We are composed of representatives from a wide variety of perspectives. Between us we’ve hashed out the details and come up with what we feel to be the most rational positions, given the information we have. Overall we take an extreme view: we argue for peace.
This Manifesto is a living document; we must allow for our views to change, if and when we get things wrong. The current version accurately reflects our views.
Principally, we have chosen to build our philosophical foundation on the idea that trans people are neither men nor women, but a third category.
Transmen are transmen. They’re not men, and they're not women.
Transwomen are transwomen. They’re not women, and they're not men.
We realize that this might seem controversial if you’re reading this from a gender critical or mainstream trans rights perspective, but the arguments for this position are sound.
From the mainstream trans perspective, trans people are the gender/sex we identify as: full stop. But this can’t actually function long-term because society needs certain categories to remain intact for census, medical, security, and statistical purposes. Abolishing this information in a medical situations has led to misdiagnosis and death.
Additionally, abolishing legal definitions of sex, en masse, is a serious mistake because it clouds the data and cripples our ability to organize society efficiently and fairly. Moreover, it erases legal language that is the foundation for things like women’s rights.
Moreover, continuing in this direction creates a world without definitions of sex, which erases the language that trans people use to describe their experiences, too. Therefore, it's foolish in the long term to erase information about a trans person's biological sex.
However, when a trans person undergoes hormone replacement therapy and surgery in order to transition and assimilate, it's obtuse to view these physical changes as having no effect whatever on social categorization, potentials, or experiences. And it’s incredibly callous to ignore the pain of these experiences, the effort required, and the suffering we experience as we work towards transition.
Travelling through these rites of passage changes us permanently. Some of us will someday have the option of blending in and assimilating, some will not, but no one brave and determined enough to walk that path deserves to have the goal of it denied at the end. For those of us who are lucky enough to successfully assimilate, many of our immediate social problems are solved (others reveal themselves, but this is a discussion for another place). For those of us unable to assimilate for various reasons, or who are still early in transition, we need to find a healthy way to cope and a better code of ethics we can use to deal with society at large.
We believe that the wisest course of action is to seek recognition in our own right – as trans people. We aim to do this by working to adopt new social roles and responsibilities that give us a solid foundation on which to take pride in being who we are.
As an aside, we believe it is necessary to use “trans” as a prefix rather than an adjective. An adjective implies that what we’re talking about is a variation of the subject (i.e., trans men are a form of man), while a prefix implies a different category (transwomen are neither men nor women, but transwomen).
We oppose Self-ID.
As controversial as this may be to most trans people – because it means we’re advocating to make our own lives harder – we strongly believe that self-ID is not the wisest policy. Here are six reasons why:
Self-ID eliminates the need for us to expend effort to transition. Requiring effort and patience is the best way to encourage us to take some time and think carefully about what we want to do. It also gives us time to confront any mental health issues that we may have ahead of time, so that we can have a more realistic expectation of which problems transition can solve and which it cannot.
Human beings put greater value on things we have to earn. Removing the need to earn one’s new gender status cheapens the entire affair, and opens the door for problematic behavior. While the traditional methods of gatekeeping may, in fact, be in need of improvement, some forms of gatekeeping are necessary and we strongly believe they should be required. How the gatekeeping system can be improved is a subject we intend to tackle.
Self-ID clogs the system. Many of the government concessions and insurance regulations are dependent on the trans population remaining within a financially manageable margin. Self-ID opens the doors wider, but creates a bottleneck that prevents the people suffering the most from gaining earlier access to treatment. Worse, it drains government resources and this creates tension that provides a convenient excuse for government officials to shut down trans-oriented assistance programs completely.
Aside from financial issues, there are currently a limited number of doctors certified in trans care.
People who would rightly be denied treatment due to underlying mental health issues that can cause gender dysphoria, like schizophrenia, can now very easily gain legal access to procedures and/or spaces they should not.
Additionally, while the incident rate is vanishingly small, some heterosexual men have already used self-ID as an excuse to access women’s spaces. Far more concerning is that we know from the psychological profiles and observed action patterns of predatory pedophiles that it’s almost inconceivable to assume that none of them will take this route, especially since the fact that people are discussing this is likely to give them the idea. Many women bring their children into the women’s rooms, and we’ve already seen examples of someone taking selfies in the women’s room, photos which include children. It’s rare, and perhaps we can debate how realistic the risk is in relation to actual incident data, but it’s not a far-fetched concern: It’s already happened.
A crime committed by a male who has self-identified as a woman is recorded as a female crime and vice-versa, skewing statistics across the board. We make many policy decisions based on these statistics. If the number of people transitioning is as vanishingly small as in previous times, this is not a major problem. But the huge uptick in trans numbers due to self-ID will need to be addressed. This may eventually hurt trans rights when the social tension this leads to breaks.
It is impossible to regulate perception. Each person picks up on different clues and categorizes people in their own way. Especially for people who are as androgynous as we often become/are, this can result in wildly different interpretations of how to gender someone.
Moreover, we cannot know what someone’s personal life and perspective is like. It is therefore wildly irrational to expect that people gender us according to our desires simply based on something like clothing presentation.
If we were to simply use clothing as a way of determining pronouns, this would become a severe personal and political problem, since it would tighten gender norms for all of us and limit people's freedom to simply be gender non-conforming. It's a bad idea.
Additionally, being misgendered can be very helpful because it helps us to know that we don’t yet blend in, and this motivates us to continue learning.
Speaking generally, we support single-sex spaces, however, this is a very complex issue, and there is no argument in which one size fits all – so let’s break it down by category:
Our stance on the restroom debate is: we should create additional gender-neutral facilities so everyone has a choice. But if that’s not feasible for financial or logistical reasons, leave the ladies’ as-is and make the men’s room gender-neutral.
There is a common view that we should all use the facilities that match either our sex or the way we’re seen by the public, so as not to cause any kind of anxiety or confusion while using the facilities. And if you are a passing trans person, no one can recognize this to have any interest in stopping you.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work in practice because self-perceptions or personal definitions of what "passing" means may differ from those of others to a significant degree – this problem is not limited to trans people; it can also be an issue for other people who do not conform to sex-based stereotypes of appearance. Sometimes people who are in early transition will mistake passing 10% of the time with passing in general, which leads to some dicey situations.
Another view is that everyone should simply use the facilities of their biological sex. This is also problematic – transwomen may be at increased risk of violence perpetrated by the men with whom they would be expected to share facilities. Transmen, on the other hand, may find themselves unwelcome in facilities reserved for women – who may question their presence there. Also, if transmen are required to use women’s facilities, then some predatory males may take advantage of the situation, by falsely claiming to be transmen.
If you can use the opposite sex bathroom without getting caught, no one can stop you. But again, this kind of practical reality doesn’t work as policy because it helps to motivate witch hunts and some women have been forced into the wrong restroom because people misread them. Also, post-op trans people are in a category where it’s more socially appropriate for them to use the restroom that matches their target sex.
These considerations make it clear that strict sex-segregation is difficult or impossible to enforce, and leaves open opportunities for exploitation, particularly by predatory men. Lack of a hard rule means it will be exploited. It might therefore seem that the most practical solution is to create gender-neutral spaces, and while this is perhaps the best solution, logistically, it is financially impractical for many businesses.
There has been a current trend in which businesses have been dividing bathrooms up into men’s and gender-neutral spaces, eliminating women’s bathrooms altogether. This puts both women and trans people at increased risk, by permitting easier access for predatory men. It also compromises the privacy and dignity of both – particularly women, who require private spaces for many other reasons beyond safety. More than that, it increases traffic to the women's rooms, which are the restrooms you're most likely to see a line outside of.
It makes more sense, therefore, to keep women’s rooms exclusive and to make men’s rooms gender-neutral. Men aren’t afraid of trans people in their spaces and do not generally bring children into those spaces with them. Additionally, some women who are braver will likely use these spaces when the line for the women’s room gets too long. Knowing men, we doubt many of them will mind. Passing transwomen can still use the women’s, mainly because they pass so well that no one notices anyway. At the same time, measures should be taken to secure the safety of trans people – and others – who may be at risk in facilities shared with men.
Wherever possible, single sex facilities should be maintained as is, and additional gender-neutral spaces should be provided, which are open to all.
Changing rooms are an even more difficult issue than bathrooms, because open nudity is more likely to be involved. Our stance here is similar to our stance on bathrooms. However, here, the provision of single-sex spaces is still more important, not only for women, but for trans people and also men. Therefore, we feel that wherever possible, single sex facilities should be maintained as is, and additional gender-neutral spaces should be provided, which are open to all.
Again, all possible measures must be taken to secure the safety, privacy, and dignity not only of trans people, but also women who choose to use these mixed-sex facilities.
TransRational advocates creating specific trauma shelters for trans people in need.
Due to the nature of abuse, we can find no good arguments in which shelters aimed at protecting women who have been the victims of male violence can be inclusive of transwomen and passing transmen. The problem here is that many people with severe PTSD will be triggered by the male form and will be hypersensitive to the male vibe. Even very masculine women can set this off. Very few transwomen would be able to pass in that kind of environment, and if we’re ever outed, it will still have the same psychological effect. As painful as it is for us to say, transpeople who appear to be male in any way do not belong in these places.
TransRational therefore advocates creating specific trauma shelters for trans people in need. This makes sense, because our issues are very different and the accommodations we will need in order to heal are therefore also different. Women put in a lot of effort to create these spaces for themselves. There’s no reason why we can’t do the same, and establishing shelters like these all over the world is, pending the success of the first few we try, one of TransRational’s long-term goals.
In the case of prisons, it is most appropriate to judge these issues on a case-by-case basis. Careful and balanced considerations of risk factors are paramount.
We have already seen several cases of male prisoners with no prior history of transsexualism identifying as trans, being moved into women’s prisons, and then committing acts of rape. There may also be cases where a female prisoner may transition and then be placed into a men’s prison, where they could be at risk of attack by members of the male prison population.
To prevent abuse of the system, and ensure the safety of all prisoners, we feel that which prison a transwoman is housed in should be relative to her surgical status in order to prevent blatant abuse of the system. That said, it may be most appropriate to judge these issues on a case-by-case basis, as there may be rare cases where a pre-op or non-op transwoman should be sent to the women’s facilities. Careful, balanced, considerations of risk are paramount. Both the safety of the trans prisoner, as well as the wider prison population, must be taken into account.
Transmen are a little different, and there should be fewer issues putting them in men’s prisons if they wish. If not, then the most rational thing to do is place them in whatever facility most closely matches the nature of their crime(s).
Simply put, a trans person who has taken medical steps to appear as the opposite sex as much as possible, who is genuinely working towards transition, should be addressed by their preferred pronouns, within reason. It’s a simple matter of basic social respect.
We do not support – and will actively call out – bad behavior.
Someone getting our pronouns wrong in a public setting is *never* a good excuse to flip out. This gives trans people everywhere a bad name, and invalidates the social respect others may have built up for us.
Intentional misgendering is hurtful and rude, and we understand how difficult it is to bear and how frustrating it is if we’re expected to give more respect than we ourselves are given – but we can’t expect people to discount their own perceptions. However, if we can consistently refrain from flipping out, people’s overall respect for us will increase. Over the long term, they will begin to see us first and foremost as human beings, deserving of respect in our own right. We’ll make friends who will be likely to use our chosen pronouns and joyfully include us in their lives. As people’s respect grows, we can share in each other’s happiness, and our friendships will grow stronger.
Conversely, if we set an expectation that we’re going to fall apart over the smallest issues, then even if we win the battle, we’ll lose the respect and trust of wider society. People will placate us for a time, but they’ll come to regard us with increasing contempt. This will eventually become manifest – and that will be a very bad day to be visibly trans.
Which outcome would you prefer?
Regarding the use of unusual pronouns, we feel that the gender-neutral ‘they/them’ is sufficient. The others are simply impractical for regular conversation and impede the flow of ideas.
NOTE: Non-binary gender dysphoria does exist. While it may be difficult to understand, if the person in question is taking medical and social steps to appear more androgynous, it’s usually best to use gender-neutral pronouns.
The term “Transsexual” exclusively refers to binary transmen and transwomen who have, or who have plans to, undergo various sex or gender affirming surgeries.
The term “Transgender” refers to trans people who suffer little to no sex dysphoria and are content to simply cross-dress or socially transition by asking for alternative pronouns and so on.
Neither of the terms are transphobic.
There’s been quite a lot of contentious debate about the topic of who does and does not count as trans, and we feel that this is a subject that’s necessary to address.
Whatever our experiences, whatever our motivations, if we have made it through the gatekeeping processes outlined by the laws of whichever land we live in, we count. For logistical, social, and census reasons, we feel that it is problematic to call someone trans unless they have been undergoing some level of medical transition. Action counts more than words in all aspects of life, and this is no different.
The subject of trans kids is very complex. We are currently in the process of writing a long and well-researched article on the subject, and will summarize our conclusions for this seciton once we've finished.
The issue of sports is much more complex than we originally assumed when we first began to discuss the issue, but despite this we still nominally conclude that it is not a good idea to allow biological males to compete with biological females in contact, strength based sports.
However, there may be other sports, like archery, that do not require segregation and should be fine. What's needed is a comprehensive study on this subject.
TransRational is in the beginning stages of putting together a kind of video guide to trans performances in sports. We'll be taking different video examples from a number of different sports and watching videos of them, then discussing whether transwomen or transmen should be allowed to compete in the sport.
We will also be looking at the performance records of the athletes we'll be highlighting. In this way, we feel that we can take what evidence we have and put it together to make a fair and detailed case, sport by sport.
If you would like to help us to accomplish this project, please consider donating.
We unconditionally support the feminist movement.
As a group, women have the right to speak for themselves and to name their own oppressors and boundaries. Ignorance of the tools and perspectives they’ve spent many decades honing and building doesn’t just harm them: it harms trans people as well.
Fewer women’s rights means fewer rights for transwomen too. Limiting free speech and rejecting feminist dialogue creates precedent that can be used as a foundation to limit trans dialogue later on.
As trans people, we owe much of the progress we’ve made to the work of the feminist movement. Without their tireless efforts, society would be far less receptive to the idea of femininity in males and masculinity in females. If the ideas of feminism, even the more radical contingents, are undermined and destroyed, a huge element of our social power will vanish and the trans rights movement will dissolve. Therefore it is vital that we ally ourselves with the feminist movement.
Here's our response to various problematic and common arguments that we run into frequently enough to warrant a response:
The argument relies on the assumption (or expectation) that the listener feels that black women (or women of color) are some kind of separate entity, and that they are as different from white women as female people are from male people. This is blatant racism and we strongly oppose it.
Transwomen are not a variation of females, but of males.
While we’re doing our best to come up with rational takes on the issues, there are some we’ve simply been unable to hash out just yet. Expect us to add and expand the content of this manifesto as we are able to.
Also, if you've noticed any problematic comparisons arising on either side of the debate, please take the time to contact us and let us know so we can continue to flesh out our manifesto. Thanks!