Every gotcha-style question about trans people you’ve seen asked a hundred times online, answered in less than 1000 words

Define “women”

Adult human female. But hang on, don’t trans people take issue with this phrase? As a limited and simplistic dictionary definition, it isn’t wrong. The phrase, however, has been repeatedly used as a dog whistle to signal support for anti-trans and exclusionary political stances – namely to imply that transgender women fall outwith this definition even when, both culturally and legally, they do not. Adult human female is as much a descriptor for transgender women as it is for cisgender ones. So when you hear objections to this phrase, it isn’t because the words are wrong. It’s the context in which they’re used.

I’m not “cisgender” and recognising that would make me a subset of a man or woman

Only in as much as “tall women” and “short women” are subsets of women. Likewise with black women, straight women, lesbian women and disabled women.

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All of us have varied and intersecting identities that play a role in how we interact with the world, and how we are treated in turn.

There is no singular, platonic ideal of a man or woman nor a singular experience that could be characterised as such, though many overlap. Cisgender, meaning to be a non-transgender person, is no more creating subsets than being a white man or a straight woman is.

Biology exists!

This is one of those phrases that is repeated over and over with the intention of portraying trans people as being in opposition to this statement – but we’re not. We just disagree to what extent it matters.

The issue is that looking purely through the lens of biological essentialism leaves you with a very limited understanding of the world. After all, men aren’t checking the chromosomes or gametes of every woman they see before choosing whether or not to harass them.

Can only women have a cervix?

No. Most women have a cervix, and most people who have a cervix are women but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be specific in our language to the exclusion of transgender men and non-binary people who also have a cervix, particularly when it comes to public health messaging.

Why are you erasing the word “women”?

The word is not being erased and I can guarantee that every time you see a supposed example of this, gleefully inflamed by Britain’s right-wing press, further scrutiny will often reveal the outrage to be entirely manufactured.

Take for example the phrase “people who menstruate”, which caused backlash following a tweet from JK Rowling. The article that she publicly criticised repeatedly used the word “woman” alongside “people” throughout.

On a base level, Rowling’s demand was for the usage of less-specific language to meet her chosen ideological criteria. Not all cisgender women menstruate, nor is everyone who menstruates a woman, meaning that “people who menstruate” makes perfect sense.

Trans people think it’s transphobic if we don’t want to sleep with them

No, we really don’t. It’s actually quite concerning the amount of energy and time that gender-critical activists and even members of parliament have put into fighting against this when it just isn’t a position trans people hold.

But for the avoidance of any doubt: if you don’t want to sleep with someone, for any reason at all, you don’t have to.

Why should people with penises be allowed to expose them to small children?

No adult should be doing this. In changing rooms, we have individual booths for that reason. If someone has deliberately exposed themself to a child, it’s because they are a predator, not due to their gender.

So women should be forced to share spaces with someone with a beard?

Women have facial hair, and the odd belief that they do not is rooted in patriarchal and unrealistic western beauty standards.

The LGBT community is split over self-ID

It’s really not. In fact, it’s overwhelmingly supportive of self-ID and trans-inclusive spaces. Organisations such as the LGB Alliance, the sole anti-trans LGB organisation on the go (which tends to attract far more support from heterosexual activists than that those it purports to campaign for) are a tiny minority within the UK’s LGB population.

Nobody’s saying trans people don’t exist

Actually, they are. At the LGB Alliance conference in London, the radical lesbian feminist activist Julia Long appeared to suggest (to applause) that trans people don’t actually exist. In fact, if you’ve read this far and found yourself profoundly disagreeing, it’s probably because, on some level, you don’t really believe that transgender people are who they say they are either.

Stonewall’s guidance goes against the Equality Act

Actually, it doesn’t. There have been multiple legal cases brought against Stonewall’s interpretation of the law by campaigners who have an incorrect understanding of the Equality Act, and they’ve all failed.

Does any of this actually help?

Nope. Every one of these questions is used, online or on camera, as a one-line soundbite that can’t always be immediately dismissed – not because there is not an answer, but because the answer is more complex than a tweet will allow.

Take the issue of prisons for example. It would take an entire column in itself to do justice to discussing the shameful levels of sexual violence that exist in our prison systems currently, the argument for abolition, the failure to reform inmates and how trans people fit within that.

But rather than allow for that discussion, we are instead reduced to pointless quips that leave gender-critical activists crowing with delight while inhumane prison conditions go unchallenged.

The truth is often more complex than the simple answers we desire.