A philosopher elsewhere sent this to me, and asked not to be credited; I wish I had written this, but I did not.
Philosophical Discussion of Trans Identity: A guide for the perplexed.
Members of the profession have doubtless seen the recent letter from MAP, objecting to the participation of Kathleen Stock at a recent meeting of the Aristotelian Society. As the letter writers thoughtfully advised: “scepticism about the rights of marginalised groups and individuals, where issues of life and death are at stake, are not up for debate. The existence and validity of transgender and non-binary people, and the right of trans and non-binary people to identify their own genders and sexualities, fall within the range of such indisputable topics”.
Junior members of the profession may be wondering what sorts ideas may be discussed and debated by philosophers, and which may not. Which may be subject to skeptical inquiry and which may not. Which may be discussed at the Aristotelian Society and which may not. Following is a helpful guide.
You MAY question whether race exists and whether gender exists, you may question whether social kinds exist. For that matter, you may question whether any kinds at all exist, and for the measure, whether abstract objects or even whether the external world exists. You may NOT, however question whether people can identify their own genders.
You MAY question whether other minds exist, or whether anything at all exists except for yourself. You may even question whether time exists and space exists. You may ask whether all change is illusion. You may NOT, however, question whether people can identify their own genders.
You MAY also question whether you yourself exist or are a social construct. You may question the existence of the Cartesian ego and you may even wonder if there are such things as Cartesian egos. You may reject them or endorse them. However, you may NOT question whether people can identify their own genders.
You MAY question whether God exists or you may ask why He or She or (they) allow(s) evil in this world, and you can offer answers to the effect that demons are causing the evil and it is all for the greater good. You can argue that all humans deserve to die in a lake of fire and that it is God’s prerogative to save some select (elect) group of them. You may NOT, however, question whether people can identify their own genders.
You MAY question whether arithmetic is consistent, and whether mathematics is a fiction. You may argue that we can do science without numbers, and you may reject the law of excluded middle. You may NOT, however, question whether people can identify their own genders.
You MAY feel free to argue that everything is made of water or air or apeiron or numbers or soul stuff or mind or matter or whatever. You may ask whether cats are robots from mars, whether there are zombies, whether everyone you know is a zombie, whether you might be a swamp man and if so whether you have any thoughts at all, but you may NOT question whether people can identify their own genders.
I hope you agree with me that you ought not question whether people can identify their own genders. It is, after all, just an indisputable fact and not up for debate! But you might think it is an apt philosophical exercise to ask how we how we came to have this knowledge that people can identify their own genders. This would be an error. You may not query the source of this knowledge.
You may ask how we know we are not brains in vats, or how we know there isn’t an evil deceiver or how we know we are not in the Matrix with Neo and Morpheus. You may ask if we are in Plato’s cave, not really seeing things as they are. You may ask how we know that we don’t live in a land of fake barns and how we know that the zebras in our zoos are really zebras. You may NOT ask, however, how we came to know that people can identify their own genders.
You may ask how we came to know that 5+7=12, and for that matter you may ask how we came to know anything about mathematics. You may ask how we know we are following a rule when we add 5+7. You may ask how it is that you know that you have a hand. You may NOT ask, however, how we came to know that people can identify their own genders.
Hopefully you agree that one should not question whether people can identify their own genders. It is just an indisputable fact after all. And hopefully you are also thinking that it is wrong to question how we came to KNOW that people can identify their own genders. But perhaps you are thinking it is your job as a pedagogue to teach material that considers these obviously harmful questions. Well, wrong again.
There are many much more worthy doctrines to teach. For example, you should feel free to teach Aristotle, who said that women are “more mischievous, less simple, more impulsive … more compassionate … more easily moved to tears … more jealous, more querulous, more apt to scold and to strike … more prone to despondency and less hopeful … more void of shame or self-respect, more false of speech, more deceptive.” You may write papers about this idea and you may teach the passage to your students. You may name your prestigious societies after Aristotle. You may NOT, however, teach Kathleen Stock on the subject of whether people can identify their own genders. You may not invite her to conferences. Especially not to meetings of The Aristotelian society. Professor Stock is to be deplatformed.
For that matter, please do not informally question the source of our knowledge that people can identify their own genders. If a philosophy blog should raise these issues it is to be shunned. Do not link to such a blog. It must go dark. It is a fact that people can identify their own genders, and it is not to be interrogated, or discussed, and the source of such knowledge is not to be queried, challenged, or in any way shape or form investigated or discussed as an act of pedagogy or as a matter of curiosity amongst philosophical peers. Doing so would constitute an act of violence against trans people. I’m sure it is clear why.
I trust that this has been helpful.