Different experiences

Trans-excluders argue that trans women do not have women’s experiences, so must be excluded from women’s spaces, and the experiences we cannot share are having a female reproductive system, and being socialised as women, which they experience as oppressive.

I don’t have that experience of menstruation, but nor do many women with disorders of sexual development, who would be accepted as women by the trans excluders. To be clear, “But you accept intersex women as women” is a valid argument against “You are not women, because you do not have a woman’s reproductive system”. It is a lifelong series of experiences, usually following the same path, which moulds a person’s life, but it does not mean that I cannot be accepted as a woman, and I have experienced variations in hormone levels which I have found difficult.

I don’t have the experience of men coming on to me and not taking no for an answer from the age of 13, but here women’s experiences are variable. Some girls are seen as unattractive. People are seen as more or less sexual. I have experiences of anxiety or anguish around relationships, and I have had men coming on to me or feeling me up. It can’t be said that we do not have women’s experiences of relationships, as women’s experiences are varied, and we share them with many.

Being socialised as a woman- well, women’s experiences are varied there, too. If you want to climb trees as a child, does your family encourage you or not? Some families are keen that their daughters not feel restricted in what they can do. As with everything, some families are keen to fit in, and some to nurture and celebrate the gifts of each child. That is what is most important for me: the parallel trans experience of not being allowed to be yourself, which happens to those of us least fitting our birth gender, may be mitigated or reinforced by family.

The women who would most keenly exclude us seem to have had these experiences together at a peculiar intensity- shame inculcated at bodies and especially menstruation; sexual abuse and harassment from early teenage; and gendered expectations not fitting their true selves and felt as particularly oppressive. That can seem like one Woman’s experience which “transwomen” can never experience. Sexual harassment can be appalling- I worked briefly in a hotel where the cook often repeated a vile phrase about sex with young girls. If he acted on it! I don’t know how many women have such an intense experience, and how many react to it as trans excluders seem to.

Generally, though, the difference between women who welcome us and those who would exclude us from women’s spaces is openness to us, and not particular experiences. Can you feel sympathy with this person, or do you experience them as intruding where they should not be? If we might be harmful, what level of harm and what level of likelihood of that harm is believable, or necessary before we must be excluded? Some would take a logical line- woman is biology, not gender identity, so we are not women, but back that up with heightened statements of the risks we pose. Yet if you are open to including us, our experiences are not sufficiently different from other women’s to make you stop.

Talk to me.

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