Responses to responses to questions for FtMs: Part 1

This summer I was watching a lot of FtM videos and they led me to write this post: Questions for FtMs. I honestly wasn’t expecting any responses, but a few people have responded. Thanks! The responses were pretty thoughtful and sincere and they were interesting to read. The only things I was unsatisfied with were that sometimes people tried to answer generally for all FtMs rather than sharing their own perspective, and several people answered the questions for lesbians even though they weren’t lesbian. That was question #8, and perhaps I should have worded it better to be more clear, but I intended people who are bisexual or exclusively attracted to men to skip that question.

There is something I want to address right up front. Commenter Daniel wrote: “I’m not surprised you haven’t gotten many satisfactory answers to these questions. While the questions themselves are asked reasonably, it becomes very clear in the comments they are in bad faith. A few people in comments mention asking them irl (one person to their child, in a therapy session! How the hell did they expect that to go over?) – with less than stellar results. People don’t like being asked deeply personal, hard to articulate, difficult questions that they themselves are probably struggling with, only to be met with “Gotcha!” when they can’t immediately provide an answer. Not everyone has the ability or inclination to obsessively introspect like I do, and that shouldn’t be a prerequisite to transition.”

Let me be completely transparent about this. I did ask those questions in what you might call “bad faith,” meaning they were meant to be “gotcha” questions. Those questions were meant to catch the sexism, homophobia, and lack of coherent logic that so many transitioners display. However, the people who answered didn’t display much in the way of sexism or homophobia, and they gave me a lot of food for thought. Regardless of my original intentions, I have paid attention to the answers.

There is so much to discuss that I’ll probably still be working on this until Christmas, but that’s okay, I love blogging! I’m going to organize my responses by writing one post per question, with everyone’s responses to that question together.

There were two nonbinary people who responded, and I’m going to keep them separate from those identifying as FtM.

I’ll be using male pronouns for the FtMs who answered, but sex-specific pronouns for any other people who are mentioned. (There is no real reason behind this other than I feel like it.)

Question one was:

“Please explain in your own words what a “man” is and what a “woman” is.”

Commenter “Blob” gave the following answer:  “A man & a woman are defined biologically (chromosomes, genitalia etc). I’m very aware that I’ll never fit the definition of a man. Despite that, I feel a deep need to have a body that resembles a male one.”

Well, I’m gonna get along with Blob, because he knows that men and women are biological realities and that he’s not literally male, he just wants to resemble a male. I respect someone who tells the truth.

“Daniel” gave this answer: “Imagine a Venn diagram. In one section you have you “Breasts, vagina, XX, Less Body Hair, Estrogen Dominant System, Uterus, Self-Identified Woman, etc.” In the other you have you have corresponding male traits. In a combo of having most of those traits, and having them sense birth, you are identified by other people as a man or a woman. This is independent from being masculine or feminine. Some people have a strong internal sense of being a man or a woman, others don’t (I will elaborate on this lower down). I am a trans man because having female traits and being perceived as a woman causes me intense distress, and I am changing both of those things. In essence, I am not a man yet, but am working to become one. I do have an internal sense of being a man.”

“Skepto” gave this answer: “Man” and “woman” are words used to refer to two gender categories people sort others and often also themselves into. Each of them is commonly associated with a cluster of (physical and character) traits as well as certain behaviors and presentations. The specific traits that get marked as male or female as well as which associated aspects are given more weight when sorting a person into one of the categories vary widely over time and differ from culture to culture. Due to this somewhat frustrating fact, any explanation of the categories referencing particular aspects is doomed to be highly subjective and erase a significant number of people who would belong to them by many other explanations. (Also, lots of people don’t give gender categories a whole lot of thought before attempting explanations and end up backpedalling when faced with examples that don’t match some or all of their stated criteria, but whom they’d still sort into the category in question without pause if they had been introduced to them in other circumstances.) Since whether or not someone is a man or a woman is not relevant to me personally except regarding their pronouns/grammatical gender, I take people at their word regarding their preferences here. In everyday life, I also use indicators like names and presentations (measured by the standards of my cultural cluster) and usually get by just fine with that. (Sometimes the indicators are ambivalent enough that I’m not sure, in which case I hang back until I have collected more or – if I’m in a context where that seems acceptable – ask more or less directly. Most of the time I get by just fine, though.) I realize that none of this was actually an explanation of what a “man” or a “woman” is. I’m afraid an explanation of why such an explanation would invariably fail somehow has to suffice, because that’s all I have.”

There is a similarity between Daniel’s and Skepto’s responses—both of them have defined man and woman as clusters of traits, where people tend to have most of one set or the other. I therefore propose that we debate the question: “Is it possible to define ‘man’ and ‘woman’ as clusters of traits?”

Daniel proposed a Venn diagram with the male traits on one side and the female traits on the other side. Since Venn diagrams overlap, and since males and females can share some of the same traits, I assume that there will be traits in the middle that both men and women share. I’ll try making this Venn diagram and see what I come up with!

venn-diagram-man_woman

Here’s a quick Venn diagram to use as an example of how we might describe man and woman as clusters of traits. I’ve put the male traits on one side, and the female traits on the other. Hair length can differ in both, so any kind of hair length goes in the middle. Daniel has proposed that people get identified as man or woman based on having most of one set of traits. That sounds good at first. However, trans people always say that people can have basically any traits and call themselves anything. If we follow the logic of the trans movement, then anyone can have any of these traits, and if anyone can have any of these traits, then don’t they all belong in the middle?

For example, you can be a woman with XY, penis, testicles, sperm, etc and you can be a man with XX, vagina, uterus, etc. Real people say this in real life all the time! And we are supposed to accept it as fact in order to be a trans ally. So if women can have XY, penis, testicles, sperm, a deep voice, and an Addam’s apple, then all those traits should go in the middle, because they are shared traits. If a man can have XX, breasts, vagina, uterus, ova, and become pregnant and breastfeed (sorry, “chestfeed”) an infant, then obviously all those traits belong in the middle too. Right?

all-the-traits-in-the-middle

The only traits that cannot go in the middle are the male gender identity and female gender identity. The physical traits are things anyone can have. After all, as the trans people say, “No physical trait is inherently male or female at all.”

Therefore I propose that we cannot define man and woman as clusters of traits, because, according to the trans movement’s own ideology, no physical traits can be considered only for men or only for women. I propose that, if anyone puts any trait in the outside boxes other than “gender identity,” then they’re invalidating some trans person’s identity, which is “literal violence.” Skepto makes a similar observation in his comment—that any time you place any of these traits in a certain box you erase someone who belongs to that category. Why do they belong to that category? Because of their “gender identity”—the only thing that truly defines a man or a woman.

Of course, this is where transgender ideology eats itself. If men and women cannot be described in any way, and are only identified by the subjective internal feelings of the individual, then how would anyone even know which one they identify with? How can you identify with a concept that cannot be defined? How can you know you are a woman when ‘woman’ can mean absolutely anything?

There has to be a way to describe what a man or a woman is, because if there wasn’t, then these words wouldn’t even exist. I think that all trans people know that a man is an adult human male and a woman is an adult human female. They also know exactly what male and female mean. That’s why trans people want certain body parts. The reason trans women want breasts and less body hair is because ‘woman’ is a recognizable category of person who has breasts and has less body hair than men. They know what women are and want to be one. If they actually believed that any trait can belong to anybody, then they wouldn’t be trying to get certain traits. Same with trans men. They want deep voices and flat, hairy chests because these are male traits. Men are a recognizable category of people with specific traits and trans men want to have them. They know what men are.

I also bet that all trans people understand human biology well enough to prevent a pregnancy. I think that no matter how strongly a female human insists she is “nonbinary” or “a man,” she knows she can get pregnant if a sperm enters her uterus.

In the spirit of debate, I have some questions regarding this topic for any trans people or trans supporters to answer if they feel so inclined.

1. Can you demonstrate how ‘man’ and ‘woman’ can be coherently defined as clusters of traits? What traits would you put in each box so that ‘man’ and ‘woman’ are recognizable categories that people can identify with but no one’s gender identity is invalidated?

2. One example of a transwoman who has all the traits traditionally thought of as “male” traits is Danielle Muscato. Do you think Muscato is a woman? If you do think Muscato is a woman:
(a) Do you recognize that XY, penis, testicles, high testosterone, ample body hair, Addam’s apple, are all female traits? If Muscato, a woman, has these traits, then surely they are female traits, right?
(b) If you are AFAB and identify as a man, and you would like to have penis, testicles, high testosterone, ample body hair, etc, because of your male identity—how can you call these male traits when a woman like Muscato has them and calls them female traits? How can a trans man want these traits because they are “male” traits while a trans woman can retain these exact traits and call them “female traits”? How can we reconcile this?

3. If you don’t think that Muscato is a woman,
(a) Why not? If he identifies as one can’t he be one?
(b) What’s the difference between a “TERF” not recognizing a trans person’s identity and you not recognizing Muscato’s identity?

I look forward to your answers!

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24 thoughts on “Responses to responses to questions for FtMs: Part 1

  1. I have to say, how does Danielle know what it means to have an internal sense of being a man? Men come in all shapes and sizes, with a variety of personalities and temperaments. Whenever I read something like that, I am always curious as to what is “being a man” is thought to be?

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    • I’m not sure if you are referring to me or Danielle Muscato, but in case it’s me:

      A) I elaborated on it in other responses, but a short version is “subconsciously expecting other people to react to you as a man”. That doesn’t completely cover it, but it’s a very strange experience.

      B) Danielle is not my birth name, but nice try.

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  2. While I do appreciate and to a large extent agree with your first Venn diagram, I have a question about it: consider a hypothetical person. This person could have XX chromosomes, female genitalia (vulva, vagina, uterus), not produce ova, have a relatively deep voice and the slightly more prominent ‘adams apple’ that goes with it, be relatively tall (well within the usual range for males), and have elevated levels of body hair.
    Such a person could at first glance appear male.
    Such a person would in fact usually be considered female, because this mix of traits can be caused by ‘tall, small-breasted’ genetics combined with a more-severe example of PCOS, which is an hormonal/ovarian syndrome exclusively affecting women.
    So, the question: is it a case of pick-and-choose sex-related characteristics and decide what you want to be, or is there a subset of specific characteristics that determine one’s sex beyond a doubt? Because, as illustrated, some traits can be displayed by either sex.

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    • From my post “A linguistic analysis of woman” : “Not all adult human females share the same characteristics. For example, there are some who cannot bear young due to medical problems. There are some who have their breasts or uteruses surgically removed. Some human females have a voice lower than the soprano range. Some human females have broad shoulders. So how to determine what makes one a human female if the characteristics are different in each specimen? What you have to find, in order to clarify a concept and distinguish it from other similar concepts, is the delimiting characteristic. It turns out there is a delimiting characteristic that determines whether a given specimen is an adult human female or not. The adult human female is a living being who is a member of the species homo sapiens who has reached sexual maturity and who will, under normal circumstances and in the absence of any surgeries or medical problems, be able to produce ova and bear young, because her genes are set up to make it so. The fact of having sexual organs surgically removed or being unable to use them to bear young because of medical problems does not negate the fact that the human female is genetically programmed to develop a uterus and ovaries that allow her to bear young. It is this concept that was given the designation ‘human female.’ The word ‘woman’ exists as a way to refer to an adult human female as opposed to a female child, or an adult male.”

      Liked by 4 people

  3. I have a relatively deep voice for a woman, despite having been forced as a kid to sing falsetto because my music teacher believed all girls should sing soprano. I have broad shoulders – a friend (also female) and I joke about our “linebacker” shoulders. I also have personality traits stereotypical for men and because I married into a big city family and had to learn to interrupt in order to be heard, I even have linguistic characteristics often associated with men.

    I’m in the stage of my life known as perimenopause, which means my fertility is now distinctly dodgy and my periods are highly irregular. I have never borne a child and that is not likely to change any day soon. I’ve been mistaken for male by people who registered shaven head and broad shoulders before registering my short height and hips like a fertility goddess.

    And none of this makes me male or even not female. They simply mean that women can have broad shoulders, sing contralto, enjoy math and science, and even be “pushy”.

    What it does mean is that I’ve taken a lot of punishment – from being forced to sing in a painful register to having my lab bench sabotaged, to being called “ugly”, to sexual assault (and being told I was too ugly for that), I have endured punishment for all of my nonconforming traits over and above the punishment I have taken for being born female. I was taught starting in early childhood to feed myself last, well after everyone else’s needs have been met. I was taught that my physical safety was less important than male feelings and that it was my fault if a male did something to me.

    And this is *why* I do not accept a belief system that claims these traits make me anything other than a woman. This is why men trying to colonize the spaces where I can talk honestly to other women pisses me off. This space is for us, not because we like dresses or makeup or jewelry, not because of some indescribable feeling, but because of material realities that men just do t experience.

    Liked by 12 people

  4. Reblogged this on A butterfly's diary and commented:
    Some good points. If men and women can have any physical characteristics, why embark on treatments to modify the body? Why insist that “transwomen are women” if the term woman is effectively meaningless? Trans ideology always seems to bring us back to sexist stereotypes and misogyny.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I should have made this clearer in my original response, but I see “man” and “woman” as social designations, with “male” and “female” as your physical sex. People will designate you as a man or woman based on a best guess of your sex, hence the Venn diagram. I was imagining one with the categories “Male Traits” over bubble 1, “Female Traits” over bubble 2, and a large center portion for everybody whose biology is a little off from the ideal. What’s inside the diagram isn’t traits, its people.

    We don’t take away the man or woman designation if it’s revealed you don’t fit the biological definition, unless you are trans. someone finding out the person they knew as a woman has a chromosomal disorder is taken very differently than finding out the person is trans.

    I mean, I think this is what’s behind so much of the “REAL man/woman” fighting. I can’t speak for all trans people, but I’ll be the first to admit I’m a weird exception to the female=woman and male=man rule. Mostly because I’m changing my sex characteristics to the point that people will guess that my sex is male. If I have to try and prove I’m “really a man” every time someone finds out I’m trans, or try to live as a woman while looking almost indistinguishable from a cis man, my life is going to become exponentially harder. (I’m also not the only trans person who is distressed by being seen as a woman, but even leaving that out its still unfeasible)

    I don’t have an objection to people making ASAB only groups. I have a big problem if those are ALL gendered groups, including the local men’s bowling club or ladies’ bridge group. It means that trans people are excluded from large portions of society, and for what?

    1. Man and woman are social categories that are given by other people based on knowledge or perceived knowledge of a person’s sex. I’m arguing that between compassion and most trans people effectively being intersex, self-identification should supersede perceived sex in the determination.

    2. Knowing absolutely nothing about Danielle Muscato other than she’s a trans woman who doesn’t pass, I think of her as a woman for the reasons I stated above. I don’t know why she doesn’t pass, if it’s something she would like to change in the future, or if she is unable to undergo the necessary medical steps to do so.

    I’ve been mulling over A&B for a while, and here is my take on “women can have any traits” and how that plays out in real life:

    We both agree that people should take as much time as possible to figure out if they are trans. Well, how do you do that? Jumping into hormones and surgery is foolish, so how do you know if changing those things, changing your sex, will make you feel better?

    You change your gender. You ask people to call you a different name and use different pronouns. You wear different clothes and follow different grooming styles. You bind or you tuck. This is the closest you can get to living as the other sex without medical intervention, it’s what we’ve got. You live this way until you are as certain as you can be that changing your sexed traits is the right choice. And this isn’t even talking about the people who will never be able to pass.
    Saying that a woman has no breasts and a penis, and saying that as a man I want them, it’s a description of our reality. I’m mid transition, Danielle is probably early in hers, we feel distressed at our current bodies and feel relief being acknowledged as male or female in spite of them. Some people parse this as being ‘really’ a man or a woman; I don’t care, I just want to not be in pain.

    This dose help people, it helped me. I cannot scientifically explain why this is, and that eats at me. I hate that until I pass I need to throw myself on other people’s compassion to maintain my sanity, and I avoid doing so in whatever ways I can. Asserting that I am a man, and always was, is less frightening than asking to be called a man out of kindness.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for taking the time to write this response. I have to say that I think there’ll always be disagreement between the two sides of the debate. It seems the differences between our positions are irreconcilable. When I first started paying attention to all the issues surrounding trans people I was more flexible in my approach, though I always said that women (adult human females, based on reproductive potential) had a right to women-only spaces and that lesbians had a right to set boundaries that excluded anyone who wasn’t female. This led to me getting a torrent of abuse and I realised that many trans individuals simply do not want to compromise at all on their position.

      For women the fact that sex is rendered meaningless is a huge problem because it strips us of the language required to fight our oppression and removes opportunities to organise in a ways that centres our needs. Even talking of female biology is not considered transphobic. Yet from the moment we are born our biology is the starting point of our oppression. At its most extreme, female foeticide and infanticide show how much girls and women are undervalued. Child brides, female genital mutilation, trafficking for the sex industry, etc.: many issues girls and women face are a direct consequence of being born female so sex is very relevant in our lives and it grates to see it dismissed in favour of gender when gender seems to refer to performance and appearance. Rather than the hierarchy we consider it to be, a hierarchy that leads to women being subjugated because of their anatomy.

      It’s difficult. I know my views probably hurt some trans individuals but I refuse to ignore material reality, which is something that affects me greatly. It worries me to think that if I were growing up now I’d probably be labelled trans as I was pretty much a gender nonconforming kid. It horrifies me to see kids encouraged to transition because they like the “wrong” type of toys or clothes, i.e. those not associated with their sex. And I don’t see how we can ever reach a suitable compromise if I’m honest. I hope I’m wrong.

      Liked by 5 people

        • There really can’t. Not only do they make it impossible to name our oppressors, they’re also actively erasing us. And in the process demanding that we actively accept it all silently. We’re at a dead end basically.

          Liked by 3 people

      • Hi +abutterflysdiary, I couldn’t agree more with what you said – patriarchal oppression based on our biology – but I posted the comments of a trans-woman, called Amanda Grimes, on a YT-video below (with a link to the thread there) and she actually *agrees* with good part or the entirety of what you said.

        I believe that many gender-critical trans-people don’t agree with the trans-activist agenda.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi PurpleSage, I’d like to add the following comments from a trans-woman called Amanda Grimes, from YT-video of Babyradfem, in which she says explicitly that she “knows that she’s a male” but likes to “think of herself” as a female and, in this case the social stereotypes become *important* just because they help to define what “female” is. In other words, she is openly trying to “play the (stereotypical) role of a female” person in society, as a cure for her dysphoria.

    Here is the link to the thread of comments – need to copy and paste to go directly to the thread – where she writes these ideas,
    @https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7Szr4azl7A&google_comment_id=z12iersgao3ldvipz04cjd1gftbqwnp5gf0

    and here is the video,

    Here is a cut-n-paste of some of her comments there,
    “Well Elle L and Rich Garcia you to are having an in depth exchange about things you have little understanding of. But there again there are lots of so called trans people who do the same so I suppose that’s forgivable. In Reality transsexualism is a very real very distressing mental disorder. I’m not talking about these retards who suddenly decide to “identify as” .
    Real transsexual people fight this with all they can before finally giving up. It has fuck all to do with wanting to wear dresses or playing with dolls as a child.
    It is a disconnect between the mind and body, where if you are born male you perceive yourself as female (a different sex NOT gender) but you recognize that you are not!
    There is the route of the disconnect you still know you should be female but know that you are not and never will be.
    Trust me it is a hideous feeling. Transitioning , hormones and surgery cure nothing. There Is No Cure, just symptom relief in the form of hormones and surgery.

    Even though you may be fully transitioned, every now and then it comes back just to kick you in the ass and remind you that it’s not gone. The route of this disorder may be physiological or neurological the jury is out on that.
    But it’s real and it has fuck all to do with autogynophilia.
    The vast majority of the crazy trans people you see on social media are not really trans they are just a little confused over their identity as a person.
    Their issue is who they are not what they are.”

    “Elly L. Sorry I’ll take a chill pill! I have encountered those people myself years ago at gender clinics of all places one of the reasons I opted out of the trans community! Their pathology is very dark and scary. Surly you recognise the irony that even I a transsexual don’t want to share a bathroom or changing room with people like that. but blaming all trans people will not solve the problem”

    On the importance of stereotypes
    “Dmh Frou and Rich Garcia. I think if gender stereotypes did not exist then the problems for people who call themselves gender fluid or gender queer and a good portion of those who call themselves transgender too would go.
    However Transsexualism is routed in biological sex not gender so that issue would remain. There is no escaping the physical differences between the biological sexes so you would still have transsexual people seeking hormones and surgery even though every one would be dressed gender neutral.”

    About trans-women with who have *not* had Sex Reassignment Surgery,
    “Elly L. Jesus that’s a hell of a list let me see what I can do with it but it may take a couple of replies.
    Already said I know I’m biologically male.
    [but]I consider myself a woman but neither demand nor require anybody else does, entirely up to them.

    I’ve been a woman for 30 years and pass completely and I have fought my way up the career ladder in a male dominated profession. I’ve been talked over and talked down to by men the whole time, been sexualised by men, sexually harassed by men and on one occasion many years sexually brutalised by a man. Trust me I get it.
    [I am] Absolutely fine with segregating women born women events.
    Like Magdalene Burns I agree there is no such thing as a lesbian with a penis, but let me kick that up a notch and bring on the hate from the trans army. I don’t think there is such a thing as a woman with a penis!
    As far as I’m concerned there are only 3 valid excuses for a trans woman to have one.
    1. You are just starting your transition and no surgeon would operate on you yet, or you are late in transition and are on a surgical waiting list.
    2. You live in a country where there is no Public Health Service funding for SRS, you med insurance won’t cover it, but if the funds were available you would have it in a heartbeat.
    3. You have an underlying medical condition which means no reputable surgeon would operate because you would likely die on the table.
    If you have a penis because you like it, or want to keep it to have sex then you are not a woman, sorry women don’t have dicks! Doesn’t make you a bad person but doesn’t make you a woman either.

    These comments show that there is a deep psychological problem (dysphoria) behind trans-sexuality and the mimicking of stereotypes is just part of the process of dealing with it – hormones and surgery are the ultimate attempt at conforming to the stereotypical idea that the trans-person wants to achieve.

    I find these comments *so enlightening* about trans-problem and how much of this dysphoria has been hijacked by the trans-movement to redefine “sex” from “gender”, with so bad consequences especially for women – as it always happens under patriarchy.

    I hope this can be useful in your studies.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This has me thinking again that since this is being defined as some sort of “mental disorder” that instead of associating with homosexual groups for the purpose of securing rights and protection, that maybe this is a problem that would be better addressed by disability rights groups instead. Being associated with gays and lesbians when you really have a ‘mental disorder” is a disservice to people who were formerly considered to be mentally ill. I would think that gays and lesbians would want to leave the whole mental illness paradigm in the past.

      Liked by 4 people

      • I agree completely, but there is a lot of resistance to this. They want to be seen as experiencing some kind of developmental disorder, they don’t want to desl with the stigma attached to mental illness. They want out of the DSM entirely, yet they still want government funding for medical treatment.

        But psychological developmental disorders (such as autism) aren’t particularly treatable. So none of this makes a whole lot of sense in a strictly medical context, though when framed culturally it’s a lot clearer what is going on.

        Liked by 3 people

        • I’m also thinking of proposing a new pronoun especially for women who are survivors of incest and other kinds of sexual assault. So that we can identify ourselves as a special group with special needs. My “gender identity” would be: “Rape Survivor, female raped by male(s)” and I would want a special pronoun to distinguish me from other genders. I would demand separate spaces and free counseling for life.

          Liked by 2 people

      • No shit, eh? Don’t know why gay rights groups put up with this crap. The stuff you said. But also the flakiness, denial of physical reality that is part of the extremist transactivists ideas. Ideas that they demand other people embrace. Like imposing a philosophy, let alone a crazy one, is a normal part of progressive political activism. 🙄

        This is way beyond anything that, going back to the 60s movements, Blacks or women or gay people were asking for. They never required anybody to believe something that isn’t true. And they never even required the mass population to embrace their ideas. That’s the thing about getting rid of persecuting laws. (like Jim Crow segregation, no women on juries, wife beating de facto legal) When you’re asking for equality you’re asking for something doable.

        Liked by 1 person

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