Gender Studies and the objectification of transsexual people

by Guest Blogger // 22 March 2010, 15:01

thisismytruth girl explains why Gender Studies academia is not for her.

As a transsexual woman I feel strongly that Gender Studies academics objectify transsexual people like lab rats.

A year or two ago I considered doing Gender Studies at the local Uni department. As I got more into preparation I was concerned that there was a complete lack of interest in the physical and neurological side of it; VS Ramachandran for instance has investigated neurological mapping, the phenomenon of phantom penis in ftm trans guys and the converse of this in mtf women.

Another example of the importance of physical and neurological aspects of gender identity is the tragic David Reimer case. David was accidentally mutilated as a baby being circumcised in the sixties and surgically and socially reassigned as a girl on the advice of John Money, a so-called 'expert' in the field. For a long time the follow up research claimed that he was adapting well to being raised as a girl, this had a big influence on me as a young trans undergraduate in the '70s and contributed to persuading me that I could condition myself to accept my body.

The truth is different. As a teenager David Reimer rebelled against his assignment as a girl, his mother was unhappy with the way things were going and told David what had happened. David retransitioned to being a boy, took male hormones and eventually had some reconstructive surgeries. He actually had an identical twin who was uninjured and grew up naturally. Tragically they both committed suicide some years ago.

The moral of this story has to be that we are born with some sense of bodily identity.

The GS department seem completely uninterested in lynchpin cases such as this. The turning point for me was having a conversation with one of their students who attempted to deconstruct me to my face, asserting that I must have acquired my gender identity by identifying with my mother as a role model, imagining that ‘role’ was more important than my body. This kind of condescending attitude is totally unacceptable.

So not long after, I decided that GS was not for me because I didn't want to go to a department where I would be some kind of specimen to be deconstructed, and become part of some zeitgeist which completely ignored and denied my own sense of bodily identity as who I am, as well as the medical and scientific evidence which supports that.

Anyone who has taken hormones will know that they affect the way that you feel, and so to a degree male and female bodies have certain characteristics, feelings etc. However, of course this is greatly modified by social example. I am with those who really want to get away from social 'role' models of gender as there is so much potential for variation. For me it is about morphology.

One interesting thing I have observed about people in the GS department is that most (not all) are actually quite conventional in appearance and gender expression, totally cis one might say. This adds to my feeling that they have something of a lab rat attitude towards us. They seem to be totally committed to an absolute deconstruction of gender for us, based on Butler, while themselves conforming. In Julia Serrano's book she says there are no ‘essential differences between women and men’. If so, why would transsexuals feel such dysphoria and such a strong drive to change our bodies? We have to acknowledge the biological need for a two sex system for reproduction however 'politically unacceptable' some people might find that.

More recently as my views have become known, I have noticed that the lecturers are touchy about me, don't like me to ask questions at public events and even students act like I am ignorant on the subject of gender, when I had transitioned while most of them were still children.

In my view they seem to be acting in such a way that indicates they feel threatened by the fact that I have so much life experience and they only have theory.

It is twenty five years since I transitioned and I have come to realise my empowerment about this. I don't need academics to interpret me for myself, they should listen to my experience rather than ignore and condescend.

Comments From You

angercanbepower // Posted 22 March 2010 at 16:37

As someone who doesn't feel like they fit in any particular gender, I empathise and know to some extent how horrible it feels when people casually hyothesise about issues integral to your sex and your body (although as I haven't transitioned I imagine it's different in important ways). And to be honest, it makes me very angry (hence the name!): how dare someone try to dissect what you wear, or what should be between your legs, and why? People don't go around suggesting to random cis boys that they feel comfortable in boxers as they had a strong positive male influence in their life, but as soon as you step outside some sort of boundary you're fair game.

But your title mentions academics and I'm not sure I'm convinced that either of the two that you name do objectify trans people. Butler may well be wrong about the extent to which gender is constructed. But where's the objectification? And Serano clearly recognises that there are differences between men and women (cf. her Intrinsic Inclinations model). I think that quote out of context is quite misrepresentative of her views.

Also, why do we "have to acknowledge the biological need for a two sex system for reproduction"? Yes, we need two sexes for reproduction. But that doesn't mean we need only two sexes, or that everyone has to fit into those two sexes, or that people whose gender identity is outside either of those sexes cannot reproduce. I see where you're coming from, but to be honest this part of your post makes me quite uncomfortable.

Amy Clare // Posted 22 March 2010 at 16:41

"In Julia Serrano’s book she says there are no ‘essential differences between women and men’. If so, why would transsexuals feel such dysphoria and such a strong drive to change our bodies? We have to acknowledge the biological need for a two sex system for reproduction however ‘politically unacceptable’ some people might find that."

I believe what Julia Serrano means is that the differences between males and females are so small as to have no bearing at all on how different genders should be treated in society. So often, this idea that there are fundamental, unchangeable differences between the sexes is used to justify discrimination - and so it is important as feminists that we emphasise the similarities between the genders, and the enormous amount of variation *within* a gender group. Thankfully, evidence backs us up to this effect.

That being trans has a biological basis is not incompatible with this view. I firmly believe that there is a biological basis, within the brain, for identifying as a particular sex (whether the body aligns with this or not) - but at the same time, I don't accept that this phenomenon can lead us to conclude anything else about differences between males and females. Just as the presence of a penis or a vagina cannot tell us anything about a person's height, weight, hair colour, personality traits, intelligence, etc, neither can the presence of this part of the brain which identifies its owner as male or female.

Also, the presence of intersex people proves that we don't simply have a 'two sex system'.

I'm not trans, therefore I have never experienced the strong sense of dysphoria you mention - so you might feel like dismissing my comments for that reason! - but I do believe that gender studies needn't reject the idea that being trans has a biological basis. Your crap experience might not be a problem with the subject area itself but with certain people not thinking things through properly and being discriminatory.

Elle // Posted 22 March 2010 at 16:41

It sounds like you might be more interested in academic psychology than gender studies - there's quite an amount of research on exactly what you describe (and more than just Ramachandran's viewpoint).

I lecture in developmental psychology and tell my students every year about how both nature and nurture (genetic and sociocultural factors) interact in complex ways regarding gender identity, including mentioning case studies like David Reimer's. Definitely none of this nonsense about over-identification with a mother role!

You might be interested in Sue Speer's work, because she does specifically what you want academics to do: "they should listen to my experience rather than ignore and condescend". Her website is here http://www.psych-sci.manchester.ac.uk/staff/susanSpeer

LonerGrrrl // Posted 22 March 2010 at 18:46

This was a really interesting post & I recognise some of your concerns in relation to gender studies' treatment of transsexuals.

I undertook an MA in Gender Studies & there was also a lot of emphasis on 'deconstruction' and replacing concrete realities and real bodies with abstract, theoretical concepts which I was uncomfortable with.

Whilst I cannot completely put myself in your shoes - being cissexual - I do recognise and agree with your concerns that gender & so-called feminist academia needs to incorporate the voices & real life experiences of all women more- & not just those that fit in, or agree with, for e.g., Butler's theories.

I agree there is some biological basis to how we feel about the sexed bodies in which we were born, and how we come to identify as a particular gender (of which there can be multiple variations & not just masculine & feminine). Perhaps Gender Studies hasn't taken this more scientific approach because it's an arts/humanities subject, though of course if it wants to understand transgender/transsexual experiences it perhaps needs to consider forging some links with other disciplines so it can go about this in the most radical & relevant way.

Though I agree with Amy in taking issue with your comment that there needs to be 2 sexes for the purposes of reproduction etc & with her view that whilst there may be some biological basis for our sex/gender identities, this shouldn't then be used to justify any power differentials between men & women.

aimee // Posted 22 March 2010 at 19:23

I agree with the above posters. I don't think that the existance of trans people necessitates that there are prescriptive differences between men and women, but I also think I can say that without belittling or undermining your personal experience. However, how it is for one person is not how it is for everyone and I think your post is so important in highlighting just how we should never ever feel entitled to speak for someone else's experience, or dissect their feelings in the way that yours have been.

L // Posted 22 March 2010 at 21:43

Oh, that's rubbish - I'm so sorry that they've been like this, and all I can offer is the fact that some (cis) people *are* listening. Don't suppose I could ask where this is?

J. // Posted 23 March 2010 at 01:43

I don't understand why it *has* to be one way for everybody - either gender is pure social construction for everybody or it's biological destiny for everybody - it makes more sense that it would be different for different people. To me it's always felt like religion 2.0, people trying to find a right answer that explains everybody when there isn't one, just an excuse to persecute people who don't fit into to the neat explanation. What does anyone actually gain by enforcing their explanation of sex/gender on anyone else? Should people's gender identities really affect anyone else? Gender is used as an excuse, much like religion - instead of religious rules we have gender rules, I did it because the holy book said, the devil made me do it, I did it because that's what men do, all women are this, boys don't do that, I wanted to be a real man. Instead of recognising that you chose to do it, instead of giving people the choice to do it.

(I feel I should state that I'm not saying that all religion is bad and all gender is bad, just that I believe enforcing your vague oppressive rules on anyone else and using them as an excuse for your behaviour/using them to manipulate other people's behaviour to the point where they don't believe they had a choice is wrong.)

The quote from Julia Serrano, about "essential differences" hinges on that word, "essential". There is no one thing that makes somebody a woman absolutely, no one thing that makes somebody a man absolutely. I think Judith Butler goes into this really well in "Bodies That Matter" e.g. you can't say that a woman has ovaries because so many people who identify as women don't and you can't say that a woman has two X chromosomes because so many don't et cetera.

Gender/sex is made up of several different pieces - hormones and genes and genitalia and socialisation and personality and sexuality and many things I can't think of right now - so many different pieces that it strikes me as obvious that there should be at least as many different possibilities for gender.

To me the case of David Reimer just shows how terrible it is that any gender roles of any kind are forced upon children. The whole thing would probably never have happened if society wasn't so set on the idea that you have to be either a girl or boy and trained in the appropriate behaviours from the moment you're born, if he was just allowed to make his own decisions, if there weren't so many ridiculous rules that only cause pain, ultimately.

NancyP // Posted 23 March 2010 at 03:20

A lot of the science around gender identity and around sexual orientation is still either rudimentary or intentionally set up to confirm pre-existing bias of the researcher. There's a ton of sloppy thinking out there. I daresay there just aren't many academic scientists out there who want to go into a low-grants field and deal with lots of non-scientist colleagues talking in Butlerian page-long sentences.

thisismytruth girl // Posted 23 March 2010 at 14:56

Thankyou everyone for your comments, and an especially big thankyou to Laura for offering to post this as a guest blog.

Easy ones first...

Elle said: It sounds like you might be more interested in academic psychology than gender studies

Yes, Elle, my first degree was Psychology, and I studied Physiological Psychology with a lecturer who was at the cutting edge of the field. As you say there is a lot of research in this field, Joan Roughgarden is one of the leaders you will know, also the Gooren and Zhou research on sex differences in the Striate Nucleus. I hadn't come across Sue Speer, unfortunately her website doesn't have much detail on her writings, but I'll explore a bit further.

I'll detail more later, but at this point I should say that I am disappointed that GS, at least the department I am most familiar with, seems to ignore the psychology of sex differences, developmental neurology and so forth.

If they confined themselves to the analysis of socialised gender then that would be okay I guess, but they seem to poach onto Psychology territory. Transsexual neurology is not something they are qualified to talk about, yet they impose psychoanalytic explanations. As you doubtless know Elle, academic Psychology has little time for a lot of psychoanalysis, being as it is mostly untestable speculation.

thisismytruth girl // Posted 23 March 2010 at 16:19

Amy Clare: This gets to a really important point that is at the centre of my whole view on the matter, and I think there is a fundamental misapprehension about what each side is talking about that needs to be addressed.

>>(Me) "In Julia Serrano’s book she says there are no ‘essential differences between women and men’. If so, why would transsexuals feel such dysphoria and such a strong drive to change our bodies?....

>>(Amy Clare)I believe what Julia Serrano means is that the differences between males and females are so small as to have no bearing at all on how different genders should be treated in society.

Interesting ~ '*SO SMALL* as to have no bearing at all on HOW DIFFERENT GENDERS SHOULD BE TREATED in society.'

This does imply that there are some differences (albeit however small). And of course we should not treat people differently because of them. I really haven't wanted to get into anything to do with how people treat others on the basis of difference, because, yeah, I'm with you, of course it shouldn't make any difference.

Julia Serrano's exact words on page 19 of 'Whipping Girl' are 'We must stop pretending that there are essential differences between women and men. This begins with the acknowledgement that there are exceptions to every gender rule and stereotype'

So my issue with this is that she must only be talking about social gender characteristics, whilst I am primarily concerned with what I call 'bodily identity'.

As you will see I wrote
>>Anyone who has taken hormones will know that they affect the way that you feel, and so to a degree male and female bodies have certain characteristics, feelings etc. However, of course this is greatly modified by social example. *I am with those who really want to get away from social ‘role’ models of gender as there is so much potential for variation. For me it is about morphology.*

There is a bi-modal distribution of personality, emotional, behavioural and social characteristics between women and men, *BUT* these are not totally exclusive and there is some overlap in the middle. Therefore, you are indeed of course correct in saying that as feminists we should be concerned about emphasising the commonalities between the sexes. As you will see, I wrote

>> I am with those who really want to get away from social ‘role’ models of gender as there is so much potential for variation.

So this is not a problem for me.

However, as a transsexual woman who suffered extreme dysphoria about my body, I want to concentrate on a different angle. In fact it occurs to me that the term 'Gender Dysphoria' might have a lot to do with the misunderstanding a lot of people have about transsexuality.

It is not actually about 'Gender'. It is about our bodily identities, their physical sexing.

When I was transitioning in the eighties there was serious hostility from the radical feminist community who thought people such as myself were trying to reinforce stereotyped gender roles.

Far from it! As someone who was feminist aware I found it troubling that to get my medical reassignment treatment I had to conform to a certain amount of role expectation or else I would simply not be given that treatment. Away from the gender clinic I set about developing a new identity which I was comfortable with. I have always had reservations about trans women who have seriously stereotyped themselves, I think possibly the longer they have repressed the more they over identify with the stereotyped gender role when they get to transition.

>>Also, the presence of intersex people proves that we don't simply have a 'two sex system'.

Well, I didn't say that we have this 'simply'.

I wrote>> the biological need for a two sex system for reproduction

In Chinese philosophy it is said that the One gave rise to the Two, and the Two gave rise to the Many.

Of course, there are intersex conditions of great diversity, but reproduction needs two sexes and then the two diversified. This is essentially Joan Roughgarden's thesis, that nature experiments, it is how evolution progresses. Not a problem for me.

The two sex system is what works for reproduction, these are what you might call the physical templates, upon which nature plays with variation. These are a stable pattern that has existed for millions of years. It doesn't mean there is anything wrong with variation, that is just a moral judgement, please don't impute that to me, I don't hold any view like that.

Transsexual people are another variation. I am primarily concerned with the morphological templates which seem to be laid down in the hard wiring of the brain, this is the Ramachandran hypothesis. I always believed in such a hypothesis and am surprised that it took so long for someone to get out there and do some proper research on it. Way to go, VS!

There is always this tension in nature, evolution, between stable patterns that work, and experimental variation, but we see the two-sex reproduction everywhere in nature, but also with variations.

thisismytruth girl // Posted 23 March 2010 at 16:41

angercanbepower>> I'm not sure I'm convinced that either of the two that you name do objectify trans people

Sorry if this is the way it came across. My concerns are with the staff and students of the Gender Studies department I have had contact with, that student I mentioned being the clearest example, but I think that is the tip of a very large iceberg.

Also came across Sara Davidman recently
http://www.123people.co.uk/s/sara+davidman

whose work seemed voyeuristic to me. The GS department had a seminar on her work which made me feel uncomfortable as I know I would not have been allowed to attend even though I have more expert knowledge of the field first hand than probably anyone else who might have been at that seminar.

I certainly don't think that Julia Serrano objectifies trans people, obviously she is one herself. In my previous post I gave the reference for my quote from her, and I stand by my comment, perhaps it makes more sense in the context of my explanation.

Also, I elaborated on what I meant about the two sex system for reproduction. It is a simple fact that there is more than a two sex system, of course I acknowledge that. However it is the major morphological template which the rest diverge from or cluster around. I believe statistically something like just under 99% of people are entirely cissexual, the other just over 1% accounting for all intersex, transsexual and transgender population.

I am in that 1%, so I am not putting it down.

thisismytruth girl // Posted 23 March 2010 at 16:58

LonerGrrrl said:>> I undertook an MA in Gender Studies & there was also a lot of emphasis on 'deconstruction' and replacing concrete realities and real bodies with abstract, theoretical concepts which I was uncomfortable with.

Thanks LG, you have really gotten to the heart of what my concerns are.

>> I agree there is some biological basis to how we feel about the sexed bodies..... Perhaps Gender Studies hasn't taken this more scientific approach because it's an arts/humanities subject, though of course if it wants to understand transgender/transsexual experiences it perhaps needs to consider forging some links with other disciplines so it can go about this in the most radical & relevant way.

Again you identify my concerns well:-)
The department here is supposed to be a Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies, so its total preoccupation with social theories to the exclusion of neuro and developmental psychology contradicts its own remit.

>> I agree with Amy in taking issue with your comment that there needs to be 2 sexes for the purposes of reproduction

But surely this is a simple fact? I have discussed above how clearly there is more than this, but reproduction is such a crucial fact of our evolutionary history that should we be surprised that there is this morphological template on which the other variations play?

>> whilst there may be some biological basis for our sex/gender identities, this shouldn't then be used to justify any power differentials between men & women.

Certainly I agree with this. What I find interesting about this point is that I never suggested that there should be any power differentials. It sort of reminds me about how the feminists of the'70s and '80s used to impute that trans women such as myself were reinforcing stereotypes.

As I commented to Laura privately, everyone knows that TS women only conform to stereotypes to obtain treatment. If people have difficulty understanding this they aren't really getting to grips with the difficulties TS women face, but imputing and projecting their fears on us.

Similarly if anyone thinks that I am suggesting there should be a power differential between the sexes then that imputation must be coming from their own expectations, because I have never said or suggested such a thing:-)

thisismytruth girl // Posted 23 March 2010 at 17:06

L said:>> Don't suppose I could ask where this is?

LOL! I'd better keep my gob shut on this one, not because I'm afraid of offending anyone in the GS dept, I couldn't care less about that, anyone from there who sees this will probably recognise me immediately, and they need all the challenging that comes their way;-)

But rather I have probably already given away too many identifiers and I don't want to end up outing myself to the few people left around here who haven't found out about my herstory...

thisismytruth girl // Posted 23 March 2010 at 20:36

J. Your post is extremely interesting, and there are so many bits I could quote I had probably better not quote any as I would end up quoting the whole thing!

Your point about David Reimer... Well yes in a way I agree with you, but had be not been mutilated he clearly would have grown up as an anatomical boy, and as his choice later turned out, that was what he wanted to be. So apart from the tragic accident, he was really a cis boy.

The point being that most people are okay with being whatever sex they are born into morphologically.

Yes it is true that there are several components which go to make one whatever sex one is, and it is a kind of composite. I think there are seven factors: chromosomes, gonads, hormones, primary sexual characteristics (reproductive organs), secondary sexual characteristics (beards, breasts etc), personal identification and social persona. (This can be mapped onto the seven chakras if you are interested.)

Most people are congruent with all seven. If you aren't you may have some feeling of conflict.

Where I have the problem with Gender Studies is that they try to pretend that they first five of these are unimportant, mere accidents that have nothing to do with what sex you are, and that number six especially can be at odds with the rest and that it trumps them all.

I am particularly uncomfortable with the term 'transgender' being applied to me, when to me this is about people whose social gender presentation is opposite to their bodily sex. If some people want to present as TG then I don't have a problem with this, it is their choice. What I fundamentally disagree with is the GS position that I am the same as them. I have to say that I believe this is a fundamental category error of understanding and interpretation.

I can well understand that some people may rebel against the social role expectations that they have been brought up with. It doesn't really surprise me that this is the case, since social gender roles are so prescriptive.

What I have trouble with is what I call the radical TG agenda of Judith Butler and GS departments such as the one I am familiar with, who argue that the first five factors I have identified are irrelevant and that only social identification is important.

This leads to a position in which anyone can be any sex they like just by saying so, in which case the whole thing becomes meaningless.

Indeed, I would like to do away with almost all social gendering so far as it stereotypes. I know lots of women, especially lesbians, who are firmly identified in their bodies as women, but reject social role models of what is expected of women. Fine! I think one of the patriarchal agendas has been to limit options for women, and indeed coerce men into the emotionless stereotype that causes them so much damage.

This is why I repeatedly come back to morphology. The radical TG agenda of Gender Studies amounts to deleting sex differences, so that people who are fully male bodied and have no intention of engaging in any sex reassignment of any form can call themselves women. Conversely, I have known female bodied TG people who say they are men, but decline to even take male hormones because they say it would give them body and facial hair and they would risk male pattern baldness.

I'm cautious about the gender terms I use for these people as it is easy to offend, but I know plenty of lesbians who respect my own sexual identity but call these TG people by gender pronouns associated with their anatomy.

The problem I see here is that TG people are appropriating TS identities. A similar problem occurred when some TS people used to appropriate IS identities. I have some things in common with intersex people, but I do not call myself IS. So I feel it is inappropriate for TG people to appropriate transsexual identity with the support and encouragement of the likes of Judith Butler and gender studies.

TS people may not have the chromosomes or our desired sex, but we at least have the morphology and hormonal status so far as that is possible. If you have never taken hormones you cannot understand how much difference it makes to who you are and how you function.

I don't mind that some people will disagree with my position. I have been around long enough to have seen different waves of interpretation. In the '70s transvestites didn't try to call themselves women, it was just a temporary persona they played with. In the '80s radical feminists denied transsexual identity. Then in the '90s Judith Butler conflated the whole thing under social gender and denied the importance of physical gender. In the noughties TG people have claimed TS identities. All of it has changed except the transsexual identification with bodily identity, so I think that this has a much more real position.

riki // Posted 24 March 2010 at 01:13

Most feminist and gender studies researchers avoid biological argument becuase of the way it has historically been deployed to justify women's subjugation. However, there are many feminists who do actively engage with biological discussion - Grosz, Haraway, Birke, Fausto-Sterling (who is not too good on trans though), Spanier, Elizabeth Wilson, and so on.
As I argued in a recent article ("Trans as Bodily Becoming: Rethinking
the Biological as Diversity, Not
Dichotomy" Hypatia vol 24 iss 3 Summer 2009), the main political dividing line these days is about supporting diversity over dichotomy, rather than nurture v nature.
Views from biological researchers like Milton Diamond of "nature throwing up all this sex and gender diversity, and society trying to stuff it into narrow categories" seem entirely compatible with a gender studies analysis of how a restrictive, heteronormative male/female binary limits what gender position are culturally intelligible and thus liveable.
My experience in a gender studies program has been that people are very interested in my work on biologcal and neurological science, but find it inaccessible. The same is of course true in reverse - I remember talking to my genetics supervisor in Honours about social construction of gender roles and he had no clue at all!
Establishing communication across such wide disciplinary lines is difficult, but worth the effort, i think.

Elliott Mason // Posted 24 March 2010 at 03:28

Just a quick comment: you do know that Julia Serrano's trans, right?

And that in the rest of her book she talks about how people have multiple spectra of identity, including an internal gender compass (that can point to many more positions than just 'male' or 'female'), plus things like what you like to wear/do, and how US society tends to want to collapse all that complexity into simple boxes of 'male' and 'female', and then tell you what box you're in from a glance in your diaper at birth?

And that she thinks the entire system is corrupt and oversimplified?

Because I think, from having read the entirety of "Whipping Girl," that she'd probably agree with the anger you express in this post, not with the professors who acted like prats.

(Disclaimer: I am myself transmasculine, and only know Ms. Serrano's opinions through her book, having never met the lady)

evie // Posted 25 March 2010 at 15:33

I'm really sorry those people have treated you like that, there's no excuse for bigotry. However, I'm just a little skeptical that we can write off a whole academic discipline on that basis. Like any field, there's surely diversity of views amongst academics? But thanks for the article, anyway - I'm (hopefully) going to start a GS masters in the autumn, so I shall keep my eyes peeled for transphobia, and challenge it if I can.

LonerGrrrl // Posted 25 March 2010 at 16:19

thisismytruthgirl: I totally agree with the distinction you make between the experiences of, and different feelings towards their sexed bodies, transsexual and transgender people may have. What I find really interesting about this, particularly as someone who identifies as a radical feminist, is that there seems to be more common ground between the basis tenets of radical feminist theory and the views/theory of trans feminists than is often believed. The fact we both feel the same way about Gender Studies' emphasis on the abstract theories of women (and men) over the actual experiences of women, is one small example!

Also, the problem you have with Judith Butler for denying the importance of physical gender is similar to radical feminist criticisms of her- the way she posits gender as just this free-floating set of signs & symbols with no basis in concrete reality. Radical feminism has traditonally placed a lot of emphasis on the materiality of the body, and so whilst a lot of radical feminists take issue with the idea that sex/gender identity can have some basis in biology, I find the recognition that it might to be totally in tune with the radical feminist position on favouring concrete realities & embodied experiences.

It's all about acknowledging that difference between transgender - and some cissexual women - and transsexuals you outline. Just because the former may identify as a sex/gender which crosses traditional gender lines, this is still quite different to actually feeling some innate, physical dissonance between the sexed body in which you were born and the sex your brain expects you to be (to paraphrase Julia Serano).

I actually wrote a longer piece on this here: http://lonergrrrl.wordpress.com/2010/01/10/cissexuality-transfeminist-existence/
& would be interested to know what you think.

And I've got a feeling, due to your reference to the Gender Studies centre being 'interdisciplinary' and its obsession with the so-called 'Queen of Queer' Judith Butler that you are studying at the same centre I did ;)

makomk // Posted 25 March 2010 at 19:39

thisismytruth girl: You are heading into, errm, interesting territory. In particular, the bit where you say that:

"I am particularly uncomfortable with the term 'transgender' being applied to me, when to me this is about people whose social gender presentation is opposite to their bodily sex."

and then

"This leads to a position in which anyone can be any sex they like just by saying so, in which case the whole thing becomes meaningless."

You appear to be pushing a distinction between real transsexuals that have some nice clean biological basis for claiming the sex and gender that they do, and everyone else. What's more, you go on to complain that anyone who doesn't meet your criteria to be a real transsexual (including having the right surgery) is effectively attacking you by laying claim to a gender they have no right to.

These arguments are very familiar. Very unpleasant, too.

Lee H // Posted 25 March 2010 at 23:24

Makomk has pretty much covered what I was about to say.

Thisismytruth Girl, the statements you make about non-op/non-hormone transgender people are the same sentiments that many cis people would have about transsexuals who do go down the route of hormones and/or surgery. Surely you must realise the irony of this?

"This leads to a position in which anyone can be any sex they like just by saying so, in which case the whole thing becomes meaningless."

A lot of transgender people make the distinction between their physical body sex and their gender identity. It's their gender that they self-define, not their sex.

"I am particularly uncomfortable with the term 'transgender' being applied to me, when to me this is about people whose social gender presentation is opposite to their bodily sex"

If you don't identify with the term then that is fine. However transgender is an umbrella category that covers a lot more than just gender presentation. Gender presentation is not gender identity, is not gender role, is not gender attribution and so on.

"Conversely, I have known female bodied TG people who say they are men, but decline to even take male hormones because they say it would give them body and facial hair and they would risk male pattern baldness.

I'm cautious about the gender terms I use for these people as it is easy to offend, but I know plenty of lesbians who respect my own sexual identity but call these TG people by gender pronouns associated with their anatomy."

This may be radical, but generally I think it's respectful to refer to a person using their preferred pronouns.

I completely and utterly agree that transsexuals who take hormones and/or have had surgery will have different experiences to transgender people who have not. People need to listen to and acknowledge these experiences.

But it does not grant authority to be dismissive of the identities of other people in the trans community. The last thing the trans community needs is a hierarchy.

thisismytruth girl // Posted 06 April 2010 at 17:34

Elliot: Yes I do know that Julia Serrano is trans! I haven't read all of 'Whipping Girl' but agree with much of it. My main issue with her is this 'no difference between women and men' thing I quoted above.

In my view this is clearly a position that is untenable, unless you only are interested in social constructed stuff, which I'm not going to bother arguing.

If there is 'no difference' then logically the two categories are the same, sorry, can't accept that!

Oh, and before anyone gets going on the binary thing, I also said earlier about the 'two giving rise to the many'. But from the point of view of reproduction the two *have to* exist however politically unacceptable some might find it.

thisismytruth girl // Posted 06 April 2010 at 19:00

BTW, sorry it has taken me so long to get back on this, had a very busy couple of weeks.

makomk.... One of the reasons I don't bother too much with the debate you touch on here is because there seems to be an epidemic of 'so you're saying....' which is all about some people setting their agendas, putting words in my mouth and not acknowledging what I actually said.

What I did say> I'm cautious about the gender terms I use for these people as it is easy to offend, but I know plenty of lesbians who respect my own sexual identity but call these TG people by gender pronouns associated with their anatomy.

It's my cis lesbian friends who use what you would find inappropriate terms, *not me*. However, this touches on a whole area which I think is actually quite important.

A long time has gone down since the eighties when I was rejected by lesbians when I came out to them as TS. Most lesbians (not all) seem to be ok about it now, however with some riders. For instance they accept me, but call TG people 'he'.

I have actually talked with several of them about this issue and asked them where they are coming from. For instance, I mentioned that I knew a TG person who called themself a lesbian, but wanted to remain non op and have intercourse with women. Those of my lesbian friends whom I have discussed this with refuse to call this person 'she' and certainly reject the idea of having them take the term 'lesbian'.

The link with GS is that so far as I can tell many of the GS academics I have encountered would make no distinction between this person and me.

I have checked out your link

http://questioningtransphobia.wordpress.com/2008/01/29/harry-benjamin-syndrome-and-the-trans-rights-movement/

and find it distorted beyond any recognition of my own experience. I don't care if someone lives their life like this, my only concern is that I don't want to be categorised with them. If someone thinks that not wanting to be in the same category as someone else is prejudice and accusing them of being a perv, then that is their interpretation, not my intention (see 'so you are saying...')

All the lesbians I have discussed this with want to have relationships with other female bodied women. Getting onto the subject of sexuality it has been fairly well established now that het, bi or gay/lesbian sexualities are often, if not usually, innate. Pheromones and morphology are such an important part of this that I am not surprised that most lesbians would not wish to have a physical relationship with a TG person who wanted to remain male bodied, and yet GS academics such as Judith Butler seem to completely ignore this side of the whole matter.

I don't think there is anything wrong in making this kind of distinction between TS and TG. I am just clear that 1) I am not TG and 2) there are certain characteristics of being TS which TG do not fulfil. This is the whole problem with GS, they conflate the two categories, as you also seem to be doing.

WRT anyone being able to say they are anything, well I could say I am a brain surgeon, but I would have to fulfil certain criteria for it to have a real basis. This is what I call the Jeremy Clarkson postulate. JC could say he is a woman or a transsexual but until he does something to demonstrate the reality of this then I prefer to continue to think of him as a man.

Many years ago when I first came on the scene, people who called themselves transvestites behaved pretty much as TGs do today, but never claimed to really be women. Now I accept that the term TV is not considered politically acceptable by many, and has been largely replaced by TG. But back in the day TVs would not claim to be TS, now TGs say they are. I don't see anything wrong in defining my identity by my bodily morphology.

The issue some raise about availability of medical treatment, surgery etc. It is more complicated in countries where treatment is not available as in the NHS, but in either case you have to look at what people say they would like to achieve. I also appreciate that phalloplasty is a much more problematic surgery than vaginoplasty, but someone calling themselves ftm ts who also doesn't wish to take T hormone because it would give them body and facial hair and possibly cause male pattern baldness surely has to have their male identification questioned?

If someone says they never have any intention of modifying their sexual characteristics then I cannot accept them in the same category as me. I'm not saying they are a perv, but I am saying they are different from me. Is that really so bad?

thisismytruth girl // Posted 06 April 2010 at 19:22

LonerGrrrl Yes I pretty much agree with what you say, and like your longer blog post link from your own site.

>someone’s cissexuality or transsexuality is not determined by how comfortable they are with meeting external patriarchal gender roles, but by whether or not they feel reconciliation between their internal sense of what sex they should be and their physical sex.

>To paraphrase Julia Serano, it’s about the extent to which we “feel at home” in our sexed bodies. Therefore, I don’t think a cis radical feminist’s discomfort at having to wear a dress or conform to other feminine wiles should be conflated with the discomfort a trans person experiences as a result of being born a different sex to the one their brain expects them to be.

This absolutely nails on the head the whole issue which some people seem to have real difficulty in understanding.

GS academics often seem completely dense about understanding bodily identification/dysphoria and putting onto TS women particularly (although doubtless it happens to trans men as well in reverse) the idea that we want to associate with stereotyped feminine roles.

You yourself comment on how you are happy with the sex of your body but dislike the role expectations.
Yup, for the last twenty odd years I am in the same position;-)

I even go along with your statement
>I do identify as ‘cissexual’
Well at least insofar as that is possible for me.

> Female born radical feminists should stop conflating their discomfort with fitting patriarchal feminine gender stereotypes with a trans person’s discomfort with the body in which they were born.

This cannot be repeated enough for me!

>It's all about acknowledging that difference between transgender - and some cissexual women - and transsexuals you outline. Just because the former may identify as a sex/gender which crosses traditional gender lines, this is still quite different to actually feeling some innate, physical dissonance between the sexed body in which you were born and the sex your brain expects you to be (to paraphrase Julia Serano).

I'm glad to read someone who understands that this is a point worth making. TG and gender queer people who wish to challenge role expectations are all very well, and good for them, but they are distinct from those of us for whom

> actually feeling some innate, physical dissonance between the sexed body in which you were born and the sex your brain expects you to be

was a minute to minute reality that we had to live with for the early parts of our lives. TG people who are happy with their sexed bodies and only questioned their role expectations have really no idea of what this is like and should not try to claim that they are the same as us, this is essentially to dismiss our experience as imaginary or irrelevant or somesuch.

About the department you studied at, I mentioned about this on your blog, where you have my email, I would be happy to correspond privately with you about this.

Bubblegum Blues // Posted 08 April 2010 at 02:18

>>>>>>>>>>> WRT anyone being able to say they are anything, well I could say I am a brain surgeon, but I would have to fulfil certain criteria for it to have a real basis. This is what I call the Jeremy Clarkson postulate. JC could say he is a woman or a transsexual but until he does something to demonstrate the reality of this then I prefer to continue to think of him as a man.

Many years ago when I first came on the scene, people who called themselves transvestites behaved pretty much as TGs do today, but never claimed to really be women. Now I accept that the term TV is not considered politically acceptable by many, and has been largely replaced by TG. But back in the day TVs would not claim to be TS, now TGs say they are. I don't see anything wrong in defining my identity by my bodily morphology.

There's nothing wrong with you defining yourself by your bodily morphology. It sounds like you're being fairly dismissive of how transgender people define theirselves though.

At the moment it's kind of coming across as "transgender women are fake transexual women, thus should not call themselves women".

thisismytruth girl // Posted 16 April 2010 at 23:36

Hey Bubblegum, Well I sure think that they shouldn't call themselves transsexual if they don't have any desire or intention to do anything about the *sex* of their body, that is their morphology. Non op transsexual is an oxymoron. I don't mean pre-op, all ts have to go through that stage of course, but 'I am ts but don't want or intend to do anything about my body', simply is a contradiction in terms.

Beyond that, well we're back to the vexed issue of how you define women. How anyone who says 'I like having a penis and testes which produce male hormone' can call themselves a woman is something I find really hard to understand.

To me hormonal status is almost as important as morphology. Also intent is a big qualifier.

I don't mind transgender people calling themselves transgender, but if all they are is male bodied people who wear women's clothes and mimic stereotyped behaviours then actually we have a real problem here. Like namely, one of the main criticisms about transsexuals from radfems in the eighties was that we were doing this and thereby reinforcing the stereotyping of women. This was at the time a misunderstanding, as many of us who were focussed on bodily identity were also struggling, like them, to find a new way of being which got beyond those stereotyped behaviours and images.

But it seems to me that male bodied transgendered people are actually doing this in some manner, or else doing radical drag. The latter which is okay I guess if they want to, but does it really qualify one to be called a woman? Not in my world. So it's about language and what identity you claim. I am female bodied, a trans woman who has that medical past.

This gets back to this whole thing whereby gender studies has obfuscated the whole issue by taking on the Judith Butler position that bodies have nothing to do with it. That social 'role' is more important than your embodiment. I know a lot of lesbian/feminists who detest this whole 'role' perception thing but are completely identified with their female bodies as the basis for their identities.

Also not just me but all my lesbian friends whom I have quizzed about it believe that a male bodied person who wants to remain male bodied can't call themself a woman, and even more can't call themself a lesbian.

That's just where I'm coming from.

Bubblegum, it's not clear whether you identify as tg or whatever or have a totally cis identity. One thing I have difficulty with is cis people telling me what I should believe about a subject that I have spent a lifetime thinking about, and indeed living. That's why I find the Gender Studies department not something I can take seriously, because they are mostly a bunch of cissexual people telling me what I am and how I should fit into their paradigms.

Taxonomically TS is distinct from TG, this is just how it is.

Bubblegum Blues // Posted 21 April 2010 at 23:18

>>"Hey Bubblegum, Well I sure think that they shouldn't call themselves transsexual if they don't have any desire or intention to do anything about the *sex* of their body, that is their morphology. Non op transsexual is an oxymoron."

I can't really argue against that. Trans people who don't want to go the route of hormones or surgery tend to opt for the word transgender to describe themselves, rather than transsexual. From my experience anyway.

>>"I don't mind transgender people calling themselves transgender, but if all they are is male bodied people who wear women's clothes and mimic stereotyped behaviours then actually we have a real problem here."

I assure you that is not the case. Maybe for a few transgender people, but not the majority.

>>"Like namely, one of the main criticisms about transsexuals from radfems in the eighties was that we were doing this and thereby reinforcing the stereotyping of women. This was at the time a misunderstanding, as many of us who were focussed on bodily identity were also struggling, like them, to find a new way of being which got beyond those stereotyped behaviours and images.

But it seems to me that male bodied transgendered people are actually doing this in some manner..."

This sounds like a case of history repeating itself, to me.

>>"...or else doing radical drag. The latter which is okay I guess if they want to, but does it really qualify one to be called a woman? Not in my world. So it's about language and what identity you claim. I am female bodied, a trans woman who has that medical past.

This gets back to this whole thing whereby gender studies has obfuscated the whole issue by taking on the Judith Butler position that bodies have nothing to do with it. That social 'role' is more important than your embodiment. I know a lot of lesbian/feminists who detest this whole 'role' perception thing but are completely identified with their female bodies as the basis for their identities.

Also not just me but all my lesbian friends whom I have quizzed about it believe that a male bodied person who wants to remain male bodied can't call themself a woman, and even more can't call themself a lesbian."

Then what of all of the people who think that transsexual women shouldn't call themselves women or lesbians? What about all of the women who think that someone who doesn't have ovaries or a womb or XX chromosones should not be allowed to call themselves a woman, and especially not call themselves a lesbian?

And if it were to be about how one appears to the general public, then does that mean that people who "pass" well are more worthy of womanhood than those who don't? In that case then what about when a transgender woman passes better than a transsexual woman?

What about transgender women who take oestrogen but never want surgery? Are they allowed to call themselves women?

It just seems quite arbitrary, somewhat self-serving and a little hypocritical to declare that MTF transsexuals are allowed to call themselves women and FTM transsexuals are allowed to call themselves men, but transgender folk who decide against hormones and surgery are all radical cross dressers who perpetuate and reify gender stereotypes and should not be allowed to define themselves.

>>"Bubblegum, it's not clear whether you identify as tg or whatever or have a totally cis identity. One thing I have difficulty with is cis people telling me what I should believe about a subject that I have spent a lifetime thinking about, and indeed living. That's why I find the Gender Studies department not something I can take seriously, because they are mostly a bunch of cissexual people telling me what I am and how I should fit into their paradigms."

I'm somewhere in the transgender/genderqueer spectrum. I also have difficulty with cis people telling me what I should believe about a subject I have spent a lifetime thinking about and living. It's an extra punch in the gut when trans people start telling me what I am and am not as well.

thisismytruth girl // Posted 15 May 2010 at 15:26

@ Bubblegum Blues

>what of all of the people who think that transsexual women shouldn't call themselves women or lesbians?

I'll try and give some background on where I'm coming from.

I think ideas that are anchored in the physical are the most stable and easily understood.

For myself I have embodied myself as far as is practically possible in a female morphology. This is the basis of my identity. If I could get ovaries and a womb etc by stem cell techniques or whatever, I would, but they are not yet developed. Also, eg, it was really important to me to remove all traces of facial hair, not only for passing, but because I intensely disliked it at all levels.

So this is why trans women and trans lesbians should be accepted as women, because we wish to embody ourselves as such in all ways that are feasible, our histories are accidents of birth which is why we should not be judged on that level. As to the possession of a Y chromosome, you are probably aware of AIS, Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, clearly there is more to sex than chromosomes. I dare say most AIS women would like to have the chromosomes necessary for ovaries, reproduction, etc.


Not being able to pass is not a judgement I wish to engage with. I probably don't pass perfectly all the time, it depends a lot on people's teedar as I call it. Young lesbians perhaps suss me while guys rarely seem to. I almost never got read years ago, now perhaps I do sometimes. I assume this is down to much more awareness of TS people in general.

For me it is a lot more about what is going on inside, and then what you actualise. It may not be clear or disclosed, but if I find that someone is identified with keeping their male anatomy and hormones then it simply doesn't make sense to me that they could identify themself as a woman however well they might pass. If someone really identifies as such, then surely their internal body image of themself would be with female morphology? This is the classic transsexual position.

I do find it interesting that transgender people have only really become established in the wake of the GRC, piggy backing in the wake of the work that was done by transsexual people, and often claiming to be TS when they are actually TG. You acknowledge the oxymoron of 'non op TS'.

To say that you are a lesbian but like and want to retain a penis and male hormone production is another oxymoron. All the lesbians I have spoken to in my circle refuse to accept such a position, I am by no means alone in such a view. They express similar feelings to me, that they are a lesbian because they are attracted to female bodied people. Physiological psychology has established a large basis for sexuality (straight, gay, lesbian) being based on pheromones, morphology etc.

I don't wish to make a blanket judgement, but it does seem to me that there is sometimes gender confusion. I have certainly known people who had confusion, and later became more clear in their minds, either facing their transsexualism or becoming comfortable with their natal bodily sex, which perhaps they were only uncomfortable with on the basis of social gender, rather than internal bodily image.

Clearly there is debate about what constitutes a 'woman' or a 'man'. I think these are stable physical forms morphologically, (see Rupert Sheldrake on Morphic Field Theory) and there are also intermediate forms which both nature and society experiments with. I don't know how to categorise these other than physically there is intersex, and I postulated the term 'intergender' to a GS department lecturer who promised to credit me if she ever used the term; intended as its referent are those people who choose to identify as neither male nor female and modify their bodies to some degree but not as far as is possible.

I am okay with people doing this, it is their choice, but by doing so are they putting themselves in an intermediate category? To me the answer is yes. I think there are probably more genders than two, perhaps as many as there are people.... hmmm

So you say you are
>>somewhere in the transgender/genderqueer spectrum

Okay, well fine, but by saying so then surely you are placing yourself in this intergender space? I'm only trying to understand you and find where you are on some kind of taxonomy.

What is important to me in my understanding is how people embody themselves. I think I mentioned above the seven determinants of sex, hmm possibly gender to some extent, always going to be tricky.

I think most people are happy to have all 7 congruent. I acknowledge that I don't have all congruent, but I would if it were in the least practically possible.

So people who don't mind or even like having different levels which are not all the same are not fully identified in one or the other, and that is their choice. But male hormone production from testes is not congruent with female embodiment, which is why transsexual women go for medical treatment if it is possible and they can get it.

This is probably a good point at which to mention why I am more ready to accept trans men who haven't had surgeries, because the FTM surgeries are far more invasive, and phalloplasty much more uncertain than the MTF surgeries. Also male hormones tend to produce the majority of the desired results on their own. Not to mention that cis men can lose their genitals through injury, cancer etc, and still remain entirely male identified in the bodies and psychosocial realities.

So back to my main point about GS theoreticians interpreting TS people and telling us what we are ~ I think TG people should not try to do the same thing and say they are TS, that there is no difference between TS and TG when clearly there is.

As to what is a woman or a man, well, this one is going to run and run, clearly; but my own definition is to do with as much congruency as possible and where your bodily identification lies. Life is hard, we have to make choices, and to a very large extent, we are what we choose to be, not just what we think or would like, unless you actualise that, make it more real, otherwise it remains no more than an idea.

Bubblegum Blues // Posted 16 May 2010 at 15:55

>>>
For me it is a lot more about what is going on inside, and then what you actualise. It may not be clear or disclosed, but if I find that someone is identified with keeping their male anatomy and hormones then it simply doesn't make sense to me that they could identify themself as a woman however well they might pass. If someone really identifies as such, then surely their internal body image of themself would be with female morphology?"

Different people have different needs. Just because someone else's needs differ from your own it doesn't mean that their identity if less valid. Transgender people have a tough enough time as it is without being told that they're not trans enough and that they HAVE to have surgery. It's just more body and gender policing.

thisismytruth girl // Posted 24 May 2010 at 00:53

>>Transgender people have a tough enough time as it is without being told that they're not trans enough and that they HAVE to have surgery.

I'm not suggesting that anyone should have surgeries that they are not fully desirous of, and I have never suggested anything of that nature. In debates such as these I find it interesting that people so often impute things to my position which are not the case.

This also reminds me of Janice Raymond who suggested that transsexual women were persuaded to have surgeries by the Transsexual Empire of doctors and surgeons. Of course this is an entirely discredited position as it is well known that TS women had, and still have, a hard road trying to get medical treatment, finding either NHS routes which are often demeaning, or self funding private treatment which of course is extremely expensive, as are the additional treatments such as hair removal.

What I am concerned about is that people own where they are coming from.

TG and gender queer people often express dissatisfaction at the idea of gender binary, or even of the categories of male and female. OK, well if that is the position that they are taking, then fine, but don't then claim that you are male or female, and also claim to be gender queer or whatever. I am far more able to get someone who acknowledges that they are gender indeterminate, intergender or whatever you might like to call it, than someone who says, 'I am a woman who likes having a penis and male hormones'. That just doesn't make sense to me.

I actually think that a lot of TG and gender queer or intergender people just don't really know what they feel. I don't mean that in any bad way. The social role expectations of men and women are extremely confining and I don't find it in the least surprising that many people rebel against those expectations.

I fully understand and accept that. What I believe is that if you are okay with your body but don't like the social expectations that are put on you then it is a mistake to say 'I accept my body but really feel that I am of the opposite gender to the expectations that go with that.'

Far simpler and more straightforward to work to loosen up and expand the expectations, or to remove them altogether. Plenty of women already do this pretty much. I know plenty of lesbians who are fine with being women, like their own bodies, are attracted to other women, but live a life that is largely unbounded by social expectations of femininity codes insofar as that is practical. That is the kind of solution that works for me.

This also goes with parsimony. It is simple, fairly easily understood and works for a lot of people.

I understand that the social role expectations of male bodied people may be more rigid, and therefore more difficult to challenge. But I don't think that 'non masculine' men saying they are 'women' on the basis of some theory of Judith Butler is really the answer.

Why can't they challenge male role stereotypes without trying to usurp the entirely different experience of transsexual people, and then claim that their aetiology is ours? Basically this seems to deny *our* story of how we come to be who we are.

This returns to my original point about gender theorists trying to put a social role conditioning explanation onto my own experience as a transsexual woman. And the consequent conflation of transsexual and transgender identities which have nothing in common except for a superficial similarities.

One is to do with bodily identity, morphology, the other with social roles and perception of that.

The result seems to me to be that TG people are claiming they are transsexuals who just don't want to have surgeries, and even worse, TS people being told that they have acquired their bodily identification through social role conditioning.

The consequence of this latter being that there is now talk that reassignment surgeries may 'go out of fashion' when transsexual people 'realise' that their identifications are only social. Jan Morris is actually reported to have said something along these lines.

I absolutely and unremittingly reject such assertions, which are unacceptable to myself and many transsexual women whose motivation was bodily reassignment.

When I was transitioning I actually knew someone who detransitioned when he acknowledged that he had been gender confused for reasons that he later came to understand. I believe my own surgery had a lot to do with him realising that he did not really want to go down that path. I really respect his self honesty in coming to such personal insight.

It is my belief that many TG people have similar unresolved issues which lead them to the intergender positions which they occupy. And it is my firm belief that gender theory of the sort that Judith Butler purveys only confuses people, encouraging non conforming men to believe that they are 'women' on the basis of behaviour, when they are not. On this basis, plenty of women are actually 'men'; of course many women and especially lesbians have been looking at this much longer than most men and aren't fooled into imagining they are something they aren't simply on the basis of social behaviour stereotypes.

I think the inability of many TG people to understand what I am saying, and the frequent imputation to me of things that I simply have not said are indications of how strongly the confused position of propagandists such as Butler have infected the collective psyche of the gender questioning world.

Laura // Posted 21 June 2010 at 17:54

Please note that the above comment was unintentionally published some weeks after it was made due to internet problems on my part.

polly // Posted 21 June 2010 at 21:52

Can I suggest on something of a tangent that people actually read Judith Butler before criticising her? She's fantastically hard to read, which doesn't help, but it's worth struggling with, because most of the things she is popularly supposed to have said, she didn't.

Gender trouble - contrary to popular belief - is actually an examination of compulsory heterosexuality in feminism -ie how lesbians fit (or don't fit) within a feminism framed around heterosexual women. Nor did Butler EVER say that gender is 'performance' she says it is 'performative' (ie created though a constant process of reification - we believe in gender and thus enact it and it becomes more real) and that a subject cannot choose its gender. But this is routinely represented as 'gender is just a performance'.

I can fully understand why the author of this piece didn't want to take a gender studies class if she felt she was going to be treated as a 'lab rat' by her classmates, but Judith Butler is innocent!

Bubblegum Blues // Posted 23 June 2010 at 18:20

> "I'm not suggesting that anyone should have surgeries that they are not fully desirous of, and I have never suggested anything of that nature. In debates such as these I find it interesting that people so often impute things to my position which are not the case."

I thought what I meant was clear, so let me rephrase:

Transgender people have a tough enough time as it is without being told that they're not trans enough and that they HAVE to have surgery in order for their identities to be worthy of respect.

You've made it perfectly clear that you do not respect the identities of non-op/non-hormone transgender people. So you are quite correct, you never said that people should have surgeries they don't want, you just said that you wouldn't respect the way they self-identify if they don't.

You're presenting a very strange world view where we should respect the identities of:

* Cis people
* Post-op/hormones trans people
* Pre-op/hormones trans people
* Genderqueer people

And disrespect the identities of:

* Non-op/non-hormones trans people

> "I am far more able to get someone who acknowledges that they are gender indeterminate, intergender or whatever you might like to call it, than someone who says, 'I am a woman who likes having a penis and male hormones'. That just doesn't make sense to me."

It doesn't have to make sense to you to be valid. It's their business and nobody else's.

> "I actually think that a lot of TG and gender queer or intergender people just don't really know what they feel."

Well, that's not at all patronising, huh?

I don't know where you're getting the idea that there are swarms of non-ops trying to prevent transsexuals from access to SRS. For the vast majority of non-ops it's a personal decision and they have absolutely no objection to other people getting SRS.

You also seem to be implying that all non-ops are completely comfortable with their bodies and would not rather have a body of the other sex. This is a falsehood. There are thousands of different reasons why a transgender person might not take hormones or have surgery. Sure there are some trans women who like having dicks, and there are plenty of others who hate having dicks but can't have or don't want surgery either, for reasons that are entirely their own.

Ditto for trans men, there are thousands who would rather carry on binding than have a mastectomy. But it shouldn't automatically be concluded that "oh, they must enjoy having breasts".

thisismytruth girl // Posted 08 August 2010 at 23:21

Didn't I post a reply to this

>It doesn't have to make sense to you to be valid.

Something to the effect of 'but it has to be *able* to make sense'.

Also I am sure that some way back up the thread I said something about it having nothing to do with people who *can't* have surgery for whatever reason, they have my sympathy. It's people who say they don't *want* surgery, people who wouldn't change their bodies even if a magic wand existed. Well, fine, but can a person (I know several) who says, 'I like having a penis and I intend to keep it' really say unequivocally that they are a woman?

This is what I mean by not being able to make sense. Such people take female hormones and male blockers to feminise, but don't want surgery to remove the source of male hormones, so that they can still have sex (which is not actually necessary as I well know being fully sexually functional after surgery) and then they complain about body and facial hair and male pattern baldness.

It just seems to me that someone like this is a battleground of conflicting feelings and beliefs. Okay, so if that is how the want to live their life, again, that is their choice, but surely they are in some different category and not like some comparatively uncomplicated transsexual person who just wants to be congruent.

People can live how they like. It's how they are describing themselves that I do not understand. They seem to want to claim multiple status which is self contradictory.

And then this comes back on transsexual people who are different.

All I say is, own what you want to be, don't claim to be something that you are not really.

Zanni // Posted 23 August 2010 at 06:28

There's a lot of upsetting stuff written here and frankly I don't wish to read comments to the end. (FTM here)

Apparently, the OP feels like they can define what a TS is and tell other people how to identify and live their lives. Don't tell others how to live their life unless you want them to tell you how to live yours.

Guess what? All kinds of people can identify as women or men, and NO, the wish to be butchered by a surgeon is NOT a prerequisite. Also, avoidance of hormones to prevent serious health complications they often entail can NOT prevent one from identifying they way they want and shall not hinder acceptance.

Thanks god people like the OP don't run the Gender Clinic that I use; and, luckily, opinions like theirs have no place among American medical community anymore. The OP's opinions sound outdated, like something from the 70s-80s of the 20th century.

I like the wording of the consent form that I signed before receiving hormone prescription: it said that one's Gender and Sex are ONLY determined by them and not by any use of hormones or surgical treatments, or opinions of others. I'm glad the clinic is run by people who's got head on their shoulders.

The OP seems to perpetuate the oooold patriarchal view that it's the "pee-pee" what defines if you're a man or woman. Well not. Some people don't want to risk liver damage, heart disease, cancer, numerous other complications from hormones and therefore chose not to use hormones. Some people's body don't tolerate hormones well. Some people cherish their physical activities such as dance or athletic pursuits and, in general, their freedom to move around and do not wish to receive surgery and run the risk of complications, such as, for ex. having your urine leak out all the time or have un-healing wounds inside or paralyzed gut, or chronic pain from internal scarring or nerve damage and impaired mobility. Some people may have medical conditions that make any surgery extra risky. Some people may be afraid of surgery and/or pain. Some people just like to be natural, as they prefer natural lifestyle in general.

I'd rather accept someone as a girl when I see a kind and accepting soul, whatever they got in their pants, than someone who's aggressively pushing on others how they should live and identify.

[MOD: edited for tone.]


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