This post is a reply where I disagree with the content of a video that YouTube recommended I watch “Transexual v Gender Radicals” where a transexual woman advocates for trans medicalism though she never calls it that. Refuting such claims often takes longer than stating the claims themselves, so this post will inherently be a bit of a long read. You can watch the video if you want for full context, but if you’ve already heard trans medical claims such as if you don’t have gender dysphoria you’re not really trans, there is nothing new or groundbreaking here and this post can be taken as a general stance against trans medicalism and the same old tired arguments they make again and again.
It’s very convenient for people to make these kinds of videos against the validity of non-binary genders without actually addressing the full arguments made by the opposition, taking short sound clips and turning them into empty straw man versions of the original arguments and admittedly some people don’t practice good argumentation because their videos weren’t necessarily targeted to convince anyone but to provide a resource for people who need it.
I’m not expecting you to do any better here, but I’ll give it a shot anyway. Oh, and by the way, I myself am a transexual and I did every surgery I could to feminize myself and I identify as a trans woman, only feminine pronouns and I began my transition almost 6 years ago, soon turning 40. Unfortunately I understood I’m a woman only at age 32, went bald at age 21 (my dad at 19) so the results of my transition were limited despite doing everything I could do to transition as well as I could.
That’s just a general background about me so you can’t dismiss me as being a “gender snowflake”, I’m a binary transexual woman just like you and I still am in favor of people being able to be their gender if they say they are that gender, and I’ll explain in detail why.
After that, I will explain why doing so would actually help trans people, whereas what you propose actually hurts trans people, both transexuals and transgenders, especially non-passing transexuals with gender dysphoria.
Why you are your gender if you say you are your gender
In the science about gender and sex, these are two seperate terms that denote two different things. Gender is everything that has to do with identity, and as such, is subjective and socially constructed and has meant different things in different times, societies and cultures. Sex is everything that has to do with biological characteristics associated with male and female categories. Man and woman are genders, male and female are sex categories.
Even within sex characteristics, the science shows that it isn’t a strict binary, but bimodal. Extreme examples of this are intersex people, but you can observe this in the general population too with facial characteristics. There are facial characteristics that you tend to see more in assigned male and assigned female people, but generally the vast majority of people have a mix of both. For example, a female might have wide open eyes, a small up turned nose but a square jaw. A male might have very hooded eyes, but also a round chin and angular jaw.
However, especially when it comes to gender, things are increasingly arbitrary the more you look back in history. The whole blue for boys and pink for girls? That was just a result of a toy company running out of dye. Pink used to be strongly associated with manhood. Have you ever heard the expression “a real man”? It’s been used to socially pressure people assigned as men to behave in various contradictory ways in different times and places. Men wear short hair? There were cultures where it was quite manly for a man to wear a long wig.
By confusing gender and sex, you make it seem as if people are claiming to physically be female, male or intersex when they are making claims about their gender, which is by definition a matter of identity, which is intersubjective and on a large enough time and geographical scale shown to be arbitrary, therefore if you say you are a certain gender then you are that gender – by definition.
Gender is also not the same as attack helicoptor or tree or donkey or whatever, because those are physical things, not identity. When someone is saying they are agender or bigender or non-binary they are not making any claims regarding their physical body or the nature of themselves as a biological organism or inanimate object.
Transexual and transgender are two seperate things. There is a larger likelihood if you are transgender to also be transexual, but it doesn’t have to be the case. A transexual is someone who changes or wants to change characteristics in their body associated with their sex assigned at birth.
But chromosomes tho! Genitals tho! Wombs tho!
When you “clock” a stranger in the street (referring to gender recognition) you generally don’t see their chromosomes, their wombs nor their genitals. At least, I imagine in the societies where most people read this that this doesn’t happen. We “clock” someone based on a mixture of gender cues like clothes they wear, makeup, voice, how they move, etc. and secondary sex characteristics such as facial bone structure.
Therefore, chromosomes, wombs and genitals are all largely irrelevant for daily functioning in society. If we’re talking medical discussions and dating, then sure, you can tell your doctor or your potential date that you have a penis if that happens to be the case, but that doesn’t mean you’re not a woman. In contexts where your sex is relevant, talk about your sex, but there is no argument to have that impact your daily life and ability to live as your gender, whatever your gender might be.
Why trying to police gender is harmful to everyone
You claim that “gender radicalism” (i.e. accepting a person’s gender based on them saying they are that gender) is more harmful than anything else to trans people. You’re basically arguing that trans people need to be able to assimilate and all this “gender radicalism” is just making it harder rather than easier. You’re like the “good gays” who said we need to prove to the straights that we are just like them rather than saying “we’re different and that’s okay, we shouldn’t have to be just like you to be accepted for who we are”.
This works only for the people who can truly assimilate, who can completely pass, who have the perfect transition. I don’t know how many trans people actually achieve that. There are social and economic barriers that prevent access to the necessary treatments for many people, and depending on your starting point when you transition, some people can never fully pass no matter how much money they throw at the problem, no matter how much they work on their manuerisms, their voice, their hair, their clothes, etc.
For all of these people, myself included, relying on this trans medicalist view of transness puts all the burden on trans people to do their best to pass and zero burden on society, and if you fail to pass, well then tough, you just have to live with gender dysphoria being triggered every day by misgendering for the rest of your life, and we can all bicker and fight on how you didn’t try hard enough to pass and judge you for dying your hair a weird color so you’re practically asking to be misgendered even though a cisgender woman would not have to deal with that. How exactly is having trans people police other trans people and reinforcing society’s policing of trans people supposed to help trans people?
This also reinforces stereotypical gender roles for cis people too. If a trait is beneficial, it should be considered for its benefit regardless of its association with gender. If a trait is harmful, then associating it with gender is harmful to people of that gender. Having an ever increasing number of genders is a wonderful way to gradually break down gender and remove it from society so that everyone can just choose their preferred traits based on their merits.
In a post gender world, I know that sounds scary to you but hear me out, where society recognizes gender is arbitrary, subjective and seperate from sex – people will learn to respect everyone’s gender regardless of how they look, and you can still be transexual if you want, you can still change your body if you want, but you won’t be pressured to do all these things on pain of society constantly denying your gender. You can do it simply because you personally are uncomfortable with that body part being that way, and that’s a huge source of emotional pain in itself without adding to it the external societal pressure trans people, both binary and non-binary, suffer from today.
The importance of pain
I understand the things a transexual woman goes through to try and pass, I have done them all and continue to do them all today. However, I don’t agree that we should define ourselves by our pain. I don’t think we should begrudge the next generation having things easier than we did. I can be jealous of them. I can feel bad for how unfair it is while still being in favor of things getting better or being better for them.
Is it fair that my father went bald at age 19 and I inherited that gene and went bald at 21 and now I have to wear a hair system all the time and it itches all the time? No! Should every trans woman have to do that even if she has hair because I do it, otherwise she isn’t a real trans woman because she doesn’t experience my suffering related to hair loss which makes passing as a woman harder for me? Of course not!
So why should non-binary and non-passing trans people have to be restricted by being defined by their pain, their gender dysphoria or lack thereof, to define who they are?
I can be jealous of a more passing trans woman than me who started at age 19 while still being happy for her looking more pretty and feminine than me.
I can be jealous of someone fighting only a year to get her surgery or not at all while still providing papers proving that after 3 years my surgery was approved, to make it easier and quicker for others to prove that these surgeries are approved despite claims that they aren’t as excuses to make approval difficult or impossible.
And I can be jealous of someone not needing to go through all the surgeries I went through and not feel gender dysphoria, while also being happy for them that they don’t suffer like I do.
And I can feel all this pain and be trans while also recognizing people who don’t feel this pain can also be trans.
We shouldn’t let pain define who we are, lest we replicate the same oppression we experience and repeat it on others.
So even from a consequentialist point of view, your hinging of transness on gender dysphoria is bad for everyone except perhaps the rare trans women who are super gorgeous and super passing to ridiculous degrees that even cis women don’t need to uphold lest they be misgendered on a daily basis and have people arguing they aren’t “real women”.
A final personal note
Of course i would like to pass. It’s what I wish for more than anything. I basically have three major wishes I would like to come true: 1. to not be bald 2. to not have such sunken eyes despite forehead and orbital rim reductions I did which is a very prominent and highly associated as a male secondary sex characteristic 3. to not be constantly bloated.
Of those 3, the first 2 seem unattainable with current options from my years of trying to find solutions. For the last one there is some hope right now since it turns out I might have SIBO, and if that turns out to be true, that can be treated. The baldness I’ll probably have to wait for new technology to grow new hair follicles and the facial bone structure just can’t be changed because my starting point was too extreme in male range pending further advancements in the field.
Because of this, every day I go out I get misgendered. Every time I make a phone call, I get misgendered despite learning voice feminization. Every time I go out I need to deal with lots of itching from my hair system, no matter how expensive or advanced it is and how much I care to wash it. I can reduce the itching by going around with a water spritzer and fan on me all the time, but that doesn’t look very “feminine and graceful”, does it? And every night that I want to go to sleep, I have to take the hair system off and see the remaining male facial bone structure I could not remove in its full gender dysphoria triggering detail – otherwise, I just can’t fall asleep due to the itching. Believe me, I’ve tried.
So I know what it is to go through surgeries, from facial, to breast enlargement to bottom surgery and everything involved, to not pass despite doing everything I could. I know the pain of being transexual, I am jealous of people who pass as their gender and despite all I know about sex and gender and wishing I wouldn’t need to pass, I still want to, really really want to.
And even though I want to, my feels are irrelevant to gender and sex being two different things, that gender is arbitrary, sex is bimodal and a society where my gender would not be erased no matter how I look, indeed where gender would be removed from language (I live in Israel where even inanimate objects in Hebrew get gender pronouns) would be a better society, where I would only have to deal with my internal pain without also having to deal with society constantly telling me I will never be feminine enough to be a woman, where people of all genders or no genders can take on characteristics based on the individual merits and functions of those characteristics rather than to slide neatly into a gender mold.
The trans medicalism you are advocating only reinforces that I am at fault or my body is at fault for 100% of my gender related pain and puts zero pressure on society to learn to accept that I am a woman, a trans woman, which is still a woman just like a cis woman is a woman. Even without considering non-binary gender acceptance, this view of transness is harmful to binary trans people as well. My pain will most likely always be there until the day I die, but it doesn’t define who I am and I will not pander to people’s fear of someone who is different from them by trying to hide my difference, by saying “look, I’m the same as you, not like those weirdos”. I will tell them I am different, I am a weirdo and there is nothing wrong with that.