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Glire

On Genders and Raccoons

by
So I've gone twelve rounds with a certain raccoon lately on the idea of gender and what it is. These are chaotic, kind of messy arguments and they kind of lose the plot a lot, which is admittedly a common occurrence when I have only a few thousand characters to attempt to make my point and I'm trying to do so in real time.

There's a breakdown of what this person considers to be gender, and the rest of his position, in a journal he wrote. This is what I'm going to be addressing here, because he threw it in my face.

His argument is broken down into eight main points, responses to things directed back at himself. These eight points are, verbatim:

1) If gender is not a spectrum, how do you explain the existence of trans, non-binary and intersex people?

2) Cultures throughout history have always recognised the existence of gender identities outside male and female. How can you say that gender is bimodal in the face of this?

3) How does the fact that gender is a bimodal distribution demonstrate that it isn't a spectrum?

4) Why don't you just accept that I'm non-binary/that gender is a spectrum? Why do you have to oppose it?

5) You know nothing about any of this, leave it to the professionals and just fuck off.

6) Modern "science" indicates that biological sex is not connected to gender identity.

7) You advocate keeping kids in the dark about trans and non-binary issues.

8) Your views are bigoted and harmful to trans and non-binary people.

Some of these aren't arguments, though they are accurate. So I'll be skipping what might look like large portions of this journal, because they address points I'm not making (or address them in baldly incorrect ways).

In 1), he writes:

" If we want to be super pedantic, gender is a spectrum because it has a range of different data points. The thing is, though, my argument is about what is taught to children about themselves. We know from census data (for example: [link to survey]) that people who do not identify as the gender linked to their biological sex is a tiny minority. I've said <95% because it's generous as hell and doesn't require quibbling over the precision of data sets. If we know for a fact that children will, over 95% of the time, have no trouble with their gender identity whatsoever, then it is outright confusing and wrong to tell them that their gender is on a spectrum. Little kids aren't going to grasp the differences between a bimodal distribution and a spectrum, especially when it seems most adults even have a problem with it. Trans, non-binary and intersex people, of course, do exist.


So the argument here is, basically, that children shouldn't learn about gender as a spectrum, because it's too confusing for the majority of children whose gender is pretty much what people expected it to be. (the argument is also that it's 'pedantic' to use the framework that represents reality, which he characterizes as "wrong", despite admitting its accuracy at the beginning of the quote.) This is repeated again in 3):

" "If we want to create social policy and make education decisions based on the idea that gender is a spectrum, then it should be distributed the way politics is, rather than everybody being in one of two categories, aside from like .3%. It's a pedantic, technical argument that isn't significant enough to be a basis for wide-reaching social policy decisions. Kids are boys or girls the vast, vast, vast majority of the time, teaching them their gender is on a spectrum is like teaching an 8 year-old about pythagorean theorem and expecting them to integrate it into their fucking identity. Absolutely stupid."


and 4):

" "Secondly, I oppose the spectrum concept for moral reasons. Teaching children they are something that does not apply to them is wrong."


(They also say in 4) "Why don't YOU just accept that gender ISN'T a spectrum?" Well, because everyone in this conversation, including you, agrees that it is one.)

and 7):

" "What I advocate is not teaching kids their own gender is on a spectrum the same way I wouldn't advocate teaching all kids that they're gay or bisexual. The idea of inserting ones own beliefs about identity into the classrooms of the young makes me balk. It's why I'm a secularist when it comes to religion, I don't like any ideology having Carte blanche privileges to interfere with young minds in publicly funded classrooms, it's downright insidious."


This paints a clearer picture of the actual mechanics of the argument in play here.

Let's start with what a bimodal distribution is.

Consider a graph. The vertical axis is population, and the horizontal axis is gender. Let's say for the sake of argument that "nonbinary" means "between male and female", as opposed to "neither male nor female", and so we can represent this more limited gender spectrum in one dimension.

This graph would have two main peaks: One at the position of "man", and one at the position of "woman". Assuming, for a moment, that everyone whose actual identity is "man" and "woman" selects exactly that identity and nothing in between, there would be some curve between the peaks, showing that yes, lots of people identify as a cis man or woman — if we use the 95% statistic, roughly 47.5% each way. The other 5% are represented somewhere in the curve between them.

You can go to the Wikipedia article on Multimodal Distribution to see what this looks like in practice.

Now, there's a clever bait and switch that happens at this point. The author's argument is not to teach kids that gender is a bimodal distribution. That would imply teaching them that not only is gender a spectrum, as that's required to create one axis of the distribution, but what a mode and a probability distribution is. We know because of 3) that the author feels that complicated math is inappropriate to teach to children. (We also know that he's categorically against teaching children about the existence of nonbinary people, because that's the thesis of his argument.)

Therefore, we can conclude that the author advocates teaching children that only a strict, mutually exclusive binary exists, under the justification (in part) that gender is bimodal. "There are two popular genders and a bunch of rarer ones" is an example of how one might attempt to teach bimodality to children. "There are only two genders" is what he wants to teach to children.

He argues that gender is not a spectrum, despite the fact that he admits it is, when he says in 3):

" Strictly speaking, it [bimodality] doesn't [demonstrate that gender isn't a spectrum], in the purely technical sense. But gender is not a distribution like, say, political belief is. If we look at the spectrum of political beliefs we will find a huge range of differences across the whole population, with gender this is not the case. If a tiny percentage is said to fall outside of male/female, it does not change the fact that everybody else is male or female. Such a degree of clustering with very little variance is not practically a spectrum.


The political binary is left and right. There are a whole range of political identities under those two identities (including those who identify as something in-between, like the author, who identifies himself as "centrist", as well as those who disavow the limitations of a left-right binary). A group of related, but independent beliefs and priorities are clustered under identities such as "Republican", or "Democrat", or "Socialist", or "Libertarian".

This is also true within the main categories of gender. If we, for the moment, accept a gender binary, butch and femme women are subclasses of women (with other sub-subclasses built upon those); dandies, twinks, bears, hunks, also subclasses of men (ditto). There's actually a broad parallel that can be made here: these subclasses could be accepted as distinct identities, like political ones, and the gender binary as some kind of overly broad superclass whose main purpose is to allow the other identities to reductively be compared against each other. Nobody only identifies as "left-wing", and doing so doesn't imply nearly as much about the traits someone possesses as "man" or "woman" currently does. We would all walk around with identities like "femme" or "bear" or whatnot, and maybe talk about "the male" or "the female" in wide-angle terms only, the way we might talk about "the left" or "the right".

We would also necessarily have to treat gender as a spectrum so we could place these identities on that spectrum.

But beyond that, "Not practically a spectrum" is not "not a spectrum". Both the author and I agree that nonbinary people exist, at least nominally (more on that in a moment). There is, however, a gap between "Most genders are one of two identities" and "therefore, we should erase the other identities". The journal states that the number of identities thus erased is too small to care about; the justification for this claim is that including those identities is necessary to avoid confusing children, with some bizarre comparisons attached to that.

Teaching kids that their gender exists on a spectrum is conflated in 7) with "teaching all kids that they're gay or bisexual". (It's also conflated in 3) with "teaching an 8 year-old about pythagorean theorem and expecting them to integrate it into their fucking identity", which is a bold claim from someone introducing probability theory into their argument about what gender is and how to teach it to children).

This analogy is inappropriate, because it doesn't imply, like the author intends, that children would be taught that their gender exists on a broader spectrum than "man" and "woman"; it implies that someone, somewhere wants to teach every child that they're trans or nonbinary. Trans and nonbinary children exist, but I think both the author and I would agree that children can and will identify as boys and girls, so this is a fairly brazen straw man. A more appropriate analogy is to conflate teaching all kids that their gender is on a spectrum with teaching all kids that gay and bisexual people exist, which is obviously homophobic. (I'm not going to go into why, because I'm not interested in relitigating an anachronistic argument that has been thoroughly solved.)

I find it fascinating that this in particular is likened to religious zealotry, as "what am I supposed to tell my kids" and "it's too confusing for children" is a refrain used by religious parents to prevent them from being exposed to openly gay and bisexual people. It's been thrown at gay people (including myself) for years. It's invalid there, and it's invalid here. In fact, many parts of this argument are eerily familiar. In 1), the author writes:

" I don't know why trans and non-binary people are the way they are and would never claim to, all I can do is make a guess and say what I think is most likely, which is still just a guess. My guess is that it is a psychological disorder rather than a reflection of a person actually not being a member of the two gender categories. But again, it's a guess, I have no idea. I don't care either, by the way, how people see themselves and how they pursue their own lives is none of my business, if they aren't hurting other people I have no problem with it.


This could have been lifted straight from homophobic discourse with a few words changed around. It also demonstrates that the author's view isn't that a true spectrum exists (even though he claims everywhere else that it does), but that some mental aberration causes some people to reject the binary. That nonbinary identity is a psychosis.

This only makes sense if you start from the idea that nonbinary identities are invalid, and work outward. You can, in fact, see it everywhere in the argument, building huge and complex systems of premises to justify the erasure of nonbinary people, and it's more total than the author lets on. In fact, I would argue that the author's arguments *necessarily* require more restriction than what he's arguing for.

Let's use a specific example. Let's, for the sake of argument, temporarily accept the premise that nonbinary genders are too confusing to expose to children, and that we should not reveal the existence of those identities to them. This means, logically, that we should restrict children from being exposed to people who visibly hold those identities, lest the children start asking questions and we're forced to teach them something.

Obviously, schools are the main point of contention, so let's look at other ways a school might restrict this knowledge. Openly nonbinary students, logically, would not be allowed to be visibly gender non-conforming in school, nor would they be allowed to talk about their identity if it comes up, not even with such necessary questions such as "that bathroom says boys and that one says girls, where do I go?" Visibly nonbinary parents might be disallowed from picking up their kids, or if they do, they are restricted in how they look, lest they inadvertantly tip someone off that the binary is not all there is and provoke uncomfortable questions. A visibly nonbinary teacher or staff member would not be allowed to explain their own gender to their students.

The argument that we can somehow prevent children from knowing about nonbinary people while simultaneously allowing nonbinary people to exist where children can see us is ridiculous on its face. The only way a policy like this is viable is in a sanitized world where children never have a chance to come into contact with us, which requires a large, draconian apparatus to establish and maintain.

Children are more than capable of understanding that more than two categories of something exist. They can understand the difference between black, white, and asian; they can understand the difference between Sikh, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, and Jewish; they can, in fact, understand the difference between straight and gay and bisexual. It's not necessary to teach kindergarteners Judith Butler; "Some people are boys, some people are girls, and some people are something else" is sufficient, and more nuance can be explained later as the child's understanding of the world grows to support it (or even if the child asks about it; children being naturally curious, it can be surprising to adults how much they can absorb, if they're allowed). I can explain my own gender identity by saying "I am sometimes one thing, and sometimes another, at different times", just as explaining the existence of bisexuality can be explained by saying "some people like girls, some people like boys, and some people like all different kinds of people".

If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough. I can explain my gender to a six year old if I have to. The author can't, and has determined that it must then be impossible, and thus seeks to prevent me from ever getting the chance.

The reason adults have trouble with nonbinary identities is that they have a preconceived, calcified notion of gender that does not include this possibility, and that has been reinforced through culture for decades; thus, in order to accept this new information, they have to reject ideas that have formed the ontological basis of the world they thought they lived in. It's harder to unlearn and relearn something than to learn it the right way the first time, much moreso when you've been taught that thing from birth.

Teaching children that there is a possibility of identities outside the binary, identities agreed (sort of) to exist by the author, erases us at an early age, and makes it harder to learn about us later. It directly contributes to the calcification process that prevents more popular understandings of gender as a spectrum. In short, it breeds transphobes and prevents children from learning who they are as soon as they are capable.

It's also simply bad child-rearing. No, it's not necessary to teach children about every aspect of every identity that can exist; but honesty is important when telling kids about how the world works, because there will come a day when they find out you were lying to them, and feel betrayed, rightly, for having the truth hidden from them.

It also throws nonbinary children under the bus. The response to this accusation isn't "no it doesn't"; it's "that's justified because they're so rare". This shows a profound disregard for the children who might be trans or nonbinary and who, for the first part of their life, are never told that who they are is even possible.

Let's run some numbers. (All these numbers are for the United States, where I have data.)

There are 74.2 million kids in the United States. The 2016 Williams Institute survey (which is more up-to-date than the 2011 one used in the author's post) indicates that 0.58% of people identified theirselves as trans; let's say for the sake of argument that every trans respondent identified theirselves as such in the survey, and that the child population is the same as the adult population in this regard.

Thus, assuming 0.58% of American children are trans, that's 430,000 children.

That's the population of Oakland, California.

The argument that we shouldn't accomodate trans and nonbinary kids because they're too rare is ridiculous when you look at the absolute numbers. If the residents of Oakland, California had a particular need, you would bet that the local government would strive to accomodate it. Perhaps the state or federal government would step in to figure out what to do.

The only thing that's different about this population is that it's spread out across the United States, not concetrated geographically. And yes, that means that you'll be developing accomodations for very small groups of people. There are about 90,000 elementary schools and roughly 37,000 high schools in the US, so, if there are 430,000 trans children, that's between three and four kids per school, assuming an even distribution. But the fact that these accomodations cause no harm means we should do it, to avoid the kind of existential harm that occurs to the residents of Trans Oakland when we don't. Even if we accept the idea that some cis children would be confused by learning that their classmate is genderfluid, the impact to their psyche would be far less devastating than the complete denial of identity that would occur to that genderfluid student otherwise.

I'm going to use a kind of silly analogy here, and compare it to vaccines. Yes, they require an injection that may be painful, and yes, that injection sometimes makes you feel weird or flu-like for a while. However, we vaccinate against deadly diseases that wreak utter havoc on those who become infected with it, no matter how rare they might be. We accept a comparatively tiny amount of momentary discomfort to inoculate against a lifetime of trauma.

Because trans children are going to identify that way regardless of whether we allow them to or not, so the only question is how much we're going to harm them for doing so. The argument being forwarded here is "massively, so we don't confuse some cis kids".

Fucking stupid.
Viewed: 74 times
Added: 1 year, 11 months ago
 
Reiko
1 year, 11 months ago
Fucking brilliant. Good job. <3
RoareyRaccoon
1 year, 11 months ago
Also I'm not sure what "get styled upon" means, I assume it means you're about to kick my ass in an argument? Yeah....
Glire
1 year, 11 months ago
If you'd like to respond in a long-form way, do it on your own page. You're in my space now.

I kept the text of your comments. I'll have your reply eventually.
Skunket
1 year, 11 months ago
Don't argue with him... cause he is always right... 92.67% of the people believe he is right :3
ZeloxQuo
1 year, 11 months ago
Hmm. You know what I have been thinking.

I am annoyed that we teach children that the earth is round. It isn't. That is factually inaccurate. It is an oblique spheroid, and the specifics of the magnetic field are required to understand how the Earth can even survive the hostile environment of space.

And, the Earth doesn't circle the sun. It isn't a circle at all, it is an ellipse of sorts. But, because of gravitational vibrations from the other planets and from the sun it makes the orbit wobble quite a significant amount.

Teaching children the basics of the earth being round, not bothering with the magnetic field until they are older, and having a circular orbit around the sun is ruining them. We need to START their education with the complexities of all aspects of life. That makes sense.

There cannot be stages to education. Where when something is highly statistically likely we say something like "There are males and females in the human species. The vast majority of people fall into the gender binary. There are some rare outliers. You will learn more about maths and outliers in higher classes, we will also teach you some of the interesting genetic and mental conditions that are also outliers to the binary. These people who don't fall into the binary, while rare, do not deserve bullying because of it"

Or would that be acceptable?
Glire
1 year, 11 months ago
I feel like this might be trolling, but just in case, I'm going to address aspects of this comment. Forgive me if not; I genuinely can't read your intention.

In the case of gender, we're telling children about something they may already be, but do not have the words for, or about something that exists in one of their classmates, or their classmates' parent, or their teacher; in another case, we're talking about an external fact about the world (literally). We owe it to them to teach at least enough nuance about how the world works that the people that may already be in their environment, or their own identity, is as comprehensible as any cis student is.

But it's not like we can't explain these things in ways that are accessible to children, either. We could say the earth is almost, but not quite round. And like, it's not like gravity is difficult to teach, we could do it just by dropping a ball on the ground. Really big objects pull things towards them, like, really big. Trees aren't big enough to pull hard enough to feel (but they do pull a tiny tiny bit!). Buildings aren't either. But because the earth is so big, much bigger than anything on it, we get pulled towards it. The moon is also really big, but it's also really far away, and so is the sun. Because they're all really big, they all pull on each other. But instead of falling forwards, they fall sideways, and that's called an orbit.

As the earth spins, it makes a kind of forcefield around the earth called the magnetic field — like Steven Universe's bubble! The magnetic field protects the earth from stuff the sun shoots at us, while letting light through — Like Steven Universe's bubble!

You have to tailor your lesson to your audience, but you could do it, if you wanted to.

And so it goes with gender. Some people are boys, some are girls, some are something else — Like Stevonnie, or Smoky Quartz!

You know what, let's just put Steven Universe in schools. That would solve a lot of problems.
Ununnilium
1 year, 11 months ago
Honestly, I feel like a lot of problems would be solved by putting Steven Universe in schools. People would pay a lot more attention to geology, for one thing.
ZeloxQuo
1 year, 11 months ago
It wasn't for the purposes of 'trolling' it was to make a comparison of another issue that is more complicated than what we initially teach children.

There are many concepts that we teach children and young adults that we only teach the old version of understanding. Rather than trying to push through to the most complex version. That was the point I was attempting to make.

Another good example would be species. That the concept of species is a human imposed one. It only kinda works for animals, in many cases, but then doesn't in many others. For plants, fungi and bacteria the way we like to put things in boxes kinda falls apart.

Species and 'different kinds of animals/plants' is something very human imposed. And that is only something that you learn when you are learning university grade genetics.

So, if we are to push things the way that you seem to be indicating (also, with the way you use 'some' rather than 'most' it seems to indicate that you want to make it seem like it is much more significant than it is), we would also need to teach children that species is only a concept and that it doesn't work in most instances.

Most of the things we learn we need to start with the basics. The base understanding. We cannot go around and push the most complicated version with bad language that makes it seem much more significant than it is and expect young children to grasp the concept.

Human brains take years to develop, learning takes years of foundational understanding. Going immediately to a 'simplified version' of the end game when most people won't even get off the starting block, nor ever need the information, nor ever use it in their entire life, seems like wasted time, effort and confusing to the children.
Glire
1 year, 11 months ago
And my argument is not to say that we start with the most complex version either. We start with a version that explains the reality they already live in.

To draw a parallel between species and gender, you're arguing that kids not learn the high-level building blocks of gender, while I'm literally just saying, can we admit more than two genders exist? You don't have to go into why the others exist, because you don't go into why the first two exist. If you had to explain any gender you admit the existence of, you would literally have to explain boys and girls, too, and claiming it's too confusing to do that early on seems to advocate for a genderless upbringing? Which, I mean, sure, we can do it that way, too.

But the species equivalent of this is to say that only cats and dogs exist and hope none of the kids have guinea pigs. We don't have to make kids draw Punnett squares just to tell them that there are peas and carrots and corn. More ways exist to devise curricula than "exactly what we do now" and "dump a university textbook on their heads".

I'm just going to be straight with you, I don't buy your argument about utility. We learn lots of things we have no immediate use for, but that enrich our understanding of the context in which we live. We learn history to show what happened in the past, and why the present is the way it is; we learn geography to understand our place in the wider network of people that exist in the world; we learn physics, chemistry, biology, and other sciences to understand the forces that act upon us whether we're aware of them or not. Many people have never used a lot of this information since leaving school; I don't think it's a waste to have taught it to them. It's part of a toolbox that adults should have in order to navigate a complex world.

And that world has enbies in it, so, maybe we should give people the tools to understand us? Even if we have to start just by saying that we exist.
ZeloxQuo
1 year, 11 months ago
Again. I was trying to say when the vast majority comply with the the norm (AKA 99% or so) then it is a binary with outliers. And that is entirely fine.

I am more arguing the use of language that you have selected: "Some people are boys, some people are girls, and some people are something else" is sufficient,

It is not sufficient, because it is incorrect. The phrase I proposed of: "There are males and females in the human species. The vast majority of people fall into the gender binary. There are some rare outliers. You will learn more about maths and outliers in higher classes, we will also teach you some of the interesting genetic and mental conditions that are also outliers to the binary. These people who don't fall into the binary, while rare, do not deserve bullying because of it"

Is significantly more accurate.

Biological sex/gender is a binary with outliers. It isn't bad that there are outliers. In fact it is important that there are. That is how we as a species continue to grow and change. The fact that we can even see colour properly is because of an outlier. It was a duplication and divergence event of the red cone to get a green one. That is also why we are prone to colour blindness (red/green colour blindness).

If we cannot teach children accurately, but have to cover the nuanced points of existence, then it doesn't work.

Otherwise. When explaining how a normal human works, and the normal amount of chromosomes. To use your language: "Some people have 23 chromosome pairs, some people have more, and some people have less."

That is wrong.

Stating that: "The vast majority of humans have 23 chromosome pairs, 22 autosomes and 1 sex chromosome, and there are some rare genetic conditions that are outliers to the norm." Is accurate.

Same with eyesight we would have to say: "Some people see all colour, some people see mixed up colours, and some people see something else"

My point is that you are taking something that is biologically based, genetically understood, that we have a lot of information for and are twisting it around quite a bit. Outliers tend to be (understandably due to the large volume of information that is taught to children) glossed over.

You seem to be thinking from the highest functioning member of society. Someone who can not only learn, but understand advanced concepts when put forwards simply. However, you might not be grasping how many advanced concepts that we would have to put forwards, and how drastically that would increase the workload and information to learn for children. Not only that you aren't considering the norm of intellect, nor the lowest common denominator.

There are many things to consider, including the language chosen to teach a particular thing. I believe that the language you have selected betrays the scientific understanding of reality that we have. And, due to that language, it could very well confuse folks further.
Glire
1 year, 11 months ago
Oh, okay, so you're arguing for a biological basis of gender. That explains a lot.

It's at this point that I think I'm going to just... stop trying to argue with you, because now that I understand that, this topic will become far too unwieldy for me to even attempt to discuss while also dealing with a pissed-off raccoon in a Dunning-Kruger pit. Suffice it to say, I disagree with your characterization of the consequences of my argument because I reject a biologically essentialist basis for gender, and both biology and neuroscience backs me up on this. (For further reading, try Cordelia Fine's Delusions of Gender, a book so well-researched that I found it cited in a scientific paper I was reading the other day.)
Skunket
1 year, 11 months ago
I love reading this, but arguing with people like him is useless, he is well know to have nothing to defend and lot to attack, he has changed his valors and morals as he change his underwear. Just look now how he "tries to be the one who is nice and stop harassment to transgender" when he was the one who initiated everything.

I've lost track of how many times I tried to bring a nice discussion on several topics he bring before, and I was called on lots of ways just because I didn't validated his points of view (265.88% or the ants in this room believe this).

He just noticed less people commenting in his journals so he now is spreading hateful stuff on draws... he in "transitioning" from a textually idiot  to a graphic one... (and the university of telegram in Arizona made a book about him)...

(Sorry for the jokes but I found hilarious how he uses numbers that are impossible to verify to make people to believe he has scientifically  the correct answer).

Thank you for your journal and for posting all this, and good luck with having a sane conversation/argument with him XD.
Glire
1 year, 11 months ago
It's not likely I'll convince him, yes. The purpose of engaging him is to not let him get away with saying the ridiculous things he says. If there's no comprehensive reply to his arguments, they might actually convince someone who isn't well-versed in the subject matter.
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