Digging deeper and deeper to find out how the meaning of “woman” has changed I fell out of the bottom of the rabbit hole and found myself in a trippy cyberspace where anyone can declare themselves to be a woman. Apparently it’s just a feeling now.
I always thought it was something you were born with. The capacity to produce ova and bear young. Genitalia that look like they belong to a girl, not a boy, at birth. Yes, some babies’ genitalia are ambiguous and intersex people, as they are now known, have historically had a rough time but their existence does not disprove the fact that humans are sexually dimorphic. Every human ever born was gestated in a female body, the (biological) mother’s egg fertilised by a sperm produced in a male body. It takes two humans to reproduce, one male and one female and there are physical differences between the two which make this possible.
So how does an adult human male like Dave Muscato come to be accepted as a woman simply by changing his name to Danielle and insisting, loudly and vehemently, that he is female?
Danielle is an atheist, or at least he was the PR person for American Atheists. His job was to produce material to help convince people they were wrong for believing in things that could not be proven by science. Taking “truths” on faith alone is not enough, religious doctrine is not a force for good. Rational thought is the only way to peace and unity. Etc.
In late 2014 Dave “came out” as a transgender woman. He explained to his friends and colleagues, via a friend’s blog, that he would not initially change his appearance or presentation but would expect to be known as Danielle from now on. He expressed understanding that people may struggle to remember his new pronouns and claimed he would not take offence at genuine mistakes. He changed his name and description on his Facebook page and, despite his assurances in his “coming out” post that he would remain an atheist activist and leave LGBT activism to the experts he has since become a vocal activist for the transgender cause. He refuses to engage with anyone who does not freely recite the mantra “transwomen are women” and acknowledge him as female and therefore deserving of all the rights and freedoms bestowed on born females (which seems to be most importantly the right to use women’s toilets despite presenting as a man, having male anatomy and having been told by many women, and some men including some who seem to be his friends, that this will make women uncomfortable.)
Now if Tara Hudson, with her “7 inch surprise” can be female enough to go to jail with vulnerable female prisoners, and Alex Drummond, with her beard and unaltered body, can “expand the bandwidth of how to be a woman” by continuing to fix cars for a living but now wearing a skirt and full make-up, it would seem disingenuous to suggest that Danielle Muscato cannot also be a woman despite presenting his completely male body in traditional male clothes with a manly beard, hairstyle and (dare I suggest) very masculine and forthright way of arguing his points online. I just cannot bring myself to use female pronouns for this person though, I hope he is still as forgiving as he claimed to be when he first came out.
I think what I most take exception to in Danielle’s case is the fact that, despite the atheist activism, there is an expectation on everyone around him to take, on faith, his assertion that he is female. In fact a couple of days ago he used a discussion about religion as a trojan horse to browbeat someone on his Facebook page into admitting to being “anti-trans” because his branch of Christianity states that it is wrong to deny your biological sex. His (ex?) friend did a beautiful take-down which sums up my thoughts on the subject rather well:
So suddenly, to admit to not having sufficient evidence to assert a definitive conclusion about something is equivalent to its denial, or equivalent to “anti”-something? That doesn’t fly anywhere else. Why here? And to demand that I conclude and believe something solely on the basis of you saying that it is so…sounds like something you think happens in churches everywhere on Sunday. This is irrational and you know it.
This is precisely why I never have come to you and just outright demand that you believe God exists, just because I said so, or even because a thousand people said so, or even because we have developed fine sounding theological theories and ideologies that say it is so. That doesn’t work.
I can find no scientific proof that gender identity is a thing. I’ve done a fair bit of searching now and it’s just not definable. It is a diaphanous concept which not even the hardened transgender campaigners or gender identity clinics seem able to pin down and describe in a consistent way. It is a feeling, apparently, but not one that everyone has. It is innate, for some whereas others only discover it later in life. Many men who transition claim they have always known: that during childhood they played with toys designed for girls, cross dressed in secret or dreamed of growing breasts. Their experience is akin to that of closeted homosexuals, they have lived a lie to this point and cannot keep it secret any longer.
Others state fairly clearly that the ability to label themselves transgender gives them the freedom they crave to dress or present as female despite having no desire to alter their bodies. Claiming to actually be female seems to be expected of them and provides them with an excuse or protection of some sort which is not available to transvestites or cross-dressers as men who simply want to wear women’s clothes.
For some it manifests as gender dysphoria: an extreme distress and excruciating sensation of being in the wrong body leading to rejection of primary and secondary sex characteristics. These are what were traditionally called transsexuals, who cannot feel at ease until they have been transformed, via hormones and surgery, into a facsimile of the opposite sex and divested themselves of as many vestiges of their original sex as possible.
I have a lot of sympathy for the gender dysphoric. It sounds like a torturous existence and if they can gain relief from their distress by going through surgery, hormonal treatment and living as the opposite sex, whatever that entails, then I wish them well. I also have a strong “live and let live” philosophy whereby I fully support the right of all transgender people to live free from discrimination and to have all the same rights and responsibilities as the other humans with whom they share their lives and spaces. I have no wish to deny anyone safety, security, bodily autonomy or access to healthcare, employment etc.
I support the right of everyone to dress how they want, wear their hair how they want, choose whether or not to wear make-up or high heels. I am not convinced that anyone’s sartorial choices change their sex though and if birth sex and gender identity are different things but transgender women are women then I really think we need some new words to use for the adult humans with the capacity to produce ova. Although for some purposes I don’t mind being lumped together with other humans who can wear frocks and sparkles without being bullied for it, I object to being categorised with adult humans with penises when the other category comprises mainly adult humans with penises.
Danielle’s story has much in common with The Emperor’s New Clothes. I don’t believe for a second any of his acolytes really think he’s a woman. They might believe he genuinely thinks he is and be choosing to appease him. They might be too scared of losing face (or being blocked) to openly admit the truth but can anyone, really, take on faith that he actually became female overnight, or in fact always has been? The Emperor is, as we say in the UK, stark bollock naked in this case.