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Old 11-08-2019, 01:49 PM
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Gender is a social construct. So what is it exactly?


Over time, I have begun to understand that gender is a social construct distinct from biological sex. So what is it, exactly?

I intend this thread to be an open discussion of gender and biological sex, how they interact, how they don't interact, how people personally experience these phenomena. I don't want this to be an invitation for people to insult people or deny them their personal identities.

I hope I can get a better understanding of what it is and what it means for society.

Okay, so there has been a long-dominant paradigm of gender based on sex. There's a male sex, and a female sex. Concurrently, there's a male gender and a female gender.

Primarily, that is.

Many societies throughout history have had exceptions, such as third genders. The hijras of India are considered a separate gender. Some traditional societies have had gender identities for effeminate men, for example.

But largely, these third genders were in contrast to male and female. As our society opens up to allow people more flexibility in their gender identities, I wonder what is gender exactly, what is its function, and what is its relationship to biological sex, if any?

So, if you have a non-binary gender, that means a gender that's neither male nor female. Is the biological sex of a person with non-binary gender completely irrelevant?

But going back to the notion that gender is a social construct, what does it mean to be trans-gender then? If the male gender is an arbitrary set of social behaviors, which are not necessarily tied to male biological set, then what is it exactly? Is it just grooming, attire, etc.? But those factors are arbitrary and change according to fashion.

In one place and time, long hair is a male trait. In another place and time, long hair is a female trait. In one place and time, both men and women wear high heels. In another place and time, only women wear high heels. And so on.

Given that these artifacts of gender are arbitrary and constantly changing, what exactly does it mean for a transgender person to be of male biological sex and female gender, or vice versa? Is it just an adherence to arbitrary cultural artifacts? Or is it something else?

I have tried to think about this for myself. I'm a cisgender man. I am biologically male. I suppose that I am also of male gender, but I say that only because it seems self-evident. I don't think I "feel" male. I don't even know what that means. I just feel myself.

The current fashion is for men to wear flat shoes and trousers and to refrain from wearing lipstick and eye makeup. So that's what I do. If the fashion had been for men to wear high heels and skirts and stockings, and to wear lipstick and eye makeup, I guess I would be doing that. It's not far-fetched. There are subcultures in which men wear earrings (heck, it's practically mainstream), something that for many decades was a trait of the female gender.

If the hallmarks of gender are so superficial and fluid and malleable, then what exactly is gender? And what is the interaction of all this with sexual preferences?

Last edited by Acsenray; 11-08-2019 at 01:50 PM.
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Old 11-08-2019, 01:55 PM
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Old 11-08-2019, 02:36 PM
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There's a male sex, and a female sex. Concurrently, there's a male gender and a female gender.
It's a lot less confusing if people will use "male" and "female" when they're referring to the sex of the body and "man" and "woman" (or "masculine" and "feminine") to refer to genders.

Anyway, think of the social-construct stuff as starting out with generalizations. Generalizations about behaviors, tastes, inclinations, priorities, ways of thinking and feeling about things. A generalization isn't a lie, but it's an oversimplification of the truth. It leaves out the exceptions. Painting with a broad brush and all that. So at this stage you can see the connection between sex and gender, right? The generalizations that gender begins with are generalizations about the two sexes.

Now let's complicate it up a little by adding in some distortions. Let's throw in some prescriptive attitudes about how men and women should be that don't necessarily originate in a truthful generalization about how they actually are. An example of this might be the notion that girls and women are obedient and subservient to their dads, boyfriends, and husbands. It's socially convenient in a male supremacist world if we can promote this idea whether it is generally true of female people or not. Another example of this might be the notion that men are brave and will step forth into combat and take the risk of dying in battle in order to be heroes for their country. If we're going to be drafting them and using them as soldiers, it's socially convenient to promote this belief whether it is generally true or not. Now let's not get sidetracked into discussions of exactly which beliefs are, or are not, really based on accurate generalizations -- these are just examples to illustrate. The point is that there probably are some shared beliefs about the nature of the sexes that aren't rooted in accurate generalizations.

Next, to structure it all up, let's add in roles. In any aspect of social life where there is a separate and different thing, or set of things, that the males do that the females don't, or vice versa, that's a sex role. Or gender role, more accurately. They used to be more polarized and distinct than they are now, but we still have them. Roles get established from a composite of the beliefs and notions about the differences between the sexes, and then once they are in place they shape the experiences of male and female people differently and build in their own differences. I mean, for example, if you're sending a non-trivial percent of your young males into military combat experiences, and mostly not doing that for a similar percent of the young females, you're exposing them to different personality-shaping stimuli, and that has an effect on the overall differences. That's also gender.

Now let's talk about it specifically as identity. People grow up in this world and they develop notions of what a man is like, and what a woman is like, based on all that has been described above, only some of which has any direct connection to their SEX. They also have a notion of themselves as people, and there may be an easy and smooth fit between their self-perception and their sense of what a person of their own sex is "like", or it may be a lot more complicated than that. And they may have internalized a lot of rigid presciptive "supposed to" attitudes or they may be very unisex and inclined to dismiss such notions as sexist, but even in the latter case they aren't unaffected by those notions. They're expected to be familiar with them. It's social currency to understand them.

For some of us, our notion of ourselves doesn't correspond to our notion of manliness (if we're male) or womanliness (if we're female) and we feel Different, with a capital D, from the overall cluster of people of our sex. That's not always the same as considering ourselves to be a particularly good fit for the other sex's general identity, but for some of us, yeah, that's how we consider ourselves. So we have a sex and gender mismatch situation. (Which is why it is so useful for us to have both concepts, both terms).

That help?
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Old 11-08-2019, 02:39 PM
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I'm just going to address this part of the OP since it's one thing I think I can definitively answer on:

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Originally Posted by Acsenray View Post
(snip)
So, if you have a non-binary gender, that means a gender that's neither male nor female. Is the biological sex of a person with non-binary gender completely irrelevant?
I'd say it's very much the opposite of irrelevant. I've struggled for a long time not knowing what I should be - I guess in today's terms, it would be considered agender, or maybe non-binary. As a kid I wished I was a boy, and to this day if I could magically snap my fingers and be in a 100% man's body, I definitely would in a heartbeat. But that can't happen. Science isn't there yet. And I can't seem to accept anything less than biological perfection, so I have made no changes to my body. I occupy a female body. I live with that fact alright even though my preference would be otherwise. I've gone by "she" for my entire life, with the introduction of "they" in the last few years, because I can't escape the fact of the body I was born into. Every day the way people react to me is based upon my body. I've been sexually harassed, I've been molested, I've been catcalled, I've subjected to sexism and misogyny. And it has very much shaped how I grew up and how I interact with the world. My biological sex has put me through a lot of shit I wouldn't have otherwise had to deal with. Gender and sex don't occupy a vacuum, they're part of a larger society. To even a person who has done away with notions of gender, their biological sex still has a big impact on how other people interact with them and has a large impact on their psyche in return.
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Old 11-08-2019, 03:04 PM
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It's a lot less confusing if people will use "male" and "female" when they're referring to the sex of the body and "man" and "woman" (or "masculine" and "feminine") to refer to genders.
I would have thought the opposite. "Man" and "woman" are sexes, and "male" and "female" are genders.

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Anyway, think of the social-construct stuff as starting out with generalizations. Generalizations about behaviors, tastes, inclinations, priorities, ways of thinking and feeling about things.
The only generalizations about male and female genders with respect to behaviors, tastes, inclinations, priorities, ways of thinking and feeling about things I can think of are arbitrary and learned. They're not rooted in biological sex.

The only true generalizations linked to biological sex I can think of are the biological ones--primary and secondary sexual anatomical features.

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The point is that there probably are some shared beliefs about the nature of the sexes that aren't rooted in accurate generalizations.
But, again, these are arbitrary and malleable. If gender is something that an individual is born with, then there must be more to it than arbitrary, learned, social generalizations. No?

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Next, to structure it all up, let's add in roles. In any aspect of social life where there is a separate and different thing, or set of things, that the males do that the females don't, or vice versa, that's a sex role. Or gender role, more accurately.
But we all now know that these are learned, arbitrary social constructs, and that individuals aren't or shouldn't be subjected to following these roles. I am a man, yet I am comfortable being nurturing, or working as a secretary, or avoiding military service. None of that makes me feel less a man.

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And they may have internalized a lot of rigid presciptive "supposed to" attitudes or they may be very unisex and inclined to dismiss such notions as sexist, but even in the latter case they aren't unaffected by those notions. They're expected to be familiar with them. It's social currency to understand them.
But, again, we know now that these are external to the individual, right?

Quote:
For some of us, our notion of ourselves doesn't correspond to our notion of manliness (if we're male) or womanliness (if we're female) and we feel Different, with a capital D, from the overall cluster of people of our sex. That's not always the same as considering ourselves to be a particularly good fit for the other sex's general identity, but for some of us, yeah, that's how we consider ourselves. So we have a sex and gender mismatch situation. (Which is why it is so useful for us to have both concepts, both terms).

That help?
Not really, no. I as a man don't feel a need to measure myself against societal notions of manliness. Or maybe I'm just not aware of it? I'm just myself, and I would be myself, regardless. I don't know what it feels like to be male, I just am a man. So I don't really grasp what people are talking about when they feel like they're male or not male or female or not female.
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Old 11-08-2019, 03:19 PM
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If you believe there are no general differences between the sexes -- that (for example) males in general are not more short-tempered or violent, that females in general are not any more concerned with the feelings of others -- you aren't alone in the world; there are and have been many people who don't think there ARE any built-in differences to make accurate generalizations about.

So that leaves the prescriptive distorted stuff that gets prescribed, and the roles.

You still grew up in a world that has those beliefs. You grew up in it and the world expects you to be quite familiar with these notions whether you yourself believe them to be bullshit or not.

And, as with Macca26, the world will have treated you differently based on your sex. The same behavior will have been interpreted differently than it would have been had you been the other sex (or, rather, than if you had been perceived to be the other sex, which is what counts).

It still affects you, probably far more than you realize.

I always had a "unisex" attitude, courtesy of feminism that I grew up hearing. That it was sexist to expect or value different behavior in a girl than you would a boy or vice versa. It gave me the courage and confidence to not give a shit about other folks' observations that I was more like one of the girls than I resembled the other boys. Or about my own observation to that same effect. I didn't think the differences were built-in, but taught. And I didn't internalize much "ought to be" bullshit about this or that being wrong because I was a boy, etc.

It still affected me. It made a huge huge difference when it came to dating and sexuality and romance. You want to talk about still-existing roles? Sexually differentiated expectations and sexist interpretations of the same behavior, where the sex you are seen as makes a massive difference in how people react or what they anticipate from you? Right here. Sex and flirting and seeking a relationship.

It's easier to not give a shit when it's in an area of life where you don't really need much from other people.

Last edited by AHunter3; 11-08-2019 at 03:20 PM.
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Old 11-08-2019, 03:31 PM
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It still affected me. It made a huge huge difference when it came to dating and sexuality and romance. You want to talk about still-existing roles? Sexually differentiated expectations and sexist interpretations of the same behavior, where the sex you are seen as makes a massive difference in how people react or what they anticipate from you? Right here. Sex and flirting and seeking a relationship.
Of course I understand being on the negative end of social expectations. What I don't grasp is how that affects my self-perception of my own identity.

If I am judged by others to be an inadequate man, then either I accept society's judgment that I am an inadequate man, or I reject society's notion of manly adequacy. But I don't start feeling that I'm not actually a man. As I said, I don't think I really understands what it means to feel like one gender or another. I just feel like myself and myself happens to be a man.

In any case, accepting your rubric, being aware that those judgments are based on arbitrary, learned, social constructs, does that mean that your feeling of gender membership is dependent on those arbitrary, learned, social constructs? Does it mean that if those arbitrary, learned, social constructs didn't exist then you wouldn't be experiencing gender mismatch? So theoretically at some point of society flips some of those traits from masculine to feminine and vice versa, then your self-identity would change?
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Old 11-08-2019, 03:47 PM
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I would have thought the opposite. "Man" and "woman" are sexes, and "male" and "female" are genders.
And I conciser man, woman, male and female all to be labels for sex. Masculine and feminine are labels for gender.
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Old 11-08-2019, 03:47 PM
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The biological distinction is not so clear, is it? Aren't there individuals who are physiologically or genetically not 100% male OR female? Hermaphrodites as it were? Then, add in the "mental/perceptual" attribute, which many of us understand to be innate - at least for many. Cannot someone be born with for example (apologies for the phrasing) a male body, but a female mind? What "sex" or what "gender" do you consider this person?

But even that situation impresses me as "simpler" than someone who considers their gender as "fluid", or "non-binary." This is where much of the current discussion loses me. I'm from the generation where - for example, women could be tomboys - but were still female - independent of who they like to knock boots with. Or a lesbian could be butch or feminine - yet both were biological women. And one's gender identification would not seem to depend on one's sexual preferences. A guy might be attracted to men, women, or both - but he remains a man.

Please understand that this straight, aging, hetero male sincerely finds much of this type of discussion confusing, and welcomes information/experiences from others to slow down the rate at which he is becoming increasingly out of touch!
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Old 11-08-2019, 03:49 PM
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...accepting your rubric, being aware that those judgments are based on arbitrary, learned, social constructs, does that mean that your feeling of gender membership is dependent on those arbitrary, learned, social constructs? Does it mean that if those arbitrary, learned, social constructs didn't exist then you wouldn't be experiencing gender mismatch? So theoretically at some point of society flips some of those traits from masculine to feminine and vice versa, then your self-identity would change?
Yes, and sort of.

If society magically flipped a bunch of socially shared attitudes, I doubt my self-identity would switch with equal alacrity unless you do that magically as well. I mean, I learned English language because I was immersed in a world where people spoke it. If you magically changed it so that all the folks around me were speaking Urdu I would still have a lifetime's learned and ingrained experience of being an English speaker. Likewise with gender. I am who I am because of what was built up in my head over a long time.

But if you were patient and waited, the changed social surroundings would probably shift my self-perception, sure.

Last edited by AHunter3; 11-08-2019 at 03:50 PM.
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Old 11-08-2019, 04:44 PM
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And I conciser man...
Typo of the day, right there.
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Old 11-08-2019, 05:50 PM
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And I conciser man, woman, male and female all to be labels for sex. Masculine and feminine are labels for gender.
Okay, I buy that.
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Old 11-08-2019, 06:46 PM
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The biological distinction is not so clear, is it? Aren't there individuals who are physiologically or genetically not 100% male OR female?
We generally say "intersex". it's what they prefer to be called.

In general I repeat in general people fall into two sexual categories, male and female.

The overwhelming majority of people fall into one or the other of those categories pretty neatly.

Intersex people are exceptions to the rule.

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Then, add in the "mental/perceptual" attribute, which many of us understand to be innate - at least for many. Cannot someone be born with for example (apologies for the phrasing) a male body, but a female mind?
No one knows yet. It's a hypothesis.

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I'm from the generation where - for example, women could be tomboys - but were still female - independent of who they like to knock boots with. Or a lesbian could be butch or feminine - yet both were biological women.
Me too. Except that tomboys may consider themselves masculine. It's the same traits that, when exhibited by male people, are called masculine. And you could argue that that is gender. Not sex, mind you they're still entirely female but they ain't feminine.

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And one's gender identification would not seem to depend on one's sexual preferences.
Yeah, that's a different thing entirely. Masculine male people can be attracted to female people or to male people. Feminine male people can be attracted to female people or to male people. Feminine female people can be attracted to female people or to male people. Masculine female people can be attracted to female people or to male people.

Note that heterosexuality as defined socially is, for all practical purposes, masculine males connecting with feminine females, with specific roles, expectations, interpretations, et al. So it is undefined, and definitely up for grabs and questionable, whether feminine male people getting it on with female folks, or masculine female people getting connected with male peoples, also are doing heterosexuality. It's definitely different.
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Old 11-09-2019, 02:04 PM
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I don't think I "feel" male. I don't even know what that means. I just feel myself.
You are succinctly describing what it feels like to be cisgender. There is no mismatch between your sex/gender/presentation/perception/roles, ergo your gender is kinda nothing to you.

Gender is a lie and a scam, but it's also extremely real in our heads; otherwise people wouldn't kill themselves over it.

I will spare you my Grand Theory of Gender and instead encourage you to listen to a podcast called Gender Reveal. Its central question is the same as yours: "What's gender?"
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Old 11-09-2019, 03:34 PM
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The human brain is the most complex known object in the universe. Our (un)consciousness approaches infinite complexity. Sexuality is embedded there. Neither genetic 'sex' nor psychic 'gender' are binary. Reducing gender to either/or is bogus, a power trip. Love whom you will. Just be careful of consequences.
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Old 11-09-2019, 06:47 PM
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As far as I can tell, there are two different meanings carried by the word gender. One refers to the socially constructed aspect, and thus is entirely external. However, there is also gender identity, which is about internal, self-identification.

The question is whether the latter comes from the former. And, to some extent, it must. There are just too many variations in different societies over what "masculine," "male," "feminine," and "female" mean for everything attached to be innate. On the other hand, there are those studies that show that trans gender brains have certain traits in common with those of their desired sex, suggesting there is at least some innate biological aspect. Plus there are intersex people who have their genitals align with their assigned gender, but wind up not fitting in to that.

I think the answer is that the social concept of gender is built on top of a small biological truth. There really are some different psychological tendencies (not absolutes) associated with those with XY vs XX. These tendencies are about small things, however, and not remotely everything we associate with gender roles.

Also, since these are tendencies, we get a spectrum and not a binary.
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Old 11-09-2019, 08:53 PM
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I used to identify as a trans woman, but now ID as agender. Still, I'm generally perceived as a (cis) woman through my day and go through life getting treated how people treat women (for good or ill depending on the context).

The reason I started identifying as agender is after spending time with a lot of binary trans people, I just determined I don't really "feel" gender like they do. I think viewing gender as behavior is a good first pass, but ultimately wrong. I know, for instance, a gender non-conforming, butch trans woman lesbian. The way she generally dresses and presents is not in line with pretty much any mainstream notion of being a woman. Now, butch women are of course women, and there are behaviors and fashion sensibilities and etc that set them apart from men, so it's not wrong to say she's just adopting a slightly more niche set of social roles and stereotypes, but I think it's an important counterpoint to "it's about acting in line with societal norms about men/women."

I've ended up coming to to the idea that gender is more "spiritual" (for lack of a better term). Some people feel it, some rather strongly, some people don't. Of course, there has to be something to base that feeling on. For some people that's physical dysphoria, for some it's social perception or treatment, for some it's stereotypes, but people feel this to different degrees. I feel physical dysphoria, hence why I'm on HRT and such, but I don't really have "woman-feelings".

Does this mean a lot of cis people may be agender given how many say they don't feel their gender? Yes and no. On one hand, self-identity is very important and queer identity is largely fluid and only self-meaningful. If you identify as a man or woman despite not having "gender feelings" that's totally fine and I'm not here for you. On the "yes" side, what I'm hinting at is a lot of people try to use it as a counterpoint. "Well if that's your definition of agender than <made up large % estimate that's probably wrong> would be agender!!!!" And like... okay? So? I don't really see anything wrong with a new identity label that ends up capturing a large part of the populace. If there's a new tool that better describes someone's identity it's not wrong for them to take it, and a world where a bunch of people suddenly identify as agender isn't really a bad (or good) thing. It's certainly a change, but I view it as kind of a valueless change, just the shifting winds of social norms.

If you want to use fancy philosophical terms, gender is all about qualia. It's a sense of "what it's like"ness that is inherently fuzzy and no definition given can stand without a counterexample. There literally cannot be a taxonomical definition that encompasses every facet without failing somewhere.

For some works that articulate some gender stuff from different perspectives I recommend Counting the Countless which tackles the fundamental disconnect between rigid identity controlled by, e.g., the state or corporate data collection and the queer understanding of gender.

I also recommend What is Gender? by Philosophy Tube which gives a very quick surface-level overview of some of the prevailing ideas about gender (though it's slightly out of date and relies on more famous published works instead of being a more original piece about the modern queer community). His Transphobia article is also very good and while it's not entirely about the same thing, it naturally heavily touches on it and explains a lot of the philosophy behind things like non-binary genders.

Kat Blaque is also a great youtuber and most of her videos on trans topics are really good, but also largely unedited vlogs so aren't for everyone. I don't always agree with her, but it's a perspective from a straight binary trans woman that maybe has some value. Her recent video on whether you need dysphoria to be trans is likely relevant, but I haven't personally vetted it yet.

I'm a little reluctant to say this, but Contrapoints can also be good. There is a boatload of tension with her and the community now, especially nonbinary people. There is a real viewpoint that intentionally or not she's promoting very harmful views to the trans community (especially non-passing binary trans people or non-binary trans people). It's all a very long story I may go into some day, but as an entry level a lot of her videos (except Opulance which is... really bad, The Aesthetic is also heavily disagreed with) can be good as long as you realize that it's only one person's perspective, and one which the queer community largely disagrees with at times. She often presents some really deep inside baseball arguments as just "something trans people believe" when it's either super contentious in the trans community or more nuanced than she talks about.
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Old 11-09-2019, 09:02 PM
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As far as I can tell, there are two different meanings carried by the word gender. One refers to the socially constructed aspect, and thus is entirely external. However, there is also gender identity, which is about internal, self-identification.

The question is whether the latter comes from the former. And, to some extent, it must. There are just too many variations in different societies over what "masculine," "male," "feminine," and "female" mean for everything attached to be innate. On the other hand, there are those studies that show that trans gender brains have certain traits in common with those of their desired sex, suggesting there is at least some innate biological aspect. Plus there are intersex people who have their genitals align with their assigned gender, but wind up not fitting in to that.
There is definitely an internal/external distinction, yes, along with the distinction with physical sex (fuzzy as that can be as well). How you're perceived can affect a lot. If you want to take the old abortion debate there's this tension about whether it's a "women's" issue or a "people with wombs" issue. And it's kind of both.

Obviously the laws and arguments directly and by far most strongly affect people who can get pregnant and give birth. That's not in dispute, and that's wider than women (and does not include all women). However, the attitudes that create and are reinforced by this mindset have broader implications for people perceived as women societally wrt not respecting bodily autonomy or valuing the health of women. This includes AFAB people who have not physically transitioned or don't pass and are perceived as women, but also passing-as-female AMAB people as well.
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Old 11-09-2019, 09:22 PM
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His Transphobia article
... video. it's a video

E: I can't understate how much I like thsi one though

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Old 11-09-2019, 10:10 PM
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Yeah, that's a different thing entirely. Masculine male people can be attracted to female people or to male people. Feminine male people can be attracted to female people or to male people. Feminine female people can be attracted to female people or to male people. Masculine female people can be attracted to female people or to male people.

Note that heterosexuality as defined socially is, for all practical purposes, masculine males connecting with feminine females, with specific roles, expectations, interpretations, et al. So it is undefined, and definitely up for grabs and questionable, whether feminine male people getting it on with female folks, or masculine female people getting connected with male peoples, also are doing heterosexuality. It's definitely different.
I've been trying to pinpoint the mistake I think you're making for a while now and it finally came to me while driving to get food. You're merging the presentation and gender axes. Granting you the "male/female" designation for sex (which we've fought about before, but I'll use it here), and using masculine/feminine for presentation, and man/woman for gender, there's a distinction between a female masculine woman (e.g. a tomboy or butch, to varying degrees) and a female masculine man (e.g. a "stereotypical" trans man). For instance, my friend, the trans butch lesbian would be a male masculine woman, by this terminology.

I think there are a couple axes that are missing here: gender intensity (how strongly you feel gener), and perhaps gender perception (how people see you, regardless of expression), and this terminology still makes non-binary people like me hard to talk about, but try to get too cute with it and the whole thing becomes too hard to talk about succinctly. Sex/gender/expression is a fairly common set of three axes in basic 101 trans education, e.g. PFLAG's advocacy resources use it.

Last edited by Jragon; 11-09-2019 at 10:11 PM.
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Old 11-09-2019, 11:30 PM
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The problem with expression is that we're largely limited to the range of identities that other people have in their heads.

In fact, I would like to add a fourth axis: altercast identity, the identity that other people assign you, which tends to be based on your presentation. When we present, we are "fishing" for the ideal, desired altercast identity to be attributed to us by the folks we interact with.

So there's our identity; there's our attempt to package ourselves to others so as to be perceived as (or as close as possible) to our identity; and there's the identity that they do in fact assign us, which may or may not be what we were hoping for when we presented.
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Old 11-09-2019, 11:36 PM
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PS— I apologize for my tendency to come across as a know-it-all. I really don't mean to be lecturing you on what the correct understandings are in these matters. I just have a talent for coming across that way, I'm afraid.
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Old 11-10-2019, 12:37 AM
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"Gender" originally meant "type of thing". You could have a farm with multiple genders of animals, or a store selling many genders of goods.

It also meant "grammatical subtypes of certain grammatical objects, linked to specific characteristics of what the grammatical object refers to". Countables vs uncountables.

Eventually, sociologists wanted to have a short word to say "prejudices linked to apparent sex", because damn that's a mouthful and "sexism" was already taken for a different meaning. They chose the word "gender". Later on, this meaning was absorbed into the general Anglophone public, and from there it has also jumped to other languages. It can refer to those sets of prejudices, or to which "type of person" one identifies as.

Last edited by Nava; 11-10-2019 at 12:39 AM.
  #24  
Old 11-10-2019, 02:49 AM
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In fact, I would like to add a fourth axis: altercast identity, the identity that other people assign you, which tends to be based on your presentation.
You can draw axes after axes as long as you want, but it won't do any good. Give us a 4th, a 5th. It doesn't matter. Axes and spectra are far too poor to describe human identity. Our vocabulary is simply not there yet! Wait for it, and respect people. That's all you have to do.
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Old 11-10-2019, 07:06 PM
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The only generalizations about male and female genders with respect to behaviors, tastes, inclinations, priorities, ways of thinking and feeling about things I can think of are arbitrary and learned. They're not rooted in biological sex.

The only true generalizations linked to biological sex I can think of are the biological ones--primary and secondary sexual anatomical features.
I disagree. To be specific, many behaviors, tastes, inclinations, etc... are linked to sex. Comparing distributions of traits between males and females, the averages are often different, though the distributions overlap, and there is overwhelming evidence that such average differences are rooted in biological differences between the sexes. This need not be any reason to hate or discriminate against someone with mental traits closer to the average of the opposite sex, of course. It's simply a biological fact.

If we say that male humans are taller than female humans, it causes no controversy. Of course to be pedantically correct we should throw "on average" into that sentence, but with height everyone just understands: males and females have overlapping height distributions but the averages are different, with the male average being taller. To state this fact does not deny the existence of tall women or short men. It is merely a fact.

If we say that male humans have more aggressive and violent thoughts and behaviors than females on average, it should not cause controversy but it does. Once again, distributions overlap, but averages are different. The average difference between males and females on this trait, and many other psychological traits, is rooted in biology. (In fact some of the physical features that cause sex differences in aggression in humans are also present in cats, mice, and even some insects.) Thus average differences between the two sexes on psychological traits are neither arbitrary nor learned.

So as to how that plays out in social gender roles, I'd say it's an interesting question worthy of study. But every human society that ever existed has acknowledged that the great majority of people fall into the category of either women or men, and held certain roles either entirely or mainly for women, and others either entirely or mainly for men. So gender roles are not entirely arbitrary.
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Old 11-10-2019, 07:22 PM
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I tend to agree, IRT Champion. I'm not convinced that Difference X or Difference Y is built-in but I'll readily grant that some batch of diffs probably are, and when they are, they fit your description: differences between the populations when taken as a whole (on average), but with more difference between individuals of the same population than the two populations differ, hence a lot of overlap.
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Old 11-11-2019, 03:03 AM
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As far as I can tell, there are two different meanings carried by the word gender. One refers to the socially constructed aspect, and thus is entirely external. However, there is also gender identity, which is about internal, self-identification.

The question is whether the latter comes from the former. And, to some extent, it must. There are just too many variations in different societies over what "masculine," "male," "feminine," and "female" mean for everything attached to be innate. On the other hand, there are those studies that show that trans gender brains have certain traits in common with those of their desired sex, suggesting there is at least some innate biological aspect.
Please know that speaking about what I'm about to is very hard for me. I want to provide citations for everything I'm going to mention, but it has such a mental overhead I can't spare the mental and emotional energy to get a cite to every study I mention.

I don't buy the brain sex thing. I mean... I do, but I don't. Like... obviously being trans is physical. Yes, even being non-binary. Unless you're some kind of dualist then of course there's a physical basis for all identity -- in your endocrine system, in your brain, whatever parts of your body influence your feelings, thoughts, and mood it's all there. What mix of these aspects arise from genetics, hormonal nonsense in utero, or effects of your environment (ranging from social interaction to trauma to nutrition) is unknown, and it's almost certainly all 3. I honestly don't know if it's something we can ever know for sure, scientifically, and probably varies greatly from society to society and person to person.

Brain sex science gets dangerous super fast. For one, even the notion of a neurological sex is contentious on its own. While obviously there are biological difference between XX and XY people, the brain is such a complex organ there are at best extremely broad, inexact notions of what differences exist in the sexes, and what we've been able to study so far is so variable and so vague that the studies frequently aren't even well regarded. In addition, even into adulthood your brain maintains some degree of neuroplasticity. It's not out of the question that the act of consciously identifying and presenting as a gender, and if you pass, being treated as that gender -- not to mention things like being on HRT, can change those traits to a degree (again, generously granting they exist in a consistent way that we can measure).

Now for the hard part -- trans neuroscience in general is uh... it's sure a thing. So one of the most prominent theories in the body of transgender medical research to this day is the "Blanchard Typology". For those not familiar, the Blanchard Typology is only focused on trans women and proposes two classes, based on sexuality:

1. "Homosexual transsexuals": Gay men who adopt feminine presentation and mannerisms to fit into the gay community.

2. "Autogynephilic transsexuals": Straight men who are attracted to straight women, and have a paraphilia (fetish) for seeing themselves as women.

There is a third "pseudo-classification" that was added later. You may have noticed this typology does not account for bisexual trans women. It was later extended to include so-called "pseudo-bisexual" trans women, who are (straight) autogynephilic trans women who can tolerate being with a man because the thought of being penetrated fulfills their fetish. (Yes, the claim is that trans women cannot be bisexual, and all self-identified ones are really only into women. Yes this is still adhered to to this day by subscribers to the typology).

This was the only medical framing of trans people for a very long time, and as such a lot of medical research either directly assumes it as a frame, is researched by people whose background includes reading work that almost exclusively mentions it and thus play to it unconsciously, as well as peer reviewers that consider it a high bar of evidence to go against it (meaning research not adhering to the typology has a higher bar for publishing).

If you want to read a trans perspective on the typology I recommend Julia Serano's work. While even with her, I'm skeptical of trans neuroscience/neuropsychology, she's done some good work talking about the failings of the typology from a medical and medical research perspective.

So, for instance, your "brain sex" thing? The only studies I know of that show this don't show quite what you say. They show that "homosexual transsexuals" have brains similar to cis women while "autogynephilic transsexuals" do not. There have been a few studies that have done this, a couple posthumous ones that involve brain dissection, and at least one that used EEGs on living subjects. The single EEG one I know of used (heterosexual) pornography and, rather unsurprisingly, found that heterosexual trans women (that is, trans women into men) identified more with the women in the (straight) porn and lesbian (""autogynephilic"") trans women were sexually attracted to the women, which was different from the brain patterns of the (straight) cis women they were compared to.

But it uh. It gets worse. There has been other research assuming this frame that gets more problematic. For instance, treating autogynephilia as a paraphilia there is a study that shows that "autogynephilic transsexuals" whose brains were dissected after death (I believe) showed brain structure closer to other studied paraphilias like pedophilia (yes, the paper directly compared it to pedophilia, not any other paraphilia), rather than cis women.

And like... what do you even do with things like that? Obviously neuroscience is good, and we should continue studying it. But neuropsychology and things like "normative brain structures between sexes" especially is in such a nascent stage not much can be drawn from it, and the whole thing is a house of cards.

Like... okay, let's play the what if game and say that we did 30 studies and they all show that trans womens' brains are closest to that of pedophiles. Not that trans women are pedophiles, or harming children, just that for some unknown reason the brain structure is most similar to that. Does that mean we bar them the right to self determination? Prevent them from interacting with children (even though they're not even pedophiles just "similar" whatever that means)? Take away legal gender changes? Disallow them from services and medical intervention that help them? What if it's connected to trans womens' sexuality? Do we let straight trans women have access to these things but if they ever have shown the slightest interest in women then they're disallowed because of their "different brain structure"? Are we actually going to with a straight face apply Gold Star Homosexuality to trans women because of some brain structure things we probably won't actually understand the significant of for 50 more years rather than relying on their own words and deeds?

Neuroscience is interesting. Medical science is interesting. These things deserve to be studied, in a trans context or otherwise. But basing trans peoples' validity, and trans peoples' rights, and the meaning of largely self-described, intensely personally felt social concepts like "gender" on this research just does not go anywhere good. I don't think it's quite Eugenics, but I think maybe its close friend Eugenics stops by every few days to say hello and give it a gift basket and borrow a cup of sugar.

Last edited by Jragon; 11-11-2019 at 03:06 AM.
  #28  
Old 11-11-2019, 03:18 AM
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(straight) autogynephilic trans women who can tolerate being with a man
I should've put "straight" in scare quotes to denote it's how the typology uses it. I was trying to use the language the typology uses to keep things consistent for a couple paragraphs, but then switched to using the normal "straight " for trans women into men later and "lesbian" for trans women into women later on.

Last edited by Jragon; 11-11-2019 at 03:19 AM.
  #29  
Old 11-11-2019, 09:36 AM
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Holy shit.

I'm in full-on dubiety about the built-in biological causes, and mostly for social-political reasons, and I had heard about the Blanchard bullshit (courtesy of ContraPoints on YouTube).

You've still got my jaw dropping.

Wow. Talk about a poisoned well!

I mostly get my back up about the built-in bio causation because I don't like to see a question of fact answered on the basis of the political-social connotations of the answer, and because I think the implicit argument ("They have to accept us if it's built-in. Same as the gay and lesbian folks. That'll put a stop to them saying we are behaving immorally or brought it on ourselves through our choices") is wrong to begin with (eugenics, as you said — eugenicists have no problem going after people for 'inferiorities' they believe to be built-in bio differences)
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Old 11-11-2019, 11:20 AM
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Damn it, Jragon! That's secret trans knowledge!

As someone who used to identify strongly as an autogynephile prior to transition, and who still believes that the theory is useful to a first approximation, but that it inadequately describes our subjective experience and motivations for transition, I have a lot to say about this and gender as a whole, but I need to go to work.
  #31  
Old 11-11-2019, 11:31 AM
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The current fashion is for men to wear flat shoes and trousers and to refrain from wearing lipstick and eye makeup. So that's what I do. If the fashion had been for men to wear high heels and skirts and stockings, and to wear lipstick and eye makeup, I guess I would be doing that.
That sounds like the upper class men in Victorian times. They powered their face, used makeup; and wore wigs, stockings, frilly clothes, and shoes with heels. The only thing missing is skirts.
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Old 11-11-2019, 12:48 PM
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I mostly get my back up about the built-in bio causation because I don't like to see a question of fact answered on the basis of the political-social connotations of the answer, and because I think the implicit argument ("They have to accept us if it's built-in. Same as the gay and lesbian folks. That'll put a stop to them saying we are behaving immorally or brought it on ourselves through our choices") is wrong to begin with (eugenics, as you said eugenicists have no problem going after people for 'inferiorities' they believe to be built-in bio differences)
I think it is undeniable that some people will exploit biologically-based explanations to do potentially problematic things. However, eugenics isn't the first thing to come my mind. Like, I could see prospective parents screening their embryos to reduce the likelihood of their offspring beng gender or sexual "weirdos"...however science defines that. The ethics of that is in the eye of the beholder, IMHO. Personally, I would worry about the possibility of advantageous traits being selected against if gender-sexual conformity is selected for in this manner. But embryo screening all by itself doesn't send up a OMG EUGENICS!!! flag in my mind because I think it would be the rare society that would mandate such screening for everyone. I also don't think genetic screening would eliminate all gender-sexual nonconformity, given the influential role of the environment on human behavior and proclivities.

I don't think a biologically-based explanation is inherently laden with problems or that there is nothing useful to be gained from one. From the reading I've done on the subject, it seems to me that quite a few transgendered individuals see themselves as having a medical condition, not a socio-political identity. To me, it seems pretty unfair to deny these folks the fruits of scientific inquiry just because there might be some negative ramifications of such inquiry . So I don't agree with you that there's is only one implicit argument. "People will accept us more!" is certainly one, to be fair. But "Maybe we can find a cure/treatment to prevent others from going through the pain we've had to endure" is certainly another one too.
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Old 11-11-2019, 05:57 PM
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Damn it, Jragon! That's secret trans knowledge!

As someone who used to identify strongly as an autogynephile prior to transition, and who still believes that the theory is useful to a first approximation, but that it inadequately describes our subjective experience and motivations for transition, I have a lot to say about this and gender as a whole, but I need to go to work.
I mean, TERFs like to blather on about it endlessly so may as well get in front of it before peoples first exposure is them talking about it lol.
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Old 11-11-2019, 07:32 PM
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Holy shit.

I'm in full-on dubiety about the built-in biological causes, and mostly for social-political reasons, and I had heard about the Blanchard bullshit (courtesy of ContraPoints on YouTube).
Going the other extreme from built-in biological causes is to a blank-slate theory. That is almost certainly wrong, and can be dangerous in its own right. For example, "just make him play with trucks until he stops calling himself a girl" or other such nonsense that can be directed at children who are transgender. The reverse is also damaging, "don't let her play with trucks, or she'll turn into a boy."

I think the answer is probably someplace in the middle. I think that most people are born with a clear sense of their own gender, and they adopt societal norms around that gender in reflection of that. For most people, the societal norms probably aren't perfect (how many men would like knitting if they tried it?), but are close enough to get by. Of course, we aren't talking about most people, but those who have a disconnect in that they are very far from either gender norm, feel like they fit into both, neither, just aren't sure, or a different one than their outward morphology suggests.

I think asking questions about why that is the case are completely legitimate from a scientific perspective. The danger with something that is so socially charged is that the work can be used to push an oppressive agenda, whether the results actually support it or not. Eugenics was wrong about genetics, which didn't stop eugenics advocates from dragging genetics in as an excuse to oppress and kill people.

Anyway, I hope society is moving towards accepting people as they are, and treating them with respect and dignity. The question of why they are that way should not be a judgement on their right to exist or live as they prefer. That's a lot more than I meant to write. I mostly just wanted to say that blank-slate is dangerous, and (almost certainly) wrong.
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Old 11-11-2019, 08:51 PM
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A slight hijack and I apologize for that. I have a question for Jragon since you seem to have and be willing to dispense knowledge, both first hand and through study. This may not be something you can answer directly, but any help is better than flailing about blindly

So, this Blanchard typo thing you mentioned, is that, at least in part, where the notion that I'm a homosexual if I'm interested in a woman with great curves who happens to have a penis between those curves or have sex with her? I've really been trying to figure this out the past few months and the pov that any penis with penis sex is homosexual regardless of how womanly one person and manly the other person is utterly baffles me.
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  #36  
Old 11-11-2019, 11:26 PM
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I think it's much more likely the Blanchard typology comes from the idea that trans women are "really men" than vice versa. After all, plenty of bigots who have never heard of the typology naturally come to the "is a man sleeping with a trans woman gay?" on their own.
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Old Yesterday, 03:12 AM
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Thank you for answering.
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