Consider these two posts:
Part One Deconstructing Transgenderism
PART TWO: Deconstructing Transgenderism for non-radical feminists
If you can get past the author's condescending attitude and slightly rude language, she's actually trying to make a coherent argument - and sadly misses some key points in her fervent desire to prove how evil transgender people are for feminism.
First, we have someone who claims to not feel comfortable in hiz own body. All well and good, many people are uncomfortable about some aspect of their physical appearance that they wish to change. This individual claims to be a different gender then hiz birth body indicates. Well we have a problem with that word gender. Because feminists keep saying that there is no gender. So if transgenderism is a valid medical condition, and transfolk really do need to change body parts, then the reason they need to change those body parts is because gender is real. Which automatically makes the favorite feminist theory invalid — yanno, the one where they screech that gender is a social construct. Yanno, the one theory which has formed the foundation for all other subsequent feminist theory for the last three centuries. Yanno, the one theory which if rendered invalid automatically reboots every other feminist theory in existence. That one, ya fucking pea-brain.
I hate to point this one out, but it is such an obviously flawed bit of reasoning to begin with - and one which just about every transsexual has needed to dismantle themselves to understand what they need to do.
Let me preface my comments by stating that I will focus upon transsexuals in particular. No offense is intended to other members of the broad transgender world, but the arguments being raised are ultimately focused quite specifically upon those whose gender identity leads them to transition.
The opening supposition here is that if we acknowledge transsexuals as valid, that everything that has ever been theorized or described in feminist theory must become invalid.
This is not the case at all. In fact the reasoning appears to be rooted in the realm of confusing the distinct physical, psychological and social aspects of gender in the first place.
I'm not about to claim the that three attributes do not interact with each other, for they clearly do - otherwise the social aspects of gender would not differ so dramatically between men and women. (again for simplicity, I will not be directly addressing the consequences of intersex conditions directly)
However, I will claim that the writer of the above comments has made quite a significant error in stating ... transfolk really do need to change body parts... that she perceives gender transition as primarily a physical event. It isn't - far from it in fact. Transition has much, much more to do with changing one's social gender than it does the physical gender. The physical changes are almost coincidental - they facilitate the individual's integration into the new social milieu that matches their chosen gender - no more. (Yes, I would go as far as arguing that SRS falls into the same basic category for an awful lot of transsexuals) If one views transsexuals as primarily integrating into a new social gender role, I would claim that the phenomenon should cause very little difficulty for mainstream feminism at all.
However, she isn't finished yet ... and neither am I.
The reason we know those differences must be internal is because the transgendered themselves say that it is impossible to change their internal structure, and so they are altering their external body — the only thing they say which is capable of change. ... But darlings, when those differences become worth switching body parts over, then those differences become major, and then gender discrimination becomes not only reasonable but acceptable.
Ummm ... again, this is the flawed model that presupposes - fundamentally - that biology is destiny somehow. That if one is born with 'male plumbing' or 'female plumbing' that gender starts and ends there. If only it were so simple.
The author gives a 'tip of the hat' to a key part of the transsexual narrative - that of persistence. It is not uncommon for transsexuals to be able to trace their cross-gender identity back to early (and I mean very early) childhood. Even more troubling is the fact that no matter what coping techniques they have tried, those who do decide to transition invariably will have tried just about every combination you can think of, and probably a few that most would never consider - only to find themselves facing precisely the same dilemma time and again.
It is this essentialism of gender identity that is in fact so troubling for gender theorists in general, and the "radical feminists" in particular. You see, it tends to break down arguments that claim gender identity is purely a construct (similar to what writers like Butler argue), but it also flies in the face of the notion of birth gender is all that there is. This is one of the reasons I distinguish between the physical and psychological aspects of gender. In order to reasonably account for the persistence of identity that transsexuals claim, and to still make sense of the social constructs around gender in a meaningful way, it seems to me to be one of the few viable options.
No, claiming that the transsexual is deluded or lying - the Bailey/Blanchard argument - is not adequate here. There is a lack of clinical evidence that corroborates such an argument - clinically, most transsexuals are far more grounded in the reality of their situation than they are given credit for. Like many criticisms of transsexuals, it relies upon declaring the narrative of individual people to be invalid - not on the grounds of actual evidence, but rather because the evidence that the transsexual's narrative presents is deeply troublesome for a particular social theory construct.
Remember, the transgendered claim they can only express their feminine attributes if they have a feminine body. By making each set of approved gender characteristics utterly dependent on which body the transgendered person happens to claim, — guess what we get to say next?
Uh no. Not true at all. In fact, if one considers the transsexual narrative carefully for a while, it becomes clear that in fact what is happening is the physical changes that take place (e.g. growing breasts after taking hormones for a while) merely facilitate the social transition that is taking place concurrently. Those physical cues go quite some distance in making it easier for the transsexual to be perceived by others - and thus treated socially - as a member of their chosen gender.
Does this have any impact upon the feminist desire for equality, or the feminist desire to 'break down the patriarchy'? Not really - not if you are sensible about it.
In fact, I would argue that transsexuals in many ways are natural allies of feminism. These are people who have walked through a world filled with social animosity towards them - subject to hostility and discrimination at almost every turn. If there is someone whose life contains a visceral understanding of what discrimination is, and how society can marginalize people based on what it assumes about them, it is transsexuals. It would be a mistake to assume that a transsexual is oblivious to the social and political challenges presented in their chosen gender. (and even when those challenges severely limit life options, as seen in some Islamic countries, people still transition)