Recently, the U.K born author J.K Rowling landed herself in the unenviable position of trending on Twitter after tweeting her support of Maya Forstater, a researcher who was fired for her belief that “men cannot change into women.”
To some, Rowling’s proclamation #IStandWithMaya was the final straw for the Harry Potter franchise, as though the author had aligned herself with the very evils that her franchise’s protagonist had so frequently fought against.
To others, it was merely a proclamation of an obvious truth; that men and women are different.
I find myself in the latter camp, and know I’ll likely be labelled a transphobe because of it. However, I do not approach this topic with fear, but rather a curiosity, and a desire to understand. I feel as though I’ve missed the memo with regards to the trans debate and haven’t really been brought up to speed.
For example, one of the most liked and shared responses to J.K. was from an alleged surgeon, who stated “I’m not here to stoke mob outrage, I’m just here to educate and inform. Trans rights are human rights and trans women are women.”
Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this a deviation from the established trans orthodoxy, as well as an inherent contradiction?
I was under the impression that sex was different from gender. When did we agree on throwing out biology? If trans women are women, then what is a woman?
I ask this seriously. What is a woman?
The surgeon’s statement echoes prior sentiments made by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on International Men’s Day, who tweeted something to the effect of “men who get periods and who can become pregnant are still men.”
If we are not a gender dimorphic species, then what are we? Why even have the distinction between international men and women’s days?
I thought that the accepted transgender position was that while there are men and women, some people can be born into the wrong body and find themselves identifying with, and wishing they were the opposite sex.
This is a much more tenable position, and yet, I’ll be honest, even this stance raises a lot of questions for me.
The main question I have is, how does one know they’re the opposite gender? For example, I am a male. With this fact comes the male body, male hormones, a male brain, and a host of other male-specific facets which colour my moment-to-moment experience. These traits are largely inherent and gender-specific, and the same can be said for females in having female hormones, a menstrual cycle, the female body, and so on.
Now at this point, many will point to one example where a man or woman deviates from the norm in an attempt to prove that gender bifurcation is merely a restrictive social construct. Oftentimes, the example is when a woman is unable to give birth.
“Are you saying that a woman who can’t give birth isn’t a woman?”
This is one of the more common responses I’ve received when asking questions about transgenderism, and it is obviously a gross oversimplification and strawman of the real argument at hand. In fact, this argument is often supplemented with examples of Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome or Endometriosis — symptoms which can, in some cases, lead to infertility.
Firstly, if someone suffers from one of these symptoms, they are an atypical female — as these are female-specific ailments. For the same reason, someone diagnosed with testicular cancer is no less of a man, but rather, suffers from a strictly male disease.
Let’s say, for example, that you can reduce the female experience to 1000 factors; 1000 phenomena that are typically limited to females.
These may include the aforementioned traits such as having a biologically female body, female hormones and reproductive organs, the inability to grow a beard, as well as the experiential traits such as being hit on by men or having to be more fearful when walking alone at night.
Purely by a roll of the dice, women have been given a list of experiences which generally arise due to nothing other than their biological sex.
Even if you remove one of those thousand factors, such as giving birth, that female would still have 999 traits or aspects which are typically female. She may not be capable of giving birth, but she may still have a vagina, fallopian tubes and so on.
For that reason, I, as a man, will never know what it is like to have the full gamut of those experiences. I don’t know what it’s like to menstruate, to be hit on by men, or to just generally be physically female.
And I say all of this as a man who didn’t enter a STEM field, or do a trade, but instead, as a man who deviated from male stereotypes and pursued arts. This doesn’t mean I’m a female, it means that of the 1000 male generalities, I didn’t line up on a few. In almost every other regard, however, I have a typically male experience.
Some have then gone on to respond that there are trans individuals have brains which more closely resemble the opposite sex, and that the existence of intersex individuals — those born with both male and female genitalia — further muddy the waters with regards to a binary worldview on sex.
These arguments do give me pause and may serve as a more stable ground upon which the transgender debate may be had.
Though interestingly, they are based upon biology rather than identity. This is a difficult path for transgender advocates to take as it largely contradicts the rest of the movement.
For example, we don’t do brain scans when determining if someone is trans, and as far as I’m aware, the trans debate hasn’t intersected too much with the intersex debate.
This is because if we enter the realm of intersex individuals and brain scans, we are effectively chaining the debate to biological factors that not everyone may qualify for.
Take Bruce Jenner, for example; A male athlete with a male body, who was also a husband, father, brother and son. Each aspect of his life at the time reflected his maleness.
So what reference point does Bruce then have to say he’s actually a woman? If it isn’t the physicality of womanhood and the experiences that arise as a result, what aspects of himself did he see as being more ladylike?
It clearly wasn’t the way he looked, as he altered his appearance, grew his hair out and began to wear dresses, heels and makeup, in order to get closer to the female identity he felt he truly was.
It wasn’t his genitalia either, as the genitals he was endowed with were capable of impregnating three women who went on to give birth to nine children.
So, what are we suggesting womanhood is? Is it merely a behaviour, an exhibition, an act?
Isn’t this precisely the kind of gender stereotyping that many have striven to move away from?
Embedded within the trans debate seems to be a host of these kinds of contradictions and complications. And yet, we seem to be unwilling to admit that we are chained to our biological sex and the ramifications that come packaged within it.
Take Jessica Yaniv, a biological male who asked for their “bikini region,” to be waxed at a female salon. Obviously, her biology was not that of a female, and yet she was asking for a female-specific treatment. Should the women working at the salon have indulged Jessica’s conception of herself, even at their own discomfort?
We then had the rapper ZUBY, who declared he was a woman before breaking the British women’s deadlift record. Should we abandon the distinction between men and women in sports? Because if so, we will be saying goodbye to women like Serena and Venus Williams, whose achievements will be submerged under superior male athleticism.
The biological differences between men and women were best exemplified during Battle of the Sexes, in which Karsten Braasch competed against the Williams sisters. Ranked 203rd in the world, Braasch was described by one journalist as “a man whose training regime centred around a pack of cigarettes and more than a couple of bottles of ice-cold lager.”
And yet, Braasch defeated both sisters, playing a single set against each, beating Serena 6–1 and Venus 6–2. Had Braasch identified as female, he’d be the best female tennis player in the world.
Though sports and salons aside, there is a much larger elephant in the room.
Most consequentially, we have the many cases of children declaring themselves trans, with individuals like Charlize Theron talking about her biologically male son, Jackson, stating “Yes, I thought she was a boy too until she looked at me when she was 3 years old and said, ‘I am not a boy!’” Theron told the Daily Mail.
As I am not a therapist, I wonder, what delineates gender dysphoria from transgenderism? Should we be taking everything 3-year-olds say as unquestionable doctrine?
How does one know whether to indulge or to intervene in a child’s wishes to be the opposite sex?
If an anorexic teen says she identifies more with being “skinny,” do we simply accept her as a skinny-weighted young woman? Do we offer her appetite suppressants and label anyone who disagrees as anorexiaphobic?
Or do we attempt to imbue confidence and self-love upon her, so that she doesn’t feel the need to alter herself so drastically? For most, the obvious answer is to teach the young woman self-acceptance.
Yet, when we enter the territory of transgenderism, the very opposite tact takes priority.
When it comes to transgenderism, curiously, we offer hormone blockers to children who feel they’ve been placed into the wrong category, and in some cases, even revoke a parents custody of their child if they wish to use counselling instead of hormone therapy to treat their child's dysphoria.
Suddenly it's the State and the children who call the shots, rather than the parents.
What if a white girl were to say she felt black?
Though if biology is to be thrown out of the window, what is to stop someone from identifying as another skin colour? There is certainly less difference between black and white women than there are among men and women from the same race.
Is transracialism around the corner?
While these may seem like trivial and inflammatory questions, these are issues we’ll need to deal with if one can identify with traits outside of their biology.
We cannot have debates around the gender pay gap (however ill-informed those debates may be,) or women’s representation in managerial roles, or about male-female sexual relations such as the #MeToo movement, if we are simultaneously saying that biological sex does not exist.
I ask all these questions, not out of fear or bigotry or a desire to make others conform. Instead, I ask them out of genuine curiosity.