Beyond Binary: Genderqueer as Critical Gender Kind (under review)
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 resist dominant gender ideology. After developing a model of critical gender kinds, I suggest that genderqueer is best modeled as one such kind. In particular, I propose that its members are united by resisting ‘the binary assumption’, or the prevalent assumption that they must comply with binary gender classification.
Who can justly demand recognition as a woman? as disabled? as black? All sides often assume that answers to these and similar questions will turn on who in fact has membership in the relevant category. As a result, attempts to answer these questions quickly become debates over metaphysical questions such as What makes someone a woman? or Is obesity really a disability? In this paper, I argue that such debates are orthogonal to the question of who can justly demand recognition in a socially significant category, such as woman or disabled. These categories can be unjust with respect to the grounds for category membership. Call these 'oppressive categories'. Oppressive categories show that what features ought to determine category membership can come apart from the features that do determine membership. After developing a framework for understanding oppressive categories, I argue from this framework to the possibility that persons who do not belong to a socially significant category can nevertheless justly demand recognition as category members.
"Yep, I'm Gay": Understanding Agential Identity [co-author Cat Saint-Croix (Univ. of MN) (under review)
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, and passing. These phenomena, we argue, cannot be understood solely in terms of self-identity or social position.
Content Focused Epistemic Injustice [co-author Dennis Whitcomb (WWU)] (under review)
In the 1980's, members of Reagan's administration repeatedly rejected expert testimony that AIDS posed a significant and urgent threat to public health. They did so out of anti-gay prejudice, but this prejudice did not target the speakers' identities. Rather, it targeted the content of their testimony. The former phenomenon has been widely discussed under the label "epistemic injustice", but the latter has not. We believe that it ought to be, and we begin that project here by developing a notion of "content focused epistemic injustice": a unique form of epistemic injustice that manifests when a hearer rejects or preempts an assertion because of prejudice involving its content. After delineating several species of this phenomenon, we argue (via its connections to oppression and knowledge) that it is indeed a kind of epistemic injustice. In closing, we explore connections between it and other varieties of epistemic injustice, such as testimonial and hermeneutical injustice.
Real Talk on the Metaphysics of Gender in Takaoka and Manna (eds.) Gendered Oppression and its Intersections, an issue of Philosophical Topics (forthcoming)
Gender identity claims often are controversial. These controversies frequently focus on whether the claims align with facts about gender kind membership: Could someone really be nonbinary? Is Chris Mosier (a trans man) really a man? I argue that this is a bad approach. I begin by motivating the notion of ontological oppression, which arises when ontologies unjustly constrain the behaviors, concepts, or affect of certain groups. I then argue that gender ontologies within dominant contexts oppress trans and nonbinary persons. As a result, facts about gender kind membership relative to these ontologies should not settle which gender identity claims receive uptake. In closing, I discuss how to revise oppressive gender ontologies, as well as upshots and potential worries.
How Much Gender is Too Much Gender? [with Daniel Wodak] in Khoo and Sterken (eds.) Routledge Handbook of Social and Political Philosophy of Language (forthcoming)
In this paper, we argue that the English language should have no more gender-specific terms than it currently has race-specific terms.
Moving Beyond Mismatch American Journal of Bioethics (2018)
He/She/They/Ze [with Daniel Wodak] Ergo 5 (14) (2018)
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.
What is Sexual Orientation? Philosopher's Imprint 16 (3) (2016)
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.