Meaningless questions do not have meaningful answers

by Danielle Navarro, 21 Aug 2020



It is probably not difficult to infer that I dislike the phrase “trans women are women”. In my post on transgender rights, I took care to outline my opinions in a way that makes no reference to any claim about whether I am a “real woman”. I have been consistent on this point for a long time: I do not think that the case for transgender rights rests on any such claim, so I do not and will not include it in any argument I make regarding the rights of transgender people.

Similarly when I wrote my post on why I describe myself as a trans woman and at times simply as a woman, I did not justify myself by making any claim about being a “real” woman. Even if my gender identity were a total fiction, in most cases we don’t usually have a problem with calling fictional women “women” even though we would agree they are not real women. My willingness to use the word is not dependent on any strong metaphysical stance. You get the idea.

Nevertheless people do sometimes ask or expect me to take a position on this question. It irritates me: people ask me this question expecting that I will have a yes or no answer for them. I don’t have one. I think it’s an absurd and ambiguous question, and I can’t give you a proper answer to it unless you are more precise about what you are asking me. There are lots of ways that you can make it more precise, and my answer is different in each case. With this in mind, the following brief Q&A attempts to summarise my thoughts.

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It does not matter whether “trans women are real women”. It is sufficient merely to note that “trans women are”, and we deserve to be treated with kindness and respect simply by virtue of being human beings. The public debate about what we “really” are is fundamentally disrespectful and there isn’t any hope of a resolution because the question as stated is meaningless and underspecified. Per the title of the post, meaningless questions do not have meaningful answers, and this one is about as meaningless as it gets