A Tale of Two Trans Women (Part 5): Practice

“Consider what effects, which might conceivably have practical bearings, we conceive the object of our conception to have. Then, our conception of those effects is the whole of our conception of the object.” –Charles Sanders Pierce 

We now turn our attention back to the Katy question: Is Katy a man or a woman? Based on what we have covered so far, we should probably be hesitant in assuming that our judgments are going to be objective and based on immutable “facts”. After all, we are prone to overestimate our objectivity due to the subjective nature of perception, which is informed by prior knowledge, beliefs, language and cultural practices that aren’t necessarily representations of reality providing truths that correspond to the way things really are.

If we can’t appeal to objective facts or truths to settle the matter, then what can we do? Like many transphobes who misunderstand and abuse it, I would like to appeal to scientific method in the broad sense, meaning that if we want to know a thing about the world, we have to consider how it helps us make sense of what we experience and understand how to navigate it, i.e., how useful it is to believe that such a thing is true. We determine a belief’s usefulness by testing it. Taking all of that into consideration, we can reformulate the Katy question this way: what are the practical consequences of considering Katy a woman and what are the practical consequences of considering her a man?

“Aha!” the transphobes gleefully reply. “You have forfeited your position! It obviously makes more sense to believe that Katy is a man because science says so. If we were to say that Katy is a woman, we would be ignoring science and society would have to do a lot of work just to accommodate a very small minority. Checkmate, SJW’s!”

Well, shit! The situation seems even more hopeless when we consider Butler’s point that the heterosexual matrix–a set of norms or practices that construct the notion that men are masculine and heterosexual and women are feminine and heterosexual–makes it so that the idea of Katy being a woman is “culturally unintelligible”, i.e., difficult (if not impossible) for many members of the dominant culture to understand.

Okay, so far this doesn’t look good for Katy. If we are to run with the pragmatic assumptions I laid out earlier, it seems that the answer to our question is that Katy is a man by virtue of what both science and culture at large suggest. Damn it!

Where do we sorry social justice warriors go from here? It looks like this is the end of our story…Or is it?

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