“Women must be protected from transwomen”

In the eyes of a transgender man

The same old argument why transwomen are not actually women

It was just like any other day.

I was talking to my friends James Finn and neil chapman when Jim drew our attention to a story that has been circulating on medium for some time.

Apparently, it looked like any other article about feminism. But that was before I clicked on the link and started reading it.

True, the author Maya Forstater made it look like she was trying to protect women’s rights. But she was excluding a group of people from her definition of ‘woman’.

This is nothing new. I am tired of seeing posts like this from trans exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) floating all over the social media. And even more surprisingly they seem to do fairly well. I often find a few allies among those who support the reasoning of these stories. Yes, I understand they are often cleverly veiled to be supportive of women’s rights but that doesn’t make the feeling of hurt and betrayal go away.

Maya Forstater made it seem that she was discriminated for speaking up about women’s rights. But what lies at the core is her belief that transwomen are not women. That an assault to a cisgender woman by a transwoman should be seen as an assault to a woman by a man.

It seems that Maya Forstater is adamant in her beliefs even when doctors all over the world are recognizing that the idea of gender comes from an innate identity, something someone is born with, independent the parts of the body they are born with. I think Jae Alexis Lee covers the point better than me here.

Maya’s saying she is worried about women’s safety. I want to remind her a few points.

  • If a woman feels uncomfortable being intimate with a transwoman without bottom surgery because it’s not her cup of tea, that’s okay. No one is saying that’s bigoted. But what is bigoted is when you see all transwomen as men.
  • If you are worried about women’s safety in prison, it should be said that transgender women suffer violence in men’s prison in disproportionate rates. And that is because they are seen as women.
  • If you are worried that transwomen have undue advantage over average cisgender women, you should know the hormone replacement therapy (HRT) makes the ground level. HRT makes the muscle mass of transwomen shrink and that makes them weaker than men. They have no more advantage than a woman with tall or broad stature.
    In competitions, we observe that trans women do not win in every competition against cis women. On the other hand, if they enjoyed any undue advantage, they would have done so. The doping agency does not have any qualms about letting a transgender person participate in sports if their hormone level is on par with the cis competitors.

Maya doesn’t want to believe people can have a sense of identity. I understand where she is coming from.

I am a transgender man. I played with dolls when I was a child. That didn’t make me think I’m a girl. My cousin loved to play home and he’d be the homemaker. I can assure you he is very much a cisgender man. I can give you multiple examples just from my family but what I’m trying to show is what toys we chose to play with as kids don’t make us a boy or a girl. The colour one prefers or job one takes doesn’t dictate our perception of gender.

My mother who is cisgender says she never ‘felt’ she’s a woman. Because she never felt the anxiety that comes when your perception of yourself doesn’t match your outward appearance or how the world looks at you. Because she never felt what it is like to feel disconnected from your body.

Even though I am biologically female, I can’t relate to women around me most of the time. I can sympathise with their problems, I might face some of the same issues myself because I look like a woman, but I’m never going to be a woman, even if you insist I am. You might succeed to erode my mental health, you might make me hate myself but you can’t change that part of me.

If you are thinking it was easier to come out as a transgender man, I’m sorry but not really sorry to burst your bubble. It takes several days of check-up before someone gets diagnosed with gender dysphoria. The path is a long and hard one. Maybe there are a few who regrets transitioning but their number is quite negligible compared to those whose life depends on transitioning.

I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and a part of it might come from the fact that I can’t transition. I would have loved to be on puberty blockers when I was going through puberty. I believe that would have made those years less traumatic for me. For a long time, I wanted to die. I didn’t want to make it to my 19s because to me, it seemed that dying is a better option than living my whole life as a woman. I am a part of the young people Maya is talking about and I think it’d make my life easier even if I could just socially transition.

It’s upsetting to see people talk about transgender issues without hearing two sides of the story. I want to be angry with them for taking away my rights, for telling me I’m delusional to think I’m a man but I can’t. Every time I see someone spewing hatred towards queer people, I can see the faces of my family, I can hear the voices of my friends among them and I feel sad. I can’t bring myself to be angry at the only people who love me, who were there for me, even if it’s just a part of myself they love. But I don’t want to lose hope. Maybe someday we won’t be alienating our family or friends just because they are different than the most.

Maybe someday…

I can only hope.

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Artemis Shishir

Artemis Shishir

Writer. Storyteller. Indian. Queer. (he/they). Reach me at artemisshishirwrites@gmail.com.