)
- Genitals (vulva, penis)
Now if you medically analyze an arbitrary set of humans, you will notice the following:
Approximately half of them have: XX chromosomes, ovaries, high estrogen levels, a uterus, and a vulva.
Approximately the rest have: XY chromosomes, testes, high androgen levels, a prostate, and a penis.
Now if that is not a pair of patterns I don’t know what is.
There is a very small number of people who fall out of this categorization. The thing with categorizing things in nature is they are often far from a hundred percent consistent. There are wolves who are sick and therefore can’t move around, much like an apple tree, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to tell apart a wolf from an apple tree anymore. That would have dire consequences.
Sex is a social construct only in a very limited sense of the term, where the few exceptional people in society who fall out of the categorization are often considered to be members of one of the two sexes anyway, either because no detailed medical checkup was made to detect the intersex condition, or because the existence of intersex people makes people confused and often uncomfortable for cultural reasons that again tie in to gender. Accordingly, the genitals of intersex people are sometimes operated on to make them conform to the penis/vagina dichotomy. But this is a manifestation of the social construct of gender, not the observation of the objective reality of sex. An objective observation of sex will not lead people to force intersex people into the other categories; it will lead to the recognition of a very small third category called intersex, which is already where we are now!
Is it politically relevant though?
So we can categorize almost all people into two sexes and call them female and male, but does this have any political use? Should we perhaps just drop these terms and redefine the words female/male, girl/boy, and woman/man for a different categorization, that is not based on biological sex but “gender identity” or whatever?
Consider that most members of the biological female category are able to become pregnant, and no members of the male category can. And that most members of the male category can impregnate others, and no members of the female category can. This is massively politically relevant, for starters.
Secondly, as you’ll notice if you listen to biological women, their lives often follow certain patterns that are rarely if ever observed in biological men. Certain patterns of lived experiences that shape their position in society, such as a socialization into femininity and servitude leading them to have a depressed pay entitlement and a weakened sense of personal boundaries. Ask them for such experiences with an open heart and be a little critical when a male-born person immediately jumps in and claims to have it just as bad. That is a behavior otherwise seen in MRAs.
And I don’t even want to delve too much into FGM, child brides, female infanticide, widow burning, honor killings, and a range of other gruesome manifestations of misogyny that target people who are biologically female, either directly in relation to their sexed anatomy or because only they are really seen as women by society.
This is not to say that genuine male transsexuals who pass relatively well never have experiences similar to those of women. Let’s leave aside entirely subjective “gender identity” feelings and look at some political realities transsexuals face in society. It is not entirely implausible to suggest categories based on such political realities rather than purely biological ones. As an example, transsexuals often face sexual harassment and other boundary violations; experiences they may claim to have in common with women. Transsexuals also suffer greatly under prostitution, a system that otherwise mostly affects marginalized women.
I elaborated on this in another blog post. There, I suggested a spectrum from “full female oppression” to “full male power” based on political objective realities rather than only biological ones. However, it’s nothing comparable to the “gender spectrum” suggested by trans activists. For instance, rather than considering trans-identified males to be just as much women as real women, this spectrum considers a female-born woman to always be closer to the woman end of the spectrum than any male-born person. In other words, if you want to fall on the “fully woman” end, being biologically female is a prerequisite. Correspondingly, some female-born women may at certain times choose to form female-only groups, distinct from more inclusive groups that allow some genuine transsexuals. This is because, while genuine transsexuals may have some shared political realities with female-born women, there are also many issues unique to female-born women, and a political group has every right to base its politics primarily on those issues, choosing to exclude male-born people regardless of whether they are considered “woman” in some way. Further, to be clear, jackasses like Alex Drummond or Danielle Muscato who clearly grew up on male privilege and continue to benefit from it don’t even get close to the “woman” half of the spectrum under this model.
All in all, I continue to be open minded towards a categorization or spectrum based on political realities rather than purely biological ones, under which some genuine trans people can be considered members of the sex they transitioned towards. Maybe this is what Catharine MacKinnon meant when she said she sees male transsexuals as women, regardless of “how they became women.” Her mention of the notion of “becoming a woman” clearly hints, in my opinion, at a set of lived experiences a person goes through to become “woman” in a political sense. It’s not an identity any male person can just claim based on subjective feelings.
Anyway, I’ve been digressing. Biological sex categories comprise an objective reality, and have important bearings on politics. So make of that what you will.
How did we get here?
If it puzzles you as much as me how we could have ended up in a political atmosphere in which otherwise science-loving liberals came to reject some of the most obvious objective realities, I have a limited explanation:
I believe the ideology of “gender identity” is essentially the symptoms of a delusional illness being turned into political dogma by people who suffer from said illness and at the same time hold enough political power to base a political movement on it.
(I’m not using the word “delusional” derisively here. I mean it in a literal sense. Same with “dogma.”)
Watch out for some of the arguments trans activists often put forth: misgendering is literal violence, invalidating trans identity causes death, saying male transsexuals are male is transphobic, and so on. These attitudes, to me, clearly show an inability of an individual to cope with their own reality. Being faced with the reality of their own sex causes them a distress so profound that it fuels suicidality. On what planet is this normal? Even marginalized groups who suffer under constant hate speech don’t behave this way, and calling a male person male sure as hell isn’t hate speech. (Although I’m not denying the bullying trans people may face from social conservatives who use intentional misgendering as part of their bullying strategy.) There is even some evidence to suggest that genetically and hormonally normal boys who were born with genital defects can be raised as girls, with almost 80% of them feeling comfortable with it. So even lifelong misgendering has no dire consequences on the majority of those to whom it happens.
Predominantly straight, white men who have these gender delusions are in a complicated position with regard to privilege. Mental illness that makes life at times unbearable does not necessarily diminish the privileges a person holds in society. Historically, when expressions of gender nonconformity were an ultimate social crime, men with these feelings presumably lead relatively normal lives with their gender feelings under strict suppression. Now, as feminist, LGBT, and sex liberal movements have collectively loosened the shackles of these men, they’ve suddenly become the biggest and loudest activists, standing on the privileges they’ve always been holding. It’s another thing if we’re talking about a transsexual who ran away from home as a teenager and ended up in prostitution, but you cannot tell me that a straight, white, male college student, or a 30 year-old guy with a stable job, really belongs to an oppressed and marginalized group because he feels restricted by masculinity, began indulging in fantasies of femininity, and developed a delusion in which pointing out him being male makes him feel awful. That is a personal plight, not a political oppression.
So the privileged white man cannot stand the notion that he is a man, and what does he do? He begins formulating strange philosophical ideas to justify his belief that he is literally a woman. Those who really transition say they’re a woman because they have “female phenotype” and supposedly “socially function” as women, ignoring all the profound differences to women they continue to have. Those who can’t transition or don’t pass at all latch on to the next best thing and say they have “female gender identity” and are therefore “really a woman inside.” But people continue to point out that even if that were true, their body is still male. So what do they do? They begin formulating thoughts about how even the notion of a “male body” is really wrong. It never ends until each and every notion of them being “male” in any possible sense of the word is eliminated. Because that is their fixation. They don’t care about the well-being of children and adolescents with gender dysphoria, or else they would admit that a majority of them desist when treated well. They don’t care about the murder rates of transsexuals of color in prostitution, otherwise they wouldn’t ally themselves with sex liberal men who support the sex trade. They don’t care about physical safety in bathrooms, they just want to use the women’s room because they’re women, period!
All they care about is validation, validation, validation. It’s a narcissistic and deluded fixation, turned into a political ideology, sold to liberals who become all empathetic when they hear about depression, suicidality, bullying, discrimination, and violence faced by a marginalized class. Liberals want to be uncompromising in their empathy, so they refuse to scrutinize the claim that all these issues are related to validation or invalidation of “gender identity.” Women who then point out the harm they suffer under this ideology are seen as bigots not only because of misogyny, but also because they’re now in a position that is superficially similar to that of social conservatives: a class of people say they suffer from extreme forms of discrimination and violence under society, and another group of people oppose them in some way. This may just be the one biggest instance of liberal empathy being abused to gain support for a deeply harmful, regressive social cause.
If you truly want to decrease the amounts of suffering in society, stop bullying women who oppose men’s appropriation of female identity, and stop with the intellectual wankery on whether men are maybe real women when they feel so.
Instead, fight against masculine fascism.
It’s masculine fascism that leads to massive ostracism of gender-disobeying youth, causing their depression and suicidality.
It’s masculine fascism that conditions men into reacting with physical violence towards their own intimate partners, be it a woman, a gay man, or a transsexual.
It’s masculine fascism that normalizes men’s dehumanization of women, gay men, and transsexuals in prostitution, often ending in sadistic forms of murder.
Don’t fight science.
Don’t fight feminism.
Fight male supremacy.