Mesmerised With Labels
It’s important to first see from the outside what’s the structure of our identities as humans. Because we get so much input from the world (as a result of our consciousness), we need to distinguish what things we understand to be a part of our identity. We can consider the first layer of our identity as biology/body (notice here we didn’t say sex, we said biology because it includes but is not restricted to sex). You can think of our biology as the prime mover in some sense. After that biology gives rise to brains, which is subject to process an innumerable amount of input with its structure. This brain or group of brains give rise to personality, feelings, and cultures, which brings us to the second part of identity which is the relatively abstract part. We can see this distinction of first/second parts of identity becoming clear because we strive to “find ourselves” in the abstract part (our ideas, feeling, etc.), but we don’t strive to find our biological sex, for example. This is not to dismiss its validity, but just to prioritise what things build a human being.
Having distinguished multiple parts of identity, let’s take a look at what gender looks like inside that identity. Gender is a lot of the times described as the characteristics that humans (male/female) manifest. Some people would mention that those characteristics are socially constructed, other people say it’s biological differences, but it seems like it’s a difficult line to draw for the perception of a lot of people because the argument has gone way too political in some sense, and people vary in their definitions very much. I feel like for these reasons, it makes much more sense to actually reconstruct the concepts from the ground up so we can know where the exact points of divergence lie, rather than jump to the scientific literature explicitly, per se.
Let’s start off with the first part talking about a new angle to look at what gender really is, and then in part two, we’ll look into the concept from a more psychological perspective.
The misinterpretation of those words “Masculine” and “feminine” is probably one of the most important factors that lead some people to experience gender confusion. “Masculine” and “feminine” descriptions (gender) of human behavior are statistical in nature, meaning they are not absolute descriptions of biological male/female temperaments. What follows from this is that both biological males and females can show attributes and activities of either masculine/feminine temperament (think of it as describing the activities not the humans). However, they were attributed to male/female because it seems like on average the masculine attributes (and the extremes of it) are more common in biological males, and vise versa. That doesn’t say anything absolute about one’s identity, it means that a few scientist/observants looked into the world, and saw the correlation between the masculine temperament (whatever that includes) and men - feminine temperament and women, which means that all other genders that claim to be emerging (non-binary, gender-fluid, trans) are redundant, because the descriptions we have are not at all absolute/definitive. What by extension follows from this is that gender need not to be projected to any fundamental biological phenomena since it’s a statistical observation to describe the activities/feelings we manifest. There is another aspect to this that some people would actually like to add, which is gender identity. Now, if we understand the concept of gender as presented above, then we can extract that it taps into an external phenomena, and what “gender identity” implies is an explanation of an internal human experience (internal/external is just a distinction between things that can be seen, and things that go on inside the brain before that external thing happens). Now the idea of gender identity tries to extract an internal explanation out of an external one, and the problem that arises is that the external explanation is usually an oversimplified category of the act. If we look at what gender tells us, it describes feelings/activities we manifest into the real world, which is somewhat a simplification of what goes internally in the human mind before manifesting that specific action. So what we are saying essentially is that the external categorization might not hold up as an accurate one with the internal phenomena (i.e. identity). If we take a classical example of dolls/cars female/male dichotomy, we see that if a boy likes to play with a doll, from the outside its explanation might be that this person, according to the averages of people, falls under feminine temperament with regards to this specific activity. When we come to the internal aspect of that, a number of possibilities (consciously or subconsciously) might actually be the case (and they might be completely detached from our outside categorization), like that child likes the color of that doll, or maybe that doll reminds him of his mom, or maybe he was in a “mood” (whatever that includes) to try something different. And what those explanations might end up doing is nudge the person to confine to this pseudo-explanation of their activities and identity. To conclude with this point, if somebody comes along and says: that boy is a girl trapped inside a boy’s body, they have made an inaccurate observation for two reasons: 1) The liking of that certain doll is present in both biological males and females, but on average females tend to show more interest for it (You can refer to the people-things distinction), which means no “trap” is present if we take a look from this angle. If you say “a girl is trapped in a boy’s body” or vice versa, for doing any activity, you’re essentially saying “Most girls play with dolls, therefore if you play with dolls you’re a woman” (you can extend this even if there are a multiple of other activities/things, the argument still holds). 2) There is an attempt to project an external phenomena of playing with dolls (or interest in people broadly speaking), to explain/categorize an internal phenomena (the person’s identity). Of course, the external is related somehow to the internal, but it’s not a sufficient description of it. We can see this distinction becoming clear because we see millions of people doing the same act (external), but for innumerable different reasons (internal). Imagine if we categorize people on how fast they walk. So let’s say that when a group of experiments were done, biological males were found to be walking slower than females. Now imagine if after this experiment people start to relate this observation internally and project it to biological sex (i.e. a male saying I walk fast, therefore I “feel” like a female). Now that person might actually change their behavior with regards to other activities based on a one external correlation that says walking fast is predominantly a female act, which creates a loop inside his brain (to be discussed in more detail in (2)). So we can see clear in this example that walking fast/slow is just a hypothetical correlation, it doesn’t mean there’s a causal relationship between it and identity. If we think about gender this way, This presented argument holds up whether you believe these statistical manifestations are socially, or biologically constructed, or both actually. When we put it in a context of statistical analysis, The concept of gender becomes clear that it’s about individual activities and not human beings in the strict sense of the term. What gender identity does is it treats those aspects of gender as an absolute bundle to a person, and not the activity itself. Which might end up skewing one’s analysis of themselves.
Let’s assume that the analysis in part 1, is just not accurate, is there another layer to it we can look at this from? Well, let’s see what another perspective of this looks like, which is a more psychological aspect, if you like. One of the other problems I see evident with the progressive concept of gender today is that it stresses very much to overcategorize people in a definitive way. When we say overcategorize, we mean it in the sense that there’s an attempt to categorize complex experiences (ex. I like to play with boys) to reductionally-oriented models (new gender labels/concepts) that are shallow with regards to the experiences and just don’t fit the complexity of the situation (in some sense, this is relatable to the external/internal distinction mentioned above). And the “over” part is important here because what we mean by that is: Every experience will be crammed subconsciously inside that inaccurate model, and this distorted model that’s not fit for purpose becomes an eye you see experiences with in some fundamental sense. Think of it with regards to this example, if a biological female one day, after having a group of experiences, decided that she has “masculine gender”, (which is a redundant description if we understand the concept of gender as mentioned in part(1)). if we go on with that person’s conception, what happens in the mind is that a new abstract feedback loop will be created (subconsciously), and what that feedback loop will do is push that person to confine to this category in an absolute way, which ironically limits the person more so than it frees them. And speaking of psychological effects, language is a huge part of it, and inventing new words like “non-binary”, and treating it as a freeing concept from everything is in reality a much more restrictive category than anything because it’ll subconsciously push that person away from whatever thing they consider as “binary” (it’s also worth mentioning that the lack of proper definitions of these concepts pushes forward this loop). The issue with this feedback loop is that it’ll be difficult to add new information to that loop given new experiences. The political movement on those things also adds on to the lack of information not entering the calculations of that person, and one outcome that might end up happening is a projection of these ideas to identity in an absolute confident sense. You can extend this to say that we have limited amount of information about “categorizing” our experiences, which doesn’t seem to be an assumption in the gender identity narrative. At the end of the day, we see the world with the models we put forward to explain ourselves and the things around us in some fundamental sense. But when it comes to gender as we said in part (1), it’s an objective probabilistic observation that describes people’s reactions/ temperaments to the world, and not at all tries to put a whole internal human experience to an inappropriate frame/category.
In order to understand one side of the discussion, I think it’s important to talk a bit about rationality (which can be seen as a meta-identity analysis in some sense). We know that as humans, even though the capability to reason is within us (i.e. brains), we need to “cancel out” our irrationality in order to reason relatively clearly about the world. But a good question is: how does this irrationality even arise to begin with ? One answer is because the brain integrates data in such a huge way (consciously or subconsciously), the principles of making rational decisions actually become much more difficult with bigger neurological circuits, since the conscious brain (think of it as the part that makes the final decision) can’t keep up with all the data so it almost cherry picks some feelings, thoughts which allow for a “bad decision” to happen sometimes. It’s much more probable for someone to forget the tasks they want to do when they have a lot of them, and the brain is almost analogous to this, so keeping a hypothetical to-do list might make it easier for the person to actually remember what to do. The same applies with the constituents of identity, the more you get input from culture, society, feelings and activities the more likely your thoughts are to be distorted on what decision is actually optimal for identity. Which means that every decision we need to make has to go through steps to cancel out noise in that decision. It’s almost like the bigger the neurological circuit, the more you’re losing track of why you made a decision, and rationality/practicing and challenging our feelings and thoughts is the way to actually organize these structures of data and think of what’s actually optimal for us as humans.
My main objective of the previous paragraphs is not to actually dismiss any problem people have, but rather shift some perspective to see this from another angle, because Problems and their existence are a lot of the times conceptual in nature. And by necessity, their solutions can be conceptual as well, so sometimes maybe a good way to look at things is to change and tweak the building “concepts” of some idea or belief, and see where that would take us with regards to our analysis of the world.