There are people. Some of them are assigned female at birth, AFAB, some are assigned male at birth, AMAB. Some of them are intersex, they matter too, and my friend was fair pleased to learn she was Klinefelter’s- she had two X chromosomes! But I am writing for people who fit “normal” sexual development but not gender stereotypes, and find this uncomfortable.
The gender stereotypes affect AFAB and AMAB differently. Women do most of the caring for children and dependents, most of the housework, get promoted less, get interrupted more.
The stereotypes are rigid in childhood, enforced by toyshops and peers.
Many people don’t conform to those, perhaps most. “Patriarchy” is the concept that society is configured in the interests of the dominant males. Depending on personality, some people are happy in their own skin and happy not to conform- the boy who does ballet, the girl who plays rugby. Some try to conform, until that becomes unbearable. There is a spectrum, so some only differ a little from the stereotype, some differ a lot.
Some people are homosexual, some heterosexual, some bisexual. I don’t say “gay” and “straight” because, while there are men attracted to men, “gay” is a particular way of conceptualising that.
When you don’t conform, there are different ideas on how you can conceptualise yourself and your relation to the wider society, including “trans”, “non-binary” and “gender-non-conforming”. Non-conforming AFABs are not merely soft, non-conforming AMABs are soft, so there are differences in how they respond. Radical feminists can be very angry.
Each person is an individual, so no-one precisely fits those boxes; the boxes are fuzzy enough to include different people.
There is social pressure on the person who does not fit, to be trans. The wider society understands that, so if you are gender-diverse they may think you are trans and get confused if you are not. A GP once told me that one of the GP’s main tasks is to protect patients from specialists, who want to do stuff- and surgeons had the brilliant idea of implanting a womb in Lili Elbe, killing her by organ rejection. Surgeons busily remove wombs and gonads, and alter the appearance of bodies.
Many AMAB find dressing as women arousing. There are taboos against being visibly or discernably aroused in public and these extend to being cross-dressed.
Some people may have a physical sex dysphoria, and would want their organs altered even if there were no gender stereotypes. We can’t know. However, transition provides a relatively comfortable place for some people. I am happier transitioned than I was before, and I realised, before, that even if in five years’ time I was trying to make a go of life presenting male again, transition was the route I had to take to get there.
Because transition is a relatively comfortable place, I want transition, including physical alteration, to remain possible for people. I would also like people to feel accepted in their assigned sex, as gender non-conforming as they wish. I feel both groups are similar people with similar problems, and a similar interest in social acceptance of the widest possible gendered behaviour, for both genders. If I feel I want to do something which is particularly masculine I say “Today I am non-binary” and do it. This is liberating.
However, where there is social pressure to conform, the interests of each appear to be in opposition. Non-transitioners may feel pressured to transition, the “acceptable” way of being non-conforming. Transitioners may feel pressured not to, as transition is seen as harmful by social conservatives and radical feminists alike.
I want both choices to be accepted, but I take a side in the debate. Those who transition may see themselves as a class apart, really transsexual, AMABs who are really women, AFABs who are really men. It is not a choice of a particular course of action, it is the choice to recognise and affirm rather than suppressing who they really are. I say it is a choice. Yes, they really are naturally very far from the stereotype, but that does not mean they really are the other gender. I don’t accept theories of brain sex to justify transition, and ideas of a feminine soul or two-spirit are myths, stories to say why transition feels comfortable, appropriate, or the most desirable thing in the world, rather than a rigorous scientific this therefore that hypothesis. If it is generally thought that transition is a choice, it will be less acceptable.
Scientific studies are fraught. How many children detransition? Can you tell which trans kids will definitely want to transition as adults, and prevent their wrong puberty? People with a particular interest fight over the methodology and conclusions. Particularly, what should be the default when we don’t know? Why should it be that a trans child must undergo an assigned sex puberty, making transition later more difficult?
Some people detransition because of social pressure. Society forces them back in the closet. Some find a way to self-acceptance that does not involve presenting as the opposite sex.
Yes, it is a choice, but a choice made by oppressed people between unattractive options: given that you don’t fit the stereotype, you can pretend to fit it, live openly not fitting it, or transition. It is easier not to conform if you are comfortable in your own skin, but not everyone is, and people who face this choice often aren’t. Social Justice Warriors who want everyone to self-actualise, be valued, and reach their full potential should be very careful what they say. Social conservatives who value order and conformity should back the fuck off.