Who knew that I-am-Napoleon was the go-to cliche favored by trans-hating bigots everywhere? Had I been reading slatestarcodex* back in 2014 , I might been spared the embarrassment (along with my fellow bigots) of falling into that trap. SSC makes what has been by far the most compelling argument I’ve seen for accommodating the trans phenomenon:
Imagine if we could give depressed people a much higher quality of life merely by giving them cheap natural hormones. I don’t think there’s a psychiatrist in the world who wouldn’t celebrate that as one of the biggest mental health advances in a generation. Imagine if we could ameliorate schizophrenia with one safe simple surgery, just snip snip you’re not schizophrenic anymore. Pretty sure that would win all of the Nobel prizes. Imagine that we could make a serious dent in bipolar disorder just by calling people different pronouns. I’m pretty sure the entire mental health field would join together in bludgeoning anybody who refused to do that. We would bludgeon them over the head with big books about the side effects of lithium.
Really, are you sure you want your opposition to accepting transgender people to be “I think it’s a mental disorder”?
And then he addresses the Napoleon thing specifically:
I could point out that trans-Napoleonism seem [sic] to be mysteriously less common than transgender.
I could relate this mysterious difference to the various heavily researched apparent biological correlates of transgender, including unusual variants of the androgen receptor, birth-sex-discordant sizes of various brain regions, birth-sex-discordant responses to various pheromones, high rates of something seemingly like body integrity identity disorder, and of course our old friend altered digit ratios. If our hypothetical trans-Napoleon came out of the womb wearing a French military uniform and clutching a list of 19th century Grand Armee positions in his cute little baby hands, I think I’d take him more seriously.
I could argue that questions about gender are questions about category boundaries, whereas questions about Napoleon – absent some kind of philosophical legwork that I would very much like to read – are questions of fact.
I could point out that if the extent of somebody’s trans-Napoleonness was wanting to wear a bicorne hat, and he was going to be suicidal his entire life if he couldn’t but pretty happy if I could, let him wear the damn hat.
We’re happy to leave psychiatry to the psychiatrists — especially since PTT isn’t particularly interested in categories for their own sake. Our keenest interest in politics (and in particular, as it pertains to trans issues) is to the extent that politics is interested in us. We care much less about the semantics of transgenderism than about the pragmatics of how it affects normal people’s lives.
What our stumped post struggles with — and has not been resolved to our satisfaction — is the question of the degree to which a society is obligated to accommodate idiosynchrasies of varying degrees of burden. SSC’s throwaway remark, “Imagine that we could make a serious dent in bipolar disorder just by calling people different pronouns” tends to trivialize the issue, avoiding the thornier questions (a pattern?). We don’t mind calling Donald Deirdra — or anyone who, say, clears the 75% mark. What about the obvious trolls? What about being demanded — on pain of punishment — to use made-up pronouns such as xir and ze? (I’m completely with Jordan Peterson on this one.) What if being publicly recognized as one of the 70+ (the list is growing) genders is absolutely essential to a patient’s mental health? The psychiatrist is silent, and that’s too bad.
* Skip to Section VI for the Napoleon bit, but the entire (lengthy) post is well-worth your read.
Update. Also curious about Scott Alexander’s take on ROGD.
Update II. With fortuitous timing, David Cole convincingly argues that the “tranny agenda,” far from being a fringe issue for the Left, is actually their centerpiece project.