I consider myself a feminist, and I agree with just about everything the feminist movement stands for. However, there is one aspect of the movement's philosophy with which I take issue. That is the idea that women are just the same as men, except for socialization.
That is not my experience, and, thanks to synthetic estradiol (estrogen) and spironolactone (an androgen suppressor), I've experienced both male and female hormone balances – though I lack the progesterone, etc., to achieve a complete spectrum of female hormone balance. Lately I've noticed some powerful changes I didn't really expect.
One of the most stark and measureable changes I've noticed is my chess game. It took about a year of hormone replacement therapy, but since then it's gone way downhill. I used to play online regularly, and the computer rated my game (against other live players) at about 1850. (Master level starts at about 2000.) I was competitive with anyone rated up to about 1900. Lately, as my drive to play the game has waned – I still enjoy it, just don't feel compelled to play – I find that my level has gone below 1700. I have trouble beating anyone over 1700, and at 1800, forget it. Which means that I've lost more ability on estrogen than I would have needed to gain master status on testosterone.
It's a loss – another loss – that I feel strongly.
One that I don't miss so much is the violent or sexual graphical fantasies that used to play out in my head. I used to daydream in fine detail the life I would live as a cisgendered woman. At other times visions of mayhem and murder would pop into my head, or I would visualize in fine detail long sexual encounters. Frequently it felt like some foreign creature had taken over my brain and was controlling my thoughts. Eeewww. I am so glad to have moved on from there! Now, my brain feels like it belongs to me, and my thoughts feel natural, though they are nowhere near as detailed or graphic. Sexual fantasies have become more holistic than visual, and violent imagery has almost completely faded away. It's weird and hard to describe, but it is also profound.
Then there is focus. Even when I'm completely focused, my attention seems wider and more encompassing – but not deeper. Multi-tasking is far easier and less frustrating than it used to be when I was on testosterone.
A relational aspect has become clear. I have a deeper need for human connection, and that connection comes easier (though sometimes it remains difficult). I feel more socially graceful and competent. Again, there are aspects of this that I find very difficult to describe, but that nevertheless are profound.
The bottom line is that men and women are biologically different. They think differently. I know, because I used to think like a man, and now I think like a woman. Thinking like a man helped my disguise, even as it tore me apart in internal conflict so bad that sometimes it felt like I was two people at war with each other; like some mild form of schitzophrenia. That difference isn't good or bad in a cisgendered person, it just is. One way is not better than the other, they're just different – and, note that there are some women who play chess at well above master level, and most men still aren't as good as me. There are female architects, engineers, and mathematicians every bit as competent as their male counterparts. The fact that male and female brains are different doesn't detract one bit from the goals and principles of feminism, nor does it necessarily mean that women have lesser spacial/mathmatical ability and men less relational ability. These are generalities, but they are still real.
And I believe that feminism would do well to embrace the difference, and not deny it.