A cis guy explains trans, women’s rights

I’ve been thinking about this topic to the point of obsession: the subgroup of the women’s rights movement called Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs) and what seems like their strange hatred for transgender people. Maybe it’s because, the more I think about it, the more trans equality seems like the civil rights issue of our time. Maybe it’s because TERFs keep calling me a men’s rights activist.

Maybe it has less to do with the TERFs than it does with me – but I’ll get to that.

First, I’ve had a hell of a time trying to figure out who the TERFs are, and I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned.

TERFS ARE as radical as their name implies, and their membership includes some of feminism’s leading figures. Germaine Greer, author of The Female Unich, has described trans women (those born male) as “men who mutilate themselves and are given passage as statutory female.” Janice Raymond and Cathy Brennan – who has allegedly outed trans youth – are other prominent TERFs. A notorious YouTube video that went viral before being banned from social media platforms is fairly representative of TERF rhetoric – with ominous background music it displays a series of what it says are “violent and predatory men” who have abused women while dressed in women’s clothing; one website that hosts the video offers to explain “why those who identify as transwomen and transvestites get a sexual thrill from wearing women’s clothes.”

To be fair, transgender people and their allies have lashed out at feminists and women. The film Tangerine was criticized by both women and mainstream critics for a bizarre scene where a trans woman beats a cis woman, seemingly for laughs (full disclosure: I haven’t seen it). There’s a TERF cottage industry of websites that curate aggressive tweets and other messages from the trans community (I’m not linking to those here). It’s like Isreal and Palestine; there are both cis and trans people insisting the other side fired the first shot, each insisting the other side apologize first. (By the way, TERFs are said to hate being called TERFs – I use the term reluctantly for lack of a better alternative).

Luckily, calmer heads seem to prevail in both camps. NOW has embraced transgender women as women, stating, “equality is equality.” Gloria Steinem has publicly embraced the trans community. And women are more supportive of trans rights than men are, according to yearsworth of polls. One group of feminists circulated an online petition calling for the Southern Poverty Law Center to monitor Brennan’s organization Gender Identity Watch as a hate group; the petition accused Brennan of outing transgender people and critics by publishing their personal information online and received 9,000 signatures before being closed.

That doesn’t stop TERFs, though. At their most galling, they seem to be in denial about how hard it is to be trans in America. “Young biological females are the most oppressed class of human beings,” one cis woman told me on Twitter. That’s a hard claim to accept – by modest estimates 66% of trans people are sexually abused during their lives, putting them at statistically greater risk than cis women. Homicides against members of the LGBTQ community have been declining for years – except they’ve been rising to record highs for the trans community, with black transgender people at greatest risk. And transgender people are at high risk for depression, intense shame and suicide.

​”I was ashamed of myself, my identity, my desires, my inner person. They crucify people like me. It would have been nice to know that I wasn’t a freak and that there were others like me. But when they asked me what was my problem in school they always assumed I was just a bad kid. Little did they realize I couldn’t stand myself. And hated what I was. I felt I needed to be bad to be respected and left alone.”-Unnamed, Reported to Protect FORGE

It goes on. TERFs often role their eyes at these statistics – as if trans people use them as a get out of jail free card – or twist them to fit their ideology. It’s frustrating – and it made me want prove the TERFs wrong.

THE CRUELEST TERF line might be the “bathroom myth” – the claim that transgender women (TW) will go on a spree of rape and sexual assault if allowed to use women’s bathrooms. In this TERFs agree with the Republican party – strange bedfellows. The trouble is, claims that TW are already assaulting cis women in bathrooms are completely false: 18 states and 200 municipalities already allow transgender people in the restroom of their choice, without a single reported incident. Remember that YouTube video of alleged TW attacking women? The person whose face made the rounds online is Canadian and didn’t exploit any American laws.
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Some women talk about a need to maintain “safe spaces,” and I’m actually sympathetic to that idea. However, it ultimately rests on the assumption that TW are strange “others” and not people who can be embraced. TERF rhetoric on this issue is also blind to how important restroom equality is to the trans community. Imagine being a TW – your choices may come down to being mocked in the men’s room or yelled at in the women’s room. More fundamentally, exclusionary policies send a message to transgender people that society not only considers them a threat but rejects their gender identity. It’s no wonder that banning transgender people from the right bathroom has been linked to higher suicide rates among trans teenagers. Most trans adults say they’ve experienced serious problems like dehydration because they weren’t comfortable using a bathroom; a quarter have had problems at work related to bathroom access that in some cases cost them their jobs (It’s hard for me to imagine how humiliating it would be to have to argue with my boss about going to the bathroom).

So restroom equality hasn’t hurt a single cis woman, but it’s literally killing teenagers. At the moment 44 anti-trans bills are up for debate in states across the country, making 2016 the most politically hostle year for trans peiple in history.

One particularly regressive set of bills just introduced in Kansas makes it clear that transgender students are a threat:

Allowing students to use restrooms, locker rooms and showers that are reserved for students of a different sex will create potential embarrassment, shame, and psychological injury to students.

The bills, like others across the country, state that being male or female is determined at birth, based on chromosomes – effectively excluding trans people. The bills also impose a “bounty” on transgender students caught in the wrong restroom by allowing cis students to sue the institution operating the bathroom for up to $2,500.

THINK FOR A MOMENT about some of the rhetoric we’ve seen so far – bills assuming mere exposure to a transgender person will cause psychological harm; the description of trans women as “violent and predatory men.”

Imagine if politicians and members of the public were saturating social media, the news and daily conversation with this rhetoric – and they were talking about black people. Now imagine there was a wave of black people being murdered and beaten across the country. Well that actually happened, and it played a role in the creation of America’s hate crime laws, as well as its cultural prohibitions against bigoted language.

Now imagine the exact same thing is happening to some Americans now. Despite the small size of the trans community its members are victims of 17% of hate crimes befalling LGBTQ people; even worse, 50% of LGBTQ people killed in hate crimes are transgender. The majority of LGBTQ hate crime victims are trans people of color.

Think again about the ugliness of some of the TERF rhetoric and consider this: a recent landmark study by Project FORGE found an “anomaly” in which 29% of transgender sexual assault survivors were attacked by women, a shockingly high rate considering women are thought to be responsible for only about one percent of sexual assaults in the general community.

A few notes on this: The FORGE data says that women were involved in 29% of assaults, not that 29% of assailants were women – a key difference, as women were sometimes reported to be part of group attacks. And some recent studies put the sexual assault rate for women much higher. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to verify FORGE’s number as very few studies specifically break down assault rates by assailant gender (if there’s any reliable data on transgender people assaulting women, by the way, I haven’t seen it – please send it my way).

Still, if a significant number of women are attacking transgender people, shouldn’t that give TERFs pause before calling them “rapists”? Since a significant number of people are attacking transgender people, shouldn’t that give all of us pause?

IF YOU’RE STILL WITH ME I’m almost ready to draw some conclusions and put away a bit of my anger towards TERFs. I just want to quickly cover a few more dynamics in the TERF/ transgender dynamic. They’re subtle and draw heavily on both feminist theory and female experience, so it might seem obnoxious for a cis guy to write about them. I can only say I’m interested, because this stuff helps me understand what’s happening to the trans community as well as – corny as this might sound – the human experience.

Issue: Who Took My Body? Who Took My Everything?

Just read and see if you can make sense of this TERF logic:

However, when it comes to transgender males, men who wish to call themselves women – or more to the point want us to call them women – the story is very different. If we say no to the appropriation of our name, our bodies, our struggle, it is we women who are shamed. We’re being re-named: TERF, cis, transphobe. We’re being re-named by men who wish to try on the costume ‘woman’; they think it doesn’t fit us any more, us no-sayers are not the pliable girls of their dreams, and we must share.

“The appropriation of our name, our bodies, our struggle” – transgender people are body snatchers, apparently.

I can’t help but think of the debate over gay marriage – all those conservatives who shouted that if gay people could marry it would undermine their traditional families. There’s no logic to it – it’s the prioritization of abstract values over living, breathing humans. Is there any clear way to imagine transgender people making this woman less free?

Issue: They’re Taking Our Power

Hillary Clinton, to the surprise of many, has failed to capture the support of young women – and in that regard she might have something in common with TERFs.

Like Clinton, the leading TERFs tend to be older women who have been influential for years, if not decades. So the following observation about young voters, made by a Democratic pollster, might hold significance for feminists as well: Millenial women are “the most tolerant cohort we’ve ever had in our country, by far… Their change agenda is really around things like gay or transgender candidates.” Young women, it’s being suggested, are less interested in the traditional goals of feminism and more interested in equality for transgender people – could this be upsetting TERFs?

I also wonder whether transgender people are seen as a threat by some powerful feminist leaders. After all, if women become men they’re no longer women; to TERFs they’re longer part of the feminist movement. Perhaps TERF intolerance is partially due to a desire among older figures – Germaine Greene, Janice Raymond – to retain influence.

Issue: They’re Taking Our Women

Google “cotton ceiling” and you’ll get page after page of TERFs sharing their finest, angriest screeds. What is this horrible concept? The cotton ceiling is a term coined to describe “the experiences queer trans women have with simultaneous social inclusion and sexual exclusion within the broader queer women’s communities.”

In other words, some female transgender people (born with male equipment but female by gender) feel that lesbians (who they would theoretically date or hook up with) talk a good game socially but aren’t actually interested in romance. Fair enough, right?

But TERFs are terrified of the cotton ceiling.

“We must say yes to men,” one TERF writes of the demands she feels transgender people place on her [note: TERFs misgender transgender people and refer to transgender women as men]. “Lesbians say yes to men in your beds.” Their reaction is so extreme that when Planned Parenthood – that woman-hating organization – held a workshop on the cotton ceiling, a petition went out saying female transgender participants “will discuss and strategize ways to ‘overcome’ women’s objections to these participants sexual advances.” (What did participants really discuss?: “Would it really surprise you to know that what they talked about was body image and shame?”)

Now I feel uncomfortable going here, but many TERFs are lesbians. Is it possible they’re worried trans women are stealing eligible partners? It would help explain Greer’s strangely specific language about trans women’s anatomies (specifically that they don’t know what it’s like to be real women because they don’t have “big, hairy, smelly vaginas”: factually incorrect).

More than enough said on that.

Issue: They’re taking our children

Maybe TERFs worry transgender people will steal their people in a very different way.
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Is it me, or is gender identity just not what it used to be? We’ve always assumed that the feeling of being born in the wrong body is more or less innate, but more and more I think gender identity is fluid. And now there’s a data to back me up: a March survey found that over a third of 13-20 year olds believe gender doesn’t identify people as much as it used to, with a majority saying they know someone who goes by a gender-neutral pronoun and most buying clothing designed for the opposite cis gender (they were also strongly in favor of restroom equality). It might be hard to imagine now, but maybe we’re heading towards a moment where we realize we’re all a bit trans.

Are the TERFs worried about losing women to this trend – or are they worried they might be transgender themselves?

Wait, am I worried about that too?

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Dammit.

WHY AM I SO eager to criticize TERFs? They don’t make it hard – but if I justify being cruel to them I’m no different than they are when they justify being cruel to transgender people (“They started it”).

More interestingly, why have I focused my attention on female, and not male, transgender people? Do I feel akin to them? Even related?

Maybe all of us – TERFs, transgender people and myself included – are struggling in this new world of transgender visibility. There are lots of things I can’t become – African American, for example – but it’s within the realm of possibility for me to become transgender, to become a woman. And that means I need to take a hard look at what it really means for me to be a man – something that can only be defined in relation to women, trans and cis. The TERFs must redefine themselves too, and they hate it. Transgender people are painfully aware that they must do this; it’s their struggle to survive.

Maybe it’s a luxury I have as a cis man, but I don’t hate it. An incredible sense of connectivity can come from defining yourself in relation to others. We are all part of each others’ world.

In a sense, then, this essay is an olive branch to the TERFs – because I’d be as lost without people like them as they’d be without people like me. The Other is all we have to define ourselves by, and we have the ability to embrace that.

But please, ladies, try to be nice.

I’m 80% sure I got half of this wrong. Correct me in the comments section and I’ll include your feedback in a future post.

11 thoughts on “A cis guy explains trans, women’s rights

    1. It’s interesting how that blog post doesn’t cite any credible scientific sources. There have been several scientific studies which show that there is a biological reason behind being transgender.

      Gender identity (if it helps, think of it as “brain sex”, which is distinct from “physical sex,” or what genitals someone has) is determined by hormone levels during gestation. If a fetus is exposed to a certain amount of testosterone vs. estrogen, the brain develops in a more “male” pattern, otherwise it develops in a more “female pattern.” These hormones need to be provided by the mother’s body, so it stands to reason that there will be cases where the hormone levels provided don’t match up with whether the baby has a Y chromosome or not.

      So transgender brains are literally “wired” to expect different hormones than their (chromosomally-determined) sex organs produce. They’re also wired to expect different physical characteristics, which is why a lot of transgender people realize they’re trans when puberty starts differentiating their bodies in a way that doesn’t match their gender identity.

      So, while transgender may be born with the physical characteristics of one gender, they are actually the other gender.

      Here’s a link that cites 40+ sources to back that up:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Causes_of_transsexualism

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      1. Thank you so much for your reply! I agree with you in general. I’m trying to tease out how different people define sex vs gender and I’d be grateful for any thoughts you have.

        You say that “gender identity” is a person’s “brain sex,” which is determined by hormones during gestation. Meaning for you, gender identity is the innate sense a person is born with of whether they’re male, female, etc resulting from their chromosomes- correct? And is that the same as saying gender identity is the sum of everything a person feels about whether they’re male, female, etc minus their experiences directly tied to their genitalia, i.e. their sexuality? Would it be correct to say you view gender as: everything affecting a person’s sense of being male/female/other except for the physical, flesh-and-blood vagina or penis?

        I’m trying to differentiate that view from what feminists who are exclusionary towards transgender people believe (much as I feel these people are bigoted I’m avoiding “TERF” so there’s an agreed-upon language for discussion- I see you’re transgender and I’m hoping you’re OK with this?) I suppose these feminists would disagree with you and say gender is the effect of growing up in a sexist world- i.e. you “earn” being part of the female gender by surviving life in a sexist society. They believe gender is a social artifact that can be destroyed.

        I’m using intersex people as a way of understanding this. You may know there are people who are born with both male and female chromosomes or sex organs; even people assigned the wrong sex at birth who spend parts of their lives as females oppressed by society and parts as males benefiting from oppression. This fact certainly seems to explode the simplistic binary definition of gender this group of feminists has, but I’m curious about what you, as a transgender person, make of this.

        For me this seems to suggest that gender-whether innate or conditioned- is fluid, on a spectrum. So people identifying as genderqueer, both male and female or neither, could actually be factually correct. But what about a transgender woman who’s struggling to get society to accept her as a woman?

        Basically, I’m worried the view of gender I’m leaning towards as something that’s on a spectrum can be used against transgender people to say that no, they’re not women/men. Do you think that’s valid? And if gender is on a spectrum, would it be more correct (or ethical) to say you’re a woman or that you being to some other category that’s neither male nor female? Because some are “all male” or “all female” in that their sex organs, chromosomes and experiences are all in alignment towards them being a man or a woman; and you’re not in either of those categories, because. Maybe it’s that nobody is all male or all female; e.g. my sex organs, chromosomes and most of my experiences are in agreement as being male but I don’t like sports and that puts me a notch away from “all male” on the spectrum. (I think Tom Selleck would probably still be all male, though.; kidding, kidding.)

        I’m really looking forward to your thoughts on this. Thank you!

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      2. Hey there! Sorry for taking so long to reply, but I wanted to make sure I took the time to read through everything, and make sure I didn’t leave anything out (which hopefully I didn’t). Apologies if I changed the order or combined/separated/spliced any of the quotes below. I’m pretty sure I didn’t change anything that affected the intent behind the questions.

        Also, I’m not citing any sources here, since my answers are all based on my own experience.

        for you, gender identity is the innate sense a person is born with of whether they’re male, female, etc resulting from their chromosomes- correct?

        I think this might just be a typo on your part (based on the next quote), but just in case: no, Gender Identity has nothing to do with chromosomes. It has to do with how the brain is wired and expects the body to behave.

        And is that the same as saying gender identity is the sum of everything a person feels about whether they’re male, female, etc minus their experiences directly tied to their genitalia, i.e. their sexuality? Would it be correct to say you view gender as: everything affecting a person’s sense of being male/female/other except for the physical, flesh-and-blood vagina or penis?

        You’re essentially right, but there are definitely blurred lines there. As a trans woman, I was born with “male” genitalia, so they’re something that was part of my personal identity growing up, though a part I didn’t like and will some day be happy to get rid of (not all trans people have genital dysphoria, by the way, but it’s fairly common).

        By the way, you mentioned the word “sexuality” there, and I just wanted to point out that sexuality is actually about who a person is attracted to (i.e., male/men/masculine, female/women/feminine), rather than their own genitalia.

        Gender: Brain Sex; how the brain is physiologically/neurologically wired for different levels of estrogen/testosterone or some combination thereof.

        Gender Identity: How you mentally perceive yourself to be a man/woman/nonbinary/etc, based on the structure of your brain.

        (Caveat: these are my personal definitions; not everyone in the trans community differentiates between gender and gender identity, but I find it helpful to think of them as two separate aspects of gender. While I strongly believe that gender has its roots in biology, there’s no denying that gender identity has psychological aspects as well, which stem from that biology.)

        Physical Sex: what sexual organs you have (penis/testes, vagina/ovaries, or intersex)

        Sexuality: who you’re attracted to; terms like straight/heterosexual, gay/lesbian/homosexual, bisexual, pansexual (attracted to all people, including nonbinary), asexual (not sexually attracted to anyone), and many, many more.

        And sexuality gets even more complicated. For example, I consider myself attracted to men, but for me, it doesn’t matter whether the man I’m involved with has a penis or a vagina (in other words, it doesn’t matter to me whether they’re cisgender male, or post/pre/non-operation trans male). I also probably wouldn’t turn down someone who’s non-binary, but towards the “masculine” end of the spectrum.

        So does that make me straight? That’s a weird term for me, too, because before I came out to myself (let alone the rest of the world) as trans, I identified outwardly as a gay male. I personally don’t really tend to label my sexuality, because it’s a confusing (and sometimes distressing) topic, but the term I’ve settled on for now is “androphilic,” from the ancient Greek for “male loving.”

        I see you’re transgender and I’m hoping you’re OK with this?

        Yep, totally. 🙂 I’m happy to discuss transgender issues in any context that’s respectful. The main reason I blog about my experiences, is to help others understand.

        I suppose these feminists would disagree with you and say gender is the effect of growing up in a sexist world- i.e. you “earn” being part of the female gender by surviving life in a sexist society. They believe gender is a social artifact that can be destroyed.

        Their argument is basically that since I was born into the privilege of being male, I can’t earn the label of “female,” because I wasn’t always at a disadvantage. I could argue here that while others may have seen me as privileged in that regard, it added to the internal anxiety and strife I experienced all through my teen years and most of my twenties, which severely impacted personal relationships, work (not being motivated), etc.

        But the main argument I want to make here is this: everyone has both privileges and disadvantages.

        Is Kim Kardashian less of a woman because she was born into the privilege being wealthy, and didn’t have the disadvantage of having to worry about her safety walking home from a late shift?

        Is a white woman less deserving because she didn’t have to put up with all of the disadvantages that come with being a person of color?

        If anything, I could argue that trans women are more disadvantaged than most women. We have to worry about “passing” as the gender identify as, or risk being ridiculed everywhere we go. Whether or not I’m allowed to safely use a public restroom is a hot topic of political “debate.” Next month, I have to fly to North Carolina for work, and I’ll be flying with documents that don’t match my name or gender presentation; I’m going to the airport hours early, so I don’t miss my flight when my genitals show up as an “anomaly.”

        But rather than focus on who has what specific disadvantage, I choose the point of view that we should all be working together to reduce all forms of disadvantage.

        For me this seems to suggest that gender-whether innate or conditioned- is fluid, on a spectrum. So people identifying as genderqueer, both male and female or neither, could actually be factually correct. But what about a transgender woman who’s struggling to get society to accept her as a woman? I’m worried the view of gender I’m leaning towards as something that’s on a spectrum can be used against transgender people to say that no, they’re not women/men. Do you think that’s valid?

        Easy peasy. She is a woman because that’s how she identifies to herself, regardless of whether other people are willing to accept her as such.

        Gender is a spectrum, but there are two ends to that spectrum: male and female. You can be at either end (man/woman), somewhere in the middle (bigender, genderqueer), move back and forth (gender fluid), or not even be on the spectrum (agender). (There are lots of other terms for places on or off the gender spectrum, but those are the “main” ones.

        None of that negates the fact that society should accept people as they are.

        if gender is on a spectrum, would it be more correct (or ethical) to say you’re a woman or that you being to some other category that’s neither male nor female? Because some are “all male” or “all female” in that their sex organs, chromosomes and experiences are all in alignment towards them being a man or a woman; and you’re not in either of those categories

        Gender, Gender Identity, Physical Sex, and Sexuality are all separate, though related ideas. For me, I’ve got a female brain because of the hormone levels I was exposed to in the womb, thus I idenify as (and am) a woman. I simply happened to be born with a penis and testes, because of a chromosmal difference.

        Like I said above, everyone has different experiences. Saying that my experiences don’t make me a woman is like saying Kim Kardashian isn’t a woman because she was born rich.

        Maybe it’s that nobody is all male or all female; e.g. my sex organs, chromosomes and most of my experiences are in agreement as being male but I don’t like sports and that puts me a notch away from “all male” on the spectrum.

        Nobody is all one binary thing or another. We’re all the product of a multi-dimensional grid, with the spectrum of each of the terms I mentioned above (gender, gender identity, physical sex, sexuality) on each axis. Every single person on the planet occupies a different point in that multi-dimensional space, and that doesn’t even take into account invidividual experiences outside of those four axes.

        One more term to throw at you here:

        Gender Roles: a set of societal norms dictating what types of behaviors are generally considered acceptable, appropriate, or desirable for a person based on their actual or perceived sex.

        While society might expect it to, you’re liking sports doesn’t make you not male. Lots of women (cisgender and transgender alike) are totally into sports. Many of the world’s top fashion designers are men. Gender roles don’t define gender. They’re stereotypes that feminists have to work hard to overcome. For example some of the best software engineers I know are women, but at conferences, most men tend to assume they perform “lesser” jobs, like designers or user support.

        I think Tom Selleck would probably still be all male, though.; kidding, kidding.

        Yeah, I’d probably agree with you there. 😛

        Anywho, that’s about it. Thanks for being an ally. I should probably turn this into a blog post at some point, considering I spent more time working on it than I usually do for a blog post. 😀

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      3. Amy thank you so much for this great thoughtful reply! I’m going to take a bit of time to give it the response it deserves, but I wanted to ask you – would it be OK if I turned your comments into a separate blog post (with or without your name, whatever you prefer)?

        Also I wanted to let you know I have a new blog post that’s my latest and greatest effort to sort out sex vs gender. I don’t know if it’s brilliant or dumb or offensive or what; I also don’t want to be giving you “homework”- but if you’re interested it’s at https://socialworkedblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/25/why-transgender-people-and-radical-feminists-are-both-wrong-i-think/

        Thanks again, and I’ll reply again soon!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Yep, feel free to quote me, and my name (if you want to be awesome, you could link to my blog, too) 😉

        I just skimmed your new post, but I’ll sit down this weekend and read it in full.

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      5. Hello! The post with your quotes is done. Hope you like it and any feedback is welcome. Anything you could do to publicize would be much appreciated. Thanks again!

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    2. Thank you again for your reply. I’ve read your article and it occurs to me that since you took the time to respond I owe you substantive engagement, as opposed to a polite “let’s agree to disagree” dismissal.

      I have a few thoughts. If I understand correctly, the article you link to says men born with a penis who identify as males, like myself (I’m trying to use language we all agree on) are using transgender people in a bid to perpetuate sexism. I think that argument runs into trouble, though, because it seems to me that the MBPIMs who express most concern about transgender rights tend to be the ones who would be most willing to admit they live in a sexist society that privileges them.

      For example, I’m an MBPIM social worker in a field that overwhelmingly attracts WBVIFs (women born with a vagina who identify as female). I’m very aware that this gives me an advantage, as some clients prefer working with a male. I’m sure that when supervisors have considered whether to hire, fire or promote me this fact plays to my advantage- on top of the sexism that normally favors me anyway. I know there are many, many other examples of ways in which I’ve benefited from sexism- and WBVIFs have suffered as a result.

      The MBPIMs who are hostile to transgender people-the Ted Cruzes and the ones supporting laws perceived as being transphobic- might not be willing to say that. Hence, I believe my support for transgender people isn’t about me wanting to maintain power over women or subjugate them. Rather, as someone who’s been assigned a position of dominance by society, I want to level the playing field and become more aware of the ways in which I’ve unintentionally exploited both WBVIFs AND transgender people.

      A second thing: your article dismisses intersex people-people who are born with both male and female sexual characteristics- but I think they actually pose a fatal problem for your argument. One in 1,500 people are born with genitalia that can’t be classified as male or female (212,000 Americans, by my calculation), and that’s just one type of intersex person. No matter how you define sex or gender, intersex people complicate things. Is gender an innate sense of who you are that you’re born with? Well, some people are born with neither male nor female sets of chromosomes. Is gender something society says you are, a result of conditioning? Well, some intersex people accidentally spend much of their lives male before realizing they were actually born “female” (whatever that means).

      Doesn’t that mean that both sex and gender exist on a spectrum, with some being “very female,” some being “somewhat female,” some being “neither male nor female”? And, if that’s the case, doesn’t that mean a transgender person born with a penis identifying as female (male to female) has a right to say they’ve experienced enough of the oppression WBVIFs experience to qualify as women? Is there a threshold for belonging to one gender or another?

      Put more succinctly, if a person has both male and female genitalia (or experiences, or innate sense of self), what do they need to do to become men or women? Maybe go to classes, like kids studying to be confirmed Catholic? Or do they represent a group outside of both genders? Such a group would seem to upend the analysis of feminists who believe transgender people can’t be women (I’m looking for a way to avoid the term TERFs, but I’m talking here about the feminists critics call TERFs).

      I’m looking forward to your thoughts, and thanks again!

      (All facts cited about people with intersex conditions are from the American Psychiatric Association: http://www.apa.org/topics/lgbt/intersex.aspx)

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