Free men are not equal, equal men are not free.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

On Identity

One could TL;DR with a snarky "well, duh, you can call a tail a leg but a dog still has five legs", but Eric Raymond is worth listening to. He had discussed a vapid SJW-infested article on identity where all sides were huffing unicorn paint, but more things came to light, so now there's a full length post.
There was a very silly news story recently about “Claire”, a transsexual “girl” with a penis who complains that she is rejected by straight guys for ‘having male parts’. Er, how was “she” expecting anything different? By trying to get dates with heterosexual teenage boys using a female presentation, she was making an offer that there is about her person the sort of sexual parts said boys want to play with. Since “she” does not in fact have a vagina, this offer was fraudulent and there’s no wonder the boys rejected it. 
More to the point, why is this “girl” treated as anything but a mental case? Leaving aside the entire question of how real transgenderism is as a neuropsychological phenomenon, “she” clearly suffers from a pretty serious disconnect with observable reality. In particular, those delusions about teenage boys… 
I can anticipate several objections to this transactional account of identity. One is that is cruel and illiberal to reject an offer of “I claim identity X” if the person claiming feels that identity strongly enough. This is essentially the position of those journalists from The Hill 
To which I can only reply: you can feel an identity as a programmer as strongly as you want, but if you can’t either already sling code or are visibly working hard on repairing that deficiency, you simply don’t make the nut. Cruelty doesn’t enter into this; if I assent to your claim I assist your self-deceit, and if I repeat it I assist you in misleading or defrauding others. 
It is pretty easy to see how this same analysis applies to “misgendering” people with the “wrong” pronouns. People who use the term “misgender” generally follow up with claims about the subject’s autonomy and feelings. Which is well enough, but such considerations do not justify being complicit in the deceit of others any more than they do with respect to “I am a programmer”. 
A related objection is that I have stolen the concept of “identity” by transactionalizing it. That is, true “identity” is nececessarily grounded not in public performance but private feelings – you are what you feel, and it’s somehow the responsibility of the rest of the world to keep up.
Language is a tool. If you ruin the utility of the tool by making a word meaningless except within the context of the moment, you ruin the tool. Sometimes shifting a definition is necessary, but different concepts should have different labels. Also, it is utterly chaotic to expect everyone around you to bow to your subjective reality as they expect you to do the same. First of all, because being subjective, it is subject to change on the whim of a moment or your perceptions, and not something that someone can learn in an objective sense and go on to other things.

We may never reach the platonic ideal of the labels we apply - as useful as binary logic is, the world is not binary - but if we, say, call a tail a leg, then we've conflated "leg" with "arbitrary body part" or "limb", when leg is supposed to be a more specific version of the above, and not only utterly loses its utility, but confuses those who learned "leg" as a particular type of limb.

We may also never entirely escape the subjective - we possess, after all, imperfect knowledge, memory, and senses - but if we are to communicate with others, there needs to be a degree of objective, common understandings to the words and phrases we use, otherwise meaning, communication, beyond raw emotion and body language become steadily more and more impossible.

This goes hand in hand with the destruction of truth, of it being disparaged as a western, white, male thing. We may never achieve perfect understanding of truth, a perfect vision of the platonic ideal, but without a dedication to staying in the same ballpark, all the things we depend on, which in turn depend on objective consistency, crumble away, not to be replaced by a people no longer willing to acknowledge that a bridge is, and either stands, or doesn't, no matter how you feel.

And already an update - an SJW-type tried to assert that she could assert any identity she wished, and Eric couldn't stop her. Implied - that other people had to accept it.
>As a trans woman, in fact, *I* do get to assert what my identity is 
Yes, you do, I agree. You get to “assert” anything you like. It doesn’t follow that anyone else has to accept that assertion. 
That is the failure of reasoning I am arguing against. Your feelings are not an entitlement. Your demand that other people conform to your self-belief doesn’t create any obligation that they do so. You can offer any identity you like; it is up to other people whether they accept.


  1. ESR is spot-on as usual.

    "Your claim to X has no hold or bearing on my acceptance of same."

  2. Yeah. The comments are interesting too.

    1. Almost 300 ... PDF'd for parsed reading later.

  3. Upon further reflection, we have a similar situation to your post on the Raging Owlbear article.

    The "player" in the reality I perceive (where I'm the DM of my Reality) now demands that I change my perception of the player, as the player demands, not according the the Reality I perceive.

    As ESR says in his response, the person/player can demand or assert as they choose. However, I do not have to accept their assertation, especially if Reality says otherwise. I have as much right to assert my perceptions of Reality as they do.

    Of course, Social Justice demands that my perception bend to the will of the aggrieved.

    1. I think you have a point there. Not as bad, but similar foundation.