ARE WE HUMAN?
OR ARE WE DANCER?
This question got posed not too long ago and I’ve been thinking about it pretty heavily. Because it somewhat seems pretty compelling on the surface. Yes trans people change their bodies and you could make the argument that this is to replicate a sex. However, I think this only works if you look at it from a particular perspective, one I’m not sure I agree with.
So in short, the argument is that because trans men change their bodies to look more “manly” and trans women change their bodies to look more “womanly” this means we’re imitating something. Which I somewhat agree with, however I don’t think its as Black and Blaire White as its made out to be. Because doesn’t everyone do this? Is it surprising that a woman would try to look more “womanly”? Or a man more “manly”?
I don’t think it is. I think this is very typical of our species. We’re all competing to be the best as a fact of evolutionary biology. Humans can reason and look at what other people are doing, see if its doing well for them and try to do it themselves. This is 90% of how stereotypes and trends begin. If tomorrow the entire world started thinking that short hair was the only attractive way to female, then you betcha women would be cutting their hair short in a nanosecond. In fact, whole industries are essentially built upon this trend setting crap. Taking part in stereotypes isn’t unusual for women or men to do. It’s just human nature.
For this reason I can’t see it as an invalidation of wo/manhood and instead the argument that this makes someone an imitation is purely transphobic circular logic. They’re a wo/man, so they’re an imitation, because they’re a wo/man etc. It only works if you discount the idea that maybe trans women are actually women? and trans men actually men? Now I know. If you only count our bodies, we are in fact, males or females respectively. Typically speaking this is man and woman respectively. But trans people aren’t typical of the species, transsexuals make up 0.3% of the population according to the only source I have on this. This is the very definition of atypical.
So what sets us apart from the rest of the species, since we know it isn’t our bodies? Well to this we look to our brains. Neuroscience has conducted many studies and I’ve discussed them over here. The most compelling being that trans women have demasculinised regions with feminised regions and that trans men defeminised regions with masculinised ones. In short, it would be best to describe transsexualism as an intersex condition of the brain. This is the key difference between us and the non-trans majority. This is the root of dysphoria and explains why we feel the way we do about our bodies, it explains the drive to change them. As we discussed above, the vast majority of women with masculine bodies would aim to change them. Not to say this makes someone not a woman if they don’t – countertypes exist too.
So really the argument of whether we’re imitations comes down to one question. Are you your body or are you your brain? If you take the former perspective, I guess you could make the argument of imitation using circular reasoning, which would still be fallacious garbage.
My argument on the other hand is the latter perspective. I would argue that you are not your body. For example you can lose a leg and still be the same person. Yet you can’t lose an equivalent amount of your brain and still remain the same person. Hell, you can lose even smaller amounts of your brain and have major shifts in personality and cognitive function. It’s such a delicate instrument that we take for granted because it seems to only be a small part of our body, but if you really think about it, outside of reproduction – everything your body does is to keep your brain alive. A brain on its own could not nourish itself, it needs a vehicle to drive around, to obtain food and train it to think, to learn and to do all that good stuff our brains need. Without the body you would have a hard time doing any of this, the body’s entire purpose outside of reproduction is to facilitate these things.
In fact, philosophers have mused over the idea of a brain without a body, such as the brain in a vat theory. You might know it from The Matrix film – wherein which, the vat did have a body in it, but that’s just a plot device really. The Matrix films would’ve been over significantly quicker if Neo took the red pill, then a brain just flopped out of the vat and onto that metal drain. But I digress.
The brain in the vat theory is, in short, the idea that you are living in a simulation. It’s a theory Elon Musk believes in to some degree, and its been spoken about before in the sense of trans people by Rachel McKinnon, a trans philosopher. I put a lot of stock in the idea personally and you should definitely check out her work. As she points out, if you took my brain out of my body and put it into a vat and hooked it up to a computer simulation of the world, I would still be me. If you generated a male body for that, I would feel dysphoric about it. If you generated a female body for it, I wouldn’t. Likewise if you did the same with any person whose brain gives them the sense of self of a female.
In fact, in The Matrix film there was set to be this very thing. With a character who would be female in the Matrix but male in the real world. Of course, this was just a rumour right up until the Wachowski’s both came out as trans. Since then people have looked at the Matrix films through a trans lens and even argue the whole trilogy is an allegory for coming out as trans. Which I haven’t actually read, but I could believe given classic quotes such as:
How can one be an imitation of what one already is in their mind? Isn’t Neo’s avatar in the Matrix merely an expression of his self image? You’ll notice he has hair even when he’s bald in the real world. If the neuroscience is accurate, if the philosophy of the mind and the sense of self being innate are right, then how could we be imitations? We’re merely just being ourselves are we not? The only thing we ‘imitate’ is our own view of ourselves. It doesn’t come from an outside reference point, so how can it be an imitation of anyone or anything?
Anyway, this post got a bit ranty towards, the end, just really needed to get these thoughts out. I hope they still all make sense and I’d love to hear what you guys think?