Let’s just get one thing straight. I am not spending a fortune, undergoing two major operations and three minor surgical procedures, enduring countless agonising hours of electrolysis and laser hair removal, relinquishing my male privilege and exposing myself to possible ridicule, harassment and physical assault just to become a “womxn”.
Hell, I can’t even pronounce womxn. Why would I want to be one? I would bet whatever paltry sum I still have left in my bank account that the vast majority of trans women agree with me.
We have no problem with the idea that female humans are women, that mothers are female and that menstruation is not something that men do. We know this because we were born male. And none of us gave birth or had a period. That’s why some people think we can’t ever really be female.
So all these demands to describe the users of tampons as “people who menstruate”, or use a scrap of meaningless woke gibberish like “womxn” for people who give birth or need gynaecologists do not come from trans women.
This is all about the trans men.
Before I go any further, let me just state what I hope is obvious: I completely defend the right of someone born female, but also transgender, to undergo gender transition. I defend their right to define themselves as male, to undergo Gender Confirmation Surgery and to obtain the legal status of maleness via a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC).
I also defend anyone’s fundamental human right to a family, including the right to parenthood. But although rights can be very easy to state, they can be incredibly tricky to balance. And that is the problem here. Trans men, being born female, have eggs, rather than sperm.
In order to be birth-parents, they can either use artificial insemination to fertilise those eggs and then implant them in a surrogate mother. Or they can retain the reproductive system and genitalia they were born with and be impregnated themselves, carry their babies to term and give birth to them. Now, this process of baby-making is the absolute biological definition of all female mammals, from aardvark to zebra. And the act of giving birth is the most primal female experience there is.
It is not the case that all women can, or want to give birth. But it has always been the case that anyone who gave birth was a woman. And it is still the case that anyone who gives birth was born female and it still, in certain crucial respects, biologically female. But trans men want, and have the right to define themselves as male. It is not their fault that they continue to menstruate unless or until their ovaries are removed, or they undergo menopause.
They didn’t ask for those ovaries, any more than I asked for my male genitalia. It’s not their fault that the only way they can produce a child is by female means. And it’s also not their fault that in order to qualify for their gender surgery, and/or their GRC they have to ‘live in role’ as a man. That means taking a male name, wearing men’s clothes, using men’s toilets, acting the way men act, 24/7.
But how can they live as men if they’re having babies? One answer is to square the circle by insisting that having periods, getting pregnant and giving birth are not, in fact, female activities, and that it is transphobic to suggest that they are. Hence “people who menstruate” and “womxn”. This is where trans rights collide with those of regular, born-female, still-female women.
They have already been told that they have to accept trans women in female-only sports. Now comes the news that all the things they thought were uniquely female are no longer theirs any more. They can’t even call themselves women any more. No wonder many women feel threatened, belittled and bullied by trans activists. Who can blame them? It’s a massive own-goal on our part.
Trans people desperately need improved access to medical treatment; greater protection from prejudice, harassment and discrimination; an easier, better-funded path to full transition. But we certainly won’t get them by antagonising people who might otherwise support us. The truth is, change is never easy, and we are living in a period in which all our old certainties are being challenged.
Modern scientific research is increasingly suggesting that the binary division between male and female is not sufficient, physically or psychologically, to describe a much more nuanced, complex gender reality. Our culture, however, hasn’t caught up.
We’re still trying to find ways of understanding and describing these new ways of being human. ‘Womxn’ is a terrible word, so we need to find a better one. Meanwhile, I defend trans men’s right to have children, by whatever means they can. But I still think women are women. That’s why I want to be one.
Diana Thomas writes a weekly column called My Transgender Diary