Guest post: But with fewer swears

Originally a comment by Your Name’s not Bruce? at Miscellany Room.

I had originally written this as a contribution to the comment thread responding to the story that Mike B mentioned here before discovering that you needed to be a paid member to post. Not wanting to pay to do that, I thought I’d post it here instead. Keep in mind this was intended for a different audience, so forgive me if it reiterates arguments and ideas I’ve made here already. But with fewer swears. The direct link to the story and its comment thread is here:

Why oppose this definition: Women are adult humans who identify as female. As I said above, is it simply an unflinching desire to defend the truth about the dictionary meaning of a word? Or is there something else you object to?

I object to men who claim to be women being put into women’s prisons. This something that is already happening. I object to men claiming to be women demanding access to women-only rape shelters. This is already happening. I object to the crimes of men claiming to be women being attributed to women, thus invalidating statistics used in policing, law enforcement and public policy. This is already happening. Why should “gender identity” (whatever that is) have any bearing on facilities, spaces, and positions allocated on the basis of sex? It shouldn’t; they are two completely different things. Yet trans identified males are demanding, and being given access to, what had once been women’s single sex spaces, all on the coat-tails of this new, non-standard definition of “woman.” This is not simply about defending the dictionary meaning of the word woman. It’s more importantly about the health, safety, and dignity of women. That hijacking and distorting language is one of the avenues through which women’s rights and safety are threatened, that is on those pushing the new definition of “woman” that includes men. “Of course transwomen are women! It’s right in the name!” Well, by such logic, sawhorses and pommel horses are horses, and I look forward with interest to their inevitable racing in the Kentucky Derby.

Language is more than just important in this discussion; it is vital. I will digress here to make a note on usage. In the interests of clarity, I do not use the term “transwoman” or “trans woman,” but “trans identified male” to refer to males who, for whatever reason, believe they are, or claim to be, women. They are not women of any kind. They never will be. If this is “transphobic,” then reality is transphobic. Trans identified males remain males however much or little they alter themselves surgically or hormonally. Keeping this fact clear makes discussion more open and honest. It makes what is at stake and what is being demanded more obvious.

Trans activists will sometimes admonish feminists for supposedly conflating “sex” and “gender,” but at other times use this very conflation to advance their cause, regardless of the cost and danger to women. Humans can’t change sex. So that’s a hard no for access to facilities segregated on the basis of sex. But somehow a male “perfoming femininty” is supposed to be given entrance to these spaces because he “identifies as” a woman. Dressing up as a woman is supposedly enough, but not even necessary. Under self identification, or “Self ID,” (which is a concept being pushed in many jurisdictions), any man, “trans” or not can claim to be a woman and gain entrance to women’s single sex spaces. This makes it harder for women to defend these spaces, as it removes the ability to prevent any man from entering, because they might “identify as” a woman. This makes it easier for predatory males to access female only spaces. The best course of action is to bar all males from such spaces, however they might “identify”. Demanding entrance to women’s spaces automatically makes any such man a risk. It’s big red flag that women are being told to ignore.

…the real question is why are people so vexed and insistent about this? If you admit that people can change genders, why fixate on “but not sexes.” I don’t buy that it’s just about defending the truth. People who defend the idea that sex is malleable are not more confused about any of the “facts” than their detractors are.

This question works just as well in the opposite direction. People so keenly interested in breaking down the concept of sex, in redefining “woman’ in such a way that it includes men (while, curiously there is nowhere near the equivalent pressure and insistence on redefining “man” ) seem to have an intense interest in allowing men to have access to women’s spaces, positions and facilities. That seems to be the whole point behind all of these efforts to redefine “woman.” Women are certainly the ones being asked to stand down, step aside and pay the price by letting men in. If humans can’t change sex, then yes, those who see sex as “malleable” are confused about the facts, and one is left to question why they are so insistent on defending something that isn’t so.

Being female is a condition of material reality, not something you can “identify” into if you are not female to start with. A man can no more become a woman through “identifying” as one than I can become an invertebrate, or made of antimatter, by “identifying”. My identification and wishful thinking matters not a bit to the universe. I will remain a vertebrate made of ordinary matter for the rest of my life, however fiercely I may “identify.”

It’s interesting that some of the same people who object to Rachel Dolezal’s claim to be Black furiously deny that her imposture has any parallel with the claims of trans identified males, even though unlike sex, racial identity can be a “spectrum” depending on one’s parentage. Whatever one may think of the utility of the concept of “race,” people of diverse ethnic and geographic origins have children all the time, and they can exhibit a wide range of features that one might attribute to “racial” markers: skin colour, blood types, hair types, eye colour, etc. Without further investigation (and the testimony of her family), it could have been the case that Dolezal was of African American heritage. There is no way that a trans identified male is in any way female. The embarassing thing about the Dolezal/trans comparison is that trans claims are less credible, that is to say impossible. Yet rejecting Dolezal’s claim, while accepting those of men claiming to be women, like swimming cheat Wil(Lia)m Thomas, is supposedly “progressive.”

In humans, sex is binary and immutible. The existence of people with disorders of sexual development (or, less accurately “intersex”) does not change this. Sex is not a “spectrum;” there is no third sex, no intermediate between sperm and ova. Certainly there is a small number of individuals with conditions of sexual development that represent edge cases, but those people are still male or female. Most DSDs are specific to one sex or the other. Their existence does not suddenly render the concepts of male and female useless and incoherent, any more than dawn and twilight invalidates the concepts of day and night. The cursory nod to so-called “intersex” conditions is simply a way to justify the appropriation of the DSD concept and terminolgy of “assigned (sex) at birth,” as if doctors and midwives attending births have to guess at a newborn’s sex, decide arbitrarily, or flip a coin and write down M or F based solely on heads or tails.

The only reason I can see is that people want to pretend that it’s just a “natural biological fact” that people can’t do whatever thing they want to do, when what they mean is “don’t do that” or “its wrong to do that.” People want you to call a blastocyst a baby because they want to make abortion illegal. People who call BLM protestors “thugs” do so because they oppose BLM. If that’s not you, then what is your reason? I think you could pick a better fight.

This isn’t the winning argument you think it is.

I’ll accept that those who are so keen to change the definition of “woman” to include men want to use this new, idiosyncratic, and counterintuitive definition to do something that the customary, standard one would prohibit, things that would normally be met with “don’t do that,” or “it’s wrong to do that.” So what is it that men want to do in women’s single-sex spaces? It’s a hell of a lot more than “just go pee.” Male sex offenders aren’t suddenly discovering they’re “trans” just to go pee. Mediocre male athletes aren’t jumping to women’s leagues just to “go pee.” This deliberate trivialization and minimization of trans identified males’ demand to “just go pee” hides the real, brutal cost that women are already paying for accepting these newly-minted “women” who are men into their spaces. This is not accidental. The issue is much more than “bathroom bills,” but women’s real, legitimate concerns are brushed aside as outdated prudery, or vindictive bigotry. Attempts to fight against opportunistic distortion of language is painted as pettifogging bookishness. It’s just one little word: woman. How does expanding the meaning of one little word hurt anybody? I’ll tell you how. How can women defend their rights in law if the law doesn’t know what a woman is?

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