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Who Decides What Makes A Woman?

June 11, 2015 3 min read

Caitlyn Jenner has made some waves. Some people are full of criticism and condemnation, others praise, acceptance and celebration. No matter which side of the fence you are on, conversations ARE happening. Important conversations. Unfortunately, some of these conversations miss the humanity of the person at the center of it all. Everything becomes generalized and stereotyped and when that happens, no one is helped. In the conversations that have surrounded Jenner's transition, the female experience gets discussed like it is some sort of universal experience. It isn't, nor is it something experienced strictly by non-trans women (cis women). Menstruation may be considered universal but what of women who never get their period? Are they lesser women? Childbirth is a strictly female endeavor but are women who choose not have children no longer women? Women may walk home at night and fear being attacked or raped. Do you think a trans woman doesn't have the same fear? If you have to fit into certain boxes and categories to be called a woman, there are an awful lot of women who would have to be called something else. It isn't exactly fair to be using Caitlyn Jenner as representative of all trans women. Brynn Tannehill, in her piece for the HuffPost, says "Caitlyn Jenner is a representative of all transgender women in the way the Kardashians are representative of all cisgender women." Excellent point! I've said it several times in recent weeks, trans women are subject to increased levels of violence, incarceration, sexual assault, HIV infections, unemployment and homelessness. Jenner's wealth and celebrity isolates her from this but it is simply not the case for most. And to imply that transgendered women retain the privilege they may have had as males is flat out not true. Caitlyn Jenner is not the first trans woman I have come across. In my past work as a social service worker, I have worked closely with more than one transgender person. I realize not everyone has had the privilege to journey alongside someone. To see the struggles and the hardships and to respect the courage it takes to live the life you want. It is easy to judge the whole community by the sensational stories that get picked up by the press but that is dangerous. Trans people are just as varied as any other segment of the population. You can't, and shouldn't, paint them all with the same brush. If you have no tolerance for Cailtyn Jenner, don't extend that intolerance to everyone else. Accepting and acknowledging a transgendered woman as a woman doesn't take away from cis women. Identifying transgendered people as men or women doesn't take away the rights, or privileges that come with being a man or a women. It doesn't not devalue the definition. To add more people under the umbrella of 'man' or 'woman' does not mean anything has to be taken away. No one gets booted off the island to make more room. There is NO threat to the standard definition, unless tolerance and acceptance is considered a threat. No one chooses to be transgender. It is not a fun or an easy road. People transition because it is easier than living a lie. No one should have to live a life that doesn't bring them joy and peace. I've seen the comments. Calling Cailtlyn, "Bruce." Refusing to respect pronoun choice. I've seen her called a 'science experiment.' All of this strips her of her humanity. And to what end? People have every right to identify as they see fit. We label ourselves everyday. We have placed ourselves in categories based on what feels right to us. More often than not, no one challenges us. Telling trans people that they are not 'real' men or 'real' women is not cool. It undermines what they know to be true for themselves. Who am I to say what is true for someone else? Who decides what makes a woman? A person who calls herself a woman decides. What are your thoughts? h/t: Huffington Post

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