I was recently asked why someone whose transition has essentially finished, would still retain the term 'transwoman' rather than seek full and exclusive recognition as a woman. I felt it was worth sharing my answer, as I think I learned something about myself, as I put my answers down in writing!
Thanks for writing..
Hmmm, this is definitely a good question, and one that might have a variety of answers for each person you ask. I think the best answer is that the use of the 'transwoman' term really depends on the context of when and how it is used. sometimes it can help, sometimes it can hurt, and sometimes you are stuck with it whether you like it or not. This is what I have learned.
While i can't speak for others, I know my use of the term is usually done under the context of attempting to use the title to raise education and awareness to the challenges - specifically the oppression, folks with a trans history continue to face in society..
Yes, i have been on estrogen for many years and yes, I have completed the most important surgical piece, I didn't get there without a massive effort to educate the very doctors who ended up signing off on the treatments. Also, I continue to face struggles in terms of finding mainstream societal acceptance.. still haven't found employment at the levels i had pre-Jennifer. and i still haven't managed to find acceptance in the majority of social or professional networking circles that i have hoped to attain.
I think another key factor in the label comes from a sense of pride. Not necessarily that one is proud of the way they were born, but proud of efforts made to get thru the transition. consider a trans medical history similar to a label of 'heart attack survivor' or 'cancer survivor' and you essentially have a similar situation of someone who has fought thru a health care struggle and survived and wears that label like a badge of honour.
I also think there is a sense of comradery among trans people. those of us who are out, will seek out other trans people for friendships, as well as advice and other social & networking purposes. no different than a group of cancer survivors who might seek each others' friendships.
Finally, I think it's often important to have a fine balance between being recognized and accepted as a woman, vs being recognized and accepted as a human being who's path to womanhood might have taken a different path. Additionally, there are some trans-identified people who reject the idea that they are male/female or man/woman. some prefer to have a separate 3rd classification, and the trans prefix offers a way to do this.
No matter how hard one might try to be seen and accepted as a woman, for someone with a trans medical history, there are certain male aspects that one cannot escape. a perfect example is that even after surgery, I still have my prostate and will have to go through the same preventative care that any other natal born male would, to alleviate the risks of prostate cancer.
I will also never have a uterus, never have ovaries, never know what it really feels like to ovulate and have a period, never know what it's like to be pregnant. At the same time, I have had experiences that most women could never imagine.. my 33 years in the wrong body were not always fun, but they gave me a very interesting perspective on the world we live in. I know what male-level testosterone feels like. I know what male privilege feels like (even if I didn't take advantage of it or want it)... part of me wants to be fully integrated with natal female norms and histories, but deep down, I'm not there and never will be..
Over the years, I have done my best to seek out positive opportunities to use my trans history to my advantage to open other doors that otherwise would not be easy to open. being trans got me on television, it has gotten me gigs as guest speakers to large groups of students. Heck, it got me international attention in the marathon running community - for someone who would otherwise be ignored and seen as a mediocre athlete at best.
Now the real challenge for me is to find a way to be seen and accepted equally, in situations where the prefix might not prove beneficial. I recently attended Ovations, a woman's rights banquet that you might have heard of. being at this was my way of demonstrating to the Premier, and everyone else I met there, that transwomen are still women!
One thing I am finding challenging now, is to be seen and accepted for other labels. I'd love to simply be seen as a community leader, an animal rights activist, an environmental-sustainability advocate, a marathon runner, and an aspiring politician.... but seems nobody will take me seriously for any of these things.. kinda like asking Wayne Gretzky to become famous for something outside of hockey.. a very tough legacy and image to shed.
Anyway, not sure if that answered your question, but it will at least give you a glimpse into what's going on in my brain.. lol