I Don't Do Policy

Something about my writing that tends to confuse people, that I need to clarify briefly: people keep expecting me to come out with some sort of policy prescription, whereas I see myself as trying to describe what's actually going on in the world without being delusional about how much control I have over it. I think my account of what's actually going on is potentially a relevant input into someone's computation of deciding what they should do, but almost everything I say is at least one meta level up from any actual decisions. (And the only decisions I can control are my own.)

People will see something like my "The Categories Were Made for Man to Make Predictions", and ask, "Okay, but what's the policy takeaway here? Are you saying we should refuse to use trans people's preferred pronouns? Are you saying non-well-passing trans people should detransition?"

No! I'm not saying that!

"Then what are you saying?"

I'm saying—exactly what I said in the 6500-word blog post. Are ... are you asking for a summary, or—

"We're asking what you're telling us we should do."

I don't know what you should do! Why would I know that? (Also, what does this "should" thing even mean, anyway?)

I'm saying that useful words correspond to predictively useful concepts, and that biological sex is a predictively useful concept, and that there are at least two distinct classes of psychological motivation for why some males wish they could change sex, one of which is not an intersex condition, and that our currently-existing hormonal and surgical interventions for approximating a sex change are imperfect, such that there are some circumstances where someone making predictions or decisions about a trans person might want to base those predictions or decisions on the person's developmental sex rather than their target gender, and to use corresponding non-obfuscated language in the context of those circumstances.

That doesn't mean that no one should transition (i.e., try to approximate changing sex with hormonal and surgical interventions)! A lot of people do it—I'm not, like, denying that they exist. It seems to work out pretty well for many of them! Maybe more people should do it!

But in order for someone to figure out whether or not to do it—and in order for the people they interact with to figure out how to react—it would probably help to get the theory right: the biology and psychology and sociology and cognitive science and political science of what sex and gender actually are in the real physical universe, and under what conditions they might actually in-fact be changed. Get the theory right first, and then use the theory to make the best decisions.

And if different people's interests come into conflict, such that there is no collective decision that everyone is happy with, I can still hope to objectively catalogue the possible outcomes of the conflict—what happens if who wins, and what the space of available armistice agreements looks like.

I'm a person, and this is a (deeply) personal blog. I have my own preferences and my own æsthetics, and no doubt that's going to sometimes bleed in to my attempts to get the theory right. (I wish I could claim otherwise—but that wouldn't be true.) But I can at least make an effort to minimize the extent to which that happens—and to make it clear which paragraphs and posts I write are advocating for my preferences (which are likely to not be shared by others) and which are trying to perform an objective analysis (which is information anyone can benefit from). But for the most part, I don't do policy. The victory condition of my political campaign is not defined in terms of how many people end up transitioning, but just getting the two-type taxonomy (or whatever more precise alternative succeeds it) into the standard sex-ed textbooks—because I think the taxonomy is, to a first approximation, actually true, and not a lie or even a self-fulfilling prophecy. The further question as to whether autogynephilia should be regarded as recommending transition or not is a policy question and explicitly out-of-scope.

I've gotten praise from trans-activist types (e.g., for "Lesser-Known Demand Curves"), and from gender-critical feminists (e.g., for "Don't Negotiate With Terrorist Memeplexes"). If I could just get them to praise the same post, then I will have succeeded as a writer.

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