I just read JK Rowling’s defense of her stance on trans women and it’s kind of a mess.
I’ll try to articulate her arguments in a way, giving her deference so I can discuss my thoughts on the matter:
1. Women have been trying to get away from being defined as feminine. Or being defined by having reproductive organs (vulva, specifically). Why? Because these have been used as tools of oppression since men first starting applying their dominion over women. If we reduce the female experience to these things, we are being forced to brand ourselves (like with a branding iron, not like Madison Ave “branding) with the tools of the oppressor and it flies in the face of women trying to be actually seen instead of reduced to these concepts.
2. Young girls might be attempting to escape sexism by becoming male. She sites Trump. pornography and incel culture as two of the myriad ways that being that female are still valid causes for being diminished and attacked.
3. Gender dysmorphia leads to sex changes as much as body dysmorphia leads to unnecessary plastic surgery. And we need to deal with the dysmorphia and not the fix of just capitulating to the need for a change rather than whether something else is stirring the need for change.
4. The cancel culture is viscous and violent and similar to the violence she’s personally faced. Free speech should be valued…even when it’s detrimental (but then she goes on to contradict herself by supporting Trump and also blaming him).
5. Predators will manipulate the ability to change sex in name only to enter into protected spaces and take advantage or actively abuse women.
Ok. I tried my best to sum up her arguments. For the record, she did a messy job and I don’t support what she’s saying. I don’t need to defend her.
But here is what I think:
I’m cisgendered. My body came with a certain game plan that came coded in two X chromosomes. My brain was washed with certain hormones in the womb. I grew up in a culture and in a generation when sex differences were very defined. I went through puberty and my body changed. Over these things I had zero control.
All these things that are out of my control have, in so many ways, determined the course of my life and informed my experience. If we just take the most literal biological experience, it means I’ve bought tens of thousands of menstrual products, thousands of “beauty” and “vanity” products required of my sex (bras, underwear, makeup, hair dye, stockings, heels, fashion, razors, etc.), and endured a medical establishment that has ignored my pain levels and prescribed medicine that adversely affected my reproductive abilities because there is a lack of focus on women’s health care and an indifference towards looking at how we express medical issues and how medicine affects us differently.
As a woman, I’ve also had to play various roles to remain safe. My sex is enough to make me a mark for violence, for being paid less, for being dismissed as a human being with thoughts and feelings and experience. And not just by straight men, but by other women and sometimes, and (this is a whole other discussion) by gay men.
None of this means I don’t respect the trans experience or that I don’t see women who’ve gone through transition as anything less or in some way “wrong” or “broken.” Your existence doesn’t diminish mine. We can all be women.
Our experiences that have brought us to the point where we are currently just different. And over these millions of tiny iterations, we’ve been formed into who we are when we look out from our own bodies into the world. To reduce this need to be seen as cis vs. trans ignores how excruciatingly hard it is for cisgendered women (and pits us against each other in some false dichotomy that benefits the conventional establishment that doesn’t give a fuck about either group and uses this discord to sit firmly on top of us).
But I will not veer from this message: we need to not just honor the inroads made by cisgendered women, we need to keep fighting like hell for them 1. because it’s still a fucking nightmare for us on every block and corner of the world ; and 2. because we are usually the ones fighting for everyone else, including you.
My gender expression is somewhat removed from all the things that tip me on the scales of biological sex towards female. This is pretty common amongst autistic women. There are a lot of reasons why. But basically, I never subscribed to being feminine or derived pleasure from female reindeer games. I can fake it for you from morning to night. But I’ve disentangled my true inner self from social constructs and I feel less gendered internally.
Until we live in a world, however, that doesn’t categorize me as female and then throws me onto the heap of “female life,” I’m still constrained by what you see.
So I guess what I would say to anyone who identifies as female is, “You are welcome here now and for always. Please enjoy the wine and snacks. Honor our struggle the way we honor yours. There is room for all of us.”
What I will also say is that anyone who tries to tell me who I am and what I’m worth based on what they see is in for a reckoning but, mostly, it’s a huge fucking shame that you will never get to know the real me because my sex and gender expression are so overpowering to your worldview, that everything I do and say is limited and restricted by them.
And as for predators who would go so far as to change their sex to exploit or harm women…it seems incredibly unnecessary when the current and persistent paradigm is that you don’t have to work anywhere near that hard to hurt us. There are much easier ways to go about it. So it’s really the least of me fears, somewhere after pulling at a hangnail and consequently bleeding out and dying.
If you think I am missing something, I am open to what I am missing. I am not, however, here to be told my experience is invalid.