People’s authentic stories

Another Rachel steps up to defend Rachel MacKinnon.

But the issue isn’t working hard and dedication and hitting the gym and practicing and working with coaches. The issue is doing all that with a huge physical advantage over all your competitors – the issue is doing it while competing against women while having a male body, and quite a large-framed male body at that. MacKinnon doesn’t “deserve” a world record in women’s cycling because MacKinnon has a male body. Also: the fact that MacKinnon hit the gym does not mean that the women competing did not, so it’s pretty much beside the point. MacKinnon trained; yes; presumably they all trained, but only MacKinnon had the large male body.

Anyway, I read a few other tweets by transphilosophr (not for the first time) and found other peculiar “philosophy.” In particular:

I keep coming back to this. It’s probably tedious that I keep coming back to it, but it still amazes me that so many people treat that claim as not just reasonable but downright binding, if you want to avoid being labeled a “TERF.” It’s doubly or triply amazing in someone who Identifies As a philosopher. No, there is no broad rule that we should trust people about who they say they are. On the contrary. If it were that simple there would be no such thing as civil service exams or medical degrees or exams in engineering or security clearances or CVs or passports…you get the idea.

In practice, we mostly do trust people in the sense of believing what they tell us about themselves as long as there’s nothing in particular at stake. But when there is something at stake? Then we may want more than simple belief or trust.

Also, we mostly do trust people in the sense of believing what they tell us about themselves as long as there’s nothing in particular at stake and what they tell us about themselves isn’t magical or supernatural. If people tell us they’re aliens from another galaxy, we don’t necessarily believe what they tell us about themselves, and if we do we’re credulous chumps. The things trans people tell us about themselves vary wildly, which is another reason we can’t undertake to believe all of it no matter what, but is also why we can’t even know what it is we’re agreeing to believe. Rachel Anne Williams might tell us one thing about herself while Rachel MacKinnon might tell us something quite different (and in tension with what Rachel Anne Williams told us). Calling both “authentic stories” is not a magic way to make them cohere.

This is simply childish. Of course we can’t just believe whatever people tell us about themselves sight unseen just like that. There is no such rule, so Williams’s implication that there is is kind of extreme, especially coming from someone who tells us she’s a philosopher.

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