All my life I have been accused of being masculine. “You’re really a man, aren’t you?” one particularly unpleasant ex-boyfriend joked. I can’t, now, remember why. Perhaps it was the fact that I was more assertive than he was. Or generally wore trousers rather than skirts. Or preferred whisky to wine and didn’t like handbags. Whatever it was, it bothered me, upset me and made me angry. What, I wondered, did it take to count as a woman?
Blanche Girouard wrote this in Standpoint magazine. It’s not a bad question, I worry about it myself. I would hope there could be various answers, and one important one would be that you want to. I also think a female reproductive system or certain intersex conditions would be sufficient without any other criterion, unless the person specifically wanted to count as a man. This is an answer on the libertarian end of the spectrum: many people who crave order and like clear definitions may have difficulty with it. Ideally, some people should be able to count as either, depending on how they feel at the time.
The story shows negging was a thing long before it was a word; men shared the idea in pick-up groups, but had been doing it spontaneously. Negging is a sign you should drop him, generally. I have a bottle of 12 year old Aberlour in my living room, wear trousers a lot, and don’t always carry a handbag- the clichés are no more a reliable guide for a trans woman than a cis woman. And someone who negs will always find a way under your skin, even if it has no relation to reality whatsoever.
Then, she brings up gender dysphoria. More and more young people are transitioning. Well, the shock figure of 2000 referrals to a specialist children’s clinic is still a tiny number compared to the number of children in the UK, and if you are going to transition you are probably better doing it earlier, rather than drifting through a painful and disconnected life until you do it in your thirties. People worrying about transition are telling young people they don’t know who they are or what they want, and also failing to trust the psychiatrists diagnosing and treating them. It is a confected outrage. Ms Girouard should be recognised as a woman if she wants, without stopping trans women from being ourselves.
Ms Girouard ends by saying “We must banish gender stereotypes”. Hear, hear. It is wearing being expected to wear high heels, even if you are a trans woman. I don’t know if I would have transitioned without gender stereotypes, but everyone benefits from a wider range of acceptable gendered behaviour, even people desperate for externally imposed rules to give a framework to their lives, who might object.
Also in Standpoint was an article by Toby Young, a journalist with no worthwhile education experience, who was sacked from the Office for Students for his misogyny and homophobia, though disgracefully not prevented from running a school. Should I read the whole thing? A comment shows how valuable the article is, with a paragraph of panic including the words “TRANNY MADNESS!!!!!!” I wondered why the writer thought six exclamation marks enough. Why not twelve? I glanced through the article. We need to separate the “T” from “LGBT”, he pontificates, ignorantly. What if these children have hormones and surgery? Well, they can’t, before age 18.
Rather, we need the acronym TGNC, which he uses fifteen times. “Trans and gender non-conforming”. That sounds more fluid. Yes, some people may want hormones and surgery, but should not think it necessary, or that they are not real trans if they do not want it. The trouble is, the obsession with us makes us desire to prove ourselves, and hormones and surgery are the way to do that.