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The online debate over transgender identity needs more speech, not less

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As an African-American lesbian and contributor to this fabulous series, I cannot begin to express my gratitude for this forum. I am ashamed to say, that this level of conversation does not happen in the states. The human's ability to agree to disagree is at an all time low. I truly believe there is room for all of us, but not at the expense of another. Like snowflakes, no two people are alike and the journey to discover our authentic selves takes different roads. The limitations of two dimensional conversations or forums are often the culprit. Folks don't take time to ask "what does that word mean to you?" or "what do you mean by that?" Most people enter on-line discussions assuming all words or expressions mean the same to everyone ...huge mistake. Usage of the term queer is a perfect example. I come from the generation when queer was an epithet, that gay folks used as a push back against homophobia, not a cultural or gender identity. I don't need to agree with or understand every aspect of a persons identity to understand that we all need food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, nurturance and love. An engaged and aware ally must accept this if we are to make any progress in this great debate. Pippa Fleming

Ecoute Sauvage in reply to guest-amamnwme

This level of conversation does not happen in the States?!
I'm an American, it's a safe bet so is California Man posting here - and so are several others.
I don't know where you usually hold online discussions, of course, but the fault does not lie with the US.


The Economist and the media in general are obsessed with gender abnormalities. Even though its is a minuscule percentage of the population, it SO important that their issues be front and center 7 days a week.

Look, we get it. A bunch of people feel they are trapped in someone elses body. Why not focus on the causes of this abnormality, say possibly environmental contamination by endocrine disrupting chemicals?

California Man

Only by people with nothing important to do.
Why is this issue being covered in The Economist?
Why is this non-issue being covered at ALL?

Clement P

"To host a better debate online, imagine better design."

So can we expect a improvement in the design and functionality of the comments section here? Is the economist going to reopen the comments section on all its articles?


I like to consider my self a pragmatist, someone who tends to see things as they are rather than how others might wish to see things. A [now] simple DNA test will define a person's sex at birth and at death. A coroner will never arrive at a conclusion of gay, transgender, etc. on the death certificate - it will simply be male or female. If an individual wishes to be identified as something other than their physiological sex then they should simply be able to define themselves as transgender. Should we be changing the definitions of science and biology simply to make someone feel good or better about themselves?
Another bug in my bonnet is the use of the word 'phobia' in place of the word 'hate', whether it be homophobia, transphobia or anyotherphobia. Wikipedia defines a phobia as, "...a type of anxiety disorder, defined by a persistent and excessive fear of an object or situation. The phobia typically results in a rapid onset of fear and is present for more than six months." I have yet to meet a single human being who actually has a phobia of gays, lesbians, trans individuals, etc. Oxford dictionaries list almost one-hundred different phobias and not one of them has to do with hate. Miriam Webster dictionary defines hate as "detest, abhor, abominate, loathe mean to feel strong aversion or intense dislike for."
Lest anyone accuse me of homophobic comments I once had a girlfriend who finally decided she was lesbian and the piano player at my wedding was a highly regarded, gay uncle. No hate there.

guest-owwaelo in reply to FOONR

I agree with you that "phobia" is absurd, but I don't follow your reasoning that it should be replaced by "hate", which strikes me as even less appropriate.
I am specifically baffled by the article's quote of a post "One said our series was akin to asking a Nazi to speak about Jewish identity" since it seems to me the Nazis had strong views on Jews, presumably arrived at pursuant to some research, so they should most certainly be allowed to speak on subjects on which they had some expertise. Or is there an implication of phobia and/or hate towards Jews? Towards Nazis?
Perhaps I should simply check myself in to SJW re-education camp, as I'm obviously unable to follow this discussion.


Dear Mr Smith,
I would like to be put in touch by e-mail with cat793 with whom I had an interesting discussion Is this possible? I could not find any way to ask privately, as I would prefer to do. I hope that you can help me.
Thank you.

guest-owwaelo in reply to guest-amaejjss

I have been following this sequence of articles with incredulity, but generally found that at least so far readers' comments retained some semblance of sanity. In hopes you will recover soon from whatever mental fog afflicts you, I'm happy to provide an answer to your question: put pen to paper, state your inquiry, place the result in an envelope, write the address of The Economist, and entrust your missive to a post office.
For an even more effective outcome, write directly to CAT793 at the link you provide and give her/him your email address - you can use a throwaway, one-time account. You're welcome.