The other day I was engaged in a surprisingly civil Twitter conversation with a person who identified as a “trans” woman. I took that to mean that she was a biological male, but presented as a female. I was right.
It actually didn’t take much skill to figure it out, since being “trans” means being something other than what you formerly were. “Trans” is short for transition, and in order to transition, you need to have been somewhere or something else first. A butterfly does not “transition” into another butterfly. It started out as something else, namely, a chrysalis.
The thing about many trans people, though, is that they don’t want you to remember that they were something else. They insist on saying that they were “born” into the wrong body, which means that they were always the gender they want to be, just displaced. That’s why this particular trans person took umbrage when I used the phrase “biological female” to describe myself and other women who had, to quote Lady Gaga, been born that way. She indicated that it was hurtful.
I hate to be unintentionally hurtful. However, I couldn’t let this comment pass without observing that “biological female” is a scientific term, just as “fetus” is a scientific term. If I am forced to call an unborn baby a fetus to satisfy the draconian demands of the abortion-rights crowd, why must I abandon the correct terminology when it comes to adults who’ve “transitioned?” A person with a penis might be a trans woman, but he is most assuredly a biological male.
As you can imagine, this did not go over well, and the civil conversation remained civil until it ended, which was immediately. And I was left to wonder why we have to tiptoe gingerly around the trans issue, choosing our vocabulary as carefully as they’ve chosen their gender.
That Twitter conversation was a perfect example of why we find ourselves divided along social fault lines these days. If, like J.K. Rowling, you politely point out that while you may identify as one of any number of genders, biology still matters, you will be vilified. You will be erased from your own body of work and shunned by the nasty, ungrateful little actors who exist only because of your imagination. If you tell the truth, you will be sent to the social media stake.
What’s worse, you will be an example to those who might agree with you but who tremble in fear at the possibility that they, too, will be shunned. When the biological male who used to swim for the University of Pennsylvania’s varsity men’s team decided to become the biological male who swam for Penn’s varsity women’s team, no one was supposed to notice. We were all supposed to pretend that this fellow who had spent almost two decades living in a male body and enjoying the physiological benefits of testosterone was actually a woman. Actually, not just a woman. A woman who broke swimming records.
Fortunately, either out of anger, indignation, self preservation or a combination of all three, some of the biological women on the team spoke up to complain. The problem is, most of them remained anonymous, precisely because they knew the type of backlash they’d suffer if they dared to tell the truth.
And what is that truth? It’s that you cannot become a “woman” simply because your mind is not in sync with your genitals. You cannot become a “man” simply out of magical thinking, and the quasi-support of those who’ve been intimidated into silence. You can be a trans person, and you deserve respect, but you cannot command that we suspend belief or ignore the biological realities.
I’m getting a little tired of having to throw my years of training in logic and critical thinking down the drain just so I don’t get destroyed on social media, receive death threats or look like a meanie to old friends. If that’s the price I need to pay in order to get along in today’s society, count me and all of my pronouns out.
(Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times in Swarthmore, Pa.)