To Prove a Point: Trans* Narratives in Philosophical Writing, part II – a How-To!

The first part of this post can be found here.

Here are a few pointers as to how to use trans* examples in philosophy. They draw from Jacob Hale’s Suggested Rules from the 90’s, which remain relevant despite the dated terminology.

Seven Tips for Proving a Point with a Little Help from Trans*people
(without our heads getting bruised from all the headdesking)

1) Think, first, if you need us to come to your aid in the first place. Can you prove your point without using the stories of a minority group to do that? How exactly are trans*people relevant to your point?

2) If you need to refer to a minority group to prove your point, make sure you are informed about said group. Check your facts, and check them from recent sources by specialists. Especially transgender studies is such a new field of academic inquiry, relying solely on 20-year-old sources will not do. If you don’t know where to start, check what the gender studies department at your university has students read, or drop an e-mail to someone from that department asking for a book recommendation.

3) What do representatives of the minority in question say about your topic? Include trans* voices.

4) Do check your language! The Guardian’s guidelines are a good starting point.

5) Be mindful that you are writing about a disadvantaged group. If you are not a member of that group yourself, reflect on the dynamics of power between you and the object of your interest. How does your own subject position affect what you see and what you say?

6) Trans* people are not a homogenous group. Beware of careless talk of “the transgender” or plurals: are you overgeneralising? If you are generalising, whose experience and perception is it that you are applying across these individuals?

7) If you must discuss trans* as a trope or a category, do not imagine there is only one of those. Have you applied guidelines #1 to #5 liberally, with specific attention to #2?


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Doing a PhD in Philosophy at the University of Turku. My interests lie at the intersections of ability, agency, and ethics: what kinds of agents ought we to be? Is there anything normative to be said about abilities? More specifically, I'm currently interested in autonomy and self-control, disability, and human enhancement.

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