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.