Transgender

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  • ViHart - on gender or I do not understand your meat noises
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    edited July 2018
    ViHart - on gender or I do not understand your meat noises

    Not the one I saw, but like everything by ViHart, excellent. Basically the same message.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host, 8th Day Host
    ViHart - on gender or I do not understand your meat noises

    Thanks. This is great. What she says is pretty much my experience. I did even as a teenager think people were being attention-seeking when they drew attention to their gender, and when boys made sexist comments as a ‘joke’ and girls got offended, I thought it was all some silly showing-off game that meant nothing. But when I learned about gender identity and trans people, my logic was exactly as hers - gender reassignment surgery and hormone treatment is a huge and difficult thing for someone to go through. No one would choose to have it simply as an attention-seeking thing, or on a whim or to be trendy. You’d need to be suffering pretty badly to make it worth it. And the fact that is is worth it for so many, that they are so much happier after having it, confirms in my mind that gender identity is a real thing.
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    Don't we need to be clear as to what we understand by 'identity'.

    To my mind there are scientific biological categories that are a matter of agreed definition: species are objectively defined by biologists, the ugly duckling was actually a swan, however much it had been under the misapprehension it was otherwise. Similarly, males and females can be biologically defined, and the vast majority of individuals assigned as such without difficulty, given the bi-modal nature of the distribution along the continuum. There are, of course, a small number of individuals who do not easily fit into this classification, which might be an argument for more than two sexes. I don't believe that to hold these conventional views has anything to do with transphobia, but is an attempt to clear the conceptual ground.

    Gender, however, is a different matter, and its basis more difficult to determine and certainly more contested, as evident in the posts on this thread. It would appear that it is an issue which particularly exercises females and divides the feminist movement. Here, being a 'man' (masculine) or 'woman' (feminine) is seen as a function of biology, socialisation, and innate, subjective feelings. Trans supporters regard gender identity as being a matter of self-definition, and that the consequences for others of these subjective feelings ought to be accepted by society as a whole. Difficulties arise when the subjective feelings of some non-trans as to what constitutes being a 'woman' (especially) differ. Respecting gender we are dealing less with objective definitions than questions of value, and the postmodern manner in which it is discussed makes any agreed resolution difficult to achieve, as the testy language it generates demonstrates.

  • EliabEliab Shipmate, Purgatory Host
    If I tell you that I’m male, I don’t consciously think about my genitals, nor am I inviting you to do so. I’m telling you how, in a world that mostly divides people into M and F, where I place myself and how I’d like you to see me.

    Is that any less ‘subjective’, or, really, in any way meaningfully different, to what a trans man would mean by saying the exact same thing?
  • Yes, that sounds right. We all self-identify. Transphobes claim to be able to state someone else's identity. As I said earlier, this is bizarre, but we are used to it. But it amounts to saying that I know your identity better than you! A glance at the horrific threads on Mumsnet shows the scorn and nastiness which can accompany this. As to the roots of this arrogance, well, probably very complicated.
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    Speaking for myself, male of the masculine gender hopefully in touch with my feminine side, I have no problem in accepting sincere self-definition in others,- at least that's what I think my feelings are, though in these matters it's not always clear where oneself is coming from and others might have a better understanding. I do not regard myself as transphobic, though more objective third parties and social psychologists might suggest I'm deceiving myself. Who's to say?

  • I think there's a difference between enquiring about trans in a respectful manner, and feeling puzzled by it possibly, and jeeringly saying that of course a trans woman is a man, because I have special gender-perceptive powers.
  • You could argue that some women feel that being a woman is fragile, and has been hard won. This seems obvious when you think that married women were legally erased until the late 19th century, (UK). So you could argue that there is resentment that trans women come along and usurp identity.

    I think it's a poor argument, as again it is othering, and claiming the right to define someone else, but it might explain the intense feelings. See today's Guardian for a liberal transphobic view (Hadley Freeman).
  • Penny SPenny S Shipmate
    I've read the Freeman piece https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/05/dolls-dresses-no-proof-not-girl-pink-v-blue, and don't read transphobia into it. It might be worth reading it to check your own response.
  • lilbuddhalilbuddha Shipmate
    I would, cautiously, say the article is not transphobic. The points she makes are valid and she doesn’t wander into doubting self-identification. Not directly, at least. One would need to read more of her writings on the subject to get a better feel.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    Penny S wrote: »
    I've read the Freeman piece https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/05/dolls-dresses-no-proof-not-girl-pink-v-blue, and don't read transphobia into it. It might be worth reading it to check your own response.

    The comments meanwhile...

    Backslideret #3 isn't into pretty; she has a nightdress she loves with "anti-Princess" on it. Very physical, climbing, cycling, computer games, not keen on pink. Quite the tomboy, but she's utterly clear she's a girl, just one who likes a lot of "boy" things and doesn't go a bundle on lots of "girl" things. Being trans is more than just about roles. It's about an inner identity.
  • DafydDafyd Shipmate
    Hadley Freeman has in the past remarked that it's not for cis-men to go telling cis-women whether or not their concerns are legitimate or transphobic. Cis-men get to listen to both sides.
    As far as I can gather from trying to listen to trans-people, it does them an injustice to equate being trans with not being happy with the way one's society assigns roles to one's gender.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host, 8th Day Host
    I think the article raises a valid point. With more awareness of gender dysphoria, teenagers are likely to wonder if it applies to them, especially as teenage years are a time when people start to question their identity in general and wonder how they fit into the world. And if they are surrounded by cultural expectations of what a woman should be, and they realise they are not like this, then it will be a question in their mind. Equally teenagers often wonder if they are gay, and more so now being gay is more accepted in society than it was. There are all sorts of things teenagers wonder as they learn about different types of people and try to work out where they fit in. I don’t think acknowledging this is transphobic. This is surely where counselling and living for a year as the gender one identifies with comes in. And again, surely, to take the huge and difficult step of transitioning, you’ve got to be quite certain in your mind and suffering significant discomfort in your biological body. It’s unlikely to be something people leap into because of an ‘I wonder if...’

    I also think though, that if someone is transgender, it must be very hard to put into words the feeling of identifying with a certain gender. How does one find words for that? You surely would resort to societal stereotypes and external cultural symbols to some extent. A child may see the people they identify with wearing dresses, and so they want to wear a dress too, not because of dresses in themselves, but because of the association of dresses with these people.

    This is why I, as someone with no sense of gender, have absolutely no idea what this sense of gender thing feels like. I have asked people, both cis people and trans people, and they tell me they have this identity strongly inside them, but they can’t put it into concrete words that I can grasp. I believe them, but I can’t understand what it is they are experiencing, other than through analogies.
  • Presumably this is why some people replace gender by sex, or biology - it seems more concrete and visible. So if you have a penis, obviously you're a man (because I say so).

    Of course the idea of social construction offered a more radical approach to gender, and relativized the biological view, and now we are grappling with self-identity. But shockingly perhaps, we all do this, or at least, we internalize various injunctions about sex/gender and accept them (or not).
  • mousethief wrote: »
    This is behaviourism gone mad.

    I never even considered it as such but this is brilliant.



    Cheers, mate. I've never thought it either, but after reading a ton of transphobic stuff, I couldn't get it out of my head, that it is looking at people from the outside, not the inside. And also, weirdly, claiming authority over other people's identity.
  • lilbuddhalilbuddha Shipmate
    Presumably this is why some people replace gender by sex, or biology - it seems more concrete and visible. So if you have a penis, obviously you're a man (because I say so).
    Well, to be fair, more than 99% of the time, this is true. This means that most people will not be, nor may even personally know, someone for who this is untrue. Were it not for the telly and the internet, awareness would be nearly non-existent. None of this excuses the antis, but should illustrate the pernicious nature of that POV. What has substantially helped the LGB part of the alphabet is direct exposure and normalisation in entertainment.
  • My experience is very similar to yours Fineline, but I have never considered myself non-binary. I've never had a strong sense of myself as female, tend to imagine myself as male in daydreaming or in D&D & similar games.

    I was recently describing my friendship with an ex lodger, and the person I was talking to kept telling me that I was behaving like a man - likewise in terms of how I organise my house & chores. It was quite an odd conversation.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host, 8th Day Host
    Hi Doublethink. I had never considered myself non-binary until I learned about gender identity. Then I figured the word described me to people who use this word. I don’t imagine myself either as a man or a woman. In my dreams I have no gender. Though my sister’s partner jokes that I am a man in a woman’s body. He says the same about my sister. My sister does think in terms of gender though - she sees herself more like a bloke, but not in a transgender way, whereas I see myself as neither. How I organise my house and chores is probably not gender-specific, as I don’t organise them. I am disorganised. If getting a gender could help me be organised, I would want one!
  • LeafLeaf Shipmate
    Kwesi wrote: »
    Gender, however, is a different matter, and its basis more difficult to determine and certainly more contested, as evident in the posts on this thread. It would appear that it is an issue which particularly exercises females and divides the feminist movement.

    Gender is an issue which particularly exercises females? For levels of conflict surrounding transgender people, we can consider that they may receive verbal sniping from some TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists, such as Germaine Greer.)

    They receive much worse from some "males": murder.

    For some truly depressing reading, have a look at this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_unlawfully_killed_transgender_people It seems that, contrary to your assertion, "males" are particularly exercised about transgender. In this list, the overwhelming number of people who are specifically identified as the murderers appear to have masculine names, or when not named ("a group of six neo-Nazi skinheads") probably male.

    That is the true and horrifying cost of transphobia.

  • GrayfaceGrayface Shipmate
    Thanks Leaf. I really appreciate that post.
  • FirenzeFirenze Shipmate, Host Emeritus
    I was recently describing my friendship with an ex lodger, and the person I was talking to kept telling me that I was behaving like a man - likewise in terms of how I organise my house & chores.

    This was something that caught my attention in the Makepeace stooshie - the assumption that a change in gender means a change of personality. Why? Because some behaviours are Male and some Female: simples.

    A proposition which is palpably absurd, but nevertheless continues to underpin western capitalism AFAICS. It is clearly a lot easier to sell stuff to people if they are conditioned to believe ‘If you are this then you will want that’ I am sure, having discovered the Pink Pound, it is only a matter of time before the marketing people find a way to monetise gender fluidity.
  • RuthRuth Shipmate
    Leaf wrote: »
    For levels of conflict surrounding transgender people, we can consider that they may receive verbal sniping from some TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists, such as Germaine Greer.)

    They receive much worse from some "males": murder.

    Kind of a variation on "men are afraid women will laugh at them; women are afraid men will kill them."

    One of the weird things that happens with those feminists who want to exclude trans women from the category "women" is that they end up rhetorically in bed with anti-feminists, both mounting a pretty bullshit argument for gender essentialism.
    For some truly depressing reading, have a look at this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_unlawfully_killed_transgender_people It seems that, contrary to your assertion, "males" are particularly exercised about transgender. In this list, the overwhelming number of people who are specifically identified as the murderers appear to have masculine names, or when not named ("a group of six neo-Nazi skinheads") probably male.

    Moreover, in the US, it is trans women of color who are most at risk of being murdered for existing. This is not to say that trans men or white trans women have it easy, but the murderous policing of who is and isn't a woman is done most frequently to people of color.

    Where I live -- in a progressive city and around the corner from the LGBT Center -- I think most cis women are fairly accepting of trans women and men, though I'd guess that a lot of them would be stopped in their tracks by the question, "Would you date a trans man?" Cis men I think are less accepting. A barbershop in my neighborhood used to exclude women from the premises, and when a trans man went for a haircut, the owner looked him over, declared him to be not a man, and refused service. The guy brought suit and the barbershop settled out of court and changed their practice. Whether the owner and the bros he was catering to learned anything I can't say.
  • RussRuss Ship-mate
    Ruth wrote: »
    I'd guess that a lot of them would be stopped in their tracks by the question, "Would you date a trans man?"

    Good question.

    Would you ?

    Or would I date a trans woman ?

    I think the honest answer is.. .. it depends.

    If the treatment works well enough, if their maleness is entirely backstory, then yes, why not ?

    But if by "trans woman" you mean someone whose only qualification for femaleness is their unsupported word that that is how they feel inside, then obviously not.

    But I'll let you answer...


  • josephinejosephine Shipmate
    Russ wrote: »
    But if by "trans woman" you mean someone whose only qualification for femaleness is their unsupported word that that is how they feel inside

    That is the sort of thing that one would expect to hear from an utterly ignorant and transphobic bigot, and not from someone with pretenses of being a decent human being.
  • RuthRuth Shipmate
    Tell me, Russ, what qualifications make someone a woman?
  • Russ wrote: »
    But if by "trans woman" you mean someone whose only qualification for femaleness is their unsupported word that that is how they feel inside, then obviously not.
    @Russ - I've set up a Hell thread with your name on it.

  • Russ wrote: »
    But if by "trans woman" you mean someone whose only qualification for femaleness is their unsupported word that that is how they feel inside, then obviously not.
    josephine wrote: »
    That is the sort of thing that one would expect to hear from an utterly ignorant and transphobic bigot, and not from someone with pretenses of being a decent human being.
    Given all the discussion in the Styx about how we refer to trans-people it should be obvious that this is a sensitive area. I see no disagreement that the polite thing to do is refer to people as they would want to be referred to. If someone says they're a woman then accept their word and refer to them accordingly.

    We haven't settled on a policy statement as yet. But, without setting a precedent and given the particular circumstances of the sensitivities revealed on this thread, we ask people to be polite and considerate to sensitive issues. So, we ask everyone to avoid posts that provoke others - including, but not limited to, deliberately using inappropriate pronouns and questioning the veracity of the experience of others and the nature of their identity - both in their gender and other ways (ie: whether they are a decent human being).

    Alan
    Ship of Fools Admin
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    Ruth: "Would you date a trans man?"

    I' m not sure what sort of question that is, and what it has to do with acceptance of the trans gendered. In my own case I wouldn't because I'm committed to a long-term relationship with a cis-gendered female with whom I'm happily married and have three children. If I were single and younger I would date a cis-gendered female out of a desire to pass on my genes, so I would not be searching for a trans. I suspect my preference is a function of the desire of most species to reproduce and the social arrangements under which that takes place in my society and sub-group.

    My general approach to these kinds of issues is live and let live, and trust that others will accord me the same courtesy and respect they demand for themselves.
  • LuciaLucia Shipmate
    edited July 2018
    Rethinking this post...
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    KarlLB wrote: »
    Penny S wrote: »
    I've read the Freeman piece https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/05/dolls-dresses-no-proof-not-girl-pink-v-blue, and don't read transphobia into it. It might be worth reading it to check your own response.

    The comments meanwhile...

    Backslideret #3 isn't into pretty; she has a nightdress she loves with "anti-Princess" on it. Very physical, climbing, cycling, computer games, not keen on pink. Quite the tomboy, but she's utterly clear she's a girl, just one who likes a lot of "boy" things and doesn't go a bundle on lots of "girl" things. Being trans is more than just about
    roles. It's about an inner identity.

    Yes, that was me too. If you met me aged nine you’d think I was a boy. All my friends were boys too as I was into cars and climbing trees. I hated skirts and dresses, I wanted to be a boy.

    But when puberty hit it was the boys I was day dreaming about and falling for.



  • LuciaLucia Shipmate
    Ruth wrote: »
    Tell me, Russ, what qualifications make someone a woman?

    I'm not especially wanting to hear Russ's view on this but I am actually interested in the answer to this question as this thread has prompted me to think about it quite a lot.

    What is it to be male or female?
    I can understand the biological, that is fairly straightforward in the majority of cases (acknowledging that this is not sufficient in cases of intersex conditions and some chromosomal abnormalities).
    Then there are the social and cultural expectations that we absorb from those around us about the roles we play in society and how we interact with one another. I guess that for many of us that as long as we don't feel too uncomfortable somewhere within the range of possibilities within that mental framework of 'maleness' or 'femaleness' that our upbringing has given us we are comfortable enough with our assigned gender and will be cisgendered.
    But clearly for some people there is something inside of them that cannot feel comfortable within the category they have been assigned. Is it possible for anyone to give me any idea of what this consists of?
    I do not doubt that people are describing something that is a very real experience. Is it just about feeling more comfortable living within the norms of what our society has designated as male or female in terms of roles, relationships, dress etc and wanting be allowed to live within these without censure? I can understand that, but the internal sense of being male or female seems very mysterious to me.
    But as I said, I am asking these questions to try to increase my understanding. I don't, to my knowledge, have any transgender people within my circle of friends and family, although I have met some in the course of my professional work. I am not questioning the validity of who they are, I'd just like to understand it better.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    Boogie wrote: »
    KarlLB wrote: »
    Penny S wrote: »
    I've read the Freeman piece https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/05/dolls-dresses-no-proof-not-girl-pink-v-blue, and don't read transphobia into it. It might be worth reading it to check your own response.

    The comments meanwhile...

    Backslideret #3 isn't into pretty; she has a nightdress she loves with "anti-Princess" on it. Very physical, climbing, cycling, computer games, not keen on pink. Quite the tomboy, but she's utterly clear she's a girl, just one who likes a lot of "boy" things and doesn't go a bundle on lots of "girl" things. Being trans is more than just about
    roles. It's about an inner identity.

    Yes, that was me too. If you met me aged nine you’d think I was a boy. All my friends were boys too as I was into cars and climbing trees. I hated skirts and dresses, I wanted to be a boy.

    But when puberty hit it was the boys I was day dreaming about and falling for.



    I think you could have found yourself fancying the girls at that point and it still wouldn't be the same thing as actually being transgender.
  • EutychusEutychus Shipmate
    Lucia wrote: »
    But clearly for some people there is something inside of them that cannot feel comfortable within the category they have been assigned.

    I am trying not to be offensive here and am open to anybody pulling me up if any of this is expressed inappropriately.

    I think this issue is further complicated by the fact that "transgender" seems to encompass some people who feel very strongly that they belong in a "conventional" category to which they were not assigned (e.g. M to F) and who it is to be hoped may feel much more comfortable once they conform to the maximum extent possible to that "conventional" gender category, and other people who don't feel comfortable with any conventional category of gender at all.

    I have a colleague who spends half his time as a man and half her time as a woman and who has developed their own portrayal of gender as having a total of seven aspects, as I recall. I've talked with him quite a lot and I think she would definitely see herself as being within the transgender world, but it seems to me to be something very different from feeling from birth like "a boy trapped in a girl's body".
  • DafydDafyd Shipmate
    Ruth wrote: »
    Tell me, Russ, what qualifications make someone a woman?
    It strikes me that it doesn't help that the dominant mode of modern thinking talks as if every opinion that isn't established by third-party observation, preferably with numbers attached, can be lumped together as unsupported feelings.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host, 8th Day Host
    Thinking about the whole nature/nurture thing, while there is clearly evidence that gender is an inherent thing a person experiences inside and identifies with, we also don’t live in a vacuum. We exist in relation to other people, so social stereotypes and associations with gender will surely be part of a person’s thinking too. That is why it is important that, say, women can express themselves and their appearance in a variety of ways, so that people who identify as a woman (whether cis or trans) don’t feel their womanhood must be expressed in a certain way which doesn’t fit their personality. Personality and gender are two different things. Like race and gender, or disability and gender, or sexual orientation and gender. Black women, disabled women, gay women, for instance, have expressed that they don’t feel like they are represented within traditional feminsim - these white, straight, non-disabled privileged women do not represent them. But that doesn’t make them think ‘Hmm... maybe I’m not a woman then.’
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    KarlLB wrote: »
    Boogie wrote: »
    KarlLB wrote: »
    Penny S wrote: »
    I've read the Freeman piece https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/05/dolls-dresses-no-proof-not-girl-pink-v-blue, and don't read transphobia into it. It might be worth reading it to check your own response.

    The comments meanwhile...

    Backslideret #3 isn't into pretty; she has a nightdress she loves with "anti-Princess" on it. Very physical, climbing, cycling, computer games, not keen on pink. Quite the tomboy, but she's utterly clear she's a girl, just one who likes a lot of "boy" things and doesn't go a bundle on lots of "girl" things. Being trans is more than just about
    roles. It's about an inner identity.

    Yes, that was me too. If you met me aged nine you’d think I was a boy. All my friends were boys too as I was into cars and climbing trees. I hated skirts and dresses, I wanted to be a boy.

    But when puberty hit it was the boys I was day dreaming about and falling for.



    I think you could have found yourself fancying the girls at that point and it still wouldn't be the same thing as actually being transgender.

    True. I could have also said I’ve always known I’m female even ‘tho I wanted to be a boy. I wanted to be a boy because I noticed boys/men had all the privileges and I preferred boys games, clothes and toys. I never felt I was a boy in a girl’s body.

  • EutychusEutychus Shipmate
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    Dolezal can wash off her dark makeup, and go back to how she was raised. A white woman.
    I've been thinking about Rachel Dolezal for a while too now, and I would like to challenge this (@lilbuddha I'm sure this comes as no surprise :wink: ).

    There is no denying that Dolezal can change her physical skin colour back to white infinitely easier than a black person can. But I am not so sure she can really "step out of it any time she likes". I read a followup piece about her a while back and so far as I recall, she is still living as a person of colour, although utterly ostracised by, basically, the world at large and her family.

    I think her deceit was despicable, but I would not be at all surprised if it has become an integral part of her identity such that changing her skin colour back to white might well constitute psychological trauma for her equivalent to what a trans person would feel faced with the injunction to "go back to being a boy/girl". I could well imagine her committing suicide because society has so roundedly rejected her self-asserted identity. At the time of the article I read, her circumstances were not good. Can you find any pity for her? I can.
    Transgender people cannot
    I think that depends on your definition. The colleague I alluded to in my last post refutes the notion that he is a transvestite (a category I understand to be scorned by some trans people on the same grounds you invoke for Dolezal), identifies as transgender, asserts she does not feel fully comfortable either as a man or as a woman, and as I said sees gender as having seven aspects. Does his ability to change back and forth disqualify her as transgender? Be careful. You might be denying his very right to existence.
  • fineline wrote: »
    Thinking about the whole nature/nurture thing, while there is clearly evidence that gender is an inherent thing a person experiences inside and identifies with, we also don’t live in a vacuum. We exist in relation to other people, so social stereotypes and associations with gender will surely be part of a person’s thinking too. That is why it is important that, say, women can express themselves and their appearance in a variety of ways, so that people who identify as a woman (whether cis or trans) don’t feel their womanhood must be expressed in a certain way which doesn’t fit their personality. Personality and gender are two different things. Like race and gender, or disability and gender, or sexual orientation and gender. Black women, disabled women, gay women, for instance, have expressed that they don’t feel like they are represented within traditional feminsim - these white, straight, non-disabled privileged women do not represent them. But that doesn’t make them think ‘Hmm... maybe I’m not a woman then.’

    Yes, that's why Greer's comment that trans women don't sound like women, talk like women, and so on raised eyebrows, as it seemed to be going back to some kind of essentialism. And a lot of people have been going back to de Beauvoir's statement that one is not born a woman.

    My sense is that our understanding of gender moved away from biology, (so it's not sex), and then social construction became the dominant theme, but now there is another shift to personal identity, not determined by others. This latter is a behaviourist hell, since I have to look for my identity to you, but of course, self identity also presents problems. But would you rather have your identity determined by others, or yourself? In other words, self identity has opened a Pandora's box, and who knows what lies within it.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host, 8th Day Host
    My sense is that our understanding of gender moved away from biology, (so it's not sex), and then social construction became the dominant theme, but now there is another shift to personal identity, not determined by others. This latter is a behaviourist hell, since I have to look for my identity to you, but of course, self identity also presents problems. But would you rather have your identity determined by others, or yourself?

    Well, these days there is an understanding that gender is part of one’s inherent sense of self, not simply a social construct, and not always matching one’s body. But personally, I have no sense of gender, so for me, gender is quite unrelated to my identity. It has been determined by other people and means absolutely nothing to me whatsoever.

    When I was a little kid, a woman visiting my mother asked me what my favourite toy was (making conversation when my mother had popped to the loo). I went to get my favourite toy, which was a tiny red shiny car, which I proceeded to push across the kitchen floor to show her how it worked. She said to me ‘Little girls don’t play with cars.’

    For me, ‘little girl’ was what adults had decided I was - it meant nothing to me. I just thought she was stupid - if she wanted to define me as a little girl, she must surely logically see that little girls do play with cars, as I was right there playing with one!

    She then said again, emphatically that little girls don’t play with cars, and added that little boys play with cars. I figured she might tell my parents that they had labelled me wrong and that I should be called a little boy.

    And then she said ‘Little girls play with dolls.’ I told her I had a doll too, and went to get it to show her, to help her with her confusion. But she wasn’t interested, and then my mother returned, and no further mention was made of it. I just figured the adults needed to make their minds up - to me it was no different from them deciding which class I was in at school, or what team I was in for team games, or which ‘six’ I was in for Brownies, all of which seemed pointless conventions to me anyway.

    These days I’m referred to as a woman rather than a little girl, and it remains utterly irrelevant to me. However, for someone who does have an inherent sense of gender, it is obviously very relevant and very important, and being misgendered is very damaging.

  • Those are good examples of determining other people's identity. You are a girl, and girls like cars.

    What is mildly freaky is that this goes on all over the place, not just with gender and sex. I don't think we've caught up yet with this revolution away from othering, although I suppose postmodernism has made headway. I don't want to be defined by others.
  • Sorry, girls don't like cars.
  • RussRuss Ship-mate
    Ruth wrote: »
    Tell me, Russ, what qualifications make someone a woman?

    That's the Big Question - what does it really mean to be male or female. That's what the thread's about. I don't have an easy answer.

    You came up with this brilliant question about dating, as a way of going deeper, getting to people's real thoughts and feelings rather than what they would go along with for the sake of politeness in a social situation.

    My answer was of the form
    IF
    (one extreme)
    THEN yes but IF
    (other extreme)
    THEN no.

    Not quite the ringing endorsement you were looking for, perhaps ?

    But an honest starting point (if one that leaves a lot of wiggle room in between the two extremes).

    I look forward to hearing other people's answers...
  • FirenzeFirenze Shipmate, Host Emeritus
    As I said above, our entire consumerist society is founded on the idea that all interests, preferences, behaviours, even colours are inherently male or female.

    If you don’t conform adequately to these expectations then you get reactions -
    puzzlement, disbelief, ridicule, being ignored, censure, shock, hostility. I am sure every one could produce a parallel to fineline’s experience. If you’re lucky, it’s just something to roll an eye or have a wry laugh about. It can be something profoundly frustrating, something that stopped you following the career you wanted, or succeeding in it as you ought. And I imagine it being of the order of saying ‘You are not - cannot be - who you say you are’.

    I am not sure I made that great a job of handling the contradictions in my own life. In many way, I was adequately female (see me, see knitting). In others - particularly at work - too male, too assertive, too bolshie. Now I find myself more at home in the allowable old woman roles - crone, witch, scold, mad old bat.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host, 8th Day Host
    Perhaps a way for cis people to think about what it means to be male or female is to imagine how you’d feel if you woke up tomorrow in a body of the opposite sex. Obviously there would be lots of social complications, but if society just accepted it smoothly and told you that’s fine, all documentation will be changed, society accepts it, and now you are a woman (or man) for the rest of your life, how would it feel? Would it feel wrong in any way, and if so, why?

    Alternatively, imagine going on some long holiday alone, with a bunch of people you’ve never met before - a nice friendly mixed-gender group that you are going to hang out with and become friends with - and they consistently refer to you as the opposite gender. Although to you it is obvious you are not that gender, to them you clearly are. Is this okay? Do you go with it? If you say ‘Actually, I’m a man/woman,’ and they look at you weird and laugh, thinking you’re having a laugh, do you keep pushing it, or just let them go with it? Does it matter? And if it does matter, why?
  • You see, that's my problem. In either of those scenarios I don't feel any dissonance at all. I imagine I'd just get on with my (newly male) life, though it would take me a while to get used to the new toilet.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host, 8th Day Host
    You see, that's my problem. In either of those scenarios I don't feel any dissonance at all. I imagine I'd just get on with my (newly male) life, though it would take me a while to get used to the new toilet.

    Same here, though I don’t see it as a problem as such. Just that I have no sense of gender. That’s okay, as far as I’m aware. I don’t need to have one. Not having one isn’t harming anyone. But others do have a sense of gender, and they can describe how in these sorts of hypothetical situations they would feel uncomfortable. So they are quite useful questions for people asking what makes a person male or female, because gender clearly is something deeper than genitalia.

  • fineline wrote: »
    Perhaps a way for cis people to think about what it means to be male or female is to imagine how you’d feel if you woke up tomorrow in a body of the opposite sex. Obviously there would be lots of social complications, but if society just accepted it smoothly and told you that’s fine, all documentation will be changed, society accepts it, and now you are a woman (or man) for the rest of your life, how would it feel? Would it feel wrong in any way, and if so, why?

    Alternatively, imagine going on some long holiday alone, with a bunch of people you’ve never met before - a nice friendly mixed-gender group that you are going to hang out with and become friends with - and they consistently refer to you as the opposite gender. Although to you it is obvious you are not that gender, to them you clearly are. Is this okay? Do you go with it? If you say ‘Actually, I’m a man/woman,’ and they look at you weird and laugh, thinking you’re having a laugh, do you keep pushing it, or just let them go with it? Does it matter? And if it does matter, why?

    Good thought experiment. It would feel all wrong. I would be certain there had been a mistake, I had been wrongly done by. I appreciate others don't feel this way. Can they appreciate that I do? If not, why not?
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    mousethief wrote: »
    fineline wrote: »
    Perhaps a way for cis people to think about what it means to be male or female is to imagine how you’d feel if you woke up tomorrow in a body of the opposite sex. Obviously there would be lots of social complications, but if society just accepted it smoothly and told you that’s fine, all documentation will be changed, society accepts it, and now you are a woman (or man) for the rest of your life, how would it feel? Would it feel wrong in any way, and if so, why?

    Alternatively, imagine going on some long holiday alone, with a bunch of people you’ve never met before - a nice friendly mixed-gender group that you are going to hang out with and become friends with - and they consistently refer to you as the opposite gender. Although to you it is obvious you are not that gender, to them you clearly are. Is this okay? Do you go with it? If you say ‘Actually, I’m a man/woman,’ and they look at you weird and laugh, thinking you’re having a laugh, do you keep pushing it, or just let them go with it? Does it matter? And if it does matter, why?

    Good thought experiment. It would feel all wrong. I would be certain there had been a mistake, I had been wrongly done by. I appreciate others don't feel this way. Can they appreciate that I do? If not, why not?

    I would feel odd. I like feeling attractive - I think trans women maybe do too?

  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host, 8th Day Host
    mousethief wrote: »
    Good thought experiment. It would feel all wrong. I would be certain there had been a mistake, I had been wrongly done by. I appreciate others don't feel this way. Can they appreciate that I do? If not, why not?

    I can know, academically, that you do, but I have no idea what it feels like. I can make analogies with other things that would feel wrong to me, but I don’t know specifically what it feels like to have a sense of gender. It’s something I accept on faith, from various evidence, and knowing different people do experience life very differently.

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