Why I Disavow ‘Woman’ And Am No Longer ‘Gender Critical’

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’. 

15 Responses to “Why I Disavow ‘Woman’ And Am No Longer ‘Gender Critical’”

  • sally

    Short but very sweet. You are so good at putting into words the woolly notions that bumble around in my head!

  • Radical thoughts

    awaiting moderation? don’t you dare silence me from talking. You know what? I’m glad you don’t call yourself a woman and see yourself as a man because this is exactly what men do, you are no ally to radical feminism or women. You only let the ones who agree with you talk don’t you? typical entitled male behaviour. But go ahead prove this dumb lesbian who CLEARLY can’t speak for herself wrong and allow the comment or prove me right and shut up another woman who doesn’t agree with you like you did my with my friend.

  • Prizm

    “I believe [gender] 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.”

    Yes, short and sweet and very well said. Thank you for continuing to publish meaningful pieces, despite all the nastiness which can be generated by this topic (I am guilty of indulging in the nastiness myself). I very much appreciate and enjoy your work.

    • tnt666

      on Fecesbook, the “gender role abolitionism” page is basically pro-transgender… gender abolitionism is basically useless as it pretends there is no sexism.

  • stacey jones

    Good on you Miranda for ‘sticking your neck out’ on this issue. Hope you don’t get bombarded with hate mail.

  • yrba

    Good comments. You posed a great question, regarding why trans-identified people don’t advocate for gender abolition. I hope you don’t get a bunch of flack. But I’m curious, what do you mean by transsexual, please? How do you distinguish this from transgender?

  • Yerb

    Good comments. You posed a great question, regarding why trans-identified people don’t advocate for gender abolition. I hope you don’t get a bunch of flack. But I’m curious, what do you mean by transsexual, please? How do you distinguish this from transgender?

  • Dee dee

    I was wondering if you think that much of the problem here is that there isn’t a good English definition of someone who is trans.

    Identities are so important to human beings but it seems that there’s a denial of biological reality at the expense of women. In favor of trying to claim the word woman which is tied to both the biological and socialized reality of females.

    Words are so important and the identities we tie to them can cause us at times to forget the bigger picture.

    Do you think that if there was better terms to tie those identities to that it would make a difference?

    I remember one day I tried to come up with a better word than homophobia but couldn’t figure out how to make one. Tried all the Latin roots and placing them in various configurations and couldn’t figure out a better substitute.

    Anyway, great website and you have restored my hope that radfems and the trans community might be the key to finally destroying harmful gender socializations once and for all.

    • tnt666

      Best solution to me would be putting an end to “identities”. Identity politics started all this mess. I have NO identity. I have personality traits, I have preferences, I have desires. Identity is a social construct as much as gender.

  • Philippa Downey

    To say that transsexual people need to show a meaningful transition and then still calling them males is to my mind incorrect as they would hardly thus be transsexual as one would not be across from anything. but to me it is a less important point than most people make out. most people would for instance differentiate between trans women and cis women, which is near enough the same thing, but in a more palatable form.
    plenty of male people dress in a way which would be easily mistaken for being female, particularly in the alternative and gothic subcultures and would call themselves male,

    it is more than appearance, our culture assigns us our gender class, our chromasomes and hormones determine our sexual morphyology.
    Many, particularly younger, transsexual people of my acquaintance are against gender and do not use the props and trappings of gender to create an identity now the taboo over being nonbinary / gender nonconforming has been breached , things are changing fast.

    we no longer live in a world where the only option for those who were transsexual was to transition and live in stealth as the opposite gender, with all that entails.

    personally i prefer to use the term transsexual as it is most accurate, as it is talking about sex not gender, and to differentiate myself form often misogenistic and fetishistic male crossdressers and drag acts who fit under the transgender umbrella.

  • Sarah Blaquiere

    I’m also not sure about the difference between transgender and transsexual, at least as it’s manifested nowadays. I would assume that ‘transsexual’ means people who get sex-reassignment surgery? But others, I guess, would say that’s wrong.

    What confounds me right now is that people tacitly assume gender and sex are the same thing but don’t want to say it. People who identify as transgender want to be treated as the ::sex:: that corresponds with their gender identity. But they are also the first to point out that gender and sex are completely separate concepts.

    If gender was abolished, there would be no expectation that anatomical males and females would behave in certain ways, beyond the necessities of their respective bodies. There might still be people who feel, for whatever reason, that they should have the body of the other sex – and I guess they would be transsexual? But in the circumstances, transgender would no longer be a thing.

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