Please Stop Saying That Trans Women Were “Born Boys”

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As an out-and-proud trans woman and activist, I find myself having a lot of the same conversations about being transgender over and over again. Some of them are pretty benign, like how I chose my name or whose writing was influential in my work. Some just come with the territory, like those about harassment, discrimination, and health care access.

A few of them have reached the level of being absolutely grating.

Perhaps the one I’m most eager to never have to have again (aside from MAYBE the conversation about the t-slur) is the one where I explain why it’s so bloody hurtful when people constantly talk about how I was “born a boy” or worse, “born a man.” Yes, it’s true that some trans women do see and frame their experience in this context, but the vast majority of us do not, and that includes me. GLAAD’s guide to reporting on transgender issues explicitly informs journalists not to use the terms  “biologically male,” “biologically female,” “genetically male,” “genetically female,” “born a man” and “born a woman.”

I wasn’t born a boy, and I’ve never been a boy, and it’s like a knife to my heart every single time I hear that phrase. And boy have I been hearing that phrase a lot! 

We’re allegedly entering an era of unprecedented fairness regarding media coverage of transgender people. This is true, sure, although things are “getting better” relative to how things were, and “how things were” for trans women in the media was “the absolute worst” until very recently. But it’s also true that despite this progress and no matter how many times trans people make this correction, the media just can’t manage to stop flogging this particular deceased equine.

Laverne Cox made it clear to CBS’s Gayle King that while she was assigned male at birth, she was not “born a boy.” Janet Mock gave Piers Morgan some scathing retorts after he said she “was a boy until age 18,” insisting that she “was not formerly a man.” Activist Cece McDonald made it clear to Rolling Stone that she was not born a boy, rather that she was “born a baby.” Writer/activist Parker Molloy and MMA fighter Fallon Fox co-wrote an excellent op-ed in June covering this very issue. Molloy and Fox write:

“This framing only sensationalizes the identities and experiences of trans individuals as nothing more than a hook to reel the audience into a world closely resembling that of a carnival freak show. This framing in itself highlights the physical changes undergone by trans people and ignores the fact that the people they’re referring to are genuine, lovable, normal individuals.”


Neither of these people were born a boy. via E! Online

Neither of these people were born a boy. via E! Online

Despite all these people making it absolutely clear that this is something no one should do, IT JUST KEEPS HAPPENING. When Scarlett Lenh, a young trans woman, was voted Homecoming Queen of her Colorado Springs high school, almost everybody screwed it up. The Christian Science Monitor referred to her as “a biological boy who identifies as a girl.” The Denver Post called her “biologically a guy.” The local CBS afflilate referred to her as “biologically a boy.” Oh, and to make matters worse, many of these outlets also used her male name, a completely irrelevant piece of information.

Huffington Post Canada recently referred to transgender model Geena Rocero as “born a boy.”

Just last week, People Magazine interviewed 14 year old Jazz Jennings, who co-wrote a book for transgender children, and mentioned that she was “born a boy.”

Earlier this year, a Grantland writer violently and tragically mishandled his story about a transgender woman who’d invented an innovative golf club on so many levels including, but absolutely not limited to, sentences like, “What began as a story about a brilliant woman with a new invention had turned into a tale of a troubled man who had invented a new life for himself.” Apparently the significant backlash to that story still wasn’t enough to wake up the media.

As Mey and I recently discussed, the New York Magazine profile of transgender CEO Martine Rothblatt was full of the same unfortunate phrasing when they straight-up released a COVER STORY bearing the hook: “The Highest-Paid Female CEO in America Used To Be a Man.” That was as step better than The New York Post, I suppose, who straight up referred to Martine as “born a man” in their headline.

These are all examples from 2014 alone. So clearly, the message that it’s unacceptable to say that trans women “used to be men” or were “born boys” is simply not getting through. It’s not just the media that gets it wrong, obviously, I see the same thing happen on twitter and facebook regularly. It seems like the most common way to explain being a trans woman is “born a boy but identifies as a girl.” I’m constantly hearing references to “when you were a guy” when people talk about my pre-transition life. What I’m trying to get at is that this is a thing, and I really need it to not be a thing.

I want to make a few things perfectly clear. Trans women are women. Period. End of story. We’re not “women who used to be men.” We’re not “men who identify as women.” We’re not “males who identify as women.” We’re not “men who became women.” WE ARE WOMEN. Stop putting qualifiers on our womanhood. It’s offensive, hurtful and cruel to insinuate otherwise. Our past, present, and futures are ours to define and no one else’s. Even if we didn’t figure out that we were trans until well into our adult lives, it absolutely does not mean that we were ever boys or men. Many trans women feel that they’ve always been girls, or at the very least, that they’ve never been boys. You don’t have any right to tell me, or any other trans person, that they were ever a particular gender, just as I have no right to tell you what gender you are. A trans woman who was obligated to present as male for most of her young life is was no more “born a man” than a lesbian who was obligated to date men for most of her young life “used to be straight.”

Of course, there are people who do identify as having been a boy or a man before transition. As Mey and I discussed in our piece about Martine Rothblatt, those people ALSO have the right to define their own narrative, and it absolutely should be reported as they prefer. However, that makes it even MORE important to explain that, while this specific person identifies or describes themselves in that way, many trans people do not. As much as I’ve talked about trans people and the trans community on the whole, we’re a pretty individualistic bunch, each with our ways of discussing ourselves and our journeys. But, when you’ve got folks like Janet Mock, Laverne Cox, Fallon Fox, Parker Molloy, Cece McDonald, and now me saying “hey, this is something you have to stop using as a universal,” I feel like it’s time to pay attention.

Let’s talk a bit about why this “born a man/boy” language is dubious. Firstly, as other writers have pointed out, it’s just FACTUALLY inaccurate to say that ANYONE was born a man. No one springs forth from the womb a fully grown adult. Not even Sir Patrick Stewart (the manliest man there is, IMO) was BORN a man. He was born a baby, and grew into a totally awesome man because, well, that’s how human life works. To refer to a trans woman as “born a man” is to dehumanize her, because it’s literally impossible for any human to be a born a man. Using the phrase “born a man” over the much-preferable “assigned male at birth” forces people to juxtapose the image of a transgender woman with a prototypical man, which just serves to drive home the pervasive view that transgender women are vile freaks of sexual perversion.

The phrases “born a boy” or “born male,” while not quite as offensive, are still fraught with problems. First, defining who exactly is, or is not, a boy/girl or male/female is a much more complicated process than many people realize. That becomes especially true when add words like “biological” to that phrase. What is it to be be biologically a boy/male? Is it their genitals? That would leave some pretty serious open questions for anyone who is intersexed. Is it chromosomes? The existence of conditions like Swyer Syndrome and Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (who are frequently cisgender women with XY chromosomes) kinda shoots that right in the foot. Just where is the biology in “biologically boy/male”? It seems doubtful that the writers using those phrases checked the gentials or chromosomes of their interview subjects, so it’s little more than conjecture, really. In the end, male and female are just boxes on a form checked by a doctor making a semi-educated guess. Girl/boy are labels to describe just two of the many possible gender identities, so to designate them for others is to deny them agency in their own identity.

That point about agency is a really important one. Something that most folks find to be a pretty important right is our right to define our own identity and the terms of the narrative of our own life. This is why people react so strongly when their characters come under attack; it an undermining their fundamental right define who they are as people. When you use phrases like “she was a born a man”, you’re effectively telling someone like me that YOU know me, my history, my struggle, my identity better than I do. You’re effectively denying me agency to define myself. One the biggest struggles of the trans community for decades has the matter of agency— much of the world views our identities as men and women (or not men or women at all) as illegitimate, insisting that they must know our hearts, bodies, and being better than we do, and for so long, we were denied the right to identities medically, socially, and legally. As trans people, we have the right to say not only who we are now, but who we’ve been for entire lives. Our narratives are ours to define.

That whole agency thing is why I find the whole meme so terribly hurtful and harmful. Coming out and transitioning was the most difficult and dangerous thing I’ve done in my entire life. I literally risked absolutely everything— my job/career, my friends, my family, my financial stability, my home, my LIFE really— for the opportunity to define my identity on my own terms in way that felt genuine to me. When someone says or implied that I was “born a boy,” it feels like I’m being shoved right back in the box that I risked everything to escape. It makes me feel like I can’t ever truly get out from under the fact that I was assigned male at birth, that I’m permanently tainted in people’s eyes. I’m admittedly very fortunate— I don’t get mistaken for a guy pretty much ever, but when people say things like “when you were a guy,” it’s a gut-punch reminder that people still remember that false identity very clearly. It’s still misgendering, even if it’s happening in past tense. It suggests that being a woman was a choice I made at mid-life and an aspect of my being that wasn’t “true” until I got a doctor’s stamp of approval. It defines my womanhood as something that only began when cisgender people were able to see that I was a woman just by looking at me.

If it catches me off-guard, it can trigger a wave of dysphoria that can rattle my self-confidence and fuck up the rest of my day. There’s a pretty pervasive fear amongst trans people— the fear that everyone is just “playing along” with us out of politeness, but never really accepts us as who we are. When I hear phrases like “born male but identifies as a woman,” it’s the perfect fuel for that particular fear. When I hear or read articles discussing trans women who “used to be men”, it’s a reminder that the world still largely sees us as curiosities, and that our humanity isn’t terribly important. It feels like how I define myself isn’t important, and that my self-definition has to be adapted to the comforts of cis, straight world, like the idea that I’ve always been a girl is too much for others, so it simply cannot be true.

It’s not just harmful to currently out or transitioning trans women, either. Though things are certainly getting better, young trans people are often first exposed to the concept of being transgender long before they ever put the pieces together for themselves. If they’re encountering media or conversation uses of the whole “born a boy” narrative before they’ve figured out their identities or read more inclusive writings from within the trans community, they’re likely to swallow and internalize those concepts. That’s one of the many ways that internalized transphobia develops, and take it from me, it’s a ridiculously hard thing to overcome. It’s unfair and cruel to teach young trans people that they’re not entitled to define their own identities, that their gender identity is more tied to how they look than how they feel, that the designations made on their birth certificates are immutable concepts, especially when we’ve come so far as a community. Really, that problem doesn’t apply just to young trans people, but to anyone who’s coming to terms with being trans for the first time.

These things do not define us. Image via  shutterstock

These things do not define us. Image via shutterstock

There are some who will say that writers and other media professionals use the “born a boy/man/male” language as a simplification for a public that’s simply not well informed about trans issues and terminology. It’s much of the same blowback when we hear when we ask folks to use the term “cis” or “cisgender” to refer to non-trans people— that phrases like “assigned male at birth” are too academic for the average reader, and using them will decrease clarity in the article. If that’s the concern, then I think the responsibility falls to the writer to do some education, even if that includes taking some time to educate themselves. The trans community is very small and highly vulnerable, so our representations in the media are SO much more powerful that we can really ever manage to be on an in-person level, just due to sheer numbers. Those who write about trans people have an enormous opportunity to educate the public about the issues, complications, and language of our community. I’d argue that, given how much impact a single article, interview, or new piece can have on how the world-at-large views the trans population, there’s also a DUTY to be aware of and discuss those things when covering trans issues and trans people. To take the cop-out and say “it’s too complicated for my readers” is lazy and irresponsible writing.

I’ve talked a lot about why the “born a boy/male/man” narrative is so harmful, so let’s touch briefly on better options. If you absolutely must discuss someone’s pre-transition legally-designated sex/gender, the appropriate terminology is “assigned male/female at birth or “designated male/female at birth”. This often abbreviated AFAB/AMAB/DFAB/DMAB for the sake of brevity. Some trans people will also add the word “coercively” to that phrase to emphasize that this assignment or designation was done without their assent or input. If you don’t know how someone prefers to be referred to, don’t make assumptions and ask!

I don’t want to leave anyone with the impression that I think anyone who’s ever used this terminology is inherently transphobic or trans misogynistic. I really think, more often than not, it’s well-intentioned people who don’t really understand the harm that can be done by perpetuating the “born a boy” narrative. When I’ve had this conversation with people in person, they’re almost always pretty taken aback about how hurtful I find it. So, if you’ve used it before, I understand. But, as trans rights and trans identities become a bigger part of the public consciousness, it’s time to be aware of how we might be denying people their right to define their own identities throughout their lives. We’ve made some serious headway on getting people to stop misgendering us in the present; now it’s time to stop misgendering us in our past.

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Mari Brighe

Mari is a queer lady scientist and educator from Detroit, who skillfully avoids working on her genetics dissertation by writing about queer and trans life, nerd culture, feminism, and science. You can frequently find her running around at science-fiction conventions giving panels on consent culture and LGBT topics or DJing at fantastically strange parties. She is a contributing writer for TransAdvocate, maintains a personal blog at TransNerdFeminist, and can frequently be found stirring up trouble (and posting selfies) on Twitter.

Mari has written 36 articles for us.


  1. wow, great article Mari! (How do you pronounce it? Mar-Ri or Mary?) This brought to light a few points I hadn’t considered, how refering to Trans* people as “biologically/genetically male or female” is still considered offensive. I never have thought to myself “This person used to be a man, and is now a woman,” I always thought they were ALWAYS a girl/woman, but just born with the wrong genitals.

    I loved this article and thank you for shedding more light on Trans Women issues!

    • Just so you know, since you have very nicely expressed that you’re game for educarion- using “wrong” to describe trans peoples’ bodies is also part of that harmful language; a girl body with genitals that made some doctor write down ‘boy’ is just one more type of girl body, as perfect as any other.
      I recently came out as nonbinary/genderqueer and I ❤ my junk.

      • (meant to post that last one as a comment on the whole article so yeah that’s directed at you Mari Brighe but totally applies to everyone else here)

  2. A most awesome article Mari! I heartily concur. I tire of the “well the general public needs this, because they don’t understand. If we followed that logic, no marginalized minorities would have ever made progress, because no one ever required the public to do a darn thing to educate themselves on the issues.

    The media may have been able to get away with that excuse 10 – 20 years ago, but that time has long since past and it is time we insisted on at least professional journalists using proper terminology and dropping the tired old cliches.

  3. Yes, yes and yes! And could we please also permanently dump the acronym ‘MTF’ (male-to-female)? I’ve long ago had it with that one… whether it comes from media or other trans people. Do not call someone MTF (or FTM) unless you know that’s specifically how they identify. If someone wants to refer to themselves that way… fine, mazel tov, just don’t refer to me using that construct because no one gets to decide that for me.

    • I AM SO HAPPY to hear someone else express discomfort (or utter disgust) at MTF! I feel so creeped out when someone asks “are you mtf?”

    • There’s a lot about these issue I still don’t understand, despite enlightening articles like this one. Yet I have always disliked MTF and FTM as identity terms because the sound so mechanical. Like something that just came off an assembly line rather than I thinking breathing person.

    • I’ve always disliked “MTF” and “FTM” — not only because of the implication that I used to be “male” rather than assigned male at birth, but because of the implication (at least, to me) that prior to transition trans women are indistinguishable in every way from cis boys and men — which plays into all the arguments about bathroom dangers, male socialization, magical transformations via genital surgery, etc. etc.

    • There’s a “Gender Critical” contingent in the trans exclusionary camp who are trying to popularize FtT or MtT as in othering…by meaning to Trans or Transition.

  4. SO MUCH YES. Perfectly stated and important and even a little education thrown in there for cis folks who need it. Mwah.

  5. Thank you for this. As a ciswoman, articles help me understand more and educate my peers in an informed way.

    I have used “lived as a woman” to describe transmen before they are out. I suppose “presenting as a woman” would be more accurate? I mostly have said this describing my friend’s insight into sexist seeing as he was perceived as and treated like a woman for most of his life.

    • It’s best to ask them how they’d prefer to be referred to. I generally prefer something snarky, like “when I used to pretend (badly) to be a boy”, or simply “before transition”. But, people do vary quite a lot in how they like that period of time to be referred to.

  6. Hi, I’m not sure if this is the right place to ask this, but I’m hoping someone can help me. I lead my school’s “rainbow club,” and the other day one of my friends told the group that she was “dating a trans* girl” (in that exact phrasing). One of the other members later asked her about her “boyfriend.” I tensed up, and I said, without really thinking about it, “Trans* girl, that’s male to female, right?”
    I regretted it immediately. She just agreed with me mildly, but I’m worried that I might have offended her. I was trying to clarify that a trans* woman/ trans* girl is not a “boyfriend,” but instead I just made assumptions and blurted them out to the whole group.
    Jesus, this sounds like a Yahoo Answers pitch. I guess what I want to know is if I should bring it up to her again (and if so, what to say), or if I should just let it be. If this is totally the wrong place to ask this please let me know and redirect me! I would really appreciate it.

    • You sound like a very sensitive, caring person who was genuinely concerned about her and her girlfriend’s feelings. Please just let it go and learn from it. The most important thing to take from the situation is to not be dismissive of her girlfriend’s identity (which you’re totally not) and to be inclusive of her in queer women’s spaces (which I’m totally sure you will be) without making her feel like an outsider. Believe it or not, we don’t shatter into a million pieces out of fragility. :)

      • Thank you so much!
        Also, I was so caught up in my own issues that I forgot my manners. Great article, Mari! I feel like we cis peple need as much positive education on topics like this as we can get. Thanks :)

    • Do this kind of women have periods and can get pregnant? if not, why do they have that privilege? there is more to a woman than genitals and tits. why do they feel the need to change their appearance.

  7. I think part of the problem in compelling the general public to stop saying things like “born a boy/male” is the lack of explanatory power behind the assertion itself. You even state in the article that
    “Trans women are women. Period. End of story.”

    From my experience, the vast majority of people require a reason or an explanation in order to re-frame their view of reality. Having someone simply tell them to do so is ineffective, and typically evokes hostile reactions.

    The explanatory power of science, and its observation that humans are a sexually dimorphic species, is one which would require at least some semblance of an argument in order to divest a person of. Even pointing out the existence of intersex individuals – who comprise about 0.05% of the human population (based upon individuals who are neither male nor female by chromosomal sex) – is not very convincing. In fact, knowing this statistic may simply drive home the common understanding of biological sex as a largely unambiguous categorization, as 0.05% is a rather tiny percentage, and would be classed as an exception by most people. Even the most liberal estimate of intersex puts it at less than 2% – what this means is that 98-99% of all humans are unambiguously male or female.

    I think you are going to have to think of a more convincing argument than “because I say so” in order to change the prevailing view that biological sex is dependent upon physical characteristics rather than self-identification.

    • Cis people’s damage is not my problem except for when they make it my problem. And this looks like low-key making-it-my-problem.

      I am a woman because I say I am a woman — in this society making that assertion comes with so much stigma and trauma that I have no reason to make it if it is not so. I do not get super secret queer bonus points, I do not get any social credit or respect. Quite the opposite, I lose most of what I had, and have to live with people who believe that I am uniquely acceptable to hurt and violate.

      There is no other meaningful, internally-consistent basis upon which to determine people’s genders other than to take them at their word, so don’t tell me to make up some bullshit, politically acceptable reason for it — YOU put in the effort. Use your cis privilege and make the spaces you are permitted to occupy and which we are stigmatized out of safe for us.

      • Since you decided to address me personally, under the assumption that my lived reality is relevant to my argument, I’ll just go ahead and let you know that I’m a transsexual. However, I think my argument stands on its own, regardless.

        I am not talking about internal gender identity. I am addressing biological sex, which is separate from gender. When you make the statement that “trans women are women, period,” you are telling people to disregard their understanding of human physiology. You are also conflating gender with sex.

        As terrible as it feels to have sex dysphoria, we are still responsible for acknowledging the effect that our view of reality has upon other people, and the fact that imposing our view by necessity impacts theirs. How does it come across to non-trans people if we tell them what to believe, and expect them to conform to our dictates, when that belief alters their fundamental understanding of not only the world, but of themselves as members of a sexually dimorphic species?

        Telling people what to believe, and then further informing them that it is *their* problem if this belief doesn’t make sense, and get over it – this is not the way to function in a society of free-thinking individuals. Especially since most of those individuals are not going to buy the idea that an internal identity trumps basic biology.

        This is not the way to garner support for trans rights. This approach – to dictate reality to people rather than describe through observation – will only serve to further alienate us and negatively impact our advocacy and our safety.

        • When someone brings up “basic Biology” i immediately read it as “i took one bio class in highschool and i didnt really pay attention but i got the gist of it right?” We aren’t talking about “basic biology” this isn’t dissecting round worms, we are talking about a system so vast and complex as the human body, with all of it diversity and complexities it would be impossible to test every single person for every parameter that fit someones “sex”. Do you know your chromosomes? do you know your hormonal exposure in the womb and shortly after birth? Have you tested every single cell in your body to make sure you didn’t absorb your twin in utero? Or are we still talking about genitals? since that seems to be everyones definition of “basic biology”.

        • Natalie Trimmer said
          “Telling people what to believe, and then further informing them that it is *their* problem if this belief doesn’t make sense, and get over it – this is not the way to function in a society of free-thinking individuals. Especially since most of those individuals are not going to buy the idea that an internal identity trumps basic biology.

          This is not the way to garner support for trans rights. This approach – to dictate reality to people rather than describe through observation – will only serve to further alienate us and negatively impact our advocacy and our safety”.

          I agree that dictating to people what they “should believe” about anything, will not encourage support, as the strategy limits freedom of choice, and choice is what life is about. Everyone has a choice to their own beliefs about things, and sometimes it is easier to walk away from someone with whom you disagree, and carrying on living one’s life, than it is to attempt to recruit them to your worldview. Live and let live and simply trying to remain safe are kind of physical priorities, so all methods of survival are valid, and maybe some of us aren’t interested in the niceties of cultivating justification for our existence to the privileged ear.

      • I’m not interested in respectability politics. They’re exactly what got us tossed under a succession of various buses these last 40 years.

        And sex is nothing. The fact that I got born with an outtie clit instead of an innie should have literally no bearing on my life, socially speaking, and isn’t anyone’s business but my own, and I don’t like it when people try to theorycraft a way that I’m somehow ineffably male because of it. It only hurts worse to hear it from other trans women.

        The terms of my identity are mine to define, and nobody else’s. Remember, the phrase is: “I’m here, I’m queer, get used to it.”

        • “The terms of my identity are mine to define, and nobody else’s. Remember, the phrase is: “I’m here, I’m queer, get used to it.””

          You are literally stating that you are right, that your version of reality is the correct one, and that people better accept it, or – what?

          You’ll threaten them, like with the “dis cis scum” campaign?

          This isn’t “respectability politics,” this is making the minimum effort to function in society. Part of that functioning requires listening to other people and, if you want them to change their point of view, offering a perspective based in sound argument.

          If you’re telling people to accept your version of reality without an explanation, you had better have muscle to back it up. Because without an intelligible argument, you will literally have to make people believe you.

          Which is precisely the mentality I see from the majority of trans activists, and what I am seeing from you: “believe me, because I say so.”

          • Natalie… You might be a transexual woman but I have seen you in full agreement with several trans exclusionary groups. Given the things you’re writing here you seem to be trolling.

        • What’s unintelligible about it? Where is the absurdity, the outrageous element? Come on, think about it, cis people are never demanded to make an excuse or verify or justify their gender, only us. That isn’t because there’s something offensive or suspect about us, there isn’t something about us that makes us uniquely deserving of scrutiny, it’s because people are bigoted and cruel toward us.

          Why exactly are you accusing me of making threats? On what do you base the speculation that I am violent toward others?

    • “I think you are going to have to think of a more convincing argument than “because I say so” in order to change the prevailing view that biological sex is dependent upon physical characteristics rather than self-identification.”

      jfc can you not with the whole ‘Anything We Say Is A Formal Debate And Honing The Perfect Argument Will Win But Any Other Will Hurt Our Cause’ routine (and if you wanna talk unrealistic expectations…)

      If you hadn’t noticed, this article is on Autostraddle, and is largely aimed at an audience that is fairly positive towards trans women and wants to avoid transmisogynist microaggressions but isn’t too familiar with the topic.

    • “From my experience, the vast majority of people require a reason or an explanation in order to re-frame their view of reality.” From my experience you may present all the evidence you wish to many people until you’re blue in the face, but if someone wants to dismiss any reality they will. Rational reasons and explanations are a dime a dozen… if majorities really listened to them religion would be largely irrelevant and we wouldn’t be having most of the profound societal eruptions we experience.

      This thread is not a discussion of large, profound, instantaneous social change. It’s an exploration into one woman’s feelings about the immediate world around her and how she chooses to be characterized and described. You seem to wish to dismiss it based on your own limited understanding of biology which is largely based on “because someone told me, there is only one set of possible conclusions and because I say so.” I will try to respect how your experience impacts you, but I’m not the least bit interested in hearing your pronouncements about what trans people absolutely must to do in order to be accepted by the majority.

      • This isn’t merely one person’s viewpoint – it is the view of the entire trans activist movement that female reality is subject to interpretation by people who are not female. This is the basis of patriarchy and the current trans rhetoric that being a woman is an identity rather than an oppressed class of people is merely another extension of patriarchy.

        Trans do not need to redefine reality (i.e. the biological reality that humans born without a penis are immediately subjected to oppressive strictures that do not apply to those born with a penis, AKA males) in order for us to be accepted. It is not science, or biology that is the problem here (as much as I hate my male body) but rather the society itself that attaches sex roles AKA gender to people in the first place.

        And yes, you do need to provide an explanation for why people should simply disregard the prevailing evidence that humans are, in 98-99 percent of cases, unabiguously male or female. The current dogma of “because I say so,” is a poor attempt. That explanation only works for dictators and the religious.

        Pose an actual argument for why people should recreate their reality for your benefit. This entitled behavior coming out of the trans movement has got to stop.

        • Tell you what Natalie, you continue to convince the people you think you need to convince your way. I’m not interested in getting with a pissing contest with you because that’s clearly what you came here for. Nor do I respect the opinions I’ve seen you post on numerous TERF sites. Keep trying to convince those characters of your sisterhood with them. Good luck with that.

        • “with a pissing contest” –> in a pissing contest” AUGH, AS, please make editable comments part of your site.

        • You do realize that 2 percent is also roughly the number of women who ID as lesbian, right? I expect next you’ll be trolling about how compulsory heterosexuality is a-o-fucking-k because we’re not common either? Maybe you’ll decry the use of the word ‘marriage’ by two women and demand that ‘entitled homosexuals’ are trying to ‘change the definition of marriage’ and ‘deny reality’?

          Of course, then the mods might actually do something about your posts.

          Amazingly, “all humans are either a or b” and “a tiny number of humans ar neither a nor b” is a goddamn self-contradiction. For all your incredibly condescending and inflammatory talk about ~changing reality~, you seem pretty hell-bent on it yourself.

          Also, some of the people you’re talking over right now (hi, scumfucker) are intersex, and were subject to intense lifelong medical abuse at the hands of doctors because of the exact same eugenicist bile you’re spouting now, that since MOST people are this way or that way, those who aren’t must be forced to fit it, that when reality doesn’t suit your simple model you can just force reality to change.

          You can fucking burn.

        • Wow… Really, you’r afraid to stand up for yourself and your sisters that much? I hop you realize that no matter how much you support trans exclusionary radical feminists they will still assign you your place…in everything.

          They always have and always will.

        • Natalie, while I understand the POV you are attempting to explain… you offer NOTHING in the way of alternative explanations. All you are saying is “you need to come up with a different argument” and yet you offer no ideas of your own. You say you are transsexual yourself… so, I’m curious, what do YOU tell these confused and doubting folks?

    • Natalie Trimm – the language commonly used to talk about sex and gender didn’t spring from the earth fully formed, nor is it static and unchanging. Think, for example, about the way scientists used to discuss homosexuality. Scientific language and methods of classification developed in a specific cultural context and continues to evolve as we gain new information.

      Generally, things like a person’s chromsomes and the type of genitals they were born with are totally irrelevant and there is no need to refer to someone’s biological sex at all. In the small number of circumstances where this information is important (e.g. some types of medical care), describing someone as “assigned male at birth” or “assigned female at birth” rather than “male” or “female”, is both more accurate and less likely to lead to unwarranted assumuptions about that person’s gender identity.

      This terminology is scientifically accurate and is prefered the majority of transgender people. There is really no reason, other than transphobia or simple stubberness, not to adopt it.

    • Exactly! Let me add another frame of reference to that.

      Psychologically as well as philosophically it is commonly accepted in the scientific community that (short of genuinely rare disorders or exposures to chemicals) “we create ourselves”, or specifically that we don’t have to act on every single thought we DO have – we think therefore we are, it’s commonly known as “the power of positive thinking”.

      Now I’m NOT trying to associate sexual issues as a series of bad habits, so much as to illustrate that transgendered individuals (and indeed, the word “transgendered” evokes a contrast between male and female) choose to embrace that identity…

      In fact, that we all choose our identities… As an individual who used to be abused (and in fact struggled with my gender identity as a result, still struggle to this day) does every angry or violent thought make me an abuser? Does every time I feel like I want to born down the world make me an arsonist?

      Does every single time I think about how I’d enjoy having been born as a female make me any less a male?

      Personally no, I think gender issues are complex but inherently developed in an individual’s psyche, and that at every step along the way we can choose how we want to think.

      It’s my belief that if ANYONE wants to think that they’re transgendered that such an action is THEIR personal choice to make, that they have the freedom to ACT according to those choices.

      Conversely, I also believe that if any OTHER individual wants to view the transgendered in light of “male to female” (and even voice opinions according to that view) then that is THEIR freedom… They have the freedom to think and act as they wish, it is not a physical assault, it is not necessarily maligning your good image (saying “girl who used to be a boy” is not accusing someone of a crime) and at the very worst (if you chose to interpret it as an insult) I would remind you that “political correctness” is basically tyranny with one-sided manners.

      To sum it up: controlling the expression of thought that makes you uncomfortable (like “don’t say ‘used to be a boy’.”) is an argument AGAINST the expression of your own thought.

      You are allowed to express your belief that you are a female.

      Others are allowed to express your belief that you used to be a male.

      If they are not allowed to act according to their belief, then neither are you – that is what freedom of expression means.

    • We say that because is the true! I mean you have to undergo surgery to become the gender you identify with. and when i see women who are obviously, very manly like, big hands and long fingers. very very big feet, strong jaws and i realize they were born a man. it is obvious you have stronger bodies and your bodies were meant to look rough and superior in strength than women. You look like drag queens with heavy makeup. and you don’t have periods and can’t get pregnant. So you will never feel what a born female feels like on their periods. you missed the worst part of being a woman.

  8. This puts into words exactly what I was trying to have a conversation about with my mum and sister but due to my exasperation could only manage to say with “….But… You can’t say…. no…NO” *I give up – why is my family so cis and straight* Thank you for being so eloquent.

    • Because they are born that way and “biological men” are not ever going to be “biological woman” and that’s all that matters, you’re are a man!

  9. Everybody I have good news to share on this topic! My friend Joe just got his name legally changed today! Now he is raising money to begin transitioning.

    Mari, thanks for articles like these. This helps me to be a better ally and I really appreciate you taking the time to help me educate myself. :)

  10. This is one thing I never understand; it’s a matter of fact that trans women are usually born with what are typically considered male sex organs and are further effected by androgens unless given hormones before puberty. If you say that boy is more of a descriptor of gender than physiology, then NO ONE is born a boy, but rather society attempts to shape those with androgen influenced bodies in to what it conceptualized boy to be at any given decade.

    It’s inaccurate to say that trans women who have modified their bodies through surgery, hormones, etc are physiologically male as they do not fully fit the criteria involved, but if that has not been done then the body is usually organized in what is usually referred to as male, boy, man, etc.

    I may be over generalizing but no one is born a transwoman; it’s something you discover after years of sampling what life is like in certain conditions, such as HAVING A MALE SEXED BODY and being SOCIALIZED AS A MAN and REALIZING THAT IT DOESN’T FEEL RIGHT!!! Christ we aren’t transwomen with out that journey and it’s incredibly stupid to completely deny it (in my humble yet frustrated view).

    • No, really, you’ve got it. No one is born a boy. ‘Boy’ is something which exists only as a product of human consciousness and doesn’t really have anything to do with bodies, except that we arbitrarily decide that bodies shaped like this are boy bodies, and bodies shaped like that are not. And when we say this people go ‘omg but science sex IS A THING’ and the thing is,

      Yes, penises are a thing, and so are vaginas. But the idea of man, male, maleness, contrasted with woman, female, femaleness, those are all invented concepts. They’re little conceptual boxes which people are tossed into at the moment they are born because of how their genitals look.

      But you can’t look at a newborn infant’s genitalia and know their gender. That’s what transgender people’s existence implies in a final sense. That presumption that we all learn and internalize, that you can look at a person, look at their face, their chest, their bones, their junk, and know their gender, isn’t true. And that scares people to death, because it breaks the foundations of a billion social conventions and norms.

    • Like, gendering kids is like if you measured their pinkies when they were born and decided based on that who they would be allowed to marry, what they would be allowed to wear, what names would be appropriate for them… and then some of them would say, “well, I don’t belong in this category, I don’t care what length my pinky is that doesn’t matter,” or maybe they would say “but look I’ve had my pinky altered surgically to suit what length I think it should be, will you treat me like anyone else of my gender now?” and people acting like their child has died or disowning them.

      That’s what it’s like. Because genitals do not carry meaning. They have no aura or essence. Really. Penises have no power, nor do vaginas. They’re just body parts.

    • “with what are typically considered male sex organs”
      “then the body is usually organized in what is usually referred to as male, boy, man, etc.”

      That’s exactly the problem, yes. Naming things is an inherently subjective act. Words have power. Language shapes what we perceive and how we think and act.

      This isn’t about denying anything that’s true – like, no shit, I don’t have a womb, my sex organs are what most people would call “male,” and we can easily rattle off some ways my body (and most trans women’s) differ from most cis women’s. No one’s denying any of that.

      What this IS about is how we talk about it; about denying the extra cultural semantic baggage that comes with labels like “male.” Because it’s NOT a neutral objective term describing some fundamental truth about my body; it’s an incredibly loaded term that serves to further misgender us and conflate us with men, it’s part of the cisnormative view of my body.

      You don’t have to relate to your body the way I relate to mine; not remotely. I’m certainly not going to call you ‘stupid’ or in denial over it. And I deserve that same decency from you.

    • “I may be over generalizing but no one is born a transwoman”

      Yes, yes you are making a sweeping generalization with which I completely disagree and do not wish to have applied to my life. I completely feel as if I was born trans. That my experience of my body is not socially determined but something I inherently experienced. Yes, there are some parts of my experience which were a function of taught and enforced gender roles but there are many other parts which I absolutely was born with. Please speak for yourself, I don’t need you to speak for me and I’ll do my best to not speak for you, we clearly have profoundly differing experiences.

  11. This is a pointless catfight. Obviously imposing this framing is just cruelty and conditional qualifiers as a way to maintain power over vulnerable women, i have that much of a heart to understand. So i never use that expression, haven’t in a decade.

    But framing the counterargument as an identity is pointless, not least because it leads to the whole useless ‘identifies as’ word game, imo a variation of pig latin. Basic neuroscience has the necessary explanatory value to conduct the social engineering required without anyone feeling ordered about. You do realise sexual dimorphism of the brain is a thing and not once a male neural configuration has been found in transsexual women, or vice versa with transsexual men.

    That’s that about the etiology of transsexual condition in particular, the rest imo is completely covered by morphological freedom, a generalisation and extension of pro-choice i.e. your right to be in charge of your own body. That’s a cause not fought by considering technology to be intrusive and not part of us – and not won by considering other forms of morphological freedom – ink, implants, biohacking, AR – inferior or frivolous.

    • Wrong. “Brain sex” theory AKA “laydee brain syndrome,” is a hugely misogynistic concept. It is literally anti-feminist. The theory completely ignores the influence of sex roles and conditioning (socialization) upon a developing human’s very plastic brain. Multiple studies explore this problem, but society – being patriarchal – is invested in there being a biological basis to the female sex role. So does the trans movement have a vested interest in such pseudo-scientific interpretations of the brain scans of male and female individuals.

      The desire to validation one’s gender nonconformity, and the desire to try to find a biological explanation for sex dysphoria is understandable. It sucks being trans, I get it.

      But using this kind of rhetoric is harmful to women, because sex is not a social construct, and actual female humans suffer huge repercussions for not beinf born with a penis.

      Stop trying to appropriate the lived reality of women. It is not our (male transsexuals) reality to take. Doing so is deeply harmful to women’s ability to name their oppression.

      • So you’re one of those brave, truth-telling, purported trans women (but wait, you don’t think you’re a woman, right?) TERF allies. This is something that infects Autostraddle now, like everyplace else?

        It really doesn’t seem to me that your argument has anything much to do with the subject of this piece, since you apparently believe not only that trans women were “born male,” but that they (and their bodies) are still male, still men, and always will be, no matter what form their transition takes, no matter how they live in the world, and no matter that none of the standard definitions of “male” apply to them any longer (even assuming for the sake of argument that they ever did).

        I will never understand people like you, trying to curry favor you’ll never get with “actual females”. I’ve seen how TERF lapdogs are thought of and get treated by TERFS, and it’s pathetic. To them, you’re still a guy and always will be.

        Plus, aren’t you a hypocrite by your own terms by using a “female” name. Do you use male pronouns? Do you use men’s public bathrooms?

        It’s actually hard to believe that a trans woman could be sincere in such misguided, hateful (and self-hating) views, and not just a troll who might not even be a trans woman in the first place. TERFs aren’t welcome here, I think; why should you be?

        So stop misrepresenting the lived experiences of other trans women. And stop using deliberately transphobic TERF code words like “laydee.” If you want to think of yourself as being male always and forever, no matter what, and being the “named oppressor,” be my guest. But leave everybody else alone.

        • You cannot simply pick and choose which science to “believe” based upon what fits best into your particular view of reality. This is precisely how creationists come up with their “scientific” proofs that the christian bible is literally true, and it is how the trans movement says that a penis is either a male or female organ depending upon the internal gender identity of the owner.

          Being perceived to be a woman, by your own choice and effort, is completely different from someone who is born female (assuming they ARE born, millions of female fetuses are terminated for being female), who, because they are born without a penis into a society that privileges penis-havers, are subject to a wide variety of lived experiences that are not only politically relevant, but have NOTHING to do with the lived experience of male transsexuals.

          Why can’t we just focus on us as who we are? Males are not female, and it is a profound disconnect from reality, and enabling of a fantastical restructuring of reality, to say we can change our sex by force of mind. I mean, really?

          There is nothing wrong with being male – if you want to dress a certain way, modify your body, take a different name, we should all be allowed to do so. However, in a society where women – actual, female humans – are oppressed precisely BECAUSE they are FEMALE, it is politically damaging to their ability to fight their oppression when males co-opt women’s lived experience. Because in order to FIGHT one’s oppression, they first have to NAME it.

          “Woman” is not an identity you can take, and simply remove it from its historical context, just like you cannot by rights take the identity of any other oppressed category of people simply because you want to BE them, or feel like you already ARE them.

          Read some books and experiences, listen to poetry, watch videos of women talking, over and over and over again, about how they are oppressed BECAUSE OF being female. Read stories of women who found aspects of themselves they either thought were lost forever, or never knew they had, while spending time with other females in female-only spaces away from men and our needs – and yes, “trans women” are men. Every time I see one of us say things like “we’re here, get used to it,” or “I can define myself in any way I want to,” or “I don’t care if lesbians don’t like penis, it’s transphobic to not like MY penis, because it’s a LADY penis,” you know what I see? Men. Entitled, pushy men – who give all of ZERO seconds to the task of how their actions will affect others, a mentality that women (actual, adult human females) are socialized to do constantly, and literally have to train themselves OUT of doing.

          Men are privileged. We are socialized to expect that privilege, socialized to not even SEE it. And I see “trans women” acting out that privilege all the time, including here.

          We talk a big game about changing the way we look, the way we act, “matching” who we are to who we “really” are – but I see almost none of us focusing upon the male entitlement that we harbor.

          Probably because that’s the HARD transition. That’s doing the REAL work of moving away from a masculine identity.

          My name is mine because I like it. It does not make me a woman. And yes, I use the male restroom, and yes, I am passing. Do the real work to change society instead of making women, yet again, your personal shield.

      • Firstly, just for your information, i am not dealing with gender dysphoria myself, thank you i’m very much fine – but my gf and one of my closest and best friends both do, and i do tend to be very protective of them. Also i would consider myself up to date on the scientific side, given the other one of my best friends is someone working on digitalisation of human neural network i.e. minds, you can’t do that if you don’t know what you are trying to digitalise.

        Secondly i thank you. I genuinely do. You have given me an opportunity to perform an exemplary execution – in order to make a much needed point, to demonstrate the dangers of bigotry, faith and uncritical thought to the public. Which i gracefully accept and thank you for.

        So to meet the objective set in this post, an exemplary execution, i would need to:
        1)demonstrate a plausible evidential basis for the brain sex theory;
        2)address the falsities and logical inconsistencies in the accusations at hand
        3)turn the tables and demonstrate the accusations to hold true in regard to my opposition, your system of faith and belief, represented here and now by you

        1. So, brain sex theory. I of course can link enough articles both towards sexual dimorphism in stria terminalis, limbic nucleus, hypothalamus, etc in general – and studies specifically concerning transsexual people. I don’t see a reason to link them mostly because they have been posted here on AS over and over again. Nevertheless i will link one, as an example and to meet the formality: The general evidence (and indeed there is evidence, it is not just one pet project of someone’s, the results to my knowledge have been repeatedly reproduced by different teams in different countries with no common ideological pattern) seems to point towards there being such a thing as brain sex – and it directly applies to transsexual women …like you. Also, do you realise what ‘brain sex’ actually implies? No it is not an innate tendency for cooking, cleaning or submissive behaviour. For all i know the more or less rigidly sexed bit is the parts responsible for the brain interfacing with the rest of the body – proprioception and feedback, matching a male or female body configuration.

        2. Now would you like to answer me this: according to your theory, tell me how do sex roles and socialisation produce the consistent measurable difference in parts of the brain? Both regarding neuron counts and sizes of the parts of the brain?

        Also ” The theory completely ignores the influence of sex roles and conditioning (socialization) upon a developing human’s very plastic brain.” is demonstrably shown to be wholesale false in the article above. The brain sex theory as exemplified by the project linked does not ‘ignore the influence of sex roles and socialisation’, it specifically tests for them with the control group comprised of transsexual people. If indeed it was childhood socialisation and sex roles that create the difference, transsexual people would not show up the same characteristics as cis people. But they do fall roughly within standards of their adjusted sex – so how would you explain that? Or does it after all logically follow from the evidence that sex is not affected by your ‘significant childhoods’ – and you are merely muddying the water – restating the premises and adding a different, arbitrary conclusion?

        For more demonstrable illogic: could you please explain how ‘society – being patriarchal – is invested in there being a biological basis to the female sex role’ which i take it means that actually there is no such basis and sex is imposed socially – could you explain how it goes together with ‘sex is not a social construct’? You can have one, not both, thank you.

        Furthermore, based on the evidence you can have one: either brain sex is developmental and fixed from early stages – or there is no brain sex and the brain operates with near-perfect plasticity, reacting on the functional sex role (or should i use your words ‘lived reality of women’) at the moment.

        Note, both leave transsexual women with a distinctly female brain pattern. One thing you sadly can’t have is your preference – a brain that is not sexed/dimorphic but only reacts to childhood socialisation, thus leaving transsexual women with male pattern even if there is no inherent brain sex. Know why you can’t have it? Because experimental evidence above just ruled that possibility out, it was tested for and turned out not to be the case. Facts. Rage? I hope so because it is time to move to…

        …And the first thing i can now demonstrate to be false are my own words. Specifically, ‘illogic’. Actually, there is nothing illogical about your post. There is underlying logic, one of malice. I call you on intentional intellectual dishonesty.
        1) Character. You, representing your system of belief, the form of academic feminism exemplified by most of the big names of the last century, do not merit good faith, intellectual charity, or credibility. You represent a chain of ongoing, repeated attempts to literally cleanse society from transsexual women (does the expression ‘mandate them out of existence’ remind you of anything?), preferrably by the hands of establishment. You willingly represent excessive cruelty and harm as exemplified in attempts to destroy lives and careers of transsexual women and revelling in physical violence self-documented by Germaine Greer in one of her books.

        I will contrast this background of yours with the team of scientists who authored the brain sex article – which of you would you say is more likely to exhibit dishonesty, doctoring of facts and plainly ignore evidence in favour of existing belief?

        2) History: you in the course of this debate repeatedly and insistently called transsexual women ‘biological males’ and ‘male transsexuals’, a term which is in use neither among transsexual women as a group, nor allies as a group – nor the health professionals and researchers working with transsexual women. Who does that leave you with?

        3) Motive: i quote ” It is literally anti-feminist.” That, fundamentally, is not an argument. So if scientific evidence disagrees with your ideology, the obvious thing to do is disregard facts, riiiight. (no offense to people fighting for equality and fairness, equal treatment and fairness can be implemented – and to actually work, they necessarily have to be implemented – taking into account specific facts, parameters, strengths, deficiencies etc) It is not about how this or that ideologue wants the brain to work (though i suspect you would oppose technological augmentation and modification, and would suddenly be all for ‘nature’ when it suits you) it’s about how it actually works.

        4) Means: Sophistry. Catch 22s, false conclusions, non-sequiturs, derails. You did not say a single thing that was not in advance geared to make a point about essential maleness of transsexual women, at all costs.

        There, you have all the classic components for this not to be an accident, but rather intentional harm and disempowerment of other women. This is over, dear – as a cultist and a bully i can bet you expected being given a platform to argue the existence, reality and legitimacy of isolated, helpless others. See, things don’t work that way anymore. My gf has me – and additionally the bs you were trying to push does ultimately affect me too. For one, you do NOT know my sexuality better than i myself do.

        The deed is done

        • Your reply was rather long. I will make mine short and sweet.

          That a study uses the brains of transsexuals as a “control” is part of the problem with these studies. These researchers presume that somehow, transsexuals escape socialization. Bit of a ridiculous assumption (one which is both unsubstantiated and predictably popular among men who don’t like the idea that they grew up with male privilege), and it’s also not how controls work.

          They failed to control for the influence of sex role socialization. There is literally no way for the researchers to obtain a population of human control subjects raised without sex role socialization without resorting to supreme, and downright unethical, practices.

          To explain your strange confusion about how I can state that sex is not a social construct while at the same time stating that patriarchy is invested in preserving the idea of a biologically-determined female sex role: in short, these are not contradictory. At all. Being female is a biological reality. The female sex role, which currently includes being asked about make-up if you’re a politician, or being paid less because you are a woman, or being shamed routinely for having a period, or being unable to access an abortion because other people have more say over your body than you do, or having your labor be so undervalued that it is performed for FREE – this sex role is a social construction and is intended to oppress females.

          Your response was an overload of either/or fallacies, such as the one you forced me to address above. Here is another one:
          “either brain sex is developmental and fixed from early stages – or there is no brain sex and the brain operates with near-perfect plasticity, reacting on the functional sex role (or should i use your words ‘lived reality of women’) at the moment.”

          Huh? Brain sex can’t be both developmental AND plastic? Seriously, this is basic neuroscience here. Children’s brains go through a developmental process, but also respond to the environment. The brain *physically* changes in response to the environment, and adult brains retain this ability. This does not somehow make brains “perfectly plastic” (what does that even mean? did you just make that up?) nor does it mean that if brains require a developmental process they cannot also be affected structurally by input from the environment. The brain sex idea, as you pointed out, is not associating such obvious things as cooking and cleaning with female brains – but it IS associating certain things like spacial processing with male brains and social cognition with female brains – which just so happens to align with the stereotypes of women, i.e. the female sex role.

          There are differences between male and female brains, generally speaking – male brains are larger. This will, inevitably, require a different strategy in structure and wiring. The implications of these differences can only be assumed as long as the radically different influences of male and female socialization are not taken into account. And they cannot be taken into account unless they are controlled for, and they cannot be controlled for because there is no population (transsexuals do not escape socialization, as much as we might like to believe – it doesn’t mean that socialization produces expected results) which is not sex-segregated based upon societal role.

          There are no studies which show male transsexuals have “female brains.” There are studies which show some male transsexuals to have brains that in some ways are “in-between” so-called male and female brains, but again, this is not controlling for the effect of sex role socialization, and these studies are typically small and few of them adequately control for HRT use – and blatantly ignore a variety of other pertinent factors, simply because it’s really difficult to get enough transsexuals together for this kind of study. Certainly, they do not control for other factors, they typically assume that male transsexuals are a homogenous group (we are not).

          As a last point, let me address this little gem:
          “does the expression ‘mandate them out of existence’ remind you of anything?”
          Yes, it reminds me of page 178 of “The Transsexual Empire: the making of the she-male” by Janice Raymond, an old and battered copy of which I have sitting in front of me. Let me read to you the full quote, since you have no doubt written it here without reading the text itself, and have no desire to do so because you “already know what it says,” right?

          “I have argued that the issue of transsexualism is an ethical issue that has profound political and moral ramifications; transsexualism itself is a deeply moral question rather than a medical-technical answer. I contend that the problem of transsexualism would best be served by morally mandating it out of existence.”
          Now, to continue on to the next, crucial paragraph, which most trans simply choose to ignore (no reason to give anything a proper context, of course, not when you want to remain ignorant of it):
          “Does a moral mandate, however, necessitate that transsexualism be legally mandated out of existence? What is the relationship between law and morality, in the realm of transsexualism? While there are many who feel that morality must be built into law, I believe that the elimination of transsexualism is not best acheived by legislation prohibiting transsexual treatment and surgery but rather by legislation that limits it – and by other legislation that lessens the support given to sex-role stereotyping, which generated the problem to begin with.”

          The trans movement claims to care about transsexuals, claims to value our pain and suffering, claims to end it. Yet, it does nothing to address the causation of transsexualism, it simply focuses more and more on the medical establishment, as if we can find a technical solution to people being unhappy with oppressive sex roles.

          We need to abolish gender.

          Here’s a cohort study from Sweden, published in 2011, that is probably the most comprehensive analysis of post-operative transsexuals to date:

          It shows that not only do male transsexuals “retain a male pattern of criminality,” but that the suicide rates do not fall and may actually increase post-op. What does this say about the claim that we are just “born into the wrong body” and just need to “match our body to our brain,” and what does this say about the efficacy of the current transsexual treatment model?

          It says it doesn’t really work. It suggest it is more of a palliative effort, rather than representing any real solution to the problem itself. It is also supportive of the continuation of sex-role stereotypes, and is immensely profitable to the medical industry.

          You really really want to believe what you want to believe. I get it, I do. It is a very convenient strategy for adaptation to a painful environment. It is also enabling the continuation of that environment. This is why I speak up, and speak out. Because this has got to stop.

          Trans needs alternatives, because the current path is not a solution.

        • – They did not fail to control for sex role socialisation – because as usual you are simply restating the logic leading up to conclusion and then replacing the conclusion with whatever you want to be true. So, again: IF sex role socialisation affected the physical configuration of one’s brains, transsexual people would come out as their typical assigned sex. They plainy and unambiguously do not. Instead on the contrary, they fall – yes roughly, but we are talking nonstandard developmental conditions – within their adjusted sex parameters. Also i can quote enough studies where even the influence of HRT is controlled for – and even in the ruled out case where HRT would be responsible for this – you still would have transsexual women here and now with a (technogenous) female brain architecture and fail to make your essentialist point, all you would get is your precious essence proven trivial and susceptible to current technology.

          It does not have to be proven your cult is invested in harmful hate propaganda that is not welcome here. And no, indeed i do not care to read the entire book of the cultural genocide ideologue, Raymond. The bits that were read to me by my gf were fully convincing, no further persuasion needed. On that note you again did me a favour by quoting that second paragraph you deem to be an acceptable context. Surprise – no, it isn’t. It is exactly as dehumanising and as clear an evidence of an intent to put pressures, tamper with evidence and purposefully disadvantage an oppressed group further as the first one. I proved the harmful nature of your cult – and by extension you – in the previous post, by all the components of a crime. Hate crime to be exact. As i said you do not merit the benefir of doubt and charitable treatment. you are more than just suspect.

          To take apart your Swedish study – it is well known Sweden is one of the rare countries that has a political party roughly synergising with your cult. Talk about vested interest. But the telltale moment about the study, my dear, is that it is a bit, should we say, eclectic. Having the data of such different and unrelated statistics as crime and violent crime on the one hand – and suicide rates on the other hand – put together in a preconceived picture no matter what the actual data is…well it does suggest a specific intent. Also it keeps apart crime and violent crime when it suits them – and conflates rather different statistics of violent crime and sex offences in one, again when it suits them. I can just so show how the violent crime statistic is comprised – does the name CeCe McDonald mean anything to you? Namely an oppressed group disproportionally under threat of physical violence is necessarily bound to be involved in defensive escalation of violence and preferential targeting from law enforcement, every time. Suicides – do you really see your programme, the one you proudly quoted, the one of promoting hate, social marginalisation and exclusion – do you see it NOT contributing to that statistic. And not contributing to violence. You, personally, are a part of the problem. A rather big part of it. And the days when world actually backed down when your cult was involved and did not dare to speak its name in accusation – those are gone. I do NOT consider myself a feminist, because of choosing between the likes of you and my girlfriend, and because some of the people i care about are sex workers, again less than human according to you – and i am not afraid to state that on a leftwing, queer site. I ended up here because i am attracted to other women, including our lovely transsexual ones – not be part of a cult or because i hate something. I darkly suspect you will find your ‘speaking up and speaking out’ i.e. promoting hate, oppression and marginalisation, increasingly difficult.

      • “Stop trying to appropriate the lived reality of women. It is not our (male transsexuals) reality to take. Doing so is deeply harmful to women’s ability to name their oppression.”

        Thanks for speaking for me, but I think you’ll find that I, along with the majority of the cis-women here, am welcoming of trans*women. You purportedly sticking up for my right to exclude people from a category I also belong to is not necessary or welcome. If you don’t use the label woman to talk about yourself, that’s your decision, but I’m not sure why you think its okay to invoke the rights of cis-women in order to deny someone else that right.

        I’m making an effort to speak for myself. In short, I’m asking you to do the same.

        • I do want to thank the cis women who have spoken up in support of trans women on this thread. It’s important that that happens, I think, because it undercuts one of the primary TERF arguments — that no “real” woman could possible accept trans women as being women, let alone as truly “female.” The whole subject reminds me of something I wrote almost a year ago for the short-lived (at least as an active blog) “Feminists Fighting Transphobia” blog:

          We would never, ever suggest to anyone that they “should” speak up. Some of us know as well as anyone what the risks can be, both in general and in this particular case. Especially for trans women, as some of these pieces point out — not that cis women, like Laurie Penny in recent days, are by any means immune to being threatened with defamation lawsuits.

          Still, for the most part, what happens to cis women who speak out against transphobia, or even just publicly state that they accept trans women as women (as by signing our trans-inclusive statement), is that they’re accused of being, among other things, homophobic and lesbophobic — because accepting trans women as women apparently equals believing that cis lesbians should be coerced into having sexual relations with trans women even when they don’t want to, which of course no cis lesbian ever would (supposedly). Indeed, the very individual who’s the subject of the articles above [a/k/a the notorious CB!]has given the collective appellations “Homophobes for Lesbian Erasure” and “Men and Women for Homophobia and Lesbian Hatred” to the signatories to our Statement. (The so-called “Men” she’s referring to are, of course, primarily trans women.)

          As a friend of this blog [actually also me!] pointed out in a comment on Shakesville some time ago (she has given us permission to use her thoughts here), it really does seem to be necessary for TERFs to vilify and belittle and discount any cis woman who supports trans-inclusiveness, because acknowledging the reality of that support fatally undermines at least part of the foundation of their reprehensible ideology. Without active support from cis women for trans-inclusiveness, it can be very difficult to penetrate the self-contained, circular argumentation of transphobic radical feminists, because they can always rely on their underlying premise from which everything else flows: namely, that trans women are men. (Because they’re men.) No matter how vigorously trans women argue the contrary, it’s easy for TERFs to dismiss what they say as self-interested and not worthy of serious comment. But it isn’t so easy for them to be quite so dismissive of cis women who accept that trans women are women.

          The TERF “party line,” of course, is that it’s impossible that any cis woman who believes that trans women are women could have reached that conclusion as the result of an actual, intelligent, truly voluntary, thought process. Instead, all such cis women — including every last one of the [900] cis women who expressed support by signing on to our trans-inclusive statement — are not only homophobic and lesbophobic (see above), but are also (1) suffering from false consciousness, (2) delusional, (3) brainwashed and suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, (4) handmaidens of the patriarchy, (5) “is it self-hate, internalized misogyny? Internalized lesbophobia?” (asked on twitter by one thoroughly baffled and befuddled TERF faced with the fact that so many cis women signed our statement), (6) “The essence of their POV is entirely based on magic” (another confused TERF), (7) “They know, at cell level, they are erasing themselves” (another), (8) “I really think it’s being afraid of men/transwomen” (another), or (9) all of the above.

          And these are the things they have the astonishing arrogance to say to every cis woman who disagrees with them, many of whom have devoted their lives to feminism, and many of whom identify as lesbians themselves. This is where the whole TERF system of belief begins to fall apart, because as good as the TERFs are at playing on trans women’s insecurities and fears, we find it very difficult to believe that they have ever convinced a single trans-friendly feminist cis woman to change her mind, and decide that all trans women are really men, by telling her (with supreme condescension, of course!) that she’s nothing more than a delusional, brainwashed, Stockholm-Syndromed, self-hating handmaiden of the patriarchy, who accepts trans women only because she secretly knows that trans women are men, and, therefore, is afraid of them and feels compelled to cater to them. (Because all the cis women who signed our statement are, of course, deathly afraid of disagreeing with men!) The sheer ludicrousness and preposterousness of the TERF reaction to cis women disagreeing with them (one can almost see the circuits shorting out and the smoke coming out of their ears, as they desperately try to understand how any cis woman, let alone a cis lesbian, could possibly accept trans women as women) shows that they have no avenue whatsoever that allows them actually to comprehend disagreement. And they certainly can’t deal with it — and can’t deal with the fact that over the last 20 or 30 years, theirs has gone from the overwhelmingly dominant viewpoint in feminism (including feminist academia), to a dwindling (but increasingly furious) remnant — other than by telling themselves comforting bedtime stories about how “Years from now, when more & more trans ppl turn away from trans, . . . their statement will look like jokes” (yet another uncomprehending TERF tweet).

          So, as important as it is for anyone who can to speak out, it can be especially important — and, we believe, especially effective — for cis feminist women to speak out against TERFism, whether in general or about the specific person who’s the subject of the linked articles above, but whom we refuse to name. Your support through signing our statement, of course, constitutes a form of speaking out in and of itself, and, as the TERF reaction makes clear, has already had a significant effect. Thank you all.

          And it’s all just as applicable when the person insisting that trans women are men claims to be a “male” trans woman hirself. [I wonder: if people “mistakenly” use female pronouns for hir, does zie publicly correct them and say, “oh, no, you’re mistaken; I’m just pretending to be a woman because of a perverse sickness of mine that would disappear the day gender is abolished; I’m really a man, and please use only male pronouns for me”? I’d like to see the videotape of that pronouncement. Because if that isn’t what zie does, than zie is an even bigger hypocrite than hir posts in this thread already demonstrate hir to be. After all, if zie really believes the garbage zie is spewing, and believes that transition doesn’t solve any problems, then zie should be de-transitioning and living as a man. Instead of parroting TERF talking points to other trans women.)

        • Yes, this. I am cis, and I recognize that trans women are in no way appropriating my lived experience by sharing their own experiences of womanhood.

          There are specific forms of oppression some women face for being born with vaginas. My trans sisters have specific forms of oppresion they face due to being assigned male at birth, but living their lives as women (or dealing with the pain of being unable to live openly). There are also many struggles that we share in common. None of these things are, however, what defines us. What makes us women is impossible to define, but it nonetheless unites us.

          There is no universal experience of being a girl/woman. The experience of being a queer woman is very different from being a straight woman. The experience of being a woman of color is very different from being a white woman. And yes, the experiance of being a trans woman is very different from the the experiance of being a cis woman. It is important to recognize our differences and realize that being women does not mean that we automatically understand one another. But it is equally critical to remember that we are all part of one sisterhood and that we need to stick up for each other.

          I hate how TERF ideology seems to define womanhood based on a very specific type of shared oppresion. Guess what – the oppression I’ve personally faced as a woman (e.g. street harassment, people veiwing me as less competent than men, etc.) has had everything to do with me presenting as a girl/woman and nothing to do with my genitals or reproductive anatomy. No one who has discriminated against me or disrespected me for being a woman has even known what I have between my legs (I’m not letting any misogynists that close), much less whether or not I have two X chromosomes. I guess if trans women are not women, then I’m not a woman either.

        • There’s also the question, ofc, of whether such an especial snowflake who happens to be the perfect TWEF-parroting trans woman exists at all, or if “Trimm” is just a sockpuppet.

          Personally I think sockpuppet, especially now that she’s arguing against brain-sex which most HBSers staunchly support, but then, I do make a point of not associating with HBSers… overall though she’s argued pretty intently here that trans women don’t exist while claiming to be one, so yknow.

      • I find this line of argument to be really silly- like other parts of our bodies can be sexually dimorphic but the brains- the control center for the rest of our bodies- are somehow immune. its like saying “i think that no one has penises or vulvas. we all have the same genitalia until society treats us like we have different genitalia and that’s the only reason that there are any biological differences between men and women.” the fact that i have a female-type brain that is more densely packed with neurons than male-type brains or capable of responding to estrogen with positive feedback does not mean that my brain is inferior or incapable of doing math and there is no justification for paying me more or less for any job than anyone with a male-type brain. Unless the job is ovulating professionally- i should make more money for professional ovulation than people who can’t ovulate.

    • “Basic neuroscience has the necessary explanatory value to conduct the social engineering required without anyone feeling ordered about.” That is a nonsensical word salad

      “You do realise sexual dimorphism of the brain is a thing and not once a male neural configuration has been found in transsexual women, or vice versa with transsexual men.”

      Actually, sexual dimorphism of the brain IS NOT a thing. To wit:

      “To date, no consistent evidence of brain-based sexual dimorphism exists, in part because there are no stable criteria that distinguish sexes reliably or concretely”

  12. Hi Mari, great article — Thanks!

    Maybe there’s a whole new article on this topic, but I’m wondering if you have any thoughts or recommended reading on if/how parents should introduce gender concepts to their kids. I’m assuming that you would advocate for parents not to assign a gender to their kids? I’d be interested to hear any suggestions on how to navigate that.


    • I think the most important things are to say that there are more genders than just ‘boy’ and ‘girl’, that you can’t tell how someone identifies just by looking at them, and that having a penis does not make someone a boy and equally having a vagina doesn’t make them a girl.

      If those things were explained more, I think there’d be a much greater understanding of gender and a lot of the stigma around us would go away. I know for a fact I’d have been a lot less confused when I was younger if I’d known that some boys do have vaginas and that society was wrong when it told me that my genitals made me a certain gender..

  13. I feel very ignorant on this subject matter, but articles like these really help me wrap my mind around it. I hope they will keep reaching more and more people who could benefit from being educated. Thanks for posting this very informative article!

  14. I don’t quite understand why ‘genetically male’ and ‘genetically female’ would be considered problematic. Are the phrases not interchangeable with ’46,XY’ and ’46,XX’, respectively?

    • “Is it chromosomes? The existence of conditions like Swyer Syndrome and Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (who are frequently cisgender women with XY chromosomes) kinda shoots that right in the foot.”
      I think this pretty much explains it. Chromosomes, much like genitals, don’t really have anything to do with a person’s gender. Gender is often assigned at birth based on chromosomes, which is why “assigned male at birth” and “assigned female at birth” are used.
      I’ve never heard ’46, XY’ or ’46, XX’, but neither assigns a gender…

      • sex gets assigned, gender enforced. And sex is NEVER assigned based on chromosomes – but rather based on genitals. While the sex assignment being based on genitals can actually get it wrong as we all know too well – but it’s common sense and statistically speaking true enough. That practice is completely justified – simple, straightforward, small error margin. It theoretically could be replaced by a complex of high tech diagnostics to weed out errors completely, but that tech is not there yet among other things – and if it was there, it definitely is not going to be introduced in any existing political regime. We are stuck with genitals and post-factum fixes for a while.

        Contrasting that to chromosome talk – the latter has no justification whatsoever, is at least as much – if not more, and i strongly suspect it’s more – likely to be wrong/mismatched, requires expensive tests which most people haven’t had in their entire lives – and is part of this thread solely because it’s a fallback point to all the mystical essentialists and truthseekers whose deal with genitals got thoroughly soured by current technology. But even chromosomes can be overwritten and the tech is not exactly sci-fi at this point.

        So, i’m of course sorry but realistically speaking, Skynet has your World Revolution blindfolded against a wall and is currently 1.4 seconds past the ‘aim’ bit, neither essence nor truth exists and only function does – and also i’m afraid it’s come to the worst and there is no actual Santa.

        • “sex gets assigned, gender enforced.” I agree wholeheartedly. I’m starting to think that the human body is a work of fiction, if so I want to write my own stories – not repeat what others tell me.

        • “While the sex assignment being based on genitals can actually get it wrong as we all know too well – but it’s common sense and statistically speaking true enough. That practice is completely justified – simple, straightforward, small error margin.”

          Yeah, the piles of dead trans and intersex people don’t fucking matter at all! Fuck you.

        • ‘Yeah, the piles of dead trans and intersex people don’t fucking matter at all! Fuck you.’

          :) Impish, that passion is commendable. It’s also commendable that you give in to it and have found strength in it. Just never let it stop being destructive rage and become helpless rage, always make sure it connects and hurts.

          Then, i’m someone who agrees with you on all counts in these comments. I’m on your side, even if i’m playing impartial – but i am technically, hair-splittingly right about sex assignment process as such. It’s justified per se as a working theory with some predictive value before you have a decent communication option – it is not justified to treat it as a holy truth that can REPLACE communication. That’s where the deaths and pain come from.

          Besides what are the alternatives? Tech, as in a reliable diagnostic of neurological sex, is not there yet. Bringing up kids with no gender implications at all? Would you like a side of decimal time with it, this lovely day of Vendémiaire?

          I’m not trying to imply there cannot be any realistic alternatives – there can of course. but i don’t know any that could be worked towards right away..

      • I did not mean to imply that chromosomes are relevant to one’s gender; I apologise for the miscommunication.

        Karyotype is indeed distinct from gender, but I was under the impression that the phrase ‘genetically male’ is usually used to describe 46,XY individuals (the 46 denotes the number of chromosomes), regardless of their gender.

        Under this interpretation, women with CAIS (for example) would be described as having male karyotype, female phenotype, and female gender. None of these three aspects detract from the other ones in any way, so I am not sure why the phrase would be seen as problematic.

        • “None of these three aspects detract from the other ones in any way, so I am not sure why the phrase would be seen as problematic.”

          translation, ‘I did not read a single word of the article or any comment and have in fact stuck my thumbs in my ears and sang loudly every time a trans woman tries to speak to me’

          All you’re doing is trying to find an excuse to deem us male, to try to find a nice intellectual liberal-approved faux-neutral plausible-sounding rationale to say “REALLY a man!!!” – even if you won’t admit it, even to yourself.

          No amount of wordplay or doublespeak or nicety or rationalization will change that basic fact of what you’re arguing for here, will make ‘male’ a gender-neutral term, will justify all these attempts to reify cisness as natural and biological and genetic and essential and pure but transness as artificial and fake and fraudlent and deluded. That’s why it’s fucked up and transmisogynist.

          Lemme copy/paste another explanation for you to ignore:

          That’s exactly the problem, yes. Naming things is an inherently subjective act, [there’s nothing scientific or objective about it.] Words have power. Language shapes what we perceive and how we think and act.

          This isn’t about denying anything that’s true – like, no shit, I don’t have a womb, my sex organs are what most people would call “male,” and we can easily rattle off some ways my body (and most trans women’s) differ from most cis women’s. No one’s denying any of that.

          What this IS about is how we talk about it; about denying the extra cultural semantic baggage that comes with labels like “male.” Because it’s NOT a neutral objective term describing some fundamental truth about my body; it’s an incredibly loaded term that serves to further misgender us and conflate us with men, it’s part of the cisnormative view of my body.

  15. How would this square with non-English-dominant countries where the resident trans*/non-cis people do use “born a X” language, especially in cultures where your gender is much more determined by society than yourself?

    I see this a lot in Asia (where I’m from), and part of it is a language & cultural issue – imperfect translations (‘hijra’ isn’t necessarily 100% exactly ‘trans women’ but it’s close enough, as an example) and also knowing that the only way to parse yourself in that culture is “I was born X but am now Y”.

    • I’m also originally from a culture where it is the only way. i see your subsistence sex worker caste and raise you my suicides, neurodegenerative drugs and exiles. So yes it does not mesh with the conceptual apparatus we are using right now. Does it have to? Do we want it to?

  16. Mari, thank you so much for writing such an eloquent and well explained article. I have been 100% behind not using “born a boy” because of the autonomy argument you outlined, but always kinda felt that I was missing something else important. Now I think I see that what I was missing was how misleading that language is, because no one is born a boy or a man or what have you, rather we’re assigned something at birth based on limited information. Thank you for using your time and energy to put your personal experience and beliefs out there, it definitely helped me illuminate a big blind spot.

  17. This is a great article, thanks for writing it. It’s so frustrating to continually read the same mistakes in the media. It’s not rocket science and the sooner journalists start making these changes the less of an issue it will become.

    On a separate note (and i get that this isn’t particularly appropriate but google has failed me), I’m really interested to read about different trans women’s experiences of cis people using the term female as being equal to woman, not used in way that is meant to signify a space/event is trans exclusionary, but the opposite. If anyone has any thoughts or links about this I’d be totally appreciative if you would post them. I imagine it’s one of those things that is just best avoided as ‘female’ could be used against trans women.

    • Sorry, just to add I know this isn’t the best or most appropriate space to ask this so please don’t refrain from telling me to get lost!

    • Yeah, it’s a pity, unfortunately – unless you’re explicit about the fact that you welcome trans women, and ESPECIALLY if you use language similar to what TWEFs use, you’re probably going to be misinterpreted. Like, I might know I’m female, but I don’t trust that anyone ELSE will, yknow?

      Also in ‘what not to do’: there are orgs that try to make really clear that they want to welcome trans women but do so with lots of the really grating microaggressions that have come up a lot here, both in Mari’s initial post and comments. The ones I see the most of are “women and transwomen” (ugh), “women and woman-identified people” (reminds me of that tumblr text post about how “cis people get to ~BE~ a gender, we have to ~~~IDENTIFY AS~ a gender”). This is slightly different, but the phrase “women and trans” usually evokes “…but not both”, since that phrasing is pretty notoriously associated with spaces that looooooove trans men and ‘acceptable’ non-binary folks, but are hostile to trans women.

      ANYWAY, the best way is probably to just explicitly state somewhere that trans women are welcome and that you have a zero-tolerance policy for transmisogyny. The hard part is following through with that. Having inclusive language doesn’t do any good if you don’t follow through with it and actually protect trans women. That’s where most spaces (like Autostraddle…) have a much, much worse track record.

      That said, I’m an extremely fearful person and I’m leaning more and more separatist. So, yknow, take what I say on ‘what seems welcoming’ with a grain of salt. Not too big a grain of salt, though.

  18. Something I’ve been wondering is whether, as a vision for the future, we may want to toss out the concept of “gender identity” entirely and replace it with “personality” because it seems to me that the aspects that are considered “gender identity” are just parts of a person’s personality that are singled out by society because they are somehow considered super important but are really… not? Why is the way I dress more relevant than the kind of music I listen to or the food I like best?

    Also I get the impression that gender identities can never fully escape the masculine/feminine dichotomy and very often end up reproducing stereotypes of what “masculine” and “feminine” are supposed to be like. I don’t understand what people mean when they say “they feel like a man/woman” on a gender-level, regardless of whether they’re trans or cis, because I don’t think there *is* any “feeling like a man/woman”. I understand being unhappy with certain aspects of your body and wanting to change them but I don’t understand “feeling like a certain gender” inside, if you know what I mean. And I understand not liking certain aspects of your body because you don’t like the social consequences of these body parts, which would be unnecessary if our society wasn’t so hung up on deciding what people with penises, vulvas etc. are supposed to be like.

    So yeah. Basically my ideal world would like this: Genitals are no more relevant in determining who someone is than the color of their eyes or hair and nobody would have to “feel like” anything anymore. No need to pick your gender box because no more boxes. Just people being people.

    It would also be interesting how this would affect categories of sexual attraction. If the categories of “men” and “women” would disappear, so would the label “lesbian”. Instead it would be “I dig people with breasts and vulvas”?

    • Typical “Enlightened Cis Gender Logic” ^^^^^

      Im not trying to attack you or anything, but seriusly that is a very old very tired argument used by queer people to somehow “transcend gender”.

      Do you honestly not know any Butch Trans Women? How about twink trans men? Someones gender goes way beyond how they express themselves. Trans people come is just as many variations as cis people. I don’t understand why trans people are set to a higher standard than everyone else, its rooted in transphobia. When you see a trans person acting one way or doing something and its exaggerated by your own bias. Feminine things seem more femme when done by a trans women, its how society sees us, like we are playing a part. Put two women in the same scenario (one trans, one cis) and your own bias will tell you that one looks like a stereotype while the other will not.

      • Exactly, people in general come in many many variations and I don’t perceive a “feminine” trans woman any more as a stereotype than a “feminine” cis women (I use the ” ” because I don’t like the adjectives masculine and feminine because are derived from the idea that one is somehow male and the other female).

        Of course there are many gender variations, that’s exactly my point. Why still hang on to the concept of gender identity and not replace it with “awesome varieties of personalities”? I *know* of course that our society is still far away from this but I think it would be useful as an aim for the future.

        I would like a person’s physical features to be separate from any questions of internal identity. Period. Regarding cis and trans people equally. I also get wary when cis-women tell me how “rooted in their femininity” they are because I have no idea what it is they’re talking about. What universal magical woman-feeling is this supposed to be?

        People have repeatedly asked me why I dress like a boy, and it is this “like a boy” that bothers me so much. Can’t we all just dress like people? I like my body but I don’t “feel like a woman” and I don’t “dress like a boy”. I dress like me and I consider the concept of gender identities (regardless of trans or cis) as limiting to people’s expression of their *personality*.

        • No, you don’t get it at all, and you need to actually listen to trans people instead of just talking over us and foisting your ideas of our lives onto us.

          You’re very closely echoing the viewpoint that, eg, trans women are ~really just confused boys who have ‘feminine’ traits, and brainwashed by society, believe this means we are women rather than feminine men~. It’s extremely common, since it’s just the usual “effeminite gay men Gone Too Far” stereotype dressed up in condescending intellectual neoliberal language. Julie Bindel’s a particularly notorious spreader of this.

          You’ll probably object to that, but it’s identical to the root of what you’re saying – condescending that silly trans people just care too much about gender, and should learn to ~just be people,~ with the added emphasis on the sex binary model as an Absolute Truth that remains in your ideal. How ‘convenient’ that this ‘happens’ to perfectly mirror patriarchal transmisogyny, where we’re misgendered and cast as the cautionary tale of Gender Gone Wrong.

          It’s also completely out of touch with reality. The existence of butch trans women (like me) is incomprehensible in this ideology.

          This has no connection to the lives of actual trans people, and is pretty transparently an attempt to explain away our inconvenient existence as something that cannot possibly be true, which ends up with this extremely patronizing swill. You want the sex binary to be absolute and all-encompassing truth with no inconvenient gender identity, so you try to explain us as deluded.

          We’re here to stay, we know far more about our own lived realities than you do, you can’t talk us out of existing. When a whole lot of trans women tell you you’re fucking up, listen.

    • Also, there are plenty of lesbians who don’t really prescribe to that narrow definition of there sexuality. ie lesbians in relationships with non/pre op trans women for example.

    • “I understand not liking certain aspects of your body because you don’t like the social consequences of these body parts, which would be unnecessary if our society wasn’t so hung up on deciding what people with penises, vulvas etc. are supposed to be like.”

      The short answer is no: no matter how many times cis people insist the contrary, there would obviously still be trans men and women in the feminist utopia, who would still want to change their bodies even if there were no particular social consequences to having a particular genital and/or bodily configuration. I can’t even comprehend why so many cis people seem to be incapable of grasping this. Among many other problems with the argument, it hopelessly confuses social dysphoria with body dysphoria, and ignores the fact that some people have both, some people have one or the other, and they can have them to varying extents.

    • I think you’re confusing “gender identity” with “gender expression”. There are butch women, both trans and cis, who present in a traditionally masculine way but fully identity as women. Similarly there are are traditionally feminine men, both trans and cis, who are still very much men. Gender identity is definetly not the same thing as personality or presentation.

      You probably don’t get it because you’re cis. I am too, and there are things about gender dysphoria I will never truly understand. As a cis woman, I never thought about whether I felt like a woman or not until I began learning about trans issues – there was never any reason to. I think that the feeling of being something other than the sex you were assigned at birth is something one cannot really understand without experiencing it – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real. I trust what trans people say about their own experiences.

  19. I think it’s wrong to decide for someone else how to talk about their gender history. But I think the views of people who truly do feel that their gender has shifted over time, or who believe they were born one way and are a different way now, I think that approach to ones own gender history should be respected.

    Pieces like this make me anxious, because in an attempt to present a unified front to people outside the trans community I worry that people like me are being excluded.

    I would say I was a boy at one point, but my gender shifted over time and I never ended up identifying as a man. Instead, I came to identify as nonbinary; I wasn’t born that way, though! (I wouldn’t say I was “born a boy,” either, admittedly.)

    I worry that by insisting that people always talk about trans people’s histories as though they were always the same gender leads to the solidification of a false narrative. A better solution might be to avoid making assumptions about someone’s gender history and instead rely on information from the individual on a case-by-case basis, just like we do with pronouns.

    • I agree, but so does the author. She said that the language preferences of trans women who feel like they were “born boys” or that they “used to be men” should be respected. It’s definetly best to use whatever language a particular individual is comfortable with when speaking with them/about them, assuming you know or can find out without asking invasive questions. However, it’s also useful to know what language most members of a community prefer, and the reasons behind that. That is what this peice was about.

    • But of course – who said there’s anything wrong with nonbinary folks? in my eyes being nonbinary, in practice, deserves as much respect – and some more on the top of that, given this society tends to be largely binary – as being a woman or a man.

      “I would say I was a boy at one point, but my gender shifted over time and I never ended up identifying as a man. Instead, I came to identify as nonbinary; I wasn’t born that way, though! (I wouldn’t say I was “born a boy,” either, admittedly.)”

      well, there. that’s the whole point of the article. it’s not about how your gender has to be binary or fixed over time, it’s about the complete meaninglessness of the essentialist ‘birth’ rhetoric. Consider binary women now, would you say they have had a fluidity detour into boy-ness the same way as you? No they most likely haven’t. If one of them has, is it relevant to her here-and-now? For that matter is your detour relevant to YOU here-and-now?

      There is no false narrative to be solidified, it’s a completely legit and i would say extremely useful narrative. In fact it is just realpolitik of respect – with a functional statement of favouring individuals here-and-now over their pasts. You are free to process it traditionally as ‘always been that way, because x’ or you can frame that as personal integrity and treating individuals at face value unless they give you an explicit reason not to or ultimately you can look at the diagram of Scrodinger effect hourglass of Peter Carroll’s and realise the past unravels into a quantum indeterminacy at the same rate as the future collapses its Schrodinger states into a determinate present.

      When i see you in whatever random context, fabulously andro and all – i read your statement, gape stupidly and give you a tipsy SW Imperial salute if caught and adjust my mode of communication. Your birth circumstances are not relevant in this. If you feel they’re relevant and it is essential people should know, write a book. If you want to trick me into reading it – put a something cool, like a spaceship, on the cover. Because otherwise i won’t.

  20. It’s so strange to me to read this and think that I could even hope for the phrase “born a boy” to go away. I’ve heard it for so long. I’m glad to see that this is being considered, and I agree–that phrase has outstayed a welcome it never had.

  21. “. . . it’s time to be aware of how we might be denying people their right to define their own identities throughout their lives.”

    Clearly there are many layers to this, by why does the trans community sometimes seem so hell-bent on rejecting that they were born a beautiful male or female, instead of embracing that birth as part of their wonderful transition into their true selves?

    I’m starting to get a complex for being born a girl and growing into a woman.

    • Hi Amy,

      The point is not that trans people do not believe they were beautiful at birth.

      No one is shaming you for feeling that you were a little girl, before, and that you are a woman, now. That’s great.
      Can I call your attention to one thing now? Girl and woman refer to the same gender identity, in two phases (juvenile and mature). You feel that you had a linear transition, within that gender identity, from childhood to adulthood.

      This is exactly what many binary trans people feel. They ask that this be respected, and that other people’s (especially strangers’) speculations about what their gender identity was in childhood be classified as what it is – irrelevant.

      This is not about trans people asking for accomodations to their purported self-hatred or hatred of their infant selves (what a strange idea). This is about people demanding respect for their experiences of gender throughout their development – just like you – and the ceasing the cis urge to *bring everything back to the genitals all the time*.

      • @rhymeriver – that’s a wonderful explanation. Thank you for taking the time to write it so logically and eloquently.

        What is the cis community? I Googled it and came up with lots of internet security companies. And binary trans people? Now there is math involved – I’m in trouble lol.

        There are so many labels and categories and acronyms now . . . it’s getting so very complicated.

        • @amy2go

          A cisgender (‘cis’ for short) person is someone who:

          1) Had a gender assigned to them at birth
          2) Agrees with that assignment.

          This agreement is what makes them different from trans people.
          One can only really know if they are cis at least after complete development, because you need to make an informed agreement.
          (It’s generally easier to know something doesn’t sit with you than being 100% sure something does, especially when you have been raised to believe it is right!)

          A binary-identified person is someone who identifies with one of the two genders recognized by Western patriarchy: ‘men’ and ‘women’.
          The fact that this society only recognizes two options is referred to as ‘the gender binary’.
          All cis people are binary, as well as trans women and trans men.

          A non-binary person is someone who identifies with another gender than those recognized by the patriarchy, or with none.

          Binary and non-binary trans people face different issues and challenges. Binary trans people are more visible in the media, for example, but they face a lot more overt discrimination and crime, disproportionately affecting trans women.

          It’s very simple really. Trans people, binary and non-binary, have been around forever.

    • Why is the cis community so hell-bent on rejecting the notion that I was born a beautiful female, that’s what I want to know.*

      And insisting that I was initially not my true self, and that truth is inherent in yourselves but artificially achieved for us.

      And insisting that your insulting mock-ups of our lives are true and meaningful and that we’re just brashly ‘rejecting’ that truth.

      Seriously I’m ~pretty sure we have far deeper insight into our own lives than you do,~ and if you see this as up for debate, kindly refrain from inflicting your presence on a trans person ever again, kay? We’re the authorities on our own lives, period. Maybe if you don’t get something about us, you should actually listen to what we have to say about it.

      (*Not literally, I’d never claim to be an exception to the rule of all babies being ugly little scamps.)

    • Well said.

      I deny no one the right to present themselves as they wish. By the same turn, they shouldn’t try and force their perception of themselves onto others. I don’t police their reality and they shouldn’t police mine. We’re all human beings and that’s what matters.

      Acceptance can’t be forced. It would be nice if everyone accepted us exactly as we are, but that’s not how life works. We should focus on building self-worth independent of others’ perceptions instead of telling people which words are off limits.

  22. ‘A trans woman who was obligated to present as male for most of her young life is was no more “born a man” than a lesbian who was obligated to date men for most of her young life “used to be straight.”’

    Concise. Thank you SO much for this, and your whole piece! :)

    • Because of course sexual orientation and gender identity are exactly analogous. Is that really what you meant?

  23. As an inclusive radical feminist and Lesbian transsexual of the Second Wave who embraces the wisdom of intersectionality (you can teach an old dog new tricks!), I’d like to address some issues of feminism raised here. Also, my warmest appreciation as a newbie to my sisters here at Autostraddle, a wonderful community based on the amazing notion that we are all queer women and feminists in this together.

    Personally I do view myself as having transitioned from a very curious kind of “boyhood” to womanhood, but that’s only my view, and I wouldn’t necessarily want it highlighted in a usual bio piece, much less sensationalized! As a Lesbian feminist, I do feel it important to acknowledge my past and residual male privilege — not as an immutable flaw excluding me from the Lesbian or feminist or queer women’s community, but as one of the many intersections of privilege and oppression that women can experience: like race, class, academic, ableist, or nonintersexual privilege. Women are people who share certain aspects of lived experience (for whatever portions of our lives), and have each other’s backs. Transitioning at the age of 22 involved for me a process not only of medical transition (HRT) but of assuming a new social identity, a bit like immigration and naturalization. And sisterly inclusion and consciousness-raising seem critical to me for getting that ongoing resocialization right, so that it helps to dissolve rather than strengthen the patriarchy or kyriarchy.

    An imperative of feminist theory is that we must not force either Mother Nature or our sisters into the Procrustean bed of the patriarchy. Mother Nature is at once Lesbian, intersex, and also genderqueer to boot — inconvenient truths for the patriarchy!

    Enlightened science and informed feminism agree that sex/gender are continua which get socially constructed and categorized in different ways. Ruth Herschberger made a classic statement of this in her book Adam’s Rib (1948), sort of between the First and Second Waves, for example in a chapter entitled “Society Writes Biology.” Andrea Dworkin made a classic radical feminist statement about both sex and gender as androgynous continua in her Woman Hating (1974). In her chapter on androgyny, community, and sexuality, she not only defended the rights of transsexuals to make our own choices about our bodies and identities, but pointed to the importance of intersex in understanding both physical and psychological androgyny.

    Women such as Anne Fausto-Sterling and Joan Roughgarden have shown that Dworkin was right on the “multisexed” nature of humans and other mammals. While mammalian gametes (ova or eggs and sperm) are rather clearly dimorphic, bodies run through a continnum, as do human gender identities also (including intergender or genderqueer, and assorted “third gender” identities recognized in various societies). The patriarchy indeed thinks in reproductive, dimorphic terms, leading to everything from Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Intersex Genital Mutilation (IGM) to honor killings, the Hobby Lobby and Wheaton College decisions, and the denial of basic abortion rights in Texas. A real feminist movement can walk and chew gum at the same time: fighting for women’s reproductive rights, and against transsexual exclusion and intersexual oppression and erasure.

    The mistaken ideology I call Binary Affirming Reaction (BAR) — not a person or movement, but a distortion of feminism that can afflict dedicated feminists — minimizes intersexuality and denies transsexualism as aspects of Mother Nature’s continuum, and does so in the name of “sex-not-gender” or the like. Quite apart from the impact on transsexuals, this approach of two “immutable” sexes tends to marginalize the feminist issues of intersex oppression and nonintersex privilege, with both FAAB and transsexual women (including myself) who are not intersex sharing this privilege in common. Most dramatically, as Fausto-Sterling and such groups as the Intersex Society of North America (ISNA) have documented, being born intersex has often meant IGM — surgery performed during infancy or early childhood to “correct” one’s genitals without any opportunity to consent or resist. Even if an intersex child is fortunate enough to avoid IGM (largely because of the struggles by ISNA and others over the last two decades), there is still the special coercion of almost always being assigned to a binary gender without any “intergender” alternative on the table. Cary Gabriel Costello, an intersex trans man, covers some of these points in great detail.

    Moving to transsexualism or gender identity in general, as a Second Waver I tend to take a nonessentialist view, which Dworkin may have also when she spoke of an infant or child learning a given gender identity — “imprinting” might be a good term from the classic literature. As a fan of Naomi Weisstein (a critic of various forms of patriarchal neuroessentialism in the 1960’s), I would have no problem with the idea that gender identity, like the languages one acquires in the first years of life, is learned rather than predefined in the brain. This isn’t to rule out some kind of “brain sex” (possibly as a continuum of androgyny also), only to say that the moral and feminist claims of transsexual choice don’t depend on it, any more than the right to speak a language learned from one’s mother depends on proving “brain Spanish” or “brain Yiddish.” In fact. if gender identity is imprinted in the first years of life rather than predetermined by brain structure, this might give a special meaning to a phrase I love: “woman-born-of-woman,” with the imprinting process from mother to daughter as part of this “birthing.” With transsexuals, as with intersex people (who face unique oppressions, and sometimes trans oppression also!), we can affirm the right of choice and integrity of identity while keeping an open mind about just what sex/gender might be like in a post-patriarchal/kyriarchal society.

    This brings us to the dangers of sex-caste ideology, or immutablism, which assumes that either Male Assigned At Birth (MAAB) biology or male socialization imposes a kind of untouchability barring a transsexual woman from the Lesbian and feminist communities. Janice Raymond herself I recognize as a human being and my sister, but her chapter “Sappho by Surgery” in The Transsexual Empire (1979) is classic xenophobia here applied to transsexual Lesbian feminists rather than to Jews (as I know from experience), Issei/Nisei, migrants, Muslims, and others. Just as naturalized citizens are citizens, so transsexual women are women, although natural-born citizens and FAAB women have somewhat different experiences. There’s nothing magical about former or residual male privilege — it’s something of which to be aware, check, and overcome through feminist process. And for those transsexual women who may less than perfectly check our privilege, as Virginia Mollenkott says, “what better place for them to be than with their lesbian sisters, where almost everyone has `ovaries’ big enough to teach them a new way of relating!”

    Having maybe said more than enough, I pause and invite more dialogue.

    • Ah if you lived in UK – me, a faith-challenged lesbian with too much logic and vengeance inside to be able to connect to the ideology, and you, a one-off solitary apostate who de facto has only herself as her revolutionary army – we could go for a pint or 8. And, y’know, realise that fuck this, fuck that and fuck everything.

      See if i followed the regulation and code of my own one woman army – this communication would end up with me having to bring up a number of only partially relevant issues such as:
      – the possible inconsistency between your bloodline as it is on paper with the one in reality
      – my suspicions as to where we might find traces of ovine DNA,
      – the exact nature of my involvement with your maternal parent,
      … etc…
      …and ultimately lead to you being issued a F.O.A.D. recommendation.

      Because hello, i don’t recognise having anything in common with any of your heroes/saints, and more to the point i don’t even recognise their humanity:

      I am NOT a ‘sister’ of a bona fide criminal convicted for gun violence, whose ‘inspirational’ bs was the last book i saw in the hands of my ex who 2 days later killed herself.

      I am NOT a ‘sister’ of the hypocrite and cultural genocide ideologue whose teachings led a landlord (btw a pathetic, obscure wannabe celeb considering herself an indie director in london) to evict my then friend, now gf, a transsexual woman like yourself, on the basis of 100% prejudice.

      I am NOT a ‘sister’ of the psychopath whose book i happened to read when i was younger and which outright freaked me out with a gleeful, proud revelling in hands-on physical violence towards a transsexual woman at one of her book signings.

      That’s half of your saints i went through right there. I could do the rest, not worth it, because repetitive. But yea my one-woman war is a vendetta on your cult. Yours is preaching an one-woman heretical version of its doctrine. You’re not my enemy, as your excommunicate status and my hate puts us ultimately on the same side. You’re kinda awesome, this is why i think the best solution is to get wasted together and say ‘fuck everything’ in unison and have hugs.

      ‘There’s nothing magical about former or residual male privilege — it’s something of which to be aware, check, and overcome through feminist process.’

      Supposedly there’s nothing magical about original sin, Thetans or an E-meter either. This gives me an idea – if you teach me this auditing version of yours, maybe i could load it with sexual innuendo and sex in general and audit my gf for kicks and giggles? In fact…i think i remember enough from my youth and reading up to be part of teh sisterhood to be able to pull this off myself – for sex, fun and a sneaky way of desensitivising/releasing traumatised parts of her mind.

      • First, Serena, I enthusiastically consent to your hugs! If only I were in the UK with you, maybe at Bar Wotever. “This is the island of Great Bedlam, so let’s all be mad together.”

        Reading some of your remarks about bloodlines and so forth, maybe I should invite a private conversation to learn more of your concerns. In this wonderful forum, I’ll just focus on a few points.

        First, although this may not have been your intention, terms such as “apostate” and “excommunicate” might lead to an inference that at one time I held to trans-exclusionary ideology (in my jargon Binary Affirming Reaction or BAR), or was accepted by those who do. In fact, my first article (written in 1973) published in a feminist journal was an equal-time rebuttal to Robin Morgan’s (in)famous speech at the West Coast Lesbian Conference.

        When I was interviewed around 1974 by Janice Raymond as part of her “study population,” it quickly became clear that we were adversaries. I was in favor of inclusion for transsexual Lesbian feminists; she was opposed. She pointed out that “feminists” said I was wrong; I replied that “feminists” had also called Lesbians a “lavender herring.”

        As a rather otherworldly medievalist aspiring to the ideal of nonviolent revolution a la April Carter and Barbara Deming (however imperfectly), I do see Phyllis Schafly or Janice Raymond as my sister. And as a lifelong opponent of the death penalty in the USA or anywhere, happily abolished in the UK in 1965 (a memorable 50th anniversary coming up!), humanizing sociopaths is part of my training.

        What’s vital here is that in styling myself a “gender-querying radical feminist,” I consider Gender Studies and Queer Theory to be Good Things! And the recent articles here at AS on privilege and oppression are about the best I’ve read.

        As for past or residual male privilege, I reflect on my childhood passion for math and astronomy during the Sputnik Era, deemed socially acceptable — as compared to a girl who became an expert in modern theater lighting and was called “unladylike.” Also, in my last year of secondary school, people spoke of students of the same age as “men and girls,” something I immediately felt as unfair and prejudiced, but was still an invitation to patriarchal privilege. A bit of truth can yield much reconciliation.

        But first and last, Serena, thanks for the hugs.

        • And, i knew you’re an awesome lady, as an individual. Intuition. Or lesbian 6th sense ;) But Bar W is on tuesdays – so basically anyone with working class type hours can forget it. I’d tell make it that Tuesday though :)I so have a feeling

          ‘When I was interviewed around 1974…’ wow butty fell right out of my mouth. I consider myself a revered elder by having my life begin on that year the war happened – but you were doing interviews ffs. Like wow. And you’re alive and sane somehow without being rescued and accepting counterindoctrination by H+/technocrats, like e.g. your contemporary, prof Roseanne Stone. Not many can boast that. Colour me a million different shades of impressed and in awe.

          As for our terminologies, i find ‘Alucquere-Serano strain cognitive retroviral agent prepotency’ or ASSCRAP (with individual carriers being referred to as asscrap bots or ass zombies) the generally preferrable term over your BAR – as it both honours researchers risking life and limb to advance our understanding and inocculation, and refers to the underlying cause (memeplex) rather than symptoms (behaviour).

          As for me i am just a random technocrat lady, one seeing the harm brought by your cult and trying to repair as much damage as i can. Not sharing your attitude towards psychopaths/sociopaths though – i darkly suspect they’re not ill, rather it’s the next evolutionary adaptation, an unbeatable evolutionary success strategy for the existing world – and if we want the world to have other things besides violence, competition and gambling we better make that adaptation an unsuccessful one, it’s up to us to make it fail, at all costs – instead of being laughed at by ‘rehabilitated’ psychopaths as they dispose of us one by one. In resource allocation terms: one ‘rehabilitated’ (read: made a slip, got warned and trained how not to make another one) psychopath, placed back into its privilege and power = 100 decent people starving to death on the street. I would prioritise those 100 with no second thought.

          Case in point – Raymond and you. She sits in the advisory committees of governments, harming people – harming women to be exact. Even the branch of anti-trafficking effort she represents is opposed by their supposed rescuees, immigrant and ethnic minority sex workers – who see it solely as an effort to quietly and politely displace them. She makes the actual decisions over the resources of multi-million movement you pretend you are part of.
          You on the other hand are alone, and by ‘excommunicate’ i don’t mean you at some point have been working towards the cultural genocide of transsexual women and later reconsidered – by ‘excommunicate’ i mean: you don’t have your imagined movements and organisations actually behind you, they have spoken their will and you’re cut off, effectively on your own. And as things stand it would change nothing if you were now worshipping Cthulhu and campaigned for introduction of green jelly in Catholic liturgy instead. You can’t humanise a sociopath that has millions of times more power and influence than you and runs your infrastructure so that you depend on its mercy.

          I do get that there is more to you – namely philosophy, belief and the right conduct don’t have to depend on other people, one does not stop being a socialist or a Christian when shipwrecked on an island. I totally see a female version of Jules Verne’s Captain Grant in you – disciplined, with lots of inner strength, in touch with her humanity (in a positive sense, the best that humanity represents – i am not using ‘humanity’ as a technocrat swearword for this once) and carrying on despite the lack of communication and the hopelessness of the situation. Otherworldliness and medieval romanticism helps:)

          Revolution *sigh* given everyone who built those dreams proved themselves to be banal, little Eichmanns orchestrating a cultural genocide once already – the scientific question we should consider is of course ‘what is the chance of things that happened once to be so unique as to never happen again?’ That chance approximates zero. Why would i believe in such a revolution? Why would i not want to desecrate the memory of them, in the name of my loved ones?

          But please, save me the self-flagellation. of ‘men and girls’ which were you? neither. Guess what? It stands true for every other woman there too – who was a young woman instead of the options listed. Maths and astronomy were taught to women if they desired so – in exceptional circumstances, often extreme class privilege. Maths and astronomy was taught to you – in exceptional circumstances, male privilege coming from being perceived as male there and then. Not denying that, that’s a genuine privilege. But why we would we put the first lot on the pedestal for being an idle rich with a hobby – and demonise you? If the high society lady dabbling in astronomy went bankrupt and ended up in extreme poverty, would her knowledge of astronomy mean she’s still rich? No. Same way, while obtaining that knowledge was a privilege – there is absolutely nothing residual in it now, only a woman with a skillset she can use for good or for bad. Residual privilege=caste system.

          And this is the part where i win the argument. Do you use the knowledge of maths and astronomy for oppressing others to a demonstrably greater degree than any of your ‘sisters’ who would not hesitate to use privilege such as conventional attractiveness or class to have an edge in employment etc over you? No? Case closed. By the authority of Judge Serena and the Justice Department of Mega-City One, you are found innocent and are free to go.

          Whichever way, you’re an awesome lady and your heart is in the right place so i trust you not to screw the world up too much. And i do wish i had the opportunity to give those hugs in person, the sense of you i get from this exchange makes me genuinely like you.

        • oops, first paragraph, last sentence mispasted. It should read ‘I would totally make it that Tuesday – and i so have a feeling it’d be more awesome than planned :)

  24. I signed up just to comment on this article. As a gay male, I hope that I can say that I am at least a tiny step further along in terms of understanding the struggle of transgendered individuals (through my own personal struggle with identity, and through my experience interacting with trans individuals).

    With a background in chemistry and biology, I was ready to pounce all over this article – that is, until I kept reading and realized you pointed out some interesting notions about when and how we assign gender.

    I’d like to say I think I better understand your perspective and I appreciate that you took the time to really flesh it out – not just to gripe, but also to educate.

    I will say that I think it will be quite some time before the trans community no longer has to deal with gender labels which do nothing except single out and sensationalize their lives as a curiosity to others. I don’t think this is necessarily out of malice, but rather inexperience and a lack of education. To the general population, there’s a very black and white divide between being born male or female. Statistically most people never have to challenge their conception of gender as they’re unlikely to encounter a reason to question it in the course of their personal lives.

    Another inconvenience is the fact that, again due to the relative size of the trans population, there is less interface between the trans community and the general population. The result is that each trans person gets asked the same questions over and over again, which becomes grating. The fact that members of the general population ask the questions at all is, however, a good sign. It shows an interest to learn and understand – and of course you can only begin to understand something or someone through the context of what you already know, and only through education (in any form) can you begin to stretch the limits of your understanding. What this means is that although being referred to as ‘MTF’ or ‘Born a Boy’ is personally grating and unappreciated, it comes from a lack of understanding. (I would possibly argue that the media may do it on purpose in order to gain viewership, but the media is a monster of its own.)

    Anyway, awesome article. Thank you

  25. We are not men who want to be women…we are women who have had the unfortunate experience of being born male.

    • Do you realize your comment is in direct opposition to the point of this article?

  26. Reality must be denied. Truth is inconvenient. Confusion must prevail. We must play along for sake of being polite.

  27. I love this post but as a person who doesn’t know a lot about these things….I must ask (sorry if it’s stated in the article but I may have missed it) what would you call yourself from birth? I mean when I gave birth to my children “it’s a boy” and “It’s a girl” were announced and celebrated and still used today (one boy, one girl) if my child came up to me years later wanting to change I wouldn’t be upset but the fact that they were born with that part was still a part of their past. What one was born as and what they feel comfortable with (even if those Two aren’t the same) …neither should be something to be ashamed of, in my opinion.
    Not trying to upset or offend anyone but I am genuinely curious. And once again if I missed it in the article I apologize.

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  29. Just a short point I wish to make here. A good way to phrase all of this is “A woman who’s sex was male at birth.” Because sex refers to what’s between your legs pretty much. Gender is something that is and always will be the same from birth to death. Whether you figure that out early or not it case by case. Granted the phrase I provided could still be insulting only because either they don’t understand the polite nature of the phrase or because it reminds the subject that they once weren’t as they should be. I feel if you must refer to your birth sex, identifying that sex and gender aren’t always the same and then using the terms correctly would do wonders to help this issue.

  30. You see I don’t really identify with male or female stereotypes. Some moments I dress and act with what is socially accepted as masculine, and some days I feel very feminine. Every human has male aspects, we need to be one with all of ourself to be whole. Not be afraid to be kind and not be afraid to be powerful. So be who ever you want to be because we have the capacity to have all kinds of traits. Gender identity is a usually man made thing.
    ……but there is one problem! And I know this is a issue because I get upset about this and I know other women who have spoke about this. When a former male becomes a women, women born at birth may feel a bit frustrated or angry because we go through things that a transsexual can never go through biological such as menestration, menopause, period pain,PmS, ovulation (I actually can feel the changes in my body as it happens) and child birth, our mood changes as our hormones changes. Weight problems due to our tendency to carry more fat. Our hip and shoulder structure are not the same. Women have a better centre of gravity and are more flexible but can’t jump and throw like a man because men have wider shoulders thus we get teased by the boys for being rubbish at sport.

    So wait for a second when you judge people for their be confusion about your gender. It is understandable because a lot of people like me feel like they are women who can do and be masculine but their ability to bear children is what makes them so biologically female. I know this is how I feel! Yes, estrogen does make you more emotionally sensitive but this hormone is also in the male body.

    I am not saying don’t be proud of your transexuality but can you please be a bit more respectful why people find it hard to accept your reality when biologically as women we know we are more complicated than our make up, hair or clothes!

    Understand that some days I would love for fake breasts as mines hurt. I would love male sexual organs as mine hurt. I would love to have sex without the fear of getting pregnant or the Ability to life more weight so I can feel stronger. I love would love to stop taking progesterone tablets but I have morning sickness every day and I pass out and vomit because of estrogen dominance.

    Please, understand our side of the issue.

    • Hi Linsey,
      I am struggling with this also. I had 12-14 days periods from age 11 to age 44. I’ve had 3 reproductive system surgeries due to extreme bleeding. My life was completely dominated by my menstruation. Thousands of dollars were spent on kotex, tampons, pain meds, replacing clothing and bed linen that were soaked and stained beyond usability. There were jobs I wanted that I could not apply for because of my heavy periods. This is something no transwoman ever had to experience. They also never had to, and never will, experience the many issues that women in general experience…pregnancy, birth, miscarriage, abortion, infertility, cramps, menopause, etc… realities of biological womanhood for most women (I myself chose not to birth children so I can not ever claim to understand motherhood).

    • PMS, cramps, stomach pain, vulvar pain, breast pain, men not taking you seriously, men speaking over you, men raping you, pain pain pain suffering. Yes, your suffering is vivid and visual, and it is cathartic to share, but cis women are not the only women who suffer through pain, O weary traveler.

  31. I read an article today by transwoman Paula Neira. She wrote:” I do not identify as a transgender woman. When you put the adjective out there, it gives people a license to attempt to say, ‘You are a pseudo woman.I am a woman, like every other 52-year-old, post-menopausal woman on the planet.”

    My concern is this…Paula has never had a vagina, cervix, fallopian tubes, uterus, ovaries, menstrual blood, etc….so how can she present herself as a post-menopausal woman?

    As a biological woman who hemorrhaged blood clots the size of strawberries from age 11 to 44 (when I had a hysterectomy), I find this really hard to accept.

    • Exactly Amy. It’s one thing to identify as a trans woman, it’s a whole other LIE to say you are a “real” woman. Trans women have never had periods, they don’t have a womb, cervix, ovaries, etc and they NEVER will. How can you present yourself a regular 52 year old post-menapausal woman, when in fact you have never had a menstrual cycle to begin with? I don’t understand why there’s this push by trans women to “forget” where they came from. Proudly say you were a born a man who realized he really was meant to live as a woman! How is there anything wrong with saying the truth?

  32. as a transgender male, is your brain tampered with during surgry, do you have a woman care and attraction or you just know about sex only. finally, do you think like a woman?

  33. how do you reason as a transgender male or female, is reasoning same as you where before?

  34. Awesome article Mari and excellent work at clarifying the problems with use of terms such as born male/man/boy, or terms such as “biological male”, when what the critic really means is limited to the external genitalia, while ignoring the brain as biology.

    As to those who persist with the “born a man” ignorance… that would require an 18+ year pregnancy.

  35. While describing someone in a headline as “born as a boy” is incendiary, there is nothing wrong with acknowledging you were born as a boy. The transgender woman should acknowledge where she came from just to confirm a more solid foundation that she is a woman.

  36. You’re free to refer to yourSELF however you choose. Nobody is denying you that freedom. But you don’t get to police how others perceive you. Are transwomen women? Absolutely. But transwomen are not FEMALE. There’s a difference. You were born male regardless of how you feel about that fact. You’re asking people to deny reality by pretending you came out of the womb female when that’s not the case. You’re a woman NOW, so that’s the important thing, but facts still matter.

  37. If someone was born with a Y chromosome, they were BORN A MALE. It doesn’t matter what hormones are put into the body or what surgeries are done to alter it. Stating that someone with a Y chromosome was “born a male” is a BIOLOGICAL FACT.

  38. Let me start off by saying this- I 100% support transgender people in every way. Every person deserves to live the way they see fit as long as that lifestyle doesn’t harm others. Now to my comment- I don’t see anything wrong with saying a trans woman was “born a boy”. You WERE born a boy. You had XY chromosomes, you had a penis, you had testicles, etc. Only MALES have those sex organs along with the XY chromosomes. Likewise- females are born with XX chromosomes and vaginas, clitoris, womb, ovaries, etc. Obviously there are exceptions to this (XXX, XXY, etc) but in general that’s how it is. I honestly find it VERY demeaning to real women (read: women who were born with vaginas and identify as females) for trans women to refer to themselves as “real women”. No you are not- you are a person who was born a male but identifies and lives as a female. There is a BIG difference. You were not born with XX chromosomes, you were not born with a vagina and you certainly were not born with the ability to possibly create, carry and give birth to a baby. Again, I have ZERO problem with transgenders, in fact I’ve lead protests and support groups for LGBT community at my college. My issue is with the identification of such individuals. If you were born with XY chromosomes, you had a penis and testicles, etc at birth you WERE born a boy. There’s nothing wrong with identifying as the opposite gender, or in some cases neither gender or both. BUT- to call yourself a “real” woman or a “real” man is just a straight up lie. You are not. You’re a man who decided to live as a woman, or vice versa. If you are a trans woman, you will NEVER experience periods, you will NEVER know the possibility of carrying life inside you. And same goes for trans men- you will NEVER have an erection, you will NEVER produce sperm, etc. Again before anyone starts in with “you are ignorant” or “you are a bigot”, I AM NOT. I fully support transgender rights including health care, public safety, bathroom usage (so long as your genitals reflect the proper sex), etc. I just find it very demeaning to call yourself a real woman when in fact that’s impossible because you were NOT born a woman.

    • I agree. we cant start changing the facts of reality just because some people find reality upsetting . They can identify as whatever gender they feel, however it is foolish for everyone else to start denying that a baby born with a penis is a biological male.

      • Autostraddle comment policy:
        “2.Encourage respectful debate. We understand that not everyone agrees with us. A diversity of viewpoints is good, and discussing those differences often leads to more intelligent opinions. So please, if you think we (or other commenters) are wrong, tell us. Let’s talk it out!”

  39. This new age concept did not exist in the past thus then it does not make it authentic here in the present. You cannot modify the gender even if outer modification which translates as mutilation with ingestion of cancerous hormones.
    The real reason this bullying is being promoted is because it sells hormone pills and implants (dollars) for the low life’s who would actually chop off your arm if they could get away with it and actually convince you of this!
    Of course the ones the hospitals and clinics and doctors – drug companies offering this are criminals bullying the vulnerable with government backing of course. The power of government mind control is broken up easily by simply loving reality and it is this reality (nature in its innocence ) which petrifies the crook who spends all his little RED waking hours trying to turn a tomato into a potato.
    We have many morons in power such as these modifiers i.e. Monsanto the food modifier (jealous of natures power).
    Why? Because its stronger then they that is why..
    And will be ultimately proven to such idiots.
    Delete if you will it changes noth.

  40. You are not a female you have a penis and always will you will never be compared to me don’t claim yourself as a woman you are a man accept it grow your testicles some more and man up you don’t have a vagina you don’t ovulate or menstruate you will not give birth to your own children you will not experience the true experience of motherhood or of being a true woman I don’t give a danm who you think you are you are a man

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  43. You stated that you have the right to define who and what you are, your story. Well you’re basing your story, you’re defining yourself as you claim, based on terms, on words defined and created by the same people who have determined that you are biologically male based upon your chromosomes and primary sex organs.

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  45. With all due (human to another human being) respect you are wrong. Gender it’s a characteristic of who we are regardless of your struggles, what you like or what you don’t like. Some people are tall some short some light skin and some dark skin. If someone or society “assigns” my height as 6 feet tall, i may like it, hate it, it might feel like a razor through my heart but it is true. I may cry all day about it but there is nothing I can do about it but accept it. It’s neither wrong or right it’s the truth. A baby can be assigned male/boy/not girl but it’s either it has XX or XY chromosome that happens to define gender in human beings. You can’t compare your case with a genetic disorder, unless you want to be treated as such.. I personally hate the idea that I was assigned the same gender with Hitler or that it happened to belong in the same specie as him, but still the truth is the truth. I may be crazy in love with another person, and she turning me down, might ruin my life hurt as nothing else and consider committing suicide but that doesn’t mean that she is wrong and she need to reconsider her opinion about how she sees me. Moreover, what if one feels being an African in a body of a Caucasian, how can you blame the rest of the world(media or whatever) for that misshapen. If your self realization depends primarily on your gender perception then you are just “unlucky” in the same why someone is born poor, at the epicenter of the nuclear bomb in Japan in ’45, or with Down syndrome. Nothing more nothing less.

  46. I am all for people not being controlled by ridiculous outdated gender roles. I am a heterosexual man, born male, still male, who has never liked sports, likes to cook, read romance novels, and a lot of other “girly” things, that I took crap for much of my life, being accused of being gay, etc. I also like to fish and do other “manly” things. What I would like to see is a world where people are just considered people, and what a person wants to wear, or what their interests are, aren’t defined by and don’t define some restrictive binary identity.

    Unfortunately, I think that a lot of transgender activism rhetoric, and maybe the concept of transgender itself, are preventing progress in this area, and the transgender movement is actually reinforcing oppressive gender binary.

    Transgender activists love to accuse others of mistaking gender and sex as the same thing, but I find they are actually the worst at making this mistake. The very idea of “I like dresses and makeup and long hair so I need to have my penis and testicles amputated and my body pumped full of artificial hormones”, or conversely “I am not comfortable with my penis and testicles and body hair and so I will amputate them and get hormone therapy…and so I am going to start wearing dresses and makeup” is a GROSS conflation of gender and biological sex. The very mindset that you can’t retain the name you were given at birth after you transition because it is a “boy’s” name indicates serious internal confusion in the transgender community about an issue you expect the cis community to be crystal clear on, and accuse of hate speech if we slip up and don’t play along with your legal fiction.

    The dictionary definition of “boy” is “male child”. The definition of “male” is “the physiological sex that has the potential to produce spermatozoa. If you were born with both an X and a Y chromosome and properly developed testes, you were born a boy, I’m sorry, it is a fact of nature. Browbeating other people for not pretending this is not the case, frankly it makes the trans movement appear irrational, diminishes your credibility, and the vitriol behind your insistence alienates people who might otherwise be sympathetic.

    • Mark, hang on a second; your post is so hostile and harsh. In fact the vitriol you speak of – it’s right here in your post. So let’s try to cool off a bit and be a little kinder.

      Can we assume that you don’t know at all what it’s like to be transgender? I know I don’t, which is why I spent a lot of time here on Autostraddle reading and learning about it so that I could stop imposing MY experience and MY story of being oppressed by the gender binary onto others and instead make room for *their* experience, their truth. Can you take a step back from your experience? Can you try to engage the trans community from a place of respect and compassion instead of annoyance over what you perceive as activism standing in the way of the kind of progress you would personally profit from? Because your experience and my experience are not universal. So why expect everyone to be fighting for our personal agenda? Others have their own agendas rooted in their own experience and it seems very arrogant to me to dismiss the trans community as being into makeup and long hair, ergo in the mood for “amputation”. This is not only a gross oversimplification, but a very biased, hostile one at that.

      You say: “What I would like to see is a world where people are just considered people, and what a person wants to wear, or what their interests are, aren’t defined by and don’t define some restrictive binary identity.” Okay, but there are people who very much fit into the gender binary and have no problem with it. What you want to see is a world where people are not bullied or put down REGARDLESS of their gender expression, not a world tailored to you specifically (I hope).

      I’d also urge you not to attack a community that’s already suffering, marginalized and discriminated against. Don’t let your own past suffering blind you to the suffering of others. Show a little respect for your fellow human beings even when their experience differs from your own.

    • I agree with you. I would like to cite Eddie Izzard who, before “ coming out in girl mode” had a lot more credibility for challenging unhelpful gender stereotypes but now Eddie has moved into the gender stereotype and being lauded as a woman.
      It isn’t hatred to say people should be able to be whatever or whoever they want to be without fear of intimidation or ridicule or even economic livelihood. But that identity has to be lived respectfully and mindfully of its impact on others whether you identify with your birth sex or not.
      Like you I am heterosexual but in today’s speak I would be labelled as “ gender non conforming” but that has no meaning for me since in the 1980’s when I was young, society was less concerned with living in gender stereotypes than it is now. ( I have loads of tools, care less about my appearance than most women and have been told that because I am autistic up I communicate often like a man- whatever that means) the forcing people into gender stereotypes is, in my opinion a retrograde move.
      I was saddened reading this article as it seemed to focus on the masculine experience of sex rather than a shared experience. Sex isn’t all about what you do with a penis…seems a bit old fashioned, not new, to think that it is ( and I Ma in my 60’s 😁)

  47. Informative piece ! I learned a lot from the info ! Does someone know where my assistant could get a template IMO Dangerous Goods Declaration copy to type on ?

  48. i am a trans woman
    i was born a boy
    i was socialised as a boy.
    these are things that happened to me.
    these are things i survived.
    these are things that made me the person i actually am right now.
    to tell me i was not born a boy is to erase my actual lived experience and associated trauma.
    this is not the way to do this, please stop.

  49. If you were born a girl, you’re not trans. What did you transition from? Stop writing about the trans experience, asshole.

  50. This is just objectively wrong. You’re asking people to lie. Nothing good will come out of lying like this, for anyone, including trans people. You’re denying the foundation of the trans experience ffs. Live your life how you want, call yourself what you want, but don’t force other people to actively play along with a delusion. If you weren’t born male, then how are you a trans woman? That’s literally how this works. You’re trying to muddle reality and this is not healthy or safe.

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