Just some random reflections on this topic, arising out of a comment I posted on another blog.
The very notion of “gender” is meaningless without the concepts of male and female. Aside from that, what could gender possibly mean?
So-called “third genders” are either a supposed neutral ground between male and female, or a boy raised as a girl or vice versa. But the notion of raising a boy as a girl depends on there being an external concept of femaleness to conform to, either innate femaleness or socially constructed femaleness.
If one who is biologically male identifies as a female, which femaleness is he identifying with? Innate, objectively existing femaleness, or socially constructed femaleness? If the former, where does it objectively exist? If only in his mind then it’s subjective, not objective, by definition. If not only in his mind, and not in his body either, but existing objectively nonetheless, then where is it?
If the femaleness that he is identifying with is socially constructed femaleness, then it can’t be something he was born with but must be learned as he grows up. In which case it’s hard to understand in what sense femaleness constitutes his true, objective identity as opposed to something he chooses to identify with.
Possibly what they’re saying is that something within the person makes the socially constructed femaleness he observes more congenial to him than socially constructed maleness, and maybe whatever quality within him causes that congeniality comprises the objective thing within him which we call identification with that gender. Possibly so. But it doesn’t follow from the fact that a man has something in him which causes him to identify with socially constructed femaleness, that this person is “really a female”. In order to draw that conclusion, you would have to assume that socially constructed femaleness is objective femaleness; but that’s a contradiction. If it’s objective then it’s not socially constructed.
If gender is socially constructed and not objective, then we have no basis for saying that the socially constructed femaleness of our time and place, to which the transgendered man feels drawn, is true, objective femaleness. It could be (according to the theory that gender is a social construction) that the socially constructed femaleness of our time and place, if transposed to some other time and place, would be considered maleness.
If a man finds the socially constructed femaleness of our time and place to be more congenial, to match up more closely with what he feels himself to be interiorly, that simply means that he has qualities within himself that the society of our time and place considers effeminate. It doesn’t follow from this fact that he is objectively a female.