Sex and gender

File:Aachen, Hans von - Emperador Matthias (1612).jpgSex is physical, gender is cultural.

I presented male, and now express myself female. So I am “Transgender”, as this is to do with my way of presenting myself to the World, and expressing myself to myself. But- the word “transgender” implies that sex does not come into it. In previous usage, there was a distinction between “transsexuals” who had the operation, and “transgenderists” who did not.

I had male sex organs. Arguably my sex was male. Yet I revolt against that idea: it is so deep, so ingrained, so natural that I am female that I think of my sex as female, too, throughout my life. Something in my brain, something in my genes, something. So I do not like the word “transsexual”- crossing between the sexes- because I feel I have always been female.

One advantage of “Transsexual” as an identity is (Irony ALERT!!) that if the bigot looks at me, I can whine, “I’m not like those weirdos over there. I’m transsexual! I’ve had the operation and everything! Transvestites are perverts, but I have a medical condition!” However, justifying myself to a bigot is a mug’s game. It is impossible. And- I do not want to be accepted because I have gone down a certain path. I want to be accepted because I am human, and I want that extended to everyone.

So, we use the word “Trans”. It is inclusive.

—————————– culture: the kilt, though skirt-like, is a man’s garment, and trousers are a woman’s garment. But the cultural issue is deeper than that: the kilt, with deep pleats in a heavy fabric, swings in a masculine way. It is not feminine.

So, culturally, I can go so far. I can accept that men wear something which partially resembles a skirt, but I want it to be masculine. Men in something feminine is transgressive. Women’s trousers are cut differently, in different colours and fabrics. The Restoration gentleman, in bright-coloured velvet and lace with a long curly wig still wore trousers, while the ladies wore long skirts. I can accept the different cultural expression of masculinity as long as there is a distinction.

Oh, right. That is conservative. Not radical at all. I need the distinction. I am uncomfortable without it.

Then I can accept others if it is explained to me. The concept of Neutrois, for example, someone identifies as neither man nor woman. Oh, OK. This person is neutrois. I can probably restrain myself from policing the person’s apparent gender expression, but I will certainly notice it. This person is Genderqueer. I learn, slowly. Remember this is a trans woman writing- I have a reaction, then a moment’s thought while I apply my Diversity understanding, and I may need to consciously apply that Diversity understanding repeatedly.

And- not just as a matter of gender- I am not good with people new to me. I need to spend time with people before I am comfortable with them.

Part of my noticing, part of my staring, is considering- is this a possibility for me? If people stare at women hand in hand, it might be bigoted condemnation, or fearful admiration- But that’s not allowed –is it?

4 thoughts on “Sex and gender

    • I am glad. The words we use affect how we think about things, as George Orwell explained in such detail. My father, a primary school teacher at a time when the primary teachers had some discretion, taught Edward de Bono’s ideas to 11 year olds. I remember his delight and enthusiasm. One task was to design a dog-exercising machine.


  1. Interesting. I am still trying to learn more about trans issues because of my child, who has told me that transgender is offensive. I still refer to my kid as male when talking about him with his blessing because he is only out to a very few people. He dresses as neither stereotypically male or female. It makes it really hard for me to know how to appropriately discuss trans issues when some people insist that transsexual is more correct (as my kid does) and others insist that transgender is more correct.
    (As an aside, it has been pretty amusing to both of us that several people identified my kid as female recently. For example, a store clerk came up to us the other day and said “hello ladies.” My kid just beamed!)


    • You know, I had forgotten that your child is-

      One argument, at one point, was that “transgender” is just changing expression, so just playing at it, but “transsexual” means changing physically, so serious.

      I think, talk to her about the words you use, and take a lead from her. What we want, in the language, is respect: for ourselves and from others, so intention matters more than words. And being read the other way is Wonderful: I had one such experience where the man heard me, said “Orright love” then saw me (in jacket and tie) and got confused. I walked off, floating on air.


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