Self Erasure in the Trans Community
Being transgender is the state of being born one sex but with a conflicting gender. On the inside you are one way but your body doesn’t match. It is something that the United States has been getting used to over the past few years, along with people who don’t fit into the gender binary (agender, gender fluid, genderqueer, etc) echoing the people they’ve long ignored and hidden: the intersex who don’t fit cleanly into either sex.
There is nothing to doubt – Scientific American published a piece in January 2016 about how the brains of transgender individuals mimic the brains of those of cisgender individuals of the opposite birth sex. Transmen perfectly match cisgender male brains and transwomen seem to get halfway between. We don’t know the specific cause, and we don’t know the details of these differences, but we know they exist amongst men and women, trans or cis. This is gender caught on brainscans.
Certain features found in brain scans are generally found in women – others are found generally in men, and very few people have only the feminine features or masculine features, we tend to have a mixture of these features. This perfectly matches the psychological understanding of gender: it is on a spectrum, from feminine to masculine, and we can fall anywhere in between. Some fall at the ends, but most fall in the middle – most cis people have a few features of the opposite gender but are still comfortably a gender which matches their sex because most of these features match. Some people fall near the middle with near equal components and make up our bigender, agender, and genderqueer communities. But trans people cross those lines and their genders match the opposite sex. That is our definition, and that is what the results seem to have found.
There is a bit of an anomaly – trans men are more significantly matching the male profile than trans women match the female profile, which may mean that trans men are more fully transgender or may simply mean that some of these differences are more likely the effects of testosterone than actual gender. That is deserving of further study.
Yet, there are members of the trans community, particularly on the true left, who have been intellectually poisoned with radical feminism; a philosophy which is neither radical nor feminist. Radical feminism goes beyond stating that men and women are equals and seeks to make them equivalent through means which, to an outsider, certainly resembles worship of the masculine. Femininity is described as weakness: subservience, passivity, and the dress and grooming only making them easier to subdue. To resolve this, they seek to masculinize women, because masculinity is strength. It is like a religion where the goal isn’t eternal life in paradise or reincarnating to a better life, but a lifelong quest to obtain manhood.
Two particular strains of radical feminism garner a lot of attention: TERFs (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists) and SWERFs (Sex Worker Exclusionary Radical Feminists), which also often overlap and are by no means mutually exclusive. These trans folk, of course, are not part of a TERF strain of radical feminism like Deep Green Resistance. However, they do hold to a major tenet of radical feminism: gender is a social construct. In order to resolve this, being transgender, they have decided that their sex is, and always was, that which they have identified with. Rather than use terms such as MTF (male to female) they use the terms AMAB and AFAB (Assigned Male [or Female] At Birth.
It isn’t a transphobic strain of radical feminism, but for the trans adherents to it, it is self erasing, which is why I call them SERFs (Self Erasing Radical Feminists).
Gender is not a social construct – it is something that we have seen displayed in the brain scans. There are certain attributes which most women have that most men don’t and vice versa, and while few if any will have all those attributes of one and not the other, most people tend in one direction or the other. Gender is real, though gender roles – the collection of duties and expectations we place upon people based upon their genders – are a social construct.
The reason this is self erasing is that it takes all meaning out of being transgender. I asked a friend of mine, who happens to be one of these SERFs, along with pointing out what the many things it is cannot be, how she is a woman under this philosophy at all. She never answered the question. Let me take you through the many things to which it cannot be due.
It is not because of our genetic sex, because we were born XY, not XX.
It is not because of our genetalia, because trans people are trans people regardless of sex reassignment surgery or any other surgery or medical procedure.
It is not because of our gender expression, because drag queens and drag kings crossdress for a show without being transgender and being the gender they dress as.
It is not because of our gender identity, simply because we say we are trans, because that reduces it to something arbitrary and meaningless. It may be appropriate for someone to accept us as women because we say we are women, but without something real behind that claim, it wouldn’t really be appropriate for them to accept us as such. It is not because we identify as women; we identify as women because we are women.
We are left only with gender as being the cause – something that might exist. Gender is innate and something about us that justifies our identities and is why we are called transgender in the first place. It is a mental state.
That being said, gender is not the same as gender roles – gender roles are actually societal creations because they are sets of rules that govern the roles people play based on their gender. In no way does validation of gender as a thing validate notions that certain jobs are better suited for one of the genders nor that one should be subservient to the other. The existence of mental differences do not mean that mental aptitudes or innate roles exist – and not every man or woman holds the same mental traits anyway. There are tendencies, not rules governing all women.
Though I never received any answer, feigned or satisfactory, to what makes us women given all this, I did see in later interactions a different issue. There was a sloppy understanding of biological determinism in their denial of gender: they objected to the suggestion that there was something that biologically determined us to be trans.
Being biologically determined doesn’t mean it was decided by the sex chromosomes – it doesn’t even necessarily mean it is decided by genes themselves. A hormonal anomaly, much as takes place in some intersex people who naturally develop female bodies despite being XY or male bodies despite being XX, happening at a certain stage of brain development may be to blame. We know it isn’t chromosomes, but we don’t know yet what it is exactly.
The alternatives are twofold: that it is based upon environmental factors – which may play a factor in self acceptance, but no, parents do not make their children trans – or that it is a choice. These other two choices are the offensive ones. To suggest that I am trans because something was done to me takes my identity from being a part of me and simply makes it a symptom of a disorder. I am not transgender because I developed a mental illness from how I was treated. It most certainly was not a choice – no one would choose to be mocked, discriminated against, have their chances of suicide or homicide multiplied dramatically. These are also highly reminiscent of the offensive accusations surrounding homosexuality and bisexuality which have been thoroughly debunked there.
SERFs are a part of the trans community, but they must be confronted none the less. This poisonous ideology poses a threat of confusing already confused members just coming out and getting to know the transgender experience. This philosophy is a boon for the religious right and TERFs who look to delegitimize trans people because it strips the trans identity of all legitimacy and does the work for them, especially as trans people themselves are putting it forward and cannot justify their own existence. These few standouts, however rare they may actually be, then get publicity from our enemies because they play into their hands and further their transphobic agendae.
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