I'm not sure I understand the concept of "self identity as X" that is independent of wanting to do any particular things that X do.

"being treated by others as X"

Consider X = "medical doctor".

A medical student is not a doctor, and knows they are not a doctor. But they want to be a doctor; that's why they are a medical student. Like most people in societies that have doctors, the medical student has a node in their mental map for "being a doctor", which seems separate from nodes such as "having high social status" and "helping sick people" and "earning more money than a janitor does" and "wearing a white coat".

Sociologists call this "reification": taking a bag of properties and treating them as a real thing. A reified social category such as "doctor" is more than just a shorthand for an arbitrary bag of properties. It represents an actual cluster in social thingspace: there are people whom everyone agrees are doctors. (There are also people who are akin to doctors, but aren't doctors, such as nurses. There are also people whom some think of as being doctors, and others think of as being fake doctors, such as chiropractors.)

But even though "doctor" is a social classification that people basically (collectively) made up, it's one that almost everyone has a remarkable amount of agreement on.

And people can be right or wrong about it. Someone who is a doctor can think "I am a doctor" and be thinking something correct. A medical student can think "I want to be a doctor". A doctor might find herself thinking, "I am a doctor, but people don't act toward me the way they act towards other doctors, because they are weirded out by the idea of a black woman being a doctor. Their immediate (and erroneous) impression of me is that I am a physician's assistant or something. I want to be treated as the doctor that I am."

But being a doctor still has a core definition. You're not a doctor if you don't treat sick people or have the ability to treat sick people. There are also peripheral aspects such as how others treat you, or things that most doctors do without this being part of the definition of doctor, but being a doctor is not entirely about those peripheral things. Transsgender (at least in the absence of SRS) doesn't seem to be that way

Or to put it another way, nobody says "I'm a transphysician. I feel like and identify with being a doctor. I want to wear a white coat and have people put "MD" after my name. This makes me a doctor, even though I don't know how to treat sick people."

Stupid Questions July 2015

by Gondolinian 1 min read1st Jul 2015123 comments


This thread is for asking any questions that might seem obvious, tangential, silly or what-have-you. Don't be shy, everyone has holes in their knowledge, though the fewer and the smaller we can make them, the better.

Please be respectful of other people's admitting ignorance and don't mock them for it, as they're doing a noble thing.

To any future monthly posters of SQ threads, please remember to add the "stupid_questions" tag.