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?

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    – J D
    Commented Nov 24, 2019 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
    Commented Nov 24, 2019 at 16:14
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    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
    Commented Nov 24, 2019 at 23:26
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    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
    Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 0:23
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    You know that little dangly bit at the front? The other gender doesn't have this. Shame really, since it's dead handy on picnics.
    – user20253
    Commented May 1, 2020 at 12:43

2 Answers 2


Identity is always subjective. You are not you except to the extent that you experience you-ness. Societies try to find objective means 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.

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    Dear me, people do not like philosophical thinking on this issue — Hah! Commented Nov 26, 2019 at 19:15
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    You say: "Identity is a matter of how we relate to ourselves and to the world around us." But people get to relate back. A relationship is two-way, and so an identity is also a matter of how you are perceived. This seems to be the crucial point that is not being addressed in the issue. If women don't want someone who looks like a man in their bathroom, don't they get a say?
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented May 1, 2020 at 10:52
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    @ScottRowe: Of course they get a say, but as you suggest, it's 'two way': that implies a discussion. Remember, most of segregation was based on the idea that whites did not want someone who 'looks like a black' in their public space, because 'looking like a black' invoked an imposed identity: the white racist stereotype of blacks as inferior, animalistic, and dangerous. Is that the kind of argument you're reaching for? Commented May 1, 2020 at 14:13
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    @ScottRowe: I'm not denying your side of this debate, which is certainly valid. But I think you'd agree that the best solution (if it were possible) would be to eliminate the fear, not enshrine the fear behind institutional and legal structures. Commented May 4, 2020 at 23:33
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    Can you elucidate what you mean by: 'Some people relate to the world as male, some people relate to the world as female." ? That is, what does it mean to "relate to the world" as either male or female, or some[non-binary]thing else? And how does one come to know/opine what/which one is relating to the world as? By reference to [socially constructed?] gender roles?
    – gonzo
    Commented May 31, 2020 at 21:31

Gender differences occur on many levels: - Genetically, the chromosomes differ (your genotype) - Physically, you may grow up with the characteristics of the other chromosomal gender (your phenotype) - Neurologically, certain brain structures may differ from the rest of your phenotype. - Psychologically, you may feel an identity which differs from one or more of the foregoing. - Psychologically, you may enjoy putting on the appearance of the opposite phenotype, such as cross-dressing.

Note also that gender-bending is surprisingly common in nature. It very evidently has some positive evolutionary role to play in the survival of a great many species. Biologically, it must be accepted as a necessary part of species behaviour and, therefore, philosophically it needs to be dealt with on that same basis.

Few people without pure heterosexual identity across the board have a full understanding of all such differences which may or may not apply to them personally. Moreover many have learned the hard way not to make overt enquiries. Given such circumstance, one can hardly expect them wax lyrical with perfect clarity.

Thus, philosophically, each one of these gender levels must be taken, well, at its own factual level. But questioning their reality, or even perhaps their morality, is based only on ignorance, not on science or psychology.

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