I want to start this by saying I cannot begin to imagine the issues transgender people must face on a daily basis. The problems and discrimination they face are ones most of us will never be able to conceptualise and I worry, of course that my views may make me sound transphobic, something that I absolutely do not think I am. I am though, a feminist and believe that women still need to fight for much in a patriarchal world.
The argument against this is that by declaring himself to be a woman, a transgender person identifies as a woman and has indeed taken major steps to become one but this can a person ever truly ‘become’ the opposite sex? I think to analyse this we need to consider the fundamental difference between sex and gender. I called Tara a pre-op MTW (man to woman) rather than MTF (male to female) because MTF is an actual scientific impossibility as "male" and "female" are about sex, not gender. Whilst it is possible to change gender, your biological sex is something you are born with and cannot change. Sex is the biological physiology of your body, determined mostly by the sex-related chromosomes – a woman has XX chromosomes whereas a man has XY chromosomes. This does of course not take into account those who are born “Intersex” where a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male or may be born with mosaic genetics, so that some of their cells have XX chromosomes and some of them have XY. However, I understand intersex people to be relatively rare and mostly we are either born male or female. Gender however is a social construct, the social construction of identity according to ideas about "masculinity" and "femininity" and a much more fluid concept. So, in biological terms at the moment a man with XY chromosomes cannot ever become a woman and visa versa. It is not just the presence of a uterus, periods or the menopause - it is XX chromosomes. For example, when Tara is older she will never experience ovarian cancer.
Whilst I do not for one minute believe that trans women are fighting to erode our boundaries, Tara’s experiences, difficult though they may well be, are not the same as women’s experiences. In the same way that a white man is never able to imagine life as a black man, trans MTW weren't raised as girls which makes a difference to the messages they've received from birth. Although a man who changes his gender would no doubt suffer a great deal of discrimination she can never experience the same psychological impact of the 5000 years of patriarchal society. Women, from a very young age, have been conditioned to be accommodating and to think of others first. In groups you do not see this behaviour often with men and in every group in society that I have been in men have always taken centre stage. Women are conditioned into receiving bad treatment and I think that when a man transitions MTW, they may be shocked by how much as women they are not listened to. They may attribute this to being trans but some of it is about being a woman and having previously been male they aren't used to being treated like this so can react very strongly. In fact, the male privilege absorbed by trans-women who have been socialised as men from an early age may be a factor in the public vocality and activism of transwomen.