Testosterone Rex

From the opening joke about testicles as a key-fob, Testosterone Rex by Cordelia Fine is a lively read. It argues that gender roles arise not from testosterone, or from our evolution on the savannahs of Africa, but from Patriarchy, by close analysis of scientific studies showing that expected gender differences do not manifest in results, and that results found do not justify the large claims made.

There lies the difficulty for me. I am unable to delve into the primary sources. I would not know where to start. Political interests drive the confirmation bias of researchers, on both sides, and patriarchy affects the theorising which makes researchers or funders choose particular projects. Fine quotes Lewis Wolpert, CBE FRS FRSL FMedSci, the author of a number of popular science books: There is no doubt that biology, via evolution and genetics, has made men and women significantly different. Fine disagrees, and has assembled impressive evidence. I am aware of Wolpert, more as an author of popular science books than for his work on intracellular positional information that guides cellular development, but he is an eminent man. Why should I believe Fine over him?

She shows that research has been based on the idea of masculinity and femininity as opposite ends of a spectrum. In 1936, the Attitude Interest Analysis Survey asked 456 questions, each of which had a “masculine” or “feminine” answer. In the 1970s, the Personal Attributes Questionnaire, with two sets of questions to measure stereotypically masculine and feminine traits separately, showed one can have both “masculine” traits of “instrumentality”, like self-confidence, independence and competitiveness, and “feminine” traits of “expressiveness”, being emotional, gentle and caring. Or, neither. But also the masculine and feminine traits don’t necessarily go together. Always the argument that women can have gifts or interests thought masculine is fighting the assumptions of researchers. The concepts of masculinity and femininity get in the way of seeing how men and women actually are.

She shows how children are indoctrinated into gender, by the pink and blue toy aisles, and by peer pressure. I told my great-niece she was strong, as well as beautiful, for standing up and learning to walk. If girls were feminine at her age of ten months, one would expect them to work on talking first, to express themselves, and boys on walking for instrumentality. There is no such clear difference. Yet there is a great backlash against gender neutral toy-marketing, as if that were the indoctrination.

She describes the White Male effect. Are men more willing to take risks? In the US, a survey showed that men are; but not ethnic minority men. Privileged men are more likely to take risks. And it depends what risks are named, for people take risks where they are familiar with the matter. A risk of high taxation might provoke privileged male fear. And the “funnel plot”, a way of excluding publication bias: where studies show greater female risk-taking, they are less likely to be published. In Sweden, men and women were equal risk takers, but again immigrants, subject to discrimination, would take less risks. Of course: they are less safe.

Are men more competitive for mates, or less likely to be faithful? She accepts that men invest less in producing a baby, a few sperm rather than forty weeks’ incubation, but not that this means men want to spread it around, which might not produce children anyway. In evolutionary biology, sexual selection is in an exciting state of turmoil.

Does testosterone make men more likely to take risks? Not necessarily. Higher testosterone levels in men who take risks is correlation, not necessarily causation. The way testosterone fluctuation in the blood affects the brain is unclear, and women have testosterone too.

She ends with a call to arms. We can continue with our polite, undemanding panel discussions about gender equality, our good intentions and gentle tinkering, and patiently wait out the fifty to one hundred or so years it’s regularly predicted to take to achieve parity in the workplace. But… maybe it’s time to be less polite and more disruptive, like the first- and second-wave feminists. They weren’t always popular, it’s true. But look at what they achieved by not asking nicely.

And look at what she promises: valuation of your gifts as a human being, separate from preconceptions about how a man or woman ought to be. We could see ourselves more clearly. Women freed to express their gifts would benefit all.

Gender is meaningless

Gender is a confused concept. The idea that there are two genders, one relating to all women and one to all men in any sort of meaningful way, either as how they should be or how they actually are, is patently absurd.

Gender is a fuzzy concept. If either “gender” were rigorously defined, it would be plainly unrelated to reality, so it is not.

Gender is a dangerous concept. As children grow up, trying to find who they are or should be, it oppresses them. As we consider another person, using our perception of their sex to try to predict them, as one of the stereotypes we use before we get to know them, it is worse than useless.

It makes some sense to talk about the “opposite” sex, but none at all to talk of the “opposite gender”. Gender might have some value if we could conceive of several, but none if we think of only two. That concept encourages transition, if we imagine that because we are not Masculine we must therefore be Feminine, or vice versa. You should simply be yourself, without the need to cross-dress, leave alone to have hormones and surgery. Having transitioned, you may find that while the concept of “feminine” fits trans women slightly better than that of “masculine”, it is still ridiculous, and gets in the way of self-perception. Before transition, you tried to make a man of yourself, seeking to conform to “masculine”. Now you seek to conform to another ideal, which is slightly better but still not you.

People should be seen as valuable in their own right, as individuals. They should be encouraged to develop their positive qualities and attributes, whatever they are. The concept of gender makes others demand particular qualities someone does not have, or deny qualities they possess.

There is no attribute, quality, virtue or vice which is not equally good or bad whichever sex possesses it.

You may notice this contradicts my post Gender is Innate, published nine days ago. I don’t know. A woman says “I like pretty clothes and power-tools” as if this implied a contradiction, or as if this truth undermined the whole foundation of society, whereas it is a sign of freedom women have. It seems harder for men to express “feminine” interests, and this oppresses both sexes- what pertains to women is shameful for men, devaluing women’s stereotyped characteristics and suppressing them in men. I observe that many people rub along more or less happily with ideas of gender. I know some find it oppressive, but it would collapse if it had no value to anyone.

When I say “Everything in this blog is true” I mean that it contains an aspect of truth, sought as carefully and rigorously as I am able. I feel better able to get glimpses of truth if I can bear to be inconsistent. If I can enter another’s frame of reference I may see truths I could see no other way. If I can argue against my own position I may improve it.

Gender is innate

“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.

Gender-conforming in schools

When Jeremy Bem, aged 4, went to school wearing hair slides, a boy in his class hounded him, saying only girls wear those. His mother, a psychologist, reports that eventually he was driven to show off his penis to prove his maleness. The other said, “Everyone has a penis. Only girls wear barrettes.”

If schools can widen the space in which young people feel comfortable in their non‑conformity, and all gender expressions are accepted then it may become clear that transition is not the only answer for all. So says the Transgender Trend resource pack for schools, condemned by Stonewall as a deeply damaging document, packed with factually inaccurate content. Not only does it fail to reflect the real experiences of trans young people, it actively encourages schools to take steps that risk them falling foul of their legal duties and duty of care to pupils. I agree with Transgender Trend, so far; enforcement of gender in schools tortures pupils, and medical transition with hormones and surgery should not be the only response.

Jeremy was quite sure he was a boy, and possibly did not wear hair clasps ever after. The bullying would restrict his choices; I hope he felt empowered to choose as he wished, hair in clasps or loose, long or short, barrettes pink and sparkly or a rich, restrained maroon- symbols of masculinity or femininity which should both be his birthright, for we are all a rich mix of both. It would be worrying if a boy child one day wore barrettes and the next was told he was trans, but what happens instead is children having to work hard for it to be accepted that they are trans; and then they may be referred to specialists.

Children should be able to play with the signifiers of gender, of both genders if they wish, and play differently on different days. There is no characteristic or quality of one sex which the other does not exhibit, and which is not equally good in both. Moulding into gender harms everyone. I am completely with TT’s aim To create a culture of respect for ‘difference’ which allows children to reject the gender stereotypes for their sex but am unsure of the second half- without feeling they must also reject their bodies in order to be their ‘authentic selves’. Why would an AMAB child say s/he was a girl? Is it just because of gender stereotypes, or is there something else?

Kate, now in her late twenties who acquired testosterone illegally and injected it for a year while at university, writes, I know now that my belief I was transgender was largely due to internalised misogyny and homophobia. Once I realised the truth, my dysphoria all but disappeared and I feel much happier in myself. To me that illustrates the difficulty of believing what gender-variant people say, either those who transition happily or who revert. We are under the pressure of gender. There are many “reasons” we could adopt for transitioning or detransitioning, which are rather verbal formulations or rationalisations. I wanted to, more than anything else in the world. And, I found it did not solve my problems. We want people to be simply trans or not-trans, but we change our minds. Trans is a choice, not a state: we transition because we decide to, not because we are innately, truly trans.

So I am with TT’s set of suggestions for stamping out gender enforcement, “broadening gender expectations and relaxing rules”. Accept children’s non-stereotypical behaviour, praise a girl for being brave, compliment a boy on his gentleness; make uniform and hair length rules unisex; the real challenge comes in this: Encourage questioning and critical thinking around cultural messages and
societal expectations. That frees children to be themselves, but not particularly to fit society. Schools are often more conservative than that.

Encourage questioning, and people will defy crude pigeonholes. A conservative might seamlessly adopt trans into the conservative culture, saying, we have this way to (partial) acceptance for people like you. You adopt the way forward suggested by your elders and betters. Or, trans is liberal, where individuals find our true selves, against social pressure to conform to gender. Can we not agree that the gender stereotypes are harmful to individuals, and should be challenged?

(c) Paisley Museum and Art Galleries, Renfrewshire Council Collections, Including Collections Associated with the Paisley Art Institute; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

How many trans people?

It depends on what you mean by trans people: people with gender recognition certificates, people living full time in a new gender, people who would like to transition but for insuperable difficulties, people who cross-dress…

Is the number growing? There are no clear answers. The Office for National Statistics has no established estimates. The census of 2011 had a question asking sex, giving the options male or female. I am non-binary. There was no question on that.

Since 2005, only a few thousand people have received gender recognition certificates, but they are expensive, and require a specialist psychiatrist’s letter. Many might not bother, but would get a GRC after self-certification. About two hundred trans people a year have genital operations on the NHS, about the number of new GRCs.

Many more people might call themselves transgender. The ONS puts it at 0.5-1%, or about half a million people. The Equality and Human Rights Commission put it at 1%.

Ten years ago the government commissioned the Gender Identity Research and Education Society, GIRES, to estimate the number of trans people. They considered passports, which can be changed as soon as you transition. They estimated 300,000-500,000 people experiencing some degree of gender variance. Many would not act on that, or might dress at home. It’s about feelings, not actions. If you are unhappy with your assigned gender, and have to hide that, it affects you adversely.

In the next census, there should be a question on sex assigned at birth then a question on gender identity. If it asked “do you identify as a transgender person” not all the 500,000 people might say yes, and some might mock the question: the 2011 census question on religion identified 176,632 “Jedi knights”, down from 390,000 in 2001. Some are in denial, and some would not like to admit it. Many of that half million will never take any action to change their gender presentation.

Not all trans children come out to their parents, who would answer the census question on their behalf. The 2021 census will have to be designed soon.

The Yougov poll asked people to define their gender on a scale from 0, completely masculine, to 6, completely feminine. 2% of males aged 18-24 said they were “completely feminine”, 8% said they did not know, and 3% said they were neither masculine nor feminine. No females aged 18-24 said they were completely masculine, but 7% did not know and 10% said neither. More men had a negative than positive view of masculinity, but women were more positive. Both sexes were strongly positive about femininity. Only 28% of British men, but 42% of American men, said they were completely masculine.

I wonder how many women “wear the trousers” in their heterosexual relationship, but can’t find anyone even asking the question.

Most data from More or Less on Radio 4.

Being trans, in society

Trans folk share something, but we don’t know what that is, because it is distorted by the demands of wider society. How we imagine ourselves is shaped by the stories we tell and that society tells, about what is normal, masculine, feminine, acceptable, shameful. We can’t know how we would be without those ideas, and that shame. In trying to understand, I asked, is it like something else? Is it like an addiction, where if you indulge you become less able to resist? I see others’ paths, and wonder, is that path right for me?

Curtailed by the anger of others, the abuse in the street, the rejection by friends and family, or our own shame inhibiting us out of fear of those things, we don’t know how we would be if merely accepted for whatever harmless thing we did. What we do is harmless, but people feel threatened by what it symbolises.

The abuse is far more significant for me than the acceptance. Abuse re-traumatises me quickly, it takes a great deal of acceptance to heal.

I don’t know what we share, precisely, because there are differences too. Some of us are AFAB, some AMAB, and that means entirely different pressures and entirely different desires, despite the similarity of changing gender. I begin to see the attractions of masculinity when I see people who actively choose it, but it is a difficult exercise in empathy.

Of those who are AMAB, some of us are gynephile, some are androphile. The suggestion that the androphiles are true trans and the gynephiles are autogynephiliac perverts is merely silly, because that is a mere play on words: it is a claim about what “trans” means  not an observation about people; it is an attempt to achieve acceptance from wider society by distancing a particular group from some characteristic they would call unacceptable, which can never work. No straight person divided trans people into the disgusting and the normal.

Yet the law decides who will be protected, and the community decides who is acceptable. Someone who intends to change from masculine gender presentation to feminine or vice versa, life long, is protected. Someone who expresses gender differently is not. Now I hear voices saying trans folk should not need to be sterilised to achieve recognition, but when I transitioned trans folk distrusted those who did not want an operation and doubted they were “true trans”, and now I still read of people’s delight at getting an operation or frustration at delays.

There is a strong idea in law and society that there are two genders, masculine and feminine, closely mapped onto men and women. If a man does not fit “masculine” ideals that is shameful. Belief in transition, the concept of the trans woman, closely fits that. Not male is inferior, but being really female is a partial solution. I don’t believe that. There is no gendered behaviour in either sex which the other does not exhibit. Ideas of gender oppress both men and women. Transition is a partial solution for trans people in the world as it is now. Self-conceptualising as non-binary, so permitting onesself to exhibit all gender behaviours, is a better solution.

How would I be without society? I don’t know. Possibly, I can have an idea about how I would be without society’s understanding of a trans person is, from how I was before I read anything much about transvestites and transsexuals. I fantasised about being changed into a woman, physically, in my teens. But I knew then it was OK for women, not OK for men, to show particular gendered traits. If I were a woman, then it would be OK to be me.

Trans would not exist without that falsehood, that there are two genders. There are as many genders as there are human beings; or there is only one.

Given society as it is, with transition recognised in law and having a measure of acceptance, and fitting with the general understanding of what a trans person is, I would like increasing acceptance of alternative ways- we continue to assert trans women are women, and recognise various ways of being non-binary. Law would prohibit employers or service providers from treating people differently on the grounds of gender presentation or behaviour.

Trans feminism

Trans rights are essential to feminism, for they are the way to value all that a woman can be, from ultra-feminine to (almost) trans man. Trans rights are a feminist issue. Trans people advance feminist concerns.

I spent half an hour last night on Youtube watching a feminist attack trans rights on feminist grounds. She told of the opposition to the women’s suffrage movement a century ago, by women as well as men, based on the idea that women were different and would not have the objectivity to judge the interests of the public sphere. She has been held back by this persisting idea of difference, which is the heart of women’s oppression, and which she says “trans ideology” actively enshrines.

That might be true if trans were static, one way of being trans being the only way. But trans people are creative, finding new ways of being ourselves in our own spaces, in performance writing and entertainment, and in ordinary lives in the world. Trans is a force undermining that idea of difference between sexes and promoting the truth of the variation within the sexes which increases the freedom of everyone.

I want to relate to others as myself, with minimal pretence to comply to gender norms. This is easier after transition. I tried to “make a man” of myself, with a restrictive idea of how a man should be. Expressing myself as a woman freed me. If it were indeed seen as leaping a chasm, becoming something utterly different, that would be conservative, enshrining difference. When the doctors got hold of the idea of trans, taking it out of our own subcultures, they produced a medicalised idea of transition, involving hair removal, genital alteration and hormone treatments, to create a person who would look like a man, or look like a woman, undressed as well as clothed.

The idea that I am really a woman, with a woman’s brain, spirit or character, which this feminist finds so oppressive because it means there is a difference between men and women beyond our reproductive function, freed me to transition. Thousands of us, rather than tens of thousands in Scotland where she was speaking and which proposes altering the law, might be freed from a conception of their gender which they find oppressive, yet they cannot change without this drastic step- by allowing transition. Out of 5.3m people, ten thousand would be 0.2%, a large number actually to transition.

The idea of a transsexual person freed me to transition, but even as I did I realised there were two questions.

Am I transsexual?
Will I be happier if I transition?

The second is more important. First the ideology, then the idea frees me to express my gender by teaching me that it is possible. So individuals and society together produce formalised routes for transition and recognition. Trans people become more visible, vocal and encouraged, and empowered to do something about the restrictions of their gender rather than living fearful, stultified lives or ending them.

As we become empowered, we critique the medicalised concept of transition. Do we really need genital surgery? Should someone necessarily be sterilised before their gender is recognised? No, we say. Do we need to live in stealth, where people think we were born (wo)men? No, because that is in fear of transphobic violence- it may be prudent sometimes but it oppresses us with an impossible ideal of beauty.

Gender ceases to be a choice of two, almost entirely aligned with physical sex, and becomes a palette of possibilities. It is happening- here, now, in Scotland and beyond, with people who would never think of themselves as trans but also with trans people, blurring the lines and increasing freedom. Eventually the two groups will meet, a spectrum of gender rather than a division between those self-identified as trans or not-trans. The increasing complexity of ideas such as genderqueer and non-binary accelerate this change.

Femininity is oppressive when people are judged as less because of their natural unfeminineness. Then femininity can seem merely oppressive, a tool to oppress women. Trans shows that femininity freely chosen is a source of strength and self-actualisation, valuable in its own right for AFAB as well as AMAB. I see trans men choosing what I rejected, and so am enabled to see value in it.

That feminist on the video, wanting to say “NO” to a trans woman entering a woman’s bathroom, and getting a loud cheer for rejecting the idea that women must always put others’ feelings before their own, paradoxically aids the conservatives by restricting trans people to a narrow, absolute concept of transition. She opposes the law being more liberal, and discerns a loosening of the concept of a “sex change”, though in Scotland the proposals would still require us to swear we would live in the other gender life long. Allowed to grow freely, the trans movement would increase the range of gender expression and freedom.

Trans is a feminist movement, promoting the freedom of all, including cis women who do not conform to the cultural stereotype of femininity, including that woman who rails against it. Many cis women support trans rights. As Margaret Atwood says, A war among women, as opposed to a war on women, is always pleasing to those who do not wish women well. Women strongly opposed to trans rights should consider whether any of the wrongs they rail against has any realistic chance of happening.

Wishing to be desired

The variety of human sympathy and desire, with men loving men, women loving women, and men who wish to be desired as women… We insist it is a question of gender identity, not sexuality. Trans is who I am. Some people cannot and will not see it that way. It is a matter of sex.

Miri Rubin’s article sees sex as the heart of the relationship between men and women, almost to the exclusion of anything else. She is opposing patriarchy and seeking agency for women, but imagines that friendship between the sexes has rarely been possible with even old folk tormented by memory of lust and satiation. “It is better to marry than burn” wrote St Paul, but then marriage is two people thrust together uncomfortably by sexual need. I have a romantic idea of two people becoming one as a team working together and supporting each other in family love, not just as the beast with two backs, but some people see sex as the imperative towards union. Then transgender is seen as sexual, because everything is.

Even if Blanchard is wrong, and trans women are not motivated by sexual desire for ourselves rather than others, transition is so difficult that it consumes our attention, first deciding to transition then doing it. When the word was permissible, someone said “There are two ‘s’s in ‘transsexual’, and both of them stand for Selfish”. Then the medical treatments we receive blunt our libido, sometimes to nothing. The distinction is clear to us: it is a matter of identity. I am a woman. It is not that I want to be a woman, or that I want to be seen/desired as a woman, but that I am one. She confounds me by using the word “patriarchy” and then “desired as a woman” as if women were mere objects of desire, rather than sexual beings with desires and pleasures in their own right- though perhaps she thinks trans women, being men, think of women that way.

Hers seems a patriarchal view. Men overcome the resistance of a potential sexual partner. Some men want to be desired by a woman as they desire her, so that the two come together freely without force. Or, want trust and friendship in a couple first, so that sex follows naturally. The fear and resistance has gone before desire arises. Perhaps, though feminist, Prof. Rubin wants to be desired and overcome: perhaps that is not just a patriarchal construct, but the nature of some women.

Exclusive trans folk, who imagine themselves in some way true trans, say that others are just playing at it, out of a sexual perversion, rather than having the true trans identity. Calling others perverts is a way for them to project their insecurities around this. We are insecure. I do not make distinctions among trans women, but say “It is a matter of identity”. Prof. Rubin just does not understand. Well, we tell ourselves stories in order to live, and perhaps we do not understand. It really is all about sex, but we cannot admit that.

I do not know Prof. Rubin’s attitude to trans folk. That line I quoted ignores trans men- but then I do, mostly, some of what I write applies to all trans people but I rarely employ inclusive language. She appears to think it is all about sex. When we say it is all about “Identity” we seek to make ourselves safe. No, we are not perverts flaunting our sexual perversion in your faces as we walk down the street. We are women (or in the case of trans men, men). But these are two separate issues. Someone may think we are sexual perverts, but support our right to live in society. Someone might even accept it is about identity not sexuality, but still think we are not Normal so want to exclude us.

Some people accept difference, so accept us; some are simply not enraged enough at us to bother opposing us. Some people will never accept it is about gender identity, but that may be OK.

Miri Rubin.

There is only one gender: Human

We are imprisoned by gender. Its expectations restrict us, trans folk more than most. We are people. There is no feeling only women, or only men, feel; no virtue for one which is not a virtue for the other; no gift which fits one more than the other. So there is only one gender, naturally: Human.

We can pick from a palette of gender expressions, those with which we feel most comfortable, hence name-gender: my gender is Clare. Yet that is restrictive. It means I have an idea that some gender expression is naturally me, some is not, or at least some is less fitting or comfortable. My gender is human. There is no gendered expression which does not fit me.

Women cry so we will not swear, men swear so they will not cry. Yet women swear, and men cry. These are a matter of expectations, fashions, taboos. The taboos restrict some people more than others, and we transition, or campaign against those expectations, or just find spaces where other non-conformists can make us more comfortable. Everyone will learn gender in their family and with their age group, and have some gendered expression which feels more comfortable.

Or perhaps if we cannot explore a particular gender expression we yearn for it, like a painter who does not know all the properties of a colour so wants to use it again and again to master it, to learn it from the inside, before moving on from it. Being refused a gender expression makes you need it more.

There is sexuality, as well, and all sexualities are possible for all people. Mostly we follow fashion, and don’t know any better. With a compatible person you will work something out.

All virtue is virtue for me. I am capable of all feelings, and all reactions. I am human. I contain multitudes. I accept no restriction on my gender expression. It is the only way I may be free; and the only things which restrict me are in my own mind.

Oh, I said the opposite yesterday. I am trans, I said, it is a way of being, more than simply an identity. I do not know enough to be consistent. Self-contradiction is my way of groping towards truth.

Gender and sexuality

I read a gay man conflating his gender and his sexuality. He said that all his interactions with other people were influenced by his sexuality. It made him a good nurse, non-threatening to vulnerable people and unobtrusively efficient in caring. His sexuality suffused his whole character. This was several years ago, when homophobia was normal in large sections of society. His was a winsome way of appearing non-threatening, as well as a courageous coming out. He also made his sexuality acceptable, part of everyday life rather than some weird exotic perversion. It is a tactic that could win over a thoughtful conservative, brought up to see “homosexuality” as disgusting.

We would say gender and sexuality are completely different. Gender is not sexuality, because lesbians can be femme. Trans women’s idiosyncrasy is a matter of gender, not sexuality, so the word “Transsexual” is no longer acceptable, and it is nothing to do with sexual desire (because female embodiment fantasies are so shameful). Gender and sexuality are different aspects of being human.

I want to conflate them again. I relate to a partner as my whole self. My sexuality is not some abstruse, separate part of me which I get out only with partners or potential partners but part of my way of relating to anyone. Some people may preserve professional detachment, I never managed it, but if in the office I sought to put people at ease I would reveal my humanity, which means my personality.

Transition is not a sex thing, we say. I do not transition because I have a particular sexuality, but because I have a female gender identity. I am female rather than male. This does not mean I can bear children, and transition means I cease to be able to father them. What does it mean? There is no gift, talent or virtue which one sex has and the other does not. Feminists observe that their gift of leadership may be rejected by men, and even by other women, and call that an aspect of Patriarchy, a system of oppression. I observe that gifts are more valued in one sex than the other, and different ways of being or expression are welcomed, tolerated or deprecated in each, and therefore I am culturally a woman, seen by my culture as a woman because I fit the ways of being and expression welcomed in women by my culture.

Though it is normal, and normative, for a woman to be attracted to men, and I am not.

But for that man, his gayness was part of his essence, which also made him a good nurse. Being a nurse is good. Therefore being him, which includes being gay, is good. Being a nurse is good for a woman and bad for a man is a social norm he does not recognise or value.

Being like me is right for a woman and wrong for a man is disputed, and why should I assent to it? Because it relieves social pressure, but now I say the cost is too great. I always wanted to fit in, so I transitioned, because I thought I could accept myself and yet fit in. It did not work.

It is my sexuality. It is the way I relate to others and express myself. My gender is feminine, not “woman”.