• Bartricks
    2.5k
    Can you change your sex? I think so.

    But even if you can't - and I'll explain (but not endorse) why that might be the case - all this will do is show why it is irrelevant what sex you actually are, as opposed to what sex you are otherwise indistinguishable from.

    Anyway, here's why I think you can change your sex (and why the whole 'sex' 'gender' distinction is a distraction).

    Some think one's sex is determined by the composition of one's physical body (either surface features, or deep features - chromosomal structure, say - or some combination or disjunction).

    If that's true, then it seems quite obvious that sex can be changed. For no physical object seems to have any of its features - apart from mere extension - invariably, and thus any physical object's properties can be changed. That which is square can be made spherical; that which is red can be made blue; that which is small can be made bigger, and that which is male can be made female. So, if sex is physically determined, that doesn't imply it can't be changed. Indeed, quite the opposite: if sex is physical 'of course' it can be changed (though we might differ on just what needs to be changed).

    The same applies if we expand the concept of sex so that it incorporates things such as roles and attitudes and that kind of thing. For these are no less fixed than physical features. So if one insists that sex is a complex composite of physical and social features, then sex is no less changeable for that.

    The same applies if one denies physicality any role and one grounds sex entirely in social roles and attitudes and that kind of thing. Again, they can be changed, and thus sex - which has now become synonymous with gender - can be changed.

    Conclusion: You can change your sex if sex is determined by one's physical features (no matter what physical features these may be). And you can change your sex if sex is socially constructed (either partly, or wholly).

    That leaves considerable room for debate over exactly 'what' you need to change in order to transition from one sex to another. But that debate is now no longer over whether it is possible, just over what it takes.

    There is an exception, it seems to me. And that would be if sex has an essential historical component. Take, for instance, the idea that being sex A rather than sex B is determined by an event in one's past, such as by having been born with a particular physicality, irrespective of whether one still possesses it now. In that case 'sex' is like being a family member or a genuine van gogh. It is a historical fact about me that I am a certain couple's offspring - and that is a fact I seem unable to do anything to change. No matter how much I change my body, or my attitudes, or my roles, it will still be true that I am that particular couple's offspring. Or take a 'genuine' Van gogh. A 'genuine' van gogh painting has to have the historical property of being a product of Van Gogh's hand. An otherwise identical painting that he did not produce is not a genuine van gogh, but a replica.

    If sex has, as an essential historical component, that one be born with a certain kind of body, then even though someone might now possess a body that is in every other way indistinguishable from a body of that kind, one would not qualify as a member of that sex if one was not born that way, just as an otherwise indistinguishable Sunflowers painting does not qualify as a Van Gogh Sunflowers painting if van Gogh didn't paint it.

    However, whether sex does, or does not have an essential historical component, it seems to me to be irrelevant to all those issues over which there is so much heated debate at the moment.

    For example, how plausible is it to maintain that a person who was born male, must continue to use male toilets even though they are now indistinguishable from a woman in every way apart from historically? That seems absurd - as absurd as thinking that a perfect replica of a van gogh painting will not be as good a decoration as a genuine one. (It will be exactly as good a decoration, for it only differs from a genuine one in a way that is irrelevant to its decorative qualities).

    So, it seems to me that you can change your sex if sex is a function of your physical features, and you can change your sex if sex is a mixture of your physical features and social roles, and you can change your sex if sex is wholly a matter of social roles. But matters are different if sex has an essential historical component (such as 'being born with a certain set of physical features'), because we are not able to change the past. However, as well as being controversial (it is far from obvious that sex 'does' have an essential historical feature) it seems beside the point given that on the larger issues that divide people, this feature's presence or absence is irrelevant. For example, what kind of toilet you can be admitted to, what kind of positive discrimination policies you are entitled to benefit from; what kind of prison you should be sent to - well, the historical feature's presence or absence has no plausibly bearing on any of those matters.
  • fishfry
    1.8k
    Can you change your sex? I think so.Bartricks

    Why is Caitlyn Jenner celebrated and Rachel Dolezal excoriated? 'Splain me that. It's a puzzler.
  • khaled
    2.5k
    That leaves considerable room for debate over exactly 'what' you need to change in order to transition from one sex to anotherBartricks

    And that is exactly the problem. Strictly speaking, you'd have to change every cell in your body to include two X chromosomes instead of a Y and an X or vice versa. We cannot do that yet and that's why many people think current "sex change surgeries" insufficient
  • Bartricks
    2.5k
    But they could be changed. So someone who thinks sex is determined at the chromosomal level does not think that sex can't be changed, just that it's really difficult to change it.

    I'm sceptical they're right. But let's imagine they are and that being female is a bit like being water (you need to be made of H2o to qualify as water, and some substance that is otherwise indistinguishable from water yet does not possess that chemical composition is not, strictly speaking water - it is Twater - even though virtually everyone might mistake it for some and it can perform all the same roles etc).

    Okay, well that too would be irrelevant to all the issues that divide people. Why, for instance, should someone who is otherwise indistinguishable from a woman be stopped from using a female toilet? Their cells don't have the right chromosomal structure? That seems absurd. That would be like insisting that tea shouldn't be made with Twater, only water, even though Twater tastes exactly the same as water and imparts exactly the same flavour as water to anything to which it is added.
  • khaled
    2.5k
    Why, for instance, should someone who is otherwise indistinguishable from a woman be stopped from using a female toilet?Bartricks

    I don't think many hold that position. I think most have a problem with people that vaguely somewhat resemble women asking to use women's bathrooms or vice versa.

    Their cells don't have the right chromosomal structure?Bartricks

    Yes because this would have side effects such as: Making them very distinguishable from someone who was born female. If somehow you could fix the hormonal imbalances without changing the chromosomes, sure, but that sounds even harder to do.

    People don't usually have a problem with changing sex. They have a problem with the current degree to which we can accomplish this feat and they see it as inadequate for being considered legitimate.
  • Bartricks
    2.5k
    Yes because this would have side effects such as: Making them very distinguishable from someone who was born female. If somehow you could fix the hormonal imbalances without changing the chromosomes, sure, but that sounds even harder to do.khaled

    You're not addressing the example, though. Someone who thinks that your sex is determined by the chromosomal structure of your cells doesn't think your visual properties determine your sex. Someone who looked exactly like a stereotypical woman but whose cells had the wrong chromosomal structure would be deemed a man and not permitted entry to that bathroom. Which, I am saying, is absurd.

    I don't think many hold that position. I think most have a problem with people that vaguely somewhat resemble women asking to use women's bathrooms or vice versa.khaled

    I think many do hold that position. But anyway, the revised position hat you are proposing is that women's toilets are therefore not for women strictly speaking (on this definition of a woman, that is - a woman now being someone whose cells have a certain chromosomal structure), but for those who look a certain way. But then those who satisfy the visual criteria should be admitted, regardless of their actual sex, surely?
  • khaled
    2.5k
    Someone who looked exactly like a stereotypical woman but whose cells had the wrong chromosomal structure would be deemed a man and not permitted entry to that bathroom. Which, I am saying, is absurd.Bartricks

    Agreed. Those things are interconnected though. That's what I'm pointing out. You can't be indistinguishable from a woman/man visually without having the right chromosomal structure

    But then those who satisfy the visual criteria should be admitted, regardless of their actual sex, surely?Bartricks

    Not just visual. If a guy puts on enough makeup and crossdresses to be indistinguishable from a woman I don't think he should be allowed do you?
  • Bartricks
    2.5k
    Agreed. Those things are interconnected though. That's what I'm pointing out. You can't be indistinguishable from a woman/man visually without having the right chromosomal structurekhaled

    No, there is no necessary connection between the two, as your subsequent comment acknowledges"

    If a guy puts on enough makeup and crossdresses to be indistinguishable from a womankhaled

    My whole point is that the toilet issue is irrelevant. Whatever reason you give that could plausibly justify stopping that person from going into the female toilets, it won't make essential reference to the chromosomal structure of his cells.

    So who should and should not be let into which toilet is an issue that isn't plausibly about chromosomes. So if one's sex is determined by chromosomes - either partly or entirely - then that debate isn't about sex, but something else.
  • Bartricks
    2.5k
    Why is Caitlyn Jenner celebrated and Rachel Dolezal excoriated? 'Splain me that. It's a puzzler.fishfry

    Having now looked up who those people are, I think the best explanation is that race clearly does have an essential historical component, whereas sex - it would seem - does not.
  • khaled
    2.5k
    , it won't make essential reference to the chromosomal structure of his cells.Bartricks

    True

    So who should and should not be let into which toilet is an issue that isn't plausibly about chromosomesBartricks

    As I said, these things are interconnected. Maybe in some possible future there will be a time where we can somehow divorce the chromosomal structure from the visual and behavioral aspect of a person. That’s not the case though. No the problem Isn’t about chromosomes per se but without changing the chromosomes there is no real solution.

    So if one's sex is determined by chromosomes - either partly or entirely - then that debate isn't about sex, but something else.Bartricks

    Sure
  • Gregory
    2.3k
    Does the genitals or the rest of the the body define one's sex? There are lots of hermaphrodites born in India and the orient. A number get into porn because there is a big market for them
  • Bartricks
    2.5k
    I addressed this in the OP. One view about sex is that it is wholly determined by your physical features (of which the genital view would be one).

    My point is not that such views are true, but that sex would clearly be changeable if they were true. As it would be if any other view were true apart from the 'historical' one.
  • Bitter Crank
    9.2k
    Can you change your sex? I think so.Bartricks

    Can you make a silk purse out of a sow's ear? I think not.

    Here is a picture of a silk purse. Below the purse is a picture of a sow's ear. Vive la différence!

    compose?brand=dior&model=my_lady_dior_satin&p=base:satin:bleu_azur&p=shadow:default:default&size=718&initials=

    depositphotos_18778825-stock-photo-curious-cute-pigs.jpg


    I think the best explanation is that race clearly does have an essential historical component, whereas sex - it would seem - does not.Bartricks

    It seems to me that you have reached for the wrong comparison here. Among progressives (who are all in favor of loosely defined gender definitions) there is very strong support for the idea that race is an arbitrary social construct than that it is an essential historical component.

    In the real world there is a distinct difference between "what is, in fact the case" and "what one can get away with". In the real world, males have XY chromosomes, and females have XX chromosomes. Men have penises, testicles, prostates, and so forth; women have vaginas, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uteruses. Women can bear children; men can not,

    Through art a man can look like a woman, and a woman can look like a man, but through no amount of surgery, hormones, clothing, cosmetics, and propaganda can a man become a woman, or a woman become a man.
  • Qwex
    366
    You can, through an alternative method, change your genetalia. You cannot change your sex, yet.
  • Frank Apisa
    2.1k
    Yeah, of course you can change sex. I do it all the time.

    Sometimes on top, sometimes on the bottom, face to face or...uhhh, the other way. Kama Sutra comes up with some dandies.

    And of course there's...uhhh...uhhh...

    ...jeez, just occurred to me that I may have misunderstood where you were going with this.

    So...never mind.
  • NOS4A2
    4.3k


    Of course sex can be changed, but these changes would be wholly artificial.
  • Bartricks
    2.5k
    Can you make a silk purse out of a sow's ear? I think not.Bitter Crank

    And your point is?

    It seems to me that you have reached for the wrong comparison here. Among progressives (who are all in favor of loosely defined gender definitions) there is very strong support for the idea that race is an arbitrary social construct than that it is an essential historical component.Bitter Crank

    First, this thread isn't about race, but sex. But anyway, all you've done is said some things, not defended anything. The fact is that race does seem to have an essential historical component, which is why a person is able to change their sex, but not their race. But even if you bother to present an argument showing otherwise, that wouldn't affect my point, would it? For if it lacks a historical component, then you can change it - like, you know, your sex.

    In the real world there is a distinct difference between "what is, in fact the case" and "what one can get away with". In the real world, males have XY chromosomes, and females have XX chromosomes. Men have penises, testicles, prostates, and so forth; women have vaginas, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uteruses. Women can bear children; men can not,Bitter Crank

    Did you actually read the OP? First, what is or is not needed to qualify as one sex rather than another is a matter of debate, and as such you can't just stipulate. This is a philosophy forum, not a pub. Just barking loudly that 'men have penises' is not a case (and it is implausible anyway - I mean, if I jump naked over a barbed wire fence and misjudge things and it rips my penis off, am I no longer a man when I land?). Second, my point is that even if qualification as a particular sex requires possession of some particular set or sets of physical features, the simple fact is that physical features can be changed and thus sex can be changed.
  • Bartricks
    2.5k
    Argument? 'Philosophy forum' not 'arbitrary stipulation forum'.
  • Bartricks
    2.5k
    You're contradicting yourself. If you can change your sex - and I've argued you can, and you've accepted that you can - then the change is not artificial, but genuine. You haven't merely appeared to change your sex, you actually have.
  • Bartricks
    2.5k
    Can you make a silk purse out of a sow's ear? I think not.Bitter Crank

    Yes you can, it's just tremendously difficult and probably beyond our technical know-how at the moment. For with sufficient changes you could turn a sow's ear into a silk worm. And then one could make silk from that former sow's ear and use it to make a purse.
  • Relativist
    1.5k
    Through art a man can look like a woman, and a woman can look like a man, but through no amount of surgery, hormones, clothing, cosmetics, and propaganda can a man become a woman, or a woman become a man.Bitter Crank

    Of course sex can be changed, but these changes would be wholly artificial.NOS4A2

    You're both right. If we define sex solely in terms of external anatomy, then certainly the sex can be changed. If we define it in terms of the presence or absence of a Y chromosome, then sex cannot be changed.

    Is there a right answer to the definition? No -it's arbitrary. Perhaps we could say it's a societal definition. The problem with that is that society is not united in that regard.
  • NOS4A2
    4.3k


    By artificial I mean man made rather than occurring naturally. No contradiction there.
  • Bartricks
    2.5k
    You're both right. If we define sex solely in terms of external anatomy, then certainly the sex can be changed. If we define it in terms of the presence or absence of a Y chromosome, then sex cannot be changed.Relativist

    They're both wrong, and you're wrong. We can change internal features as surely as we can change external ones. So if sex is constitutively determined by some arrangement of physical features, then a person's sex can be changed. Not just apparently changed, but actually changed.
  • Bartricks
    2.5k
    That's both false and a pointless observation if true. It is false because from the fact a person's sex can be changed it does not follow of necessity that all such changes are by humans rather than by other natural processes. And even if true - which it isn't - it would be a pointless observation of no philosophical importance.
  • Bitter Crank
    9.2k
    Silly fellow.

    Why are you invested in the idea that nothing has an inherent identity? If you were a 14th-15th-16th century alchemist you would be trying to transmute lead into gold. Nuclear engineers can transmute gold into lead (by adding particles to atoms). The reverse, lead into gold, is much more difficult because it requires deleting particles from atoms. It's possible, but extraordinarily difficult and unimaginably expensive.

    Real gold is born in supernova explosions and collisions of neutron stars (the creation of heavier elements like gold).

    The simplest way of turning pigs ears into silk purses would be to bury pigs ears under a mulberry bush; the pig's ears would be broken down into simpler substances which a bush could take up, make leaves, and feed silk worms. Except, a bacteria/worm-reduced pig's ear no longer has the identity it once had. Now it is only chemicals. Calcium is calcium, indistinguishable from its sources. Were you and a pig buried side by side, or cremated, neither of you would have the same identity you had before you were transformed by bacteria, worms, or fires.

    One of the sleights of hand that pro-trans advocates pull is saying "sex is assigned at birth". Not true. Sex is observed at birth. Hospitals, doctors, midwives, and parents don't arbitrarily "assign" a sex at birth.

    Penis? check = male
    Vagina? check = female
    XY chromosome? check = male
    XX chromosome? check = female

    Granted, a small fraction (1 in every 4500 births) of babies are born with ambiguous genitals, and an extremely small number of babies are born with chromosomal abnormalities which leave the baby in the lurch as to whether they are male or female. Most babies with ambiguous genitals have unambiguous chromosomes and are clearly male or female.

    Transexuals usually have a perfectly normal body; the idea that their identity does not match their body is a delusion. Look, I completely understand that some men would rather be women and some women would rather be men. They can pretend. I might wish I looked like Adonis, sang in a baritone voice, possessed the mind of Einstein, and had the wealth of Bill Gates, but I don't. They can have organs lopped off or sort-of-look-alike organs fashioned out of skin and fat tissues. An artificial penis is not a real penis; a glass eyeball is not a real eyeball.
  • NOS4A2
    4.3k


    It’s less pointless than your observation that one can change their sex by altering their body. You can change someone’s skin color by giving them a tattoo. You can change their hair color by dying their hair. These are artificial, not naturally occurring.
  • Bartricks
    2.5k
    Why are you invested in the idea that nothing has an inherent identity?Bitter Crank

    Where did I say that? I don't think you know what the words you are using really mean.

    The simplest way of turning pigs ears into silk purses would beBitter Crank

    You earlier said that you cannot turn a pig's ear into a silk purse.

    I then explained that you could, it is just tremendously difficulty and possibly beyond our technical know-how.

    You're now telling me the easiest way to do it. To do something, note, that you previously said was impossible! So, is it possible or not? (Don't try and answer).

    One of the sleights of hand that pro-trans advocates pull is saying "sex is assigned at birth". Not true. Sex is observed at birth. Hospitals, doctors, midwives, and parents don't arbitrarily "assign" a sex at birth.Bitter Crank

    Question begging - you're assuming that sex is constitutively determined by a collection of physical attributes (that's precisely what many would dispute, so you can't just stipulate that it is without offering some kind of defence). But even if that's correct - that is, correct that sex is constitutively determined by a collection of physical attributes - that is consistent with sex being able to be changed. "At birth" and "unalterable" do not mean the same thing. I was very small at birth, I am now very big.

    Penis? check = male
    Vagina? check = female
    XY chromosome? check = male
    XX chromosome? check = female
    Bitter Crank

    Again, just question begging and ignorant and unargued.

    If I pull my penis off, I do not thereby cease to be a male. Plus, even if penises and vaginas are necessary and sufficient to qualify as male and female respectively, that wouldn't mean sex is fixed for someone with a penis can lose the penis and acquire a vagina and vice versa.

    And likewise for chromosomes. Nothing in principle stops us from changing our chromosomes, it's just very difficult. You do not have your chromosomal structure essentially (which is not, note, to deny that you have some essential features).

    Plus let's say that you discover that, much to your surprise, you have 'female' chromosomes. Well even if that means that, contrary to what you and others have believed up till now, you are in fact a woman, that wouldn't plausibly mean that it is ok for you to benefit from positive discrimination programmes designed to benefit women, or to use women's toilets, or to go to a female prison if you've done wrong. And vice versa - if someone who has up until now been considered by herself and everyone else to be a woman discovers that she actually has male chromosomes, it wouldn't be fair to insist she now use male toilets and cease to have positively discrimination programmes designed to benefit women apply to her.
    By contrast, someone who has 'male' chromosomes but is otherwise indistinguishable from a 'woman' (I'm putting them in inverted commas because I don't accept the chromosomal view), should, of course, use the female toilet, benefit from positive discrimination programmes designed to benefit 'women' and go to a female prison if convicted of something. (Not saying indistinguishability is necessary for these things, just sufficient).
    So even if someone insists that the chromosomal view is correct - and I personally think it isn't - this a) doesn't entail that one cannot change sex and b) is actually irrelevant to all the issues that divide people.

    Transexuals usually have a perfectly normal body; the idea that their identity does not match their body is a delusion. Look, I completely understand that some men would rather be women and some women would rather be men. They can pretend. I might wish I looked like Adonis, sang in a baritone voice, possessed the mind of Einstein, and had the wealth of Bill Gates, but I don't. They can have organs lopped off or sort-of-look-alike organs fashioned out of skin and fat tissues. An artificial penis is not a real penis; a glass eyeball is not a real eyeball.Bitter Crank

    I couldn't detect an argument in any of that, just more question begging stipulations.

    I mean, how on earth does it follow from a glass eyeball not being a real eyeball that transsexuals are not therefore the sex they say they are?
  • Bartricks
    2.5k
    It’s less pointless than your observation that one can change their sex by altering their body. You can change someone’s skin color by giving them a tattoo. You can change their hair color by dying their hair. These are artificial, not naturally occurring.NOS4A2

    Again, more pointless observations.

    Me: you can change your sex.

    You: yes, but if you change your sex on a Wednesday, you didn't change it on a Tuesday

    Me: that's a pointless observation in this context

    You: yes, but if you change your sex on a Thursday, you didn't change it on a Friday

    Adding more pointless observations to an already pointless one does not a point make.
  • NOS4A2
    4.3k


    You: yes, but if you change your sex on a Wednesday, you didn't change it on a Tuesday

    That’s not even paraphrasing what I said. I said sex changes are artificial, which your pretended was contradictory even though it wasn’t. One can also artificially change their hair color, their skin color. Sex change can occur naturally in nature, but the ones you propose are artificial, man made, and there is nothing profound about pointing out the obvious.
  • sarah young
    47
    Transexuals usually have a perfectly normal body; the idea that their identity does not match their body is a delusion. Look, I completely understand that some men would rather be women and some women would rather be men. They can pretend. I might wish I looked like Adonis, sang in a baritone voice, possessed the mind of Einstein, and had the wealth of Bill Gates, but I don't. They can have organs lopped off or sort-of-look-alike organs fashioned out of skin and fat tissues. An artificial penis is not a real penis; a glass eyeball is not a real eyeball.Bitter Crank

    i think you are misrepresenting me, a transexual woman, here I will let you feel how you want about sex change surgeries because it's really not my fucking business how much you care about that but saying that transexuals merely would rather be the opposite sex and then compare that to wants you have yourself. it is our minds that are troubled, you are right most of us do have perfectly normal bodies, both before and after transitioning, but gender dysphoria is a very serious issue, the rates of suicide and attempted suicide by transgender people are upwards of 75% and I feel like you are just trying to say that it is a casual want instead of what it really is, the ability to be who we really are. because we don't just want to be the opposite gender we are the opposite gender it just so happens to be that we are born into the wrong bodies, because it has been proven that transgender people literally have the mind of a cisgender person of the opposite birthsex.
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