When You Unwoman a Trans Woman, You Unwoman Me

When You Unwoman a Trans Woman, You Unwoman Me August 3, 2018
“Uterus” by Emma | (c) 2009 | via flickr

I just watched a heartwarming video from NowThis in which a trans woman tells the story of her grandmother’s affirming and loving reaction to her coming-out.

I shared it. And then I foolishly read the comments, which were predictably full of transphobic dead-naming and mockery. 

One woman named Tammy quasi-mocked her (but was perhaps serious) saying, “I wish we could give the males who want to be females the ability to have menstrual periods and children, bet then they would want to go back to being a male.”

And it broke my heart — not just for the trans woman, but for myself, and for all the infertile women out there who would give almost anything to know the pain of menstruation and labor and childbirth.

I still have the period pain because I was lucky to keep my hormone-producing ovaries after an emergency hysterectomy saved my life. I’m grateful for those hormones but every month like clockwork, I and so many other women whose uteruses failed, were inhospitable, were riddled with disease, or which had to be removed like mine to save our lives or simply never existed in the first place, have a perpetual reminder of what we don’t ever get to have.

Doulas and midwives.
Ultrasounds and sonograms and fetal heartbeat monitors.
Prenatal breathing classes.
Maternity clothes and maternity photos.

Live births. 

What the Tammys of this world don’t realize is that when they half-jokingly (or seriously — honestly it doesn’t matter if it’s a joke or not) tell trans women that their lack-of-uterus or ovaries or cramps or “wrong” reproductive organs makes them less of a woman or not one at all, they’re saying the same thing to me.

They are unwomaning me.

They’re unwomaning all the women like me. 

And in a flutter of casual cruelty, they’re betraying how deeply ungrateful they are for their womaninity.

I remember being that girl in college who rocked back and forth in the fetal position on the dorm room floor begging that God or someone would rip my uterus out of me, so epic was the pain and nausea of my menstrual cramps.

And literally, if there’s one thing I could go back and tell that idiot 19-year-old, it would be this: Treasure your cramps, sit in this pain, and know that it is a blessing — not a curse — because it is your body preparing you for the gift of bringing life into this world. Don’t ever, Ever, EVER be the fool who takes it for granted or curses the flow.

I said as much to Tammy in my reply to her ridiculously ignorant and cruel comment. Because she could not be more wrong.

We women — cisgender and trans alike — who already unwoman ourselves regularly, already feel inferior because our bodies feel incomplete or broken or just not right, wish we had uteruses.

More than that, though, we wish people like Tammy had a heart.

Ovaries and uteri and breasts and cervixes are not the measure of a Woman. We are so, so much more than our bodies and the narratives culture has written about them might have you believe. With or without any part, we are women.

To my trans sisters out there:
I see you.
I love you.
You are (woman) enough.


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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • TinnyWhistler

    We’re back to valuing women based on their ability to be broodmares.

    And TERFs wonder why they get compared to fundies.

  • I think you missed something there Tinny. Gender identity is fluid. In the currently fading binary, all of us embrace one gender identity only by giving up and denying important aspects of ourselves. I have a feeling (hope?) we are in the process of moving beyond the simplistic binaries. In the meantime, it is only natural that people lament from time to time the aspects of themselves we have sacrificed in order to be ‘properly contoured’ by the binary gender cookie cutter. But I hear a much different lament and affirmation going on in this blog message, though it may be related to straining at cultural binary gender norms.

  • Charlane Leslie

    I am now 79 years old, still having a uterus, but never having had children of my own. I am close to some of my nieces and nephews, and set-children, but it doesn’t seem to be the same. I also, foolishly, at 19 begged God to not let me be pregnant at that time. I said I would never the future ask to be pregnant and have a child of my own. God accommodated and I kept my promise. A few years later I stopped using protection during sex. My first marriage at 19 lasted 3 years, in which husband told me he’d put me in an ash can if I got pregnant. I decided after that marriage was over I would have sex without protection and raise any child alone if necessary. Years passed, no pregnancies. Marriage again at 42 years old. Still no child of my own. Society is not so hard on a woman these days who is barren, but it was not so easy in days past. I’m settled with my situation, and now I am married to a man who is the love of my life, younger than me but also in his 70s. I’m still connected to my previous husband’s children and grandchildren, but not so in my current marriage. They think I’m nice, but there’s no connection. I pray that all of you out there respect barren women, trans women, women who have no uterus to have children with. They are still women.

  • TinnyWhistler

    Sorry, I’m not quite sure I understand your post! I’ll clarify what I was thinking when I wrote my comment.

    I interpreted the frustration in this post as being directed at people who invalidate trans ladies by saying that they’re not “real” women because they don’t share characteristics that “all” women share. The author points out that by the qualifiers given by the transphobes, she is not a “real” woman.

    My comment was expressing frustration that the transphobes are placing more validity and value on women who have a uterus. This feels very much like they’re placing more value on women who can bear children, hence my broodmare reference. This whole “real” woman and “shared woman experience” thing is a common TERF talking point and fundies certainly do love to reduce women to the sum of their bits. Hence the comparison.

    It admittedly was more annoyed grumping than anything substantial.

  • Ah yes, thank’s for the clarification! Good points.

  • Brandon Roberts

    even if you don’t believe in trans people having legit reasons to identify that way pushing them away won’t help anyone.