Announcement: Your votes are in! The January 2019 Philosophy Book of the Month is The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the World by David Eagleman and Anthony Brandt.

Are Transwomen Women?

Use this philosophy forum to discuss and debate general philosophy topics that don't fit into one of the other categories.

This forum is NOT for factual, informational or scientific questions about philosophy (e.g. "What year was Socrates born?"); such homework-help-style questions can be asked and answered on PhiloPedia: The Philosophy Wiki. If your question is not already answered on the appropriate PhiloPedia page, then see How to Request Content on PhiloPedia to see how to ask your informational question using the wiki.
Locked
User avatar
Consul
Posts: 1344
Joined: February 21st, 2014, 6:32 am
Location: Germany

Are Transwomen Women?

Post by Consul » May 31st, 2018, 12:31 pm

I know this topic is an ethical and political minefield, and the "transgenderist" thought police will demonize me just for daring to ask this question:

Are transwomen women?

(Are transmen men? – What I write can correspondingly be applied to transmen, but for the sake of simplicity I'll be talking about transwomen only.)

The Wikipedia entry begins with the following definition:

"A trans woman (sometimes trans-woman or transwoman) is a woman who was assigned male at birth."

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trans_woman

This definition implies that there was a misassignement at birth because the person was in fact born as a girl rather than as a boy. But if that's true, how could such a terrible mistake happen? Were the parents and the doctors in the hospital or the midwife just too blind or stupid to see that what they perceived as a baby boy was in fact a baby girl? Of course, they weren't! For it is simply a conceptual perversion to call a baby who is unambiguously male with regard to anatomy, endocrinology (relating to hormones) and genetics a girl. Therefore, it is simply false to assert that transwomen were born as girls. In fact, they were born as boys.

Moreover, the very term "transwoman" is a misnomer insofar as it is used to refer to a male-to-female transsexual person, who is actually a "transman", i.e. a male transsexual, a transsexual man, a transsexual person born as a boy.
Therefore, so-called transwomen are not women, because they are transsexual boys/men and no girl/woman is a transsexual boy/woman.

Another simple reason is that all transwomen are genetically male, whereas no woman is genetically male.

What do you think of this argument?
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

User avatar
Consul
Posts: 1344
Joined: February 21st, 2014, 6:32 am
Location: Germany

Re: Are Transwomen Women?

Post by Consul » May 31st, 2018, 12:46 pm

I know it's part of transgenderist ideology that biological criteria are totally irrelevant to the question of whether or not somebody is a woman or female/a man or male. So the transgenderists will sweepingly reject my argument as illegitimately biologistic. But it's certainly absurd to deny the relevance of biological criteria.
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

User avatar
Consul
Posts: 1344
Joined: February 21st, 2014, 6:32 am
Location: Germany

Re: Are Transwomen Women?

Post by Consul » May 31st, 2018, 12:52 pm

Consul wrote:
May 31st, 2018, 12:31 pm
Therefore, so-called transwomen are not women, because they are transsexual boys/men and no girl/woman is a transsexual boy/woman.
Another simple reason is that all transwomen are genetically male, whereas no woman is genetically male.
A genetically male, yet anatomically and hormonally feminized transwoman could be called a "womanoid", but I suspect that the TS community loathes this term.
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

User avatar
Consul
Posts: 1344
Joined: February 21st, 2014, 6:32 am
Location: Germany

Re: Are Transwomen Women?

Post by Consul » May 31st, 2018, 1:05 pm

To avoid a possible misunderstanding: I'm not a bit anti-TS or "transphobic"! What I write here by no means implies that transsexuals shouldn't have the right to live their lives the way they want to live it, that they shouldn't have the right to medical and psychological support, that they shouldn't be legally protected from harm and violence, that they shouldn't be socially tolerated and accepted as transsexuals.
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

Name Is Unnecessary
New Trial Member
Posts: 14
Joined: May 19th, 2018, 9:32 am

Re: Are Transwomen Women?

Post by Name Is Unnecessary » May 31st, 2018, 3:06 pm

There are genetic, cerebral, biological and blah-blah other gender criteria. Genetically gender is male, but cerebrally it is female for example. This is actually a high school material and I can tell, because I learnt it in high school.

I see you are coming from the genetic criteria, but as it turns out genes matter least, seemingly less than raising environment and even personality forming.

User avatar
Consul
Posts: 1344
Joined: February 21st, 2014, 6:32 am
Location: Germany

Re: Are Transwomen Women?

Post by Consul » May 31st, 2018, 10:47 pm

Name Is Unnecessary wrote:
May 31st, 2018, 3:06 pm
There are genetic, cerebral, biological and blah-blah other gender criteria. Genetically gender is male, but cerebrally it is female for example. This is actually a high school material and I can tell, because I learnt it in high school.
I see you are coming from the genetic criteria, but as it turns out genes matter least, seemingly less than raising environment and even personality forming.
I'm not a scientist myself, but there doesn't seem to be any substantial scientific confirmation of the argument that transwomen are women because they have "female brains". (Is there any scientifically well-defined concept of a '"female brain" at all which doesn't simply mean "brain of a genetically female organism"?)
See e.g. this scientific paper:

"The present data do not support the notion that brains of MtF-TR are feminized.

The present study does not support the dogma that MtF-TR have atypical sex dimorphism in the brain[.]"


Sex Dimorphism of the Brain in Male-to-Female Transsexuals
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

Alias
Posts: 2448
Joined: November 26th, 2011, 8:10 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Terry Pratchett

Re: Are Transwomen Women?

Post by Alias » June 1st, 2018, 1:04 am

Your need to categorize people, definitively and absolutely, is not about them; it's about you.
As far as other people are concerned, call them whatever they want to be called. If uncertain, ask "How do you prefer to be addressed?"
As far as your perception is concerned, you may have to conduct an investigation of what it is you need to know and why you need to know it.

User avatar
Consul
Posts: 1344
Joined: February 21st, 2014, 6:32 am
Location: Germany

Re: Are Transwomen Women?

Post by Consul » June 1st, 2018, 1:49 am

Alias wrote:
June 1st, 2018, 1:04 am
Your need to categorize people, definitively and absolutely, is not about them; it's about you.
Yes, it is "about them", since the point at issue is precisely their assertion that transwomen are "definitely and absolutely" women.

As far as I'm concerned, I don't categorize or classify intersexuals as either male or female; but transsexuals aren't intersexuals.
Alias wrote:
June 1st, 2018, 1:04 am
As far as other people are concerned, call them whatever they want to be called.
Would you call me a dog if I wanted to be called so?

When somebody believes and asserts that s/he is an X, it certainly doesn't follow that s/he really is an X.
Alias wrote:
June 1st, 2018, 1:04 am
If uncertain, ask "How do you prefer to be addressed?"
As far as your perception is concerned, you may have to conduct an investigation of what it is you need to know and why you need to know it.
I have no problem with treating a transwoman like a woman and referring to the person as she/her, but this doesn't mean that I'm willing to do so because I think that the person really is a woman.
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

Eduk
Posts: 2251
Joined: December 8th, 2016, 7:08 am
Favorite Philosopher: Socrates

Re: Are Transwomen Women?

Post by Eduk » June 1st, 2018, 3:09 am

Firstly there is genetic ambiguity. Both in outward physical appearance, chromosomes, chemically and so on. Sometimes the doctor simply can't know what sex a new born baby is. See Olympic sports classification for an introduction to the difficulties.
Whether or not there is such a thing as a male or female brain is an interesting question. Certainly you cannot remove a brain and afterwards work out what sex it is. But as I understand it the problem may not be to do with a real difference in male and female brains but more to do with bell curves of overlapping traits. For example if I said X person is six foot tall you might say X is likely male but you certainly couldn't be definitive.
Then you have the problem of defining gender. Again gender is ambiguous, the more closely you try to categorise the more precise will be the ambiguity. This is a common problem. For example is Pluto a planet.
But there are more straightforward cases where someone is clearly male but wants to be female. These cases possibly outnumber the ambiguous cases, I don't know.
At the end of the day life is complex. Personally I don't go around thinking I am a man. I tend to just think I am me. If someone uses the term man to me in a negative sense then that is their problem. If society demands I act in a manner which I don't wish then that is societies problem. But then I am quite independent and don't much care about outward appearance. I'm lucky I guess.
I think the single best thing you could do consul would be to spend time with a transwoman. Become friends. I suspect there are many many stories to be told.
Oh and lastly some people are plain self harming and or exploiting situations for their own end and or bad people. That applies to transwomen as much as anyone else. But in those cases don't throw the baby out with the bath water.
Unknown means unknown.

Karpel Tunnel
Posts: 519
Joined: February 16th, 2018, 11:28 am

Re: Are Transwomen Women?

Post by Karpel Tunnel » June 1st, 2018, 4:24 am

Consul wrote:
June 1st, 2018, 1:49 am
Would you call me a dog if I wanted to be called so?
When somebody believes and asserts that s/he is an X, it certainly doesn't follow that s/he really is an X.
I have no problem with treating a transwoman like a woman and referring to the person as she/her, but this doesn't mean that I'm willing to do so because I think that the person really is a woman.

Karpel Tunnel
Posts: 519
Joined: February 16th, 2018, 11:28 am

Re: Are Transwomen Women?

Post by Karpel Tunnel » June 1st, 2018, 4:45 am

Consul, sorry about that. I hit post too soon.
Consul wrote: ↑Today, 6:49 am
Would you call me a dog if I wanted to be called so?
Sure, I would. And perhaps you are not aware of the phenomenon Furry Culture. Google and youtube that. LOL. But I hear you. Me, I am pretty flexible, so if someone wanted to be called a dog, it wouldn't matter much to me. I suppose we are really talking about in 3rd party situations. Would I refer to you as a dog when describing you to others. Oh, you know, Consul, about 40, he's a fairly big dog, fit, no paunch...etc.
No. I mean, if you were not dressing up like a dog, I probably would not.
With a transexual who was regularly in woman mode, lived as a women, it becomes easier. I would I think - it hasn't really come up - refer to her as a woman, and this would descriptively work, if not perfectly perhaps, as a descriptor.
I mean, perhaps some people are not really the sex they seem to be and passing on the wrong information. Or someone is actually a hermaphodite - in fact this at some time or other was probably likely - and I mentioned them as a man or woman and was wrong but effective and honest in my communication.
When somebody believes and asserts that s/he is an X, it certainly doesn't follow that s/he really is an X.
No. And we likely need to look at what might end up being sexist in such determinations. I am a woman because....and these qualites and patterns could be ones that men have, and vice versa.
I have no problem with treating a transwoman like a woman and referring to the person as she/her, but this doesn't mean that I'm willing to do so because I think that the person really is a woman.
It sounds to me that this will meet most ethical demands of most parties. The ontological issue is something that, it seems to me, should be respected in both ways. They get to believe there is this possibility you consider ontologically impossible. You let them have that belief and treat them as they would like to be treated. They, in turn, it seems to me, should respect your right to have, inside you and in abstract discussions, your right to believe the ontology you believe in.

Diversity should be conceived as not just appearance related or behavior related but also in terms of paradigm.

You and I have likely quite different views on a lot of paradigmatic issues, but the ironic thing for me is the area you are pushing on is one I have also pushed on recently.

I was with someone who believed very much in science, was a materialist/physicalist AND yet very much supported transsexuals not just as you do - in terms of speech, interactions and generalized respect - but also ontologically.

I pointed out that a physicalist cannot believe that a male body can be a woman. The body is the person. There is nothing that would make a male body a woman, unless there are very subtle physical portions of that body that we have not discovered yet via scientific investigation. One need not be a dualist to believe there is that possibility, but one is definitely assuming that something very important has not yet been discovered about human bodies that makes them potentially the opposite sex than the rest. And this undiscovered something is in fact more importent for gender identity that, say, the penis, testicles, lack of ovaries and so on. It is a very speculative physicalism. She did not like me bringing this up.

Now for me this was a jab at someone who was skeptical of something I believed it that was also not currently accepted by mainstream science. IOW something you would likely also have not believed in.

So I agree, I think that working from science and our knowledge of bodies, to consider that a transsexual is actually the chosen sex and not the birth sex, is either a very speculative physicalism with NO current scientific support OR a claim about dualism: it is, for example, a female soul, trapped in a male body.

Alias
Posts: 2448
Joined: November 26th, 2011, 8:10 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Terry Pratchett

Re: Are Transwomen Women?

Post by Alias » June 1st, 2018, 8:51 am

Consul wrote:
June 1st, 2018, 1:49 am
Yes, it is "about them", since the point at issue is precisely their assertion that transwomen are "definitely and absolutely" women.
Then that is what they are. Simple. What's the "issue"?
As far as I'm concerned, I don't categorize or classify intersexuals as either male or female; but transsexuals aren't intersexuals.
But they're still people, yes?
Would you call me a dog if I wanted to be called so?
Sure. Or Mork or Duke or The Birdman of Alcatraz - whatever you makes you happy.
When somebody believes and asserts that s/he is an X, it certainly doesn't follow that s/he really is an X.
Regarding the national economy, or the commission of a crime, or the the center of the universe, no.
Regarding their own identity - well, who knows better?
I have no problem with treating a transwoman like a woman and referring to the person as she/her,
You're willing to show courtesy. So - on the face of it - no problem.
but this doesn't mean that I'm willing to do so because I think that the person really is a woman.
Your private thoughts and motives are nobody's business but your own.
Yet, you've put them out here for other people to contemplate, so they must still be causing you some discomfort.

Name Is Unnecessary
New Trial Member
Posts: 14
Joined: May 19th, 2018, 9:32 am

Re: Are Transwomen Women?

Post by Name Is Unnecessary » June 1st, 2018, 9:34 am

I'm not a scientist myself, but there doesn't seem to be any substantial scientific confirmation of the argument that transwomen are women because they have "female brains".
Maybe I should discuss the scientific arguments on this, but I will answer only in regard to my post. By writing "genetically male" and "cerebrally female" I make distinction between the criteria - I don't look at sex as a homogeneous thing, because it apparently consists of different elements (genes, hormone affection and others). And with the last sentence ("but as it turns out genes matter least, seemingly less than raising environment and even personality forming.") from my other post I pointed that although something is formally A, it could be practically regarded as B. Yes, by all measuring it could be exactly A, but in practice it mostly manifests as B. I live in the same country I was born and where my parents, and their parents, and their parents and so on were also born. But as I look around, the only I have in common with the others is that we are born in the same country. I am genetically one of them, but practically I am not.

Consul replied to Alias:
it is "about them", since the point at issue is precisely their assertion that transwomen are "definitely and absolutely" women.
I will talk only for my own. I won't say they are definite and absolute women. Since you started this thread, you must have heard the phrase "male/female in female/male body". It may look like those people are making themselves look like victims and feel the suffery pleasure from that, but I still think this phrase is accurate - you yourself said transwomen are "anatomically and hormonally feminized" males. So the essence here is mostly the same as in the previous answer.

User avatar
Consul
Posts: 1344
Joined: February 21st, 2014, 6:32 am
Location: Germany

Re: Are Transwomen Women?

Post by Consul » June 1st, 2018, 11:29 am

Eduk wrote:
June 1st, 2018, 3:09 am
Firstly there is genetic ambiguity. Both in outward physical appearance, chromosomes, chemically and so on. Sometimes the doctor simply can't know what sex a new born baby is. See Olympic sports classification for an introduction to the difficulties.
As I said, I'm not talking about intersexuals but about transsexuals.
Eduk wrote:
June 1st, 2018, 3:09 am
Again gender is ambiguous, the more closely you try to categorise the more precise will be the ambiguity. This is a common problem. For example is Pluto a planet.
Now it's officially a dwarf planet, with dwarf planets not being planets. (Many physicists reject the new classification, and nonscientists wonder why dwarf planets aren't planets when e.g. dwarf horses are horses.)
Eduk wrote:
June 1st, 2018, 3:09 am
At the end of the day life is complex.
Personal and particularly sexual identity (in the psychological sense) is a complex issue indeed.
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

User avatar
Consul
Posts: 1344
Joined: February 21st, 2014, 6:32 am
Location: Germany

Re: Are Transwomen Women?

Post by Consul » June 1st, 2018, 11:38 am

Eduk wrote:
June 1st, 2018, 3:09 am
Then you have the problem of defining gender.
"gender n. 1. Non-technically, a synonym for sex (1). More specifically, especially in feminist psychology, the behavioural, social, and cultural attributes associated with sex."

"sex n. 1. Either of the categories of male and female or the sum total of biological attributes on which this distinction is based within a species."

(Colman, Andrew M. Oxford Dictionary of Psychology. 4th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. pp. 306+690)

"Gender, Sociology of. According to Ann Oakley, who introduced the term to sociology, "'Sex' refers to the biological division into male and female; 'gender' to the parallel and socially unequal division into femininity and masculinity' (see Sex, Gender and Society, 1972). Gender draws attention, therefore, to the socially constructed aspects of differences between women and men. But the term 'gender' has since become extended to refer not only to individual identity and personality but also, at the symbolic level, to cultural ideals and stereotypes of masculinity and femininity and, at the structural level, to the sexual division of labour in institutions and organizations."

(Scott, John, and Gordon Marshall. Oxford Dictionary of Sociology. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. p. 276)
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

Locked