I’ve got to apologize before this one.
I’m sorry that I’m wasting my time on this bullshit. Really. This is a wad of ridiculousness that I tried staying away from for a few weeks, since I came across this guy, but I gotta do something about this bullshit, with his embarrassingly bad logic and all. This is worse logic than any Youtuber I’ve discussed up to date. It’s just…really, really bad. Not even just because I disagree with it. It’s just terrible. And, for some reason, it has over 180,000 views and 10,000 likes, and only 106 dislikes. I don’t understand this.
Here’s the original video by this guy named Michael Rowland. This one is really good. Seriously, you should check it out. And leave him a nice comment, will you?
The Youtuber Bearing basically sabotaged the video and flooded it with negative comments by making a horrendously terrible rebuttal here, but I can save you time by summing it up. Basically, he argues that although there may be multiple genders, there are only two sexes, and that any deviations at the chromosomal level from these two sexes are abnormalities and not a sex in themselves because they’re too rare.
His rationale? He says that if we’re making a bunch of guitars and one comes off the production line abnormally, that’s not a new type of guitar — it’s just a guitar with an abnormality.
Do I have to point out the flaw in this argument? Really?
Human beings are not guitars. We’re…people. We got here because of “abnormalities” in the first place. It’s not like Nature is some God with a design, trying to put people neatly into two genders, and makes an “oops.” Nature has no agency; it is not a personal entity that can make “mistakes.” WE are the ones who decide how we want to organize our worlds.
There is an argument he then makes that there’s a difference between sex and gender. While people may pick any gender they like, Bearing argues, they are not free to pick any sex they like. Science determines sex.
But here, again, SCIENCE IS NOT A PERSON. Science is not a god. It can’t decide who is a male or a female; those are labels that we invented. We invented them, in the field of biology, for convenience — so that we could identify the genders of individuals in order to properly treat them and thus prevent harm. And I think that is what Bearing is missing, and I don’t know if I or anybody else will ever get it through his skull.
Science is not the dictate of what people feel, of what they wish to be called in the world, of the desires in the innermost recesses of their brain and the pain that is felt when others assault it. Science only gives us a map without labels. The labels are owned by humanity.
Bearing is attempting to get his believers to believe in God again. His God is named “Nature,” and he is intent on breathing intention into it, and saying that it is governed by his prejudices. But the fact of the matter is that whether Bearing or a hundred thousand, or a billion people say that Nature is God, that does not breath life into Nature. Nature is passive. Nature is merely there. It is up to us to characterize, to embody parts of it, to give it names. And if we decide to give a part of nature a name that causes harm, we cannot, without violating clear logic, pass that decision onto some “God” of nature, as if it washes our hands clean. No. We are responsible for it. To deny this is to deny clear logic in order to irrationally confirm our own prejudices.
Science does not determine gender, and it does not determine sex. It does not speak the names “male” and “female.” These are words that we made up, not “science,” which can’t talk. What we refer to when we use the words “male” and “female” may be physical features that operate in different ways, and the ways they operate are features of science. However, the words themselves are not created by science, they are created by us, and thus can be changed by us as necessary.
The weird thing here is that this isn’t really what Bearing is upset about. He’s not annoyed that people might be able to choose gender; he thinks that protecting biological sex will prevent us from multiplying the genders we expect people to identify as. No; at most, biological sex will help us in the physician’s office (where, by the way, they are recommending that transgender people be allowed to change their sex assignment. Why? Because they’re fucking doctors and they know that this makes sense). So…Bearing is being pretty dishonest or, at the least, ignorant with his statement. Either he doesn’t know that biological sex belongs in the medical field and that gender is the relevant category 24/7 when dealing with everything outside they physician’s office (even if you take the most strident conservative views on sex) or he is intentionally conflating the terms so that he can use the category of “sex” to invalidate the category of “gender.”
Which is all ridiculous. We’re playing semantics; these are words that we made up. If someone wants to be called a “she,” call her a “she.” If someone wants to be called a “he,” call him a “he.” This isn’t complicated. If you think that there is something wrong here, stop basing that wrong on a semantics game and start basing it on harm. We already know about harm from our side.
For starters, several studies actually indicate that gender in the mind does not automatically correlate with assigned gender decisions that are made based (rather invasively) on genitalia. Take this one, for example. Also, there’s this one. Another relevant study is here. In addition, you might want to consider this one, conducted by a half-dozen researchers. Then there’s also this one, conducted by a baker’s dozen. And this one, as well. Another recent study also indicates this is the case. And in addition, there’s this one. And then there’s…well, I could go on, but The Wall Street Journal gives a good overview of the issue if you need a summary.
So the separation between the gender felt in the mind and that assigned to the individual actually has consequences that can make people experience actual pain. There’s statements that say this is an actual phenomenon by several organizations that would know, including the very authoritative American Psychological Association in a thoroughly-cited, strongly worded statement. Here is its description of the harm transgender and non-binary people can face when people like Bearing intentionally misgender them:
Discrimination and prejudice against people based on their actual or perceived gender identity or expression detrimentally affects psychological, physical, social, and economic well-being (Bockting et al., 2005; Coan et al., 2005; Clements-Nolle, 2006; Kenagy, 2005; Kenagy & Bostwick, 2005; Nemoto et al., 2005; Resolution on Prejudice Stereotypes and Discrimination, Paige, 2007; Riser et al., 2005; Rodriquez-Madera & Toro-Alfonso, 2005; Sperber et al., 2005; Xavier et al., 2005)….
Gender variant and transgender people may be denied basic civil rights and protections (Minter, 2003; Spade, 2003) including: the right to civil marriage which confers a social status and important legal benefits, rights, and privileges (Paige, 2005)… and the right to fair and safe and harassment-free institutional environments such as care facilities, treatment centers, shelters, housing, schools, prisons and juvenile justice programs…
Transgender and gender variant people experience a disproportionate rate of homelessness (Kammerer et al., 2001), unemployment (APA, 2007) and job discrimination (Herbst et al., 2007), disproportionately report income below the poverty line (APA, 2007) and experience other financial disadvantages (Lev, 2004)….
Transgender and gender variant people may be at increased risk in institutional environments and facilities for harassment, physical and sexual assault (Edney, 2004; Minter, 2003; Peterson et al., 1996; Witten & Eyler, 2007) ….
Many gender variant and transgender children and youth face harassment and violence in school environments, foster care, residential treatment centers, homeless centers and juvenile justice programs (D’Augelli, Grossman, & Starks, 2006; Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network, 2003; Grossman, D’Augelli, & Slater, 2006)….
You see all that bold? OK. Think about what a nightmare that would be. And you could erase much of that — much of that — in well-documented reports, according to the authoritative American Psychological Association, merely by granting people the gender they want to identify as. What’s on your list of harm? The inconvenience of changing the way that you think a bit? Really? How well does it match that list? Take your biases out of it for a second. Look at your list. Now look at the list above. Now think, carefully, about who gets hurt more. Think about which one is more considerate. And think, furthermore, about how much transgender people and those who are on their side — their friends, their family members, their advocates — are going to fight for the people they see hurt.
And just fucking call them by their fucking preferred pronoun. If you think that’s too much to ask, stop pretending you have logic on your side and just admit that you don’t want to change when faced with the evidence right in front of you.
Moving on…the American Medical Association has also taken these studies into account in a strongly worded statement discussing Gender Identity Disorder, which can (but does not necessarily) occur when someone’s felt gender does not match their assigned sex:
Gender Identity Disorder (GID) is a serious medical condition recognized as such in both the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th 5 Ed., Text Revision) (DSM-IV-TR) and the International Classification of Diseases (10th Revision), and is characterized in the DSM-IV-TR as a persistent discomfort with one’s assigned sex and with one’s primary and secondary sex characteristics, which causes intense emotional pain and suffering and, if left untreated, can result in clinically significant psychological distress, dysfunction, debilitating depression and, for some people without access to appropriate medical care and treatment, suicidality and death.
As does the National Association of Social Workers, in a 9-page, well-cited, similarly strongly worded statement.
Transgender people encounter difficulties in virtually every aspect of their lives, both in facing the substantial hostility that society associates with those who do not conform to gender norms and in coping with their own feelings of difference. Considerable verbal harassment and physical violence accompany the powerful social stigma faced by transgender people (Clements-Nolles, Marx, & Katz, 2006; Lombardi, Wilchins, Priesing, & Malouf, 2001; Wyss, 2004) and may be accompanied by racial and ethnic discrimination (Juang, 2006). Transgender people also experience dismissal from jobs, eviction from housing, and denial of services, even by police officers and medical emergency professionals (Xavier, 2000; Xavier, Honnold, & Bradford, 2007). Restrooms, the most mundane of public and workplace amenities, often become sites of harassment and confrontation, with access often denied (Transgender Law Center, 2005). Transgender and transsexual people are often denied appropriate medical and mental health care and are uniquely at risk of adverse health outcomes (Dean et al., 2000; Xavier et al., 50 2004).
The statement goes on to say that surgery and being recognized as the gender the transgender person identifies as can rectify these negative symptoms. Furthermore, the American Public Health Association has taken these observations into account in their policies since 1999. Finally, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, an authoritative body of 55,000 physicians, has a committee opinion supporting these observations that is also fairly clearly written.
You don’t have science on your side, and the people using the terms — like, all of them who are really in the know — are changing their use to fit transgender concerns, because they aren’t just interested in preserving the harm in the status quo, but in combatting it. I know it’s inconvenient for you to change, but it’s much more inconvenient for transgender people to put up with being intentionally misgendered. Just…can we all agree that we shouldn’t do it? Yeah, I know that it sounds really social justicey, like I’m making much ado about nothing in order to make some people feel bad, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the issue. But it’s not that. It’s simply trying to get rid of the very real harm some people are going through. I mean, every organization out there interested in diminishing harm is concentrated on this issue. We should pay attention to it, too, don’t you think? At least, as long as we’re not just trying to keep ourselves from changing, and actually interested in promoting a healthier world.
Thanks for reading.
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