@critic on trans vs terf and constructivism
Mostly reply to Nyarlathotep, but also more generally on Trans v Terf.
OK, I'm gonna piss you all off by sounding like Emile here... but there's ontological problems with both realism and constructivism. What “really exists” as far as we know, is a field of unique quantum “events” (like objects but in process). Each “event” is both irreducibly unique in space, and irreducibly different at each moment. In case that's not confusing enough, they're also interrelated and mutually influence each other in all kinds of ways, so in some ways we're dealing with a continuous field of interconnected energies (I know, it looks like a paradox that it's both “differenciated” into unique events and continuous, but that's because we aren't used to thinking at the quantum level). The things humans see as objects are continuous localised clusters of events which retain certain organisations of energy through time. One sees only a small proportion of what's actually happening at the event-level, and one sees it through particular senses which select from the overall event-field based (roughly) on the will-to-power or attention-to-life of the organism (this is true of all animals). Humans go a step further and also select *within* the field of what's sensorily accessible, sorting particular perceptions as relevant (and neurotics do this to a greater extent than psychotics). So what one actually experiences is a filtered subset of a filtered subset of a field where everything is different and everything is continuous and everything is in flow. Another complication: none of us can really prove that the external world exists, because it's conceptually possible that one is a brain in a jar, being fed neurological data consistent with the experience of an outer world which isn't really there – or that we're all part of a group hallucination induced by psychoactive conditions in our environment – or we're actually just having a very long and unusual type of dream. And we only know any of this stuff – about “real” objects, about the quantum level, about the possibility of being a brain in a jar – from sensory experience which is just the sensory experience of oneself as an individual organism. So we can't prove that “objects”, or even “events”, have “real”, external reality, though we can get around this by saying that they have “phenomenal” reality, i.e. that they are present to experience (this is the root of social constructivism). But, then there's a problem that phenomenal experience is itself at least partly constructed by intentionality, i.e. the categories through which each of us senses and perceives phenomenal events (in cognitivism, schemas; in psychoanalysis, unconscious fantasies). So it's always like with Gestalt images – some of the phenomenal data is “there”, but our unconscious brain will “add to” it or “subtract from” it to form a recognisable perceptual object.
Confused yet? Good.
Now, categories like “gender” or “species”. Through language, people *group* particular events into types, both over time (e.g. personal identity) and over space (e.g. three different sheep). This process is “intentional” in the phenomenological sense. It reflects differences in the sensory experience of the object, selected according to the unconscious presuppositions of the observer (which doesn't mean “people just imagine it's there” - it's a process of selection and addition, not invention). When people name a group of objects, they're generally naming (at the simplest) a particular attribute of the object, which is why it can be used to group similar objects. The characteristic which is used to “sort” the group is more-or-less arbitrary – most often, it reflects the feature most pertinent to the sensations/resonances/interests of the observer or the community of observers. In itself it is simply an *attribute* which is no more important than other attributes (including the ones we can't name).
*But* this doesn't mean that “anything can mean anything”. People who have acquired or formulated a particular selection system based on attributes will see those attributes when they are or appear to be phenomenally present (“really there”). And some sets of selections will feel more attractive, resonant or “subjectively real” than others – because of their emotional effects. And categories can be intersubjective *or* subjective. Neurotics (normies) tend to have *only* intersubjective categories, and to actually live life through these categories, but psychotics (and some neurotics, and most original theorists and fantasy writers) have *their own* categories which are either eccentric modifications of existing categories or neologisms (invented words). Easy case: someone's writing an RPG, and they want to include a race of cybernetically enhanced orange-feathered bird-people with horns, they just draw the creature and invent a name. Hard case: a paranoid woman refers to herself as being “esoterically raped”. People kinda know what she means, but it's referring to an experience no-one else can make sense of (except maybe another paranoid person).
So, let's recap. “Objects” actually exist (if at all) at the event-level, where everything is unique, continuous and in flux. Event-level objects have attributes which are present to phenomenal experience. People only ever have access to phenomenal experience – though we can't know that phenomenal experience refers to any external reality. Categories (concepts, words) are ways of sorting unique event-level “objects” into distinct sets. This process always involves adding and subtracting in relation to the event-level sensory experience. There are massively more attributes than we can see. There are also many more attributes which we can see, than there are “names” for objects in everyday language. All claims, both everyday and technical/scientific, are simplifying selections from the event-level, based on the (individually or socially motivated, extrinsic) selection of a particular attribute so as to group a set of unique events across space and time. This means that a claim which is *true*, is only ever *partially or approximately* true, though at the same time it is *absolutely* true in its precise literal reference. For instance, if someone says “there's a cat on the doorstep”, this may be *absolutely* true in the literal sense that this person just had a perceptual experience of an apparent event-level phenomenon which has the cat-attribute(s) (a claim which is more-or-less self-validating, unless the person is lying), but also only *partial and approximate* in that 1) the ontological status of the cat-event (whether it's a real cat, a hallucinated cat, a trompe l'oeil image of a cat, a robot cleverly disguised as a cat, a set of signals triggering image-centres of a brain-in-a-jar...) is undetermined, and 2) the “cat” is never simply a cat, but *this particular* unique cat at this moment in time, and it has a set of other attributes irreducible to its cat-attribute(s), such as size, fur colour, biological sex, self-confidence, hunger or lack of it... down to the fact of its being this particular cat at this particular moment. And in this sense, the statement “there's a cat on the doorstep” is a gross oversimplification. This also applies to identities, including “humanity” as well as “gender” and “race” (Stirner's spooks). The attribute may be one of the unique's “properties” or attributes, but it is not the same as the unique itself (the specific individual cluster of event-level energy at this particular moment in time). But it's not just a matter of “everything's opaque” or “everything's equally an illusion”: people can make better or worse concepts which approximate more closely. One can reduce (but not eliminate) the possibility of perceptual error by inductive/empirical testing, and one can reduce the gap between unique-one and concept by using increasingly precise concepts (it's not just a cat, it's a hungry ginger tomcat wearing a bell) – but the gap never disappears, it just shrinks.
Just to complicate things a bit more... a lot of everyday concepts are not simple names or categories, but rather, are categories based on “family resemblances” - meaning that they name a cluster of different features, only some of which need to be present for the “object” to be recognised as belonging to the category. (A good metaphor for this, is the DSM diagnostic lists – these often consist of, say, nine symptoms, any five of which suffice for a diagnosis. So two people with the same diagnosis will each have five symptoms, but may only have one of the five in common; and three people with the same diagnosis may have *no single* symptom in common). Everyday sex/gender talk, and everyday species-talk, are complex categories of this type because there is no single feature which makes the category applicable or not applicable.
So for example, the everyday concept of “woman” (as used intersubjectively) is a massive amalgam of attributes ranging from “having a vagina” to “having XX chromosomes” to “approximating to a barbie-doll ego-ideal” to “person responsible for housework”. The amalgam creates the illusion that the features go together – which often they don't. An “essentialist” view of gender takes these attributes not only as natural, but as naturally *the most important* and as definitive of the people. Sociology unpacks this amalgam a bit by separating biological attributes (sex) from social roles (gender), but this still leaves two big clusters of correlated but unrelated traits. Crucially, *biological sex is still a social construct* in that certain dimorphic traits and being selected and grouped from among the multitude of traits of diverse individuals and their different selves across time and space. However, it's not a social construct in quite the way a stereotype or a culturally defined gender role is a social construct. It's a gestalt image which adds to/subtracts from the event-field, but which is hooked onto attributes which actually exist in the (phenomenal experience of the) event field. It is also significant here that biological sex is a spectrum, because this is one of the things left out in the selection process: it proactively (with phenomenological “intentionality”) groups diversity into a binary category. What goes missing in some of the more radical trans/genderqueer/anti-gender arguments is that nonetheless, biological sex is hooking onto perceived attributes at the phenomenal level – there is a sensory-experiential difference between having a dick and not having a dick, between seeing a dick and seeing a vagina. For instance, it seems bizarre to me to argue that it's transphobic to only be sexually aroused by people with vaginas (and not, say, sexist to be a gay man). Leaving aside the fact that attraction is largely involuntary (and not something people can reasonably be held responsible for), having a vagina is an independent variable which can affect attraction, independently of whether it's decisive to one's definition of a “woman” or not. But I don't think there's anything unscientific about saying “biological sex is a social construct” or “having a vagina doesn't make you biologically female”. It's not so much that vaginas don't exist (insofar as anything which is a categorical construct of unique event-level phenomena induced from phenomenal experience really “exists”), but that this particular attribute shouldn't be used to sort people into “sexes”.
And an important part of identity-categories is *recognising oneself* (subjectively) in the category, a process known in critical theory as “interpellation”. What idpol fails to understand (but Lacan and Althusser, who invented the concept, *do* understand) is that interpellation sometimes *fails* - people's local event-level self-experience and personal subjective meaning doesn't necessarily fit with the ascribed identities and meanings. This is most common in psychosis, but all anarchists experience this to some degree, in being “misrecognised” as subjects of law, rational individuals, free mini-entrepreneurs with human capital, national citizens, people to be trained as normal conformist subjects, etc – and it also happens with race, gender, species, all the rest. There will be cases where the interpellation does not take root at all. And there will be cases where it takes root, but is ill-fitting (“All the identities that society tried to stitch me into don’t fit, and the fabric is coarse” - Peter Gelderloos). So, a refusal of identity, or a reshuffling of identity-categories, can be a way to resist being interpellated into a particular identity. For instance, there was a stereotype of women in 1950s America which basically predicted that, if a woman could be a housewife and soccer mom, she would be happy. This conflicted with experiences of “housewife malaise” among women who'd realised the supposed ideal. In this case, the category is ceasing to fit – and the appeal of feminist consciousness-raising to women experiencing housewife malaise was not simply another way of arranging the categories, but fit women's experience *better* - and in this sense, felt more subjectively “real”, even though it was also a social construct. So in a sense, with the right to identify as transgender, transracial or otherkin, we're dealing with a right to refuse interpellation, to not be interpellated, or perhaps to be interpellated in line with one's prior self-identity (the last of which is a rather anomalous approach).
Regarding “*have not been* socialized as their chosen gender ideologically” - on a Lacanian model, there are gendered modes of interpellation, and it's possible that a child ends up interpellated (albeit usually accidentally) into the “wrong” gender relative to social ascriptions, so it's quite possible they *are* “socialized as their chosen gender ideologically” (albeit indirectly).
The idea that it's politically radical to play with identities and attributes has a number of origins – one of them the Situationist/Benjaminian/carnivalesque history of pastiche and montage – and basically comes down to the fact that, when a category is composed of several attributes which aren't inherently connected (e.g. gender performance is conflated with having a vagina), then reshuffling them can make the categories less stable, the constructedness (rather than naturalness) of the categories more apparent, and ultimately, can disrupt the category to the point where it stops working (hence, “queering” as “making strange”). For comparison: a state which no-one obeys, a state which isn't able to implement fixed procedures and has no grip on its territory, is no longer a state. It's rather a limited strategy, for two reasons. Firstly, because people attached to a category, faced with its dissolution, are as likely to bunker down and defend the category in an almost paranoid way, as to allow it to dissolve (e.g. a state will resort to terror to avoid being dissolved this way). Secondly, because human beings function by means of categories (even psychotics have categories, even if they're “more fluid”), you're at some point going to need to create new categories. This isn't much of a problem for Stirner, Deleuze/Guattari, Nietzsche, Bonanno, or Bey, but it's a huge problem for most idpols and poststructuralists today, because they're prohibited from passing beyond subversion of existing categories into building anything new (their position is basically: it's radical to subvert meaning and ego, it's reactionary/fascistic to entrench it). This leaves the dominant system intact as the source of meanings which are subverted, but nonetheless persist, and it also leads to an intensification of affects of precarity, anxiety, trauma, and “unhomeliness”, which feed into subjective suffering and ultimately help both neoliberalism and political reaction. The appeal of a Stirnerian position is that it offers *something else*: a joyous self-expression and resonance in place of subordination to spooks. But today's idpols and poststructuralists generally reject anything which promotes this kind of autonomy and self-expression (the “self” is seen as a social construct and therefore part of the problem), and as a result, they get stuck in the reproduction of unpleasant, unappealing, negative affects/emotions such as discomfort, anxiety, and humiliation, thus valorising the effects of neoliberalism and undermining the projectual, forward-moving, euphoric, *affirmative* affective processes of a Stirnerian (or Nietzschean, or Deleuzian...) passage beyond capitalism.
But idpol turns into something else too: a struggle for *recognition* (and validation) through coerced interpellations which accord with self-defined identities. The relationship between idpol and interpellation is in my view very, very complex. They seem to both want to be identified entirely with degrading categories, and to throw them off; to separate from the dominant social constructions (“I don't have to be accountable to white men”), and to identify entirely with them and seek recognition within them (academic status, legal identity); to gain affirmation from their “other” (the “privileged” group) of their right to exist, and to disavow and reject any such affirmation; to want the “other” to say “yes, I'm an evil white male” and “no, I'm an ally, I'm different” at the same time; to become the dominant, ruling faction in particular spaces, while claiming (and *by* claiming) to be the worst-off, the most oppressed. They seem to want the privileged “other” to retain power, but to use this power to define them the way *they* want to be defined – but they also want to subvert and destroy this site of power. This is why their identity-games are so confusing.
Your average Terf defines “woman” primarily on the basis of *experience* (or structural distribution of experience, aka “privilege/power/oppression”) – which is generally how idpols today construct *all* their categories. Of course, the experience stems from having a vagina, but they don't usually claim that women are essentially, biologically woman because they have vaginas (or chromosomes, wombs, breasts, etc). Trans activists (from what I can tell) define “woman” on the basis of experience too, but *not* specifically the experience of “sexism” or “underprivilege” - more on the internal experience of “feeling” you're a woman (possibly the ego-ideal or persona in a Freudian sense, the imaginary sense of who you are – which is *always imaginary* even for cis people). But, they seem to treat *being trans* on the same basis that Terfs treat women, and this choice of which identity is attached to “power” is crucial in the idpol climate as to whose rights count more. There's also a split among trans activists between “constructivist vs transmedicalist” or “tucute vs truscum”, which roughly, comes down to people who believe all gender is constructed and anyone who identifies as trans is trans, and somebody who believes that only people who have diagnosable “gender dysphoria” (or have thought they're the opposite gender all their lives) are “really” trans. The issues between the two groups of trans activists are *very similar* in their internal structure to the disputes between trans and terfs, except that they focus on the definition of “transgender” instead of the definition of “woman”.
From a Stirnerian point of view, they all miss the point. We can't speak “as an” anything, because the categories are partial mental universalising representations – we can only speak “as a” unique one. Categories refer to attributes; self-identities refer to self-recognised attributes. We can say another person is misidentifying, but this always comes from one's own categories and arguably uses them as a spook... although there's an important distinction between “X identifies as Y” and “X has the empirical attributes conventionally associated with Y”. Yes, in a sense, a trans woman can't understand a cis woman's experience or vice-versa, except by “listening, imagination, reason, and inference”. But then, again, we're getting into the problem of whether the experiences of the whole group are really identical, and if so, whether they're the *most important* aspect of the unique event-clusters which are categorised by them. In other words: can one trans woman (or cis woman, or black gay man, or blind person...) understand what another trans woman (or group member) experiences? They're all unique ones. Some experiences will be common, or more statistically prevalent, among those with the attribute, but there will also be things which are different. The way they respond, or are emotionally affected, by “the same” event may be very different. The #metoo campaign, lumping together many different kinds of “sexual assault and harassment”, is a case in point: women posting #metoo may have experienced anything from a wolf-whistle to attempted murder, anything from once to innumerable times. And even if we pare the category down to (say) being groped, one woman will be angry or mildly annoyed, and another will be traumatised and unable to leave the house for a month. Can we say they have “the same” experience? Can we say they can understand each other's experience? If not, then how can idpol work? And, if so, is it really so difficult for (say) a white survivor of police brutality on a protest to understand police brutality against black people? Doesn't PTSD from rape look very similar to PTSD from combat trauma or PTSD from torture by police, or PTSD from surviving a car accident or cancer? For that matter – given that people constantly change, that they aren't the same quantum-level event they were a moment ago, that memory is not the same as perception, that memory as well as perception selects and sometimes distorts – can we even say that someone can understand *their own* experience, as it was for the past self who they were at the time? Why does the *proportional distribution* of particular experiences by attribute amount to a basis for *common group identity* in which insiders can understand a group member, and outsiders cannot? At the end of the road, one only has unique-ones, all of whose experiences are ultimately incommensurable, all of whose experiences are somewhat comparable through “intercourse” (based on similarities, resonances or complementarities), all of whom have things in common and things not in common, compatibilities and incompatibilities, resonances and differences with all of the others, some more than others, with or without attributes playing a role - and the creation of a social space of competition for meaning, competition for validation (“my position is real experience based on real oppression and yours is a unconscious strategy of oppression”), rather than intersubjective dialogical elaboration of harmonisation based on difference (“how do we create a language where both of these experiences can be said”), is singularly unhelpful here (though also, I believe, an effect of material processes within neoliberalism, and not simply a subjective “error”).
On a radical (root) level, *nobody* can understand another person's experience, because each person is a unique event-level being, to whom categories of language and observed “behaviour” are always inadequate; indeed, it is arguable that one cannot understand *one's own* experience, since there is more at the event-level of one's phenomenal experience than one can see, since the level of conceptual “selection” is largely unconscious, and since one is in a sense *a different person* at each moment (as well as caught-up in relations one cannot see – with particles in the air, etc). And there is also a sense in which *everyone* can understand others' perspectives to some degree, through an interpretive method (similar to Geertzian anthropology, or phenomenological sociology) and an intuited sense, derived from reconstruction of words and deeds, of how the other person's personality “functions” as a machine (similar to psychoanalysis or schizoanalysis). How much this matters in everyday life, varies with context – there is usually enough in common to engage in group projects without everyone's slightly different subjective memories and resonances, say about what “wood” is, becoming an insuperable barrier. (In fact, these kinds of basic practical tasks in common are often the best way to build conviviality which doesn't get caught in intergroup identity dynamics).
Once we reach this point of radical perspectivism, the questions about who is “really” a woman or a trans person, whether their experience is “the same”, whether they can “understand” each other, turn out to be false questions based on the residual realism within idpol constructivism.
The problem (I'm following Lupus Dragonowl's claim here) is *not* that idpols believe that everything is constructed – it's that they flip arbitrarily between constructivism and realism – roughly, between self-defined identities and undeniable “lived experiences” which are taken as directly, self-validatingly *real*. (The term “lived experience” actually comes from phenomenology, but in its original version, *everyone* has lived experiences which are equally real, or unreal... in idpol, certain people's lived experiences are epistemically privileged/prioritised based on “power” or “privilege”, i.e. because they're historically marginalised, i.e. because of a realist/objectivist claim about the real structure of the outer world).
Just to confuse things further, the concepts of sexism or racism are *also* gestalt constructs and generalisations from an attribute (of situations/events), and a person “becoming conscious” of them is engaged in a process of selection, perception and categorisation (not simply “recognising their lived experience”). In this case, the perception of sexism or racism may be an observed sociological fact (though in idpol usage it tends to become a clumsy aggregate of dissimilar phenomena), again with the proviso that, just as a cat is never “only” a cat, so a racist incident is never “only” a racist incident (but has many other facets). The usual idpol move is to identify the fact of having experienced racism or sexism (being a “racialised” or “gendered subject”) as definitive of one's gender or race – that's how they get out of the accusation of essentialism (Terfs don't claim that vaginas are biologically definitive of women; they claim that only human beings with vaginas get subjected to certain kinds of social mistreatment, and are thus “gendered” as women). This is inaccurate in much the same way as any other trait-based view of the self – the experience of racist or sexist treatment is only one facet of one's existence as a unique one at a particular point in space and time, not necessarily the determinant one (I think it *feels* like, and often *becomes*, the determinant one because of the effects of PTSD, but that's another matter), and identifying based on this treatment is a double-edged sword: one paradoxically defines *as crucial to one's basic identity* an experience of being subordinated and abused, and this means that one paradoxically does not wish to give up the very structure of abuse without which one ceases to exist as an interpellated subject (this is why idpols typically portray the actual *overcoming* of racism or sexism as impossible, and why they focus so much on their relationship to “privileged” people and on getting “privileged” people to identify as “privileged”, *within the relation* which defines their identity... it might also, unconsciously, be why they do so many things which seem designed to provoke people into doing something racist or sexist). This said – the process of recognising oneself as a victim/survivor of patriarchy may be more convincing than the illusion of being a happy housewife. Because it's sorting phenomenal experiences which “exist”, and fitting them more-or-less closely. And it will often be easy to solve idpol disputes (if idpols aren't determined to keep them alive) by simply giving up the contested term and replacing it with two or more terms with more precise meanings (“female-identified” vs “person-with-a-penis”).
So, we have multiple attributes of gender because it's a complex category, and we also have differences between subjective and intersubjective definitions of gender, and contestation of which definition should be intersubjectively valid. At no point do we have what's needed: a simplification of the complex category and a recognition of all its different sub-attributes as distinct attributes; together with a recognition that unique ones are not reducible to attrtibutes. A trans person *may well have* several of the attributes of their chosen gender, or a mixture of attributes of both genders – but contest the claim that a particular attribute (vagina, experience of being treated as a woman...) is *necessary* to assign gender. In fact both trans activists and Terfs are trying to redefine gender in particular ways, to make it a more precise category (which isn't necessarily a bad thing). Gender identity is certainly one of the criteria even in everyday uses, and there's a lot of other issues too. For example, there's debates over whether trans women have “female brains”. So it's not as simple as “trans activists are in denial that dicks are real”, it's about how to sort unique beings into different sets by certain criteria (and indeed, whether to). In terms of sexual dimorphism among non-human animals. Well, first off animals don't have sex or gender categories as far as we know, they have what they have, they feel what they feel and that's the end of it. And second off, *some* species do not have strong sexual dimorphism or do not even have gender at all (e.g. slugs change gender depending who wins the mating fight; many female wolves have so much testosterone as to be infertile).
And this general argument also works for transracialism and Otherkin. Hakim Bey argues that “imaginative participation in other cultures” (in effect, transracialism) is an important way of subverting racism. By the way, I don't think racial hybridity or drawing on other cultures (with or without transracial identity) is at all “racist” or oppressive to the original culture. Stirner: “the child who tears it to pieces or plays with it, the Inca Atahualpa who lays his ear to it and throws it away contemptuously when it remains dumb, judges just as correctly about the Bible as the priest who praises in it the “Word of God,” or the critic who calls it a job of men’s hands”. And you will notice how few idpols forbid non-white people from “appropriating” white culture – in fact, this is celebrated as subversion in some of the idpol literature (Bhabha, Hall, etc)! There's a weird proprietary imperative in the idea of appropriation, as if someone doing the same as oneself is erasing oneself as a person – as if undermining the *distinctness* of a category (spook) is destroying the category and therefore the people who belong to it. Personally I'd limit objections to 1) those involving parodies based on crude caricatures, and 2) those involving biopiracy or “theft” of local knowledge for profit (where a company copyrights something and, by extension, excludes the original creators from it). Erasing a category or erasing someone's “experience” is only genocide if the person is identified absolutely with the category (and this belief probably reflects the unconscious idea that one's mediatised image is “more real” than one's bodily experience: “pics or it didn't happen”). For comparison, remember that the Nazis *required* Jews to be distinct – to the point of *forcing* them to wear identity-markers (stars of David) and *banning* exchanges between Jewish and German culture (intermarriage, Jewish art...) – and it was *this*, not their discursive “erasure”, which led to genocide.
Otherkin I know less about – and again there's a ridiculous identity-assertion and demand for recognition attached to a lot of this stuff – but there's a whole theory of becoming-animal in Deleuze and Guattari, in which one can gain animal affinities and attributes up to a point. The idea is that there are “zones of desire” (particular configurations of attraction, resonance, repulsion, ecology) connected with each animal (and also, with groups such as “women” and “nomads”), which one can occupy and therefore “become”, albeit always in one's unique time and place, with one's own subjective capabilities. I suspect Otherkin is a recent reconfiguration of a longstanding symptom of psychosis and severe post-traumatic stress (one does not identify as “human” due to powerlessness or abjection, or because somehow excluded from the category – and thus takes on an animal identity), it's present in Judith Herman's studies, in Schreber and Kafka, but its current version is infected with the identity-obsession so common today. Wolf-boy (who was raised by wolves) certainly gained the social/”behavioural” repertoire of a wolf, though I've no idea if “identity” came into it.
Now, suppose we're dealing with claims like “men have better upper-body strength” or “women can bear more pain”. First problem here: the observed phenomenon is limited to existing societies for which data is available, and it's very hard, in these cases, to unpack genetic and social influences. It's pretty common for such correlations to turn out on close expection to be intersocially variable or to have social causes; even if they have biological causes (e.g. testosterone levels), these can easily be rectified biomedically. Second problem: the correlation involves the amalgam-concepts “man/woman” which themselves cover a spectrum, so it's unclear if the claim refers equally to all of those within the spectrum. Third problem: the evidence generally comes from a particular kind of quantitative desituated experiment, which is not necessarily relevant to real social situations. But the fourth and decisive problem is that these kinds of correlations – even when highly statistically significant – are always relative distribution effects with substantial individual variance. Some women have greater upper body strength than some men. Some men have higher pain tolerance than some women. The best female chess player in the world is ranked very low overall, something like 100 or 200 in the world rankings... but she can still beat over 99% of chess-playing men. So, the claims really never mean that *you* as a unique individual have or don't have a particular trait – they mean that you can be predicted by an observer to have a certain percentage likelihood of having the trait due to your possession of a certain attribute which also correlates with it. Judging yourself in terms of trait likelihood based on an ascribed identity might be a useful way to make probabilistic decisions as to what undiscovered potential or resonance you're most likely to have (though with a risk of self-fulfilling prophecy), but it's no substitute for figuring out *your own* distribution of traits and abilities. In relying on group generalisations, there is a danger that people will be discouraged from doing things they're good at, or drawn to, because they internalise the predictions for the group – and therefore fall short of self-expression (because they're conforming to the spook).
Actually what I find offensive about idpol is not the identity-claims (“I'm a trans person and this is the attribute I'm going to focus on and live through”), but the insistence on enmeshing others in self-centric structural models of complicity and responsibility (“you're cis and you have cis privilege and it doesn't matter if you accept these categories or not, they're constitutive of who you are, and this means your claims have less validity and/or you should have less power and validation in social spaces”). Because this is exactly the same kind of misperception based on a single attribute which is involved in racism/sexism/etc, but inverted. Now, it is certainly possible that an idpol *might* be referring to relations one cannot see, or unconscious categories one is unknowingly deploying, but the idea that they can determine that this is true simply because of someone's “positionality”, or because of one or another “microaggression” or conventional action (i.e. because of how the idpol perceives or feels about something), is the height of epistemic arrogance. I have seen idpols argue in all seriousness that Lenny in Of Mice and Men was engaging in sexual harassment, and that his severe learning difficulty is irrelevant – even though Lenny's actions are not only entirely naïve and well-meaning, but also utterly non-sexual in motive, and derive rather from object-affinities (for fluffy clothes, animals and the like). This is a good example of how idpols utterly fail to reality-check in relation to the event-level, and simply assume the reality of their own perceptions (and groundedness of their reactions) in every case.
A Stirnerian response might go something like, OK, “male” is one of my attributes, “cis” is one of my attributes, but it's just an attribute, it isn't *what I am* as a unique one. I'm a Stirnerian egoist, so I live by resonances and desires, the things I give myself permission to do in accordance with my ethos, the things which give me intensity and immediacy and flow-experience. Suppose this attribute is important to some of my resonances, or statistically common among people with certain of my attributes, that I like to do “cis male” things – so what? On the other hand, suppose I like to do a load of things which cis men in general don't do – again, so what?
The idpol response would go something along the lines of: identities are co-constituted, your cis privilege is an effect of my trans oppression, you're responsible for this category because it's causally determinant of who you are, and because it's created through a constitutive exclusion. And the Stirnerian response to this: the category is a social construct in that it sorts people by a particular attribute – but the category is not necessarily determinant of the attribute or its resonance. Reducing a person (including oneself) to a category is reducing them to a spook – it's subordination of real, unique event-level forces to an imaginary, abstract, fixed (in space and time) category. The category, not the attribute, is based on constitutive exclusion – or more accurately, constitutive differentiation. If we're aware of how categories relate to unique ones, the exclusion involved in the category won't impact on actual people. Your idpol argument assumes that people are merely effects of interpellation, and that interpellation is always successful. But Stirnerian egoism is defiance of all interpellation – it is possession of one's attributes as aspects of the self, which is a unique one.