Staff Writer Jessica Anne Rose examines what it really means to be a woman.

What is a woman, really? What marks me as a female? What is it about me that inherently screams ‘girl’? Perhaps you’d say, well naturally, you were born female. The nurses took a look at me squirming around on the hospital bed and put two and two together. They were correct, I am a woman, and I was lucky to be born as one, because God help me if I got the wrong side of the coin and popped out as a boy. It would be far harder to convince you that I am a woman if I hadn’t been born as one.

If I didn’t have the correct parts. I see the slew of hatred thrown at trans people online and wonder if the people throwing such pathetic and vile dregs of insults realize what they insinuate. Their classic argument – “a woman is someone with boobs and a vagina. They’ve got a reproductive system! And even if a trans person decided to get bottom surgery, they’d never have a period!” Excellent deduction skills Greg, but respectfully, do you think bleeding every month is the core definition of womanhood? That the entire female experience can be boiled down to a week of debilitating cramps and cursing our Creators? No, of course not, because real women can have babies! Ah yes, motherhood, the single most magical occurrence that everyone with a vagina craves. Ever since my first period I have been wistfully daydreaming about tearing my vagina pushing my son and heir out of it. But you didn’t mean that women were only put on this earth because they are supposed to be mothers, right? 

Let’s experiment. Take a look at examples of the female experience, and you tell me at what point do each of the people in the story cease to be women. 

Woman A had wanted children all of her life and was delighted to be blessed with a baby. The problem was, the baby wouldn’t latch, they were resisting being breastfed. Woman A felt devastated by this, because “breast is best” and she’d longed to bond with her baby by breastfeeding. That’s why she had boobs in the first place! She didn’t like to talk about it though, because her best friend Woman B had just undergone a double mastectomy. Cancer. She couldn’t imagine the agony Woman B must feel, not only being stripped of the opportunity to breastfeed but of being robbed of her breasts themselves. They were such an intimate part of being a woman, and now Woman B couldn’t stand to look at herself in the mirror. She didn’t feel feminine anymore, she felt like a husk of her former self. Her body didn’t feel like it was hers. 

Woman C had wanted children for as long as she could remember. Once she had married her husband who equally wanted to raise children, they set about trying to conceive a child whom they would cherish. Until Woman C was given the heartbreaking news that she cannot, in fact, carry children. She was crushed. What is a woman if not a mother? Why was her body betraying her in not being able to accomplish its main purpose? 

Woman D underwent a hysterectomy. Whether it was on her own terms or not was irrelevant to her parents. She was barren. She would regret it to her dying day. What if she changed her mind? What if she met a man who wanted children? What did she leave behind as a legacy if not her children? 

Woman E was born intersex, with breasts and a penis. She chose to identify as a woman and undergo surgery to create the illusion of a vagina, but secretly felt like an imposter. No man would want her if he knew. Her own parents wouldn’t speak about it. Keep it quiet.

People say all the time that trans women aren’t women because of genitals, because of reproduction, because of the surgeries some choose to undertake. I have never understood transphobia, the hatred of people who wish to identify as a different gender. I have never comprehended the ‘threat’ of allowing people to use a different bathroom, to be addressed by their chosen name, to exist. Nobody taught me to accept trans people, I just gathered myself that there was no reason for me to hate someone who got born into a body that wasn’t the right one. It wasn’t their decision. They got the short stick. I will never understand how not being transphobic is so revolutionary, because how could I cast hatred on an innocent person trying to find happiness? Is that how low the bar is? Showing basic human decency and respect towards transgender people? 

Do you realize that by classifying trans women by their genitals you send the message to cis women that the only reason they get the privilege of being called female is their genitals? How can you say that to be a woman means more than genitals when without them, you refuse to call me a woman? How can I ever grow beyond the idea of being a mere mammal, a breeder, if society refuses to look beyond what is between my legs? 

Trans women are as entitled to the title of ‘woman’ as much as cisgender women are. The only thing that differentiates a trans woman from a cis woman is that one of the two was blessed with the body that matched their brain. What is a woman? A woman is empathetic, a woman is intelligent, a woman is capable, a woman is complex. A woman is more than her title as mother and housewife, even if both of those titles are dear to her. What is a woman? A woman is a warrior, lightning struck, ethereal and razor sharp. She is everything and nothing and all that exists in between. What is a woman? A woman is tired, because her answer to the question will never satiate the person who asked it. 

If I stop being a woman because I don’t meet one of your criteria, God help me, but what am I?

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