In my late twenties, my then-partner and I decided that we wanted to have children together. For a number of reasons, I ended up having them. And by “having them,” I mean that we obtained sperm from a Male person and inserted it close to my cervix, resulting in – ta da – pregnancy and birth.
This is where babies come from. As a Female, I am *unable* to manufacture sperm. As a Female, I am, however, able to become pregnant – which I did, twice. This reproductive capacity is a shared characteristic of the class of humans called “Females.” And although there are certainly Females who cannot become pregnant, it is biological fact that it is only this class of humans who can become pregnant. Males – the class of humans from which I obtained the sperm I needed to “make a baby” – cannot become pregnant. Ever.
With the advent of Gender Theory in the GLBT Movement, this focus on the reproductive capacity of Females has been subsumed by the overwhelming emphasis on “Identity.”
How has this manifested, exactly? We have seen, for example, the Cotton Ceiling, in which Lesbian sexuality is framed as somehow “bigoted” against trans women, because Lesbians – Females who are sexually and romantically attracted to other Females – do not desire sex or intimacy with Trans Women.
We’ve also seen prominent Trans Women – most notably Julia Serano and Jos Truitt – call on Females to stop talking about reproductive choice as a “women’s issue,” as such framing “excludes” Trans Women and Trans Men. Jos Truitt has stated that calling reproductive health a “women’s issue” invisibilizes Trans Men and Gender Queer people. Julia Serano has analogized women’s focus on reproductive autonomy to the struggle for marriage equality, which, in Serano’s view has “sucked all the oxygen out of queer activism over the last decade.” These are Female-hating statements that make perfectly clear how unimportant Female reproductive health is to these prominent Trans Women.
What are Lesbians to make of this? Like all Females, we are vulnerable to impregnation, and an assault on the right of women to have control over our own bodies impacts us. In a year in which Virginia attempted to mandate that women seeking an abortion must undergo the degrading procedure of a transvaginal ultrasound probe before she can access abortion services, the boredom expressed by Serrano and Truitt with Female-focused activism strikes a sour note.
The obfuscation of the reality of Female reproductive vulnerability has at least one other effect: some Trans Men deny their ability to become pregnant and their need to have certain gynecological care because they are Female.
Trans Men need pap smears because they are Female. Trans Men need to use birth control if they engage in penetrative sex with a Male through their “bonus hole,” “cockpit,” “front hole” or “trannycave.” And although some websites discuss the need for condoms during penetrative sex due to the risk of HIV and STD transmission, the risk of pregnancy is not always discussed. One site – Queertransmen.org – notes that “(s)ome guys use the “pull out” method, removing the cock before ejaculation, in an effort to reduce their risk. Unfortunately, research shows that this can still lead to HIV infection, likely due to pre-cum.” The site does not, however, bother to mention the other risk Females face from Penis-in-bonus hole sex – pregnancy (ta da)!
“Don’t worry baby, I’ll pull out.” – what year is this, 1950? An inglorious side effect of the replacement of Sex with Gender Identity is the denial of the real risk Trans Men face when engaging in sex with Males – pregnancy.
How is denying Trans Men access to information about their reproductive health a good thing, a healthy thing, a necessary thing? Why is it that in order to minimize the “Gender Dysphoria” certain Trans People feel about their bodies, we have to deny biological reality?
Those of us who care about the class of humans known as Females are often accused of “biological determinism” or “biological essentialism.” That is, these critics argue that acknowledging biological sex limits WHO YOU ARE and WHO YOU CAN BE. Instead, these people disregard a material characteristic – sex – that has significant consequences (like pregnancy) and replace it with an ethereal characteristic – Gender Identity, all the while denying that they are, in fact, using this vaporous “Gender Identity” to DEFINE a person as “man” or “woman.”
This bait-and-switch has real life consequences for Females, including Trans Men. These real life consequences come in the form of unexpected pregnancies of Trans Men. Failing to discuss our common experience as Females separates Lesbians and Trans Men from each other and denies our shared experience. Trans Men and Lesbians are Female. Women’s health clinics should serve the gynecological needs of Trans Men, not because reproductive health is a “men’s issue,” but because it is a Female one.
Originally appeared in Baltimore OutLoud
Friday, 10 August 2012
This is a great post, Cathy!
I’m consistently exhasperated by the trans men in my life who refuse to acknowledge their risk factors because it makes them uncomfortable. As if it’s comfortable for most anybody in a society that actively discourages sexual autonomy and education! It always comes down to, ‘i don’t need those parts, I hope they rot off!’ I’ve convinced a few to at least get a pap and annual, but there are others that I worry will never see a gyno again. Even the overt misinformation females are fed is parroted right back to me. Shit like, ‘oh, I CAN’T have birth control because I’m on T’ – actually, the Paraguard is non-hormonal! Or, ‘I don’t worry about cancer because I’m gonna have a hysterectomy anyway,’ completely ignoring (if they know at all since too many doctors won’t talk risks) that T increases their risk of endometrial and cervical cancers. Hystos also cost thousands without insurance, meaning most trans men without economic privilege are in a real bind if their reproductive organs go haywire. If my trans brothers want gynelogical healthcare to catch up to their needs, they gotta, y’know, see the doctor once in awhile.
Also totally random but this is the second time I’ve seen yr ‘love baby’ picture and it’s so damn cute.
That’s very kind, thanks.
“I’ll just have a hysterectomy”
scary stuff to hear from womyn who have ZERO idea how disabling a hysterectomy really is. even for womyn with no GID, the truth of how truly damaging a hysterectomy is has to be one the biggest dirty secrets in Obstetrics. this video is an educational piece created to give womyn the information they need to give informed consent or refusal to the procedure. i suggest that ALL female people watch it. if we are going to be fighting for reproductive rights, the right to not have your body hacked apart to remove those organs is a pretty basic one.
HERS Foundation. The facts about hysterectomy. Remind me to tell you my story some time Cassaundra.
Every time I see this beautiful photo of you nursing, I get all nostalgiac and weepy. I LOVED the experience of being pregnant (except the 9 months of puking), and childbirth, and nursing. I have a teen and a tween now, but those old days re never far from my mind.
Thank you for having a place where women can come and talk about and celebrate and feel great about these experiences.
I love this post!
I was just discussing with others the way that female biological reality can be ignored/forgotten when the focus is on avoiding ‘biological essentialism’.
It frustrates me terribly how women’s clinics – which were put together through the efforts of female women to provide the respectful and informative care that they were denied by the male medical establishment – are called “transphobic” and threatened with closure because they do not treat males. Every clinic I have ever known provides not only basic gynecological care to all females, but they provide hormones and counselling to trans men as well. They are consistent in their mission to provide good care for the female body and respect female experiences (and even if I don’t like it, being “trans” can be a female experience.) But that isn’t good enough in these days of identity-based politics and medicine: apparently we must just continue to deny reality. It’s very frustrating.
This is a great post, Cathy!
Reproductive rights should never be ignored in favour of identity and feelings. These rights, which women have fought for are being attacked in so many parts of the world, while there are other places where women have never obtained them,and even where our reproductive rights aren’t under threat, access to abortion and contraceptive services and good reproductive health care is often very much less than perfect.
Reblogged this on Female Biology Matters and commented:
What a beautiful, female-biology-loving, and of course, generally *female* loving post by Cathy Brennan. 🙂
you think being a mother involves your children suckling you?
instead of blogging non stop,and being a cunt on facebook-spend time with your children.
Please provide data to support your assertions. Thanks!
Not cool. I have a vagina. I am not female. I have given birth and I breastfed my baby. I am not female. Why do “feminists” like yourself think it’s OK to tell me what I am, what I am not, and somehow think it’s empowering for you to impose your ideas about MY body and MY identity? I AM NOT FEMALE. My identity is not a political statement, a rebellion against sexism, or a diagnosis. My identity, JUST LIKE YOURS AS A LESBIAN, is self-evident. How dare you not respect that. I hope your baby is cissexual and cisgender because it STINKS having parents who won’t accept you for who you are.
Female is not an identity. Female is fact.
Well, now you look REALLY foolish because my “FACT” is that I’m Intersex. Yes, able to conceive, host, and birth a child. Nonetheless, not “medically” female either. Between 3-5% of humans are not “female” or “male” even by conservative cissexist medical definition. Again, what is it to you? How does my sex OR gender affect YOU?
If you gave birth, you are female.
jesus. deluded much? reproductively viable as female = OBVIOUSLY FEMALE. there are other females who are females too, but YOU, my friend, are in the not-even-debateable category.
“I have given birth and I breastfed my baby. I am not female.”
This is a passenger vehicle that has four wheels and an internal-combustion engine. This is not an automobile.
We can play this stupid game all day, if you want…
I wonder how many “trans” men were spoken to during the writing of this post. As a female bodied person who in fact enjoys their female body, you of course are biased about your opinions of female bodies. I, as a “trans” man take care of my “female” parts. I know how to get pregnant and how to avoid pregnancy – like most “female” bodied people know. How dare you imply that “trans” men don’t know how to prevent pregnancy. And how dare you speak for “trans” men and women. If you aren’t one of us, then you don’t know us like we know us. I’ll agree that there is a tremendous need for gynecological treatment for “trans” men, but a lot if not most gynecologists make us uncomfortable much in the same way that you do by calling us “female” or they simply flat out refuse to provide us with the health care that we need. We may have some of the same anatomy as you, but make no mistake – we are not – NOT – lesbians or female.
Trans men are female.
No we are not.
Yes. Yes, you are.
Biology really isn’t THAT difficult. Females as a collective class were born with reproductive organs that enable them to conceive and carry a child, after which they can give birth to that child. That is something that males, as a collective class, are incapable of doing.
Whether a female wants to later define themselves as a man does not change the simple notion of biological fact. If you were born with a uterus or if you ever gave birth (which clearly illustrates that one was born with a uterus), then the realities of biology dictate that one is a female.
Are our educational institutions really failing us so much now that the basics of biology are lost upon some? Sadly the trans* contingent seems deadset upon proving that to be the case…
I’ve not given birth nor do I have the reproductive organs to make babies. I am not a women, nor am I female. I am however a “trans” man. Don’t tell me what I am. I’m not out there telling folks or you who you are based upon your genitalia – and I don’t even know what your genitalia is. And what ever happened to biology isn’t destiny to you feminist types?
If you are of the class of humans called Female – the class of humans vulnerable to impregnation – you are Female. The fact that YOU individually haven’t given birth (or cannot because you had your female reproductive organs removed) doesn’t make you a special case.
Trans men are female. Sorry Charlie.
Again – I am not female. You do not speak for me or anyone except yourself.
If you are male, I am confused as to why you feel the need to tell females about female reproductive reality.
As you are apparently a trans man, you are female. That has nothing to do with *me.*
If you thought that other peoples definitions of themselves and rights to self determinations had nothing to do with you, then you wouldn’t be writing blogs like this one.
Female isn’t subject to your individual interpretation, snowflake.
Oh, shocking, the trans man is lesbophobic. YAWN.
If you want to abolish gender, then why do you use gendered language to refer to people who have a vagina and are able to become pregnant? The only objective way to describe someone who has a vagina and is able to become pregnant is like this: “someone who has a vagina and is able to become pregnant”. “Female” is a subjective and gender affirming designation. If you truly wanted to abolish gender, you wouldn’t be using that designation.
Female is a sex. Sorry about your dick.
This post is probably old news on this whole internet timeline, but jeez some people need to understand that words “female” and “male” means one’s sex. I’m trans man, and biologically I am female. Really, that’s the whole fucking problem, that I have female body that I can’t recognize as my own and dissociate away from! I don’t think this makes me “less of a man”, if those are the words one wants to use, I’m just a man with medical condition, different history and female biology. No big deal. Or at least, it shouldn’t be! Oh wait, yes, I must have internalized transphobia and or maybe I’m bathing in male privilege to think this way, sorry.
And I need female specified treatment, because I (still) have female sex organs. I admit I haven’t cared about myself as much I should. I really, really should visit gyno more often.
But I have to say though, that I find telling someone who’s intersex that they’re female bit tricky. Because I think if intersex people want to be recognized as their own sex, they should be, and not to push them into either male or female category. Really, the whole problem is that their biology is seen as something bad, and people try to “normalize” them to make them fit either female or male category.
Thanks for your sane comment.
Re: Intersex, Intersex people are not trans, and I support Intersex people having the medical care appropriate to their needs.
Transwomen contract STD’s exactly like men who identify as straight or Gay. SAMHSA (Federal) and the Florida State Dept. of Communicable Diseases spent huge sums on grants to educate people to this reality. Transwomen need PSA checks too. Living in a bubble can be very unhealthy.
FUCK ALL U man hating lesbians !
To start with you ignorant shit Transmen are NOT FEMALE. What a dumb fuck statement. If they were fucking women why the fuck would they go through all the fucking hell they go through to change the defective bodies they were unfortunate enough to get stuck with as a birth defect!!!!!
They may have some female plumbing thaw are stuck with keeping due to finances or lack of good medical intervention but mak no mistake you bunch of good ball women who run this post. FTM s and Trans Men are just poor unfortunate MEN that got stuck with the sad and unfortunate birth defect of being stuck in a female body ! If you would read a bit before u make ignorant and highly offensive inaccurate statements you wouldn’t look like such a complete idiot ! The brain is all male and that happened during hormone synthesis in the fetal stage. Yes those men stuck with the crappy parts should take care of them but they are Makes not Females get it Right !!!
So, I take it you didn’t like this blog post?