I Feel Like a Natural Woman…Because I Am
Is being transgender a hardwired orientation or is it wish fulfillment? Depends on who you ask.
The only way that the trans narrative gains traction is by proclaiming that women are nothing more than a feeling. If that’s true, then anyone who feels like they are a woman can be one, and anyone who doesn’t feel like a woman can opt out.
It is only through the eradication of biological sex as a determining factor that trans ideology makes any sense. While the going line has been that trans people are “just born that way,” gendered minds in sexed bodies, a new account is coming to the fore, one that makes trans a choice, not an orientation.
Progressive discourse has until now emphasized the deep chemical reality of being trans, claiming it’s just the way that some people are born, a fluke of neurons firing in such a way that brain does not match body. Along with the many narratives— typically from grown men who say they have always known they were really girls on the inside—new stories are emerging from those who claim transitioning is unquestionably a choice. So is being transgender an immutable, hardwired orientation or is it wish fulfillment? Depends on who you ask.
If transitioning is a choice rather than something that is permanent and unchanging, then how could there be any justification for the idea that those who are trans really are the opposite sex? Either a person is the opposite sex because their brains and bodies do not match, or a person is choosing to present in the trappings of the opposite sex, which would make trans nothing more than fashion. Either trans is a medical condition that needs correcting or it is a justification for elective plastic surgery. If the former is true, then those who are trans are a protected class; if it is the latter, then they are not.
Much of the issue surrounds the definition of the word “woman.” While it used to be basic logic that man = adult human male and woman = adult human female, the definitions have become complete gobbledygook. Author and intentional transitioner Andrew Long Chu posits in his new book Females that to be female is to be a “vessel” for others’ desires. He also claims to be a feminist, yet his is one of the more woman-hating statements on offer at bookshops today.
In an interview with Callie Hitchcock in The New Republic, Chu says:
In Females, the metaphor for desire shifts to self-abnegation or submission. My desire originates outside of me. It is external and I am the recipient…. It’s not just: “Oh my boyfriend wants me to wear this dress.” It’s: “I want to wear this dress because I want to perform my boyfriend’s desire for me to wear this dress.” So it’s more subtle…. Think about these Christian mommy bloggers who talk about genuinely serving their husbands. The whole point is that, when it actually happens, it will not be your husband making you do something, it will be you doing it because it’s already internalized what that is supposed to be. You become a vessel for your husband’s desires.
This is the same author who wrote in 2017:
I transitioned for gossip and compliments, lipstick and mascara, for crying at the movies, for being someone’s girlfriend, for letting her pay the check or carry my bags, for the benevolent chauvinism of bank tellers and cable guys, for the telephonic intimacy of long-distance female friendship, for fixing my makeup in the bathroom flanked like Christ by a sinner on each side, for sex toys, for feeling hot, for getting hit on by butches, for that secret knowledge of which dykes to watch out for, for Daisy Dukes, bikini tops, and all the dresses, and, my god, for the breasts.
This sounds very much like the Seinfeld episode where Jerry believed a friend had converted to Judaism simply for the jokes. How could Chu believe that he is female if his idea of being female is entirely comprised of trappings and garish, superficial stereotypes? What Chu wants access to is not being female but the female lifestyle. There is no doubt that female culture and male culture have differences, for reasons having to do with interests, priorities, and biological realities. But wanting entry into female culture, or male culture, and going to the excessive trouble of making yourself appear as though it is your birthright, does not make you into the thing you wish you were.
However, if the definition of “woman” is not “adult human female” but something more amorphous, having to do with gossip, makeup, and someone else picking up the tab, then transitioning is most definitely a choice and not an orientation. What Chu misses in his assessment is that the things he wants, the intimacy and connection, the feeling of looking hot in a bikini, being noticed, having a team of girls upon whose shoulders he can cry, is not something that women just get. These are clichés and tropes, enhanced by media—primarily orchestrated by men.
Sleepover pillow fights in lingerie, spaghetti straps slipping off shoulders, finger nail painting and pedicures by candlelight, talking about cute guys and giggling—this is femininity manufactured by the corporate culture for entertainment and consumption. Soul diva Aretha Franklin brilliantly encapsulated this in her 1967 hit “(You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman,” which was co-written by Carole King and her then-husband Gerry Goffin. The girlhood Chu wishes for is the girlhood many women spend a lifetime forgiving themselves for not having. Femininity is packaged and sold back to us as someone else’s desire, and Chu mistakes that for the actual definition of female.
Chu’s transgender transition is an elaborate fetish. Personally I have no issue with someone exploring their fetishes to pursue their desires, or in Chu’s case, someone else’s. But the push for acceptance to the point of redefining “woman” to suit his own wish fulfillment is a danger to hard fought legal protections for women and girls, not to mention all the years spent convincing girls that it is what is on the inside that counts.
Distilling femaleness into the desire to serve others and fulfill their desires is simply cruel and incorrect. Chu joins a long line of male thinkers who have concluded that women are nothing more, and nothing less, than a repository for male fantasy. Why are we allowing this to persist? Pure political correctness?
In a recent article in Quillette, Deirdre McCloskey talks about his transition as something he wanted after a lifetime of being male, fathering children, being married. In essence, McCloskey had led two lives, one as a straight man and one as a woman whose “surgery had left [him] without physical sexual feelings, which was no loss. It’s a relief, actually, to stop the biological yearning.”
Perhaps trans is wish fulfillment, changing body to give mind the image it wants staring back in the mirror. This is something women have been doing for decades, trying to enhance their desirability. And if that’s what trans is, it’s certainly not indicative of what women are; it’s more in line with wanting to achieve just such an appearance.
When we listen to those who do not see trans as an innate condition but a choice, we quickly begin to see the disconnect between the ideological push and the reality.
Libby Emmons is a playwright living in Brooklyn, New York. She has written for The Federalist, Quillette, and Arc Digital, among other publications. You can follow her on Twitter @li88yinc.