Han Seo-hee, former trainee involved in the marijuana case with Big Bang’s T.O.P, recently sparked another controversy with her recent SNS post.
As an outspoken self-labeled feminist, Han is known for posting and talking extensively on women’s rights and feminism.
On Nov. 4, Han posted a picture of U.S. philosopher and gender theorist, Judith Butler. The picture came with a quote from Professor Elizabeth Grosz. The quote is from her work, “Volatile Bodies”, and it reads:
“Men, contrary to the fantasy of the transsexual, can never, even with surgical intervention, feel or experience what it is like to be, to live, as women. At best the transsexual can live out his fantasy of femininity- a fantasy that in itself is usually disappointed with the rather crude transformations effected by surgical and chemical intervention. The transsexual may look like a woman but can never feel like or be a woman.”
인스타그램을 시작하면서 페미니즘에 관한 게시물들을 많이 올렸었는데요 몇몇 트렌스 젠더 분들,그리고 트렌스 젠더가 아니신 분들께서 저한테 다이렉트 메세지로 장문의 글을 많이 보내셨습니다. 내용을 간략하게 줄여보자면 “트렌스 젠더도 여성이니 우리의 인권에 관한 게시물도 써달라” 였어요. 흠 하지만 전 트렌스젠더는 여성이라고 생각하지 않습니다. 생물학적으로도 여성이라고 생각하지 않습니다. 고추가 있는데 어떻게 여자인지..나원..저는 ‘여성’분들만 안고 갈겁니다. 트렌스 젠더분들께 “왜 여성이 되고 싶으시죠?”라고 물으면 항상 거의 비슷한 대답이죠. “어렸을때부터 화장하는게 좋았고 남자 애들보다 여자 애들이랑 어울리는 걸 좋아했고 구두를 신는걸 좋아했고..”등등..그럼 저는 구두 싫어하고 운동화 좋아하고 화장하는거 귀찮고 어렸을땐 공주가 나오는 만화영화보단 디지몬 어드벤쳐를 좋아했는데 그럼 저는 남자인가요? 트렌스 젠더에 관해 제 주위사람들, 또는 친구들과 얘기를 나눠보면 많이 엇갈리더라구요. 여러분들은 어떻게 생각하시나요?
Han revealed that she received messages from those hoping she would extend her support for feminism to transgender people.
However, their hopes were not exactly answered in the way they had liked.
Han Seo-hee’s Argument
Han wrote the following:
“I’ve been receiving a lot of messages from transgender and non-transgender people. They have been telling me to include posts on transgender rights because transgender women are also women. But I don’t consider transgender women to be women. They are not biologically women. How can they be women when they have penises? I will only include those born women.”
“When I ask transgender women why they want to become a woman, they always give me similar answers. They say, ‘I love wearing makeup, I like hanging out with girls over boys, and I like wearing heels…etc.’. I prefer sneakers over heels, don’t want to wear makeup, and preferred watching Digimon over princess anime when I was little, but does that make me a man? When I talk about this with my friends and the people around me, we often get conflicted. What do you guys think?”
Her argument is important in many ways, because it touches upon gender identity and the relationship between gender and sex. All of these concepts are crucial to understanding the vast misunderstandings people hold in regards to transgender people and one’s own separate identity.
ARGUMENT #1: Assigned Sex
“Transgender women are not women because they weren’t born with female-labeled sex organs/genitals.”
If the above statement is true, then the statement that “Only a person who has a vagina, breasts and a uterus is a woman” must also be true.
Both statements exclude intersex, which according to the Intersex Society of North America, refers to “a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.” An intersex person may be born with a conventional female body yet have male sex organs. Many other variations of this can be found.
The truth is that people vary in terms of their biology, just as they vary in terms of gender. To say that people have to meet certain qualifications to be a woman, is exclusionary and ostracizes those who do not fit in imposed categories.
The statements also imply that one’s identity is something that is determined by assigned sex (aka “You are a woman because you the doctor said you are a woman”). They assume the gender essentialism theory, which states that assigned sex ultimately governs and controls our behaviors, and reduces peoples’ identities to assigned meanings about their bodies.
However, there is nothing inherently “female” or “male” with having certain chromosomes, hormones, sex organs or physical characteristics. In other words, sex is a social construct that prides itself on carrying meaning about one’s identity when it really does not.
A transgender person who identifies as a woman can most definitely be a woman if they choose. Gender identity is not an identity that assigned sex or biology chooses, but something that one can choose for themselves.
ARGUMENT #2: Gender Identity
“Why do you want to become a woman?”
First of all, there are two main problems with the question:
- You cannot “become a woman.” Gender is not something you want to become, it is who you already are and choose to identify as
- “Woman” may not be what transgender people identify with. Some transgender people may choose to identify with a gender outside the gender binary of male/female or man/woman. Just because a transgender person chooses to express their gender through conventionally feminine ways does not mean that they identify as a woman
ARGUMENT #3: Gender Expression
“I don’t like feminine things. Does that make me a man?”
Han Seo-hee says that the transgender women she talked to identified as woman because of their desire to engage in conventionally feminine behaviors. Some of those behaviors include wearing makeup, hanging out with female friends, and wearing pretty shoes.
She then points out that she engages in “un-feminine” behaviors such as not wearing makeup and preferring anime like Digimon over stories of princesses, and questions whether or that would make her man.
Gender expression is different from gender identity. One may choose to act in conventionally feminine ways without necessarily identifying as a woman. Some people may identify as a woman but choose to act in a conventionally masculine way, in both feminine and masculine ways, or in a completely different way.
Checking One’s Privilege
Han is privileged in that she can express her gender identity freely without backlash or people assuming that she is a gender identity that she is not. She is a non-transgender woman who has the privilege to say whatever she likes without being ridiculed.
Many transgender and non-transgender people who do not fit with societal standards face public questioning and scrutiny because of those who cannot seem to wrap their minds around the fact that there are many ways (not just feminine or masculine) to express one’s gender identity. Take for instance, f(x)’s Amber Liu and the numerous comments she receives from people asking whether she is a boy or girl because of the size of her chest, or questions about her sexual orientation.
A transgender person who identifies as a women does not necessarily have to engage in feminine behaviors. They can engage in both feminine or masculine or anything outside of those categorizations. It just so happens that the transgender people that Han asked express their identity through conventionally feminine behaviors.
Assuming that transgender people are trying to become something they are not comes from a narrow understanding of how people can differ from each other and sex and gender as social constructs.
For glossary of terms/language on the LGBTQ community, refer to the GLAAD Media Reference Guide
By Janet Kang