What even is Trans?
What Even is Trans?
Hewwo everyone and welcome to this channel.
Just your friendly neighborhood fox enby here. And my goal with this channel is to counteract transphobia.
And to help establish what transphobia is so that I can talk about it more clearly, it might be helpful if I provided a pretty good explanation of what it means to be trans. And I’ll try to make it entertaining. Look, I brought hand puppets! :D :D
The two definitions of Trans that I find most useful most of the time are:
Having a body with a sex that you would not choose for yourself if you could choose your sexual anatomy.
Having a gender identity different from the one that would be assumed for you according to your birth sex
The assumed gender identities, for the sexes, are “Boy” or “man” for male, “Girl” or “woman” for female.
Cisgender, meanwhile, just means that the gender identity you have and the sex of your body just happen to match up.
If you are a man and your sex at birth is male, then you are cisgender,
If you are a woman and your sex at birth is female, then you are cisgender,
And a trans person is someone who is neither of the above.
To understand what trans is, you have to understand what sex is and what sex isn’t, what gender is and what gender isn’t, and how these things interact.
One of the reasons that transphobia is so prevalent is that so many of the experiences of trans people are hard to convey and communicate. When trans people find, or have to invent, words and phrases to express their experiences, it’s often easy to twist or misrepresent those words. In order to really convey these things to people who don’t share those experiences, you’re going to need the ability to empathize and understand abstract concepts…
Which is going to be really hard to demonstrate with hand puppets….
Part 1 - Ess Ee Crossed Hockeysticks
Sex is one of those things that seems simple, but is actually a bit more complicated than it looks.
Most of us intuitively know the difference between male and female, or at least think we do. A common go-to is that the male has a PEPSI and the female has a VEGETABLE. And then, we can tell which humans are male and which ones are female by looking at them. Take these two pictures…
Except… we didn’t see either of their PEPSI or VEGETABLEs. We see faces. We see body structure, and we intuitively associate those with PEPSI and VEGETABLE because of correlations.
In humans, sexual dimorphism refers to the process by which the human body naturally differentiates to form sexes and give our bodies the capacity to reproduce, either as an injector or a carrier for DNA or babies, respectively. The starting point for sexual differentiation is chromosomes; usually a child will inherit one X chromosome from the egg and either an X or Y chromosome from the sperm that fertilizes that egg. From there, the fertilized egg will typically gestate into a baby that gets shot out cannon-style and sprouts into a human adult over 18 to 28 years. If its sex chromosomes were XX, it will typically develop into a human that has a uterus, a VEGETABLE, and has egg gametes. If the sex chromosomes were XY, it will typically develop into a human that has a PEPSI and produces sperm gametes in the TOSTITO’S.
Note the use of the word TYPICALLY.
Because when you have 7 billion real bodies at any one time, there are lots of exceptions to what is typical. But that’s a topic for a whole other video. Or a whole series of videos. A full college class, maybe, or 3 books and 4 movies. We’ll talk about that later, but for now, it’s enough to know that there are lots of variations to these trends. Some people with XX chromosomes have PEPSI, some people with XY chromosomes have VEGETABLEs, and some people develop ambiguous GELATINEs and some people have other combinations of chromosomes, such as XXY, YY, XXX, XYY, and so on. I’m linking a video in the dooblydoo if you’re interested in learning more about that specific branch of variations in sexual expression of human bodies.
For now, it’s enough to understand that sex is a scatterplot of anatomical features. Most commonly, XX chromosomes correlate to having a uterus, VEGETABLE, ovaries, having egg gametes, and a more feminine body type overall. XY most commonly correlates to PEPSI, TOSTITO’s produces sperm cells, and has a masculine body type.
Now, to anyone who says trans people or their allies “deny biology”, I did all of the acknowledging of sex, see. I did my homework, I DID MY F-
*image of critfacts on screen vibrates progressively harder until they are abruptly cut off mid-swear*
I bring this up because transphobes almost always suggest that trans people or their allies don’t understand “basic biology”, that they’re denying biology. But in reality, trans people often are more familiar with the details of sexual differentiation in humans because being trans means you have a compelling reason to do research on the subject. Hold onto that thought for a moment.
So, let’s review:
The two definitions of Trans that I find most useful most of the time are:
having a gender identity different from the one that would be assumed for you according to your birth sex: “Boy” or “man” for male, “Girl” or “woman” for female.
Having a body with a sex that you would not choose for yourself if you could choose your sexual anatomy
Part 2: Gender
What even is gender?
Is it real? Can we measure it? How do we prove it? Can I eat it? If you put two opposite genders in a room, do they gravitate towards each other and turn into energy?
Everyone asks *who* is gender, but nobody ever asks *how* is gender?
Look, there are whole books dedicated to the concept of gender, what it is, how it works, the origin of it, and to whom it answers. I’m not going to be able to give a comprehensive definition of gender and everything about it, mostly because that would take several entire textbooks to do. I’m going to offer a definition that is pretty simplified, but it’s enough to start this discussion:
Gender includes the relationship of an individual to the sex of their body, to their sexual characteristics, to the culture that has emerged from sex.
That might sound simple enough, but it’s actually pretty complex. And gender critical types tend to focus on the last part, the relationship to culture… and to really misunderstand what that relationship is.
Part 2, Subpart 1: Gender and Sex
This is the part that transphobes tend to ignore, that gender and sex are, in fact, related. A metaphor that I use often is that sexuality and reproduction are similarly related. You could argue that sexuality evolved as a way to encourage us to reproduce and form cohesive social groups, but because we are conscious beings with complex feelings and wants, our sexuality isn’t limited to what makes babies. Hell, humans often make babies *on accident* trying to live the other parts of our sexuality. Wear condoms, peeps.
But at the same time, gay sex is still sex. Two PEPSIs [REDACTED] is still an expression of sexuality, even though there’s no chance of it making a baby. Hell, that applies to any kind of oral sex, regardless of who is involved.
Similarly, sex and gender are intertwined. The first half of the definition I proposed is the relationship of an individual with the sex of their own body.
If you have a PEPSI, and you like the fact that you have a PEPSI, then that is part of your gender. If you have a VEGETABLE and like having a VEGETABLE, that is part of your gender.
And this is the part that transphobes seem to forget, or ignore. Or to completely misunderstand, as I’ll explain later
When they’re saying “OH, YOU THINK HAVING A GENDER IDENTITY CHANGES YOUR ANATOMY?” when, no, we know damn well that it does not, otherwise trans people wouldn’t be trans, they would just magically adjust their body to be more in line with their gender identity, it would be completely innocuous and we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.
In fact, many, but not all, trans people deal with what is called Gender Dysphoria, which is the psychological distress of having a body that is in conflict with the kinds of bodies you would be comfortable having.
Part 2 Subpart 2: Gender and Culture
The other parts of gender that are important are cultural parts and psychological parts.
The anthropological definition of gender is how cultures and individuals within a culture express their relationship to their sex. In almost every culture, humanity has developed different cultural identities for males and females - men and women, respectively. Many non european cultures also had recognition of nonbinary identities. These cultures acknowledge and even celebrate variation from what is typical, for example, Muxe in Central America - a feminine male identity. Hijra, a category in India that is basically an umbrella for trans, gender non-conforming, or intersex.
And in and of themselves, the existence of these categories is not good or bad. They just are. What’s bad is prescribing one or another to someone, or that you have to even pick one in the first place.
Part 3: Loose Coupling
Which is to say, most people born with a PEPSI will identify as men, and men are more likely than women to be masculine, and people with a VEGETABLE are more likely to identify as women and more likely than men to be feminine.
And therefore, we see a correlation between
PEPSI -> Man -> Masculine
VEGETABLe -> Woman -> Feminine
Now, this is fine DESCRIPTIVELY. It’s fine to observe these patterns. But what’s not okay is to be PRESCRIPTIVE, meaning to tell people that everyone should always follow these patterns.
It’s fine, for example, for someone who happens to have a PEPSI to vary from these patterns, perhaps by acting feminine, perhaps by being a woman instead of a man, or both.
Transphobes today come in two main varieties, the first asserts that those with Male sex characteristics *should* be men, and men are masculine, therefore any male who isn’t a manly man is therefore a failure, and similarly, those with female sex characteristics should be women and women should be feminine. See, Biblical Gender Roles. Link in the dooblydoo for a hilarious video dunking on that,
And the other variety asserts that anyone with male sex characteristics *should* be “men”, but that trans people are fundamentally working backwards and trying to force feminine people to be women and trying to “make” them female… and that people with female sex characteristics *should* be women, and trans people are trying to force masculine people to call themselves men and “make” them male. Which is…. A special kind of infuriating.
Trans inclusive advocacy is to give everyone the freedom to decide for themselves who they are and what terms do and do not fit them or feel right for them. A feminine man is still a man, a masculine woman is still a woman. And that applies regardless of what parts anyone was born with.
Male and female are groupings of body types at best. And Man and Woman are….
Part 4: Identities
Oh look, this is actually super complicated and in order to explain what it means to be trans, a man, a woman, anything a person can be, we have to explain what it means to be something.
What does it even mean to be human, to be a person? Or, in my case, a talking fox cartoon on the internet
I mean, let’s start with the only thing in the universe that we cannot doubt,
“I think, therefore, I am.”
And from there, we can introspect and extraspect. We can look inward, and look outward. We can look at ourselves and ask who we are, and look outside of ourselves to the reality that we inhabit.
Identity is our enduring sense of self, our self-assessments, and self-determination. And often, it involves things that are very hard to quantify and things that only the person describing themselves could truly know, such as their sexual orientation, what communities they’re a part of, and so much more. When someone says, “I identify as, ____” it should be treated as them saying, “Hey, so I’ve self assessed, and this is an important part of myself - I am ______”
“I identify as gay”
“I identify as a man.”
“I identify as trans.”
“I identify as a gamer and a nerd”
This is different from someone saying “I identify as an attack helicopter” because how could you “self assess” your personality to be a physical object? I mean, if you use that joke, odds are you’re high-maintenance, noisy, and take up valuable airspace, but besides that, what are you trying to say about yourself?
Gender identity is the summary of somebody's experience of their own gender in the same way that sexual orientation Identity, or sexual orientation labels, are the descriptor and summary of somebody's experience of their own sexual orientation. so when somebody calls themselves a woman, a tomboy, a trans woman, they are all describing different experiences, all of which fall under the umbrella of woman. None of those identities are making any claims as to what it means to be a woman, only expressing that the person describing themselves feels that being a woman is an important part of who they are. And that, to me, seems like a pretty reasonable self description. because at the end of the day, everybody should get to decide for themselves what it means to be a man or a woman and whether or not those descriptions fit who they are.
And an important thing to note is that every human being has a gender identity, whether you acknowledge it or not. Even agender is a gender identity - if you completely reject cultural ideas of what a man is or what a woman is apply to you - that’s still a self-assessment of how you feel your sex informs who you are and your identity, and a completely reasonable one at that. This is just like how everyone has a sexual orientation - even asexual is a sexual orientation - and not just gay people having sexual orientation. Just because the way you are is so common as to be assumed by most people doesn’t mean that it’s not a dimension of yourself.
One of the things that I know I'll be harping on and on about on this channel is that voluntary self-description is a good thing, self-expression is a good thing, but prescriptions on who somebody ought to be or how they should refer to themselves, or forced categorisation, are bad things.
So, with all of this explanation, let’s review what it means to be trans:
The two definitions of Trans that I find most useful most of the time are:
having a gender identity different from the one that would be assumed for you according to your birth sex:
Having a body with a sex that you would not choose for yourself if you could choose your sexual anatomy for yourself.
And I’ve explained what all of those mean. The sex of our bodies is an important part of most of our identities and how we interact with each other and ourselves, so why is it any surprise that some people wish their sex was different from what nature gave them?
Even cisgender people can experience differences in appearance and anatomy between what nature gave them and what they’re comfortable having. One of the most common examples is gynecomastia or baldness for cis men - gynecomastia is when an otherwise typically male person develops enlarged breasts. And that can be very distressing. Not because having breasts is bad - heck, most of these are straight cis men who enjoy boobs when they’re not on their own bodies - but because having breasts doesn’t feel right for them. And baldness, similarly, is distressing for a lot of men, and it’s far more likely to occur in those sexed male. So arguably, although it’s nowhere near on the same scale as looking in the mirror and seeing an entire body and facial structure that is in conflict with your inner self… you could argue that men distressed with gynecomastia or baldness are dealing with gender dysphoria.
Like, that’s it. I had to spend more time explaining the things surrounding what being trans is than explaining what trans itself is.
If you haven’t already, I highly recommend looking up trans voices in media that talk about what it’s like to be trans. As I’ve said in my intro video, I’m not trans myself - I’m nonbinary but don’t consider myself trans (though many nonbinary people do consider themselves trans, as they dont indentify with the gender they were assigned at birth). My own gender is that I’d probably be equally happy, all other factors held constant, if nature had decided to give me the other sex. I’m not cisgender, but I’m not trans either. But you should listen to trans voices, and not just select for trans people who say what transphobes want to hear. I’m including some links in the description to channels that I would highly recommend you check out, but whatever you do,
Don’t stop learning,
Always be empathetic
Don’t assume that anyone should experience their body, their sex, or gendered culture in any specific way. Let people be themselves as long as they’re not hurting anyone.
Okay, are we done?
That was a lot. Do you think any of the gender critical types are going to listen to this all?
No? They never listen anyway, they just hear what they want to hear?
Epilogue: A word from the Voice actor
Hi, now that I’m done taking the voice of Critfacts, I'll introduce myself. I am Aranock a disabled nonbinary activist, digital artist and software developper. If you enjoy me using my dark eldritch powers to take others voices, discussing queer and disabled rights or like cool art please check out my twitter @Aranock1 and my twitch Aranock, where I stream games and talk with a variety of other leftist creators.
As a last thought to the points made by my friend above, as Im sure there already comments saying nonbinary people are not real. Our existence has been documented for thousands of years in many cultures all over the world, and what a society expects a man or woman to be varies greatly across time and location. So please, if you get one thing from this video, it's that you can't define for others or prescribe onto others what their body and identity is or what it should be.