Pregnancy is one of these definitional things

This is to distinctly go against modern mores but it’s also an important distinction to make. Someone who possess the ovaries, uterus, womb and hormonal systems to carry a pregnancy to term and give birth is not a man. This is what is known as a “woman.” This is nothing at all to do with the patriarchy, capitalism or even my own stickinthemudism. It’s just an observation about the world and the use of language in describing it.

This Guardian headline is therefore wrong:

The story of one man’s pregnancy: ‘It felt joyous, amazing and brilliant’

This opening line isn’t though:

Pregnancy is increasingly common among trans men.

For “trans men” and “men” do not mean the same thing, not at all. The modern style is to insist that they are but then it’s not that unusual for fads and fashions to be incorrect, is it?

As I say there’s an importance here and it’s that language is the way we try to describe that reality out there beyond our own eyeballs. We therefore need to use a certain precision in that description, definitions of words become important. As such words are not being used properly concerning trans-everything.

Consider, say, cancer screening. Cervical cancer is solely a female disease, prostate such solely a male. A female to male trans person (to be neutral in description there) might well, without radical surgery, have a risk for cervical cancer, one that needs to be checked occasionally. Equally, a male to female again without radical surgery might be at risk for prostate cancer. Each therefore requiring smear and PSA tests as appropriate.

This is different from how people wish to present themselves to the world. Lord Knows we’re liberals around here and how you wish to dress, your preferred mode of address, who you sleep with how and all the rest, they’re entirely up to you. We may or may not go along with your pronoun, that depends upon how polite we’re feeling at any one point but your right to do as you wish, absent third party harm, is pretty much the bedrock of the liberal belief.

That still doesn’t mean that a man is going to be pregnant to the point of birth. Because that’s to destroy that information contained within the words “man” or “woman”. Useful information, as with the cancer example, distinctions which it’s important we be able to make.

One useful way through this is to insist that gender and sex are different. Which does accord with modern mores but perhaps we’ve just got to emphasise this more. Gender is that social construct and off we all go and construct it as we wish. Sex is biological reality and that’s not changed in the same manner. Even surgery doesn’t change that in the deep sense. That is, the very idea of a sex change is incorrect even as gender change is quite obviously something done with a certain regularity.

And I’ll keep insisting that someone pregnant to the point of live birth is not a man whatever anyone might claim.

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29 COMMENTS

  1. “For “trans men” and “men” do not mean the same thing, not at all.”

    Exactly. If they have seized on using chemistry/geography-based terms with “cis” meaning not-trans being “matching with, this side of, not the other side of”, then trans means “not matching with, the other side of, different from”, so “trans man” means “not a man, ie, now a woman”.

    You can’t both use “cis-man” to mean “not changed from man” and also use “trans-man” to mean changed *to* man, it has to be “cis-man” = identity matches biology and “trans-man” = identity opposite to biology, ie identifying as woman.

    So, a biological woman who has had surgery and identifies as a man is a trans-*woman*, not a trans-man. If they want to insist that a biological woman who has had surgery and identifies as a man is a trans-*man*, then they have destroyed their justification to use “cis” to mean not-trans.

  2. Exactly. If they have seized on using chemistry/geography-based terms with “cis” meaning not-trans being “matching with, this side of, not the other side of”, then trans means “not matching with, the other side of, different from”, so “trans man” means “not a man, ie, now a woman

  3. @jgh
    I do not accept the term “cis-man” & do not self identify as as “cis man”,. Further, I find the term “cis man” highly offensive & a violation of my safe space when I encounter it.

    The is just so much mileage in this…

    • It has become a shouting match, which if it propagates to other pages could make this website a chore to read. (Vandals might have generated some of the posts, as setting two users at one another’s throat is something that vandals relish.) Publisher’s stated love of free discussion has to be balanced with ensuring the appeal of the website.

  4. “A female to male trans person (to be neutral in description there)”

    This must be perilously close to hate speech Tim. You’re denying the self-identified gender descriptor to the “person” here. However, having said that, I’m not sure if the person you describe is a Trans-Man or a Trans-Woman for the reasons jgh states above.

    by the way, anyone calling me cis-male is liable to be handbagged for hate speech to me.

  5. “Exactly. If they have seized on using chemistry/geography-based terms with “cis” meaning not-trans being “matching with, this side of, not the other side of”, then trans means “not matching with, the other side of, different from”, so “trans man” means “not a man, ie, now a woman”.”

    Cis- and trans- are about whether gender (brain) is the same as or different to birth sex (genitals). And the identification of the person is based on their gender (brain).

    Thus “Trans-man” means a man (gender) whose gender is different from their birth sex. “Cis-man” means a man (gender) whose gender is the same as their birth sex. “Man” means a man (gender). Simples.

    “Yes, I have expected all day that a certain regular will post another TL;WR.”

    🙂

    That, of course, was the entire point of putting up the post! Controversy generates clicks. Clicks generate revenue.

    You didn’t want a politically correct echo-chamber, where people who disagree with your own politics are disallowed, did you?

  6. @ NIV “You didn’t want a politically correct echo-chamber, where people who disagree with your own politics are disallowed, did you?” so it’s all about politics with you this trans mania rather than facts. Thanks for clarifying that we can ignore your usual long winded posts as it’s all politics, not facts with you. Thank god transexuals are a evolutionary dead end who can only survive as a group by converting others to their political point of view.

    • “so it’s all about politics with you this trans mania rather than facts”

      My belief in free speech and freedom generally is about politics.

      And it’s not me with the trans-mania. I don’t bring the subject up until one of you does, (which happens with remarkable regularity!) and then yes, I tell you about the facts, because truth is important too.

    • You don’t believe in brains? You don’t believe that brains with different anatomies can have different personalities? You don’t believe that sex-linked anatomical differences in brains can ever disagree with sex-linked anatomical differences in the external genitals?

  7. Horseshit, NiV. The differences between male and female brains are differences of degree, not of kind, and exist on a continuum. As far as you can apply gender to humanity, there are approximately 7.5 billion different genders and counting, all depending on different brain structures, environment and personal attitudes. Which makes ‘gender’ meaningless. You might as well argue that because women are on average shorter than men, a 5′ man is really a woman.

    On the other hand, there are a couple of definite either/or markers that determine sex, XX or XY chromosome and the presence or absence of testicles/ovaries. OK, there are a few indeterminate cases like hermaphropitism or XXY chromosomes, but they do not affect 99% of transgenders.

    • “The differences between male and female brains are differences of degree, not of kind, and exist on a continuum.”

      Yes – hence the ‘rainbow’ imagery the LGBT community use.

      See here for the brain anatomy studies: http://www.pnas.org/content/112/50/15468.full

      There are about 30 identifiable sex-linked anatomical features – meaning they occur in one sex far more often than the other than would happen by chance. If feature occurs in 90%-99% of male brains and 1%-5% of female brains, it’s clearly a “male” pattern, but there are still a substantial number of females that have it. And vice versa.

      “You might as well argue that because women are on average shorter than men, a 5′ man is really a woman.”

      That’s one option.

      There are dozens of characteristics associated with sex. Height’s one, brain anatomy is another, the shape of your genitals a third, whether you have a beard a fourth, XX or XY chromosomes, and so on. You could pick any of them as “the” definition. None of them agree entirely – the correlation is never quite 100%, and there are always exceptions. Some of you happen to have picked the genitals one, but it’s not the only possibility, and there’s no objective reason why it’s any better than any of the others in general. It’s only actually relevant if you’re planning to have sex – but most interactions between people don’t involve that. So the rest of society has picked the brain one, instead.

      “On the other hand, there are a couple of definite either/or markers that determine sex, XX or XY chromosome and the presence or absence of testicles/ovaries.”

      Sex determination is a very complex, complicated process, which has lots of places to go wrong.

      The Y chromosome contains the SRY gene, which triggers the first developmental change, leading to the formation of testes. But if you have a Y chromosome with a broken (i.e. mutated) SRY gene, then it doesn’t work. You would appear to be female, even with a Y chromosome.

      The testes in the womb produce testosterone (unless the gene for that is broken), which is converted to dihydrotestosterone (unless the gene for that process is broken), which is converted into a cascade of other sex hormones, each by a different set of enzymes, each with their own set of breakable genes. And then the sex hormones have to be detected by the growing cells elsewhere in the body, by androgen receptor sites on their surfaces (more proteins with their own genes) to trigger the cell to develop differently.

      The SRY gene is like the light switch. But the switch itself does nothing without all the wires, cables, sockets, bulbs, fuse boxes, transformers, power stations, etc. Sometimes when you flick the switch the lights don’t all come on.

      If you want to simplify the world into two categories, so your brain can think about it with limited processing power, sure. But the world is more complicated.

      • Well, thank you NiV. But please tell me, what is it you exactly mean by sex or gender? I maintain that gender in the human context is meaningless, and sex is the ability to impregnate (male) or give birth (female). Could you tell me any objective method you use to define either?

        • Gender is about whether the brain wiring follows the male or female pattern. Sex is about whether the genitals follow the male or female pattern. They’re both defined by anatomy.

          Gender is like asking somebody whether they are an introvert or an extrovert. There is an objective biological difference (it depends on the brain’s response to dopamine and acetylcholine, which is perfectly measurable), but outside of a brain scanner brains are not normally visible, and people often think of introversion/extroversion as a purely mental construct.

          Once you accept that the phenomenon can exist, then by far the easiest way of finding out is to ask them. And maybe there are some people who will pretend to be an extrovert when they’re not – there are certainly people who will pretend to be cis-gender when they’re not! – but only those with strong reasons for disbelieving in it will deny that self-reporting should be sufficient.

          While we mostly accept what people say about their own minds, it’s not *defined* as what they say about it, but as how their mind *is*. An introvert brain is objectively different from an extrovert one. A transgender brain is objectively different from a cisgender one.

          • A transgender brain is objectively different from a cisgender one.

            Source? The fact is looking at MRIs of brains and finding male and female organs is about as rigorous as phrenology and would be decried as sexism in any other context. It is literally people making it up as they go along.

      • Tabloid newspapers print click-bait – dramatic and unusual “freak show” stories about strange people. And people who want to see their face in the national newspapers are certainly going to play up the weirder aspects of their story. They know their audience. They print a lot of stories about weird cis-gender people too.

        But yes, I do hate authoritarians. You got me bang-to-rights on that one!