Say it authentically

Rachel Anne Williams wrote a post on this question of believing what people say about themselves, in addition to that tweet.

Williams’s Twitter/Medium bio:

Author & writer, ex-academic philosopher, Science Nerd. Read more at Forthcoming book Transgressive with @JKPBooks

I can’t find where Williams was an academic philosopher, and given the quality of argument in this post I have to say I don’t believe it.

What does it mean to say trans people are who we say we are? It means that if a trans woman says she is a woman, then you should believe she is a woman (and likewise for trans-masculine and non-binary identities).

Trans exclusionary radical feminists (henceforth radfems) respond by saying “Why should I believe what you say you are? Ok, then! I am seven feet tall and 400 lbs. Clearly, that doesn’t actually make me seven feet tall. Just because you say you’re something, doesn’t mean you are that thing.”

We need to therefore modify the definition.

It means that if a trans woman authentically says she is a woman, then you should believe she is a woman.

Ohhhhhh; that explains everything.

Kidding. It’s absolutely ludicrous. It’s like thinking if you say “really” five times then what you say is true. It’s like thinking emphasis=verification.

The radfem is not being authentic, see, she doesn’t mean it. Well no shit, Sherlock, because the radfem is using a reductio ad absurdum to demonstrate how idiotic your claim is. The inauthenticity is the whole point. (See also: sarcasm.)

Ex-academic philosopher who doesn’t know a reductio when she sees one? I think not.

She doesn’t live that truth. It’s not part of her core identity. She hasn’t spent years struggling with her desire to be seven feet tall.

But what if she has spent seven years struggling with her desire to be a genius poet? Does that mean she is a genius poet? No, it means she really really (plus 3) wants to be one. Most people have unfulfilled desires. They’re authentic all right, but that doesn’t mean we are or do or have the thing we desire to be or do or have. Desire doesn’t become the desired goal over time alone.

But we must ask about other identities we might take on, such as different animal species. It seems possible to me that someone could authentically identify as a non-human species. But clearly that wouldn’t actually make them non-human. That’s immutable.

The question then is whether gender/sex is immutable in the same way.

No, it isn’t, because sex and gender are not the same.

In regards to the person who identifies as a non-human species, we have to consider why we find it implausible that if you say you’re a dragon you actually are a dragon.

The answer is that specieshood is simply not the type of metaphysical category that is subjective in that way. I contend that gender is different.

But the issue is sex. Is sex subjective? Or is it a brute physical fact like being a dragon (or not)? If it’s not a brute physical fact, how do animals keep up all this reproducing all over the place?

But gender is also very much objective insofar as you can’t just will yourself into being trans. You either are trans or you’re not. (I’ve actually written an essay that talks about choosing to be trans but it’s a complex topic and not relevant here so we can bracket it).

But gender is objective in the same way. If you’re a cis male, you can’t just will yourself to be a woman.

“Ahh!”, says the TERF, “That’s what we’ve been saying — men cannot be women!”

But that’s not what I said. I said “cis male”. Trans women are by definition not cis males. They are trans women. And furthermore, they are women. Trans women. Or trans women. Or transwomen. We all have different individual emphasis in our identities. We don’t all identify as women in the same way or experience femininity the same way.

Ah yes, that’s the magic. Add “cis” and it all works. A cis male cannot just decide to be a woman, but a trans man can. No wait, that’s not right. A trans woman can, and furthermore she is a woman. But if a cis male can’t decide to, why doesn’t it work to say a trans man can? Because a trans man started out as a woman. No, that’s not right, because a trans man is a woman. Can we say “a cis male cannot just decide to be a woman, but a not-cis man can”? But not-cis is trans, we’re always told – cis is not-trans and trans is not-cis. Are we confused enough yet?

This is also something that differs from culture to culture. There are also many non-binary femmes and in reality the trans-feminine spectrum is just that: a multidimensional spectrum.

It’s a multidimensional spectrum plus a trans woman is a woman.

So what does it mean to be authentic? Because that’s what distinguishes the transphobic identities like “attack helicopter” from trans identities.

I would say that authenticity is about being true to your deepest vision for how you want your life to go. Your ultimate desire for how you want to live your life. It’s about not letting society dictate the terms of your life or your identity. It’s about being true to yourself. Of being actually fucking honest with yourself and not being afraid of accepting yourself for who you are.

Great. So if your ultimate desire for how you want to live your life is as a neurosurgeon at a top hospital, society cannot dictate the terms of your life or your identity.

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