I’ve been through this with several different women. They look for reasons that labelling me as a woman is wrong. The arguments are familiar, so I’ll be brief about the arguments and answers.
First, I would like my reader (ok my cis gendered reader) to imagine that one could safely have everything below the waist removed. Your entire body stops at the end of your torso, and for completeness that your chest is made uniform with everyone else’s, your hair shaved off and a mask placed on your face so you look like some androgynous person. You have no physical purchase to hold to for your gender identity.
Now, raise your hand if you think you would stop thinking of yourself as your birth sex and gender. Really, you in the third row, you’d think that? There’s always one in the class who wants to be a smarty pants.
Why start here? Because people get hung up on details of development and whether this body part is “real” or “constructed”, and whether you’ve had the right upbringing.
OK, you have your bodies back. I wasn’t going to keep them. I’m hoping you’ve gotten the mental sense that your mind has a concept of what your body should be like, and a corresponding notion of gender. Being cis those two are tightly bound and it can be hard to differentiate the two except as an academic exercise. For trans people it is their existence that the two are not linked.
This also points out that many of the objections don’t hold water. It isn’t that having a period or getting pregnant doesn’t shape a woman’s experiences, but neither is a fixed part of being a woman either. A large number of women don’t want to be, and never get pregnant. Some women never have a period. My question is then, do you really doubt they are women? They weren’t always treated well, the spinster or the woman with a barren womb. They had second class status in many places and generations, but it didn’t make them men – after all being a man was superior, especially in those days and ages, and still in some places around the world you only have relative freedom as a man.
The next is upbringing. Again, how you are brought up shapes you, but is that even as strong a distinction as the physical? Some women are brought up in households with strong, productive parents, both of whom have characteristics to strive for. You could easily be encouraged as a young girl more than a neighbor’s boy.
The usual argument on this second part is that becoming a woman as a grown up man I already had these habits and skills that other women don’t have. Kind of the unfair advantage school. What should be considered is that much, or even most of the time transitioned trans women lose authority in every sphere. They are treated as one of the “girls” and no longer listened to by men. That I’ve been more fortunate is a testament to some combination of luck, skill and perhaps changes that have happened over time.
As I’m saying above, this doesn’t mean a trans woman who transitions later in life doesn’t have different experiences. But it also isn’t to say she doesn’t miss having those experiences, even the less pleasant ones of monthly cycles because even those have the compensation of possible motherhood. This is the critical mistake I think a lot of exclusionary feminists make, that somehow trans woman want the “fun” and none of the downsides and therefore are, according to their rules, playing at being female.
Humans are most comfortable putting things into neat labelled boxes and the trans experience doesn’t neatly and perfectly fit into the male or female boxes. What’s important is to recognize that my experience now is a shared experience with other women and the same for trans men sharing life with other men. Hopefully, the current generation will stop forcing kids to grow through the wrong puberty and not to experience life as the gender they are from the start.
By the same token, those who look for differences and reasons for denial will always find them even after trans girls and trans boys can be diagnosed at birth and have corrective complete surgeries early in life leaving them as completely functional men and women as adults. There is always a human desire to categorize and a wariness to exclude what is different from the tribe.