"My gender exists in some sort of quantum state."
February 10, 2015 10:16 AM   Subscribe

"It's Schrödinger's cat, unknown unless I examine it. Boy day or girl day? Let me open the box and check. These days it's usually a boy day, but there have been long stretches of time when I'm usually girl, and I'm sure there will be again. Sometimes it's neither; I open the box and can't tell whether the cat's alive or not. And frequently, it's both at once. A tuxedo cat, black AND white all at the same time, not sometimes black and sometimes white." Writer Naamah Darling describes identifying as genderfluid.

Related: I Am Genderfluid by astrophy (Jezebel). A few Tumblr accounts: Gender Fluid Problems, Genderfluid Facts, and Genderfluid Fashion. Tranifesto posts Ask Matt: How Can I Live A Gender Fluid Life? Meanwhile, model Erika Linder, who has "too much imagination to just be one gender," tries out eight different genderfluid styles. For the pop culture-savvy, Ranker lists 10 Celebrities Who Defy Gender Stereotypes.
posted by quiet earth (66 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
 
FTA: I believe gender is a thing that is 90% imposed on us from outside, and it begins so early – the very moment we are born – that most people (in my culture, anyway) literally cannot conceive of the idea that the chasm that separates "male" and "female" is really more like a bike tire track in the mud.

I very, very much disagree with this, and it flies in the face of most current gender research. We see children who are very, very young that can tell you what gender they are, even when the gender they identify as is not the one they were assigned.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:24 AM on February 10, 2015 [29 favorites]


Reminds me of this bit on Invisibilia about Paige Abendroth.

Problematic, apparently, though it's been addressed in the edit I linked above.
posted by fiercecupcake at 10:25 AM on February 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


It is a pretty standard misunderstanding of the Schrödinger's cat paradox that the poor imaginary kitty is both alive and dead simultaneously.
posted by sammyo at 10:27 AM on February 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


Yeah, the whole concept of the Schrodinger's cat paradox was that the idea that the cat is both alive and dead is absurd, so that interpretation of quantum mechanics cannot possibly be right. Probably not the ideal analogy to use in this situation.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:29 AM on February 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


that most people (in my culture, anyway) literally cannot conceive of the idea that the chasm that separates "male" and "female" is really more like a bike tire track in the mud.

It's really hard to grasp, because for some people that chasm really is huge and important. Tell a trans person being denied their identity it's just a track in the mud, and be ready for an earful. But for some people, yeah, it's a super fluid thing. It's a bit of a cliche, but it's pretty important we all learn to accept people for who they are even if we can't fully understand why they are who they are.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:35 AM on February 10, 2015 [21 favorites]


Erika Linder does a pretty decent Edward Furlong.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:46 AM on February 10, 2015


Schrodinger intended the cat to be so absurd that it would prove quantum mechanics wrong, but all the evidence points to QM being correct, and the universe being absurd. A "cat state" has been achieved with a 10-trillion-atom "tuning fork," which is simultaneously* vibrating and still, and apparently some physicists want to do the same with a flu virus, which would be a step towards proving that even living things can be in superposition. An actual cat is way too big to practically do this with, but it's theoretically possible.

* Technically it's not "simultaneously" vibrating and not-vibrating; that would be impossible. Instead, it's in a superposition of vibrating and not-vibrating states, even though when it's observed it seems to collapse into one state. There are different interpretations of QM which argue about which aspects of the theory are ontologically real or just convenient mathematical tricks. Personally I lean towards the interpretations where the wave function is a real thing, like many-worlds or pilot wave theory (although the latter also requires nonlocality, which is at least as absurd as superposition).

Getting back to the post topic, I have a hard time imagining what it must feel like to be genderfluid, but superposition sounds like as good an analogy as any. The sex-specific characteristics of our bodies are so tied to gender that it must be frustrating for your subjective gender to not fit either body type.
posted by Rangi at 10:53 AM on February 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


[You know I love you nerds, but the thread will probably go okay even if we don't correct at any greater length the passing, obviously figurative pop sci reference that otherwise has nothing to do with the actual topic.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:04 AM on February 10, 2015 [47 favorites]


I believe gender is a thing that is 90% imposed on us from outside

Well, no, this confuses gender roles, norms, and presentation with gender identity. Wearing high heels and makeup and jewellery? Those are performative aspects of femininity that fit within a particular social construction of femaleness. Just as uber-macho, mustachioed, muscled Tom of Finland clones are performative aspects of "gay" that fit in a particular social construction of what it is to be a gay man. The map is not the territory, and the signifier is not the signified.

And from the initial linked blog post: My body is a thing that I accept because I literally cannot change it enough to make the "not right" stop? That sort of dysphoria sounds more like a transgender person who's seemingly resigned to not transitioning than anything :-/
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 11:09 AM on February 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


Regarding the tire track in the mud thing: non-binary identities and belief systems do not negate those with binary identities, whether they be cis or trans. Since gender fluid/weird/queer people are under the same umbrella as binary trans folk, it's really hard sometimes to come up with the right word phrasing that encompasses us all, since we're all so different.

Like, when feminist writer Julia Serrano describes "subconscious sex," the innate instinct that tells her she is a woman (I'm aware of criticism from trans women that this concept is essentialist)...when I look into the brain folder where my "subconscious sex" is stored, there's just nothing. Maybe like, a cute dog meme, or a recipe for pizza.

I don't know. It's hard. I wrote a little about the difficulties of presenting my gender "correctly" here, and got lots of helpful comments telling me I should just dress like the opposite binary sex from the one I was assigned at birth. SO HELPFUL WOW I NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT IT, MAYBE NOW I CAN STORE FLOWERS OR CANDY IN THE GIANT, ACHING, SUCKING WOUND IN MY CHEST WHERE I USED TO KEEP MY DYSPHORIA.
posted by Juliet Banana at 11:10 AM on February 10, 2015 [54 favorites]


FTA: I believe gender is a thing that is 90% imposed on us from outside, and it begins so early – the very moment we are born – that most people (in my culture, anyway) literally cannot conceive of the idea that the chasm that separates "male" and "female" is really more like a bike tire track in the mud.

I very, very much disagree with this, and it flies in the face of most current gender research. We see children who are very, very young that can tell you what gender they are, even when the gender they identify as is not the one they were assigned.


That's an interesting point.

Based on what we now know about the subjective experience of trans people, and what we've long known about the experience of cis people, it's easy to see (at least for some significant population) that gender is extremely solidly-fixed, and from an early age. So perhaps it contradicts some facts we've ascertained about gender, but perhaps it also points out that our understanding of subjective gender experience is not yet capable of accounting for the variation we see in the world.
posted by clockzero at 11:11 AM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I very, very much disagree with this, and it flies in the face of most current gender research. We see children who are very, very young that can tell you what gender they are, even when the gender they identify as is not the one they were assigned.

This is a super-complicated issue. But I think it's consistent to say both (a) the gender categories we use are dictated to us by the dominant culture and (b) if someone fits into one of those categories, they often know which one it is from a pretty young age.

Think of gender as a huge space full of possibilities. Each of us has a favorite spot in that space — and we tend to latch onto that favorite spot pretty young, and feel inclined to cling to it pretty tenaciously. But it's the dominant culture that picks out a few regions in that space and gives them special names: "Ok, everyone in this region is a 'man,' everyone in this region is a 'woman,' and everyone outside those regions is a weirdo." For those whose favorite spot falls within one of those two regions, the result is a firm, fixed gender identity: "I'm a woman and I've known that since childhood" or whatever (meaning something like "As soon as I started learning about my culture's approved 'woman' category, I realized that my favorite spot was in it"). For those whose favorite spot is outside one of the two regions, the result is … well, a lot of chaos and confusion, and a lot of pressure to relocate to a more culturally-approved spot, and it feels really coercive and shitty.

One reason to believe it works this way is that different cultures — and even different subcultures — have different gender categories. In the culture I was raised in, my favorite spot falls within the "woman" category. If I'd been raised with a stricter definition of femininity, I might well think of myself as not-a-woman after all. I'd have the same favorite spot — but in a different culture, that spot could be outside the culturally approved "woman" zone. If I'd been raised in a culture with a third gender for what we call transfeminine people, I'd probably identify just as strongly with that third gender as I do with my binary gender in this culture.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:16 AM on February 10, 2015 [54 favorites]


I think it's possible that gender is both socially constructed/socially imposed and solidly fixed for some people because even if something is socially constructed, that doesn't make it not exist. I mean, hey, the national borders of the world are socially constructed, but they still exist for us in many ways that are meaningful (not that geography can really be compared to gender). I also think it's hard to make any kind of "gender is definitely this" statement because each of us feels it so differently in our lives.
posted by capricorn at 11:40 AM on February 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I very, very much disagree with this, and it flies in the face of most current gender research. We see children who are very, very young that can tell you what gender they are, even when the gender they identify as is not the one they were assigned.

Yeah. I've been noodling over this thought in my head for a while, and I want to preface it by saying: In no way am I saying anyone who identifies as genderfluid/agender/_______ is Doing It Wrong, and live your life in whatever way is meaningful for you, and whatever names or pronouns you prefer just let the rest of us know and we will respect your choices.

It seems to me in many ways that non-trans1 atypical gender identities, while subscribing to or stating belief in the idea that gender is a socially-constructed thing, are still living within the paradigm of genders being innate Things. That genders have roles in society. It feels like "I am not a boy because I like princesses" or whatever is missing the mark; boys can like princesses too.

I guess what I'm talking about is the performative aspects, the externalities. That "I am a girl today" is buying into the the socially-constructed-gender paradigm.

Again, I really want to emphasize that I am not telling anyone how to live their life or that they are living their life wrong. You do you. I do wonder, however, whether we'd see fewer/no people talking about being genderfluid/agender/_______ if or when we create a society that doesn't impose performative gender roles.

1. As in, "I have the wrong body," which from what I have been told is a totally different kind of experience.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:48 AM on February 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


They aren't narratives about living on the bridge, waking up randomly on different sides, or in the middle, not belonging to either side.

Yes, yes, yes.
posted by stoneweaver at 12:04 PM on February 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I suggest to everyone, when you tell people that their identity is maybe made up or a product of society, you are not introducing new knowledge into the system. I assure you that I have spent more time pondering gender and stressing about it and wondering how it fits in with biology and society than anyone with uncomplicated gender. It has been a constant source of thought every single day since I was little. I am not atypical in this regard.

So when people get all "but have you considered" I feel like Maybe you should listen. Because yeah, we have totally considered that. Part of the point of this piece is about how growing up in society in that particular time and place had an impact. Listen to us!
posted by stoneweaver at 12:19 PM on February 10, 2015 [22 favorites]


I didn't for a moment think that what I said isn't something that has been considered.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:25 PM on February 10, 2015


which is more likely to stick: broadening the definition of /gender/ to include the spectrum of identities that it contains, or developing a post-gender language that speaks to identity without the baggage of the old term?
posted by OHenryPacey at 12:28 PM on February 10, 2015


I always find these conversations both so interesting and so baffling, because my personal experience doesn't fit in with either the "strongly identified with a gender from a young age" end or the "feels like the schrodinger's cat of gender" or the "doesn't even really feel a gender" end. I mean, I guess if I had to classify myself, it would be "genderqueer", and I think I come off as a pretty bog-standard butch woman most of the time, but the very impulse to classify is something I feel kind of baffled by.[*]

I feel like I have some feminine traits and some masculine traits and some days I feel slightly more "like" a woman or a man, but it's mostly a low-level hum that is not worth worrying about -- it is what it is, whatever it is. And it's not because I don't like classifying things: I spent a huge of time and angst over figuring out my sexuality when I was younger -- but somehow gender just wasn't on the map. It's not that I don't feel a gender, it's that it just doesn't seem relevant or interesting to anything.

I say this as someone whose partner is trans and in the "strongly identified with the not-assigned gender" camp, so we've had a LOT of discussions about what makes our experiences differ and what that means.

Ultimately we just realised that gender is a hugely multi-dimensional space and people can occupy incredibly different regions of it -- but that culture and language collapse it down into an impoverished, nearly-unidimensional, massively distorted representation. The whole topic of gender is so complex, no matter how many ways of slicing and dicing we as a culture come up with it seems like there's a lot that they don't capture.

[*] To be clear, I'm not saying this impulse or any other perspectives are wrong in any way, just that they are alien to my personal experience.
posted by forza at 12:30 PM on February 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


Compare reflecting on an article for a few minutes with literally thinking about {gender,body,self,society,presentation,performance,etc.} literally all the time for as long as you can remember.

I do think about it a lot, actually, and the specific thought I was sharing is something I've been kicking over in my head for a lot longer than you think. Seriously, I'm not doing any of the things that are being complained about. It's a thought. It's not "YOU MUST DO THIS," or "obviously you've never thought about this."

developing a post-gender language that speaks to identity without the baggage of the old term

Is probably closer to where I was aiming, in that (as I said) I think if we could move to/create a society that doesn't impose gender roles a lot of the distress people feel about not fitting into the binary gender paradigm would vanish. Am I incorrect here somehow?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:42 PM on February 10, 2015


So when people get all "but have you considered" I feel like Maybe you should listen.

Listen to whom? This is a comment thread, not a church.

I had written a bit of my thoughts on the falsity of the standard categorical narrative from the perspective of someone who feels constrained by it, but not as obviously constrained as others I've seen. I kind of decided it would be somewhat redundant (and possibly misinterpreted given what you wrote).

But, ya know what, this kind of gets under my skin a bit. Instead of treating thoughts that may seem as obvious to you as lecturing, think of it as someone who is, in fact, agreeing with you. Alternatively, the comment you seem to be objecting to was borne from a disagreement with the very first comment on the thread, so there is far from consensus. There is room for people to describe their thought process without people being condescending about it.
posted by smidgen at 12:49 PM on February 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


It would be a worthwhile endeavor for you to noodle over why you're being read that way. If multiple people feel like you're being invalidating or not listening, it's a failure of communication.
posted by stoneweaver at 12:50 PM on February 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


developing a post-gender language that speaks to identity without the baggage of the old term

Is probably closer to where I was aiming, in that (as I said) I think if we could move to/create a society that doesn't impose gender roles a lot of the distress people feel about not fitting into the binary gender paradigm would vanish. Am I incorrect here somehow?


If you are asking that of me (and you may not be), I was genuinely asking the question as to which is the more likely future. I have to say that from where I stand this seems like the better future, for the reason you mention, but I speak as a gender norm person who simply wants the world to be a good safe place for everyone, not as a person struggling with the issue from the inside.

I appreciate this community for bringing this issue to the table for discussion, and showing its complexity. I applaud those members who struggle with this and are willing to patiently, and probably painfully, reveal their thoughts and emotions and give us insight.
posted by OHenryPacey at 12:53 PM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


We are, all of us, works in progress. Limits and definitions are a denial of our infinite possibilities as organic beings. It is good to see this discussed honestlly and openly.
posted by kinnakeet at 12:54 PM on February 10, 2015


As I follow these discussions I often have the sense that they could benefit from a sharper distinction being drawn between a) a person's right to be the absolute authority on their own experience and b) the causes of that experience.

There seems to be a recurrent implication that if someone's answer to b) is that gender is largely or exclusively socially constructed, then they're effectively denying a subset of the population their right to bear witness to a), ie., the introspectively known facts of their own experiences in the world. But these seem to me to be clearly distinct things – so I'm left confused.

(Of course, even the discussion around b) should be done with respect, and a lot of listening especially to the people who are most affected by the topic. That's an important point but a different one.)
posted by oliverburkeman at 12:57 PM on February 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


It would also be a worthwhile endeavour for you to consider that perhaps I am acting in good faith and you're wrong about what I'm saying. Here's a hint: I say the words I mean. And when I say, quote, " In no way am I saying anyone who identifies as genderfluid/agender/_______ is Doing It Wrong, and live your life in whatever way is meaningful for you, and whatever names or pronouns you prefer just let the rest of us know and we will respect your choices," that is exactly what I mean. Try listening to that, ok? I am on your side, I respect whatever choices you make, and however you want to live your life is fine by me.

I am not invalidating you or your experiences. I am listening to you. I am also allowed to have my own thoughts, which include thinking that the (laudable) rebellion against typical gender roles also buys into them, and that I would very much prefer for us to have a world where those roles don't exist and people can just be people without being shunted into categories. Someone in another thread mentioned Queer Theory and assimilationism, and how for example there are fellow queer people who are anti-SSM because it buys into the whole heteronormative paradigm. That is more or less the same thing I am getting at here, and not one single thing about what I have to say changes my 100% support for my trans and gender-nonbinary friends, or my respect for them and their choices.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:58 PM on February 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


I personally like and identify with the idea of a superposition of genders, rather than an absence of "male" or "female" identities, or a thin track in the mud, which reminds me of a continuum. I'm talking of the dual existence of both male and female identities, and not, say, the common feeling that I don't identify as female because most of my hobbies are traditionally considered masculine. I used to wonder if I was trans, but I don't consistently identify as male. When I do, it causes a considerable amount of dysphoria if I'm presenting as female. The term "woman" is problematic for me when it's used as an identifier: "This woman...".

Gender is a tricky thing. I want to make it clear that for me, and probably for an awful lot of genderfluid types, it's way different than being a tomboy or an effeminate man. I'm a tomboy as a woman, but that doesn't negate the male identity.

As for social construction of gender, I tend to agree with Norah Vincent in Self-Made Man where her time passing as a man leads her to conclude that the differences between genders are very real, but I probably don't want to try to paraphrase her too much. I think a lot of people are just trying to figure this stuff out for ourselves, without necessarily having any guides or role models to follow. We aren't experts in the dialogues surrounding gender theory. There's always more to learn.
posted by quiet earth at 1:17 PM on February 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


which is more likely to stick: broadening the definition of /gender/ to include the spectrum of identities that it contains, or developing a post-gender language that speaks to identity without the baggage of the old term?

I should probably preface this by saying I don't know where I find myself in this animal soup. Naamah Darling's post really hits home with me. I'm struggling to tug on a few threads at a time, and hope first that the fear of violence doesn't lead me to tuck them back in again, and second that it's not so radical a step as to trigger discrimination and violence.

When I was 20, it was easier to think in utopian terms. Now I'm 43, and I just don't know. The concept of either broad gender or post-gender outside of a handful of spaces I currently don't have access to is something from science fiction, and is well beyond my current level in the hierarchy of needs.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:21 PM on February 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


In lieu of a fixed gender identity or presentation, neither of which I've ever had in my life, I find that it's basically always assumed that I'm trying to be a woman (successful (read: "feminine") or failed (read: "masculine")) or a man (successful (read: "masculine") or failed (read: "feminine")). I'm no longer comfortable categorically rejecting everything classed as "feminine" because it speaks to a sense of internalized misogyny and bolsters the idea that "feminine" is the marked gender, but I'm equally uncomfortable embracing it because its manifestation has ramifications I'm no longer willing to endure (sexual harassment, being treated as frivolous and whimsical rather than rational or serious, being objectified, etc.). And any version of "masculinity" that I'm allowed to access is inherently fractured by the fact that I'm five foot nothing with child-birthing hips and a helium squeak of a voice. It feels like there's really nothing I can do to register resistance to the whole kit and kaboodle.

So it's always been distressing to live in a culture that cares about and delineates based on gender so incredibly much, and to be asked what I am on a fairly regular basis. It's always been gross and coercive to be made to feel as though there's an urgent need for me to plant my flag in a country I've never seen, whose proverbial land I've never felt under my feet -- to have to choose a gender identity. When I try to look inside the box that's supposed to hold my gender identity, instead of a Schrödinger's cat sort of deal, there's, like, a spiderweb and a handful of indie rap records. I don't know if that feeling is what's called "agender" (or "genderfluid" or "genderqueer" or or or...); if it is, hey, that's all well and good, but I still lack a fundamental understanding of the framework in which those identities are given to exist in the first place. Any label I could ever choose is materially arbitrary, chosen for the benefit and comfort of others, because "what are you?" is a question I just don't have an answer to.

If we lived in a society that didn't kickstart hierarchical gendered socialization at birth, if we didn't put so much emphasis on associating bodies that looks like this with behavior that manifests like that to the exclusion of all else, I wouldn't even have to think about it. I could just be a person, I could just be spiderwebs and indie rap records. My extreme discomfort with (read: fierce, unrelenting, and lifelong resentment and disgust for) the sexed aspects of my body might even dissipate, because I wouldn't have to worry about having my culture's idea of what a "woman" is inflicted on me and my body without my consent. It sounds like a dream because it is and always will be. Trying to figure out what to do in the real world, in the meantime, is nothing but frustrating, painful, scary, and disappointing in roughly equal measures. I wish I could think about gender as something that could be fun or exciting or vital, but it just feels like irretrievable brokenness to me.
posted by divined by radio at 1:26 PM on February 10, 2015 [20 favorites]


I very, very much disagree with this, and it flies in the face of most current gender research. We see children who are very, very young that can tell you what gender they are, even when the gender they identify as is not the one they were assigned.

I really really wish they had put some kind of "for me it feels" thing in there. It's written as a declarative, authoritative statement and uh... No. It reminds me a lot of bi people who say stuff like "I think EVERYONE is a bit bi, and a lot of people just suppress it because homophobia".

The line is thinner or thicker for other people. Those people are not, generally, pretending or "locked in" to some brainwashing by the system.

Maybe it's a phrasing thing, maybe it's the premise, but the way that was stated pissed me off. It invalidates a lot of other experiences to elevate theirs, just by doing that. It's the old lift myself up by pushing others heads down thing. It tries to sound like a progressive statement when really its just "the barriers are thin and people should take them way less seriously!" When those barriers matter to some people who are having a shitty time of justifying their own validity and existence as more than just confusion or whatever.
posted by emptythought at 1:31 PM on February 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


or those whose favorite spot falls within one of those two regions, the result is a firm, fixed gender identity: "I'm a woman and I've known that since childhood" or whatever (meaning something like "As soon as I started learning about my culture's approved 'woman' category, I realized that my favorite spot was in it").

Some. Not all of us with binary identities have known since childhood or anything.


It seems to me in many ways that non-trans1 atypical gender identities

Non-binary, agender, genderfluid, bigender, etc. identities are generally considered to fall under the trans umbrella. And binary trans people can absolutely not be reduced to "I have the wrong body," and to do so is frankly insulting.

I think if we could move to/create a society that doesn't impose gender roles a lot of the distress people feel about not fitting into the binary gender paradigm would vanish. Am I incorrect here somehow

Yes, you are. Gender is not gender roles. Gender roles are not necessarily related to gender identity at all.

Personally, relative to gender roles, I am incomparably more of a rule-breaking misfit than I ever was pre-transition. And I'm far more comfortable. Because my gender is not about what I DO but who I AM.
posted by Dysk at 1:40 PM on February 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


If we lived in a society that didn't kickstart hierarchical gendered socialization at birth, if we didn't put so much emphasis on associating bodies that looks like this with behavior that manifests like that to the exclusion of all else, I wouldn't even have to think about it. I could just be a person

This. This is what I was saying. Thank you, divined by radio.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:41 PM on February 10, 2015


If we lived in a society that didn't kickstart hierarchical gendered socialization at birth, if we didn't put so much emphasis on associating bodies that looks like this with behavior that manifests like that to the exclusion of all else, I wouldn't even have to think about it.

On the one hand, gender is something I've learned to do in order to avoid violence and discrimination. However, if that's all there was to it, why am I so frustrated living under those terms? Why is it that gender socialization gives me fits when I imagine what I want to wear, but not the socially constructed constraints of being an English language speaker or working within my professional field?
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:51 PM on February 10, 2015


Juliet Banana: MAYBE NOW I CAN STORE FLOWERS OR CANDY IN THE GIANT, ACHING, SUCKING WOUND IN MY CHEST WHERE I USED TO KEEP MY DYSPHORIA.

I wouldn't go with candy; people might think you were a piñata, with disastrous consequences.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:31 PM on February 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


There is a lot of confusion between gender roles and gender identity going on in here. It can get a bit "fish describing water," I know, but "gender" is one of those words we use to describe numerous related concepts, and it's absolutely possible to have a fixed innate gender identity while also rejecting every single gender role assigned to it by a culture. Think of gender identity as a little imaginary creature. Think of gender roles as what it wears, or what it's told it should wear. The outfits can influence, but don't make, the creatures, and there'd still be diversity in form even if they all went around naked.

There's also an undercurrent I'm picking up that binary-identified trans people are, because they have a stronger innate sense of gender, more strongly invested in maintaining the notion of gender as a binary, which is the exact opposite of everything I've learned or experienced. It's the trans members of this site who always go on about gender being a set of spectra instead of a binary, and that's generally the view promoted by most trans people and groups I've known.
posted by byanyothername at 2:43 PM on February 10, 2015 [14 favorites]


If multiple people feel like you're being invalidating or not listening, it's a failure of communication.

Well, there was of a sort, I'm not the one you originally responded to -- I was just saying I decided not to post a comment because it became somewhat redundant. But anyway, "multiple" is apparently... just you, so I feel silly for being worried about it.
posted by smidgen at 2:59 PM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


There's also an undercurrent I'm picking up that binary-identified trans people are, because they have a stronger innate sense of gender, more strongly invested in maintaining the notion of gender as a binary, which is the exact opposite of everything I've learned or experienced. It's the trans members of this site who always go on about gender being a set of spectra instead of a binary, and that's generally the view promoted by most trans people and groups I've known.

Oh yes. My beef is with the primarily straight and cis culture that doesn't give me the language or symbols for a dialogue, not binary-identified trans people.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:52 PM on February 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


There's also an undercurrent I'm picking up that binary-identified trans people are, because they have a stronger innate sense of gender, more strongly invested in maintaining the notion of gender as a binary, which is the exact opposite of everything I've learned or experienced. It's the trans members of this site who always go on about gender being a set of spectra instead of a binary, and that's generally the view promoted by most trans people and groups I've known.

Emphasis on the last sentence. It's important for allies to remember that signing up as a trans ally means you're signing up for everyone's right to their gender, not just people whose genders fit in tidy boxes, or those that said they were trans when they were three, or those who want to medically transition, or those who are somehow judge sympathetic 'enough'.

It's not a paradox to feel that I have a gender identity, and a more-or-less binary one at that, and to feel that gender is performed.
posted by hoyland at 4:09 PM on February 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I started a new job yesterday and interviewed for said job the week before last. Prior to this, for months I didn't care at all about appearing feminine in any way. Preparing for the interview left me with quite a conundrum. I had to look professional, which meant wearing a suit, but meant wearing a women's suit because 1) a man's suit won't come close to fitting me; and 2) it would be making a statement I don't want to make at this point in my life. So I bought the most androgynous-looking women's formal business suit I could find. And I reluctantly wore earrings. And very light makeup. I looked great! And got the job! But I felt very very conflicted.

I feel like things will go more smoothly for me at work if I give a nod to femininity (today I wore a finely woven pink sweater). And I like the sweater. It looks good on me! I just hate that what I wear puts me in a "female" box where I don't feel like I really belong. If I'm too "butch," I get put in a "lesbian" box where I definitely don't belong.

So, I'm "genderfluid," but it's like code-switching. I do it because it serves some purpose, not because I really want to.
posted by desjardins at 5:54 PM on February 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


I find genderfluidity really interesting, because it's the only form of identity I can think of that is simultaneously "strongly" held, rapidly shifting, and long-term. Generally when I think of identities changing, I think of language changes to better describe the same underlying idea, not really caring about it, gradual evolution over time, and / or relatively short periods of time where someone's still figuring things out. There are huge differences and I'm not trying at all to say that they're the same thing or even related, but in some ways it sort of almost reminds me of multiple personalities - the idea that someone can wake up some days and have a major part of who they fundamentally are be different. But in a few of the examples, it seems like people are identifying as genderfluid even though the concept they're describing could be more accurately described as either non-binary or conflating gender identity with gender roles / presentation, where their actual gender identity isn't really changing. No one else can tell them what their identity is, we don't know what's really going on in their heads and what's just a result of poor phrasing or assumptions, and it's not like they're hurting anyone even if they're using the "wrong" term, plus I guess I could be misunderstanding what the term means, so I guess that doesn't really matter though.
posted by CJF at 7:12 PM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I would very much prefer for us to have a world where those [typical gender] roles don't exist and people can just be people without being shunted into categories.

I don't know if I agree. I've heard similar arguments that we'd be better off without labels applied to the idea of "homosexual," "bisexual," and "heterosexual" identities, for instance -- and yet, having an out "gay" identity is useful to me in a way that is unlikely to become obsolete by even a very radical restructuring of society. I suspect that the same is true for gender identity. In other words, I think the real problem is simply that some of these labels are stigmatized, not that there are labels at all.

Also, "gender roles" can mean multiple things. To me, that phrase evokes things like gendered pressures and proscriptions on careers, child-rearing, interests, activities, abilities, etc.; I'd agree that exploding these would promote equality. However, you could also talk just about the cues people use to evince particular gender identities within a cultural context: wearing certain types of clothing, or sitting in a chair a particular way, or accentuating/minimizing certain body features, etc. I think that merely using some of these cues to signal a gender identity does not at all imply an endorsement of the universality or correctness of a particular mapping of cues to gender identities.
posted by en forme de poire at 8:35 PM on February 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


It seems to me in many ways that non-trans atypical gender identities, while subscribing to or stating belief in the idea that gender is a socially-constructed thing, are still living within the paradigm of genders being innate Things. That genders have roles in society.

Also, others have said this but you can absolutely believe that gender is an innate thing (or at least a low-dimensional representation of a high-dimensional thing, as forza put it) and not believe that different genders have specific personality traits, proclivities, or roles in society. You can also believe both that gender is innate and also that social expressions of gender are culturally constructed. By analogy, the fact that there have existed some human societies in which I would not have thought of myself as part of a class of people called "gay" doesn't mean that my identifying as a gay man today in this particular cultural milieu is actually inaccurate or inauthentic, or that sexual orientation is not innate.
posted by en forme de poire at 8:43 PM on February 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


I agree with the idea that conversations like this can get confused and people can step on one another's toes if we're using language in different ways. Now, vocabulary sure won't solve all of our problems, but it really is important for us to all be on the same page about what we're talking about when we say "gender." As others have noted, we use that word to refer to gender roles (socially-constructed norms about "appropriate" behavior that are imposed on us, many of which are regressive and confining) and gender identity (an internal experience of being a man, woman, genderqueer person, agender person, genderfluid person, etc.). But we *also* use it to refer to gender expression--the personal way we present ourselves as gendered people in the world, through our dress, behavior, etc.

What I believe it's important to recognize is that each of these elements of gender operate independently. So as byanyothername notes, trans people with binary genders are often presumed to have a conservative gender ideology, uncritically accepting the idea that the binary is "natural" and uninterested in changing current social gender roles. Not true of most binary trans people I know! Similarly, gender identity and gender expression get conflated, so that it's presumed that trans men are all butch, trans women all floofy and femme, genderqueer people all radically androgynous in their dress, agender people disinterested in ever wearing sparkly jewelry or a tie. And that's just as silly as presuming that cis women are never impressively butch, or cis men never put on glittery nailpolish.

But there's another aspect of gender identity that gets little talked about, and that's the *degree* of identification we experience. It's commonsensical that people with a shared identity may be more or less invested in that identity. For some people, say, being a Jew or bisexual or a Green Bay Packers fan or a dog owner is a casual sort of thing they think little about. For others, it's at the top of their identity hierarchy, the thing they never stop thinking or talking or tweeting about.

Now, the same is true for gender, but there's a caveat here, something that I think has made trans folks uncomfortable discussing the idea, and that is that many cis people are prone to claiming that they don't care or think about their gender identity, or perhaps even have one at all, and that this is normal and trans people are weirdly obsessed.

It's pretty easy to demonstrated that this is cis privilege talking: not an absence of gender identification, but the privilege of never being forced to think about it or notice it, just as many white people rarely think about their race. What I do is ask the person how they would feel if they woke up tomorrow and found some mad scientist had switched their binary sex. I tell them that they're now gifted with male pattern baldness, a stubbly face, and a hairy belly, or that their penis has been traded in for an average set of B-cup breasts, a high-pitched voice, and soft thighs with some stretch marks: a bog-standard body of the other binary sex. Would they honestly not care--just shrug and go about their lives? (It turns out that the vast majority DO care, and, it turns out, do have a gender identity--surprise!)

But if we bracket the problem of cissexists saying that caring about gender identity is just a trans thing, then we can address this issue of people not just having gender identities, but being more strongly or weakly identified with whatever that identity is. And that's important to people who are agender, because in my understanding their experience is often that there's this thing that people care so much about, and identify so strongly with, that they either don't have at all, or experience extremely weakly. (The parallel to asexuality is clear--and so is the wish that agender people may have for a world with no gender, just as some asexual people would wish for a world where nobody cared about sexual attraction, because then they wouldn't be "weird". But that solution would not work for the rest of us who really enjoy our gender identities and sexual attractions.)

Anyway, I think is really is helpful when we're having conversations about the differing experiences of people on various places on the gender spectrum for us to be clear in our language, and speak of gender roles, gender identity, gender expression, and degree of gender identification. But all of that is always in service to the most important thing, which is respecting the diversity of our experiences, and working to be good allies for those whose experiences are different from our own.
posted by DrMew at 9:17 PM on February 10, 2015 [15 favorites]


It seems to me in many ways that non-trans1 atypical gender identities, while subscribing to or stating belief in the idea that gender is a socially-constructed thing, are still living within the paradigm of genders being innate Things. That genders have roles in society. It feels like "I am not a boy because I like princesses" or whatever is missing the mark; boys can like princesses too.

I hope I am not invalidating anyone else's experiences when I say this is exactly the root of the gender struggles I had as a kid, and I did not really feel comfortable with "woman" as part of my identity until my late teens, early twenties when my internal meter of what "woman" could be in terms of behavior and appearance expanded outside socially-constructed roles. Which is funny in a way: from a very young age I read about gender stereotypes and the pressures put on men and women to behave in certain ways*, but the societal narrative was so dominant in the world around me it took much longer to internalize what I intellectually knew to be true.

*I was the third grader admonishing other girls on the playground about the impossible beauty standards Barbie dolls place on women. Yeah, I got invited to all the birthday parties.
posted by schroedinger at 9:32 PM on February 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


sorry i gotta do this

but aside from matt kailey's questioner, and some of the people on Ranker's list (which literally misgenders one of the people on it like come on Ranker you had one job, and which anyway features a fairly high percentage of unrepentant transmisogynists, and is all and all not a good resource on the people it features as far as i can tell), every. single. person. featured. is assigned female at birth.

Assigned male-at-birth people are almost never percieved simply as "genderfluid". instead we are percieved as genderfluid trans women or genderfluid cis men.

People like Bornstein, V, and O'Brian are percieved as simply "genderfluid" because they constantly distance themselves from trans women politically through acts of transmisogyny while at the same time having enough of the cultural signifiers of transfemininity to be seen as not-men.

i'm like, objectively genderfluid in how i present and think of myself, but i'm a trans woman first.
posted by thug unicorn at 12:05 AM on February 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


We see children who are very, very young that can tell you what gender they are, even when the gender they identify as is not the one they were assigned.

I'm really intrigued by this because, what are they identifying? What do they know about gender? What do they mean when they express their identification? I'd really appreciate pointers to some research.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:04 AM on February 11, 2015


It's pretty easy to demonstrated that this is cis privilege talking: not an absence of gender identification, but the privilege of never being forced to think about it or notice it, just as many white people rarely think about their race. What I do is ask the person how they would feel if they woke up tomorrow and found some mad scientist had switched their binary sex. I tell them that they're now gifted with male pattern baldness, a stubbly face, and a hairy belly, or that their penis has been traded in for an average set of B-cup breasts, a high-pitched voice, and soft thighs with some stretch marks: a bog-standard body of the other binary sex. Would they honestly not care--just shrug and go about their lives? (It turns out that the vast majority DO care, and, it turns out, do have a gender identity--surprise!)

I'm fascinated by this because I wouldn't care. I would find it interesting and fun, and I'd be glad to take a break from the breasts and voice and thighs for awhile and try out the penis and the baldness and the stubble and the hairy belly. In my ideal world, I could change back and forth from time to time, whether accidentally or by choice. I understand because you and other people have told me that the vast majority of people do care, but I don't understand why they care. And I find that fascinating, too.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:39 AM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's kind of easy to want to try it out and be able to switch back and forth. I can see how that would be appealing to most people no matter what their identity is.

I think a good thought experiment for what being trans is like is more along the lines of, "What if you were a cis boy but from the day you were born your parents and all of society insisted you dress and behave like a traditional girl instead and never took you seriously when you claimed that wasn't really you?"

It would be a form of child abuse, and everybody would agree. For some reason though, you do it to trans kids and nobody cares.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:51 AM on February 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


We know that to some extent gender is cultural, because there are cultures with more than two genders. We know that there are differences between the sexes in terms of behavior, which can be seen from a very early age, and even in other primates. But these differences show up at the level of population statistics, and many individuals express themselves differently. We also have a society which very strongly enforces/reinforces gender differences, and treats gender as central to identity. This may in fact be true for many people. But it is not true for all people.

While I would not claim it is the same, I find it interesting to think about this in terms of hair color. Redheads are temperamental, blondes are silly, brunettes are practical. These are obviously cultural. But I actually know quite a few redheads for whom being a redhead is an important part of their identity.
posted by Nothing at 5:00 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I feel the need to go back here. Note that this is a process of talking things out. I'm exploring, not asserting.

fffm: It seems to me in many ways that non-trans1 atypical gender identities, while subscribing to or stating belief in the idea that gender is a socially-constructed thing, are still living within the paradigm of genders being innate Things. That genders have roles in society. It feels like "I am not a boy because I like princesses" or whatever is missing the mark; boys can like princesses too.

I don't think that entirely follows, to unpack that statement, I would say that "I am socially constructed as man and not-man because I like princesses." Now as an adult, that would just be seen as weird. In my youth, the failure to fake certain cultural markers meant that I was physically, verbally, and on one occasion, sexually abused. Currently, I cannot separate my gender identity (weak or strong) from the violent gender conditioning I experienced in adolescence and fear today. I'm peeling the onion of conditioning and I honestly don't have a clue as to whether it's onion all the way down, or if there's a non-onion kernel in there somewhere.

DrMew: Would they honestly not care--just shrug and go about their lives?

I'd care. Some aspects of my life would become easier, some would become a lot harder. It would change my life, but I can't see it as something that I need to change.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 5:09 AM on February 11, 2015


I also strongly disagree that questioning the importance of gender is in any way "raising yourself up by pushing others down." When you live in a system that constantly emphasizes and reinforces the importance of gender, questioning that is not a threat or an attack on the experience of people who are comfortable in that system. I do honestly believe that there is a large population of people who fit awkwardly into their gender category, but go along with it because that is what you are supposed to do. Just as there is a large category of people who fit awkwardly into their sexuality category, to continue your example of bisexuality. There's a lot of data that shows that there are a lot of people who identify as straight who have the occasional same-sex sexual encounter, and a lot of people who identify as gay and lesbian who have the occasional opposite-sex encounter. I would never claim that they don't know which category they fit into, but it does make me wonder how the world would look if "picking a side" wasn't such a big deal. And that should not invalidate the experience of anyone.
posted by Nothing at 5:13 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's kind of easy to want to try it out and be able to switch back and forth. I can see how that would be appealing to most people no matter what their identity is.

I think a good thought experiment for what being trans is like is more along the lines of, "What if you were a cis boy but from the day you were born your parents and all of society insisted you dress and behave like a traditional girl instead and never took you seriously when you claimed that wasn't really you?"

It would be a form of child abuse, and everybody would agree. For some reason though, you do it to trans kids and nobody cares.


That is absolutely, positively not in any way what I was advocating, and I don't know how you got that from my post. I absolutely, positively believe that mistreating trans children is child abuse and should be treated that way. I absolutely, positively believe that many people feel a very strong gender identity, and I celebrate their absolute right to that identity. I absolutely, positively do not myself feel a strong gender identity, and I celebrate my absolute right to not feel that identity and to not be accused of bashing anyone for not feeling that identity.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:17 AM on February 11, 2015


I was not suggesting that you were, sorry for being unclear.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:38 AM on February 11, 2015


Thanks. I think I read the "...you do it to trans kids and nobody cares" with me as the 'you', but rereading it, that's obviously not what you intended. And I'm sensitive on this topic because a lot of people really don't believe people when they say they don't feel strongly gendered.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:44 AM on February 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


I started a new job yesterday and interviewed for said job the week before last. Prior to this, for months I didn't care at all about appearing feminine in any way. Preparing for the interview left me with quite a conundrum. I had to look professional, which meant wearing a suit, but meant wearing a women's suit because 1) a man's suit won't come close to fitting me; and 2) it would be making a statement I don't want to make at this point in my life. So I bought the most androgynous-looking women's formal business suit I could find. And I reluctantly wore earrings. And very light makeup. I looked great! And got the job! But I felt very very conflicted.

This is how I feel, pretty much. Or I see a lot of what I feel in that. And I am a trans woman, my gender identity is clear - I am a woman. But I don't enjoy performing femininity either, will do it to some extent reluctantly when required, and derive some satisfaction from being able to do while hating that I am pressured or required to, and that I gave in to that pressure to express something that is fundamentally different from how I feel. Because socially constructed femininity is NOT what womanhood is to me. And I do find the conflation of the two to be somewhat problematic.
posted by Dysk at 9:57 AM on February 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


I hope I am not invalidating anyone else's experiences when I say this is exactly the root of the gender struggles I had as a kid, and I did not really feel comfortable with "woman" as part of my identity until my late teens, early twenties when my internal meter of what "woman" could be in terms of behavior and appearance expanded outside socially-constructed roles. Which is funny in a way: from a very young age I read about gender stereotypes and the pressures put on men and women to behave in certain ways*, but the societal narrative was so dominant in the world around me it took much longer to internalize what I intellectually knew to be true.

Oh, and this, this, this! I didn't come out as trans, even to myself, really, until my twenties, for exactly this reason. I did not identify with being a man, at all, but I sure didn't identify with what I'd been taught women were either.
posted by Dysk at 9:58 AM on February 11, 2015 [4 favorites]




Dysk: Because socially constructed femininity is NOT what womanhood is to me. And I do find the conflation of the two to be somewhat problematic.

I'm wondering if this is at the root of a lot of grief over trans politics. For me, socially constructed masculinity is all there is. I can choose oppressor or oppressed (and even in the oppressed category, queer, non-binary, twink, bear, queen, cub, daddy, boy, fairy ... some more tolerant of misogyny than others). Why transition? Why not? If I peel back those layers of conditioning, I get a lot of negation: not-man, not-woman, not-this, not-that. Is it "cross-dressing" because I fear being bashed for doing it? Or not because those clothes are mine, mine, and mine? If there is a gender identity under there, it's apophatic rather than affirmative.

I can take the existence of a non-constructed gender identity as a matter of faith and empathy, but I have trouble experiencing it.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:14 AM on February 11, 2015


I think a good thought experiment for what being trans is like is more along the lines of, "What if you were a cis boy but from the day you were born your parents and all of society insisted you dress and behave like a traditional girl instead and never took you seriously when you claimed that wasn't really you?"

This line of reasoning seems to suggest that there is something about "traditional girl" gender socialization, dress, and behavior that is innately 'right' to enact upon girls (cis or trans) and innately 'wrong' to enact upon boys (cis or trans), which is so far beyond the scope of my comprehension that it defies credulity. I mean, from the day I was born, all of society insisted that I needed to dress and behave like a "traditional girl," they never took me seriously when I claimed that wasn't really me -- still don't -- but since our culture has no problem with forcing traditional female gender socialization onto any and every person who was born with the physical features commonly deemed as equivalent to "girl," no one ever saw any kind of problem with it no matter how hard I bucked against it. To the contrary, even as an adult, people are still fairly regularly moved to let me know whenever I'm caught in the act of failing to perform "femininity" up to their standards.

It seems to follow that the underlying inspiration for gender policing is a belief that a person's perceived binary sex must naturally effect or enact a 'matching' binary gender: It's considered perfectly acceptable to force your child to display "feminine" dress or behavior if they have a vulva, but it's never OK to force the exact same dress or behavior onto a child with a penis and testicles -- indeed, we can't even allow it, even if they choose it, because "traditional girl/female" gender socialization is treated as singularly and uniquely appropriate for children and adults with vulvas, just as "traditional boy/male" gender socialization is seen as singularly and uniquely appropriate for children and adults with penises and testicles. But therein lies the impetus for our effectively universal acceptance of female as the marked gender: Pac-Man only becomes Ms. Pac-Man when you add a bow, the stick figure on a restroom sign is presumed male in its default state and only designated female when you add a skirt, and the concept of androgyny is regularly conflated with a simple lack of stereotypical "feminine" gender signaling.

Whether I like it or not, I was born into an individual body that has always been and will always be politicized and objectified under the constraints and commodification of American "womanhood," and a collective (worldwide) body whose sanctity is regularly allowed and often outright encouraged to be violated and exterminated not just as extensions of patriarchal dominance and male supremacy, but as acts of war. Life in this body has led me to experience intense identification with and overwhelming sadness for all similarly binary-adjudicated female-sexed people on earth. But rather than experiencing that as gender identity, I experience it a sense of personal and political solidarity.

Still, belonging to a group of people whose bodies are used as failsafe indicators of membership in the so-called "weaker sex" class has dictated the course of my life like nothing else. And being assigned female at birth has fundamentally shaped my psychology throughout every stage of my life, because presenting a full spectrum of human choices -- as opposed to explicitly female-gendered choices: taking responsibility for child-bearing and -rearing, housework, etc. -- to women is still a fairly new and radical idea in America, one that was only really introduced with the advent of the Pill and Roe v. Wade. Ultimately, though, especially in today's political climate, the concept of "woman" as weak, vacuous, easily harnessed, and decidedly unable to make life-or-death decisions for her own self will still be enacted from on high, onto my body and all others like it, regardless of any gender identity or lack thereof.

So to me, it all comes down to this: "... no one has any idea what women's psychology under conditions of safety and freedom would be like."

I have no concept of what being a woman could possibly be like under any conditions except these conditions, i.e. in any culture except a strongly patriarchal, gender-policing culture, in which a strict binary between women and men is enacted to create and support a hierarchy (manifested as male supremacy) that begins, very literally, at birth. To that end, women are presumed to naturally embody a sense of softness, emotionalism, submissiveness, and "feminine" beauty or at least a deep desire for it; if we don't exhibit enough of the culturally promulgated definition of "femininity," we're failed women (insufficiently "feminine") or failed men (too "feminine"). Men are similarly presumed to naturally embody a sense of toughness, intellectualism, dominance, bravery, and physical strength or at least a deep desire for it; if we don't exhibit enough of the culturally promulgated definition of "masculinity," we're failed men (not "masculine" enough) or failed women (too "masculine"). And in all cases, a marked resistance toward or adamant refusal to identify within the bounds of the culturally promulgated binary division between "masculine" and "feminine" is viewed as a fundamental failure of self and punished accordingly.

I think if I woke up with a man's body, my objection or acceptance would hinge solely on whether or not I would retain the memory of a life spent under the thumb of traditional female gender socialization, a life spent having first-hand experience with the relentless politicization and objectification of women's bodies, minds, and souls. If I didn't remember any of it, if I was somehow retroactively offered the full faith and credit of traditional male gender socialization instead? SIGN ME UP. But if I still had to wrestle with three decades' worth of experience on the wrong side of compulsory femininity, I don't know if I would feel comfortable trying to work through my internalized misogyny in a body that would presumably thenceforth allow me to benefit from a culture so damnably centered on the denigration and minimization of the lives and voice of the people who, until my Quantum Leap switch, had always been such unfailing political and personal brethren (sistren?) to me.
posted by divined by radio at 1:26 PM on February 11, 2015 [18 favorites]


>This line of reasoning seems to suggest that there is something about "traditional girl" gender socialization, dress, and behavior that is innately 'right' to enact upon girls (cis or trans) and innately 'wrong' to enact upon boys (cis or trans)

No, just wrong to inflict on someone who doesn't identify with it regardless of their gender identity. A traditional cis male is probably a good candidate for someone in that category, though that isn't universal.

I feel like you and hydro just kind of dived way more into that comment than I intended. My only point was that forcing a cis identifying child out of their gender identity would be universally regarded as wrong while some people seem to think forcing a trans child into a different identity is okay. That is the totality of my point in that comment. Sorry if I implied more than that.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:10 PM on February 11, 2015


Life in this body has led me to experience intense identification with and overwhelming sadness for all similarly binary-adjudicated female-sexed people on earth. But rather than experiencing that as gender identity, I experience it a sense of personal and political solidarity.

I think, though, that that identification is experiencing gender identity, in a way, in that lacking this feeling of personal solidarity with women is a common theme in the transmasculine experience. I'm trying to come up with an analogy that isn't in some way suggesting things I don't mean to. Imagine everyone's gender ought to come with its own instruction manual. But they only ever bother printing two versions, so you and everyone else with the same version has to try and puzzle out what bits of it work for each of you and what bits are just total bullshit. So you end up having this feeling of commonality with people who got the same book, even though you just got handed a book based on what your genitals looked like when you were a baby, because you tried to sort it out together. But some people got books with misnumbered pages or whole sections that came from some other book somewhere. They're going to have a different relationship to the group because they're always trying to puzzle out what everyone else is looking at.
posted by hoyland at 2:48 PM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


my long comment got ate.

trans women are female socialized

trans men are male socialized

when you extend the grace and benefit of the doubt of "socialization" to some people and not
others based on genitals you're committing an act of (trans) misogyny

the war on women extends to trans women

"what if you had the other kind of body" is one simple liberal way of explaining parts of trans identity to cis people but thats not what trans-aware feminist women would ever center in their analyses. when a cis feminist uncritically accepts a conceptual frame of reference for transness from a trans man without applying the same rigorous skepticism they would apply to an idea about gender posed by a cis man, they are misgendering him and committing an act of (trans) misogyny.
posted by thug unicorn at 2:57 PM on February 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


i'm not criticizing dr mew or the pedagogical virtue of his thought experiment. it definitely has its place. i'm criticizing how cis women influenced by radical feminism make it part of their feminist identity to prioritize non-women over women with the wrong kind of junk.
posted by thug unicorn at 3:21 PM on February 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


Hey genderfluid/non-binary people: here's a quick survey that's floating around social media right now: Nonbinary stats 2015. Survey closes this weekend.

Results will be showing up in this tumblr tag once they're available.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 3:39 PM on February 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think if I woke up with a man's body, my objection or acceptance would hinge solely on whether or not I would retain the memory of a life spent under the thumb of traditional female gender socialization, a life spent having first-hand experience with the relentless politicization and objectification of women's bodies, minds, and souls. If I didn't remember any of it, if I was somehow retroactively offered the full faith and credit of traditional male gender socialization instead? SIGN ME UP. But if I still had to wrestle with three decades' worth of experience on the wrong side of compulsory femininity, I don't know if I would feel comfortable trying to work through my internalized misogyny in a body that would presumably thenceforth allow me to benefit from a culture so damnably centered on the denigration and minimization of the lives and voice of the people who, until my Quantum Leap switch, had always been such unfailing political and personal brethren (sistren?) to me.

Really? Wouldn't those memories, combined with your newfound male privilege, create a superpower that could uniquely influence others? What if a guy could talk to other guys about misogyny, having directly and thoroughly experienced it himself?

Anyway, my objection or acceptance would hinge on whether I'd be forever excluded from female spaces. It's absolutely gutwrenching to think of being seen as an intrusion or threat.
posted by desjardins at 5:43 PM on February 11, 2015


now i'm young and in portland. in other places and times, things might work a little differently, and i'm not saying the kind of analysis i'm doing here is universally applicable. but these are they dynamics i see in the nominally queer, feminist, and trans* friendly environments i spend my time in.

male privilege is not the same thing as having a certain kind of body.

you're welcome to start internalizing male ways of thinking, male mannerisms, and the style that men use to address each other at any time, in any body.

you're welcome to build an identity around the ways you can address men about sexism as a man.

if you do this, regardless of what you do with your body and how transphobic cis men and women see you on a daily basis, you might not be seen as an intrusion or a threat in woman-centered spaces, but thats exactly what you would be.

if you suddenly became 'male bodied' but still wanted to address sexism using all your old experiences, you would soon find yourself a man with all the distance from women that implies, or you would find yourself still a woman and subject to the same double binds all women are and more because now you're trans.
posted by thug unicorn at 6:53 PM on February 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


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