A justification for transexualism

Transexualism has differing and not always compatible justifications. On the one hand it can argue that transition surgery is corrective of some sort of an inconsistency between chromosomal and gonadal sex or, more simply, that nature makes beings of all sorts of different sexes; on the other hand it can argue that sex fixity as such is oppressive and that being a man or woman is whatever one says it is.

The justification that seems most common is closest to the second: the transgender person appeals to, say, feeling like being a female though being biologically male. While sympathizing with the condition, it’s hard to see how believing one is male while demonstrably not is any different from believing one is sick while being demonstrably not. One might passionately believe he has cancer or diabetes, but both have clinical criteria and biological markers, irrespective of our self-diagnostic conviction.

Being firmly convinced one is something he is demonstrably not is, in fact, a pretty common human condition. Many young believers are tortured by moral scruples, believing they are damned or in the state of sin while knowing it it is irrational to believe they actually are, and the hypochondriacs mentioned in the last paragraph are common enough to have been a running joke for years (Woody Allen has been telling hypochondriac jokes for thirty years now). None of this specifies what the appropriate moral response to any of these behaviors is – I honestly don’t know what I would do if my mother kept going on about her tumor after an x-ray clearly showed there wasn’t one there. Politeness is certainly a concern, but so is the morality of lying. My suspicion is that the second criteria is the decisive one.

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