What makes a woman? New documentary seeks answers

There have been heated debates elsewhere when others have said the same. It implies treating some people differently than their expressed gender. That’s not acceptable to some people. Opinions differ.

So here’s the deal as I see it (and of course I can’t claim to speak for all trans people, but I think most, but not all, trans folk that I’m close to would agree with me):

If I happened to be seeking a relationship and my prospective partner said, “Sorry, I like you, but I’m into women and you’re not a woman” that would be transphobic and I would be hurt, but that would be within their rights to set that boundary. And it would be within my rights to never speak to them again.

If they said, “I’m into women, and I see you as a woman, but your penis is a deal-breaker”, then I would be hurt and if I were particularly into them I might ask them to try to get past it, suggest fun alternatives to PiV, etc. But if, at the end of the day, that was still a deal-breaker, I’d be like, “Okay, I’m not a huge fan of it either, I understand that we’re not sexually compatible” and I would not consider that transphobic. Some people do consider genital preferences to be transphobic, but I really just don’t get that.

Now, if by some miracle of fate, luck, hormones, and modern surgery I ended up being completely indistinguishable from a cis woman, I started dating someone, we were sexually compatible, and then when I casually mentioned that I’m trans, they said, “That’s a deal-breaker, see ya!”, that would almost certainly be transphobia and pretty inexcusable in my book. But at the same time, they would still be within their rights to not date me.


I have some vague understanding that some view it as men encroaching on women’s … identity, I think? The extreme example is men who transition and go on to dominate in women’s athletics competitions (something which surely happens with vanishing rarity, I’d expect?), but apparently there are more subtleties. Like, if a man says he feels like he’s actually a woman, who is he to say what a woman feels like, and what if there are women who don’t feel the same? Something like that. It’s not something I spend much time delving into.

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I just wanted to hug her while she sat through that anti trans meeting. It must have hurt so much.


I’ll back up what you’ve said, so much so that I don’t need to write my own comment now.

Disclaimer: I’m a clinical psycholgist with a PhD heavy in neuropsychology looking for correlates of on-road driving ability in older adults (and I work clinically with adults 65 and over so we have related interests). No personal experiences with brain scans but my research was done at a brain research institute with regular presentations by people doing fMRIs for their Masters and PhD theses.


My possibly simplistic take on it is this: I have a general moral obligation to treat everyone with decency and respect unless they’re being an asshole. That moral obligation does not extend to going to bed with them if I don’t want to.

Of course, in some situations it might be incumbent on me to reflect on why I don’t want to, especially if my mind was saying one thing but my body was saying something quite different.


What makes a woman what?

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why would an evo-psych fan believe trans people are biased? I can’t think of any academic evo-psychologists who have made any such claim.

So why is someone who willfully changes their gender such an issue?

I remember this issue becoming controversial at the local women’s bath-house in the 90s, when trans women with penises wanted to be able to bathe nude with other women. For the past two decades, cis-women had been trying to create safe space for themselves, in “women-only” meetings, bath-houses, music fests, & communities like OWL Farm in Oregon (Open Women’s Land, where all women, & only women, were welcome). In a violently misogynistic rape culture, women sought a sense of sanctuary, a chance to be oneself away from the male gaze, & to bond with other women outside the toxic competition of hetero culture. And most lesbian separatists felt it impossible to co-exist with cis men.

As trans liberation, genderqueer & LGBTQIQ movements grew stronger, the questions became real & important: Can we be inclusive, & still feel safe? Can someone raised with cis-male privilege renounce that privilege by an act of will? Can feminism include everybody who identifies as a feminist? How do we do that?

It seems the first step is to talk about it. I’m not defending the feminist-essentialist postition. I just want to respond to the question, why is it such an issue?


Let’s say there was a safe space for transgender people that had a strict “trans only” policy. Trying to police who was allowed in would be as challenging as upholding a “women only” space. Some people would feel excluded unfairly, because humanity doesn’t fit into either/or binaries.


Umm … yes? As long as they’re sincere, anyway? I don’t think there’s a gender qualification for being a feminist.


For me, it’s a trust issue. You have to trust that the person identifying themselves as their gender, which may not be obvious to the onlooker, is what or who they say they are and many people can’t do that. Seriously, why should a gay or trans person be any more likely to mean anyone any harm than any cis-gendered person?

Years of society saying gay relationships are deviant and wrong, that it is a perversion, is one of the biggest hurdles the LGBT movement has had to overcome and even though there has been great progress there are still people who think exactly that.
It is the same for trans people, too, no matter their journey. To so many people, trans is weird, other, or disgusting, a fetish taken too far. I’ve heard them all. I’m trans. I know.

Some things can’t be policed in an easy binary fashion and the game has been rigged against “other” for so long that saying “no” is easier than accepting that that person over there might actually be a happy, positive influence in the world rather than a freak, simply because their clothes don’t match their build, or their voice doesn’t match their face, or whatever tiny reason is taken to justify marginalising them at best, or causing violence to them at worst.

A little trust goes a long way. Most people are actually nice, want the same safe spaces for their friends and family, for their children. In that sense, trans men and women are exactly the same as everyone else. Fortunately, most of you reading this already know that.


Yes! And…I can’t help thinking of Valerie Solanis, who published The S.C.U.M Manifesto in 1967:

"If men were wise they would seek to become really female, would do intensive biological research that would lead to men, by means of operations on the brain and nervous system, being able to to be transformed in psyche, as well as body, into women.
"When genetic control is possible – and soon it will be – it goes without saying that we should produce only whole, complete beings.
"But SCUM is impatient; SCUM is not consoled by the thought that future generations will thrive; SCUM wants to grab some thrilling living for itself. And, if a large majority of women were SCUM, they could acquire complete control of this country within a few weeks simply by withdrawing from the labor force, thereby paralyzing the entire nation.
"The conflict, therefore, is not between females and males, but between SCUM – dominant, secure, self-confident, nasty, violent, selfish, independent, proud, thrill-seeking, free-wheeling, arrogant females, who consider themselves fit to rule the universe, who have free-wheeled to the limits of this `society’ and are ready to wheel on to something far beyond what it has to offer – and nice, passive, accepting, ‘cultivated,’ polite, dignified, subdued, dependent, scared, mindless, insecure, approval-seeking Daddy’s Girls, who can’t cope with the unknown, who want to hang back with the apes, who feel secure only with Big Daddy standing by, with a big strong man to lean on and with a fat, hairy face in the White House "

I mean, just who do these people think they are??


"When genetic control is possible – and soon it will be – it goes without saying that we should produce only whole, complete beings.

Was this from before Godwin? This must have been pre-Godwin.

Projection x turnabout = they’re going to do what we want to do/already did.

Non-violent people don’t, first, assume others intend violence. Violent people do assume so.


Anything you would like to believe makes you a woman is good enough for me.


Relationships are a minefield. All the petty and not-so-petty things that crop up. I completely understand and admire your approach. Transphobic might not be the right word in each case (eg fear might not be the root emotion), but it’ll have to do until we develop a better vocabulary.

All I ask is a little forbearance with those of us with whatever programing that makes us cool with you being you (be it food preference, politics, gender, etc), but not comfortable with becoming intimate. Heck, I’m even only speaking hypothetically since I’m already married. But thought experiments and open discussions are always fascinating ways to learn about myself and others.


Lucky for me, I’m not actually looking for a relationship (my wife is supportive, even enthusiastic, about my transition, although there’s still plenty of interesting things to negotiate in our relationship), so what I’ve said is largely hypothetical for me. That being said, as a trans woman with a fair amount of privilege and a stable, supportive relationship, I try to advocate for my trans siblings when I can.

The way I see it, there are so many things that need to be negotiated in any relationship, being trans should just be another one of those things. Sure, in some cases, it’s not gonna work out and you can’t really fault either party, but there are a ton of people who wouldn’t be open to a relationship with a trans person for no particularly good reason and I think it’s really important to challenge that.

I do agree with you that “transphobia” may not always be the best term, but from my end of things, I see most of the negative reactions towards me and my transition as coming from a place of fear. In my case, from parents and in-laws, a lot of fear about how things will affect my family and I’ll either destabilize the family and we’ll end up on the streets or I’m gonna corrupt/confuse my kids or who knows what. A lot of violence against trans women, particularly trans women of color, from their sexual partners is motivated by fear of what others will think.

Ultimately, I think that a lot of the negative stuff that cis folks may feel towards trans people comes from a place of discomfort motivated by fear of the unknown and/or ignorance. (I’d also argue that a lot of religious objections come from a place of fear.) Which is why, in my own life, even though I am often afraid of how people are going to react to me, I’m doing my best to talk about my experiences and fight that ignorance a little bit at a time. What I’ve found is that in a lot of cases, dropping that bombshell of “Hey, so even though you’ve known me for X years and thought I was a relatively dudely dude, I actually wanna be a woman and here’s what that experience has been like for me” opens a lot of avenues for discussion of gender, sexuality, and identity. Generally, opening up and being honest about hard things with people has been reciprocated in rewarding ways.

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I stumbled on this Twitter thread over the weekend and thought it provided an interesting perspective. On the surface, it’s kind of “What makes a man a man” but really it’s about changing definitions of identity and how that can leave older generations behind.