On many occasions, many good ideas end up being discarded or ridiculed by a poor choice of words. In rhetoric, the principle of charity demands consideration of the arguments of the counterpart with the most solid interpretation possible. Although it is usually ignored (at least by the religionist side of the debate), it is always appropriate that we strive to offer the best arguments to defend our positions.
And not doing so can be very costly. The examples abound, but today I want to talk about a very particular one, which affects the trans community — it’s the idea that they are “trapped in the wrong body”, meaning their biological sex is at odds with their gender.
I understand that the idea of being “trapped in the wrong body” was an effective way so cis-gender people would understand how trans people felt. However, I think the metaphor has already served its purpose and is ready for retirement.
Mainly, because it is false and it gives ammo to transphobic bigots. The idea of being “trapped in the wrong body” stems from the dualistic notion of mind/body, which assumes that consciousness is an ethereal entity (for some the soul), which can be scalded from the physical body without being altered in its essence, which is blatantly false: the best available evidence suggests that every aspect of consciousness can be tied to the brain.
If someone believes that consciousness can exist independently of the body —without that particular body—, they should then answer some uncomfortable questions:
[I]f one dies, say, in the grip of a terrible Alzheimer’s… will one’s ghost recover one’s memories or will it be a wandering spirit, with no idea what his name is, unable to remember and perform the simplest tasks? Is the spirit of a blind man blind? And if it isn’t, how does it suddenly acquire all the information necessary to interpret the visual world?
Helen Keller managed to understand and affect the world as a deafblind person… is a spirit without these limitations the same woman whose example we keep in mind? We are not only our “perfections”, but we are also our imperfections, Van Gogh without his anxieties and anguish, his obsessions and his artistic passion, without his delirious loves and his drunken fights with Gaugin, turned into some kind of calmed St. Francis, smiling, calm and with the ear back in place… is it really Van Gogh or is it a pitiful simulation, very different from the man who bequeathed us that poignant wonder called “The Potato Eaters“?
And if we can poke holes in the dualistic religious ‘logic’, any statement that is based on it can be subject to the same treatment. And it has been. Known epic Twitter troll Godfrey Elfwick has claimed to be trans-black (a black man trapped in the body of a white person). And then came ‘transfinancial’ people (that is, millionaires who are trapped in the body of a middle-class person). And things are out of control already: some people say —and they really mean it— that they are animals or mythological creatures trapped in a human body; the so famous otherkins.
All this hampers the efforts for equality, because it reduces a minority and its struggles to the level of jokes in social media, downplaying thier cause, even when no one suffers class dysphoria, race dysphoria, or species dysphoria, whereas gender dysphoria actually happens.
We are our bodies. We can not be trapped in them, any more than left-handed people were trapped in theirs when the Catholic Church declared them servants of the devil and forced them to become right-handed.
(image: Rose Morelli)