Sam Dylan Finch 🍓 @samdylanfinch Creator of 🏳️‍🌈 Social Editor @healthline. 🌿 "Crazy Talk" advice columnist. 🧠 Very gay labradoodle in a human costume. 🦄 Opinions mine. Dec. 24, 2018 5 min read

PSA: Denying the existence of transgender and nonbinary people is not "scientific."

A lot of folks keep telling me that trans identity isn't "scientific" and yet when I ask them what they mean by science, they keep talking about biology. As if the (simplified) biology they learned in grade school is the only kind of science that exists. Ever.

There have already been a lot of really excellent pieces written about the variability of biological sex/sex characteristics, the neuroscience behind gender, and the like. So I won't dwell there. But there's something else I need to point out: Social science is a thing.

Human beings are not just the sum of their biology. If that were the case, we wouldn't have things like culture, language, social norms, governance. If you want to talk about the human experience, your understanding is woefully incomplete without social science.

I have (eh hem) a degree in anthropology. Simplest definition, the study of human beings, including society, culture, language, and how we've evolved. It is a really exciting field. It is also a science.

Anthropologists, for a very long time, have understood the variability of gender — including identities, norms, scripts, and language. We've also understood that this has changed across cultures and time. In other words, gender is not static and immutable.

That... is a scientific fact. It is a recorded, observed, studied phenomenon. Gender has always been fluid. How people conceptualize and relate to concepts like "woman," "man," "femininity," "masculinity," "androgyny," "third gender," and more has always been in motion.

You would be hard-pressed to find a scientist in any field who won't agree that human beings are biopsychosocial creatures. We are a trifecta of accumulated social, cultural, and psychological experiences, as well as our biology and genetics. You cannot erase that fact.

You can cherrypick the aspects of "science" that you like the most (like "biology") and reduce them. But you would be proving my point — because the very fact that you can choose which aspects of observable science to rely on proves that science itself is influenced by culture.

Some aspects of the human experience are rooted in biology, like a heartbeat. Others are rooted in how our culture has evolved, like being a teacher or a doctor. Things like gender are a blurry combination of the two; we experience our physical biology and culture simultaneously.

Which is to say, we exist in a historical moment in which a very distinct relationship to things like sex, gender roles, expression, language, and identity can be observed in a (now very visible) population.

The fact that you have made this observation and are actively denying it actually proves this fact. If it didn't exist in our collective consciousness, it wouldn't be meaningful enough to describe, discuss, or question.

Your discomfort with this population does not change the fact that it's a population we have studied across cultures and across time. It doesn't change the fact that this is a community that requires a particular kind of support in order to be mentally healthy and to thrive.

You know, there are anthropologists and other social scientists that actually dedicate their lives to studying STIGMA, and would have quite a lot to say about the pushback against the existence of gender diverse people. Your very attitude is an object of study.

You aren't required to "like" transgender and nonbinary people. But you don't get to use "science" as justification for it. Plenty of scientists across disciplines have been studying gender and sex diversity at length, much longer than you've been on Twitter yelling about it.

Human beings aren't merely biology, and to reduce us down to that eclipses some of the most important aspects of who we are and how we experience the world. Our society and our lives would be unrecognizable if we were merely an expression of "biology" and nothing more.

You can choose to adopt whichever aspects of "science" suit your worldview, but the uncomfortable reality is, human beings are very complex, and no single field of study can accurately capture how we exist in the world.

The truth is that humanity is diverse. Which is why inclusivity, especially when we're talking about something fluid like gender, will always be more scientific — because it leaves room for the undeniable fact that we evolve as complex biological, cultural, and social creatures.

And it's also true that we may not agree on what this whole "gender" thing is, because there are so many different ways of looking at it. Which is why, at the end of the day, "don't be an asshole" is probably the better worldview to ascribe to.

Trans & nonbinary people exist. That's observable and that's been studied for a long time. That's not the debate we're having and it never was. The "debate" here is how we should treat this vulnerable population. And the answer by now should be obvious: With dignity. Full stop.

What we're really talking about isn't science so much as it is ethics. And I think it is immoral — subjective, I realize — to erase a population of human beings (who are just trying to be their most honest, complete selves) and to do so in a way that deliberately harms them.

You, and you alone, have to answer these bigger questions of morality for yourself. But when someone says "you're hurting me," and you use "science" as a smokescreen for the harm that you've done... I think that's what we really need to unpack here.

It's not "science" to deny someone the ability to authentically and joyfully exist in this world. It's cruelty. That's something you have to reconcile for yourself — whether or not this is an accurate reflection of the person you want to be in this world.

And if it is, so be it. But we will continue to exist whether you make room for us or not. Just as we always have — throughout history, across cultures, and in every beautiful, queer iteration you could imagine (and yes, those that you can't, too).

At the end of the day... it's just not that complicated:

You can follow @samdylanfinch.


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