Bigger than bathrooms: on non-binary erasure and exclusion.
May 25, 2016 8:18 AM   Subscribe

Why We Must Stop Calling Menstruation A ‘Women’s Issue’
The problems come when I’m told I can’t be a part of [discussions about menstruation]. This is part of why calling it a 'women’s issue' is harmful not only to me, but to trans men and nonbinary trans people as well. It equates womanhood with a single biological process and is simply a scientifically inaccurate understanding. It has the effect of othering anyone who doesn’t fit that narrow criteria. It contributes to a mindset that there are tests one must pass to determine your womanhood."

Greater transgender visibility hasn't helped non-binary people -- like me
Our culture still holds an ingrained suspicion of gender nonconformity, as if people like me exist solely to deceive and harm others. I remember all the times I have been called a freak, an “it” and ugly. To refuse to participate in the gender binary –the idea that there are only “masculinity” and “femininity” which exist in opposition – is to be considered a monster. [...] As it stands, according to a nationwide survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality, nonbinary people, especially those of us who are people of color, are more likely than binary trans people to attempt suicide, be harassed by the police, live in abject poverty and be sexually and physically assaulted.
8 Common (But Easily Fixable) Ways We Erase Non-Binary People from Society
Can you imagine if we only recognized two types of trees? Say, oak and birch. Then a pine tree comes along, and we’re all like, “Ummmm, nope. Pine trees don’t exist. You’re clearly an oak.”
posted by zebra (86 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is great. Thank you so much for posting it.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:30 AM on May 25, 2016


This speaks to what I like to think of in my pondering moments as a "post-essential" concept of gender and sex, where we begin breaking down our internal models of biological essentialism, removing the the "implied cis" from in front of all the ways we understand and interact with our bodies and letting go of a lot of the baggage that comes from the gender binary being the only gender/sex model that is allowed to be thought of as "naturally occurring".

This work starts inside ourselves first. When we are able to remove the implied cis from how we view our own bodies and processes is where I think some really interesting work gets started. All kinds of new ways of understanding ourselves open up. Lot's to consider that I don't really have time to go into at this moment...

(...all this thought and typed as I'm planning to go a press conference at 2pm today to listen to Ken Paxton announce a major lawsuit agains the DOJ because we can't see to move the conversation beyond bathrooms. *cries*.)
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:31 AM on May 25, 2016 [14 favorites]


Every single time I’ve talked with one of my cis women friends about periods and menstruation, they’ve mentioned how I’m “lucky” that I don’t have to go through that. And while I’m not wild about the idea of experiencing something painful, I personally don’t consider it lucky at all that I’m othered in such a way

Oof, I would do that without thinking. Glad I read it here, instead.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:44 AM on May 25, 2016 [11 favorites]


I really dug the comment by Sioban, one of the interviewees in the menstruation article:

"We have a tendency to try and guess gender from the moment we talk to or about someone and it adds vast assumptions the second that guess is made. In everything from honorifics to bathrooms to relationships, assumptions about a person’s gender brings in assumptions about who they are and what they do. It is inherently harmful to place these roles on people. I’m a woman and I’m trans, but these are hardly my only defining qualities or ones from which the rest of me can be derived."
posted by loquacious crouton at 9:02 AM on May 25, 2016 [12 favorites]


Menstruation (and more vitally, labour and childbirth) may not be definitive of gender, but they sure are pretty binary. Your body either has the machinery to make new humans, or it doesn't, pretty much.

That's one piece of biological essentialism that's pretty important, I think. Karen Horney's concept of "womb envy" is to me an important part of why sexism exists in the first place - really the subjugation of women, employment and money being more valuable than motherhood, men historically taking all the "creative" roles etc etc can all be seen as a response to males' deep-seated jealousy of the ability to create new life. I don't think we should be in quite such a rush to sweep biology under the rug in our understanding of sex and gender.
posted by iotic at 9:10 AM on May 25, 2016 [7 favorites]


Thanks for sharing this. Language around people who menstruate is one of those areas where I know I fuck up more than I'd like to, and I appreciate the reminders and some new ways of thinking about it, to help me get it right.

I also appreciate the point in the third article about research studies and gender, because that's where I have my own tiny one-woman crusade. I serve on research-review committees for a couple of local universities, and I am constantly sending back comments about revising research questionnaires to include more options than just M/F. I don't get to enforce whether they actually make the change or just say that they can't because they need to do their demographics based on federal requirements for information-gathering, or whatever, though, so I don't know if any of my requests ever actually get put into action. But I'm trying to make a little pocket of research that actually collects useful gender data, damn it.
posted by Stacey at 9:11 AM on May 25, 2016 [6 favorites]


I don't think we should be in quite such a rush to sweep biology under the rug in our understanding of sex and gender.

Except the biology excuse is frequently used for all sorts of bullshit to discriminate against transgender and non-binary people.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:13 AM on May 25, 2016 [23 favorites]


Menstruation (and more vitally, labour and childbirth) may not be definitive of gender, but they sure are pretty binary. Your body either has the machinery to make new humans, or it doesn't, pretty much.

Cis-woman, non-working "machinery". Am I any less of a woman? Is a trans man who can menstruate and get pregnant more of a woman than I am?
posted by Sophie1 at 9:15 AM on May 25, 2016 [49 favorites]


Iotic, I think you're missing the fundamental point here, which is that some women don't menstruate (for instance because they were not born with the relevant equipment) whereas some men do menstruate (because they do have that equipment). And also, there are a lot of people who consider themselves neither wholly male nor wholly female, but somewhere in between or perhaps off to one side, or who stay out of the gender game altogether, and those people may or may not menstruate. So framing it as a women's issue both includes a lot of people who don't menstruate, and leaves out a lot of people who do.

That makes framing it in terms of biological essentialism inaccurate at best and actively harmful at worst, in the sense that it pushes a lot of people to the margins, makes assumptions about them that just aren't true, and denies them a right to speak on an issue that directly affects their lives. It's not something I'd thought much about before, but it makes obvious sense now that it's been shown to me.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:18 AM on May 25, 2016 [14 favorites]


Alok (the author of the second article) is also great in this video: The Pain & Empowerment of Choosing Your Own Gender.
posted by mr. manager at 9:22 AM on May 25, 2016


Karen Horney's concept of "womb envy" is to me an important part of why sexism exists in the first place

I end up being curious where this kind of thing comes from - is there empirical research which elicits from cis men their envy of the ability to give birth? I am a little skeptical of arguments that rely on putting a heavy metaphorical interpretation on bodies a la Freud.
posted by Frowner at 9:24 AM on May 25, 2016 [22 favorites]



This speaks to what I like to think of in my pondering moments as a "post-essential" concept of gender and sex


I really like this framing, thanks for this.
posted by zutalors! at 9:25 AM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I understand the idea as being not to pretend there's not a factual difference between someone having a uterus and not having a uterus so much as to recognize that it's a matter of historical arbitrarium to treat that fact as a defining aspect of their personhood and the validity of someone's gender identity. The biological essentialism isn't in recognizing how a specific biological subsystem works or that it is present in some folks and not in others; it's binding that detail to our social understanding of existence as a woman or a man.
posted by cortex at 9:26 AM on May 25, 2016 [17 favorites]


it's binding that detail to our social understanding of existence as a woman or a man.

But the entire point of the article is about erasure.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:28 AM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Maybe I'm misunderstanding or miscommunicating: my point was that that binding of the two together is problematic because it ignores the more complex reality that "has uterus" and "is a woman" is a false isomorphism that excludes in particular trans men and women from discussions about these issues. I disagree with the idea that because some folks have uteruses and some don't, that should be the determining factor in whether we acknowledge their identity as women.
posted by cortex at 9:33 AM on May 25, 2016 [9 favorites]


I think your larger point is correct, cortex -- the issue is one of language. By using the "men and women" construct you are unintentionally erasing people who are both/neither/etc of those. If you were to use 'people' instead of 'men and women' it wouldn't change the meaning of what you're saying, but would remove the implied exclusion.
posted by zebra at 9:41 AM on May 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


Ah, I get you there. And that does get to the root of how ingrained those strongly-gendered aspects of our casual language for this stuff are; I went with "folks" there at one point intentionally to try and generalize away but clearly find it very easy to lapse back into explicit binaries even when I'm trying to be a little mindful.
posted by cortex at 9:46 AM on May 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


can all be seen as a response to males' deep-seated jealousy of the ability to create new life.

Why biological essentialism fails people:

What does "male" mean here?
How does a trans man who is male with a uterus interpret this statement?
How does a trans woman who is female and has severe body dysphoria interpret this statement?
How does a person with a disorder of sex development (DSD) or intersex person interpret this statement?
How does a cis woman with any sort of physical issues preventing their bodies from menstruating or getting pregnant interpret this statement?
How does a cis woman who does not believe her body parts serve a social "biological purpose to reproduce" interpret this statement?

These questions are IMO all valid and require an answer. IMO you can't even begin to answer these questions while simultaneously upholding a biologically essential definition of sex and gender. Therefore biological essentialism needs to make way for a better understanding of sex and gender.
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:49 AM on May 25, 2016 [25 favorites]


Your body either has the machinery to make new humans, or it doesn't, pretty much.

lol no. I have* some of it, but not all. I could've made a new human if I'd donated my eggs to a surrogate. Does that count? Almost nothing in nature is binary.

*well, had. Some of it was removed.
posted by AFABulous at 9:50 AM on May 25, 2016 [14 favorites]


for more context, I am a trans dude.
posted by AFABulous at 9:52 AM on May 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


Also: does sperm count as "machinery to make new humans," or no?
posted by zebra at 9:54 AM on May 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Machinery is such odd and minimizing framing, honestly.
posted by zutalors! at 9:55 AM on May 25, 2016 [6 favorites]


How would people feel if the article was phrased as, "why we must stop calling childbirth a women's issue", or "why we must stop calling breastfeeding a women's issue"? We might as well take it to the logical conclusion. Personally while I absolutely support trans people's right to be free of oppression, and define their identities as they feel is right, I think it's also important to allow that biology is indeed an important part of the way gender gets defined - as are socialisation and the personal performance of gender roles. A lot of what we think of as "male" and "female" gender roles are defined by a legacy of sexism, and that also has its roots in biology-defined ideas of sex and gender. For instance, women are more likely to be raised to expect to do emotional labour, and that stems from the (sexist) assumed role of women as carers within the home. And that has to do with women's identity being forceably limited to motherhood and caring for centuries, as a result of their having wombs.

Yes I'm talking in a gender binary way. I don't know how else to clearly frame the legacy of cis sexism, and its profound effects on human social life.
posted by iotic at 10:03 AM on May 25, 2016 [12 favorites]


[Couple comments removed; all else aside, "I'll add a rape analogy" is basically 100% always a sign that it's time to chuck a comment in progress and go back to the drawing board.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:04 AM on May 25, 2016 [18 favorites]


"why we must stop calling breastfeeding a women's issue"

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/strange-but-true-males-can-lactate/
posted by theatro at 10:05 AM on May 25, 2016


Childbirth isn't a woman's issue, either. And breastfeeding is certainly not.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:05 AM on May 25, 2016 [8 favorites]


Menstruation (and more vitally, labour and childbirth) may not be definitive of gender, but they sure are pretty binary. Your body either has the machinery to make new humans, or it doesn't, pretty much.

There's a large middle ground of people who can carry and deliver a child but only with sustained technological intervention.

And, honestly, one would expect that middle ground to eventually grow wide enough to encompass common-or-garden-variety XY men with no unusual genetic or phenotypic traits.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:08 AM on May 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


Just like we talk about the history of physics as once being newtonian, quantum physics explains the nuances where newtonian physics fails.

I think referring to gender essentialism is necessary in order to tell the complete history of violence against women. The problem is when the entire history of violence against women comes with an implied cis in front of it. Trans woman have been victims of the same violence alongside cis women this whole time. The way society has attached womanhood to "uterus" has harmed cis and trans women, see?

What I am in favor of is opening up our model of gender and sex in order to incorporate a more complete view of how sexism has shaped human history while moving towards eliminating those harms.

There's no need to pretend like sexism didn't exist as it did while there is a need to understand how sexism affected historically erased people.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:09 AM on May 25, 2016 [26 favorites]


I would feel 100% okay about it, because I am also making ongoing efforts to stop framing childbirth and breastfeeding as women's issues. I'm a cis woman. I give almost no thought to childbirth or breastfeeding besides thank fucking Christ I live in a time when I can have a cyborg uterus that stops those things from happening to me. I have trans and nonbinary friends, men and women and some other identifications besides, who have thought more about and been more affected by issues surrounding their relationships to childbirth and breastfeeding than I will ever be. Those issues are to some extent my issues because I do live in a society that assumes I can and will do those things, but they're at least as much my trans friends' issues, in my book.

It's critical that we talk about and grapple with societal legacies of sexism, but it's at least as critical to me that I do not compound them by being currently cissexist in ways that harm trans, nonbindary, and agender people in my life. I fuck that up all the time, but I'm trying to get better about it, and I think it's kind of the bare minimum of the work I can and should be doing.
posted by Stacey at 10:10 AM on May 25, 2016 [21 favorites]


We might as well take it to the logical conclusion.

You don't have to have or express an opinion on this, you know. It's not Philosophy 101 where you're graded on participation.
posted by Etrigan at 10:11 AM on May 25, 2016 [19 favorites]


I give almost no thought to childbirth or breastfeeding besides thank fucking Christ I live in a time when I can have a cyborg uterus that stops those things from happening to me.

Ok. But there may be women who don't see it so negatively, and indeed as part of their gender identity. After all, it's the closest you can be to another human being, as an adult.
posted by iotic at 10:14 AM on May 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


After all, it's the closest you can be to another human being, as an adult.

Having a uterus is? I disagree with that. Unless you just mean physically for a prolonged period of time.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:15 AM on May 25, 2016 [12 favorites]


I'm ok with not making childbirth or breastfeeding women's issues, because then maybe there would be less stigma around them.
posted by zutalors! at 10:18 AM on May 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


biology is indeed an important part of the way gender gets defined

I can assure you, as a trans woman who spent the first 10 years of her life defined by doctors as "hearing and mildly disabled" then went through puberty with doctors trying to convince my mom that my "puberty development delays" needed to be treated in order that I "grow into a man", that I am more painfully aware of how this process works than you probably imagine.

This world contains vast multitudes of people and experiences that go far beyond the middle of the bell curves, we have needs as well and they can be integrated into the way we understand our bodies.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:22 AM on May 25, 2016 [18 favorites]


I was musing about pushing for building code changes to require sanitary disposal receptacles in men's rooms as well as women's. I can only imagine how much fragile masculinity would freak the fuck out over this idea.
posted by odinsdream at 10:29 AM on May 25, 2016 [21 favorites]


But there may be women who don't see it so negatively, and indeed as part of their gender identity.

Yup! I 100% agree, and support them in that. I just believe that the same applies to some men, and some nonbinary people, and some genderfluid or agender people, and anyone else who tells me "hey, I see issues around childbirth and breastfeeding as part of my gender identity."

(With which, having said my piece, I will bow out of this particular bit of the conversation rather than beat the poor dead horse.)
posted by Stacey at 10:32 AM on May 25, 2016 [6 favorites]


Yes I'm talking in a gender binary way. I don't know how else to clearly frame the legacy of cis sexism, and its profound effects on human social life.

You might want to read Julia Serano's book Excluded. It covers a lot of the nuance that people seem to slip up on and as a result fall into commonly-used transphobic tropes.
posted by odinsdream at 10:33 AM on May 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


Perhaps a reframing of this could be that if you really wanna break humanity into two groups over this - which can, depending on the purpose of the discussion, be important - we use the term I saw on an ad for Thinx underpants: "Menstruating human" and "non-menatruating human". Let the context define whether you're specifically referring to people who are thus capable or whether you are referring to someone who is menatruating at that exact moment.

And since I'm having an especially bad day and want to say something mildly crass to cheer myself up I shall offer the slang term "Bleeders" as a possible informal option.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:38 AM on May 25, 2016 [13 favorites]


I've been finding lately that trans issues is one where I am perfectly comfortable having no default opinion and just listening to what trans people have to say. It's been extraordinarily revealing and useful for me for a few reasons -- firstly, I think that sort of humility is useful in understanding other people's experiences, and, secondly, they reveal a lot about my own experiences that I might miss otherwise, how much of my understanding of gender is rooted in unexamined (and genuinely harmful) assumptions, and how, if I don't examine those assumptions, I can be needless hurtful to people, just because my knee is reflexively kicking against something I've never had to look at before.

I keep quiet in these threads because of this, because I want to listen more than talk, but I want to thank the people who share their experiences in these threads. I know it can't be easy, and it's not your job to be my educator, so I really appreciate your participation.
posted by maxsparber at 10:40 AM on May 25, 2016 [51 favorites]



I keep quiet in these threads because of this, because I want to listen more than talk, but I want to thank the people who share their experiences in these threads. I know it can't be easy, and it's not your job to be my educator, so I really appreciate your participation.


I agree with this. People always say you learn nothing from online discussions but I have learned SO MUCH from these threads and also thank people who share their experiences.
posted by zutalors! at 10:43 AM on May 25, 2016 [7 favorites]


Once again, let me praise Organigram's registration page!

Yes, that's right - their "Gender" line is a simple textfield. :)
posted by Mogur at 11:13 AM on May 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Just like we talk about the history of physics as once being newtonian, quantum physics explains the nuances where newtonian physics fails

True, but those nuances occur on a level not directly observed in day to day life, and accounting for those nuances is the job of a limited number of specialists.

To extend the analogy further, you're not asking that people account for the "quantum nuances" or gender, but rather changing their concept of gender on the level of a Newtonian revolution against Aristotle's concepts of physics. This kind of revolution of thinking is not going to happen simply because mainstream understandings of gender, like Newtonian mechanics, is essentially correct except at quantum scales where it starts to break down. Schroedinger's cat in never in a state of quantum uncertainty.
posted by deanc at 11:17 AM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Thanks for sharing these, I learned a lot (as I always do from trans issues discussions here, thanks to the hard work and seemingly endless patience of some contributors).
posted by une_heure_pleine at 11:19 AM on May 25, 2016


I'm down with decoupling discussion and treatment of health issues relating to what I guess have traditionally been called "reproductive systems" from gender, but hate "bleeders", no offense, EmpressCallipygos. Really, "bleeders" and "breeders" and all that kind of language, not a fan.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:24 AM on May 25, 2016 [8 favorites]


Iotic: I just want to say that my own position on these sorts of things was roughly the same as your own not too many years ago, but that it's evolved a lot and I've grown past it and I think my conception of gender is a lot more stable and internally consistent now than it used to be, as well as more just, equitable, and frankly more reality-based. MetaFilter was a big part of that development for me, and continues to be.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I can tell you're thinking hard about this stuff, and please don't get too discouraged or frustrated if you're meeting a lot of resistance from this community. Try to understand the viewpoint that people are espousing—that it's better to think of gender as nonbinary and decoupled from biology, even as historical gender expectations continue to inform how people see themselves in relation to the gender continuum—and see how it feels when you do take it through to its final conclusions. It's a much better and more consistent way of looking at things than you might currently suppose, even if it takes a bit of mental gymnastics to get there.

I see you as being in a place close to where I was when I started seriously thinking about and learning about modern conceptions of gender—you reject transphobia but still see a place for biology in defining gender—and I feel like the reaction you're getting here reflects a viewpoint that is sort of the logical conclusion of that journey. This is a great opportunity for you to test that out and see if it makes sense to you to move your own views on gender closer to what people here are advocating for.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 11:28 AM on May 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh and also it'd be great if those of us who aren't really fully up to speed here (myself included) could step back a bit and let the conversation move past this Trans 101 stuff and onward to the actual subject of the FPP, which is more soecifically about how defining menstruation as a women's issue is harmful in a world where moving away from binary biologically-determined gender is already accepted as a worthy goal. That conversation can't happen until we stop arguing about the underlying premise and give people who have deeper experience and knowledge a chance to speak on it.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 11:40 AM on May 25, 2016 [22 favorites]


I've been finding lately that trans issues is one where I am perfectly comfortable having no default opinion and just listening to what trans people have to say. It's been extraordinarily revealing and useful for me for a few reasons ...

*STANDING OVATION*

Seriously. Seeeerrriously. Just.... listen moar.
posted by odinsdream at 11:52 AM on May 25, 2016 [6 favorites]


There are some people in the world with spleens, and some without spleens. There are people with different blood types. These are real, meaningful differences which affect peoples' medical care, but we don't feel the need to sort people into different categories of human with a bunch of associated baggage based on those differences.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:57 AM on May 25, 2016 [24 favorites]


Considering the last link, I'm modestly pleased that that the building I work in is converting all the single-user bathrooms to gender-neutral (or, perhaps, -irrelevant) spaces. The signs have been ordered, and the change should be in place by the fall semester. Not a huge victory, maybe, but if it makes people's lives easier....
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:59 AM on May 25, 2016


One thing is that, in many places, e.g. at a lot of community clinics, a range of "women's health" services, which address experiences common to cis (often straight) women are often - currently, but not necessarily - packaged together in their delivery. E.g., resources on domestic violence (which is often, but of course not necessarily gendered - obviously it's an issue that affects all people) are sometimes offered alongside often sex-related health stuff (abortion, dysfunctional menstruation). Sometimes people only have the opportunity to access help for DV under the guise of needing medical care, and often, "women's clinics" are just more sensitized to issues that tend to go along with socialized feminity (but aren't of course exclusive to cis, straight women).

That's NOT to say that that's how it needs to be, though. It's totally possible - and desirable - for practitioners in general clinics to be mindful of DV etc all the time, no matter who's experiencing it.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:59 AM on May 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


In this spirit, when I talk about abortion/contraception issues online I've tried to use "anyone" or "person" more when talking about those with uteruses. It sounded strange to me at first to move from "pregnant woman" to "pregnant person" but it's actually not hard to do and definitely worth the trouble.

I always thought "uterus-havers" was kind of cute, if not elegant. It does sidestep all the older categories and gets straight to the point; if you have a uterus, then you are affected by attitudes about pregnancy and menstruation.
posted by emjaybee at 11:59 AM on May 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


Isn't the person who wrote the second article the same Alok Vaid-Menon who is half of performance art duo called DarkMatter? Because they wrote a Facebook post this spring that I found sort of disturbing.
posted by colfax at 12:23 PM on May 25, 2016


Yes, that's them.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:27 PM on May 25, 2016


FWIW I have a lot of criticisms of how Alok frames stuff, but I'm not gonna go into it here.
posted by Annika Cicada at 12:30 PM on May 25, 2016


cotton dress sock: Worth pointing out that the Final Rule on Section 1557 specifically requires clinics to make their services available to patients regardless of gender, even when those services are typically thought of as applying to only one cisgender category of people.
posted by odinsdream at 12:33 PM on May 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Just so people know. The state of texas and 10 other states just sued the federal government. The state of texas is suing on behalf of harrold ISD which on monday night passed a policy that denies trans children the right to use facilities that matches their gender and sex, which is a policy that eliminates trans people from our country by never allowing a trans child to fully develop. Biological Essentialism followed to it's logical end looks like this. I carry in my heart a lot of pain every day. Listening to Ken Paxton a few minutes ago announce this lawsuit fills me with a rage and grief that I am unable to carry safely.

This shit has GOT to fucking stop people.
posted by Annika Cicada at 12:35 PM on May 25, 2016 [16 favorites]


...places offering services to victims of domestic violence are specifically noted in the examples. It is not permissible to restrict these services to only one gender/sex.
posted by odinsdream at 12:35 PM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also, the Texas et al. lawsuit has the nerve to quote an article that RBG wrote in 1975 about gendered spaces and privacy. Which seems to me like they are just baiting her to write the opinion against them.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:36 PM on May 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


It is not permissible to restrict these services to only one gender/sex.

Agreed, odinsdream. That's good news, about Section 1557. I too would rather these issues not be siloed off.
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:42 PM on May 25, 2016


I think the honorable RBG is capable of justifying the ways her opinions have changed in the last 40 years.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 12:42 PM on May 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


I've definitely had trouble learning not to see menstruation as a thing for all women, and only women. It took me a while to realise that even while I could not quite grok this yet (even though I understood it intellectually), it was at least a start to simply try to avoid saying things that would hurt other people. Then I found that I could accept other people's truths as true, even though I could not fully understand them. Another small step. I'm not done, so I'll keep going.

Learning this stuff may take a while, but we should try to avoid making that other people's problem.
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:43 PM on May 25, 2016 [6 favorites]


Wait, hold on - I'm not suggesting anyone not have access to DV help on the basis of gender (?). I said that in some community clinics, a bunch of services, currently, tend to be packaged and delivered together to target a group in the middle of a medico-social Venn diagram, probably for pragmatic reasons - which I don't believe are necessary. And I would like to see those services more readily available everywhere, to everyone. And I don't think it's a necessary or impermeable Venn diagram.
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:53 PM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


it was at least a start to simply try to avoid saying things that would hurt other people.

It took me a long time to automatically say hygiene products instead of feminine products.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:55 PM on May 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


> hygiene products instead of feminine products

"Hygiene products" is a weird euphemism, though. Hand sanitizer? Toilet paper? Dental floss? What does it mean?

I go with "pads and tampons," which I know is causing itchy typing fingers with the Deva Cup crowd...
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:01 PM on May 25, 2016 [6 favorites]


Menstrual supplies? That also includes menstrual cups (of which Diva is just one brand out of twenty or so).
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:03 PM on May 25, 2016 [6 favorites]


If no one minds taking a step outside the Red Tent for a moment: thanks for the other content in the post. Every foray into non-binary gender identity and expression makes me happyhappyhappy, because for me, trappings of traditional femininity always felt as comfortable and flattering as flip flops over tube socks, and straight-up masculinity isn't home either. But until the last few years, binary was really the only representation I'd seen, and evidently every 'tomboy' child either grows up firmly butch, or learns to embrace heels and eyeshadow AND expertly field dressing a boar. (Because let's not overlook the notion that women with interests in male-dominated pursuits can't just happily bumblefuck around, but have to pole-vault over gatekeepers backward and in heels like Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny.)

The only issue I really had to getthefuckover about trans women is embarrassing and pathetic, but boiled down to my interior jerkvoice saying 'wow, women assigned male at birth are not only leaps and bounds better at femininity than you, but embrace and celebrate all those things you fail at valuing and embodying.' And it was a thing I didn't even want to be 'good at,' but when did that ever matter to interior jerkvoice? Self loathing will use anything for fuel, and that's the kind of poison that grows outward and hurtful if you don't work it out. So every example of non-binary expression was a tidbit of grace that helped me let go of that ugliness, because there were other ways with sparkly threads of awesomeness running all through them, and it was like finding the college radio station after only ever having heard Top 40 and country-western.

I'll probably always check the 'F' box on forms, because no outward presentation I adopt will significantly change how I'm likely to be treated at Home Depot or a car dealership, or how legislation is being enacted to control the reproductive decisions of people with the same anatomy as me. 'F' is how the world engages with people with the model I'm driving, so I'll say 'as a woman, I've experienced XYZ.' And to some degree I've internalized aspects of that, especially as a kid, soaking up examples in media/culture of what the world thought people with my anatomy are/should/could be.

It's a bit strange to remember distinctly, explicitly, that most people really do feel like their mind-soul selves are a gender. I've always felt like I'm just making do with the dice roll I got this time around, and that includes a uterus and size 9 feet and a pancreas that could really be more of a team player. It's so good to be relieved of the burden of investing one of those as a particularly significant aspect of identity.
posted by Fantods at 1:05 PM on May 25, 2016 [20 favorites]


Since Ctrl-F informs me nobody has brought up the issue of menopause yet (unless as a euphemism) that's another category of humans who end up being sidelined, invisible, and underserved. I don't mean geriatric services or products aimed at "boomers" (especially now that Gen Xers like moi are in this segment). I mean basics like how do you adapt your daily and dietary habits of a lifetime for a body that you don't recognize anymore, and whose responses are still in transition though technically your menstruating years are now over, and the "magic" 12 month mark has been reached.

I want more than "My body, myself"... I want to talk about being childless, non menstruating, probably not with the same hormones as a natural born cis definition (excuse my clumsy wording, I am new to all this), yet having identified as straight female all my life, what NOW makes me one? Boobs? A shrivelled never used uterus? The memories of 35 years of menstruation?

Youth culture driven by mating hormones is also a form of erasure and exclusion. What now, brown cow?
posted by infini at 1:23 PM on May 25, 2016 [20 favorites]


These articles were much better than I expected from the first headline.
posted by maggiemaggie at 1:27 PM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


And its not a special snowflake segment either, since anyone who can menstruate, will eventually stop.
posted by infini at 1:28 PM on May 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


infini, menopause is an important issue for sure, but I don't think it's the issue at hand. The articles are not about erasure and exclusion in general, they are about erasure and exclusion of trans people and nonbinary people.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:04 PM on May 25, 2016


@infini: I think that menopause can offer a lot of insight into how some trans people may feel about about their bodies? I'm speaking solely from my own experiences with 3 friends, so caveats apply liberally here. 3 of my cis friends in menopause describe feelings about their bodies that are eerily similar to mine, enough that we joke about how I went through menopause first, puberty second. YMMV FWIW.
posted by Annika Cicada at 2:11 PM on May 25, 2016 [12 favorites]


> menopause is an important issue for sure, but I don't think it's the issue at hand

It's part of the same discussion, right? Trans men face health issues, or at least changes, as they age that are caused by menopause -- and trans women possibly aren't. So it not a "women's health" issue, it's a "people experiencing menopause" issue (though that's a terrible term and I hope someone has a better one).
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:31 PM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Well, maybe I was wrong then. Wasn't the first time, won't be the last. I'll bow out now.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:34 PM on May 25, 2016


That's why I brought it up. Ironically, this got me wondering if there was any transitioning literature that might actually be useful for someone in my situation say, and similarly, to bring it up to ask whether anyone had explored this event as a "neutering" of one's gender?
posted by infini at 3:49 PM on May 25, 2016


Annika Cicada, I would like to know more, either here or in memail, whichever you would prefer.
posted by infini at 3:51 PM on May 25, 2016


well, I think the thing is that the way my friends and I talked about our internal senses of body dysphoria that we had a lot of similarities but once we got past self-awareness and internal dialog into society writ large, the differences between me as trans and them as cis are entirely un-relatable to each other?
posted by Annika Cicada at 3:54 PM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm an intersex trans man married to an intersex trans woman. Both my wife and I have experienced menstruation. In my case, getting a period was seen by doctors as proof that I had been assigned to the "correct" binary gender. In her case, it was viewed as a fascinating medical anomaly, not as proving that her identity as a woman was valid.

Binary sex essentialism is not just wrong in the ethical sense of being deployed to deny trans people's lived reality. It's wrong in the empirical sense. Sex really is a spectrum and sex characteristics vary gloriously. But doctors in our society medically alter the bodies of intersex people to try to erase sex variance, casting it as disorder. And when it comes to babies born with penises and uteri due to variance in hormonal exposures in utero, American doctors have for many decades now justified surgically removing the phalli of these children by raising penile menstruation as an intolerable outcome. (They don't mention the possibility that if the child grows up not wishing to have a period, they could just take testosterone or progesterone to avoid it, or perhaps elect a hysterectomy. But the real point here is that doctors medically enforce a sex binary ideology that insists that menstruation is a female experience, and that women can't have penises.)

Absolutely, trans men and nonbinary people deserve to live in a social and medical world that affirms our gender identities. We need to decouple physical sex characteristics from gender identity, and not use uteruses or vaginas or breasts as a synecdoche for "womanhood." Every year I am told by my doctor to go get a mammogram at a local "women's imaging clinic," and that's a ridiculous experience. When I, with my beard and receding hairline and chesthair, am made to sit in a pink gown in a room full of cis women who are eyeing me, it's not very different from being told I have to use the women's bathroom because I have breasts. I tried to explain to my doctor why I didn't wish as a man to be sent to a "women's imaging clinic," and her response was that she wasn't singling me out as a trans man--1 in 100 cis men gets breast cancer, and if she finds a lump in a cis dude's moob, she sends him there as well. And my eyes were rolling around in my head to hear her talk about how (cis) men should be aware of their breast cancer risk and proactive and do BSEs and get scanned if they find lumps, but sadly they aren't proactive and often don't get diagnosed until the cancer is advanced. Gee, might that have anything to do with cis men being sent the message that breast cancer would "unman" them, clearly underlined by their having to go to a "women's" clinic to get screened?

Anyway, sex and gender are both spectra. Treating intersex bodies as defective and nonbinary gender identities as delusional and equating getting a period with being a woman in some magical manner are all really sad things. It's time for folks in our society to stop talking about sex and gender with all the sophistication of 2 year olds, and none of their flexibility.
posted by DrMew at 11:23 AM on May 26, 2016 [33 favorites]


CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP.

Say it louder for the people in the back.

You're a national treasure, DrMew.
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:39 AM on May 26, 2016 [5 favorites]


BLESS YOU DR. MEW, THE DOCTOR OF MY HEART
posted by beefetish at 12:03 PM on May 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


Awwww, benedictus/a/um, heh.
posted by DrMew at 12:11 PM on May 26, 2016 [4 favorites]


I tried to explain to my doctor why I didn't wish as a man to be sent to a "women's imaging clinic,"

Maybe the best part of changing my gender marker on my insurance is that I stopped getting those nagging emails about scheduling mammograms and pap smears. *shudders*
posted by AFABulous at 12:30 PM on May 26, 2016 [4 favorites]


On the flip side of that, me changing mine from M to F has resulted in a wonderful series of robocalls, e-mails, and reminder letters that I'm SEVERELY overdue for my pap.
posted by odinsdream at 12:50 PM on May 26, 2016 [4 favorites]


to stay on theme
And me turning 50 has resulted in red carpet invites with times and dates to the nearest facility for the above

ah, boobs and wombs
posted by infini at 1:00 PM on May 26, 2016


...I kinda want to just schedule one and see what they do.
posted by odinsdream at 1:08 PM on May 26, 2016 [10 favorites]


Undressing in the doctor's office would be a rather dramatic way of saying "unsubscribe me from this list."
posted by AFABulous at 12:59 PM on May 27, 2016 [8 favorites]


I was musing about pushing for building code changes to require sanitary disposal receptacles in men's rooms as well as women's.

This came up on an internal discussion forum at work around a set of bathrooms that have been designated "gender neutral", but they never added "those little metal wall trash cans" to what had been the men's room, and then the discussion went to putting them in all of the restrooms, gendered or not. It was a really nice sincere discussion, and the facilities folks were thoughtfully engaged.
posted by epersonae at 4:11 PM on May 31, 2016 [4 favorites]


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