Having discussed gender variance with TERFs and other transphobes for some time now, it strikes me that they have a very old-fashioned view about what the term “real” means.
Take the idea that gender can be reduced to “biological sex”. Indeed, they say that gender is biological sex. What does this “is” actually mean?
Why are genitals more real than the brain?
They must know that what they do as gendered beings is not the same as what they have between their legs, their gonads or their chromosomes.
When they fall in love, it is not their genitalia that fall in love. Their X or Y chromosomes are unable to feel a thing. It is the whole person who falls in love, body and soul.
Much of that experience is anchored in the brain, but the body rides along: A beating heart, flushing cheeks, fidgeting hands…
The same applies to their sense of being a man or a woman or a nonbinary person. This sense is not located in their penis or their vagina (although it may feel that way under some circumstances). It is, again, anchored in the brain and experienced by the whole body.
Yet, for some weird reason, they think that the genitalia are real, while what is going on in the brain is not.
The systemic nature of nature
Contemporary science, whether this is the natural sciences and biology or the social sciences, underlines the systemic nature of nature. This means that everything that happens is caused by feedback loops between a wide variety of factors: genetic, epigenetic, hormonal, cellular, mental, psychological, social, cultural or environmental.
Your life experience affects the way your genes are working. Your cultural upbringing affects the way courtships and romantic relationships play out.
So where does this bizarre idea that gender can be reduced to biological sex come from?
I think we need to go back to the 1960s and 70s, where there were strong reductionistic, positivistic or materialistic schools of science, especially in the natural sciences.
Their dream was that everything around us could eventually be explained by the smallest common physical denominator, namely atoms. Social processes were unreal, biology was somewhat “realier”, while the true reality was found in physics.
In psychology this lead to “behaviorism”, a school of psychology that refused to look at the mind at all, as what went on in the psyche could not be “objectively” observed and measured.
By the end of the previous century this kind of thinking was all but dead, but it seems that the transphobes have not caught up. I suspect many of them rely of what they remember from their own school text books (which always leave out the complexity of the real reality) and popular science of the mid 20th century. These misconceptions are then seen as “science”.
In total denial
When we point out that both natural and social scientists that actually have studied gender, gender variance and sexualities actually accept transgender identities and that the medical manuals ( DSM-5 and ICD-11) see gender incongruence and trans lives as very real, they have to dismiss that as “gender ideology”. The “real” scientists think like them.
This is completely absurd. Not only do they not understand concepts like biological sex, gender and gender identity. They do not understand the relevant science, either.
What the transphobes do understand, however, is how to be cruel.