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Can a Man Become a Woman? (And Vice-Versa) (1992)

Can a Man Become a Woman? (And Vice-Versa) (1992)

©1992. 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Denny, Dallas. (1992, April). Can a man become a woman? (and vice-versa): Or, why I wear a lapel button which reads “Biology is not destiny,” ETVC News, 10(4), 11. Reprinted in Renaissance News, (1992), 6(7), pp. 10-11.




If you read Christine Beatty’s essay “Is This Why Women Hate Crossdressers?” in the PDFs below, you’ll find a great deal of wisdom in it. Unfortunately I didn’t recognize that back in 1992, and it would be several years before I did. This response doesn’t at all address what she had to say—so belatedly, should you chance to read this, sorry, Christine.

What I did write about was biological determinism, and why it doesn’t make sense.


Can a Man Become a Woman, Renaissance News Pages (PDF)

Christine Beatty’s “Is This Why Women Hate Crossdressers” (PDF)


 Can a Man Become a Woman?

 (And Vice-versa)

Or Why I Wear a Lapel Button Which Reads “Biology is Not Destiny”

By Dallas Denny


I wrote the following in response to Christine Beatty’s article, “Could This Be Why Women Hate Crossdressers?” which originally appeared in the November-December 1991 issue of ETVC Newsletter. It was reprinted in the next issue. Now I see Christine’s article has been reprinted in the May issue of Renaissance News. Here we go again.

As usual, Christine made me put on my thinking cap, and another little cap which says “Devil’s Advocate.”

When British model Caroline Cossey (“Tula”) appeared in Playboy, Atlanta-based columnist Lewis Grizzard fired off a column titled, “Even Playboy No Longer Lets Boys be Boys,” lamenting the fact that “Playboy used to be for heterosexual men.” In a letter I wrote in response to his column, I told Grizzard, “(Ms. Cossey) is a woman, and has been so for most of her life. She is not a him/her, but a her. The fact that she may have once had different genitalia is as irrelevant as the fact that you once shat your diapers. She is what she is; not what she once was.”

That’s what I wrote, and I stand by it. We are not irretrievably locked into a single expression of gender, but are free to experiment with and change ourselves. And the change is real. Grizzard’s typical Playboy bunny, “Tanya, 19, who enjoys swimming and sunbathing and is planning to study to be an archaeologist or a brain surgeon,” is not the person she was 18 years ago, or will be 18 years hence. She is what she is now. If Grizzard were to take her to bed, he would not be molesting a child; nor would he be with a thirty-seven year-old woman. He would be with “Tanya, 19.” It’s that simple.

There are many roads to a destination. The fact that the “Tanyas” of this world receive Barbie dolls for their fifth birthday and the Barry Cosseys get dump trucks are proof of that. It’s the end-point, and not the route, which is important. After all, lots of girls get dump trucks for their fifth birthday nowadays. Do dump trucks diminish the femininity of little girls? Of course not. And they don’t diminish the femininity of Barry Cosseys, either.

Giving birth and menstruating are things, it is often said, that transsexual women cannot do; Christine, in fact, dredges up that argument. She’s right. But many nontranssexual women have never borne children, and many women do not menstruate (including most girls under eleven, most women over fifty, women who have had hysterectomies, and women who have physical problems affecting their reproductive systems). As Devo might ask, “Are they not women?”

You know the answer to that one.

Many transsexual people engineer the social and physical changes which they deem necessary and thereafter function seamlessly in their new roles. Lewis Grizzard and those who are like him interact with and sometimes unknowingly marry transsexual people. And who knows, Lewis (I’m sending him a copy of this article)—maybe “Tanya, 19” was once named Tim. And if so, what of it? Does that make her less a “Tanya?”

No it doesn’t, Lewis, so you can rest easy in your fragile heterosexuality.

When transsexual people reach the point of “realness”—when they are integrated in society and cannot be “read” (or “clocked,” as we say in the South), then they have become what they have been trying to become. They don’t just walk like a duck and talk like a duck. They are ducks. They function entirely as men and women, with bodies which are consonant with their place in society as men and women.

Admittedly, many, and perhaps most, transsexual women never reach this point of total integration. Their voices, physical characteristics, and mannerisms convey their transsexualism to the astute observer, and keep them transsexual. But some women and most men leave their transsexualism behind. Their pasts are real (for were they not, like “Tanya, 19,” once babies?), but their pasts are relevant only as pasts, and not as limiters of the present.

If a man like Billy Tipton lives, marries, raises children and dies a man, does the revelation upon his death that he has a vagina make him less a man?

No! Manhood is a social phenomenon, and has nothing whatsoever to do with genitalia. Billy Tipton was a man, and Caroline Cossey is a woman.

Some women indeed do have problems with transgendered people (and the word problem may be an understatement. A woman was expelled from the 16th Annual Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival for being a suspected transsexual). Some object to less than perfect presentations, some to stereotyped presentations, and some to the mere idea that someone who was originally assigned to one sex would dare to live in the gender role normally reserved for the other sex. But some of us go through life in our preferred roles, undetected, fitting in. No one objected to Billy Tipton, and no one was objecting to Caroline Cossey before she was brutally outed by a British tabloid. People like them are men and women. No more, no less.