Subjectivity, Objectivity, and Gender Identity

Kevin Williamson, writing at the National Review, says that Laverne Cox is not a woman, and that she (and by extension all transgender people) is delusional. The subheading to Williamson’s article explains: “Facts are not subject to our feelings.”


Williamson writes, “The trans self-conception, if the autobiographical literature is any guide, is partly a feeling that one should be living one’s life as a member of the opposite sex and partly a delusion that one is in fact a member of the opposite sex at some level of reality that transcends the biological facts in question.”

“Sex is a biological reality,” he says, “and it is not subordinate to subjective impressions, no matter how intense those impressions are, how sincerely they are held, or how painful they make facing the biological facts of life.”

I just finished a series of posts that touched on the ways those words—subjective and objective—get misused. Now this?

Let’s be clear: when Williamson says “facts,” he means ONE fact: Laverne Cox was born with a penis.

Of course, there are other facts, like the fact that studies have shown that transgender people have brain structures more closely aligned with the gender they claim than their assigned gender, and that they show effects of prenatal hormone exposure that also echo the gender they claim. As Jen Richards writes, “Medical science, biology, psychology, and hundreds of thousands of human experiences over centuries, have already thoroughly confirmed the reality of transgender people.”

But Williamson doesn’t care about those facts.

He can’t be troubled with those elements of biological reality.

(Even though, as Andrew Sullivan points out, “by far the most important sexual organ is the brain.”)

Look. It’s one thing to challenge the contemporary medical and scientific consensus. But if you’re going to do so, you’d better come at it with facts, plural, and you’d better understand the facts led to that consensus. Otherwise, as Richards said, your “grasp of the ‘biological facts of life’ is no different than pointing to the rising and setting of the sun as clear evidence that the Earth is the center of the universe.”

And on a related note, if you’re going to pick and choose your facts, and shun any fact that challenges you, that—in short—you don’t like, then, please, for honesty’s sake, stop pretending you’re being “objective.”


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