“Woman” is a gender, not a marker of fecundity.

Leah Torres is an OB/GYN who tweets at @LeahNTorres. She was praised today on Twitter for being gender-neutral in her advocacy for trusting pregnant people with their rights to an abortion — a stance I share, back and categorically endorse.

Earlier, she wrote:

Our ex-colleague and recent embracer of all things TERFy Ophelia Benson sought this tweet out and attacked Torres for it, repeatedly chastising her for saying “pregnant person” instead of “woman”.

The rest of the exchange between them, up to and including Torres blocking Benson, pretty much has to be pieced together from this search. If someone could Storify it, that might make it more readable. I don’t have the stomach for it at the moment.

EDIT: M A Melby did a Storify of the exchange in its full context, making Ophelia’s antagonism much more plain.

Ophelia then characterised on her blog this aggressive move as basically casually mentioning that women are primarily affected by abortion on Twitter, as though she dispensed this wisdom into the aether undirected. I’m not linking it, because I don’t care to give her traffic for her bullshit, the more bullshitty it becomes. (This will no doubt not stop her from screenshotting some pullquote of me to call me a slimepitter or some nonsense again.)

The exchange is damning and angering, and blatantly transantagonistic. And I am betrayed that some of her commentariat, whom I once thought to be friends, were favoriting every transantagonistic stab and are offering weak-tea justifications for it all on her blog comments as though they are the ones who are thinking, and we who care about trans representation are just mindlessly repeating mantras.

Meanwhile, Ophelia justified her transantagonism thus:

She also repeated this “mantra” — err, sorry, argument — at her blog where her commentariat nodded sagely.

Since it’s obvious these once-noble and intersectionally-minded deep thinkers have forgotten how intersectionality works, have some Venn diagrams.

“All Lives Matter” is offensive because it dilutes the scope of the problem. Even if there ARE white folks who are brutalized by police, they are not brutalized BECAUSE they’re white, and their numbers are so incredibly much smaller than the black folks that are attacked by police that per capita, inclusion of white folks into “Black Lives Matter” reduces the scope and severity of the problem to an unacceptable degree. See this diagram:

All lives matter Venn diagram. Large box surrounding everything, labeled All lives matter. Circle representing whites. Circle representing blacks. Circle labeled Lives being threatened by racially motivated police brutality, entirely enclosed inside the black lives circle.

The demand to say “women” instead of “pregnant people” is offensive because it actually removes several sets of people from the scope of the question, and includes one major scope of people who shouldn’t be there. First, you lose anyone who isn’t a woman who has the functional reproductive organs to require reproductive services like access to abortion, including non-binary people and trans men. Second, you include women who cannot be pregnant, like trans women, women after menopause or a hysterectomy, or who are otherwise sterile.

Women and Non-Women (trans-men, nonbinary) in two square boxes. Large circle overlapping both boxes marked "Has uterus, is fecund (capable of being pregnant), requires access to abortion services. Described as "pregnant people" by Dr Torres."

Of course, these are illustrative only. They don’t have raw numbers to back them up, because they are not to-scale. And it’s possible a person or two in the white side of the All Lives Matter diagram might have been killed by police who really hate white people, but this is so vanishingly unlikely that I can’t see putting a dot in there for it.

Over at Ophelia’s there are lots of digs at us, at pro-trans activists, for not “thinking” about this subject. I have. I came to the conclusion that you’re wrong — that saying “pregnant people” does not erase women, and that the problem of abortion rights is not undercut by being more accurate about who’s impacted and not erasing the trans men and enbys who are doubly at risk of losing access to the services they need because they don’t present as women.

Trans folk experience a specialized subset of misogyny called transmisogyny — a pernicious sort of attack that damns men with “female” parts and women with “male” parts for the female / woman part of the equation. Recognizing this does not mean categorizing a specific problem as being a woman’s problem, nor that the word “woman” counts these people, because it doesn’t, and denying that fact helps solidify that secondary way they are at risk of not getting access to services. And because that causes undue splash damage, and redraws the districts unfairly so as to exclude some people who can get pregnant and requires reproductive services, I oppose it.

And as memory serves, this is how the whole transantagonistic thing started with CaitieCat last year during the Hobby Lobby decision. I steadfastly refuse to call abortion a woman-only issue, because I evidently have a better understanding of what the scope of the word actually entails than those TERFs who are, literally, excluding trans folk within the scope of their radical feminism.

It’s, by the way, because of this ongoing transantagonism that I’m perfectly willing to call those trans-antagonistic comments TERFy. Sorry, ex-friends and ex-colleagues, but the more you spout bigotry, the more likely I am to call you a bigot.

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194 thoughts on ““Woman” is a gender, not a marker of fecundity.

  1. 101

    In fairness, I should mention Ophelia herself has accepted that her tweets were borderline harassy.

    That’s one of the likeable things about Ophelia. She takes criticism on board. Unlike some people who just feel sorry for themselves and get absurdly defensive:

    (This will no doubt not stop her from screenshotting some pullquote of me to call me a slimepitter or some nonsense again.)

  2. 102

    freya

    If people’s social status is decided by whether they’re identified as male or female, and whether they’re identified as male or female depends on their genitals, then for all practical purposes, their rights have nothing to do with gender, only sex.

    How often do you see people’s genitals? How often do you do a DNA test to see if their genitals match their chromosomes? You know, nobody disagrees that patriarchy and misogyny are based on and have evolved on the presumed reproductive capabilities of women. That does not mean that this definition is true and unchanging. It is quite clear that women can be discriminated against and are subjected to misogyny and gender specific violence when their reproductive period is long over.
    See the example I gave above: I was perfectly able to tell the gender of a baby I saw in diapers by the clothes his mum hang up.

  3. 103

    @SilentBob

    You may not be aware of how twitter works so I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt here. Replying directly to someone and adding their tweet in a link comes out to the same thing; a notification in that person’s interactions tab telling them someone just interacted with their tweet. In this case it’d include the whole of the reply so Dr. Torres would have seen exactly what OB tweeted. It’d be even snippier than a direct reply would have been. And on the whole it’s considered poor form to broadcast your argument with someone across your entire TL.

    Unlike some people who just feel sorry for themselves and get absurdly defensive

    OB’s friends and TERF followers have, since this exchange, been referring to @DrJaneChi as a misogynist male trying to take over female spaces. @DrJaneChi is a cis woman who has been providing abortion services for years in some of the most hostile places in the US. Save me your celebration of OB’s supposed thoughtfullness and introspection.

  4. 104

    Did you fail to notice that not one of her tweets recommending the use of the word “women” was actually directed at Torres? Not one. She was commenting on tweets, not harassing the tweeter.

    Except that every one of that fusillade of tweets would have resulted in Dr Torres receiving a notification, or about half a dozen in five minutes. Twitter occasionally changes how notifications and mentions work, but at the present the quoting of a tweet to reply to it generates a notification. Do you actually use Twitter or are you just trying to exculpate Benson from acting just like every other pathetic Twitter pest?

  5. 105

    freya
    Further:

    And for the most part, trans men are not oppressed because they’re misgendered, they’re oppressed because they’re correctly identified as people with vaginas.

    If that were the case they would not suffer additional oppression when seeking reproductive healthcare. If that were the case they could simply go to a nice OB/Gyn like I do and get their healthcare in a safe and positive environment. Clearly they can’t. But outside of repro healthcare we have many accounts from trans men on how they gained male privilege, from those who report that even people who know they were afab suddenly ask them for tech advice and deem them competent to the dude who got told at a work meeting that he was way more competent than the woman who had that position before him, even though he was the very same person.

    Similarly, trans women rarely gain male privilege because they’re misgendered, they gain it because they’re correctly identified as people penises.

    This doesn’t make sense. The word “privilege” doesn’t really belong in a sentence that has “trans women” in it. What usually happens to trans women when people find out that they were amab isn’t that they’re suddenly getting treated with respect, they get treated with violence. Clearly there is no direct line from their penis (you’re aware that not all trans women have one, right?) to their social status. The fact that they were born with a penis greatly endangers them.

    Apart from that, the first insult thrown at cis people who do not perform gender to the conservative expectations is that they are “not a real man/woman”. Clearly people don’t refer to those folks’ genitals, because I certainly don’t feel my anatomy changing whenever I use the power drill and thankfully using the sewing machine doesn’t make my boobs grow.

    To (kind of) quote Judith Butler (from memory): When one says they see a man dressed as a womn or a woman dressed as a man, they see the first part of the equation as reality and the second part of illusion.
    This is not a critical interrogation of the catgories of man and woman.

  6. 106

    Twitter occasionally changes how notifications and mentions work, but at the present the quoting of a tweet to reply to it generates a notification.

    Also, it works like a [email protected]: Retweeted to all your followers, which is actually a very common instrument used in harassment: Make sure a large number of people takes note. You don’T have to do the harassment in person, you can count on a number of your followers doing this for you, especially since you’Re bringing their tweets to the attention of a group with hostile views.
    Thankfully this didn’t happen to Leah Torres, but that’s not for Ophelia Benson’s lack of trying.

  7. 107

    Giliell, @100

    You know, nobody disagrees that patriarchy and misogyny are based on and have evolved on the presumed reproductive capabilities of women. That does not mean that this definition is true and unchanging.

    Exactly this. Patriarchy’s got it wrong, again, favoring what’s tidy and simplistic and satisfyingly binary over the rational, the subversive, the complex. I don’t understand how a self-confessed gender abolitionist who Wants Nuance can, in the same breath, defend something as constricting and unimaginative as essentialism-by-body-part. It’s so frustratingly disingenuous when TERFs happily accept the “nature” partyline of women as incubators and sextoys because doing so gives them an opportunity to police people’s genitals and drive so-called trans ideologues from their feminism. That’s straight out of the handmaiden handbook of keeping fellow women from self-actualization.

  8. 108

    Mookie

    It’s so frustratingly disingenuous when TERFs happily accept the “nature” partyline of women as incubators and sextoys because doing so gives them an opportunity to police people’s genitals and drive so-called trans ideologues from their feminism.

    THIS
    I’m not a walking incubator. I’m not defined by my reproductive system, I’m not a vagina on legs or a potential milk producer. “Woman” is a political class as well.

  9. 109

    @91, Stephanie Zvan:

    Okay, we have a language that is currently used imprecisely to describe two spectra as a single dichotomy. That’s an argument to develop better language, not an argument against it.

    Right now we have a language which is broad, where “man/woman” routinely excludes some people, but those people are different people depending on the context the word is used, which most people understand when they use the description, and everyone is bound to fit some definition of it. The suggestion from here seems to be to change the meaning of the word(s) so that it always includes trans people, but everyone else is optional, and some people, like me, don’t get included at all because we don’t have a gender identity the way it’s defined by the majority here.

    Normally when social progressives want to change language, they make new words and phrases to cover more concepts than previously, or they expand the use of certain words, or try to get rid of the baggage of the word. The trans issue is the only issue I’ve seen so far where the conventional wisdom is to narrow the definition of a word, to the point where most trans rights material I’ve seen about gender spends as much or more time explaining what gender is not than what it is. And incidentally, everything they say gender is not is how I experience gender, and everything they say gender is is alien to me.

  10. 110

    @94-95, Brian Pansky

    Hmm I thought everyone already knew that “patriarchy” should be based on the category of “men”, and this all sorts itself out easily.

    That completely depends on the definition of “men” we use. A Saudi Arabian trans woman can choose to get a driver’s license, but her trans man counterpart can’t.

    None of these labels are ever going to be perfect. Think about it: not all people are attracted to the same people. Are all heterosexual men attracted to every woman? No. It’s a quick easy generalization. And always will be.

    But if that quick and easy generalization doesn’t include trans people (which it often wont because they’re a 1% exception), it’s considered transphobic.

    People’s social status is decided by what group the oppressors perceive them to belong to. None of the rest matters.

    And yet people who change their hair, skin color, and presentation to look like someone hailing from a different part of the world are not considered to truly belong to the group they’re perceived to belong to. Hence why you can’t be “trans racial”. Because race is defined as depending on physiology and cultural background, not personal identification. So obviously “the rest” matters a great deal when talking about other forms of oppression than the sex and gender based kind.

    Sort of. Words don’t “have meanings” like that though. Especially ones that children learn to use every day long before they learn the supposed “meanings” of them!

    What do they learn? To quickly categorize people based on how they perceive those people.

    If people who use the words use them to mean physical sex (and most people I’ve met have done that when asked to define man/woman), than that’s both the practical and the supposed meaning for those people. So how come they’re using the “wrong” word?

    I don’t think that’s actually what is happening at all. It would just leave us with the same problem that started it anyways.

    Instead, I think both kinds of perceptions of the categories are accommodated. Because it is the self perception (self identification) that the categories are being based on, not just “reducing “man/woman” to the baggage that tends to come with certain genitals”.

    I’m kind of basing my answer here on self identification answers I’ve seen over at Pharyngula in discussions of this stuff. No one was ever (that I can remember) told that they were “wrong” to self identify as women based on their genitals or body. And I think some did identify as such for those reasons.

    Also, I’m sure it’s easy to find tons of places where people say that self identification is the ultimate arbiter of whether someone is a man or a woman.

    I thought so too. Gilliel tried to convince me of that, but around the same time one of the Ophelia-bashers on this site tweeted an approving link to an article where a trans woman “explained” that “being a woman has nothing to do with anatomy or appearance”. Of course, she paradoxically insisted that this didn’t contradict that womanhood was all about identification, but the thing is, when your identity as a woman pretty much comes down to genitals and appearance and nothing else, that’s precisely what it does. It basically says “being a woman has nothing to do with the things you base your identity as a woman on”.

    That’s not inclusion and tolerance, that casual dismissal of other people’s identity. I never could have gotten away with saying “Being a woman has nothing to do with how you feel inside, it’s all about your physique and how you’re identified by others”, even though that’s precisely how I have experienced gender. Because I don’t get to present my experiences as universal the way the people who seek to narrow down the definition of “woman” get to do.

    It’s obvious to me that there’s a hierarchy of how much people are allowed to generalize from their own experiences in progressive spaces, and those of us who don’t identity with gender the way (the loudest) trans people do are expected to always be sensitive and never expect to receive the same kind of sensitivity in return. As I said in an earlier thread (before I broke down and spent the next several hours crying my eyes out), I can’t do it. I’m struggling on so many levels in my life, many of which are directly tied to my experience of gender and treatment by society because of it, that I can’t just sing the praises of trans women telling us mere women with uteruses how the things some of us perceive as our gender (and have suffered for) doesn’t actually have anything to do with womanhood and apparently doesn’t matter.

    Thankfully we can always say “has a penis” when we need to! 🙂

    No we can’t, in the same way we can’t just say “has a uterus” when we need to. Because sometimes we need to do it in a gendered way, and I have not seen that not getting a push back in progressive spaces for the last half of a decade.

  11. 111

    That’s one of the likeable things about Ophelia. She takes criticism on board. Unlike some people who just feel sorry for themselves and get absurdly defensive:

    Unless the critics are trans folk.

  12. 112

    @98, Hj Hornbeck:

    Let’s do a quick exercise: on a sheet of paper, write down the names of your friends in one column. Down a second column, write down when you learned they had a penis, vagina, or something else. Down a third column, write down the first time you though of them as a woman, man, or non-binary person.

    In practice, “man” and “woman” have very little to do with what’s between your legs. Other cues are far more important.

    I did a different exercise. I wrote down the things I know about the group of people I’m about to spend the next several hours with. Then I checked how many of those things I actually “knew”. The answer was: Practically nothing.

    I haven’t been with them at work so don’t know if they really have the job they say they have. I haven’t seen their exam papers so I don’t know if they really have the education they need to qualify for the jobs I don’t know if they have. I haven’t seen their birth certificates or that of their recent ancestors, so I don’t know their actual ethnicity. I haven’t seen their bank accounts, so I don’t know whether they’re struggling financially or not. I haven’t done measurements on them to check if they’re really attracted to the sexes they appear to be attracted to, so I don’t know their sexual orientation. I haven’t been with them in the voting booth, so I don’t know their political orientation. I haven’t been with them to church, and even if I had I can’t read their minds and know whether they truly believe, so I don’t know their religion.

    Physical sex is actually one of the things I’m most likely to know about (communal showers), and so far, it has correlated 100% with perceived gender. That doesn’t mean it’s not still a generalization, but considering how much people are allowed to generalize about everything else, it’s hard for me to see what makes the categories man/woman so special. Because as I’ve said before, I can relate to gender about as much as an asexual can feel sexuality and a born atheist can feel religion, possibly less.

  13. 114

    I have not seen a line of reasoning from Freja more thoughtful than “if trans women are women then I am not because I don’t want them to be.” Why is anyone still engaging her as a good-faith actor? She’s been doing this for almost two months (I remember reading a comment of hers with irritable bewilderment the day my daughter was born).

    We get it. You think that people are defined by their anatomy. Nobody is saying that you cannot define yourself that way; however, you do not get to impose that on other people. That’s when you start being a jerk.

  14. 115

    freja:

    Actually I remember the point we were trying to tell you. It’s okay for you to identify as a woman because you have been assigned the role because of your genitals. That’s what it means to be cis gender.

    It’s not okay for you to identify everyone else as a man or woman based off the assumption that they have experienced their assignment the same way. It’s why gender variant communities are very big on the “let the person declare their gender before you assume their pronouns” thing. Like, hi, I’m Lesbian Catnip, I see your pronouns are she/hers, mine are also she/hers. My assignment was different from yours, but even if it weren’t, the way we experience our assignments is not going to be the same. There is no “common girlhood” that can unite AFABs in a way that will conveniently and cleanly exclude AMABs. (Inverse is also true)

    So if you’ve experienced some hostility trying to express this in trans communities, it’s because your position, “I identify as x because of the genitals that warranted the assignment of x,” is the position of the majority. “X has brought me pain because of the way other people treat x” is also a thoroughly, and I do mean thoroughly explored topic in feminism. Hell, half of JT’s blog covers that. You have no shortage of spaces to talk about other people being really shitty about the x in your life. Hell, trans people can even contribute to that conversation without making it about gender variance.

    Doing so during a conversation about trans people is like having a rape victim go to a support group for people who’ve had loved ones murdered. They’re both spectacularly shitty things to undergo, but there are also very few things that are transferable between the two types of victims, and you risk derailing the conversation. It’s not that either topic is not worth discussing. It just wasn’t the conversation we were having at that time. We were talking about the way y interacts with x, and you made it about x instead.

    I wish you no misery, generally speaking, and I especially wish your womanhood brought you some peace. You understandably identify as a woman because people are being assholes about your assignment based on your genitals. But I don’t understand why you need trans women to say “that is a valid experience of womanhood” when our entire life is shaped around having our womanhood questioned, sometimes violently… by people being assholes about our assignment. If it’s an explicit statement you were going for, sure, here you go: That is a valid experience of womanhood.

    I’m also a gender minority, and I don’t have time to keep doing that every time a cis person feels threatened by gender variance, especially if I’m trying to drum up a conversation about violence experienced by gender variant people. It’s like, if I were black, I would not be happy to interrupt my Black Lives Matter rally to assure a white person who was brutalized by the police that they are OK. I’ve spotted I think two? other trans commentators in this thread and like 30 cis commentators. I can’t stop every five feet to give every cis person a pat on the back. Sorry. I’ve got a marathon to run. Seek your help from the spectators.

    TL;DR

    Your right to throw a punch ends where my face begins, plus stuff about intersectionality.

  15. 116

    @silentbob:

    That’s one of the likeable things about Ophelia. She takes criticism on board. Unlike some people who just feel sorry for themselves and get absurdly defensive:

    This must be a new change for Ophelia, since the last time I paid attention to her response to criticism, it was to cast herself as the poor persecuted victim of a new trans-HUAC.

  16. 117

    Why is anyone still engaging her as a good-faith actor?

    Because questioning gender to the point of questioning the gender of people around me, and not just myself, was one of my intermediate steps to figuring out I was trans.

    I see a bit of myself from three years ago in her.

    Really the only thing she and I are doing differently is that I was surrounded by cis people who “get it,” so they just told me, “dude, have you considered the possibility you were trans?” The answer was no, I didn’t consider it at that time. And that was my problem.

  17. 118

    Silentbob @99,
    This was an abortion doctor in the midst of arguing with anti-choicers who believe that abortion is murder. What’s the right way to handle this situation?
    (a) stepping up to help the doctor argue against these anti-choicers
    (b) leaving the doctor the fuck alone so the doctor can argue against these anti-choicers without interference
    (c) picking this particular moment in time to interject more than 2 dozen tweets into the discussion insisting on the term “women” as opposed to “people” (i.e., critiquing the doctor’s choice of words)
    (d) doing practically anything else

    It should be clear that option (c) is not the right choice. There is nothing borderline about it. There is no grey area here.

    Ophelia Benson chose option (c) and in this exchange was pitted against the doctor right along side of the anti-choicers (albeit for different reasons). To the point where the doctor eventually felt the need to block. Bothering an abortion doctor actively engaged in a fight against anti-choicers, and prioritizing choice of words over the importance of supporting (or at the very least not interfering with) an abortion doctor’s fight against anti-choicers.

    Given the context that’s not just “borderline” it’s very clearly wrong on multiple levels.

    In fairness, I should mention Ophelia herself has accepted that her tweets were borderline harassy.

    Actually that’s not entirely accurate. Ophelia Benson has accepted that (with emphasis added) “it was maybe on the border between obnoxious and harassment.”

    “Maybe.” “Maybe on the border.” But maybe not (apparently). Also it would be accurate to say that Benson accepted this only grudgingly after being prodded about it multiple times.

    As to whether it’s harassment or just being obnoxious… well we all know that’s the important take-away lesson here right? It’s all about making sure we get the label right as to whether it’s properly defined as harassment or just being obnoxious. That’s the important thing. The primary injustice here is people using the wrong words to describe Ophelia’s actions. /s

    That’s one of the likeable things about Ophelia. She takes criticism on board.

    For certain definitions of “takes criticism on board” perhaps. But taking criticism on board is ultimately meaningless unless and until it leads to sustained positive change in the way the person acts in the future. If it doesn’t lead to personal growth or positive change then it’s just lip service.

  18. 119

    I don’t think “Ophelia-basher” is a phrase used unironically by anyone arguing in good faith, and so far all I hear from Freja is Ophelia’s disingenuous “DO NOT KNOW WHAT BE WOMAN” over and over.

    Freja, everything you are complaining about is trying to find SOME line you can draw to make sure that you and icky trans women aren’t in the same group. It’s frankly creepy and extrmely bigoted, especially since if you had been paying any attention you would know very well that the “cis/trans” distinction is where you get to put up your fence. Trying to shift the boundaries of ‘woman’ to make sure ‘trans women’ are not in it is transantagonistic asshattery. Stop it.

  19. 120

    I really really want to understand what is motivating these people in basic fear or hate terms. Because these words are likely to keep changing until we have a universally useful language that does not hide or deceive with respect to what kinds of people exist. Even when I talk to different people within the LGBTQ+ I can see that the language is not done evolving because there is still diversity in there.

    I’m an example of a person with human characteristics that put me really far out on the masculine end of things and I have no problem changing my language or definitions of words to become more useful with respect to the kinds of people I will encounter. It’s like they are happy with a high statistical likelihood of being assholes or something. Practice makes it much easier so I have limited patience.

    It’s not even about about the labels either, it’s about the general human knowledge from actual people attached to them. It is useful to know these things about people so that we can make more sense of the world and each others. It is useful be able to change lists like these as things we casually know to make them better and any suggested changes I get from people here would be happily considered.
    *Sexual attraction: Absent or present to varying degrees and with a nature informs about attraction more generally (from knowing the diversity within the Asexual community).
    *Sexual orientation: Male directed, female directed or general human directed to varying extents. (From knowing Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Pansexual people)
    *Gender orientation: Feelings about yourself with respect to sex and gender associations. May be present to varying degrees, binary or non-binary, or absent. (from knowing Trans people, Androgynous people, Pangender people, Genderqueer people and Agender people)
    *Gender identity: Feelings about your passive social presentation with respect to sex and gender associations. May be present to varying degrees, binary or non-binary, or absent. (Same groups as gender orientation)
    *Gender expression: Feelings about how you actively socially interact with with respect to sex and gender associations. May be present to varying degrees, binary or non-binary, or absent. (Same groups as gender orientation)

    That’s useful knowledge that makes a person stronger right there and does not even cover the expressions of these realities in native cultures all over the world. It’s amazing what people are willing to not only ignore, but actively suppress.

    If talking to other people is not enough I’ve been pointing out that this harmonizes rather well a general view of social identity and presentation (social orientation, passive and active expression) that encompasses how extroversion/introversion is not a black and white dichotomy with ambiverts and I fully expect to see more. Even better all of that harmonizes with developing views of what the self is in the brain and mind that identify three kinds of “self” that represent different levels of what emotion IS (Damasio’s “Self Comes to Mind). It turns out that emotion looks like the body’s representation in the mind so of course what our society says about genitals is going to have emotional effects. Change to be consistent with reality is good for society.

  20. 121

    freja @107

    The suggestion from here seems to be to change the meaning of the word(s) so that it always includes trans people, but everyone else is optional, and some people, like me, don’t get included at all because we don’t have a gender identity the way it’s defined by the majority here.

    Uh, no. Look at the post. This argument is in favor of using “pregnant person” as being more inclusive. Are you thinking of someone else’s argument?

  21. 122

    @111, Giliell

    Physical sex is actually one of the things I’m most likely to know about (communal showers), and so far, it has correlated 100% with perceived gender.

    That’s a 3rd graders level of reasoning.

    Um, in what way Giliel?

  22. 123

    Wow so yeah… Just been blocked by Ophelia Benson.

    That’s all from “We Are Plethora” now. I don’t want We Are Plethora commenting here because commenting as “we” creates confusion, plus it’s affected. Also We Are Plethora is not commenting entirely in good faith.

    Had been engaged with several of Ophelia’s commenters and politely trying to challenge their assertions and views but Ophelia Benson apparently considers that “not commenting entirely in good faith.” Also Ophelia haz a confused about use of “we/us.” Funny that none of Ophelia’s other commenters seemed to have any trouble with it at all. Either way apparently the only recourse available is to bring out the banhammer.

    For the record here is our final comment that Ophelia Benson quietly deleted before just before the banhammer. This is indicative of the type of comments that Benson makes disappear from her blog, just so everyone is aware.

    ==================================
    Cressida @62,

    You’d think if Zvan were so concerned about being absolutely gender neutral in our communications about reproduction that she would join those of us who speak out for the abolition of gender. Because that would solve the problem, no?

    Specifically what problem are you referring to here? What problem are you referring to that today remains unsolved but that would somehow be solved if only Stephanie Zvan joined with “those of [you] who speak out for the abolition of gender?”

    Also how does using the word “women” instead of “pregnant people” serve the purported goal of abolishing gender?
    How does that work again? How is using gendered language (less inclusive) instead of non gendered language (more inclusive) in any way congruent with the goal of abolishing gender? Can you walk us through the reasoning here?

    http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2015/if-men-got-pregnant-abortion-would-be-a-sacrament/

  23. 124

    freja @110:

    I did a different exercise.

    Which is why you missed the point. I didn’t just want you to ask “how often do genitals and gender presentation correlate” but “which comes first, the assigning of gender or the knowledge of genitals?”

    Physical sex is actually one of the things I’m most likely to know about (communal showers), and so far, it has correlated 100% with perceived gender.

    Compare and contrast:

    1. Having a certain type of genital leads one to behave in a certain way.
    2. Behaving in a certain way leads one to have a certain type of genital.

    The first statement is quite reasonable, though I suspect we’d get into a strong debate over whether the causal link is biological or societal. The second is outright bananas. But when our squishy human brains see that 1. has a lot of support, we start equivocating it with 2. Suppose I see 100 people in the shower, and in 100 cases find that the gender presentation they had before jumping in the shower matched with their genitals. If I see a 101st person outside the shower, do I know what genitals they have? Logically, I do not, but just try getting your brain to realize that.

    Now pair that up with a follow-up question: suppose the genitals of this 101st person do not match their gender presentation. What wins, the genitals or the presentation?

  24. 125

    @108, freja

    Thanks for responding.

    But if that quick and easy generalization doesn’t include trans people (which it often wont because they’re a 1% exception), it’s considered transphobic.

    Eh? It does include trans people.

    People’s social status is decided by what group the oppressors perceive them to belong to. None of the rest matters.

    And yet people who change their hair, skin color, and presentation to look like someone hailing from a different part of the world are not considered to truly belong to the group they’re perceived to belong to. Hence why you can’t be “trans racial”. Because race is defined as depending on physiology and cultural background, not personal identification. So obviously “the rest” matters a great deal when talking about other forms of oppression than the sex and gender based kind.

    Side note: notice that this isn’t an argument against my position. It is a reach for some contradiction somewhere else that you assume is there in my position. But it isn’t. I myself was once confused enough to reach everywhere on this topic just like that. (this appears wherever I vaguely cite “contradiction with various examples of trans people”) To be honest I think there are some issues with how people are getting educated about these topics, so I can’t totally blame my past self for my confusions.

    Back to business: I could say a lot here. But you seem to have missed how obvious the truth is that I just stated. What you say here seems to be a red herring. For the record, I suspect trans racial identity could hypothetically occur, given that “race” includes so much cultural/non-biological stuff as well, just like gender! Maybe it’s just not as common for children to find themselves in situations that will significantly form their identity in that way.

    Anyways, I don’t see how that red herring actually has any merit in this conversation because a contradiction only necessarily means one of the ideas is wrong (though both could be wrong). It doesn’t tell us for sure which one of them is wrong. Maybe it’s the other one!

    Sort of. Words don’t “have meanings” like that though. Especially ones that children learn to use every day long before they learn the supposed “meanings” of them!

    What do they learn? To quickly categorize people based on how they perceive those people.

    If people who use the words use them to mean physical sex (and most people I’ve met have done that when asked to define man/woman), than that’s both the practical and the supposed meaning for those people. So how come they’re using the “wrong” word?

    I’m guessing you mean “wrong” in those cases where they disagree with someone’s self identification. The problem is that the self-identifier perceives different meanings. So who is right? Well (skipping the deeper discussion that is possible here, and heading straight for the practical) self identification is much more important to a person’s self than whatever reason the other person wants to disagree over whose dictionary to use. Something like that. Honestly, what motive do I have to put more thought into it than that? Except that I will think about it, because I really hope to one day have a very very good understanding of this whole topic to aid my social justice efforts. But for now this seems best.

    I thought so too. Gilliel tried to convince me of that, but around the same time one of the Ophelia-bashers on this site tweeted an approving link to an article where a trans woman “explained” that

    You are doing that reaching thing again.

    There is no monolithic trans ideology. So your mission to put it all into a coherent whole will not work. Give up on that. Instead try to figure out what is true. That means keeping the correct bits and discarding the wrong bits.

    In this case, “being a woman has nothing to do with anatomy or appearance” is kind of true. Remember, self identification is the basis we must accept for others, so you can see how that kind of statement might seem correct to the person writing it. But the basis an individual uses to determine their own self identification may very well involve their anatomy or appearance.

    That’s not inclusion and tolerance, that casual dismissal of other people’s identity. I never could have gotten away with saying “Being a woman has nothing to do with how you feel inside, it’s all about your physique and how you’re identified by others”, even though that’s precisely how I have experienced gender. Because I don’t get to present my experiences as universal the way the people who seek to narrow down the definition of “woman” get to do.

    As I showed above, I’m not sure the other person’s statement was supposed to be as exclusive as it seemed. I think it was supposed to be accommodating, but wasn’t thought out properly.

    But yes of course if people are presenting non-universal experiences as universal, they should not do that. Notice your own statement can easily be described as the experience some people do have, but not all. I think that’s a truth that is important to recognize.

    It’s obvious to me that there’s a hierarchy of how much people are allowed to generalize from their own experiences in progressive spaces, and those of us who don’t identity with gender the way (the loudest) trans people do are expected to always be sensitive and never expect to receive the same kind of sensitivity in return. As I said in an earlier thread (before I broke down and spent the next several hours crying my eyes out), I can’t do it. I’m struggling on so many levels in my life, many of which are directly tied to my experience of gender and treatment by society because of it, that I can’t just sing the praises of trans women telling us mere women with uteruses how the things some of us perceive as our gender (and have suffered for) doesn’t actually have anything to do with womanhood and apparently doesn’t matter.

    I’m sorry to hear that. Like I said, if people are fucking this up, they need to stop.

    Thankfully we can always say “has a penis” when we need to! 🙂

    No we can’t, in the same way we can’t just say “has a uterus” when we need to. Because sometimes we need to do it in a gendered way, and I have not seen that not getting a push back in progressive spaces for the last half of a decade.

    Because sometimes we need to do what? I don’t quite get what you’re saying here. But if gender needs to be involved somehow, I think it’s perfectly fine to talk in terms of proportion: most women have uteri etc.

  25. 126

    SilentBob @97:

    Nice poisoning of the well there.

    It’s not poisoning the well if it’s true. I and several others have pointed out Benson’s being hypocritical here, on the one hand claiming gender is complicated while on the other using gender as if it was clear and unambiguous. This hypocrisy is very common among TERFs, and rare elsewhere. I’ve previously explained my definition of TERF, and Benson qualifies. Do you take issue with my definition? Do you disagree that TERF is a value-neutral descriptor?

  26. 127

    @SilentBob, as Julian pointed out her tweets will have popped up in LTs mentions. HOWEVER … If she added theblockbot. com/ https://twitter. com/oolon/status/480336523523805184 it doesn’t notify them. I set it up so people can snipe about others tweets without harassing or annoying them. OB seems to have decided that TheBlockBot is a terrible infringement of freeze peach now though, so it may not suit her to use it.

  27. 128

    Oy, now that I’ve actually read more of the posts here, let me just say: jesus.

    @gertrud, 112

    I suggest trying to back up your accusation of ‘not arguing in good faith’, otherwise why bother.

    @abbeycadabra, 117

    Your ad hominem blathering is itself kind of creepy.

    @HJ, 122

    Now pair that up with a follow-up question: suppose the genitals of this 101st person do not match their gender presentation. What wins, the genitals or the presentation?

    “The genitals obviously” could be many people’s answer. You don’t seem to get this HJ. Semantics can be done either way. But what way do our minds actually process the meaning of the words? For many, it is genitals/reproductive category. And this should be obvious.

    Though of course your writing experiment is useful in showing how odd the whole situation is, and it hints towards the possibility of doing things differently.

  28. 129

    Surely communal showers are a completely random and representative sample of the population, not subject to any kind of selection bias. I mean, it’d be unthinkable that communal showers would attract individuals who feel comfortable enough with showing off their bodies and genitals to strangers that they would shower communally. It couldn’t be the case that people with insecurities or desires for privacy due to having bodies or genitals that do not conform to general standards of beauty or acceptability would seek out other shower facilities.

    I’m a cisgendered male, and the last time I used a communal shower was in 9th grade gym class—and we wore our swim trunks the whole time. You wouldn’t catch me in one now, and that’s just because of gender-nonspecific body issues.

  29. 130

    @100+103, Giliell:

    How often do you see people’s genitals? How often do you do a DNA test to see if their genitals match their chromosomes?

    How often do you ask people around you about what gender they identity as? I have personally asked that question far less often than I have seen people’s genitals. I have met people I suspected had either a different gender identity than they appeared to, but I didn’t exactly interrogate them about it, so I don’t know.

    That does not mean that this definition is true and unchanging. It is quite clear that women can be discriminated against and are subjected to misogyny and gender specific violence when their reproductive period is long over.

    They also don’t stop having a different physiology from people with penises after menopause.

    See the example I gave above: I was perfectly able to tell the gender of a baby I saw in diapers by the clothes his mum hang up.

    No you weren’t. You were able to tell which gender the baby’s parents most likely identified it as, but I haven’t heard of a single trans person’s parents who got their gender identity right before the trans person themselves. If you had been asked whether Bruce Jenner was a man or a woman 5 years ago, you would most likely have answered that he’s a man (assuming you knew who Bruce Jenner was). But according to Caitlyn Jenner, she has always been female. Self-identification is often far less easy to judge than basic physiology.

    outside of repro healthcare we have many accounts from trans men on how they gained male privilege, from those who report that even people who know they were afab suddenly ask them for tech advice and deem them competent to the dude who got told at a work meeting that he was way more competent than the woman who had that position before him, even though he was the very same person.

    But if you’d asked the people who show trans men such respect what kind of physiology said trans men had, I think the majority would presume penises and testicles. And I think they would act the same around trans women in gender neutral clothing who hadn’t done anything to change their physiology. Because most of the gendered treatment people receive is based even less on identity than on physiology.

    This doesn’t make sense. The word “privilege” doesn’t really belong in a sentence that has “trans women” in it

    .

    The privilege of having/being perceived to have male physiology is different from the privilege of being cis. Judging by the different treatment of athletes with (or perceived to have) different genitals, I doubt Caitlyn Jenner would be as rich and famous as she is if she’d been born with a vulva and ovaries. I don’t doubt that she experiences a lot of bigotry and disadvantages, but there are several disadvantages she’s much less likely to have had.

    “Intersectionality” isn’t supposed to mean “whoever belongs to the most oppressed group always suffer every oppression of every other group”, it means that people suffer on different axes of oppression. Being identified by others as a gender you feel you belong to is an example of privilege granted to some cis people. But many aspects of being raised and treated more typically “male” have been shown to have tangible benefits to children regardless of genitals or gender identity, and the most significant predictor of whether they receive that treatment or not is genitals, not identity. Hence why you felt you were able to tell the gender of a baby despite not knowing anything about that baby’s personal perception of their own gender identity.

  30. 131

    @127, Tom Foss says

    Surely communal showers are a completely random and representative sample of the population, not subject to any kind of selection bias.

    All things considered, I think that if you’re looking for a random slice of a given population, a public school with pupils from many different backgrounds, middle class enough that wealthy parents don’t pay to have their children in a different school, but still with a fair bit of minorities and children of less well-to-do parents, where gym classes with communal showering are mandatory, is probably as close as you can come.

    Also, most estimates I’ve seen put the prevalence of trans people below 1%, so why is it incorrect to suggest that there’s a very strong correlation between perceived gender and genitals? And why does a 1% error rate make something an invalid generalization, while an even higher error rate (that between perceived gender and actual gender identity) doesn’t?

  31. 132

    @freja:

    All things considered, I think that if you’re looking for a random slice of a given population, a public school with pupils from many different backgrounds, middle class enough that wealthy parents don’t pay to have their children in a different school, but still with a fair bit of minorities and children of less well-to-do parents, where gym classes with communal showering are mandatory, is probably as close as you can come.

    So, what you’re saying is that you expect any gender non-conforming students in your gym classes will, at ages presumably ≤ 18:
    1. Recognize their gender identity
    2. Come out to their parents
    3. Seek and obtain hormone therapy and possibly some surgery
    4. Be out to the faculty and staff of the school
    5. Be out to their peers
    6. Be comfortable enough being out to their peers that they will use a communal shower rather than seeking or being granted permission to use different facilities
    7. Be open to you, specifically, about their gender identities

    Because if any one of those steps has not been met, then the student’s observed genitals and gender presentation (what you call “perceived gender”) may not actually, accurately reflect their gender identity.

  32. 133

    Brian Pansky @126:

    “The genitals obviously” could be many people’s answer. You don’t seem to get this HJ. Semantics can be done either way. But what way do our minds actually process the meaning of the words? For many, it is genitals/reproductive category.

    Come now. If you discovered I had a vulva, vagina, and all the rest, you’d immediately think I was a woman?

  33. 134

    @112, gertrud says

    I have not seen a line of reasoning from Freja more thoughtful than “if trans women are women then I am not because I don’t want them to be.”

    Actually, I don’t care whether trans women are women or not. I care whether only gendered people get to be men/women, or whether the rest of us can be included too. I have been told I’m supposed to imagine gender as a kind of Venn diagram with 2 circles (trans women and cis women) both encompassed by a bigger circle (womanhood/femaleness) and I’m completely OK with that, as long as I get to inject more and partially overlapping circles of gendered women, ungendered women, genderqueer women, gender questioning women, and cis-by-default women in there too. I think “the more the merrier” and figure it’s fair enough that everybody who wants to get to call themselves women, because nobody owns the label.

    What I’m not OK with is when the very same people who insist on this venn diagram model then point to the gendered circle of the “women” diagram and say “This is what being a woman means” and point to the ungendered part of it and say “This has nothing to do with being a woman”. That’s not inclusive, that’s exclusive. And as I’ve said earlier, if they were just honest about it and said “trans women are the most oppressed, so they’re first priority” I’d be a lot more OK with it.

    But then those same people keep insisting that I not only accept people pointing out all the things that make me a woman (and for the nth time, I’m not saying it’s the only way to be a woman, just that it’s my way) and saying “Those things have nothing to do with being a woman”, and pointing to things I can’t relate to at all and saying “This is what being a woman is”, but also pretend that they’re being all inclusive.

    Why is anyone still engaging her as a good-faith actor? She’s been doing this for almost two months

    I’ve objected to definitions of “woman” which exclude me being used as the only viable definition of the word in a grand total of 2 different threads. I haven’t been doing this nonstop for 2 months, I’ve had a long break in between because things were getting too heated. Using the fact that you’ve seen 2 different posts of mine written 2 months apart addressing the same issue as an excuse to accuse me of trolling, as if no one could possibly find an issue relevant for more than a week, is beyond low.

    We get it. You think that people are defined by their anatomy.

    No. I’m saying that my gender identity (and probably several million other people, but I don’t get to speak for them), if you can call it that, is based only on my genitals and the baggage that comes from having them. My identity. Not yours, not Jason’s, not Gilliel’s, mine. I think that my definition is valid for me. I think it describes me, and my situation, and my life. Not you, not Jason, not Gilliel, me. I think my way of being a woman is a way of being a woman. Not the only way, a way.

    I understand that some definitions of “woman” will by necessity exclude me. When people talk about the oppression of “women”, they often mention oppression which I have not personally experienced and which doesn’t apply to me. I’m OK with those experiences getting applied to “women” in general, even if I don’t experience them. When some women talk about how certain (almost inevitably stereotypically feminine) things make them “feel like a woman”, I know it does splash damage to me because it increases the legitimacy of these things being considered “feminine” or “for women”, and subsequently pressured/forced on me, but I accept it because those women’s idea of what it means to feel like a woman is a way of being a woman, even if it is not my way.

    But when we’re talking about defining the very concept of “women”, I don’t think it’s fair that some people get to pick just one aspect of womanhood and say “This is what being a woman is”. I’m completely OK with being routinely excluded in day-to-day definitions of “woman”, but I draw the line at that. It’s not OK. It’s not inclusive. It’s not expanding our idea of what it can mean to be a woman, it’s narrowing it down. It’s robbing a lot of people of a language to speak about their identity and experiences. It’s framing the whole discussion in a language only gendered people can relate to, and then calling people who don’t feel gender like that privileged and transphobic for not getting it.

    Nobody is saying that you cannot define yourself that way; however, you do not get to impose that on other people.

    And likewise, I don’t think other people should get to impose their definitions on me, such as insisting that “woman” is a gender or that it has nothing to do with anatomy. It’s very simple really. Here are some definitions and statements about womanhood that are inclusive to me even if they don’t refer to me, and which don’t privilege gendered people:

    “Me being a woman has nothing to do with my anatomy”

    “Gender is defined by more than genitals”

    “Having a vulva is not all there is to being a woman”

    Here are examples of definitions and statements which are specifically exclusive to people like me:

    “Being a woman has nothing to do with anatomy or appearance”

    ““Woman” is a gender”

    “The only reason you claim you don’t “feel” gender is cis privilege. If you’d been identified as a different gender at birth, you’d have known it was wrong for you and sought to be accepted as the gender you’re currently defined as”

    If there is no the difference between them for you, then I suggest you check whatever privilege is blinding you.

  34. 135

    @130, Tom Foss:

    So, what you’re saying is that you expect any gender non-conforming students in your gym classes will

    No, I’m not expecting anything from gender non-conforming students, of which I am/was one myself. I’m saying that the argument, as presented here, that defining “man/woman” based on genitals and basic body type is wrong because you can’t always immediately see people’s genitals, is unreasonable. We categorize people according to plenty of criteria we can’t observe with 100% accuracy.

    The fact that you can’t always observe people’s genitals directly, or that not all people fall neatly into these categories, doesn’t mean that a definition which says “man = testicles and penis, woman = vulva and ovaries” is inherently more wrong than a definition which says “man = male gender identity, woman = female gender identity”. After all, plenty of people also don’t fall neatly into those categories either, and gender identity is never directly observable.

    I don’t think it makes sense to say, like Mookie says in post 105, that the patriarchy got it “wrong” wrt gender, as if there’s some kind of true platonic definition of it. The patriarchy got it exactly as right as everyone else, meaning that people (especially dominant people) create the language that best describes the world-view that they hold. If a society places a lot of stock in people’s genitals, then the distinction between people with different genitals is significant and will be reflected in that society’s language. If the words to denote that distinction are “man/woman” then that’s exactly as right as if they’re “govuws/qivculk”.

    Words are just expressions of opinions and observations. In the English language, it has been important to distinguish between different types of anatomy, different types of social roles/presentation, and different identities. Unfortunately, because they have historically been perceived as different aspects of the same concept, rather than different concepts which don’t always match in the expected way, the same words are used for all these distinctions So English speakers are stuck with “man/woman” or “male/female” for all of it, and I don’t disagree that it’s problematic. What I do disagree with it is that of all these definitions of “man/woman” (anatomical, cultural, identity), only one of them is the correct one and all the others are wrong.

  35. 136

    PS: Thank you Brian Pansky for not defaulting to stock-phrases and accusations of whatever I’m being accused of right now (trolling, transphobia, cis privilege) and actually trying to respond in words I can understand. Sorry for not responding to you right now. It’s not that I’m ignoring you, but I’m running out of spoons and time, and I’ll respond later.

  36. 137

    I think most of the problem here is that woman IS a gender (at least how everyone here but you and maybe Brian is using it), and you claim you are ungendered AND a woman, so you mean something different than anyone else is saying here by “woman”. Could you clarify what, exactly, you mean by you “being a woman” while also “being ungendered”? Because I can’t parse what you’re saying — I’d no sooner call the sky a monochrome blue. So are you referring to sex? Are you referring to how others parse you?

    If you’re referring to how others parse you, then I think that’s actually the problem here. Trans women want to be considered women, even if others don’t parse them as such. Agender people, likewise, would like to be parsed as agender, regardless if others parse them (misgender them) as man or woman. So you saying “agender woman” (coupled with your desire to be counted amongst “women”) is just strange, unless either “agender” or “woman” means something different to you than it does to anyone else.

    And I’ll point out the only people here who demand that you count among women are the binarists who claim that there are only men and women, and anything agender / nonbinary either must be shunted into one or the other box or they’re somehow inherently wrong. It’s those people that trans activists fight.

  37. 138

    @131, Hj Hornbeck says

    Come now. If you discovered I had a vulva, vagina, and all the rest, you’d immediately think I was a woman?

    Probably not. And maybe most people wouldn’t, I dunno. But I guess what I should have said is that it would vary from person to person, and from observed person to person. And possibly even from time to time, like there was that one time when I perceived all of humanity with no gender at all (or something like that, it felt like this, but not horrific).

  38. 139

    @135, Jason Thibeault says

    I think most of the problem here is that woman IS a gender (at least how everyone here but you and maybe Brian is using it), and you claim you are ungendered AND a woman, so you mean something different than anyone else is saying here by “woman”. Could you clarify what, exactly, you mean by you “being a woman” while also “being ungendered”? Because I can’t parse what you’re saying — I’d no sooner call the sky a monochrome blue. So are you referring to sex? Are you referring to how others parse you?

    I think freja simply doesn’t know that “gender” is actually inclusive of a lot of things.

  39. 140

    (off topic)

    @ 125 oolon

    OB seems to have decided that TheBlockBot is a terrible infringement of freeze peach now though, so it may not suit her to use it.

    Is that so? I recall her as defending it. Did she change her mind?

    (/off topic)

  40. 141

    Brian Pansky
    See Tom Foss. “I have not personally witnessed that, therefore it doesn’t exist” is a bullshit argument. Communal showers aren’t places trans people are generally happy to use when they are often afraid to use public tpilets where everything happens in stalls.

    feja

    How often do you ask people around you about what gender they identity as? I have personally asked that question far less often than I have seen people’s genitals.

    And then? Did you demand they show you their genitals before you believed them?
    But you’re right, I could spot the gender assigned to the kid at birth. I should have written that. But nevertheless I did not need to see the genitals.

  41. 142

    @135, Jason Thibeault

    I think most of the problem here is that woman IS a gender (at least how everyone here but you and maybe Brian is using it)

    Yes, everyone here uses “woman” as a gender, but that does not make it the definition of what “woman” is, it makes it a definition. I can assure you that your use of that definition of “woman” does not make an ounce of difference to me when I’m anywhere but here. Out in the wider world, I’m categorized as a woman with no regard to my gender, at least as you seem to understand the concept.

    and you claim you are ungendered AND a woman, so you mean something different than anyone else is saying here by “woman”. Could you clarify what, exactly, you mean by you “being a woman” while also “being ungendered”?

    I was told I was a girl as a child. I sometimes objected, but since I also objected to being called “little” and “child”, I don’t see this early objection as especially significant. I learned that people with a certain anatomy were called “female” (or girl/woman depending on their age), and others were called “male”. I accepted that distinction, even as I struggled with the social and cultural limitations this put on me.

    I still accept that distinction, because for most intents and purposes, it’s true. When most people talk about “women”, the category of people they’re referring to includes me. But it’s not my identity. It’s not “who I am” in the sense that it says something about me. It says something about my anatomy and the way I have been treated because of this anatomy, which has obviously affected the person I have grown up to be, but not in a way I consider significantly different from the way my nationality, cultural background, social standing, the non-sexed parts of my anatomy, my financial situation, and other factors have affected me.

    When I hear a lot of progressives (whom I usually agree with) talk about gender, they clearly mean something different. It’s not about anatomy, in fact, many people are quite comfortable saying it doesn’t have anything to do with anatomy. It’s also not how you’re perceived and treated by others, or which social category you’re put in, because if that was the case, Caitlyn Jenner wouldn’t have been a woman all the time she was socially identified as Bruce.

    So after having read up on gender as understood by trans people and trans allies, I have come to the conclusion that I probably don’t have one. It would be a bit like if I identified as an Italian because I was born in Italy, had Italian citizenship, had lived most of my life in Italy and absorbed Italian culture, and then was told that “Italian” referred to neither legal citizenship, place of birth, place of residence, ethnic origins, or culture, but was solely an identity which could just as easily apply to someone born to Polish parents in Poland who had never set a foot in Italy. If I accepted that definition (and I can accept it when it comes to gender), I would also have to accept that “Italian” wasn’t actually my identity as meant by these people, because it’s solely based on factors (legal citizenship, place of birth, place of residence, ethnic origins, shared culture) which aren’t part of it.

    And I’m not saying gender is like nationality. At least not for a lot of people. But to me it is. I have heard people say that they have a sense of gender which makes it obvious that gender is completely different from identities referring to race, ethnicity, age, sexuality, etc. but I can’t feel it. To me, it’s just a group I’m placed in. I feel a sense of community with cis women only insofar as we share some common experiences and anatomy. I can easily feel the same sense of community with trans men when they talk about their experiences, because some of their experiences can be very similar to mine. In the same way, I can feel a sense of community with trans women when they’re perceived and treated similarly to me, but that’s all there is to it. I don’t see myself sharing an identity with people whose gender is female, I share an identity with people with whom I share experiences, anatomy, social position, etc.. The “gender” part (as not relating to how you’re treated and perceived by others) doesn’t enter into it for me.

    And I’ll point out the only people here who demand that you count among women are the binarists who claim that there are only men and women, and anything agender / nonbinary either must be shunted into one or the other box or they’re somehow inherently wrong. It’s those people that trans activists fight.

    I’d be happy to not count among women if there was another meaningful label to fit me. But there isn’t. As I said at the top of the post, when I’m out in the outside world, it doesn’t really matter that people in here have their own definition of “woman”.

    When I hear someone say “women need to cover up and not look like sluts”, I know beyond any doubt that what they’re trying to police is not gender, it’s anatomy. If someone’s identity as a woman included what would usually be described as a male physiology, and they had that kind of physiology, they could go around barechested in many situations and not be harassed for it the way I’d be, regardless of how much they saw themselves as women. I’ve had enough guys tell me they actually felt very female, and were like “a lesbian trapped in a man’s body”, to realize that people can identify using any label they want, but it wont automatically translate into a social reality because of it. I also know from experience that it doesn’t matter how genderqueer you are on the inside, if you look a certain way and people think you have a certain type of genitals, they’re going to lump you into their category of “woman” with or without your consent.

  42. 143

    @freja, #140:

    So after having read up on gender as understood by trans people and trans allies, I have come to the conclusion that I probably don’t have one.

    Assuming it’s not overly dangerous for you to do so, you do realise you can eschew the label others, including myself as informed by your own understanding, have given you, right? You have that option. You can cast womanhood off. Fight the coercion. Fight the label.

    I’ll get it if you’re not in a great situation to do that. But as a gender variant person, I’ll say there’s never a “perfect” time to begin being openly gender variant. Less shitty times, sure, but never perfect. But it gave me and every other genderqueer person I’ve met an immense amount of relief to have a plan, if nothing else.

    You’ve described numerous times the distress you have felt for being coerced into being a woman. Like I said earlier, I don’t know if you read it or not, that sounds an awful lot like dysphoria. You’re the only one who can make that call, but I’d strongly recommend you either: 1) Find a queer-friendly friend/therapist/webspace to bounce these ideas off of; or 2) Lock yourself in a quiet room for a few hours/days and have a long hard think.

    Your existential crisis is not going to go smoother if you post it in a public forum where every whim, politically correct or not, is subject to the commentary of a confident and opinionated blog. I applaud that you’re thinking this deeply about yourself, but honest introspection produces a lot of nasty chaff that you don’t want to share with a pack of bloodhounds like us. Or the internet in general, really.

  43. 144

    freya
    Has it occurred to you that some people have a strong gender identity and some people don’t?
    Some people strongly identify with the one they were assigned at birth, others with another gender than they were assigned to at birth. Other people again strongly feel that they belong to no particular gender at all and then there are people who are “meh, whatever”. Maybe you’re one of them. JUst like some people are really into this heterosexuality thingy and other not and everything else you can imagine.
    And “that’s what I’ve been taught and that’s what most people believe and that’s what the dictionary and Wikipedia say” are really, really, really bad arguments.

  44. 145

    @123, Brian Pansky:

    Eh? It does include trans people.

    Most everyday generalizations actually don’t. The last few weeks I’ve had conversations where menstruation and giving birth were talked about as something specific to women, where clothes shaped for different body types but otherwise identical was identified as men’s/women´s clothes, where the situation in Middle East was discussed and the term “women’s rights” was used to refer to the rights of people with female anatomy (as I’ve said earlier, trans women in Saudi Arabia aren’t forbidden from driving, but people still talk about a blanket ban on “women” driving), where prostate cancer was referred to as being specific to men, where a baby was declared to be a “boy” before he could speak, where street harassment was generalized as something which happened primarily to “women” and not the longer but more correct “people who are identified by street harassers as female and/or not performing their assigned gender role”, where a man identified himself as heterosexual and attracted to women on the basis he wasn’t attracted to anyone with a penis etc., etc..

    I can’t recall a single instance outside progressive messageboards and online articles where anyone distinguished between “has male/female anatomy”, “is identified as male/female by society”, and “self-identifies as male/female”. The blanket term “man/woman” is used as a shorthand for different combinations of these concepts, depending on the context. It’s used for anatomy and genitals when talking about medical issues and physical sex. It’s used for body type when talking about clothes. It’s used for presentation and perception when talking about day-to-day discrimination. It’s used as a combination of anatomy and social classification when talking about legal rights. And it’s used as a term only for self-identification/gender in places like this one.

    You’re absolutely right that the term “man/woman” is a quick and easy generalization which is never going to be perfect. But I’m not the one looking for perfection here. I’m merely pointing out that the gender identification aspect is just one in a long list of definitions, and I don’t think it’s fair to reduce it merely to that, and declare that every other definition is automatically wrong.

    Anyways, I don’t see how that red herring actually has any merit in this conversation because a contradiction only necessarily means one of the ideas is wrong (though both could be wrong). It doesn’t tell us for sure which one of them is wrong. Maybe it’s the other one!

    I’m not sure where you’re going with this and all the previous accusations about what my opinion allegedly is, but let me clarify one thing: I’m not saying my definition is the only correct one, I’m saying Jason’s definition doesn’t cover all the ways one can be a woman. I wouldn’t mind him saying “”Woman” can be…”, I mind him saying ““Woman” is…”. I would agree with him if he said “”Woman” doesn’t have to mean…” but I resent him saying ““Woman” isn’t…”. I’m fine with “For the purpose of this debate, I’m using “woman” to mean…”, but I find it unfair to expect everybody else to use that definition in their day-to-day life.

    I’m guessing you mean “wrong” in those cases where they disagree with someone’s self identification.

    No, I don’t mean “wrong” in the sense of someone saying that a person who self identifies as a specific gender isn’t really that gender. Not even Ophelia Benson, who’s apparently a TERF, has said that this is OK (she specifically said that in day-to-day interactions, she’d take trans women’s word for their gender).

    I just mean “wrong” in the sense of, for instance, someone saying that girls are expected to be nice and pretty, whereas boys get to play rough-and-tumble and act out some more, could be considered “wrong”. Because the basis for which children are generally raised to be nice and pretty, and which children are given more autonomy, is not gender identity, it’s perceived gender, which pretty much=sex. I’ve seen many people being called out for using that kind of generalization, because it doesn’t account for the trans girls who were told to man up and play football, which I’m told is also a female experience.

    Or to give a recent real-world example, Auckland University’s Womenfest cancelled a planned “vagina cupcakes” event (meant partly to battle the stigma and taboos around this particular type of genitals) because it was supposedly making things unsafe for trans women. I haven’t seen anything which suggested that the vagina cupcake event was presented as if having a vagina was mandatory to being a woman, just that it was something which tended to affect women and which was an important part of some women’s identity.

    The problem is that the self-identifier perceives different meanings. So who is right? Well (skipping the deeper discussion that is possible here, and heading straight for the practical) self identification is much more important to a person’s self than whatever reason the other person wants to disagree over whose dictionary to use.

    But what about the woman who’s been raised to be ashamed of her genitals and told to keep them hidden because they’re like a “lock”, while other types of genitals are “keys” and that “A key that can open any lock is a master key, but a lock that can be opened with any key is a shitty lock”, or told that her genitals are going to become loose and gross and disgusting if she uses them too much, or that they’re dirty and smelly, or who’s seen people with penises whip them out for a laugh without any consequences, while knowing that exposing her own genitals that way would destroy her life? What about what that can do to a person’s self?

    Is that automatically less important than the self of a woman who doesn’t have a vagina and gets upset every time anyone brings up a correlation between femaleness and vaginas? Accepting that some women have an experience of womanhood and a gender identity which includes “having a vagina” as an important aspect, is not the same as saying one cannot be a woman without a vagina.

    The problem with your line of thought (and everybody else’s here) seems to be that you imagine some evil cis women motivated only by their hatred of trans women, pointing at said trans women and saying “Your definition of what makes you women is wrong!”. In my experience, it’s just as often the other way around, trans women and trans allies pointing at other women and saying “Your definition of what makes you women is wrong!”.

    You are doing that reaching thing again.

    There is no monolithic trans ideology.

    Neither is there a monolithic transphobic or TERF ideology, but that doesn’t stop people from calling it out all the time. Seeing a link to that article from a prominent commenter here, while Giliell was claiming that no one was excluding anyone, showed me that we have a very different idea of what “inclusive” means.

    In this case, “being a woman has nothing to do with anatomy or appearance” is kind of true. Remember, self identification is the basis we must accept for others, so you can see how that kind of statement might seem correct to the person writing it.

    No. Being a woman has nothing to do with anatomy or appearance is true for her. But “being a woman is a social category you’re put in based on your genitals” is also true for me, and yet I doubt anyone here would accept a generalization like that as legitimate and non-transphobic on that basis.

    As I showed above, I’m not sure the other person’s statement was supposed to be as exclusive as it seemed. I think it was supposed to be accommodating, but wasn’t thought out properly.

    The cis people who keep promoting ideas about gender which don’t apply to me (or many trans women for that matter) probably aren’t trying to be exclusive either, they just aren’t used to thinking about gender that way. Same with many trans people and people who immediately seem to get what being trans is about. They seem to feel gender so strongly that it doesn’t occur to them that others might base their identity as a man or woman on something else. But looking in from the outside, cis or trans, conservative or progressive, the result seems pretty similar to me.

  45. 146

    <offtopic>
    SilentBob @138:

    Is that so? I recall [Benson] as defending [the Block Bot]. Did she change her mind?

    I think so. Here’s a comment she made in July of this year:

    The woman who said that – Marian Melby – is one of the admins of the blockbot, with all of the loathsome characteristics that go with that job.

    I suspect that’s due to some TERF influence, as they hate the Block Bot. Elizabeth Hungerford in particular is a strong opponent, and seems to think the Twitter Block Bot is monitoring her Facebook group. Her current Twitter profile image says “BlockBot: because you can’t handle THE TRUTH.” Unfortunately, the only link I have handy is a screen-cap of the relevant Facebook thread.
    </offtopic>

  46. 147

    Brian Pansky @136:

    Probably not. And maybe most people wouldn’t, I dunno. But I guess what I should have said is that it would vary from person to person, and from observed person to person.

    Mmmm hm. Our primary means of determining someone’s gender is how they present themselves to the rest of us. We don’t do genital checks, because we make the logical leap I outlined above, and as such genitals are a very small part of what we call “gender.” If you argue they are nonetheless still critical to the definition of “gender,” my thought experiment @131 refutes that.

    Taking notes, freja?

  47. 148

    [email protected]:

    The problem with your line of thought (and everybody else’s here) seems to be that you imagine some evil cis women motivated only by their hatred of trans women, pointing at said trans women and saying “Your definition of what makes you women is wrong!”. In my experience, it’s just as often the other way around, trans women and trans allies pointing at other women and saying “Your definition of what makes you women is wrong!”.

    You’re falling for a polarized view of sexism, that either you cartoonishly hate all trans* women or they don’t hate them at all. There’s more than one way to be sexist, and it’s possible to be sexist without realizing it. Together, this allows TERFs to think they’re great trans* allies even as they casually dehumanize or exclude trans* people, and to over-react when alternate views are presented (see my link to “the cotton ceiling” in a previous comment).

    It’s better to focus on the arguments, instead of how they’re being said.

    Also, my experience has been the opposite; TERFs are far more likely to police what “woman” means than trans* people. That makes sense, as by definition trans* people have dealt with conflicting definitions of “woman” on a personal level, making them more tolerant of difference.

  48. 149

    @SilentBob, oh yeah the block bot was great back when it was annoying Stangroom and Blackford, but these days her terf-lite friends like boodleoops are convinced it’s silencing women. Last I saw her comment on it she was agreeing with Martin Robbins about how awfully “defamatory” it is 😛

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