• czahar
    59
    Is calling a trans woman a man (or vice versa --- i.e., calling a trans man a woman) a form of violence?

    I came upon an article in Think Progress which quoted Laverne Cox — an actress in Orange Is The New Black — saying, “ When a trans woman is called a man, that is an act of violence.”

    This line was also quoted and supported on the intersectional feminist website, Everyday Feminism, in an article entitled “5 Lies People Love to Tell Activists About Violence – And Why You Shouldn’t Believe Them.”

    The author of article, xoai pham [name spelled with all lowercase letters by the author] defended this statement by saying:

    Trans women die at the hands of people who believe this, who believe that they aren’t valid or real. That they’re pretenders, dangerous impostors.

    When a trans woman is called a man, the culture that threatens trans women’s lives is reinforced. Many trans women of color barely make it past their 30s; their average age of death mirrors the life expectancy of a baby born more than 5000 years ago.

    When people support the conditions that create violence, they are also committing violence. They’re simply ensuring that someone else will be doing the work of murder.
    — xoai pham

    (Note: I will use “they” and “them” because those are the author’s preferred pronouns).

    I have a hard time swallowing pham’s argument. Supporting the conditions that create violence does not necessarily mean one is committing violence. Indeed, religion creates the conditions necessary for religious violence, but would someone be committing violence by saying she believes in God? I would bet that most people, even the staunchest atheists, would say “no.”

    Some may point out that a belief in God does not necessarily lead to killing in the name of God. I would agree. But the same could be said about not believing trans women are women. Even if I didn’t believe they were “real” men or women (and I’m not saying I do or don’t), I could certainly still respect their humanity. If my wife said she was a cat, I wouldn’t believe her, but I also wouldn’t support any violence against her.

    Readers might say that my cat example is absurd, considering there is no history of violence against people who believe they are cats. But I would just respond with my religion example. There is, after all, a history of religious violence. In fact, it’s probably far older and has taken far more lives than transphobia has. It's still killing many innocent people today, too.

    None of this is to say that saying a trans woman is a man (and vice versa) can never be a form of violence. I may be driven to commit acts of violence against trans people because I believe they are not "real." I may even be able to inspire others to do the same.

    But greed can also drive me to commit acts of violence, but greed is not considered violent.

    In closing, my argument is a reductio ad absurdum. Sure, you can believe that the statement "trans women are men (or vice versa)" is a form of violence because it supports conditions that create violence, but then you would also have to accept (the absurd conclusion) that by having religious beliefs and making religious statements you are also supporting the conditions that create violence.

    And I just don't think many people --- even the most vitriolic atheists --- would want to accept that conclusion.
  • Bitter Crank
    7.7k
    I have known a number of transsexuals over the last 40 years. I have respected their decision to present themselves as they have, and have used the matching pronoun.

    While respecting their persons, I do not believe that a person can become the opposite sex, however. One can play the role, dress the role, think the role, and so forth, but biology trumps gender theory. A transsexual woman is a man who has taken hormones which produce feminization of the male body. A transsexual man is a woman who has taken hormones which produce masculinization of the female body. Stop the hormones, and the body reverts to its normal state.

    We can distinguish between treatments that lend an air of verisimilitude to a desired gender change and an impossible gender change. My view will be hotly rejected by most transsexuals. Some will brand me as transphobic, misogynist, hateful, violent, and so forth. This is to be expected. We live in a period when extremes of ideology demand acceptance, and refusal to accept leads to denunciations.

    Still and all, transsexuals are persons, and I'll continue to grant them respect as persons. I don't have agree with anyone's ideology.
  • Andrew4Handel
    1.2k
    I think this kind of claim is confusing and psychologically manipulative and also could dilute the notion of violence.

    Trying to censor what people say because you find their words hurtful prevents proper arguments. Anyone can claim some words upset them and were hence an act of violence.

    Personally I don't need society to reinforce my gender identity or sexuality. I think it is impractical to police society so that people feel endorsed by everyone.

    Ironically xoai pham says in another article that she is gender nonconformist. So I don't see how you can transgender someone without a transparent gender identity.

    It seems like victims politics for me because for example when people opposed gay marriage I don't think that meant they endorsed violence against gays and it was possible to argue for gay marriage and against your opponents without allegations of supporting violence.
  • T Clark
    3.2k
    I think this kind of claim is confusing and psychologically manipulative and also could dilute the notion of violence.Andrew4Handel

    This was the first thing I thought of when I read the post. There are words that mean strong things, that can grab your attention, can move people. When we dilute their meaning, we are left unable to speak strongly enough when we really need to.
  • Cavacava
    2.4k


    At what point do you start calling a man a woman, if you know they are going through a change of gender. From the get go, or do you wait until the change is manifest, or perhaps just ask them what they prefer to be called. My friends name is Dana which makes this a little easier, I tend to avoid referential pronouns at this point with Dana.
  • Akanthinos
    1k
    I have a hard time swallowing pham’s argument. Supporting the conditions that create violence does not necessarily mean one is committing violenceczahar

    You have to understand the degree of danger. In the U.S, a trans person is 14 times more likely to be murdered than a non-trans person. There have been wars which were less dangerous to soldiers. So, given the situation, I feel it's okay if we use a very dramatic language, because it is a very dramatic situation.

    I have a friend who is currently transitioning. It is hard because on many accounts I feel like I'm losing my friend, because he is changing into the kind of woman which I wouldn't really want as a friend. In a way, I also find his attitude somewhat insulting toward women, because he acts as a caricature of a women in many aspect. I have been told it's normal at the beginning, as transwomen try to get into a more "feminine" mindstate, to overact a lot....

    But anyways, what is clear, though, is that I have to change even my smallest linguistic habit. Just adding 'man' or 'dude' in the middle of a sentence, even as emphasis, will make him flinch visibly. A client called him 'sir' about a dozen times in a call the other night and he had tears in his eyes. From what I can see, trans who start down this road "feel", in a very real way, like we feel jealousy or anger or pain, that refusing to recognize their transition is psychological violence.
  • unenlightened
    3.6k
    Is calling a woman a man or vice versa a form of violence?

    Well think about it, girls; does it get your knickers wet? Does it give you the vapours? Do you feel entitled to have your gender acknowledged?
  • BlueBanana
    903
    biology trumps gender theoryBitter Crank

    To me the relationship between the gender theory and biological sexes resembles a lot that between religion and science: ignorant people think they contradict each other. They don't.
  • T Clark
    3.2k
    But anyways, what is clear, though, is that I have to change even my smallest linguistic habit. Just adding 'man' or 'dude' in the middle of a sentence, even as emphasis, will make him flinch visibly. A client called him 'sir' about a dozen times in a call the other night and he had tears in his eyes. From what I can see, trans who start down this road "feel", in a very real way, like we feel jealousy or anger or pain, that refusing to recognize their transition is psychological violence.Akanthinos

    There's a general rule of human kindness - protect vulnerable people. There is no doubt that transgender people are very vulnerable and deserve protection. Another general rule, more like a guideline actually - call people what they want to be called. Up until a year ago, as far as we knew, my sister's child was a 17-year-old man. They, as they like to be called, is transitioning to, not a woman, but a person with no gender. My sister and her husband have been devastated, not because they don't love their child and want them to be happy, but because they feel as if they've lost someone they love. That they never even knew someone who is so important to them.

    On the other hand, it is my understanding that less than 1/2 of 1% of people in the US are transgender. Black people, who make up more than 10% of our population, lived in slavery and Jim Crow tyranny for centuries and have only recently started to be granted the respect they deserve. It won't take that long for transgender people, but it will take time. The nation won't, and shouldn't have to, turn on a dime and be expected to change such traditional ways of thinking overnight. It's not realistic.

    Saying that calling a transgender woman a man is violence is an insult to all those who were enslaved, lynched, murdered, tyrannized. It makes me angry.
  • Akanthinos
    1k
    On the other hand, it is my understanding that less than 1/2 of 1% of people in the US are transgender. Black people, who make up more than 10% of our population,T Clark

    The fuck does that have to do with anything?

    If a black person ask of you not to call him 'a black man' because he finds that to be insulting, does refusing to do so constitute psychological violence? I'd say yes. Its the kind of shit attitude that bullies have.
  • charleton
    1.2k
    Is calling a trans woman a man (or vice versa --- i.e., calling a trans man a woman) a form of violence?czahar

    People like to be called by the thing they like to self identify by. Anything else is violence.
  • Buxtebuddha
    1.8k
    No, but it'd be rude.
  • T Clark
    3.2k
    The fuck does that have to do with anything?

    If a black person ask of you not to call him 'a black man' because he finds that to be insulting, does refusing to do so constitute psychological violence? I'd say yes. Its the kind of shit attitude that bullies have.
    Akanthinos

    Here's a definition of violence - Behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.

    All the definitions I could find use the same terms - "physical force", "hurt, damage, or kill." If you are saying that calling a transgender woman a man is the same thing as using physical force to hurt, damage, or kill her, then ...well...I'm trying to think of what to say without insulting you. Sorry, I got nothing.
  • T Clark
    3.2k
    People like to be called by the thing they like to self identify by. Anything else is violence.charleton

    Since this is a philosophy forum, a lot of very silly things get written. Some may actually be sillier than what you wrote, but I'm not sure.
  • czahar
    59
    You have to understand the degree of danger. In the U.S, a trans person is 14 times more likely to be murdered than a non-trans person. There have been wars which were less dangerous to soldiers. So, given the situation, I feel it's okay if we use a very dramatic language, because it is a very dramatic situation.Akanthinos

    I am not sure what you mean by "dramatic language" here. Do you mean "exaggerated language"?

    I am also not sure if the high rate of transphobic murders would matter here. Men are killed at far higher rates than women, but does that make it violence to say something untrue about men?

    No, but it'd be rude.Buxtebuddha

    It depends on the situation, I think.
  • czahar
    59
    People like to be called by the thing they like to self identify by. Anything else is violence.charleton

    Why do you feel that way? Would it be violence to tell a white woman who thinks she's black that she's not black?
  • charleton
    1.2k

    How many white women do you know calling themselves black?
    If she feels that way they yes, you would probably be doing her violence.
  • Buxtebuddha
    1.8k
    It depends on the situation, I think.czahar

    Words in themselves aren't violent, though. Certainly the situation in which misuse of pronouns occurs depends on who is misusing the pronouns and why, but that still doesn't make the misuse violent.
  • T Clark
    3.2k
    You have to understand the degree of danger. In the U.S, a trans person is 14 times more likely to be murdered than a non-trans person. There have been wars which were less dangerous to soldiers. So, given the situation, I feel it's okay if we use a very dramatic language, because it is a very dramatic situation.Akanthinos

    I went on the web and tried to find information about the murder rate for transgender people in the US. The stories were conflicting. One page said that one in 12 transgender people are murdered. Another said that the murder rate for transgender people is lower than for a normal woman and much lower than for a normal man. There seems to be agreement that about 25 transgender people are killed each year. I'm sure there is underreporting, but let's use that. From various sources, I get that there are about 1 to 1.5 million transgender people in the country. Using the lower number, that gives a murder rate of 2.5 per 100,000 people. Wikipedia says the overall murder rate in the US is 5.3 per 100,000.

    The transgender murder rate in some other countries, especially in South and Central America, is much worse.
  • Bitter Crank
    7.7k
    I use the pronoun that matches their stated destination (he, his, him if F to M, she, her, hers if M to F, or ask. Personally, I'm not willing to use made up pronouns. I use they. theirs, and them when referencing more than one transsexual.
  • T Clark
    3.2k
    I use the pronoun that matches their stated destination (he, his, him if F to M, she, her, hers if M to F, or ask. Personally, I'm not willing to use made up pronouns. I use they. theirs, and them when referencing more than one transsexual.Bitter Crank

    This probably says something negative about me, but the violence to grammar bothers me more than the sexual identify issue.
  • Bitter Crank
    7.7k
    because he is changing into the kind of woman which I wouldn't really want as a friend. In a way, I also find his attitude somewhat insulting toward women, because he acts as a caricature of a women in many aspect. I have been told it's normal at the beginning, as transwomen try to get into a more "feminine" mindstate, to overact a lot....Akanthinos

    To some extent, transsexuality (especially M to F) is a "drag" performance, and great drag requires lots of practice. Most transsexuals are not well off, and have to work with what they can afford. If a transsexual was wealthy, they could afford great clothes, great hair, private lessons, and so on. They wouldn't be going to work in their perhaps rattly looking used-clothing store outfits and absurd wigs on the bus, getting taunted by the teenagers. For the average person, it takes real guts to pull off an act like that.

    In Am J Public Health. 2017 February; 107(2): e1–e8 the authors using meta-analysis determined that the rate of transsexuality was 390 per 100,000, or 1.25 million total.

    Compared with the general population, a national survey conducted in the United States in 2008 found that transgender individuals were 4 times more likely to live in extreme poverty, had double the rate of unemployment, and had almost double the rate of being homeless.4 In terms of health, transgender individuals had 4 times the rate of being HIV-infected and 28% postponed medical care because of discrimination. Particularly alarming is that 41% of survey respondents reported at least 1 suicide attempt. — NCBI cited

    This probably says something negative about me, but the violence to grammar bothers me more than the sexual identify issue.T Clark

    "Transsexual" is busy taking on new, vague, novel, and nonsensical meanings, so the number of self-identified "transsexuals" is likely to rise, especially the category for which the only therapy is the torture of ordinary language.
  • Bitter Crank
    7.7k
    How many white women do you know calling themselves black?charleton

    Well, there was this one, at least:

    Rachel Dolezal: ‘I’m not going to stoop and apologise and grovel’
    Two years ago, she was a respected black rights activist and teacher. Then she was exposed as a white woman who had deceived almost everyone she knew. Why did she do it?
    — Guardian
  • T Clark
    3.2k
    "Transsexual" is busy taking on new, vague, novel, and nonsensical meanings, so the number of self-identified "transsexuals" is likely to rise, especially the category for which the only therapy is the manipulation of ordinary language.Bitter Crank

    I know a young 18 year old woman. She has led a very unhappy childhood. She has a very hard time making friends. She lives deep in a fantasy world. Just watching her behavior, it's clear she is deeply depressed. Lost. Her adoptive new-agey mother doesn't believe in therapy. She takes her to aromatherapy. The young woman very strongly identifies with manga superheroes. She has started to refer to herself as a boy and considers herself transgender.

    I'm not saying she is not really transgender, but before that designation can be taken seriously, it should be made by a person who has a stable foundation to stand on. She needs guidance and protection. I worry that the increased ease in using the transgender designation will make it easier for people like her to make this kind of decision without reflection or an understanding of the condequences.
  • Hanover
    4.5k
    She needs guidance and protection. I worry that the increased ease in using the transgender designation will make it easier for people like her to make this kind of decision without reflection or an understanding of the condequences.T Clark

    There's also the problem that sexual reassignment surgery is not therapeutic and doesn't reduce depression or suicide. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0016885.
  • Akanthinos
    1k
    Here's a definition of violence - Behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.T Clark

    Here's another : La violence est l’utilisation de force ou de pouvoir, physique ou psychique, pour contraindre, dominer, tuer, détruire ou endommager. https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violence

    Translation : Violence is the use of force or power, physical or psychological, to impose constraints, dominate, kill, destroy or damage.

    This probably says something negative about me, but the violence to grammar bothers me more than the sexual identify issue.T Clark

    Yup, this is a pretty fucking idiotic attitude to have. Especially more to be conscious about.
  • JustSomeGuy
    307
    And I just don't think many people --- even the most vitriolic atheists --- would want to accept that conclusion.czahar

    I wouldn't be so sure about that; I could absolutely see the more "fundamentalist" atheists agreeing with that conclusion. The anti-theists.

    While respecting their persons, I do not believe that a person can become the opposite sex, however. One can play the role, dress the role, think the role, and so forth, but biology trumps gender theory. A transsexual woman is a man who has taken hormones which produce feminization of the male body. A transsexual man is a woman who has taken hormones which produce masculinization of the female body. Stop the hormones, and the body reverts to its normal state.

    We can distinguish between treatments that lend an air of verisimilitude to a desired gender change and an impossible gender change. My view will be hotly rejected by most transsexuals. Some will brand me as transphobic, misogynist, hateful, violent, and so forth. This is to be expected. We live in a period when extremes of ideology demand acceptance, and refusal to accept leads to denunciations.

    Still and all, transsexuals are persons, and I'll continue to grant them respect as persons. I don't have agree with anyone's ideology.
    Bitter Crank

    I could not agree more with everything you said. I have only known a few transgender women and one transgender man, but I always used the pronouns they preferred. I think that's just common courtesy. But I really wish we could be more honest about the reality of things, and acknowledge the fact that transgender people in general are in serious need of help. The suicide rate is alarmingly high, and when I read things like this...

    Just adding 'man' or 'dude' in the middle of a sentence, even as emphasis, will make him flinch visibly. A client called him 'sir' about a dozen times in a call the other night and he had tears in his eyes.Akanthinos

    ...it makes me so sad knowing that instead of truly helping these people, we're going along with their delusion. Some of you may think I'm horrible for calling it that, but believing you are a male when you are in fact a female (or vice versa) is, by definition, a delusion. And there is clearly a lot of psychological harm done to the individual due to this inconsistency. I have a male friend with a voice that is higher than usual for a man, and he has been called "ma'am" during phone conversations very often throughout his entire life. It doesn't cause him to flinch or bring him to tears; reacting in such a way to something so insignificant would be a sign of real psychological problems. I'm not saying all trans people have these issues, two of the few I've known didn't care when people got their pronouns wrong. But we can't ignore the statistics on suicide and depression. I feel nothing but love for transgender people, and I understand how difficult their lives are, which is why it seriously pains me to see how society is handling the issue. And because the violence, murder, suicide, and depression rates all continue to rise, clearly our approach isn't working.

    Also, for the record, this...

    You have to understand the degree of danger. In the U.S, a trans person is 14 times more likely to be murdered than a non-trans person.Akanthinos

    ...is incorrect. I don't know where you got that number, but I've checked many sources and they all clearly show that the overall trans murder rate in the U.S. is lower than the cisgender murder rate. However, a subset of trans people--specifically black and latino transfeminine individuals--do have a higher murder rate than cisgenders. But it's still nowhere near 14 times higher.

    As for the actual topic of the discussion, no, I do not believe using the wrong pronoun constitutes violence. That's as absurd as claiming you can rape a woman by looking at her. We can say it is abuse to use the wrong pronoun, but not violence. We've gotten far too wishy-washy with language as of late, and I honestly worry about the ramifications.
  • Joshs
    658
    You haven't addressed the issue of whether one can distinguish between bodily gender(genitalia, facial hair, bone structure, etc) and psychological gender( cognitive-affective processing differences correlated with masculinized va feminized behaviors ).
    Can one be inessence a psychological woman in a man's body?
  • Joshs
    658
    I'll ask you the same question I asked Bitter Crank. Can one distinguish between bodily gender(genitalia, facial hair, bone structure, etc) and psychological gender( cognitive-affective processing differences correlated with masculinized va feminized behaviors )?
    Can one be in essence a psychological woman in a man's body?
    Within the gay community for instance there is a broad spectrum, from masculine acting men tom men who fronthe time they were very young, spoke and walked and gestured in feminized ways, and had interested normally associated with females.
  • ProbablyTrue
    192
    Yup, this is a pretty fucking idiotic attitude to have.Akanthinos

    The fuck does that have to do with anything?Akanthinos

    Its the kind of shit attitude that bullies have.Akanthinos

    I don't think language can be violence, but if I did this would probably qualify.
  • Joshs
    658
    language that posits irreducible distinctions ( man vs woman, etc) is a kind of violent language. To verbalize, and believe in, sharp distinctions is to see alternate views as violating those irreducible distinctions, and justifying a response that counteracts that presumed violation. Physical violence against LGBT's always begins as verbal violence. Of course, verbally articulated irreducible distinctions of that sort don't necessarily lead to physical violence, although they likely lead to forms of disapproval, rejection, etc. , which is another kind of violence.
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