I am a woman-born woman. An adult female. I have two X chromosomes, a vagina and, until menopause, a menstrual cycle. I’m not unusual in this: in fact, there are roughly 3.52 billion of us in the world right now. These are not opinions; they are statements of biological fact. That biology may not define a woman in totality – she has a vagina, she is not a vagina – but it is fundamental to what a woman is. Our biology and our being female are intertwined. As is the biology of men with their being male: a penis and testicles are the biological markers of maleness.
These are neither new nor controversial statements, yet to the emergent trans community, giddy on its own sense of entitlement, they are blasphemous hate speech. Transwomen are particularly vociferous in their responses. They call women, like myself, bigots, haters, TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist), homophobes, transphobes, and an entire roster of expletives. We’re threatened with assault and murder, and told transwomen can’t wait to rape us. Transwomen are calling for genocide and torture of women. (No, I’m not exaggerating. Here and here are just some examples.) Why? Because we told them about the biological basis to sex differentiation: women have two X chromosomes and a vagina; men have an X and a Y chromosome and a penis.
“But gender!” say the transwomen, as though feminists haven’t been deconstructing it since long before they were born. Yes, gender: the socio-sexual constructs we conflate with sex to inadequately explain our differences. The gender argument intrigues me because of the cherry-picking attitude transwomen take to it. They rapidly take on the prettiness of femininity – the shoes, the makeup, the clothes, and the hair – yet leave aside other traits commonly associated with the gender: empathy, compassion, nurturance, receptivity. Those aspects of the gentler sex are discarded because they don’t fit in with the behaviour of men (and transwomen are men) who’ve grown up and lived in a patriarchal society that tells them whatever they want, they should have. This is our cultural narrative: men demand and women defer. Just because they’re wearing dresses, they behave no differently.
Men want to have the right to choose the gender with which they identify and to be able to assert that right. For that is what transwomen’s rights are: men’s rights to identify and behave as they wish. To assume that this right is more worthy of support or more important than the rights of the women with whom transwomen say they identify is misogynist and demonstrates a lack of compassion and deep ignorance of what women deal with in their everyday lives – good and bad. It stems from a position of entitlement and assumption of superiority over women. Before declaring themselves transwomen and expecting to be welcomed by women, I wish they would think about what being a woman actually means. There is more embedded in gender than a change of outfit.
The most public demand is access to women-only spaces. This began – and continues – with transwomen’s demands to use women’s toilets. Women are expected to accept them – welcome them, even – or be vilified as anti, phobic, exclusionary deniers of rights. It’s an odd spot for a battleground, a public toilet. Or, perhaps not, given that it’s both public and private, representative of gender segregation, and a separation of the sexes that is a mass cultural norm to the point of invisibility. Only, now, it’s highly visible.
Transwomen want access to women-only domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centres, either blithely or willfully ignorant of the effect this may have on women using the facilities. Occasionally they want to work in them (a transwomen who wanted to volunteer at Vancouver Rape Relief forced them into a 12-year legal battle when they refused – time and money that could have been spent helping rape victims), but most want to know they can use them. The problem, as if it needs stating, is that these shelters are for women and transwomen are men. The women and children there are at their most vulnerable, many are terrified, and all have suffered abuse by men. A frightened child in a rape crisis centre isn’t going to look at a transwoman and see trans-inclusive ideology. She’s going to see a man in a dress and the last time she saw a man he raped her. If transwomen can’t see why that would be distressing and, therefore, why their presence isn’t welcome in facilities for vulnerable women – or, indeed, any women-only spaces – they’re demonstrating why women don’t want to share our spaces with them.
This encroachment on women’s spaces is coupled with a colonisation of our bodies. In a reduction of women to a set of holes that combines misogyny, porn and rape culture in one, trans terminology appropriates “vagina” for post-operative transsexuals while gifting “front hole” to women as a term for their vaginas. This dehumanising practice is backed by The Human Rights Campaign Foundation document, Safer Sex for Trans Bodies.
If women disagree with transwomen, they are told they are aggressive – violent, even. I’ve yet to see any evidence of violence against transwomen by women and, if we’re aggressive, it’s because we’re rightfully pissed off. The transwomen who attempt to silence us and claim our bodies and spaces as their own seek to remove us both discursively and literally. They attempt to both devalue and claim for themselves all that is female – be it the word “woman”, our bodies, or our spaces. We cannot concede to their demands because, by doing so, is to agree that all that we are is only worth what little value they attribute to it. Instead, we need to guard our bodies and lives against this new misogyny.