Trans woman here. I appreciate your efforts to develop a more inclusive, less reductive definition of women. I’ve always thought the gender essentialist position more than a little reductive and simplistic.

However, I don’t know if you intended to conflate gender, gender presentation, and gender roles, but it seems like you did to some extent, especially when you discuss dysphoria. Here’s the difference as I see it: my gender is woman. My presentation might include a polo shirt and Doc Martens, or a dress and heels. I could do a variety of activities associated with gender roles: change the oil in my car, clean the kitchen, watch both The Notebook, and Star Wars. Moving through various presentations and roles is not what brings about dysphoria for most of us. For me, it seems to be the reminder of how people used to see me as the problem. That and, if I exhibit something others think doesn’t look “female” — thinning hair, square jaw, it makes us a target for those who would identify us (“clock” us) and police our presentation. This generally is accompanied by the accusation that we are not “real,” are just “playing at gender.” When I am misgendered because someone notices a place where my hair is sparse, “but many cis woman have no hair, either,” is not a sufficient defense.

Many of us develop a thicker skin with time. I am secure enough in my womanhood that it doesn’t make a difference to me if others don’t recognize it. If they misgender me, or kick me out of public spaces, it is undeniably transphobia, but it says more about their hatefulness. Normalizing such treatment, though, endangers others who are more vulnerable. If it is ok to misgender a trans person, other and dehumanize them, then many will perceive it is also ok to evict them, fire them, kick them out of your restaurant, even kill them, all for being trans. I know this sounds like hyperbole, but it is not. Often, before someone experiences violence (from assault to rape to murder), they are made vulnerable in some way: they are homeless, jobless, cold, hungry. Witness the widespread killing of trans women of color (4 black trans women murdered in the U.S. in the past 3 weeks!), a further marginalized group among an already vulnerable population. Nor is this a political issue. In fact, the rights of trans women and men, and non-binary people should never be up for a vote (ideally; I know in actuality this happens every day). It wouldn’t be right to fire, evict, or exclude someone because they are gay, black, undocumented, or Jewish, so how could it be right to treat trans people that way?

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Educator, writer, LGBTQ+ advocate, avid reader. Novelist in progress. Website: Empowering the LGBTQ+ community one word at a time.

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