Oh yes I’m back on one of my favourite rants. (If you don’t want to take it too seriously I made a quiz about it!)

So, I’ve been coming into contact lately with a lot os transgender people, ideas etc. And I have loudly espoused the view that transgender is one of those things I have absolutely no empathy with as I am rather secure in my gender. Anyone who’s known me for more than a month has to have known that this is total bollocks.

But trans is a really difficult concept for me. I’m not entirely sure why this is so. I mean, how often have I loudly declared that I am not of either gender but my own? To be honest not often lately. Recently, well, since Japan I think, I’ve actually become slightly more comfortable with the notion of being a girl. Because really, isn’t gender identity something we construct for ourselves? I am not defined by the company around me, I am defined by me.

I think the reason I have become somewhat uncomfortable with the whole notion of transgender is because sometimes it really does feel as if they are people letting society dictate who they are (I mean, you look at the hoops you have to go through if you want to change your sex on the NHS). Also, when someone of either gender decides to express themselves through transvestism chances are, (and I’m talking external to the context of pride events or clubs or whatever) they dress in tune with a normative dress code. Society defining a gender role again, albeit one that is different from your born gender role. But, if you’re trans, then surely you aren’t allowing society and the external to define you because, you are defining for yourself that you are not what your body is telling you you are.

How much am I defined by society? How much of the last twenty-five years has been society gradually wearing away at me until I say, yes, yes ok, I have periods and breasts and all the rest, I am a girl. Ok! I’m not sure, but I do know that it’s taken me a while to be comfortable with letting myself say ‘I’m of the this one gender’. Female is this pre-determined thing. It’s a label with, what seem like, these huge connotations. I’m not sure that I’m still entirely comfortable with claiming that I’m a girl.

Gender identity is something that interests me a great deal. Once again, I’m pulled up by the notion that there are two. I don’t feel as if I fit into either. I’m not sure though, that I can proclaim myself to be ‘Mish’, an entirely separate from the rest of you label. I don’t think though, I can proclaim myself to be inter-gender, or even for that matter, genderqueer anymore than I could say ‘I’m asexual’. I am very girly, but sometimes I’m really not. And sometimes I find myself identifying with a particular gender identity that I have no words for, but that I see, cutting across physical notions of sex.

I think that this really is the crux of my current lack of empathy with transgender people. most trans people I have recently come across feel that they are the ‘other’ gender within a two-gender society. I don’t feel that there are only two genders. Maybe I have been exploring my female side, maybe this comes across sexually as well because I am becoming more interested in men sexually (perhaps this is down to there simply being no women in my sex life). However, when it comes right down to it I can’t see there being only two genders, we have this concept inherant in our language that there are boys and there are girls but I’M NOT. And I’m sure I’ve seen other people who aren’t too.

Because trans is the obvious place to say ‘two genders’ and to express yourself gender speaking I guess maybe I though that within the trans community (not sure community quite covers what I mean) I would find more instances of people who thought a little like me as regards gender. Instead I found a reaffirmation of boy/girl. In communities that have historically recognised more than one gender, it usually comes down to recognising men who behave as women traditionally do (or at least thats how you express it in this language)… well I’m sure as damn it not a man behaving as a woman. The closest I’ve got to finding it is in the Native American culture, two spirits. But to describe my gender has having a male and a female doesn’t cover it either.

So I guess I’m back to being a Mish again.

17 thoughts on “Gender

  1. I’m of the general belief that humanity has two genders, but I also don’t think it’s as simple as one or the other. i.e. it may be possible to be 70% feminine and 30% masculine or whatnot. It’s more like where is someone on the line, rather than which discrete box do they go in.

    (I tend to think of male/female boiling down to genetics, which determines what sex someone is, rather than their gender.)

    Penguin, possibly talking bollocks

  2. Yeah, apologise for my language not actually being that distinct here, I’ve been kind of sleepy today and I was using physical sex terms interchangeably which I didn’t intend to.

    I’m not sure that a simple mix of two genders quite covers it. But thats me.

  3. Yeah, once more ‘Mish’ is as close as we’re going to be able to get to defining you.

    I’m still going to keep a tally of ‘Real girl’ vs ‘Not a real girl’ though, for good measure.


  4. I like the theory I read in an article once, where the authors talked about physical gender and mental gender, and I think there was another one too – maybe that was a sexual gender? That would give you three sets of gender, physical male, mental male, sexual male, or physical female, mental female and sexual female or any combination of the three. Of course, it’s ages since I read the article, I could be remembering some of it totally wrong, but it was cool, and said something about biology (in utero especially) determining gender by hormonal influences.

    Also makes me think of an article I read today, about how, in a pair of male-female twins, the male appears to affect the female sibling so that she is less fertile, it was suggested this could be because of testosteron. Curiously, too, the more testosteron a woman produces, the stronger the sex drive tends to be (yeah, men produce small amounts of ‘female’ hormones and women produce small amounts of ‘male’ hormones). So maybe it’s the proportion of hormones in the body that determines gender, on a sliding scale? Who knows how these delicate balances affect the brain and its chemistry and thus thinking – body chemistry affects thinking to a shocking degree sometimes.

  5. Occasionally I sit down and start thinking about gender identity – sometimes my own, sometimes in general. I try to pick apart what works and what doesn’t, how we may define these things and what it takes to be one thing or the other.

    Then I get very confused and have to lie down until it goes away. Only thing I’ve found to do thus far is act as comes naturally and hope nobody calls one on it.

  6. Go on, do my Quiz, Weasel and Jonno!

    The thing is, I really do feel that there is a third gender… sometimes I try and fit it in to the two we generally accept and come up with the notion of there being six.

    I’m interested by the Nordic Lady’s remarks, do you know of any studies I could look at, I tried Googling but to no avail?

  7. I’ve tried looking for that article, I’d really like to read it myself again, but I just can’t seem to find it. It’s not impossible that it was in Scientific American or a magazine like that I found it, from what I remember, the contents would fit that. I know I read it in 1997 or 1998.

  8. See, it would be easy to say that despite a lot of writing on the subject by a lot of enthusiastic people the complete lack of any clear definition of what gender actually *is* (outside the grammatical!) makes this sort of thing an endless and pointless quest. You know, somewhere between the English habit of talking ceaselessly about the weather and herding cats.

    However, I reckon maybe one should just put Gender in with Truth and Beauty as one of those slippery not-quite-existent-and-yet-damn-important kinda things.

    I expect you may find the word for your gender written in permanent marker on the bottom of the Graal, so that you read it after draining the cup.

    Reyn til Runa!

  9. I confess, I misundertood the quiz, I thought it was a test of my mishiness rather than a test to understand Mish’s mishiness. If I did it again I’d probably score a lot higher, although that’d be because I saw all the right answers πŸ˜‰

    The whole gender debate though, I used to have it out with other poofs back in the day, and I got so bored with it. Ultimately it always seemed to come down to a discussion between people too lost in trying to describe their reflection to realise that they’re not describing themself. Who they are is a constantly changing thing and any attempt to say "I am" will always eventually be redundant, even "I am" as a statement eventually becomes untrue, so the whole debate is laughable I think.

    To be honest, a lot of humanities academia seems to be empty noise amongst people who could be easily observed as a social experiment in human behaviourism and not much else. I think that’s probably why a lot of humanities staff at universities are so self important and are only nice to people who agree with their theories; Theories which are ultimately just a way of beating their chest and dominating others.

    Not that I’m saying the humanities are pointless, just that some of them are not much more than excuses to milk students and give people who would otherwise be lost in the world a job/place. I point no fingers at specific courses…

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