Philosophy of Transgenderism – Birth and Plurality

Introduction to the argument

“You weren’t born that way!”, a simple statement but used ad nauseum in opposition against several different issues.  And it’s not just transgender people which this argument is mainly used against. I mean we could bring up other issues, such as racism, immigration, classism, even feminism and women’s rights.

But let’s take the statement by itself. Like what is the statement saying? Well firstly it’s arguing a causal relation of a cause and its effect. X is inconsistent or immoral because you weren’t born that way. Or, in other words, X is inconsistent or immoral because that to which is effected wasn’t caused a certain way. Now the fallaciousness of this argument any philosophy student could point out is by dismissing or affirming a thing by stating its origins commits a genetic fallacy but that’s a different argument altogether. What we’re arguing is the assumption that certain effects are immutable and necessarily relational to its cause. Immutable meaning that it doesn’t change and necessary of its cause as it argues that effects themselves are somehow necessary of a singular cause and cannot be caused any other way.

Now I use cause and effect sort of interchangeably, so I hope I don’t confuse anybody. But what I mean by cause is the determining factor of a thing, and effect as the end factor of a thing; just so there’s no confusion.

The argument I’m going to present is sort of a counter argument or counter rebuttal in using said proposition. Now originally presented by John Stuart Mill, this is a metaphysical heuristic principle known as plurality of causes. Plurality of causes challenges the notion that while causes are relational to their effects, effects however are not necessarily relational to their causes. And for clarity I’ll provide a brief definition. Plurality of Causes: though the same cause must have the same effect, the same effect however need not have the same cause. Now let me re-emphasize that this principle is only stating that it is not necessarily the case, that causes are necessarily relational to their effects. So I’m going to be arguing here is that a particular effect, such as sex is not necessary of a singular cause, like natural reproduction.

So that said, let’s jump right in. Now I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard the statement or you may have heard the statement, “Because you weren’t born a certain way or because you weren’t conceived of a certain way, then what you’re doing is wrong or unnatural.” I’ve heard this argument come up several times in private and public discourse and it comes in various forms. Now to some it may seem convincing, and while I do think it’s meant to be persuasive, it’s far from being rational!

First we have to attack the preconceived notion of naturalism within causation. What makes a thing a thing shouldn’t not simply be determined by propagation. I think it goes without saying that many things can be affected by unnaturalistic means. But to use a naturalistic argument is simply fallacious by the very nature of the argument alone. That is to say that naturalistic arguments are descriptive, they cannot lend any sort of moral and normative justification for a thing they can only tell you what a thing is; this is why naturalistic arguments are fallacious.

We have to point out the fallacious assumption being made here when it’s asserted that the effect of something is inconsistent or not acceptable, because it wasn’t caused a certain way, this is a fallacious argument. Since effects can again have a multiplicity of causes then it’s perfectly rational to state a different kind of cause that affects a thing, either natural or unnatural. Sex, as we know it to be, is caused whether it be through propagation or insemination sex is caused into being. But the question is is sex necessary of these causes? I would argue no, because the metaphysical principle still applies here. Here I gave you two examples of how sex is normally caused, so it’s fallacious to make the assumption that what affects someone’s gender can only be caused a certain kind of way and should infact only be caused that way. For example we can look at other scientific methods of sex determination which are proven methods that have a direct effect on determining a fetus’s gender, such as fertility treatments and genetic engineering. In the genetic engineering portion there is a method called preimplantation genetic selection in which embryos are artificially fertilized by exposing them to predetermined sperm cells. So the sex of the fetus can be determined by other means other than naturalistic. But this is only one example amongst a plethora of genetic treatments and biological studies that effect sex determination.

But of course what kind of cause are we speaking of? It’s easy to assert other causes or scientific methods of which affect sex determination, but can we speak of Transgenderism within the same realm. In other-words what kind of cause is Transgenderism and does it follow the same mode or method of other gender determinants? Now to tackle this we’ll go back to Aristotle. Aristotle stated four kinds of causes, the one we will be discussing here is an ‘efficient cause’. The efficient cause, states the agent cause and the principle that to which brings something about.

Now remember an efficient cause is stating two things here,

1) The producer of an effect that follows a principle that guides its creation. As for one to be a producer of something one must follow a principle that brings about that effect, such as the art of making a table.

2) And the agent cause – the initiator of the change which first started it (the artisan).

Now in terms of Transgenderism it follows this concept to the letter. When we look at Transgenderism the efficient cause is already stated, we have the principle affect that guides its creation (clinical) and the agent cause, the initiator of the change which first started it (physician).  So the method or cause by which effects transgender determination is not only no different than other scientific sex determination methods but also fits in with a particular kind of cause that can account for its particular effect (efficient causality).


So when we look at the argument again, X is inconsistent or immoral because you weren’t born a certain way or because you weren’t conceived of a certain way really becomes absurd when thrown in the face of logic. Firstly we know that naturalism is not a precursor for any kind of normative justification for an argument, secondly if it can be demonstrated that a ‘plurality’ or multiplicity of causes exist that produces the same kind of effect then a singular cause is not necessary, and 3rdly if the cause which states the effect is logical (efficient cause) then the cause is both rational and justifiable. This in all would irrefutably demonstrate the contradiction in ‘asserting’ that there is a necessary cause for an effect.

– Jubilee Nunnallee


Philosophy of Transgenderism – Birth and Plurality