What's the Harm?
Someone recently asked me on Twitter: "what are the dangers of calling a trans person by the name or pronouns they wish?"
Here's my answer: I usually call other people by the names they wish, because that is something I do in general to everyone. I have friends who do not identify as trans who have started going by different names, and I oblige them, so I do so with trans persons. I understand not everybody adopts this view, but that is what I've decided. I take a different stance when it comes to pronouns. What I call the "preferred pronoun" view encourages the other person to persist in an identity and adopt ideas that are harmful. Ideas have consequences. In this case, feelings and perceptions don’t determine reality. Adopting the preferred pronouns view encourages the falsehood that feelings and perceptions *do* determine reality. Encouraging this sows confusion--it makes it much more likely that the other person will go down the path of medical interventions--conversion therapy of the body, rejecting their body and thus adopting a kind of body hatred--that have dire negative consequences: sterility, later problems with sexual functioning, cutting off healthy body parts, etc, etc. Its a long list.
We don’t act this way in parallel areas. That is, we don’t generally insist someone’s self-perception, self-description, and self-identity must be affirmed and refusal to affirm is “fear,” “bigotry,” “hatred,” or something of that sort. If someone is suffering from anorexia, body integrity identity disorder, or even something we think is relatively harmless, like identifying as an animal (all those are real scenarios, not contrived)--in other words, when someone’s perceptions are at odds with biological reality--we don’t say “go along with it. What does it harm you?”
Here, here, and here are testimonies that touch upon some of the sordid details. There are so, so many of these! Those who've adopted gender ideology usually respond to this by saying "that's a tiny proportion of the whole," which 1) no, and 2) its irrelevant--I don't recall them saying the same thing when the trans population was less than .1% of the total pop--but for real, how many of these will it take before they pump the brakes a tad? The common thread of detrans folks, something almost every one of them say, is “I wish, when I was going through all this, someone loved me enough to tell me the truth, and get me to slow down. What I got instead was immediate and unquestioned affirmation and celebration of something that did me much harm. Now, I’m living with the lifelong consequences.” The affirmation of their desires they received did not address their underlying issues. It just made them a lifelong medical patient. Their numbers are growing. Lawsuits are coming. Thank goodness. Hopefully it stops or at least slows down the harm.
Gender ideology just confuses people everywhere, not just trans folks. Someone literally is a woman just because that person *thinks* they are a woman? That is absurd, and saying its absurd is no less compassionate than saying someone isn’t a dragon just because they think they are one (like my other examples, this refers to a real person that was featured in the curriculum at my school a few years back).
Here's the upshot of this confusion: those who buy into this ideology cannot even define what a woman is. If you cannot define a category, you cannot defend it. If you cannot define what a woman is, you cannot defend women's rights. That is a societal harm on a monumental scale.
Gender ideologues also need to defend their own views, not just assert them confidently. One of the many questions they need to face square on is: are there any limiting principle to your stance? Are there any preferred identities you *won’t* go along with? In other words, when it comes to someone's self description, is there a point in which you say "eh, no, I'm not going to say that"? If yes, why? If you go along with she/her, but not vamp/vampself or bunn/bunnself (actual neo-pronouns recently featured in the NYT), why the inconsistency? If you say "that's just silly," well: that's not for you to decide, is it? (this is a favorite line gender ideologues like to use on a guy like me. Sauce for the goose--sauce for the gander) Remember: identity is self-chosen. That's your view. If you let that camel's nose in the tent, it is hard to avoid ending up sleeping next to a camel. Another question that looms large here is this: when someone’s perceptions are at odds with their body--when there is a mismatch between body and mind (This is something we both agree is happening with trans folks)--why must the solution be changing the body to fit the mind? That is a rather drastic form of conversion therapy. Why should they reject their bodies?