In response to the article 'If she's a woman, than what am I?
Published: Monday, May 7, 2012
Updated: Monday, May 7, 2012 11:05
I have never met Natalie C. McGovern. I have never seen what she looks like, how she acts, what clothes she wears, nor observed her thought processes. And yet, despite this, I can safely say that she is, indeed, a woman.
How do I know this? After all, I just admitted that most of the traditional social cues for determining someone’s gender are not applicable here. Through the process of elimination, some might be inclined to say it’s because of her name; Natalie is a woman’s name here in the Midwest, so obviously she is a woman. They would be incorrect. The reason I know she is a woman is because she said she was in her opinion piece published on the 19th of April, 2012. I accept her self-professed gender identity (that of a cisgender female) without needing to examine the minutia of her life; Natalie said she is a woman, therefore she is. The awful irony of this, then, is that her aforementioned piece was an extremely transphobic article entitled, “If she’s a woman, then what am I?” in which she tears down the identity of a woman, Canadian model Jenna Talackova, who I am equally certain she has never met.
The article is a train wreck of misinformation regarding trans individuals, starting with the title. “If she’s a woman, then what am I?” implies that in accepting Ms. Talackova’s identity, Ms. McGovern’s (and presumably all cisgender women’s) identities become null and void. This, of course, is ridiculous; there are an infinite number of ways to be a woman ranging from utterly feminine debutantes to masculine tomboys and everything in between and beyond. To answer the question, Ms. McGovern is still a woman. Immediately following that, she explains that the model was “not born a hermaphrodite,” which is itself an antiquated, inaccurate and offensive term to use regarding intersex individuals, besides which it has absolutely zero bearing on an individual’s gender identity. In a similar vein, the author comments, “[t]his woman has never had ovaries. She has never suffered from any monthly feminine maladies and fortunately will never experience that unwanted gift.” Again, this has nothing to do with one’s gender identity; if a woman is born infertile, must have a hysterectomy, or has amenorrhea from any number of medical conditions we do not consider her less of a woman.
Although there are many more, the final example of transphobic mental gymnastics I’d like to cite is the line “[o]ne thing that will not change: it's clinically proven that the male brain is different from the female brain, down to the anatomical structure. Regardless of the outside package, synapses firing inside are not the same, unless of course there was a birth defect, an imbalance of hormones from the initial stages of conception.” A single line near the end of the article admits that the British Colombia Transalliance Society has said Ms. Talackova was “born with a female brain,” but given the tone throughout the rest of the piece, it is clear that Ms. McGovern either disagrees or simply does not care. However, despite what she may believe, in 2011 The Journal of Psychiatric Research (vol 45 issue 2) released a study indicating that transsexual brains (regardless of the “outside package”) are more similar to the gender the individual identifies with than his or her gender assigned at birth.
Ms. McGovern raises a valid point in the question of whether or not surgically altered individuals should be allowed to compete in beauty pageants. I do not know the rules to such events, but I could understand the frustration of losing to someone who “bought” her looks. With that said, however, it is clear that this article has nothing to do with a beauty pageant in Canada, and everything to do with transphobia.