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  • Writer's pictureContrarian Quinn

Everybody Knows What A Woman Is, Including Trans Activists

Another International Women's Day has been and gone and with it, a million reminders of why I've found myself estranged from the progressive left and its particular brand of feminism. As someone exited from prostitution and highly critical of the practice of buying sex, I've become increasingly alienated within feminist circles over the last few years and IWD tends to really drive home the reason why. The performative condemnation of so-called "SWERFs" ("Sex Work/er Exclusionary Radical Feminist") is out in full force, that sharp little acronym that misrepresents women who are critical of the sex trade as hating or wishing harm on prostituted women when many of us have been prostituted ourselves. It's simply not possible for women like me to participate fully in conversations about the sex trade when the intersectional hierarchy of woke left spaces demands that we disclose our "identities" as prostituted women in order to claim any right to weight in on the matter to begin with (which many of us can't safely do), and when any criticism of the sex trade runs the risk of getting you labeled a SWERF, thereby giving male progressives social license to hurl misogynistic abuse at you. It sure is interesting how many apparently "progressive" men are ready to jump on any opportunity to harass, threaten and wish violence and death upon women when they are given permission to do it. The same is true of the word "TERF" ("Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist"). On IWD it's all over the place, reminding women that if they dare to question the rhetoric of trans activists then they'll be branded with that modern equivalent of the scarlet letter and leftist men given the green light to hurl misogynistic abuse at them. Even women who subscribe to gender ideology are uncomfortable with this ( I know because I used to be one), but they don't dare criticize it for fear of also being labeled a TERF and being subjected to the same treatment. This treatment punishes the non-compliant woman and serves as a warning to the women who witness it. What this means is that people immersed in this particular culture find themselves focused on avoiding the treatment they often participate in dishing out to others, rather than any actual political analysis. Complex social and political issues are reduced to mantras, and whether someone is "good" or "bad" is determined by their willingness to affirm the mantras. Trans activists will shout about "trans rights" as a kind of abstract concept without actually knowing anything about the specific laws and policies that are relevant, not understanding that "rights" are legally enshrined or they're nothing. Often they can't even tell you what "trans rights" actually are, other than the alleged "right" of trans people to have others share and participate in their self-perception. Trans activists are rarely interested in what you might think about the genuine discrimination trans identified people can and do face, or any nuanced political analysis you might have. They only want to hear you affirm the mantra: "Trans women are women". I won't affirm this mantra. At this point I wouldn't even if I agreed with it on some level, because it's a thought-terminating cliche that exists in service of an elitist ideological battle rather than a practical, good-faith conversation about ensuring human rights and dignity. It's also a very sly kind of semantic trickery; when trans activists say this, they don't mean what the general public thinks they mean. Most people understand "woman" to refer to adult human females. That is, adult members of the sex that produces the large gametes as opposed to the sex that produces the small gametes. They also understand a "trans woman" to be an adult human male: a member of the sex that produces the small gametes instead of large gametes. This means that the statement is incoherent to most people's understanding when taken literally. By most people's definitions of "woman" and "trans woman", this statement makes about as much sense as saying "redheads are brunettes", or "people without hair are people with hair". The terms are in direct contradiction. What this suggests is that trans activists are working with some other definition of "woman" and "trans woman" outside of what is commonly understood. However, this often goes unquestioned by the wider population simply because it doesn't occur to many people that they could possibly mean it literally and they fill in the gaps themselves. Most people understand that there are male people who for one reason or another, are more comfortable being seen as female and they also assume that trans women medically transition and aim to "pass" as female. When they hear "trans women are women", they assume that what is really meant is "don't be an asshole to trans women by constantly and unnecessarily pointing out their birth sex", which is fairly easy to agree with for most people with a "live and let live" kind of attitude. It's not until these unsuspecting members of the public find themselves put on blast for some transgression, perhaps expressing concerns about convicted male rapists being placed in women's prisons, that they realize the message goes far beyond "live and let live". It's tempting to conclude that this is a language barrier, that trans activists understand "woman" and "man" to refer to something other than the human sexes and are simply failing to grasp that their definitions aren't the same as most people's. This isn't hard to believe at all considering that the political left has a problem with academic echo chambers that has driven them further and further out of touch with everyday working class voters. I know from experience that being immersed in queer theory and amateur philosophy can hinder your ability to communicate effectively with people who exist outside of those echo chambers. As a result, a lot of us who are engaged in the politics of sex and gender identities end up putting a lot of time into trying to get trans activists to understand that they're speaking a different language. This is a mistake and a waste of time. Trans activists know they're speaking a different language because they're doing it on purpose. They understand exactly how the average person interprets their mantras and they're counting on it. It means that people don't question their terms, which works for trans activists because their rhetoric falls apart very quickly when it's questioned.

When the statement that "trans women are women" is taken literally the obvious question is "what exactly do you mean by "woman?" because it's clear they're not referring to reproductive sex. It all goes downhill from here because without exception the only alternative definitions that trans activists can offer are either based on sexist stereotypes (which ironically preclude women who don't conform to those stereotypes from being women), or entirely circular. Saying that a "woman" is "anyone who identifies as/feels like a woman" isn't a definition, it doesn't actually tell us what it IS that people are "identifying as" or "feel like" any more than saying "a jabbler is anyone who identifies as a jabbler" explains what a "jabbler" is. Leading up to this years IWD, The UN Women Twitter account tweeted a quote by trans model and disability activist Aaron Philip, saying "every woman is a woman" and describing women as "formless". If that's the case then I don't know who exactly Aaron was talking to or who IWD is even for. Increasingly often trans activists will try to avoid having to explain their definitions (or lack thereof) by instead attempting to demonstrate that our commonly held definitions are incorrect or inadequate. This is why they attack the reality of reproductive sex and talk about intersex people. A lot of people critical of gender ideology question why trans activists bring up intersex people so frequently, saying that trans identity is not an intersex condition. They're right about that, but that's not actually what trans activists are trying to argue. In referencing the existence of intersex people trans activists are attempting to convince you that because a small minority of people have a difference of sex development that can cause ambiguous genitalia or an unusual combination of sex characteristics, this proves that your sex-based definitions of "woman" and "man" are unreliable and you'll presumably have no choice but to accept their alternative definitions based on "identity". This is of course fallacious on several levels, the most obvious issue being that even if you accept their argument that intersex people disprove binary sex (they don't) and that sex is socially constructed (it's not), at best that would lead you to conclude that there's actually no such thing as a "woman". This is of course not the conclusion that trans activists want you to reach because they obviously do think there's such a thing as a "woman" since they're saying it's what trans women are. Which brings us right back to putting their definition of "woman" under scrutiny, and that, of course, is exactly what they hope to avoid by roping you into a debate about whether or not sex is real. And around and around we go. The bare truth is that trans activists know what a woman is and what's more, they're relying on you to know it too. While they tell us that our definition of a woman as an adult member of the female reproductive sex is incorrect, exclusionary and bigoted, they simultaneously rely on us having a pre-existing sex-based understanding of "woman" in order for their messaging to stick. It's precisely because everyone knows what a woman is that we're able to understand what a trans woman is, and trans women rely on the fact that we all know what a woman is in order to pass as one. It's so painfully obvious that trans activists understand that a woman is an adult human female. It's obvious when they tell us that trans women need HRT to grow breasts and surgery to create a facsimile of a vagina, when they tell us that it's transphobic to deny trans women the right to call their side effects from HRT "periods" as if those things have some connection to the definition of "woman". It's obvious in trans spaces where the people born with the penises are prioritized and pandered to endlessly and the people born with vaginas are told to shut up. It's obvious when trans activists condemn even explicitly trans-inclusive events and spaces for people born with vaginas as being transphobic, as if being born with a vagina has something to do with the definition of "woman". It's obvious when trans activists who claim that trans women are women and subject to misogynistic violence still see no problem in normalizing misogynistic abuse and threats of violence against non-compliant women, seemingly without any concern that this could also hurt trans women if they are in fact women. Arguing over whether or not trans women are women in some capacity is a diversion. The fact is that there are people born with penises and people born with vaginas, and that will remain true regardless of what linguistic games we play. Call them tables and chairs or sugar and spice or anything else, the sexes will continue to exist, and the people born with vaginas will remain a distinct demographic which is entitled to language that describes us and to determine when we require privacy from the opposite sex. Literally everybody knows what a woman is. Nobody is confused. When those trans activists say "trans women are women", they aren't arguing trans women are literally women or even for a new definition of "woman". They're arguing for the absolute destruction of women's right to assert boundaries, and they aren't confused about who's boundaries they're challenging. They're arguing against the entitlement of those of us born with vaginas to ever say "no" to those born with penises. Rename the people born with vaginas to "chairs" and they'll rail against the boundaries of "chairs" as being exclusionary and bigoted. Their claims and arguments have become increasingly incoherent over the last few years precisely because the supreme right of the penis-people to access who and whatever they like has always been their endgame, not reason. They will shift goalposts, contradict themselves and lie in order to deceive the general public and use threats of violence against those of us who see through them, even against other trans people who dissent. This is the 21st century anti-feminist backlash and it's important to engage it on that understanding. Happy IWD from another formless, amorphous mass!

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