Making the Case, Part 7
In previous entries in this series, I’ve addressed some basic foundational techniques (that is, “stay calm” among other things), and the terms that provide clarity of communication, then spent a couple of weeks discussing the counter-arguments that arise from religion. I wanted to put the religious arguments first, because for many “true believers” that’s the foundational starting point. You could make really convincing cases from personal experiences, or from objective science, or whatever, and be persuasive but if the conclusion falls into conflict with their religious views they will ignore it.
Indeed, there are a number of theories that behavioral scientists have identified to explain the difficulty of changing someone’s mind, or having you mind changed by the arguments of others. For example, there is one called the Backfire Effect which notes that people tend to become more entrenched in their previously held view when that view is directly challenged. There are several others, it would be all too easy to sidetrack into a discussion of them. Then there are logical fallacies which even those who are in the right are prone to committing. But the point is, just being right alone isn’t enough to change someone’s mind. It helps to understand where the person’s thinking is based and address that first, even if they make pretense of offering a scientific argument.
Perhaps the most common counter-argument the professes to be based in science is the “You can’t change DNA” argument, which is to say that from their point of view, even if you alter everything that is outwardly visible about yourself, if one looks closely enough, down to the cellular level, it gives your (presumed) deception away. This argument is based on both an ill-informed understanding of the science, and a completely uninformed view of what transition proposes to accomplish.
When they say “DNA” of course what the actually mean is sex chromosomes. Which is but one region of any given person’s DNA. But what people who make this argument almost never actually know is what role chromosomes do and do not play in sex differentiation in the human body. Now, there are far better sources for the accurate scientific understanding of these things then space allows me to provide here. But the gist of it is that the Y chromosome is not even a universal marker of a male appearance, let alone a male gender identity. There are people who appear male without one, people who are obviously female who have one, and a variety of other combinations besides XX and XY. So when they offer it up as a strict binary, as they always do, they have already failed on the facts. There are several other points that flow from this, again you’d do well to do some reading if you haven’t already on the science of transsexualism, but the point of entry is that they assume a strict binary with no exceptions. Once it’s demonstrated that exceptions exist, it changes the whole context of the scientific angle of debate.
On the other end of this tactic is the assumption that a male-to-female trans person presumes that via medical intervention they can achieve a bio-identical result to the physicality of a non-trans female (or vice versa for female-to-male) – that is that the think we are under some delusion that science makes it possible (at the current state of the art) for a transwoman to be 100% female in every single respect of their physical form. This assumption demonstrates remarkably shallow reasoning on their part, because it escapes no one’s notice that we do not yet have the science to render a transwoman a fertile female for the purpose of carrying a pregnancy. Not only do they know this but they can’t be so ignorant as not not know that we know it. So citing “you can’t change DNA” is considerable overkill, there are other much more relevant aspects that we’re not able transition. So what they think of as a trump card really scores no points at all. The answer to this not-so-clever ploy is to admit, frankly, that we know (to our dismay) the limitations of the medical arts going in. That the goal of transition is NOT to achieve a bio-identical outcome, but to lessen the distress of dysphoria. And to the extent that whatever changes occur accomplish this reduction of distress, and improvement in quality of life, transition was successful. Whether or not a DNA test would reveal our medical history. You might also note that other than reproduction, there’s no other area of daily human life in which the presence or absence of a Y chromosome is relevant. Your DNA is not screened before you are hired, married, or rented to. Most people go through their entire life without their DNA having ever been checked.
Again, sometimes a person will simply ignore the fact that you have undermined their argument and press on. But in having done so, you leave behind information that other, more uncertain, readers may come across and be moved to rethink their views. The discussion is always worth having, even if you can’t see the positive results in the moment.
Photo by: Caroline Davis