Curiouser and curiouser

I began my quest to find out how and why the definition of “woman” had changed after discovering a UK transgender woman had been moved to a female prison despite being legally male and in possession of a fully functioning penis.

I very quickly began to feel like I was falling down a rabbit hole into a twisted version of reality where words were losing their meaning; science could be blatantly ignored, denied or co-opted to fit the prevailing narrative, and a new type of woman was demanding to be acknowledged and muscling into areas which were previously segregated by sex for the benefit of adult human females like me.

Since I began learning about all this things have been blowing up across the pond in the US with bathroom bills, discriminatory laws etc. but I’ll look into them another time.  For now I’m still wondering about what a woman is if not an adult human female, like myself, identified as having the capacity to bear children because of my primary and secondary sexual characteristics.  This does not mean that infertile women are not women, any more than a child born without legs proves that humans are not a bipedal species.

Humans reproduce sexually. Our design to makes that reproduction straightforward. We have two sorts of human: those with the capacity to produce eggs and those with the capacity to produce sperm.  The ones who produce eggs usually have a uterus, with which to carry the baby humans, and breasts with which to feed them.  The ones who produce sperm have a penis with which to deliver it and testicles in which to store it.  They are also hairier, musclier, have deeper voices and tend to be taller and stronger (these are, of course, generalisations which are not disproven by taking a short, slender man with a high voice and standing him next to a tall, muscular woman with a deep voice).  We are hardwired to be able to spot potential mates. Even young babies can tell the difference between men and women.  Without gendered clothing, personal care products, hairstyles etc. there are clues – pheromones; body shape; face shape; bone structure; Adam’s apple; facial hair and hairline.  I could go on but you get the picture…

… or do you?  Not any more!

Meet Alex.  She is “widening the bandwidth of how to be a woman”

This is Alex Drummond. She's a 51-year-old psychotherapist and photographer from Cardiff.

Alex has transitioned to female but has eschewed hormones and surgery.  She is an advisor to Stonewall on transgender issues.

I have no issue with Alex choosing to wear make-up and jewellery.  Out of politeness I will use her pronouns of choice, although as a grammar pedant I would be far happier if English, like many other languages, had a singular neuter option because it goes against every instinct I have to call someone”she” whoprobably looks [anatomically at least] like this when not wearing a skirt:

'David' by Michelangelo JBU0001.JPG

I do wonder though, having read the interview linked below, why someone who is physically a man, in a happy relationship with a woman (with whom he probably indulges in sexual activity which, physically at least, resembles a heterosexual relationship) and who wants to wear make-up and dresses while fixing cars for a living feels he must become a woman, declare himself and his partner to be lesbians and set about changing peoples’ opinions about what women can do (fix cars in a skirt apparently) rather than simply “widening the bandwidth of how to be a man”.

I’m still baffled.  I kind of get why a transsexual, who takes hormones and has sex reassignment surgery to alter their primary and secondary sex characteristics to look and function as closely as possible to those of the opposite sex, earns the right to be considered to be the opposite sex.  But how does changing the clothes he wears make a man into a woman?  I still don’t get it.  Even if he “passes” i.e. looks identifiably female when clothed, surely he is cross-dressing or a transvestite.  I can even accept “transgender” as an umbrella term, encompassing all those things, being used to describe someone who cross-dresses.  But naked he will still be identifiably male so why can he claim to actually be female?  What has he done to earn that descriptor that I cannot shake off since being born with it?  How does his presentation when clothed make him female when he is not? If it does, what does that make me?  I don’t wear make-up and jewellery most days and I’m rarely found in a skirt (job interviews, weddings and fancy dress parties are the only times I’ve had my legs on show this year).

 

Links

https://www.buzzfeed.com/patrickstrudwick/this-transgender-woman-has-a-full-beard-and-she-couldnt-be-h?utm_term=.hcyxg0xZj1#.bq6QLlQ2wq

 

 

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