Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Yes, transgendered men who are pregnant rightfully want to be included in MANA’s guidelines, so at first glance it seems inclusive to change “pregnant women” to “pregnant people”.  So why are some of us so opposed to what seems like a direct, simple solution?  

We don’t oppose including pregnant men in MANA’s guidelines.  We oppose changing the terminology because we think that females who identify as women will not be referred to as “women”, and their “femaleness” will become invisible.  

Until the very recent past, the term “woman” was virtually synonymous with “female”.  In fact, until feminist theorists distinguished gender from sex, we all conflated them.  See the dictionary.  Second-wave feminists fought to re-define women as equal and fought against gender stereotypes.  They joined together and rejected the stigma of being women; instead they embraced being women.  This positive identification with themselves and other women energized that generation.  

Of course, this was before anyone imagined that someday biological males who identified as women would, probably without realizing that it would change the definition of what was a woman.  How?  By insisting that anyone, male or female, who identified themselves as a woman had the right to be so regarded.  Even if they had testes and a penis.  This is a major re-definition, because it ignores the central fact of femaleness that we bear children, which, in male-dominated societies, has been and still is used to make us dependent.  If females were equal, a woman would be able to have both a career and children, because society would be organized to make it possible.

Some people insist that even if a person does not have, and never had ovaries and a uterus, she is still a female if she identifies as such, but most people realize that this is a denial of a biological reality.  Radical feminists totally disagree with such a distortion of both history and present-day reality.  Of course, if self-identified “females” or “women” joined in with females to fight for females’ reproductive control, they would be welcomed, but so far, they have not done so.  In fact, some are anti-abortion, like Caitlyn Jenner.   

Also, radical feminists believe that there is a patriarchy and that the patriarchy oppresses females as a class (as well as others), and that only if females can unite, can they overcome oppression.   

Many feminists today believe that patriarchal domination is only one type of oppression, and that the way to bring about justice is for our society to evolve into a more equal, unprejudiced society.  They hope this evolution will come about when each person acknowledges their privilege and confronts others who are oppressing them.  To them, MANA using more gender neutral language is one way to do this. 

I propose that if we support transgendered women in their right to be women (and I do), and if we support transmen in their right to be men and, if they desire, to have children, (and I do), that we clearly define the difference between sex and gender.  This means that we start with the generally accepted scientific fact that humans are basically divided into two sexes, males and females, however this distinction and the implications of this distinction have been greatly oversimplified and whatever gonads a person has, they are first and foremost human.  The main difference is that male sperm is needed to impregnate a female by uniting the sperm and the ovum, and that an intact uterus in a female body is needed to produce a new human being.  But this difference greatly affects a person’s experiences and opportunities and in a racist, capitalistic, sexist society, it is pretty much determinative.  From a political perspective, if we hide or minimize this difference in gender-neutral language, we can’t effectively organize to change society.

Gender is a social construct, and what we consider “masculine” or “feminine” traits are very often socially determined.

If we adopt this proposal to define sex and gender, I suggest one of two courses:
  1. MANA reverse its decision to change the language of its Core Competencies, while searching for other ways to be inclusive of those people who are pregnant who are not women.
  2. MANA change “pregnant people” to “pregnant females” and “pregnant males”. 
An additional suggestion a colleague gave me:  
MANA could leave “woman” in the core competencies document (which reflects the vast majority) and add a statement to it that they realize transmen don’t identify as women and if such a person becomes pregnant they deserve respectful care.

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