The gender critical trans woman

How can a trans woman be a radical feminist? Surely it is completely incompatible, to assert I am a woman, and that gender is a Patriarchal construct in the interests of men?

Humans reproduce sexually, and therefore there are sexual differences between males and females. It makes no sense to me that about 0.1-1% of the population is really the other sex, so must transition, with brains built to run on the opposite sex hormone, or whatever. If we are invested in transition, then when we start taking cross-sex hormones we are not able to assess their effects objectively, as they affirm our chosen course of action. Oestrogen may make hair removal easier. We will minimise negative effects, as we want this so much. The trans woman is not in any sense physically female, even after hormones and surgery.

I am caught by my rationality. This is simply the truth for me. And yet, I am a trans woman. I wanted to transition- I found it irresistible- and I did, and I have no wish to revert now. So there is what I think, and what I do, and they might seem inconsistent, but they enable me to understand the extreme variation in understandings of gender among those of us it fits least well. If I am a man, then I am proof that gender is cultural not genetic.

Some women call themselves gender-critical, because they find gender oppressive. They might admit to be gender non-conforming, but would possibly argue that was trite, as gender fitted no-one and everyone fails to conform in some way. One said she “performed” gender, meaning she made herself look alluring, and there is another difference: to her gender is strongly linked to sexuality, to me it is about other aspects of personality as well.

Other people are AFAB non-binary. Their gender is neither masculine nor feminine, they say. They may signal it with androgynous hairstyles or clothes, or dress conventionally as women. These two groups, though their theory is completely different, may have similar character and similar behaviour: the tragedy is that they are turned against each other, when they might work together for common goals.

Perhaps it is the Quaker in me, but I don’t think the theory or understanding is as important as what we want and what we do. Trans women don’t fit gender conventions, at least not those applying to men. Trans men have found a way to live in this current gendered patriarchal society which works for them. Younger adults are maturing in a less violent society, with no corporal punishment at school, smacking by parents frowned on and possibly criminal, and so are less violent and controlling, with violent crime rates decreasing. They can then be more gender fluid. By one measure more people call themselves “non-binary” than “trans”. The old model of binary transition from one set of gender roles and markers, which do not fit me, to another, which fit me slightly better but still do not fit me, is giving way to a rejection of gender roles by both “gender non-conforming” and “non-binary” folks.

The problem in prisons is not trans women in women’s prisons- or indeed trans women being kept in men’s prisons- but privatisation and austerity. Trans women in women’s loos- well, more and more places have “all-gender toilets”. Refuges can find ways of keeping potentially violent trans women out of communal spaces, and help them in other ways. There is no problem with trans women which cannot be solved by a bit of thought and good will, and there is no need for all the fear and anger to be directed against gender recognition. Gender recognition is not the problem, and all that energy is being wasted. Gender non-conforming is pitted against non-binary.

6 thoughts on “The gender critical trans woman

  1. Clare, you wrote: “It makes no sense to me that about 0.1-1% of the population is really the other sex, so must transition, with brains built to run on the opposite sex hormone, or whatever.” I don’t mean to quibble but I assume you mean that it doesn’t make sense to you that something less than 1% of the population is the other gender. And if that is your true belief, aren’t you invalidating what it is to be transgender? And if so, I’m shocked and dismayed.

    You also wrote: “If we are invested in transition, then when we start taking cross-sex hormones we are not able to assess their effects objectively, as they affirm our chosen course of action.” Maybe you were invested in transition but speaking for myself, I certainly was never invested in it. I resisted even the idea of it (for myself) for decades, and even after I came to the reluctant conclusion that I am transgender I slowly and rationally took each step along the transition journey, allowing my feelings to settle and then assessing how I felt, fully prepared to step back as needed. So, I also object to your categorically stating that “…when we start taking cross-sex hormones we are not able to assess their effects objectively…”.

    I’m fully aware and accepting that no matter what drugs I have running through my veins, surgeries or treatments I have, or clothes that I wear, my body will be a facsimile of what it would be had it been AFAB. And mentally I’ll never really know how much my internalized sense of gender matches a cis woman’s. There’s no way to objectively measure this. I will say, however, that all of the my cis women friends have told me – with little/no prodding on my part – that everything about the way I think, speak, and feel, confirms their assessment of me having the gender of a woman.

    I’d thus like your confirmation that these are your true feelings and that I’m not somehow misinterpreting what you wrote.

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    • I am drawing a clear distinction between sex and gender. I too resisted transition, trying to make a man of myself, and it nearly broke me.

      Patriarchy projects feminine characteristics- the way women think, speak and feel- onto women and gay men, which makes life difficult for straight men with those characteristics and women they particularly do not fit. So we transition, and it makes perfect sense to do so. But we misunderstand who and what we are, what the pressures are on us, and what we are doing when we transition. It is a means to an end which has become an end in itself- we do it to be our true selves, but we call ourselves trans as if that were a thing, rather than people who transition. Transition is something people do, not a property of a kind of people called trans people.

      Or, I am a trans woman because I have transitioned.

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      • I’m not sure I resisted transition but I guess so. What was much larger for me was overcoming the shame I’d lived with since about four years old, understanding and accepting that trans people are born this way, and then accepting the preponderance of evidence and feelings that I am trans.

        I don’t feel that my feminine expression has anything to do or is influenced by patriarchy. I’m just expressing myself in the style and fashion that I feel represents me authentically. Likewise, I know several trans men who’re also just being themselves, not overly masculine, just men. And nonbinary people too, kind of in the middle, not necessarily androgynous, just being themselves.

        I do call myself transgender because I’m not cisgender. But for to be more specific to myself and others I say that I’m a woman of transgender experience. Like “people of color” I’m a woman first, but I’m also trans, with my history that is much different than a cis woman’s, and always trans after transition, no matter what. Maybe I’m dancing on the head of a pin but the word ordering and specific words are important even as they have too many syllables.

        I don’t mean to argue or debate, Clare. I’m just offering my 2c, describing what fits for me. Your and anyone else’s mileage will almost certainly vary from mine.

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  2. I transitioned many years ago and am not a lover of words, more of feelings, ask any cisgender woman whats its like to be female, 99 percent of the time you will get the answer of, ‘ thats who I am’. I feel I am female, how female, I am unsure, I am just me. I think one of the biggest problems is most ‘normal’ people try to put us in some sort of box. This is to justify how they feel about us, it is NOT how we feel about ourselves. No one should have to justify their existence and their sense of self. We are all unique. Our experiences are different, but so are everyone’s. Why do continually try to make everyone the same? We should celebrate, difference and diversity.

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    • Welcome, Calis. Thank you for commenting. Yes, and transition is a way of trying to make everyone the same, the feminine people female, the masculine people male. We put ourselves in boxes, trying to fit in as well as trying to be individual.

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