I've noticed that when many transgender allies and even some transgender people themselves have their claims investigated that they, in my estimation, can never really answer them too adequately: one hears that one is the gender one is because "I identify as X"; one hears that "I'm this gender because it's what my feelings and or emotions tell me"; one hears that "gender identity has nothing to do with one's biological sex; it has everything to do with one's subjectively known sense of self". For me, these claims are somewhat problematic. Shouldn't there be an objective way whereby once can discover another person's gender identity, without explicitly asking them as to which they identify?

I have to also say that if gender identity is just subjective--- meaning that one is whatever one says one is, or whatever one feels oneself to be --- does that mean that one who doesn't feel human (like people who are otherkins don't) are not human in some way?

  • Welcome to SE Philosophy! Thanks for your contribution. Please take a quick moment to take the tour or find help. You can perform searches here or seek additional clarification at the meta site. Don't forget, when someone has answered your question, you can click on the checkmark to reward the user! – J D Nov 24 '19 at 16:10
  • If you haven't read WP's article on gender identity. It may help you to get a perspective on to what extent the psychological aspect is objective. Psychology is a science, after all. See this related SE post. – J D Nov 24 '19 at 16:14
  • The subjective nature of determining gender would also call into question someone unconscious or incapable of making that decision due to an emotional disconnect to any gender. – user6591 Nov 24 '19 at 22:57
  • 1
    Is there an "objective" way to determine one's favorite color or political beliefs without asking them, or watching them reveal it somehow in their non-verbal behavior? Gender identity does not override biological sex, it can still be objectively determined, nor will somebody's feeling like a cat override that they are still biologically human. So no, there shouldn't be an "objective" way to determine subjective choices, nor is it in any way problematic as long as they are publicly communicated and understood. – Conifold Nov 24 '19 at 23:26
  • There are varying opinions on this, but plenty of trans advocates are open to the possibility there are inborn biological differences in the brain between cis and trans people, just like there may be inborn brain differences between straight and gay people. But obviously our understanding of the brain isn't advanced enough to pinpoint all the relevant differences from brain scans, so there's no real alternative to asking people their preferences. And even if there are strong biological influences on gender identity there would be cultural influences too, same as with other personality traits. – Hypnosifl Nov 25 '19 at 0:23

Identity is always subjective. You are not you except to the extent that you experience you-ness. Societies try to find objective mens of guaranteeing identity — they will keep records, issue identity cards, check signatures and fingerprints and DNA — but the fact that your identity card says (e.g.) "John Smith" with a thumbprint that's on file in some computer somewhere does not mean you "John Smith." You are 'John Smith' because you think you are 'John Smith', and all of those external metrics are just there to make sure that your identity is handled consistently by society.

I mean, imagine if you woke up one morning (Twilight Zone style) and found that everyone you encountered knew you as 'Frank Brown'. Your fingerprints are Frank Brown's, your picture is Frank Brown's, your DNA, your job, your friends and family... All of them relate to you as 'Frank Brown' whereas you know yourself as 'John Smith.' Which would you think was your identity? Can you imagine the confusion that would cause for you, being John Smith in a body that society insisted belonged to Frank Brown?

Identity is a matter of how we relate to ourselves and to the world around us. Some people relate to the world as male, some people relate to the world as female, and that subjective relationship does not necessarily align with the physical plumbing that each was born with. Clearly this causes stress and confusion for all parties involved, but trying to impose social identities on people against their will inevitably (and usually tragically) fails.

|improve this answer|||||
  • Dear me, people do not like philosophical thinking on this issue — Hah! – Ted Wrigley Nov 26 '19 at 19:15

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.