So, what is gender? And is it transphobic to question the existence of gender in the first place?
Let’s start by clarifying what we’re talking about. On this channel, when I’m talking about gender, I’m referring to this:
The sum total of how a person feels about and meshes with the sex of their body.
The sexes expressed in humans.
The culture that has emerged from sexes and sex differences in humans.
Gender identity is condensation of those things into a self-assessed concept of oneself,
A gender label or gender identity label is a summary of that which someone uses to communicate their experiences, sense of self, and persistent patterns of feelings.
That all seems pretty reasonable to me, but I can’t wait for your thousand word essay in the comments arguing that it’s somehow a poisonous fiction to point out that some people have vaginas and most but not all of those people like having vaginas.
That’s a relatively simplified overview of what we’re talking about here on this channel when we talk about Gender, but I think it’s a workable definition. I think that, from that starting point, we can expand to talk about what we really want to talk about.
I also feel that it is pretty hard to deny that any of these parts are real. People who have penises often feel very strongly about their possession of their own penises, usually really liking that they have penises. Similarly, most people who have vaginas feel very strongly about their possession of a vagina, usually really liking that they have vaginas except for a few specific days each month. Do we need to cite a source for that? Is anyone going to contest that?
So, I’m going to proceed as if we all acknowledge that it’s perfectly human, reasonable, and acknowledged as fact that our bodies are important to us. That nobody picked out what sex they were born as, and sometimes, people feel that the sex they are born as isn’t the one they would pick out for themselves if given the choice.
I mean, these are all perfectly reasonable observations about people. And accepting these very basic, simple, and reasonable premises should mean that you acknowledge that trans people are real and that their feelings and their transness are valid. And when I say valid, I mean that they are real, and meaningful, and not a delusion.
This seems pretty open and shut. I don’t get why- *abrupt cut-off*
*TV twitch transition to a clip of a slightly younger CritFacts, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, in high school*
“Welcome to Senior year High School Social Studies. This week, we’re focusing on teaching about how to debate controversial issues civilly and amicably. CritFacts, you’ll be talking with Traditional Familyist about gay marriage.”
CritFacts: “Obviously, we should allow any consenting adults to get married, because it’s a legal practice to make it easier for people to share their lives materially. And often people will want to have that same stability with people who happen to have-”
TF: “Then maybe they just shouldn’t have chosen to be gay.”
CF: “Excuse you? What? Hi, I’m gay, and I didn’t choose to be gay,”
TF: “Yes, you did. At some point, you decided that you preferred members of your own sex.”
CF: “What are you talking about?”
TF: “Do you call yourself gay.”
TF: “Then you chose to call yourself gay.”
CF: “Because I *AM* gay, it’s a part of me that I didn’t choose to have or not, it’s just there.”
TF: “Then don’t act on it, that’s a choice.”
CF: “You’re telling me that I should go without a relationship to someone I’m attracted to… why?”
TF: “Because it’s unnatural.”
CF: “How the fuck are my own feelings unnatural?”
TF: “You chose to have them.”
CF: “No, I didn’t! And even if I could, why would I? Why would I choose to feel a way that will make society target me and make me have to deal with asinine bullshit from people like you? Wouldn’t everyone choose ts o take the path of least resistance?”
TF: “Maybe some people choose to like the same sex out of-”
CF: “In what other area of anyone’s life to they *choose* what they like? I didn’t choose to like Nightwish or Bonking Benjamin, I just do. That’s the music that makes the happy brain chemicals bounce between my synapses, so I listen to that. So why would that dynamic be any different in what people like in bed?”
TF: “Look, I just think that you chose this lifestyle.”
CF: “WHAT LIFESTYLE? I haven’t said ANYTHING about what I DO, only about what I FEEL, and it’s those feelings that are what make me gay. And I didn’t choose to have those feelings, ergo, I did not choose to be gay,”
TF: “Do you think you were *born* gay?”
CF: “I don’t think that’s how that works, I don’t think I was ‘gay’ until I started to be attracted to people, and I wasn’t attracted to people that way until puberty.”
TF: “So if you weren’t gay at birth, then you must have chosen to become gay-”
CF: “NO! There was never any conscious decision for me to decide who I did or didn’t like. Did you decide who you do and don’t like?”
TF: “What do you mean?”
CF: “Think of someone you find attractive. Anyone.”
CF: “Did you choose to find them attractive.”
TF: “No, I just do.”
CF: “So why do you think I’m choosing who I find attractive?”
TF: “Because you chose to be gay.”
Teacher: “Critfacts! CIVIL!”
CF: “This person is accusing me and every gay person on the planet of LYING and you’re asking ME to chill?”
TF: “Because he’s trying to take away my religious right for Christians to define Christian marriage!”
CF: “You have every right to define your own marriage, what I’m asking is for the right for me to define my own!”
TF: “You have every right to get an opposite-sex marriage just like everyone else-”
CF: “THAT’S NOT-”
*abrupt, jarring transition to CritFacts, looking unsettled*
As I was saying,
It seems pretty self-evident that people have feelings about their own bodies. And that different aspects of our bodies fit us more or less to different degrees.
I remember at the end of my high school days, a very specific kind of thing frequently went viral online… and it was parents, families, and entire high schools shaving their heads to show support for a cancer patient who, as a side effect of their lifesaving or life extending treatment, lost their hair.
But…why did anyone care? Why did the parents or siblings or classmates find that an occasion to buzz their heads? The answer is pretty obvious - such a drastic change to that person’s appearance was pretty impactful to how they felt about themselves. Most people like having hair on their heads. And America’s cultural norms dictate hair being better than no hair, at least on your head.
It’s interesting, isn’t it? When men start having male pattern baldness, we empathize with their distress at their body changing in a way that they don’t feel fits who they are, and how they see themselves. We don’t tell them they’re putting poison on their scalps when they get maximum strength rogaine off of the shelves, we take it as a given that it’s their body, their choice, and they’re making a choice on the perceived risks measured reasonably accurately and weighed against how distressed they are at losing their hair. And though, on some level, I think we all know that virtually all of the hair restoration treatments on the market are either impractical, ineffective, or both, we don’t tell people seeking them that they’re delusionally believing in something impossible, that they’re chasing rainbows or that they’ll grow out of wanting to have hair.
And even among those who aren’t losing their hair, we see people with curly hair straightening their hair, and we see people with straight hair curling and rolling their own. But, strangely, I’ve yet to see anyone tell someone with their hair in a flat iron that they’re “denying biology” or that “it’ll never grow out straight, you’ve been sold a lie.”
So why is it that whenever a trans person talks about dysphoria or how they really wish they could alter their sexual characteristics, they’re met with so much skepticism and hostility?
Why is it reacted to as if it's such an unnatural desire to have? I mean, most *cisgender* people I know have entertained the fantasy of becoming the sex complimenting theirs. But suddenly
Trans Friend: “Sometimes I feel like I was born in the wrong body.”
TradFam: “See? They’re trying to say that they literally believe that their dysphoria was caused by some sort of body-snatching-”
Trans Friend: “No, I don’t. That’s not what I said.”
Teacher: “They said that’s what you said.”
Trans Friend: “But that’s not what I said, and I’m clarifying. I said, very clearly, that’s what it can FEEL like. It’s complicated, and I’m just trying to put into words something that’s extremely hard to do that with.”
Teacher: “They said that you said-”
Trans Friend: “Why are you more willing to listen to THEM misrepresenting my words than you are me clarifying my own words?!”
“And the culture that has emerged from sex and sex differences.”
This is the part that is a little bit harder to articulate, but bear with me. And, perhaps ‘culture’ isn’t even the right word here. Now that I examine it…it feels…incomplete.
Most cultures have a distinct, but ultimately arbitrary idea of masculine and feminine. What is masculine and what is feminine varies from place to place and from time to time, but it seems pretty common for there to be a set of value-assigned traits, certain aesthetics, expressions, and so on that are considered distinctly “male” and distinctly “female” for that culture. And often third genders, things between or outside of those two that get recognized and celebrated by the culture at large.
Sometimes these come in the form of signifiers. Clothes that are culturally coded as “men’s clothes” or “women’s clothes” - according to bathroom signage, capes and onesies. Sometimes it’s demeanor or their genuine affectation, whether someone’s posture, tone, overall presentation and expression is “masculine” or “feminine” or something else entirely. As the French would call it, a certain, you know, vibe or something. The French don’t have a phrase for “je ne sais quoi”
Now, this is where it gets complicated. Because masculinity and femininity both can be perfectly healthy and great. But they can also be unhealthy when they motivate unhealthy behaviors or there’s an external expectation placed on someone, some pressure by society to be or act a certain way.
And if you’re being descriptive - it’s perfectly reasonable to note that males and men are more likely to exhibit masculinity and to exhibit it more pronouncedly, and females and women more likely to exhibit femininity and to exhibit it more pronouncedly.
But… why? I struggle to think of any parallel to other ways in which we’re bio-diverse in a way that exhibits such a pronounced correlation to our personalities or tastes. There isn’t a certain music that appeals to blood types. I don’t see a “short people’s interests” aisle in the toy section.
Well, except maybe being g-*flicker*
But as I said earlier, these are tendencies. And there’s lots of overlap and crossover between masculinity and femininity, men and women. There are feminine men, masculine women, people who are androgynous in their presentation and nature. So, we could say that male and female are physical sex, and that masculinity and femininity are gender, the software to the hardware.
But there’s nothing male-specific about masculinity, nothing male-exclusive. Nothing female-specific about femininity, nothing female-exclusive.
And that’s all fine. But what is a man, and what is a woman? What makes someone decide that ‘woman’ is the right word for who they are, or ‘man’ or ‘nonbinary’? If not their sex, and not their presentation… well, sex and presentation are linked, but what are they linked *by*? It’s something… but I can’t put my finger on it. It’s… if we visualize someone’s body as a projector, and the image on a screen as their gender *expression*, then gender itself, the thing that’s being expressed, is the… the lens? The thing that processes the images to be projected? Kind of? And that’s something that other people can’t see, but that we’re trying to describe when we-
TradFam: “But how would I know if I have a gender? I just have a sex. What does a gender feel like?”
Well, it feels different for everyone. Just like love. If I asked you to prove what love was, prove that your love was genuine… how could you even begin to approach that? Everyone feels love differently, but there’s a common understanding of what we mean when we say love.
But all you have to do is be selectively skeptical - Love doesn’t need to be examined, but gender does. We can’t prove love, but we need to prove, empirically, what gender is, how to measure it, or else is it really there?
And that’s where we get the gender critical talking point that gender is fake, and that while patriarchy demands the appropriate expression for the body, they think trans people and allies are demanding the right body for the expression.
And therefore, it’s perfectly reasonable to assert that maleness is man-ness, femaleness is woman-ness. And to call anyone delusional if they don’t agree to this framework. If they demand that the inner mechanism of the projector, not the chassis of the projector, is what determines if they’re a man or a woman. They’ll ask to see the inside, for you to prove your own thoughts and feelings. Which, obviously, is impossible to do, because they’re inside your head. Just like your sexual orientation, or whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, and the rest of your personality-
GC: “No such thing as gender, just personality.”
The assumption is that gender can’t be real because it’s a social construct. We had ideas about what a man and a woman are supposed to be, and expectations purely foisted artificially upon us by the patriarchy.
GC: “There are no pink and blue brains, it’s impossible to be a pink brain in a blue body or vice versa. There is only biological sex, no such thing as ‘gender’.”
Documentary clip of David Reimer, talking about how he never wanted to live as a girl:
You see, when a cis woman feels emotionally, psychologically, sometimes even spiritually, like a woman, in touch with her femininity… wait, that’s fine.
But when a trans man feels emotionally, psychologically, and sometimes even spiritually, like a man, or a trans woman feels emotionally, psychologically, or spiritually, like a woman,
“Woman isn’t a feeling.”
“Sex, not gender.”
“Those are just stereotypes”
They demand you tell them, “What is gender? How would I know if I had one? What does womanhood feel like? What makes someone a woman, if not her biology?”
*TV Flicker to 2008*
TF: “How do you know you’re gay?”
CF: “I just have feelings for people of my own gender.”
TF: “Yeah, and how would I know if I had those feelings?”
CF: “What? How would you know if you had feelings for someone?”
TF: “If I had gay feelings.”
CF: “You just… know. You want to be with them-”
TF: “I want to be hanging out with my friend, am I gay for them?”
CF: “The feelings that people are showing when you see prince and princess in Disney movies. The kind that we all take for granted people are feeling when it’s a straight couple.”
TF: “Because there’s no such thing as sexual orientation. Just biology. Biological urges to make babies. Male and female.”
CF: “But how do you explain all of the things straight people like to do that don’t make babies? Why do people like to kiss or hold hands? Why do straight people have protected sex if it’s-”
TF: “No sexual orientation. Only binary biological sex.”
*Glitch, flash to CritFacts, who looks slightly disoriented.*
As I was saying… I think... Why is it that whenever a cisgender woman - sorry, “natal female” feels that special feeling for wearing a nice dress, for exploring femininity, it’s healthy and feminist, but whenever a trans woman has that same joy, it’s some how “stereotypes” or “a man’s idea of womanhood”