Trans woman

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Mela Habijan, the 2020 winner of the Miss Trans Global contest

A trans woman (short for transgender woman) is a woman who was assigned male at birth. Trans women have a female gender identity and may experience gender dysphoria (distress brought upon by the discrepancy between a person's gender identity and their sex assigned at birth). Gender dysphoria may be treated with gender-affirming care.



Julia Serano, Debunking "Trans Women Are Not Women" Arguments (2017)

Julia Serano, Debunking "Trans Women Are Not Women" Arguments (June 27, 2017), Medium
  • Women who insist that trans women are not women often object to being called “cis women” under the false assumption that it somehow undermines their femaleness — this is not at all the purpose of this language. The sole purpose of cis terminology is to name the unmarked majority (similar to how one might refer to white women, or heterosexual women, or able-bodied women, etc.). In other words, referring to someone as “cisgender” simply means that they have not had a transgender experience.
  • Trans women differ greatly from one another. Perhaps the only thing that we share in common is a self-understanding that there was something wrong with our being assigned a male sex at birth and/or that we should be female instead. While some cisgender people refuse to take our experiences seriously, the fact of the matter is that transgender people can be found in virtually every culture and throughout history; current estimates suggest that we make up 0.2 – 0.3% of the population [or possibly more]. [...] In other words, we simply exist.
  • Like women more generally, many trans women are feminists. Feminism and transgender activism are not in any way incompatible or mutually exclusive. As feminists who acknowledge intersectionality, we believe that we should be fighting to end all forms of sexism and marginalization — this includes both traditional sexism and transphobia. Forcing trans women into a separate group that is distinct from cis women does not in any way help achieve feminism’s central goal of ending sexism.
  • Claims that trans women are not women often rely on essentialist (and therefore incorrect) assumptions about biology. For instance, people might argue that trans women are not “genetically female,” despite the fact that we cannot readily ascertain anybody’s sex chromosomes. Indeed, most people have never even had their sex chromosomes examined, and those that do are sometimes surprised by the results. Other common appeals to biology center on reproduction — e.g., stating that trans women have not experienced menstruation, or cannot become pregnant. This ignores the fact that some cisgender women never menstruate and/or are unable to become pregnant. Claims about genitals are similarly problematic: Women’s genitals vary greatly, and as with chromosomes and reproductive capabilities, we cannot readily see other people’s genitals in everyday encounters. If you and I were to meet, should I refuse to recognize or refer to you as a woman unless you show me your genitals? And frankly, what could possibly be more sexist than reducing a woman to what’s between her legs? Isn’t that precisely what sexist men have been doing to women for centuries on end?
  • While gender socialization is quite real, all of us are capable of overcoming or transcending the socialization that we experienced as children. And gender socialization doesn’t simply stop when one reaches adulthood: All of us are constantly facing gender-related social pressures, expectations, and obstacles throughout our lives. If you believe that these statements are true for cis women, then they also must be true for trans women.
  • Trans women do not transition out of a desire to be feminine; we transition out of a self-understanding that we are or should be female (commonly referred to as gender identity).
  • Trans women who are conventionally feminine are not in any way asserting or insinuating that all women should be conventionally feminine, or that femininity is all there is to being a woman. Like cis women, trans women dress the way we do in order to express ourselves, not to critique or caricature other women.
  • As a trans woman, I will be the first to admit that I cannot possibly know what any other woman experiences or feels on the inside. But the thing is, the trans-women-aren’t-women crowd cannot possibly know what any other woman experiences or feels either! Every woman is different. We share some overlapping experiences, but we also differ in every possible way. Every trans woman I know acknowledges this diversity. In contrast, it’s the cis women who attempt to exclude us who seem to have a singular superficial stereotypical notion of what constitutes a woman, or of what women experience.
  • Trans women are women. We may not be “exactly like” cis women, but then again, cis women are not all “exactly like” one another either. But what we do share is that we all identify and move through the world as women. And because of this, we all regularly face sexism. That is what we should be focusing on and working together to challenge. And as I said at the outset, forcing trans women into a separate group that is distinct from cis women does not in any way help achieve feminism’s central goal of ending sexism. In fact, it only serves to undermine our collective cause.
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