As someone who is self-critical, my views evolve and I now disavow use of the word ‘woman’ for myself and other transgender males, preferring to use the term ‘transsexual’ or ‘transsexual male’.
It is not possible to change sex, and even with cosmetic changes the central defining feature to one being female, that of a female reproductive system, is out of the reach of every male; note what I’m saying is that reproductive class is what is central to being a woman, not that what it is to being a woman is limited to one’s reproductive system.
I do not consider that males socialised as males can become a socially constructed ‘woman’. I have spoken about this many times, usually in the context of ‘trans women are not women‘. I still consider the cultural aspects of womanhood that transgender males take on are limited to ‘thin’ cultural aspects, superficial traits like clothes, presentation and aesthetics as opposed to ‘thick’ cultural aspects, for example how a society dominated by men sees, treats and ultimately created what a ‘woman’ is; obliquely I am of course referring to de Beauvoir’s work ‘The Second Sex’.
As an example of how the thick cultural aspects are missed and the transgender male’s view of womanhood then based on thin cultural aspects, I deconstructed a piece by transgender activist Juno Roche wherein the author looks at the societal invisibility of themselves as an older ‘trans women’ and completely misses the point.
There are, of course, women who are ‘XY females’, for example women with androgen insensitivity syndrome. This intersex condition arises because the cells in the body fail to react to male hormones, androgens, and male primary sex characteristics do not develop. It is often the case this condition is undiagnosed until puberty, whereupon it is discovered the young adult isn’t the sex they were first believed to be, with obviously broad personal implications. I’d advance the argument that (C)AIS women provide empirical support for certain aspects of feminist theory, and at the same time attack claims that transgender ideologies make. That these women are XY yet live and are assimilated ‘as woman’, quite literally one would know no different, does I think cast doubt on innate gender identity, innate neurological sex dimorphism and underline the importance of socialisation. This is of course a perfect topic for a later blog post.
Another reason to disavow woman is, of course, political. How can trans males offer themselves as, never mind be, allies to women if we cannot admit and recognise our differences? Without doing this, we cannot address conflicts of rights and needs, as this positions transgender males on an equal footing to women where we are describing our lives and experiences as ‘women’. Unless we can recognise differences, we cannot fairly address conflicts, and this leaves all of us worse off.
For some time now I have ceased to describe myself as ‘gender critical’, as I don’t think this fits in with my beliefs. I see gender as a harmful hierarchical system of power and stereotypes, it is purely cultural so has no meaning outside of human societies. Being a critic to me implies the system can be fixed, I do not think this is the case (see for example my post on How Modern or Third Wave Feminism Benefits Men).
I take an abolitionist stance on gender, I believe it damages everyone particularly girls and women, homosexual and bisexual men and of course trans males. It always strikes me as odd that transgender individuals never argue for gender abolition, whereas I can see that it is gender that provides them with the ideas, artefacts and stereotypes they build their identities around, the problems they face while doing so are of course themselves caused by gender, which punishes feminine males.
Some years ago I found an excellent essay on what gender abolition would mean in practical terms and I’d recommend you read this Judith Lorber ‘Imagining a World without Gender’ and of course other work by Judith Lorber.
I’ve edited this piece to add a section explaining in more detail why I disavow ‘woman’.