The Transgender Craze and the Babble about “Self-Identifying as a Woman”: Why Men Who Think They’re Women Are Psychotic and the Politicians Humoring Them Are Opportunistic

Most transsexual men — and this gets frequently forgotten — by no means claim that they are in fact women. They claim instead that they would like to be women or would feel better if they could live according to certain stereotypical expectations typically connected with the feminine role (or with their imagination of it). This feeling unwell in one’s own sex can escalate into a psychological suffering that makes it an emotional disorder. But this is different in kind from a cognitive disorder, in particular from a delusion.

However, men who believe they are actually women are indeed subject to a delusion. Through abstruse conceptual contortions, in particular through redefining the concepts of man and woman, transgender ideology seeks to reinterpret this delusion as self-knowledge. Additionally, it seeks to politically accommodate this delusion by compelling citizens, under the threat of punishment and in violation of their freedom of speech and conscience, to confirm others’ self-image in spite of the obvious reality. The German government (citizens in other countries should take this as a warning about the things to come, or to fend off) in all seriousness wants to fine people who refuse to “recognize” men declaring themselves to be women as women. It even has the audacity to calls its bill a “self-determination law.” The party henchman O’Brien in 1984, who compelled the hero Winston to “admit” that two plus two is five, will surely appreciate both the policy and its Orwellian label.

In view of the biological definition of woman, “transwomen” are not women

These conceptual contortions can only fail, of course. The Oxford English Dictionary, following ordinary language use, defines woman “as an adult female human being”; and it further defines the females among the human beings as the persons “of the sex that can bear offspring.” As humanity has always known, the sexes are thus distinguished by their biological role in reproduction. Healthy members of the female sex of reproductive age can bear children; just as such members of the male sex can fertilize an egg. Biology conceives this even more precisely and defines sex as the developmental tendency of an organism towards the production of a certain type of anisogametes. This mention of “tendency” is meant to account for the fact that for various reasons (prepuberty, menopause, developmental or functional disorders) not every individual of a sex will actually produce the corresponding gametes — the mere tendency, the completion of steps along the developmental pathway towards their production, is sufficient. There are exactly two types of anisogametes: large (egg cells) and small (sperm cells). Hence there are two sexes, male and female;[1] and thus women are adult humans whose bodies exhibit developmental steps towards the production of egg cells, while in men these are sperm cells. Hence so-called “transwomen” are not women. (In the following I use the word woman without scare-quotes in this sense; the scare-quotes in contrast signal that I am referring, not to women, but to people who transgender ideologists would like to call “women” with their alternative definition.)

Men who think they are women are delusional

Men in terms of the above definition, who despite their typically male anatomy believe that they are women in terms of the above definition, are delusional — just like men who believe that they are squirrels, cigarette cases, or Jesus are delusional. And in fact the transgender ideologue Rachel Ann Williams, who considers himself a “transwoman,” admits that it would be “ridiculous” if he were to identify himself as someone with large gametes.

The attempt to define away this delusion is only an additional symptom

How can the man who claims to be a woman avoid the suspicion of suffering from a delusion? Well, he could say that he means “woman” not in the above sense but in a different sense. And in fact, Williams opposes the biological definition and calls for an “inclusive” definition, one that also includes men who are trans.

Two problems emerge here. The first problem is that the requirements that transgender ideologues place on this redefinition of “woman”, as well as their refusal to concede to women (in the sense of the above definition) their own category, appear to not so much undercut but confirm the suspicion.

The “transwoman” wants — in vain — to be a woman in the true sense, not an artificial sense

An example may clarify this first problem. There are currently male members of the German parliament who claim to be women. When these representatives use the word “woman” as defined above, these claims are not only false, but delusional. They could just as well claim to be kangaroos. But in fact it would be easy to redefine the word “woman” such that these representatives are “women” in this new sense. Here is one such definition: women are adult humans whose bodies exhibit developmental steps towards the production of egg cells or who usually appear in the German parliament in skirts or dresses and wearing make-up. If the male representatives in question were to adopt this definition and use the word “woman” in this sense, they would be correct in saying: “We are woman.” Since I, however, do not use the word “woman” in this sense, I am equally correct when I say: “They aren’t women.” But I would of course be ready to admit to them: “It is true, though, that you are ‘women’ in your sense of ‘women.’” And conversely these members of parliament would have to concede: “It is true, though, that we are not ‘women’ in your sense of ‘women.’”

At this point both sides could hug, as finally all are correct. The embrace will fail to occur, however — not because the side of the enlightened philosopher refuses, but because this hypothetical consensus cannot satisfy the psychological needs of men who “identify as women.” Why not? Because men “identifying as women” do not identify themselves with other men “identifying as women”, e.g. with men who like to wear dresses, who present themselves with an ostentatiously affected behavior on YouTube, or who continuously talk about their profound “femininity” in talk-shows. Despite their mantra “transwomen are women”, the “transwomen” reciting this clearly don’t find their own fellow “transwomen” womanly enough to provide a suitable object of identification. Rather, they “identify” themselves as women. Real women. The only women — women in the sense of the above definition. The compulsory need to be seen as such and to be “acknowledged” as such is not satisfied by being acknowledged as “women” in a different sense.

From pathological narcissism to misogynistic delusions of grandeur

In short, an alternative definition of “woman” that includes “transwomen” would not satisfy their psychological need to be understood as women, particularly not when the original definition of woman that excludes “transwomen” continues to exist unhindered. For this continuously triggers the narcissistic injury of recalling the suppressed reality: “transwomen” may be “women” in the sense of some idiosyncratic definition created precisely for the purposes of “inclusion.” But they are not women.

The irrational vehemence with which even academic transgender ideologues react to this unbearable narcissistic slight is conspicuously exemplified by the case of the philosopher Talia Mae Bettcher, who calls himself a “transwoman.” He admits that most people would define “woman” as a “adult female human being,”[2] even that this seems to be the “perfect definition.”[3] Nonetheless he does not want to supplement this perfect definition with a “transinclusive” one; no, he wants to eradicate it entirely. He explains in all seriousness that not only every women who defines herself as a woman in this semantically perfect sense thereby supports a “transphobic … view of the word,” but rather that this also applies to any use of a concept that denotes women while excluding “transwomen.”[4] In other words, according to the self-proclaimed “feminist” Bettcher, women are supposed to simply accept it both when semantically obtrusive men appropriate their group designation and when they seek to conceptually erase them as an independent class entirely. Thus, in transgender ideology pathological narcissism is joined by misogynistic delusions of grandeur: to satisfy the narcissistic needs of psychologically disturbed men, transgender ideology calls for conceptual gynocide.

How women are being made to disappear now to satisfy narcissists

This is already happening with the friendly collaboration of self-proclaimed “progressive” organizations, journalists, and politicians.[5] In order to not remind anyone that one is a women only if one belongs to the female sex and hence has a body aligned towards the capacity for bearing children, and that accordingly one cannot identify one’s way into or out of being a woman, there is now talk of “menstruators,” “pregnant people,” “birthing people,” “parent’s milk” and “chest feeding,” or even “people with frontal hole.” And a large tampon manufacturer recently demonstrated its own cowardice in the face of transgender ideology and complete contempt of girls (whose money they happily take, though) with the biologically and statistically foolish statement that “61% of young people are ashamed of their period.” In short, the narcissistic fantasy must not be disturbed by the visibility of women as an independent category. That this displeases true feminists — which do not include opportunistic “gender studies” professors and “woke” journalists — such as Kathleen Stock or Alice Schwarzer is quite understandable. Incidentally, true liberals are displeased too.

The poverty of transgender-ideological definitions of “women”: the example of “gender identity”

The second problem facing the rejection of biological definitions in favor of one that “includes transwomen” is that such attempts at alternative definitions fail by their own standards (ignoring the additional problems of circularity and incoherence): they do not include all “transwomen” or only do so at the price of the implicit admission that they are indeed all delusional; and they are anything but “progressive” — they are profoundly reactionary and misogynistic. The philosopher Tomas Bogardus explained this thoroughly in two long articles (here and here).

Let us illustrate this with just two examples. Transgender ideologues like to speak of “gender identity.” As described above, “transwomen” very much wish to identify with women and not just with “women.” And so one opts for the following move: first one dogmatically declares that everyone has a “gender identity” and that women naturally identify as women. (Many gender-critical feminists reject the talk of “gender identity” as meaningless. They claim that they by no means “identify” as women, but simply are women.) Secondly one declares this “identification as woman”, this “gender identity,” to be the definitional criterion of “being a woman” thus redefined. Thirdly one concludes, as desired, that accordingly those who identify as “transwomen” are “women”, where this new concept of “woman” allegedly includes all women as well (aside from “transmen”).

The feminist Jane Clare Jones describes this move as the attempt of men identifying as trans at “imposing an experience of gender identity onto [women], in order for you to claim continuity with [women].” This is true. Moreover, one finds this move in a plank of the German Green Party platform on women: “The concept ‘woman’ includes all those who define themselves as women.” This statement of the Greens is of course circular and thus empty. (Compare: “The concept ‘blarg’ includes all those who identify as blarg.” Do you now know what a blarg is?) To be able to define or identify as woman, one has to already know what a woman is — what one is identifying oneself as. And insofar as women have a “gender identity” at all, they will of course identify with the female “gender” and thus with women in the above-mentioned sense — and not as “women” in the sense of a transgender-ideological Orwellian newspeak. And hence the following dilemma arises for “transwomen”: Either they define themselves only as “women” —then they do not have the same gender identity as women. Or they identify as women — then they are, again, delusional.

Definitionally transfigured gender stereotypes and misogynistic “feminism”

Other attempts at definition do not appeal to an “inner feeling” of “gender identity” allegedly shared by women and “transwomen” alike, but rather to external social positions or stereotypical role expectations. These include expectations about how women are to dress. Of course it is quite evident that an attempt to define womanhood in terms of the obedience to stereotypical role expectations is not emancipatory but rather reactionary (non-conformist women could not exist by definition), and moreover as psychologically precarious as it always was. As the psychologist and sexologist Ray Blanchard, a pioneer in the study of transsexualism, has noted: “It seems likely that, at some point in the development of non-homosexual gender dysphoria, the distinction between wearing women’s clothes and being a woman — a distinction so apparent to the adult, conscious mind — simply doesn’t exist.”[6] Clearly it also doesn’t exist for many transgender ideologues either.

The absurdities that would-be feminists go to in order to not injure the fragile feelings of transexual men can be best seen in the American philosopher Sally Haslanger. According to her (using the formulation of Bogardus, which is simplified but equivalent in meaning), someone “is a woman if and only if she is systematically subordinated along some dimension (economic, political, legal, social, etc.), and she is ‘marked’ as a target for this treatment by being, regularly and for the most part, observed or imagined to have bodily features presumed to be evidence of a female’s biological role in reproduction.”[7] Aside from the fact that this definition firstly does conceive womanhood biologically (which of course implicitly favors the “perfect definition”) and secondly by no means achieves the goal of “transinclusion” (as Bogardus and others have shown), it thirdly makes women by definition into the oppressed sex, such that Angela Merkel and Queen Elizabeth would not be emancipated women but no women at all. And thus Haslanger, quite consistently, explains that it is “part of the project of feminism to bring about a day when there are no more women.”[8] Hence the conceptual gynocide is joined by a social gynocide — and that as an explicit aim of transgender-ideological “feminism.” Women with such “feminists” as allies don’t need chauvinists as enemies.

For the biological definition and against the “law of self-determination”

The biological definition of woman is superior in every respect — not only in corresponding to ordinary language use and biological reality, but also in its emancipatory potential. Yes, it defines women through their biological features, but it does not reduce them to these features, nor is it suitable as a basis of a moral justification for oppressing women. (The, especially in Germany, popular transgender-ideological reproach that the biological definition is somehow “fascistic” is silly.) Nothing in this definition precludes that women produce, alongside large gametes, also large houses and great science, or become chancellors or astronauts.

And as regards “Self-ID” and the alleged laws of “self-determination” (as such proposals are called in Germany): it has never been illegal in Western democracies to “determine” one’s own sex, if this means factually changing it as one pleases. The same holds of one’s species. If Western citizens wish to become squirrels, the state does not stop them. It is just factually impossible to change one’s sex or one’s species. We live in reality, not Hogwarts. Thus alleged “self-determination laws” neither create the legal freedom nor the factual possibility to change one’s sex and turn from man into woman.

However, some people think the state is obligated to “recognize” the “self-perception” citizens have regarding their sex and must therefore allow them to change the designation of their sex (not to be confused with their actual sex) in official documents at their whim. This is also false. Citizens have no more right that the state lie about their sex in their passports as they do have such a right concerning their date or place of birth, no matter whether a citizen deems himself to have been born at the wrong time in the wrong place and the wrong body. Conversely all citizens have a right not to be forced by the state to tell lies in order to satisfy other people’s psychological needs. Women, in addition, have a right that men do not invade spaces reserved to women just because these men believe, or claim to believe, that they are also women.

The distinction between believing and claiming to believe, moreover, allows us to mention in conclusion that of course not all people who claim that “transwomen are women” are delusional. Most of them are opportunistic liars consciously saying something untrue to reap the advantages; or opportunistic babblers who reproduce what they constantly hear in their surroundings without understanding, like parrots. While the former have a moral excuse for their mantra — their delusion — the latter two groups have none.

© Uwe Steinhoff

[1] See for example Jussi Lehtonen and Geoff A. Parker, “Gamete competition, gamete limitation, and the evolution of two sexes,” Molecular Human Reproduction 20(12) (2014), pp. 1161–1168. Douglas J. Futuyma, Evolutionary Biology, Third Edition. Sinauer Associates, Sunderland 1998, p. 606: “ANISOGAMOUS organisms have large (eggs) and small (sperm) gametes, defining male and female sexual functions.” Astrid Kodric-Brown and James H. Brown, “Anisogamy, sexual selection, and the evolution and maintenance of sex,” Evolutionary Ecology 1 (1987), pp. 95-105, here p. 98: “The essence of maleness and femaleness is the production of either small, mobile or large, nutritive gametes, respectively.” Just as entertaining and easily accessible is the blog of the developmental biologist Emma Hilton. For a philosophical explication of the biological notion of gender see Alex Byrne, “Is Sex Binary? The answer offered in a recent New York Times opinion piece is more confusing than enlightening.” See also Uwe Steinhoff, “Das Bundesverfassungsgericht und die geschlechtliche Identität: Auf den Leim gegangen.”

[2] Talia Mae Bettcher, “Trans Women and the Meaning of ‘Women,’” in Nicholas Power, Raja Halwani, and Alan Soble (eds.), The Philosophy of Sex. Contemporary Readings. Sixth Edition. Langham und New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2012, pp. 233-250, here 236.

[3] Talia Mae Bettcher, “Trans Identities and First-Person Authority,” in L. Shrage (eds.), You’ve Changed: Sex Reassignment and Personal Identity. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2009, pp. 98-120, here 105.

[4] Bettcher, “Trans Women and the Meaning of ‘Women,’” p. 244. Elizabeth Barnes, “Gender and Gender Terms,” Nous 54(3) (2020), pp. 704-730, also rejects any definition of “women” that could make true the sentence “transwomen are no women,” because this would trivialize the statement “transwomen are women” (ibid., pp. 721-722) — hence turning it into an argument over words rather than morality, politics, or the essence of femininity. However, this triviality can only be jettisoned at the cost of madness. The ideas that “transwomen” partake in some “essence of femininity” or that humoring to the point of self-denial male self-perceptions will achieve great emancipatory goals is delusional — just as delusional as the idea that a biological definition of women of all things supports “gender stereotypes.” The truth, of course, is the opposite — gender stereotypes are supported by those definitions that make use of gender stereotypes.

[5] See also Helen Joyce, Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality (London: Oneworld, 2021), pp. 137-139; as well as Gertraud Klemm, “Identitätsdebatte: FLINTA* statt Frau,” Emma (9 March 2022).

[6] Ray Blanchard, “The Concept of Autogynephilia and the Typology of Male Gender Dysphoria,” The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 177(10) (1989), pp. 616-623, here pp. 621.

[7] Tomas Bogardus, “Some Internal Problems with Revisionary Gender Concepts,” Philosophia 48 (2020), pp. 55-75, here 56-57. I use Bogardus‘ formulation of Haslanger’s definition because it is less technical than Haslanger’s own formulation. For this see Sally Haslanger, “Gender and race: (what) are they? (what) do we want them to be?” Noûs 34(1) (2000), pp. 31-55, here p. 39 and 42.

[8] Sally Haslanger, Resisting Reality: Social Construction and Social Critique (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), p. 239.

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