That is similar to the experience of the reddit poster I mentioned above.
Cisgender people feeling tightly bound to the gender identity corresponding to their biological sex doesn’t tell us anything about transgender people, though. In other words, in theory transgender people may differ in being innately bound to a different gender identity, or they may differ in lacking an innate bond to a gender identity, such that they are instead more subject to environmental influences upon their gender identity. The experiences of cisgender people don’t help to identify which is more likely to be true.
Imagining a world where this could happen and I wouldn’t just check myself into a mental hospital for a looooong assessment (“I was a woman yesterday! REALLY!”), I think the novelty would be really cool for a while. I think I’d spend a lot of time just lifting stuff. “See that rock? Can I lift that rock? I CAN LIFT THAT ROCK. See that crate? I CAN LIFT THAT CRATE.”
That would keep me occupied for a while.
Doña Catalina de Erauso was raised as a woman, but if she’d been born in current times, she would probably have ended up becoming Don Carlos de Erauso.
“OH MY GOD. I HAVE BOOBS. Gotta try this stuff out! :D”
To me, there is an essential, enormous difference between someone contesting their society’s definition of gender (Miguel Bosé wearing a skirt because he wanna) and someone who accepts those definitions and finds themselves in the wrong box (Bibiana Fernández, born Manuel). The first one is one of the ways in which a society’s definitions evolve, the second one is a medical problem.
I identify as genderqueer and my gender is not the one that everyone always expects me to have based on my perceived sex. And yet, at the same time, I confess I have asked some of the same questions as Ambivalid in the OP.
• treating sex and gender as meaning exactly the same thing isn’t helpful. admittedly, treating sex as “the plumbing you got betwixt your legs” and gender as “your identity” is still an oversimplification; but let’s start with that, OK?
• For many transGENDER people and many of us who identify as GENDERQUEER and other variants, we have one set of morphological body-bits (the plumbing, yet again) but WHO we are and HOW we are— masculine, feminine, perhaps something else— isn’t what is expected to go with that set of plumbing. This is sex versus gender. Now, YES, gender consists of a bunch of observations and generalizations ABOUT SEX. They may or may not be shaped, distorted, or even just flat-out caused by social institutions, but for purposes of this discussion I’m OK with treating them as just plain-old generalizations. But actual characteristics of actual people comes up more like overlapping scatter diagrams, with the male-bodied people tending in general to cluster in a more masculine direction and female-bodied people, in contrast, tending in general to cluster in a feminine direction, but with a shitload of overlap. (Even THAT is an oversimplification but it’s a good one, a useful one). That means, by definition, that some individual male-bodied people are going to be feminine and some female-bodied people are going to be masculine. Plain old mathematics of distribution says so. No other cause for it is necessary or particularly useful here. Anyway, for people whose characteristics put them on the unexpected side of that graph, why would they identify most strongly with people who have similar plumbing but whose thinking, whose behavior, whose priorities, etc etc, are weird and foreign to them, instead of identifying with the people who they have nearly everything else in common? Well, social pressure and expectation, of course. Still, many of us identify with the folks we resemble in the other ways and treat the plumbing part as a far less meaningful factor in our identities. Hence, I was male but I was one of the girls growing up.
• for ME, but apparently not for transSEXUAL people, there is not and never has been any sense that the plumbing itself was somehow wrong; for me, as with Ambivalid, apparently, and also apparently for most people who are not transsexual, it can be kind of hard to grasp the notion that you can have a specific sense of your own bodily morphology being wrong as a completely different thing from having a sense that what the rest of the damn world thinks it MEANS about you being wrong. But I’ve been reading Julia Serano’s Whipping Girl and she points out that in nearly all the multiple different ways that someone can be gender-variant, the people who aren’t have a hard time wrapping their heads around how Component A can be out of kilter with Component B, whether it be assigned-by-others gender versus the gender you think you are, morphological sex (the plumbing again) versus the gender you identify with, gender versus the sexual attraction that you feel being other than what is expected of your gender, and so on and so forth. Yeah, OK, she’s got a point. Put me down as actually being normal and mainstream on this particular one: I don’t have that dysphoria-thing about my plumbing and it’s taking me a while to accept that it’s a different thing from having a different constellation of personality & behavior than the one expected for your set of plumbing.
Now, some folks upthread have posted about research findings pointing to built-in brain diffs to “explain” people who believe the body in which they were born is wrong.
There may or may not be such differences. Some of the people who have embraced the notion that there are do so for intellectually dishonest (although socially progressive) reasons: they wish it to be so because of what it will allow them to argue for next, which (in this case) is a combo of “therefore insurance companies should be forced to shell out for treatments and procedures based on correcting what is now a provable clinical condition” plus “gee whiz folks if it is built in then you cannot call it a choice and say these folks chose to be weird peculiar and different and stuff”.
Problem with embracing that kind of explanation is that it’s divisive. You gonna tell people who wish to transition that, because the newfangled test for neuro-whatsit brain diff doesn’t support their claim, they don’t qualify for insurance coverage and furthermore shouldn’t be seeking it in the first place? Oh, I doubt that’s anyone’s intention when they reference built-in diffs as explanation, but still, what your’e doing, when you do that, is to privilege biodeterministic factors over experiential identity. Why the fuck should anyone need to prove that they aren’t actually cisgender people trying to sneak in to obtain genital reassignment surgery or hormonal treatments or whatever? Seriously, do folks imagine huge long lines of cisgender people trying to pass as trans? There shouldn’t be a litmus test of any sort — not biological, not psychological, not psychiatric, not a pink-and-blue divining rod. You want an expert on someone’s gender identity, ASK THEM.
Well, it seems to me that what is significantly more likely is that some aspects of gender identity are inborn and some are learned. It is beyond obvious that a large percentage of biologically born boys, even at a very young age, act in certain ways different from a large percentage of biologically born girls. Simply put, sexual dimorphism in humans includes behavioral differences.
What also seems beyond obvious is that not everyone fits into nice and neat categories. All sorts of abnormalities exist with some being more common than others. Some of these abnormalities affect the brain and hence identity and/or behavior.
A lot of people wish or pretend that these abnormalities didn’t exist. We make anything having to do with sex an embarrassing topic to talk about. By our nature we socially exclude, alienate, discriminate, and ostracize the fringe minorities of our society.
As technology allows for greater communication, awareness of some of these formerly ostracized minorities has grown. This has resulted in both greater sympathy, acceptance, and accommodating behavior towards them as well as greater prejudice, discrimination, and push back against the very idea of their existence.
Personally, I think we should strive to make reasonable accommodations for people as long as they aren’t a significant burden or cost to our overall society. I believe in the idea of human exceptionalism, and the fact that we are individually unique is a key part of that. We aren’t all carbon copies of each other, and I detest the idea that we are like ants in a colony. We all have, for lack of a better term, “God-given” gifts, and we all have our own problems as well. Is it really that hard to see that some people’s problems involve gender identity or biological sex?
Didn’t say you had. But the thing that you said you don’t understand, specifically, is why gender identity doesn’t map to what feels or seems true to you. What I’m pointing out is that what feels or seems isn’t actually evidence that that’s the way it is – much of the conditioning is on our side, making us expect something that might just be out of odds with human nature.