Sunday, 26 November 2017

Theorising Feminist Transphobia

Transphobia is obviously bigotry. The only difference between it and sexism, racism, homophobia et al are the numbers it effects; trans women and and trans men are only a tiny proportion of people. Albeit one that attracts a hugely disproportionate amount of interest, anxiety and hate. That a section of the feminist movement prefers to go along with rather than challenge it is a sad state of affairs, but prejudice is never unknowable. It makes sense to people who articulate and act on it, and therefore it behooves all progressive people to try and understand those positions all the better to oppose them. In the case of feminism, why then does transphobia have a not insubstantial following?

1. The primary cause of transphobia and its lethal enforcers are men. Trans women, like cis women, are the victims of men's violence. These men are in the grip of the fragility of angsty, insecure, hysterical masculinities. Trans women are on the spectrum of women who refuse and resist the sex/gender systems underpinning (decomposing) patriarchal social relations and disproportionately suffer the abuse and murder meted out for deviation. Exposing, harrying, opposing any and all expressions of misogyny has to be a central plank of any socialist movement, and comrades who are men have a special responsibility in ensuring this happens. Similarly, solidarity with victims and survivors of patriarchal violence should be extended without question or condition.

2. The emergence of transphobia with a feminist twist is not a new thing, nor is it something that stems entirely from having wrong ideas. Feminism as a body of theory is the abstract rendering of women's history, experience and struggle, and shifts in its development is less a result of theoretical innovations and more the shifting being of women that makes new directions in feminism possible. All of its schools of thought, the celebrated/maligned trinity of liberal, socialist/Marxist and radical feminism and what has come since captures minds because theory itself has captured experience. It follows that problems and difficulties emerging within feminism are less a matter of epistemological nicety, and are more rooted in the practice of the women's movement of being at the sharp end of patriarchal power, men's violence, and gendered inequalities. Feminist transphobia, like its patriarchal bigger brother, has material roots.

3. According to Janice Raymond's The Transsexual Empire, trans women represent patriarchal agents within the women's movement. In plainer language, she argues they are men who have surgically altered their bodies to become simulacra of woman's bodies, but that does not make them women. The socialisation of being brought up male, along with its myriad entitlements, privileges, expectations, and complicity in the reproduction of patriarchal social relationships remains. Therefore the acceptance of trans women runs the risk of constituting an alien presence within the women's movement. Women only spaces, which played a central role in the elaboration of second wave feminist theory and practice, were a successful means of condensing women's experience because of shared oppression. Latterly, while most feminists who subscribing to views similar to Raymond would recognise that trans women also face violence and oppression, their particular concerns and the modalities of that oppression coupled with retained masculine behaviours should disrupt women's only spaces. Trans women's concerns are not cis women's concerns, and their inclusion would jeopardise the articulation of cis women's experience, the strengthening of cis women's solidarity, and the elaboration of feminism by an (inevitable) privileging of the former over the latter. Similarly, trans men are following individual routes out of being on the receiving end of patriarchy by adopting the physical form of the dominant gender and seeking to participate in the privileges this confers.

4. Feminism, at least its radical and revolutionary variants, aims toward the abolition of patriarchy, which itself is inseparable from the conscious surpassing of gender. That is there will still be human beings we understand now as in possession of female and male bodies, but this has no bearing on the kinds of people they are or the human subjects that might populate the (post-scarcity) society of the future. The bodies of trans men and trans women, from this perspective, are opposed to the problematisation, destabilisation and eventual transcendence of gendered subjectivities. The common personal narrative of being one gender trapped in the body of the other not only, paradoxically, reinforces essentialist assumptions about gender but reconfirms the gender binary in the transition process. This is further reinforced by the medical regulation of transitioning, of making surgery publicly available only if a number of gendered hoops are jumped through, chief of which is living as your chosen gender for a year. How is that determined? The most common (medical) expectation is a persistent fealty to norms for one's chosen gender. Hence why patriarchy suffers anxiety around trans women in particular, because for many men it muddies the homosexual taboo by their becoming desirable objects vis a vis the straight male gaze. Nevertheless, feminist transphobia could easily tell it to chill its beans: the binarism underpinning its self-definition and articulation of power is reinforced the very moment it is traversed.

5. Since feminism's re-emergence in the 1960s, it has mounted a powerful critique of the marketing of femininity. It is therefore unsurprising, given its record of attacking and criticising the rise and prevalence of the cosmetic industry that some extend this to the "gender industry". For instance, the current preoccupation with children who identify as trans are taken as examples of a branch of medicine taking hold of infant gender confusion, and medicalising them as dysphoric and in need of treatment, which may involve elective surgery later in life. Before this takes place there's the battery of counselling services (for child and parents), non-invasive interventions like puberty blockers, regular progress appointments and so on. In effect, they're manufacturing patients for the clinical and non-clinical services they dispense. It serves to uphold gender binarism and turn a profit, in the same way markets geared around the feminine offer solutions to inessential problems like wonky noses and hairy bodies. The gender industry offers medical salvation, and an individual one at that, when the political response to gender non-conformism is to push for looser markers of gender, of new ways of being women and men, up to the abolition of gender itself.

6. All movements of resistance have some form of identity location, or singularity which is simultaneously a site of oppression and location for resistance. In feminism, that has been the location/subject 'woman'. This was and remains a key site of theoretical elaboration by feminist scholars and activists, and the discussion and debates over the last 30 years about feminism's subject/agency is some of the most sophisticated and important work ever accomplished by radical social theory. In the broad sweep of theoretical movement, woman-as-subject has gone from a singular to a multi-vocal, complex subject. i.e. While the second wave of feminism laid claim to women's experience, the movement began fragmenting just as the new right/neoliberalism rose to prominence during the late 70s/early 80s. These schisms were spearheaded by feminists for whom the second wave, they felt, did not adequately interrogate its assumptions. Was the woman of feminism black? Working class? A lesbian? A mother? For proponents of these positions, they felt their experiences and therefore contributions to feminism were sidelined and marginalised. Fast forward to the present and we have a generational split between the second wave and what is largely grouped under the third wave label, which dates from the early-mid 1990s. The latter is explicitly concerned with all women's experiences and seeks to articulate them, which includes trans women, and is characterised by inclusion and an interest in the individual. Those who don't criticise the third wave for incoherence and (whisper it) depoliticisation, and implicitly hold to a more politically restricted version of 'woman' that the third wave rejects.

7. Feminist transphobia is a marketable commodity in the comment marketplace. I have little doubt advocates genuinely hold their views, but neither can the economics be denied. Magazines and websites need unique selling point for expanding social media reach and growing clickthroughs. Attacking trans people, condemning them as dopes of a gender industry, it's all grist to the mill grinding out kerching. That so many transphobic commentators are liberal feminists is no accident. It is the identity work of the relatively privileged that sees to the exclusion of trans women along with other "undesirable" women that, not entirely coincidentally, buttresses their own status. This is the feminism excited by Jeremy Corbyn's appointments, but is indifferent to the disproportionate impacts on (working class) women of the cuts to social security its proponents have previously advocated.

8. Feminist transphobia also has roots in anxiety. The internet is littered with examples and complaints of "cotton ceiling", that is the posing of trans women as cis lesbians to seduce cis lesbians. There are allegations and rumours of lesbians being guilt-tripped into sex with trans women, testimony of social media attacks and harassment of feminists who criticise this behaviour. There are also the moves to no-platform prominent feminists who, at best, are trans critical, the deploying of TERF as an insult and a means of dehumanising opponents, and, on rare occasions, physical attacks. In the context of feminist critiques of masculinity, these behaviours are no different, qualitatively speaking, than cis men and their sexual targeting, bullying, and intimidation of women. Anxiety also helps explain why feminist transphobia can assume the most bigoted and spiteful forms, such as dead naming trans women, routinely referring to trans women as 'he', dog whistling the dangers trans women supposedly pose cis women. The result is a shoring up of a particular kind of identity/agency location increasingly out of step with the world, and therefore useless (and damaging) from the point of view of progressive social change.

These hopefully help the getting to grips with feminist transphobia, and presented here are some points that may aid its critique. There is no reason why, for instance, the existence of trans men and trans women should reinforce the gender binary, especially when the performance and resistance of gendered practices vary as much among trans as they do among cis people. Indeed, by arguing that treatment/surgery should not take place isn't one upholding the binarism by forcing people to inhabit the gendered bodies they received? Additionally, the existence of a gender industry no more delegitimises trans people than the gay men's health care "industry" (or the so-called pink pound) does gay men. Yes, both try and produce subjects of particular kinds, but all institutions and constellations of institutions do so, sometimes for profit. So what? Furthermore, some elements of second wave feminism are exclusionary of women, and there remains perspectives that criticise BDSM lesbians, butch lesbians, indulge bi-erasure and critique bisexuality, and of course, there is the small fringe of lesbian separatism. The difficulties some feminists have with trans women are inseparable from identity border wars, but simultaneously newer generations of feminists view these feuds as old hat and irrelevant to the main job of critiquing and opposing patriarchy and capitalism.

Image Credit


Phil said...

There is no reason why, for instance, the existence of transmen and transwomen should reinforce the gender binary, especially when the performance and resistance of gendered practices vary as much among trans as they do among cis people. Indeed, by arguing that treatment/surgery should not take place isn't one upholding the binarism by forcing people to inhabit the gendered bodies they received?

I struggle to understand the logic of that rhetorical question. What upholds the binarism, surely, is associating particular performances of gender with identity as Man or Woman - assuming that the boy who likes wearing bright colours and playing with dolls is *really* a girl, rather than a boy who's performing 'being a boy' in his own way.

I think you make your argument a lot easier, but do the vast majority of the people you're talking about a disservice, by starting with a notion of 'transphobia' that's inseparable from violence. I think the great majority of the people labelled as TERFs wish actual flesh-and-blood trans people nothing but well - including the critics of Lily Madigan who, perhaps unwisely, let themselves be quoted in the Murdoch press the other day. But I can wish you well without sharing your own opinion of yourself; I could sincerely wish you every success in your career, for example, while believing that your Nobel hopes were highly unrealistic. This kind of tolerance doesn't seem to be acceptable to many on the trans/allied side of the argument. But the requisite affirmation that "trans women are women" - and that that's all there is to say on the matter - is incredibly difficult for many of us to get behind, for a range of reasons, only some of which you touched on.

Apart from anything else, endorsing it seems to have some distinctly unwelcome consequences. I look at Anne Ruzylo and Helen Steel, and I see a comrade and a hero. What do you see?

Roy said...

The only difference between transgenderism and transracialism is the number of people it affects. So why doesn't the left accept and adopt the narrative of transracialism as enthusiastically as it does the narrative of transgenderism? Why is it considered progressive to allow a small number of male-born ('assigned male at birth' in current parlance) transgender activists to dictate the narrative on gender (even to the point of defining the majority of women as 'cis', i.e, as accepting of their gendered oppression) when we don't accord the same privilege to Rachel Dolziel and other white-born transracialists? The fact that the left has fallen hook line and sinker for a reactionary, idealist transgender ideology is an indication of how deeply entrenched patriarchy and misogyny are within the left.

Anonymous said...

Along with the comment at the end this constitutes valuable data for analysis in terms of construction and destabilisation of alliances and this text as a whole will be very useful from the point of view of analysing the ways in which transphobia functions in terms of the strategies deployed.

David Parry said...


I look at Anne Ruzylo and I see a bigoted sack of shit like you! Now bore off!

David Parry said...

PS: Helen Steel can fuck right off as well!

Phil said...

Well, there we are.

Phil said...

Have to say I'm a bit disappointed that those 'comments' made it through moderation, actually, Phil. No engagement, just aggression and abuse.

Phil said...

Here's the issue, Phil. This is not an academic question for the people involved. Trans people are under a full fledged media onslaught at the moment and it's appalling to see self-defined liberals, feminists and socialists go along with it. Of course, people are entitled to their views but they should expect to be robustly and rudely challenged should they air them.

Phil said...

Firstly, I've got no interest in discussing this as an academic issue. Secondly, I don't and won't justify any attacks on trans people, physical or verbal (including outing & deadnaming).

I don't believe my comment comes anywhere near justifying calling me a bigot, let alone a 'bigoted sack of shit'. Treating all disagreement as an attack that doesn't need counter-argument, but just needs to be silenced, is a very dangerous road to go down.

Anonymous said...

I recently saw a film on the Muxe of Mexico, and was struck by the thought that it is only now in time that using the term gender dysphoria could be seen as medicalising. Before, nothing could be done but make the best of it with a male body and a female performance. I know a trans person who is transitioning now -mtf- and the shit shes had, and still has to go through make me admire her strength enormously and I know that she has believed this to be her necessity from a very young age. Now she has her full documentation she is for al legal purposes a woman and that is great that she is allowed to be that.
This doesn't stop me from thinking that it is not unreasonable for feminists to say that wishing with every fibre of your being to be a woman, doesn't make you a woman. My friend's transition will take her from gay to straight, a problem to my own understanding of my and others' gayness as being inaccessible to choice. My friend will be happy to pass as a woman and isn't herself a theoretical person. So I don't intend to ever have a pointless conversation about whether she is*really* a woman.
Reading some of the coverage and opinion pieces lately I was struck with the contrast with anorexia, where a (typically young) person's deep and almost ineradicable conviction they are too fat when they are clearly not is universally treated as an illness, where it has become transphobic to suggest that a apparently similar conviction that you are really the other sex when you are not is indisputably true.
But since being trans doesn't lead to death by starvation, it seems quite reasonable that we should accomodate the people who are it (not suffer it) to be as close as they can be to what they want.

Mathias Alexander said...

I wonder how good the surgery is. To say you can make female genitalia by rearranging male genitalia ( or vice versa ) sounds like saying you can make a liver by rearranging a kidney. You might say that details of this sort are beside the point, but if they don't matter why have the surgery at all?

I have no idea who Helen Steel and Anne Ruzylo are.

Heather Herbert said...

Before I get into the post let me quickly reply to @Mathias
If you're really interested in the process of here's a couple of videos

But the truth of the matter is SRS (aka GRS, aka "The surgery") is a small part of a transition, Not everyone who is trans needs to transition, not everyone who transitions needs/wants hormones, not everyone who goes on hormones has surgery.

As to how effective they are, it depends on your metric.

In terms of post operative "happiness" they are the best elective surgery, they have one of if not the lower regret rate, for the most part people who have SRS are not unhappy they did. I believe the rate of regret at the operation runs at something like 0.4%

In terms of how effective they are in terms of function, I can only speak with certainty of M2F surgery, there you end up with a clitous, a vagina no womb and no ovaries (at least with the current tech, there is talk of womb transplants but that's a way off yet). Therefore trans women can not birth children.

F2M surgery I believe gives you a penis and the ability to get an erection, since the zygotes are wrong I believe trans men can't farther children.

Heather Herbert said...

Phil (not the Phil who writes this blog, but the other Phil, God that confused me for a bit),

You apear to be conflating gender expression (a boy who likes dolls) with gender identity. I think the vast majority of trans people would compleatly agree with you, boy and girls should be free to play with and express themselves in the way they want to, play with dolls, climb trees, play house, ride bikes.

The idea that some how expression == identity is due, I believe, to a misunderstanding of gender, an assumption gender is purely a social construct. There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that it is neither a compleatly a social construct nor biological but both. The explanation I see that fit best is that biologically we fit somewhere on a male<->female scale (likely an inverse normalised curve), and that your biology. However what we do with that is socially constructed. Yes a lot of trans men want to do seteropicaly male things, but a lot of cis men want to do seteropicaly male things and we don't critisise cis men for liking sports.

Feminists Suck! said...

Feminsism’s main issue with transgender is that transgender woman generally subscribe to the submissive role of women and the traditional role (they want to be women with all its traditional femininity), in fact in that regard they speak more for the majority of women than feminists do (feminists basically hate women and want women to free themselves from their femininity – I think that self hatred is in many ways justified). Feminists never speak for a majority of women in the same way that Marxists do not speak for the majority of workers. In fact in the case of Marxists it is worse, because at least some of the claims of feminists are something women can relate to in their personal experiences (I say this as an avowed Marxist).

I think most women reject feminism because at the heart of feminism is not only hypocrisy but also some fundamental untruths. Feminism is idealist and tends to put all the blame on men when in fact women share the blame for a patriarchal society just as much, and not only that most women are attracted to men who could be considered alpha males, in other words the predatory, rich and successful ones. See Bernie Ecclestone as an example of what I mean. Is it any wonder that men are competitive when the evolutionary active agent, i.e. women, behave in the way they do? If you want to know why women suffer abuse look no further than the mentality of women. The least we can say is that active parents, who more than half are women, do nothing to help their children counter the cultural force of gender identity. Most active parents (majority women) are utter conformists and must take a share of the blame for society and all its ill affects.

Love is violence; love is not a soap commercial or an Hollywood film. No one who genuinely loves someone will ever say, “Because I love you I will let you go without a fight”. This bullshit only exists in the worst novels and the worst films. Love is by definition a conflicted area. If your partner just lets you go without any fight whatsoever that means they are basically glad to see the back of you! And violence as love can be applied to society in general. The rich, attractive and powerful take their pick among the most attractive females and vice versa, the rest pick up the spoils. Some, the poorest, the ugliest, the unhealthiest are left with nothing, they roam the margins like single male Lions on the edge of the pack. Feminism is nothing but a reflection of this state of affairs and feminist prescriptions are actually in the aid of the alpha males and females. Basically single men should be castrated, that is the ultimate logic of feminism. Love and relationships are just not as the feminists claim they are and if the Islamists are right about anything it is to be very very wary of feminism.

Changing the state of affairs to something progressives can live with means a radical and revolutionary departure from how society works currently. The solutions to these problems are only ever surface thin. Anyone who thinks that the solutions do not require radical change is not really progressive in my opinion.

Heather Herbert said...

Hi other Phil (The one who wrote the post), I think their is (honestly I don't know maybe you / you cis commentators could confirm) an additional issue missing from your piece however.

Julia Serano has a thing she does when she does trans awareness training. she asks the room to rise their hands if for one million dollars they would choose to live in the opposite gender for the rest of their lives. No one ever rises their hand. I had a similar experience, my turning point of self acceptance came for me when I asked my partner if they had ever wanted to be the other sex, she looked at me blankly as if I'd asked her if she wanted to have her hands cut off, shook her head and said "errr... no". I find that unbelievable, I could not imagian not wanting to be a women (if you haven't guessed i'm a trans women) and I don't mean "ummm I wonder what it would be like if" I mean wishing, dreaming, from a young age that you would magically transform.

So, if you accept that :

1) Most coverage of trans people revolves around trans women, despite their being a rougthly equal number of trans men*

2) Women in general have a harder time of it then men in general.

3) Histroicly the media coverage of trans women tends toward sexualising our bodies (just as with all women)

4) The above revelation.

Then I can see why cis people can't understand (4) why a man (1) would transition to become a women and lose male privilege (2). Their must be a hidden agenda (3).

Given that the "debate" around bathrooms etc makes perfect sense.... except it doesn't, their has never (at least in the last ten years) been a case where a trans identifying person has sexually assaulted someone in a public bathroom. It isn't trans women who put hidden cameras in the women's loo's it's pervy male cleaners/staff. It's not trans women who sexuality assault collage students, but I digress.

How do we (trans people) prevent this? who knows. Be honest with you cis people, be seen, try and educate? who knows. What I do know is most trans people (trans men, trans women and non-binary folk) would describe ourselves as feminists. we've seen first hand "both"** sides of the coin, believe me cis men, getting piped at gets old real quickly and getting chatted up on the street is really freaky (and scary). I know you "know" this, but you don't really "know" this until it happens to you and the world see's *you* as female. I'm getting a little OT here I know (sorry) but it's also given me a better understanding of racism, or rather it helped me realise I don't really have an understand of racism, not it's lived and breathed effects.

How can you help? listen, accept you don't know everything, accept I don't know everything, accept some authors are great on one issue and not so good on others, and that they don't know everything.

*It get's hard with number of people, because theirs no official count, the closest we have is GP referrals, and that figure misses a lot of people, including me at the mo, but not for long.

** Yes its a scale and all that.

Phil said...

Heather - thanks for your comments, which I found very useful. In principle I completely agree with your first point, that gender identity and gender expression are different things, and I do know how powerful that felt identification with the 'other' sex can be. I also know that it's less powerful and/or less permanent for some than for others, incidentally - I guess everything's a continuum.

My worry is that some kids are being identified - and identifying themselves - as trans because of their gender non-conformity. For some kids who don't feel they fit their socially-assigned gender role, coming out as trans may be a solution, but I worry that it's coming to be seen as the solution. It's as if we've collectively become aware of gender as a problem, but then decided that transitioning is the solution to it. Eddie Izzard used to say that he wore dresses because he believed in "total clothing rights" - everyone should be able to wear anything; these days he says he thinks he's part-female because he likes a nice pair of heels. This doesn't seem like progress to me. (To be fair, he also says he thinks everyone should take a chill pill and stop worrying about what sex anyone else is.)

One other thing: I think when people have an issue concerning toilets, changing rooms etc, they're not worrying about predatory trans women - who are mostly mythical, as you say - but about violent cis men. At the moment it's fairly easy to keep cis men out of women-only spaces, although this also leads to some trans women being challenged. (And some GNC cis women; Claire Dowie has a very funny story about being gender-checked in the Ladies'.) I can see that getting challenged when you just want to use the facilities is a pain, but I can't see how to stop all challenges to any trans women without also stopping any challenges to cis men. I don't have enough trust in cis men to be happy about that idea (and I am one).

Heather Herbert said...

And lastly back to Phil (the commented) what do I think of Anne Ruzylo and Helen Steel?

Just as I think that people who call things they disagree with "fascist" undermine anti-fascism by trivialising that movement. I think people who call other's rapists and paedophiles because they don't want them in "their" bathrooms trivialise rape and paedophile and the experience of the victimises/survives. If that's your idea of feminism I hope you can sleep at night.

Ben Philliskirk said...

Abolish gender. No one should be permitted to police 'identity'.

Phil (not Phil BC) said...

I don't endorse calling transwomen rapists and paedophiles. Nor do I endorse face-shaming cis women or calling them bitches. Can we talk about this subject without assuming that anyone on the 'other' side is guilty of the worst extremes of that side?

Heather Herbert said...

Sorry Phil (Not BC) our posts crossed.

Your concerns are answered (much better then I could ever do) by on Ed Millibans podcast last week ( ) OT but it's a great podcast for left leaning people in general.

But in short.

Their is still a huge social stigma around being trans and yes children and adults may indeed define in themselves as trans and then change their minds, so what? Are we happy with people experimenting with their sexuality? If your worried about medical intervention don't be, before I can be prescribed hormones I need two different psychologists to diagnose me with gender dysphora with current waiting times NHS appointments are likely to be 6 months apart, that means I won't (unless I go private) have HRT for at least a year, it then takes months for changes to be semi-perminate.
For children the issues are more complex (the podcast describes it better) but in most cases after the initial two diagnose children are put on hormone blockers, they don't change anything, they just pause puberty, change your mind and stop them and you hit puberty.

you point on bathroom let me to do some legal digging, you state " At the moment it's fairly easy to keep cis men out of women-only spaces" it may surprise you but it isn't.
The Equality Act 2010 Statutory Code of Practice states in relation of gender identity “Manifestations of that personal process, such as mode of dress, indicate that a process is in place and they will be protected by the Act” the 2015 best practice guidelines (see ) further clarified this, stating “if someone adopts a new gender role by changing their name, title and pronoun and/or by wearing different clothing, altering their body language, speech and hairstyle, they have reassigned their gender”.
In other words if you look male (or are trying to) you should be in the male loo’s if you look female (or are trying to) you should be female loos. Men in dresses, if they want, can use the female loos currently. The proposals to extend the gender recognition act do not change this at all. All it does is allow me to change the M on my passport to an F.

It's funny that you mention GNC cis women being gender-checked. the stink trump and TERF's are kicking up about toilets and changing rooms is primary effecting CIS gendered women, it's they who are being asked to prove their sex, not trans women who pass.

Heather Herbert said...

P.S. Not BC Phil,

Just to clarify, in your first comment you asked
"I look at Anne Ruzylo and Helen Steel, and I see a comrade and a hero. What do you see?"

My comment of 28 November 2017 at 07:41 was a response to that *only* I do not think that is your position, nor a position you support. It has been a pleasure to discuss this issue with you (so far at least ;) ).

Sorry if the crossed posts/my wording suggested otherwise.

Mathias Alexander said...

In reply to Heather Herbert, the functions I was thinking of are the functions durring sex, e.g. haptic reponse and sensation, erectile tissue, lubrication, orgasm, etc.
Looking back they don't seem like things that surgery could reproduce and I wonder if an informed choice is being made on that score.

Heather Herbert said...

Hi Mathias,

In answer to your first point, Trans people tend not to write about post operative sex, because... well it's just sex. While (for some reason which is beyond me) cis people are fascinated by our sex lives, trans people tend to be ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
That said looking at the academic medical literature was a little more helpful.

From UCSF ( University of California, San Francisco see )No major sensory nerves should have been divided during surgery, so sensitivity should not be adversely affected after vaginoplasty. In an outcome study published in 2002, 86% of the author's patients were orgasmic. so it looks like most people can cum post op.

the second part, re informed consent. I refer you to the WPATH guidleine (see and for a pir8 copy of the 7th version (the latest)) Which is states (Page 105-6)

"Criteria for Genital Surgery (two referrals)
Hysterectomy and ovariectomy in FtM patients and orchiectomy in MtF patients:
1. Persistent, well documented gender dysphoria;
2. Capacity to make a fully informed decision and to consent for treatment;
3. Age of majority in a given country;
4. If significant medical or mental health concerns are present, they must be well controlled;
5. 12 continuous months of hormone therapy as appropriate to the patient’s gender goals (unless the patient has a medical contraindication or is otherwise unable or unwilling to take hormones).
The aim of hormone therapy prior to gonadectomy is primarily to introduce a period of reversible estrogen or testosterone suppression, before a patient undergoes irreversible surgical intervention.
These criteria do not apply to patients who are having these surgical procedures for medical indications other than gender dysphoria."

Or through the idea that any surgeon or doctor would risk being struck off by putting someone through a surgical procedure without informed consent just doesn't make logical sense. I had to sit through a 20 minute explanation and sign a triplicate form when I had a tooth extracted at the hospital.