Err, yes, you are female

One Twitter user told me that “you have a working reproductive system so you are a woman”.

Umm, yes, I’d say that working ovaries, womb, fallopian tubes, they’re a pretty good indication of being a woman.

That you wish to be socially regarded as male is no problem at all. As a matter of politesse we might even run with it. But it’s not changing that underlying reality at all.

Just as calling a politician the Hon. is politesse, not a reflection of the underlying reality.

The trolls and naysayers can’t have it both ways. The bigoted arguments for denying Jenner a women’s award – namely that she was assigned male at birth

Anyone can give anyone they want to an award. But someone whose balls have created 5 (or is it 6?) children is male. Again, politesse, but that underlying reality ain’t changed.

51 comments on “Err, yes, you are female

  1. ‘They’ just attention seeking again, as tiresome as it is predictable.
    ECT would have nipped this in the bud a few years ago.

  2. @Tim Dude, just let it be. Let people believe whatever they want, on social matters, what does it matter ? Besides, its not like there aren’t a shit ton of problems with giving her that award.

  3. Let people believe whatever they want, on social matters, what does it matter ?

    Because they don’t want to just let everyone else believe what they want: they want to browbeat everyone else into accepting their worldview, and attempt to punish those who dare to think otherwise. They’re trying to beat us over the head until we’re all reciting 2+2=5, and some of us don’t like that.

  4. I very much like this new idea of “assignment at birth” as though this was done in some random way without reference to genitals.

    It makes “reassignment” later so much easier if the initial allocation is made to seem vague and haphazard.

  5. Intersex is a thing — sometimes the initial allocation is somewhat haphazard either due to odd chromosomal set-ups or the in utero environment; sometimes there are anomalous hormonal changes in later life.

  6. Indeed so: although it’s unlikely to happen to someone with working ovaries, fallopian tubes and womb, as proven by popping a sprog out of the combination. Similarly producing fertile sperm: it’s one of those bits that sorta shows that one isn’t intersex.

  7. “One Twitter user told me that “you have a working reproductive system so you are a woman”. By that logic, women who cannot reproduce; who have had hysterectomies…” and on she drones.

    No Dear. (Do you.mind if I address you in that way?)

    The true logic is rhat the existence of fundamentally female physical attributes are conclusive but not absolutely necessary proof of womanhood. They are also conclusive but not necessary proof that you are not a man.

  8. It’s not quite that clear cut. An acquaintance of mine who sired a child also has an unusual scar navel to pubis from what was called a “gall bladder operation” in early adulthood; and at an age where one might expect a menopause started to spontaneously feminize (the anomalous hormonal changes later in life).

  9. I am under no more obligation to acquiesce to the assertion that someone biologically a woman is in fact a man than I am to the assertion that someone is Napoleon unless they are, in point of fact, Napoleon. The only real difference is we tend to lock the latter category up for their own good. We don’t carry out a series of surgical mutilations to make them look more like a French Emperor or hand them 18th C. Dictator of the Year awards.

  10. From the Guardian comments, “I identify as a dog”. Woof woof!

    Oh, and MagnusW, “Jack is winding up all the right feminists, so I’m with him.” Jack’s preferred pronoun is “they”, so you should have said, “I’m with them”. Despicable misgendering.

  11. Irrespective of the truth of the claim to being Napoleon the claimant should be locked up. All that matters is whether we do it on Elba, St Helena or in the NHS.

  12. Is the use of they as a personal pronoun not offensive to those with a multiple personality disorder (asking for the stranger in the mirror staring back at me)

  13. “Jack’s preferred pronoun is they”. Do they use the royal we? And when they do, is it seated or standing?

  14. From Jack’s website – Notes for Media:

    “Pronouns: Pronouns are how you refer to a person when not using their name. Please use ‘they/them/their’ in place of ‘she/her’ etc. They/them pronouns are grammatically correct when used to denote a single person, although common usage is plural. It might look odd at first but it’s definitely okay.”

  15. RlJ: don’t think so. Was just using the “thinks he’s Napoleon” trope as shorthand for being a nut.

  16. It’s all a matter of definitions. There are a dozen or more characteristics that differ between men and women, and most people have almost all of one set or almost all of the other. But when people have a mix, you’ve got a choice of definitions. Do you pick one particular characteristic as the absolute criterion, or a majority, or what? Who gets to say? And what happens if somebody else picks a different one?

    If you decide to legally define it in terms of working ovaries/balls (which have got precisely what to do with 90% of everyday social interactions?), how long until someone does the first transplant and messes that definition up as well? They transplant kidneys and hearts and so on, so why not?

    A person can be genitally female and mentally male. Someone can have the emotional attitudes, sexual preferences, verbal / spatial ability, body hair, athletic ability, etc. of either. I’ve met people who thought that if you didn’t like playing rugby in the mud and snow ‘you must be a girl’. Were they right? By one definition – an important social one. The ‘genital’ definition is no more absolute than any other.

    It’s a completely separate issue from the question of forcing one’s own definitions on others. In a liberal society, people should be able to identify as they choose, and other people should be free to go along with that or not as they choose, within the usual bounds of doing no harm.

    That applies even to more conventional definitions. If I decide you’re a girl, despite your having been born with working balls, and identifying as a boy all your life, then I can call you ‘she’ and ‘her’ and even ‘Betty’, and treat you as one. Doesn’t matter if you find it annoying, or even grossly inconvenient and embarrassing. ‘Normal’ men and women don’t get to force their own definitions of who and what they are on other people, either.

    So long as you don’t mind being persistently misidentified as the other sex yourself, I’d give you a pass on the way you identify others. But in a high-density society we’re all highly dependent on others freely choosing to be nice to us, which is why we’re nice to them in return. We go along with what’s important to them, so they’ll go along with what’s important to us. That’s what social ‘politesse’ is about. If you choose not to, then you can’t legitimately complain about people doing the same to you as a result.

    You can’t have it both ways. You can argue that you can call Caitlyn a man because “freedom”, or you can argue that you can call her a man because “we’re right and they’re wrong”. The latter argument excludes the freedom to be “wrong”.

    I’m all in favour of the former argument. The latter argument is one the one the totalitarians can just as easily use against us. So which is it to be?

  17. NiV

    Is the length of your comment meant to cover up the paucity of your argument?

    I know we are all supposed to be Gnostics now – our will trumping brute nature – but no one seems to have told the rest of the biosphere: Bulls still have no doubt that they are bulls, female Black Widow spiders still attempt to eat their distaff partners, female Gingko trees still stink.

    Damn ‘Y’ chromosomes, eh?

  18. NiV:…ovaries/balls (which have got precisely what to do with 90% of everyday social interactions?)

    I don’t wish to pry excessively but could you give us a breakdown of your typical “everyday social interactions” during a standard 24 hour period?

  19. “Is the use of they as a personal pronoun not offensive to those with a multiple personally disorder?”

    To some them yes; not to others.

  20. “Is the length of your comment meant to cover up the paucity of your argument?”

    No, it’s to compensate for the intellectual limitations of some of my audience.
    🙂

    “…our will trumping brute nature…”

    You’re missing the point of the counter-argument to this. Our will is a part of our nature. It’s as ‘natural’ as our liver or spleen.

    The brain is an organ of the body, it works by the same biochemical processes, and it exhibits sex differences too. (Which don’t always match the rest of the body.) Did you imagine that mens’ and womens’ minds were essentially identical, and all the important differences between us confined entirely to the genital area?

  21. The article arose because she won a gong for Best Woman or whatever. Thus the obvious solution is to scrap all gender-specific awards. The Oscars for Best Actor / Actress will be renamed to something un-gendered. The FIFA Women’s World Cup will be scrapped, and they can play in the regular World Cup instead; players will be chosen by ability, not by gender. Woman’s Hour on Radio 4 will be replaced with Person’s Hour, and so on. Only then will we have true equality.

  22. TLDR – This is all about the T in LGBT and is it socially irresponsible for people to assume that sex and gender are the same thing in the same way that it’s socially irresponsible to assume that sex and sexuality are the same thing.

    I think the problem is that there are actually two separate things here. Sex and Gender. One of them is to do with the bits between your legs, and the other has to do with the bits between your ears (and there are real physical differences between the different genders). For most people these two bits align mostly nicely and thus attitudes and self image match closely enough with the physical body that assuming they are the same works 90% of the time.

    However Gender (the one in the brain) does not always match sex. And for some societies they have always had space for those people that don’t have a sex gender match (e.g. native Americans). However our society tends punish those that show tendencies that don’t match with their bodies. For women that are not to far along the gender spectrum this is easier than it is for men, as it is socially acceptable for them to wear mens style clothes, play mens sports, etc. However for Men the opposite is not currently true, a man in a dress or a skirt is still something to be noted and commented on. A man that likes knitting, painting their nails, and wearing makeup more so.

    For those that are further along the spectrum their physical bodies don’t fit with what their social expectations for their gender are, these are the transsexuals, and Jenny is one of these. For these people they have a social programming that says they should look, act, sound, smell etc. in one way, but their bodies don’t allow them to look/act/smell/sound in that way. These usually end up as post operative Transexuals in order to rectify the cognative dissonance between their gender and their sex.

    As such it is socially irresponsible to treat sex and gender the same way, even if for 90% of cases it is true. In the same way that sex and sexuality are no longer seen as the same thing. This is all about the T in LGBT and has been an issue since before the acronym was invented. The L and G are currently mostly socially acceptable, however the B is now pretty much invisible, and the T is where the L and G were 30 years ago.

  23. NiV

    “Our will is a part of our nature.”

    Of course it is, but ‘our nature’ is not biological nature and that also does not mean that our nature cannot be disordered – to use an example from higher in the thread – someone can absolutely believe that they are Napoleon. That is in their ‘nature’. It’s not true, however.

    You’re using nature as a synonym for character.

  24. @ DragonLord- wtf does socially irresponsible mean?

    OK- I 100% get that some people thoroughly believe themselves to be male, but have a woman’s body. I get that. But I’m uncertain as to how what anyone else thinks about them is socially irresponsible.

    Sure, it could be a bit awkward on occasion (especially if the disparity twixt self image and reality is huge) but surely that’s not irresponsible (like building a nuclear waste dump next to a primary school).

  25. @John Square

    It’s socially irresponsible because it’s a social norm that says that men are men and women are women and this is how you tell the two apart.

    It’s socially irresponsible because this discrimination is not just person to person, but also systemic (see this as an example http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/transgender-woman-placed-mens-prison-6727687) to the point where their apparent gender is ignored in preference to their birth sex.

    It’s socially irresponsible because it’s society that needs to change, not just a few individuals.

    Yes, building a nuclear waste dump next to a primary school is more socially irresponsible. However just because it’s not a big responsibility, doesn’t mean that it’s not a society one. We all need to change our opinions over time so that Transgendered people are recognised as such and treated in a fair and humane manner, not ignored and treated as if they were typical specimens of their sex.

  26. @Dragonlord.

    Thanks for the reply: and of course- there are different levels of irresponsibility, and I agree that smaller issues shouldn’t be ignored because one can hypothesis a worse case.

    However, I’m not sure your response answered my question: why is society’s general ignorance of gender issues socially irresponsible? I get that it’s undesirable for a few non binary people, but I’m curious as to what the generalised harm is ( the ‘generalised’ bit being implied by the term “socially irresponsible”).

    My nuclear waste dump example was because there are all kinds of (obvious) disbenefits to storing leftover plutonium in a playground. I’m not clear what the issue is for trans folk whose circumstances aren’t fully understood by your person in the street.

    Or is some level of social awkwardness what we are talking of? Hate crime etc. obviously excluded.

  27. @John

    I could start bringing up stats about how historically people on the transgender spectrum are more likely to suffer from depression, and commit suicide. But it’s more than that.

    Our toys are very gendered, our clothes are very gendered, our advertising is very gendered. All of this is fine. However, our children (male children especially) are discouraged from playing with cross gendered toys, or in cross gendered ways. Children are being railroaded into gender roles and for the most part those that don’t confirm to stereotypes are forced into those stereotypes.

    Times are changing slowly, in the psychological community the advice has been changing to acceptance rather than forcing.

    These may help show what our social upbringing does to these people.

    http://nymag.com/news/features/transgender-children-2012-6/
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-32037397
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02dt14s
    http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/apr/05/transgender-kids-children-change-sex-families

    Unfortunately, as with most social issues there’s no 2 paragraph or 2 page answer that someone can give to fully answer a question like why is this socially irresponsible?

  28. “people on the transgender spectrum are more likely to suffer from depression, and commit suicide.”

    This is true of mentally ill people in general.

    Look, the whole issue is that the degree to which one believes something to be true is not the determining factor in whether there is any onus on others to participate in or sanction that belief. Believing—really believing—yourself to be something you are not is not ipso facto harmful, but demanding that rather than merely humour you, people must act as if what you say is indeed the case despite the fact that they themselves really believe it not to be true is at best a deep impertinence and at worst socially corrosive.

    Bruce Jenner is not a woman. He has never been a woman, and he never will be. Even if his personality were by some super technology to be transplanted onto the substrate of a female human being, he would still not be a woman. He is not a woman trapped in a man’s body. He is a man-who-thinks-he-is-a-woman trapped in a man’s body. After the mind transfer or whatever, he’d be a man-who-thinks-he-is-a-woman trapped in a woman’s body.

  29. “Children are being railroaded into gender roles and for the most part those that don’t confirm to stereotypes are forced into those stereotypes.”

    Or maybe boys are boys; girls are girls, they adopt gender roles because that’s what they are and your notion about railroading children is just a tad deluded.

  30. @Ironman

    That’s true of most children where their gender and sex match up, however for those that don’t?

    How many parents would buy their darling little boy a barbie doll, pink dress, and allow them to grow their hair long and styled like a girls if they wanted it?

    That’s what I mean by railroaded.

  31. @Bloke in Costa Rica

    Are you someone that thinks that being gay is also a mental illness? As they used to think that you know.

    And you know, psychologists disagree with you so much, they’ve removed Gender Dysphoria from the list of sexual illnesses into it’s own section (and renamed from Sexual Identity Disorder).

    http://www.hrc.org/blog/entry/apa-to-remove-gender-identity-disorder-from-dsm-5

    It’s also known that there are/can be physiological reason behind it too

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_dysphoria

  32. Dragonlord

    I would say that the usual sloghtly agressive discourse should be set aside for you. Clearly you are thoughtful.and sincere and should be taken seriously.

    However, “socially irisponsible

  33. Aah

    Socially irresponsible doesn’t add up. We produce gendered toys because kids are.’genderised’. The numbers.who are railroaded are too small for social responsibility to be a factor. I’m sorry for the very small confused minority who.don’t have access to the childhood that might suit them (although I can’t help wondering exactly what childhood Olympic pentathlete Bruce Jenner really required) but that does not amount to ‘railroading’ of children. He vast majority take the gender roles to which they are suited. That seems very socially responsible of the adult world to me

  34. Why would we want to abandon the colour categories of black and white just because there are several (not fifty, please!) shades of grey?

  35. @Ironman

    Given that statistics for the US and the Netherlands suggests that up to 5% of the male population may be somewhere on the transgender spectrum (The female population is harder to catagorise due to the social acceptability of cross dressing from gendernormative clothing)

    http://www.gires.org.uk/assets/Medpro-Assets/GenderVarianceUK-report.pdf page 12

    That’s approximately the same percentage numbers as those that are homosexual and would represent quite a large number of people. As you’ll also see from that document, the number of people that are severe enough to require surgery is in the 1,000’s a year, so yes a negligible amount compared to the total population.

  36. I’d say the real issue here is that the overwhelmingly vast majority of people are happy with they gender they were born. I’d also say the vast majority of these people are at the very least sympathetic to the plight of those that aren’t happy with their gender. I’d also most people realise their is a spectrum within each gender, and not everyone conforms to the supposed traits of their own gender.

    What really grates is that it appears as though for the sake of a very small minority that we must re-make the whole of society. Avoiding gendered pronouns etc. That goes against nature and in my view should be resisted at all costs. This is all about feminisation of course, and will have unintended consequences, for example boys might gravitate to radical Islam where there is no such confusion over gender roles.

    What is most ironic of course is that trans-gendered people are themselves acknowledging that their is a gender divide, otherwise they wouldn’t be wishing to switch.

  37. @Ian Reid

    Most Transgendered people don’t actually want to re-make the world, just make people aware that addressing someone that is presenting as female as he, him, Mr, etc. is offensive to them, the same is true of someone presenting themselves as Male would be offended by being called Mrs, she, her, etc. I’m presuming that if you don’t think that this is the case, you’d be happy to be called Mrs Reid?

    Obviously, if you’re unsure as to the pronoun that is appropriate, there’s always the gender neutral ones too 😉

  38. Given there’s such a vanishingly small number actual transsexuals about, I can’t help wondering if the Guardian has now succeeded in publishing an article on behalf of every single one of them.

  39. @Dragonlord: no of course I’m not saying I think being gay is a mental illness. It’s abnormal (in a value-neutral sense) since 97–98% of people are not gay. Being over 7′ tall is also abnormal. Gay people, and tall people, are not expecting me to profess things about them that are not true. Gay people actually are gay. People who are 7′ 2″ actually are 7′ 2″. If people feel themselves to be a different sex than they actually are, then they are entitled to kindness and a certain amount of indulgence. What they are not entitled to do is insist that their personal mental state (which is at variance from the truth) should somehow be the overriding factor. A is A. Bruce Jenner is a man. There’s no argument about that. He has an X chromosome and a Y chromosome and has demonstrated he is fertile, repeatedly. He apparently feels that he is a woman. Yet he is not a woman. He is a man-who-feels-like-he-is-a-woman. If I believe I am 7′ 2″ instead of 5′ 8″—really believe—it does not make it so and I am not entitled to insist that it does.

    As for the ‘5% on the transgender spectrum’ idea: I guess we’re all on the transgender spectrum. It’s just that 99.98% of us (a much more realistic figure) are down the “not at all transgender” end of the spectrum.

  40. Ironman. Dragonlord Sharkboy….
    It’s getting very cosplay, around here.
    Let me know if Sailormoon shows up

  41. “How many parents would buy their darling little boy a barbie doll, pink dress, and allow them to grow their hair long and styled like a girls if they wanted it?”

    What is the Guardian circulation? Divide by ten, why not?

    As for the 5% assertion, please provide link(s) and a definition of the word ‘somewhat’, as I am very sceptical.

  42. @Bloke in Costa Rica

    Given that both being GAY and your Gender are defined by your brain structure, why is it so hard to accept that someone can be so feminine that their body isn’t suitable for their brain, but find it easy to accept that someone is attracted to someone of the same sex? Is it strange to think that someone that was born with male sexual characteristics could actually be feminine through and through?

    From your responses you probably can’t accept that this could be the case. However I bet that you don’t even bat an eyelid about born women walking around in trousers and shirts rather than skirts and blouses. Have no problem with born women that want to work on building sites, or do things that are traditionally masculine. As long as you can still refer to them as female. But what about those born women for whom their bodies can’t match their gender identity? Who get hormone therapy in order to develop male secondary sex characteristics? Would you have a problem calling them Mr? Or treating them as male?

    I suspect not, as the same struggle that women have fought against since the suffragettes is just starting with men, and Transgender is the spotlight that is highlighting the problems that we face.

  43. “Is it strange to think that someone that was born with male sexual characteristics could actually be feminine through and through?”

    Yes. That’s why we used to call them “poofs”

    I might think I am a handsome beast endowed with a mighty cock, but that doesn’t make it so.

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