Men’s and women’s brains

Do trans women have women’s brains, and if so, does it matter? Do trans women think like women?

In the 1990s, I learned about the BSTc, a part of the amygdala which is twice the size in men than in women, slightly larger in gay men, and women’s size in trans women. Problem solved, I thought, trans women have women’s brains. It can only be measured by dissection, though, so is no use as a diagnostic tool, and my internalised transphobia spoke up: what if I don’t? What if that means I am not trans?

Women’s brains have more white matter. White matter connects brain areas with other areas further away. So more white matter means more connectivity. Rather than using a single part of the brain for a particular function, women are more likely to use different parts.

All brains show differences between the left and right side, from nematodes up, and Iain McGilchrist in The Matter with Things explains this is because all animals need to eat without being eaten. The left side pays specific attention to prey, and the right side pays global attention to everything going on, as predators could come from anywhere. The right hemisphere is larger than the left in both sexes, but the effect “seems to be” more marked in males.

“Seems to be”- it seems that McGilchrist does not consider there is enough research to be definite. Lay people will often not know for any common assertion whether it is based on detailed and conclusive research, on one suspect study, or has been debunked. There is more research all the time.

Differences in brain structure might produce different behaviour, but might equally well prevent differences in behaviour by compensating for other sex differences such as the effects of sex hormones. For example, the right frontal cortex is crucial in the empathy between mother and infant, so might be less well adapted to making risk decisions, as it does in the male.

Testosterone in utero makes the right hemisphere grow faster in males than females, by inhibiting left hemisphere growth. But the same level of testosterone in males and females will have differing effects, and women may use different parts of the brain for particular tasks depending on whether they take contraceptives, or where they are in the menstrual cycle. I know from taking synthetic progesterone the effect it had on me.

I don’t know that I have any particular androgen insensitivity, though once I started on testosterone blockers my T levels dropped. I don’t know what might lead doctors to check. So my brain development in the womb was probably fairly male-typical, just as my development of sexual characteristics elsewhere in the body was. An AI shown enough brain scans of trans people can discern whether other scans are of trans or cis, but that only means there are recognisable differences in the brains of trans people, not that trans women have “women’s brains”.

Researchers can find what areas of the brain perform what tasks by studies of people with brain injury, or by brain scans. Differences in which hemisphere performs a task may be missed if researchers use equal numbers of men and women.

In a study of musicians, the compositions that had the highest ratings were by composers with a brain difference which all the men, and only some of the women, had. So the dominance of men in the culturally recognised history of great composers may be in part physical, though it is also Patriarchal.

Females have greater verbal facility, and males better visuo-spatial skills. Women use words to think through a nonverbal task. Ah, I think, I have no mind’s eye, and great verbal facility. But that does not by itself make me a woman.

If I tried totting up the ways where I was more like a woman, I would be guilty of sexist assumptions as well as proven differences, and my internalised transphobia might never think the list I came up with was sufficient, even now. What makes me a woman is my ineradicable conviction that I want to express myself this way, like trans people have in all cultures for millennia. I don’t believe in a soul, or even a mind separate from the effects of neurons, so that conviction is the effect of my physical brain.

I am a woman, therefore I have a woman’s brain, even if its sex differences are not the same as cis women’s.

The fraud on the anti-trans campaigners

I never met an anti-trans campaigner whose ally I did not want to be. In the group, a woman said, “I’ve been called a ‘terf’,” and my heart sank.

I have heard the story so many times, with the same injustices. She is treated as a sex object, and may say how terrifying this can be if adult strangers come on to you when you are thirteen. Her intellect is devalued and ignored. She states her powerful resentment and her sense of injustice, and I am wholly in agreement. I delight when women stand up for their rights, and men stand up for justice. Society suffers if the talents of so many are sidelined.

And then their voice of grievance does not change as they tell of trans. She was a sex object, and what of all the girls who want to become men? She wonders if she were a little younger, if she would have been “sucked into the cult,” and had her breasts removed or had hormones to break her voice and grow body hair. She is a sexy woman with a beautiful body. What if it had been mutilated?

Well, I totally get the discomfort at the idea of breast removal. I like my beautiful breasts. But no-one has an operation before the age of 18, and few below 25. Waiting lists are too long. 2000 girls might be referred to the Gender Identity Development Service, but that is 0.03% of the girls in the country. Of those, GIDS refers none for operations, and only a few for puberty blockers.

Or, she says, “Women must have the right to say, ‘No’. Women’s boundaries should be respected.” And I think, well, yes, I agree, except she means she should have the right to say I can’t use a women’s loo or shop changing room.

And then the rant starts. What about women’s rights in prisons/sports/refuges? What about all women shortlists? What if a man wakes up one morning and decides he’s a woman? There are answers to all this, and they are not heard.

She is sure of her own righteousness, but her beautiful campaigning energy has been perverted from real injustices, such as the devaluation of her intellect, to blaming, scapegoating and persecuting trans people. She moves from stating real grievances to myths showing a disturbing lack of empathy and respect for trans people. She does not see the change of tone which is so obvious to me. Often, she shows a wilful refusal to understand us as human beings. Trans men to her are merely victims, trans women merely threat.

The campaigning shows no sense of proportion. On a “Keir Starmer Supporters” group on facebook, someone shared a Daily Mail article about the death and rape threats to JK Rowling. What can I do? Well, I share information, and respond as winsomely and persuasively as I can. JK Rowling said some pretty offensive things. Keir Starmer, by contrast, has been low-key but generally supportive, of trans rights. He said, “It’s not true that only women have a cervix”. A Keir Starmer Supporters group should listen to him. And death and rape threats are abhorrent, but many people receive threats. Which people are deemed entitled to our sympathy when threatened, and which are not? Why? For this, I was expelled from the group. It is not only that the group owner thinks I am wrong, she thinks I should not be heard. Just before expelling me, she introduced a new group rule against misogyny.

There are many places where anti-trans campaigners can radicalise each other and indulge in delicious shared righteous anger. Women have a right to Single Sex Spaces! JK Rowling has never said anything transphobic! We are not transphobic! We want our Rights!

And all that beautiful campaigning energy, rather than being directed at the patriarchy and rape culture is directed by the patriarchy, for the patriarchy’s purposes, against trans people.

So I want to be an ally to these women- against all the injustice, against rape culture, sexism, and patriarchy. And everyone would be better off if they left trans people alone. We are not their main problem.

Redvers Buller and nonbinary people

Who was General Sir Redvers Buller, VC, GCB, GCMG, and what relevance has he to nonbinary people? He is relevant to nonbinary people, I assure you.

Buller was a man of great physical courage. At the Battle of Hlobane in the Anglo-Zulu war, he rescued three other mounted infantry, a captain, a lieutenant and a trooper, carrying them to safety on his horse, one at a time, and winning the VC.

In command in the second Boer war, he lost the battles of Colenso, Magersfontein and Stormberg in one week, gaining the nickname “Reverse Buller” among his troops. Frederick Roberts took command, but as second in command Buller won the Battle of the Tugela Heights. Wikipedia tells us he was scapegoated for Boer guerrilla tactics, and sacked in October 1901. About 50,000 subscribers in and around Exeter paid for an equestrian statue of him, which the city council now considers removing.

I don’t think the Empire is something for British people to be proud of. It was economic exploitation of areas whose economies would have grown better outside it. Cotton grown in India was taken to Lancashire to be made into cloth, then sent back to India, rather than being processed locally. The statue should not be in a city centre. I had forgotten Redvers Buller, having read about him in “Farewell the Trumpets” by Jan Morris, credited as “James”. That’s the most definite reference to a trans or nonbinary person in this post. No, there is no clear evidence that Redvers was nonbinary.

That did not deter the Daily Mail, whose headline about the statue was, “Council is slammed for ‘ridiculous and historical wokery’ over plans to remove a statue of a British war hero – with official report claiming it ‘impacts anybody who does not define themselves in binary gender terms’.”

The Mail opposes the statue of a “war hero” being moved. Of course. That is disrespecting the Great British Empire, but The Mail also hates any mention of nonbinary people. It says, “An equality impact assessment carried out as part of the review also concluded the statue would impact anybody who ‘does not define themselves in binary gender terms’.”

The council’s papers are here. The Equality Impact Assessment does not mention nonbinary people, but rightly comments that moving the statue would have a positive impact on BAME people and immigrants. The report to the council says the statue “personif[ies] racism and the glorification of a colonial past”.

Is its prominence still relevant to the people of Exeter today? No. The Boer War was a nasty, inglorious conflict.

Possibly the quote was removed from the papers after the Mail reported. Its full quote, given in the article, is, “The General Buller statue represents the patriarchal structures of empire and colonialism which impact negatively on women and anyone who does not define themselves in binary gender terms. The consultation will need to ensure that the views of women, transgender and non-binary people are captured and given due weight”.

Mere use of the word “patriarchal” is enough to upset the Mail. However the quote indicates that the statue is not more relevant to trans and nonbinary people than to cis women. Nonbinary people are mentioned because, to be inclusive, any mention of patriarchy’s effect on women has to refer to trans and nonbinary people too. That is the only relevance of the report to nonbinary people. Any equality impact assessment, and lots of council reports, would refer to “women and nonbinary people”.

I agree. Patriarchy impacts on cis women and trans people. It also impacts on a lot of men. The Mail did not make any argument against this, merely quoting. “Wokery” was the word of conservative historian Andrew Roberts, who commented “In the year 1900 every man was a sexist”.

Buller’s biographer said, “This man was always a great supporter of and campaigner for the many native communities he came across.” That would appear contradicted by the battle of Kambula.

Redvers Buller: not apparently nonbinary.

What is a woman?

Anyone who wants to be is a woman. Trans women are women. I am going to argue what the word “woman” means and what it should include, considering various conservative and feminist arguments. This is a different argument from what is true in the real world, or what is morally right, but people use these arguments to argue about truth and justice. Continue reading

Trans men and male privilege

Trans men gain male privilege. I heard of one last weekend, amazed that they were treated with so much more respect, just because of the change of presentation. People see “Man”, and behave differently. It is not entirely gain, of course.

What gains are there? His ideas are taken more seriously, and he is interrupted less. His achievements may be publicly recognised. I kept noticing that if guys wanted an assignment they’d just ask for it. If they wanted a raise or a promotion they’d ask for it. This was a foreign concept to me. As a woman, I never felt that it was polite to do that or that I had the power to do that. But after seeing it happen all around me I decided that if I felt I deserved something I was going to ask for it too. By doing that, I took control of my career. It was very empowering.

People ask if being a man made me more successful in my career. My answer is yes — but not for the reason you might think. As a man, I was finally comfortable in my own skin and that made me more confident. At work I noticed I was more direct: getting to the point, not apologizing before I said anything or tiptoeing around and trying to be delicate like I used to do. In meetings, I was more outspoken. I stopped posing my thoughts as questions. I’d say what I meant and what I wanted to happen instead of dropping hints and hoping people would read between the lines and pick up on what I really wanted. I was no longer shy about stating my opinions or defending my work. When I gave presentations I was brighter, funnier, more engaging. Not because I was a man. Because I was happy.

I’m not sure what to make of that. Men are more outspoken. You drop hints and state thoughts as questions because you fear they will not be accepted. I tend to think it’s a question of power- of privilege. Women can be confident, and still get interrupted.

People now assume I have logic, advice and seniority. They look at me and assume I know the answer, even when I don’t. Well, sometimes we just need an answer, so we can move on. There are a multitude of good enough answers. People also engage with his questions, rather than brushing him off.

Men in that article also talk about a loss of sisterly solidarity. So, women would look at each other sympathetically when a man said something rude about one of them, but now he has to suck it up. Men and women held doors open for him presenting female, but stopped. One found he listened less, and put that down to T. The Black man had had reasonable interactions with the police presenting female, but now was routinely pulled over and humiliated- “Do you have a weapon? Are you on probation?”

Another trans man challenges male sexism, and tells men he mentors, right now, you’re comfortable — but you have no insight into anyone because you’ve never had to be uncomfortable. Several say they feel more empathy, seeing things from both sexes’ point of view.

Here’s a brilliant loss and gain quote: They gained professional respect, but lost intimacy. They exuded authority, but caused fear. The female author continues to summarise: Many trans men I spoke with said they had no idea how rough women at work had it until they transitioned. As soon as they came out as men, they found their missteps minimized and their successes amplified. Often, they say, their words carried more weight: They seemed to gain authority and professional respect overnight. They also saw confirmation of the sexist attitudes they had long suspected: They recalled hearing female colleagues belittled by male bosses, or female job applicants called names… walking home after dark felt easier, casually talking to babies, strangers and friends felt harder. The Black trans man also finds the police far more scary.

Trans men notice psychological changes on T. They feel more sure of themselves, Time says. That could just be fitting their own skin better, as transitioned trans people. It could be the T. Things are more black and white, says one. Another feels freed from the expectations placed on women: he no longer feels he has to smile all the time, and be pleasant.

I need to burrow down into this. Two of the three articles I looked at are on WaPo and Time, large professional sites with professional female journalists creating a story- allowing the trans men to speak for themselves up to a point. To really understand I would have to look through blogs, some of which might state different experiences when presenting male without explaining them with the concept of “male privilege”. I would be grateful to receive any comments, or suggestions of further reading.

Partial inclusion

When I am not accepted, often I am tolerated. When I am not wholly valued or cherished, I may be partially included: I pretend to be a normal person, and am allowed to be that normal person in the group. So naming the way in which my difference is rejected may be a threat to me: it draws attention to my difference, so maybe my pretence at normality has been seen through, and I will be rejected. No, no, it’s no trouble, I say. Please don’t worry about it.

Though I am depressive, and need a lot of acceptance before it gets through to me; and I am hypervigilant for any sign of rejection. And, that could be seen more positively: particular aspects of me are appropriate for this group accomplishing this task, and others can come out at another time.

Our liberation is bound up together. If I can take off my masks, I can accept others without theirs, and even help them to remove them. We shall stand together naked and unashamed, but conscious and aware. Jesus says: “When you strip yourselves without being ashamed, when you take off your clothes and lay them at your feet like little children and trample on them! Then [you will become] children of Him who is living, and you will have no more fear.

This is a spiritual process, among Quakers. My Friend asked, What would it take to enable us to live in consciousness of peace, love and joy so that such issues as these and many others are resolved spontaneously? I think we need practice. I don’t know we will ever manage it spontaneously. I replied, For me, that is a continual process of emptying myself of my requirements of others and my false perceptions, and appreciating what is around me and within me. It is not instantaneous- noticing something and welcoming or emptying it, as it also involves things I desire or need to explore. There is love in me. I have blind spots where I do not notice- logs as well as specks in my eye- and it is a matter of seeing. I am pleased that I said there is love in me. I can acknowledge my goodness. Not everyone can.

Trans people are bound up in the concept of a real self, a kernel which is unchanging, which is the sex not assigned at birth. That might be a chimera. I can imagine a person’s self-concept being exhaustively defined, all the things they think they are and ought to be, but not the organismic self because it is an organism. I am an organism that reacts to circumstances, taking in ideas, responding to stimuli, so I cannot know how I will react until I am provoked. As the world I am in changes, I change.

How comfortable are you? There is a Quaker booklet, Owning power and privilege, which considers how some of us are advantaged, and the first voice in the text is a “white, middle class, educated, affluent” person who calls himself a “typical Quaker”. My voice comes later: For many of us, understanding power and privilege will be a matter of seeing both sides- how we are simultaneously disempowered and empowered by social structures and deep, embedded cultures. I am white, middle class by origin at least, educated, and I have refused policemen peremptorily demanding to come in to my house, unlike that typical Quaker who acknowledges “police attention bypasses me”. I know he is a man, from the pronouns he uses of himself. I think he’s straight. He does not mention being a straight man in that list of privileges. Fair enough, it’s a toolkit for recognising privilege in onesself, but the most privileged person is heard first.

Though the toolkit’s epigraph is by an “Aboriginal” activist, Lilla Watson: If you have come here to help me, then you are wasting your time… but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together. She could be educated, too.

How comfortable are you? Bud Tillinghast has started a blog on the Roman Empire as a way of understanding the Bible. He quotes an English publication: August is named after Augustus Caesar…[who] brought peace and prosperity to the Roman Empire… The extensive network of Roman roads made travel much easier and thus [helped] the spread of Christianity. He points out that “peace” was in the interests of the Roman elite, at the expense of the rest, and that those roads helped soldiers march easily to places the Pax Romana was threatened. Tacitus said, They make a desolation and call it peace. If we think of that “peace” as a good thing, it is because we think of our own imperial adventures as beneficent, spreading order, rather than rapacious.

The way to equality is owning our power and privilege. It might help us get people of colour in if we recognised our privilege, as part of the emotions, attitudes and prejudices in [ourselves] which lie at the root of destructive conflict, the things we can’t see because they are so normal and expected. This is just how things are. This is not how things should be.

I am seeking my own liberation here, not just as a trans woman oppressed by the Patriarchy but as an educated white person oppressed by my education, which blinds me to other perspectives. When the least of us is free we are all entirely free.

What is Trans?

What does “Trans” mean? There are many answers, and this is mine.

Trans starts with the concepts of “masculinity” and “femininity”, which do not fit men and women as we really are. At its worst, toxic masculinity rejects the expression of emotion apart from anger and derision. Boys and men are expected to put on a manly mask which suffocates them. Women are objectified, valued for their looks, treated as weaker and needing looked after by men while made responsible for most housework and care of children, the disabled and elderly. Feminists call this “patriarchy” and differ in their emphasis on how it affects men, but it hurts everyone apart from a very few high-status men.

Patriarchy fits no-one. Everyone needs to deny part of themselves to fit in. Those who particularly do not fit are trans, or trans-like people. To call myself a “feminine” man is ridiculous, as “feminine” relates to women, but the word has come to denote qualities prescribed by patriarchy for women, such as being sensitive, empathetic, compassionate, communal, unselfish, supportive, motherly, nurturing, gentle, forgiving, and caring. These are my natural qualities, though my attempt to be a “Real Man” has twisted me.

Femininity can also refer to certain mannerisms, body language, or physical appearance.

I am mostly interested in trans women. Some of what I say could also apply to trans men, and I could use inclusive language, but will discuss trans women only. Trans women may be Gynephile, attracted to women, or Androphile, attracted to men. Androphiles are called “Homosexual” by the researchers, denying that they are women, and Gynephiles are called “Non-homosexual”, which I find demeaning, even though some of us present as bisexual or asexual. If I am not a woman then I am heterosexual, attracted to women. Trans in androphile and gynephiles may be different phenomena with different causation.

There is research on trans, and on the wider question of whether femininity and masculinity have any reality separate from culture. There is a wide range of masculinity and femininity in men and women, but by and large women are more feminine. Whether nature causes this, or nurture, culture and society, is strongly disputed. I would not accuse researchers of fitting the evidence to their preconceptions, but the questions are so political that they might choose research projects to confirm their claims, and interpreters can be wholly political. I read one conservative Christian sniffing that trans women’s brains are different because we obsess about trans, promoting dendrite growth in particular areas. And even if parents of both sexes expect a toddler boy to slide down a steeper slide than girls the same age, what could that mean? I do not have the time or education to assess individual research papers, leave alone the wider questions.

Studies show some brain differences- in the 1990s I was aware that brain dissection had found the BSTc, the central subdivision of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, is twice the size in men as in women, slightly larger in gay men, and female size in trans women, but what could cause that or what it could mean is a mystery to me. We could use it for large claims, that trans women are apart from men, really women, and some do, and there is a huge backlash. Brain research does not justify the large claims of some trans folk.

There is no clear cut-off between trans and cis-gendered. There is a spectrum of masculinity to femininity in men. So other circumstances will decide whether you transition, such as whether you have a partner and what they feel about it, what your job prospects are, or how well you pass. I read of a person who had been the subject of a documentary on transition, but stopped when he found a male partner.

Some men are aroused by cross-dressing, or by thoughts of themselves as women. This is more likely a by-product of being feminine than the cause of transition. Some are satisfied with recreational cross-dressing: at the Northern Concord, it seemed to me that some were just blokes down the pub, who happened to be dressed rather strangely, and some were feminine.

My particular interest is the gynephile trans woman, especially me, and her counterpart the masculine woman: viragos and harridans, sissies and pansies. This is the sexual orientation that has only hurtful names- the woman “wears the trousers”, the man is “pussy-whipped”. “Beta male” may be a more positive term, or “Alpha female”, but both these terms are claimed by other groups. My parents were like this, terrified of people finding out, and inculcated in me terrible shame. My mother would not let me play with Action Man because “boys should not play with dolls”. My father objected to women on Radio 4, claiming to loathe the sound of their voices.

In the Underground last week I saw a woman, her leg crossed, her foot against the shin of her man, holding his hand and squeezing or pinching it. I felt they might have such a relationship, and felt envy. It is not the same as BDSM.

I don’t know how the desire to present female and actual femininity are related. I tend to feel that some men feel that their characteristics are more acceptable in women, and it is in part a desire to fit in with social norms. I lay on the floor weeping “I am not a man”- if only I could have realised I am not that kind of man.

Though I had the operation, I oppose it. I had it because I thought that it would make me part of an acceptable class, that it was better to be transsexual than transvestite, rather than because I wanted it for itself. Before, I had been ashamed of my slim wrists and arms, but after I found them beautiful, so it enabled me to love my body- but I wish I had found some other way. For a time, it all seemed to fit: I was a “woman”, so I felt this way, and was pleased to appear this way. Possibly we have the operations because doctors wanted to be seen to be doing something, or even wanted a subject to experiment on. I feel some people want the operation simply for itself, and should be allowed to have it. In a world without patriarchy, we could know.

I have fellow-feeling with radical feminists, even TERFs. They are revolted by body-modification, and some lack any sense of proportion about trans women, as if we are the only feminist issue they care about, but they are often masculine women, and not fitting Patriarchy in a complementary way to me- how could I not sympathise? I would put them in a group with trans folk, those who are gender non-conforming, who do not fit patriarchal views of gender. We have so much in common, it is hard that we do not work together. We are oppressed by Patriarchy in such similar ways.

The basic phenomenon is feminine men and masculine women, but how we respond to that is shaped by the culture and our experience. I suppressed it, and tried to be Real Manly for years. There is transphobia, and internalised transphobia, which prevents us from flourishing. We learn to be ourselves better, but still in ways twisted by oppression. We must build coalitions and learn to resist oppression more effectively.

The words you use to describe the phenomenon affect how you understand it. But we don’t understand it, not really, so we need to keep playing with the words. I would ask potential transitioners, Who are you? What would really fulfil you- is it really this off-the-peg solution? I would refer to “gender diversity” rather than trans, for “gender-diverse” is how people are, and “trans” or even “gender-non-conformity” are choices, ways to deal with the pressures of Patriarchy on gender diverse folk.


Women’s oppression

Women’s oppression starts before birth, with sex-selective abortion. At birth, little girls are held close and told how pretty they are; little boys are held further away, and called “Big Strong Boy”. Both sound affirming; but the boys’ conditioning promotes independence, the girls’, dependence. Boys get construction toys, girls get dolls; even an easel comes in pink or blue.

It is not as bad as it has been, but at worst girls are not taught properly about menstruation, so that when they bleed they think they are ill and dirty. Girls’ and women’s sexuality is restrained and controlled by slut shaming while being displayed by their clothes. Maths and sciences are not “girls’ subjects”, girls’ leadership skills are deprecated by words such as “bossy”, girls should be feminine.

Men interrupt women far more than women interrupt men. A man’s anger is approved by both sexes where in the same circumstances a woman’s anger is seen as wrong. Men listen to other men more than to women.

It is “women’s work” to look after children, the disabled and the elderly, and to do housework. Women earn considerably less than men and are under-represented in parliaments and governments, in company boards and senior management. The Manosphere asserts that this is because of life-choices, but minimises how those choices are constrained by the culture. There is no question that a man can have a good career, and children.

This may seem a middle-class analysis. Higher education is unattainable for those chaotically raised underclass children whose parents do not speak to them enough, so that they have not developed proper language skills when starting school. There, women’s subjugation is enforced by physical violence; yet violent men beating women or verbally and emotionally abusing them is throughout the social scale. I asked a man if he beat his wife, and he said, “Only if she needs it”. I asked a woman if her husband hit her, and she said, “Only occasionally”. Two women a week are murdered by partners or ex-partners in Britain.

Much of the culture which seems affirming is oppressive. Valentine’s Day is an example of “benevolent sexism”- “a subjectively positive orientation of protection, idealisation, and affection directed towards women that, like hostile sexism, serves to justify women’s subordinate status to men”. “Chivalry”, no longer a mounted warrior’s code but something to do with holding doors open, involves men looking after women in a way which keeps women subordinate.

Here is the blog “I Blame the Patriarchy”, a radical feminist affirming of trans women, who loathes femininity, calling it a performance which degrades and oppresses women. For Twisty, my experience of oppression enables me to empathise with that of others: discrimination, disenfranchisement, degradation, dehumanization. It’s the Four Ds! The Four Ds make all oppressed persons identical enough. Though after patriarchy is defeated, nobody will have to become anything because everyone will just be whatever they are. Meanwhile, we gotta stop slapping the Four Ds on anyone who fails to conform to the stupid misogynist gender binary.

For me, my femininity- consciously deferring, seeking to reduce conflict and build connection, delighting in being soft- is an expression of my essential self, and is beautiful and valuable. Someone needs to be like that or we would just kill each other. No-one should be forced into that role, certainly not all women; but with my particular life experience, I can only be myself expressing myself female.

You can see why radical feminism would be so attractive to me. No more gender stereotypes: as a man, I am so feminine, and the women I meet do not conform to their stereotype either. Then Violet pricks my bubble: it sounds plausible until you have a baby of your own. The differences are too big, too surprising, even to people planning to be gender neutral. Also, I think you only need a casual glance at every other species on the planet to know that gender differences broadly correlate with sex organs. There is research pointing both ways.

Monet three trees in Spring

Gender essentialism

You are either a man or a woman. Between the two there is a great gulf fixed. This matters to me when my friend insists I am a man. There is a package, of all the things which make you a “trans woman”- which bits matter to me? How much of that is social pressure and internalised self-phobia, and how much, well, essential?

There is social pressure. A trans woman is accepted in a way transvestites are not, despite the work of Grayson Perry and Eddie Izzard. We are legally protected, they are not- well, I thought so until I looked again at the  Equality Act 2010 s.7. I am unclear what “other” attributes could be meant.

I use a female name, dress in women’s clothes rather than feminine or flamboyant men’s clothes, and have breasts and a vagina. Where does the continuing desire to be like this come from? I understand androgynous people, mostly AFAB, have greater difficulty, so do I want to pass as binary because of social pressure or because of an innate Real Me?

I feel that if I do things from my Real Me, my organismic self, I have integrity, I am more free and truthful, though of course I am a social animal and epigenetics shows that nurture in some way creates nature. I am hyper-feminine, and that is Real and beautiful: but should it govern the name I use?

I feel desire to use my name, and revulsion at the thought of using my former name. I would experience it as crushing. I am glad to have breasts. I felt such happiness when the vaginoplasty was recommended, and such revulsion at the thought of the loss of a toe, that I feel this is Who I Am, not merely a response to social pressure.

After the Essence Process, it no longer matters to me when people call me or refer to me as a man. I experience this as liberation: people could hurt me, and they cannot in that way any more. I feel that it is a change in me, that now I am sure of my own femininity so do not need reinforcement from others; and that when others challenge my femininity, it does not raise painful echoes in me. In the same way, being able to present myself in different ways could also be liberating. I want to use my baritone rather than counter-tenor voice because the deep one is stronger with a better range and holds the note better. I want to develop both.

It matters what I think, not others. Being called “particularly masculine” really hurt. Now it does not. Possibly, my other desires come from my fear of rejection and my judgement of myself as wrong- internalised self-phobia- rather than from reality. I am not saying that they are wrongful desires, but that not having the desire, not caring one way or the other, would give me more options, make me more free.

Here is a third Cranach Melancholy, with subtle differences from André’s book.

Cranach Melancholia

From another perspective:

Patriarchy has created an ideal woman, a person exactly how the dominant males would want women to be. However, no woman could be like that, surely: it is repulsive, a simulacrum rather than a living breathing human, any woman wanting that would be in servile self-abnegation, distorted by the culture, needing her consciousness raised. Any free human being wants autonomy, self-determination and equality.

No woman is “feminine” in that way, so these feminine men, “trans women”, M-T are completely confusing. They are the shock troops of patriarchy, enforcing false consciousness on women. They are the enemy.