The hardest part of being a woman

caitlyn jenner

When I was a zygote, I was female. I was as feminine then as I am today at age 40. When I do something — anything at all — I do it as a woman. There is no such thing as me doing something like a man. I’m just me, doing things, and I’m a woman. I’m just me, feeling things. I’m just me, acting and thinking and feeling and behaving like me. And I am a woman.

It sounds stupid because it’s stupidly simple; and it’s so stupidly simple that most people don’t want to hear it. This nutty “you are whatever you say you are” nonsense is just the ugly cousin of “you are whatever I say you are” which conservatives have been trying to push on women for millennia. Same song, different verse.

Read the rest at the Register. 

Photo credit: Alberto Frank via Flikr

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  • http://www.eggandsperm.org JohnHoward

    And only females have a right to be pregnant and mate with men. We should ban attempting uterus transplants into males, it is not a right and not needed.

    • Lost Elegy

      So we should stop trying to advance our understanding of biology, how our bodies work and trying to improve them JUST because you feel we’re breaching some moral highground?

      JUST so you know, this same research into transgender you’re so eager to condemn is also being used to help victims of FGM recover what they lost. This same research will AND has had limitless applications, from restoring physical deformities caused at birth to healing actual females harmed in accidents.

      Point is? Get off your high horse.

      • Andrea

        Erm sorry. He said transplants into men. This therefore wouldn’t affect women who were recovering from fgm would it?
        Point is? Get off your high horse.

      • http://www.eggandsperm.org JohnHoward

        We should rule out uterus transplants into men, and making genetic offspring of same-sex couples. We should redirect funding from crazy research and spend it on actual care, so that more women are helped with the fruits of modern medicine. It’s appalling that there are people with the opposite opinion, that doctors should be trying to help males gestate babies. Appalling on so many levels.

    • cajaquarius

      There is no legal grounds to ban them. There is no right nor need for breast augmentation or plastic surgery to repair burns on the skin either but those are also legal.

      • http://www.eggandsperm.org JohnHoward

        Sure there is legal ground to ban them. It’d be commerce.

  • Korou

    This nutty “you are whatever you say you are” nonsense is just the ugly
    cousin of “you are whatever I say you are” which conservatives have been
    trying to push on women for millennia.

    To me “I am what I say I am” and “You are what I say you are” sound like very different things indeed.

    • Andrea

      They’re really not in this context. ‘I am who I say I am’ is often combined with ‘and you must accept that and behave as if this is the reality’. It’s therefore the same as saying ‘y at who I say you are’; for example in this case of transgendered individuals it inevitably results in women who state that women are born female are homophobic, transgendered etc for not accepting the fact that those who claim to be transgendered are women. For if transgendered women are allowed to impose ‘I am who I say I am’ inevitably they are stating what other women are too.

      • Korou

        I’m afraid I don’t see how that follows. Saying “I am who I say I am” doesn’t mean “and you must accept that and behave as if it is reality.” That would be tantamount to telling someone what they are or are not allowed to believe, which would be an infringement on their rights. It does, however, carry the message that it would be polite of you to accept that this is *what they believe* and to behave as if it were reality *in front of them*. As Virago said below, to do otherwise would be disrespectful.

        If trasngendered women are allowed to say that they are women, all they are saying is that other transgendered women should be allowed to do the same thing, if they feel that it is true. And if they don’t feel that it is true, then who would force them to feel or say it?

        • Andrea

          It’s not a case of requesting politeness for accepting what people believe in front of them though is it? Access to women’s bathrooms and prisons is being demanded. Because of ‘transgendered men’ having children with their natural reproductive organs a health authority have taken ‘mother’ and ‘women’ out of all their literature. We have to pay for hormones and surgery on the NHS. Children’s preschool workers have recently been suspended because they wouldn’t call a little girl a boy to the child or to other children.
          As I said, it’s actually a form acceptance of a reality by the minority to the majority.

          • Korou

            Thank you for your thoughtful response, Andrea.
            I’d like to go back to the start; even “I am what I say you am and you must accept that” is still very different to “you are what I say you are”. It’s already been said on this thread – and I don’t think that anyone would disagree – that calling a transgendered person by their preferred form is politeness. There’s nothing wrong with laws to prevent businesses from discriminating against them.
            None of this in any way forces infringes on your rights to believe as you wish. You are quite free to believe that gender is entirely biologically determined, and to say so as well. A good parallel might be drawn with gay people; it’s quite legal to believe that homosexuality is disordered, unnatural, an offence against God or evil; and it is quite legal to say these things. The freedom to say and think as you wish, however, does not mean that you have the freedom to curtail their rights.
            I think it’s worth considering this from another angle too. The evidence is clear one a number of points:
            1. That transgender people experience a strong identification with a gender other than the one they’re born with.
            2. That this identification, coupled with the reaction of some elements of society causes them emotional difficulties, leading to a disturbingly high suicide rate, as well as other measures of self-harm and suffering.
            3. That gender-reassignment surgery and orientation produces extremely positive effects, lowering the rate of suffering and suicides enormously.
            In light of this, perhaps we ought to be asking ourselves: is it morally right to refuse transgender people the things which they want, and which society pays such a high price for their being refused?

          • Andrea

            I’m sorry Krou your point fails on this statement; you state that laws against ‘discrimination’ means that it won’t impact upon my ability to believe as I wish. However by creating an environment where I cannot act on my beliefs for example by referring to a born make as he, you are in actual fact negating my freedom. Let me turn that round the other – what if I said the transgendered can believe what they want but they can’t in any way take this into their every day actions. You would call that discrimination, but you are suggesting that the reverse scenario isn’t. That’s a nonsense.
            As for ‘evidence’ being clear on the other points;
            1. Other people have a strong identification that gender is related to the sexual organs you are born with because of their experiences. It could be said that as the reality is elected in the majority of people’s experiences and transgendered people’s are a tiny minority that there feelings are subjective at best. In either case it isn’t evidence that is in any way clear.
            2. I agree that self harming and suffering is perceived by transgendered people. My cousin is transgendered and I know what she went through. However as you can not prove that transgenderism is an actual reality rather than a psychological condition and other people receive abuse and do not self abuse in the same way you cannot say that one causes the other. It could be the case that it is a mental unless that causes this distress.
            3. Your third point is actually not true at all. A good deal of transgendered people commit suicide after reassignment as they find this does not solve their perceived problems. This is why John Hopkins in America stopped this form of surgery.
            You are acting that because transgendered people self abuse then they should be given whatever they want. if that’s the case then any woman whose ex tells her he’ll commit suicide if she leaves him would have to stay in a relationship! There are transgendered boxers insisting they should be able to take part in boxing matches with natural born women as well as the other issues I raised. Your acting this is a simple choice of being mean to people or not. It’s not. It has real world implications for others.

          • Korou

            Who is saying that you do not have the freedom to refer to a transgender person as you wish? You’re quite free to call them he or she in whichever way you like. It may well be that if you do so, you are acting in an unkind manner, but this is not and should not be illegal.
            To address your three points:
            1. Although transgenderism is a relatively new issue the medical and psychological communities have shown that it is a real one. They’re the experts, and I’m happy to defer to them. Again, the parallel to homosexuality is a clear one, in which it doesn’t matter that the Catholic Church, for example, says that homosexuality is “intrinsically disordered” – the medical and psychological community say that it isn’t, which is why there are laws to protect gay people.
            2. I’m very sorry for the suffering that your cousin experienced. I hope that she is happy now. However, the evidence is clear: transgenderism is not a mental illness, and we are only harming transgender people by suggesting that it is. Can I draw your attention to this article which quotes the American Psychiatric Association saying that surgical treatment can greatly benefit transgender people and recommending that laws discriminating against them be repealed.
            http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2012/08/21/721441/apa-issues-position-statements-supporting-transgender-care-and-civil-rights/

            3. I certainly agree that there are real-world issues to be worked out, and that these can cause complicated situations. But I suggest that the way forward is that these complicated situations be addressed, not denied, and that we look for ways to help transgender people, not to shut them up.

            Is the situation with transgender people really comparable to an ex threatening suicide? Consider the differences. First, there are clear reasons why it would cause a person harm to stay in a relationship they didn’t want to. By contrast, how does it hurt anyone to call a transgender woman “she”? Yes, it’s true that there are issues that need to be worked out, but in all of them the harm and the suffering seems to be very clearly on the side of the transgender people.

            Should we give transgender people acceptance as such in order to alleviate their suffering, help them to be at peace with themselves? Well, that’s up to you. Nobody can force you to accept them. The evidence, however, is clear that transgenderism is a genuine orientation, not a disorder or mental illness, and that surgical treatments – no matter what John Hopkins says – are beneficial to them. Here is an article on research being conducted, which you may find of interest
            http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-03/tes-sdc030615.php

            If you feel that the high rate of suicides and self-harm is a price that must be paid then that’s up to you, as a private citizen. Schools and other government-backed organisations, however, have a duty to follow the opinion of the medical and psychological communities rather than their own personal beliefs.

          • Andrea

            I’ve already given examples of how people have been forced to say something that they don’t believe in the preschool workers – something which you agreed with so your statement that you can say as you wish is nonsense.
            I’ve already, also, debunked your theory that it’s been shown to be a ‘real’ one. However even your comment that’s it’s ‘new’ doesn’t seem to deter you from wanting to impose behaviours on others in a very short space of time.
            The parallels with the homosexual community isn’t a clear one – that’s why there is now a petition started by LGBT advocates to speed ate the T. If sexual identity is an established fact, which is what the LGB rests on, it is counter productive to propose that transgendereism exists.
            Again, it is not clear that transgendereism is a mental illness and we are not harming people by examining that further. Please read this as evidence of that
            http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/michael-w-chapman/johns-hopkins-psychiatrist-transgender-mental-disorder-sex-change
            As for your final statements it is ridiculous to acknowledge on one hand that this very recent phenomenon is in any way settled and, as you have tried to do several times here, hasn’t been influenced by lobbying by LGB activists.
            As for my cousin thank you for your concern. She lives a very lonely life sadly and gender reassignment has not helped her at all. She is still the same, apart from breasts, structurally and it is a clear indicator that she was born a man. I’m sorry, just because you want an outcome doesn’t mean that it’s going to be the outcome. Also, just because you repeatedly say ‘it doesn’t affect you’ doesn’t mean that it doesn’t. I’ve already evidenced how it does.

          • Korou

            Preschool workers do have a choice. They don’t have to say something they don’t believe. They could resign, because sensitivity to the emotional needs of their children is a part of their job, and if their personal beliefs get in the way of that then they should find a new line of work.
            Would you agree that a teacher has a right to tell a child they’re going to hell because they’re not a Christian, a teenager they’re going to hell because they’re gay or a student they’re an idiot because they vote for a certain political party? This is the same issue. It’s not the teacher’s job to decide issues like this. And no matter that you can quote individuals like John McHugh, the medical and psychological communities are quite clear: transgender people should have their feelings taken seriously, therapy to “talk them out of it” is ineffective and not recommended, and surgery, when desired, has a positive effect. These issues are not for you or me or a teacher to work out; I’m happy to defer to the experts.

          • Andrea

            So your “choice” is say what we want you to or resign?

          • Korou

            To do your job or resign.

          • cajaquarius

            [So your “choice” is say what we want you to or resign?]

            That is one way of putting it. To make an analagous point, if a preschool teacher referred to every black student they got as a “n-gger”, it would be the exact same thing but we wouldn’t be chatting about it. As for forcing our realities on others we already make allowances for the religious to do this when we have prisons prepare kosher meals for Jews. allow prisoners to refuse pork products if Muslim, or allow Catholics to show up on shift with a dirty face one Wednesday out of the year.

          • Korou

            “Access to women’s bathrooms and prisons is being demanded.”
            Is it fair to ask a person who looks like a woman to use men’s facilities? Would this not cause problems for the men who use them?

            “Because of ‘transgendered men’ having children with their natural reproductive organs a health authority have taken ‘mother’ and ‘women’ out of all their literature.”
            Official organisations being forced not to discriminate is quite a different thing to private citizens being forced to not discriminate.

            “We have to pay for hormones and surgery on the NHS.”
            People have to pay for all sorts of things they don’t agree with.

            “Children’s preschool workers have recently been suspended because they wouldn’t call a little girl a boy to the child or to other children.”
            If a person who works with children took action which discriminated against and/or caused offence to children then they should be disciplined. The issues with transgender people are certainly going to cause confusion and people working with children should have the interests of the children first in their minds.

          • Andrea

            It’s as fair as forcing all public toilets to be open to men who look like, but aren’t, women and therefore forcing natural women to share private spaces with them. Particularly as many transgendered women identify as having same sex attraction.
            Your second ignores the point I’m making. It goes back to the bloggers original point; that being forced to recognise an individual subjective definition of themselves means that womanhood and literally been reduced in this instance.
            Your third paragraph is irrelevant. Just because there are other things that are unjust doesn’t make this one any less so. Again, your ignoring the reason for my response which is that you don’t accept that people enforcing you accepting their subjective opinion of who they are have real world consequences on others.
            Your third paragraph presumes discrimination to be a negative thing. It isn’t. Just because it’s the orthodoxy of the day doesn’t make it a negative thing. To automatically remove someone’s livelihood because they don’t agree with you ideologically, particularly when your ideology has real world consequences for others (in this case other children’s understanding of reality) doesn’t make it a negative thing. You also assume, because these children’s workers don’t agree with condoning this form of ideology that they don’t have children’s interests at heart. It’s actually very bigoted to assume negative intentions on behalf of others you know.

          • Korou

            The attraction of any individual is not relevant to whether they should be allowed into toilets. Women are not banned from being in the women’s toilets on the basis of them being homosexuals, and nor are men. Nor should they be.
            Nobody is asking that men who look like women be allowed to use the women’s restrooms; why would they? I don’t think there are any cases of men who look like women to the extent that they might be mistaken for women without them being transgender.
            In the case discussed, I think it’s quite clear to see that the discrimination was indeed negative. The consequences in question were the injuries done to the child’s self-esteem. Yes, transgender issues are often difficult, yes they are new in many ways and yes, they often need working out. But it is not the teacher’s place to interpret complex psychological phenomena for themselves. The opinion of the medical community is that transgenderism is real and should be respected, and it is the teacher’s job to work in accordance to that, not to their personal beliefs.

          • Andrea

            It’s not based on attraction though is it? It’s based on the physical vulnerability of women. Therefore a male who has had surgery and who even takes artificial hormones will be significantly stronger than a woman and poses the same theoretical risks as any other man.
            As for your second paragraph – yes they are. There has just been a vote about this very thing in the states. In addition people are asking that men who look like women be allowed in women’s prisons of they self identify as women – without further necessity for surgery etc.
            As for the case in question you obviously don’t know anything about it. The two male parents stated the female girl was identifying as male. However she transferred, without the presence of her adoptive parents, between requesting other students to call her male and female names.
            Your statement about self esteem is ridiculous. I point out the truth of situations to me child all the time. It’s your ideological bent that has made this a self esteem issue.
            I’ve given you examples were respected institutions have stated that transgendereism is a psychiatric disorder. You ignore the, because they’re not convenient. It’s the equivilant of putting your gpfingers in your ears and saying ‘la, la, la I can’t hear you’.

          • Korou

            One example can be ignored because it goes against the consensus. In science, we favour the opinions of the majority of experts. There’s really no need to make it more complicated than that.
            You’re right, I hadn’t heard of the story about the school before you mentioned it. Can you add a link to it?
            Toilets: I still can’t see the relevance. Any person, male or female, could be at risk from a stronger person. Transgender people are not a danger to others; the reverse is much more often true, and by forcing a transgender woman to use the men’s restrooms you are placing her in considerable danger – as common sense and plenty of evidence attest. The same issue applies with prisons.

            No, my statement about self-esteem is not ridiculous. Like I said, it’s not your call to make, and I’m happy to be guided by the consensus – not the fringe – of the psychological community.

          • Andrea

            There is no consensus. There is no “we”. “La, la, la, la, la.”

          • Korou

            Sorry, but you’re wrong. You cite a single individual and a single institution; I cite the opinion of the psychiatric community. My citation trumps yours.

          • Korou

            “Your second ignores the point I’m making. It goes back to the bloggers
            original point; that being forced to recognise an individual subjective
            definition of themselves means that womanhood and literally been reduced
            in this instance.”
            This sounds very similar to the argument that gay marriage reduces the value of marriage, and suffers from the same flaw. How is recognising a transgender woman as such in any way altering your own womanhood? In what way are you less of a woman because of this?

          • Andrea

            I’ve already given you several points how is does – both in definition and practical outcome. You just don’t want to see it because you want what you want.
            I’m not going into the gay marriage debate – borrowing from another debate in order to bolster your own shows you can’t argue your own case. Particularly as you’re not substantiating your argument.

          • Korou

            You have given me examples, but while I’m happy to admit they’re things we need to resolve that is all they are – not reasons to turn our backs on our transgender brothers and sisters, but problems to overcome so that we can work towards a better society.
            We’re not going into the gay marriage debate, we’re drawing a parallel to it. And the argument it makes is a relevant one: in both cases you are quite free to believe and say whatever you wish, and the regressing of harm benefits the minority without causing the majority harm.

          • Andrea

            I’m glad you admit that the examples I’ve given are real world issues.
            To your second point then; you’re presenting an either or phallacy. Just because I don’t agree with your assertion that transgendereism is a reality doesn’t mean I turn my backs on helping people who have this issue. My statements about my cousin demonstrate that.
            Thirdly, you have turned this away from what this was originally about. “you are whatever you say you are” is the same as “you are whatever I say you are”. To support this view of transgendereism actually means that the view of womanhood as a biological reality is not real and by proposing laws uphold transgender rights you are enshrining one viewpoint in law. The one that is only recently being proposed and IS disputed by well regarded academic and medical institutions.

          • Korou

            I’m sure you don’t turn your back on people – but if you have mistaken ideas then you can be working against their best interests while still caring for them.
            Once again: the status of a transgender person has no bearing whatsoever on the status of other women as women. This is not an issue that is being disputed, it’s one which has been settled. The scientists have spoken.

          • Andrea

            Once again you are making a final statement whilst ignoring evidence I’ve provided that the science is most definitely not settled.
            “La, la, la, la”.

  • virago

    I think she was being facetious. But thanks for the zing on conservatives. As a conservative, if I don’t get zinged at 4 times a day by liberals , it’s like day without sunshine. Conservatives aren’t the only ones who deal in labels.
    And I think it’s liberals, as well, that indulge in that kind of dialectic. “You are racist because I say you are!”
    On a practical matter, I work with several trans folks and our hospital policy is to address them as they identify themselves. To do otherwise, would be disrespectful. Same with patients. I do this as a courtesy . I work for a Catholi Healthcare enterprise.
    I enjoy your pieces. They are witty and entertaining. But like many bloggers at Patheos, conservatives are lumped into one group, whether they are good, bad or just butt-ugly.

  • EndOfTheWorld

    “When I was a zygote, I was female.” Just like everyone else (for about four weeks give-or-take) But then, chromosomes and hormones do their thing and people either start developing male reproductive organs, or continue developing female reproductive organs. But sexual differentiation in the developing brain happens much later in the process. So it stands to reason that abnormalities during fetal development might cause a disparity between a person’s brain (and, thus their thinking) and other parts of their biology.

    You say in your article that men and women are who they are because of how they were made by their creator, and not how they are perceived. People claim to know a person by looking at their clothes, their possessions, and their bodies, but the Lord sees not as man sees. I think there are a lot of transgender people who’d agree with you. People like Nicole Maines who, even when she was very young and called “Wyatt”, knew that she’d been born a girl despite the perceptions of everyone else.

    Like you, it’s not a feeling I can claim to understand. I was born a boy, and now I’m a man. I’ve never felt a disparity between my biological sex and my gender. But some people have, and reading their testimonies, I can only imagine what a difficult path nature has prepared for them to walk. I think both listening to their stories, and understanding that the work of psychologists, biologists, and experts on fetal development has revealed that the male-female binary is more complex than many of us realize is the start of understanding the best way to care for our transgender brothers and sisters.

  • Daniela Davison

    i think the hardest part of being a woman is body-hatred and feeling like you will never be beautiful or thin enough. at least that has been the hardest part for me!

  • http://www.eggandsperm.org JohnHoward

    We should rule out uterus transplants into men, and making genetic offspring of same-sex couples. We should redirect funding from crazy research and spend it on actual care.

  • captcrisis

    Not important!

    “In Christ there is neither male nor female.”