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This is a response to what Wendy wrote in a pinned thread dated 2020-06-11. The original is here; I've transcribed it below, reorganized into paragraphs for readability; my response is below that.

Wendy's thread

Thank you for asking why I'm anti-TWAW, which is not the same thing as anti-trans, as many trans women agree, including Miranda Yardley, Fionne Orlander, and Dr. Debbie Hayton.

I used to be pro TRA. I saw what actual exclusionary feminists were saying, pretending that dysphoria is not real, that trans identity is about a sexual thrill from dressing as as a woman and I was appalled. I have read about their journeys and how they suffer to become their true selves. I even saw a video of a young person castrate themselves, such was their distress at being stuck in the wrong body. To deny that pain seems cruel to me. I call it out when I see it and report such tweets for hate against protected groups.

This was my idea of a trans person: one who was distressed at the conviction that they had been born into the wrong body and would self-harm if not granted the hormones and surgery that would transform them from the caterpillar they felt they were into the butterfly they wished to become. The idea that anyone could mock or dismiss that struggle was abhorrent to me.

Then I "met" the "Hindu tranny cyborg," a self-described "woman with a penis," who had been made head of the Women's Services dept. at an Australian university. I was shocked. I thought the deal was that they would fully transition, not just claim to be a woman. Such attitudes mock the real pain and suffering of people who wait for years for a diagnosis, then wait even longer for the hormones and surgery that will match them to their gender identity. It's why I wheel out Z Nicolazzo when I argue with TWAW supporters.

Well at the time I thought this an anomaly rolled out by nefarious TERFs to pick on an already marginalised, vulnerable group. Then Alex Drummond turned up, followed by Nicolazzo. Then I learned that actually, most people who identify as trans don't go all the way. For some it's due to financial pressures. Others don't want to lose their little friend.

To be perfectly honest I'm not too bothered about the ones who make the effort to present as feminine but those who, for want of a better word, put on "womanface" and can reclaim their male privilege by merely removing their earrings and makeup? Hell, no. We are not a costume. That's why we fight. Thanks again for asking. You're the only one who has.

My Response

I also thank you for taking the time to explain your position articulately and carefully. I feel that your argument is mostly sensible, but does take a wrong turn here and there.

(Note: I'm assuming "TWAW" stands for "trans women are women" and that "anti-TWAW" means you therefore disagree with that statement in some way. I'm also guessing that TRA stands for "trans rights advocacy". It's not entirely clear, however, what policy positions might be implied by being anti-TWAW; one can imagine a wide range of possibilities, from the understandable to the deeply infuriating. This lack of clarity is likely to be a cause of divisiveness, so I think it would probably be in the best interest of civil discussion to get that straightened out sooner rather than later.)

I see three notable problems.

The first problem is that although you seem to be granting that post-SRS trans women are fully committed to womanhood and thereby deserving of your original sympathetic position on the matter, the phrase "anti-TWAW" implies to me that you are opposed to the idea of any trans women being seen as genuine women. Perhaps I am misapprehending this? Is it "no trans women are actually women" or just "non-op trans women are not real women", aka "SRS-seeking and post-SRS trans women are women, but other trans women are not"?

It's also not clear whether you've decided your initial sympathy was completely misplaced, or just partly -- and if partly, which parts.

The second problem is the sharp distinction you draw between those who seek surgery and those who don't -- apparently deeming the latter to be less worthy of sympathy, for reasons that aren't quite clear to me.

"I thought the deal was that they would fully transition, not just claim to be a woman." Leaving aside the question of where and how any such deal could have been made -- I'll admit that when I first encountered trans women who were perfectly fine with their male genitalia, possibly even proud of it, I thought it had to be a horrible joke. Gross, grotesque, violating the very essence of femininity -- because their feelings on the matter didn't match mine. They weren't really trans; they're engaging in some kind of twisted trolling game.

Since then, I have met many non-op trans women, and become close with several. I now understand that they are just as trans, just as female, as I am; we just have different needs, as determined by variations in our brain wiring; we express femininity in different ways. None of us would ever want to return to a male-role identity. Behavioral studies and studies of physical brain structures show that trans women have more in common with cis women than with cis men -- and as with cis women, the brain-structures in trans women do not always lead to self-expression that is 100% in line with any given set of cultural preferences for behavior that has been assigned to the gender with which they identify.

In short: We all -- cis and trans -- express our genders in different individual ways; trans people just have a different (and not always more pleasant) set of choices available to us than cis people do.

I have also met a number of agender AFAB and AMAB trans people, and the main thing they seem to share is a strong dislike of their birth-apparent gender. Some may drift back and forth between agender and opposite-gender, but they are all pretty clear that they are not what they were thought to be at birth -- and where they are abstaining from any particular medical interventions (surgeries, HRT), it's not just in case they want to "switch back". They definitely never ever want to return to their birth-apparent gender role, and it's just a matter of finding the most tolerable mode of existence out of a selection that often doesn't present many good options.

It should also be noted that SRS is hardly a definitive boundary-crosser. As any trans man will tell you, it's quite possible to function socially and sexually as a man whilst carrying a vagina. If it were not hugely bad for my mental health to do so, I could easily present as male and "reclaim my male privilege", even after SRS and 4 years of HRT. Let me be clear, though: I wish it were not so. I fervently wish I appeared as unmistakably female, and I am well aware that I do not. Your argument seems at least partially based on the idea that SRS precludes that option; I wish it did, but it absolutely does not.

So no, seeking SRS is just one way that transgenderness can manifest. Some trans people have genital dysphoria, some don't. Some trans women want large breasts, others (like myself) do not. Some mainly feel dysphoria around the social roles they are expected to play, while others are more bothered by body dysphoria.

...just as some cis women want large breasts, others don't; some cis women like their periods, others dont; some cis women like to dress in very feminine ways, while others don't... and so on.

Some men are even attracted to trans women who have penises --- attracted to them as women, mind you, not as men in drag. Likewise, there are cis women who would have been perfectly okay being born with a penis; why should that same feeling disqualify a trans woman from womanhood?

Isn't feminism all about eliminating double standards, especially those around sex and gender?

The third problem emerges from this bit: "I'm not too bothered about the ones who make the effort to present as feminine." The problem is that you seem to be defining "feminine presentation" as being something which can be determined by an outside party.

This is gender prescriptivism -- something that feminists have fought against from the beginning. It's being told "you're a girl/woman, therefore you can only wear or do X and not Y" because X is "feminine" and Y isn't -- with the definition of "feminine" being mutable according to the viewer's taste, whether the viewer is someone's mother or a co-worker or colleague or a stranger in a bar. It's facing resistance and rejection from some quarters if you want to suppress your period or (heaven forfend) remove your uterus. It's the assumption that you must enjoy cooking and sewing, and prefer your carpentry tools in pink. It's the idea that as long as you were born with (pick any number of requirements: uterus, vagina, XX chromosomes), you are irrevocably female. This idea harms cis women no less than it harms trans women and men.

It is also not an objective standard. Just to state the immediately obvious, would you have found me to be presenting with sufficient femininity if the camera angle had been such that you could see my jeans? Did you notice I wasn't wearing earrings, jewelry, or makeup? Even if you did, and had no problem with it, what if another gender-critical feminist thinks you're being too lax? How about if I was wearing a lumberjack shirt -- something Harena often wore as a teenager and which I see as gloriously feminine when worn by a girl? If it can be feminine on Harena, is it unfeminine on me? If it makes me unfeminine, why doesn't it make Harena unfeminine? If it makes Harena unfeminine, aren't you rolling back decades of progress in feminism by saying what girls can and cannot wear?

Further, if SRS were the irreversible boundary you seem to be saying it is, and I can now never "reclaim my male privilege", why is it important that I "make the effort" to appear feminine? Can I, in your view, "reclaim my male privilege" (i.e. be seen as male by default if I wished), or not?

You talk about "mock[ing] the real pain and suffering of people who wait for years for a diagnosis" -- judging whether someone is "really" trans, not to mention "really" the gender they identify with, is similarly dismissive of the suffering and difficulties that trans people must often go through in order to receive any treatment or recognition at all.

And finally, something I've found myself wondering about as I mull over what you wrote above. You paint a picture of your journey as starting from a position of total understanding and sympathy with trans people, finding yourself shocked by violations of what you thought you understood, and finally arriving at a much less sympathetic position. What I'm wondering is, did you talk with anyone in the trans-supportive community when you arrived at that critical point of narrative question, to help resolve the conflict? If so, what did they say? I have a hard time believing that nobody in the community couldn't have explained at least some of what I've discussed here.