There are differences between men and women, but no agreement on what they are. Different people would name the reproductive system, the fact that women are on average smaller, slower and weaker than men, being “hormonal” or “emotional”, patriarchal oppression, rape culture, “femininity” and “masculinity”. And you might draw different conclusions from those differences, from the need to work for women’s equality and against male violence, to airy speculation about evolutionary psychology.
There are left wing and right wing views of those differences. The conservative or authoritarian view is that they are innate. To conservatives, society changes slowly and incrementally, and should not be radically altered based on theory. Current society has stood the test of time. So they opposed the Married Women’s Property Acts 1870 and 1882, under which married women could retain their own property rather than it belonging to their husbands. All the progress we celebrate now was opposed, mocked and condemned by conservatives.
The liberal view that they arise from oppression. Now, there is no problem with women taking degrees or practising as lawyers, though that was prohibited in the 19th century. Few conservatives would wish to restore those restrictions, though still support restrictions that remain.
Where do trans women fit in? If you take a rigid view justifying “transsexualism”, there are innate differences, but somehow about 0.1%-1% of people assigned male at birth are really women, innately the other sex. The innate differences have to be important to justify such a radical act. So trans is incompatible with the idea that women are oppressed because of patriarchy rather than innately different. This is the “trans ideology” the gender critical feminists oppose.
However, we also have life-experience. We are bullied for gender non-conformity. All the anti-trans argument from the conservative side, which is the loudest part with the strongest platforms, condemns gender non-conformity. We made our decision to transition against opposition, so we want people to be able to make their own decisions. So we are allies to anyone objecting to cultural gender roles, even those who say they come from Patriarchy, and in favour of gendered self-expression.
We have to explain ourselves. I am a woman. I don’t want to go too deeply into what that means, and if anyone denies it I don’t always want to waste time trying to persuade them, but “I am a woman” is a convenient non-explanation for why I express myself as I do, which sometimes elicits “Oh, OK then” from others, takes all sorts to make a world, life’s too short to make a fuss about it. It certainly does not mean I want to be part of the Fashion Police, prescribing appropriately Feminine presentation for all women, with full make-up at all times, floral skirts and satin pussy-bows.
Some people don’t like holding two incompatible views in their own minds. We call it hypocrisy or a lack of integrity. If someone needs to, often they deny it to themselves. But just as light is a wave and a particle, so truth is paradoxical, and behaviour and desire come before explanation. This is how I want to express myself. I have no desire to carry the idea “I am a woman” through to all its logical conclusions, especially not conclusions for how other people should be. “Trans-ideology”, the bogeyman of the gender critical feminists, is an illusion, no real threat at all.
I wanted to be my true self. Masculine gender was a prison for me. The way I escaped was transition. I would rather people could be gender non-conforming without needing concepts of transgender to realise themselves, but some of us need that crutch.
Some people have that rigid cast of mind which wants coherent explanations, and gets in the way of ordinary life and human relations. Human desires are strange, and if we try to find rationalisations for them they will be incompatible. Someone might need a theoretical framework so they can pluck up the courage to transition, and some choose a homophobic one- “men should not be attracted to men, so I must be a woman”. The real argument is this:
Should people be celebrated in all our glorious diversity?
Or forced by misogyny, transphobia or other prejudice into rigid conformity?
I know what side I am on. If trans women don’t get our gender recognition reform, and are increasingly excluded from women’s space under the 2010 legislation, the winners are those who want gendered conformity. Most people don’t get the nuances of precisely what the differences between men and women are. The mass who think trans women are weird, perverted and ridiculous also think women are “feminine”. The result is a reduction in our ability to escape gender roles.
Transgender, however unsatisfactory, is a way of freeing people from gender conformity. If you take away a way people can escape gender conformity, you increase gender conformity and decrease gender freedom. If you challenge people as “not genuine trans people” you make us prove ourselves, with hormones and surgery. If the gender critical feminists get their way, the result will be more medical treatment for trans people and more, not less, gender conformity.