Gender Identity

Posted on October 2, 2019 by Livvy

If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past few years you will have been exposed to the politically charged discussion of gender identity. By some people advocating for trans rights, gender identity has been proposed to be the sole descriptor of gender itself. That is: you are woman if you identify as a woman or, a man if you identify as a man. “Identify” in this case is often described as: “having an innate sense of self that belongs to a category”. If you believe this then it logically follows that: a person who in every objective sense presents in allignment with their birth-designated gender, is actually the gender opposite to this due to their innate sense of self.

While it would be convienient for this argument to be valid and while it’s often deployed with the intention of giving the benefit of the doubt so-to-speak, it doesn’t hold up well to logical scruitiny.

If we were to take the logical framework of this argument and apply it in a slightly different context (which is logically sound to do) it clearly falls apart.

This example deals with the notion of having a “favourite colour”. This is a belief about ones self and has a similar “objectivity level” as gender identity:

  • P1: Person As favourite colour is blue
  • P2: Person A consistently chooses orange when given the choice of colour.
  • C: Person As favourite colour is blue

This type of reasoning falls down in two obvious areas. Not only does it beg the question, most people would probably reject the conclusion due to the higher objectivity level of the second premise.

In short, I think think equating gender identity to gender in this way will not improve trans rights in the long term. I feel there are much more persuasive arguments to be made for supporting the rights of trans people including but certainly not limited to gender performativity and other philosophical deconstructions of gender; biological sex state (including hormonal and secondary sex characteristics) etc. It is important to discuss these issues because transgender people exist and we’re not going anywhere. Our existance might present a problem traditional binary notions of gender as well as the highly reductive merely “biological birth sex” based notions of gender as promoted by TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists). I think all of these reductive notions of what gender is are too simplistic and I think reality is much more complicated and we need to be brave enough to unpack it all.