Feminism without "gender identity"

Politics, Philosophy and Economics 22 (1):1470594X2211307 (2023)
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Talk of gender identity is at the core of heated current philosophical and political debates. Yet, it is unclear what it means to have one. I examine several ways of understanding this concept in light of core aims of trans writers and activists. Most importantly, the concept should make good trans people’s understanding of their own gender identities and help understand why misgendering is a serious harm and why it is permissible to require information about people’s gender identities in public life. I conclude that none of the available accounts meets these essential criteria, on the assumption that the gender norms of femininity and masculinity are unjustified. But we can, and should, pursue the feminist project without “gender identity”. Such feminism can include trans people because it is possible to account for the specific harm of misgendering without assuming a claim to the recognition of our gender identities. I conclude that we should eliminate the concept of “gender identity.” To understand the phenomena that are putatively captured by “gender identity,” we are better off employing other concepts, such as “sexual dysphoria,” (assigned or aspirational) “gender roles,” and (internalised or endorsed) “gender norms”. These concepts can usefully replace “gender identity” in an individual evaluation of each of the trans people’s claims to inclusion into particular spaces.

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Anca Gheaus
Central European University

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