Poor them.

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Discussion (46)¬

  1. Laripu says:

    On the one hand, if a person wants you to use plural pronouns for them, not doing so would be rude.

    On the other hand, if someone insists that others use special pronouns when speaking about them, that is also rude.

    So the situation, from the start, makes rudeness unavoidable from at least one side, possibly both. I would therefore prefer to not be around people that make me uncomfortable in that way.

    I hope they find peace with themselves in the world.

  2. Troubleshooter says:

    I dunno. Does Moses think he rates the royal “we” after all this time? Does that mean us lowly peons need to refer to Moise as “THEM?!?”

    Break out the waders, people; it’s getting DEEP in here!

  3. Jesus F Iscariot says:

    It is correct to use “they” when referring to the Catholic deity, the Trinity. They has three beings in Them.

  4. Troubleshooter says:

    @Jesus F Iscariot Do you suppose, then, that Moses is trying to add himself to the Trinity, make it a … what … Quadity? That’s an unknown quadity if ever I heard one! [grin!]

  5. I worry about the people who have a lot of friends who make this demand along with a lot of friends who don’t. Can you imagine the anxiety??!

  6. Oozoid says:

    I am happy to be referred to by the long-established gender-neutral pronoun ‘it’.

  7. Peter Nason says:

    I’ve always thought it weird that people get all bent out of shape when you use the pronoun “it” as if they are too holy to be limited to their earthly body.

  8. ZBicyclist says:

    Just as “you” is both singular and plural, “they” can be both singular and plural. This is a lot better than the clumsy “he or she”.

  9. Henry Ford says:

    I always found that using the persons real name solved most problems, though when they change their name to Ursula Hailstorm Athene, or Brian Toasterface, I do have some qualms. But one gets used to it…….

  10. Curious Observer says:

    As I understand it, people who ask to be referred to as ‘they’ are not aiming for plural treatment, but genderless treatment. English does not have a singular neutral pronoun for living things. Some have proposed xe or xhe as a contraction (i think) of ‘he or she’. While true that a lot of people refer to animals as ‘it’, most people will default to a gender pronoun for any animal they know the gender of, so there appears to be a concious awareness that ‘it’ is an unacceptable/less-preferable form of address for living things.

    Since the they/xe/xhe address grows out of the understanding that gender isn’t binary, I’m comfortable refering to someone as they. They gets used casually when referring to one or more absent people in conversation all the time (sure it’s poor grammar, but a lot of people do it.) At the end of the day it’s just about being decent and respecting your fellow humans. If someone isn’t comfortable being a male or female, but is most at home in the middle, why should I be hung up about respecting that? If I can go out of my way to say ‘sir’ or ‘maam’ I can make the extreme effort to say ‘they’. This is often described as a moot point since, if they aren’t around to hear us, why does it matter? (see the comic). It matters because we have so much paperwork that gives you two boxes and says to choose one. It matters because we /still/ treat men and women dofferently, and due to the sexual dimorphism in our species, we likely will for a long time to come. So in the meantime is it really a big deal to recognize those who live in the middle ground?

    On the other hand, there are those (who tend to be way more shrill) that aren’t using identity to feel comfortable in their skin, but rather to create strife and be as ‘holier than thou’ as they can possibly get. These soap box operatic divas are in all communities. Yes they’re irritating a.f. and we could all do without them. They generate backlash and make the extreme elements of other communities more hostile. But, they also help shine a light on issues, even if I don’t have the time of day for the person holding the flashlight. And I can relate to being disgruntled with them. My sister has ostracized me for not knowing that she changed her name (unofficially and not as part of a gender thing) and I unknowingly referred to her by her drivers liscence name. People like that aren’t worth the effort, because their reaction shows they lack the respect for you, that they’re demanding be paid to them. Yes I appologized at the time and switched to using her new name when I was corrected, but I’ve been on the outs for decades now and frankly can no longer care who she is.

    So, despite knowing shriekers, I can still respect those who are genuinely struggling with their identities. What has me confused as hell, is what this has to do with atheism. As a, very, loosely designated ‘group’, I would think that our struggle to not be seen as a having a type of faith would make atheists more sympathetic to those struggling with gender identity. However, for whatever reason, some prominent atheists have spoken out against gender-identity advocacy. The biological science is very clear that gender is a *very* non-binary issue, and yet these proponents of rational thought have rejected the science to make arguments against the trans/queer (or the whole LGBTQ2+) community.

    I don’t know if that is the point of today’s comic or not, as the religious application of pronouns is usually more about ‘Him’ than the trinity. But this comic definitely reads more like an argument against recognizing gender identity than religious identity. Is there a frame of context that I’m missing perhaps? Was there a story about some religious type making an argument to use a holy ‘They’? I feel like the comic has touched on this before, but can’t recall the instance.

    Author, if you’re willing, I would very much like to hear your thoughts, and maybe have some context for todays strip? If I’m just over-reading and it is just riffing on ‘Him’ I’d like to know that too, as sometimes my ears start ringing from all the shrill people that make the news. (which isn’t to say that people in the news are shrill, but some people just keep trumping in.) [edit: tromping in]

  11. chris c says:

    I think that requiring people to use particular third person pronouns when referring to you is a little weird. I’m happy to use whatever form of address a person wants, but why should they care how I refer to them when speaking to someone else?

  12. Extreme example says:

    chris c – There is validity in your query, I get it.

    Here is a thought exercise: if I’m in a room full of straight male crackers (wasps), is it then acceptable for me to start talking about cunts, fags, chinks, spics, wops, niggers, pakis, ragheads, and kikes? Firstly, they’re all just words right, so why does it matter? Obviously there is a matter of degree in the hostility of the terminology, but there are obvious historical reasons that the groups labelled with the aforementioned slurs find it offensive, and why we don’t use those terms even in private. They are demeaning and are part of disregarding and excluding the respective groups. By not being willing to recognize the prefered nomenclature for a particular person, we are still excluding them. By not having space in our vocabulary to recognize the existence and identity of someone, we do to them the same thing. Ultimately I think respecting the preferred pronouns is about maintaining awareness and not fostering hate.

    Really the only objection I have to xe/xhe, is that it doesn’t have an obvious pronunciation. Singular ‘They’ is well understood, common, and is the default in many cases anyways.

  13. Matt says:

    I can think of several more accurate terms for such people, but sadly none of them are gender neutral

  14. Laripu says:

    I have a question, with some explanation.

    I understand heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality.
    I understand that such people should not be discriminated against or treated badly in any way. I consider them my equals.

    When someone says they’re gender non-binary, they are not saying whether their orientation is toward men, women, or other non-binary people. They’re only saying that they don’t have a defined gender.

    I’m fine with them saying that, wearing any hairstyle, wearing any clothing, doing whatever they want. I will be friendly and helpful, if necessary.

    Ok, if someone doesn’t have a defined gender, they have the freedom to think that, and say so, and act on it. They don’t have the freedom to force other people to have sex with them; or to call them ‘they’.

    Let’s construct a reductio ad absurdum.

    I am “non-royalty binary”. I DEMAND, you prole-plebe, that you refer to me as “HER f**k-in’ MAJESTY”, even if I’m not there. Don’t forget the correct capitalization, or I’ll call you a name that indicates intolerance (or something).

    My question: is that fair? Do I have the right to force you to refer to me that way? I already have the right to wear a purple robe, a crown, and gaudy jewelry. Can I force you to refer to me as HER f**k-in’ MAJESTY?

    If people can live, dress, and have sex any way they want, and say what they want, protected by law, do they have the right to force the content of how other people’s privately refer to them?

    Jus’ axin’. 😉

  15. jb says:

    Curious Observer —

    One reason people become atheists is that they care about truth more than they do about feelings. And some of those people believe it isn’t actually true that a man can transubstantiate himself into a woman with a little surgery and hormone therapy. (Not to mention those men who insist that they are really truly women even though they’ve still got all their man bits!) So it really isn’t that surprising that the issue should come up in a forum primarily populated by atheists.

    The thing is, this isn’t really so much about what people should be called as about what they ARE. To avoid giving offense (and getting viciously attacked over it) I suppose I would be willing to call Caitlyn Jenner “she” in public situations. It’s a tricky call. But no way in Hell will I be coerced into thinking of him as anything other than a tragically messed up XY male human being!

  16. Chris Phoenix says:

    If you’re demanding why you should refer to others in absentia by non-binary pronouns:

    If you want to avoid using rude/inappropriate pronouns in public, it’s easier if you’re consistent in private as well. And it helps inform and remind other people. It’s not thought control or behavior control; it’s simple civility (in today’s social convention).

    If you insist that a person’s self-perception is always tied to the body they have… well, that’s simply not true. So you can persist in your faith in an unreality, or you can face your discomfort, learn some new facts, and change your mind.

  17. Altra says:

    Wait.. if they want to refer to them as they, then do we also call them Mosi instead of Moses?

  18. Rrr says:

    Altra: No, because Moses are obviously plural already. As opposed to their brother Aaarone, of which there is only singular.

  19. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Curious Observer, re:

    The biological science is very clear that gender is a *very* non-binary issue,

    Are you being deliberately disingenuous here or have you simply accepted the dogma without thinking too hard about it? I ask because that sentence is utter nonsense.
    Biology has nothing to say about gender because gender is an abstract construct used to denote the out-dated masculine/feminine attributes and roles of humans, so it falls within the remit of the social sciences. When one understands this, the very notion of gender non-binary becomes redundant, simply because none of us adhere perfectly to what are considered masculine or feminine, we all do, say, feel things that tradition tells us is masculine or feminine in nature. In that sense, we are all gender non-binary, and those brave souls who have agonised long and hard before coming out as non-binary and demanding that we all remember that this one person must always be spoken of with these special pronouns, and that person demands another set of pronouns, and if we forget who wants to be called what and slip up then we are comitting acts of violence and causing real pain are doing nothing more than stating the fucking obvious about gender while telling us that they have a need to be seen as special and new, something different to us boring old he and she people.

    This.brings me to the bullshit spouted by TRAs about so-called ‘TERFS’ and particularly the ongoing campaign of lies about gender-critical feminists. ‘TERF’ is nothing but a handy slur to throw at any woman who publically states anything that runs contrary to the current trans dogma. Saying something so blindingly obvious and clearly true as ‘a woman is an adult human female’ or ‘women have vulvas, they do not have penises‘ is enough to have one labelled a violent, transphobic TERF, and that is nothing but hyperbolic hate-mongering aimed at killing any rational discourse on the issues at hand.
    The villification of gender-critical feminists is based on the TRAs deliberate mis-understanding of ‘critical’. They pretend that in the case of GCF, ‘critical’ is to be used in the sense of ‘vital’, that GCFs believe that we must retain the old gender roles, that men must be masculine, strong and logical, women must be feminine, weak and emotional, and there must be no crossing of the boundaries. TRAs claim that GCFs are the self-proclaimed ‘gatekeepers of gender’ who insist that it is critical that we maintain the gendered status quo, but that is, as I said, bullshit of the highest order.

    The truth is that ‘critical’ in the sense of GCF means critical of gendered stereotypes. They want to change the traditional ideas about gender, to have people understand that men can be or feel what tradition says is feminine and still be men, and women can be as masculine in the traditional sense as they want and still be women. It is this that the TRAs hate, because removing the old ideas about gender will largely do away with the need for men who want to express themselves as what is seen as feminine to demand to be accepted as actual women. GCFs are simply saying that people should be able to act, dress, express themselves however they want without having to re-classify themselves as the other sex (not gender). It makes an obvious nonsense of the idea that ‘trans women are women, trans men are men’, and when looked at honestly it becomes clear that it is the TRAs who are gatekeeping gender roles; it is the TRAs who need to preserve the gender stereotypes in order to justify their dogmatic beliefs.

    Biology is clear (certain ‘woke’ distorters of science notwithstanding) about sex, however. Any biologist worthy of the name will tell you that sex is very much a binary. There is no ‘spectrum’ of sex in humans: there are two very distinct body types, male and female, and the few outliers – the intersex people, for example, do not disprove this. Those outliers are the result of errors in foetal development, not a third sex. Also, using such people to bolster claims about transgender – intersex people exist therefore trans x are x – is dishonest at best, exploitative at worse. Intersex is a physical condition, transgender exists only in the mind, a purely psychological phenomenon. People born without legs are no more proof that humans are not a bi-pedal species than intersex people prove that sex is not binary.

    So, no, biology does not say that sex is non-binary, it clearly says that there is a male/female binary with some outliers as the result of foetal mis-development. ‘Woman’ is not a category containing ‘cis’-women and trans-women, and vice-versa for ‘Man’. Women and men are not sub-categories of their own sex. A persons sex is inate and unchangeable: it is not ‘assigned at birth’ and it is not possible to ‘identify’ oneself into the opposite sex.

    Why is an atheist site making mention of these issues? Because there is so much about transgender activism that is very much religious in nature. It is dogmatic, it brooks no argument, dissenters must be villified and silenced, it lobbies for its beliefs to be enshrined in law and so make criticism of it illegal and punishable by law, it posits mind/body dualism (woman in a man’s body), it rejects science where it doesn’t support the dogma, it eschews material evidence in favour of personal belief and promotes feelings over facts, the idea that a man can become a woman or a woman can become a man is transubstantialist in nature, it rejects rational thought for magical thinking, to accept it is a matter of faith…need I go on?

  20. Curious Observer Again says:

    Laripu – As Extreme points out above, reductio ad absurdum goes in both directions. They aren’t asking for titles or airs (well aside from the Queen’s, but even they don’t ask you to call them that. They’re proud of who they are and don’t need your validation). What non-binary people are asking for, is that we stop shoving them in a box that they don’t fit in. [m/f]. Also, you are correct, being non-binary has nothing to do with sexual orientation: gynephilia, androphilia or ..¿trans/enby-philia? (is that a thing?) But rather what’s going on in a persons body and head.

    jb: While I don’t understand how refering to Ms Jenner as female is difficult, I applaud your effort in acknowledging her identity. Thank you for summarizing the position of anti-trans/enby atheists.

    Yes, those who are anti-non-binary claim theirs a position about truth, and yet what they cite is an arm-chair concensus by NON-experts that *some* these people are /just/ going on “feelings” and that even if others of them can provide concrete medical proof of their condition, because our ‘experts’ want to ignore those operating on their feelings we should throw out the whole lot? That doesn’t sound like a very fact based position. Furthermore, our feelings are *heavily* influenced by hormones, which are also heavily involved in messing with our bodies’ function, including exhibiting gender. Is it not then logical to see a correlation and investigate further, and be supportive of people having a rough time? Or is it better to just pretend that we *know* they’re all just having feelings, so they must be faking it and we can ignore them and belittle their struggles? I mean, if we know that it’s the *truth* then we can ignore the factual science-based evidence that gender is non-binary, right?

    Lastly, if we want to refuse to label people based on their feelings, we are surrounded by *billions* of people who identify as believing in various gods. They call themselves by all kinds of names, and we play along. Christian, hindu, moslem, jew, buddhist, those blessed by his noodly appendage. If we refuse to call non-binary people ‘they’ should we not also refuse to use any relgious terminology? Will that help advance the discussion and make the faithful comfortable with approaching atheism? It hardly seems consistent to refuse to call someone they, and turn around and acknowledge that a person is religious so you can debate them.

    Lastly @Altra, that is hillarious. But you don’t think it would be one Moseses? 😉

  21. Rrr says:

    Applause to jb and AoS!

    Especially that lingo-mumbo-jumbo of exchanging one meaning of a word for a completely different one is common to religion, magic and puns, of which only one is any fun (in my view). A classic bait-and-switch, but all too lucrative.

    In the case of non-binary gender, it seems to have led to the vilification of a made-up enemy in the interest of self-promotion. “Burn the witches, because I tell you so and I am holy!” (Or ass-holey, if my dogma holds … )

    But the tragic part of this conflict, as with so many others, is that it hits mainly those who are extra vulnerable: under-age adolescents are by nature seeking for true identity. They really do not need to be kidnapped into some political scheme and experimented upon before they even reach the age of consent.

    And because the trans-activist agenda has click-value, it lends itself excellently to abuse by such people that have little respect for truth or decency as long as it serves their own interests and could hardly care less who gets hurt in the process.

    This is the point where, to me, the debate circles back to reality vs religion. Please do not believe in the obviously incredible.

    Words do matter and do have meaning. Some words appear to have more than one meaning, and that’s where syntax and context come into the CRITICAL analysis. In both senses.

  22. Curious Observer Again says:

    Hi @Acolyte of Sagan, firstly, I am definitely not an expert on any of this. As well, the reason this came up on an atheist site, is that I brought it up based on today’s comic. The comic seemed more reminiscent of the stance (like yours) amongst some prominent atheists is that non-binary gender doesn’t exist, or is a figment of the imagination. I have asked the author if this was the intent or if there was some other source (‘Him’ / the trinity) as the driving creative spark of the associated comic strip.

    A link to scholarly articles about the biology of gender has been provided above. I’ve read many of the articles and it is clear that the gender investigation is not, as you put it, “utter nonsense,” nor is it purely sociological. While sociology does study and analyze gender roles, gender as the physiological expression of traits associated with sexual reproduction in animals is biological. The available science identifies causes of variation and degree of gender expression which include, non-binary chromosomes [XXY, XYX, YXX], other drivers of extreme hormone variation (causing XX to exhibit as male or XY to exhibit as female), and other environmental and physiological factors than can modify a body’s development. The result is that any person’s physiological expression can vary broadly between male and female and to more or less pronounced degrees. This means that gender exists not just as a spectrum but as a multi-dimensional field instead of being firmly anchored to two end-points. It also means that physiological expression can vary across the body, (like having a penis and gynecomastia) and this includes the brain, where the mind resides. You even acknowledge the existence of intersex people, and then claim that this concrete *observable* evidence doesn’t count.

    Let’s work with this legless baby example. As I understand you, people are bipedal, meaning we all walk around on two legs for motion. Because of this, the legless baby in your example doesn’t prove that people aren’t bipedal. Which is a correct statement *only* in as much as the first point, “people are bipedal” is a generalization, while “this baby has no legs” is a specific example which shows that the generalization is _not_ perfect. Thus, claiming that /all/ people are bipedal is incorrect. Labelling a legless baby as a biped is wrong, since they do not have two legs and thus cannot walk around on them. People are also not bipedal for many other reasons. Para- and quadriplegics, disease, amputation are all mechanisms that stop people from being bipedal.

    The argument about biological gender (what you called ‘sex’) being binary is the same. The same fallacy is used to argue that non-binary gender doesn’t exist. The existence of intersex people doesn’t stop many or most people from generally fitting into categories roughly corresponding to the male/female groups. No-one is claiming that it does. However, to ignore the evidence to claim that /all/ people fit into a strict male/female divide is factually incorrect. As I summarized above (and the papers from the provided link substantiate) there are many reasons for a person to not fit into a rigid definition of male or female. It is not just unscientific, but it is also bigotry as it results in the denigration and marginalization of a community.
    The existence of a counter example doesn’t disprove a generalization, but it does disprove a claim of homogeneity. Yes, only one example is required. Since .4-.5% of people identify as non-binary, this means we have maybe 35 million people world wide. This is a good bit more than a single example.

    To be clear, for this topic, the general consensus is (I think) to describe someone’s biological exhibited traits (including physical appearance, hormone levels, genetics etc..) as gender, and their attractions/preferences as sexuality (typically ranging from androphilia through to gynephilia, but then some people like pomegranates, so, you know, grain of salt). The purpose is to add clarity to the discussion. Any mistakes in terminology are my own, and are not intended as hurtful towards the so-labelled group.

    In closing, I am genuinely curious why this seems to fill you with such anger. The language used in your argument is very aggressive and certainly doesn’t sound like a fair representation of a self-professed acolyte of Mr. Sagan. All of Mr. Sagan’s media show him as a very mellow person who seems genuinely interested in the diversity of the universe, not in rigidly forcing it to fit his preconceived notions. May I encourage you to revisit Mr. Sagan’s work, and study his behaviour, instead of just his position on science and religion? n.b. he was agnostic, not an atheist. As a starting point here is the wikipedia article on him:

  23. Curious Observer Again says:

    @Rrr ? Really? Who is going out and recruiting kids and forcing them to undergo treatment to become non-binary or trans? The only cases I know of that remotely resemble that, are church groups who advocate for the abusive practice of “Conversion Therapy”.

    For a teen to come out as non-binary or trans requires a phenomenal amount of bravery, even in a welcoming environment, let alone in a typical high-school. Even some members of the LGB community are anti-trans/enby/queer. (So there’s not even a guarantee of a safe environment there). Then if they /do/ manage to be heard and accepted, the amount of work they need to do be supported in any kind of medical intervention is huge.

    The rant about terminology is interesting but flawed. Words change meaning all the time, but also, their definitions become very precise when dealing with domain specific knowledge. Words that are used casually in day-to-day conversation have only a single very specific meaning in legal, medical and other professional discourse. In order to advance the discussion and understanding around gender identity, the community studying it has documented and works with very specific meanings for the words. However, some aggressive elements from outside of the conversation are angry about how the words can’t mean that because they don’t like the facts being studied. What else is the purpose of complaining about the domain specific meaning of a word?

    While I generally enjoy the rational elements and discourse in an atheist forum such as this, it boggles the mind how rabidly anti-TQ2+ some members are. As I said above, since atheists hate being labeled as faithful, you’d think we’d be more accepting of people who aren’t correctly labeled as male or female.

  24. Laripu says:

    Some comic relief, image of Jesus in a dog’s ass:

    Author: how would you write the reaction of comic strip Jesus to people who see his image in odd objects, e.g. the picture above? I’m not sure that’s where Jesus wants to be seen. 🙂

  25. postdoggerel says:

    Frank Sinatra “Love And Marriage” (1955)

    Sex and gender, sex and gender
    They go together like a fast rear ender
    This I tell you, brother
    You can’t have one without the other

    Sex and gender, sex and gender
    Go together in a food blender
    Ask the local gentry
    And they will say it’s alimentary

    Try, try, try to separate them
    It’s an illusion
    Try, try, try, and you will only come
    To this conclusion

    Sex and gender, sex and gender
    Go together like a fender bender
    Dad was told by mother
    You can’t have one, you can’t have none
    You can’t have one without the other

    Try, try, try to separate them
    It’s an illusion
    Try, try, try, and you will only come
    To this conclusion

    Sex and gender, sex and gender
    It ain’t legal like legal tender
    Dad was told by mother
    You can’t have one, you can’t have none
    You can’t have one without the other

  26. Laripu says:

    Curious Observer Again, I’m not shoving anyone in a box. As I wrote above, I’m ok with whatever anyone says about themselves, whatever clothes they wear, and whatever hairstyles, piercings, tattoos etc they may want. Not my business, except that I’d like them to wear a mask and keep three meters away while covid infection is possible.

    I’m ok with them asserting that they’re neither male nor female. Maybe it’s true. I’m ok with it. Mostly it’s not my business.

    However, I do reserve the right to use the pronouns to which I’ve been accustomed over 64 years. Specifically when an NB person isn’t present. My freedom to use speech patterns that have been the norm for hundreds of years supercedes their desire that others speak of them a certain way when they can’t even hear it.

  27. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Curious Observer:

    Yes, those who are anti-non-binary claim theirs a position about truth, and yet what they cite is an arm-chair concensus by NON-experts that *some* these people are /just/ going on “feelings” and that even if others of them can provide concrete medical proof of their condition,

    There is no reputable doctor on Earth who would provide concrete medical proof that a person is gender non-binary, because gender is an abstract notion of masculine/feminine. It is possible to obtain proof that a person exhibits physical signs of both sexes, but that is a different issue. You are talking about people who ‘feel’ that they are …. what? Neither sex? Both sexes? A mix of masculine and feminine or neither masculine nor femine?
    There’s the problem, you see. People make these claims of being non-binary without being specific about the terms they use. If asked, the typical response is not an attempt to explain but a version of it’s not my job to educate you, you need to educate yourself. If a woman dare publically question any part of the dogma the responses are more akin to fuck off and die, TERF: choke on my girl-dick, bitch and many more such pleasantries.
    Exaggerating? You decide.

  28. Curious Observer says:

    @Laripu Thanks for sharing the Jesus Dog, that’s hilarious. It may not be your intention to shove people in a box, and please accept my apologies for writing to imply that it was *your* intention to box them in. I’ve been sloppy today differentiating writing about general arguments and peoples specific stances. However, even if we aren’t intending to box someone in, using language that doesn’t appropriately address people can do just that. (See Extreme’s example above about the effects of language).

    Chris Phoenix put it well, that using the preferred terminology when they are absent, is good practice for when they are present. And yes, freedom of speech, you have the right to say whatever you want, they are just asking you to respect their identity. I am curious about your age comment. I mean, I don’t think you meant it as ageist, but it kind of implies as much about being to old to learn as it does about demanding respect for your experience. Assuming it means the latter, if you’re demanding respect, is it really unfair for others to ask you to also give respect?

    Please, I am actually really enjoying discussing this all with you and do apologize if my response earlier was overly confrontational. You are one of the first people to respond well to this debate that I’ve personally had the chance to dialogue with. (What I’ve seen here and elsewhere is that many of the people who are anti-‘they’ are rather… energetic in their argument) Thank you for taking the time to share your perspective.

  29. Curious Observer says:

    @Acolyte of Sagan … Ok. I’m not going to dispute (and never claimed otherwise) that people of _all_ stripes can be assholes. We are arguably the least evolved form of primate. However, I’m struggling to see the value in comparing *tweets* to academic papers discussing gender identity and expression.

    If you’re interested in actually learning about the science, there is a very readable article in the Kansas School Naturalist. It is collaboratively authored by PhD’s that have studied this since the 1950’s. These are not sociologists. They are biological scientists: a professor of pediatrics, and a neuroscience researcher. It is well sourced and provides a very solid science based description of the variations in the expression of sexual attributes. So there are at least two doctors on earth who argue that gender is not easily defined as binary.

    Another article is available at harvard:

  30. Donn says:

    Wow, interesting discussion.

    quoth Curious Observer:

    While true that a lot of people refer to animals as ‘it’, most people will default to a gender pronoun for any animal they know the gender of, so there appears to be a concious awareness that ‘it’ is an unacceptable/less-preferable form of address for living things.

    People are conscious that a genderless pronoun is depersonalizing for something that has gender. Trees and oysters and so forth, alive but without apparent gender and hence ‘it’ – you have to go pretty far down the anthropomorphic scale for something that has no apparent gender. The genderless plural third person is a language trick to get around that.

    I think atheists do not take well to instruction like that.

  31. Mockingbird says:

    Moses was always plural they is. Didn’t it?

  32. Mockingbird says:

    Good one, Donn – While we are on the subject of English language .. .. ..
    Picking on Laripu (gently) – “They” complains about; “People that do this.” or “people that do that.”
    Laripu – It’s machines THAT do things. It’s people WHO do things.
    – – – –

  33. Paul Seed says:

    Laripu says “I already have the right to wear a purple robe, a crown, and gaudy jewelry. Can I force you to refer to me as HER f**k-in’ MAJESTY?” Much of this debate about name-calling, pronouns, sexist & racist language etc. becomes much easier to understand when you realise it is about good manners and proper behaviour. No I can’t force “HER f**k-in’ MAJESTY” to behave civilly, but most discussion spaces have some sort of rules regarding acceptable behaviour. This one is no exception.

  34. Son of Glenner says:

    If I may shift the focus of our collective pedantry, I take issue with the remark by Curious Observer: “We are arguably the least evolved form of primate.”

    Curious Observer is making the very common misunderstanding of evolution as a directional progress towards some target. Bonobos and chimps (our closest “relatives”) are just as evolved as we are, no more, no less. It so happens that bonobos are matriarchal and fairly nice to each other, whereas chimps are patriarchal and fight a lot. (I simplify, of course!) That does not mean that bonobos are more evolved than chimps, it just means that they evolved socially in different ways (NB not “different directions”!) Humans just evolved differently again, with increasing brain power, enabling sophisticated technology like using fire, making stone tools, flying to the moon and inventing the internet.

    For a better understanding of evolution, I recommend books by Richard Dawkins, such as “The greatest show on earth”. He is easier reading than Darwin for us in the twenty-first century.

    On the other hand, I thank Curious Observer for the reference to the article in Kansas School Naturalist, which is a very readable review of a complex subject.

    Sorry if I sound like a school teacher. I used to be one, many years ago.

  35. Laripu says:

    Paul Seed, I agree about good manners. See the very first post on this page.

    Two general comments:

    1. When I was a child in Montreal in the 60s and teen in the 70s, physical fights in the schoolyard were fairly common and resolved quickly without adult intervention. Nowadays they’re uncommon. A person with testicles knows everything they need to know about their gender if they get kicked in the balls.

    2. For many generations we’ve been discarding plastics into the environment. They’ve become ubiquitous in the food chain, and chemicals in plastics are well known endocrine disruptors. It’s really not at all surprising that we’re seeing gender dysphoria. That’s not a moral judgement: people should be treated with respect. Nevertheless, we really should clean up the oceans and land.

  36. Curious Observer says:

    @Son of Glenner – It wasn’t a mistake, but thank you for calling it out. It was arguably inappropriate for me to use “evolved” figuratively in a discussion where I’m trying to use gender terminology very precisely.

    I’m not sure if it’s called poetic license or literary tradecraft, but the usage shifts using the word evolved from biology to the other sense of civililty. The implication is that other primates behave with a higher degree of class than we do. Others have provided the examples that our civil behaviour and our technology usage are not correlated.

  37. Curious Observer says:

    @Son of Glenner – For a bit of fun, you inspired me to look at and compare reproductive life cycles of primates. Fortunately this has been done already:!po=0.819672

    The results show that humans both start reproducing later, and have the longest period in between births. Naive mathematics on the subject would imply that this gives us the oldest/longest generational gap of the primates, which is only exacerbated when the numbers increase due to technology. As such we likely do have fewer generations or direct ancestors between now and our last common ancestor with our simian cousins (as compared to the number of simians’ direct ancestors to the last common ancestor). The implication of this is that we have had fewer generations with which to evolve compared to other primates. (i.e. we’ve undergone fewer evolutionary cycles)

    So respond literally to your complaint, I hope you find the cited study compelling and my conclusion humourous. To be pedantic with myself, I had not stated that we /were/ less evolved, just that a person could make that argument. Now I have definitely argued that we are less evolved, technically proving that it could be done and definitely arguing against being as equally evolved as chimps and bonobos.

    As a side note, another study gives the reproductive age of Bonobos as 9 years, so by the same argument they *are* more evolved than chimpanzies. (n.b. this is not an argument about which species is more fit, but just who has undergone more evolutionary cycles or refinement)


    Reductio ad absurdum: bacteria and viruses are more evolved than any of the ‘higher’ life forms.

    Does anyone want to take up the mantel of a comparison based on the number of evolutionary *changes* between common ancestors and now? (some species have a high reproductive cycle, but due to a lack of pressure seem to stagnate, or don’t change significantly through the generations. see: sharks. Arguably perfect hunting machines in the ocean, and unchanged meaningfully in 100’s of millions of years. Although I do wonder about their immune system. I’d bet that it has developed significantly in the same time)

  38. Rrr says:

    Curious: As you will surely agree, things go easier if everyone keeps using words consistently. For example, I notice your handle has changed on this very page.

    As to your post Dec 11 5:41 PM, the term you seek might be exegesis? 😉

    As to your question to me above regarding pressure on adolescents to “repair” their sex — Fortunately I have no skin in this game so to speak, but there has been a fierce, in fact almost violent, debate in UK over that exact theme. At least one proponent deleted their Twitter history (or had it removed) after being exposed as hateful to those opponents conveniently grouped together as “TERFs”. The tragedy is that one faction won the powerful support of major media as well as Members of Parliament and some Universities in silencing and/or no-platforming the critical voices. (Not in the sense of essential, mind you, but persons daring to point out more or less blatant errors, oversights or mere over-generalisations!) These included, IIRC, practicing medical and psychology professionals who tried to blow the whistle on malpractice done to just that vulnerable group of young patients by encouraging puberty blocking treatment etc.

    It seems to me that the hate that “TRAs” ascribe to “TERFs” is deep down nothing but projection. Violence goes the opposite way here, IMO.

    Also, let’s not forget that on the coattails of actual trans persons ride a sometimes quite revolting cadre of opportunists. Meaning, Born-as-male transes seeking access to women-only places like refuge homes, single-sex bathrooms or prisons (including at least one convicted woman-killer and still self-declared misogynist, posting death threats on the internet !) and sex-segregated sports. Why there would be a separate class of chess or horse dressage championship for women I never understood; but in sports like weight lifting, ski-, foot or bicycle racing or Rugby football it does make a lot of sense. Physiology, you see, not mentality.

    I repeat, I do not have first-hand info on any of this, but a lot of what I do believe comes from someone occurring on this board from time to time.

    To finish on a note resonant to your sensibilities regarding the proper way to address others — how can you even begin to deign calling people here “atheists”? You are not by any chance a Papist, huh? Methinks your slip is showing. 😉

    Respectfully, Rrr
    (Please forgive my wall of text here, as I forgive yours!) And please bear in mind, English is not my first language.

  39. Rrr says:

    Late addendum re: sports:
    Emma Hilton @FondOfBeetles ·8 dec.
    I am delighted to announce that Hilton and Lundberg, 2020 is now published!

    ‘Transgender Women in the Female Category of Sport: Perspectives on Testosterone Suppression and Performance Advantage’

    Recently published paper (I haven’t read):

  40. Curious Observer says:

    @Rrr Oof. You made me run to the dictionary *twice* to confirm meanings. (yay! Today I learned, so thank you!) Exegis describes what I did afterwards, in analyzing what I wrote, but in the analysis I was trying to describe the practice of contemplating ones words before or while setting them to paper. It was describing the act of writing the text rather than reading it. But as was evident in the original and subsequent posts, word smithing is not my forté. Even my handle changing was due to forgetting what email I provided originally, and not wanting Author to think I was two different people with the second impersonating the first. Then I stopped worrying about it.

    A _Papist_? Really?! ? That was actually worth a chuckle. Yeah, it wasn’t smooth (or even polite, despite not being derogatory) to apply the term atheist for the whole J&M community, but I would think that to an outside observer it would be a reasonable first approximation of the commenters here.

    I don’t know, does anyone here identify as not an atheist? Myself, I held on to agnostic while I was younger, but switched to atheist when I recognized in myself that despite thinking it’s unknowable, I just didn’t think much about it but that ultimately dieties seemed unlikely. I certainly wasn’t going to do the work others would demand of me to appease their raging sky people. So in the end it was more straight forward to tell people I was an atheist. I mean, as an agnostic I was still stuck not knowing which god it was that I wasn’t supposed to not be able to know did or didn’t exist.

    Now religion, yeah… definitely not. Basically between religions and the ultra wealthy there are the two groups of people/organizations which I have less than zero sympathy for. Which is to say that, yes, I advocate for their destruction and the dispersal of their wealth to the general public. But that’s a while other can of worms.

    Thank you all for the conversation. I would love to sit down with y’all for a drink.

  41. Son of Glenner says:

    Curious Observer: A polite suggestion: please proofread your comment before hitting the “Submit” button. Your recent comment, of December 12, 12:35 am, contains a few spelling errors of significant words (I don’t count USA spellings as errors – you can’t help being an American) and a slightly odd construction – “Basically between …” near the end.

    Also watch out for treacherous intervention by spellcheck, when it changes a perfectly good word into another, which is a perfectly good word but the wrong word in the context. I often sea this short of thing in my own writhing.

    Your earlier contribution (December 11, 7:19 pm), about the relative numbers of generations since last common ancestor, makes a valid point; I am not enough of an evolutionary biologist to try to refute it. I certainly agree that bacteria and viruses can be considered more highly evolved than “higher” life forms – indeed they can be observed evolving in real time, as when bacteria become antibiotic-resistant. Incidentally, returning to the original topic of this thread, some single-celled organisms have surprisingly complex sex systems.

    By the way, I concur on having a drink. Mine’s a single malt Scotch whisky, my current favourite is Old Poultney 12 year-old. Would yours by any chance be a Bourbon?

  42. Dr John the Wipper says:

    Incidentally, returning to the original topic of this thread, some single-celled organisms have surprisingly complex sex systems.

    Well, that depends highly on your definition of “sex system”.
    Yes, they have a wide variety of generating species continuity, but even calling it supplying “the next generation” is a stretch (example in case: nematodes).

    The minimum standard definition of sex system comprises of different individuals with non-equal genetic codings getting their infos mixed to produce offspring, but many organisms use different methods of taking care of the continuation of the species.

    I have on purpose kept the descriptions of various way of continuing the species as vaguely as I am able to in my (non-native) English, and I wish I could have done so even more.
    Yes, sexual reproduction can be VERY complex, but reproduction, nor even continuing the species, is by no means restricted to it!

  43. Rrr says:

    After this comment I will REALLY TRY HARD to abstain from further pollution! (A while …)

    Concerning concealing unethical use of puberty blockers on (obviously) minors in UK:

  44. Laripu says:

    I just noticed that Moses is using a Dell computer. Is he against Apple because of its role in the temptation of Eve? 😉

    Author, I hope Dell gave you some money for that product placement.

  45. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Curious Observer, apologies for the late response but I have very little time for interwebby things these days.
    First up, you are mistaken about me being angry. I admit that I don’t sugar-coat my words and have a tendency to be blunt and to the point, but I’m not angry. Often exasperated but not angry.
    Now, you are clearly reluctant to use the word ‘sex’ when talking about the physical aspects that define male and female, preferring to use ‘gender’ in this respect, but you are also using gender in its proper sense, i.e. the social construct of masculine and feminine. Doing this, however, only muddies the water, and is a favoured ‘bait and switch’ technique regularly employed by those who’s arguments rely on ambiguity. Put simply, they will point to studies on the physiological aspects of sex – chromosomal irregularities, for example – that show the results of abnormal foetal development, and because such studies erroneously use the word ‘gender’ rather then ‘sex’ they will then use those studies to bolster claims about people who’s issues are centred around the socially constructed ideas about gender.
    The point is, it is dishonest at best to use people with genuine physiological irregularities to argue that people who are clearly male are actually female if they identify as such, or that because some people, again through irregularities during foetal development, exhibit physical signs of both sexes then those who simply don’t feel that they fit into a binary are neither male nor female. The two are different things – the first is a real, physiological condition while the latter is psychological in origin and the one cannot be used to support arguments for the other.

    Now, you seem to think that both sex and gender exist on spectrums and use the examples of intersex and chromosonal irregularities to support that, and you clearly misunderstood my ‘legless baby’ analogy. I do not deny that there are people born with those conditions but again, they do not disprove that humans are a sexually dimorphic species. I know how harsh this might sound, but such people are anomalies, the products of foetal mis-development just as are children born with deformed or missing limbs, or blind, deaf, mute, or with albinism. None of those conditions change the taxological description of Homo sapiens of which a sexual dimorphism of male/female is a part. They do not prove that sex is not binary, just that sometimes things go wrong during the foetal development stage.
    A gender spectrum does exist, but only if people buy in to the social norms of masculine and feminine attributes (which is exactly what gender critical feminists are critical of and want to get rid of). However, if one does accept those gendered norms then the simple fact is that the vast majority of people – close to 100% – are gender non-binary, because we all exhibit a mix of traditional gender norms. It is a very rare person who exhibits only masculine or only feminine norms as per the social construct of gender. Therefore, people who feel that they don’t conform to gender norms, either because the feel that they are a bit kf both or because they feel that their gender matches that of the opposite sex (itself an erroneous conflation of sex and gender) are no less male or female for those feelings. One cannot simply identify oneself out of the physical sex binary or identify as the opposite of their biological sex based on feelings that are rooted in an abstract social construct.

    So, please don’t point me to studies on sex, even if the studies do refer to gender despite being about sex, because they say nothing about the issue at hand. Oh, and please don’t try to patronise me again by saying things such as ‘If you’re interested in actually learning about the science. You have no idea how much reading I’ve done on this subject, from both sides of the argument, nor are you aware of just how much of the science I understand. I am more than capable of examining the evidence critically and I hold the opinions that I do because of the science, not despite it.

    Finally, I don’t drink alcohol, so mine’s an orange juice. Bottoms up!

  46. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Further to my comment above, something has been niggling at the back of my mind all evening and the penny just dropped. The plural of ‘spectrum’ is ‘spectra’, not bloody ‘spectrums’.


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