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”.

Symbols and reality

Hadley Freeman wrote in the Guardian that gender neutrality in children’s clothes should be about the expansion of choice. And Anything that reaches out to transgender teenagers is to be applauded. Hooray. Yet she says Eddie Izzard should not say he likes having a manicure “Because I’m trans” because men should be free to like that too.

There were 108 upvotes for a comment calling the article “drivel”-  I think from a conservative perspective. Another comment said that clothes and interests should not define your sex. Women can be scientists. A reply said if teens create labels, and change them, they refuse to be pinned down on interests or clothes. They have to play with symbols as a way of finding themselves. It is a way of widening their possibilities.

There are the symbols, the interests, and the human interactions. Flowers and butterflies for girls symbolise their yielding softness. Toy cars and toolkits for boys show their practicality and strength. Strong, rational men become coal miners and scientists, but also listen to other men rather than to women because women should not bother their pretty heads about what they do not understand. (Irony alert!) The strength gives them the capacity for decisive leadership and mean that women should be attracted to them and satisfy their needs. Men get the work done, and women look after the men.

What really matters to me is the human interaction. I am gentle. I want reconciliation not conflict. I seek to understand not to condemn. However, for me as for all of us the symbols, strengths, and interactions are conflated. Someone like that must necessarily also be like that. My softness means floral dresses in bright colours, and a caring role.

The fact that we conflate them means I can communicate with symbols, to an extent. I dispense with masculine symbols, and ideally produce a first impression opening someone to value my pansy nature. Unfortunately it does not work by itself. I am not self-confident, and that is the stronger first impression. People judge me as not fitting the symbols- finding me masculine, or imagining I might be violent because they see me as a man- and are uncomfortable with my failure to fit symbols for either sex. I feel more uncomfortable.

It seems to me that when women take control they do so in less challenging, arrogant, flashy or domineering ways. It is that we have a common purpose being articulated by the woman, rather than we have a Leader. That is a style I would love. Men can, sometimes, take charge in an undemonstrative way. I would rather anyone used persuasion rather than force, winning my co-operation by showing the more excellent way.

Are penises and breasts symbols of masculinity and femininity? They have been for me, and for others. I was depressed. I had my operation, losing the prime symbol of my maleness, and my depression was cured. I was free to accept and explore myself as I had not been before. It saved my life. Yet I agree that while behaviour is gendered- domineering or winsome, rational or emotional- people of both sexes exhibit all genders. Most people exhibit all genders to an extent, though we favour different ones, as we show different personalities.

A toddler’s t-shirt, with a princess or a dinosaur on it, affects how adults respond to the child so moulds the child’s behaviour. A child may choose either t-shirt by seeing how the adults around her respond. That in turn produces responses from her.

Miranda Yardley

How could a trans woman be transphobic? First, you have to define “trans”. My definition: a trans person is one who copes with their gender non-conformity by transgender behaviour up to and including transition. It is not something innate, but a choice we make in our particular circumstances. I feel it is a legitimate choice. We make our own lives easier. We do not harm others. This definition gives me freedom.

A transphobe, then, is one who delegitimises the choice, as Miranda Yardley does, even though she has transitioned and not reverted. For example, her insistence on the discredited autogynephilia theory, here. First, she selected the writings of four gynephile trans women, who write of being aroused by cross-gender fantasy. I don’t know whether these people have also written about being feminine, and if Yardley bothered finding out, she does not mention it, as it would refute her argument. Then she explains autogynephilia theory, that the desire to transition comes from an “erotic target location error”- you get aroused by the wrong thing, in this case fantasies of yourself as a woman. There is no explanation of what causes this error, because innate femininity (gender non-conformity) causes the error, and that refutes the theory. Yardley however wants to deal with the problem that sexual arousal is not a basis for living female continually, which she handwaves away by claiming that the erotic attachment becomes a romantic attachment.

The articles Yardley cites refute her. Why did Natalie Egan transition? Because when she was outwardly successful as a man there was always something gnawing away at me that I never understood and couldn’t explain. Only now do I understand it as a deep dissatisfaction with myself. This inner misalignment and horrific fear of expressing the person I really was inside. That’s clear enough for me, not enough for Yardley. Natalie was emotionally intuitive, yet hard to get to know. Her wife thought she was trans, at a time she herself was in deep denial.

In the New Statesman, Yardley denied being transphobic. She is a trans woman. She addresses crowds about her heavy metal magazine as “an openly trans woman”. I parse that phrase, and find it can only be a claim to be a “woman”, rather than a man. However she is “gender critical”, which means she claims to be male, and that being a woman is a matter of reproductive biology. Gender is sex-based socialisation which oppresses women. She calls a trans woman’s claim that she has always been female, “gender essentialism”, which contradicts her gender critical approach. However, I have always been feminine, and argue that women should be free not to be feminine.

Then she reaches the nub of the issue. Do the rights of a trans woman who has lived as a man for 60 years to not feel intimidated by having to use male facilities trump the rights of women to have a safe space where they do not need to be concerned about voyeurism or sexual violence? She does not give her answer here. Mine is that no woman need be concerned about voyeurism or sexual violence, if I am in a woman’s loo. I go in there to use the place in the normal way.

Here’s the transphobia. Yardley asserts that women feel threatened, and we are part of that threat, simply because of being born male. However, we are as broken by gender norms as anyone. It is a literal fear, seeing me as a threat, simply because of who I am. That negates me, and denies my right to exist.

Sex and Gender II

Sex doesn’t matter.

Sex is physical, gender is cultural. Sex does not matter unless you are having it, looking for it, or looking for someone to have it with. Sex, maleness or femaleness, is so little of human experience that, compared to gender, it does not matter.

Gender is how we relate to each other. Arguably it is gender rather than sex that men generally ask women out rather than the other way round. Gender is how we present ourselves to each other, or even to ourselves. Gender is our whole lives.

So if you are forced into a masculine gender, when it does not fit, it is as oppressive as to be forced to be someone else, pretending all the time, never allowed to be yourself.

That does not mean that you would be happier in a feminine gender. It can be as restrictive. It probably fits you better, but there is that small matter of sex, a tiny part of life but important all the same, and the fact that the feminine gender is not “opposite” to masculine. It is not binary, On or Off, 1 or 0, but a huge range as diverse as all of humanity. Your gender does not fit the culture, male or female, and you can try to make it fit or be yourself. Those are the choices.

“Transsexual” makes no sense at all. You cannot get female sexual organs, only a rough simulacrum of them. You might think that customary ways of using what you have don’t really fit your gender, but alteration can’t make it better. If you want to be passive, having The Operation does not suddenly make that permissible.

I felt it did. I felt sexual passivity and post-op trans organs went together. After the operation I could give myself permission. If only I could have given myself permission to be passive without the operation.

Only non-binary can fit a human being as they is. No-one fits gender stereotypes, some people can sort of fit just for a quiet life, some of us who don’t fit at all have to rebel and create our own gender, idiosyncratically ourselves.

I wrote a post called “sex and gender” in 2013, and put it completely differently. At the time, I felt a strong need to change sex in order to feel permitted to change gender. I associated the feminine gender too much with the female sex, and denied my own idiosyncrasies to try and fit the feminine gender as I had tried to fit masculinity. What a shame I could not realise any of this before now.

Gender neutral bathrooms

I wrote my name tag and was surprised to be asked to note what pronouns I wanted. “She/her/hers”, of course, I thought. I was more surprised to hear that after prolonged negotiation with the University they had agreed a gender neutral bathroom. No, I would not want to use that, I wanted the women’s; and while the SNP has won the Holyrood elections, and have pledged to allow Scots to choose an undefined gender, X rather than M or F on birth certificate and passport, I doubt I will. There aren’t the complex legal hoops, being judged as enough by doctors and lawyers, either.

One person, I am fairly sure AFAB, had put “He/She/They” on his/her/their name tag. Choose for yourself. That could be defensive, so she is not hurt by misgendering or deliberately insulting pronouns, but it could also be genuinely not caring. Gender pronouns are a cultural concept, of which he does not recognise the validity. That appeals to me.

Sex and gender are both cultural and physical. The TERFs say they are solely physical. This replies that they are solely cultural: as a human being among human beings they does not recognise those cultural stereotypes, expectations, requirements. Seeking partners they seek mutual attraction rather than hetero- or homonormativity; or are perhaps asexual.

I don’t see the attraction of gender neutral bathrooms, I find the idea horrible, but I suppose that they subvert that cultural expectation too. Sex and gender are irrelevant.

There were several AFAB people there, apparently without binders, gender neutral theys rather than trans hes. I want people to find their own way. The greater the variety of choice, the better.

I met a man who said there is my lot, “The Sibyls generation”- if I had not been sensitive about turning fifty this month already, that might have set it off- and these Millennials subverting and discarding gender or sex difference, and he felt in between. He is 36. He has been on T for just three months, and has a singing teacher helping with his voice. I expressed surprise at his male-shaped chest, and he said he is wearing three binders.

A Muslim man said that there is racism in the trans community. He went to a F-M gathering, where men shared their coming out stories, and he felt they did not fit his experience as a Muslim. Everyone else was white. He needs to be with Muslim LGBT folk. Even Christians were surprised he was still Muslim, but why should we let those in the faiths who are wrong about gender and sexuality throw us out? And, although they are wrong about those things, they fit us so well in other ways.

At last it is sunny sandals weather. I have painted toe and fingernails pearlescent, and have a loose, shocking pink sundress for cycling. Someone observed how “dainty” my feet were, in the Quaker meeting, and I am delighted.

Chagall, the Lovers

A New Story for Humanity

Those mature, spiritual people at The Findhorn Foundation have produced a film Inspired by the New Story Summit at the Findhorn Foundation: a sold-out multicultural, multigenerational enquiry into a new story for humanity, attended by change makers and activists from over 50 countries.

It may only be watched on Vimeo. It’s quite long, so I watched the chapter on Gender.

“Being heard, being felt, being seen by men as your genuine self, as a woman” says a voice. Inspiring, no? The problem is it’s a man’s baritone voice: I doubt it’s a trans woman. I want to be seen by people, not just men.If it is a trans woman, it panders to stereotypes, that we do not resemble women, that we are fantasists. It is not ideal, but still the more we resemble cis women the more accepted we are. That level of emphasis continues through all the speakers.

We watch a ritual take place. We see men queuing up, and I think women are queuing too: in the centre of the circle a man meets a woman, binds something to her brow, then they hug.

Then there’s a woman. From the very beginning to be allowed to live in unison, in one with her blood recognising it, respecting it and allowing it to flow into mother Earth, and again gaining new strength.

Blood flowing into the ground? I like this, speaking so clearly about menstruation.

Now, a man: Women have been turned into a material possession for consumerism, for consumption, for sales. Does this not apply to men too? Have women no agency? A man speaks for us-

Woman, not seen: Women, in my country they are so, so oppressed.

Yes. And that is not the whole story, not the part to be emphasised in this Spiritual way.

Man: Women have a right to be angry, to lash out at the inequality,

(Gosh! Thanks!)

but a smart woman

(now he’s going to tell us what to do-)

would rather find a way to heal the inequality than to swing the pendulum in the other direction.

I don’t think there is any chance of that.

Woman: I wanted to help women to be part of solution, not victim, not problem

Previous man: We swung one way really hard the last few millennia, where the masculine has dominated, the patriarchy they say.

Ooh! Buzzword! ThANK YoU!!

Man: I just pray for this pattern to be released, of the macho, dominating, um, sexually abusing pattern that us western males carry

Again, agency. Poor men, suffering with this pattern of sexually abusing women- as if it is not the individual’s fault, and the individual’s responsibility to correct it. Don’t abuse women! Is it really that difficult?

Previous man: A woman in her power, in her genuineness, and there’s nothing sexier than that, nothing more appealing than that.

I am so glad I turn him on. I feel fulfilled! This man talks to men about how he sees women, and they should too. If I asked him what the women think, he might not get the point of the question.

Man: Someone beautifully said that the shift into the current civilisation really happened because of a rift between the male and the female and that’s what they symbol represents I think that both men and women have a responsibility

telling us what to do again

to embody both

I will embody my own self. No more, no less. Others complement me, for we all have different gifts.

Woman, I think: The journey for me is to keep these two parts in communication in my heart.

Man: He should now know there’s a man and woman- inside of him.

Woman: I feel I am a man as much as I am a woman. There is no separation.

She, at least, is doing what she’s told.

Previous man, wide eyed, shaking his head: There is nothing more sacred than that union between men and women.

Oh, brilliant. Lesbians and gay men are clearly less.

Woman: The stars have spent lifetimes trying to reach us with the message that our light can inspire solar systems if we let it shine like the moon’s reflection of her sons and daughters Great-Great grandfathers and mothers foretold this time of great blessing and slaughter when we decide between drought and drowning in water arising like mists from rivers toxic with dreams give birth to rain water and fall pure to the Earth

She made the most sense of the lot of them.

Evelyn de Morgan, Eos

Gender essentialism

You are either a man or a woman. Between the two there is a great gulf fixed. This matters to me when my friend insists I am a man. There is a package, of all the things which make you a “trans woman”- which bits matter to me? How much of that is social pressure and internalised self-phobia, and how much, well, essential?

There is social pressure. A trans woman is accepted in a way transvestites are not, despite the work of Grayson Perry and Eddie Izzard. We are legally protected, they are not- well, I thought so until I looked again at the  Equality Act 2010 s.7. I am unclear what “other” attributes could be meant.

I use a female name, dress in women’s clothes rather than feminine or flamboyant men’s clothes, and have breasts and a vagina. Where does the continuing desire to be like this come from? I understand androgynous people, mostly AFAB, have greater difficulty, so do I want to pass as binary because of social pressure or because of an innate Real Me?

I feel that if I do things from my Real Me, my organismic self, I have integrity, I am more free and truthful, though of course I am a social animal and epigenetics shows that nurture in some way creates nature. I am hyper-feminine, and that is Real and beautiful: but should it govern the name I use?

I feel desire to use my name, and revulsion at the thought of using my former name. I would experience it as crushing. I am glad to have breasts. I felt such happiness when the vaginoplasty was recommended, and such revulsion at the thought of the loss of a toe, that I feel this is Who I Am, not merely a response to social pressure.

After the Essence Process, it no longer matters to me when people call me or refer to me as a man. I experience this as liberation: people could hurt me, and they cannot in that way any more. I feel that it is a change in me, that now I am sure of my own femininity so do not need reinforcement from others; and that when others challenge my femininity, it does not raise painful echoes in me. In the same way, being able to present myself in different ways could also be liberating. I want to use my baritone rather than counter-tenor voice because the deep one is stronger with a better range and holds the note better. I want to develop both.

It matters what I think, not others. Being called “particularly masculine” really hurt. Now it does not. Possibly, my other desires come from my fear of rejection and my judgement of myself as wrong- internalised self-phobia- rather than from reality. I am not saying that they are wrongful desires, but that not having the desire, not caring one way or the other, would give me more options, make me more free.

Here is a third Cranach Melancholy, with subtle differences from André’s book.

Cranach Melancholia

From another perspective:

Patriarchy has created an ideal woman, a person exactly how the dominant males would want women to be. However, no woman could be like that, surely: it is repulsive, a simulacrum rather than a living breathing human, any woman wanting that would be in servile self-abnegation, distorted by the culture, needing her consciousness raised. Any free human being wants autonomy, self-determination and equality.

No woman is “feminine” in that way, so these feminine men, “trans women”, M-T are completely confusing. They are the shock troops of patriarchy, enforcing false consciousness on women. They are the enemy.

Who decides?

https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bc/B_Pierpont_252v.jpgWho then decides if I am a woman? I do. Scientists and policy-makers agree on that. This quiet revolution has taken place without many of us noticing, maybe because we thought it concerned only a small minority of the population. But it affects all of us, and the way we organise society. If we can accept that sex and gender are a personal choice, with a whole range of possibilities between the extremes of male and female, man and woman, the battle of the sexes as we know it will be over. What comes next? Perhaps a new model of society where we negotiate relationships with each other and the State on our own, individual terms.

I love Jo Fidgen’s conclusion to her Analysis programme. Despite my critique of one ridiculous, vile contribution, I find the whole programme positive and informative. At the moment it is not quite true. There is no recognition of a third gender in law: in law, one must be one or the other. And while in Australia some can have an X instead of M or F on their passport, I understand that is only people with particular intersex conditions.

The law says I am a woman, contrary to my original birth certificate; but the birth record in Forfar still states that I am male, it is only the extract copy that I can change; and I can only change that because a psychiatrist from a statutory list of specialists and one other doctor have certified that I had lived female, and am likely to do so life long, and I have formally promised to do so. Even with equal marriage there will be slightly different rules for opposite sex and same sex marriage. It is my choice in that no authority insists I am male against it, but there is great difficulty having the choice recognised; and it is a choice to act on my fundamental nature,https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/9b/B_Pierpont_174v.jpg/557px-B_Pierpont_174v.jpg rather than a free choice of which sex is best to be generally.

And yet as I read on a blog months ago, the issue for the whole LGBT community is a gender identity issue, as we seek the freedom not to conform to gender stereotypes. That has to liberate everyone: no-one entirely fits the stereotype.

(Tranny claims trannies are at the cutting edge of the liberation of humanity. Ha!)

Am I a radical challenge to the very notion of gender, or a conservative reinforcement of stereotypes? The former. The radfem myth- person with stereotypical repulsive male behaviour, in ridiculous, clichéd and highly sexualised clothes- does not really fit reality. The argument that we reinforce Patriarchal ideas of femininity is the alternative radfem attack. Often we are ultragirly, but if we were not we might be able to make a go of life as men. And- there are ultragirly women, as well as more masculine women.

The point of feminism is that women should have choices, and fulfil ourselves. “Radical Feminism” is not that radical position, but a reaction to sexism. To a Chauvinist “women should stay at home and look after the children” the Radfem position is a reaction- “Not bloody likely”. The mainstream of feminism has gone beyond that: women should have a free choice. Feminists who falsely call themselves radical might meditate on “What you resist, persists”. The rest of us have moved on, to modelling and so creating the non-oppressive world. That is the radical challenge to patriarchy.

Gender studies

I got the phrase “sex is genetic; gender is cultural” from The Feminist Files, by a student from North Carolina inspired to make a difference in the world. Apart from in grammar, I had not previously understood the use of the word gender and I am grateful.

My caveats: I am the one who gets to say what sex I am, and the sex I have been at all times in my life. I am and have been female. “Sex is physical, gender is cultural” would be more assonant; sex is physical, involving brain structure and genes as well as gonads.

And gender is a cultural phenomenon in that it is my cultural expression of something innate. Had I had two X chromosomes and a male outward appearance, if gender were merely cultural I would have grown up happily male, conformed to my upbringing, expressing maleness culturally as my society and family expected, more or less. There is something there in me which I express culturally, something “feminine”. I like flowery skirts, crystal pendants and long, dangly earrings.

Feminism here has won the campaigns to get women rights to go to university and vote, and is winning equal respect at work. It can now be in part about acceptance of the widest range of cultural expression of gender, liberating people to choose to express ourselves however we wish, neutrois and gynandrous as well as all aspects of male and female.

The Gender Diamond

We asked to be treated as women. So they told us how we should think and feel, and judged us on our appearance. And now it is liberating to see the Gender Diamond.

An end to binary understandings of gender! Where are you on the Gender Diamond? As well as the spectrum male to female, there is the vertical axis, from polygendered to agendered. Remember that these  matters may be distinguished from sexuality.

For me this has been helpful, helping me to imagine other ways of being, and so imagine such other ways within myself, and feel how I respond to the thought, and so discern how I might be in myself. I think I may be different places in the diamond at different times, not because this is a role or mask I put on, but because that is my authentic way of responding in the moment. I feel I am more adept at permitting myself my own authentic way of being, rather than getting hung up on what is the right way to behave. (Of course, another way to imagine other ways of being is to observe and to seek to empathise with other people.)

Is it also useful for cis-gendered (ie, non-transgendered) people?

Possibly, of course, the gender diamond is not useful, even for me. Possibly the Male in me, which I am exploring at the moment, is no greater than in other women, normally and naturally. And if anyone thinks I am a man because of certain characteristics, he is too stupid to be convinced by this graphic.

I would like to write about it for Wikipedia. The trouble is, a Wikipedia article is required to be Notable, and should not involve Original Research. Googling leads to no particular source, though two blogs link it to Raphael Carter, an author. As a published author, Carter may be sufficiently Notable, but I need a definite source.

I heard about the Gender Diamond here.