Gender "critical" vs. Gender-affirming? (the thread for all things about gender politics)

MacMadame

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The discussion of trans people and TERFs seems to have taken over the US Politics thread so I thought I'd start a thread just for this topic. Also, I have often had articles on this topic that I wanted to post so now there is a thread to post them in!

The discussion in the US Elections thread starts here

 

attyfan

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Not sure if this is the correct thread, but I thought that Arkansas was an odd place for an LGBTQ friendly town:

 

PRlady

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“You cannot woman any more” has been brought to you by the same people who say “you cannot say Christmas any more”…..
Oddly, no, it’s not. I could not write pregnant women or women’s health in any public statements or materials in my last job. If I did it was edited out. And the editors were certainly not Christmas propagandists.
 

Asli

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It's only the established dictionary meaning of "woman" - adult female human being - that seems to be controversial, as in @PRlady's examples above.

Otherwise you can freely use the word to mean other things that aren't in the dictionary.
 

allezfred

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Oddly, no, it’s not. I could not write pregnant women or women’s health in any public statements or materials in my last job. If I did it was edited out. And the editors were certainly not Christmas propagandists.
Your employers were not the target of my post.
 

allezfred

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It's only the established dictionary meaning of "woman" - adult female human being - that seems to be controversial, as in @PRlady's examples above.
So if the established dictionary meaning was changed to something else you would be fine with that? :confused:
 

Asli

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So if the established dictionary meaning was changed to something else you would be fine with that? :confused:

It's a fair question, but no, I wouldn't be fine with the dictionary meaning of the word defining me being changed to something else.

This would result in a re-definition of everything from women's health to women's rights to women's literature and I need those sex-based definitions to make sense of the world.

I come from a country where upto recently there was much love and affinity between women and trans women - because the latter have left the domain of male privilege. It's a very good feeling.
 
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MacMadame

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This would result in a re-definition of everything from women's health to women's rights to women's literature and I need those sex-based definitions to make sense of the world.
No, it wouldn't. It's just a dictionary. People don't check the dictionary every time they speak. And the dictionary often has definitions of words that don't match up 100% to how works are commonly used.
 

jenny12

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As someone who really liked Macy Gray back in the late 90s, I was disappointed to hear her say just because you change your parts, doesn’t make you a woman. I don’t understand the TERF mindset of being so attached to your original biological parts. If you think we should be equal, then why should it matter? I know a lot of it is just plain hate, but I don’t get what people are trying to hold out to when they say trans women aren’t women. Because if it is traditional gender roles, then being transphobic is just reinforcing the patriarchy.
 

PRlady

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As someone who really liked Macy Gray back in the late 90s, I was disappointed to hear her say just because you change your parts, doesn’t make you a woman. I don’t understand the TERF mindset of being so attached to your original biological parts. If you think we should be equal, then why should it matter? I know a lot of it is just plain hate, but I don’t get what people are trying to hold out to when they say trans women aren’t women. Because if it is traditional gender roles, then being transphobic is just reinforcing the patriarchy.
It’s definitely not traditional gender roles. But it is that biological females have experiences, societal conditioning, patriarchal repression and bodily awareness from birth that biological males, especially past puberty, can’t share or can share only to an extent. It’s also about whether there should be any limitations on where trans women can go, eg domestic violence shelters, and do, eg competitive sports where strength is a determining factor.

Like a lot of women, I agree with the first and am torn on the second. And like most women, I welcome everyone to live out their own identity with affirming medical care and societal acceptance.

I don’t know exactly what Macy said but it’s literally true that being a woman is more than the sum of biological parts - but that’s also an argument for trans women as well.

But I’ll never think it’s TERFy or negative to be attached to your own biological parts! Bodies are us. For a very small number of people they don’t represent, fine. But for the vast majority, we are not ghosts in the machine.
 

susan6

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Yeah, Macy Gray and Bette Midler put their feet in their mouths this weekend. But....I do sometimes get a bit twinge-y at the whole "birthing people" thing and avoidance of the word "woman". Why? Because the people pushing to change the language to be more inclusive do not keep the same energy when it comes to the word "men". If I look at an article on testicular cancer, I will see the word "men". I will not see the phrase "people with testicles". It's annoying that "women" get erased first. But it's understandable. Women are more likely to accept erasure for the greater good. Men WILL NOT STAND FOR THAT.
 

jenny12

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By attached to your original body parts, I just meant getting so stuck on the fact that trans women weren’t born with female body parts. Certainly women can be attached to their bodies but I don’t understand using that to dismiss trans women. I think people should be called what they want. I use pregnant women but if people want to say birthing people, I don’t see the big deal.

Women are certainly facing a lot of bigotry and sexism in our current climate but being inclusive to trans women doesn’t do anything to take away from women’s experiences overall and distracts from the real causes of misogyny.
 
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Trillian

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It’s definitely not traditional gender roles. But it is that biological females have experiences, societal conditioning, patriarchal repression and bodily awareness from birth that biological males, especially past puberty, can’t share or can share only to an extent.

My issue with this argument is that referring to trans women as “biological males” in this context suggests that they share the same experiences as cis men, at least up to the time they socially transition. Yes, cis women have common experiences that trans women usually don’t. But there are a lot of different types of trauma and oppression people can experience in a patriarchal, misogynistic society. Cis women alone have a wide range of different experiences of patriarchal oppression depending on how they express their gender (and that’s without bringing other factors like race, disability, etc.). Likewise, trans women have almost always spent their lives (long before they transition) dealing with struggles related to exactly the things you list - societal conditioning, patriarchal repression, bodily awareness. They may not be the same experiences I have as a cis woman. But what we have in common is the fact that not being a cisgender man in a patriarchal society puts us at greater risk in many areas of our lives.

Cis women, trans people, and intersex people are all at a disadvantage relative to cis men in a patriarchal society. Sometimes there’s overlap in our struggles, and sometimes they’re unique to a group or to a smaller subset of a group.

But if the underlying assumption is that only “biological women” are at significant risk of harm in a patriarchal society, that’s obviously not true. And if that’s not the underlying assumption, if we acknowledge that other groups besides cis women are also at risk, then what’s the point of trying to prove that cis women have some kind of monopoly on a unique kind of suffering? Who cares? The patriarchy is hurting everyone; let’s fight those dudes instead.
 

MacMadame

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But it is that biological females have experiences, societal conditioning, patriarchal repression and bodily awareness from birth that biological males, especially past puberty, can’t share or can share only to an extent.
You can say the same thing about black women vs. white women. Both are still women. But there is a uniqueness to their experiences caused by how our society interacts with race. The same with disabled women vs. non-disabled. Or any other box that women can be put into besides cis, white, and able-bodied. (And in the US, I'd add Christian to that.)

Once a trans woman is living socially as a woman, do you think men aren't going to mansplain to her, interrupt her at meetings, tell her she's smart "for a girl" and all the other things that sexist men do to women? I think they will. And, if they aren't passing, they will do these things and will do transphobic things on top.

The patriarchy is hurting everyone; let’s fight those dudes instead.
Word to this.
 

Flake99

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I said I wouldn't post about this topic anymore, but I'm trapped in air traffic hell. I also agree with what Trillian and MacMadame have said.
biological females
This implies that trans women are biological males, which is hate speech.
Like a lot of women, I agree with the first and am torn on the second. And like most women, I welcome everyone to live out their own identity with affirming medical care and societal acceptance.
This is manipulation. "Lots of people have the same opinion is me" is something you would need to prove for it to be meaningful, and even if it's factual it doesn't give your argument any credence. Not to mention, this tactic is almost impossible to disassociate with Trump for people who have been following American politics for the last decade.
And like most women, I welcome everyone to live out their own identity with affirming medical care and societal acceptance.
Again, how in the world do you know that "most women" believe that? Prove it or it's also just rhetorical manipulation.

As far as you believing that, you have repeatedly undermined any possibility that claim is remotely credible in the thread about sports by parroting transphobic talking points, validating other posters' hateful rhetoric, and constantly essentializing and infantilizing transwomen as well as ciswomen. I'm not going to bother finding examples because I'm ready to go back geography quizzes on Sporcle.
Bodies are us. For a very small number of people they don’t represent, fine. But for the vast majority, we are not ghosts in the machine.
I see you are still employing this particular talking point. It is just as meaningful as it will ever be.
 

PRlady

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And onto ignore she goes. Which I hardly ever do, but I’m not interested in dealing with someone determined to attack rather than discuss.

Trillian’s points are good ones. If those victimized one way or another by cis white patriarchy are supposed to work together, though, I just don’t see the point of language and attitude from flakey people determined to misinterpret, demonize and divide.
 

Trillian

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If those victimized one way or another by cis white patriarchy are supposed to work together, though, I just don’t see the point of language and attitude from flakey people determined to misinterpret, demonize and divide.

But really, in general, in the world - I don’t understand the idea that trans women or their allies are responsible for that division. No one is trying to stir up conflict. I see certain cis women complaining the inclusion of trans people somehow undermines the fight against the patriarchy (which doesn’t make sense, since trans people are also being harmed by the patriarchy). Trans people and their allies are reacting to those complaints. The reactions aren’t always polite, sometimes they can be pretty extreme, but trans people aren’t the ones who wanted a conflict in the first place. They just wanted to exist and smash the patriarchy alongside cis women. They’re not the ones doing the gatekeeping.

There are people who specifically try to exclude other groups of women, too. If there were a lot of relatively wealthy, privileged women publishing editorials or tweeting to millions of people that overweight women are hurting the feminist movement, I’d be pissed. I probably wouldn’t be polite about it. But in that case? The “division” still wouldn’t be my fault. It would be the fault of the more privileged women who decided that only certain types of women are allowed to be part of the feminist movement.
 

Asli

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My issue with this argument is that referring to trans women as “biological males” in this context suggests that they share the same experiences as cis men, at least up to the time they socially transition. Yes, cis women have common experiences that trans women usually don’t. But there are a lot of different types of trauma and oppression people can experience in a patriarchal, misogynistic society. Cis women alone have a wide range of different experiences of patriarchal oppression depending on how they express their gender (and that’s without bringing other factors like race, disability, etc.). Likewise, trans women have almost always spent their lives (long before they transition) dealing with struggles related to exactly the things you list - societal conditioning, patriarchal repression, bodily awareness. They may not be the same experiences I have as a cis woman. But what we have in common is the fact that not being a cisgender man in a patriarchal society puts us at greater risk in many areas of our lives.

Cis women, trans people, and intersex people are all at a disadvantage relative to cis men in a patriarchal society. Sometimes there’s overlap in our struggles, and sometimes they’re unique to a group or to a smaller subset of a group.

But if the underlying assumption is that only “biological women” are at significant risk of harm in a patriarchal society, that’s obviously not true. And if that’s not the underlying assumption, if we acknowledge that other groups besides cis women are also at risk, then what’s the point of trying to prove that cis women have some kind of monopoly on a unique kind of suffering? Who cares? The patriarchy is hurting everyone; let’s fight those dudes instead.

I totally agree with your point that biological women are not the only group harmed by the patriarchal society.

Anyone being harmed by the patriarchal society, including all LGBT people, should be natural allies against it. Transgender people should be the natural allies of natal women and vice versa. It used to be so with the former "transsexual" generation. This isn't a competition of who is being harmed most.

OTOH keeping the sex-based definitions is important for women's safety and well-being. It's essential to keep the female-only refuges for abused women, prisons, changing rooms, dormitories, rape crisis centers etc.
 

Asli

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A big percentage of women have trauma from sexual assaults (in France 16% of women have reported rape or attempted rape, so imagine the unreported number.) Many women are victims of domestic violence. Single-sex rape crisis centres and support groups used to be essential to their healing process. Now it seems that in some centres in the UK, not a single female-only group is left.

Trans women need these services as well and should be provided them. However shouldn't the centres continue to hold at least some single-sex groups for women? To a traumatised victim, a trans woman can feel male and she can be triggering. Obviously it's not her fault. Female-only groups are a healing balm.

Same for the prisons - many female inmates have been victims of sexual assault.

We are so concentrated on the hurt transgender people may feel if we accidentally misgender them that the pain of these women is ignored. I know women who cower when they see a male hand raised. Many can't get into an elevator with a non-female person. Some are jumpy, some freeze and panic. Many women can talk only to biological women about what happened. I know a young woman who couldn't bear the sight of her own breasts because of the memory and had them tatooed in an attempt to make them look different. :( The flowers in the tatoos had various empowering meanings and I marveled at her strength and resourcefulness. :)

Unfortunately, some of the women most villified by trans activists as transphobic/fascists come from this group of sexual assault and/or domestic violence victims who complain about the loss of single-sex spaces. J.K. Rowling is the best known one and I am personally grateful that she gave voice to these unheard victims. She obviously knows how it feels - always knew that the feelings of the character Robin in her Cormoran Strike came from first-hand experience. Robin's allegorical journey, like Harry's, is long and imperfect but pretty empowering.
 

Trillian

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If someone has XY chromosomal structure then they biological males, this is not hate speech it is simply a fact.

So, complete androgen insensitivity syndrome. Someone is assigned female at birth because when the doctor does a quick genital inspection, she looks just like all the other babies in the pink blankets. She continues to have external characteristics throughout her life (including after puberty) that are pretty much indistinguishable from the average cisgender woman. Identifies as a woman and uses she/her pronouns. Has many of the same experiences as cis women in terms of navigating our patriarchal society. But surprise: she’s got XY chromosomes.

And that’s just one example. In terms of how they relate to other sex characteristics, chromosomes are a hot mess.

(ETA: Obviously not all people with CAIS identify as women throughout their lives - just like other groups of people assigned female at birth.)
 

Asli

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I've just heard about this other supposed "terf". In 2019, Nathalie Bird, a former Liberal Democrat candidate for councilor, wore a t-shirt bearing the words "Woman - adult human female" to a Lib Dem meeting. After an investigation, her party barred her from holding or seeking to be elected to any party office or any public office on behalf of the party for a period of 10 years. Sigh.

Andrew Marr brings this up with party leader Ed Davey in this BBC interview but can't receive a straight reply as usual. :rolleyes:

Why is this definition of "woman" important for Nathalie Bird? Apparently she is a working-class mother of two who had escaped an abusive partner with some difficulty. She had gone to live with her mother but her concern was keeping refuges for abused women female-only. She had said that opening up safe spaces without proper safeguards to anyone who said that they were female could put women at risk.

As part of a group that is hardly ever represented in elected office, Nathalie Bird had come within 5 points of winning her seat in 2015. Underprivileged single mother fighting a legal battle against an abusive former partner and defending spaces for women like herself. A pity she had to be silenced.
 

Trillian

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J.K. Rowling is the best known one and I am personally grateful that she gave voice to these unheard victims.

If JK Rowling wants to advocate on behalf of women who have experienced trauma, that in itself is admirable. And I can understand why people want to have conversations about how to make those women feel as safe as possible. However, instead of attacking the people who are actually upholding and benefiting from the patriarchy, she’s focusing her attention on another group of people who are also vulnerable and marginalized. Because she has more money, power, and privilege than all the trans people in the world put together, she’s turned the conversation from “we need to protect cis women from the patriarchy” to “we need to protect cis women from trans people.”

It doesn’t matter if that was her intent. When a person is using a massive platform like that, they have a responsibility - if they genuinely want to help people - to make sure that they’re always punching up, not down.
 

Asli

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If JK Rowling wants to advocate on behalf of women who have experienced trauma, that in itself is admirable. And I can understand why people want to have conversations about how to make those women feel as safe as possible. However, instead of attacking the people who are actually upholding and benefiting from the patriarchy, she’s focusing her attention on another group of people who are also vulnerable and marginalized. Because she has more money, power, and privilege than all the trans people in the world put together, she’s turned the conversation from “we need to protect cis women from the patriarchy” to “we need to protect cis women from trans people.”

It doesn’t matter if that was her intent. When a person is using a massive platform like that, they have a responsibility - if they genuinely want to help people - to make sure that they’re always punching up, not down.

I have read all her tweets on the subject and the text she wrote explaining her reasons for speaking out and I can't see a single word targeting trans people. She explicitly says:

I believe the majority of trans-identified people not only pose zero threat to others, but are vulnerable for all the reasons I’ve outlined. Trans people need and deserve protection. Like women, they’re most likely to be killed by sexual partners. Trans women who work in the sex industry, particularly trans women of colour, are at particular risk. Like every other domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor I know, I feel nothing but empathy and solidarity with trans women who’ve been abused by men.

https://www.jkrowling.com/opinions/...ns-for-speaking-out-on-sex-and-gender-issues/

Until a few months back, my knee-jerk reaction to anyone saying anything negative, or even ambiguous against transgender people would have been censure.

When my kids were 11 and 14 and there was a transgender kid in one of their classes, I showed them videos depicting what it might feel like to be transgender so that they might be empathetic. I taught them to be supportive and stand up to anyone who might make that child feel uncomfortable. I am not transphobic.

OTOH for the first time, some members of a marginalised group are unjustly pointing fingers and looking for fault where there is none. They are getting lesbian and gender non-conforming women fired from their jobs. They are sending threats to vulnerable women, calling them c*nt, "kill the terf" and what not. For the first time a marginalised group is infringing on the rights of another - women.

What's going on? :confused:
 
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Asli

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BTW there was a very good short film showing what it might feel like to be a transgender teenager and I'd like to find it again. It showed a teenage girl feeilng uncomfortable with a boy in her room and in the end you realise that she was in fact a biological boy. If someone could help me find it again, I'd be grateful.
 

Trillian

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I have read all her tweets on the subject and the text she wrote explaining her reasons for speaking out and I can't see a single word targeting trans people.

But she has done things like specifically mock/deride language that was chosen to be inclusive of trans people, and scoffed at the idea that people with penises could be referred to as woman. Those are two of the first tweets that come up if you google her history on this issue. Saying “people who menstruate” does no harm whatsoever to cis women. Acknowledging that trans women may have penises does no harm whatsoever to cis women. So she’s not advocating for women at all when she makes remarks like that.

These most high-profile remarks may not represent her full, nuanced belief system. But that’s where having a massive platform also confers more responsibility. Even one tweet mocking the inclusion of trans women carries incredible weight when it comes from someone in her position. If she wants to advocate for women, she should be focused on the people and structures actually harming us instead of taking potshots at a marginalized group who can’t even begin to fight back.

BTW there was a very good short film showing what it might feel like to be a transgender teenager and I'd like to find it again. It showed a teenage girl feeilng uncomfortable with a boy in her room and in the end you realise that she was in fact a biological boy. If someone could help me find it again, I'd be grateful.

I haven’t seen it, but just from a quick google search, could this be it?

When it comes to fiction, one of my favorite figure skating books I’ve read is Ana on the Edge by AJ Sass. It’s written for a younger audience, but the author is both trans and a skater, so it’s a great depiction of both of those experiences for a young person.
 

MacMadame

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If someone has XY chromosomal structure then they biological males, this is not hate speech it is simply a fact. A trans woman is someone who is biological male who changes their gender role from man to woman.
Not only is it not a fact, but it's a meaningless statement.

You have a trans woman who is on HRT, who has had facial surgery to feminize their face, has had their sex organs changed into an approximation of female sex organs, who has testosterone levels on par with cis women, who have breasts. They have fat deposits in places where women have them and not men. They have thinner bones than men do.

What part of that isn't biology? Hormones are biology, sex organs are biology, facial features are biology, fat deposits are biology, and bone density is biology. It's ALL biology.

Trans women are not biological males. The only way you can say they are is if you ignore hormones, facial feature, sex organs, fat deposits, bone structure, and all the rest that make up the biology of humans and limit biology to just chromosomes. (And even chromosomes aren't a reliable way to judge the sex of someone, not 100% of the time.)

And even if not all trans women do all these things, they do enough of them that it's not accurate to say they are biological men. Only people who have socially transitioned but done nothing to change biologically are still biological men. (Or rather biological boys since it's mostly kids who socially transition without doing anything else.)
 

Dai's Blues for Klook

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I've just heard about this other supposed "terf". In 2019, Nathalie Bird, a former Liberal Democrat candidate for councilor, wore a t-shirt bearing the words "Woman - adult human female" to a Lib Dem meeting. After an investigation, her party barred her from holding or seeking to be elected to any party office or any public office on behalf of the party for a period of 10 years. Sigh.

Andrew Marr brings this up with party leader Ed Davey in this BBC interview but can't receive a straight reply as usual. :rolleyes:

Why is this definition of "woman" important for Nathalie Bird? Apparently she is a working-class mother of two who had escaped an abusive partner with some difficulty. She had gone to live with her mother but her concern was keeping refuges for abused women female-only. She had said that opening up safe spaces without proper safeguards to anyone who said that they were female could put women at risk.

As part of a group that is hardly ever represented in elected office, Nathalie Bird had come within 5 points of winning her seat in 2015. Underprivileged single mother fighting a legal battle against an abusive former partner and defending spaces for women like herself. A pity she had to be silenced.

I think one of the things that is usually messed up in these conversations is that everyone tries to impose their own countries' beliefs and politics onto others. Actually, it's not just from what I saw on this forum recently on this topic, but it is also true on twitter, and other international social media I log into, and for most topics. I don't know what the point is of speaking about it in a global perspective. If your country has different laws or different experiences from Americans, then what you say hardly applies to Americans.

In this case, an issue I see, is that it might be because radical feminism views women as an oppressed class all around the world, also oppressed by the patriarchy all around the world - and rejects trans women (either absolutely or from some spaces) based off the fact that they grew up male, and therefore reaped the benefit of patriarchy, again all around the world. If some don't see it that way, like the Americans clearly don't, they will react. But it's also the problem of the ideology in the first place.

This also applies to the "intersectional" perspective of feminism, which is American in nature, no matter how many Americans apply it to all the world - and no matter how many who aren't American study it and attempt to apply it to their own countries without caring to learn one bit about their own countries.

All this to say that this conversation makes no sense to me.
 
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susan6

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Not only is it not a fact, but it's a meaningless statement.

You have a trans woman who is on HRT, who has had facial surgery to feminize their face, has had their sex organs changed into an approximation of female sex organs, who has testosterone levels on par with cis women, who have breasts. They have fat deposits in places where women have them and not men. They have thinner bones than men do.

What part of that isn't biology? Hormones are biology, sex organs are biology, facial features are biology, fat deposits are biology, and bone density is biology. It's ALL biology.
Every plastic surgeon in the world would argue with you about facial features and fat deposits being biology. Hormones are also not necessarily biology. Trans women have to take estrogen supplements their whole life; if they stop, the testosterone levels dictated by their Y chromosomes come roaring back. So...there's biological hormones, and then there's hormones that are taken to counteract those hormones.
 

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