Transgender often is understood either as an identity, or else as the full spectrum of gender nonconformity. In this essay, I suggest that these descriptions do not align with the conceptual labor that we often ask ‘transgender’ to do: highlighting people who engage in forms of self-directed gender nonconformity that are heavily penalized.
CONTENT FOCUSED EPISTEMIC INJUSTICE [WITH DENNIS WHITCOMB] IN GENDLER AND HAWTHORNE (EDS.) OXFORD STUDIES IN EPISTEMOLOGY (2023)
There has been extensive discussion of testimonial epistemic injustice, the phenomenon whereby a speaker’s testimony is rejected due to prejudice regarding who they are. But people also have their testimony rejected or preempted due to prejudice regarding what they communicate. Here, the injustice is content focused. We describe several cases of content focused injustice, and we theoretically interrogate those cases by building up a general framework through which to understand them as a genuine form of epistemic injustice that stands in intertwined relationships to other forms of epistemic injustice.
HOW MUCH GENDER IS TOO MUCH GENDER? [WITH DANIEL WODAK] IN KHOO AND STERKEN (EDS.) ROUTLEDGE HANDBOOK OF SOCIAL AND POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY OF LANGUAGE 362-376.(2021)
We live in a world saturated in both racial and gendered divisions. Our focus is on one place where attitudes about these divisions diverge: language. We suspect most everyone would be horrified at the idea of adding race-specific pronouns, honorifics, generic terms, and so on to English. And yet gender-specific terms of the same sort are widely accepted and endorsed. We think this asymmetry cannot withstand scrutiny. We provide three considerations against incorporating additional race-specific terms into English, and argue that these considerations also support eliminating the analogous gender-specific terms. With respect to these parts of speech, English should be no more gender-specific than it already is race-specific.
WHAT TAYLOR SWIFT AND BEYONCÉ TEACH US ABOUT SEX AND CAUSES [WITH ISSA KOHLER-HAUSMANN AND ELISE SUGARMAN] IN U. PA. L. REV. 169(1): 1-12. (2020)
In the consolidated cases Altitude Express v. Zarda, Bostock v. Clayton County, and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC, the Supreme Court will decide whether or not Title VII prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Although the parties disagree as to the appropriate formulation of a but-for test to determine whether or not there was a discriminatory outcome, all parties do agree to the use of such a test, which asks “whether the evidence shows ‘treatment of a person in a manner which but for that person’s sex would be different.’” City of Los Angeles, Dep’t. of Water and Power v. Manhart, 435 U.S. 702, 711 (1978). However, but-for tests confuse more than they clarify the inquiry; a discriminatory outcome cannot be explained by appeal to just a discrete characteristic of a particular person. Individuals are not discriminated against because of these characteristics per se. Rather, they are discriminated against because of the social meanings and expectations that attach to these characteristics. Beyoncé and Taylor Swift illustrate the difference between individual-level causation and social explanation in two separate songs, “If I Were a Boy” and “The Man.” The explanation for why the counterfactual ‘male’ Beyoncé and Swift are evaluated differently than their current ‘female’ versions does not lie in individual-level features considered apart from the social world, but in social-level roles and expectations associated with those features. For this reason, a social explanation test—one that asks whether the social meanings of sex characteristics, rather than the characteristics per se, explain the outcome in question—is more suitable for determining whether or not Title VII has been violated.
'BRIEF OF PHILOSOPHY PROFESSORS AS AMICI CURIAE IN SUPPORT OF THE EMPLOYEES' [WITH ISSA KOHLER-HAUSMANN]. SUBMITTED TO THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT ON JULY 3, 2019 IN BOSTOCK V. CLAYTON COUNTY GEORGIA, ALTITUDE EXPRESS V. ZARDA, AND HARRIS FUNERAL HOMES V. STEPHENS (NOS. 17-1618, 17-1623, 18-107)
In this brief, we argue that discrimination against gender nonconforming employees, including those who are gender nonconforming with respect to sexuality or gender identification, constitutes a form of sex discrimination that is prohibited under Title VII.
REAL TALK ON THE METAPHYSICS OF GENDER IN TAKAOKA AND MANNE (EDS.) GENDERED OPPRESSION AND ITS INTERSECTIONS, AN ISSUE OF PHILOSOPHICAL TOPICS 46 (2): 21-50. 2018.
Gender classifications often are controversial. These controversies typically focus on whether gender classifications align with facts about gender kind membership: Could someone really be nonbinary? Is Chris Mosier (a trans man) really a man? I think this is a bad approach. Consider the possibility of ontological oppression, which arises when social kinds operating in a context unjustly constrain the behaviors, concepts, or affect of certain groups. Gender kinds operating in dominant contexts, I argue, oppress trans and nonbinary persons in this way: they marginalize trans men and women and exclude nonbinary persons. As a result, facts about membership in dominant gender kinds should not settle gender classification practices.
In this paper, we first defend two main claims. The first is a moderate claim: we have a negative duty to not use binary gender-specific pronouns he or she to refer to genderqueer individuals. We defend this with an argument by analogy. It was gravely wrong for Mark Latham to refer to Catherine McGregor, a transgender woman, using the pronoun he; we argue that such cases of misgendering are morally analogous to referring to Angel Haze, who identifies as genderqueer, as he or she. The second is a radical claim: we have a negative duty to not use any gender-specific pronouns to refer to anyone, regardless of their gender identity. We offer three arguments in favor of this claim (which appeal to concerns about inegalitarianism and risk, invasions of privacy, and reinforcing essentialist ideologies). We also show why the radical claim is compatible with the moderate claim. Before concluding, we examine common concerns about incorporating either they or a neologism such as ze as a third-person singular gender-neutral pronoun. These concerns, we argue, do not provide sufficient reason to reject either the moderate or radical claim.
MOVING BEYOND MISMATCH AMERICAN JOURNAL OF BIOETHICS (2018)
In this peer commentary on Maura Priest's "Transgender Children and the Right to Transition: Medical Ethics When Parents Mean Well but Cause Harm", I argue against the "mismatch" model of trans identity. On this model, which is prevalent in institutional and medical contexts, to be trans is to have one's gender identity "mismatch" with one's sexed body.
Pronouns often convey information about a person’s social identity (e.g., gender). Consequently, pronouns have become a focal point in academic and public debates about whether pronouns should be changed to be more inclusive, such as for people whose identities do not fit current pronoun conventions (e.g., gender non-binary individuals). Here, we make an empirical contribution to these debates by investigating which social identities lay speakers think that pronouns should encode and why. Across four studies, participants were asked to evaluate different types of real and hypothetical pronouns, including binary gender pronouns, race pronouns, and identity-neutral pronouns. We sampled participants from two languages with different pronoun systems: English (N = 1,120) and Turkish (N = 260). English pronouns commonly denote binary gender (e.g., he for men), whereas Turkish pronouns are identity-neutral (e.g., o for anyone). Participants’ reasoning about pronouns reflected both a familiarity preference (i.e., participants preferred the pronoun type used in their language) and—critically—participants’ social ideologies. In both language contexts, participants’ ideological beliefs that social groups are inherently distinct (essentialism) and should be hierarchal (social dominance orientation) predicted relatively greater endorsement of binary gender pronouns and race pronouns. A preregistered experimental study with an English-speaking sample showed that the relationship between ideology and pronoun endorsement is causal: Ideologies shape attitudes toward pronouns. Together, the present research contributes to linguistic and psychological theories concerning how people reason about language and informs policy-relevant questions about whether and how to implement language changes for social purposes.
INTERSECTION IS NOT IDENTITY, OR HOW TO DISTINGUISH OVERLAPPING SYSTEMS OF INJUSTICENEW CONVERSATIONS IN PHILOSOPHY, LAW, AND POLITICS (EDS CHANG & SRINIVASAN) OXFORD(FORTHCOMING)
When one takes an intersectional perspective on patterns of oppression and domination, it becomes clear that familiar forms of systemic injustice, such as misogyny and anti-Black racism, are inseparable. Some feminist theorists conclude, from this, that the systems behind these injustices cannot be individuated—for example, that there isn’t patriarchy and white supremacy, but instead only white supremacist patriarchy. This chapter offers a different perspective. Philosophers have long observed that a statue and a lump of clay can be individuated although inseparable, and that statues and lumps of clay do different explanatory and predictive work for the same causal outcomes. This chapter suggests that the same is true of systems such as patriarchy and white supremacy. These systems, like the injustices they produce, are inseparable. But they can be individuated, and when they are individuated, they do different explanatory and predictive work.
SUPREME CONFUSION ABOUT CAUSALITY AT THE SUPREME COURT [WITH ISSA KOHLER-HAUSMANN] CUNY LAW REVIEW 25(1). 2022.
Twice in the 2020 term, in Bostock and Comcast, the Supreme Court doubled down on the reasoning of “but-for causation” to interpret antidiscrimination statutes. According to this reasoning, an outcome is discriminatory because of some status—say, sex or race—just in case the outcome would not have occurred “but-for” the plaintiff’s status. We think this reasoning embeds profound conceptual errors that render the decisions deeply confused. Furthermore, those conceptual errors tend to limit the reach of antidiscrimination law. In this essay, we first unpack the ambiguity of this but-for causal reasoning. We then show that this reasoning arises from a misapplication of tort law principles within antidiscrimination law, and that, as a result, it is both conceptually and normatively indeterminate.
ESCAPING THE NATURAL ATTITUDE ABOUT GENDER IN PHILOSOPHICAL STUDIES(2020)
Alex Byrne’s article, “Are Women Adult Human Females?”, asks a question that Byrne treats as nearly rhetorical. Byrne’s answer is, ‘clearly, yes’. Moreover, Byrne claims, woman is a biological category that does not admit of any interpretation as (also) a social category. It is important to respond to Byrne’s argument, but mostly because it is paradigmatic of a wider phenomenon. The slogan “women are adult human females” is a political slogan championed by anti-trans activists, appearing on billboards, pamphlets, and anti-trans online forums. In this paper, I respond to Byrne’s argument, revealing significant problems with its background assumptions, content, and methodology.
CISGENDER COMMONSENSE & PHILOSOPHY'S TRANSGENDER TROUBLE IN STRYKER (ED.) SPECIAL ISSUE OF TRANSGENDER STUDIES QUARTERLY7(3). (2020)
Analytic philosophy has transgender trouble. In this paper, I explore potential explanations for this trouble, focusing on the notion of 'cisgender commonsense' and its place in philosophical methodology.
We want to know what gender is. But metaphysical approaches to this question solely have focused on the binary gender kinds men and women. By overlooking those who identify outside of the binary–the group I call ‘genderqueer’–we are left without tools for understanding these new and quickly growing gender identifications. This metaphysical gap in turn creates a conceptual lacuna that contributes to systematic misunderstanding of genderqueer persons. In this paper, I argue that to better understand genderqueer identities, we must recognize a new type of gender kind: critical gender kinds, or kinds whose members collectively resist dominant gender ideology. After developing a model of critical gender kinds, I suggest that genderqueer is best modeled as a critical gender kind that stands in opposition to `the binary assumption', or the prevalent assumption that the only possible genders are the binary, discrete, exclusive, and exhaustive kinds men and women.
What's important about `coming out'? Why do we wear business suits or Star Trek pins? Part of the answer, we think, has to do with what we call agential identity. Social metaphysics has given us tools for understanding what it is to be socially positioned as a member of a particular group and what it means to self-identify with a group. But there is little exploration of the general relationship between these two topics. We take up this exploration, developing an account of agential identity---the self-identities we make available to others. Agential identities are the bridge between what we take ourselves to be and what others take us to be. Understanding agential identity not only fills an important gap in the literature, but also helps us explain politically important phenomena concerning discrimination, malicious identities, passing, and code-switching. These phenomena, we argue, cannot be understood solely in terms of self-identity or social position.
Ordinary discourse is filled with discussions about ‘sexual orientation’. This discourse might suggest a common understanding of what sexual orientation is. But even a cursory search turns up vastly differing, conflicting, and sometimes ethically troubling characterizations of sexual orientation. The conceptual jumble surrounding sexual orientation suggests that the topic is overripe for philosophical exploration. This paper lays the groundwork for such an exploration. In it, I offer an account of sexual orientation – called ‘Bidimensional Dispositionalism’ – according to which sexual orientation concerns what sex[es] and gender[s] of persons one is disposed to sexually engage, and makes no reference to one’s own sex and gender.