The whole ideology of gender is purely sexist bullshit.
Gender is a pure social construct, a fiction that oppresses both men and women but more women than men.
When I hear “gender assigned at birth” I want to slap someone. I wasn’t assigned a gender at birth. The doctor looked between my legs and said, “It’s a boy.” I was assigned male by reason of having a penis there later in life I had an operation that reassigned me to female based on that same genital appearance factor.
When I came out in 1969, I came out as a feminist. Women in the collective gave me clothes. While the guys claimed they respected me but they also started treating me in a way that told me they expected me to adhere to the sex roles both hippie and movement women were expected to adhere to.
When other movement women saw this they introduced me to feminism. When SDS split into Weatherman and other factions I became Weather, largely because of Bernadine Dohrn. You see there weren’t very many strong women’s voices in SDS and the Anti-War Movement.
Bernadine Dohrn gave great rants… Maybe months later on reflection you went WTF but at the time… Oh how I admired her audacity and how she inspired me to act courageously.
I also learned from other radical women. Putting women and the interests of women first yet never forgetting that sexism was only one axis of oppression. Consciousness raising and analysis gave me/us an understanding of what the world expects of women.
Many of us who were dealing with having been born with transsexualism owe far more to feminism and the feminist movement than we ever did to Stonewall and the Gay Liberation Movement. We weren’t gay men even if we had male lovers. Especially if we had male lovers… being transsexual and having a male lover meant we were straight or more accurately heterosexual since straight also had other connotations.
We weren’t some “T” so recently grafted on to what was first a Gay Liberation Movement. We were women in transition to female having to deal with the same sexism as natal female women had to deal with. It didn’t much matter if we were radical feminist Weather Nation women or Cosmo “Sex and the Single Girl” women. We had to deal with sexism and pay discrimination as well as sexist assumptions based on what are now called “gender” stereotypes.
Gender was something used to keep women oppressed. It was the idea that women are weak and stupid; fit only to be sex objects or mothers. Daddy’s little princess until given to a man only to lose her last name and become his property.* Gender became a way of telling feminists that they were not real women since they questioned the marketing of very high profit items based on pandering to a sense of insecurity in one’s own womanhood or attractiveness.
When feminism challenged those who were dealing with transsexualism part of the challenge was due to the tendency of so many of us to embrace all the marketing of gender without insight or even a sense of irony.
But gender as it is so often used today is if anything a far more sneaky and loaded with subtextual readings semiotic. Gender has now replaced sex in so much of the common discourse that we look at the construct as reality and skip over the subtextual readings of the semiotic.
Whereas once upon a time the Cockettes Troupe in San Francisco deconstructed gender and showed it as performative through the usage of exaggerated costumes and the performing of equally over the top stereotypes taken from films of the 1930s and 40s I now have some people ask if these performers were transsexual or transgender. The answer is maybe some were. One was in the Stanford program at the same time I was, others were gay men and some were natal females.
By breaking the rules of gender through Absurdist Theater they created both campy comedy and a critique of sex roles. One of the crucial mistakes in feminist criticism of more traditional drag is the assumption that women are the target when it often seems the aim is more a matter of ridiculing roles portrayed in movies.
But Second Wave Feminism went even further in delivering a devastating critique of sex roles as defining what the proper role of women was. When women dared step beyond the stereotypes and enter male dominated career field they were told that doing so would un-sex both women and men. Fashion magazines and all sorts of corporate interests dished up massive loads of propaganda aimed at undermining the confidence of women seeking equality of opportunity.
One of the critiques of transsexual to female people is that we have not been socialized as women. This is an assumption that is often times contradictorily both true and false. Transsexual to female people grow up as transkids and are influenced by the same sales pitches and indoctrination as natal women yet they are told it is something they must adhere to and we are told it is something to be ashamed of.
This makes it hard for us to have a critical eye regarding this propaganda when we first come out. We may acquire it with experience but it is equally possible for us to join the masses of women who march to the beat of Sex in the City rather than to NOW and more radical feminisms.
At some point sex became gender and roles acted replaced that which was written upon the body. The ironic labeling of sex as a definer of maleness or femaleness as essentialism has resulted in many people with a poor understanding of feminist theory using it as a careless accusation.
Dividing people into classes of male and female based on the appearances of genitalia would mean that heterosexual post-SRS women and men would be able to legally marry partners of the other sex. No more Christie Lee Littletons, no more Nikki Araguzs.
But when the misogynistic reactionary forces of both religious fundamentalism and ultra right wing politics united to defeat feminism as well as LGBT/TQ liberation and the progressive movements of the 60s and 70s they seemed to unite with corporate interests in reasserting misogyny. Trying to sell sex roles and their importance after 15 years of serious feminist critique was more of a struggle than repackaging sex roles as gender.
The Total Woman by Marabel Morgan was supposedly a self help book for women. In reality this 1974 publication was grounded in the rising right wing Christo-Fascist backlash that also spawned the rise of the homophobic bigotry of Anita Bryant and crew.
Along with Phyllis Schlafly these genderists put forth an ideology that could have been penned by the late transvestite activist pioneer, Virginia Prince. The ideology was one that kept women in their places by telling them that they weren’t real women unless they filled this total woman gender role. The same gender role feminists had critiqued under the name of “sex roles.”
Now I view “gender” as a culturally defined social construct that varies a great deal according to culture and time (see Margaret Mead’s work. BTW her “debunker” were right wing McCarthyites).
With western modernism the naturally occurring over lapping of sex traits and abilities lead to a lessening of rigid gender roles that are more often found these days in non-western cultures.
Defining people as real men or real women based on gender is a characteristic of conservative values often based in religiously fanatical cultures which is why I find the embrace of “gender” as definer by Transgender Inc. to be more reactionary than progressive.
I read a story on Bilrico about some creep beating an infant boy to death to make him act like a man. http://www.bilerico.com/2010/08/man_kills_17-month-old_boy_for_acting_like_a_girl.php This is the problem with putting so much emphasis on gender.
In the real world an Emo boy even with nail polish and a magenta streak in his long black hair is still a boy. The rocker girl with facial piercings, tats and black leather motor cycle boots is still a girl.
Of course without the ideology of transgender Thomas Beatie is a masculine woman who dresses and acts like a man when she isn’t having children. But c`est la vie. And no I wouldn’t mis-gender him like that even though I am supremely irritated by the neo-quiver full thingie.
Gender is masculinity or femininity not maleness or femaleness. We got suckered into discussing that core identity of male or female as being gender based on Stoller’s book (Sex and Gender) way back in the 1960s. We didn’t have a whole lot of information to operate on and lacked a vocabulary to describe what we were feeling. We should have used “core sex identity” for that sense of being female trapped in a male body.
Little did we realize that even then introducing “gender” in to the discourse was using poisoned seeds from the fruit of a poisonous tree. The misogynistic world according to Virginia Prince became the bullshit crop of the transgender social construct of gender.
The way Transgender Inc. uses gender is not the least bit liberating. It can’t be as it is based on a construct that defines membership in the sex class of female or the sex class of male not based on what one commonly uses. Male and female are generally based on whether one has a penis or vagina.
Yet the simple reality of hole or pole unites both Transgender Inc and the religious fanatic/right wingers in finding ways to tell women born transsexual that their pussies do not really make them women.
August 5, 2010 at 1:38 am
Gender is not a social construct. Gender is a complex variable some parts of which usually have physical origins that refers to different aspects of life according to the word paired with it. Gender role, Gender identity, etc..
To say it is only a construct is to repeat a lie that originated in the abusive beliefs of John Money; that a child could be made any sex if work started young enough.
In fact typical male and female brains have several highly significant differences that are behind some universal gender distinctions.
Just because you don’t know about them, or don’t want to know, and haven’t read past Gooren/Zhou, doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
August 5, 2010 at 8:29 am
Gender is a social construct.
August 5, 2010 at 9:24 am
Male and female are sexes.
Masculine and Feminine (genders) are descriptions of what are considered “typical” behaviors of persons male and female.
Those “typical”, and “acceptable” behaviors change with time. They also change if you move to a different culture. There are behaviors acceptable in some cultures that would result in your being censured (or worse) in others.
In addition, what we describe as masculine and feminine are usually idealized. Trans-kids, growing up, are often told to, “act like a man” when we exhibit behaviors and attitudes that are not in tune with the authority figures concept of what is “acceptable” for a man.
Even within a culture there are significant differences in that “acceptable” thing — quite often caused by class.
Sex is something real — gender is usually the range of culturally approved behaviors, attitudes, etc., that a specific culture allows.
“Acceptable” gendered behavior will be very different if you move from, let us say, a fundamentalist christian group to punk rock and roll kids. What is seen as “acceptable” today differs from what was “acceptable” in 1971. Even the ideals for male are quite different.
Gender is a social construct.
August 5, 2010 at 8:44 pm
So you are both seriously saying gender identity is a social construct?
That none of it is inborn, all of it is changeable? You’ve totally joined the psychoanalysts and reparative therapists?
It doesn’t matter how many times a lie is repeated, or by whom, it still remains a lie.
August 5, 2010 at 9:40 pm
If gender is so innate why do people feel they must indoctrinate? Beyond basic biological instincts all gender is the result of social and cultural indoctrination i.e. socialization.
Gender is the team uniform worn that shows the core sex identity. It is the cultural values ascribed and learned.
You are free to interpret my feminist stance any way you wish.
August 5, 2010 at 10:01 pm
Anna writes: “So you are both seriously saying gender identity is a social construct?
That none of it is inborn, all of it is changeable? You’ve totally joined the psychoanalysts and reparative therapists?
It doesn’t matter how many times a lie is repeated, or by whom, it still remains a lie”
Gender, and the performance of gender, according to societal norms is a social construct. It varies from year to year, place to place.
That is NOT the same thing as what you call “gender identity”, or “core gender identity”.
I suspect there is a language problem here. Perhaps it’s just our barbaric American ways — but gender, which is enforced by society is NOT equal to what you call, “gender identity”.
Heck, it could also be called “core sex identity”, the sense of being male or female. That is innate. The very fact Money’s “experiments” led to such disasters is proof.
I think you are attempting to put words we never said in our mouths.
Was that the point?
August 6, 2010 at 4:17 am
> I suspect there is a language problem here. Perhaps it’s just
> our barbaric American ways — but gender, which is enforced by
> society is NOT equal to what you call, “gender identity”.
> Heck, it could also be called “core sex identity”, the sense of
> being male or female. That is innate. The very fact Money’s
> “experiments” led to such disasters is proof.
So you say gender identity is innate but gender is nothing more than a social construct.
Thats “a social construct identity is innate”, yes?
Yes, that certainly seems a language problem, somewhere.
August 6, 2010 at 4:25 am
“Beyond basic biological instincts all gender is the result of social and cultural indoctrination i.e. socialization.”
So you recognise (correctly) that gender includes basic biological instincts. That makes it NOT simply a social construct then, eh? Which is my point, only I’d consider the “instincts” range to highly sophisticated and very far reaching.
The point? That I have to counter transgenderists, supposed feminists and generally right-on people parroting that daft and ignorant “gender is just a social construct” line all the time. Its even in the UK Equalities and Human Rights Commission official guidance. And it is always used as part of stating that transsexuality is not inborn so children don’t have it and are just gay kids leading everyone a dance. I don’t need them citing a blog titled ‘Women Born Transsexual’ that just forgot to say “beyond basic biological instincts”.
August 6, 2010 at 9:08 am
The basic instincts have next to zero to do with preferences for pink over blue, clothing or sex roles. I do not see the sexes as opposite. Do not believe men are from Mars and women are from Venus. Both sexes have largely overlapping mental and physical traits. Hence I do not believe in boy brains/girl brains.
I see the levels of indoctrination and the gender panic that is largely homophobic and the result of misogyny.
While I used to use the term “core gender identity” I no longer use that term and now use “core sex identity” for the sense of being male or female. Gender, masculinity and femininity are social constructs.
August 6, 2010 at 9:22 am
You do not get to dictate to me what I can or cannot write. You do not get to dictate party line to me any more than Transgender Inc or Jennifer Usher does.
August 6, 2010 at 10:18 am
Anna has written: “Yes, that certainly seems a language problem, somewhere.”
“Somewhere”. Perhaps it is as simple as a misuse of the word gender.
Julia Serano and Suzan both use, and have used, “core sex identity” instead of either “gender identity” or “core gender identity”.
I see the last two phsases as a misuse of THAT “catchall” word GENDER.
As a little trans kid/ boy growing up, my first recollections of there being something “wrong” is that I thought I would grow up to be like my teenage girl cousins. It had nothing to do with clothes, makeup, etc. It was about being, somehow, the wrong sex.
The idea of gender, of looking like and dressing like the person I thought I should be came later.
That core identity did not revolve around the outer manifestations of gender, but about being the wrong sex. That’s why the much maligned “girl trapped in a boys body” was such a great description of how I felt.
The manifestations of gender change with time. At this point, we do not know exactly how much, how many, of what we see as “gender differences” are truly innate. Over the last 40 years there has been a huge swing — back and forth.
I truly believe much of this confusion stems from the confusion of sex and gander.
Dear Anna, I agree there is a language problem — I suspect it’s not mine.
August 6, 2010 at 6:36 pm
> Anna has written: “Yes, that certainly seems a language problem,
> “Somewhere”. Perhaps it is as simple as a misuse of the word
> Julia Serano and Suzan both use, and have used, “core sex
> identity” instead of either “gender identity” or “core gender
> I see the last two phsases as a misuse of THAT “catchall” word
Maybe, but it is the common usage in English.
> As a little trans kid/ boy growing up, my first recollections of
> there being something “wrong” is that I thought I would grow up
> to be like my teenage girl cousins. It had nothing to do with
> clothes, makeup, etc. It was about being, somehow, the wrong
> That core identity did not revolve around the outer
> manifestations of gender, but about being the wrong sex.
OK. But what told you that, and what did it mean, then?
As you know my realisation was an early revulsion at the prospect of having an adult male body and presence, and contrasting ease with the alternative. That gave me a conscious identification with females. But people had been picking up on non-male behavior long before that. And I grew more into it, like that was natural. Come 7 I knew about SRS and wanted it, badly. Come 11 I realised my sexuality was female. Then male puberty was very late and minimal. Come transition it all just felt so right.
Clever work with birds (actual brain transplants in egg) shows that a female brain in a male body disrupts such physical development.
> why the much maligned “girl trapped in a boys body” was such a
> great description of how I felt.
Yeah, me too.
> The manifestations of gender change with time. At this point, we
> do not know exactly how much, how many, of what we see as
> “gender differences” are truly innate. Over the last 40 years
> there has been a huge swing — back and forth.
No, that ignores a vast swell of solid research findings in recent years, especially since brain scanning became available.
> I truly believe much of this confusion stems from the confusion
> of sex and gander.
No doubt. Pesky English language having both words, inevitably they would acquire different meanings. But then what is it with Latin and its descendants having masculine, feminine and neuter language gender forms? Or some cultures having dozens of genders?
Thing is gender got wedded to “identity”, “role” etc.. I guess because Money knew they weren’t always tied to birth sex. OK, we’d maybe like them switched over to sex because we know brain sex is inborn, but there’s all that usage and literature out there. Its even written into laws someplaces. So if we’re into more than chatting to an in-group that shares a different understanding of language, we’d best address how the wider society understands things. Especially given that we have the current global super-language at our disposal.
August 6, 2010 at 6:50 pm
> The basic instincts have next to zero to do with preferences for
> pink over blue, clothing or sex roles. I do not see the sexes as
> opposite. Do not believe men are from Mars and women are from
> Venus. Both sexes have largely overlapping mental and physical
> traits. Hence I do not believe in boy brains/girl brains.
So in what way were you “born transsexual”?
Really, this is such ignorance. There are a lot of variable cultural aspects, and a lot of variation in the inborn (or firmed up so early as to be effectively the same) aspects in individuals, but generally there is a very significant degree of “inborn” sexually dimorphic “instinct” and process. You certainly know of the BSTc difference, which accounts for most dimorphic reproductive behaviour (which is a wide range) and links to almost every part of the brain. Female sexual appetite is also more closely related to other appetites, by proximity in another brain area (think about eating and shopping “stereotypes”). The body maps are different, which is the whole sense of ones body and how one moves. Across cultures people can distinguish male movement from female just by following a few points of light. The aversion to rough and tumble is inborn (androgens in utero). The reaction to scents is “inborn”. The opposite effects of stress are “inborn”. Some significant differences in processing of speech and faces are “inborn”. Sex differences in communication are conserved down from a common ancestor with birds. Its highly likely a delight in producing higher notes and more complicated speech is an inborn human female trait. Lower testosterone means greater awareness of pain and sensitivity to touch; for most that might as well be an inborn fact. FMRI shows male brains monitor the surrounding world when at rest, female brains monitor their own body, which makes reproductive sense. Just think how that affects behaviour and preferences.
I have hundreds of citations of peer-reviewed papers on this stuff, and there is more every week.
Yes pink and blue are cultural, but the power behind them is that the brain identifies with others of ones own sex and uses such culturally provides signs in the process. There are “inborn” filters that ensure that. Neonates react differently to adults of their own sex. And adults probably do the same to babies, and each other, for the same reason. Are you aware of mirror-neurons and how we learn automatically simply by seeing or hearing? If your eyes are watching other females or your ears listening to them you learn from females. Nothing cultural to the process, just the content.
And then there’s the mental effect, as a person develops, of being in the body. Smaller, more vulnerable, perhaps attractive to males, competitor to other females. Should they not be regarded as physical effects?
Gender is not largely some vast conspiracy, but a sometimes ill-fitting accumulated collection of ways of handling common facts about males and females. And then with some prejudice and religious baggage on top.
> While I used to use the term “core gender identity” I no longer
> use that term and now use “core sex identity” for the sense of
> being male or female. Gender, masculinity and femininity are
> social constructs.
It really does not matter what word you use for it. The standard usage in English is “gender identity” and you omitted to qualify your statements with “Beyond basic biological instincts”. You also failed to point out you use a different term. And the “feminists” (actually only a faction) you were echoing don’t make any such distinction. For them, as you know, “Gender identity” is a social construct, and thus we are, to them, not “Born Transsexual”.
August 6, 2010 at 10:17 pm
Where to begin — oh, I know —- before Suzan and I came up with Women Born Transsexual we politely asked if folks would kindly say, “transgender and transsexual” — we were laughed at. Next we were called elitist. then we were attacked by all sorts of folks — from all sides.
Women Born Transsexual is now a part of “the vocabulary”.
I’ve even seen more and more cases of folks saying, posting, writing, “transsexual and transgender”.
Suzan, among others, started using, “LGBT/T” — I have seen more and more instances of that being used.
So, if the common usage, “gender identity” is seen as having unintended consequences, or does not convey the desired meaning — or if “core sexual identity” just seems to work better — it may well begin to replace the current language.
Given how Women Born Transsexual, LGBT/T, and transgender and transsexual have become more common in conversation — how can attempting to clarify issues be anything but “a good thing” (as Martha Stewart says).