OT: Gender Identity

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OT: Gender Identity

Postby FlyingFish » Tue May 01, 2012 12:16 pm

Inspired by the success of the "Ablest" thread, I'd like to talk about some confusion of my own and ask for input. Namely, regarding the distinction between physical sex and gender identity. I've never felt it, and I don't feel I understand it, despite my best efforts.

In the past, yes, I could see it, because we thought of social roles as male or female. Do you want to work in construction, business, politics? be the family breadwinner? be the pursuer in romance? lead with strength and boldness? Better be male. Or do you want to be a nurse or a teacher? care for your kids personally? be the pursued? follow, support, and nurture? How feminine. But this is no longer the case; they're understood to be an aspect of personality and nothing more. (Well, some will still argue for traditional roles, but those who still say "that's a man's job" or "that's women's work" aren't going to accept "but I've always felt that inside I'm actually..." anyway.) In many places we aren't even limited in romance or intimacy anymore; we can seduce, woo, marry, and live a long happy life with someone regardless of their own sex or gender as compared to ours. In short, these desires and roles do not, or at least should not, define gender.

So, with those off the table, I don't understand what's left to make a person male or female other than the physical parts and chromosomes they were born with. Do I think of myself as male? Well, yes, by default; I look like one and have all the parts, so therefore... But I've never felt particularly attached to either the appearance or the parts in an emotional sense, while at the same time I've never desired to go through the trouble of replacing or hiding them. They're just there. And I don't picture my "maleness" extending beyond them.

So I was hoping someone here, especially the transgendered and transexual forumites, could explain: what do you feel makes you male or female besides (or despite) the physical?

(Post-script: I realize that some people are physically somewhere between male and female, and I recognize that, for them, both sex and gender identity will necessarily be a lot more complicated. My confusion lies with those who are clearly physically one but mentally the other.)

(Post-post-script: A possibility I've started to consider is that my personal gender-identification is either nonexistent or mixed, the gender equivalent of asexuality or bisexuality, and that the majority of people identify with one or the other in a way that just doesn't come naturally to me. If so, that would explain a lot about my own feelings and lack of understanding on the matter. Thoughts?)
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Re: OT: Gender Identity

Postby AmberBeth84 » Tue May 01, 2012 1:10 pm

For me, it was innate sense of wrongness that really made me aware that my gender identity and physical sex didn't match up. The way I've always heard it explained is that gender is what's between your ears and sex is what's between your legs. It's very difficult to explain how that difference exists to someone who hasn't experienced it themselves. It's just that there was something in my head screaming at me that I was a woman. Every dream I had at night and most of my day dreams had me as female. The people in my life I wanted to emulate were all women. The fictional characters I most identified with were women. And as much as I tried to be masculine or embody certain characteristics of maleness, I never fully understood what I was doing. Being in male spaces was a little like listening to music sung in a different language. I could follow the rhythm and the tune, but the lyrics completely eluded me. And to be honest, I didn't respond well to this feeling of wrongness. Every person I knew thought I was a huge dick, even my good friends thought I was kinda a jerk. The only person who I was nice around was my wife, because around her I let down those barriers and let my true self show through.

I have no idea if that sheds any light on what you're asking, but I still don't fully understand why I feel female despite having a Y chromosome. I've heard a lot of theories about why trans people are trans, but there doesn't seem to be any evidence to support any of them. I've mostly given up trying to understand why I'm a woman and just accept that I am.
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Re: OT: Gender Identity

Postby Artemisia » Tue May 01, 2012 1:44 pm

I don't know if this will make any sense, but until I was 24, I honestly managed to decouple a lot of how I saw the world and felt like I really was female growing up- just very deformed. It wasn't until I was 24 that it was driven home to me that I was physically male. I mean, growing up, I hated having male genitals, but I was so isolated from the world that I never really understood that I was male. I just thought I was a really deformed girl.

I've had more problems coming to terms with being labeled transsexual or transgender than I have with being female or lesbian. In fact, I always knew myself to be lesbian and female.

I've always had a huge problem dealing with the physicality of being born with male genitals, and that is really at the center of who I am. I really have so much trouble understanding male behaviors and male psychology.
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Re: OT: Gender Identity

Postby Freemage » Tue May 01, 2012 1:45 pm

Okay, cissexual male here, and not an expert--but I have done a fair bit of reading (especially the oft-cited Sincerely, Natalie Reed), and I've got at least some idea about the issues you're talking about.

Hell, I'm just gonna link to some articles of hers that talk about or around the issue you're referring to. Start with #s 5&6 on this list, which specifically address the notion of gender identity vs gender expression.


Some more good reads.
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Re: OT: Gender Identity

Postby Captain LeBubbles » Tue May 01, 2012 3:48 pm

FlyingFish wrote:So, with those off the table, I don't understand what's left to make a person male or female other than the physical parts and chromosomes they were born with. Do I think of myself as male? Well, yes, by default; I look like one and have all the parts, so therefore... But I've never felt particularly attached to either the appearance or the parts in an emotional sense, while at the same time I've never desired to go through the trouble of replacing or hiding them. They're just there. And I don't picture my "maleness" extending beyond them.


Curiously, I've been grappling with the same concept lately myself- I identify as female because that's how I was born, but have nothing that makes me feel specifically one or the other.I don't have any particular desire to change that (though I'd quite like to have my reproductive organs removed, thanks) but if I got hit with a magical sex-changing ray right now I wouldn't care (beyond yaaay I can take off my shirt in public now~) or make any effort to reverse it. I don't even feel genderfluid, as I've heard some people describe themselves, because while there are times that I feel more masculine and times that I feel more feminine, I don't feel like either of those is actually connected to gender.

So I guess basically I've been wondering the same thing myself.
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Re: OT: Gender Identity

Postby Freemage » Tue May 01, 2012 4:46 pm

Heh. I'm just gonna straight-up quote Ms. Reed here, with a bit of bolding for emphasis:

Gender identity is an internal sense of self and what one fundamentally is. It’s the sense of being a man or a woman (or both, or neither, or in-between, or something else). It is divorced from concepts of what a man or woman is or isn’t supposed to be like, and appears to be very much innate and unchanging. It also appears to be related to the neurological “body map” and relationship to one’s body- feelings of either comfort or alienation.

Gender expression is the degree to which one’s personality, interests and manner of self-expression is culturally regarded as “masculine” or “feminine” (or “androgynous”). This is heavily culturally and socially mediated. What is regarded as feminine in one culture may be regarded as masculine in another. There seem to be some gendered traits that are in varying degrees innate to an individual but gender expression is an aggregation of many, many, many such traits which can occur in an immense variety of combinations.


Both of you seem to fall into the both/neither/other placement, at least as far as your identity is concerned.
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Re: OT: Gender Identity

Postby Captain LeBubbles » Tue May 01, 2012 4:56 pm

Oooh, nifty~

One of the things I've wondered about it, while I was wondering, is if it's at all connected to my asexuality- I don't think one is the cause of the other, but I wonder if maybe both of them stem from the same core aspect of my personality. And my being mostly aromantic, for that matter (I say mostly because I do have attraction, and to both genders, but it's fairly rare and never strong enough that I feel like acting on it- but that's a matter for a different thread).

These are things I wonder about.
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Re: OT: Gender Identity

Postby FlyingFish » Tue May 01, 2012 6:05 pm

Captain LeBubbles wrote:One of the things I've wondered about it, while I was wondering, is if it's at all connected to my asexuality- I don't think one is the cause of the other, but I wonder if maybe both of them stem from the same core aspect of my personality. And my being mostly aromantic, for that matter (I say mostly because I do have attraction, and to both genders, but it's fairly rare and never strong enough that I feel like acting on it- but that's a matter for a different thread).

While possible in your case, it's not in mine; I'm definitely both sexual and romantic. However, otherwise we seem to be on the same page.
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Re: OT: Gender Identity

Postby Captain LeBubbles » Tue May 01, 2012 6:10 pm

FlyingFish wrote:
Captain LeBubbles wrote:One of the things I've wondered about it, while I was wondering, is if it's at all connected to my asexuality- I don't think one is the cause of the other, but I wonder if maybe both of them stem from the same core aspect of my personality. And my being mostly aromantic, for that matter (I say mostly because I do have attraction, and to both genders, but it's fairly rare and never strong enough that I feel like acting on it- but that's a matter for a different thread).

While possible in your case, it's not in mine; I'm definitely both sexual and romantic. However, otherwise we seem to be on the same page.


That's why I said I don't think one causes the other. I just think it's a bit too contrived to think there's no connection whatever between being asexual, aromantic, and... agendered (? That's what I'm gonna call it, I don't care if there's already a word for it. I like the alliteration, and alliteration is the most important thing to consider with gender identity, you know) in the same person, so I suspect they come from the same root.
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Re: OT: Gender Identity

Postby Artemisia » Tue May 01, 2012 7:01 pm

Oddly enough, I just finished The Left Hand Of Darkness which is about a First Contact mission between bi-sexed humans (like us) and a species of humanoids who are physically and genderly neutral throughout most of their time except when there is an imperative to mate and then they can become either male or female sexually, but retain that almost neutral gender.
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Re: OT: Gender Identity

Postby strangled » Tue May 01, 2012 8:07 pm

I enjoy being a lady & was assigned that gender when I was born. However, some days I like to be perceived as a boy, so I dress in minimal drag (fake beard, breast binding, wearing stereotypically male clothes). I would say I'm femme, but there are parts of me that are decidedly unfeminine, like I choose not to shave my armpits. But, yeah, all of that aside, most of the time I don't feel very restricted by the gender binary, but other times I really want a penis. Dunno what that makes me.
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Re: OT: Gender Identity

Postby NobodySpecial » Tue May 01, 2012 8:59 pm

I don't think most people think about their gender beyond 'I have a penis, I'm male' or 'I have a vagina, I'm female', and then they put themselves in the appropriate category.
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Re: OT: Gender Identity

Postby Valerie » Tue May 01, 2012 10:59 pm

Cisgendered lady, here, but I'll throw in my two cents about it.

It's always been hard for me to really understand, too. In fact, the "T" is what made me decide to make that QUILTBAG thread, because I kept finding, from the forumites here, that there were all these details I didn't know about before. Like the fact that some trans people don't want surgery, for instance. Being pretty ignorant of these things, I assumed that was the end goal until fairly recently. I don't have a problem with trans people, I just feel like I don't completely understand.

And, you know, I probably never will. My physical sex and my mental gender match up. I am a woman. I love being a woman. (I hate some of the baggage being a woman carries, but that's a different topic.) I like to dress up sometimes, and I like cute things, and all kinds of other typically "female" things-- but, beyond that, I simply am a woman. I'm a "she" and a "her." It's not because of how I look or how I act, but because of how I feel. And I can only assume that's how it is for trans people. They don't have to look a certain way or act a certain way, they just feel a certain way, and that's what makes them male/female/neither/both.

The closest I can get to understanding the anguish that comes with it is typical "body image" stuff-- "My nose is too big," or "I have too many freckles." And I know it's got to be much more difficult than that, but it comes down to being a little similar. The bottom line is that something physical isn't matching up to your mental self, and it bothers you. It might bother you a little or it might bother you a lot. But that's the best I can do to put myself in that position.

As for gender roles... Trans people don't necessarily stick to their gender roles. Women can be "masculine" while still being women, and the other way holds true for men. So I don't see why a trans person would be any different. But this is a point that's much harder to explain to more "traditional" people, especially when so many of them can't even keep "trans" and "gay" separate.

BUT ANYWAY. Here is Val's basic line of thinking on it.

Girls can do anything boys can do.
Girls can wear pants.
Boys can wear dresses, because girls can wear pants.

It goes much, much, much further than that, I realize, but it's enough to lead to "why CAN'T he wear makeup" and "why SHOULDN'T she play sports," which leads further to "why CAN'T he call himself a woman" and the other way. Hell, I don't care if you identify as a unicorn, and I mean that. Just be happy and don't hurt anyone. I'll do my best to understand, and, even when I can't understand, I will still do my best to be polite and accepting. Just because I don't understand doesn't mean it's wrong.

Life is hard enough without us being jerks to each other over these things. So many people, even ones born with the correct body, have trouble accepting themselves and being happy. And accepting yourself and being happy should be easy. And I refuse to make it any harder for other people than it needs to be. Just don't hurt anyone and be happy.
Last edited by Valerie on Tue May 01, 2012 11:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: OT: Gender Identity

Postby Captain LeBubbles » Tue May 01, 2012 11:02 pm

Valerie wrote:Hell, I don't care if you identify as a unicorn, and I mean that.


I'm a Pegasus! :D *points*
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Re: OT: Gender Identity

Postby Artemisia » Tue May 01, 2012 11:04 pm

And I'm a succubus :D

And why do I feel like breaking out in "Sweet Transvestite"?
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