There has been a lot of arguments as to whether trans people are really the gender they identify with. Opponents will often utilize genetics and anatomy or of course even religion to prove that we are not real. They will argue that we can never change our biology no matter what we do to our bodies. Hormone replacement therapy and surgery simply can’t change biology and that is a fact. I am sure you have heard people call post op transgender women, mutilated men with open wounds between their legs. Besides being very rude and disrespectful, their argument is actually not far from the truth. We can do amazing things to change the appearance of our bodies to match our gender. However, it is absolutely true that they are still the bodies of the gender we do not identify with. Hormones and surgery only make our bodies appear like our authentic gender and in the process make it possible to function better in our everyday lives because it eases our dysphoria. So does this invalidate us as being real women or men? Absolutely not, as this story is not about the body but rather the brain.
In this article, I am not going to jump into all of the biology and the anatomical differences in transgender brains. I covered that topic quite nicely in ‘Is Transgender a Choice’ and I certainly recommend that you read that article if you have not done so yet. What you do need to know from that article is that science has shown that structures in the transgender brain are closer in structure to the gender with which they identify with. These structures are thought to be responsible for gender identity. With that said, what I want to focus on for the rest of this article is consciousness and if it can indeed be the answer to the ‘am I real’ question. It should be noted that I am going to use trans women for the rest of this article but it definitely applies equally to trans men and even gender fluid identifications.
Consciousness is that one aspect of being human that has baffled scientists for as long as they have pondered what it is. There have been many guesses (hypotheses) to its nature but being something invisible and very subjective, it is hard to quantify into useable data. Many people think that it is a direct result of biology and the way our neurons interact to create this sense of being conscious. This consciousness would have developed as an evolutionary advantage that gave our species a huge advantage in the game of survival. Religion has a totally different approach as they believe that consciousness is a property of the soul. Both different thoughts could still be correct at the same time. Personally, I believe the physical explanation but never exclude other possibilities. So how does this all relate to the transgender brain?
If a male’s brain, particularly the part responsible for gender, is hardwired in a female configuration, that individual will more than likely feel like a girl. Her thoughts will be female and the male body they inhabit will feel totally foreign to them and cause them serious distress (dysphoria). As mentioned above, hormone replacement therapy and/or surgery does not change the underlying biology. However, it does provide a lot of relief to the female consciousness that lives in that body. In many cases this relief alone can save that person’s life and at the same time make them able to function and contribute better in society. Allowing a transgender person to transition is actually good for everyone and even the economy if you think about it. So let’s ask, does a female consciousness really prove that a transgender woman is a real woman?
To finish the proof of my answer to that question requires one little thought experiment. We have all seen movies or television shows where characters swap bodies and in particular for this thought experiment lets think of a situation where a male and a female swap bodies. The girl who wakes up in the boy’s body is essentially a female consciousness within a male biology. She has for all intensive purposes become a transgender woman. If it was a permanent swap, do you think people would fault her for changing that body to suit her identity? Absolutely not and the reason is that she is a real woman in a bad circumstance. So if an actual transgender woman is a female consciousness living in a male body then based on the thought experiment, she is just as real of a woman as our girl above. In conclusion, if we look at the big picture, which includes the brain differences in transgender people and the consciousness thought experiment, the only logical conclusion is that trans women are real women and trans men are real men. (I want to drop the mic for some reason.)