Instigator / Pro

THBT: Transgenderism should be considered a third gender.


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After 4 votes and with 28 points ahead, the winner is...

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transgenderism: the condition of someone feeling that they are not the same gender (= sex) as the one they had or were said to have at birth.

Pro: Transgenderism should be considered a 3rd gender, I.e. trans women should not be considered women in the same sense a biological woman is considered a woman. They should be separated forms of woman/womanhood.

Con: Trans women should be considered a woman and the word "woman" should be used semantically the same as it is with biological women.

1. none really, try to be sincere and enjoy the discussion.

Round 1
I'm unsure where to really begin! simply because there is so much that is needed to unpack, to argue for the veracity of a third gender, i must point out why the current categorisations fail (hence the 20,000 character limit, my biggest yet!). Most of my arguments will be inspired by Dr Bogardus, who is a philosophy professor of epistemology, gender, and mind. Evidently, during this debate, we will probably both agree that all trans women are women, Following this axiom that all trans women are women, i will demonstrate that no matter how we categorise trans women, some trans women (or biological women) will always be left out of being considered a woman. 

Biological view
One of the stronger arguments for trans women being considered women is the biological view. The view states that; sex characteristics are simply averages, there is no one "male" gene or "female" gene which necessitates you being categorised as one or the other, to use an example; not all men are going to have broad shoulders or narrow hips and vice versa. not all women will have big breasts or wide hips. Not all men will be able to build muscle better than women, or be able to grow a beard, the list goes on.

many biological concepts allow for borderline cases. Like the central biological concept life, for example. Think of viruses, or prions. And also fish (think lungfish), eye (think eye-spots), etc. When it comes to our concept woman, female is vague, but so are adult and human. So, if a woman is an adult female human, it should be no surprise that woman allows for borderline cases. That concept plausibly inherits its vagueness from its constituent concepts, all of which are vague. But why think this vagueness is a problem? Biology is shot through with vagueness, after all. There’s no way around it.
- Bogardus

If people are to hold this position to be consistent they must necessarily agree to two concepts if they're to be logically consistent:
  • Some people are going to be "more" man than other men and some women are going to be more woman or womanly than other women
  • No one can be said to be wholly a man nor woman, but a mix of the two, everyone must then be some sort of hermaphrodite
Evidently, many people are going to find it very offensive if you consider someone "less of a man" because he cannot grow a full beard. Not only is this philosophy deeply offensive, it is also deeply inconsistent; some men will lean more to the female side who may not identify as women, within this world view, they ought to be considered women. Some people who identify as women, may still choose to present as men and have more male phenotypes, this categorisation then fails to include all trans women as being women. Review again those revisionary proposals we canvassed a moment ago: Butler’s performativity view; Burkett’s right-kind-of-experience view; Haslanger’s subordination-on-basis-of-sex view; Bettcher’s sincere self-identification view; and Jenkins’ accepting-enough-of-the-right-kind-of-gender-norms view. Each one of these will allow for borderline cases. If that vagueness doesn’t discredit these revisionary views, why should it discredit the traditional definitions? If vagueness is a problem, gender revisionism doesn’t solve it. In fact, by believing in both sex and gender categories as distinct, and by adding more gender categories that are less well-defined, gender revisionism piles vagueness upon vagueness. It compounds the problem. So, if vagueness is a cost, gender revisionism has a higher price than do the traditional definitions of man and woman. We have here, then, no reason to reject the traditional
definitions. - DR BOGARDUS
This then demonstrates, even if the biological view is vague a gender based view (as espoused by bogardus) does not solve this problem, but is necessarily contradicting itself by considering it a problem for the biological view but not for itself.

Evidently, from a biological standpoint (if we're to dictate who is a man or a woman based on biology) the only consistent line to draw who is a man or woman, is based on ones gametes. Not all men have XY chromosomes hence; XX male syndrome, these are men who are born with XX chromosomes, they we still consider them men due to the fact they (if in optimal condition) still produce male, smaller gametes than female counterparts.  If an XX male has both working ovaries and testes, they would simply be considered intersex. Nice, clean, and clear-cut. 

Argument through brain anatomy
This argument simply works as an extension of biological view, but it goes as follow: trans women have brains which have more in common with the sex they identify with then the one they're born into. This view is fallacious on a number of points, just as physiological differences between men and women physically are only averages, the same remains true for the brain. Yet if it remains the case one can have a brain very much like a woman but feels like a man, despite a trans individual having a brain just as close to the "female" brain, it would then not follow that the trans women feel like women due to having a brain like a woman. The burden of proof then is on con to show trans women having brains brain structures more similar to women, actually then makes them women without forcing any men into being considered women too. It is comes to pass that con is incapable of this feat, it would then follow that con has to move away from any biological argument and into an argument too gender itself being the decider of who is a man or woman.

Yet, if its true and it does follow. This view would once more, necessitate some men being women who may not identify as such and exclude some trans women who feel as such. If we feel forced to move from this point and simply say the experience of being a woman is not hormonal or within the structure of the brain but is simply an emotion, this then would fall into more of a gendered view.

P1. emotions are not always based on facts of reality
P2. There is no biological grounding for trans women being considered women without excluding some trans women, or putting men into the category
P3. Emotions (at least in the biological view) do not serve as a good prerogative to proving trans women are women

Hence within the biological view, the answer is clear no matter which way we cut it - not all trans women are women

Social role view
Within the social role view a woman is considered as someone who - Functions, behaves, or is treated a certain way socially.

To figure this out, we would have to know exactly about what social role we are talking about. What is the social role which is taken to be definitive of womanhood? considering all the variation across time and culture, it becomes pretty hard to say. What social role do all women have in common which they all have fulfilled? yet the problem becomes even deeper, once we do find that social role (if it exists) there is no guarantee all trans women will play that social role.

It is evident for all to see, that there is trans people who exist, who may not present as a woman therefore, a woman cannot be known based on if they fulfill a social role or not.

  • some trans individuals who don't present as women
  • some trans individuals do present as women but are not treated as women
Within each scenario, some trans women cannot be said to be women based on the social role criterion. Therefore, within the social role view, it turns out false, that all trans women are women

Self ID-view 
Within the self ID view, to be a woman, is said to simply be someone who identifies as being a woman. This appears to be the current predominant view (both among pro transgender philosophers and layman's alike), yet this form of categorisation runs the threat of circular reasoning.

If to be a woman is to simply identify as a woman, we must first know what it means to be a woman, otherwise how do you know what it is you're identifying with? Evidently, what it means to be a woman must fall back onto either the social role view or the biological view, within each case not all trans women are women. If it is not the case that Self identifying as a woman is actually identifying as either the social role or the biological view, what exactly is it you're identifying with? in the end, you either don't know what you're identifying with or you're actually identifying with nothing at all. 

As Hitches would say: "If you cant define what you believe, you don't believe anything at all" and if one defines themselves as a woman, but cannot tell me what a woman is except say "someone who identifies as a woman" we never actually come to know what a woman is. We fall into circular reasoning and an infinite regress. Where to be a woman, is always to simply identify as a woman. 

P1 What does it mean to be a woman?
P2 To identify as a woman, means to be a woman
P3  What does it mean to identify as a woman?
P4 It simply means to identify as a woman

When one tells you they identify as a woman, there is a subsequent question involved, to identify as something necessitates there is something to identify with, this then means if the concept never goes outside of itself, it becomes circular and illogical (as there is something meant or intended to be identified with) but they never tell you what it is they identify with except that they identify with it.

If you kept asking these types of questions, you would never get a difference answer, ad infinitum. Hence, the self ID perspective never goes outside of the concept it proposes, it never actually tells us what a woman is, and when you ask what a woman is it appeals to the previous answer "a woman is someone who identifies as one". You will never get another answer, otherwise it wouldn't be a self ID perspective anymore but would fall either into the social roles category or the biological category.

If you hold the self ID view you either:

  • Self Identify as nothing
  • self identify as something you do not know
Within both cases, we do not know what a woman is. To then identify with it would make zero sense.

Therefore within this view, no one can be said to be a woman, as no one who holds this view knows (or define) what it is they even identify as!

The third gender view
We finally arrive! the only (currently) consistent view to categorise trans people! The self ID view falls into circularity and proposes nothing. The biological view doesn't prove all trans women are women, the social role view doesn't prove all trans women are women. 

The third way, is the only way. Trans women, are exactly that, not women but trans women. We cannot logically put trans women in the same category as women, due to the circularity of it. Yet we can simply argue a trans women is someone who has a propensity to produce smaller gametes but as a trans women, they can simply be considered as biological males who intentionally wish to present as a biological woman and attain consideration as being as a biological woman within society,  this dodges any arguments towards them not necessarily looking, or presenting as biological women, and neither is it circular. What may be a trans woman's archetype to the female form may be subjective (as it is subjective with biological women themselves) yet what is not subjective is that those who they wish to be like (viewed like) and to be considered like, all possess larger gametes. All trans women wish to be put into this self ID category, that's the best i can do without it being circular. I'm unsure if it excludes any trans women though.

Hence: im going to have to submit and say not all trans women are necessarily infallible to being women either, within the 3rd gender view, at best, i can simply hope for a more consistent alternative which is non-circular and includes more trans people than the other two methods.


  • Within the biological view, not all trans women can be said to be women
  • within the social role view, not all trans women nor biological women can be said to be women
  • within the self ID view, no one actually knows what a woman is or what they're identifying with
  • The third gender view is at least more consistent than the other 3 views, and may well include all trans women

Round 2
Round 3
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