October 3, 2008
“Typical biological (fe)male”
No. Just, no. Don’t do it.
No really. Don’t. I don’t care if your trans friend uses it. I don’t care if you’re trans. Don’t.
I don’t actually have to explain it. Think for a minute or two. Read a few of my other posts, particularly this one. You have the resources and intellect to figure this one out on your own. Really. I trust you. You can do it.
Don’t click the “more” button if you haven’t already figured it out or at least tried for 5 minutes. The point of what follows isn’t about educating you about why not to say it. That’s stupid. It’s about 1)giving you talking points to explain to other people, and 2)exploring the faulty logic that goes into the usage.
Gender and sex are self determination. “Biological” is determination by other. If we are being honest when we say that it’s self-determination, then what the fuck does some biologist’s view matter?
Besides, if we truly separate gender and sex even in a coercive, trans-negative way, man does not flow from male, nor woman from female, so it makes no sense to say “biological man” “genetic girl” etc etc. This is one case where cissexualist feminism fails itself, where even if cissexual feminists don’t give a shit about trans people, they lose through these statements because it naturalizes the categories (and thereby norms) they supposedly want to end. But that’s only part of it.
Furthermore, even in a gender/sex coercive milieu where the observer determines reality not the person hirself, when a scientist or doctor looks at a body-modified transsexual person’s body or an intersex person’s body and says “Look at this, this, and this! This person is biologically male,” said scientist is also saying “And DON’T look at that, that, or that! Those are just distractions, not natural, not important.” My tits, my skin, the texture of my hair, my fat distribution, my arousal & orgasm patterns are all “biologically female” due to the estrogen and spiro that I take. The carrying angle of my elbows is a better fit to the “biologically female” stats than the “biologically male” standard deviation curve. Furthermore, non-surgically-reconstructed bits of transsexuals who take hormones are not the same, do not act the same, and if you know how to look, do not look the same as cissexual non-intersex bits. I haven’t had any permanent hair removal on my chin, and I don’t shave (part of) it, and you know what? It looks like cis girl facial hair. Even if I grew out the whole damn thing it couldn’t pass for a cis boy’s facial hair. It’s been more than two months, it’s not even a half an inch long, and it’s fine enough as to be hardly visible. It hasn’t affected me passing.
I don’t share these things because I think they make me more validly female/not-male. They don’t. I suspect that everyone, cis, trans, and/or intersex has something that they can point to like that–some of us just have more of them or less of them. I’m bringing these things up to show that it’s arbitrary. If a MAAB person didn’t produce “enough” testosterone, their insurance would cover it, and all the biological changes it would cause would be “real” and “biological”–unlike the biological changes I experience when I take estrogen. What does “biologically male” mean in a trans context? Anatomically male…which characteristics? Hormonally…I’m female. Chromosomally… who knows? (oh and sometimes chromosomes change, btw.)
Look–if aliens came and studied us and sorted us into groups, they wouldn’t put me in with the cis boys. They wouldn’t put me in with the cis girls, either, but it’s only entrenched transphobia in science that allows us to think that I would be put with the cis boys. It’s only this bait and switch, this sleight of hand that allows these things to be clear from an outsider’s perspective. It makes sense if and only if you accept a cissexual supremacist lens, a way of thinking that is designed specifically to erase and undo trans and intersex people. Even in a gender coercive society, this way of thinking is only intelligible through transphobia.
Now let’s get back to the gender self-determination. Here, there are two cases.
1)”Bio male” to mean cis male
So, here, we’re removing the gender/sex conflation of “bio boy” & “genetic girl,” and the presumption is that it’s being paired/opposed to “trans male” (bio female and trans female). The problem here is essentially the same as with “bio boy”–it implies that there’s this legit thing out there, cissexualist science, that lends credence to some people’s self determination, and pretends that by doing so it does not inherently invalidate other people’s self determination. Because if my femaleness is “self determined”, but someone else’s is “natural”, well, we have a problem, right? It presupposes that gender/sex coercion does get some say in the validity of your sex.
2)”biologically (fe)male” meaning “assigned (fe)male at birth”
Here, sex essentialism is rallied to the aid of sex coercion–it says (while you may be able to determine your own gender) you can’t determine your sex, it’s natural, real, etc. “Female man” and Female Masculinity1 come out of this usage. It denies agency over the body, naturalizes cissexual supremacist science, etc. The short answer is that it’s sex coercive. Again, it appeals to the “reality” of the situation (because our scientific lens is more thoroughly determined by cissexual supremacy than some other lenses are).
It’s also generally paired with/legitimating gender coercion as well. It’s a way to group trans women and cis men together and pretend it’s unproblematic, not transphobic, etc. It’s mobilized in support of cissexual supremacy in order to give false credence to all the various things that cis/non-intersex people (and frequently trans misogynistic trans men) like to assume happen based on one’s ‘real sex’ rather than being dispersed by identified sex, lived sex, or more diffusely.
As such, it’s also tied into trans male / cis female complicity in trans misogyny–in that it creates this “natural” ground upon which to create a community between those two groups, that excludes trans women by extension of excluding cis men, a way of claiming that these spaces are not transphobic/trans misogynistic, a way to pretend that it’s not bloody fucking obvious that the oppression of trans women is misogyny, a way to do the whole trans-men-are-the-ones-who-are-oppressed-by-sexism-in-the-trans-community shtick.