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Against (trans)gendered pronouns: a philosophical sketch

Updated: Jun 10, 2023

“Man, I feel like a woman.” (Shania Twain)

“I cannot be a man with wishing” (Shakespeare)


Written in response to a received (and repeated) "invitation" (instruction) to include pronouns on email signatures, the following addresses the linguistic, metaphysical, and ethical difficulties arising.


Contents

1) The Linguistic Problem


introduction


Language evolves. But, as the biologists will tell us, evolution is a natural process which takes time.

Sometimes, terms are invented. (We owe over a thousand words and phrases in the English language to the genius of Shakespeare’s imagination). More often than not, academic fields must coin a new term to speak about a new discovery, or insight – such as the homousion [same substance] in the Nicene Creed. But – prefaced with the disclaimer that I am no philologist – I cannot think of a single instance (outside of that infamous Orwellian dystopia) where a minority has forcibly changed – through political campaigning – the terms of English grammar, in swathes of business, government, and other organisations – to denote something so diametrically opposed to that which it has denoted for centuries.*


What is the function of language? Philosophers do not always agree. Wittgenstein’s early work assumed a single calculus of language which was, essentially, ostensive. St. Augustine of Hippo describes his acquisition of language as a response to the observation of the repetition of certain words and the objects they pointed to.[1]

Thus ‘keyboard’ points to that object which my fingers are currently traversing in order to render my thoughts onto the screen. This is certainly the common usage of words. We will address Wittgenstein’s later work below, but suffice it to say, for the time being, that the main function of language is to communicate ideas. This can only be achieved when (to borrow from Wittgenstein) one is playing the same language game. i.e. in order to communicate that, by the sign X, I mean Y, it is necessary that the person with whom I share the sign, X, understands – and agrees to use X thus.


Now, for centuries, when English speakers have deployed a personal pronoun (he or she) it has pointed to a third party, whose sex is male or female.

What is now being proposed by a militant minority of trans activists, is that these pronouns denote something called ‘gender’ (which is ill-defined and used equivocally by different parties) and that anyone who calls a woman who ‘self-identifies’ as a male, by the female pronoun ‘she’ is, somehow a bigot and a transphobe. It will be our project to show, unpack, and refute the philosophical problems with this movement of which broadly fall into three areas:


1) We are affirming a view that there is such a thing a ‘gender’ and that this is somehow distinct from sex.
2) We are now changing the function of a word such that it no longer denotes something objective but, rather, a subjective feeling. (We are asked to play a game defined by one other person)
3) Speech is being compelled.

The first problem is metaphysical, the second, linguistic, and the third, ethical. Let us consider the linguistic problem first:

* I am indebted here, and throughout, to one of my students for looking over an earlier draft and for his sage criticism. It might, indeed, be objected here that I fall into the trap of making language merely subjective in my appeal to how a word has been used by a community for x amount of time and thus open myself up to the contention that we are merely at the precipice of a new consensus which will – by the same token – legitimise the ‘new’ usage, or definitions. Secondly, my student referred me to Italy, where language was, indeed, forcibly changed. My concern in this document is to address English speakers and the deployment of gendered pronouns within English. Whether or not there have been incidents in history where a minority has hijacked and, ultimately, changed the meaning of a word, or words, has no real bearing on our central thesis. [1] see Augustine, Confessions Book I chapter 8, such as at https://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/03d/0354-0430,_Augustinus,_Confessionum_Libri_Tredecim-Pusey_Transaltion,_EN.pdf




 

The linguistic problem


The importance of objective frames of reference


Consider the sentence:


The cat sat on the mat



We have a subject (cat) and we are predicating of that cat (saying of it) that it is sitting on the mat (where ‘mat’ is the object).


Because we do not have gender specific language in the way that (for example) French or Greek does,[1] we cannot tell whether this cat is female. Thus, if we added: “licking herself” to the end of the sentence, we would know that the “herself” refers to the subject and that the subject is a female cat.

As we shall see, the trans bastardisation of language would change the meaning of the sentence such that the “herself” would have no point of reference which can be objectively discussed.


Consider the following claim:


“Shakespeare did not write Hamlet.”

In order to verify this assertion, we need to clarify:


1) What is meant by “‘writing’ a play” (being its sole author? O is a contributor sufficient?)

2) What constitutes the text of Hamlet, and

3) Who is the being referred to as Shakespeare.


What we cannot mean by the word “Shakespeare” is simply, “The author of Hamlet” because this simply involves a tautology and what we want to discover is whether the author of Hamlet is the person whose biography we ascribe to William Shakespeare.


It might be that Hamlet was written by Marlowe, or The Earl of Oxford, or my great, great, great-aunt Mildred (were she to have existed). In the which case, the statement is shown to be false as below:


Premise 1: Marlow wrote Hamlet

Premise 2: Marlow is not William Shakespeare

Conclusion: Therefore, Shakespeare did not write Hamlet.



However, it may be that the person whom we have been calling William Shakespeare was not a man but a woman. In the which case our sign “Shakespeare” still refers to the author of Hamlet but that our conception of that author’s attributes (i.e. things we predicate of that Person) were mistaken.

Hence, “The author of Hamlet was a woman” and “The author of Jane Eyre was a woman” are equivalent statements, logically speaking. Since “Currer Bell” is nom-de-plume, we need only have knowledge of the fact that Charlotte Brontë published under a male pseudonym to agree that Currer Bell is a woman.

If it were similarly established that William Shakespeare was a soubriquet for a talented woman then the statements, “Hamlet was written by a woman”; “Shakespeare was a woman”, and, “Hamlet was written by Shakespeare” would all be true and, indeed, logically equivalent – since they would all point to the same fact.


The point is that the words in each iteration of the statement denote the same idea and are communicable because the object of reference is objective. Only then can the claim be assessed for its veracity.


If the word “woman” were taken to mean, “someone who understood themselves to be a woman, whether or not they are, biologically,” then the claim would cease to have the same meaning. Further, those who first came across a secondary source in which they read:


Currer Bell published her most famous novel, Jane Eyre, in 1847.”


Would not know if the “her” denoted an inner feeling about ‘gender’ on the part of the author or whether it denoted a biological fact – namely that Currer Bell was a woman and that the name, “Currer” was probably a pen name.


For students of history, and those interested in feminism, the point is particularly pertinent because understanding that Currer Bell was a male pseudonym for a female author opens up a series of questions about the plight of women in business and the arts in the 19th (and earlier) centuries.


Now, of course, there several names which are given to both sexes, such as Alex, Sam, Lindsay, Michal, or Evelyn. The great, 20th century novelist Evelyn Waugh was famously married to a woman called Evelyn and they used to refer to each other as “‘he-Evelyn’ and ‘she-Evelyn’” respectively.[2] Were these terms to denote the subjective feelings and not sex, they would (in principle) be utterly useless in distinguishing between the two persons in that relationship.



But against this, it might be argued that words that usually denote biology might, instead, denote a legal status – which is to say, a choice. Thus, what I mean by the statement,


She is the mother of my daughter


is that the woman, Laura, gave birth to Harriet, and that Harriet is my progeny. Now, it could be that “mother” denotes a process of adoption, whereby Laura adopted Harriet. It could also be that Laura gave birth to Harriet and that I adopted her (or merely consider her to be my daughter).


When an adopted child calls their adopted parents “Mummy” or “Daddy” they are, in some way, being asked to use a term that denotes a chosen relationship, rather than a biological fact. What is different with asking someone to refer to you with a pronoun which denotes a chosen gender, rather than a biological fact?

The difference is this: that in choosing to be a parent to a child which is not biologically yours, you are still using the term ‘mother’ (or its derivatives) to denote an objective relationship between the adult and child. Hopefully, the relationship will be attended with maternal feelings, though there may be times of extreme frustration, depression, anxiety, doubt, and so forth when the parent does not feel maternal towards the child.

When, in extreme frustration, the adopted child exclaims, “You’re not my real mother” she does this – probably to cause hurt in the heat of the moment, or perhaps for another psychological reason (psychology is not our focus, here). What she means by this phrase “real” mother is, “biological.” This is a fact which – let us suppose for the sake of argument – occurs frequently in society so that there need be no point of confusion.


Yet, lest we be accused of straw man arguments, let us press the analogy further and consider a situation in which Jessica introduces her adoptive mother to her friend, Steve:


Jess: Steve, meet my mum. Mum, this is my friend, Steve.

Steve: Pleased to meet you, Jess’s Mum.

Jess’ Mum: Oh, please, call me Sue.



If Steve were ignorant of Jess’ adoption when he hears the sign “My mum”, he will naturally assume it to stand for ‘birth mother.’ If he later learns that Jess was adopted, he will come to see that the sign “mum” – as applied to Sue – denotes something different from biology yet this still denotes the objective (and, in this case, legal) relationship between Sue and Jess as mother and daughter. If, on the other hand, Jess were to introduce her adopted mother as her “daughter” she would probably be met with ridicule. Although it is logically possible to adopt someone older than oneself, if Jess merely “felt” that Sue was her “daughter” then she would have no right to expect that others should follow her in using the same sign.


One other familial analogy might be drawn at this stage:


It is common in British culture, for children to refer to the adult friends of their parents by the style “aunt” or “uncle.” These are known as “courtesy aunts.” It might be objected that such an appellation does not denote an objective relationship at all (in the way that an adopted parent, or guardian does) but merely some sentiment. Actually, this is not entirely the case, since one tends not to call strangers “auntie” or “uncle.” The epithet is used to denote an objective relationship – namely one of familiarity or friendship within the wider family circle. Yet, the main reason this is not analogous to the adoption of gender pronouns is because of the extremely limited use of the term “aunt” and “uncle” – i.e. it is only a sign used by the child and the adult (and, the child’s parent(s)). This is, therefore, not the same as the adopted mother who is styled as Jess’ mother by all who meet her – because (as we already established), the word “mother” denotes an objective (and, in this case, legal) relationship between Jess and Sue.

Calling my next-door neighbour, “Auntie Alison” out of respect, connoting reverence and familiarity within the wider family circle does not require anyone else to so style her. Indeed, it would be decidedly odd if they did. In Wittgenstein’s terminology, the word “aunt” is being used in a private language game and no one else is expected to play it.


What is so peculiar, then, about the trans activist’s insistence on the use of gendered pronouns is requiring everyone to play the private language game, whether or not they accede to it.

Aside from the moral implications of compelled speech (will be discussed later), so much linguistic confusion arises that it is impossible to determine how the words are actually being used, so that they cannot be said at all without equivocation.


[1] La chatte denotes a female cat in French. Le chat, a male, or generic cat. [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evelyn_Waugh


The Problem of Equivocation[1].


What the Trans Activist[2] means by asking us to refer to a person by a pronoun other than that which denotes their biological sex is to replace the sentence, “She sat on the chair” – which translates to “the woman sat on the chair” – with “he sat on the chair” where “he” translates not to “the man sat on the chair” but something like:

The person who was born a biological female but is really male sat on the chair

Whereas the Terf[3] – recognising that the trans person’s psychological (or philosophical, or sociological) struggles – means:

The woman who rejects the behaviours stereotypically associated with her sex sat on the chair.”


Although the object of reference (let us give them the name Sam for ease) remains the same – so that each is referring to same subject (Sam) by means of the pronoun – the meaning of the spoken sentence remains different for each speaker.


There are, then, two options available if the Trans Activist and Terf are to able to converse:


1) The Trans Activist and the Terf both agree to use the sign ‘he’ to refer to the person, Sam.

2) The Trans person and the Terf use different pronouns to refer to the person, Sam.


In case 2) an analysis of the sentences spoken will be something like this:



Sentence said

Meaning

What they refer to

Terf

She sat on the chair

The woman (who rejects the behaviours stereotypically associated with her sex) sat on the chair

Sam sat on the chair

Trans Activist

He sat on the chair

The man who “was assigned female at birth” but who actually IS a man – not in a biological sense but in some metaphysical sense as yet unclearly defined sat on the chair.

Sam sat on the chair



It might seem, then, that it does not matter what pronouns are used because they both end up functioning in the same way – which is to point to the fact that this person (Sam) has sat in the chair.


Yet this is not what occurs when the pronoun is adopted because our analysis of the seemingly simple sentence was incomplete.


She sat in the chair” presupposes that two things are true concomitantly: namely that there is a woman, and that this woman has sat in a chair. By changing the pronoun to ‘he’ sat in a chair, there is an assertion that the person who has sat in the chair is a man.


Since the Terf believes that the person who has sat in the chair remains a woman, and the Trans Activist believes that they are not a woman, the two sentences cannot mean the same thing.


This is most easily reflected in the Terf refusing to adopt the Trans Activist’s terminology and, for clarity, the Terf should, indeed, refuse to adopt it. For let’s look at what happens when the Terf does adopt the Newspeak (i.e. under Option 1):



​Sentence said

Meaning

What they refer to

Terf

He sat on the chair

The woman who rejects the behaviours stereotypically associated with her Sex, and who probably suffers from a mental illness, or else a philosophical error in conflating societal norms with biology such that she thinks she is something other than she is - sat on the chair

Sam sat on the chair

Trans Activist

He sat on the chair

The man who “was assigned female at birth” but who actually IS a man – not in a biological sense but in some metaphysical sense as yet unclearly defined sat on the chair.

Sam sat on the chair


In other words, the Terf will always mean something very different from the Trans Activist by the adoption of the preferred pronoun and this is the heart of the matter: one can compel people to change what they say but one cannot compel them to think differently.


If, then, the Terf means something radically different to what the Trans Activist means by the same word, why would the Trans Activist be so insistent that the Terf adopts the term? Is it not disingenuous?


No – because the Trans Activist is not concerned with truth but with appearance! The Trans Activist wants it to seem that everyone is on the same page when, in fact, they are not.


And if a shared term will always be used to mean entirely opposite things by different people it is not useful to adopt it.

Imagine if, for example, I left a camera outside my house with the message, “Free to good home” but, in meaning “free” I expected to be paid £200; I would be hard pressed to find sympathy amongst my friends if someone were to come and take it. Not merely because I cannot expect someone to agree to my private understanding of a term but because there is a long standing history behind the term and there is no compelling argument as to why the word “free” ought to have the very opposite meaning attributed to it simply to convenience me!


Yet this is what the Trans Activist wants.


Language may, indeed, be a game – but if people are to play it, they must be using the same rules, not opposite rules.

If I played chess with you and, putting my pawn on a square diagonally opposite your king, announced “check,” and you took my meaning to be that your king was not in danger of being captured at all – indeed that it was a description of my own feelings about my precarious position- then the game would not last very long!


In short, then, asking people to use your “preferred pronoun” is nothing more than an attempt to get the other to affirm your self-identity – but I might fundamentally disagree with it.


To reduce the principle to absurdity, if I believed myself to be the King of France and required everyone to address me as “Your Majesty,” I would be expecting people to indulge me in a fantasy which is contrary to an empirical fact.

Against those who would say this is a false analogy – because it is demonstrably false to say that I am the King of France – whereas it is not demonstrably false to say that I am “in the wrong body”, we refer again to the difference in how the pronoun is being used: the Terf uses the pronoun to refer to someone’s biological sex. The Trans Activist believes in something called “gender” which the Trans rejects.


Thus, the linguistic difficulty really betrays the metaphysical difference of opinion.

[1] A word is used ‘equivocally’ when it is used in entirely different ways. For example, bat denotes both a nocturnal rodent and an object used to strike a cricket ball. Conversely, a word is used ‘univocally’ when it is used in precisely the same way in different contexts or sentences. For example, the word ‘sat’ in “The cat sat on the mat” and “the cat sat on the table.” [2] Trans Activist, when deployed as a proper noun in this sketch refers to a hypothetical proponent of the view that gendered pronouns can (and should) be deployed to denote something other than biological sex. [3] Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist. We use the term throughout this Sketch merely to distinguish from the Trans Activist, without implying any other political leanings. Throughout this Sketch, therefore, ‘Terf’ is shorthand for those who want to uphold that the terms ‘men’, ‘women’, ‘she’ and ‘he’ are signs which denote biological sex.


 

The metaphysical problem


It may be that gender dysmorphia is a mental illness, along the lines of a delusion such as de Clerambault’s syndrome. It is probably more analogous to anorexia. This is an insidious disease in which (often young) people (and, more often than not, women) develop a perception of themselves which is contrary to empirical fact – namely that they are overweight when they are not. This leads to illness and, in the worst cases, death, as victims starve themselves. Fortunately, it is difficult to hide the latter stages of anorexia and so many of its victims can be helped by medical professionals. What these professionals assume is that the anorexic is wrong about the way they perceive their body. The medical professional would not dream of affirming the delusion. Yet this has become more common practice when it comes to gender. This is extremely troubling, as statistics[1] show that a disproportionate number of teenaged girls are being referred to clinics. Some claim that the correlation with the drop in referrals for eating disorders[2] in children and young people shows a mere transference of disorder, with many theorising[3] that transgenderism is simply the ‘new anorexia’ and that it is sociologically driven – because it has become trendy.


Whilst we are sympathetic to this line of argument, it is beyond the purview of our present sketch and so we will return to a discussion of the metaphysical implications of transgenderism – because we need to understand what is actually being claimed.


In order to say, “I was assigned the wrong gender at birth” or “Although I was born a man, I am, really a woman,” substance dualism must be pre-supposed – for there must be a self, separate from the body, which the Trans person is referring to.

Substance dualism is widely espoused across philosophical and theological traditions. Indeed, the materialism of the twentieth (and twenty-first) centuries stands at odds with Christianity (for example) in claiming that only matter exists. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that many of those who vehemently reject the theological implications of the body-soul distinction embrace transgenderism without thinking through its metaphysical ramifications.


The person who says, “I was born in the wrong body” and who appears to experience a dysmorphia, is, therefore, making a metaphysical claim that our bodies are separate from (and, in their case, is opposed to) their ‘soul’ (or whatever one wants to call the immaterial substance which they identify as their ‘self’). There can be no other account of the phrase if it is to be legitimate.

Therefore, it strikes us that if the metaphysical claim which underpins transgenderism can be held, materialism will finally be shown to be false, and this would open the door for further metaphysical claims, such as the immortality of the soul.


Yet, before we get carried away and proclaim the death of materialism, we need to consider whether the Trans claim, “The Me that I am is different from the Body that I inhabit” is coherent.

For what we want to know is whether it is conceivable for a person to “really be” the “opposite gender” to the “gender they were assigned at birth.”


In short, we hold that it is not, and that the confusion only arises out of a fundamental category error in which sex and gender are conflated.


What does it mean to be a (wo)man?


Until we can answer this question it will be impossible to decide whether a Trans person can really mean anything by the statement, “I was assigned the wrong gender at birth.”


When we really think about it, there is no obvious answer. Not all men like to drink beer and watch football, whereas some women enjoy both. I, for example, prefer playing netball (I dislike contact sports) and drinking gin. I do not remotely ‘feel like a woman’, and when I played Wing Defence for my college’s mixed netball team at university, it did not cross my mind to think I was being anything other than a man.


My daughter (currently aged three) enjoys playing with tractors and cars as much as dolls.

There has been much work over the past decades to challenge gender stereotypes which is all to the good. And all this has shown is that the sociological construction of gender can only ever mean the behaviours stereotypically associated with sex.


There is nothing essentially ‘womanly’ about cooking dinner, or painting her nails beyond the insidious stereotypes which have prevailed in our societies.
In short, the word ‘gender’ when applied to humans, points to nothing intrinsic and cannot be used ostensively in the way that ‘man’ and ‘woman’ can – which point to sex.

Plato observed, almost 2400 years ago, in The Republic, that the only differences between men and women were that men were (on average, and in general), physically stronger and larger than women, and that women, exclusively, gave birth. The upshot of this was to suggest that, “if we are going to use men and women for the same things, we must teach them the same things.”[4] His solution – to abolish the family unit in order to liberate women from the duties of child-rearing – perhaps went too far, but his insight into the fundamental equality of sexes, and the danger of societies ascribing different roles to the sexes, stands.

Individuals have different gifts. Not all women are able to bear children, just as not all men can propagate, but no man can bear children.

Ultimately, we see that the only true distinction between men and women is sex and thus to ask, “What makes a man, a man?” is probably best answered by saying, “the inability[5] to bear children, and to be born with a penis.[6]” Although, it may be better to say, “To possess a Y chromosome.”

Beyond these biological facts, there is nothing further which can be said, and therefore we will hold the statement, “I feel like a man” when uttered by a woman to mean:

“I, who do not have a Y chromosome or penis, but instead, female genitalia, sense that I, in fact, do.”


If this is what is meant, we can see the person is suffering under a delusion on the level of a man who thinks himself a horse. Such a person is to be pitied, and supported, but not mollycoddled by having their delusions affirmed (even celebrated!)


Yet this is probably not what the person suffering so-called gender dysmorphia means (since we have shown that it amounts to a contradiction). Really, what is probably meant by the statement (when uttered by a woman), “I feel like a man” is one of two things:


(A) “I do not conform to the stereotypical behaviours associated with women.”

(B) “I wish I were a man.”


(A) Really should be celebrated since, if everyone challenged the stereotypical behaviours (or, more precisely, their being associated with sex) then the so-called glass ceiling would finally break and Plato’s Republic (mutatis mutandis) be realised. In particular, women would enjoy the equality they have had to fight so hard for, over the centuries. A man can enjoy a Pina Colada. He may or may not be (incidentally) heterosexual. (Sexuality comes with other stereotypes which are beyond the scope of the present inquiry to delve into). A woman can enjoy rugby. But she probably shouldn’t be asked to compete at a professional level with men, since it is likely (owing to the aforementioned biological differences, when taken as an average between male and female bodies) that she might be disadvantaged, or hurt.


So (A) Champions and celebrates men and women as individuals, whilst challenging sexism.


(B), on the other hand, expresses a desire to be something other than you are and is symptomatic of a lack of self-worth.


We all have times when one wishes to be something other than we are. I might wish to be taller, or to have darker (or lighter) hair, or skin. I might go on a diet to lose weight. I might dye my hair, or put lifts in my shoes – and I might appear different but I will not, fundamentally change.

Some of these facts about my physical appearance are, then, accidental properties. Clothes are the most frequently changed accidental properties that others associate with us. We often look at others and adapt our sartorial choices when we see something which we think will make us look good.

We might dye our hair for a change, or because we wish we had different coloured hair. Many people who have gone grey do this in perpetuity. Some do not. The difference between this and gender reassignment is that, in dying our hair, we are cognisant that we changing our external appearance in accordance with our preference, rather than pretending that we have become the ‘real’ us. The illusion is accepted simply as an illusion.


In the example of wearing lifts in my shoes in order to give myself the appearance of greater height, this might be because I want to experience what it is like to be perceived as a taller person, or to dance with my wife, who is taller than me. What precipitates the decision to wear lifts is not a delusion that I really am a tall person trapped in a short person’s body, but my imagination: what would it be like if I were five inches taller? How might others perceive me differently? What might I be able to do differently? And the desire to experience that.


This can only be what the transgender person means – not “I am a man” but “I imagine what it might be like to be a man and I would like to experience that.”

This is no new phenomenon. Consider Beatrice’s impassioned speech in Much Ado About Nothing:

“O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart in the market-place.”[7]


Beatrice, knowing that her cousin is falsely accused, does not think she is a man but recognises that, according to her societal norms, she is unable to challenge her accuser to a duel.


The problem is that, whilst it is possible to add inches to height by wearing heels, or change the colour of our hair, it is not actually possible to change our sex since it is an essential property of our biological makeup. This is what Beatrice recognises by her expostulation: “I cannot be a man with wishing, therefore I will die a woman with grieving.”[8]

Although hormones can be taken, or surgeries undergone, our DNA will not be re-written (as at the time of writing). Just as Michael Jackson could no more make himself Caucasian by bleaching his skin, than the man now known as Caitlyn Jenner become a woman by undergoing cosmetic surgery and gender reassignment. Caitlyn may look morelike a woman now, but Caitlyn will always be a man.


Trans-women are not women.

The confusion has all arisen from permitting people to say such senseless things as, “I am (really) a man” rather than, “I would prefer to be a man” or “I would prefer to have a penis.”


I might prefer to have been born a chimpanzee, or the King of England, but it would be absurd if, expressing my desire, “I wish I’d been born the King of England”, someone said, “Oh, you mean that you really are the King of England?”


Now, the Trans Activists will doubtless want to shout this down as a false analogy. They may say that my preference to be the King of England, and be styled His Majesty is not equivalent because it is demonstrably false that I am not the King of England. Yet we have shown that it is demonstrably false to say that Caitlyn Jenner (for example) is a woman.


The second objection to my King analogy might be that, since there can only be one King of England, I cannot be styled Your Majesty without contradiction – because it would mean that calling Charles the King of England, would cease to have the same meaning.

We entirely agree. Yet this is what is happening to all women when Trans Women are being referred to as “women.”


By labelling “Not-P” as “P”, “P” itself ceases to be significant and so, by calling trans women women’, the concept of being a woman is eroded and we are back to the dark ages of sexism.

[1] See https://gids.nhs.uk/about-us/number-of-referrals/ for the full data set. In the UK, for the year 2021-2022, 1607 referrals for teenaged girls (13-18) were made, compared to 92 ten years’ before; 695 boys were referred in 2021-2022. [2] https://www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/statistical-work-areas/cyped-waiting-times/ have some data but these have to be aggregated. [3] E.g. https://unherd.com/2023/04/is-trans-the-new-anorexia/. [4] Plato, The Republic Book V, p170 [5] This does not mean that women who are unable to bear children and are ‘infertile’ are not women. Only that no man could ever have children, no matter what other conditions are met. Post-menopausal women might have been able to; those with other fertility problems are not logically precluded from conceiving. Men are logically excluded from conceiving children just as a carrot is not a donkey. [6] In our discussion we are almost deliberately ignoring intersex people because of our limited knowledge of biology. Philosophically, we would be happy to retain ‘intersex’ as a third biological term, and if a clear pronoun could be used to denote this, all so well and good. However, since many intersex people are – from birth – ‘assigned’ one of the two sexes, usually they will be known by this sex and its attended pronouns. Since these people (whilst incredibly valuable as people) make up such a tiny percentage of the population, we do not want to muddy the philosophical waters by having to constantly refer to them. [7] Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing, IV.i [8] ibid.



 

The Ethical Problem


Even if we were to lay aside (or solve) the metaphysical and linguistic problems discussed above, the ethical problem would pervade – namely, that the Trans Activists are not merely fishing about for terminology they can use in their own private language game (akin to the early Church’s invention and adoption of the word ‘Trinity’) but campaign for those on the outside to agree to their hijacking of a language already in common usage, whilst labelling those who espouse gender critical views and feel uneasy with the fabricated (and, as we have shown, non-sensical) Newspeak, ‘transphobes’ or ‘bigots’ (‘Terf’ being used by them as a pejorative) and – in some circles – trying to force everyone to adopt this language. This strikes at the very heart of the freedom of speech which, in Western democracies such as the UK and the US is sacrosanct.






The Importance of Free Speech


JS Mill’s seminal essay of 1859 On Liberty showed us that the only limits that should be placed on speech are when it incites violence. The reason why we must not only tolerate, but foster an environment in which contrary opinions may be expressed is because no human has a monopoly on truth, and it is precisely through the process of dialectic (in which thesis is countered with antithesis) that thoughts can be refined.

It may be that we are wrong. If so – and obviously so – then this will be highlighted by the naysayers. It we are right, then it is equally important we hear our opponent’s views so they can be dismantled. Mill puts it like this:


But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error. [1]


One cannot help but wonder if the reason the Trans Activists are so quick to decry our position as “hate speech” and attempt to shut down rational discourse is because they know, deep-down, that they are in error; whilst we welcome rebuttal in order to refine our position. Our quest is truth, not politick.



Hate Speech


Mill does put a limit on what ought to be said, freely:


On the contrary, even opinions lose their immunity, when the circumstances in which they are expressed are such as to constitute their expression a positive instigation to some mischievous act. An opinion that corn-dealers are starvers of the poor, or that private property is robbery, ought to be unmolested when simply circulated through the press, but may justly incur punishment when delivered orally to an excited mob assembled before the house of a corn-dealer, or when handed about among the same mob in the form of a placard.[2]

Notice that the criterion which removes the right to speak freely is not “hate” speech – i.e. not the content of what is being said but the context in which it is being expressed and its mode. This is important because what one person might find hateful, or offensive, is subjective. As we shall see, the Trans Activist deems it “hateful” to “deadname” someone, whereas the Terf holds they are merely stating empirical facts, and no empirical fact is hateful.[3]

It is not our business to police emotions. (Nevertheless, as we shall see, there are certain other moral obligations which bind individuals to a general principle of beneficence towards his/her fellows, and this may manifest itself in the phrases one adopts – or chooses not to adopt – for a particular audience, as will be shown below).


Since there is no criterion to verify what constitutes “hate speech” we fall back, with Mill, on the consideration of the mode of speech and hold that any utterance which constitutes a positive instigation to some mischievous act to be at best unwise, at worse, criminal; certainly, immoral.


However, Mill’s example, above, is, perhaps, an antiquated one. For, in 1859, the circulation of an opinion in the press meant that the opinion, “corn-dealers are starters of the poor,” would be read in the privacy of homes, or clubs. It would have to take a third party to stir up a mob. Addressing an already assembled mob must be intended to excite them to violent action.

However, one could readily make the case that unless the mob were to act mischievously, then the speech (or placards) does no material harm. The right to peaceful protest and demonstration being essential for civilised society. However, the moment one of the mob attacks the corn-dealer, or their property, is the moment at which we can hold him/her culpable as well as the one who incited violence through their speech.


What muddies the waters for us in the 21st century is that there is not such a clear distinction between speaking to an assembled mob and circulating an opinion in the press – thanks to the advent of social media. Keeping out all politics and commentary on the actual case, we refer to the riots at the Washington Capitol in January 2021, in the wake of President Trump’s tweets.[4]


The nature of Twitter is that anyone with internet access can read (most) of what is published on its platform. Donald Trump had around 88.7 million followers[5] at the time of the attacks on the Capitol. Even assuming ten percent of those people read his tweets, we must concede that most of the people who read his apparent call to arms, were nowhere near Washington DC. They may be living on another continent.

That a minority was assembling (or even, let’s say for the sake of playing Devil’s Advocate, had already assembled) outside the Capitol can only mean that a fraction of the intended audience amounted to the excited mob which Mill spoke about.

Again, without discussing the actual contents of the Tweets sent, we can see that the line between speaking to the angry mob and to dispassionate (or even passionate) people in their armchairs or on their commutes, is so blurry as to be impossible to be the criterion by which we assess whether a particular utterance constitutes “a positive instigation to some mischievous act” – unless it includes a specific imperative. Therefore, we uphold the absolute right of individuals to say, or write, what they wish, without fear of censure.


Whether it is wise is another question. Whether it is kind, another. What we really must put an end to is holding speakers to account for the actions taken by their listeners. Each man is responsible for his own actions, each woman, for hers.


Now, as Kant showed us, it is impossible to consistently will against one’s own will, and so we should always “act that you use humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end, never merely as a means.”[6] Christ’s so-called Golden Rule[7] (citing Leviticus[8]) – to “Love your neighbour as yourself” similarly emphasises the duties we have to be decent to each other. This means that, whilst the Terf has total freedom to express their opinion that “Trans-women are not women.” It would be unkind to shout it in the face of a trans-woman. It would be equally unkind to call Caitlyn Jenner by the name Caitlyn had when born. But that doesn’t mean we are compelled to call Caitlyn Jenner a woman.


Consider the following pastoral situation in a school:


A pupil, Sarah, decides she wants to be known as “Leo” and adopts masculine pronouns. She requests her teachers and fellow students refer to her as a “male."


A teacher who fundamentally disagrees that Sarah is a male should be at liberty to refuse this request without censure. However, such a teacher – being kind, and having all students’ pastoral needs before them – might well make a conscious effort not to refer to Sarah as ‘female’ and avoid all gendered language. We would commend such a teacher for going out of their way to ensure their (clearly vulnerable) student is not made to feel uncomfortable, whilst retaining their personal integrity.


Unfortunately, this is not what is happening in schools and other places of work.


Why transgendered language is in opposition to free speech


The ethical difficulty with transgendered language is that its advocates are not simply content with using it amongst themselves (which is linguistically and metaphysically problematic). Were it so, we should let them all continue to speak nonsense.

What is actually happening is that this extremist minority has somehow inveigled its way into all sorts of spheres and there are multiple attempts to change the English[9] language, and compel speech.


The charity Stonewall, which has wide access to schools in the UK, writes the following in their “Introduction to supporting LGBT+ children and young people: A guide for schools, colleges and setting”:


“It is also important to gently correct colleagues if they make a mistake. If all staff use the preferred name and pronoun of the tans child or young person all the time, rather than only when in the presence of the fans child or young person, it will help everyone get into a new routine.” [10]


From all we have seen, language matters, and there is a great difference in how the Trans Activist and Terf use pronouns. Since we are all at liberty to say what we want and to express our opinions, it clearly follows that any attempt to “correct” colleagues is deeply unethical. For the colleague may not have made a mistake but be expressing their belief.


It is deeply disturbing that Warwick University have a whole document dedicated to “Challenging Incorrect Pronouns and Misgendering”[11] which encourages people not merely to ‘correct’ those who ‘misgender someone’ but to challenge and report repeat offenders. Universities are supposed to be bastions of free speech and free thinking but are clearly becoming platforms for extreme ideologies and the invention of Thoughtcrime.


Imagine the following conversation between two teachers at a school, discussing the imaginary pupil in our preceding section, Sarah, who wishes to be called Leo and be referred to my masculine pronoun.


Trans Activist: How is Leo doing in your lessons?

Terf: Leo’s doing so much better this term, actually. She’s really got the hang of

binomialdistribution.

Trans Activist: He.

Terf: Sorry?

Trans Activist: He. You misgendered Leo.

Terf: No I didn’t. Leo’s a girl. I don’t mind calling her Leo instead of Sarah but

don’t expect me to refer to her as a boy when she isn’t one.


Here, we have an eloquent Terf who is able to articulate the point of clash between the two. All so well and good. Hopefully they would continue the conversation with each using different pronouns. But suppose that the Trans Activist tries to insist the Terf adopts masculine pronouns to refer to Leo? In fact, the Trans Activist may even report the Terf for so-called hate-speech. Even if the conversation goes no further, in this short exchange we see how the very act of adopting the pronouns has encumbered free speech.

Since, in the UK, one of the nine “protected characteristics” under which all people are protected (following the Equality Act 2010) is “religion or belief” it is illegal to hold anyone to account (discriminate them) for continuing to use the language they deem appropriate and accurate.


However, on this view, it would seem the Terf has no right to compel the speech of the Trans Activist and correct their misuse of terms like ‘woman’ or ‘he’ (when applied to a woman). This is not quite the same because what the Terf is doing is to try to bring the speech back to a point of empiric reference.


Imagine the conversation went like this instead:


Terf: How is Leo doing in your lessons?

Trans Activist: Leo’s doing so much better this term, actually. His essays are far more succinct.

Terf: That’s great! I know she was struggling before.

Trans Activist: Yes, but he’s started planning more effectively now.

Terf: Good. I just wish she could get her head round binomial distribution.


Here, of course, the Terf isn’t insisting on the correct pronoun – but let’s suppose they do:


Trans Activist: Well, I don’t think maths is his thing.

Terf: Her thing.

Trans Activist: No, his. Leo has asked us to call him by masculine pronouns, remember?

Terf: I do remember, but it’s not correct, is it? Leo – or Sarah – is a girl

Trans Activist: But he identifies as a boy.

Terf: If I identified as the Archbishop of Canterbury would you call me “Your

Grace?”

Trans Activist: No. But it’s not the same. Leo is describing his gender.

Terf: I don’t think that’s a thing and I think it’s unhelpful to pander to this. Leo

is a girl. When you write your reports you will need to use ‘she/her’

because ‘he/him’ doesn’t actually refer to Leo. The pronoun denotes sex.


I’m sure the conversation would continue until it (probably) reached an impasse.


Here, we see that, whilst it would be very nice if we could all agree to disagree, when dealing with human beings – particularly in an organisation, a decision does need to be taken: we either allow people to use whatever pronouns they want in order to refer to each other (which could lead to confusion – since the Trans Activist and Terf will use opposite ones) or else we stipulate that people should retain a single pronoun (which may upset one or the other).


Our preference would be to retain the historic use of pronouns as being used to denote sex and therefore insist that everyone uses he/him when speaking of men and she/her when women.

This is purely for prudence and, if we are to be consistent with what we have said above regarding free speech, we could never compel someone who genuinely believes that pronouns refer to a ‘real’ thing called ‘gender’ (which is distinct from sex) to adopt (or revert to) our calculus of pronouns as denoting sex. But, by the same token, we implore the Trans Activists not to expect us to adopt their nonsense.


This is why we not only reject the hijacking of male and female pronouns by the Trans Activist, but also the invention of new terminology which thereby seek to supplant (and thus destroy) the original terms ‘man’ and ‘woman.’ One such term is “cis” (short for cisgendered). According to the Oxford English Dictionary, this term first wormed its way into the English language in 1994 via Usenet.[12] Its etymology is an appropriation of the Latin preposition, cis, meaning ‘on this side of’[13] rather than opposed to, or across from (trans).

Yet we are rejecting the very notion of gender as a thing and thus the concept of a ‘cisgendered’ man or woman is – to us – a complete nonsense. There are only men and women. By deploying this term ‘cis’, we are pandering to a minority (and, as we have argued) erroneous view and so any attempt to force it upon us must be a hostile attempt to get us to speak a sort of nonsense (at best; at worst, to speak against our beliefs).

We must not pander to this insidious drivel.


On the trend of adopting pronouns in email signatures and on staff badges

As if it weren’t enough to get everyone to adopt nonsensical language, a recent trend across a range of businesses and services is to encourage (but more-or-less enforce) people to adopt, or include their ‘preferred pronouns’ in email signatures or on staff badges. The UK building society Halifax was an early adopter of this practice, whilst Warwick University has tried to convince us of the ‘importance’ of pronoun badges by making the following claim:


Wearing a pronoun badge (and encouraging others to) helps normalise the non-assumption of pronouns, which reduces the frequency with which trans people are misgendered. It's therefore an effective act of allyship with the trans community. For trans people, pronoun badges are also an important tool to facilitate sharing their pronouns.[14]


Whilst this may come from a good place (helping to reduce anxiety for those who wish to be called by a different pronoun) it actually creates an atmosphere in which most people see through it as an example of “virtue signalling” which, concomitantly, helps to perpetuate the false use of terminology and thus the whole trans confusion as discussed above. It is anything but helpful.


Furthermore, it is of little practical help. Name badges are generally rather too small to read anyway – as anyone who has visited a supermarket, bank, or school, will attest to. Having a pronoun emblazoned on will probably be too small to be seen without special attention being paid. But let us suppose that everyone who walks into (for example) Halifax, is able to see – and remember – the pronouns on the staff badges. What good is it for? I generally expect to speak to one member of staff (let’s say, Dave). If Dave’s pronouns are ‘she/her’ then I would find that strange. In fact, I might start fixating on that rather than treating Dave as Dave and a member of staff who could help me. If I were genuinely transphobic (afraid of trans people – a rather peculiar phobia if ever there were one!) or hated trans people then why add fuel to my fire? But let’s hope that those who are deluded into thinking trans people pose some danger are few and far between, and let us be generous and hope than no one actually hates trans people.[15]

To return to our thought experiment:

I ask Dave for some help. I find it strange, perhaps, that Dave chooses to be referred to by pronouns denoting the opposite sex, but I think nothing else of it, thank Dave for his help, and leave.


In this case, I do not need to use any pronouns when conversing with Dave because one doesn’t use third person pronouns about the person you are talking to.


Now, it might be that the person is called Sam, and that Sam is somewhat androgynous, and I cannot immediately tell if Sam is a man or a woman. In which case, the pronoun might be helpful in forming a correct judgement. But if the pronoun on the badge only denotes what Sam’s subjective account of his/her gender, then it has ceased to convey any real information (as has been shown above).

And if the name badge only tells me what the wearer thinks about gender in relation to themself, it is no more interesting or helpful then if they were to wear a badge with a Starfleet insignia which suggested they liked Star Trek, or a political pin. I might agree with their aesthetics or politics, or I might not. It shouldn’t make a jot of difference in how I ask for their help in my banking.


Yet, it will be objected, the badge isn’t there for when you are talking to the member of staff but when you are talking about them. This certainly makes more practical sense, but it is actually quite impractical.

Suppose Dave is unable to help me and, so, directs me to a second colleague, Lucy. I go over to Lucy. What would I naturally say? Probably something like, “Hello, your colleague sent me over to you.” I might add the detail, “Your colleague, Dave, sent me over to you.” I probably don’t need to add this. I could, of course, say, “Your colleague, Dave, sent me over to you. He said you might be able to help with X.”

In this scenario, it makes no material difference to Dave – who is not within earshot – which pronoun I used. Yet it might offend Lucy. Lucy might be so sensitive to transgenderism that she weeps whenever someone ‘Misgenders’ her colleague. We can’t know in advance. But, frankly, that is none of our affair. It is equally possible that Lucy thinks the pronoun badges are a load of nonsense and every time she hears someone refer to her male colleague with a female pronoun, she grits her teeth in mild annoyance, or despair.

Again, we cannot know. And, for our purposes, we should not care. Each person must master their own emotions. All that is clear is that the pronoun badges are likely to create more tension and confusion than not having them.


Even more ludicrous than pronoun badges is the practice of including gender pronouns in one’s email signature. This is becoming increasingly popular. One independent school in Surrey, recently sent all staff an email (from the Principal) to encourage this practice be adopted. The following reasons were given:


"At E_______ there may be a small minority of pupils and/or staff who may want to be addressed by a different gender but feel uncomfortable in asking for this. Adding gender pronouns to our email signature will help to enable a more comfortable environment, not only for our pupils but also our staff and parents. "[16]

Whilst the sentiment is laudable – it does not follow that adding pronouns to signatures will, indeed, “enable” (presumably, ‘foster’) a ‘more comfortable environment’ since it immediately draws attention to not only those members of the community whose pronouns are at variance with their sex, but also those who wish not to pander to the initiative.


Even if it were to suddenly make everyone feel included and ‘comfortable’ it serves no functionary purpose since emails are written in the second person, not the third!

For example, if I were to reply to this email to point out the philosophical and ethical difficulties within the putative policy (or suggestion), I would write something like:


Dear Principal,


I am writing in response to your email…


[etc etc.]

Yours truly,

&c.


I would simply not need to deploy the Principal’s pronouns because I am addressing the email to the Principal!


If, of course, I wished to know whether to refer to another member of his staff by a particular pronoun, it would be utterly useless to look at the Principal’s email signature, and I could not know – from the Principal’s email – how to refer to any other particular member of staff. Rather, I would have had to have received an email from that staff member, and have remembered his/her preferred pronoun in order to avoid ‘misgendering’ them in said email.


All this shows us is that all the inclusion of pronouns in email signatures amounts to is a sort of virtue signal where the organisation is so interested in appearing to be ‘woke’, or an ‘ally’ to certain individuals, it risks offending others, whilst making no real, positive difference to the trans minority.


In short, when it comes to the use of gendered pronouns, the Terf remains unconvinced that anything is being denoted except some information being provided about the persons’ self-perception. Since this is an entirely private affair, the Terf is quite justified in formulating the following response:


We do not need to know what you think about yourself.

We certainly don’t have to accept your delusion.

In particular, we don’t have to feed it.


In reality, the Terf – as the trans person – probably just wants to be left alone to get on with their jobs and lives. Sadly, the Trans Activist will not let them, and therein lies the rub.



[1] JS Mill, On Liberty Chapter II: OF THE LIBERTY OF THOUGHT AND DISCUSSION. This can be read online at https://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/34901/pg34901-images.html [2] ibid. Chapter III: OF INDIVIDUALITY, AS ONE OF THE ELEMENTS OF WELL-BEING. [3] As my student noted, “empirical facts can’t be hateful but they can be rude.” This will largely be addressed in the section on ethics. [4] For a timeline of events see https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-56004916 [5]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_media_use_by_Donald_Trump#:~:text=while%20doing%20so.-,Followers,2021%20United%20States%20Capitol%20attack. [6] Kant, Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals A4:429 as in ed. Mary Gregor, CUP 1997, p38 [7] Mark 12:31 [8] Leviticus 19:18 [9] This is not limited to English, although our present Sketch is. [10] https://www.stonewall.org.uk/sites/default/files/final_-_an_intro_to_supporting_lgbt_young_people_-_april2022.pdf [11]https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/cross_fac/academy/activities/learningcircles/transqueerpedagogies/queeringuniversity/resources/misgendering/ [12] https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/39888610 [13] https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/33450#eid9246605 [14]https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/cross_fac/academy/activities/learningcircles/transqueerpedagogies/queeringuniversity/resources/pronounbadges/ [15] We should not have to spell it out but will do so in anticipation of a backlash against this Sketch: the view that trans-women are not women, and that we should not have to call them so is purely philosophical and makes no reference to actual persons. No judgement or feelings are attended to trans people so that Terfs really ought not be called transphobes. [16] Email sent to all staff 6th March 2023


 

Conclusive Remarks


Responses to Criticism


As mentioned in the Introduction, I am indebted to my student, T—, for engaging with an early draft, and I address three of the points he raises here:


1) “It seems that an issue of good manners it being made political by both sides.”


We have addressed the ethical problems of gendered pronouns above but concede the general point that much of the discourse (or, rather, headlines and social-media tirades) is politicising something which affects a tiny minority of the population. However, we do not hold it to be merely an issue of ‘good manners.’ It might be good manners to address people by their correct (or preferred) title. For instance, Ms, Miss, or Mrs. Dr, or Mr; Rev. and so forth. Addressing someone by their preferred name is certainly a case of good manners. But we have argued that it is neither good manners to expect someone to collude with you in a lie (by referring to someone as something they are not) or to compel someone to speak against their conscience. Even if it were ‘good manners’ we do not hold that manners trumps truth.

Certainly, as we have suggested, it would be good manners to not use the sorts of words which would knowingly upset someone but this cannot be a categorical imperative since one can never know how an individual will respond to another’s turn of phrase.

As we have argued, far more is at stake than common courtesy by the adoption of these gendered pronouns.


2) “Should there by a distinction between those who go through gender reassignment and those who do not/ have not, yet?”


Here, my student raises an excellent point that many countries have a legal process through which one can have their sex changed. The answer to this will depend on how radical (or conservative, or consistent, depending on your view) the Terf is. For all practical purposes, if one has got to know Sheila as a female colleague for ten years and then finds out that Shiela was born, Keith, and had his sex changed, legally, then one might continue to refer to Sheila as “she.” Technically, if we are being consistent (in insisting that pronouns refer to biological sex, which can never be altered) one ought to refer to Sheila as “he” but this might seem somewhat churlish. There is also the practical (and ethical) impossibility of checking everyone’s biological sex.

However, it is also consistent to hold to the position that pronouns refer to legal sex and thus Sheila would be a ‘she’ but someone who was “socially transitioning” would continue to be referred to by their biological sex. We think this is messier, philosophically speaking.


3) “How is compelling someone to call a transwoman by their preferred pronoun any different from the social compulsion to bow before the King of England, even though you may be a Republican?”


This is a fun analogy. On the face of it, my student is correct in pointing out that there are a great many, analogous, situations in which one finds oneself having to bow to social, or political, pressure to act in a certain way, or speak contrary to one’s conscience. In recent years there has been a backlash over the compulsion to wear a red poppy during November on the BBC. In response, we say that: firstly, even if the analogies were true it wouldn’t make it right to compel people in this regard. Actually, we believe one should never have to act contrary to conscience and if one does, it is down to the freedom of the individual. It only grieves us to think there are sphere in which the individual does not feel, or own his/her liberty. Secondly, we don’t think it is a true analogy:

Supposing I am a vehement anti-monarchist; further, that I truly believe Charles has no legitimate claim to the English throne. Must I bow in his presence? If I don’t want to be arrested, probably. Well, all right, perhaps no one will be arrested for not bowing. But if I want to make it known that this term “King Charles” is an affront to reason? I might (as some have) chant, tweet, or hold up a placard reading, “Not my king.” Rude? Perhaps. Unethical? Not if we champion free speech. Absurd? Perhaps. For to style Charles “King” and address him as, “Your Majesty” denotes an empirical fact about his status as our sovereign; it does not, in-and-of-itself connote anything particular about the divine right of kings, or the ethical, political, or metaphysical status of the monarchy in 21st century Britain. Even if it did connote something of this, it would not denote it.

We state again, that the Trans Activist who advocates for people to be referred to by pronouns other than those which denote their sex is requiring people to speak against empirical facts, not merely “agree” with an opinion.


4) “It used to be that a ‘Tom Boy’ was simply a girl who didn’t want to conform to gender stereotypes. If the Terf is correct then surely the transgendered person is simply not conforming to gender stereotypes either, and should be treated in like manner?”


No. The Transgendered person wants to be or recognised as something they are not. The tom boy simply sees through the nonsense of behaviours stereotypically associated with sex. They are not at all equivalent.


A Game No One Enjoys?


At the outset, we decided that the main function of language was to facilitate communication yet, as we have seen, the adoption of transgendered words tends to stultify such communication. Not only is this unethical, it is unhelpful and arises, in the main, from the insistence of a tiny (yet vocal) minority, who wish us all to play a game many do not wish to play.


Ludwig Wittegenstein’s later work (such as in the Philosophical Investigations) posits language as a series of games we play. Meaning, for him, is simply bound up in use. We see this in the way in which couples might share a private joke. In the sitcom, Friday Night Dinner, the Goodman family refer to the meat they have as ‘squirrel’ and one of Martin Goodman's catchphrases is, “Lovely bit of squirrel!”[1] Unfortunately, an uninitiated guest takes his meaning to be that the meat he is currently chewing is actually that of a deceased rodent. He is not playing the same game.

This helps us to account for the difficulty in communicating with those who are outside of the game. It is impossible to play chess with an opponent who thinks the pieces all move like the counters in draughts.

We might decide we want to play draughts. But then we would put away our knights, rooks, bishops, and so forth, and take out our round counters because chess is not the same as draughts.


What the Trans Activists are trying to do is have us all play draughts with chess pieces and call it chess. It is not merely that they have invented a new game and want people to play it – they have tried to hijack our game – the game we were all playing for centuries. This is unethical but it is also impossible.

Yet even if they succeed in getting us all to play chess as if it were draughts, you will not convince the grand master to think of the game (s)he is now forced to play as anything but draughts. It can never be chess.





Ultimately, the Trans Activist cannot change what the Terf thinks about men and women, and so all attempts to hoodwink us into thinking that adopting these ludicrous terms are acts of kindness, or moral obligations, or displays of allyship, are tosh. Instead, we will maintain the philosophical position that using the terms ‘he’ or ‘she’ in any other way than to denote sex is to misuse language and therefore mis-speak; that the term ‘gender’ (when applied to human beings) does not point to anything objective, aside from the behaviours typically associated with each sex (which we want to dismantle in the interests of equality or equity between the sexes); and that it is morally repugnant to insist anyone uses these nonsensical terms against their will, and that their propagation is an endemic evil which, even if well intentioned, is likely to lead to further metaphysical, psychological and sociological problems.



[1] See Friday Night Dinner (2011-2020) created by Robert Popper

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