“You’ve admitted gender is cultural,” she said. “So how can it possibly be innate?”
I have a personality which is innate, or at least formed in early nurture and not easily changed now except by brain injury or disease. That personality has traits culturally associated with femininity. Yes, gender is cultural: what is thought of as proper to or natural for men or for women is defined by the culture, and does not fit people. So there are males- to use that gender critical terminology- naturally feminine, masculine, from the extremes to points in the middle, and females the same. The personality is innate, and judged “feminine” according to cultural understandings. My culturally feminine gender is innate. Let us change the culture- but until that great task is completed, I have to deal with a feminine personality in a male body.
For a woman who finds femininity restrictive, it is easier to see femininity as oppressive than masculinity. Women were thought emotional creatures not rational like men, and still thought less capable of or inclined to STEM jobs. Women are thought better at caring jobs like in nursing. Culturally feminine jobs get paid less. Unpaid caring work is done mostly by women. We imagine leaders as men. A fearless, fiercely intelligent woman might see a man “oppressed” into a more senior position she judged him incompetent for, and crave such “oppression” rather than her own. I see that; and I feel my own oppression keenly, disparaged for character traits I see as positive, encouraged to suppress them and pretend to others which fit me less well because they are seen as “manly”.
I do not want to define my femininity, because that opens it to attack- that is not you; not feminine; not valuable, squishy rather than soft. I have had a go. I have no wish to defend it against a sceptic. No-one has the right to demand I prove it to their satisfaction. Yet I believe in it. It led me to transition, and greater comfort presenting female than male. I feel assenting or compliant rather than assertive, though I assert myself doggedly when driven to it.
I am more comfortable transitioned. It feels that I can better express that culturally feminine, innate personality. It feels less surprising to others, more tolerated, less deprecated. That’s my perception which may not accord with people’s actual attitudes to me. It may be echoes of the attitudes of others long ago, or part of someone’s response which raises echoes within me or is particularly noticeable to me. I like to think it is not a complete fantasy, though it seems like one sometimes: because some people disapprove of transition rather than my personality traits, and I am sensitive to that. I am constantly struggling for self-respect, intensely sensitive to the merest hint that I am living in a fantasy.
My gender, those aspects of my personality which are culturally seen as gendered, is innate. Possibly there are advantages to seeing my qualities as “feminine”, in some way linked by the likelihood of people having one to have the others. More likely the concept of “feminine” gets in the way, making us less likely to perceive them in men, more likely to demand them from women, or imagine some group of attributes as linked when they may not be. We have stereotypes about people because we want to predict them before we know them. The stereotype may make our predictions more wrong than right but we might still cling to it because it gives the illusion of understanding. It gets in the way of knowing others, even of knowing ourselves.
But while we have the concepts of femininity and masculinity, transition makes sense, enabling people to live more comfortably in society. It is not for everyone, and someone much more clearly gender non-conforming than I might reject it. She is a woman, women can be like she is, and she will brook no denial. She perceives transition enjoined by society rather than merely tolerated, and is revolted. Whether we transition or not, gender non-conforming people have a hard time, and should stick together despite the mutual incomprehension of GNC males and females, with our vastly differing personalities, and of those who transition and those who would never consider it.
Coming back to this later, I see Patriarchy as a rejoinder: Patriarchy oppresses women, and so the concept of femininity is worse than useless. Someone might find it as oppressive and negative as I find “effeminate”. I might use “Kyriarchy” as a riposte, as many are oppressed: women, LGBT, BAME, disabled… This is the squabbling of the oppressed, which can only benefit oppressors. So my opponents would be better to just give in.
Someone wrote on Facebook, I am also a gender critical feminist who believes gender is innate. But I have a different take on this since I come from a different position. I agree that gender is both innate and constructed. The bit that’s constructed is how one expresses ones gender. For example the colour pink. This is ‘chosen’ by girls across the land because they love how girly it is, and yet it was historically more a colour for boys. And for another example, I loved Lego and science and making things and hated wearing a dress. This is what made me a “tomboy”. But the sense of ones gender “fit” is what’s innate. As my body began to take a female form I had no dysphoria. Thus my gender fitted. And as I grew into my body beyond my teenage years and began to be sexual with it, I took even more pleasure in it, feeling not only did it fit but it gave me a sense of eroticism as a woman. Of being positively glad to be as I am.
So I’m different to what you describe in that my innate sense of my gender in terms of what I chose to do or wear and how I behaved was and still is very masculine, but that doesn’t give me an innate sense of being a man. Just a woman who presents in a masculine way; if you choose to label it that way. However, I think things would have gone a different way for me had my puberty filled me with dysphoria.
It’s so much easier in our society to be a female with masculine traits than vice versa; it causes issues but they are less aggressive ones.
Someone else: I value your youness and tender, insightful, nourishing words.