Guest post: Subjective experience is just that

Originally a comment by Screechy Monkey on Feeling≠being.

Practically speaking, in most situations, I wouldn’t say anything, for the same reasons I generally don’t get into discussions about very personal matters.

But if this were one of those conversations that is an exception for some reason: no, I wouldn’t say “you’re wrong.” But I would ask — with genuine curiosity — “how do you know? What does being a woman FEEL like to you?”

Because frankly, I wouldn’t know how to answer the question “what does it feel like to be a man?” [Insert jokes about my inadequacies here. You can’t ask for a better setup.] I could tell you a bit about how it feels to be treated as a man in society, or to interact with others on that basis. I suppose I could come up with an answer about what it feels like to have male genitalia. But those are different questions, as I would think trans people would be quick to point out. I don’t have some internal sense that tells me I’m male, or have a “male brain,” or anything like that, and I can’t even imagine what that would mean. As with pretty much everyone, I conform to some of our culture’s gender stereotypes and not to others.

I think I can wrap my head around gender-related body dysphoria, meaning that I can grasp the notion of having some feeling that your body should be different than it is. But again, we’re told that being trans doesn’t necessarily entail that. So I’m back to being flummoxed.

It’s like that claim that humans have a “sensus divinitatis” that gives (most) people a knowledge of god. I mean, I assume that people who claim to have a sense of god, in their brain or their heart or whatever, to be speaking truthfully of their subjective experience. And I’ve never had any interest in trying to talk someone out of a religious belief that is essentially “well, I feel it/Him/Her in my heart.” But I do insist on my right to object to a claim that a sensus divinitatis is an actual objective thing, and that therefore God exists because your subjective experiences tell you so. (To say nothing of the rather offensive related implication that atheists are either lying or brain-damaged.)

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