It’s estimated that rates of transgender identity or gender dysphoria range from a lower range of 1:2000 (or about 0.05%) of the population in the Netherlands and Belgium to 1.2% of New Zealand high-school students. Numbers collected about this subject are hazy to vague at best (for example the amount of female-to-male v male-to-female trans is estimated at 3:1 to1:1 – which is not a small difference). What seems to be inarguable is that this is a minority concern. I don’t mean that we shouldn’t listen, or that we should abuse anybody who is in this place – absolutely not. But we most probably should keep a sense of proportion.
Cis (if you’ll pardon the term) women are roughly 50% of the population and of those, quite a few are feminist. For many years feminists have been arguing (with some limited success) that biology is not destiny, that having breasts and a vulva doesn’t change your ability to think, and having an active uterus shouldn’t restrict your future success or present possibilities. There is virtually no evidence to suggest that there is a distinctive ‘female’ or ‘male’ brain across populations (naturally there will be individual differences) and no firm advantage to either sex generated from those any small differences.
We have argued that gender is a social construct and is fluid: you will most likely have a constellation of behaviour that places you somewhere between the masculine and feminine. Some societies have more rigid interpretations of gender than others, some are trying to break down the importance of assigning people to one or the other gender. It’s argued that toxic masculinity and the inequality of women is harmful to both sexes and that we should do are best to free people from the burden of acting out their assigned gender roles. Men would benefit perhaps with lowered rates of suicide, women would be able to seek fair representation in government and business. Society, we argue, doesn’t need hard edged and restrictive notions of what constitutes a man and a woman.
Which is why feminists and male to female trans activists don’t get on. The former are arguing that gender doesn’t matter, the latter are very keen to assure you that it does. Feminists want you to know that men and women are no different where it matters (ie in your brain) and that genitals are just simultaneously very useful, occasionally awkward, but not relevant to any discussion about how society operates. Trans activists want everyone to know that biology is indeed fate and that they won’t be happy until their genitals align with the sex of their brains.
Some trans activists will tell you that they knew they were a woman. I question how they knew – I have breasts, and a vulva (and I’ve had them for a while) and I used my uterus and vagina to have two kids. I know I’m female because my body tells me so. But I have no interest is many things that are deemed to be quintessentially feminine, and I like quite a lot of supposedly ‘masculine’ activities. When I’m doing the latter it would never occur to me to imagine that my vulva is in the way but conversely don’t need my vagina to knit or make cupcakes. I don’t think your brain is where your biological sex resides – I think its considerably further south than that.
If you have a penis, you most probably think you’re a man: if you’re a man who is unhappy with masculinity, the male gender role, male clothes and societies attitude to mental health, that doesn’t make you a woman. And if you think that an additional interest in clothes and make-up will persuade a feminist that you’re a ‘woman’ – well there’s a very good chance she will fall out with you.