I was absolutely delighted today when I woke-up to realize that, for the first time ever, I would have the honour of observing International Women’s Day as an actual, declared member of the female sex. The problem, however, is that I am not sure precisely how one is meant to go about observing International Women’s Day. Surely, it would trivialize the importance of the day if it were merely an occasion to take pride in being a woman. Surely there must be some bare requirement to take action of some kind on an expressly ‘feminist’ issue?
So I would like to take a moment to talk about bodily autonomy. Usually when people talk about women and bodily autonomy, they mean it in the sense of abortion. Frankly, as I am (unfortunately) physically incapable of bearing children, I do not necessarily feel that my opinion should carry much weight on this matter, however I will get it out of the way and say that I am pro-choice; I do not believe that, philosophically, a fetus can truly be called a ‘person,’ nor do I believe that outlawing abortion would accomplish anything other than killing thousands of innocent women. However, I will not dwell on this, as it is not actually intended to be the subject of my post.
Rather, I wish to talk about bodily autonomy in the sense of transsexuality. In many ways, I would say that this is an even bigger issue for transwomen than it is for our cissexual counterparts; while most* biologically female persons have to live with the potential that they may one day have to choose between having an abortion and not having one, almost every transwoman has to make at least some irreversible alteration to their body, whether it be through hormonal replacement, SRS or facial feminization. And, just as with cissexual women, we constantly have to struggle against an entire army of arrayed interests** who think that they should be entitled to a veto over what we are allowed to do with our own bodies; parents whose reactions can range from dismissal to disownership; romantic partners who charge that we are “ruining their lives”;leaders of major world religions who wholeheartedly believe that not only will we spend enternity roasting alive in Hell, but that we will deserve to do so; entire political parties wholly given-over to denying our agency, to demonizing us and lying about our life-experiences because they are not ideologically convenient.
The point is that there is an entire universe of culturally-engrained social expectations out there, and those with powerful interests in maintaining the status quo. Those who enforce the view that women are incapable (or at least undeserving) of agency over their own bodies are by and large the same people who find the idea that gender could be a fluid thing (or at least, something which does not depend strictly upon the shape of one’s genitalia) to be spectacularly toxic. Both views are equally pernicious. But the view which must stand, at the end of the day, is that women, whether trans or cis, are Human Beings, and therefore have only one life and one body, and should be allowed to manage either as they see fit***.
*I am excepting, of course, the infertile ones.
**A disappointing number of self-described feminists among them, I might add.
***Within reason, of course.