No Answers Only Questions

There is a common thread that runs among the “trans women are women but not female” crowd. This group is mostly composed of nice, white, liberal, middle-class-ish, lady bloggers and journalists who will not accept that the penis of a trans woman is a female penis but who will concede that a man with a penis can be a woman because woman is gender and genitals is sex. These women are often called TERFs by the more wacko trans activists because they believe that sex is immutable and cannot be changed even though they’re willing to concede that there are male women and female men. These women will often say that they accept trans women as women if they “present as women” or they are “read as women.”

UntitledThis argument that you become a woman by presenting yourself as a woman and being perceived as womanly by others is sexist to its very core. It’s saying that womanhood is nothing more than femininity and that women who abstain from feminine beauty practices and behaviours are less womanly than men who adhere to them. It’s also just not a justifiable statement because it depends on so many variables. If we’re going to assert that is a person is a woman simply by virtue of presenting themselves as a woman and being perceived as a woman, that is the same thing as saying, “you are not the thing that you are; you are the perception people have of you.” And that is just demonstrably untrue. Butch lesbians are read as male all the fucking time yet their actual femaleness; their physical sex – the thing that makes them a woman – is clearly verifiable.

I am often “read” as a hipster because I haven’t had a haircut in 2 years and I dress like a homeless man a lot of the time but actually I’ve never in my life liked anything before it was cool (apart from Radical Feminism, obvs) and I dress like this because I’m poor and I’ve been wearing this outfit since 1999. So people “read” me as a hipster and treat me like a hipster. I’m not actually a hipster though because I’m thirty-one years old and I don’t really properly know what a hipster is. I just know you need money to be one and I don’t have any.

Thirteen year old girls often present as women and are read as women. Does that make them women or are they actually girls hoping to look like women? If they present as women, read as women and identify themselves as women, should we treat them like women?

So even if it were true that trans women are generally “read as women” by the world at large, that’s not enough to actually make them women. If that were true, then that would mean that butch lesbians (and butch straight women) who “present as men” and are “read as men” are suddenly actual men because that’s how they’re perceived. We would have to say, “sorry, dykes. You dress like a man and look like a man and I read you as a man so you have to pee in the boys’ toilets and change in the men’s room.”

Heterosexual women who accept sufficiently feminine males as women rarely want to enter into a discussion with lesbians (who are actual women) about their views. They consider any attempt to ask questions a “pile-on” and either refuse to engage or claim that they are being harangued and harassed. Lesbians would like to know if being read as the opposite sex automatically makes you a member of that sex in all cases or if it’s only true for special people who actually want to be read as the opposite sex. Is it that males can be women if they’re read as women and they also want to be read as women but they’re still men if they’re read as women and they don’t want to be?


Are butch dykes still women because they’re read as men but don’t want to be read as men? If they wanted to be read as men, would they then be men? It’s not a rhetorical question but so far no one has been willing to take it on.

These are legitimate questions that lesbians are asking and the silence around it from heterosexual feminists is deafening.  It’s really nice that you all have recently discovered that a penis is actually a male organ but it’s been a while now and that’s a pretty basic thing. It’s hard to have discussions about advancing women’s liberation with people who are unable to define precisely what a woman is. (I’ll give you a clue: it doesn’t have anything to do with special feelings.)

If you believe that there can be such a thing as a male woman, a good rule to keep in mind as a feminist is this: female women take precedence over male women. If a female woman is saying to you, “hey, this male woman is stepping on my toes,” you should listen to her. Even if she’s – gasp – a lesbian. Endlessly repeating, “trans women are women because trans women are women,” is not a good look and it’s it’s not doing actual women any favours. How can we have come to a point in time where prominent feminist journalists are unable to define what a woman even is and frame any attempt at discussion about it a “pile-on”?

22 thoughts on “No Answers Only Questions

  1. I’m presenting as a wombat today. Please treat me as such and offer me my favored foods.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. wow. this was so rich. there are so many implications to this, truly staggering. it will take me some time to mull over the fullness of this brilliance. thank you!

    now i am left wondering if it’s possible at all to be a hetero radfem: as far as one’s private/public selves being integrated into a whole consciousness that one’s female self is *human*.

    if i believe that my sexual attraction to men is legit (i do not, and refuse to engage with men as intimate partners), then how can i square that against my crystal-clear awareness that men are human weapons?

    as a radical, it seems that the issue this fascinating post leaves me with is: can hetero women be radfems without having to disassociate parts of themselves to reconcile their heterosexuality?

    sisters, am i missing something? this bind is wide open space that i am soaring in like an eagle. i might not ever touch land again, as this sky is so sweet….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Men are walking sperm banks with the capacity to defend the dispersal of said sperm from incursion by other walking sperm banks. I still think they are also human beings but that is their basic biological function. We can relate to them on that level and protect ourselves from them when we don’t want kids. Pretty simple, if not always easy. The trouble is that too many het women want to connect with them emotionally when most of them will just s?!t on that connection and take advantage of it so they can keep a pet blow-up doll on hand at all times. One of the few matrilineal cultures left in existence, a group of women in China, solved this problem by severing the link between marriage and parenthood. The woman keeps the kids no matter what, and keeps her husband around as long as she wants him around, but kicks him out when it’s no longer working. Just being empowered to live THAT way would be a real game-changer for us straight women. Of course in that culture women also own pretty much all the property too, so Dudebro leaving the household does not lead directly to mom and kids being plunged into poverty.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m a heterosexual woman and I think it’s pretty easy to define a woman: female. Born female, raised female, possessing female genitalia.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m a hetero woman who is seriously put off by transwomen’s insistence that their subjective statement “I am a woman” trumps every other consideration (even that they still have male genitalia).

    My main attitude toward transrights from the beginning has been somewhat hands-off. In many political/social issues, I see no reason to get bent out of shape regarding other people’s conduct particularly when that conduct doesn’t seem to have a negative impact on others. But transpeople gaining access to sex-restricted facilities does run the risk of negative repercussions (at a bare minimum since the lack of any objective measure of what makes someone trans is missing from any/all trans protection laws I’ve ever seen).

    Given that, a transwoman who has fully transitioned and “passes” as a woman obviously is not biologically female, but her dedication to actually transitioning (vs. fly-by-night hetero men claiming trans identity for questionable reasons) makes her, to my mind, less of a potential threat to ciswomen in women’s spaces. That’s largely why I can’t claim to care very much about those transwomen agitating for access to women’s facilities, not because I think butch lesbians aren’t women.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, I don’t think any of what you said was actually relevant to what I wrote.

      Liked by 1 person

    • There is no such thing as “fully transitioned” or “pass”.They all have their dicks and they all have their male socialization and no they don’t belong in any women’s facilities. Women like you are part of the problem. Always negotiating away what women do have. “well HE’s so dedicated to it” Give him a cookie and directions to the men’s room for his dedication.


    • Even when a male has had transition surgery, they don’t have female genitalia. They have scars kinda-sorta shaped like female genitalia. There isn’t anything per se that really makes them female. They’re males with hormonal alteration and scars. And on average they still outstrip us in strength, height, and reach, and Glob help us if they do not have respectful intentions. I would guess that in many cases they just want a pee, but there’s always that one guy who has to wreck it for everybody else. And no one wants to be hurt by that one guy. They need a third bathroom, period, because we all here know they are not safe around male-born men any more than we are around MTFs… even less safe in fact, because the one unforgivable sin in patriarchy is throwing away your male birth and “becoming a woman.” So they’ve got to go somewhere. I just don’t feel like being thrown under the bus, left vulnerable to that ONE time a dude comes into the bathroom who *isn’t* just there for a pee.


  5. I am sincerely curious about the following. Patriarchal culture has, for millennia, controlled women’s sexuality by many means, including denying that women have any sexuality whatsoever. I want to understand why I am supposed to deny my sexuality, which is hetero, in the name of radical feminism. This is not my personal definition of radical feminism, but it’s obviously other women’s definition of radical feminism, and I do not comprehend why I am supposed to conform to someone else’s idea of who I am. (I don’t, never have, never will, am content to be a very marginal person.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • How is this at all relevant to my article?


      • I thought carefully about replying to you. My comment was partially in reply to the comment above and partially in reply to another post I had read of yours (a mistake I will not repeat). But, apparently, readers are only ALLOWED to comment on your post of the moment. Why do some women think that women who will not allow themselves to be controlled by men have the least interest in being controlled by women? I’ve done enough of that already in my life, having been far more sympathetic and emotionally open to women than men, but I’m of too great an age now to allow anyone to tell me what I can and cannot say, or can and cannot do.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m curious – did Helen Lewis respond to GIDwatch’s tweet about butch women?


  7. Great article, thank you so much. I am debating whether to link to it on my mainstream-but-think they’re-oh-so-rad internet forum.

    I have no effing idea how this comments page turned into “I’m straight what about meeeeeee” but can all of you heterosexual commenters please familiarize yourselves with Ann Tagonist’s “Things You Should Know Before Commenting:”

    #2. I have less than zero interest in how you conduct your sexy times. Please tell someone who cares.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. i think transwomen aren’t women. your arguments are good. but this argument “Heterosexual women who accept sufficiently feminine males as women rarely want to enter into a discussion with lesbians (who are actual women) about their views” in my opinion is tendencious (as i have been seing it a lot lately), to criticize hetero women. i would replace heterosesual women for women. why? because at least in my town, most lesbians are first, very feminine, and are the ones involved with sex positive ideas, marching in slutwalks and “challenging the rules” by accepting feminine males who wear skirts, saying they are great because they understand us and they are not macho guys. i for one, have been accused to be too masculine and also transphobic when i stand for female only spaces.weird.


  9. I love your blog. You are the sanest person I know. This is very creepy, I know — but where ARE you?? How do I find more of you? I am isolated from any kind of radical feminist community and live in too trendy of an area (SF Bay Area, California, USA) to find people who haven’t been sucked down the transtube. I pray to the mermaid goddesses that I can find real womben community and sisterhood off the internet.

    On Wed, Apr 16, 2014 at 9:41 AM, ann tagonist


  10. “Are butch dykes still women because they’re read as men but don’t want to be read as men? If they wanted to be read as men, would they then be men?”

    I am a butch dyke who is often read as male, but regardless of how someone sees me, I remain female. In fact, one of the chacteristics of myself and the butches I know is that we don’t give a damn how other people think about how we look. Their opinion of us means less than nothing: we’re butches–we walk through the world as we please. 👨

    Liked by 2 people

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