In fact, we are not just who we want to be or say we are. Parts of our identities, such as sex or gender, are biologically inescapable. They dictate the manifestation and the fundamental shape of certain foundational experiences that form our identities, whether we embrace or resist them.
If you are born with a Y sex chromosome, for example, you will not experience menstruation, period pains, pregnancy, or childbirth; you will not lactate or nurse a child. You will also not be seen or treated as girls and women are in your society, subjected to, and conditioned by, the expectations and prejudices imposed on them. In other words, you will be unable to have some of the formative experiences that, in aggregate, add up to define girl-, woman- and motherhood.
No womanly identity consciously adopted by someone born male can be the same, although their experiences are equally valid. Trans-women are fundamentally different from those who form the defining template of the sex/gender “Women.” Their sex chromosomes remain XY, and the life paths this has set them off on are not those open to women. In some ways they can become a “sort-of” woman by assiduously adopting the behaviours and artificially constructing the body parts that signal femininity in their societies; in others, they remain a sort of man: an altered man, and thus, in a structuralist sense, they are still a sort of “not-woman.”
Nothing can be done about this. It is nobody’s fault. We all need to learn to live with the undeniable fact of our unsatisfying and inadequate selves, although I’m not saying the burden is equally felt.
We all must support each other with understanding, compassion and tolerance as we try out different strategies to do this.