There has been a recent controversy in the trans community. It brought up something that I spend a lot of time thinking about: the nature of competition and choice. But before I discuss that, let me go over the controversy.
Trans Athletes in Women’s Sports
EssenceOfThought and Rationality Rules have been fighting since the latter created a video, “The Athletic Advantage of Transgender Women (And Why It Is UNFAIR).” His basic argument is that if we don’t stop trans-women from competing in women’s sports there will be no women’s sports because it will only be trans-women who compete at the top levels.
I think there are generally two gut reactions to this. For most people, this just seems like “common sense.” For others, this seems like the typical hysteria of the bigotted mind.
You can work your way backward with EssenceOfThought’s most recent video, Rationality Rules Non-Apology & Tone Policing — A Critical Response.
On the facts, I side with EssenceOfThought. I have to admit to learning quite a lot. Not surprisingly, I haven’t given much thought to sports or biological changes caused by hormone treatments. To his credit, Rationality Rules has also been educated and changed his thinking — at least to some degree. So there doesn’t seem to be a lot of argument on this matter.
As for the rest of this controversy, I don’t especially want to engage. But I don’t like the way Rationality Rules or his defenders have behaved — taking potshots at EssenceOfThought without owning it.
I know that EssenceOfThought can be brutal online. I like that. In one video (that I can’t find now), a friend of Rationality Rules says it is wrong to make instant messages public while briefly showing the twitter feed of EssenceOfThought. I believe this is in reference to their fight with Logicked. Out of context, it is just a smear — and a cowardly one given EssenceOfThought is never mentioned.
As EssenceOfThought has pointed out, this is nothing but tone policing. That’s petty, but I don’t necessarily have a problem with that. But it’s useless. And I do have a problem with that.
What Do Sports Prove?
Over the years, I’ve come to see hierarchy as fundamentally incoherent. This is a natural outgrowth to my rejection of free will. Without it, any person’s position in a group is entirely outside their control.
Thus, if one is the best sprinter, it is the result of the body (including the brain) they were born with as well as the environment that body interacts with. Much is made of the work-ethic of great athletes. But this too is not a choice but the result of the body and its environment. There is no choice — only the illusion of choice.
If this is not clear, read Free Will.
What Do We Take Pride In?
Despite all this, humans continue to feel pride in “choices” they believe they have made. And I understand: it is important for society to have standards — they help individuals to make good decisions — ones that make them happier. But it makes no sense for individuals to feel pride in what they do.
Instead, they should feel gratefulness. If you’re smart, you are lucky. And there is no point in society praising intelligence since it is its own reward. The same goes for knowledge. Or height. Or speed.
But I know what people always say. It’s some variation on, “But Donovan Bailey worked really hard!” Sure he did. And his work ethic was something else he was gifted.
I think it is great that humans strive to improve themselves. But in our endeavor to pit people against each other, we soil a noble endeavor.
A good example of this is how grades work. Most successful students know the experience of becoming addicted to good grades and losing their love of learning as a result. (See Alfie Kohn’s work.)
But this is all practical stuff. I’ll have to write an article about it sometime in order to make a convincing case. My point here is we are all just given. We may think we create ourselves, but we’re really just along for the ride.
To me, the most remarkable thing about transgender women is how hormones change their bodies in fundamental ways. EssenseOfThought pointed out a few things in this regard. One is that trans-women generally have lower testosterone levels than cis-women. What’s more, hormone therapy “reduces muscle mass, bone density, and hemoglobin count while increasing body fat.” Yet excellent trans-women athletes were normally excellent cis-male athletes.
This shows how we aren’t in control of who we are. This has obvious relevance to transgender people. But it is much bigger than that. Thus, it makes no sense to me that we let people live in poverty or otherwise suffer. Beyond setting up a society that gives people the best chance to thrive, we need to get past notions like success.
Shaun created a great video two years ago, Paul Joseph Watson is Wrong About: Sports. He summed up with this:
I want a world in which individuals are appreciated. We act like we live in such a world, but we don’t. Instead, we live in the world of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. If you don’t have abilities that make you marketable, you’re an outcast — or at least someone of no value. We celebrate those with red noses when we need them. But that isn’t appreciating individuals.
I specifically use this example because I know what I’m talking about goes back to things we teach children about inclusion and love. But these morals are not what our society is based on. Appreciating people as people and not for how they can make you richer or entertain you should be the goal regardless.
But it’s also the case that we have no reason to be proud that we are smart or fast or knowledgeable. Again: we should be grateful. We are lucky. But we are not great or better than others.