Many individuals, private organizations, and government branches celebrate June as Pride Month, or LGBTQIA+ month. Beyond an obligatory affirmation of all self-identifications in the first four designees on the list (I.e. L = lesbian, G = gay, B = bisexual, T = trans), there is no full consensus as to what else is being celebrated.
Most people who give experiential or academic descriptions of these “identifiers,” or self-identities, do so in a way that denies all ontology of metaphysical realism (i.e. denies absolute truth). Or alternately they endorse a kind of gnostic dualism, identifying a “self” (substance, person, spirit, etc.) absolutely autonomous from the organic-chemical life of the body.
This is the background. My goal here is to use a bit of the related scientific and philosophical reasoning to navigate LGBT propositions in a more accurate and technical way, using vocabulary which is precise so as to avoid equivocations, but not so technically detailed as to be useless for social importance. We will see how well this goal may be accomplished.
Biological sex is very commonly reference by the summary identifications and interplay of X and Y chromosomes. In short,
- Both X and Y chromosomes are found in a person’s DNA (DNA being the extremely long “code” for our biological makeup, where long chains of molecules result practically in the formation of proteins, human organs, and a living human being).
- X and Y chromosomes contain just a small amount of “code” for a person’s biological life, but the two chromosomes are responsible for the body’s formation of all reproductive organs.
- If a human being has one X chromosome and one Y chromosome, they are biologically male/man, the body developing naturally to produce sperm (AKA male gamete).
- If a human being has two X chromosomes, they are biologically female/woman, the body developing naturally to produce eggs (AKA female gamete).
- Here is an short but accessible scientific article for a better introduction to X chromosome and Y chromosome.
One does not need a college degree in biology or chemistry to talk about X and Y chromosomes. The chemical makeup of each chromosome does not need to be described in detail. We are living in an age of “trust the scientists” and I happen to have a chemistry degree. If you trust me at all, I am here saying that every person who has studied introductory biology in high school, with textbook graphics such as this, can rest assured that the science they were taught is sound. The inheritance of X and Y chromosomes is of course just part of an introduction for how biological genetics translates into sex organs, bodily sex, and the continuation of life for human beings. For every biologically healthy human being, we have already given a proper and true introductory description.
Now the experience of those who identify as “LGB” will be handled in a very summary manner. I will include those considerations below within a much longer consideration of the “T” in Pride Month, meaning “trans.”
Here is the common combination of equivocations in popular phrases: “Trans women are women.” Or, “Trans men are men.”
In this statement there is contained the following proposition: “it was an error for past generations to insist upon gender roles and sex-based words, viz. pronoun usage, based upon the biological function of species reproduction (I.e., biological sex in the strict definition of the term).”
Thus, it is claimed the words “man” and “woman” (men, women) should not be used anymore in ordinary speech to refer definitively to a person’s evolutionary reproductive organs/genitals/genetics. Such usage, it is implied, carries too much risk of imposing unjustified social expectations through unwelcome word associations and manipulative cultural prejudices. Commonly said, this indicates the recent prohibition against “mis-gendering” a person who desires to live in society under the manifestations or the terminology formally associated only with the opposite biological sex.
You perhaps intuit what I mean by saying the words “man” and “woman” (men, women) cannot be used anymore in ordinary speech in a definitive way. In a practical way, they are expected to be used in a consensual agreement, but an agreement forever liable to arbitrary change.
It is not so much that trans advocates, or persons who take the identification of trans-man, or trans-woman, are picking a fight with the biological designations of genetic inheritance, reproductive capacities, or gamete functioning. They are claiming rather, by the use of the word “trans,” that these chemical or biological realities have no social importance and no desirable bearing or impact on their life. We may try to describe the claims as a-biological, verses anti-biological or anti-science. They are moral claims, and not ontological claims.
The biological meanings of the words “man” or “woman” are being given very small, mostly irrelevant, purposes here. It is only relevant in the place where technical biologists (and those accused of transphobia!) want a biological description, or rather where they really need a biological description, for reference to that questionable practice of sexual reproduction.
Now, the sexual practice of self-expression-self-fulfillment, through non-reproductive uses of the potentially-reproductive organs, is not questionable at all. It is quite approved and celebrated. On the other hand, using the biologically sexual reproductive organs for the sexual reproduction of more human beings truly is quite questionable these days. It is insinuated insistently that it might be a bad idea for most people at most times. The summary of the Lesbian, Gay, or Bi-sexual affirmations may simply be put in these terms. It is insisted that the celebration of heterosexual, child-bearing intercourse, as significant or morally superior in any way above any other kind of sexual desire or attraction or choice, should not be approved. All kinds of sexual choices must be equally approved and equally affirmed, with the only proviso being that the non-consent of a party is the only moral despoiler of such choices.
However, returning to the reproductive meaning of man and woman, taken as biological terms, there is one, and perhaps only one, place in which they become important for everyone, almost in an absolute sense.
The biological definitions of the words “man” or “woman” are invoked for the specific purpose of claiming that the counterpart cis-corresponding biological terminology can properly be applied to a person for a societal, self-defined, gender designation. All of a sudden it becomes highly important (most important!) that all formerly-biological references of he/him/man can and must be applied to a designated person of counterpart cis-corresponding biological reproductive makeup (females reproductive organs/genitals/genetics). All of a sudden it becomes highly important (most important!) that the terminology of she/her/woman can be applied to that person of counterpart cis-corresponding biological reproductive makeup (male reproductive organs/genitals/genetics).
“Trans women are women” should be explicated thus: “Trans women [who are subjects of the identifiable but ultimately meaningless biochemical male evolutionary instantiation] are women [according to all necessary importance of any societal language and custom of gender].”
“Trans men are men” should be explicated thus: “Trans men [who are subjects of the identifiable but ultimately meaningless biochemical female evolutionary instantiation] are men [according to all necessary importance of any societal language and custom of gender].”
It is desired here, by the proponents of asserting LGBT terminologies and identifications, not only that the biological definition exist side-by-side with the more important linguistic designation of the opposite biological definition, but even more so that the conflicting presentation of that side-by-side reversal of the biological definition be affirmed as a societal accomplishment and a cause for celebration.
What are my concluding thoughts on this? If I can assume my most sympathetic take on the intentions of this terminology, it is ultimately a schizophrenic attempt to rebel against gender stereotypes, against roles socially imposed on either of the biological sexes, and – not with insignificant frequency – rebelling against unjust, unchaste, and even physically harmful behaviors experienced by others.
But the attempt cannot work. It is self-contradictory and self destructive to label gender as a completely arbitrary collection of social manifestations, behaviors, and appearances.
Attempts to integrated trans affirming language into social discourse, or force it in, always borrow from the evolutionary biological basis of gendered language as necessary, and simultaneously attack it as reprehensible. As noted above, if the terms he/him/man are completely independent of reproductive organs/genitals/genetics, and all biological reproductive realities are deemed meaningless, then all gendered language is meaningless, even if it is the imposed trans terminology. It devolves into a game of force, or manipulation, where each tries to get the other person to say the terms they want, for the sheer purpose of each’s person’s desires.
There cannot be social systems without common ground. Can the language of sex, male and female, and gender, he/she, be rescued from the chaos into which they have fallen? Attempts to create new categories of person’s seem only to cultivate a hated dependence on the old categories. Serious and even charitable attempts to make an absolute standard, which would unite people by logical consistency, have been shouted down as bigoted.
Yet even if it is bigoted to lay out a new social language that utilizes the “old” categories, it will inevitably happen. Here to conclude is the last part of my attempted contribution, uniting philosophy of existence with the presumption that we can work with a moral standard:
If justice demands allowing each person to pursue as many choices as possible within the realm of any objective morality, that is, pursue all choices which do not claim absolute moral relativism in some sphere or all of life, then justice requires acknowledgment of biological sex as a fact, logically prior to attempts to eliminate discriminatory injustices caused by, or based on, that fact.