Philosophy and science of gender and sex

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Pfhorrest
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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Jun 07, 2018 9:16 pm UTC

Yeah I guess the "suddenly wake up the opposite sex" scenario is not the best way to put the question I intended, because of all the other attendant issues you all bring up ("what? how did this happen? who did this and why didn't they ask me first?" etc). I considered other ways of phrasing it to avoid those, but then it seemed like too long and contrived a questions and I thought people would get the gist of the shorter version.

E.g. "Science develops a miracle sex-changing machine that's painless and cost-free and risk-free and instant, so at the touch of a button you can switch your sex like magic. Aside from matters regarding how it would change other people's reactions to you (like if sexism was over, and use of such a machine was a normal, non-notable thing), are you interested in using this machine? If 'hell yes' then you're trans. If 'hell no' then you're cis. If something else, you're something else."

The gist of the question is supposed to be "do you experience dysphoria or euphoria at the thought of being the opposite sex?" I argue that if being the opposite sex doesn't make you feel dysphoric, then you're not cis. It's supposed to turn the usual "do you feel dysphoria or euphoria about your birth sex?" question around in order to clarify the "meh I just feel like me and that's fine but I wouldn't say 'euphoric'" kind of response that both cis and aphoric people are likely to give.
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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby ucim » Fri Jun 08, 2018 2:08 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:are you interested in using this machine? If 'hell yes' then you're trans.
There's a difference between "Hell yes, that's the answer I've been seeking!" and "Hell yes, I wonder what that would be like."

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Jun 08, 2018 2:58 am UTC

True, but there's a much bigger difference between "hell yes, I wonder what that would be like" and "hell no". The later is definitely cis, and the former I would say definitely not, even if it might also not be quite trans.

I was imagining the machine as being irreversible, and in that case I'd still consider the "hell yes, I wonder what that would be like" answer to be trans. Whatever the reason, even if just curiosity, you're eager to become the opposite sex and never go back again, and the only difference between that scenario and real life right now is practical things like cost, risk, quality, etc. Someone who decides to transition now "just out of curiosity" would still be trans (not that I expect that really happens).

If you're imagining the machine is reversible and the "I wonder..." answer to be just "trying it out just to see", then I'd say that's somewhere slightly in the nonbinary realm. Something analogous to bi-curious, but about bearing instead of orientation.
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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby ucim » Fri Jun 08, 2018 3:20 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:I was imagining the machine as being irreversible,
I wasn't. And this would be "being" while bi-curious is about doing. Different.

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Jun 08, 2018 5:36 am UTC

I said analogous, not the same. Both are a curiosity to try something different but not sure if that's how you want to live the rest of your life, but one is a curiosity to try, as you say, being a different sex than usual, and the other is a curiosity to try... "doing" a different sex than usual.
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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Chen » Fri Jun 08, 2018 4:59 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:I think what's going on there is that fewer people are really cis than we usually think in a strictly binary framework where anyone non-trans is just called cis. If you don't have strong feelings of attachment to your birth sex / opposition to being the opposite sex, a nonbinary framework would say you're something more like agender/aphoric. If anything, more often nonbinary genders/bearings get lumped in as "trans" when people insist on thinking in binary ways.


I'm wondering how many cis people actually have any feel for their bearings (again using your definition). Anecdotally if you remove the social aspect of gender (in terms of stereotypes or gender roles) I don't know ANY cis people who can say they have any particular feeling associated with bearing.

Even your magical sex changing machine, I wouldn't do it because of the unknown. Maybe I would feel better in a female body but I have no idea so clearly I wouldn't go through an irreversible process for something that isn't bothering me know.

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Jun 08, 2018 7:06 pm UTC

Chen wrote:Even your magical sex changing machine, I wouldn't do it because of the unknown. Maybe I would feel better in a female body but I have no idea so clearly I wouldn't go through an irreversible process for something that isn't bothering me know.


Irreversible definitely is much different stakes, though...I don't see any particular reason why a machine that can do either change entirely perfectly would be irreversible. Thought experiment, perhaps, but seems unlikely.

I suspect that people are generally biased against irreversible changes. Even fairly major changes, like changing employment, can be stressful and worrisome. This is true even if you don't really like your job. This probably goes double for swapping bodies. Even if gender wasn't the element that changed, I'd be a bit concerned about stepping into a body-swap device, and I think this is probably true of a bunch of others as well.

If it's something that is fairly reversible(such as in the fine sci-fi classic Xchange), I think you'll get a lot more curiosity as a motivation, as well as more people who have other reasons, but are dissuaded by permanence.

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Soupspoon » Fri Jun 08, 2018 8:42 pm UTC

Last edited by Soupspoon on Fri Jun 08, 2018 8:45 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Jun 08, 2018 8:45 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:the fine sci-fi classic Xchange

How well-known is that really? I thought it was just an obscure porn niche.

I have seen some interesting seeds of conversation on where in the whole gender/sex spectrum people who are into that niche are, or rather what having interest in it suggests about someone's position on that spectrum.
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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Jun 08, 2018 9:30 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:the fine sci-fi classic Xchange

How well-known is that really? I thought it was just an obscure porn niche.


Not at all, it was some direct to DVD action film. The above is slight sarcasm/me not thinking of a better example in popular media. Though on second thought, there's some netflix show that also incorporates the concept of swapping out bodies as if they were clothes/vehicles. Sci-fi as well. Can't think of the name right now, but some folks enjoyed it.

It does make for some interesting theoretical situations in addition to potential body horror or what have you, so it makes a fun cyberpunk concept, but I wouldn't call it a mainstream idea.

Oh, it also comes up to some degree in the Culture novels, which posit a future in which growing new bodies, even highly unusual or alien ones, isn't really a significant problem.

I have seen some interesting seeds of conversation on where in the whole gender/sex spectrum people who are into that niche are, or rather what having interest in it suggests about someone's position on that spectrum.


Depends on the person, probably. I would imagine that curiosity about changing one's body out would be pretty common for someone unhappy with their birth body, sure. It may or may not be related to gender. I'd imagine a *lot* of people have at least something they're not entirely happy with regarding their body. Weight, looks, physique...such technology would probably be pretty popular in real life if it were to become commonplace.

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Soupspoon » Fri Jun 08, 2018 10:05 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Though on second thought, there's some netflix show that also incorporates the concept of swapping out bodies as if they were clothes/vehicles.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altered_Carbon_(TV_series) ?

Not yet seen it myself (or read the dead-tree version), but sounds somewhat like the inverse to Dollhouse. (In core application of tech, though where it goes from there is obviously another story!)

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Jun 08, 2018 10:12 pm UTC

That's the one. And, to some extent, Dollhouse, though that's got entirely different overtones, and the specific tech makes a very, very large difference. Copying someone's brain is a little different than building a new body, even if the resulting combination is the same.

I couldn't get super into Altered Carbon myself, but had a few friends who swear it's awesome, for whatever that's worth.

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby PAstrychef » Sat Jun 09, 2018 12:56 am UTC

John Varley has several stories wherein bodies are adjustable. In one of the female protagonist first becomes male and then makes other changes.
The collection is The Persistance of Vision, but I can’t remember the story title itself.
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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby CorruptUser » Sat Jun 09, 2018 4:48 pm UTC

I thought dollhouse was Whedons second best show. The second season was rushed because he knew it was going to be cancelled so he had to wrap it up, but the first season was still great. It's amazing how Dan Harmon made you feel sorry for what was essentially a rapist.

Though Whedon does have the amazing ability to actually explain the stuff that we suspend our disbelief for.

Wow, that engineer played by Alan Tyduk is remarkably good looking and muscular. Just Hollywood casting of only beautiful people.
Spoiler:
That's not an engineer...

It seems kind of stupid that someone invents the ability to wipe and replace minds but the best way they think they can make money is with a brothel. But hey, without that theres no story.
Spoiler:
That's not what they are doing with the dollhouse. The show is actually cyber punk dystopia, or more specifically the beginnings of one.

The FBI agent seems to only use Hollywood tactics. No wonder he sucks. But hey, that's how they story goes, right?
Spoiler:
Paul actually is an incompetent moron. That's why he got assigned the case no one took seriously

It sure seems weird that those Sunnydale sewers are large enough for all those demons, but hey, no show otherwise.
Spoiler:
They were built intentionally for that purpose...

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby PM 2Ring » Mon Jun 11, 2018 4:29 am UTC

PAstrychef wrote:John Varley has several stories wherein bodies are adjustable. In one of the female protagonist first becomes male and then makes other changes.
The collection is The Persistance of Vision, but I can’t remember the story title itself.

The title of that particular story is Options. Several of Varley's Eight Worlds stories mention sex-change technology, featured at various stages of its technical development and societal acceptance, but it's not always a central plot point. By the time of the novel Steel Beach, mature adults who have never changed sex at least once are considered to be a bit weird. This isn't just a "cosmetic" change, it's fully functional, so you get the reproductive capability of your new sex.

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby PM 2Ring » Mon Jun 11, 2018 4:43 am UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:But none of that is enabled by definitions. We don't really need a precise definition of any subgroup to act appropriately towards someone we know.

Well, sure. But clear agreed-upon definitions are useful if you're trying to have a technical discussion. Or if you just want to articulate your position and don't want to be misinterpreted.

I just discovered this thread (I don't often check SB), and I wasn't surprised that it started with an attempt to define a few terms. But I was a little surprised that so far it's mostly been about getting the definitions straight rather than actually having discussions using those definitions. :wink:

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Pfhorrest » Mon Jun 11, 2018 4:50 pm UTC

Philosophy is largely about refining definitions (and the teasing-apart and clarifying of concepts that goes along with it), so aside from someone getting the science wrong and being corrected, or new science being discovered in the news, I'd expect this thread to mostly be about definitional things.
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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Jun 11, 2018 5:32 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:Philosophy is largely about refining definitions (and the teasing-apart and clarifying of concepts that goes along with it), so aside from someone getting the science wrong and being corrected, or new science being discovered in the news, I'd expect this thread to mostly be about definitional things.


This seems like the kind of view of philosophy that gets it dismissed as useless navel gazing, I think.

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Pfhorrest » Mon Jun 11, 2018 5:57 pm UTC

No more so than mathematics, and much less so than earlier speculative philosophy that just armchair-wonders about contingent things that need empirical investigation to answer.
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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby chridd » Tue Jun 12, 2018 10:20 am UTC

I think definitions are also relevant here because I think a lot of the problems trans people face are due partly to people not understanding what it means to be trans (e.g. thinking trans woman = feminine, so not feminine = not trans woman).

Pfhorrest wrote:I was imagining the machine as being irreversible, and in that case I'd still consider the "hell yes, I wonder what that would be like" answer to be trans.
...but then that would mean I might not say yes due to a fear of change. (One of the first hypothetical scenarios I considered was if I had a magic sex change device that was reversible and reusable as many times as I want, I would likely end of spending most of my time female.)

...perhaps our disagreement comes down to which of these to use:
1. What a person thinks they'd feel about being a different sex when thinking about a hypothetical scenario
2. How a person actually would feel if they were a different sex
3. Whatever it is that causes people to feel a certain way about their sex (brain structure?)

You seem to be preferring 1, which does have the advantage of being easier to test (for instance, surveying a bunch of people about hypothetical scenarios is easier and more ethical than forcing a random, presumably-mostly-cis portion of the population to transition to determine 2). 2, however, is what's important, what a questioning person really wants to know; if a person thinks they'd be fine with transitioning, and then they actually transition and they start experiencing dysphoria, that's an important thing to know and be able to reason about; and if there are people who wouldn't think transitioning would help them but it actually does, that's also good to know about.

I actually prefer 3, though, mainly because, while I haven't (yet) tried transitioning and thinking of hypothetical scenarios isn't clear, the idea that there's always been something in my life that's a lot like subconsciously expecting to be a girl, but not necessarily a conscious desire, seems to explain a lot, and there's also some evidence of my brain somehow being female, and I want a way to talk about that. (In other words, I don't think pre-high-school me would have said "yes" to "would you want to change sex?", but I do think I was still trans then and being trans did affect my life, despite me not being consciously aware that's what the issue was.)

3 also seems useful if talking about things like what causes people to be trans, or what sorts of things might be correlated with being trans. A disadvantage is that we don't know for sure that there is a single cause; while I think there is, it might not be best to make something we don't know is true part of the definition.
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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby ucim » Tue Jun 12, 2018 2:32 pm UTC

chridd wrote:...perhaps our disagreement comes down to which of these to use:
1. What a person thinks they'd feel about being a different sex when thinking about a hypothetical scenario
2. How a person actually would feel if they were a different sex
3. Whatever it is that causes people to feel a certain way about their sex (brain structure?)
#3 is the only interesting question. It's the one that leads to understanding. #2 and #1 are just data gathering, which is important, of course, but isn't the lode.

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Jun 12, 2018 2:52 pm UTC

I do think that number three is most useful, though unfortunately, forums not being conducive to biological research, hypotheticals and what not end up being easier to chat about.

Chridd is definitely correct in that details of the hypothetical matter greatly, and that 1 and 2 may not entirely match. People commonly have a number of biases that exist between projecting what they will do, and actually doing it. It's a huge issue in data-gathering, and as you say, some folks transition, and then feel entirely differently about the choice. It's certainly possible that the reverse is true as well. Even just glancing over the possibility for human bias would open up reasonable concerns about making any such choice if irreversible. You'd want your level of certainty to be much higher than otherwise, and other errors could creep in as a result.

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Jun 12, 2018 3:29 pm UTC

2 is what I’m really trying to talk about, but of course it’s not possible to know about before the fact, so I’m using 1 as a proxy. 3 is important for a causative scientific explanation but shouldn’t be used as a definition of the thing it would explain, any more than the discovery of a “gay gene” should redefine homosexuality such that nobody without that gene counts as gay even if they are exclusively attracted to the same sex.
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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Jun 12, 2018 3:35 pm UTC

Probably has at least some epigenetic factors in addition to genetic. That said, in theory, with sufficient knowledge, we ought to be able to predict orientation from biological factors. Certainly not there yet, mind you, nor even close, but even current research indicates significant biological differences, yes? I wouldn't be at all surprised if once we understand it better, it all seems like a fairly straightforward set of biological circumstances, and people today come off as looking a bit clueless. Wouldn't be the first time it happened in biology/medicine.

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby ucim » Tue Jun 12, 2018 7:06 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:any more than the discovery of a “gay gene” should redefine homosexuality such that nobody without that gene counts as gay even if they are exclusively attracted to the same sex.
If it shouldn't, then it's not a "gay gene".

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Jun 12, 2018 7:39 pm UTC

That's kind of my point. We have a definition of what gay is already, and if we find a gene that correlates perfectly with that phenomenon, then we found a gene that causes gayness. But we don't define gayness in terms of a hypothetical gene.

Likewise, whatever definitions we use for bearing / "gender identity" should be independent of whatever underlying biology might explain that phenomenon, otherwise we can't even say whether or not we've really found an underlying biological mechanism. We need to know what it is we're looking for neurological correlates for before we can say something is a neurological correlate for that, so the neurological correlate cannot define the thing it correlates with.
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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby ucim » Tue Jun 12, 2018 8:08 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:But we don't define gayness in terms of a hypothetical gene.
We also don't define it in terms of the Holy Spirit. But if we ever discover that there is such a thing, and that it causes gayness, then it would make perfect sense to define it that way. This happens all the time, especially in medicine. It's just that it's hard to find simple causes of complex results, and often such simple causes don't exist.

But if they did (and that was your hypothetical), then defining it in terms of that simple cause is the right way to go.

Pfhorrest wrote:Likewise, whatever definitions we use for bearing / "gender identity" should be independent of whatever underlying biology might explain that phenomenon, otherwise we can't even say whether or not we've really found an underlying biological mechanism.
Right... up to the point where we do find the underlying biological mechanism. Then we have an "aha!" moment, and understand the vague sort-of thing we used to be talking about.

Once we learned that germs cause infections, we were able to talk about disease more effectively, and isolate the diseases that are caused by germs from the ones that aren't. It's still ongoing, and medicine is not simple (nor is research equal to diagnosis), but that's what happens.

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Jun 12, 2018 8:46 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:That's kind of my point. We have a definition of what gay is already, and if we find a gene that correlates perfectly with that phenomenon, then we found a gene that causes gayness. But we don't define gayness in terms of a hypothetical gene.


Not a gene, exactly. However, it seems to be largely accepted that sexuality preference is intrinsic, not merely a choice.

Now, I don't think the above decision is actually relevant to how we ought to treat it...even if it is a choice, a consensual choice by adults that doesn't affect you really isn't your problem. So, nature or not isn't necessarily that big of a deal in the real world.

But it seems that most people expect it's somehow baked in, be that one gene, many, epigenetic factors, or, most likely some combination thereof. There's also at least some scientific evidence in favor of this, if memory serves. Fetal exposure to various levels of hormones was correlated, I believe. So, best current scientific evidence is that there are biological factors for it, just like for pretty much everything else. At some point, when it's sufficiently understood, you can absolutely define it in terms of biology.

Which might be sort of amusing for certain right wing folks if there's an actual, biological test they can take. That conjures up some interesting sociological scenarios.

Likewise, whatever definitions we use for bearing / "gender identity" should be independent of whatever underlying biology might explain that phenomenon, otherwise we can't even say whether or not we've really found an underlying biological mechanism. We need to know what it is we're looking for neurological correlates for before we can say something is a neurological correlate for that, so the neurological correlate cannot define the thing it correlates with.


Nah. Definitions change because of scientific discovery, and that's fine. We don't need the definitions to do science, and if science and existing definitions don't quite match up, it's the definitions that ought to change.

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Jun 12, 2018 9:45 pm UTC

The medical analogy is a good one, and support my point. Pneumonia, for example, is the phenomenon of inflammation of the lungs. It is not any of the specific bacteria or viruses that might cause that inflammation of the lungs. We knew what we meant by "pneumonia" long before we knew that bacteria or viruses existed, and we didn't redefine pneumonia to be "actually just a primitive conflation of these many different infections..." or something like that. Pneumonia is the phenomenon of inflamed lungs. There are bacteria and viruses that cause it, but they don't define what it is.

Likewise with orientation and bearing. They're psychological phenomena, and we can define them without knowing anything about their causes. We can also find their causes, and it may turn out that there is a single perfectly correlated cause for each, but even if so, that doesn't change the definition of the psychological phenomenon.

We didn't redefine emotions like happiness or sadness when we discovered neurochemical correlates of them. They are the psychological phenomena, defined in their own ways, and activation of certain brain areas by certain chemicals may cause them, but those biological effects don't define them.

It might help if y'all looked up the concept of multiple realizability.
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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Jun 12, 2018 10:04 pm UTC

Eh. It shifted from meaning the inflammation to meaning an infection.

Yes, they may not be able to immediately identify the type of infection, but the definition did change. At least in the US. Just 'cause you come in with a cough doesn't mean they're going to call it pneumonia. And, in addition to treatment, they're going to further diagnose. If you have strep, they'll tell you that.

So yeah, the old timey usage of pneumonia did not stay constant as medical knowledge advanced.

Multiple Realizability isn't important. Sure, sure, a given thing can have more than one cause. That's fine, and does not in any way prevent research of each cause.

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby chridd » Tue Jun 12, 2018 11:28 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:The medical analogy is a good one, and support my point. Pneumonia, for example, is the phenomenon of inflammation of the lungs. It is not any of the specific bacteria or viruses that might cause that inflammation of the lungs. We knew what we meant by "pneumonia" long before we knew that bacteria or viruses existed, and we didn't redefine pneumonia to be "actually just a primitive conflation of these many different infections..." or something like that. Pneumonia is the phenomenon of inflamed lungs. There are bacteria and viruses that cause it, but they don't define what it is.

Likewise with orientation and bearing. They're psychological phenomena, and we can define them without knowing anything about their causes. We can also find their causes, and it may turn out that there is a single perfectly correlated cause for each, but even if so, that doesn't change the definition of the psychological phenomenon.

We didn't redefine emotions like happiness or sadness when we discovered neurochemical correlates of them. They are the psychological phenomena, defined in their own ways, and activation of certain brain areas by certain chemicals may cause them, but those biological effects don't define them.

It might help if y'all looked up the concept of multiple realizability.
Would it change anything if there were things we could predict knowing that a person's brain structure (or whatever it is) is female, where knowing that works better than knowing how the person would feel if they had a female body? Like, if there were things other than desired body type that correlated with a person's brain sex, or if there were certain traits or feelings that trans people (by definition 3) experience, regardless of whether things like being afraid of change or fear of sexism made them not benefit from transition, and that people who'd benefit from transition for some other reason don't experience?

I think perhaps the reason we tend to define diseases in terms of causes is because it's useful; knowing that someone has a particular disease, rather than something else causing the same symptoms, means that we can predict things like whether the symptoms will get better or worse over time, what other symptoms are likely to develop, and how different medications affect the disease. Knowing whether someone's happiness is actually caused by some particular chemical in the brain doesn't allow us to predict anything like that, yet; we know a lot more about our intuitive definition of happiness than about the details of how happiness works in the brain, so defining happiness in terms of chemicals isn't useful, yet. But maybe if we understood it better, it would be useful to define happiness in terms of brain chemicals.
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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby ucim » Wed Jun 13, 2018 1:14 am UTC

chridd wrote:I think perhaps the reason we tend to define diseases in terms of causes is because it's useful; knowing that someone has a particular disease, rather than something else causing the same symptoms, means...
This. It's the difference between a disease and a syndrome. I don't mean to imply that gender dysphoria is a disease, but the analogy is still useful. How one feels about their gender (if one feels anything about it) is a collection of symptoms... feelings, as it were. A specific subset of these results in people feeling like they "are in the wrong sex body", and the social environment plays into this too. Nonetheless, it's just a collection of symptoms, and we've given it a name.

When we understand what leads to those symptoms, we may find that in some cases it is truly biological, but in other cases it's sociological. At that point redefinitions and new terms become useful. Alzheimer's disease is the cause of one kind of dementia. Depression is the cause of another. But they are different, and the difference is important. Calling them both "dementia" does a disservice when we understand it well enough to be able to make these kinds of differentiations. People still do it, but the more we learn, the less (I hope) we will apply the less-useful generic "collection of symptoms" word.

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Quercus » Wed Jun 13, 2018 10:08 am UTC

PAstrychef wrote:I must admit that I often wonder exactly what idea of female-ness many trans persons want to inhabit. As a cis female who wears her hair short and dresses almost exclusively in jeans and tee shirts, the hyper femininity taken on by many trans women confuses me. It seems very much more about being perceived than any inner state.


This is a very belated reply to this, as I've only just seen this thread.

In my experience of talking with trans people, and considering various options for myself (I'm genderqueer) I've found that this often comes down to, quite simply, safety.

There are only a certain number of incongruences between your gender presentation and other people's expectation of acceptable presentations that you can have without being regarded, at least by some people as "unacceptable". A cis woman can safely have short hair and wear jeans and T-shirts, at least in many societies. A trans woman, who might have androgenic bone structure, voice etc. can't afford those additional incongruences without increasing their risk of being perceived as "not-a-woman", which might variously result in denial of treatment for gender dysphoria, firing, refusal of service or physical and/or verbal assault.

A lot of trans women's day to day experience is of trying to pack in enough femininity in any way they can to cross the threshold into social acceptability. A similar situation is true for many non-binary people (and even cis people, particularly men, who are gender non-conforming). I certainly have the experience of having to choose which of the acceptable "ends" of gender presentation I want to inhabit, while having the whole of the middle ground (where I'm actually most comfortable) denied to me because it's unsafe to be seen that way in many places/settings.

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby CelticNot » Wed Jun 13, 2018 3:10 pm UTC

Quercus wrote:... A trans woman, who might have androgenic bone structure, voice etc. can't afford those additional incongruences without increasing their risk of being perceived as "not-a-woman", which might variously result in denial of treatment for gender dysphoria, firing, refusal of service or physical and/or verbal assault.

A lot of trans women's day to day experience is of trying to pack in enough femininity in any way they can to cross the threshold into social acceptability. ...


Speaking from personal experience, at least where I live outright discrimination toward trans individuals is illegal (or so I interpret the current legislation), and the majority of people I've encountered have been understanding, if not occasionally curious.

For me the biggest problem is simply... it hurts to be misgendered. I am female. I want to be perceived as female, but because I didn't start transition until well into my 30s, there's a lot of physical traits I possess (not to mention unconscious mannerisms) that betray my physical sex (and even once the surgery is done in a month, many of those traits stay). As such, it's even odds whether someone perceives me as male or female on any given encounter with random passerbys, clerks, and so on.

Some people may have thicker skin, and wouldn't care if they were constantly referred to as the wrong gender. I am not one of those people, however. I'm not asking people to use gender-neutral language 24/7, but maybe it would serve to explain why I go to the lengths I do to try and present more feminine than I really am. (Note: Not directing that at Quercus, but the wider audience.)
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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby ucim » Wed Jun 13, 2018 3:13 pm UTC

Quercus wrote: I've found that this often comes down to, quite simply, safety. [...] I certainly have the experience of having to choose which of the acceptable "ends" of gender presentation I want to inhabit, while having the whole of the middle ground (where I'm actually most comfortable) denied to me because it's unsafe to be seen that way in many places/settings.
I wonder if part of the dysphoria is embedded right here.

If society were comfortable with people being in the middle ground, then perhaps some people would be comfortable themselves in the middle ground, and not experience the dysphoria of being in the wrong body. Do you think that in some cases society's imposition of a binary choice makes people uncomfortable in the middle ground, and that resonates as gender dysphoria, which would go away (or not have existed) if society were more accepting in the first place?

If so, then those cases of gender dysphoria would not be biologically based in the same sense that the remaining cases would be. And that is a useful distinction.

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Soupspoon » Wed Jun 13, 2018 4:27 pm UTC

I think there's self-selection in there (as in "statistical self-selection", but in reviewing what I've written "selecting the self that one is" also applies).

Someone who thinks of themselves as female but doesn't care what they present as might be happy with not bothering with transgendering or even transvesting. And we probably don't really notice that kind of person (as TG/TV, at least, though maybe still (gender)queer in thought or act or deed).

Those that get noticed for putting on the 'feminine mask' (and also all those that we don't normaly notice¹²) are obviously from the part of the spectrum where that (attempted) mask is part of their (current) needs.



¹ I'm minded of the "love affair" side-plot in one episode of The IT Crowd (not currently described at that link, unfortunately) with the cheesy montage sequence.

² The first TG individual I personally knew of I think would have 'fooled' me if I didn't know her history already. She was part of a locality-based online community, and fairly open about her transition while not physically present among us (I'd almost met him, IRL beforehand, but not quite, before 'the decision' was acted upon). When she arrived back and was ready to meet, I was surprised to find that I wasn't meeting a six foot cross-dressing-like person, but a 5-and-a-bit-foot (IIRC) lass who convincingly bulged out in all the right places and none of the wrong ones. Her flowing hair was a wig, but overba bald head so could have been a chemotherapy patient (like another of our community, for whom there was a memorial service later on). But I may have rose-tinted my spectacles, a little, on her behalf. I'm not sure she avoided all transphobic trouble, from the more critical idiots out there.

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Jun 13, 2018 5:02 pm UTC

Soupspoon wrote:I think there's self-selection in there (as in "statistical self-selection", but in reviewing what I've written "selecting the self that one is" also applies).


Makes sense. For any given issue, you're mostly going to notice those who care about it. Someone who doesn't care about presenting as a given gender and just takes the social path of least resistance is going to blend in. Humans really focus on people who stick out from the pattern.

Not sure how much of a factor that is in folks' decisionmaking, but guesstimating from everything else humans do, it's probably a significant one.

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Quercus » Wed Jun 13, 2018 5:56 pm UTC

Soupspoon wrote:But I may have rose-tinted my spectacles, a little, on her behalf.


You quite possibly don't. Some binary trans people pass pretty damn near 100% of the time, particularly if they start their transition young.

ucim wrote:
Quercus wrote:*snip*
I wonder if part of the dysphoria is embedded right here.

If society were comfortable with people being in the middle ground, then perhaps some people would be comfortable themselves in the middle ground, and not experience the dysphoria of being in the wrong body. Do you think that in some cases society's imposition of a binary choice makes people uncomfortable in the middle ground, and that resonates as gender dysphoria, which would go away (or not have existed) if society were more accepting in the first place?

If so, then those cases of gender dysphoria would not be biologically based in the same sense that the remaining cases would be. And that is a useful distinction.

Jose


It may be a useful distinction, but it's one that I would be very wary of advocating for openly, considering how easily it could be abused to deny people transition related healthcare. I'm not saying we shouldn't talk about it here, but that's probably one reason you don't hear it talked about much in the wider world.

Personally I'm a little skeptical that this is unconscious to the people affected, as you seem to imply. There's plenty of non-binary people who know damn well that they are non-binary, but pursue a binary transition because that may be the only one available to them and is more comfortable than not transitioning at all.

Also dysphoria itself is not a binary thing - I'm sometimes quite uncomfortable with my penis and my androgenic body hair, but would prefer not to give up my beard and deep voice. I suspect that there are a class of people who are neurologically dysphoric, but not in a way that easily fits into a male-female binary paradigm.

CelticNot wrote:Speaking from personal experience, at least where I live outright discrimination toward trans individuals is illegal (or so I interpret the current legislation), and the majority of people I've encountered have been understanding, if not occasionally curious.


That's so good to hear. I think I might have a tendency to be overly negative about this stuff, perhaps because my own preferred presentation is so at odds with what society finds acceptable (very femme flowy skirts and dresses, boobs [which I have naturally], a beard and a deep voice).

I could transition in the classic binary sense, and I think I'd be at least marginally more comfortable as a woman, but it would still be almost as wrong to me as being perceived as a man, and given that it's just not worth the hassle to me.

For me the biggest problem is simply... it hurts to be misgendered.


Good point. I should have mentioned that in my reply as well.

Tyndmyr wrote:Not sure how much of a factor that is in folks' decisionmaking, but guesstimating from everything else humans do, it's probably a significant one.

At least in my case it's probably the main factor. In an ideal world I'd probably transition in some form, but it's pretty far down my priority list. Feminine presentation is a little further up the list, but if I'm going to face anything more serious than a few stares to achieve that I'm throwing on jeans and a T-shirt and calling it a day.

I would like to be more visibly gender non-conforming just for the political pressure towards greater freedom that would help engender, but I often don't have the spare resources that would require (financially in terms of career prospects, or emotionally in terms of dealing with abuse or the fear of abuse).

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby TrlstanC » Thu Aug 16, 2018 3:17 pm UTC

Quercus wrote: A lot of trans women's day to day experience is of trying to pack in enough femininity in any way they can to cross the threshold into social acceptability. A similar situation is true for many non-binary people (and even cis people, particularly men, who are gender non-conforming).


I think this is a problem for humans in general, it's just that we've had a lot more practice countering our instinctual biases for other groups. I mean to one degree or another everyone feels like they know what someone's personality will be like based on their appearance. Everyone naturally groups people together by looks, it's an unconscious habit that's at the root of racism, sexism, blonde jokes, etc.

We just naturally expect that if we see a big burly guy, that he's going to act very masculine. Part of this is a social, we expect society to push someone that looks like that towards certain behaviors. Part of it is just conforming to norms, it's a lot easier to get along in the world if you act more like what people expect you to be like. And part of it is our natural biases.

Ultimately I think it makes sense to think of masculine and feminine as perspectives on the world. How those perspectives change behavior will be different for different people in different places, but they're fundamental to how you view interactions with the world. Unfortunately people don't often wait to actually judge a person on their behavior, they take one look at a person and assume they can guess what they'll act like based on appearances.

If I want people to have certain expectations of me, the easiest way to do that isn't to change society and everyone's unconscious biases, it's to find the right visual signals that they're expecting. If I want people to see me as feminine it's much easier to dress and appear a certain way, and have easily observable cues that they can pick up on.


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