Toilets, trans-genders, and ideology

Fringes and frontiers

I REMEMBER that back in high school the comfort room (CR) is where a lot of mysterious things would happen. Indeed, the CR is a significant and a culturally defining space. There’s nothing to wonder therefore that in a recent incident involving a trans-woman, the CR is once again the “locus of significance.”

Let’s try, however, to be more academic in our discussion. When asked as to my stand on the said issue and other similar and related issues, my answer always is “we should be careful.” It is not that there is anything to be afraid with what’s going on. However, it is important that we would not allow ourselves to be confused. It would be dangerous if we cannot distinguish “sentiments that should be respected” from “emotional claims that may not necessarily be reasonable.”

The argument for example that all people should be treated with respect is a universally valid premise. However, it is one thing to say that we should respect those who are not like us despite the difference.

It is another thing to say that constitutive of the need for respect is the denial that such difference exists. True that we all have universal rights and a number of common entitlements. However, we cannot also deny that there remain objective differences in all structures pervading human reality.

Again, there is no question that “human beings” should be respected. And if this is the basic premise, then it is but right that all premises on the issue of respect should start with the fact that all of us are human beings. So, it is correct to say that a trans-woman is a human being and should be respected. However, whether a trans-woman is a “woman” is basically another issue.

The issue of distinction, in fact, can be traced backward to the distinction between a “man” and a “woman.” Both man and woman are humans, but a man cannot be what he is not, and so is a woman. Let’s try the same logic with a trans-woman and a woman. Why the prefix “trans” if in essence there is no distinction between a “trans-woman” and a “woman.”

One cannot be and not be at the same time – this is a very elementary rule in logic. If we complicate the issue, the claim that a trans-woman is a woman is a highly contested matter that lies at the intersection of science, religion, philosophy or ethics, and the other social sciences.

So now this is my point: the premise “a trans-woman is a woman” is not a statement that “merely” calls for respect. It is a “claim” the truth of which is yet to be established.

This might not sound nice to some, but we have to describe such statement as something which is “not accepted” by all. It is debatable, the answer to which is neither settled nor available. Survey firms like SWS or Pulse Asia may perhaps conduct a survey and ask those who were biologically born as a “woman” their view on the claim.

To fight for respect is acceptable and in fact unquestionable. But to insist on a “premise” that seeks to challenge existing interpretations and systems is not primarily about respect.

In its most naked sense, it is waging an “ideological battle.” And what is an ideology? It is an alternative blueprint that is advanced to achieve a conviction that there is a better point of departure from which everyone should move forward.

I, thus find it a problem if we create non-discrimination ordinances on the basis of unsettled claims. This is some kind of an ideological imposition. Truth be told, there is no need for ordinances to be created just to remind us that all citizens of this country are human beings.

It is apparent and obvious as broad daylight that they are. But to say that we have already expanded the definition of a woman is another issue that is complicated. Womanhood is sacred because of what it has been, as well as the place it has occupied in culture, tradition, religion, and history.

Hopefully, politicians are showing sympathy to these people for truly “human” reasons. We should fear the possibility that they are throwing their hats in support because they are afraid to lose votes and populist support due to a rising ideology.

At the end of the day, there are reasons to support and accept people for who they are and respect their choices. I still believe though that this issue need not be inflated and used in order to transplant into our system some claims that are “essentially” questionable.

These claims cannot just be embraced as they dictate us to change a number of important narratives that have guided our lives.


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