Aug 16, 2022·edited Aug 16, 2022Liked by Lisa Selin Davis

Lisa, I'm a big admirer of your work. Thank you for your courage, integrity, and superb writing!

With the greatest respect, I'd like to take you up on this invitation: "I know many readers will object to my describing gender identity ideology as a philosophy. Go ahead, I’m open to being told why I’m wrong!"

I echo Elizabeth Hummel's response, and, as a practitioner and decades-long student of philosophy, I'd like to expand on her excellent point that philosophy does not require faith. The word philosophy is derived from the ancient Greek words *philos* (love) and *sophos* (wisdom) and has generally retained that original meaning, the love of wisdom. Of course, wisdom is a notoriously subjective criterion, but most would agree that, for a belief to be wise, it should also be true. Not all philosophies are wise, and most philosophies contain errors, but a necessary component of any philosophy is one or more at least passably decent arguments in support of its claims that it is true.

Gender identity ideology is not only based on faith, but it notably lacks coherence. Even many faith-based positions can be coherent, if you accept one or more supernatural premises. That's what distinguishes theology from philosophy. But the central tenet of gender identity ideology is that "gender identity" is innate, and that idea depends upon a necessarily circular argument - a fallacy.

The only possible arguments to support that tenet must begin by *assuming* that gender identity is innate. In other words, they rely on one of the oldest, most-discredited of all logical fallacies: assuming the conclusion.

Absent the postulate that gender identity is innate, the only approximately reasonable arguments available to support gender identity ideology must also assume that "identity" has, in some way or other, a kind of metaphysical primacy that allows it to trump biology, with regard to specifying personhood. In other words, one's "authentic self" is discoverable via one's *identity*, as opposed to one's *body*. Any careful study of personal identity will reveal that it's a difficult concept to define with precision. And gender is even harder to clearly define, at least in any way approaching a universally accepted consensus.

In short, the theory of gender identity is extremely thin, with respect to its empirical bona fides. Consequently, it dissolves like a paper suit in a rainstorm when it's subjected to any kind of philosophical analysis. The only way to be as ardently committed to it as its followers apparently are, is to adopt it as part of an ideological doctrine.

That doctrine cannot be adequately defended with the tools of philosophy.

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Well, I achieved my dream, for an actual philosopher to explain the difference to me. Thank you. That's fascinating.

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Thank you for your journalistic integrity, in the face of very real career obstacles. 20-foot high concrete barricades might be a better way to put it. People should become paid subscribers to this Substack to support this work--there are very few writers getting rich on this platform, or even scraping by, and there are very few with Lisa's left-wing credentials. As to "philosophy" vs "ideology" to describe the set of beliefs that has taken over our institutions and some people, I opt for the latter, because at its center gender ideology is based firmly on unverifiable faith-based tenets. Such as: sex is a spectrum and is not a binary. People can change their sex. Trans women are women. There is no science to any of that, just science-y sounding stuff. It's way more like theology than science. "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" seems very similar to "Am I a demi-girl, genderqueer, or skunk-gender?" While a particular "philosophy" MIGHT have some faith-based tenets, faith is not a requirement of a philosophy. A philosophy is not as rigid. A philosophy does not characteristically produce zealous proponents and heretics, but an ideology or a religion always does.

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Aug 16, 2022Liked by Lisa Selin Davis

I agree that ideology feels like a better word. Most people seem to accept there can be more than one philosophy that speaks “truth” and be used to navigate life. Not so much for an ideology.

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Yes, these ideas as woven into capitalism...and the "trans care" industry is making billions.

In America, whenever there's money to be made -- health and other considerations take a back seat to money.

If there's big money to be made from it....even castrating our children is fine and avidly promulgated.

They don't need to spend money advertising their drugs & surgeries because they've found a run-around: they've effectively captured mainstream dogma through teachers unions, news & other publications, universities, insurance companies, government agencies, etc.

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Thx you. That’s what I keep saying. In our free market world follow the money.

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Another fascinating article, with great comments too!

The consensus I notice is that gender identity is ultimately a faith-based concept. The issue is, most people I've spoken to about it seem to believe that it is a rational concept grounded in science. This disconnect is perhaps the main reason why it's so difficult to discuss honestly.

I think perhaps the best way to argue against a faith-based concept like gender identity is with another one. Rather than asking "am I in the right body", I think we should ask "how do I live in this body". If we see ourselves as created "in God's image", then altering that body is essentially rejecting a sacred gift. Personally, I find being a "woman in a man's body" to be an enormous advantage - it makes me sad that so many others born with that gift choose to reject it.

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"How do I live in this body?" It's such a good question. It's such a hard question. It's such a relatable question. I find it very hard to live in mine and wish I could find self-acceptance. So much of my brain space is consumed by shame, and so much of my time is spent lamenting what I could/should be grateful for. So, yes, many people believe gender identity is a religious-like belief, and others believe it's a scientific belief. How are these conflicts handled with religion? Religious beliefs are protected but we don't expect or legislate that others must subscribe to them—though in theory we do insist that something called "science" override religion in some cases. Now we are in a pickle, because we can't tell one from the other.

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David's suggestion that being "a woman in a man's body" is an advantage to be embraced as an item of faith, rather than science, adds a very interesting dimension to the discussion. Suppose that I were to sincerely believe that I've been "born again," due to the redeeming power of Jesus's death on the cross. (I don't, but many do, and I think it could be helpful to consider it as an example of a parallel faith-based view.) In my self-identification as a born-again Christian, I might adhere to that identity with something similar to the feeling of appreciation that David describes.

In a tolerant, secular, and multi-faith society, we should allow people to believe what they want to believe about their "true selves," "souls," "spiritual essences," etc. I'm passionate in my commitment to that tenet of liberalism. Your beliefs are up to you and it's your right to hold them, live by them, and publicly express them.

Where I differ from the vast majority of trans activists is regarding the *limits* of their rights. My right to pursue wealth is limited by your right to retain yours, so I cannot simply steal your money. Similarly, your right to live in accordance with your beliefs is limited by the degree that, by doing so, you interfere with my right to do the same. I think it may have been Helen Joyce who remarked in a recent Twitter Post that "your right to swing your arms about ends where my nose begins." A similar set of limits applies to speech and belief. My right to believe that the world is flat, or that Jesus has saved me from all my sins, does not confer on me the further right to require you to also believe similarly.

Someone else's belief in an intrinsic gender doesn't give her the right to require me to believe in her "true gender," nor to adopt any of her other views on reality. Similarly, I might consider myself to be among "God's elect" and destined for life everlasting, but my belief in no way compels you to believe the same or to use my preferred expression of recognition as a saint, nor to therefore publicly address me as "Saint Lee."

You might agree with me on all that, but we might still disagree about the nature of reality. We might, for example, have different views on how much good is achieved by receiving multiple doses of an anti-COVID vaccine, or on whether global climate change is caused by human activities. There are innumerable ways to disagree about reality. And that's where science comes into play. The single most important feature of science is that it provides humanity with a way to settle disagreements that doesn't require weapons.

But for science to work, there must be sound conventions. One is the principle that empirical research must be transparent, replicable, and subject to rigorous critical analysis. Gender identity ideology lacks the kind of scientific support that's available (for example) to the theory that brain activity depends on the activities of specific chemical molecules in specific kinds of brain cells. There's nothing even remotely analogous. The so-called "science" supporting gender identity ideology rests on very poorly supported empirical claims about human sexual dimorphism and sex differentiation. As the eminent biologist Richard Dawkins has written, "sex is pretty damn binary" (https://areomagazine.com/2022/01/05/race-is-a-spectrum-sex-is-pretty-damn-binary/). Any "scientific" claims to the contrary are, at best, based on very flimsy foundations and significant misconceptions about what sex is and the role it plays in human reproduction. But that's another, even longer story.

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From now on you will always be Saint Lee to me. Reading through this entire bunch of threads and so inspired and moved and thrilled by the clarity.

Thank you for your work.

Thank you for sharing all of this with us.

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Totally agree with my friend "Saint Lee" here!" :) It's what I meant by "science-y" in my post on this article. Kind of like "truthiness," we now have "science-yness." Like the latest Jack Turbin "study" that was published in a peer reviewed journal but subsequently torn apart by multiple sources. Also what Jessie Singal referred to in his piece yesterday as "Potemkin Science," ie: looks like science but isn't actually following real science. As Lee writes above: "empirical research must be transparent, replicable, and subject to rigorous critical analysis." I haven't read more than the first para of Singal's piece, but it looks great.


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FWIW I am a loyal paid subscriber. I offer several comments intended as constructive stimulants to discussion. First, people ARE changing their legal sex on government documents. With this official change, trans people are using the force of law to compel everyone to treat them as if they were the opposite sex as legally defined. Legislatures, schools, and courts are government entities that enforce compliance.

And second, and related, a careful reading of Helen Joyce's book "Trans" shows that trans people are actually changing their 'sex identity' as argued in our memorandum "4th step - Please don't say gender when you mean sex!" The memo is online here https://www.equality4women.org/sex-change-law

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Appreciate your work! I think there’s a word missing from this sentence in the third paragraph: “I just wanted to tell the sides of the story that the media had decided weren’t worth telling because they might people, or hurt a movement—even though that’s really a violation of journalism’s mission.”

You can delete this comment. Just wanted you to know.

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Thank you very much!

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Thank you so much for this!

It's really good to hear your ideas of how this changed so fast. I'm shocked at the fact that medical organizations have dropped their standards for care for these young people (and adults for that matter) and that some are pretty much lying right now. Thank you and please keep telling us what you figure out!

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"What the F Is Going On?" Good effen question. 🙂

Unfortunately the phenomenon seems to be something of a perfect storm - many factors coming together creating a compounding of effects with far reaching, and quite horrific consequences. A real challenge to disentangle those disparate causes to deal with them piecemeal - divide and conquer. However, it seems that a major part of the problem is that pretty much every man, woman, and otherkin - and their cats, dogs, and gerbils - has quite different, and often contradictory and inconsistent definitions for the terms in play, i.e., "sex", "gender", and "gender identity".

No surprise then the controversy over what are the biological, sociological, philosophical, ideological, and, sadly, "theological" roots of each of those concepts. Which is not much helped by the transactivists who dogmatically insist on "repurposing" the terms "male" and "female" - which really only have coherent definitions as biological sexes - to denote non-exhaustive subcategories of "gender" and "gender identity" which have next to no coherent definitions at all.

One of your own articles - "What Are Your Kids Learning About Gender?" - made a fairly decent, useful, and quite illuminating stab at differentiating between "gender" and "gender identity". However, I also got the impression that, with all due respect, your conception of gender, while it has some merit and is part of the puzzle, is somewhat wide of mark, doesn't take due cognizance of various biological facts and perspectives, and conflates personalities and the stereotypes that derive from them:

"... 'gender' is how people are controlled, defined, limited because of it. .... the definition of gender as I learned it: an external sense of who other people believe you’re supposed to be, based on sex. .... I learned that gender was to be exploded. For much of my childhood, girls were encouraged to reject feminine gender roles .... "


I realize my "charge" is a mouthful, and a couple of quotes isn't much in the way of any damning evidence - and that really isn't my intent or objective in any case. But something in the way of where I'm coming from is afforded by an article by Canadian columnist Barbara Kay over at the Reality's Last Stand Substack, this passage in particular:

"Only an intellectual could believe that there are no innate, biology-driven differences between men and women."

Our personalities - largely what much of gender boils down into - are, the theory goes, the result of BOTH nature AND nurture - not just one or the other as various religious and feminist ideologues would apparently prefer to have it. The stereotype is that girls are feminine, but the brute biological facts are that some girls are, and some aren't. The problem is in insisting that either subgroup of girls should or should not conform to the stereotype.

Very complex issue, one I sure haven't plumbed the depths of. But you might be interested in my comment on that point over at RLS:


But to close, since you broached the issue of philosophy 🙂, you might also be interested in an oldish, if somewhat imperfect article at Quillette on that "trichotomy" by philosopher and Substacker Michael Robillard, this passage in particular:

"Given these definitions, the first source of confusion within the present transgender debate comes from scholars [and the public] frequently conflating (biologically-determined) 'sex,' (socially-[and biologically]-determined) 'gender [personalities AND stereotypes],' (privately-determined [and entirely subjective]) 'gender identity,' sexual preference, and biological instances of intersex (such as Klinefelter’s and Turner syndrome) all under the same canopy term 'gender.' ...." [my addenda]


"confusion" has to qualify as a leading contender for "understatement of the year"; "bedlam", a "Mad Hatter's Tea Party", "all and sundry riding madly off in all directions" merely small steps towards a much more accurate characterization. 🙂

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Thank you for the very thoughtful analysis. It echoes much of my thinking.

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