As I was reading “Being trans is to be rejected” by Marián Finck, I was reminded of one of my recurring thoughts on the topic.
Transgender people in general wish to be treated like their gender is different than their biological sex. On the face of it, that seems like a humble wish.
But is what they’re asking for actually reasonable?
For readability, this article only considers the 99.9% case – that is, people born with normal genitalia, easily identifiable as one of the two sexes. Intersex and similar conditions are a separate discussion from transgender, and none of what is said here should be taken to apply to those.
Also, this article is in no way a justification for aggression. While it might challenge the pop culture view of transgender people, said people are not harming others with their self-expression, so said self-expression should no more be an excuse for hostility than a different taste in clothes, music, or ketchup.
What does it mean to be treated as a man/woman?
Humans are highly evolved primates. While we (hopefully) have rational minds, it is a part of a large and complicated brain. Hormones and instincts play a big part in forming our attitudes and decisions. This is scientifically uncontroversial, but it does seem like society has problems internalising this knowledge.
But in reality, hormones and instincts account for a great deal of how men and women react to each other.
When I (a heterosexual cis male) meet a person, long before I form the first conscious thought about them, my instincts have already asked and guessed at dozens of questions about them. A few examples:
- Are they a physical threat?
- Are they a potential and suitable mate?
- Are they competing with me for mates?
- What is their age?
- Can I trust them?
- Are they from my “tribe”?
- Are they helping my “tribe”?
And so on. The first three carry special weight. They inform our two most powerful instincts, survival and procreation.
Anyone you perceive as a physical threat, your instincts will tell you to be wary of. And anyone who’s a suitable mate, your instincts will tell you to be more friendly towards.
Not only is this behaviour quite readily observable in all societies the world over, it's also quite consistent with what we know of primates, evolution and biology. We are driven to procreate, that is how our genes speed and survive.
So to a man like myself, any man I meet can be a potential friend and ally. A good and valuable person to have in my life. Great. But when I meet a woman of my own age, she has the potential to be that, and moreover, she has the potential to be my lifelong love, my intimate partner, to carry my children, to be the one that my instincts are aching for me to meet. Quite a lot more at stake, there.
And even long after I've found the woman of my dreams and had a small flock of children, my instincts will not have stopped looking. To the day I die, they will be looking out to find new and interesting ways for me to procreate.
And before you tell me that this is just because I'm a man, and women are much purer in their sexual desires, save your breath. While women change their behaviour somewhat when the menopause sets in, they, too, are driven by their instincts to procreate with the most attractive male they can get their hands on, although their attractiveness-rating include more parameters, like “alpha-ness” and other proxies for being a good provider.
So, in short, sexual interest is an important factor in human relations, and it is based on breeding potential. Not the only factor, to be sure, but an important, instinctual one. All else being equal, a person will be more kind and generous towards a potential mate.
So what are trans people actually asking, when they ask us to treat them as their desired gender?
“Falsify reality for me”
In the procreational sense, trans-women are not functional women, and trans-men are not functional men. If they have kept their original genitalia, they can procreate as their original gender. If not, they have no natural ability to procreate.
Thus, for trans-men to be treated like men, and trans-women to be treated like women, it is necessary for everyone they encounter to either be unaware of the difference, or for them to pretend that they hold a sexual potential they do not.
In essence, they are asking for the subsidy of attention that sexual attraction affords, without actually possessing the attribute that this attention is targeting.
It is like an woman in her fifties showing up at a bar, demanding to get the same kind of attention from men as she did when she was 21.
So, no, I don't think this is a reasonable demand to make. We are not obliged to bend reality to the preferences of others. Doing so is burdensome, and in my opinion, dishonest.
A transgendered person can expect the same treatment as any other person would get, sans the sexual interest.
While friends and family can be persuaded to pretend to make the transgender person happy, others will have no reason to follow suit, but even those with the best intentions will find it hard to suppress their instincts completely.
A painful reality
The painful reality for transgender people is that until medical science makes it possible to completely transform the biological sex of a person, they will never be able to experience the world fully as they wish it was.
They will be perceived as not-quite men, not-quite women. The uncanny valley of gender identity. Revulsion and anger are unfortunate, but natural reactions towards sexual deviance and deception.
They will face rejection (and possibly anger and revulsion) when the truth of their biological sex becomes known. Finding love and acceptance will be exceedingly difficult.
It's tragically no accident that suicide rates for transgender people is so high.
What is the answer?
In the light of all the above, are we truly doing transgender people a favour, when we encourage them to embrace their transgender identity? We would be setting them up for disappointment.
Would it maybe be kinder to encourage them to come to terms with their biological sex? If successful, they would likely have a much happier life.
Maybe treatments could be developed, helping them go in this direction?
I do not have the final answers. No one does at the moment, because everyone is terrified to raise the questions. Anyone doing so, will immediately be labelled “transphobic”, because the current pop-cultural consensus is that feelings are reality and biological differences don't exist. But as any rational person knows, they are deeply wrong on both counts, and their misconceptions are causing great harm to the world. It's time we started pushing back and demanding to have the uncomfortable discussions, for everyone's sake.
Capable adults should be able to have whatever surgery and alterations they please.
Where I have serious concern are with young children, where many now advocate starting the “transition” (the hormone treatment that causes the body to develop more like the desired gender) before puberty sets in. That is, they should make crucial decisions about their future fertility and sexuality at age 10-12.
Considering that we do not reach full brain maturity until about age 25, that seems reckless.