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On Raccoons and Genders II

The author of the argument responded to my previous journal, though he forgot he had his own space to put long-form text, throwing a nearly 1,100 word screed in the comments. I've removed that, since there's only one person who gets to be a bloviating windbag in my own space, but he appears to have reproduced the article in the comments of his own journal if you want to read it in its entirety.

I am now going to reply to it here.

Unfortunately, he seems to not really understand what I'm doing? So I'm going to have to explain what the purpose of some parts of my last journal are.

" First, the journal you are addressing is not the entirety of my argument, it is a response to things people have actually asked of me or stated to me. If those things are stupid, that's not on me.

Here's what I actually wrote:

" 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).

The purpose of saying this is to state that if I don't address a particular part of the journal, it's not because I don't have a counterargument, but that those parts are irrelevant to what I'm addressing. Some of the journal goes into things like third genders and other cultural evidence for gender as a spectrum as part of arguing for gender as a bimodal system, and I just accept the premise that gender is bimodal, because it is, and build on that point. I don't have to address why it's bimodal, because it's a premise we both accept. It's silly to try and argue with the fact that the distribution of gender has two main peaks and a curve between (at least, within this facile interpretation of gender); I incorporate that idea into my argument.

" I don't know why you bothered with the digression to explain what a bimodal distribution is, but whatever.

I think he might have thought that I was trying to explain to him what a bimodal distribution is. I'm not sure it's clear to him, but I'm not referring to him in the third person for no reason; I'm using his position as a case study. I'm not writing for him, really, because I hold very little hope that I will convince him; he's shown himself more than adequate at disavowing any part of reality that contradicts his position. I am instead writing for those who might see both sides of this argument and who may not have made up their mind, and I like to be informative, on the off chance someone didn't know what a bimodal distribution is (I didn't, though the concept is intuitive to me).

Anyway, there seems to be a fundamental error in play here.

" You say here that my "thesis" is that children should not be taught about gender as a spectrum, which is a fair characterisation.

" it's not about refraining from teaching children about trans and non-binary people, it's about not teaching children that their own, personal identity is on a spectrum, because we know for a categorical fact that it will never be the case for them, well over 95% of the time.

The remarkable thing is that this is in the same paragraph, despite being contradictory, which I will show below.

Just to be clear, we both appear to agree on, at least, what he's trying to argue. For the sake of argument, I am willing to accept that the author believes in the two quoted thesis statements above, as written. In fact, there is confirmation by the author that the first thesis is a fair characterization of his own argument, despite the fact that the second thesis is something different. I want to underscore that because it's important for arguments to stem from common ground, logically built on it towards a conclusion through rigourous logical progression.

So let's build.

A note on language: The word 'controversial' is being used literally here to mean "in dispute", not "heated" or "drama-filled". Formally, we should not build on any premise in dispute, because that premise may be rejected at a later time, thus jeopardizing the entire branch of argument rooted in that premise, like cutting off a tree's limb at the base. Therefore, my argument will only use what I believe are incontrovertible or mutually-agreed premises, and the necessary consequences of those premises.

Premise 1: Hypothetically accept the assertion that children should not be taught that gender is a spectrum.

This is the author's first thesis, which he accepts is a fair characterization. For the sake of this argument, I am following as if this thesis, which I am disputing, is true. to demonstrate what happens if it is.

Premise 2: The alternate explanation for what we should teach children must then be a strict, mutually exclusive binary.

If we reject the range of identities between and outside the male-female paradigm, only male and female remain. The precipitating media of this whole firestorm implies this is a mutually-agreed premise, though of course, it's possible the author has changed his mind. So I consider this preliminarily non-controversial.

Premise 3: There exists a group of people whose genders fall outside the binary established in premise 2. We shall refer to this group as "nonbinary people" for the sake of clarity.

This is not controversial, though the reasons for the existence of nonbinary identities are. But everyone in this conversation agrees that nonbinary people exist. As per the previous journal entry:

" Trans, non-binary and intersex people, of course, do exist.

Premise 4: If nonbinary people exist, they are capable of existing in whatever context non-nonbinary people exist. There is nothing stopping nonbinary people from being teachers or caretakers of young students, parents of young students, or young students theirselves.

I would enjoy hearing arguments that attack this premise, but until then, let's consider this non-controversial.

Premise 5: Any person of any gender identity has the right to identify publicly as such.

I don't think this is controversial, though it might be. Again, as per the journal:

" ...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.

If there is no problem with having a nonbinary identity, there should be no problem with asserting that identity, publicly. No harm comes from someone simply stating who and what they are.

Premise 6: Admitting that nonbinary people exist also admits that gender is a spectrum.

I don't believe this can be controversial because it follows logically from the first two premises. If we consider two systems, one in which only two genders exist, and one in which a range of genders exist, and we admit the existence of a person whose gender is not among the two genders in the first system, we must then reject the first system and accept the second, as the first system has been shown to be incomplete. Only one system exists that can handle the existence of more than two genders.

At this point I would like to pause and say that I have not, to the best of my knowledge, misrepresented any part of the author's position in my attempt to collect it for analysis here. I don't want to misrepresent it. I want to represent it authentically, because I believe that it inevitably leads to conclusions that are abhorrent. I don't want to construct a straw man and then burn it down; I want to burn down the terrible, transphobic, bigoted arguments that have actually been made, regardless of whether the author thinks they are or not.

Now, to recap.

The interaction between premises 1 and 2 demonstrates, as per 6, that any evidence of a gender identity outside the strict binary would show that binary does not actually exist.

As per premise 3, there exist people who have identities that would disprove that binary.

As per premise 4, there is nothing stopping nonbinary people -- people whose identities disprove that binary -- from existing in a context where children also exist.

As per premise 5, they are free to call themselves nonbinary, and as per premise 6, this necessarily results in the rejection of the binary, because it's been demonstrated to be incomplete.

So if we accept the premise that children should not be taught that gender is a spectrum, which I remind everyone reading that everyone agrees is the position of the author, we now have a problem: There are people who exist who, if given access to children, would by their very presence risk teaching those children that gender is a spectrum just by existing. Therefore, the mere presence of those people would violate our original hypothetical, that children should not be taught that gender is a spectrum.

Thus, if we want to avoid teaching children that gender is a spectrum, we have no choice but to restrict those children's access to people who have those identities. We must either restrict nonbinary people from discussing their own identity in the presence of children (in violation of premise 5) or remove them from any context that children might exist in (in violation of premise 4). The existence of a nonbinary child (premise 3) singlehandedly contradicts half the other premises.

This isn't a misrepresentation of the author's point. It's an inevitable consequence of that point, drawn from assertions about the world that I believe both he and I accept. Even if he doesn't want it to be so, and even if he nominally disagrees with it, it doesn't mean that it's not part of his argument; it means there's a hole in his argument big enough to drive a Down With Cis bus through. He cannot take the moral stance that teaching children about the spectrum of gender is wrong without necessarily advocating for the erasure of those whose existence teaches children about the spectrum of gender.

If he doesn't want to advocate for that, he needs to adjust his position to something else.

I'm not playing games with words. I'm taking those words at face value and responding as if what he wrote is what he meant. And it turns out to be a sheer cliff. Once you take that first step, physics does the rest.

His attempt to resolve the contradictions in the first thesis is to state that he doesn't want children to be taught that their own gender is on a spectrum, which is his second thesis, so let's explore that next.

Premise 1: Hypothetically accept the premise that children should not be taught that their own gender exists on a spectrum.

This is the second thesis, and for the sake of argument, it's a mutually-accepted premise. Again, I dispute this, but I'm accepting it temporarily to show a necessary consequence of doing so.

Premise 2: The alternate explanation for what we should teach children about theirselves must then be a strict, mutually exclusive binary.

Premise 3: There exists a group of people whose genders fall outside the binary established in premise 2. We shall refer to this group as "nonbinary people" for the sake of clarity.

Premise 4: If nonbinary people exist, they are capable of existing in whatever context non-nonbinary people exist. There is nothing stopping nonbinary people from being teachers or caretakers of young students, parents of young students, or young students theirselves.

Premise 5: Any person of any gender identity has the right to identify publicly as such.

Premise 6: Admitting that nonbinary people exist also admits that gender is a spectrum.

Premises 3 through 6 are exactly the same, and thus, non-controversial for the same reasons as above. Premise 2 is adapted to account for the different thesis, but is otherwise the same, so I'm deeming it equally non-controversial.

Some consequences of this argument immediately become apparent as you explore the interactions between these premises. If we accept that nonbinary people exist, then just like in the previous argument, their presence demonstrates that gender exists on a spectrum. If we decide that children should not be taught that their own gender is on a spectrum, then these children now have two contradictory systems of gender to navigate; their own genders operate by different rules than that of the nonbinary group.

In addition, this is a naked falsehood to any nonbinary child. If we accept the premise that nonbinary children exist — and we have, per point 3 — then their identity is necessarily excluded from the system we would attempt to describe to them. We would have to either coercively deny that child's identity (in violation of point 5) or introduce a parallel system of gender we only teach to that child and children like them.

I would like to point out that in talking about this topic, it's clear that what the author means by "children" is "binary-identified children". It's telling that he shortens this to "children". I don't know that he admits the existence of nonbinary kids, or if he does, how he fits their existence into his position, except to say "they don't matter because they're too rare", which is a logical necessity of stating that binary gender is so overwhelmingly common that it should be privileged over other identities.

I'm also going to charitably assume that the author and I agree that, assuming an identity exists, we should accept it and not erase it, for the well-being of the person who holds that identity.

We cannot have two simultaneous, parallel systems for describing gender with no explanation as for why one group gets one system and another group gets another. That would be far more confusing to children than any one system.

In addition, let's say for the sake of argument that we do teach nonbinary children that their gender exists on a spectrum, and cis children that their gender is part of a strict binary.

We now have another problem: There is nothing stopping the nonbinary student from teaching the binary students about the more correct system, the same way any other nonbinary person would. Going back to the original assertion: It's wrong to teach students that their own gender exists on a spectrum. Therefore, we need a system in place to prevent the nonbinary student from explaining this system to their classmates, or to punish them for doing so.

I don't think it's a stretch to say that singling out a student for attempting to convey accurate information is unconscionable.

This seems like a stretch, but, it isn't. There's no part of this that doesn't follow logically from the premises as written, unless I've made a mistake somewhere, and I don't think I have.

So let's go back to the reply for a moment.

" So gender is only a spectrum if we also grant that every person claiming not to be male or female is absolutely correct in saying this and I don't see any evidence that they are.

First of all, being able to somehow disprove any individual identity exists doesn't mean the system that describes all the other identities is invalid. Second of all, these are his own words:

" I do state that in the technical sense, gender is a spectrum,

" If we want to be super pedantic, gender is a spectrum because it has a range of different data points.

I'm not misrepresenting him to quote his own words saying that gender is a spectrum, because he put those words in that order. He hems and haws about it, but he does not actually say that gender is not a spectrum. And since this argument is about the technicalities of gender, yes, I'm going to get technical about it.

In addition,

" Trans, non-binary and intersex people, of course, do exist.

I'm also not misrepresenting his words to claim he said that nonbinary people exist, except maybe if one wanted to split hairs about whether the word is a hyphenate or not (I don't). And I've said that if we accept the premise that nonbinary people exist, then gender has to be a spectrum. If he wants to dispute that, he's welcome to.

The other parts of his argument, the ones I haven't been focusing on, have largely been talking about things that only make sense if one does not already accept that nonbinary people exist and that gender is not actually a spectrum, but a strict binary. In fact, here, I can pull some quotes to demonstrate the, let's say, bimodal nature of his position:

" I do state that in the technical sense, gender is a spectrum, because in those terms it is, but this requires an assumption. We have to assume that those people who claim to not be either male or female are actually correct that they aren't.

" As for trans and non-binary, those whom are [sic] are born biologically in one way and feel emotionally to be another, but our emotional state is one hell of a poor measure of accuracy when it comes to our own identity.

" ...I'm opposing the gender spectrum narrative because I'm a stubborn asshole, not because I have a point.

Just to be clear, this is a sarcastic rejoinder, not an admission that he's a stubborn asshole. Though that is also true.

" Why don't YOU just accept that gender ISN'T a spectrum? Oh, wait.

What the author seems to mean when he says "of course nonbinary people exist" is that of course there are people who claim that nonbinary genders exist, and that those people identify under those genders. What he seems to mean when he says 'gender is technically a spectrum' is that it isn't, but nonbinary people claim it is, using their own genders as evidence.

But it's not my job to read into what he actually wrote and somehow take a diametrically opposed viewpoint from it. It's his to say what he means in the first place. In as many words, he accepted many, if not all of the premises I built my argument off of; if he wants to tell me that I've misrepresented the actual words he wrote, he's going to have to admit he made an error when he wrote them, or admit he changed his mind, or some other disavowal.

This argument isn't just strictly to determine who or what is right. I am literally having to put parts of it in check just to figure out what they are, because it's incoherent when taken as a whole.

So I offer the following questions, to help clarify matters:

1) How many genders do you unequivocally accept? By this I don't mean 'how many do you accept that other people identify under'; I mean how many do you actually accept as being as valid as 'man' and 'woman'? How many have been 'proven' to exist to you?

2) Restricting your paradigm of gender to only the genders you accept in 1), how do you explain those genders? Is it a binary or a spectrum? "technically" a spectrum is a spectrum, for the sake of this question. This is a technical discussion.

If you want to talk about gender, let's talk about gender. But I'm going to get you to state your actual position without mealy-mouthed equivocation about "oh I support nonbinary people, they can call themselves what they want" first. Either we're just as valid as men and women are, in which case large swaths of your subsequent position are irrelevant, or we aren't, and your reassurances that you support us are empty.

That opinion does not exist on a spectrum.


As a coda, I want to respond to a thing he wrote on its own, separately from the rest.

" If you are a non-binary person or have gender dysphoria then you will obviously know first fucking hand how emotionally confusing and traumatic that is. Don't you see that you're advocating making that SAME PROBLEM a part of EVERY CHILD'S life? For what? To make you feel better about yourself? You do not fuck with people like that for your own god damn satisfaction and I'm sorry to say this but wishing it to happen makes you either a fool or legitimately malicious.

When I was thirteen, during a walk with my mother, I told her that sometimes I felt like a girl. Her response was to say 'oh', and then, 'do you feel like doing anything about that?' I said no, because, what could I do about it? It was just a fact about me, like the fact that my hair naturally went grey at an early age. I didn't know what I was allowed to do about that knowledge.

It took me another 11 years to figure it out. I can remember the day exactly, it was Christmas. I had just gotten through talking to my girlfriend at the time, and I was contemplating my own identity and existence. I still couldn't resolve that part of me, couldn't quite figure it out.

And kind of all at once, it kind of hit me. I'd seen trans characters in fiction before, but they always seemed somewhat distant from me, like I wasn't allowed to identify that way. I accepted that they existed, I enjoyed media that had them, I felt confusingly resonant with what they felt... but that wasn't me, I thought.

What hit me was that there was no reason it couldn't be me. That I could just... be a girl sometimes.

When we talk about things that are confusing and traumatic, it's the lack of any kind of framework for our own feelings that traumatizes us. The idea that we're somehow broken, that we're failures at our assumed gender, that we're freaks, unloveable, all sorts of things. What saves us is the idea that we can put a name to what we feel.

To tell children that their gender — whatever gender they say they are, even 'boy' or 'girl' — is one among many isn't that. No parallel exists, no matter how often this person screams that it does. It doesn't erase the possibility of you from existence, for you to wonder what's wrong with you until later on, you realize you've been lied to.

All it does it contextualize your identity in a wider framework, one that maybe makes more sense to you than the words you've been using to describe yourself, or one that helps you understand what a classmate or teacher says when they say they're a girl sometimes.

That's why this subject is important to me, and why I've spent so much time responding to it. I could have had an 11-year head start on where I am right now, if I knew that 'genderfluid' was a thing I was allowed to be. I want to give those 11 years to the next kid who has no language to understand what they feel. I want it to be so natural to them that they don't even think about it. Something that is a part of their environment since birth, as natural as anybody else. Just... something you can be. And there'd be no trauma in embodying what they've always known about theirselves, in struggling towards the identity that fits them without even knowing that's what they're doing.

Problem is, we don't know who those people are until they tell us.

So we're going to have to tell everybody.

You made a fundamental mistake in writing this passage, Roarey. You tried to tell me what my own experience is.

And just like everywhere else, but perhaps more obviously, you have

not the slightest idea

what you're talking about.
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Added: 1 year, 10 months ago
1 year, 10 months ago
I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I'm terribly sorry you had to deal with this nonsensical and actively toxic argument at all. There's no reason you (or indeed anyone else) should have to do this. But I also find myself glad that you did, if only so that I have a reference for the next time I'm forced to engage with this kind of erasure and toxicity myself. You did so with more in the way of levelheaded logic than I'm generally able to muster.

Thank you.
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