All Your Labels Are Belong To Us
I found this little gem in a comment thread about Thomas Beattie at Womanist Musings:
A womb, and the ability to use it are restricted to women. Men do not have wombs. Men do not have ovaries. Men do not produce eggs. Women have wombs, ovaries, eggs, and give birth.
That’s how it works.
Or, if you’d prefer, “female”. Because she’s female.
That said, “transphobia” is disingenuous. There is no “phobia” (fear) of this person.
Ovaries. Womb. Things females have. Males don’t have them.
Oh cripes. This again.
Yes, in some species—humans being one of them—some individuals produce sperm and some individuals produce eggs. In those species, a sperm and an egg must come together to reproduce young. That is simply what is. That’s the “scientific” part.
That act of labeling things and assigning an attendant system of beliefs and social relationships is a human invention, however. Labels and their attendant baggage are not necessary for reproduction. Amazingly, most species seem to reproduce quite well without needing labels… or language… or his and hers bath towels.
So, all of those labels—male, female, woman, man, feminine, masculine—they are the inventions of human beings. How those labels are interpreted varies according to culture and personal belief. Those labels, like so many other systems of social categories, deeply limit our understanding of ourselves and others. Ironically, they even limit science, as sexist bias has been found to creep into scientists’ study of gender behavior in non-human animals.
Now, do we go around asking people if they produce sperm or eggs? I don’t know about you, but I usually give someone a quick glance, do a few subconscious mental calculations, and arrive at their sex/gender without much thought. Based upon those split second calculations, gender and all of it’s attendant social baggage then comes into play.
So, this sperm and egg debate? When it comes to the daily social interactions that form the basis of people’s lives, it’s irrelevant.
So what if Thomas Beattie identifies as a man? He hasn’t denied that his body has eggs. I mean, duh, he did just give birth. Hence, there is no denial of what his body is capable of. Quite to the contrary. He does, however, identify with a particular social marker—man/male—that makes him feel comfortable with who he is as a person. It is a matter of who he identifies as, deep in his spirit… and that knowledge informs how he presents himself to the world and how he interacts with the world and the people in it. That has nothing to do with the kind of cells floating around in someone’s gonads. In actuality, it is centered in spirit, personal knowledge, and social presence.
OK, so you don’t like the word transphobia being assigned to you? Let’s try this. The fact that you are incapable of accepting who this man is, and instead, deny his very being… that makes you an insensitive, petty asshole. That’s my label for you. How do you like it?
Here’s a little dose of reality. If a trans guy sat down next to you at a bus stop, most likely, you wouldn’t know the difference. You’d interact with him as you would with any man. And get this—he might actually have a few eggs here and there in his body. You wouldn’t know the difference. Fancy that.
Oh, I forgot. You have super human powers and by employing your X-ray vision, you instantly determine that you have been duped! Eggs? A man with eggs? Oh horror of horrors! There goes the whole bus stop conversation, brought to a halt by some microscopic cells deep within a person’s body. Heavens to Betsy! What shall we do now?
Do you see how ridiculous this is?