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Trans*Scribe
May 19, 2013 10:43 PM   Subscribe

Since February of this year, Autostraddle ("News, Entertainment, Opinion and Girl-On-Girl Culture") has been running a very interesting series of articles about trans experience (primarily focused on trans women) called Trans*Scribe. posted by jiawen (47 comments total) 60 users marked this as a favorite

 
I feel stupid asking this, but why does trans always have an asterisk after it?
posted by supercrayon at 11:28 PM on May 19, 2013


don't feel stupid! it's a great question. here's a little graphic to show what the * stands for. basically it's an umbrella term to include everyone on the spectrum who isn't strictly cis-gendered and presenting as such.
posted by nadawi at 11:32 PM on May 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


It doesn't always have an asterisk after it, actually. Some people use "trans*" as an umbrella adjective that includes transgender, transsexual, Two Spirit, crossdresser, transgenderist, genderqueer, etc. Other people use "trans" (me included) for the same thing.

In my experience, "trans*" was the original term and came into use around the turn of the century, when people started to get sick of writing "transsexual/transgender/genderqueer/etc.", and then eventually dropped the asterisk. However, other people have related the exact opposite etymology: that "trans" came first, and then "trans*" after it.
posted by jiawen at 11:33 PM on May 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Cheers guys!
posted by supercrayon at 12:21 AM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm really enjoying reading all of these stories. Thanks for sharing them.
posted by ocherdraco at 12:37 AM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Great series. Thanks for posting.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:39 AM on May 20, 2013


I've stumbled across a few of these essays and enjoyed them, but I wasn't aware there were so many in this series! Thank you for posting these. I have lots to do today but I'll be procrastinating filling in the gaps in my reading in between.
posted by daisyk at 2:52 AM on May 20, 2013


Thank you for posting these. I read a couple based on the titles and then figured that as I was obviously going to read the rest of them, I might as well start at the top. Fascinating series.
posted by Solomon at 3:14 AM on May 20, 2013


What sleep? Thanks jiawen!
posted by Annika Cicada at 3:47 AM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


basically it's an umbrella term to include everyone

See Also: Wildcard
posted by mikelieman at 4:50 AM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks Jiawen. I've read the Identify Theft article, I stumbled upon it from Yahoo! Tumblr the other day. I was really impressed by the quality of the article and the lack of cringing. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of these.
posted by trogdole at 4:52 AM on May 20, 2013


Super. Thanks!
posted by rtha at 5:41 AM on May 20, 2013


The second article, I'm A Trans Woman And I'm Not Interested In Being One of the "Good Ones", is by my friend Vivian! I was gonna post it here but didn't because nepotism. But it's really, really good, and it calls out some problematic attitudes that people too often have when they're trying to be supportive. Some of which I've been guilty of! I think it's important for allies to read things like that (and to not take them personally).

Vivian is also an army vet and Episcopal priest in training. Basically, she needs to write her damn book already.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:49 AM on May 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'd already seen the one by showbiz_liz's friend, but I had no idea there was a whole series of these. Fuck yeah.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 6:08 AM on May 20, 2013


I really liked "Transitioning While Genderqueer (Despite the Standards of Care)". It gets away from the strict binaries and gender essentialism I've sometimes seen in the dialog about transitioning, which is very refreshing for me, as a feminist.
posted by OnceUponATime at 6:10 AM on May 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Can't wait to read all of these. Thanks for this post.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:12 AM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have a friend whose child is transitioning to male. Can anyone recommend good resources like this site, but for F2M?
posted by kinnakeet at 7:25 AM on May 20, 2013


kinnakeet, for F2M, I recommend the Original Plumbing zine.
posted by TheGoodBlood at 8:00 AM on May 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Thank you TheGoodBlood!
posted by kinnakeet at 8:54 AM on May 20, 2013


Awesome! Thanks for this post! I also came across these articles sporadically in various places, but I'm glad to see them all listed as a group.
posted by odinsdream at 9:06 AM on May 20, 2013


Thanks for that, TheGoodBlood.
posted by Solomon at 9:17 AM on May 20, 2013


Thanks for posting these. Autostraddle keeps surprising me with all the different cool stuff it has, but it's really easy to miss articles. I'm just working through these ones now, and they're brilliant. I'm particularly happy that the articles repeatedly venture outside the standard trans narratives that get told over and over again. Some of them made my blood boil, though: the 'Trans and Schizophrenic' one made me feel especially stabby.
posted by Acheman at 9:23 AM on May 20, 2013


I was amused by the open letter to the radical coop.
posted by corb at 9:25 AM on May 20, 2013


I am only on my third article but I have to say that so far: 100/100.

If you are considering reading these articles, please do.
posted by flyinghamster at 9:48 AM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I really liked "Transitioning While Genderqueer (Despite the Standards of Care)". It gets away from the strict binaries and gender essentialism I've sometimes seen in the dialog about transitioning, which is very refreshing for me, as a feminist.

I've been conflicted about this comment for a bit, I think because I don't know how to read the "as a feminist" part. There's is workshop activity that I learned as Gender Gumby, but there are a couple of names floating around. Anyway, you have these four lines and you ask people to indicate their sex at birth, the gender of people they are attracted to, how they present their gender (or what their gender is, I can't remember) and how their gender is perceived and to explain the choices they're making. Inevitably, the explanation of how their gender is perceived (and to a lesser extent how they present their gender) relies on stereotypes, some of which have walked out of the 1950s. Trans people do it. Cis people do it. Partly because they know that's how their gender is being judged and partly because they don't have other language to talk about it. Where am I actually going with this? Those strict binaries show up not because trans people's understanding of gender comes from the 1950s, but because that's what makes cis people happy. That's what that article was about--not being acknowledged by the people who hold the power over her transition because her gender is more complicated than is seen as desirable.
posted by hoyland at 9:52 AM on May 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I am a little confused by the Trans and Schizophrenic one - it seems why not blame the doctor that won't prescribe rather than the psychiatrist who is being asked to write something she can't legally guarantee? Is the "must get a letter from the psychiatrist proving it's not possible to be affected" thing normative and thus free from scrutiny?
posted by corb at 9:53 AM on May 20, 2013


I am a little confused by the Trans and Schizophrenic one - it seems why not blame the doctor that won't prescribe rather than the psychiatrist who is being asked to write something she can't legally guarantee? Is the "must get a letter from the psychiatrist proving it's not possible to be affected" thing normative and thus free from scrutiny?

The psychiatrist is refusing to acknowledge that her trans-ness is independent of her schizophrenia, on the grounds it's impossible to prove a negative, which is pretty ridiculous. I mean, it's impossible to prove that I'm not schizophrenic. There's no reason to think I am, but that's not proof. But, in all seriousness, given that it sounds like she's experienced periods when she wasn't being seriously affected by schizophrenia, if her gender has remained unchanged during those periods (which it sounds like it has), surely that suggests it's not a product of the schizophrenia. The letter is basically standard practice* (there's probably an outline in the Standards of Care) and is supposed to say something like "Yes, this person is trans and I don't think transitioning will do bad things to their mental health." The psychiatrist could hide behind the second, but is instead being a jerk about the first. It actually sounds like the doctor who prescribed her hormones is saying "I want someone to say this isn't doing bad things to your mental health," which arguably isn't asking the psychiatrist about her gender in the first place.

*Let's ignore informed consent models. I couldn't tell you how they work with something like a schizophrenia diagnosis.
posted by hoyland at 10:17 AM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Those strict binaries show up not because trans people's understanding of gender comes from the 1950s, but because that's what makes cis people happy.

I'm sure you're right, for the most part. Though in the "I'm A Trans Woman And I'm Not Interested In Being One of the "Good Ones" link, the author does complain about older transwomen judging her for not being femme enough and not trying hard enough to pass as a ciswoman. (Maybe because that seems safer for transwomen in general? Would they also disapprove of ciswomen who don't wear skirts and lipstick?)

For me, it's the line "I feel like a woman trapped in a man's body," that is so hard for me to parse in a way that doesn't support anti-feminist ideas, about women being more emotion-driven, or more passive and gentle, or more interested in asthetics, or...? What? I mean, what is it supposed to be, besides my body, that makes me a woman? I just can't think of any non-physical definition of a woman that does not offend me at least a little bit, or that doesn't seem to imply that women scientists, soldiers, firefighters and engineers somehow aren't real women. (Or that men dancers, artists, teachers and nurses aren't real men.)

On the other hand, this makes perfect sense to me: If I have to choose a box that says "male" or a box that says "female," I would prefer the one that says "female." That box just feels more comfortable to me. Even for people like me who don't really buy into the whole concept of boxes, one box can feel so uncomfortable that death begins to seem like a fairly nice alternative.

I can totally understand being sick of being treated like a man rather than a woman, being sick of having live like a man rather than a woman (to the extent that you have to chose to live as one or the other.) Those are perfectly consistent with the socially-constructed notion of gender that makes the most sense to me. I can even more readily understand being sick of having to choose one or the other.
posted by OnceUponATime at 11:42 AM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


OnceUponATime:

When thinking of gender dysphoria (male and female) imagine the problem as software written for the wrong machine that affects a person at a physical level and depsite all efforts to "fix it" with thoughts and presentation, the physical issues (anxiety, depression, confusion, inauthentic social life, failed relationships, acoholism blah blah, the list goes on) never seem to go away.

Currently, the best understood method of solving this issue seems to be to change your hormonal makeup to that which matches the software in your head and do your best with the rest (sexual reassignment, mastectomy, breast enhancement, facial surgery, facial hair removal, etc). It's not perfect, but it helps.

Talking about Trans issues now tends to fall back on binary models, but the binary model will not hold up to scrutiny over the long term. That said, more inclusive labels will need to acknowledge that being trans* comes with a specific set of life experiences, not reducible or normative, yet not exclusionary either.

There are intersections in all of this, finding those intersections is the important work.
posted by Annika Cicada at 12:37 PM on May 20, 2013


I know there are a number of trans* folk on Metafilter, and I don't mean to imply that I doubt their descriptions of their lived experiences, or that their problems are not real problems, or that I have any issues with them seeking whatever medical or social solutions to those problems work for them. Nor do I want to de-rail the thread into territory that I'm sure is all too well-trod for some people about what it means to be trans*.

I just felt moved to comment because, thanks to that article, I am better able to identify with some transwomen than I was before, better able to understand how that might feel. And because it made me see that there is not necessarily any conflict between seeing gender as a kind of arbitrary social construct, and being trans* -- that even if not all trans* people see it that way, some do.

I guess the thing is -- cis people disagree quite a bit among themselves on the question of to what extent gender is socially constructed and to what extent gendered behaviors and roles are determined by innate tendencies.

I have tended to hear, before now, almost exclusively from transpeople who seem to think of (mental) gender as innate, and had kind of thought that opinion was universal among trans* people, like it was a necessary part of identifying as trans.

But several of these articles, actually, made me appreciate that transpeople can disagree among themselves too, on these questions, and that how comfortable you feel with your assigned gender is really an orthogonal issue to whether you believe gender is socially constructed or not. That seems like an important realization, to me, and that's why I liked this post and that "transitioning while genderqueer" article in particular.
posted by OnceUponATime at 1:18 PM on May 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


The psychiatrist is refusing to acknowledge that her trans-ness is independent of her schizophrenia, on the grounds it's impossible to prove a negative, which is pretty ridiculous. I mean, it's impossible to prove that I'm not schizophrenic. There's no reason to think I am, but that's not proof. But, in all seriousness, given that it sounds like she's experienced periods when she wasn't being seriously affected by schizophrenia, if her gender has remained unchanged during those periods (which it sounds like it has), surely that suggests it's not a product of the schizophrenia. The letter is basically standard practice* (there's probably an outline in the Standards of Care) and is supposed to say something like "Yes, this person is trans and I don't think transitioning will do bad things to their mental health."

Ah, okay. I'm used to that kind of thing from the "this experience is/is not affected whatsoever by work experience" type psych stuff with veterans and their benefits, where some people require a "more likely than not is/is not affected" and other jerkish people require a "Is definitely/is definitely not affected" standard that psychiatrists tend to feel they can't morally write. Didn't realize it was slightly different there .
posted by corb at 1:35 PM on May 20, 2013


and that how comfortable you feel with your assigned gender is really an orthogonal issue to whether you believe gender is socially constructed or not

Yeah, that. It dawned on me, during the Coy Mathis discussions, that (and I'm going to misquote myself here because I don't want to dig around in that meTa to find the exact thing I said), that being cisgender is more an absence of "my outside doesn't match my inside" rather than a presence of "Inside and outside match ok go." For this cisgender woman, I've never known what it means to "feel like a woman", but because I've never felt the kind of alienation from my physical self that so many trans* folk describe, I knew that I wasn't/am not trans*.
posted by rtha at 1:57 PM on May 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


@OnceUpon - The idea of gender as innate, I think may be one of the more heavily 'suggested' themes of the conventional trans dogma, as perpetuated in many trans support groups and among many many older trans people. There is an implicit requirement that one believes themselves to be innately the gender diametrically opposed to their 'gender of birth' in order to be 'genuinely trans'. After being confounded as to this rather normative structure for a long while, the seeming reasons underlying this distinction became more clear to me on participating in trans support groups. There is an tangible and understandable advantage that trans people wish to gain in the insurance system by the social construction of gender as innate. To be honest, insurance scares me. Just thinking of actuaries reminds me of fight club.

I am biased in that my perspective is largely influenced by usa-ian trans people's issues with health care, and don't know how significant this is on a global scale.
posted by flyinghamster at 2:03 PM on May 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


OneUponATime:

I get now where you are coming from, and I am glad these articles have helped you see trans* issues in a new way :-)
posted by Annika Cicada at 2:51 PM on May 20, 2013


OnceUponATime: "I have tended to hear, before now, almost exclusively from transpeople who seem to think of (mental) gender as innate, and had kind of thought that opinion was universal among trans* people, like it was a necessary part of identifying as trans.

But several of these articles, actually, made me appreciate that transpeople can disagree among themselves too, on these questions, and that how comfortable you feel with your assigned gender is really an orthogonal issue to whether you believe gender is socially constructed or not. That seems like an important realization, to me, and that's why I liked this post and that "transitioning while genderqueer" article in particular.
"

Most of the discussion I've seen about this topic has several major hangups. First, it lumps together the generally disparate concepts of gender identity, gender presentation, and gender roles, and loses important distinctions in the simplification. Second, it tends to challenge trans people by asking why trans women just can't be men who live as women, or trans men women who live as men, or even worse if they would be trans if they were alone on a deserted island. Third, it operates in a utopian philosophical direction that's mostly perpendicular to almost every other aspect of dealing with transness day in and day out: If your position is that everyone on the planet shares the same gender identity at birth (or that gender identity doesn't exist, which seems to be functionally the same idea), which is then molded into one set of expressions and roles or another by society, it can be a difficult model for trans people to fit themselves into. Finally, even if gender identity is an arbitrary social construct, it still exists as a stand-in for something and people have to deal with it and navigate around it. Arbitrary and social doesn't mean individually arbitrarily chosen. Your identity and mine both remain valid.

For me, it's the line "I feel like a woman trapped in a man's body," that is so hard for me to parse in a way that doesn't support anti-feminist ideas, about women being more emotion-driven, or more passive and gentle, or more interested in asthetics, or...? What? I mean, what is it supposed to be, besides my body, that makes me a woman? I just can't think of any non-physical definition of a woman that does not offend me at least a little bit, or that doesn't seem to imply that women scientists, soldiers, firefighters and engineers somehow aren't real women. (Or that men dancers, artists, teachers and nurses aren't real men.)

I don't see much serious explanation of a trans female identity stemming from those tropes, any more than I see serious explanation of cis female identity using those tropes. The "trapped" line has always been more for cis consumption than sincere trans explanation (although if the phrase itself didn't have the baggage it does, it would probably be much more useful than it is now). It has been perpetuated mainly by normative gatekeeping and cisnormative transploitation, and then only secondarily by trans people seeking to find acceptable touchstones to convey some simulacrum of their experience to onlookers and to reinforce to themselves the rightness and accuracy of their diagnosis and course of action using the language of the establishment during an extremely harrowing and doubt-filled period in their lives.

I've touched on this before, but it seems really unfair that trans women tend to be more singled out for this "anti-feminist" trope watch than cis women. I understand why it happens, but if you see the goal of feminism as dismantling patriarchal structures of enforced behavior and control, trans people are probably the least efficient place to start out of anything you could possibly hit with a paperclip from where you're sitting right now. By and large we aren't enforcing the binary any more than cis people are, and I'd argue we're doing pretty much the opposite.

I'd also challenge you to reconcile these two statements for yourself in relation to trans identities - I think it might move you to interesting places with regards to an inner sense of self:

1: "I mean, what is it supposed to be, besides my body, that makes me a woman? I just can't think of any non-physical definition of a woman that does not offend me at least a little bit..."

2: "I have tended to hear, before now, almost exclusively from transpeople who seem to think of (mental) gender as innate, and had kind of thought that opinion was universal among trans* people, like it was a necessary part of identifying as trans."

Presumably you'll see how trans people are forced to construe their gender using different cues from the one you used, so it shouldn't be a surprise that they've arrived at the fact that something besides their bodies makes them the gender they are, and it's generally not stereotypes.
posted by Corinth at 8:46 PM on May 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


I don't know, Corinth. I still do not understand what, besides one's body, or else gender stereotypes, could be a cue as to one's "true" or inherent gender. Mainly because I just don't believe in the concept of inherent gender. (Or at least not much. If women and men are different on some psychological measures, two slightly separated bell curves, I have a feeling that 90% of most of those differences is the result of socialization or different choices being rational for someone in a woman's role than for someone in a man's role, and 10% is the result of inborn tendencies. This is exceptionally hard to study, though, since we can't really raise children on that "desert island.")

I agree with rtha that I've never known what it means to "feel like a woman" but also I've never felt the kind of alienation from my physical self that so many trans* folk describe. So for me it is hard to imagine what those cues might be.

I don't think I would be particularly distressed, even, if I woke up in a man's body tomorrow. Nor am I particularly distressed by waking up in mine every day.

Not that it is especially any of my business why someone wants to transition, except to the extent that the notion of innate gender implies that woman are innately better suited for one role than another in life. I feel the need to push back against the innate gender idea because in my head, and I fear in others' heads as well, it does kind of imply that as a necessary logical conclusion. I sometimes think that this trope of being a woman on the "inside" or not being a woman "inside" gives ammunition to gender policing conservatives, who are only too ready to agree that women and men really are different on the inside.

On the other hand, I have no problem with anyone saying "I am not comfortable being judged by these standards. I am not comfortable relating to others in the ways men (or women) are supposed to relate to others. I am not comfortable dressing the way I'm told I'm supposed to dress, (or even walking around with stubble, or in the other case, with breasts) because it sends signals I don't want to send about my identity, my roles in life." To the extent that gender is something you do (I like the notion of "performing" gender), I totally get wanting to do something else.

Again, not really any of my business for the most part. I think "I want to" is a good enough reason to transition, all by itself, and I don't really care why someone wants to, if it will make their life better. Maybe if gender roles were less strict, fewer people would want to, but even that is really irrelevant right here and right now, where they are pretty brutally strict.

So normally I wouldn't come into a thread like this and argue with anyone. But again, I was just so glad to see an article from a transwoman who seemed to agree with me that the "boxes" are arbitrary, and could articulate a reason I understood this time, for wanting to transition anyway.
posted by OnceUponATime at 6:03 AM on May 21, 2013


There's a line in that essay where she says "Even for people like me who don't really buy into the whole concept of boxes, one box can feel so uncomfortable that death begins to seem like a fairly nice alternative." That's what people are talking about when they're talking about 'innate' gender. Like Corinth said (in a really excellent comment, btw), people have to have some property called 'gender' in order for the existence of trans people to make any sense at all. That doesn't mean you think a particular gender maps to a particular set of behaviours. Maybe it maps to a pronoun preference (or lack thereof), but that's about it.

Trans people really, genuinely, run the same gamut of gender expression as cis people. However, there's a lot of expectation from cis people that they don't. They're meant to be 'trapped in the wrong body' or whatever else talk show hosts come up with. Being a gender normative trans person is how you are a 'good' trans person. It gets people to acknowledge your gender. It gets you access to medical transition. And so on.

I think it's also important to note that when we talk about 'older trans people' in this conversation and criticise their notions of gender expression, that's related to this insistence that 'good' trans people be gender normative. It's not so long ago (as in twenty to thirty years ago--so people who are now middle aged who transitioned young) that access to hormones was contingent on some doctor deciding you would be 'passable'. You would be so 'unsuccessful' as a trans person if people were to guess you were trans that you shouldn't even bother transitioning. (I'm guessing this is part of the story in the other essay where the author has the horrible encounter with the friend of a friend who criticises her presentation. In another thread, I mentioned I knew a cis woman who policed women's genders horribly to a mind-blowing extent. But we conclude she's a jerk, not that women are horrible people who enforce gender roles.)
posted by hoyland at 7:22 AM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Not that it is especially any of my business why someone wants to transition, except to the extent that the notion of innate gender implies that woman are innately better suited for one role than another in life. I feel the need to push back against the innate gender idea because in my head, and I fear in others' heads as well, it does kind of imply that as a necessary logical conclusion."

Why does the notion of innate gender identity support the notion of innate gender roles? Try to separate the various aspects of gender (identity/expression/performance/roles/etc.), like I mentioned above, and you can then categorize them individually as innate or socially constructed according to your preference. My experience is that most trans people are less likely to subscribe to the idea that Gender Role Bullshit is innate than cis people are (except where they're expected to parrot it to cis people or cling to it to reassure themselves that they're doing the right thing), because they've actually been forced to think critically about the subject. A trans man drinking beer and watching American football is no more to blame for Gender Role Bullshit than a cis man drinking beer and watching American football is, and neither reinforces norms more than the other.

There might be some parallel here to the fringe feminist "issue" of whether it's either okay or literally Hitler for a woman to want to be a stay at home mom. I think it's okay, just as it's okay for trans people to express themselves and do whatever it is they want to do with their lives. Embracing these ideals means highlighting the kyriarchal structures of society while still allowing people to make their own educated choices, even if they choose something you'd prefer they not.

"I sometimes think that this trope of being a woman on the "inside" or not being a woman "inside" gives ammunition to gender policing conservatives, who are only too ready to agree that women and men really are different on the inside."

I'd have to disagree with this, mostly because I've never seen social conservatives use transness in this way. Whenever I see them discussing trans people, it's an attempt to enforce the gender the trans person isn't. The denial of the trans person's identity is used to keep everyone else in line. I haven't seen them using a trans identity to justify conservative gender roles because that would require them to accept it in the first place. But if they did, I'd ask again why trans people are held to different standards than cis people when it comes to a responsibility to dismantle gender roles. It's something we should all be working towards.
posted by Corinth at 1:52 PM on May 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'd have to disagree with this, mostly because I've never seen social conservatives use transness in this way. Whenever I see them discussing trans people, it's an attempt to enforce the gender the trans person isn't.

I don't think anyone's suggesting that. I think it's really more of a perfect storm, where everything combines to make a kind of not-awesome situation.

So, a lot of social conservatives (not all, but a lot) really believe in Boys And Girls Are Fundamentally Different And That's Great. And so they tend to buy into stuff like that there's a "male brain" and a "female brain" - and each is different and each has things better than the other. And they add on that you know, "female brains" are just better at nurturing or what have you and "male brains" are just awesome at math and that's science, yo, and how can anyone argue? Don't you like science?

And this is something that a lot of feminists have been fighting for a while. No, there's no such thing as a male brain or a female brain, just brains, and the differences between men and women are primarily socialization for the most part, and women can be just as tough/science oriented/bloodthirsty/what have you as men can, and damn anyone that says otherwise.

Now into the mix enter transfolk. Where the best and most sympathetic argument they can make to many people is "I'm a man trapped in a woman's body/woman trapped in a man's body." And it tends to follow "What I mean is I have a male brain, and it's just my body is woman / I have a female brain, it's just my body is male." And that plays right back into the whole idea that there is such a thing as female/male brains.

Then add on top of that sundae the cherry that a lot (not all, maybe not even most, but a lot) of transfolk tend to cling to the stereotypes of the gender they are transitioning into as a way to pass or a way to make it more "apparent" that they really are their chosen gender. Which means that sometimes, what tends to happen is, transperson declares they really have a female brain, and then immediately leaves behind all "manly" pursuits and starts squeeing about shoes and makeup and boys. Thus declaring that gender and gender performance are not in fact socialization (because the individuals are throwing aside, or trying to throw aside, the socialization of many years) but innate, inborn qualities in the brain.

Those things could play into those social conservative ideals about male and female brains, and encourage discrimination on that basis. They don't right now! They really don't right now, mostly because social conservatives don't really familiarize themselves with the trans community enough to hear and see that stuff. But I think that some feminists are afraid that these patterns will set them back some years when they eventually do - that social conservatives will use the language of the most vulnerable to do whatever it is they want to do. Because they're good at that.
posted by corb at 4:29 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


"transperson declares they really have a female brain"

corb, are you talking about trans women, or about trans people in general? You realize that not all trans people are women, right?

I was a little worried when I posted the FPP that someone would take it as further proof that all trans people are women, or that all trans women are lesbians. But Autostraddle is a lesbian-specific site, so their articles naturally have more of that kind of article. And folks upthread discussed trans men, which reassured me that stereotypes weren't getting reinforced. But perhaps the thread has gone long enough that you have forgotten?

And again, when anyone opposes the argument that gender is innate, I hope they're opposing it from everyone, not just trans people. Because way too often, people seem only to argue against innate gender when it hurts trans people, and not when it counters cis privilege.
posted by jiawen at 7:22 AM on May 22, 2013


Then add on top of that sundae the cherry that a lot (not all, maybe not even most, but a lot) of transfolk tend to cling to the stereotypes of the gender they are transitioning into as a way to pass or a way to make it more "apparent" that they really are their chosen gender. Which means that sometimes, what tends to happen is, transperson declares they really have a female brain, and then immediately leaves behind all "manly" pursuits and starts squeeing about shoes and makeup and boys. Thus declaring that gender and gender performance are not in fact socialization (because the individuals are throwing aside, or trying to throw aside, the socialization of many years) but innate, inborn qualities in the brain.

I can't help suspect these trans people are made out of straw. You really don't think what you're describing in your straw trans women is not a response to transphobia? And that therefore one maybe shouldn't use feminism as a pretext for some more transphobia?

Frankly, if being intentionally super gender-normative makes you safer, then fuck everything else. People not worried about being murdered can worry if they're perpetuating gender stereotypes.

And, of course, what of cis women who squee at shoes and makeup and boys? Are they horrible sexists undermining women?
posted by hoyland at 7:23 AM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


And again, when anyone opposes the argument that gender is innate, I hope they're opposing it from everyone, not just trans people.

Believe me, I spend way more time opposing it from social conservatives than I do from trans people. IRL, I live in the suburbs, in the Midwest. When I was in college I had some gay friends and trans* aquaintances, but these days, I feel like I have emigrated to the 1950s. Most of the men I know are scientists and engineers (as am I, but I am not a man) and all of their wives are stay at home moms, and the majority are socially conservative (especially the people I'm related to.) Also I'm like, the youngest person I know here, and I'm 32.

The demographics on MetaFilter are a little different. But I feel like, I spend so much of my energy resisting these "Girls are like this, boys are like that" ideas in my daily life, that I can't help the alarm bells that go off in my head and the defensiveness that I automatically feel when some trans people (whom I encounter mostly here) do start talking about gender as an innate quality of the mind, however sympathetic I am to their unhappiness in their assigned role in society.
posted by OnceUponATime at 7:42 AM on May 22, 2013


corb, are you talking about trans women, or about trans people in general? You realize that not all trans people are women, right?

Sorry, I do know that not all trans people are women and tried to use multiple genders in the post overall, but when it came to examples, I was thinking of a specific friend of mine and so fell to the singular. I do think that feminists in particular (at least, certainly the ones I see) tend to be worried about transwomen and this stereotype more, and that they have this weird tendency to laud transmen in weird ways, but this specifically I was talking about a person I know.

And, of course, what of cis women who squee at shoes and makeup and boys? Are they horrible sexists undermining women?

There are a lot of different responses to this: probably the simplest is: yes, some people do think that those cis women are undermining women. Nobody thinks that anyone being discussed is a horrible sexist undermining women, I at least was talking about how unfortunate things tend to come together in sad ways.

That said, the specific flavor referenced (that it is socialization which creates these stereotypes) would not find cis women to be perpetuating the inborn gender roles stereotype, because they would argue that cis women have been raised and socialized as women for all of their lives and are thus a reflection of culture, not of brain.
posted by corb at 7:48 AM on May 22, 2013


OnceUponATime: "But I feel like, I spend so much of my energy resisting these "Girls are like this, boys are like that" ideas in my daily life, that I can't help the alarm bells that go off in my head and the defensiveness that I automatically feel when some trans people (whom I encounter mostly here) do start talking about gender as an innate quality of the mind, however sympathetic I am to their unhappiness in their assigned role in society."

Okay, well, as hoyland pointed out, we trans people are pretty dang well aware of the issues, and we often adopt these strategies for self-preservation. If we allow that gender isn't innate, we'll get told to "just" be something that we don't feel we are; if we argue that gender is innate to counter that, we'll get the "you're enforcing stereotypes" line. If the upshot of the argument is that trans people's sense of ourselves is not as legitimate as cis people's is, I have little patience for it. So when I hear either of those arguments being used against trans people, I get just as defensive as you do.

Maybe we can be defenseless together. :)

As you mentioned upthread, one really valuable thing about this collection of essays is the amount of diversity -- diversity in gender expression, diversity in sense of self -- present in one place. Trust me, trans people as a whole are much more diverse, and we have vastly more forms of gender expression, senses of self and takes on the "is it innate" question.

corb: "That said, the specific flavor referenced (that it is socialization which creates these stereotypes) would not find cis women to be perpetuating the inborn gender roles stereotype, because they would argue that cis women have been raised and socialized as women for all of their lives and are thus a reflection of culture, not of brain."

As you said, it doesn't look like anyone here is actually making that transphobic argument, so I won't be diving into the abyss of rebutting it.
posted by jiawen at 7:58 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I feel a little bad for taking up so much thread real estate, but I also feel like I've learned quite a bit from this thread as well as the essays, so thanks, everyone, for engaging with me.
posted by OnceUponATime at 8:53 AM on May 22, 2013


These were great. Vivian's story (I'm A Trans Woman And I'm Not Interested In Being One of the "Good Ones") really spoke to my experience of things, which is rare enough.
posted by Dysk at 1:51 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Magic Eye Girlfriend
posted by homunculus at 6:53 PM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


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