Gender is Subjective, not Objective

Gabriel Marcel, one of my favorite philosophers, said, basically, that some things will always be mysteries. Specifically, that the nature of ourselves will always be a mystery. That’s because we are inside of the query. We can learn all about, and de-mystify, for example, a butterfly. We can learn all about its life cycle, what it eats, what it looks like at different stages, because it is outside of ourselves; we can objectify it. But we cannot objectify ourselves; we cannot be both subject and object at the same time, and therefore, much of the nature of ourselves will remain mysterious.

He used this knowledge in reference to other things, but today, I’m going to apply it to gender.

Gender is subjective. Sex may not be–it’s true that there are intersex people, and that trans people in transition may possess some sex characteristics and not others, making sex a very nuanced idea–but it’s physical. There’s research being done about how much of gender is based in the physicality of our minds, but in my opinion, even if it’s discovered that there is no physical thing determining one’s gender, one’s gender is valid nonetheless.

This is because it has to do with our subjective way of looking at the world, and of knowing ourselves. In our scientific world, we often downplay the importance of this. Because we cannot quantify emotions or life experiences, we tend to nullify them, no matter how far psychology and sociology advance. As a whole, Western society counts upon things that can be objectively proven, and we disregard anything else.

Some, in arguing against the subjective nature of gender, may propose that, “Well, since religious people believe in God, God must be real. They truly believe it in their subjective experience, so God must be real.”

This is confusion. You may subjectively truly feel that God is real, and no one can deny that you truly feel that way. That’s your subjective experience, and you’re not wrong in your feelings. But your feelings propose that something is objectively true, and that can be false.

Gender is subjective, and when someone says that they feel like a man, a woman, or anything in between, they are not positing that something is objectively true. They are positing that this is their subjective experience, and because no one else lives inside their brain, they can’t be wrong about this. Feelings may change over time, it’s true, and you may not be sure of certain things about yourself at different times. But if you feel, with certainty, a certain way, then you aren’t wrong in feeling that way. It’s subjective.

To reiterate, if you believe that certain minority groups are subhuman, you definitely subjectively feel that way, and no one can deny that. But you are proposing that something is objectively true, namely, the lack of humanity of different groups of people. That is wrong. You are correct in stating that you truly feel that way, no doubt. But that doesn’t make what you are positing an objectively true reality. Transgender people, in speaking about their personal experiences, cannot be wrong because they are in no way suggesting anything objective. They are suggesting something subjective.

People may feel agender. Or, they may say that they are a man or a woman, but gender feels like nothing to them. They are wrong in supposing that everyone feels that way. Just as cisgender men and women are wrong for assuming everyone with a vagina and everyone with a penis feels or acts a certain way.

I propose that we not so quickly leave behind subjective realities. People who vehemently say that “trans” experiences aren’t real are pushing their feelings onto other people. They are making their subjective beliefs and reality a requirement for everyone, trying to make it objectively true, when gender is subjective.

And it would be really fucking cool if they stopped.


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