Ten thoughts on: Jenni Murray: “Be trans, be proud — but don’t call yourself a ‘real woman'”

9. What is her woman test exactly and would all women be able to pass it?

Yep – you’re right: I am not the same kind of woman as you. I never will be. But I am a woman. I am not a cis woman, but I am a woman.

Jenni Murray doesn’t go so far as to explain her definition of woman, but let’s pull apart the various arguments that are floating around out there:

  • Genetics? Genetically I am male. However some women are born with XY genes and externally appear completely female. Some live their entire lives and have no idea of this. Example here and here. I am not trying to lump transgender women and intersex people together, more to demonstrate that chromosomal sex as a qualifier woman hood is flawed. Would Ms Murray exclude these women?
  • Uterus? Is it about having a uterus? I don’t have a uterus, but then nor do women born without them. Example here. Nor do women who have had hysterectomies.
  • Menstruation? Maybe as Germaine Greer has suggested it’s about periods: “Being a woman is a bit tricky. If you didn’t find your pants full of blood when you were 13 there’s something important about being a woman you don’t know. It’s not all cake and jam”. I didn’t have that experience. Since my lower surgery – I’ve been bleeding for about five months – I am intimately aquainted with blood in my knickers, on my sheets, dripping in the toilet and shower. I have been caught short without a sanitary towel and had it leak through onto my clothes. It might not be the same thing – but it’s in the same neighbourhood. But the important things is some girls don’t get periods. Some women use contraception to consciously prevent periods. They’re not woman enough for Greer. What about you Ms Murray?
  • Genitalia? Maybe it’s to do with having a vagina? Well – I have one of those. It looks like another woman’s vagina in that it looks completely different to every other vagina. Germaine Greer has previously said that trans women do not deserve womanhood because they do not understand what it is like to possess what she called “a big, hairy, smelly vagina.” What a crass woman she is. However – yep – I know those things. However: I was a woman before this surgery. Furthermore, some intersex women are born with no vagina or an incomplete one. Genitals do not equal gender.
  • Hormones? I have less testosterone in my body that the typical female range and I cycle estrogen and progesterone through the month. I experience all the benefits of colourful emotions and experience the tears too. Honestly I have a pretty good idea of what feeling PMT feels like.
  • Living with less privilege? I think I tackled that one above, but for the record – trans people enjoy far less privilege than cis people. Trans women live with a greater fear of unemployment, attack and murder than almost any other group.
  • General Masculinity? This is one viewpoint that the article hints that she might use to qualify womanhood. Yes, I acknowledge that I bring with me a lot of mannerisms, traits and behaviours from my 34 years living as a boy then a man. However what about trans children. Younger male to female transitioners that grow up as girls are socialised in the same way as natally born females. So they’d be allowed in the club? At what age would the cut off lay Ms Murray? What about masculine women? I know some women that either through choice or unconscious predisposition adopt a very masculine demeanour… are they woman enough for you Ms Murray?

The reality is that we are more alike than we are different. Trans women are women.

And finally… 

  • skyler

    Thank you! Some people tend to think that male chauvinists treat people based on their chromosomes rather than on behaviour! I think everyone should be free to live the way they feel comfortable! We can’t brand people as mentally-ill for being homosexual, likewise we can’t pinpoint transgenders for their difference! Everyone’s different, if we follow the trans-exclusionary logic, we should create a wide spectrum of categories to tag people. Not everyone’s got the same experience of life, but we must keep in mind that persecution is not acceptable anyway, people don’t need you to be a woman or black person to harass you!

    • Amy Collins

      Thanks for reading and your comment. Your point about excluding different groups of women was precisely what I was alluding to on the last page. Middle class, educated, straight white cisgender women shouldn’t get to dictate which classes of women they want in their club.