Cis people: Help me get a sense of the landscape out there!

In a few months, I’ll be attending a secular conference to speak about trans-related issues. Since this subject is pretty general and wide-ranging in its scope, and most of the audience obviously won’t be trans, I was hoping I could enlist your help in figuring out exactly what people might be curious about when it comes to trans stuff.

When asking questions about these things, most people I’ve come in contact tends to be quite polite and tactful, and I really appreciate that. At the same time, I also know what it’s like to be on the other side of this. I used to assume I was straight and cis and a guy, and I really had no idea what it meant to be trans, queer, or anything like that. Frankly, I was pretty much clueless. I didn’t have a good sense of what might be appropriate or inappropriate to say about any of this. There were a lot of things I never asked anyone about, because I wasn’t sure if it would be in good taste.

Normally, that’s the best protocol for everyone to follow. We expect people to exercise good judgment and decency, use their common sense, and not ask us things like “why the hell would anyone want to get it chopped off?” That way, we can more or less get through the day without having to field intimate questions that we might not feel like dealing with. It’s a legitimate and important expectation, because trans people and other minorities don’t want to spend all their time explaining their lives to curious people.

However, speaking at a conference is different: I’ve chosen to be there and explain these issues to an audience that’s prepared to learn. In that situation, my foremost goal shifts from avoiding uncomfortable questions in public, to presenting information that’s as useful as possible. Some areas of discussion that might usually be considered off-limits could actually be helpful to their understanding. I want to locate those areas, and I’d like your help.

In the interests of mapping this out, I’m suspending the usual primacy of tact for anyone who wants to assist me with this. I know that, for most people who aren’t trans, trans-related topics simply aren’t something they think about a lot. I’ve had to learn about this out of necessity, and I’ve largely forgotten what it’s like to be inexperienced and confused when it comes to this stuff. I’m hoping to regain a sense of that, so I can gauge which information a cis audience is most in need of.

Cis readers, that’s where you come in. I know you all mean well and want nothing more than to be polite, but I’m sure there are some things you still wonder about – things you normally wouldn’t say out loud. I bet there have been times when you’ve thought, “I’d better not ask her that.” Maybe there are questions you’ve privately pondered when among other cis people, but would never actually talk about in front of someone who’s trans. Even if you do your best to be supportive and understanding, there are probably some occasions where it still feels like you don’t entirely “get it”.

Those are the sorts of things I want to know about – even if it’s something you’ve learned (correctly) that you should never say to a trans person. If you’ve decided against asking a certain question before, I’d like you to decide in favor of it this time. I need to know what people need to know, so that I can work out how best to answer such questions and clear up whatever misconceptions people don’t often speak openly about. Somewhere between the assholes who just hate us, and fellow trans people who truly know what it’s like, I know there are plenty of cis people who are pretty nice folks and really do want to learn more about these things.

So, what’s something you still struggle to understand about us? What’s something you don’t quite get? If you’d like to get all your seriously honest questions out there, go ahead and leave a comment with something you’d like to know more about. If you’d rather do so privately, you can email me at [email protected], or if you want to be super-anonymous about it, you can send me an ask on my Tumblr. This would really help me avoid, or smooth over, any potential areas of confusion when giving my talk. I can’t guarantee that I’ll have time to reply, but it would definitely show me the sorts of things I might need to address. Let’s get it all out in the open. Thanks!

Cis people: Help me get a sense of the landscape out there!

154 thoughts on “Cis people: Help me get a sense of the landscape out there!

  1. 1

    I’ve become a bit of an expert against my will recently, but thinking back, one of the most idiotic things I think I said was something to the effect of, “I don’t understand how someone can hate their own gender SO MUCH.” I realize now that I was looking at it from the wrong perspective entirely, but I doubt I am alone in having thought that way. Might be something worth addressing?

  2. 2

    Hi Zinnia,

    I’m a fan since your youtube video on ICP’s miracles. Anyhew, here is my take on a somewhat insensitive question that I am curious about. I guess I’m wondering about trans people who decide not to have any surgery (for reasons including other than the financial barrier alone).

    I’ve heard that opting not to have surgery is more common now days and I wanted to hear more of the motivation as well as any similes to other body parts targeted for plastic surgery by both cis and trans women (say that while trans women can have breasts through hormonal treatment both cis and trans women sometimes want bigger breasts through surgery).

    Is it like coming to terms with their body as it is even if they wish it were different (such as coming to terms with saggy boobs but deciding that the surgery risk, expense, pain isn’t worth it and what is perfection anyway?) or is it more a complete acceptance and happiness with their body such as actually preferring their gentiles as they are and not feeling the need to conform to what the genitals of their gender is “supposed to be” which is usually a range anyway.

  3. 3

    Mostly I just listen to what people want to say. From this I have learned quite a bit, I think, I hope. My observations and listening have taught me somethings about me, too. I realize that my own gender isn’t as static as I once would’ve thought. So, I think that whatever you feel needs to be said, what is pressing for you to communicate to your audience is a very good place to start.

    I do wonder, though, as to the appropriateness of HRT and GRS for children. I wonder the wisdom of these things based on what I know about cognitive development. I see no problem with children living the gender that they identify with, clothing, names, bathrooms, etc., even puberty blocking medications. My concern (not sure this is the right word, it may be too strong), and it may well be unfounded, is with the more permanent aspects of transition.

    1. San

      Paul, I am unaware of any children who are given HRT (as in not just puberty blockers) or SRS. I also don’t know anyone who advocates such things. I believe that the recommendations in the current WPATH guidelines are the best way of dealing with it. After the child has gone through the 1st stage of puberty (10-12 years old I think) and still has a gender identity different to the sex they were born as (this drastically shifts the probabilities from just having fun as a kid to actual gender dysphoria), then they should be allowed puberty blockers, and then can choose to undergo whichever puberty they wish when they reach 16.
      It would be very unethical I think to give HRT or GRS to a child, but I do not believe this practice is done or advocated.
      It’s possible you have misinterpretted something. I know my mother once watched a documentary about a transgender child, and my mother thought that this child had had surgery. After watching it myself I saw that she must’ve just assumed that because it wasn’t the case.

      1. Thank you.

        I read an article yesterday suggesting that there are doctors who have been recommending and parents seeking surgery and hormones for ever younger children. It is from this article that my question arises. “parents and doctors are embracing transgender surgery for children at younger ages—even kids in elementary school,” The article referred to in the quote is from New Yorker piece on a 16 year old who had or is having the surgery, I have no issue with 16 year olds making this decision.

  4. 4

    I think I’m squarely in your target audience. I’m a straight cis man, I take trans people at their word and I hope I have your back legally & socially, but, as you say, I don’t always fully get it. Here’s the bluntest, most 101-level question I’ve ever had:

    Why is ‘trans’ even a thing- i.e. why is the correct response acceptance, altering your life, putting up with a lot of crap, and, for some, full surgical transition? As opposed to “just look at yourself, clearly you’re not a (man|woman), in the same way you’re not Abe Lincoln or a horse, so take these pills and talk to this psychiatrist and we’ll fix that.” My gut feeling from what I’ve read online is that the answer is something like “I did that, and I was still miserable, then I accepted myself as trans, and I wasn’t miserable any more”, but I don’t know.

    1. 4.1

      One response to that question which I encountered early in my transition was to the effect that it is much harder to change the brain than to change the body, and in the case where the problem is between the two the latter is a better choice. We simply do not have the ability to change a person that much, at least without doing serious harm to both brain and body in the process.

      Now speaking from personal experience, I do know that transitioning has made my life so much better and I’m happier all ’round. So there’s an anecdotal data point for you.

    2. 4.2

      I’d like to build on that thought a little bit. If there was a mental health treatment that effectively erased the dissonance between one’s mental and physical self and led one to honestly associate with their apparent sex, would that be a good thing? How would you feel if such a treatment were announced with all the proper double-blind studies and such?

      1. I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking exactly about this question. The fact is, if somehow my gender incongruence had been eliminated, I would be someone else.

        The experience of gender incongruity and the anxiety and depression of trying to suppress it all these years has made me a very different person than I would have been otherwise.

        Further, I’ve had a lot of experiences I would have been unlikely to have had as a cisgender female, and I can’t even imagine what I would have been like as a cisgender male.

        1. I think those a good points. I know that fears about not being “you” anymore surround a lot of mental health treatment, and it’s a real an serious issue to consider. Depression, anxiety, and bipolar can all shape a person’s identity too, but we still seek to “cure” them to reduce their suffering and distress. I’m certain the answer and concerns would vary a great deal from person to person.

          1. To be fair, this is only anecdotal, but I stopped taking antidepressants specifically because they altered my identity to the point where I felt uncomfortable. Not because they weren’t working correctly; actually they worked wonderfully and I was pretty constantly happy, or at least not constantly depressed. But I’d been depressed for years (my best guess for the onset of my depression would be when I was around 10 years old or a bit younger, and I was finally able to seek treatment when I got to college, so I started medication just after turning 19), and feeling happy for no reason at all was extremely disconcerting for me, to the point where I didn’t feel like myself anymore.

            Granted, the jolt to my system from the drug treatment combined with the removal of my primary stressor due to being away from home cleared up some of my symptoms to a certain extent, but sometimes the cognitive changes that result from neurochemical treatment are unacceptable. Not all treatments are worth suffering the side effects for all people.

    1. 5.1

      Definitely. Even the seemingly obvious questions can involve answers that aren’t straightforward, so hopefully the questions keep rolling in.
      (Zinnia, do you intend to answer any of these questions yourself, or would you mind having some of them answered here in this thread – at least at the anecdotal level?)

        1. I had been planning to do this as the thread took shape, but time was against me. So rather belatedly I’ve taken the liberty of answering virtually every question posed in most of this thread, all the way down to comment 42 – with some exceptions, as I didn’t think I could give good answers to the Fallon Fox controversy, and some of the follow-up questions elsewhere were tied rather closely to the particular commenter who’d attempted an answer. Given how many comments are here, a 7,000 word blog post seems relatively laconic? … Perhaps not. (I have a ‘Questions’ page on my blog, but so far the people who read it are too polite to ask me stuff; it has had only 3 questions submitted.)

          So… blogwhoring ahoy: Questions & Answers

  5. 6

    I think for me, it is sort of the mechanics of it that I would be afraid to ask about. Tucking and strapping down and what-not. Shit, it feel rude saying even when you ask for it! I guess because we don’t ask that for anyone… and maybe shouldn’t? But should because we shouldn’t shame people, but shouldn’t again because society shames even when our heart is in the right place? Also I have an idea of the direction that you might could use when talking to us straight cis types:

    I’m pretty sure I’m on board with all the the mental/emotional stuff… I know who and what I am and would reject anyone questioning it, so I reject the entire idea of questioning who and what you know that you are. I’ve got some privilege working here, because I’ve always been entirely and even somewhat ridiculously straight cis male… some of the very few childhood memories I have are looking at and being excited by stickers showing cartoon women with big breasts…actually scraping ice off of car windows and bumpers, when I was 8-9 years old.

    Sorry, the memories got away with me… the point is that I know who I am pretty strongly, where who I am is something I can talk about endlessly and show examples from my relatively scant early memories, and my knowledge and memories match what society expects from me. So knowing that opposing society’s expectations is an uphill battle, if you tell me that in the face of that pressure you still feel a certain way, I can’t imagine not accepting your self-knowledge as valid and defining and the end of the story.

    The point isn’t that I’m some awesome enlightened cis-gendered person, because I’m really all kinds of an asshole all over the place… *grins* But since you asked, maybe that’s an angle along which you can get yourself across to people like me? Many of the questions people like me could ask you might be answered by showing that we all know who we are, and we can’t and shouldn’t change even if we want to, and it is a good and wonderful thing when we know and embrace who we are, rather than hating ourselves and struggling towards being someone who we aren’t.

  6. 7

    This is both a very large and very vague question, but: What do you think gender is? If it isn’t the genitals you’re born with, and it isn’t what you’re taught from birth from everyone around you about the gender you supposedly are based on the genitals you’re born with… what is it?

    For me, my sense that I am a woman comes largely from two things: the fact that I was born with female genitalia, and the fact that everyone around me treated me as female (because I was born with female genitalia). Obviously there are many things I reject about the messages I got about what it means to be female… but none of them made me think, “I’m not really female.” They just made me think, “Society’s ideas of what it means to be female are rigid and fucked up.” So what does it mean to be a woman, if it isn’t the genitals you’re born with, and it isn’t what you’re taught from birth from everyone around you about the gender you supposedly are? What does that mean to you?

    1. 7.1

      This is a great question. I’ve been exploring gender issues over the past 1.5 years, and I’ve found it really confusing. What is gender? Do I want to identify as my assigned gender, with the caveat that half the things people associate with my gender do not apply to me? Or is more genuine identify as genderqueer, knowing that most people don’t know what that is and assume I’m cis? If we continue to expand the definitions of female and male to encompass people who don’t fit the current molds, at what point do those categories become meaningless?

      All of this brings me to a followup to Greta’s question: What about the the concept of gender is useful, and what is harmful/outdated?

    2. 7.2

      For me, my sense that I am a woman comes largely from two things: the fact that I was born with female genitalia, and the fact that everyone around me treated me as female (because I was born with female genitalia).

      Expanding on this, there’s the obvious fact that most people don’t see one’s genitalia; strangers assign us a gender based on secondary sexual characteristics, the way we dress, the way we talk, etc. Maybe you could discuss how all that fits into ones transition? Such as how a trans man might come to be comfortable with how “masculine” their presentation is? I guess its too personal a question to ask. It’s not like we can extrapolate your thought on this to all or even most trans people.

    3. 7.3

      This is a question I’ve always had a lot of difficulty with too.

      On the one hand, it’s pretty clear to me why being acknowledged socially and legally as a member of the class “woman” would be important to someone whose internal sense of themselves matches most closely with whatever they understand “woman” to mean.

      On the other hand, once you take the (IMO liberating) steps of divorcing the notion of “woman” from from pre-existing stereotypes about what women’s bodies look like and what women’s social roles are, I kind of wonder what actual information content is conveyed by the term “woman”. It almost seems to me that once you get to that point, the idea of gender has approximately the same type of content as the idea of “race” — it suggests what stereotypes others are likely to apply to a person, but tells you almost nothing about the person hirself.

      But this latter perspective leaves me very confused when I bring it up alongside the former. It’s easy for me to understand what a cis person means when ze says, “I am a man” or “I am a woman” — generally ze’s been told that since birth and has just accepted it, usually unquestioningly. I can also construct a notion of what a trans person might mean by these statements if ze accepted hir culture’s stereotypes about what men’s and women’s bodies or clothing or social roles should be — the obvious (but perhaps wrong) interpretation would be that this person feels more comfortable swapping hir external presentation from hir originally assigned category to the “other” major socially accepted one. But what makes one “a man” or “a woman” once all of the stereotypes about bodies and clothes and social roles have been rejected, and what is the value that one would see in identifying strongly with one or the other category at that point? The only thing I can think of is, “I am a member of the ‘opposite’ gender from the one I was assigned,” is hella easier to come to terms with, explain to others, and enact politically than, “I completely reject the notion of gender as a useful personal descriptor.”

      So, there’s my rude question — how do serious trans theorists navigate this quagmire?

    4. 7.4

      I am a cis woman and I can’t speak for what it means to trans* people, but I’ve thought about this a bit. I’ve always been much closer to masculine than feminine stereotypes, from refusing to play with dolls to being assertive, aggressive and sometimes violent when I was younger, and I used to think of it more or less your way – that I regarded myself as a woman simply because I had female genitalia, and that identifying as a “man” or a “woman” independent of your genitalia seemed like a weirdly gender-essentialist thing.

      Then at some point something struck me which may or may not resemble how actual trans* people see their gender identity, but at least is one way to look at it. It was that I get annoyed when people on the internet who don’t know my gender address me as “him”. I’m pretty masculine in my hobbies and interests, tend to like and identify with male characters in fiction more than female characters, would pick male characters to play-act as more often than not as a child – but I don’t want people to see me as a guy; I want them to see me as a woman doing these things, exactly because the stereotypes are bullshit.

      So I think there is more to gender socialization than just what society expects of each gender: there is also how those expectations ultimately end up developing you as a person. In my case, growing up knowing of those expectations without too much direct pressure to conform to them made me relish breaking the expectations and perhaps ironically strengthened my identity as a woman (of course, the precise reasons are just guesswork, but I think I’m pretty close). I ended up comfortable being a woman, calling myself a woman and knowing that the people I interact with regard me as a woman – I’m aware of what expectations that creates in people who meet me and am content to navigate my way around those expectations in my own way. For somebody else, this combination of general social expectations, their immediate environment and their basic personality will cause them to experience gender in some other way. It doesn’t have to have anything to do with conformity to those societal expectations – only how you end up relating to them as a person.

      Being a woman isn’t having a vagina and it’s not conforming to what society expects of women – it’s ending up one way or another after all that fucked-up socialization in a place where you feel that you are a woman and are presumably comfortable with others regarding you as a woman, whatever you then choose to do with the expectations that creates.

      Or at least that’s how I’ve come to see it. I don’t presume to speak for everyone, again, but I think it’s at least a start to a way of seeing gender that isn’t about genitalia or stereotypes, for any cis person like me who still has a hard time wrapping their heads around the concept.

      1. antialiasis, what you describe bears some similarities to what I do myself, but maybe also has some differences. For me, saying, “I’m a woman” is a convenient shorthand to allow people to get some idea of what experiences I’m likely to have had in life, while also giving me the satisfaction of frequently disrupting expectations about what that label entails, thus making my own small contributions to combating gender essentialism. So the label has some practical use/entertainment value, while the readily available alternatives (“genderqueer”, “man”) seem like they’d be more awkward, confusing, and inconvenient than they would be entertaining or helpful.

        But when I describe myself as a “woman”, it feels more like the times I say, “Oh, I’m not really religious,” to avoid having a long conversation about atheism than like I’m making a substantive statement about myself. The substantive statement would be more along the lines of, “My life has been strongly defined by having to deal with the bullshit associated with being person who has a conventionally female body and a personality that doesn’t match my society’s expectations for people who have such bodies.” That’s the sense in which “being a woman” is meaningful to me, and when I think about my identity, I think something more like that than like, “I am a woman.” The things that I have difficulty getting my head around are what, if any, common thread there is between this experience and the experiences of other people, trans or cis, for whom the idea of “being a woman” or “being a man” seems to be much more meaningful in and of itself, what those people consider the phrase to signify in a practical sense, and why they consider the concepts to be intrinsically valuable as opposed to merely clumsy heuristics useful only within the context of our lousy, gender-essentialist society.

        To be clear, I’m not making some argument for the sanctity of dictionary definitions over people’s real lived experiences and needs (a la the, “why do gay people think they have the right to steal our sacred word ‘marriage’,” nonsense). Just as in that case, although I consider the way our society handles the underlying concepts (marriage and gender, respectively) to be deeply problematic, I’m still also firmly on the side of establishing as much equality as possible *right now* rather than waiting for fundamental worldview shifts that may be decades or centuries or millennia down the road. My question is more directed at trying to understand, as well as possible, what that real lived experience feels like, and how it’s similar to and different from my own.

    5. 7.5

      I thought a LOT about this when I was first starting to come to terms with my own gender, and I don’t know that I have the perfect answer, but I do have an answer that satisfies most of my own confusion.

      I see gender in a similar way that I see clothing: is a social interaction. A way of communicating something about yourself to others in a quick visual shorthand. It’s not always accurate and miscommunication happens. but for me if someone looked at me and though ‘she’ rather than ‘he’, their assumptions would be more correct than the other way around.

      When I was a kid, I’d be asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. They were mostly talking about occupation, but when you’re adolescent, looking to college and the start to an adult life, I thought of the sort of person I wanted to be. In my head, I could imagine people – possibilities. Stereotypes, sure, but they were something to reach for. INvariably, the person in my head I imagined was female: the hippy chick, the beat poet, the jazz bassist, the gamer girl, the techie girl. Whatever.

      I could think of male types, but they’d always be other people: it wouldn’t resonate in the same way.

      Sometimes I think of it like a needle playing a vinyl record. When my gender expression didn’t match, it was like the needle was stuck up on the wall: the BEST I could hope for was silence, but there was always that tension, possibility of chaotic noise, and the pull of gravity towards the groove.

      When things are in sync, it’s like the needle is in the groove. I can’t vouch for the music, or your taste in the music being played, but at least it’s intentional and less stressful.

    6. 7.6

      This has always been my biggest “I don’t get it” with respect to transgender identity – having rejected gender essentialism (and especially with trans people being a group that defy most conceptualizations of gender essentialism), I didn’t get what the importance of insisting on a particular gender identity was, and a lot of trans narratives struck me (and still strike me) as regressively essentialist (they simply locate the essentialism in prenatal brain structure instead of genitals or hormone levels or ‘secondary’ sex characteristics). For example, despite the decline of the “X trapped in a Y body” narrative that was essentially mandated by APA requirements for a diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder/Gender Dysphoria that many trans people need in order to access health care, I still hear a lot of trans people saying “I feel like a man” or “I feel like a woman.” I’m a cisgendered man, and I have no idea what it means to “feel like a man”, so this always struck me as another problematic essentialist view (i.e. if I don’t feel “right” as a man or woman, it must be that I feel like the other binary gender, not considering that in fact the entire system of binary gender is a flawed, problematic social construct). I’ve since come to realize a few things.

      Trans people grow up with the same deeply-essentialist cultural narratives of gender that pervade society. As with so many things, even personal experience that defies these narratives often doesn’t disrupt their influence on our thinking. Also, when it comes to gender, a lot of our gendered norms are constructed as negatives: masculinity is defined by a lack of feminine-coded traits, such that the manliest manly-man imaginable might be worried about one single feminine-coded interest or behavior or something becoming public knowledge, as that one thing would represent an existential challenge to masculinity, despite the balance being so overwhelmingly masculine (for an excellent analysis of masculinity as supported by differentiation from the abject and as so fragile that a single non-normative aspect can threaten the entire construct, I suggest C. J. Pascoe’s Dude, You’re a Fag). Femininity is similar – I’ve talked to countless women who avoid certain exercises for fear that they’ll develop large, defined muscles, who intentionally play stupid or act passive, etc. It thus makes perfect sense that some trans people would arrive at a way of thinking about their own gendered identities that is essentialist and binary, even if I see the existence of transgender people as disrupting an essentialist, binary model of gender.

      Another thing that’s been suggested is that, in the way that gender, sexuality, etc. might be better modeled as continua or spectra than binaries, the degree to which people conceive of themselves as gendered, sexualized, etc. may also be a continuum. On one extreme we’d have people – trans or cis – who feel that a gendered identity (and a particular gendered identity) are very much tied up with their senses of self – for example, the stereotypical man who sees any challenge to his sense of masculinity as an existential threat; on the other extreme, we have people who literally have no sense of self-gender, who never think of themselves as a man or a woman and don’t care in the slightest how other people read their gender. I’m much closer to the not-caring part of the spectrum, and it occurred to me that the people who adopt a gender identity/presentation/performativity/whatever different from the one assigned at birth based on their genitals are way more likely (or were in the past, at least, in the West – other cultures have sometimes radically different conceptualizations of gender that defy this sort of framing entirely – before the advent of queer challenges to our systems of sex/gender/sexuality themselves; this isn’t a universal, but an overwhelming majority of published studies of trans people or narratives by trans people have used an essentialist, binary model of gender) to be people who REALLY care strongly about their gender, who have a very strong internal(ized) sense of masculinity or femininity, femaleness or maleness by simple virtue of the fact that it’s a whole lot easier for those of us who don’t care much to go along with the cisgendered norms. If we who don’t have a strong sense of gender identity wish to challenge the norms, we might be more likely to identify/perform as genderqueer or cisgendered but in some sort of non-normative way. It seems likely to me that many trans people who do strongly identify with a given gender assume all cis people must identify equally strongly with their genders when a lot of us don’t, which can lead to a lot of confusion over narratives of feeling like a different gender. Likewise, for cisgendered people who don’t have a strong sense of gender, and particularly embodied gender, or one that is as strong, understanding the motivations for transition – and especially for physical/medical interventions – can be confusing. This might also explain some of the confusion over butches and trans men (the similarities and differentiations can be a political flashpoint in some communities), where butches might subscribe to certain masculine-gendered behaviors or presentations, but don’t actually identify as men or males (same deal with sissy boys and trans women; I should also note that while sissy boys and butches are often considered to be homosexual identities, it might be more accurate or useful to look at them as alternate gender identifications for which homosexuality is normative or even just common, but not an absolute necessity).

      Myself, I find a performative model of gender (gender is a social system that informs and constructs our senses of self and behaviors in a mutually-constitutive process, existing as a dynamic, always-contested, historically-culturally-specific constellation of interrelated social norms) like that proposed by Butler to be the most flexibly-capable model – that is, it can account for the broadest range of experiences and considerations of gender. I continue to find the essentialism that is (understandably, given the fact that we as a society view essentialized characteristics as somehow more ‘legitimate’ than socially-constituted ones) embraced by many trans people to be deeply problematic and dismissive of the legitimacy of the experiences of whole swaths of trans and cis people, but I’ve come to an understanding that this might be informed for many people by the strength with which they identify with a particular gender, combined with the fact that we continue to treat gender as a crucial distinction and aspect of self institutionally, so facing repeated institutional forms of marginalization (or privilege) based on gender is going to reinforce gender itself as being so very important.

    7. 7.7

      I’m genderqueer, lived as a woman until I started my transition and I might not have the answer, I can tell you mine.

      When I picture my body with my eyes closed, I see a flat chest. When I do a body scan (ones you do in meditation) I don’t scan my breasts. When I recall memories, I don’t recall breasts. It’s like they’re not there: in my head I just have a male chest.

      I know there has been research to the concept of a body map. It’s this idea in your mind of how your body is. The research is done in people who lost a body part, but it shows we all have an image in our head of our body and that this image can differ from reality.

      For me that is the strongest component of how my transgender shows: the difference between my body map and my body. I didn’t have any problems being treated as a woman before I transitioned (this has changed), but I couldn’t deny the discomfort I felt with my body because it didn’t resemble what it should have been.

  7. 8

    At some point you realized you weren’t, or didn’t feel like, a “man” – did you simultaneously decide that you were a woman, or did your identity float in a “both… neither…” space for a while? Or did I get the initial premise wrong?

    I tend towards being a grammar fanatic, and strongly prefer saying “he or she” (or vice-versa) regarding an unknown individual. But with the transgendered, who at different times have lived on both sides of that line, describing one person as “they” seems to make sense. Yr thoughts?

    What has your transition taught you about women that cis men don’t, but need to, know?

    And when are you going to come give a talk in Gainesville?

    1. 8.1

      I identified as a girl from the earliest ages (three years old), and was beaten viciously, ruthlessly, and systematically, by my father, for telling him and mom I was a girl when a reference to me as a boy was made, and that I belonged in the company of other girls and not that of little boys…..

      I’ve always known, and my body-brain mismatch sex dysphoria was always there too. I was coerced, essentially, into pretending to be something I never was. It’s been horrifically traumatic, for me, personally, all the abuse I suffered from my dad and throughout elementary; constantly called f-word, punched, slapped, bullied, verbally harassed, assaulted even occassionally; due to being visibly trans and it being interpreted as me being a gay boy. Now had I actually been attracted to males (I wasn’t until like 21 or 23 years old iirc) it would have merely meant I would have thought of myself as a straight girl, but I wasn’t attracted to any boys, and all the ones I was attracted to were other girls like me..later on attracted to teenage girls, then young women, then women, etc. I was called the f-word in the very distinct and homophobic way it’s used to connotate specifically that, hundreds of times, before I ever got in the fifth grade.

      In short, I always knew. Not everyone who is trans always knows, but boy did I ever, and the trauma that resulted from that very clear, very distinct and early ‘always knew’ was ridiculous in the extreme.

      Why am I even existing? most days I have no answer to that question, and my life is a living hell and a living nightmare, which is several orders of magnitude removed from some peoples’ experience of things. I shaved off a couple of orders of magnitude, granted, by trransitioning to be sure, but I’m still 6 orders removed or something ridiculous.

      Society, society tried to brutally coerce and brainwash me into pretending to be something I never was. It was ridiculously traumatic, obscenely traumatic.

      Look up the Feminine Boy Project when you get the chance. That was me as a child, I didn’t ‘shape up’ and start really conforming in any significant way, to what society expected of me, until after puberty, and after that, everyone was so scared of me, like I was a Law Abiding Citizen (the movie) or something. I did that on purpose, because I figured, if I was going to be forced to live a lie by an asshole society, everyone would live in terror of me without ever being able to cohere why or what it was they were feeling about me or why specifically they felt that way. My reaction to the ruthless coercion and brainwashing was to inflict on society some of the terror it inflicted on me with no remorse or regrets in the slightest.

      I know this question wasn’ t directed at me, but I’m just sharing my experience, as I think you (and others) will find it useful.

      Valuable statistical insights can be accrued here kind sir:


    2. 8.2

      Also, I need to add another thing here. My dad beat me hundreds of times before I ever got out of training diapers. It started when I mentioned to him and mom I was a girl and needed to be with other girls, that I didn’t feel safe around little boys, etc. He targeted me every time I referenced being a girl, and then eventually he started targeting any gender expression he didn’t like: every time I limped my wrist he cracked it viciously as we as spanking me very hard, every time I cried he beat me viciously, until I learned to catch my self and have a sort of ‘terror shake’ instead of crying.

      Society supports that, it really does, in so many ways. the Feminine Boy Project was formed by religious conservatives to address just such problematic (trans or other) children. It was all about religious conservative ministers and doctors encouraging fathers to beat their children like this. Because, you know, three and four year olds make lifestyle choice, of course, what else could it be?

  8. 10

    There is an awful lot to be covered here Zinnia so I am just going to present it as it comes in no
    particular order // But first we need to congratulate you on consciousness raising after the piece
    about offensive terminology which came after another one written by another tran // Some times
    something is so powerful that it just makes you stop there and then // And this relates to the fact
    that all common terms for trans come from porn which can be rather disrespectful to any one //
    Yet it never occurred to me // It just was not on my radar and indeed why should it be // However
    I now no longer use those terms // It never occurred to me since unlike racist or misogynistic or
    homophobic terms there is no historical legacy to transphobic language so one has nothing to
    compare what is and is not acceptable so I would have carried on using them regard less // So
    well done on educating me and long may it continue // You can mention this at the talk so raise
    the consciousness of others also // Now on to other matters // I have read that the reason why
    trans want to change their gender is because of a chemical imbalance in the brain so is this a
    true statement or not // Are you legally allowed to reference your gender change or are you now
    seen as being of the same sex you were born with // Has a woman ever oomplained about you
    using female public toilets and again what does the law say about this // Do you worry that the
    trans community will always be under the wing of the gay community because there are so few
    of them to be an effective pressure group in their own right // Do you think that rad fems should
    regard male to female trans as truly female in gender or are they right in believing that one can
    only qualify as such if born with a vagina // Do you think straight men who watch tran porn on a
    regular basis are doing so for the wrong reasons or could this be one way in which the barrier
    of prejudice and ignorance could be tackled // Is there a reason as to why there are more male
    to female trans than female to male // Is the chemical imbalance in the brain that I referred to a
    bit earlier on more prominent in males than in females // Are there more gay or straight trans //
    i think that is it for now // I hope the talk goes well and wish you all the best // You do not say if it
    is your first time though if your delivery is anything like in the video you have just made then you
    should have no problem // I was rather impressed with your tone and presentation and you talk
    so fluently which makes for good listening // I am assuming the talk shall be filmed for I would
    like to see it very much // So thank you for reading this and once again we wish you all the best

  9. 11

    I’m always curious to hear about how someone’s internal experience of their own body and mind change (and how they stay the same) over the process of transitioning between sexes.

    It ties into that notion that even most people seem to have had – wondering what it would be like to spend a day as a member of the opposite sex. Trans men and women seem in a unique position to discuss the differences in feel between the sexes. It’s interesting.

    That’s an intensely personal line of inquiry to take of course – so it’s up there in the list of things I wouldn’t normally ask about unless I knew the person very well.

  10. 12

    Why do some trans* people dislike the distinction made between sex and gender (e.g. “sex is between your legs; gender is between your ears”)? When talking about a trans* person’s past, would it be all right to say something like “before she transitioned” or is there a better way to put it?

  11. 13

    Shit… how about this question:

    Feminists generally reject gender essentialism, at least the feminists I respect. Women are not X, men are not Y… but how does that work in the context of trans people, since the whole idea of “trans” seems to revolve around an internal sense of “maleness” or femaleness” that doesn’t seem to quite mesh with feminism. If there is no difference between men and women, or at least no difference worth caring about, why would trans people bother with the extra effort? So do you care about reconciling the two seemingly contradictory positions… and if so, how do you do it?

    While I don’t have a satisfactory answer to the question yet, I don’t really need one. I am happy to shrug my shoulders and just go with equal rights and nondiscrimination and take your word for it that you know better than me what’s going on with you and otherwise not being a terrible person because I don’t have a 100% logical argument for my ethical position.

    1. 13.1

      I had the same trouble, but realised that I was coming at it the wrong way. The conflict you see is probably the result of conflating having opinions about other people, with having opinions about yourself. For example: If I don’t care how you express your gender, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t care about how you express your own identity.

      Or to put it another way, you might say that ice cream is generally good and the flavor of it isn’t essential to it being good ice cream, but that doesn’t mean that a particular person can’t have a favorite. And another person could have a different one, and they both can be right!

      Or to relate it to something else you might have already thought about: it’s sorta like the freedom of religion issue with school prayer. The argument that denying them the ability to impose their religious beliefs on others is infringing on their freedom of religion.

  12. 14

    Two things I’ve sometimes wondered about:

    1) Terminology question: Is it generally correct to say “used to be male” or “used to be female” when talking about the assigned-at-birth gender of a trans* person? More generally (and I assume this is different for different trans* people, but I don’t know if there’s a good rule of thumb or what-have-you) is it more correct to talk about someone having “changed” gender, or is it more correct to talk about how they changed the way they identify their gender (ie: their gender was always the same, they just changed the word they use to refer to it). I really hope that makes sense, I’m even having trouble with my terminology to ask a question about terminology.

    2) Do trans women who have had bottom surgery have the same vaginal flora as cis women? If not, do they have something comparable or is it even necessary? Or is there just some extra hygiene involved?

    1. 14.1

      Putting aside any attempt to be polite, nuanced etc. etc …
      I agree with omniz that the man in the street is going to wonder what the result of surgery is, whether he could tell, and what can be done with it.

      1. I have a friend that has had the procedure referenced done a few years ago, and she was intimate with a guy recently w/o disclosing her more interesting past with gender and things went just fine. I don’t think he could tell.

        Externally, things look pretty normal and well within the bounds of variation you’d expect from humanity. Internally things are a bit different(no cervix, for example), but even that depends a lot on the particular procedure done. I’d imagine it’s closer to a cis-woman that has had a hysterectomy.

        I don’t have any personally experience myself, so I’d just be guessing based on what I know from my own research into what procedures are available.

        The most common is something like a penis inversion. The erectile tissue is removed, but the glans and plumbing is preserved. Glans are reshaped and positioned as a neoclitoris (which the penis more or less was natally anyway), and the skin of the shaft is inverted to form an abdominal cavity in the anatomically correct place. You end up with, if things go well, sexual sensitivity, around 5-6″ of depth, and a lack of natural lubrication. Which would mean some hygienic steps would be necessary, since there’d be no natural cleansing going on. Some cis-woman have that problem as well, though.

        A while ago, I read about a procedure that made use of a section of colon in addition to inversion. That sounds like a riskier procedure, but that tissue does provide natural lubrication and could also provide added depth.

        A third procedure that I’ve heard about, but not read any real literature on – so this could be a trans-myth – is using a cheek-cell graft. The inside of your mouth is a LOT like the inside of a cis-womans vagina, and I’d think that it’d be possible to get a neo-vagina that is much closer to naturally grown. But… could just be a myth. But one that does get my heart racing!

        1. Not a myth besomyka! Occasionally if there isn’t enough skin for a penile inversion of sufficient depth, skin grafts from other sites on the body are used – usually areas of the thigh and abdomen without follicles (or otherwise electrolysis is necessary before grafting). There are cases of cis women born with vaginal agenesis (absence) or vaginal atresia (deformation of the vagina) where a portion of the buccal mucosa (the interior lining of the cheek) is harvested for grafting as part of the vaginal lining in a vaginoplasty. I gather though, that that particular one is comparably rare in trans women since colovaginoplasty (where part of the ascending or sigmoid colon is used for the vaginal lining) usually doesn’t have a severe limit of vaginal depth, as penile inversion does.

  13. 15

    Let me describe my experience. Cis white male here with all the entitlement that entails, apologies about any unintended insensitivity (please enlighten me as needed), I just want to be honest so you can take anything useful away from it.

    I have a friend (nerd/gamer like me, also a respected colleague), at a point in my life when I wasn’t as enlightened about trans issues, who came out that she was transitioning to the female gender over lunch. I definitely had a “holy shit” moment, but thankfully she let me recover from the shock without pressing me while I let the adrenaline fade. To this day, I’m not entirely sure why I had this physiological response (it was involuntary, as far as I could tell at the time). Anyway, once the reality of it set in, I was very curious (nerds need to know). Given that we were friends, I didn’t feel much restraint in asking questions. She initiated the process with the courageous and proactive intent that I have trouble mustering. I asked how it was going and how the process works. I did feel hesitant about asking the question of whether genital surgery was on the table, but asked anyway. To me, this is the biggest deal, not that male genitalia are better than female, but how could the surgery possibly be successful in a way where an orgasm would even be possible or as enjoyable as it once was (would the nerves/wiring be intact). I skipped delving into this concern, feeling that, while I value this immensely and couldn’t imagine a scenario where I would take the risk, its just my personal assessment and have no right to impose. I’ve been hands off since on this subject since (don’t know for sure, even though she has done other things to make her more feminine). Its been a few years and our friendship has changed, I’d like to think for a handful of other good reasons other than her gender change and my reaction to it, but it would be dishonest to say it hasn’t changed for that reason too.

    1. 16.1

      None of the trans people I know have ever regretted it. Not even in the slightest. Generally, people who take those steps have thought about it a LOT, most have acted in desperation to save their lives. I don’t know of anyone that did such a thing casually enough to not be pretty sure from the outset.

      Now, no one has changed their minds, but even if someone did the effects of hormones are noticeable pretty quickly (4-6 weeks at most), but even then the effects are reversible. So if you didn’t handle the drop in T, and having your breasts swell a bit is, despite your best guesses, uncomfortable for you, then you can just stop taking the hormones and things will go back to where they were pretty quickly.

      To have taken hormones long enough for breast development to be irreversible, or to run into gamete issues, or to have done all that and lived socially as a woman long enough to qualify for surgery… I mean, it’d be very strange to change your mind at that point.

      I have heard to two examples of people changing their minds. The first was someone that was unhappy with transition, and the second was someone with a more complicated gender identity.

      The first person transitioned back to male after having been on hormones and having reassignment surgery. I got the impression that it was more about social ostracization than a sense of self, though. I think is zhe were more accepted publically, zhe wouldn’t have transitioned a second time.

      The second person self-described as female-to-male-to-female. She transitioned initially, but then changed her mind. I remember she said that she had more facial hair than her trans girlfriend. Her gender identity was more fluid than most, and I didn’t get the impression that she regretted any of it, or felt uncomfortable with the masculine identity, more that she just changed and felt more comfortable with a more fem presentation.

      Some trans people might object to the latter, but I recall her being well-received and supported. As a member of the trans community, I support it in any case.

    1. 17.1

      The rule of thumb that I would go by is to assume the gender of the presentation, not your read. If a person is wearing makeup and a skirt, even if that person has facial hair or a masculine jawline, or broad shoulders, I’d still say ‘she’ unless corrected.

      Go with what they are trying to express whether or not it ‘succeeded’.

  14. 18

    Possibly outside of your brief, but I’d like your take on where/if/how trans folks deal with the LGBT community.

    I’m a gay, cis man. From my specific experiences, I’ve come to view LGBT as an umbrella term that encompasses a hugely heterogeneous group of people–to the extent that it seems that anyone with an atypical sexual dimension can claim membership. I’ve seen no small amount of friction between supposed fellow members, which I suppose shouldn’t be surprising given that there are so many other dimensions to people.

    Do trans folks feel welcome, or included, or even tolerated among more numerous LGBT elements? (Yeah, I know about the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, but I have no idea if their policy is representative of other organizations or individuals). Is there anything individuals can do, other than trying not to say or do anything idiotic?

    1. 18.1

      I can only speak from my own experience, but when I first started my transition, I went to a few meetings of a local LGBT support group.

      The women were quite welcoming, but the guys, the guys treated me like I was radioactive or contagous or something.

      Indeed, aside from a couple fundamentalist Christians, the only friends who’ve had any trouble at all with my transiton were gay males.

  15. 19

    Zinnia, I am cis and straight (as far as I know so far). I love women but I have a sort of wacky man crush on Benedict Cumberbatch if that makes any sense. I hate all these terms to describe it. Humans are SEXUAL. The way we ideate has less to do with our physical gender and more to do with our neural makeup. As a medical student, I became fascinated with identity and how it is formed in humans. My conclusion was a jaw-crackingly boring one: We simply are what he are. What is not boring is our innate sense of identity and how important it is to us and how vicious some people are in the depths of their ignorance. While I am comfortable with anyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, I do often wonder how a trans person wishes to be addresses. I’ve been told conflicting things by different people. A female-male trans friend prefers to be addressed as a male. Another trans friend, male-female prefers to leave it open. Even when I know the rules i still wonder if referring to my female-male trans friend as “bro” sounds disingenuous. I try with all my might to ignore the issue altogether and relate as I would to anyone who is cis. Does this make sense? .

  16. 20

    First of all I want to compliment the other commentators on their sensitivity and thoughtfulness. You people all rock. My own questions are frivolous curiosity. Have you had sex as a man with a woman? Have you had sex as a woman with a man? I would dearly love to experience both sides of the sexual divide, and it seems to me that trans people might have experienced this. So in a way you are like an explorer who has visited a strange and exotic land. I want a report.
    I have always been cis, and comfortable in my own gender. But in the days when castration was the accepted treatment for cancer of the prostate, I swore that if such a thing ever happened to me I would go the whole distance with SRS and experience life as a woman. Unfortunately I’d be so ugly that getting laid could be a problem, but maybe some horny dude would agree to fuck me. Anyway, these are my own questions I would never ask a trans person. I have no idea how many other people have the same questions and repress them. But getting away from being super careful about hurting your feelings, you wanted to know what I would never ask and there it is. Shallow as a soap dish, but that’s what’s on my mind.

  17. 21

    Now that I think about it, it has been almost a decade since I first met a trans person in real life. He’s a trans man, who was a co-worker on a construction crew I was on–an all-woman construction crew, except for him, which made it a little odd to explain to people – our all-woman + one trans man construction crew! But still awesome. I learned a lot that summer.

    And a couple of years after that I started meeting more trans men and women and interacting with them online. So I have already answered a lot of the questions I have. I had to think about it for a while to come up with something, but I managed.

    First, sex! I don’t wonder too much about the mechanics of it, but the negotiation if you’re dating and getting to know someone, when/if to tell your prospective partners, and what to tell them, what do you worry about, do people freak out often? I bet you get a lot of creepsters, just based on the amount of “she-male” fetish porn that’s out there.

    Second, learning more about how transgender people experience gender and sex has really given me a sense of liberation as I’ve come to embrace more and more the idea that gender is performance, that it’s constructed, and that it’s really optional what we want “woman” or “man” to mean. Am I being appropriative in doing that? What sort of lessons do you think cis people should be drawing from the fight for trans equality?

  18. 22

    Old, white, cis male (OWCM) here: please turn on your privilege ‘autocorrect’ if necessary.

    I think of your comment, Zinnia, when you came out to your grandfather, who asked “is that like cross dressing?” (the quote is from memory, so forgive me if I’ve got either you or your grandfather wrong.)

    Rule number one in polite society seems to be treat the person as the person “presents” themselves.

    So my question, basically, is what does it mean, for a trans person, before or after whatever event, to “present” as one sex or the other?

    I don’t look at the males I see while shopping and wonder whether or not they have been circumcised. I don’t wonder (in the coarse, traditional, phrase) whether their ‘balls were shot off in the war.” I don’t look at the females I see while shopping and wonder whether there is something “extra” in their undies, whether the “extra” might be (to be crude) piercing hardware or a menstrual pad, or a penis. I don’t wonder whether they are wearing ‘falsies’ in order to “present” themselves as female. I simply don’t wonder — they present as males or females and I assume they are folks just as they present themselves.

    So what is it, I ask, for a trans person to “present” as a certain gender? How does a trans person “present” so as to attract no undue attention? How does the “presentation” matter in any meaningful way until one is in a bar (or somewhere) debating “your place or mine?”

    And finally, just asking as an OCWM (and as an agent provocateur): How IS it “presenting oneself” as a given gender different from “cross-dressing”?


  19. Pen

    I think it would be helpful to address at the conference exactly the topic you brought up here: the proper boundaries of information seeking, the need for privacy of trans people in ordinary life, the partly conflicting need for information coming from well meaning people who want to understand something new, and who may, indeed, need to adapt workplace policies or family environments around it. I think it would be a good idea to talk about appropriate sources of information – especially since you obviously can’t cover every topic in one talk. Those sources might include, websites, books, films, etc. If you feel you’re representing trans people in general in some sense, it would be good to think about how to address that diversity which might include issues of sexuality, gender differences, types of transition. I think to sum it up, it would be nice to hear about what you think are ‘best practices’ in relations between trans people and others.

  20. Ary

    What do you think about detransion?
    When that happens? I just saw today this could actually happen. I know it´s not a “choice” (as much as sexuality isn´t), but how can someone be wrong about it? Is just (can be) as “fluid” as some sexual orientations are?

    Will this talk you´ll give be uploaded on youtube?

  21. 25

    I have a question. What if a person grows up as a male, but then transitions at some point to female, and wants to compete in fighting (or any other contact/combat sport, rugby, wrestling, judo, tae kwon do, etc.) in the women’s division? Given that there are certain bone structure differences between most men and most women, is it fair for that athlete to compete against other women? I understand that once someone goes on hormones, their body begins to change, but I’m pretty sure things like bone density take awhile to change. This isn’t a question as to whether or not she is authentically female (this is where a lot of MMA commentators go off the depend and become sexist), but rather whether the real biological differences between men and women should be salient in athletic competition. I suppose one solution, which I would call the “Vassar bathroom model,” is to eliminate the gender divide in sports and have men and women compete in the same league (not sure how successful/safe/fair that would be, but it would be equal). I’m interested in what alternatives people can come up with. This is particularly relevant since I think there are several cases of this in MMA, including one MTF MMA fighter who has brutally knocked out her first two female opponents in less than a minute. Is this brutality, or the new face of fairness?

    1. 25.1

      MTF MMA fighter who has brutally knocked out her first two female opponents in less than a minute.

      A lot of people have tried to portray those fights as a man brutally beating a helpless woman, but Ericka Newsome, one of those “brutally knocked out” fighters, sees it differently:

      ” She never really landed a punch on me. I took her down pretty easily and felt dominant. She caught me with a knee and the referee stopped the fight. I – and my corner – thought the fight was stopped prematurely. I felt like I recovered quickly; I was aware and had my witts about me. We felt the fight should have gone on.”

      1. Thanks, but that doesn’t really answer the question. One of her opponents was absolutely brutally knocked out, and the other KO was controversial (I’m having trouble finding good quality video of either fight).

        So let’s get back to my question, which is: What if a person grows up as a male, but then transitions at some point to female, and wants to compete in fighting (or any other contact/combat sport, rugby, wrestling, judo, tae kwon do, etc.) in the women’s division? Given that there are certain bone structure differences between most men and most women, is it fair for that athlete to compete against other women?

        1. This is especially relevant since the current women’s champ, “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey thinks that Fallon Fox shouldn’t be able to fight in the women’s division. McKinley Noble writes, “Rousey is adamant that the UFC is no place for Fox, telling the New York Post that while she personally had no problem competing against hermaphrodites in the Olympics, someone who made the decision to change gender like Fox is a completely different story” ( Of course, Rousey has also said publicly that she would fight Fallon Fox, but she says that the fight wouldn’t be “fair,” and then unfortunately makes a lot of transphobic comments that detract from her one legitimate concern.

        2. I wasn’t attempting to answer the question. I was disputing your subjective classification of her fights as “brutal” . You find no good video of the fights but you assume that the other knockout was “brutal” because … why? Was her opponent badly injured, moreso than in normal MMA fights? Did any of her opponents have to give up MMA because they were permanently disabled by Fox’s abnormal power? I’ve heard nothing of her permanently damaging any opponents, and the women who have fought her have said they had no idea she was trans and didn’t think she was some unstoppable brutal juggernaut.

          To answer your question, no, there is no inherent difference that is not within normal variation. The “bone structure/density” reasoning is extremely vague and no one has offered any proof that these variations would create an unusual martial art advantage. When you see a man beating up a woman, you don’t say “Hey, stop using your different bone structure like that!” It’s the size and muscle mass (addressed by weight class and hormones) that matter, and bone structure only matters when people are grasping at reasons for trans women to be disqualified.

          1. The fight’s brutality was widely commented on in the MMA world. I first heard about it on the Joe Rogan Podcast. Unfortunately, Joe Rogan said a lot of transphobic things about Fallon Fox that were totally out of line. But after I saw his podcast, I read a few other articles about the fight, and they suggested that Fox totally destroyed her first two opponents. But thanks for pointing me to Ericka’s perspective. I was under the understandably mistaken impression that she had been totally dominated in the fight (both fights ended in the 1st round).

            Furthermore, I thought it was relevant since the current women’s champ says that she isn’t happy with Fallon Fox being able to compete in the women’s division. So please, let’s get this straight, this isn’t me saying, “MTF people shouldn’t be able to compete in the women’s division.” I’m asking, “What do you say to female MMA fighters like Ronda Rousey who say that they think that MTF women have an unfair advantage?” Are you sure that bone structure doesn’t matter? (I’m not a doctor or a biologist, but it seems plausible to me that the bone structure difference might matter).

            Anyway, I didn’t mean to make this a debate about the UFC or women’s MMA, but instead, to discuss the idea of trans-athletes’ participation in gender differentiated sports. Does anyone want to tackle my question about whether it makes more sense to eliminate gender distinctions in sports? Is there a good reason to separate men and women in contact/combat sports?

        3. I have never seen the fights described as “brutal” or even very out of the ordinary by anyone that wasn’t clearly invested in Fallon being disqualified. If she had decimated her opponents you’d be seeing “the shocking video!!!” of it all over and still photos of the bloodied and bruised faces of her opponents. I am not suggesting you misrepresented this on purpose, I’m suggesting you were lied to.

          Are you sure that bone structure doesn’t matter? (I’m not a doctor or a biologist, but it seems plausible to me that the bone structure difference might matter).

          Yes, I am. Because no one has ever been able to tell me why the supposed bone structure differences matter. What benefits are these differences providing, and is Fallon Fox clearly showing it? Why did no one notice these advantageous features before she came out as trans?

          People bring up supposed difference in “reach” between men and women, but it can just as quickly be pointed out that certain men in MMA have considerably longer reach than their opponents and are not disqualified. If a cis woman with a reach matching Fallon’s wouldn’t be disqualified then there’s no issue. Also, longer reach makes one more vulnerable to grappling and submission moves, so it balances out.

          People bring up bone density, but they don’t say why bone density is supposed to matter. Is it because her bones would be less likely to break? Well, you’re not supposed to purposefully break bones in MMA so that’s irrelevant. Is it because her bones would be heavier and provide more weight to punches and kicks? Well, if that was the case then she’d be in a higher weight class than she should be, and it would be balanced by women who have lighter bones but more muscle mass (since to achieve the same weight they would have to have an advantage to compensate for the supposed weight of bone). It could even be argued that it would place Fox at a disadvantage because heavier muscles produce more power as well as weight, while bone can only provide weight.

          I’m asking, “What do you say to female MMA fighters like Ronda Rousey who say that they think that MTF women have an unfair advantage?”

          What I say to them is “In what way does she have an unfair advantage? Spell it out. Then we can see if those advantages are real; we cannot legitimately discuss this if you only appeal to vague essentialism.”

          Anyway, I didn’t mean to make this a debate about the UFC or women’s MMA, but instead, to discuss the idea of trans-athletes’ participation in gender differentiated sports.

          The Olympics have accepted trans athletes for decades, and there has been no flood of trans women taking over their sports. The amount of resistance to trans athletes even participating should demonstrate the plausibility of the idea of entirely eliminating gender distinctions in sports.

          1. “Well, you’re not supposed to purposefully break bones in MMA so that’s irrelevant.”

            You’re not supposed to but it happens pretty frequently. So you’ve identified one way that bone density is an advantage.

        4. You’re not supposed to but it happens pretty frequently. So you’ve identified one way that bone density is an advantage.

          That’s pretty weak tea as advantages go. Most of the people complaining about Fallon Fox are claiming she’d be able to easily brutalize opponents with superior inherent power, not claiming that she’d be able to withstand damage that isn’t supposed to be happening anyway. Is a cis female that takes calcium supplements regularly going to be disqualified too?

    2. 25.2

      The women’s roller derby association (WFTDA) came out in support of trans women a couple of years ago. You might look to them for examples. Once we got past the transphobic and sexist bullshit about any “men” (they’re not) having an automatic advantage over any women (they don’t), we find that trans women are just like cis women in their sport–they vary a lot in size and athletic ability; some of them aren’t very good athletes, some of them are good, and a small few of them are amazing. All of them get their asses handed to them at some point, and we haven’t seen teams that contain trans women skaters consistently winning over teams that don’t. IOW, for all of the hand-wringing that went into the decision, the whole discussion about “unfair advantages” simply hasn’t materialized.

      Related, we’re also seeing less fear about coed derby, as well as less fear about men’s and women’s teams playing against each other. In some areas, they compete together quite often and are sometimes evenly matched and sometimes not (in favor of either team). There are “d-bag” rules that apply to any two skaters, regardless of sex, who are unevenly matched in size and/or ability in friendly competition: in short, you do what you need to win while trying not to present an inordinate danger to your opponent.

      In any sport, you’ll see superior athletes who’re blessed with an array of physical advantages prevailing over athletes that don’t have those same advantages. Pound for pound, IMO there are more important factors at play than sex (or gender).

      1. I would suggest that because MTF transsexuals tend to inhabit lives towards the more “feminine” end of the spectrum which is women, they are less likely to behave, in physical contact sports, in ways which are towards the more “masculine” end of the spectrum which is women. Hence why you haven’t seen any MTF transsexuals dominating your roller derby games/competitions.

        1. Yeah, sorry, whether a woman is “fem” or not has nothing to do with how good an athlete she is. That’s just the same sexist b.s. that already pervades discussions of women’s sports. We have plenty of women–cis and trans–who are NOT on the more “feminine end of the spectrum” who are average skaters or worse.

  22. 26

    I’ve read about a number of detransitions, and they seem to fall into one of four classes:

    1. Detransition due to a religious imperative. (“Be the man you were born as or go to h*ll!)

    2. The transition was to please someone they were in a relationship with, and with the end of thte relationship, so went the desire to be the other gender. (Most psychs will try to detect and discourage this.)

    3. The transitin was undertaken in a hasty manner. (Like Sam Hashimi/Samantha Kane/Charles Kane.)

    4. Psychs just plain missed warning signs that it wouldn’t work. (Like complete loss of libido after starting hormones.)

      1. Ary

        Thanks for you answer! I can see by your tone that it is not so legitimate in the trans community am I right?

        I´m gay and I´m trying to link this with the experience I´m most aware of, that of “ex-gays”. Although they´re mostly anti-gays, I´ve been trying to understanding their feelings and not to label them immediately as bigots.

        1. Not at all. I wouldn’t see the question as one of legitimacy but of controversy, since there are multiple aspects of both the medical gatekeeping and social pressures that contribute to transgender people being in a comparably powerless and disunited position. When you say ‘not so legitimate’, which trans community do you mean? It isn’t a unified community.

  23. 27

    Is cis/trans* a binary or a continuum or a manifold or something else? Can someone be a little trans*?

    All the more detailed drafts of this question quickly became “Nepenthe overshares”, so I hope this makes some sense.

  24. 28

    For me, my “ah-ha” moment was when I first tried to understand a transperson’s point of view and I finally understood that I couldn’t. I don’t know what femaleness feels like for the same reason a fish doesn’t know what wet feels like. I know what it means to have gender roles thrust upon me and how wrong that feels, but I’ve never had my entire gender identity questioned or rejected. From there, I was able to set my own baggage aside and start learning. Basically, I shut up and I listened.

    I had a secret weapon against my ignorance though that not everyone has. I accidently met one of the toughest, smarted, best informed people on the planet and she’s walked me into the light. This is not the only thing she enlightened me about. She was pivotal in my exit from religion and woo. To my great happiness and despair, she’s leaving us next week for greener pastures. She is moving to a more cosmopolitan area and beginning her life over on her own terms. Chicago is about to be improved considerably and this town is losing one of it’s brightest lights. I hate that she ever had to live here and hide herself away at work and with family, but I shudder to think what my life would be today if she hadn’t been here.

    jfigdor, She’s an amazing fighter. She’s also physically no different at all from other women. There isn’t some residual maleness that clings to her. She’s fighting in her weight class. No other female fighters have refused to fight her, though they have been encouraged to do so. Some have argued that she has more bone density or some such, but even if that is true, that is not a factor in deciding a person’s gender or who they fight. Also, it is not as if she transitioned to gain an advantage in her fights. She should not have to give up a sport that she is clearly gifted in because she is trans. If she is indeed somehow more physically gifted than other female fighters, so what? Isn’t seeing who is more physically gifted sort of the point of such a competition? She’s a woman. She fights other women. They’re ok with it, even when she’s kicking their asses. It seems to me that only the male fans are butthurt about this. I think that’s because they know eventually she will meet her match and she will lose. (Even Babe Ruth struck out sometimes) Since they see her as a man, that would mean a woman beat a man and for the toxicly masculine MMA fan, that is terrifying.

    Also, in what way is MMA ever not “brutal”? You seem a bit overly concerned for her opponents considering they seem to have gotten off the mat and gone back to training for the next “brutal” fight like it was just another day ending in “Y”. They don’t need your protection. They don’t want it. This “concern” is not about them, this is about you and how this makes you feel. That’s a non-issue.

    1. 28.1

      She’s also physically no different at all from other women. There isn’t some residual maleness that clings to her. She’s fighting in her weight class

      Indeed, the statistical differences that jfigdor notes are primarily an artifact of men being slightly larger on average and being more statistically likely to have engaged in serious exercise/physical labor (those being things that increase bone density and muscle mass).

        1. The practical upshot of this is that there’s no reason to suppose that male MMA fighters have more bone density on average than female MMA fighters in their weight class, which is what’s relevant here. To answer your earlier question, I really don’t see any reason to maintain sex-segregation in sports; weight classes cover the relevant differences between competitors adequately AFAICT.

          1. I think you might be right, Dalillama, Schmott Guy. I think the consistent feminist position is to eliminate sex-segregation in sports. Look at Danika Patrick’s success in Nascar (which is quite different, admittedly, from MMA or even tennis).

    2. 28.2

      Sorry, I didn’t catch this reply since it wasn’t linked to my post. Good responses.

      As for MMA being brutal, I think most fans agree that it is controlled brutality. It takes place within a structure of rules. When brutality occurs that is within the rules (think one punch KO), that is fine, but brutality that occurs outside of the rules is not tolerated (you can’t hit someone after a fight, you can’t bring a weapon to the cage, you can’t elbow from 12-6, you can’t knee a downed fighter, etc.). I’m asking if the male-female divisions are as useful to MMA as the weight divisions are (you almost never have a lightweight fighter fighting a heavyweight in modern times).

      Also, in response to your accusation of concern trolling, that’s really out of place in this thread. This is a place for people to ask 101 questions. I’m asking because the current women’s UFC Champ says she has a problem with it.

  25. 29

    Here’s something I haven’t been able to sort out in my own head regarding trans issues. So maybe someone here can help?

    On the one hand, I’m pretty deeply opposed to genderedness in general. I don’t like it when parents push their kids into one gender or other. I don’t like it when people treat one gender differently from the other. I absolutely *hate* it when the government gets involved, asking people which sex they are, telling people whom they can marry on the basis of sex, and telling people which sorts of hormones or surgery they need to get before the government will start treating them the way it treats the other sex. I don’t mind that certain people have sexual preferences for certain body parts, certain sorts of dress, and certain sorts of behavior — whatever floats their boat (among consenting adults) is fine by me. But even in the case of personal choices, I have some trepidations about people making a point of publicly presenting themselves as one gender, taking offense if someone miscategorizes their gender, etc — all of this seems to be perpetuating a gender orthodoxy that I generally oppose… In my ideal world, different genders would be at most a hobby that people could take up on however many or few occasions they like, and their choices on this wouldn’t affect how they’re treated in society any more than, say, my choice to wear a blue shirt rather than a green shirt affects how I’m treated today.

    But, on the other hand, I have a really hard time making sense of what “trans” means without embracing some sort of traditional — and in my eyes problematic — understanding of gender. Someone who is “trans” is roughly (I take it) someone who has been associated (by anatomy, by their parents, or by society) with one gender, but internally associates more strongly with another. Since I’m generally opposed to genderedness to start with, I have a hard time really getting behind supporting someone deeply wanting to switch to a new gender. So even though I’m a strong advocate of LBQ rights, I somehow have a trickier time with T.

    Here’s an analogy. Suppose it’s apartheid era in South Africa, and imagine someone there who outwardly appears to be white, but internally identifies with blacks, and even wants to save up money to get some facial surgery and skin pigmentation so that they can pass as black. On the one hand, I sort of want to respect this person’s right to choose/form/live their own identity, but on the other hand, I think apartheid is completely effed up, and I feel like going to all this effort to switch which classification one belongs to just perpetuates the problems of having society treat these as significant classifications in the first place.

    Note: I’m generally fine with adults freely choosing whatever cosmetic modifications and hormonal treatments they want for themselves — I just have a hard time with them pointedly buying into a classification scheme that strikes me as harmful. Using ‘trans’ as a label seems to buy into the validity of our gender classification system in the first place, which is something I’m reluctant to do. (Incidentally, I do have some similar concerns about labels like “straight” or “gay”, though those concerns tend not to be quite as strong, perhaps because counting as “gay” doesn’t involve any commitment to outwardly presenting as anything I find problematic, whereas being “trans” apparently does — e.g., I count as “straight” just because I tend to like genitals that have the inverted shape of my own, not because I’ve made any commitment to present my gender in any particular way, whereas the only way I could count as “trans” is if I did commit to advertising myself as one gender.)

    In a nutshell: How much does labelling people as “trans” commit us to the validity of existing gender classifications? And is that problematic?

    1. 29.2

      If we lived in your ideal world where gender is nothing more than a hobby, I would STILL need hormones and surgical alteration to make my body match up with my brain’s map of it. If I did not have those things, I would experience the pain of gender dysphoria even if it was A-OK for people to pick whatever socially-gendered expressions they want.

      Using ‘trans’ as a label seems to buy into the validity of our gender classification system in the first place, which is something I’m reluctant to do.

      Society largely already refuses to accept trans people’s genders as valid; by actively doing the same you’re upholding the status quo, not breaking down barriers. Cis people are the ones that invented and control the gender classification system; if you want to change it, you have to make them see their own genders as invalid and cosmetic. Trans people don’t have any control or significant effect on the gender social system, we’re just forced to live in it and try to survive.

      1. Question:

        If someone is female at birth, but decides they want to transition to male because they feel like they should have a man’s body, doesn’t that mean that the trans person considers “male” to be one category (the one that he identifies with) which is distinguished from another category, “female,” which is essentially different? The question is, when a trans person says, “I feel like I am not an F, I am a M,” aren’t they essentially pointing to the sexist constructed categories of M and F? Isn’t sexuality more of a spectrum (where there are some males that are traditionally macho, and some who are considered effeminate, and some females who are “traditionally female” and some who are more Tom-Boyish/”less-traditionally female”) than a black and white, either male or female model?

        It seems to me like trans people define “male” and “female” by essentialist characteristics, no? Isn’t that what Judith Butler was saying the problem is?

        1. If someone is female at birth, but decides they want to transition to male because they feel like they should have a man’s body, doesn’t that mean that the trans person considers “male” to be one category (the one that he identifies with) which is distinguished from another category, “female,” which is essentially different?

          I’m afraid I don’t follow. What “essential” difference is there in this example other than general body shape? All the other differences are socially-imposed, by cis people.

          Isn’t sexuality more of a spectrum (where there are some males that are traditionally macho, and some who are considered effeminate, and some females who are “traditionally female” and some who are more Tom-Boyish/”less-traditionally female”) than a black and white, either male or female model?

          This setup fails because trans people run that same spectrum of gender expression as cis people do. There are tomboyish trans women and effeminate trans men, both completely happy with themselves, because their gender expression does not define their sense of gender identity. In the past, doctors required trans people to adhere to strict gender roles or be denied treatment; this was a problem with the sexism of the doctors, not the trans patients.

      2. Thanks for the reply Sassafras,

        Do you mind if I ask some truly naive questions? You say that regardless of how society treated genders, you “would STILL need hormones and surgical alteration to make [your] body match up with [your] brain’s map of it.” Can you help me to understand this? Does your brain’s map somehow depict your breasts as being much larger or smaller than they actually are? It’s possible that I think of myself as being taller and thinner and better-looking than I actually am, so maybe I’d need surgery to bring my body into accord with my mental map of myself. Is that what you mean? I’ve read about alien limb syndrome, where, e.g., someone might think their own leg isn’t really part of them — instead it’s just some weird fleshy thing that somehow got attached to them. Do you feel that way about parts of your own genitalia?

        For better or worse, I had thought of being trans less in terms of any sort of mental bodily map, and more in terms of a sort of tribal affiliation. E.g., if someone makes a crass joke about women, do I find myself wanting to stick up for *us* or for *them*? If an attractive man enters the room, do I automatically perceive him as a sexual rival? Would I rather be called girlish or manly? If somebody called me a beautiful woman, would I be flattered or insulted? If I imagine Brad and Angelina surrounded by paparazzi, which one do I naturally find myself identifying with? If someone asks “how are you ladies doing?”, do I automatically take that question to include me? That sort of thing… I had thought that most of these questions would evaporate (or at least morph significantly) in my “ideal world” in which most people spend most of their time scattered around an androgynous bell-curve, with gender being nothing more than a quaint fetish that a few folks still get into in bedrooms or private clubs or for Halloween.

        I’m very happy to listen and have you tell me that I’m (partly or completely) wrong about what it’s like (at least for you) to be trans, and to have you try to fill me in on the aspects I’ve been failing to understand.

        1. Can you help me to understand this? Does your brain’s map somehow depict your breasts as being much larger or smaller than they actually are?

          This is generally a concept for which words are not adequate to express, which is why you hear things like “man trapped in a woman’s body”; those are phrases we have to use to try and make cis people understand, but they can’t ever really capture it because words are clumsy. Short of telepathy, I can never truly convey exactly what it’s like to another person. But since words are what we have: It’s not anything as direct and clinical as my brain scanning my body and determining “this body part is too large by X amount of cm”, it’s more similar to how when you reach up to your face, you can touch your nose or eye because you instinctively know where it is. Well, I know instinctively what’s supposed to be between my legs and am struck with revulsion that there’s something there that’s different. It’s somewhat similar to when you might have a cyst or rash or bug bite or other growth that you can’t feel, but then your hand accidentally brushes it and you go “What the hell IS that?!”

          It’s possible that I think of myself as being taller and thinner and better-looking than I actually am, so maybe I’d need surgery to bring my body into accord with my mental map of myself. Is that what you mean?

          Possibly illustrative example: I used to wish that I was shorter or had bigger breasts because society places smaller, big-breasted women as ideal and so it would make my life easier if I had those things, but I never had an innate sense of wrongness about my height or breast size (once they finished growing). A problem exists where people categorize being transsexual as a “wish” when it’s really more of a “need”.

          For better or worse, I had thought of being trans less in terms of any sort of mental bodily map, and more in terms of a sort of tribal affiliation. E.g., if someone makes a crass joke about women, do I find myself wanting to stick up for *us* or for *them*?

          Well, that’s where things get sticky because that tribal affiliation-type thing does come along with it, but because that’s how society is set up. I certainly identify with other women rather than men, and I get upset when people call me a man, but that’s because of how society sets up gender to be a tribe and an identity, not because I just want to be on another team. Of course I can’t speak for all trans people, but that’s how it is for me.

          1. It sounds a lot like the body map issues that come with eating disorders (sometimes), to me. I’ve definitely had that “What the hell is that” feeling, worn laughably incorrectly sized clothing, not recognized myself in mirrors etc. But I dunno, maybe it’s totally different.

            Which segues into another question I have. What’s the deal with GID? I mean, I’ve heard the slogan “no one’s identity is a mental illness”, but to me body dysphoria sounds very mental illness-y, with the whole “something going on in the mind making life unpleasant thing”. Arguments against it being considered a mental illness feel very “ew, mental illness is for those weird people and we’re normal” to me. But, I’m probably missing something huge. Or something. (too late to type coherently, sorry.)

          2. Nepenthe:

            I’m not really sure because I haven’t had an eating disorder so I can’t directly compare the two. Maybe they are similar? Unfortunately cissexists like to use eating disorders as a way to de-legitimize trans health care (saying things like “We don’t give anorexics liposuction, therefore we shouldn’t give sex changes!!”) so I have a hard time being objective about that. I would have to leave it to a transsexual person who has also had to deal with eating disorders to give a better viewpoint.

            As for GID, the problem is that people tend to claim that a trans person’s actual identity is in and of itself a mental illness or delusion to be “cured” with therapy (and thus that transition shouldn’t be allowed), which has simply never worked in all the decades they’ve tried it. The DSM actually recently revised the diagnosis from GID to Gender Dysphoria, which places the “mental illness” part on the actual dysphoria and I think that’s a better direction because it lets trans people get health care while not saying “You think you’re a woman and that is insanity”.

          3. Thanks Sassafras, that does help me to understand better, I think.

            That gets me wondering about lots of hard empirical questions about how much of this is genetic, how much of it has to do with prenatal hormones, how much of it has to do with (positive or negative) models that are presented in media and in “real life”, how much of this has to do with feedback loops involving attention and emotion, and how much it has to do with other factors that I can’t even think to name. Depending on which factors are playing the largest roles, one might hope that a more civilized society might help kids to grow up happier with the bodies they have, rather than ending up feeling like they’re trapped in a body much different from the one they’re “supposed” to have. But I guess it could well turn out that, regardless of how society is organized, some people’s brains will somehow end up in a mode that mismatches their bodies. Regardless of the causes, you have my sympathies — I can only begin to imagine what it would feel like to know that part of your body is just… wrong… and also to get so little understanding from the rest of us lunks…

  26. 30

    For me, the biggest thing I have to wrap my head around is the complete separation of gender identity from sexual orientation. I know that’s what we’re talking about — but it’s a tough “sell”, if you well. Because I think my gender identity is so tightly bound with my sexual orientation.

    Someone like like Zinnia who is a “former” (anatomical, if you will) man/now woman who is attracted to other women, I think, is the hardest thing for me to “get”. It’s like — “but wait, you’re just like me — you like women. Why not just go with that?” But then it’s also, “but wait, you’re nothing like me — you identify as a woman.”

    Would you suspect that this type of dynamic is the one that might be the most prone to closeting? After all, if you have male genitalia and like women, it seems like you could “pass” pretty easily. Or should I say closet your gender identity underneath your sexual preferences?

    I guess it’s because as a man, I really, really like my penis. We’ve been best friends for years. The thought of not having it AND being attracted to women … well, I don’t wanna.

    1. 30.1

      Most gay men are very attached to our penises as well. I think the confusion comes from us having it pounded into our heads from the time we are kids (to the point we may not be conscious of it any more) that sex ALWAYS involves a man and a woman, so someone attracted to men is REALLY a woman, and someone attracted to women is REALLY a man. I realize that if I had breasts and female genitalia I would have a much larger group of potential male sexual partners than I do as a gay man, but that body would feel completely alien to me, as I presume it would to you as well. I can’t really think of any better way to explain it than gender identity and sexual orientation are two completely different aspects of who we are.

  27. 31

    Please, pleaase, PLEASE do not be offended by this question.

    I am (biologically) male and I have trans* friends who I love very much. There is a question, though, that makes me feel uncomfortable because I don’t think I can discuss it with them (in general) without risking hurting them in a fundamental way.

    > I strongly believe that gender does not play any important role in my own identity. At all. (Apart from the obvious constraints by biology and society.)

    I’m not actively trying to be a rebel, to be different. But I don’t “feel” I am “a guy / a woman”. And, to be honest (I am not trolling, I swear!): I do not think I can actually imagine what feeling like a wo/man would be like. I don’t understand how gender can be so very important for some one else’s identity. (To be clear: I strongly believe it is not up to me to decide what they find important or how they define or express themselves. I think everyone has the responsibility to actively defend trans*’s people’s rights to live their gender as they like. This is not a question about rights.)

    To be complete: I also do not understand the “I’m a (macho!!) man!” attitude. I never got that. I would guess that at least some people (who are less familiar with the trans* world than I am) have a similar problem understanding why gender is so important to some in the first place.

    I would also like to add that (I think) I understand what it would be like to have different sexual preferences or religious belief. Maybe I’m just the asexual/atheist version of gender identity? =(

    Thank you for doing this for the community. It’s really important work. People do not say this often enough.


    1. 31.1

      I don’t really notice my eyes on a conscious level until I get an eyelash or speck of dirt in them causing pain. That’s a very small-scale version of what gender dysphoria feels like, a feeling of distress that lets you know something is wrong. I don’t “feel like a woman”, I feel like someone whose body is wrong, and I know what it takes to make it right, and all the social gender stuff only comes in because society deems that a particular genital configuration determines most of your social roles. If I didn’t have the distress caused by the wrongness of my body, I wouldn’t think about “feeling like a woman” because there would be no reason for it.

      1. This is really helpful in explaining the trans experience: “I don’t really notice my eyes on a conscious level until I get an eyelash or speck of dirt in them causing pain. That’s a very small-scale version of what gender dysphoria feels like, a feeling of distress that lets you know something is wrong.” Thanks for explaining.

        1. John, you know me… I’m Alice…

          Here’s my blog: and pictures here:

          You remember me, right? I am very proud of you for educating yourself, as you can, on trans issues. I’ve seen a lot of trauma the last two years, but it’s been almost two years now since I transitioned, with full time name change and hormones and gender marker change, etc, and, as you can tell from the pictures, I turned out rather nicely I think…(if I do say so myself).

          I can tell you really want to learn more so the best resources, the highest 1st tier resources and information, which is what you really want to get your hands on, can be found here:

          I am a transsexual woman, and never identified as male (it was a disguise). I’ve known since the earliest ages. Anyway, that information will help you greatly (and others) in their genuine quest to better understand something that is vexing to many of you I am sure.

          I’ve felt overwhelmed by trauma in the two years since you or Greg or anyone else in the community saw me there. May I visit again? I would love to be in the community again if I could. To feel like I belonged.

          Thanks for listening John, and thanks for caring <3

          1. Hey Alice, nice to hear from you again. I would certainly recommend that you get in touch with the Humanist Community at Harvard folks, Greg especially. I don’t work there anymore myself as I’ve moved out to California where I work as the advisor of the Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics at Stanford, but I’m sure they’d love to keep in contact.

            Contact info should be on their website:

        2. Thanks so much John, I will do that. It’s good to hear that I can do this, I think I think of people as brothers/fathers sisters/mothers, so I have a very different view of the world in that sense from the conventions of the wider culture. Thank you for letting me know this, and it’s interesting you are out in California. Nice weather =~) Thanks again, I will get in touch with them, I need the community sorely, so social contact helps tremendously. Nice to hear from you again. c:


      2. Thank you for the reply, Sassafras. But I do not think it is an optimal response to my post.

        I think you are trying to say (please correct me if I have misunderstood) that I don’t have a problem with my assigned gender because my gender happens to be the one in a relatively short list of gender options (the ones allowed by biology and society) that does not make me unhappy.

        This is a silly thing to say, but I think I would not have had any gender-related problems growing up female. It is silly because I can’t really know that. But it certainly seems very plausible to me. Wikipedia tells me the corresponding concept may be “non-gendered”? In reality I never even cared enough about gender in my identity to look up that label on wikipedia or anywhere else.

        Thank you for the reply, though.

        1. Well, like with race and other privilege issues (white people generally don’t feel like they even HAVE a race), it’s possible that’s where you were coming from. BUT, there ARE people who don’t feel strongly about their own sex or gender. It’s not as common, but it’s certainly possible that you fall in or near that category and really just don’t have a strong pull one way or another.

          Some mental exercises you might try is to think of what being on hormones might do to or for you. Would developing breasts be as neutral? Would mixing and matching gender presentation be neutral? I mean, would you wear a maxi-skirt with a blazer and tie? Would you be comfortable wearing female-professional level make-up in a mens business suit? That sort of thing. See where the outlines of your own sense of gender lies.

          In the end, though, while you may not feel particularly gendered, there are other who do. Just as if you have no particular preference for a flavor of ice cream, it shouldn’t be too surprising if someone else did have a favorite.

          1. Besomyka:

            Thank you very much for your reply. The comparison with race does indeed make some sense to me personally. Everyone would consider me to be very “white” (in quite an objective way), though I myself would never consider it relevant to my identity. Please delete this comment if it is too offensive. But I figured I would never ask it to any human being other than in this thread which was specifically started to inform the terribly ignorant. I feel so uncomfortable asking this.

            > Are there people who “feel” they belong to the “wrong race”? And do they try to change their biological parameters to come closer to their (personal) idea of a standard representation of some subgroup of the human population?

            (I understand that race is a fantastically difficult concept, misunderstood by the vast majority of people in many cases. I get that.) But I can imagine (very few) people can be unhappy with their perceived racial classification. (If so, I can imagine gender dysphoria and, for lack of a better term, “(subjective)-race dysphoria” have completely different biological and cultural origins.) But, assuming all other things equal:

            What would the moral similarities of both dysphorias be? The moral responsibilities of society to help these people?

            Again, I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether this comment should remain in this thread.

            Thank you again


          2. Sorry, forgot to address the second point.

            I don’t think (again, I can’t actually know that for sure) I’d have any problems if I had grown up with “the other set of” sexual/gender characteristics. Changing it now would be problematic. But I’d say that’s more like a habit thing: it’s not so easy to change after several decades.


  28. 32

    So, I’ve been thinking about this for a little bit, remembering when I was younger and was transphobic. I was 18ish, was trying to deal with the sexual abuse I’d suffered as a child, and was in general having issues. For me, I think it basically came down to three things, or maybe three accusations that existed in the form of questions, and they were pretty universally aimed at male-to-female trans people. This is a recounting of them as best I can remember them:

    1) How dare you minimize the oppression of women by deciding to become one? Basically I believed* that “woman” and “man” were socially constructed categories that people were shoved into, with “man” being the privileged class and “woman” being the oppressed class. For me, it wasn’t about chromosomes, it wasn’t about genitalia, it wasn’t about identification, it was about whether or not society was going to oppress you in a given way. I felt that mtf trans people didn’t understand this oppression (because they had been raised in the privileged class) but that they nevertheless felt that whatever perks that went with being female (like being able to wear dresses) were worth opting into an oppressed class. I deeply didn’t want to be a “woman” because of all the horrible things that went with it and I was angered by anyone (including cis women) who did. It felt like mtf transexuality was a dismissal of the oppression that women were forced to endure.

    2) How dare you insist that I rightly belong to the oppressed class that is “woman” (see above) because of my genitals? I believed that trans people (universally) went about getting themselves by having their genitals altered when they could or wanting to alter them when they couldn’t. It felt like trans people were throwing their support behind the enforced gender binary and declaring that unless I was willing to get my genitals altered, I had no right to want to step outside of the categories that society had set for people with vaginas.

    3) Why is this so important to you that you’re willing to give up your sexual functioning? I believed that being trans meant altering one’s genitals that resulted in an inability to orgasm. My own sexual functioning was severely compromised (I wasn’t able to orgasm at the time) and it felt like mtf trans people were saying that female sexual function wasn’t important.

    All of this had to do with male-to-female trans people; my feelings towards female to male trans people was basically “It won’t work. You’ll try to switch categories, but they won’t let you.” Looking back, I think I sounded a lot like the transphobic branch of the radfems. I’m not actually sure where a lot of this came from (I was not involved with transphobic radfems), although I clearly had a very inaccurate view of being trans that I’d gotten somewhere.

    My saving grace was being both skeptical and deeply in favor of gay rights. I heard myself speaking in my head and heard a lot of the invalid arguments that were being made against gay people echoing back at me. I also heard the same arguments that I made against the homophobes (it’s none of your business what they do, you don’t have to understand, you’re feelings are not justification for dictating their actions) whacking against me in my head. I set about making myself get over all this shit through exposure in the form of watching movies about trans people and in general listening to what trans people had to say (I didn’t dare speak to any because of how angrily transphobic I knew I was being, and I felt no one deserved to be subjected to that).

    I don’t know if any of this is helpful, as I knew even then that all of the above was something that was going on in me rather than in trans people. Basically I needed to hear the stories of trans people and to humanize them. So, you know, just by being there and speaking you’ll probably be doing what helped me.

    *I still believe this in a way; I just stopped thinking that the definition I was using had anything to do with the definition that trans people were using. I decided that the terms meant something to trans people about identity that I wasn’t able to understand even when/if trans people described it to me because I was cis. So I basically stopped trying to understand and just accepted.

    Anyway, sorry that my post was so long and I hope it was on topic (I worry a bit that I’m not actually answering your request).

  29. 33

    So, ok, this one’s going to be awkward.

    There’s the whole “tranny porn”/”chicks with dicks”/whatever horrendously offensive term people want to use for it thing, right? I generally see trans people as distinctly disdainful of it, for what definitely seems to me to be good reason. But, personally, I’ve always thought it pretty awful to tell people they aren’t allowed to find something arousing. If divorced from, well, the terrible porn industry and the terrible transphobia involved, is someone having a “fetish” for non-op male-to-female trans people, well, “a bad thing” in your mind? If so, why?

    1. 33.1

      On that note, is there a difference between “having a fetish for” and being preferentially attracted to trans people? For instance, I have some reasons for thinking I might be especially sexually compatible with a trans woman who chose not to have genital surgery; I don’t think this is inherently a bad thing, but I’m interested in your perspective.

      Although, I’m not sure I’m actually “cis.” How would you define it – is a “cis” person simply someone who’s not “trans”, or is it more restricted?

      1. Defining Fetish: Not really in the way I’m using the term, but I’m aware that medically it means something different and some people use it in a different colloquial fashion.

        Defining Cis: As far as I know, it just means “not trans”, but then this isn’t my area of expertise and I just don’t really know a lot about these things. I should honestly read this blog more, but scrolling down after reading Pharyngula is HARD. : (

      2. For the most part, cis does just mean “not trans”. It gets a little more complicated when you take into account intersex and genderqueer people, but that’s more about how they themselves relate to the terms cis & trans.

        As for the fetish/porn stuff, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a preferential attraction to trans people as long as the person treats us as human beings and not living fetish-delivery-systems. Unfortunately there are a lot of “chasers” who sexually objectify/abuse/manipulate trans people, and this makes a lot of trans people put their guard up when they hear someone express preferential trans attraction.

        1. I’m going to second this notion Sassasfras stated. Also, I would want to say that, from my perspective, one of the main cultural transphobias is that people (usually men, but not always) are sexually attracted to us as transwomen, and choose to try and restrict that to the term ‘fetish’ and viewing porn, and when they know us in person, they try their best to keep us hidden from their friends (out of shame) and constantly refer to us as ‘just some fetish’ to their guy friends.

          The problem with the culture is that transphobia forces men who love or are interested in transwomen into claiming we’re just a fetish so they don’t lose their ‘straight cred’ with the bros. This creates all kinds of social problems and social isolation for us as transwomen, that never gets acknowledged in cisgendered discourse in any kind of honest way.

          Why would it? If, the only way any one is willing to interact with me as a transwoman (sadly true in my case, imo) is through sex work they pay for or a fetish to read my blog, how can I ever have a normal relationship? Now, that having been said I’m most attracted to other women, cis or not, but it’s just the point: in this society, which fetishizes us as transwomen in the extreme, how are we ever supposed to have any kind of healthy relationship when we are not merely just seen and treated as sex objects, but exquisitely shameful fetishes?

          It’s brutally isolating and brutally unfair to us.

          Here’s my blog though, great for people who want to relax to trans erotic poetry…

  30. 34

    For me, as for others in the comments, the gender binary thing is wrong and annoying. Are there divisions in the trans* community between those who accept the gender binary thing and those who are more genderqueer? Are there age/generational differences?

    How does non-gender-conforming differ from trans*? I identify as a straight cis woman, but I am a fairly masculine woman–tall, deep voice, aggressive–and sometimes get called sir depending on how I’m dressed. How does the difference feel? Or manifest itself?

    Cathy F

    1. 34.1

      I can’t speak for others, but I just need to say that, personally, I think there are a lot of misconceptions about transsexual people in queer circles, and annoying TS separatists that are too stupid to see past the gender binary give all other TS women a bad name.

      Let me give you a scenario: there is a Society that exists one day where Men and male identified people can dress as Femme as they want, maybe even dress just like women traditionally dress, or even retro femme like I dress. In fact, they could dress just like me and be totally ok with being men. I’d still be totally ok with being a Woman, and insisting I was a woman (and that I also needed surgeries, if I hadn’t had them yet) in such a society, and I would still be totally secure in my gender identity as a woman, because I wouldn’t stop to see myself as a woman just because there were dudes in dresses acting femme and this was allowed now. In such a society there would be women who could dress up in traditionally masculine dress or masculine dress in general, act as butch as they liked, and still very much claim to be women. In such a society there would be transwomen like me, but there could be Butch transwomen that preferred to hang out with Butch ciswomen and dress mostly like a guy, but still identified as women. In such a society there could be Femme transwomen that identified as women only and prefferred to hang out with other Femme women (cis or trans). In such a society there could be genderfucking cisgendered people, and genderfucking transpeople (a hard concept for most cispeople I imagine). In such a society there could be agendered people who dress Femme, agendered people who dressed Butch, Genderfucking or gender non-conforming Agendered people. In such a society there would be third gendered people who dress Femme, third gendered people who dressed Butch, genderfucking or gender non-conforming third gendered people. In such a society there would be GQ/GF people who were always Butch in presentation, or always Femme in presentation, or perhaps always genderfucking or gender non-conforming, but their gender identity would change constantly. In such a society there would be GQ/GF people that fluidly went between Butch, Femme, Genderfucking, and gender non-conforming presentations, as well had a fluid sense of gender identity that changed and didn’t correspond in the slightest to their gender expressions: a GQ Male assigned at birth Woman presenting Butch sometimes, Femme others, genderfucking at other times, that same individual then fluidly switching to a sense of gender identity that is Agendered, presenting as Butch sometimes, Femme others, genderfucking at other times. That same individual then fluidly switching to a sense of gender identity that is solidly female, and rotating through those gender expressions just the same. Likewise for all category people of listed here. And in such a Society you would have Bi-Gendered people, male assigned at birth or female assigned at birth, who presented as a butch woman and a femme guy if they were male assigned at birth, and presented as a femme woman and a butch guy, if they were female assigned at birth.

      I think there’s an assumption on the part of ciswomen that, if you’re a transsexual woman going for bottom surgery, you must somehow accept the gender binary, which is a wrong assumption. I don’t accept the gender binary in the slightest: there are indeed genderqueer people, agendered people, third gendered people, neutrois, bi-gendered people, with identities not one iota less valid or trans than my own. Of those who are genderqueer there are genderfluid people. Those people don’t stop existing and their identities and gender expressions aren’t magically invalid just because I’m secure in my womanly transgender identity. And, futhermore, like in the Society described above, this isn’t an issue for them to express and or change those gender identities with the Society, as that Society won’t persecute them for simply being who they are (1 thing) and how they express themselves (something very different) and what their sexuality is (yet another thing). Everything will be welcome in that Society.

      How I wish it existed. But again, when you say gender binary, I think there’s a very real assumption, and very damaging one, that, somehow, because I’m a transsexual woman, I must only believe in the gender binary and seek to reenforce it. Au contraire. I’m here to take a wrecking ball to the gender binary, very much so in fact.

  31. 35

    As a straight cis male with only a few trans friends, I’d like to hear how to avoid coming across like an insenstitive ass without even realising it. In other words, to know which things to avoid saying or doing that are offensive to trans people — maybe ‘the top 10 rude things people say without realising they are rude’.

    Also, I’d like to learn more about social or political issues that are important to trans people that a cis person might not even be aware of.

  32. 36

    Thanks to you, Zinnia (and Natalie and many others writing here), I have a clue regarding something other than cis experience. As for how things are going, my first thought is that there are too many cis folk who can’t handle their own straight male-female relationships. For them, LGBTQ is off the charts.

  33. EdW

    I had a friend recently who transitioned, and a handful of us were at a bar where we hashed out a lot of questions. Not just about trans identity, but male identity too. Just because someone identifies with a gender doesn’t mean they have all the details – I remember distinctly some rather uncomfortable questions (y’all don’t really grow hair *on* your dicks, right? Like, the shaft?). He had a lot of questions about male culture, and I had never considered idea that he would have been so isolated from that experience having been raised female.

    So I guess that would be my naive, cis-male question – socially imposed norms or no, what was the learning curve like on “being the other gender?” How long until you felt like the transition was complete?

  34. 38

    we really enjoy it when you little whiners start calling the police, but they won’t save you from JUDGMENT DAY

    how we won the James Randi $1,000,000 Paranormal Challenge

  35. 39

    An acquaintance of mine seems to have trouble understanding how gender identity is unrelated to sexual orientation – basically he thinks transgendered people are “confused” gay people. I know it seems like a pretty simple concept to those who’ve been paying attention, but it might be a misconception worth addressing.

      1. Thanks! I’ll certainly keep those links in mind. While I wouldn’t call the guy I was referring to a “friend”, I just remembered how some people who I do consider friends seem to be under the same misconception. My friend’s boyfriend has a teenage daughter who has started going under a male name, cut her hair to look like a boy, and generally has what would be considered “masculine” interests. My friends’ first assumption was that she’s a lesbian, though I’ve been a bit more successful in convincing them not to jump to that conclusion. (I use the pronoun “she” only because I’m not 100% sure that she identifies as a man).


          I was subjected to similar by my father, probably (I would imagine) he did so on the advice of doctors or priests associated with the FBP (Feminine Boy Project). Now, I wasn’t a boy, I wasn’t even a he, I was a transgirl, but everytime I insisted I was a girl or that I needed to be around girls, guess what I got? I got beat viciously, ruthlessly, and systematically. Hundreds of times, before I left training diapers.

          “His doctors called him “Kraig.” His parents were afraid he was too effeminate and might grow up to be gay. So, at age 4, Kraig was enrolled in a government-funded program at UCLA dubbed “The Feminine Boy Project” where Kraig was plunged into a series of experiments using aggressive aversion therapy. The behaviors judged effeminate were beat out of him—literally and figuratively—and Kraig’s case was judged a success. A success until, at age 38, this “poster child” for changing gender identity disorder was so depressed and disturbed he committed suicide.
          In this heartbreaking series, Anderson Cooper speaks with Kraig’s family who blame the therapy for his suicide and will look into the man behind the therapy – Dr. George Rekers – who was later caught up in scandal after hiring a male escort. ”

          It’s a truly sick society that can allow such behavior to be perpetrated onto transgirls like me and this suicide victim.

          And as you see in the article, they don’t even get her gender identity correct. Why would they? Who cares right?

        2. To reply to your friend’s ‘mentality’ it inevitably results in me being treated very poorly. I hope your friend is educated someday, I really do.

          I mean, afterall, society ‘knows’ (or thinks it knows) that, you see, the bleeding little girl in my avatar, Alice, must just represent a sick person, probably a child molester, someone suppressing their sexuality in denial of the “fact” they are a gay man (I am gay, but mostly lesbian, rofl). Didn’t you know? You see, that little girl bleeding to death in my avatar can’t possibly be me!!! No!!!! What the FUCK would I know about “bleeding”? I had ‘male privilege’ the privilege to get beaten systematically, ruthlessly, and viciously, for being a transgirl! And while my dad was beating me viciously he was making me into a Satanic Ritual Abuse victim Agent of the Patriarchy, secretly pretending they’re a girl because they enjoy literally getting the shit beat out of them, so they can one day work for the Illuminati!! IT’S ALL A CONSPIRACY AGAINST THE TERF’S AND REGULAR WOMEN JUST TRYING TO GET BY IN LIFE AND DEAL WITH OPPRESSION. I was SO fucking privileged to get beaten like that, and all that time I was just a gay boy in denial and didn’t realize it! Why, I couldn’t be a transgirl, they don’t exist!! They’re just confused gay men!!

          I was making a lifestyle choice at three years old, I admit it. Even back then I fully realized that my father was trying to make me into an agent of the Illuminati to oppress women by pretending to be one, so I behaved that way on purpose so he could beat me!! IT WAS A SECRET PACT WE HAD, ABUSE DOESN’T HAPPEN TO TRANSGIRLS! IT’S IMPOSSIBLE!

          Oh, where was I? Oh yes, I actually was a transgirl, I never identified as male (in the slightest in fact), and I was ruthlessly, viciously, and systematically coerced by my father, and the wider society, into pretending to be someone I never was.

          That’s reality, and, sadly, it’s a reality your friend will never understand. This culture is so transphobic.


          Someone call Cathy Brennan! The conspiracy has been exposed!

          1. Also, I have to say, I mean, I totally must be a Poe right? It’s inconceivable I could have suffered such abuse!! And have feelings like anger, hatred, rage, and ruthless desire for genocide of men!!!! Nope! Absence of evidence is evidence of absence, so because I don’t have a videotape of my dad beating me ruthlessly and viciously, systematically, hundreds of times, before I ever left training diapers (mostly while I was 3), it never happened cuz Hitchen’s Razor!! (that which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence).

            Oh no, and this, this is totally a parody, I mean, there’s no way this could represent what I actually feel about males or male identified people. No way. Has to be a Poe.

            In actuality, I was abused, I didn’t make a lifestyle choice at three years old, I do have serious and persistent problems with Misandry that are very extreme, I did attempt to commit suicide at 18, I do feel anger, hatred, rage, and genocide towards men or male identified people, I do very much have a serious problem justifying, in moral terms there continued existence, I am very much Evil in this respect and do not see that changing anytime soon, and that article (Red Queen) is totally serious actually, which is hilarious, because when people laugh at it, thinking it’s a Poe, little do they know they are laughing at their doom, laughing at a very serious thing…

            Ok, I got triggered. Anyway, I am glad that material I gave you will help your friend, and I am trying on some level to care about men or male identified people, it’s a real struggle to feel like they shouldn’t be exterminated.

            Thanks for trying to be understanding.

          2. While I can’t really get behind the whole Red Queen thing (as you may have guessed from my user name, I don’t think I’m the sort of person who’d fare too well under that regime), I can appreciate the anger at the rampant transphobia in our current society. I’m sorry to hear about the abuse you suffered.

            And again, thanks for the links. I do want to live in a culture that’s more accepting of trans people and for what it’s worth, I do try to correct people in my social circle when they display a bit of ignorance on the subject.

        3. While I can’t really get behind the whole Red Queen thing (as you may have guessed from my user name, I don’t think I’m the sort of person who’d fare too well under that regime), I can appreciate the anger at the rampant transphobia in our current society. I’m sorry to hear about the abuse you suffered.

          And again, thanks for the links. I do want to live in a culture that’s more accepting of trans people and for what it’s worth, I do try to correct people in my social circle when they display a bit of ignorance on the subject.

          Honestly, I don’t know how much longer I’ll be on this board before I get banned, but I just want to say very sincerely thank you so much for being a good man. A Good and Courageous Man who sticks up for us as transwomen by merely but firmly and politely correcting others when they display ignorance, insisting they take a different perspective (nicely) “and here’s why”, etc. You’re doing the right thing, and you’re very courageous and morally correct for doing so. Keep doing it. It’s Men like you that keep me from becoming a totally lost genocidal asshole. I’m not proud I wrote that, I don’t consent to it, it’s definitely evil.

          Thanks again for being understanding. I have to go lay back down in bed now, as I’ve been having some combination of dissociation; probably Dissociative Disorder Not Otherwise Specified but I need to see a shrink again to get that checked out; and anxiety attack; from my officially diagnosed Disorder of Extreme Stress Not Otherwise Specified, aka Complex PTSD; Six hours. Going in and out, through 7 different sub-sections (Molly, Sarah, Violette, Sally, Lisa, Alice, Leah) and probably a few sub-sections-not actual separate personalities, just variation of the main one which legally gets called Alice. In and out, from section to anxiety attack, to section to anxiety attack, six hours.

          It’s really difficult being a cripple and by that I mean I’m severely disabled.

          Thank you, again, yet again, for being compassionate and understanding. There need to be more Men like you.

  36. 40

    I have many questions about navigating the social minefield of post-GRS-land…

    Rather than glorping down a page and a half of questions, I think all of my queries (and maybe other people’s) could be answered simply by hearing about how some trans folks met their partners.

    1. 40.2

      In fact, because you’ve taken the effort to come here, which must have been SO difficult (I can’t imagine), I’ll take the liberty of expanding the Sirius link for you:
      taken from this talk:

      AMA and APA statements on transpeople and medically necessary surgeries (hard statistics referenced):

      Hard empirical statistics pdf, some of which are referenced in the above two pdf’s: (explains differences very well, but I do not condone TS separatist while I am TS myself)


      Red queen 7q and 4c will preserve.

      1. Ouch, I’m sorry! I really genuinely didn’t mean to offend, sleepingwytch!

        She asked for questions to get ideas for a speech about trans related issues. I thought a good way to address many questions (about life after the change) would be to hear some personal stories about adjusting. E.g. if you’re trans and in a relationship, how’d you meet your partner? It seems like that must have been a very different experience and I thought that might be a very humanizing way to approach the topic.

        I’m “cisnormative” myself, but curious about the experiences my fellow humans have gone through. I know I can’t understand any more than I can see out of another set off eyeballs, but I like to learn about other people and perspectives and stories are a very personal way to do it.

        I’ll definitely take a look through those links, thanks. I’m sorry if I didn’t word my question correctly or if it is genuinely offensive and not just misread – I was totally not meaning to hurt anybody!

        1. I understand, yes, it’s just the isolation I live in is really bad. The whole problem with cisnormativity that I and many transwomen like myself run into is that it prevents us from entering into relationships with other people: because you have the whole cultured focused around men and their expectations so you have the straight men sitting on the sideliness, seeing (me for instance), probably thinking “Wow, s/he’s gorgeous, and s/he’s not taken, I can’t wait until s/he gets their surgery so I can have a chance at scoring with her”. Except….without my health insurance (Masshealth and Medicare) covering my GRS bottom surgery, it’s going to be years, maybe even decades if I ever get the surgery (I am disabled)….Then you have the gay guys sitting on the sideline thinking “Wow he’s really pretty, I hope he detransitions someday so I can get a shot at that” and that kind of attitude never goes anywhere: they just spend years sitting there, on the sidelines, magically waiting for me to conform to cisnormativity when I can’t because I am trans, and they never get anywhere. Another group of guys waiting around for years and nothing happens. Then you have the gay ciswomen “Wow, he’s really hot, too bad I’m not straight….” and the straight ciswomen “Wow he’s so gorgeous, too bad he’s a gay guy =(“. This results in a world where cisgendered people fetish women like me, thinking I’m really a guy (even if they use proper pronouns), and the result is, you guessed it, zero relationships. And how could there be any relationships; they are all viewing me as if I’m a guy, regardless of anything they say to the contrary; they are reducing me down (patriarchally) to a body part between my legs, and saying that’s either my gender, or somehow my sex so still really my gender in the end.

          It’s sad, but I’m single, and, tbh, I wouldn’t be surprised if (I am 31 years old) I am single when I’m 45. This culture just sits around expecting us as transwomen to “get with the program” and go back to pretending to be male or identifying as male, whether it’s the biological essentialist cisnormative expectation that “really a guy in a dress” or the more faux sophisticated social constructionist view “really a guy in a dress but society sees as woman because gender is nothing more than roles and expressions so will call him a she for now until the great gender utopia where males and females can gender express anyway they want and trans people magically won’t need surgeries anymore or self identify as men or women despite what I say”. Both views are what is sitting around in the head of cispeople. How do I know this? Because I learned how to tell what other people are thinking by playing chess competitively….It was a skill my grandfather taught me as a child, and, as Autistic as I am, it’s one of the best skills I ever learned.

          Since actions follow from thoughts, one can deduce thoughts by closely observing behavior (roughly deduce).

          Now maybe you can see how it’s grossly offensive to reduce transpeople down to relationships when many of us simply cannot get into any kind of intimate relationship and are reduced to casual sex and being treated like a fetish, due to cisnormativity? Most of us like in severe isolation, some, such as myself, like in extreme isolation. We’re not choosing to do this because we enjoy it, this isolation is the product of cultural transphobia that is both insidious, innocent looking, and subtle, as well as outright, obviously mean, etc…

          Check those links I gave you, they will open your eyes to a whole new world trans people inhabit that you weren’t even aware existed =)

          1. I think I get what you’re saying – and I definitely don’t view non-cis folks as just their relationships! It was just the aspect I was most curious about, the part that seemed (to my outsider’s perspective) the hardest part to even begin to grok. Your story is certainly an eye opener, and I thank you for sharing.

            I hope a lot of these challenges begin to subside as transgender folk enter the public consciousness more and challenge people’s thinking.

        2. I think I get what you’re saying – and I definitely don’t view non-cis folks as just their relationships! It was just the aspect I was most curious about, the part that seemed (to my outsider’s perspective) the hardest part to even begin to grok. Your story is certainly an eye opener, and I thank you for sharing.

          I hope a lot of these challenges begin to subside as transgender folk enter the public consciousness more and challenge people’s thinking.

          You are quite welcome, and thank you for valuing the sharing I have given to you and others here :+)

          While I am most of the time mostly attracted to other women romantically, emotionally, and sexually, some of the time (maybe ten to twenty percent), I am attracted to “everyone else”, so I’m really pansexual although I call myself bisexual or sometimes lesbian. It’s conceivable I could wind up with a man as my partner someday even though, while I can romantically and sexually bond with men, emotionally it’s extremely difficult. There’s enough going on there, though, that I can barely say I am bisexual, so I do often say that.

          It’s good to educate people because I don’t like the prospect of either decades of continuing extreme isolation due to being trans-and that’s what it’s llooking like- or being an asshole to other transpeople by going super stealth. I’ll live in isolation until I drop dead at 85 years old or something stupid, if I have to, rather than betray other transpeople through going stealth such that I wind up being an asshole to other trans people. That’s neva gunna happen, and in fact, if asked if I am trans, I almost always say I am trans proudly but matter of factly. And why not? There’s nothing to be ashamed of, even if I and other internalize the shame in a billion different ways anyway.

          I would rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I am not, because, in my Autistic mind, everyone deserves to be loved because they are human being and human beings need love. I do have evil parts of me, and that’s tragic, but, generally speaking, this is my view: this is me in the real world/offline. I am suffocatingly femme in the real world/offline/meatspace and love everyone as if they are all my big sisters/big brothers or my mothers/fathers.

          Why? Because there’s just too much suffering in the world. People need love.

          Thanks for trying to gather an understanding here. Mayhaps you offended me but you’ve corrected it and learn much, and, eventually, you will teach others, and you will remember my story, so that others do not have to suffer it in the future age.

        3. Also, tbh, I couldn’t change the extreme isolation even if I could be selfish enough to go super stealth (I’m usually an extreme altruist) because I just don’t lie well enough: I am like middle of the road Autistic so like, I can lie, for sure, I can fool people (sort of) using lies and palters, it’s true. But to lie and be stealth, pretend I am cisgendered, practically speaking, even if I was a selfish enough of an asshole to do that, I just couldn’t: I don’t have the pragmatic skills; I am too sweet and loving in person to ever harm another trans person if the need arose to be convincingly cisgendered, nor could I lie well enough if confronted and really pressured hard.

  37. 42

    How do trans folks handle public restrooms while they’re transitioning? Do you feel that the design of public restrooms assumes too much? If you could design trans-friendly public restrooms, what would they look like?

    1. 42.1

      I was told by a trans man that I’d been very helpful by simply holding the door for him when he walked into the women’s restroom behind me, not questioning why he was in that restroom, and making small talk with him while we waited for an empty stall, which was enough to keep the 2 women who’d just thrown him out from causing any additional problems. (This was after he’d also been kicked out of the men’s room.)

      I know it won’t always work out so nicely, but cis people can help a lot by not policing restrooms and by telling people who do try to police bathrooms to STFU. We should trust adults to be able to decide for themselves whether they’re in the “right” restroom or not.

  38. 43

    I don’t have any specific questions, but there are some subtleties in terminology that sometimes escape me. I think there could be better resources about understanding trans issues and terminology for not trans people. Or perhaps the good resources that exist could be better and more widely publicised.

  39. 45

    My first question would be: what the blazing fucks to do when actually meeting a trans person. I’m a cis white straight male and I have only met a trans person once, and I’m not exactly sure if she was trans or a local transvestite prostitute and therefore a he (or just excentrically dressed), but there wasn’t really much interaction.

    I mean it seems pretty obvious to me what the answer is – just treat trans people like anyone else, take their word on what gender pronouns to use and just interact as you would with anyone.

    I think just about the only way I can interact with transpeople (apart from online of course), is indirectly, by trying to make society more welcoming to them, even if closetted/not yet transitioned. So every time trans people come up in conversation (or I hear a comment like “those stupid trannies”) I try to correct misconceptions, argue for a live-and-let-live approach to people of all sexualities and genders. Maybe one day there will be more out trans people in my town/community =/.

    Is this a good idea?

  40. Nyx

    How and when does one know for sure that transitioning is the right thing to do? I’m a straight cis man. As a child I never felt the sense of wrongness that trans people describe but I developed a hatred of being male around middle school (I’m now 30). Everything I dislike about my appearance is directly related to being male: strong jawline, body and facial hair, external genitalia… I’ve never seriously entertained the idea of transitioning because 1. Probably very expensive (I doubt the Canadian health care system covers any of it), 2. I might hate being female just as much, and 3. I’d be afraid of becoming the media stereotype of the comically masculine transwoman (I know it is just that, a stereotype, but the knowledge doesn’t help the fear).

    1. 46.1

      Not everyone “always knew”, in fact many transpeople don’t always know they are trans, and some were totally ok with being guys before they transitioned; they just felt like, for whatever reason, they no longer identified as a guy, and the pressure was building inside of them, so they transitioned.

      Disclaimer: I very much so always knew, but it’s important to stress not everyone always does.

      So it sounds like you have some gender dysphoria that developed around middle school but maybe that is not gender dysphoria and is you being uncomfortable with other aspects of your body? We don’t know, so it’s best to try and find a therapist (if you can) that deals with trans issues and can help you work through them, because picking that apart is a very difficult and meticulous process.

      Also, you may very well be agendered, or Genderqueer, maybe bi-gendered, third gender, neutrois, etc. You have to examine yourself to figure out what it is your gender identity is inside of you, and also what your gender orientation is (how do you see your perfect body) so that you can work out your sex dysphoria, if indeed this is what you are describing. Qualified professionals can help, but if perhaps you have none, I would recommend you reading through /r/transgender or just randomly finding forums where transgender people hang out, reading all of the various forums, listening to how other people picked apart those issues, and then reflecting on that to gain self knowledge that you need.

      Also, there are two main stereotypes of transwomen that exist in society, that are used within cisnormative discourse to marginalize and impose transphobia on transwomen for merely being ourselves: there is the comically masculine stereotype that you see in the media, and then, in the real world, there is the “way too femme” stereotype, that allegedly exists because the culture (when it’s not making fun of us in the media) imposes cissexist transmysogony on us by saying we’re just sexist men who hate ourselves because we act super femme once we transition. Both are harmful, damaging, and wildly inaccurate stereotypes.

      Now, that having been said, I’ve played to those stereotypes before, online and offline, to genderfuck people on purpose…..even though transwomen aren’t “supposed” to genderfuck……but that’s another topic. Finally, Canadian health care system will cover the main bottom surgery as far as I am aware, but I could be mistaken on this, as I am not from Canada. Your healthcare system is really amazing in some respects.

      My Fate smile on you.

      1. *May Fate smile on you.

        I live under extreme stress everyday, I get errors that aren’t just spelling and grammar, but type the wrong word instead of another when I should have said the right word.

    2. 46.2

      I was in your situation a few years ago, and now regret the amount of time I spent not pursuing transition. Regarding your reasons not to:

      1. Since I’m not Canadian, I don’t know what it’s healthcare system covers (nor how to go about getting access to it). But isn’t Natalie Reed (, who used to blog on freethoughtblogs Canadian? I didn’t get the impression that she is particularly wealthy. Anyways, if you do end up having to pay for everything yourself, there may be some things you can afford (for example, my hormones cost $30-40 per month), and in my personal experience, it’s better to do something rather than nothing, even if it doesn’t get you all the way (but people are of course different).

      2. You’re not likely to become irreversably female-looking. If you, for example, take mtf hormones, most effects will simply reverse themselves if you stop taking them.

      3. The laws of physics don’t demand that everyone who physically transitions to be more female must also do feminine things (or vice versa). If you, for example, just want your body to be more female but not change anything in the way you dress etc, that’s OK too.

  41. 47

    So ok I’ve answered a lot of peoples’ questions here, mostly men. I sought to do this because I felt there is a seriously deficient lack of knowledge about transpeople in even the most enlightened circles in our society and other 1st world societies. This, regrettably, leads to very dangerous and insidious transphobia, which can look very innocent, but result in our deaths nonetheless. It is good to tackle then the job of educating others concerning trans issues as I find it within me to do so.

    As a reward for good behavior; asking questions to better understand trans people, and showing supportive behavior here towards transpeople in general and committing to do so in the real world, I am going to reward you then by posting these links.

    So here is my blog (erotic poetry) and here are pictures of me, they are actually pretty NSFW stuff (along with the blog), so please just be mindful if you click on any of these links that you are able to do so without getting into serious trouble at work:

    My erotic poetry blog:

    Pictures of me, and other pictures (mostly of my cooking) =) (Main link)

    Expanded pictures of me link:
    Here are pictures of me (NSFW):


    evil poppet and needles:,qINiF,WjB8x#2 (some random food picture, lol)

    So these pictures and the blog link are the reward for all the questions and indication of dedication given and intended towards us as transpeople. For information, these pictures are all taken pre-electrolysis; I have klinefelter’s syndrome I am pretty sure at this point, so that’s why I got away with transitioning before eletrolysis. As you can see, I have no hair on my body, and it was always this way. I am now taking electrolysis to remove the small amount of hairs that grow on my face, and I am almost halfway done as there is practically nothing there. Of course, looking at the pictures it is probably confusing to most how I could look that way pre-electrolsysis. The wonders of klinefelter’s syndrome..

    My life is a living nightmare, but I thik isolation taught me that I need to educate people if I want to hope to, someday, not live in extreme isolation anymore due to cultural transphobia in freethinker movements as well as the general society. Even so given the education, I imagine the isolation will continue, because the momentum of transphobia in this culture is so powerful and insidious and completely pervasive, but one can try and I have and will continue to educate.

    Thank you for your time =~)


    1. 47.1

      I need to say also I’ve been full time transitioned for almost two years now: I full time transitioned to living as myself 24/7, tossed out all my boy mode clothes, got my name changed over, always presenting as me 24/7 365 days a year, got my gender marker changed, etc, went on hormones, around 9/11/11. 9/11/11 was the exact day I transitioned full time, and I started hormones on 9/8/11 and I got my name change on 9/22/11.

      Almost two years living as myself, no longer wearing a disguise (an entire false identity) I was brutally, ruthlessly, and evilly coerced into wearing…Now, if I can just find a more enlightened planet to live on =~)

      1. Also, I’m definitely a transsexual going for GRS Bottom surgery as soon as I possibly can-and likely I will have to wait years due to being poor and disabled- I think I stated that elsewhere, I just needed to provide context!

    1. 48.1

      The same place “trans” came from; it’s a Latin prefix meaning “on the same/near side” and is the antonym of “trans” meaning “across”. Its primary English usage is in the field of chemistry.

      1. Do you know when it was coined and used in this context of gender identity? I’m still unsure of the meaning in this context. Specifically; someone who is having physical treatment for gender reassignment is trans and not cis; but what of someone who simply identifies and presents as the opposite gender from their unambiguous external physical gender?

        1. Transgender. It’s an umbrella term.

          “Transsexual” was coined in 1957. “Transgender” was first used in the ’70s but didn’t catch on until the 80s. Or so sayeth the OED. (Can’t tell you about “trans” cuz the entry hasn’t been updated since 1986.)

        2. We usually call them just transgender. I’m a transsexual myself: taking hormones, going for bottom surgery eventually, but the trans people who don’t take hormones and or don’t go for bottom surgery are still just as trans as I am and we call them transgender generally, but personally I don’t mind calling them transsexual too if they insist on it. They’re no less trans in the slightest, no less women.

          Likewise for GQ people: they can be a woman one season, agendered in the fall, a third gender by the time winter comes around, and male in the spring, and they are no less Woman, Agendered, third gender, or Man to me.

          Likewise also for agendered/bi-gendered/third gender/neutrois/intersexed transpeople of all varieties. What’s a Man? A man is what someone says is their gender identity. That’s a Man, and that’s a Male. It’s counter cultural to say it but it’s the truth, and policing peoples’ genders by trying to insist that what’s in between their legs must be their “real gender” or “real sex” or w/e other less or more sophisticated cultural transphobia people want to engage in, doesn’t change what their actual gender identity is and gender orientation (body/sex dysphoria when their is a mismatch).

          1. Thanks all! It was the term “cis” that I’m really chasing; but with “trans” laid out, I guess “cis” is (by definition) “not trans”. That makes me “cis”, and I’ve known people who are trans in one way or another.; especially one friend back in the 1970s in Australia. I don’t think I had the word “trans” in my lexicon at that point; and certainly not “cis”. It might have been useful!

        3. I have a slightly different and more comprehensive answer to Nepenthe’s (below). Sorry that I don’t have a source to hand, but I think (working from memory here) that the first use of cis- in the context of gender (such as the coinings of cisgender, cis-sexual, etc.) is found in written sources sometime in the 1980s. Trans, in terms of gender variance, goes back a little bit before 1957.

          Also, I’m still diligently working my way through the thread and compiling answers to most queries on my monster blog thread – now over 8,000 words, so I felt it would be somewhat rude to copy and paste into virtually every single sub-thread of these comments.

        4. YW, Xanthe’s reply is very good too.

          I’d also make the distinction that, although crossdressing men are considered transgender, the ones I considered transgendered above are people who identify as women, but maybe they’re “OK” with how their genitalia looks or they’re “OK” with not undergoing hormone therapy. They’re still just as woman as I am and just as trans as I am. The crossdresser men aren’t considered transwomen (obviously) but they are still considered transgender (in general), and, as Xanthe mentioned there is frequent overlap; transwomen going through a phase where they say they are crossdresser men and then figure out they’re trans. That phase lasted about a month or two for me, when I realized, finally, that what was in between my legs had nothing to do with what I knew my gender identity was since I was born, and my sex dysphoria due to an incorrect body configuration. Once I realized solidly that “male/man” was not what I saw as the misconfiguration between my legs, I “got it” that I needed to transition and quit saying crossdress or using that terms. What I was doing was crossdressing, what I am going now is merely dressing Retro Femme, not crossdressing.

          Ofc transmen fall into this category too analogously, it’s just easier for me to speak to transwomen experiences/definitions, etc.

          Thanks for sharing your experience with your trans friend.

          Xanthe is, as usual very concise and helpful, no surprise there :+)

    2. 48.2

      Azkyroth partially posed this upthread, but cis and trans are deliberately set up in opposition as complements when used in modern contexts, owing to their Latin etymology, e.g. cis-isomers in chemistry, trans-Alpine Gaul in history.

      ‘trans’ is the Latin word for ‘across’ or ‘beyond’, and ‘cis’ is the complementary word for ‘near’; although there are other Latin words that could have been used as a prefix, such as ‘meta’ and ‘ultra’ (which both have the meaning of beyond, when used as an English prefix) it seems to have been historical usage which invoked ‘trans’ first – and that meant that ‘cis’ was always going to be the likeliest antonym.

      Also in terms of etymology, the particular usage of ‘trans’ in this context came about from a faulty coining of the word ‘transsexuality’ in terms of sexual orientation in the 1940s (as a variation on homosexuality or bisexuality), from which it was soon altered to apply to the earliest instances of people undergoing hormone treatment and genital surgery to affirm their gender identity; and it’s worth noting the word ‘transvestite’ already had been around since 1910 in Germany, then into English by the 1920s, and there is an obvious overlap in transvestite, transgender, and transsexual communities (as I will note below).

      It’s also no coincidence that many words with the ‘trans-’ prefix would be capable of being co-opted to transgenderism or that new words could be envisaged in the usual way of combining existing words: there were already words perfectly suited to the task, like transition (a noun of action from the past-participle stem of the Latin ‘transire’ = “go or cross over”) or others with similar implications of change: transmute, translate, transmogrify, transpose, transgress – though those words have rarely been applied to transgenderism.

      So given that I admit a generous inclusion of who falls under the trans* umbrella (you may think of the * as a Unix-style wild card!), that would allow the terms cis and trans* to operate as full complements without excluding a middle ground of people who don’t fit sharper drawn definitions. This is because there are those who express not being sure whether they’re trans*, or that they’re questioning, and which is totally fine (I myself was very unsure at certain points early on, and minimised my feeling of trans*ness to self-identifying as ‘queer’ and privately having repressed more than an interest in cross-dressing). While there is some controversy about admitting transvestite people under the trans* umbrella, it is also undeniable that for some cross-dressing or gender-bending can be a step of self-realisation towards coming out as transgender.

        1. Heya yourself! =^..^=

          Thanks for not pointing out my faux pas of claiming ‘meta’ is a Latin prefix (when it’s Greek). That bit of my geeky response would easily be fixed by adding the words ‘or Greek’ in the right spot, but meh.

          Hope things are going better for you – these threads can turn nasty and I know you’ve had a trying time recently!

          <3 X.

  42. 49


    You’re like a big sister to me sometimes, thanks ^.^

    I am mostly keeping to here for now, not much elsewhere and will disappear from the forums soon more than likely, due to my vulnerability. Thanks for caring and sticking up for me ((hugs again)). I will bookmark your blog and maybe we can keep in touch someway but nice to see you again ^.^

    I am glad you transitioned more, I wasn’t sure if you were GQ or what have you, it would have been nice either way. It’s good to know you are trans too though <3.

    I give the softest hugs in real life and have the softest touch, I feel like giving you one right now, ((hugs)) here though :+)

  43. 50

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