Ain’t I a woman?

Trans women are women, but increasingly we have to defend ourselves in “debates” where haters allege trans rights conflict with women’s rights, or trans women should not be in women’s spaces because we are men. So, how can we argue that trans women are women, or should be treated as women?

On twitter, against slogans such as “sex is real” the best response I know is “Trans women are women”. Comment if you think of a better one. There is no room for nuance or persuasion on Twitter, only for encouraging different sides.

If forced to produce a definition of “woman” which includes me, I would say, a woman is a person who believes herself to be a woman (which includes all non-trans women and some trans women) or who wants to be or become a woman (including all other trans women). That’s circular, using the term defined in the definition, and it is good enough if someone is an ally. I don’t like to make a definition, because I don’t feel the argument about a definition advances whether or not trans women should be in women’s spaces. I am a woman if your definition of woman includes me. I don’t care if your definition of woman does not include me, because mine does.

I say I am socially and culturally a woman. Trans women exist, and are more or less accepted as women depending on the culture. Should there be space for a vulnerable, marginalised group or not? It has to be decided as an issue of politics and human rights, and anyone whose definition excludes me will not be persuaded by contrary definitions. Trans women need spaces.

If “woman” is defined only on sex, with DSD people assigned a sex based on physical characteristics, there are two ways to respond. One is what my teacher father used to call “dumb insolence”- blank denial, a useful trick for a pupil. Give no ground, just stare them out. Of course I am a woman, it says so on my passport. Of course I am “biological”, what else would I be? An angel, demon or ghost? I am a biological woman. You can give details: lots of women don’t have wombs. I have breasts.

There is evidence to cite. The Endocrine Society says There is a durable biological underpinning to gender identity that should be considered in policy determinations. Their practice guideline says, Gender-dysphoric/gender-incongruent persons should receive a safe and effective hormone regimen that will suppress the body’s sex hormone secretion, determined at birth and manifested at puberty, and maintain levels of sex steroids within the normal range for the person’s affirmed gender. I don’t think that proves I am a “biological woman”- I was not impotent before treatment, but have no evidence whether or not I was fertile. That might appear to make me closer to a “biological man”. And I don’t like the born that way argument: even if my transition was just a whim one day, I have proven commitment to it since. People do. I should not need to prove I was born that way, to be acceptable in society. My needs have value. I have value.

Or, you could say reproductive biology matters when you are reproducing, but not otherwise. Gender, and the treatment of women in society, are social phenomena. Most human behaviour around reproduction is social phenomena. The rigid “biological” distinction matters only with regard to who can carry a foetus, not who is a woman.

Trans people exist. Trans people have needs. Society benefits when our needs are met and we are enabled to contribute, rather than fight for survival. Argument about definitions is a kind of sterile sparring, seeking debating point wins rather than being morally clear. 0.1%, or even 1%, of society won’t have a huge effect on everyone else, but for us inclusion and exclusion are a matter of survival.

10 thoughts on “Ain’t I a woman?

  1. “Sex is real” makes little sense as an argument, when talking about trans. We’re not debating sex, after all. I have little time for anonymous sterile sparring (great phrase!). But if I did, I might use “trans people exist” (along the lines of the old, “we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it”), or “sex is not gender”.

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  2. Trans women are wonderful.
    I keep thinking back to when middle class white, cis, straight feminists wanted to exclude everyone else from their movement. The harm and hurt endured. The more things change….

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  3. So much of this discussion is based on the presumption that trans women, are trying to “invade” women’s spaces. They are not. They are looking for a “safe space”, just as any other woman.
    Excluding them from women’s spaces is a mean spirited, un-nurturing, and unwomanly thing to do. People who cite a quasi-feminism to persecute trans women are themselves not worthy of the status of “woman”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Welcome, Alice. Thank you for commenting. I am afraid I disagree with one point: one thing the exclusionists fight, and I agree with them, is the notion that women should be necessarily more nurturing or compassionate than men. But yes, the dispute does no woman any good, and sets women, and Lefties, against each other.

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  4. When I first saw all these discussions I thought it was a storm in a religious American teacup. Finding out that some fringe radical feminists agreed with the religious teacup was confusing, but I still thought it would blow over. Sorry you are still having to fight to use a toilet (apart from anything else). People are so disappointingly small in their thinking and irrationally scared of change. Sex is real? People are real, and so is discrimination and oppression.

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    • Lovely to see you here again. I have not been confronted in a toilet, but I have had conversations with people saying I should not use a women’s toilet. Most of it is on line.

      And it gives me something to write about.

      Onywye. How are you?

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      • I still can’t believe it’s an online discussion for more than two hung up people. I’m fine for February (low expectations). Would like to blog but have nothing to say, so just doing some lurking.

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        • 4000 alleged Labour party members want all trans women out of “changing rooms, hospital wards, sanitary and sleeping accommodation, refuges, hostels and prisons… women’s sports …[and] a range of cultural, leisure, educational and political activities”. It gives them a warm feeling of feminist righteousness. Some of them, after the leadership candidates signed pledges in favour of trans rights, have been tweeting #expelme as if trans rights were the most important issue in politics, rather than, say, Brexit or Covid 19. Some Quakers are getting all self-righteous about it too.

          Politics is too depressing for blogging, perhaps.

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          • It’s just bizarre how this can ever be a priority, given the low numbers involved and lack of actual harm. People love having something to be angry about, and perhaps it’s an easy target because it’s not part of the establishment. Progress we can’t digest is a clearer target than ongoing historic oppression or, like you say, the huge issues that affect or may affect everyone on a daily base.

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