Friday, July 10, 2015

Transgender definitions guilty of 3 fallacies

This week I’ve been writing about how unnecessarily difficult the definitions about things “transgender” are.

The definition problems are guilty of 3 associated types of definition failures (fallacies). 

     1. Circular Definitions

    You assume your audience has a prior understanding of the terms you’re using in your definition. The words and concepts you're using are  difficult in themselves.

Example or Circular definition.
    “Cellular phone – a phone that is cellular”
So we have -
"What does transgender mean?  "Transgender is an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth."

2. Self referential Definitions - You use terms within your definition to define your word or concept  ( essentially a circular definition).  

So we have -

"Gender expression   "This is the way one externally expresses characteristics and behaviors that are socially defined as either masculine or feminine."
"Transgender – or trans – is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity or expression is different from those typically associated with the sex assigned to them at birth (e.g., the sex listed on their birth certificate)."

 3. Infinitely regressing (even sounds bad!)

You use statements in your definition that depend on subsequent statements.  Statements or definitions #1 relies on #2, relies on  #3….you get the point.
So we have:
".....Transgender is an authentic experience and expression of self.   Your gender expression is informed by a number of things, including your gender orientation and sexual orientation, gender stereotypes in your consciousness or subconsciousness, and social circumstances. Some of these influences on our gender expression are hard-wired--e.g., sexual orientation, gender identity--and so the cues we send are involuntary, regardless of our genitalia...."

Given how few people really understand gender issues, and how poorly the media talks about them,  I think we could do better than definitional language that can't get out of its own way.

Has anyone come across better definitions for the public?

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