Don’t you just love it when people pull this little analogy out when the topic of transgender children comes up? “Hell, I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up, so this is the same thing. He has boy chromosomes, so he’s a boy. That is a FACT!” Yeah, I’ll get to the chromosome thing in a later post because that requires a little more thought to declare it bunk and I’m tired this morning. Let’s look at the astronaut argument for now while I sip on some delicious Scottish Orange Pekoe tea (thank you again, Becky!).
I shouldn’t have to really explain this to the trans crowd, but if you came around to support and someone ever hits you with this little gem of a logical fallacy, it’s fairly simple. First off, wanting to be an astronaut is a future dream, and probably a pipe one at that. If you are spending a lot of time bitching about things in the comments section of an online news article, I have a few doubts regarding your ability to concentrate on the math and engineering requirements. Regardless, it’s a future thing because most children understand they are probably not on the short list to go up on the next Soyuz launch, even if that kid on ‘Big Bang Theory’ did it.
More importantly, few children steadfastly understand themselves to be astronauts from birth and that only some yet understood quirk of fate is keeping them earthbound. A trans girl, however, does understand herself to be female and that it isn’t a condition she plans to enroll in a degree program to attain. It’s not a wish, or part of an overall life plan, but inherent self awareness, the expression of which allows her to interface with the world in a positive well adjusted manner that is much more comfortable for her and harms no one. More about that last part in just a bit.
The argument our feisty outraged commenter threw out there is what is known as the Straw Man Fallacy. It’s where a position is misrepresented to make it appear weaker and then defeated with the claim that the real position is defeated as well. This one is pretty easy to spot and counter because it is not the same thing at all, but dangerous because a public uneducated about trans issues can be easily swayed by something like this. Seems to make sense until you look at it all up close and personal.
My own understanding of why people insist on doing this is because they grew up under the concept of gender binary. Someone is A or B; no need to think about it further. In challenging something learned so young, many people feel very threatened that if something so basic as to be understood prior to the age of 2 might not be true, their whole world concept suddenly becomes suspect. Many hate this because it puts the possibility out there that they may have to go an rethink a whole load of items they already have coded as hard truth. For people who had a hard time getting this to begin with, it’s an even bigger problem, like having to redo your taxes after you put the pile away 6 months ago.
I think attacking trans children by likening a fundamental condition of their existence to a typical make believe game is both ignorant and mean in spirit. The best we can do in these situations is point out the fallacious nature of these argument out whenever they happen and work to educate the people around us who are willing to listen. By explaining why such notions hold no more water than a sieve, we can arm our supporters with the knowledge they need to address these situations as they encounter them. Every opportunity like this presents a chance to grow a broader understanding of our condition.