I originally wrote this as a FB post and decided to float it over here.
I know. Most of my remaining Objectivist friends will already agree with me here. And the rest are probably tired of hearing me go on about this. But this topic gets me really fired up and someone was wrong on the internet today.
I sometimes hear people say of transfolk, “Oh, they’re not a woman because they have a Y chromosome.” Or “They’re not a man because they don’t have a penis.”
I find it particularly confusing when this argument comes from Objectivists for one simple reason: context matters.
Saying an Objectivist is dropping context can be a serious accusation because Ayn Rand identified it as “one of the chief psychological tools of evasion.” And evasion is the worst “sin” of Objectivism. It is the act of deliberation ignoring reality.
To say that someone isn’t a woman because they have a Y chromosome ignores the fact that one’s chromosomes are rarely ever contextually relevant. Pretty much no one chooses a sexual partner based on their DNA. I know it’s 2017 and genetic testing has come a long way, but I can’t think of a situation where one would administer a DNA test to find the presence of a particular sex chromosome to make hiring decisions. Outside of only some VERY rarified contexts, DNA just doesn’t matter.
And certainly no one administers a DNA test to determine which pronouns they will apply to another individual.
Genitalia has a more direct impact on some more commonplace circumstances. If you think you want to have a sexual relationship with another consenting adult, then their genitalia may be top-of-mind for you. If you’re a urologist or a gynecologist or some other doctor and you’re meeting a new patient about some question involving their reproductive organs, then you’ll probably need some higher level of detail about their private parts than I do in my life.
Let’s be honest. For the most part, you really do not have any pressing need to know what someone is using underwear to cover. You certainly don’t need that information in order to decide whether you will honor their request to be addressed by the name and pronouns they choose.
There are some Objectivists who argue that referring transfolk by their chosen gender and pronouns is a form of lying or evasion in itself. I disagree. Because context matters. And no one is asking anyone to deny any facts that you have in front of you.
Let’s say you meet someone with a prominent Adam’s apple who tells you they are a woman and they answer to the name “Susan.” What is dishonest about calling this woman “Susan?” None. That’s her name. What lie is involved in using feminine pronouns with her? None. That’s what she’s asked you to do. If someone asks you if she has a prominent Adam’s apple, you would be expected to say, yes, she does. If someone asks you about her genitals, you would honestly say, “The topic wasn’t relevant to our conversation, so I don’t know.” If someone asked about her DNA, you could also say, “Bruh. That’s a really weird question to ask about someone.” Now, you’re not thick-headed. You know what they’re driving at with these silly questions. You could say, “My observations do lead me to believe she is a transwoman,” but one does wonder why that would be relevant.
You lose absolutely nothing by using the name and pronouns someone asks you to use. You are not being asked to deny any facts of reality in using the name and pronouns someone asks you to use.
And in all the contexts that matter to you, she is a woman. For all of your intents and purposes, she is a woman.
So, I would take this a step further: in denying that she is a woman and refusing to call her by her chosen name and refusing to use the pronouns of her choice, you’re denying the reality of the fact that she’s a transwoman. You’re denying the fact that context says she’s a woman. In context, she’s a woman. All you have to do in context is to use the appropriate pronouns.
Let me just spell that out again:
In the extreme majority of contexts, the only thing that someone’s gender demands from you is that you use the corresponding pronouns. Use the names they requested. Refer to them as men/women as they requested.
If you truly aren’t sexist and you treat all men as equals to women, then why does it matter — IN CONTEXT — which pronouns you use?
It matters because that’s also all it takes to treat another human with basic decency, respect, and kindness. With benevolence.
Let’s go ahead and file this point to the ultimate in fineness. If you refuse to refer to transfolk by their chosen names and pronouns, as men and women, then you’re failing… morally. You’re evading the facts and you’re being a malicious prick in the process.
So, stop it.
Objectivism is a philosophy about living life on earth. You’re supposed to be working toward your thriving. Living in a community of people who are also thriving contributes to your thriving. Tearing people down, hurting them without reason, refusing to exert even the smallest effort to contribute to their happiness works against your thriving.
So, stop with this basic, pointless, counterproductive maliciousness.
You know the facts. We know the facts. So, work with them, not against them. Stop evading reality and be kind.