gender identity

A positive book review for once!

I seem to only write about books on here when they annoy or anger me. (I do write good reviews when my librarian hat is on, for the record!) Today, you get a reprieve from my negativity!

Ever since I read the trainwreck of a book that was Understanding Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation, I’ve been lowkey on the lookout for a schoolkid-appropriate book that actually addresses transgender people in a thorough and respectful way.

And today I found one!

Identifying as Transgender, by Sara Woods, is part of Rosen Publishing’s “Transgender Life” series (it being part of a series on trans issues is mostly why the title is a little awkward, I think?), and I’m clearly going to need to check out the rest of the series, because this one kind of knocks it out of the park!

Things this book does that I love include:

  • Talking about being cisgender on the same level as talking about being transgender, so transgender people are not actively othered.

    Everyone, transgender and cisgender alike, has a gender identity. A cisgender person is a person whose gender identity is consistent with their assigned gender… Transgender people, on the other hand, have gender identities that do not match the genders assigned to them at birth. (pg. 7)

  • Actively and consistently acknowledging non-binary genders throughout (non-binary people are included throughout, and not just as a side-note which is thereafter forgotten).
  • Acknowledging the diversity of trans experiences generally.

    Some trans women come to identify as women after many years of life, while others identify as girls when they are toddlers. (pg. 8)

    The painful experience of dysphoria has many sources and impacts many transgender people. But it is not universal. Many find that they are comfortable with their bodies as they are. This fact does make them any less or more trans. (pg. 25)

  • Explicitly identifying the book’s primarily colonial North American perspective (it is the target market for the book), and acknowledging that many contemporary societies actively include more than two genders.

    Some contemporary examples of nonbinary genders include the muxe in Zapotec communities in southern Mexico, the waria in Indonesia, and the mashoga in Swhili-speaking areas of the Kenyan coast – each of these identities carries its own specific attributes and meanings.

    Here in the United States, and Canada as well, many people fall outside of the binary. [Some explanation of different non-binary genders, genderfluid and agender identities.] In addition, many indigenous people are two-spirit, a term rooted in gender identities specific to some of the peoples indigenous to the continent. (pg. 11)

  • Discussing intersex people while also carefully differentiating between being intersex and being transgender (and defining dyadic alongside intersex in the same way that cisgender and transgender are discussed alongside one another).

    Most People are dyadic, but many people are intersex… Like dyadic people, intersex people are usually assigned male or female at birth. Because the concept of binary biological sex is so deeply ingrained in medical practice, many intersex people have been subject to nonconsensual treatments by doctors and surgeons (pg. 23)

    People often wrongly confuse the meanings of intersex and transgender. While some intersex people are transgender, many are not, identifying with the gender they were assigned at birth. Similarly, most transgender people are dyadic and do not have any intersex variations. (pg. 23)

  • Including inclusive definitions of sexual and romantic orientation (in a chapter intended to dispel the myth that all trans people are gay, and that transness and queerness are the same thing).

    Just like cisgender people, transgender people can be gay or straight. They can also be bisexual, pansexual, queer, asexual, greysexual, aromantic, or polyamorous[*] (pp. 29-30).

  • Discussing intersecting experiences of marginalization!

    All transgender people are vulnerable to transphobia and cissexism. But there are groups of trans people who experience additional marginalization and mistreatment. (pg. 43)

    This section goes on to discuss transmisogyny, and some of the ways in which ableism and racism can combine with cissexism and transphobia to make life even more difficult for multiply marginalized trans people.

  • THIS:

    When it comes to nonbinary people, the dominant terms that we have for sexuality tend to not make much sense. Who, for example, would a straight agender person date? Would a genderqueer person only be homosexual if they dated other genderqueer people? What if they dated a gender fluid person? (pg. 31)

I am so pleased with this book, y’all. Check it out if you can!


*I mean, ok, you may object to this being included among orientations (I am extremely iffy about this myself), but in general the idea here is that trans people’s ways of forming relationships are just as diverse as cis people’s, so I’m giving it a pass.

Gender Perspectives Vol. 20

download[In the Gender Perspectives series, I aim to highlight diverse kinds of personal narratives and reflections on gender, gender presentation, and identity, to broaden the gender conversation and boost a variety of voices. Check out the rest of the series.]

It’s been far too long since our last installation of Gender Perspectives, and I’ve been accidentally sitting on this draft for a while, so let’s get right to what I have for you today:

My Transgender Day of (in)Visibility | Wandering Aloud

Being trans is difficult; being middle-aged and non-binary doesn’t make it any easier. I know that there is ‘no right way to be trans’ and as a rule I’m proud to be out and visible. Still, sometimes I am left with the feeling that perhaps there is a ‘wrong way’

 

What I Want | THEMAGICSPACESHIP

I want to experience the relief and joy and affirmation my binary trans friends experience when they begin to transition and the world starts to read them correctly at last. Confusion is not good enough. Avoiding referring to me is not good enough. Being read half the time one way and half the time the other, and wrong all the time, is not good enough.

 

Self-Expression After Coming Out | Queerly Texan 

My self-expression changed when I became comfortable with myself [as a lesbian], and I think that’s true for a lot of people. When you spend months, years, or even decades being uncomfortable the second you stop feeling even a tiny percentage of that awkwardness, you never want to go back.

 

Gender? I Don’t Know A Gender! | Sofhoney

What are you?

I’m me! I’m Sof. I change frequently – that goes for mood, attraction, appearance, & a whole lot of other things, too. It’s something I beat myself up over – a LOT. It’s something I’ve come to realize doesn’t matter. Not to me, anyway – some people identify very strongly with a gender or sexuality & that is great & amazing & I support & uplift those who identify that way…it’s just that I personally don’t!

 

The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: U is for “unless/until”

Welcome to another episode of the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet! Today:

U is for “unless/until”

Cis people often seem occupy this convenient malleable position vis-à-vis trans people. Although cis folks are quick to plead ignorance when they misstep or use damaging words to talk about trans people, at the same time they often like to hold forth as if they are the judges of who is and isn’t ‘really’ trans.

These rules aren’t constant, of course, but cis people really do love to set up goalposts for the conditions (usually related to medical interventions) trans people must meet before their identities become worthy of respect.

As in, “You’re not really trans *unless* you’ve had ‘the Surgery’”. As in, “I’m not going to call you by your correct name/pronouns *until* you grow your hair longer (or cut it shorter)”.

Among the many (many) things I have to say about this bullshit (there are often double standards in here that cis people don’t need to meet in order to have their pronouns respected, for instance), I am mostly just baffled and tired by it all.

If someone tells you they are a woman, or a man, or non-binary, or anything else, what harm does it do you to respect that? If someone doesn’t look like what you think someone of their gender *should* look like, so the fuck what? How is that your call to make anyway?

Let people be the boss of their own gender, for fuck’s sake. I promise it won’t kill you. Whereas being denied recognition of something so basic as their gender does regularly contribute to transgender people’s decision to commit suicide, so.

Make the right choice, y’all.


Check out the rest of the “Shit Cis People Say” alphabet!

The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: P is for “Phase”

Welcome to another episode of the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet! Today:

P is for “phase”

I wrote about this before, when someone close to me expressed a concern that my non-binary-ness was a phase.

For some reason, cis people are very concerned about the stability of other people’s gender identities, and seem to have decided en masse that unless they are sure that your gender and pronouns are never going to change again, then your preferences aren’t real and don’t have to be – or possibly even shouldn’t be? – respected.

You’ll see this particularly with children; cis people spend a lot of time hand-wringing about whether simply recognizing and respecting your child’s stated identity may – somehow – harm them if they later decide to identify with the gender they were assigned at birth.

I am here to say: it literally does not matter whether a person’s currently stated gender turns out to be a temporary ‘phase.’ It really doesn’t. It’s none of your business in the first place, for one thing. If a person changes their mind about their gender, or if their gender changes later, then that’s what happens and it’ll be fine. Why do you even care?

More importantly, even if this is a phase, what makes you think that you somehow have the magical ability to know what that person’s gender is or will be after the phase is complete? Defaulting to pronouns based on birth-assigned gender simply because you think someone’s non-assigned gender might be a phase is nonsensical, to be honest. It always makes the most sense to go with the best information you have available, and the best information available always is, and always will be, the information you get from the first-person perspective of the person whose gender you’re worrying about.

So, honestly, just stop worrying about whether someone’s gender is a phase! If it turns out to be one, they’ll let you know, and you can handle it then!

 


Check out the rest of the “Shit Cis People Say” alphabet!

Self, Identity, Past, Present

There was a strange thing that happened in my head a bunch over the summer and fall last year, that I have never thought to write about until just now. I think I only mentioned it out loud to one person, even, when it was happening.

My internal monologue kept slipping into the voice of the my younger self.

And while I know that’s a very accurate way of describing the experience, I’m not 100% sure what I mean by it. I may have mentioned before that when I dissociate, my internal monologue turns into a robot. This is like that, but not robotic?

To be honest, these days I don’t know how I relate to my past self, or more realistically, my various past selves. It doesn’t feel at all correct to refer to this person I’ve been… hearing? remembering? experiencing? (or whatever) as Kasey, for instance. I don’t feel like Kasey is a person who has existed my entire life, though once again, I’m not entirely sure what I mean by that. I just know that it is accurate.

Rather, this person definitely owns my birth name, though since I have always been fond of my birth name, and it has always been a significant part of my identity, that’s not terribly surprising, I guess.

I wonder about their gender – I’ve never been particularly attached to the idea that my weird fluid sorta agender-ness is an in-born trait, but at the same time, past me definitely didn’t have a particularly strong gender identity, and to be honest, I do think that my relationship to gender hasn’t really changed that significantly over the course of my life – the only things that have changed are the vocabulary available to me and the extent to which I’ve given it any thought at all.

So yeah, I think this past me was pretty much non-binary, I guess?

The entire experience was weirdly uncomfortable – when I was a kid, I used to super hate the way my voice sounded in recordings (I think I’m over this now, though it’s not as if I hear many recordings of my voice), and I found myself having a similar visceral reaction to this new internal voice (though I think the voice sounds like what my old internal monologue sounded like, not like my child-voice from the outside, so this is definitely an imperfect way of capturing my negative feelings here).

I think to some extent, this is my brain stitching my back together for myself. I need to be re-acquainted with the person I was before… what exactly, I’m not really sure. Before transition, yes. Before changing my name, sure. Before I ever was raped? Before…. well, before I started identifying my father’s abusive behavioural patterns.

Which is to say, not before I experienced those patterns.

I haven’t talked much about my father as an abusive person in the context of my childhood. His behaviour only began to stand out to me in that way after I identified the abusiveness of my rapist ex. To be honest, I still largely consider my childhood to be fairly stable and healthy, though I no longer trust that assessment as fully as I used to.

In fact, I have been questioning this idea more over the past year, poking at strange unanswered questions like: how in the heck did dissociation become such a go-to coping mechanism for me? It’s been with me for as long as I can remember, to the point where it is simply a part of my very basic existence: I am, therefore I dissociate.

I am quite certain that my unstructured attempts to reflect on and better understand this and other aspects of my selfhood are behind the resurgence of this past-self voice in my head, but I’m not sure yet what to make of it.

Other than, I guess, I think I should start writing about these questions and the memories that are kicking up around them. This space has worked wonders for me in terms of working through my memories of my abusive ex, and I suspect it can do the same with these older ones, too.

So yeah, thus begins my new project I guess?

The “Shit Cis People Say” Alphabet: F is for “fake genders”

Welcome to another episode of the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet! Today:

F is for “fake genders”

Cis people sometimes like to refer to trans people’s genders -and particularly non-binary genders – as being ‘fake’ or ‘made-up’. As if their own genders are somehow natural, and not simply the accumulation of generations of social conceptions of what gender is and means, right?

Like, I wish I didn’t need to say that most of the trappings of gender are socially constructed and context-dependent, and that there is nothing natural about the ideas of what the categories ‘man’ and ‘woman’ mean. These categories are made up, too, and they’ve evolved and changed and been made to hold multiple meanings, in various cultures around the world (and, it should be noted, alongside a great many other genders that have been and are recognized in various cultures and at various times).

I honestly barely know what it means to claim that someone is ‘faking’ their gender. Or rather, I definitely have no idea why anyone ever thinks they are somehow a better authority on someone’s gender than that person is themself. Just trust people when they tell you their gender, already.

To be honest, it doesn’t matter if someone coined their own new word to name their gender – that doesn’t make it fake. That’s not how words work. There is literally no such thing a fake word – we as humans put mostly arbitrary sounds together in different ways to indicate different things, and while some words are better at conveying their intended meaning to other people (it is generally more effective to use words people are familiar with where possible, or to invent new ones based on existing conventions  – this is where ‘cisgender’ comes from, for the record; ‘cis’ as a prefix is an established complement to ‘trans’ in the English language) but words can’t be ‘fake’, not really.

My gender isn’t fake, just because I use new(ish) words to describe it. And neither is anyone else’s.


Check out the rest of the “Shit Cis People Say” alphabet!

The “Shit Cis People Say” Alphabet: E is for “everyone feels that way”

Welcome to another episode of the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet! Today:

E is for “everyone feels that way”

…This is a strange one, to be honest. But it sometimes happens, particularly in more explicitly TERF-y spaces, that some cis person will try to argue that trans people aren’t really trans, we’re just misunderstanding what gender is like for everyone.

So, the thing is, I think it is definitely true that every single person alive has, at some point, had an unpleasant run-in with the norms imposed upon their gender. Not one of us can possibly get through life without being on the receiving end of gender policing, be it implicit or explicit.

All of us, in other words, have moments of discomfort with our genders. The thing that the cisgender people making this argument don’t seem to grasp is that there are different kinds of gender-related discomfort. And, the kind of gender-related discomfort that all people experience (the one that stems from being called out for failing to conform to the arbitrary standards that are applied to your gender) is distinctly different from the kind of gender-related discomforts that comes with dysphoria – these are the discomforts of being explicitly misgendered (which may happen to people both cis and trans, and is sometimes a form of gender policing), or of being judged for one’s failure to conform to the standards of a gender that you don’t identify with in the first place (this experience is far more common among trans people than cis people.)

Look, it’s not as if trans people feel that we are perfect fits for our genders (by which I mean, our actual genders, not our birth-assigned ones) any more than cis folks do. It’s just that we fit better into them than our birth-assigned ones. It’s just that our birth-assigned genders aren’t our genders.

And though the difference in how it feels as a cis person to be judged for failing to fit that birth-assigned gender with which you identify, versus how it feels to be a trans person judged for failing to fit a gender that was wrong to begin with is probably impossible to articulate – people generally only feel one or the other of these in their lives, so they can’t really be compared – I promise you it exists. All I know for sure is that the difference is what causes trans people to identify with a gender other than their birth-assigned one (or with no gender at all), while cis people don’t.

Which is to say: no, not everyone feels the way trans people feel about their birth-assigned genders. I can tell, because an awful lot of you aren’t rejecting those assignments.


Check out the rest of the “Shit Cis People Say” alphabet!