“Biological male”

It takes a lot for me to endorse a Twitter thread, mostly because if your message takes more than one tweet I think you should just get a blog. Still, Zinnia Jones has made an argument for why insistence on labeling trans women “biological males” has troubling ethical implications, aside from the overly reductionist interpretation of science.

(Click on the embedded tweet to view the thread).



  1. says

    I loathe the twitter format (how can you say something useful in a string of post-it notes?) Well, Zinnia manages.
    Fuck, some of the crap on those threads… aie. aie. aie. I’m sorry people want to be so judgemental about other people’s sexuality. It’s like (flails around with hands) they just can’t let someone else not be interested in them, or something. I don’t get it.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    You could possibly make a case for calling someone an anatomical male, but “biological” carries much more baggage, often inappropriate or just wrong for transwomen.

  3. Allison says

    I know I’m preaching to the choir, but …. If “male” meant “has a penis” and nothing more, I wouldn’t have a problem with being designated “male.” Of course, once I get my SRS, I would then be “female,” as would a previously “male” soldier whose genitals got blown off by an IED.

    It’s all bait-and-switch argumentation.

    I’m glad there are people who have the time and energy to fight The Good Fight, because unfortunately I don’t.

  4. Hj Hornbeck says

    “Biological male” fails at the most basic level. In addition to Allison’s point, sometimes people are born with both a penis and vagina, and in rare cases born without either. Are the former both sexes simultaneously, and the latter without any sex despite usually being raised as a boy?

  5. says

    It’s an argument worth having. The reality of that argument requires that we collectively be open to how our language interacts with our anatomy in the context of language. I’ve decided to be open about feeling and language as a general rule because of what I’ve read about how feeling and language has to work.

    The biology is there, and we are implicitly sensitive to social references to anatomy. Language is embodied. I try to act like the current common rules on language are all worth being thought of as changeable.

    I get a kind of embodiment that falls into the Tourette’s Syndrome category. I’m willing to be candid as I can about how that affects my sense of body and anatomy and language (or other relevant things). This has to do with bias and I try to be open about that as a means of making myself take it seriously (manipulating myself as a reinforcer). My arrangement of sensitivitits is too specific and useful to be random, and this is about how we collectively experience language. Social bias is implicitly involved for everyone and my advantage amounts being luck enough to be able to read about how my mind is shaped, and everyone gets to show me how they fit into the picture.

    Little neural maps of the body in the brainstem and mid-brain. Constantly updating maps that are the bullet that kills dualism. A constant cyclic flow of information that constitutes the feeling of emotion, you are your brain experiencing a map of your body is a part of consciousness. The feeling of constantly updating body maps, there is no duality beyond what history required to understand the brain 6ntil this point. That is your enteroceptivly generated sense of [self as object] (and a reason to take mindfulness meditation seriously, fleshing out your sense of self stored in a network of places that we can now map).

    My experience of my body maps can be tied to the TS stereotypes and that can be related to common experience in a useful way, with serious ethical requirements (my own set will never be complete). I expect my own use of anatomy related to need to change to properly reflect reality, it’s a given because we fight with words individually and in groups if nothing else.

  6. Siobhan says

    @Pierce R. Butler

    You could possibly make a case for calling someone an anatomical male, but “biological” carries much more baggage, often inappropriate or just wrong for transwomen.

    That baggage is still present even if you use the term “anatomical.” To put it in crude terms, the physiology of a dick on estrogen is different from the physiology of a dick on testosterone. There are aspects of textbook penis physiology that will not be present in someone on estrogen.

    This is discussed in greater detail here:



  7. Pierce R. Butler says

    [Timeout: There is a lot going on in this comment. I happen to be working on a post to discuss this exact thing. But it’s getting disemvoweled for the safety of my trans participants. Anybody curious can reverse-disemvowel if they are so inclined. -Shiv]

    Siobhan @ # 7 – lt f ths cms dwn t prpss. Mst f s hv nrrwr crtr fr rtc rltnshps thn fr gnrl scl ntrctn; cnsdrng th fll phnmn f phscl trnstn rqrs n mch wdr scp t. vnll cs-htr wmn, fr xmpl, mght fnd, s, vr hr mn prfctl ccptbl fr ll srts f ml scl rls t rfs t cnsdr hm s sx prtnr. Hr ml cntrprt mght fl th sm w, <>mtts mtnds, bt bpnsd trnswmn. W mght cnsdr th lttr smwht trnsphbc (nd th frmr hrstphbc, gss), bt tht mmdtl crshs s nt th qstn f dscrbng bth dgrs nd qlts f t-phb rthr thn th bnr md sm ppl pprntl prfr. Fr prl prgmtc rsns, mst f th tm wld rthr t kp sxl prfrncs n thr wn bx(s) nd t gnr th pltcl-cncptl mplctns f (nn-bsv, nw) bdrm bss. sspct lt f (ml, nhw) hm-trnsphb cms frm flng t mntn sch sprtn, nt nl cnsdrng vrbd th mt n sxl trms bt xpctng thrs t s thm thrgh th sm lnss.