Not “Woman” Enough – Guest – The Ferris State Torch

Guest Editor: Journey Ebels

I’m usually not one to follow sports. I’m not the athletic type and there’s plenty of other great content for me to consume. But I saw a sports story recently that hit a little closer to home, so I thought it would be important enough to talk about.

Travel Ebels Photo by: Cassie Jessup | Multimedia editor

There was a post shared by someone close to me on Facebook the other day about Lia Thomas, a recently famous trans swimmer who won a 500 yard dash in a Division I tournament, and how the second swimmer , Emma Weyent, is the “real winner” and that “second is the new first”. #savewomenssports. There’s a lot of controversy surrounding Thomas and his victory in this race, and it really boils down to one thing: the transphobes who oppose Thomas don’t see her as a real woman.

This isn’t the first instance of controversy in sport surrounding women. According to an NPR article, there was an Olympic track runner named Caster Semenya who faced similar discrimination at the Olympics last year for having “abnormally high levels of testosterone.” Semenya, along with several other women who won medals at the 2016 Olympics, suffered a lot of backlash for their existence. They were met with countless cries that they “weren’t really women,” and while these women are technically intersex, by all other definitions they are women. So which definition is more important? Should it matter?

This problem extends beyond sports – beyond chromosome or testosterone issues – into the lives of women around the world. There is a societal expectation around existing, as almost all women have experienced. How you dress, how much makeup you wear, how you act, the interests you have and the job you do are items on an endless list of female expectations, and if they are not followed, you are “less woman”. You do not know how to cook ? Less woman. Do you dress masculine? Less woman. Didn’t wear makeup at work? Less woman. There’s a lot of pressure to be a “real woman,” and the consequences of being less than social ostracism, lower wages, and physical assault, because being “less of a woman” ends up translating to “less of a woman.” of somebody”.

All of these lines and norms are used to justify many injustices and abuses towards women around the world, but even more so towards members of the LGBTQ community. I have read story after story about the abuse and assaults trans people around the world face for speaking up and saying who they are. There are even countries where it is legal for them to to exist. Even still, we’re bombarded by people telling us we’re “not trans enough,” even though they “respect” trans people for not having surgery, or not starting hormones, or not showing up publicly, or not sounding “good” or a whole list of things we need to check to truly be considered “trans,” let alone a woman, man, or person .

So many people are working to keep the trans community together, drawing lines and establishing regulations that make it really hard to be recognized for who we are. It’s hard! And the lines they draw very rarely make sense. You are not trans unless you have surgery? Now only rich people can be “truly” trans. Not trans unless you present yourself correctly? Now, only people from countries where it’s legal to be trans can be “truly” trans, or people who have families who won’t immediately disown them. And what is presenting “correctly”? We have already touched on the question of the definition of what a woman is.

Being a woman is hard, and being a trans woman is even harder, from the societal vitriol towards Thomas trying to do his best to swim, to the number of women killed for the audacity to be trans. And this is on top of the lines and regulations that women have imposed on them by society.

As Women’s History Month draws to a close, it is important to recognize the struggle, abuse, discrimination and systems that women have had to face and fight to win the rights that men have freely given. Women have accomplished amazing things despite adversity, and those accomplishments should be celebrated! But imagine the things we could do without having to tear down a thousand walls to accomplish them.

I promise you that trans women are not the enemy, despite the hate and lies said about us. We are in this fight together. So whenever you see a story in the news about a trans woman like Thomas winning a swim race, remember that we’re not trying to invade or take anything away from other women. We’re just people trying our best to be ourselves, even when we feel like the world is against us. Like everyone.