Choice, Nature, and Refusal
There are foundational issues with our framing of issues of gender identity and sexual orientation around choice and the choice/nature dichotomy.
Choice and nature aren’t mutually exclusive, but rather mutually constituted. I think phenomenology hones in on something significant when it speaks of intentionality. We don’t passively receive the meaning of objects in the world, but create it through experience. Sharp distinctions between choice and nature are untenable in this sense because they either deny facticity or freedom. (Takes off Sartrian hat.)
We’re also simplifying the complex subjectivity of queerness. Maybe I did choose to be trans. Maybe I did choose to disidentify with the gender I was assigned at birth. Sure, I didn’t choose the emotions and reasons that led me to do so, but there’s a very real sense in which I chose the meaning I attributed to those emotions and reasons.
When we talk about choice, we talk about reasonability. In everyday parlance, we don’t talk about the choice of eating magma, because it’s so blatantly unreasonable to eat magma that we don’t think the option is a “real” option. If we go further and put on a physical determinist hat, that’s the only way we can talk about choice meaningfully because either (1) the outcome is causally determined, or (2) the outcome is random. Either way, we have no ability to change the outcome so there’s no choice in a narrow sense. Whenever we talk about choice in context, i.e. not in debates about free will, we must be talking about something else, and I think that this something else is about the presence of reasonable options.
So if we say that it’s not a choice, what are we saying if not that other ways of identifying or disidentifying are unreasonable given our personal history? What message are we sending to those people who have similar feelings and experiences and yet arrived at a different answer, if not that their existence is unreasonable? What message are we sending to those who feel that they could’ve given multiple answers at some point in time except that they must be fake since it wasn’t the only reasonable possibility for them?
So let’s refuse to engage in this discussion on reasonability, let’s refuse to imply some people are unreasonable or fake. Instead of replying that it’s not a choice, let’s throw the question back in their face. Does it matter if it’s a choice? No.
Let’s end with a short poem I wrote yesterday, and that feels appropriate in this context: