“I just have a hard time now seeing anybody as ‘really trans’.” confided a friend the other day, which got me thinking: what makes somebody ‘really’ trans?
Let’s try to unpick this.
First we need to clarify the difference between sex and gender.
We are born with a sex, male or female (see notes on intersex later). Society assigns us certain expected roles based on our sex. We do not always have to conform with these roles, but often we are under a lot of pressure to do so. We are expected to take our place somewhere in the pink or the blue box. These gender roles based on sex are a social construct and vary from culture to culture.
Social constructs are explained brilliantly here, and if you fancy a quick refresher course, that’s the place to get it.
While some behaviour is considered more typically feminine and some more typically masculine, we all have a mixture of masculine and feminine traits and at times most of us resent the idea that we should comply with them. It is tough on women to be expected to look ‘hot’ all the time. It is tough on men to be expected never to show vulnerability.
We are all made up of this mixture of masculine and feminine, and no two people will have exactly the same mix of characteristics. Very, very few of us are entirely masculine or feminine in our behaviour. This is what forms the basis of our PERSONALITY.
One day I might decide to wear a long skirt, bangles and lipstick; the next, for no particular reason, I might wear old tracky bottoms, no make up and not bother brushing my hair. One day I might feel kind and nurturing, another I might feel angry and volatile. This is because, emotionally, I am non-binary. AND SO ARE YOU! We are ALL non-binary. The word, in the context of gender, is completely meaningless. Nobody is 100% masculine or 100% feminine. Most of us are hanging out somewhere in the middle.
A woman might wear trousers, fix cars, smoke a pipe, love another woman – that does not make her a man. A man might cry easily, make daisy chains, spend a lot of time doing his hair- that doesn’t make him a woman. ‘Woman’ and ‘man’ are not feelings or stereotypes, they are biological categories. That does not mean that everyone is expected to look like the man and woman below: size, skin tone, age all have their effect on us.
Women as a group are discriminated against because of our female biology, not because we have long hair, wear bras & lipstick & giggle girlishly. We are the female of the species: we carry the young, we birth the young- with all the risk that entails- we feed the young and usually we raise the young. We are usually smaller bodied than men and have less brute strength than men. These facts, historically and culturally, have given men power over us. Women are valued for their bodies and exploited for their bodies. Women are more likely to be prostituted or raped; more likely to be subject to physical abuse from those close to them. Women do most of the work on the planet and are paid far less for it, both at the top and at the bottom end of the pay scale. It is not possible to identify into, or out of, these outcomes. They don’t have to happen to all women to be women’s issues. But they do happen to women because they are women.
Our biology is the thing that unites us; the thing that makes us women. We all had a mum and she was a woman.
While ‘man’ and ‘woman’, ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ are definitions based on our reproductive capacites, I’ll state the obvious and add that some humans don’t choose to breed and some don’t have the capacity to breed. Some are born sterile. Some women may never menstruate; some men may never produce sperm. These are physical conditions that occur when biological development goes wrong and they have nothing to do with brain function or transgenderism.
A tiny proportion of people are born intersex. Just as someone being born without a leg doesn’t mean humans are not a bipedal species, the existence of intersex people doesn’t mean humanity doesn’t have a biological binary.
Intersex is sometimes tacked onto the alphabet soup that used to be LGB, and some people confuse the condition with transgenderism. Being intersex is a genetic and physical condition and has nothing to do with the psychological condition of transgenderism. An intersex person may well be ‘assigned’ male or female at birth, but the rest of us have our sex observed, not assigned, often while we are still in the womb. The idea that we are all ‘assigned a sex at birth’ and that our ‘gender identity’ is the thing that makes us a man or a woman is deeply insulting to many lesbian and gay people who feel that the idea erases them and the idea of same-sex attraction.
“What do you think I, as a gay man, am attracted to? Male ‘souls?’ Are lesbians attracted to some metaphysical ‘female essence’? …. you know the difference between a stag and a doe, right? Or a bull and a cow? A ram and a ewe? Why stop at people, at men and women?” @throwaway_gay
Many intersex people are also unhappy that their condition is being confused with transgenderism. The Intersex Society of North America has this to say:
People who have intersex conditions have anatomy that is not considered typically male or female. Most people with intersex conditions come to medical attention because doctors or parents notice something unusual about their bodies. In contrast, people who are transgendered have an internal experience of gender identity that is different from most people… these two groups should not be and cannot be thought of as one.
There is a lot of misinformation about intersex on the internet, mostly written by those who would like to link it to transgenderism in order to give transgenderism some sort of perceived biological basis. The Intersex Society of North America’s website is well worth reading if you are interested in learning more from a reliable source.
“But some people are born in the wrong body!”
Ask yourself how could it be possible to be ‘born in the wrong body’? You are born in your own body. The brain is an organ, it’s part of your body. How could your brain be wrong but the rest of your body be right? Is there such a thing as ‘real trans’? And if there is, how do we define it?
Most dictionaries seem fairly consistent in their definition of transgender.
Some people are so uncomfortable being perceived as their birth sex- and being expected to comply with the stereotypes that accompany their sexed bodies- that they feel their discomfort can only be settled by attempting to change the way they are perceived. A male who wishes to be perceived as female or a female who wishes to be perceived as male is ‘transgender’. Being transgender usually involves conforming to stereotypes of the opposite sex – trans-identified men (TIMs) wear lipstick and grow their hair and frequently have surgery to give them the appearance of breasts. Trans-identified women (TIFs) cut their hair short and bind or remove their breasts. Most say this is the only way to become their authentic selves. Some even claim this is challenging binary gender stereotypes.
Alex Bertie, worshiped by a generation of trans-identified teenage girls, takes testosterone in a quest to grow a beard and has had a double mastectomy, yet doesn’t see the irony in taking selfies in a T-shirt proclaiming ‘Gender Roles are Dead’.
If authentic means not false, not copied, genuine, original, unmodified- what is authentic about medicating yourself and removing healthy body parts in order to create an illusion based on stereotypes? Is it even possible to be transgender without recourse to stereotypes?
“In my case, becoming ‘myself’ has involved a mix of doctors, pills and surgeries.” writes Juno Dawson, paradoxically.
So what makes somebody ‘real’ transgender?
Is it having ‘gender reassignment surgery’ (GRS) that makes a man a ‘real’ woman?
Some say that it’s having the inclination and money to change your body with surgery that counts. Some trans-identified men talk about ‘earning womanhood’ with their surgeries, almost as if it is a prize for compliance.
Tallulah-Eve (above left) has undergone full GRS. “If anything, I’ve earned more right to womanhood than a cis woman,” he claims, inferring not only that womanhood is some sort of prize to be bestowed upon the compliant, but also that womanhood is little more than the fabrication of secondary sex characteristics: long, wavy hair and spectacular eyebrows; bowling-ball breasts that could never feed a baby and a ‘vagina’ whose only function is to act as a potential penis-sheath.
No amount of surgery, hormone injections or anything else can change your DNA, and a DNA test will always show whether you are male or female.
Veteran feminist Germaine Greer made her position on this pretty clear when she said: “Just because you lop off your dick and then wear a dress, doesn’t make you a fucking woman.” She points out that a man who undergoes such surgery is ‘“inflicting an extraordinary act of violence on himself”.
If womanhood is a prize, as suggested by Tallulah-Eve, gifted to those who attain the necessary level of ‘fuckability’, then we are led to another question- who is the ‘real’ woman? Veteran Greer, with over 50 years of feminist campaigning behind her, or youthful Tallulah, with DD fabricated breasts in front of him?
Only about 25% of all TIMs go so far as to have their penis surgically removed. So what of the other 75%?
Is it ‘passing’ that decides?
The idea of passing again suggests that there is a correct way to be a woman. Let’s look at two TIMs. Blaire White (below right) has achieved his look with surgery. Danielle Muscato (below left) has not had surgery.
Blaire is one of the ‘best-passing’ high-profile TIMs. Danielle is not. They have different takes on what it means to be transgender. White claims “You don’t get to change definitions or scoot around them in pursuit of your own narrative.” whereas Muscato is adamant that ‘some women have penises‘ and women who disagree should ‘suck my dick’.
Most people would assume that White is a woman but Muscato is not- but their DNA is male. So is it how much you can make yourself look like a stereotypical het-male-fantasy of womanhood that decides if you are ‘real’ trans or not? How much effort do you have to put in to win that elusive prize?
What age is the oldest you can become ‘real’ trans?
Kellie Maloney has always been a woman. She isn’t becoming a woman or pretending to be one.” wrote Paris Lees back in 2014. Well, hang on a minute…
Can sixty years of male privilege really be wiped away with the brush of a freshly waxed and manicured hand? And if it is, as some women have pointed out, does that mean Bruce Jenner got his gold medal under false pretenses?
Boxing promoter Frank Maloney (who once nearly strangled his wife) changed his name to Kellie Maloney and came out as transgender in his early 60s. The NHS were happy to chronicle and applaud his brave journey on their website. Jazz Jennings was seven when he made his first TV appearance as a ‘transkid’. Is Jazz more trans than Kellie? Is Kellie more or less female than Jazz? Is it actually possible to be more or less of a woman than someone else? Surely you are one or you aren’t one? Who is more trans, Jazz or Kellie? Is your head spinning yet?
Were detransitioners ever ‘really’ trans?
There are a growing number of people who transition and then change back. Often they feel rejected by the trans community who see them as traitors. They are frequently told they were never really trans in the first place.
Walt Heyer is probably the most famous detransitioner: a man who surgically transitioned at 42 and ‘lived as a woman’ for 8 years before undergoing further surgery to ‘change back’. His website is here. Is he transgender? Was he ever really transgender? ” …no matter how feminine I appeared, like all transgenders, I was just a man in a dress.” says Heyer, his words a sad echo of Greer’s.
But Heyer is not alone. Young people are detransitioning too.
One detransitioned man writes in a comment on a YouTube video “My body is now destroyed by transgender medicine. I never wanted to die before this. I feared being bi. My doctor said transition would help me fit in. And I could always go back. And therapy wasn’t important.” Elsewhere he comments “As a detrans male (ex “transwoman”), I usually feel either invisible or hated.”
Another detransitioned male writes:
A detransitioned woman writes that her therapist unintentionally “helped me hurt myself” in enabling her transition. Another writes “Looking back on it, I believe I transitioned almost on an impulse.”
Many young detransitioners are uncomfortable with their experience being used to suggest, for example, that ‘real trans’ is an elusive concept. But we need to talk about these things. Why is trying to define such a complex and nuanced term as ‘transgender’ seen as transphobic? Is transgenderism such a holy grail that no discussion of it is permissible? Of course trans-identified people exist- but you can’t turn a woman into a man or a man into a woman. It just isn’t possible. And trying to do so doesn’t always result in a happy outcome.
I recently read details of a case that involved a ‘transwoman’ who became disturbed by his transition when he developed dementia. He couldn’t understand why he had breasts or was being called by a woman’s name. It is so sad, it haunts me.
What do you have to do to be ‘real’ trans legally?
To get a Gender Recognition Certificate from the UK government, you still have to have a diagnosis of gender dysphoria and to prove you have ‘lived in your acquired gender for at least 2 years.’ To prove this you will need a passport, driving licence, payslips and bills.
But to change your sex on your passport in the UK, all you need is a letter from your doctor saying your decision is ‘likely to be permanent‘.
Which leads us to where we are now. If you say you’re a woman, you are a woman, and anyone who says otherwise is transphobic and full of hatred.
You don’t have to amputate your penis, get artificial breasts, take hormones or even break out the lippy anymore, let alone work in your local charity shop ‘as a woman’ for two years. You just have to convince your doctor that you really, really ‘feel like a woman’ and get him to put it in a letter.
How can a man know how a woman feels? There is no one experience of womanhood. We cannot even know how our loved ones feel. You cannot possibly know how I feel, and your next door neighbour cannot possibly know how you feel. It’s not possible for a man to claim to ‘feel like a woman’ unless he invokes sexist stereotypes.
What about trans-IDd sexual predators?
A man can now rape a woman, and end up being transferred to a women’s prison. This is not sensationalist speculation. It’s happened.
If a man can say he’s a woman just because he says he ‘feels like one’, then ANY man can say he’s a woman. It’s not a prize to be handed out for being good.
A TIM called Dana Rivers recently murdered two lesbians and their son. Julianna Fialowski, a former counselor to trans youth, is now in jail for possession of child porn. These are not isolated cases. Numerous others are chronicled at the open Facebook group This Never Happens.
Recently, the UK gutter press reports that child-murderer Ian Huntley has declared that he is actually a woman. Whether or not it is true, as asked below, would Ian Huntley be a woman if he said he was one? Is any man a woman if he says he is one? What do YOU think?
If you agree with a cute, naive, young man who says he’s a woman, then surely you have to let a middle-aged child-murderer claim womanhood too. A man can either become a woman or he can’t. You don’t get to choose who is good enough. You aren’t Father Christmas.
Someone who believes that they’re something they are not is suffering from psychological confusion. Their problem lies in the mind, not in the body, and the problem is accentuated by a society that worships gender stereotypes. Our bodies are not wrong or right, they just ARE.
Racial appropriation is not acceptable. If I say I am black, and demand that you see me as such, because because I like ‘doing things black people do’ and ‘dressing like black people’, you would rightly cringe. (I cringe even writing it.) Yet somehow we have reached the point where a pouting man who calls himself a woman tells us that:
‘”a fashion trend that needs to die is any form of cultural appropriation. Whether that’s hair, whether that’s dress…”
and we all rush to tell him how brave and authentic he is.
In this speech, Bergdorf goes on to- quite rightly- criticse blackface, oblivious to the irony of his own appropriation of womanhood.
Pricking the surface of transgenderism reveals little but stereotypes, sexism, circular definitions (a woman is anyone who says they are a woman: a woman is anyone who feels like a woman) more stereotypes, more sexism and even more stereotypes. This whole absurd worshiping of stereotypes has become a runaway train.
Eighty year old trans people! Four year old trans people!
A few weeks ago, Pink News ran an article about an entire family who identify as transgender. It started when the boy child wanted to join the Girl Scouts. When mum ‘looked it up’ she realised “‘Oh my gosh, they’re trans!” Since then the whole family has transitioned.
National Geographic recently ran an article about mother and son, Eric and Corey Maison. Corey hit the news a few years ago as poster-child for the bathroom bill and mum Erica became dad Eric as Corey’s fame began to dwindle a little. Corey, we are told, is ‘looking forward to becoming 18 so she can have surgery’.
Which brings us to the children and the terrible lies we are telling them.
Watch this space for Part 2 – Kids.
Thanks A LOT!! You are doing a very useful job here and on Twitter.
PS: Just a small thing: I wouldn’t say that women are discriminated against, as you said, but OPPRESSED (it’s kind of different).
When will part 2 be released?
Probably in the next week. It was going to be one post but it was just toooooooooo long. The second half will deal with children.
“You are a slow learner, Lily Maynard.” [says the interrogator, asking Lily how many fingers he is holding up].
“How can I help it? [replies Lily, when the interrogator hold up four fingers] “How can I help but see what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.”
“Sometimes, Lily. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.”
— Apologies to George Orwell, modified from his book, 1984.
Insightful & clear as always. Thank you for your work- will share this
Thank you for showing very clearly that your concern is invalidating and socially rejecting all trans people, not just any particular experimental treatment of trans kids. Also that you appear to solidly reject decades of medical work in treatment of adult gender dysphoria and the solid clinical consensus for transition in favour of the tired old “psychological problem” doctrine espoused by Paul McHugh and other fundamentalist religious zealots.
Also, “cultural appropriation” is bunkum because culture is not property. “Racial appropriation” is double bunkum because race is not just not property, it does not even exist as an objective concept, it’s 19th century pseudoscience invented to justify the slave trade and colonial abuses. People can dress whatever they want, use hairstyles that they want, and as for using “racial” labels it is a matter between them and organizations that use these labels (for example, the “authenticity” of Rachel Dolezal is solely a matter for the NAACP).
Yes, I have just disagreed with a trans poster; trans people can be wrong and still be trans, you know.
They can also be CRIMINALS and trans, including rapists. I think the practical issue you raise is easy to resolve: violent rapists (I use this qualifier to distinguish from statutory rape; a nonviolent statutory rapist is not generally a danger to adults around them) should not be unleashed on the general population of prisons whatever the sex of said population, and it’s actually pretty obvious once you realize a few facts.
First one: in prison men are often raped. The general statistic that women are raped more often does not apply in prison.
Second one: it is well known that rape is not a crime of sex but a crime of power. Therefore a violent rapist will rape a man just as easily as they would rape a woman and this has nothing to do with orientation – rather it has to do with vulnerability.
And third one: if a violent rapist who is a man is not strong enough to rape men, the end result is likely to be him being raped and the rapists feeling “righteous”. And this is not the punishment given by the judge and jury.
With these facts, it is easy to conclude that violent rapists should be in separate wings anyway, when not in solitary. This resolves the practical issue of “rapist who is transitioning being unleashed on poor defenseless imprisoned women”.
I’ve approved your comment because I generally do approve comments on my own writing unless they are completely incoherent or threatening. I’m not really sure what point you are trying to make about rape, but you don’t seem to like women very much. Is it that men get raped too? We all know that. My point was that there is a rapist in a women’s prison, calling himself a woman, and that is not ok.
I’m also unsure how I show that my ‘concern is invalidating and socially rejecting all trans people’. I am not willing to call a man a woman and I believe that trans-identification is a mental illness. I have no desire to ‘invalidate’ anyone, but I won’t buy into the delusions of others.
Thank you for facilitating discussion.
My point was not about rape but about rapists in prison. They should always be kept separate from non-rapists [with nonviolent statutory rapists counted as “non-rapists” for this specific purpose], and this should apply in whatever prison. This would resolve the problem of a trans violent rapist in a women’s prison, because said rapist would simply not get in contact with the female population except the occasional female violent rapist (they do exist but are rare).
You certainly don’t have to “buy into” anyone’s views, much like the conservatives don’t have to “buy into” same-sex marriage (and trans identities too). But there is certain common courtesy expected, and sometimes properly enforced, in certain public regulated spaces. Your freedom to not recognize trans people’s gender is no more immune to these regulations than other people’s freedom to not recognize other things.
Also, and separately your belief about medical treatment of gender dysphoria in adults is no more valid than the beliefs of other deniers of mainstream medical consensus, like anti-vaxxers and HIV deniers. I would not ban those, either.
(Before you refer to lobotomy, which is usually mentioned at this point as an alleged failure of medical consensus: it never had *anywhere near* the strong medical consensus that transition treatment of adults now has. Also, much of the infamous overuse of lobotomy is down to the antics of one person, Walter Freeman, who had no surgical training, so it was a failure of the medical system of checks – while the current state of adult transition is on much more stable ground. The failure regarding Freeman is easier to understand when you realize that it happened in the 1940s; the best surgical talent was all sucked up into military medicine).
You seem to assume ALL Transwomen transition into sterotypes, however thats not nesscairly the case, im a Transwoman, but im also very much a Tomboy, i may wear dresses and makeup, not because it validates me as a woman, but because i WANT to, thats the keyword, WANT to, do biological females who like sterotypical female things now invalidated? Of course not
But I Don’t Know, i say im a woman because i FEEL like a woman, not because i like sterottypical women things (i dont, mostly just dresses, and even then very plain dresses, ew frilla) but just because i just dont feel like a man, its not something i can explain, its just deep down theres a woman in me
Also transwomen can lactate and therefore breastfeed, so they can raise a baby, though unfortunately cant get pregnant
I think what makes a Transwoman really Trans, is not because they like girly things or are really gay etc… but those who truwly feel deep down they are a woman, regardless of if they are a sterotype or not
And as a Transwoman i will continue to support feminism and those who have been sexually assaulted like I, and 47% of transpeople, have experienced
How can you possibly know how a woman ‘feels’? There is no one collective feeling that all women share: woman is a biological category, not an elusive essence.
Thats not the point, the point is that i do not transition just for the sake of being a stereotype, i have full plans to get the surgery, unlike many “transgenders” nor do i nesscarily support pre-op trans in a womens space, even i dont want to see a dick
Its a complicated situation, but that shouldnt mean every single transwomen should be painted with a wide brush, not all are like those who dont evem bother to shave, get surgery, or even “TRY” to be a woman, and I do not agree that those people should therefore be called neither a woman nor a transwoman
And yes, there are obvious biological and experience differenxe between a natal woman and a transwoman
But you must also admit that there are differences between men and “real” transwomen,
Transwomen fall between both men and women, however i would say they fall closer to women then men (real transwomen atleast) and hence it makes perfect sense that they will seek refuge among other women for love and support
I am a Feminist, and avid supporter for womens right to bodily autonomy, their right for an abortion, their right to free contraceptives and tampons etc….
So again, we arent mere copycats trying to come on for a free ride
Also, let me add further, im not a snowflake, and i could care less about so-called “transphobia” its a stupid word since people arent scared, thats intelectually dishonest to suggest
And i respect everyones opinions, in fact recently on twitter i befriended some feministts that others would claim are “TERFs” when in reality they just prioritize natal women over transwomen, and thats understandable, and i agree with that sentiment, yet these so-called “TERFs” still consider me their sister.
All im trying to say, is not every transwomen is what you see in the media, these people are just loud and vocal, but there are a decent number of is silent ones who want nothing to do with these vocal ones and do not with to be associated alongside them
And uh, do you have a twitter? And if so can i get a link? I always enjoy expanding my views, im only 19 so i dont have much knowledge on things that go on in the world, i would love to follow more feminists :c
Nevermimd, i found your twitter, followed 🙂
If you would like to have more insight into my veiws and thoughts on the matter, feel free to browse my twiter, i post a LOT about this (mostly recently) @Alina_Starkova_
If you have any questions or would like me to go into more detail on my positions, feel free to tweet @ me, and i will happily answer
You will never know what it feels like to be a woman. You can’t. You only know what you “think” it feels like to be a woman.
Where do individuals who are insensitive to androgens lie?
Are they ” born in the wrong body”, given that they have a genetically male brain, yet look like a woman?
Androgen insensitivity has nothing to do with being transgender.
“A man might cry easily, make daisy chains, spend a lot of time doing his hair- that doesn’t make him a woman.”
Makes him a failed man in this society.
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