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I must have a gender in there somewhere.

March 22, 2010

In casual discourse, for example in seminar at uni, ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ are mostly used more or less interchangeably. Now sure, in some cases the two lead to the same conclusion – in a medieval society with extremely rigid sexed roles, for example, the range of available/acceptable gender performances is severely restricted. But in that sort of case, the correspondence of gender performance to sex only existed because it was externally enforced: there’s no reason to assume that the range of gender identities was any narrower than it now.

In the modern West, however, where we no longer have society-wide sumptuary laws and women who cut their hair and wear ‘men’s’ clothes are no longer burned at the stake, the vast disparities between sex* and gender are starting to show.

We’re now at a place where sex, sexuality and gender identity can be expressed independently, though some identities may assume the pre-existence of others. I have a feeling that I’m not making sense here, so I’ll try to give an example: (as the term seems to be conventionally used by people who ID thusly) a butch’s sex is female, her sexuality is queer, but her gender is butch, a term which, while it may include the information female and queer, signifies a concept more specific than either.

So far, so good. The problem, if I can really call it a problem, is this:

1) the distinctions between sex and gender and between orientation and gender seem to be much more generally observed, and distinct gender identities respected, in the queer community; as a result of which,

2) the very word gender is still marked in popular discourse as pertaining exclusively to gay and trans people (with the knock-on effect that at the moment, anything with the G-word in the title (gender identity, gender discrimination, gender roles, Gender Studies) tends to get viewed through the same inferiorising/marginalising lens as those identities);

and therefore

3) the concept of having a distinct gender identity on top of sex and sexual orientation feels like something that, as a not-queer, not-trans person, I don’t really have a right to.

I have never had to struggle to have my sex, sexuality or gender presentation accepted. I’ve been misread probably less than half a dozen times in the last ~15 years, and the (always accidental) misreadings have always been apologised for. It took me quite a while to realise what a mountain of privilege that is – cis privilege, straight privilege, combined with aspects of other sorts (thin-, white-, etc.) as they relate to having a physical appearance within the bounds of what society considers acceptable, if not ideal.

The train of thought basically goes: being straight and cis, I already have a degree of acceptance way beyond that afforded to many, many others. Suggesting that anything else on top of that might be necessary, or even just preferable, seems … well, problematic. Particularly as the concept of gender identity as something you enact, distinguishable from (though related to) sex and sexuality, largely came out of theoretical work by and for queer people. The word ‘appropriation’ is hovering uncomfortably close by.

With all that said, I think it’s still worth bringing up the subject. Heterosexuality isn’t monolithic any more than any other sexuality, and assuming that it is perpetuates harmful stereotypes. The assumption that there’s only one way to be straight seems largely to be made by heterosexual people; it’s a nearly-universal assumption that any deviation from conventional heterosexual gender norms (i.e. those of masculine men & feminine women) must imply a deviation from hetero sexuality.**

Which is a perfect example of how for most people gender doesn’t seem to be a concept with a separate existence. Male and effeminate? You must be gay! Female and unfeminine? You must be gay!

The reverse of this mindset is what leads to, among other things, femme invisibility – the assumption that, for want of a better phrase, conventionally feminine-presenting women must be straight. I don’t know of an equivalent term for masculine-gay-male invisibility, but it exists. The conspicuous paucity of, for example, out gay male athletes is an example; the idea that John Q. Premiership-Legend could simultaneously be a manly, hard-tackling, hard-talking, hard-drinking salt-of-the-earth lad and be gay currently simply doesn’t compute.

I think the spread of the idea that everyone, even straight people, has a gender identity*** separable from their sex and sexuality could only help in demolishing the persistent attitude whereby gender is some not-real concept invented by The Feminists/The Gays/The Transsexuals/Whoever and has no application to Nice Normal People.

I’m straight, cis, female; I have a gender that comes out of those labels but isn’t defined by them. At the moment I’m mostly stuck defining it in contradistinction to other people’s, because non-queer genders haven’t yet become distinct enough to have words specifically for them. And that’s a mild annoyance, but it’s one I can live with. It’d be nice to be able to say “I am an X” rather than the long excursus you’re about to get, but I’m conscious that with all the socially-allotted privilege-goodies I have already, a word of my very own can wait a while.

And now, the excursus in question. I’m happily and proudly female, and equally happily and proudly unfeminine. I’m an unfeminine woman. That’s currently the shortest way of describing myself I have: I am not, and don’t try to be, masculine, but I am adamantly not-feminine. I have nothing against femininity, but it’s not for me.

Presentation-wise, I don’t even know what I am or how I read. I don’t know if casual acquaintances assume I’m queer, or what. I don’t know how randoms on the street read me: the only times I’ve had complimentary comments from strangers have been when dressed up (i.e. when I’ve both been making a special effort, and my presentation has been atypical for me), and I’ve never been harassed on the street. (Seriously, never. I feel like some sort of guilty freak for escaping something that’s horribly common for all my female friends.)

I cut my hair short, mostly wear trousers, and I like shirts that emphasise my shoulders. Skirts are for hot days, formal functions, and when all my jeans are in the wash. Trainers and boots are for daily wear, with heels an option when I feel like being taller, but they can’t be fussy ones. I also love and adore my enormous goth boots. (4″ extra height + “You look like you’ve been playing Rollerball” = AWESOME. They were also lifesaving when we got 3″-4″ of unexpected snow in February.)

Makeup and jewellery are strange and alien things – I can’t keep jewellery on for more than a couple of hours, being an inveterate fidgeter, and the last time I wore makeup I was also in full costume as the Joker. (On which subject, if it involves dressing up, all bets are off presentation-wise. I will happily don corset and bustle to be a pirate wench or gentlewoman adventurer because it’s part of the costume, and dressing up is fun!)

I like my clothes bright and dye my hair strange and bright colours (it’s been through peroxide blonde, accidental orange, pink, purple, and currently at bright red). I shave my legs if I’m going to be wearing see-through tights, and all other places get the occasional trim to prevent matting. Otherwise, nope. It’s a pain and a bother.

I have a massively geeky tattoo (it’s in Anglo-Saxon) and am kind of considering another one once I know what it ought to be. I own three purple jackets. I carry a rucksack because English is a heavy course in respect to books – my collected Chaucer weighs more than my laptop – which isn’t particularly gender-coded, but doesn’t meet the feminine standard of handbags.

As to gender orientation (is that even a term?) I like guys with a little of the feminine about them, and J has that – pointy elfin face, long lashes, slender hands, gorgeous waist, and the most adorable long hair. It’s a running joke that if you add us up and divide by two we have two normal people.

Does that lot add up to a gender? It adds up to something, I’m sure.

My friend Rhiannon (of Rhiannon Problematising) who knows a bit more about this sort of thing, reckons I’d fall somewhere around soft butch if we were using queer terminology. But borrowing specifically queer terms seems very much to be appropriation, and there’s no other words that seem to fit: the only non-sexuality-specifying word I can think of that indicates an unfeminine woman is ‘tomboy’, and that doesn’t work for me; it seems to imply wanting to be, or being, specifically masculine, and that’s not really my aim.

‘Androgynous’ doesn’t cover it, because that refers more to sex and physical appearance. I’m quite happy being female. Just not feminine. Maybe a parallel word would work, one that specified in-between gender without reference to sex? (I’m fairly sure a lot of people, of all sexes, would fall into this box, actually – those of us who aren’t heavily invested in masculinity or femininity, and present somewhere towards the middle.)

I don’t know. If anything I seem to be making less sense the more I think about this, so I think I’ll leave it there, with the caveat that if I ever do manage to find a word that feels comfortable, I intend to claim it and own it hard. And, on the way, encourage other people to recognise that gender is a separate animal to sex and sexuality. I’m pretty sure I know a lot of people who would benefit from having a label to put themselves under, rather than being obscurely unhappy for having failed masculinity/femininity for no ‘obvious’ (read: sexuality-based) reason.

That’s the first reason why I think identifying and labelling the genders present within the big constellation that is ‘straight’ could have positive results: more language to help people articulate their identities is never a bad thing.

Second, it’s always handy to have oneself as a counter-example to whatever-ist bullshit, and in this case even a few straight people claiming gender identities could go a long way towards exploding the myth that sex(uality) = gender.

Third, allyship. Specifying what I am, and making it clear that this is me, not some kind of universal, allows more space for other people to be what they are. The very act of mentioning an option implies the existence of others. It’s why I have cis, straight, white, currently abled, etc., in my Me box: mentioning those identities doesn’t erase their privileges, but it does at least position them as things with alternatives, which leaving them unstated would not do.

So hi. I’m a straight, cis, feminist, unfeminine, short-haired, unshaven, tattooed, bright-colour-wearing, weekend-goth young woman. I’m working on a shorter word for it. Who are you?

*

*A note: by ‘sex’, here, I’m talking about ID’d sex: female, male, plus assorted boths, neithers, in-betweens and not-applicables. Not talking about ‘biological’ sex. For a start, it’s impossible to define – body shape generally? External genitals? Internal genitals? Chromosomes? None of them are as absolute as the people generally purveying the ‘I know what sex you are better than you are’ line would like to think.

**This sort of thing has happened to me, quite often about the short hair, and almost as often about the feminism. (It’s more than a little worrying that there are plenty of people out there who seem to read self-determination and non-passivity as inherently alien to heterosexual womanhood.)

*** Obviously some people identify as agendered or genderless. But surely that’s still a gender identity, same as asexual is still an orientation? Thoughts?

*

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I wouldn’t have had the understanding needed to give the ‘butch’ example above without the wonderful, always-lucid and always-passionate writing of Bond over at Dear Diaspora, where I am a perennial lurker. DD’s blogroll includes many links to more amazing gender-centred blogs.

And I wouldn’t have had the impetus to think about this at all, let alone the vocabulary with which to think and talk about it even semi-articulately, without the continuing company of Rhiannon of Rhiannon Problematising, who I’m increasingly proud to consider a friend.

Naturally, any outright mistakes or inadvertent offense given are entirely my own fault. Still working on understanding … well, everything really, and trying to get better at it. Please tell me if I’ve said something wrong or thoughtless, or phrased myself unfortunately. The last thing I want to do with my vague attempts at self-investigation is hurt anyone else.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. knightofthedropdowntable permalink*
    March 23, 2010 4:46 pm

    Adding us up and dividing by two wouldn’t quite get a normal person, you would get a very geeky normal person who read lots of science fiction and played lots of games!

    On a slightly more serious note, you can also get very masculine men who are actually assumed to be homosexual – professional bodybuilders (of both sexes) get loads of stick for this, as do men in the navy (insert joke about homosexual seamen here), and those are both stereotypical ‘manly’ jobs. Sadly, all this means is there is even more prejudice than you originally realised, rather than helping to solve the issue…

  2. March 29, 2010 1:42 am

    Gender is a complex animal and I like to think there are 8 billion genders one for every person on the planet. Even though typical cis males and females have similar gender traits we all have our own identities and versions of what we find comfortable and acceptable. I don’t think gender is exclusive to any particular group, it is a very natural concept for humans and other creatures.
    http://queersunited.blogspot.com

  3. Schala permalink
    January 6, 2011 8:24 pm

    “We’re now at a place where sex, sexuality and gender identity can be expressed independently, though some identities may assume the pre-existence of others.”

    I’m not certain what you mean by “expressing sex”.

    Gender identity is mainly a misnomer, which was more or less corrected (but hardly took in academia) by Dr Milton Diamond, using the term sex identity (since I don’t identify specifically as a woman, I identify as female). I can’t identify as a gender, but can identify as a sex. At best my personality might make me express more certain things (playfulness), less certain others (aggressiveness), or not at all for some (no example right now), which would be considered gendered. My gender expression != sex identity. And I’m considered feminine.

    “1) the distinctions between sex and gender and between orientation and gender seem to be much more generally observed, and distinct gender identities respected, in the queer community; as a result of which,”

    Frankly, I think it comes from the misnomer above, who assumes a transsexual woman is in fact male but a woman (hence different gender from sex), which is usually not the case with those who didn’t fall for the DSM’s wildly inaccurate definition. A transsexual woman is in fact female, and usually a woman – sex and gender matches. That she was identified differently at birth and through youth (or a part of it) might give a different life experience from many, but it doesn’t make her another sex than female.

    Studies about sex identification as hardwired in the brain before birth are becoming more numerous by the day, and all point to innateness of a sense of which sex you are in studied transsexual people, and most cissexual people. Especially since those results accounted for hormones being taken or not by both groups (cissexual people taking hormone for medical reasons did not differ at all from other controls).

    Of course, some people have no strong identification either way, something that Zoe Brain estimates at being 1/3 of all people. They are unlikely to seek transition, given the social and financial costs, and the result not being much more (or at all) satisfying in comparison to the status quo. They are the “go with the flow” people, as regards to sex identity – which means nothing about their gender expression or role.

    They’d probably be happy with either body configurations, or only slightly more happy to have the reverse (using a numbered scale, you could say someone on the 57% male 43% female would be happier as male, but identifying as female would be but a minor inconvenience at worst to them). I’d say trans women are in the 80%+ sex identity as the sex they weren’t raised as. Ie, I might have an identity that is more like 80% female 20% male, hence the disparity was extremely visible to me.

    Now as to what is the cause of that identity. The soul, all biological, etc. I tend to favor the soul hypothesis because it’s part of my personal spirituality. And also because I see little reason for biology to be the be-all end-all of existence. As much as I believe in biological evolution, I don’t think it’s the sole determinating point of baseline personality (at conception or birth). It might determine physical (strength potential, height, bone build) and some psychological predispositions (not sure which would fall there), at best.

    “3) the concept of having a distinct gender identity on top of sex and sexual orientation feels like something that, as a not-queer, not-trans person, I don’t really have a right to.”

    It feels to me that’s it’s simply not the right name for it.

    “Particularly as the concept of gender identity as something you enact, distinguishable from (though related to) sex and sexuality, largely came out of theoretical work by and for queer people.”

    I’m not sure what is meant there. That’s why I think the term is simply the wrong one. Sex identity is not something you enact. At best you can act to make it be known and respected if it is of importance to you. But you don’t decide what it is.

    What you enact is gender expression. How you dress, wether you wear make-up, wether you shave your face or legs, wether you wear a bra or hide your breasts or want muscled pecs instead. It’s much a part of personality and tastes, and as such, this can be enacted. I consider butch to be part of this, though it may have some innate component as well, it is not free of choice like sex identity is or sexual orientation (as far as attraction) is.

    “The assumption that there’s only one way to be straight seems largely to be made by heterosexual people; it’s a nearly-universal assumption that any deviation from conventional heterosexual gender norms (i.e. those of masculine men & feminine women) must imply a deviation from hetero sexuality.** ”

    Much of it is insecurity. Consider Champions Online (a MMO) having Archetypes with pre-defined skills as you level, with little choice as to what your final build will be like. It securizes people who can’t decide, or who think they’d make bad choices if given too much choices to pick from. And imagining that there is one and only one way of being heterosexual makes them think they’re the ‘gold standard’, hence 100% okay (and accepted as hetero), and don’t need to do anything but follow the script.

    On the other hand, you have Free-form characters in the same game. Where you can mix-and-match any and all desired powers from a plethora of power sets, which needs time to weight in the pros and cons, and in the end, it’s all trial and error to see if your hero at the end will actually be performant. With those, there is no cookie-cutter way of doing, you have tons of choices, and few are truly better than others. Hence, you’re not insured to be 100% accepted as a build of powers. No easy guide or script. That scares away some who find it way too much work or information at once.

    “Male and effeminate? You must be gay! Female and unfeminine? You must be gay!”

    I dislike the term effeminate as it’s always used as pejorative, as opposed to feminine, which is value neutral as a word. I also wonder if the use of feminine for a male while unfeminine (not specifically masculine) for a female was intentional. It would either be unmasculine for a male and unfeminine for a female, or feminine for a male and masculine for a female (or both I guess).

    “the assumption that, for want of a better phrase, conventionally feminine-presenting women must be straight. I don’t know of an equivalent term for masculine-gay-male invisibility, but it exists”

    In the movie Dude where’s my car, you have two muscle men who look Austrian or Novegian (unsure, but they look like a younger Arnold governator), and the subtext from the movie is that we have to think that they’re gay, even if they’re masculinely dressed and look masculine.

    Ergo, men can lose their straight-presumption out of very small things, even if they have a very masculine gender expression.

    “I think the spread of the idea that everyone, even straight people, has a gender identity*** separable from their sex and sexuality could only help in demolishing the persistent attitude whereby gender is some not-real concept invented by The Feminists/The Gays/The Transsexuals/Whoever and has no application to Nice Normal People.”

    Everybody has a unique gender expression, completely independant from their sex and sexuality. And Nice Normal People, for the most, are unlikely to want to change their view on this, unless they feel that the narrow model of Nice Normal People is too constraining for them, and that the cost of going against it is worth paying for being genuinely themselves. The cost is higher in some places, lower in others.

    “My friend Rhiannon (of Rhiannon Problematising) who knows a bit more about this sort of thing, reckons I’d fall somewhere around soft butch if we were using queer terminology. But borrowing specifically queer terms seems very much to be appropriation”

    I don’t think it’s appropriation when it fits with how you are. Butch isn’t specifically lesbian. At least in my mind it never has been. I’ve been accused, as a trans woman, of appropriating femaleness (by just claiming it). But well, I am female, so I’m not appropriating something, I just am. Nothing else fits, no third gender, no “enlightened male” and no “feminine homosexual man who doesn’t assume his homosexuality” either, and I don’t want to be othered just because some people want to “protect” their category.

    “‘Androgynous’ doesn’t cover it, because that refers more to sex and physical appearance. I’m quite happy being female. Just not feminine. Maybe a parallel word would work, one that specified in-between gender without reference to sex? (I’m fairly sure a lot of people, of all sexes, would fall into this box, actually – those of us who aren’t heavily invested in masculinity or femininity, and present somewhere towards the middle.)”

    The latter is how I see the definition of androgyny. To me it doesn’t refer to sex, it refers to a minimally gendered, agendered or bigendered presentation, to the point where people might feel a bit uncomfortable about your presentation being off the norm (never wearing skirts probably doesn’t do much for people’s perception as a female).

    Basically, to me androgyny is fairly neutral gendered presentation, or even outside gender for some, but not related to sex identification.

    “So hi. I’m a straight, cis, feminist, unfeminine, short-haired, unshaven, tattooed, bright-colour-wearing, weekend-goth young woman. I’m working on a shorter word for it. Who are you?”

    I’m a biromantic, heterosexual, trans, pro-equal rights (not necessarily feminist), somewhat feminine, long-haired, asperger, lolita fashion fan, into BDSM, submissive young woman.

    I doubt I could find a way to say all that with one catchy word, this is more personality than gender to me.

  4. January 7, 2011 12:55 am

    I’m not sure whether this has been superseded – queer theory is not my speciality – or whether there are differences in usage between communities or between British English and other Englishes, but for the record, the definition of ‘gender (identity)’ I was working with throughout this post is that aspect of one’s personality, personal identification, whatever, that’s expressed in relation to masculinity and femininity. (Even if that relation consists only of negation, a la ‘nope, neither of those’.) What constitutes masculinity and femininity, if one rejects – and I do – the idea that they’re innately tied to maleness and femaleness, is a knotty question, but I think the terms still have worth, even if only as shorthand for a particular set of traits and values that one chooses to play up to. Hmm. Maybe you could define gender as the performative/intentional side of personality – those traits which people embrace and play up to, rather than merely living with. Or perhaps you could say it’s what you’re expressing by gender expression. I don’t know. I find it a useful term, but I accept that not everyone does, and that the designation of the concept ‘gender’ is liable to open more cans of worms than it closes. (See also: this post.)

    Re expressing sex – that line is puzzling me slightly nine months down the line, but I think what I was aiming for was the idea that presentation includes a degree of choosing how far to emphasise sex as well as gender … that the signals for “Look at me, I’m a woman” are not quite the same ones as for “Look at me, I’m feminine”? (For example.) Or how a person with short hair and a suit and tie might have an easily identifiable gender but not a readily identifiable sex. Maybe. It annoys me when I reread old posts and can’t recapture my train of thought.

    I absolutely didn’t mean to perpetrate the “gender is what you say you are, sex is what you really are” mindset, or deny trans people’s sexes, and please accept my humblest apologies for the fail. And thank you for taking the time to run through the medical-history context; I wasn’t aware that the usage in medicine etc. had moved on from that in academia, which is where I’m most familiar with the terminology. I shall bear this in mind.

    I love the idea of MMO character-building as an analogy for self-formation. I think your description of how the preset models “securize” uncertain players really highlights how for lots of people, the unforgiving rigidity of social constructs is a feature rather than a bug: they don’t want to have to make difficult decisions, and a lack of choice and flexibility is considered a worthwhile price to pay for that lack of difficulty.

    Effeminate/unfeminine: I think this was because, trying to convey the way gendered terms tend to get wielded as weapons (when, as you say, the qualities themselves are neutral) there’s no word for women that has quite the same sting of gendered insult as ‘effeminate’ does for men. Possibly ‘mannish’, now I think about it.

    The deliberate or semi-deliberate cultivation of a slightly “off” gender-expression, I would refer to as genderqueer or genderfuck. I tend to think of androgynous presentation as less a case of conflicting signals and more of very few signals at all – a middle or neutral ground rather than some of both. But that’s only a personal impression of how people-on-the-internet seem to use the word, and it’s probably way off base.

    And finally: Hello! It’s good to meet you. You seem like an interesting person – please do stick around. 😀

  5. Schala permalink
    January 7, 2011 2:55 am

    “but for the record, the definition of ‘gender (identity)’ I was working with throughout this post is that aspect of one’s personality, personal identification, whatever, that’s expressed in relation to masculinity and femininity. (Even if that relation consists only of negation, a la ‘nope, neither of those’.) ”

    That’s why I said it’s probably not the right term. Gender identity and sex identity, the former a misnomer of the second, is usually understood within more enlightened trans communities, as meaning which sex you identify as, even if that means both or neither. It has precious little to do with masculinity and feminity as defined by social norms, because that’s a huge can of worms.

    The DSM’s definition for Gender Identity Disorder mainly touches definitions of masculinity and feminity – which is completely wrong.

    Here’s the diagnostic criteria:

    * A. A strong persistent cross-gender identification (not merely a desire for any perceived cultural advantages of being the other sex). In children, the disturbance is manifested by four (or more) of the following:

    1. Repeatedly stated desire to be, or insistence that he or she is, the other sex.
    2. In boys, preference for cross-dressing or simulating female attire; In girls, insistence on wearing only stereotypical masculine clothing.
    3. Strong and persistent preferences for cross-sex roles in make believe play or persistent fantasies of being the other sex.
    4. Intense desire to participate in the stereotypical games and pastimes of the other sex.
    5. Strong preference for playmates of the other sex.

    In adolescents and adults, the disturbance is manifested by symptoms such as a stated desire to be the other sex, frequent passing as the other sex, desire to live or be treated as the other sex, or the conviction that he or she has the typical feelings and reactions of the other sex.

    * B. Persistent discomfort with his or her sex or sense of inappropriateness in the gender role of that sex.

    In children, the disturbance is manifested by any of the following:
    In boys, assertion that his penis or testes are disgusting or will disappear or assertion that it would be better not to have a penis, or aversion toward rough-and-tumble play and rejection of male stereotypical toys, games, and activities.
    In girls, rejection of urinating in a sitting position, assertion that she has or will grow a penis, or assertion that she does not want to grow breasts or menstruate, or marked aversion toward normative feminine clothing.

    In adolescents and adults, the disturbance is manifested by symptoms such as preoccupation with getting rid of primary and secondary sex characteristics (e.g., request for hormones, surgery, or other procedures to physically alter sexual characteristics to simulate the other sex) or belief that he or she was born the wrong sex.
    * C. The disturbance is not concurrent with physical intersex condition.
    * D. The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

    Code based on current age:
    * 302.6 Gender Identity Disorder in Children
    * 302.85 Gender Identity Disorder in Adolescents or Adults

    Specify if (for sexually mature individuals):
    * Sexually Attracted to Males
    * Sexually Attracted to Females
    * Sexually Attracted to Both
    * Sexually Attracted to Neither

    ——-

    Now let’s dissect this and how it’s misguided. It does get SOME things right though.

    Already, this is a bad sign:
    “A strong persistent cross-gender identification (not merely a desire for any perceived cultural advantages of being the other sex).”

    Cross-gender, the other sex. They use them interchangeably. And the disclaimer that it can’t be for perceived cultural advantages points to trans women in the past (before the criteria became this way) transitioning or stating they want to transition because they perceived women having it better than men (I say trans women more, because they estimated – wrongly – that there was 3x more trans women than trans men up til the 90s). And that’s in the 60s.

    “1. Repeatedly stated desire to be, or insistence that he or she is, the other sex.”

    This is fine

    “2. In boys, preference for cross-dressing or simulating female attire; In girls, insistence on wearing only stereotypical masculine clothing.”

    This is not fine, at all. It definitely refers to feminity in males and an even more stringent criteria for girls, unmistakable masculinity in females. A guy can prefer to be in a skirt, but a girl needs to NEVER wear skirts or dresses. The wrong point here is still that this doesn’t refer at all to sex identification, only to clothing/style preference or at best gender expression – not a good reason to transition to me (more likely to regret it).

    “3. Strong and persistent preferences for cross-sex roles in make believe play or persistent fantasies of being the other sex.”

    I don’t think this means as much as they impute it does. Especially the make believe thing. Guys dressing up as princesses at age 4-5 is totally normal And if it continues in older ages, it’s simply a mark of gender expression preference. It doesn’t mean anything for the sex.

    “4. Intense desire to participate in the stereotypical games and pastimes of the other sex.
    5. Strong preference for playmates of the other sex. ”

    I put those two together, they’re pretty similar. They basically mean nothing regarding sex identity.

    So you have 1 criterion out of 5 for children, that actually means anything regarding sex identification. I’ve read and heard from trans women who are more masculine, who would fix their own cars, play sports etc. They’re no less female. They might be unfeminine at best. Telling them they couldn’t be trans and “must be males”, is doing them a disservice (and that’s what the DSM, shrinks and many radical feminists do).

    “In adolescents and adults, the disturbance is manifested by symptoms such as a stated desire to be the other sex, frequent passing as the other sex, desire to live or be treated as the other sex, or the conviction that he or she has the typical feelings and reactions of the other sex.”

    Stated desire is pretty much #1 to me. Frequent passing depends on genetics, environment, self-esteem, financial resources, friends etc…so I doubt it’s that required. Desire to live and be treated as the other sex is fine too. Conviction of having feelings or reactions is something you can’t measure outside stereotypes…ie it’s BS. You can’t say someone is transsexual because they like Hello Kitty and coo at kittens and babies.

    “* B. Persistent discomfort with his or her sex or sense of inappropriateness in the gender role of that sex.”

    The first part of the sentence is fine…the second part is BS. You don’t become impotent and infertile permanently (you also risk anorgasmia, and a small chance of death), because you’d prefer to stay-at-home to raise the kids.

    “In boys, assertion that his penis or testes are disgusting or will disappear or assertion that it would be better not to have a penis, or aversion toward rough-and-tumble play and rejection of male stereotypical toys, games, and activities.”

    First part is fine, second is BS. Don’t like wrestling or football? Must mean you’re a girl…right. It conflates unmasculinity with identifying as female. On one hand, it could be a sign of feminity. On the other, it could be a sign of non-interest in those activities.

    ” In girls, rejection of urinating in a sitting position, assertion that she has or will grow a penis, or assertion that she does not want to grow breasts or menstruate, or marked aversion toward normative feminine clothing.”

    I’m not sure an aversion to menstruation is that rare, but I couldn’t know. I doubt it means wanting to be male or identifying as male. Wanting to grow a penis might be a better indicator. As for breasts, I don’t know. Aversion to feminine clothing means nothing sex identification wise. At least its not a reason for transition, it might correlate at best. Also notice that for boys its rejecting activities and for girls its rejecting clothing.

    “In adolescents and adults, the disturbance is manifested by symptoms such as preoccupation with getting rid of primary and secondary sex characteristics (e.g., request for hormones, surgery, or other procedures to physically alter sexual characteristics to simulate the other sex) or belief that he or she was born the wrong sex.”

    That’s more accurate. Not perfect, but a pretty good description for non-trans people I guess.

    “* C. The disturbance is not concurrent with physical intersex condition.”

    (Diagnosed) intersex people have nowhere to go if they wish to transition, besides their doctor monitoring their treatment for their intersex condition, if they have any. They’re likely to be told it’s all in their head and to take their normalizing hormones and shut up (I’ve heard of a lot of cases, especially cases docs consider “clear-cut” gender-wise, like 47 XXY syndrome – which are usually raised as male).

    I believe I do have an intersex condition, but it goes undiagnosed, and no one is in a rush to help me diagnose it. A slight resistance to testosterone, which has made my puberty do very little (I started hormones at 23). A good thing if anything, but it would be nice to know if there are added risks to certain treatments because of it.

    “* D. The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. ”

    I’m pretty sure shrinks will assume that if you go see them, you already fulfill this criterion. I don’t think you should need to be suicidally depressed to want to transition, though it’s often the time when someone will go through with it because its the only alternative. By no means is it forbidden to act pre-emptively before super-depression hits.

    ” Specify if (for sexually mature individuals):
    * Sexually Attracted to Males
    * Sexually Attracted to Females
    * Sexually Attracted to Both
    * Sexually Attracted to Neither ”

    And this part is only there because of Dr Ray Blanchard. An asshole who theorized, based on faulty studies that he ran at the CAMH in Ontario, that trans women were either “really gay men who want to bed more men” or “men in love with their fantasy image of themselves as women, sexually, to the point of becoming her”. He’s more or less considered a wacko by the activist trans community. He sits on the DSM V comity on the sexuality section (the one including trans stuff), along with his as-hateful buddy Kenneth Zucker (he’s the GID for children and teens chief shrink at CAMH, Blanchard is for adults).

    Note that Blanchard’s theory completely ignores trans men, whom he thinks are all lesbians before transition and straight after.

    “What constitutes masculinity and femininity, if one rejects – and I do – the idea that they’re innately tied to maleness and femaleness, is a knotty question, but I think the terms still have worth, even if only as shorthand for a particular set of traits and values that one chooses to play up to.”

    Masculinity is usually defined as large as that which many/most males do, or that most females won’t do (lumberjacking for example). Feminity is similarly defined. Using the mainstream terms makes it more likely to be understood by larger audiences.

    “Re expressing sex – that line is puzzling me slightly nine months down the line, but I think what I was aiming for was the idea that presentation includes a degree of choosing how far to emphasise sex as well as gender … that the signals for “Look at me, I’m a woman” are not quite the same ones as for “Look at me, I’m feminine”? (For example.) Or how a person with short hair and a suit and tie might have an easily identifiable gender but not a readily identifiable sex. Maybe. It annoys me when I reread old posts and can’t recapture my train of thought. ”

    Well you can define gender expression as being tied to sex, depending on context. Though I bet a good drag king or queen could use gender expression of the other sex obtaining the same effect if that’s what they aimed for.

    I think the signals for “Look at me, I’m a woman” can be taken if one is sufficiently ‘visible’. Consider the recent film Tron 3D. In the End of Line club, the owner is flamboyantly eccentric in a flashy way, yet not gay at all. He has this “Look at me, I want attention” vibe, and carries it well. Women are just usually more visible easily. The ways in which men could be as visible are highly stigmatized as unmasculine, though some people manage to carry them well, without being rejected as unworthy weirdo guys. Captain Jack Spawrrow…and Johnny Depp in general, seems to be able to be as flamboyantly eccentric as he wants, without getting socially rejected. He’s my favorite actor.

    “I absolutely didn’t mean to perpetrate the “gender is what you say you are, sex is what you really are” mindset, or deny trans people’s sexes, and please accept my humblest apologies for the fail.”

    I didn’t get this vibe from your post. You went to great pains in the original post not to go that route. I just didn’t get what expressing sex could mean.

    “The deliberate or semi-deliberate cultivation of a slightly “off” gender-expression, I would refer to as genderqueer or genderfuck. I tend to think of androgynous presentation as less a case of conflicting signals and more of very few signals at all – a middle or neutral ground rather than some of both. But that’s only a personal impression of how people-on-the-internet seem to use the word, and it’s probably way off base.”

    I knew a guy who was what I’d call a genderfuck. Full beard, 6 feet, 200 lbs, no attempt to appear feminine…wearing a long skirt (calf length) to go buy hamburger buns for his BBQ. He said he was jealous of my ability to “pass”, but he personally didn’t seem interested in becoming feminine or transitioning. Looking back, I think he has a fetish for trans people and likes to hang around them socially. At his private party where I went, we were 6-7 trans women, no trans men, and a few cis women. Many had known him for a while, none talked badly about him.

    To me androgyny doesn’t get people going “what the fuck”, but it makes people stare and wonder “Is zhe a boy or a girl?”. Few dare approach and ask, but children will be candid about asking if they wonder. I’ve been treated to this approach before my transition, and slightly after starting. At ~6 months into it (hormones, which I started at the same time as social transition), I had no issue. I was androgynous to start with, people simply defaulted to male because I wore oversized unisex clothing, and no visible breasts. It needs not be intentional.

    “And finally: Hello! It’s good to meet you. You seem like an interesting person – please do stick around.”

    Thanks. And I’ll stay around and try to keep updated on your posts.

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  1. Sexuality, statements, and suits (again) « This Wicked Day

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