Quick, Silly, Kantian Rebuttal of Feminist Transphobia

April 9, 2009

The next time someone tries to start a discussion about whether transness is morally acceptable, I will ask:

Is it logically possible for you to choose to live in a world where choosing your own gender is universal law? (whether or not you’d actually choose to live in that world)

Yes, it is. Therefore, choosing your own gender is morally acceptable. 😛

I’ll even give you a more suitable-to-transphobic-logic maxim to formulate the categorical imperative: is it logically possible for you to choose to live in a world where transitioning is universal law? (whether or not you’d actually choose to live there)

Yes, it is. Hell, I kind of wish we lived in that world. Think about how many wars would be averted! Plus, so much less transphobia, homophobia, sexism… and we wouldn’t have jerkfaces like George Bush! Therefore, transitioning: morally acceptable.

Let’s try the other formulation of the categorical imperative:

Does transitioning treat anyone solely as a means to an end rather than simultaneously an end in hirself? No. Does choosing your own gender? Nope. Morally acceptable. We’re good.

Yeah, I know, Kant’s not so popular with feminists, anti-racists, and radicals, whatever.


9 Responses to “Quick, Silly, Kantian Rebuttal of Feminist Transphobia”

  1. Claire said

    I don’t know… I think in the nearest possible world in which everyone chooses their own gender, we still wind up with assholes like Dubya. That degree of stupidity must be learned.

  2. Cedar said


    Two things:
    1)That was totally tongue-in cheek.
    2)It was only in reference to the everyone-has-to-transition world, which is different than the everyone-gets-to-choose-their-gender world, which is better but has some disadvantages, like the lack of power to hit everyone over the head with the realities of sexism and transphobia and violence

  3. Claire said

    Oh, I did misunderstand, then… That’s what I get for reading blogs late. (End of the semester… important procrastinating to do.) And I did get the tongue-in-cheekiness, naturally. Though, I’m quite sure you’ll have some radfems knocking down your door by morning (I’m being very EST-normative) complaining that you want to forcibly inject them with testosterone.

  4. Cedar said

    bring it on. Not like I’d let them comment anyway.

  5. andryl said

    I’m not at all sure it’s possible for me to logically choose to live in a world where transitioning is universal law, if by that you mean what comes to my mind. Which I guess is transition narrowly defined without reference to individual desires– eg. bottom surgery for all. Should the answer to this question be different for different people? Does that have any implications? I’m not so up on my Kant. Well, not up at all, as I suppose you know.

    All the rest of these arguments make sense to me… but the everyone-has-to-transition world is as scary as this one, or more so.

  6. Cedar said


    My take on “transition” doesn’t specify bottom surgery; that maxim just never occurs to me. I think the feminist transphobia is generally more centered around the immorality of social transition, though some of it is about self mutilation. But the more central point is that the maxim to be translated into universal law would be ‘transition by one’s own choice.’

    In any case, the question is not whether you would choose to live there but whether you could. One of Kant’s examples of a world you can’t choose to live in is the one where you lie in order to borrow money–the lying depends on other people not lying to be effective, so the maxim doesn’t function, deceiving people can’t be universal law in any meaningful sense. Conversely, eating wheat is perfectly acceptable–even though I *wouldn’t* choose to live in a world where everyone ate wheat, I’m totally capable of choosing that.

    The maxims ‘choose other people’s genders for them’ and ‘force other people to transition against their wills’ become incoherent when made into universal law–they rely on a hierarchy, a power relation, that collapses when everyone’s doing it to everyone else, power hierarchies don’t function that way.

  7. Ashley said

    Haha I just randomly stumbled upon this blog. I’m trans and I actually studied Kantian moral philosophy in graduate school. I think the discussion brings out a very interesting piece of evidence about Kant (Well, at least interesting to me:-P).

    You see, I don’t think “transitioning” can be a maxim that we can test with the universalization test (or the other kantian tests for that matter). Its far to broad a concept. Transitioning means certain behaviors to certain people and other behaviors to others. Some of these behaviors are clearly morally acceptable on Kant’s terms, like sex reassignment surgery, while others, like killing everyone who knew you before you transitioned to prevent discovery of that fact (I know this is absurd, but it highlights the point) is clearly morally unacceptable.

    So when applying the Kantian framework to trans issues, actually with almost any issue, its important that we be specific regarding what practice we are analyzing.

    As far as feminists, anti-racists, and radicals not being big fans of Kant. Well they should be big fans of his. I’m a feminist, anti-racist and political radical *because* according to Kant, its morally impermissible not to be. Now of course Kant said some sexist, racist things, but you have to consider the social milleau he was living with. His core philosophy surely doesn’t jive with sexism or racism.

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