Women born women?

Does your definition of women exclude some women? It is hard to define “woman” to include women with variations of sex characteristics, but not trans women. If you produce such a definition, it is hard to justify it morally.

It is tempting for the anti-trans campaigner to say, “Women are adult human females. No Y chromosome! No testicles!” However, that excludes women with complete androgen insensitivity syndrome (CAIS), who have XY chromosomes but whose bodies do not respond to testosterone as foetuses, so who develop female characteristics. Some people have partial androgen insensitivity (PAIS) and differing levels of development of male genitalia, but women with CAIS have a vulva like a woman’s, a vagina which may be shortened, and small internal testicles.

One person I knew with PAIS was brought up male, transitioned to female, and spent some time expressing themselves as nonbinary, that is, something other than, not less than, male or female. But anti-trans campaigners often mock the idea of nonbinary. You can’t have it both ways. If everyone is either a man or a woman, you have to find a way of classifying CAIS people, who are assigned female at birth because that is usually the way they will be most comfortable living their lives.

The testicles of CAIS women produce hormones during puberty which actually help the body achieve a feminine shape, with wider hips and breasts. After puberty, they are usually removed, as they may become cancerous. They are inside the woman’s body. She has no scrotum.

The term DSD is objectionable, as it stands for disorders of sex development. Some do not like to be thought of as disordered, merely different. D could stand for differences, but V can only stand for variations. All other things being equal, it is better to be fertile than not, but every human is entitled to say I am who I am. I am a whole package. Do not call a part of me “disordered”, because it is something without which I would not be me.

Between 2 and 5 in 100,000 women have CAIS. That is much smaller than the proportion of trans women, which may be as high as 840 in 100,000. But, would 1340 women in Britain just not matter?

The beauty and terror of the female reproductive system matters. It is the cause of much male harassment of women. It makes women vulnerable. It is still, often, shamed, with women objecting to comments about them menstruating. Trans women do not menstruate, and Germaine Greer put this pungently: “If you didn’t find your pants full of blood when you were 13 there’s something important about being a woman you don’t know.”

Many women with VSC do not menstruate, CAIS women included. Women with Mayer Rokitansky Küster Hauser syndrome (MRKH) have a shortened vagina, no cervix and no uterus. Google’s “people also ask” had, “Do people with MRKH pee?” This demonstrates the prurience and ignorance of, among others, Adult Human Females. Who could imagine that any animal did not pee? They have ovaries, which produce hormones causing a puberty normal but for the lack of periods. Their eggs can be removed, fertilised by a partner, and placed in another woman’s uterus, which makes anti-trans campaigners’ objections to surrogacy questionable. MRKH affects 20 in 100,000 women.

A leaflet from Imperial College NHS Trust says it is normal for women with MRKH to feel angry and depressed. Many parents feel guilty. This shows how damaging our culture can be, with ideas of “normal” and “disordered” people, who are less. All privilege damages society.

Women with Turner Syndrome, only one X chromosome, have a uterus but underdeveloped ovaries, so they do not have periods and are infertile. Turner Syndrome affects 50 in 100,000 girls, and Turner Syndrome foetuses often miscarry.

About 42 in 100,000 people in Britain have a hysterectomy. They don’t have periods, either. They remain female, but not everyone agrees: “I’ve even had my sex taken away,” said a friend. This is internalised self-phobia caused by poisonous attitudes in society. In the US, it is 143 hysterectomies per 100,000 population, which may indicate that hysterectomy is a matter of medical fashion, and should be checked with studies of outcomes.

So, a definition of “woman” as “adult human female” excludes many people the anti-trans campaigner might think of as women. Then the definition begins to get messy: adult human females, plus some people with variations of sex characteristics who are culturally treated as women rather than third-sex or nonbinary. But, if CAIS women should be treated as women because of a social convention, why not trans women? We can tolerate shadowy existence presenting male, but we need to transition to live fulfilled lives. If CAIS women should not be treated as women, why not?

This paper argues that women with heightened natural testosterone levels should be restricted in women’s sport. However, any conception of “fairness” is a choice. All athletes have congenital advantages.

Around 1.7% of the population has some intersex traits, says Amnesty. That is a lot of people to be crammed into a definition of “woman” from which trans women could be excluded. You would end up with a list. But every biological category has fuzzy edges. No human characteristic can be perfectly defined with people definitely either in or out.

In claiming a right to include some people and exclude others as “women”, anti-trans campaigners are asserting privilege. They want to judge someone’s clothes, looks, and perhaps skull and hip to shoulder-width ratio to decide whether someone is “woman enough”. This results in misgendering lesbians. People who do this can hardly call themselves “feminists” or “radical feminists”. The best definition of “woman” is anyone who says she is one.

I am sharing pictures from Hooke’s Micrographia, because I find them beautiful.

10 thoughts on “Women born women?

  1. And then there’s the case of a man in Germany who subsequent to having a bone marrow transplant (donated by a female) now has the same genetic makeup of the donor including two X chromosomes and no Y chromosomes, yet in every other way, presents and acts as he did prior to the transplant – as a man. Is he a male? Not according to his chromosomes, but he’s definitely a man in all other respects. I assume the same would be true if a female received a bone marrow transplant from a male. After several years every cell in her body will have an X and a Y chromosome, but she’ll still be a woman.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The best definition is not just ‘says ‘ but also lives as one as well and that means full time
    Cross dressers are not women and are not trans important difference – it makes is so easy for trans phobes to say it’s a fad and not real and take adverts saying anyone can ‘become ‘a women overnight and as a result
    only AFAB should access so called single sex spaces
    We as a community are under attack every day and we need to
    be able to speak positively but also not fall into traps
    Gender clinics also need real evidence of needing RLE
    and also hormones for a year plus This is correct as it helps to
    make resources which are limited be utilised effectively
    We need far more access to healthcare but with only 4 practicing surgeons we need to reduce waste
    Says and does that’s it !


    • Oh, Tracey. If “full time cross-dressers” are not true trans, why do you think having only four practising surgeons is a problem? Many who have not started hormones, have not started because the GIC waiting lists are five years and GPs won’t prescribe them. Why divide people? Part time “cross-dressers” may be true trans, but unable to transition in the current transphobic climate.

      Liked by 1 person

    • If someone lives as a woman then she is a woman. If someone lives as a man then he is a man. Simple. There are those who prefer to live as neither a man nor a woman, and those that incorporate aspects of both a man and a woman in their lives. Those are also valid ways of being, and I see no reason why they should be respected any less that those who choose to live entirely as a man or entirely as a woman.

      I’m thankful that I reside in a nation where one is now legally recognised by the gender one declares they are, and they are not limited to a choice of one of two genders.

      Liked by 2 people

    • This reminds me of the time, many years ago, when a trans woman declared that I could never be anything more than a “professional cross-dresser”. I am unable to undergo hormone therapy because of health concerns, and any surgeries are out of the question for the same reason. Yet, here I am, living a woman’s life. Actually, I’m living an older woman’s life, and my hormone levels are close to those of a post-menopausal woman’s.

      Nobody is born a woman, but many are born to become one – sooner or later.

      Liked by 3 people

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