When should a trans woman be considered a woman or girl? It depends for what purposes. Never, if being a “woman” means not being guilty of rape; from the moment of uttering the thought to another human being, for the purposes of being nurtured, understood, and assisted to thrive. Am I a woman? Should I be treated as a woman? That depends on what “being treated as a woman” means.
I was a trans woman when I was still presenting male at work. I had decided I would transition and was working towards it. For most purposes then it does not matter if I am a man or a woman, but I had two credit cards and two bank cards, one in each name, to avoid embarrassment. Had I used the female one when dressed male I might have been challenged, because people should not use someone else’s credit cards, and anyone might assume one in my female name was not mine; a friend did that, and got sectioned. They would not be “treating me as a man” so much as considering misleading evidence.
When dressed male I would not have dreamed of using women’s loos, but I did when dressed female. I had to spend more and more time “living as a woman” before I gave up my male identity completely. But when I was arrested for drunk driving, I was searched by a man, and gave my male name. (I was below the limit.) I feel that is reasonable. People hate being searched by whatever sex.
“Are you a man or a woman?” Well, why does it matter? I am me, my name is Clare, I like people to use female pronouns when referring to me. At the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, there was a concert where every woman in the audience was handed a rose. I took one, pleased, yet wondered if that was fraud- if I would not have received one if I were perceived as male. Possibly I was read, perhaps the man giving the roses out was in too much of a hurry to really notice, possibly I was “treated as a woman” though perceived as a trans woman.
I would not enter a woman’s refuge as a woman before transition. There are some services for women which are not appropriate. I am glad not to have needed to, and unsure that all trans women would agree. I feel I would be entitled to use their services now I am transitioned, though, if I were escaping domestic violence. They help women. I am treated as a woman, as a matter of international human rights law and long-standing practice in Britain.
The Labour Party has all-women shortlists for parliamentary candidacies, women’s forums, additional woman delegates to conferences in certain circumstances and women’s conferences. There are women’s officers on constituency party committees. When should trans women be admitted? To some, the syllogism is clear:
Lily is a trans woman- even though she is presenting male under some circumstances
Trans women are women
Lily should have access to women’s privileges.
To me, though, it is a matter of what will the straights accept? They might go along with me at women’s conferences, now I have transitioned, but perhaps not before.
But what should I say to younger trans women who are clear they are women even though they are presenting male some of the time? “Don’t rock the boat! Go full time first!” It is another way of saying I am more trans than they are, they should not spoil it for the real trans people. I am not going to say that to anyone. Transition is a baptism of fire- perhaps it would be better if we could be accepted as women while still presenting androgynously, and able to present male if necessary.
Other people might think transition proves you are really a trans woman, rather than a fantasist. I am willing to take someone’s word for it, on the grounds that this is a scary and disadvantageous thing to be. No-one claims it falsely. I would not positively campaign for trans women pre-transition to be treated as women, but if they are accepted I would quietly cheer.
If it is an advantage to be seen as a woman- different terms for insurance or pensions, say- I am more wary. They should not be different, as a matter of Equalities rights.
Wherever I am, I am dependent on the tolerance of others. I cannot always know what might increase or decrease that tolerance.