Is the Earth Flat? (Or why biology is not the defining issue of gender)

“So, do you believe the earth is flat?”

The question was asked because I did not accept what a third-person described as a biological “universal truth”. In fairness, the person asking this was taking a devil’s advocate role here, but, more generally, this is often a typical trick used by people to cancel out another’s argument. Namely, tie it to a completely different issue – without any specific or direct linkage – and then discredit that other argument instead. Anyway, it got me thinking…

So, here is my response to why biology is not a reason to deny that transwomen are women.

The argument, as one lady put it to me on Twitter yesterday, is that there are only two sexes, two types of gametes (desperately trying to impress and put me in my place with their knowledge here: I’ve actually studied genetics and human reproduction for one of my degrees, so no, not impressed … and here I am trying to impress you: you see transgender people are just as vain as everyone else! Almost as if we were regular humans!). 

Apparently, no matter how many transwomen there are, none of them can have a baby. Well, I mean, who knew?

Actually, this is pretty damn obvious and not something I am going to deny. Nature created biological differences between the sexes as a means of ensuring reproductive ability that mixes different genetic profiles and so ensure continuance of each species. That biological difference is why I was registered as a male at birth.

However, this biological reproductive definition of sex is only selected in preference to others in order to specifically exclude transgender people. (It is sometimes not as black and white – not as ‘universal’ – as people try to claim though, but I will skip over that part of the discussion.)

Yes, biology gave us roles in the reproductive process. The danger for anyone taking this stance to defend anti-trans positions is that it classifies us purely in terms of reproductive biology. In other words, from a biological homo sapiens viewpoint, men have the job of impregnating the females and the females are nothing more than baby producing machines.

When we use biology and appearance in this way to define people it leads automatically to prejudice. Women have been wrongly treated as ‘baby makers’ in society throughout the ages. People born with differences to biological norms are labelled ‘disabled’ or ‘crippled’ and their abilities and human uniqueness are tragically overlooked.

As soon as you say that women are in fact more than just ‘baby makers’ and allow them to become individual social entities – and I do feel that all feminist would agree with this regardless of their views on transgender people – then this facet no longer defines them, and transwomen cannot be blocked from being women simply because they cannot have children. In truth, women born infertile are still women anyway, so the argument is somewhat counterintuitive as well as being both limiting and damaging.

Of course, biological differences do exist: genetically biological males have a single different chromosome, a Y instead of an X, and this leads to physical expression of different features. If there were no physical differences, if appearances were absolutely the same, there would be no need for people to transition in the first place and there would be no transgender people. Citing biology as a block is simply revisiting the old argument of stating one cannot be a woman because you were born a man. In reality, it is a recognition of where one is starting from and absolutely no argument against being able to change gender.

I absolutely reject that women are nothing more than baby making machines. I reject that biology defines us as individuals. Each and every one of us has the ability to be so many things.

And, to answer the original question: I believe the Earth is round and, despite the fears of so many people, it will not turn flat simply because transgender people are walking on it.