gender

Gender… boredom?

I sort of alluded to this a few weeks ago, but I wanted to talk more directly about it as well: for a long time, I just haven’t had anything interesting to say about gender stuff (last week’s post doesn’t count, because I dug it out of my massive archive of draft posts). This is actually a major reason why this blog almost died, before I gave myself permission to just write about what I wanted again, and to worry less about having a clear point to the writing (at least until I’ve re-established the writing habit. Then I might get pickier again).

It’s funny, because at the outset, this was never intended to be solely a gender blog, but as I gained readers I found myself not wanting to disappoint by going way off track.

But yeah, gender. I don’t think about it nearly as much as I used to, really. A lot of this comes down to the fact that I’m done with doing the heavy emotional and intellectual processing related to my own shifting gender identity (at least for now. Life is long, and who knows where I’ll go from here?) I am comfortable in and of myself, I have a strongly internalized sense of self that hasn’t experienced any kind of flux for quite some time.

I’m also in a really comfy place in terms of being surrounded by people who support me. I’ve even been out at work for quite some time now, and while my coworkers don’t get it right all of the time, they do always seem to catch themselves when they flub (without making a big deal out of it).

Basically, my gender isn’t creating much friction in my life, and so it’s not on my mind that much anymore, I guess.

And that’s all I have to say about that right now.

Algorithms of dysphoria

I am one of those fortunate trans people who don’t experience a lot of dysphoria around their gender. Really, for years now I’ve been in a place where I go long periods without thinking about my gender at all (which makes a certain kind of sense since I’m pretty much agender, to be honest. Why would I spend time thinking about something that doesn’t exist?*)

The dysphoria I do experience is mostly (maybe entirely?) social rather than physical/bodily – which is to say, I can and do experience discomfort related to my gender when I am misgendered (explicitly or implicitly), but my body itself isn’t a source of dysphoria for me. This makes me very lucky, because it means I can, and do, escape from sources of dysphoria on a regular basis. It’s a lot harder to run away from your own body.

But still, when you get right down to it, social and physical dysphoria aren’t as easily separable as all that. And this is an important point, because there are people who like to gatekeep non-dysphoric trans people, or solely socially dysphoric people from being considered Really Trans (TM). There’s a related misconception that direct physical dysphoria (that is, discomfort with one’s own body) is the only reason someone would pursue medical transition (hormones, surgery, etc.) – the true hallmark of being Really Trans.

Reality is, of course, far more complicated than that.

In fact, if I experience dysphoria because the shape of body causes people to misgender me, even though the *best* solution would be to teach people not to do that, the more expedient solution is still be medical intervention to my body (who wants to wait through the several generations it’s likely to take for the general population to get comfortable with trans people in general, let alone non-binary genders?) But in many cases, even if there are doctors near you that work with trans people in the first place, depending on the model of care they follow, simply being non-binary, being someone who experiences primarily social forms of dysphoria, could make you ineligible for their help.

So people who don’t experience the “right” kind of dysphoria can be stuck in a feedback loop of gatekeeping, they’re not Really Trans because we don’t seek medical intervention, but we often times *can’t* seek medical intervention, on the grounds of not being Really Trans

Ouch.

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*this is mostly facetious. Being gendered all the time when you’re agender can be pretty uncomfortable.

Babies and gender: where I’m at now

Before my baby existed in any way at all, I had decided how I was going to handle the whole birth-assigned-sex/gender thing. You can read the whole post about it, but my basic approach was that I would go ahead and use whatever pronouns most commonly align with the baby’s birth-assigned sex, while also avoiding gendering the baby in other ways.

This is, in fact, the way I’ve been approaching my baby’s gender (though I will be using ‘they’ pronouns for the baby on this blog, at least for now. I can’t quite articulate my reasons for this right now). It’s definitely a path-of-least-resistance approach, but it seems fine for us. Honestly, though, now that I have a nearly-one-year-old (OMG!), I am mostly just amazed at how ridiculously, transparently deluded most people’s perceptions of baby gender are.

Seriously, though. Other than the fact that they’re statistically likely to identify with the gender commonly associated with their birth-assigned sex, I really don’t think my baby has a gender yet, nor could I really guess at what their gender will be. Heck, at this age babies apparently don’t recognize themselves in a mirror, their sense of self is just that nearly-non-existent.

People really, really love to insist that baby’s genders are just so apparent from birth though! Oh, sure, little Susie was just born knowing how to shop, you say*? And Bobby, wouldn’t you know it, he’s been just *obsessed* with breasts since the day he was born (LOLOLOLOL!!!)? Obviously our culture’s current particular understanding of the gender binary is completely natural and not at all learned.

Meanwhile, depending on what my baby is wearing, they’ve been declared everything from “what a perfect boy” to “such a pretty little girl”. I promise you they were exactly the same baby each time.

I really just don’t perceive my baby as a gendered being at this point (which was sort of my goal – I don’t want the way I treat them to be coloured by their probable gender, and the best way to avoid sub-consciously doing that is prevent my sub-conscious from seeing them in a gendered way in the first place.) Though I also realize that saying I don’t perceive them that way doesn’t make it true.

But, I’m pretty sure I’ve actually pulled it off! The reason: after my parents’ most recent visit, my father sent me a message saying that he loves my baby, except he called the baby my “daughter”. And I was momentarily confused and didn’t know what he was talking about? Because I don’t have one of those? I just have a baby. (Who will soon be a toddler, and a child…) Like, I think that I had literally never thought that word in connection to my baby.

So that’s something!

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*There’s a lot to unpack here, but in all seriousness, in one of the baby groups I sometimes go to, one of the facilitators(!) waxed poetic about how she’s sure girls are born with the shopping gene or something. Like, properly went on about it. It was something.

Questions from the search terms: “femme women using they them”

I’m back with another question from the search terms! Today:

“femme women using they them”

I’m going to approach this one from two different interpretations:

  1. the generous interpretation: the asker is wondering about people they know who actively identify as both women and femmes who also use they/them pronouns.
  2. the (sadly) more likely interpretation: the asker is wondering about people they perceive as women, who have femme presentations, and who also use they/them pronouns.

1.

So, what’s the deal with femme women who use they pronouns? I don’t know, really, it would be ask to ask them about it. But if you’re wondering whether it’s ok for them to use they pronouns, then yes, absolutely that’s fine!

Women of all kinds have different feelings about the various forms of woman-gendered language. Some women hate being called ladies, and they get to feel that way about it. Other women love it, and that’s great, too. Most women are good with being called ‘she’, but maybe some aren’t, and prefer to use ‘they’ or a neutral neo-pronoun. Or maybe some prefer to keep their gender under wraps in certain contexts, and use ‘they’ in those contexts.

I’ve written before about how ‘they’ as a pronoun is simply a way of referring to someone without gendering them at all, and there’s nothing wrong with someone preferring not to have their gender brought up every time they’re being referred to. Using ‘they’ pronouns is one way to reduce that frequency, and if it works for some women (femme or not! Femme-ness or lack thereof is completely irrelevant here, to be clear!) then that’s just fine.

2.

It’s also possible that the ‘femme woman’ you know who uses they pronouns isn’t a femme woman at all!

Maybe they’re a femme non-binary person that you perceive as a woman. Non-binary people aren’t obligated to be ‘androgynous’ or vaguely masculine, and many of us like to femme it up some or all of the time.

Maybe they identify as a woman sometimes, but not strongly enough or often enough to go by ‘she’.

Maybe they told you they’re a woman because that’s what they were most comfortable explaining to you, but honestly it doesn’t matter. They’ve apparently also told you they use they pronouns, so go ahead and do that. You won’t hurt anyone if you do.

Babies, and “finding out their gender”

So, pretty much everyone knows I’m pregnant by now. I’m not great at telling everyone at work, but the word is definitely spreading on its own – people I work with occasionally from other locations often know before I tell them, and the library CEO recently thanked me for the surprisingly convenient timing of my pregnancy in terms of the library system’s bigger projects XD .

Inevitably, people want to know whether I’m going to “find out the gender” ahead of time. Whenever people ask me this, I am tempted to give them one of these:

Because, like, come on! You are literally talking to a trans person *right now*. Do you even hear yourself? Usually I will just correct them to remind them that only thing I can find out at the point is the (probable) sex – really, all you can learn from an ultrasound is whether or not the fetus appears to have a penis, which isn’t really as conclusive of anything as we like to pretend it is.

Personally, I don’t really care whether I find out the baby’s apparent sex from an ultrasound or when they’re born. It’s kind of all the same to me. My partner made a very good point, however, which has made us decide to wait to find out.

The thing is, if we learn the sex early, other people will want us to tell them what it is. And they’ll use the info to start gendering the baby immediately. And we’d like to put that off as long as reasonably possible. So, we won’t be learning the fetus’ apparent sex from my ultrasound on the 22nd (tomorrow!)

My general approach/attitude to my upcoming baby’s gender is the same as what I had planned before I got pregnant. In short: I know that I won’t know the baby’s gender until they are able to tell me what it is; however, for practical purposes I plan to use the pronouns the are traditionally applied to the baby’s apparent sex at birth (if they’re intersex, then I’ll go with they/them), while generally avoiding other forms of gendered language for them.

Gender Perspectives Vol. 21

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.]

My gender | Aut of Spoons

I don’t know what gender IS.

How can I know what my gender is, if I don’t know what gender is?

On Coming Out Day this year, I said that I was “less cis than originally advertised.” I don’t know what that means. Perhaps gender is the collection of attributes that are most important to you; your defining characteristics. Your core identity. Why have a word for it, if not your name? Gender Olivia?

Transition, trans becoming | The dancing trans

The process of transition is defined and controlled by cis people in a way that denies transness to many, many trans people. However, we are all still slowly becoming our genders and that, for us trans folks, is our transition, cis-sanctioned or not.

Carve Me Like a Pumpkin | The Junkie Comsonaut

I am preparing my body for surgery, and it is almost there. My brain needs some more time. Anticipating the damage and the aftermath still makes me queasy, but I’ll cope. I want this. I want what it will get me.

Questions from the search terms: “I’m attracted to my biological sex only but I identify as genderqueer. Does that still make me lesbian?”

It’s time for another question from the search terms! Today I bring you:

I’m attracted to my biological sex only, but I identify as genderqueer. Does that still make me lesbian?

Dear searcher,

I’m hoping that you were just being a little sloppy with your words in the relative privacy of your internet search (it’s not like you actually said this to another person, and I know that sometimes using less-than-correct language is the best route to the results you want on the internet, because those are the smae words other people are using!) but before I address your actual question, a quick clarification for other people reading this:

Being a lesbian doesn’t mean being only attracted to ‘biological females’. For the most part, it means being only attracted to women (who may or may not be the same biological sex as you, searcher!) I also realize that lesbian community and culture is in reality messier than that, and I know that there are complicated and delicate questions around trans men and lesbianism – some trans men identify as lesbians, I think? And I know that there are women who date both (cis?) women and trans men, who still identify as lesbians.

I also know that TERFiness and transmisogyny are pretty rampant in many lesbian communities, though, so those community norms may not be things you want to play into or live up to. It is some complicated stuff, and I am not a great authority on the nuances of lesbian communities, but suffice to say that if you actually think that being solely attracted to ‘biological’ females is an unproblematic definition of lesbianism, you have got another thing coming! The group of people who share your biological sex includes a wide variety of genders, from men and women to all kinds of non-binary and genderqueer people, and that’s not what lesbianism is about, as far as I can tell.

But ok, I’m going to pivot to the more generous reading of the question now, so you can get an actual answer!

I’m going to take it that you’re a genderqueer person who was assigned female at birth, and you find yourself exclusively attracted to women. So, are you a lesbian then?

…maybe?

I know there are non-binary people out there who identify as lesbians, and I know there are lesbian communities who are open and welcoming to enbies (afab ones, anyway…) who identify this way.

Ultimately, though, what you’ve actually run into here is a major limitation of the way in which we try to categorize sexual attraction. At its core, the hetero-/homo- binary is very dependent on a binary gender system, both for the people feeling attraction and the objects of that attraction. I’ve written more than once about how these categories aren’t really sufficient to properly contain attraction *to* non-binary people (see here and here), but I’ve somehow missed the aspect where they fail even harder to provide labels for non-binary people’s own experiences of attraction.

This is partially because my bisexuality/queerness does map onto my non-binary identity in the same way that it did onto my birth-assigned gender. I can be attracted to people of any gender, and that remains true regardless of *my* particular gender.

Shit gets complicated when you’re only attracted to one gender, though. If you want to be strict about it, a non-binary person who is only attracted to one gender (other than a non-binary gender) is heterosexual (though possibly not straight).

But that’s not at all helpful. So where do I go from there?

In general, I think it is a terrible idea for non-binary people to define their sexual orientation in terms of their birth-assigned gender. For one thing, doing so would require non-binary people to out themselves about their birth-assigned gender, and how about we just don’t do that?

So, in general, non-binary people who are only attracted to women aren’t lesbians. You still might be, if it’s really what feels right for you? But, since I suspect that you aren’t actually exclusively attracted to women, and that your attractions probably include other non-binary people and possibly trans men as well, I encourage you to consider other identities. Queer is a really good label for people who don’t fit well into the existing models of sexual identity. Is there a reason why you don’t want to use it?

I think the main reason people in your sort of situation sometimes shy away from this, is they don’t like the implication that they’re into men, but if that’s the case, try this: “I’m a queer non-binary person who isn’t attracted to men”. Problem solved, ok?