Subject: Passing On Female
Date: Tue 22 Jun 1999 - 17:52:21 BST
I argue the term "female" as a biological definition.
Rachel Pollack reminds me, though, that to many transsexuals the word
"female" is not a scientific term, rather it is talismanic, a kind of
invocation of their hopes and dreams.
To have breasts and a vulva, to be loved like a female, to be seen as a
female in the world, which means that none of the feminine urges to make the
choices of a woman need be suppressed or punished.
The dream of female is the dream of being normative. Just like most girls
believe that if they were just more female their life would be easier, that
if their body was more normative their life would be better, transgender
people assigned male at birth or soon thereafter also dream of that.
What does taking away the word "female" to define someone born male remove?
It doesn't, in my mind, take away their option to be femaled, to have their
body made as females as possible.
It doesn't take away their option to live as a woman, making the choices of a
woman, the choices normally assigned to females.
It doesn't take away their own eros around having a female body.
It doesn't take away the cultural assumption of femaleness which comes with
All it takes away is their ability to claim that they are female, replacing
that with the claim they are femaled.
What is it called to convince people we were born female, and therefore
raised as a girl? It's called passing. We pass as being born female, which
makes all our feminine and/or womanly choices appear normative.
I understand the power of the word female. Dreaming of being female, seeing
yourself as female, having your sexuality tied to being seen as female, all
of these are powerful beliefs that we have few ways to address. Yet, I still
believe that the word female is most useful when it has a clear definition,
tied to sex.
"I was always female, just with a little birth defect that I had fixed," when
that birth defect was a fully functional male reproductive system, is
something many transsexuals pin their lives on. Being female -- or passing
as being female -- seems more important than accepting historical and
biological definitions of what female is. They were never transgender people
born male, they were transgendered people who were mistakenly categorized as
male simply based on anatomy and chromosomal tests, on the way their body and
reproductive organs developed.
To say that some male bodied people want to make feminine choices, the
choices of women, and that these people choose to female their body as much
as possible to match their own internal view of themselves, makes sense to
me. To say that some people who are male bodied are really female bodied,
but the only way to determine this is by some psychological testing seems odd.
I worry about lines, about the lines drawn between "real transsexuals" who
are female and must be femaled or die, and "queers" who only make the choice
to alter their social choices and body.
To deny someone born male being female, while acknowledging them being
femaled, does not take away choices or beliefs or feelings from them.
It does take away the conceit of passing, which while effective for an
individual, is bad for transpeople in general, because it doesn't increase
visibility and acceptance.
I understand the power of the word female as a talisman to transpeople, a
grail to which our dreams compel us. I understand why many of us choose to
be femaled to pursue that grail.
I just believe it is people identified at birth or shortly thereafter as male
who are those people, and to deny the fact of that male birth keeps us all
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