Expressing, not classifying

I rather like the Genderbread person. Someone can look at this and learn. Here is a wonderful post, which critiques it. I love what she says. And it has clarified something for me. At point 2, she asks for an explanation of the difference between transsexual and transgendered, and for me there is none.

Yes, there is a difference between sex and gender. Sex is biological, gender is to do with cultural expression, though I consider at least some of that culture, of “masculine” and “feminine”, is atavistic and genetic rather than merely cultural. But I loathe the expression “biologically male”, and I cannot imagine actually saying “I was biologically male”. I have always been a woman.

“Biologically male” is a useful classification for objective thought, and it does not fit my feelings. I was always a woman. I was a woman with a penis (and fused pelvis, broken voice, Y chromosome almost certainly, etc.). Treat that as a koan, like “the sound of one hand clapping”, a thought which makes no sense but provokes understanding. (Oops, there I go, defining, classifying, simplifying, all the things I deprecate.)

My essence is female. That is more important than my gonads, or I would not have had them cut off.

At point 5, she quotes another site, “being intersex can be any combination of biological sex characteristics.” Lumme. Intersex is a scientific classification, but also a label, something people choose for themselves and argue about its boundaries- is Kalman’s Syndrome intersex? Some prefer “disorders of sexual development”, some object to DSD, some would identify as “intersex” and also as “a woman” which might appear contradictory. Most who choose the label, I understand, object to trans folk applying it to us.

 The classification expresses rationally perceived reality.

For me, emotional reality is far more important.

It feels to me like emotional reality is dissed in our culture, certainly in my current experience of my history. Some discourse takes no account of it at all. And- I learn from the Genderbread graphic, which has two bars rather than a spectrum. I can be at different places on the two bars, at different times.

Now I get personal. If you (Oh, I want a name for her! “Complicated feelings” is not enough! Later- “Small Sauropod?” Really?) If you are reading this, picture me smiling and fluttering my eyelashes. At point 7, she complains that Genderbread oversimplifies sexual orientation. We could debate whether it should mention orientation and oversimplify it, or whether it is primarily about trans issues and it has to simplify something. And- I notice that she says it excludes being attracted to feminine men who are male. My antennae twitch. Close enough? Possibly, give it a try (flutter eyelashes again). I wonder if you are saying, “This does not include me”.

And- when the picture differentiates “gender identity” from “gender expression”, it gives me new understanding, because I have conflated them.

9 thoughts on “Expressing, not classifying

    • I much prefer two lines to one. You do not have to be less of one in order to be more of the other, one can be less or more of both. As for lines around a group, only porous ones do. You would need to be omniscient to classify properly. The only accurate map is the territory itself.

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      • That’s very true. But graphics and ideas like this can really help people who have never considered the range of possibilities that exist when it comes to gender and sexuality. The two lines is a great idea just for conceptualising the whole thing. I’m sure people will pick at it till there’s nothing left, but I think it’s great!

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        • I love the picture. I started thinking it can be used to educate on trans issues, and now think it can explain cis people to themselves too. And- I want to assign it its proper value, not worthless or perfect but somewhere in between, like most things.

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  1. Dear Clare

    “Would need to be omniscient to classify properly…..” The omniscient in us resists classification, because it does not add much to knowledge, except in clarifying what each participant believes to be true about themselves. Rather like faith, there is little to be gained by arguing about what a person perceives about themselves, and much to be lost, in dissent and discomfort.

    Glad to see you reflecting on your perfection.

    XXX 🙂

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  2. I am reading, my first name is Katherine and I am chronically on the fence about whether or not to use it while blogging.
    First, thankyou for writing this, and for sharing your thoughts in general! You’ve made me realize a few things, first that to say “sex and gender are different period the end” is all well and good for me because I don’t have to live it… But that we live in a world that constantly conflates the two, that uses words like “male” and “female” to describe both sex AND gender and that is constantly forcing us all to quibble over the particulars. The second thing that you’ve made me realize I need to chew on longer… But it is something to do with the hows and the whys behind my blogging.

    I want to offer one brief clarification though. I stated at the beginning of my post that I was listing and responding to criticisms I had heard expressed elsewhere… And yet I must not have done a very good job making that clear, because plenty of readers seem to assume that these are the things that I take issue with, even when I explicitly stated that I disagreed with the criticism in question. Maybe it could have benifited from a different format, but I am still learning and I was in a hurry to get my thoughts down. My point was never to complain, my point was to be critical and discuss how extremely complicated identity can be…

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    • Welcome, Katherine. I would far rather think of you as Katherine than an Apatosaur, with its big round body and small stumpy legs. I like my pseudonym: I would not wish to excavate my soul like this under my own name, but it is a human name.

      I recognise that you critique rather than complain. You are articulate. I could make clearer that my bit on intersex is not a criticism of what you say at all, but of what you quote disapprovingly.

      So much on the net is polemic rather than eirenic (well, polemic is a far more familiar word than eirenic). Your posts show how you value what you write about even when you criticise it.

      “trans” is the word my lot have chosen, and I come to dislike that idea of “crossing over” or being on the other side. “Chicks with dicks”, a phrase which sounds designed to be offensive, at least calls us female despite the pre-operative status. Words, words…

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