Question: What does it mean to be trans?

You may recall I ordered several books at once and that I’m reading “all of them first.” Two of them are by Leslie Feinberg. I’m not going to review them each separately because to be honest I have indeed been reading both of them at the same time, (along with Hannah Hart’s book, and some more books I just signed out of the library yesterday because apparently I need to be reading like six books at the same time because I’m a nutcase.) I’m just going to tell you my thoughts as they come to me, and these thoughts might be inspired by either book.

Reading Leslie Feinberg has been setting off lots of fireworks in my brain, and by fireworks, I mean thoughts, questions, and realizations. One of these questions brings me back to the very basics of the issue, which is what does it mean to be trans?
Feinberg offers two definitions of trans in her book Transgender Warriors, (page x of the preface):

  1. Everyone who challenges the boundaries of sex and gender; and
  2. Those who reassign the sex they were labelled at birth

The definition #1 is fascinating to me because it’s so broad and vague that it could include almost anyone. To even begin to understand this definition, we’d have to agree on the definition of ‘gender’ (a word which has many meanings) and then once we’ve agreed on a definition of gender we’d have to agree on what it means to challenge gender.

John Money, who coined the term gender, defined it as: “the overall degree of masculinity and/or femininity that is privately experienced and publicly manifested in infancy, childhood, and adulthood, and that usually though not invariably correlates with the anatomy of the organs of procreation.”

Knowing that gender corresponds to how masculine or feminine a person is, and knowing that the concepts of masculinity and femininity are largely based on stereotypes about what men and women are like, feminists have taken “gender” to mean a set of culturally-constructed sex stereotypes. As we feminists note on a regular basis, the culturally-constructed sex stereotypes limit both sexes but primarily harm women, who are at the bottom of the sex hierarchy.

The feminist movement is, in part, a movement to abolish the feminine gender role—to abolish the limitation of women to the role of wives and mothers whose job is to stay in the kitchen, to abolish the sexist beauty standards that reward women for wearing uncomfortable clothes and makeup, and to give us the freedom to express ourselves as we see fit. (Of course, the feminist movement is also about ending male violence, which is related to changing the masculine gender role and restructuring society so that men and women have equal power.)

So, from a certain standpoint, feminists as a group can be lumped into the category of “trans” on the basis that we challenge the concept of gender. So many times I’ve read some writing by a human female who says she doesn’t identify as a woman because she doesn’t want people looking at her breasts instead of treating her like a person, and I’m like “DUH. That doesn’t mean you aren’t a woman, that means you’re a feminist.”

This isn’t usually what transgenderists mean when they talk about challenging gender. They aren’t usually talking about abolishing stereotypes. Usually their focus is on treating ‘gender’ as a social category of ‘man’ or ‘woman’ or other categories, that are divorced from biological sex, where ‘challenging gender’ means challenging the idea that there are only two possible ‘gender categories’ for people to identify into. Transgenderists are a wide variety of people, and some of them do want to abolish sex stereotypes while others want to reinforce them because that’s what props up their identities.

With a definition of trans that is so wide open as to include anyone who challenges gender, which is itself a wide open concept, you can argue that radical feminists are inherently trans. It’s a hilarious thought, I know.

Magdalen Berns has an excellent video where she explains some of what the issue is with the definition of trans being so wide open. I’m throwing this in here because I like the video and it’s related to this topic.

Feinberg offers a list of the possible people who could be included under the trans umbrella:

Transsexuals, transgenders, transvestites, transgenderists, bigenders, drag queens, drag kings, cross-dressers, masculine women, feminine men, intersexuals, androgynes, cross-genders, shape-shifters, passing women, passing men, gender-benders, gender-blenders, bearded women, and women bodybuilders. (Transgender Warriors, preface, page x).

This is a really varied group. I have the same problem with this group as I have with lumping Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals under the same umbrella. We have different interests and different needs, sometimes our ideas conflict with each other, and we cannot speak with one voice. For example, gay men will sometimes adopt babies via surrogacy, and lesbians don’t require the “right” to purchase children birthed by other women. In fact, lots of us are against surrogacy on the grounds that it exploits women’s bodies. Gay men and lesbians can’t be said to always have the same interests or even that our interests are always compatible with each other. In addition, bisexuals often accuse lesbians of “biphobia” and the reverse happens too; lesbians feel that bisexuals are homophobic for some of the things they say. I don’t see how all these groups can be under the same umbrella when we often find ourselves against each other. We can all work together on broad issues such as same-sex marriage, but we don’t often have much in common.

I believe the interests of transsexuals and cross-dressers are very different and often contradictory, to the point where they cannot be under the same umbrella. A transsexual wants to change his or her body and permanently live as the opposite sex. A cross-dresser isn’t trying to change his or her body but just likes dressing up. Whereas transsexuals want the right to modify their bodies, cross-dressers want the right to cross-dress without modifying their bodies. How to accommodate transsexuals and cross-dressers in washrooms is very, very different. Whether or not “being trans is a choice” or whether it should be a protected category of people is a very different conversation whether you’re talking about transsexuals or cross-dressers.

How many times does a person have to cross-dress in order to be considered “trans”? I have worn men’s clothes before, so am I trans? My partner often wears men’s clothes so is she “trans”? Am I a TERF with a trans partner then?

Also, I wrote a fairy tale with a cross-dressing character. My character Noble is someone who “challenges the boundaries of sex and gender,” and I celebrated this character as a hero. Am I a TERF who celebrates trans people in fiction in addition to having a ‘trans’ partner?

Another thing. One of the groups listed in the umbrella up there is “masculine women.” I’m attracted to masculine women, so am I ‘exclusionary’ of the people I’m attracted to?

When you leave the definition of trans wide open like that, all sorts of interesting interpretations are possible. This really sheds light on both the need to define trans in a coherent way, and the meaninglessness of the idea of “Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist.” If my partner and my friends and my fictional characters and maybe even me, can fall under the umbrella of ‘trans,’ then how can I be trans-exclusionary?

A trans blogger once wrote a hit piece about me arguing that I am indeed trans-exclusionary, despite the fact that I listen to trans people (watch their videos, read their books), have a partner who is a gender-bender, interact politely with trans people in real life, and have never actually banned a trans person from anything. His argument was that I am exclusionary because I exclude transwomen from the definition of woman. I don’t think this is accurate, because it’s not me personally excluding transwomen from the definition of woman, it’s the definition itself. A woman is an adult human female, and a transwoman is a human male. Males aren’t females. All males are excluded from the definition of female for the same reason that cats are excluded from the definition of fish. They are two different things, so naturally they don’t fall under the same definition. This has nothing to do with me or my personal prejudices, it’s how language works.

I regularly celebrate people who challenge the limitations placed on us because of our sex; in fact, I even wrote a Manifesto for such people (with the help of a few friends, thank you!) so I am actually doing some of the work that Leslie Feinberg considered to be liberation for trans people. People on the Internet like to frame issues in very black-and-white terms with no room for nuance, they like to ignore what people are actually saying and argue against straw men, and they like to misrepresent their alleged enemies in order to make a big show out of hating them. Far from being bigoted and hateful toward those who are gender nonconforming; we feminists have many of the same goals as they do.

I find it very frustrating and disappointing when people prefer to argue against straw men rather than engaging with what someone actually said, and when people claim to disagree with someone whose position they have not even read or understood.

The question of “what does it mean to be trans” has not been settled. There is no answer; the trans community leaves this wide open on purpose. I think this is a bad strategy, because there are people who don’t have gender dysphoria and don’t make body modifications calling themselves trans and speaking for trans people and this is wrong.

Very much related to the question of ‘what does it mean to be trans’ is the question of ‘what is trans liberation, exactly’? Is trans liberation the liberation of people with gender dysphoria in order that they may treat their dysphoria the way they see fit, or is it the liberation of cross-dressers who wish to cross-dress in public? These two things are not the same at all. These are two different movements. One is a medical movement about how to treat people with an illness and the other is a movement to change social rules about appropriate dress and behavior in public.

I enjoy reading Leslie Feinberg. She writes from experience, and unlike the college students who claim that cupcakes are transphobic, she has experienced actual violence for living in a body that people can’t easily recognize as male or female. I value her perspective and I agree with her on a lot of things. For example, I don’t think that people with ambiguous gender presentations are ‘freaks’ nor should they be denied basic rights such as housing, employment, and health care because of people’s prejudices toward them.

I’m going to explore my next question, ‘what is trans liberation, exactly?’ in another post, since as usual it’s going to get long-winded.

15 thoughts on “Question: What does it mean to be trans?

  1. “Is trans liberation the liberation of people with gender dysphoria in order that they may treat their dysphoria the way they see fit, or is it the liberation of cross-dressers who wish to cross-dress in public? These two things are not the same at all. These are two different movements. One is a medical movement about how to treat people with an illness and the other is a movement to change social rules about appropriate dress and behavior in public.”

    Well, “medical” is not in isolation from “social”. There is a common motive here. Different people will explain the motive differently. but it probably will depend more on their general political philosophy. I would leave explaining Progressives to Progressives, I am a more individualist liberal, and Justice Kennedy has done the formulation for us in Obergefell: “right to individual dignity and autonomy, including intimate choices that define personal identity and beliefs”. And yes, this is the very same right the Court establishes as the basis of the new definition of marriage.

    The actual personal identity and beliefs of the transsexual and the crossdresser will differ, but they both want a world where this identity trumps the predefined identity that society places on them. For the pure crossdresser, their beliefs about what they should wear would trump a predefined socal definition based on their sex. For the transsexual, their bodily identity would trump normative bodily identity prescribed for their sex.

    The Progressive will use a different formula, probably something involving groups, but will arrive at the same (broadly) result. I would not speculate as to their exact wording.

    Of course, with this kind of aim, one would look for a wide coalition, as lots of people have beliefs and identities like that. Feinberg uses a wide definition of “trans” to try and form this kind of coalition – I’d need to read the actual boo, which I don’t have, to see if she goes to the logical conclusion of calling gay and lesbian people trans (because they reject the choice of sexual partner expected of their sex). Another approach is to use “queer”.

    Yes, hiccups will form, as different people frame this kind of aim differently and therefore, in some cases, do get different results. For example, most trans and pro-trans activists are critical of Rachel Dolezal. I would call for leaving her well enough alone. “Race” is imaginary, it does not exist as an objective category in the real world. It only exists as a category within two opposed large groups – racists and racial justice movements. None of us care about racists’ opinions, so this is just about her relationship with any given racial justice movement. A purely internal matter. Anyone not in a movement that she has actually tried to join should shut up about her, she can call herself purple, it is HER life, HER identity and beliefs and she has her right to them, case closed.


      • Yes, of course they do! (And this was explicitly acknowledged in the text of Obergefell).

        The question is “who gets to police what”.

        At extreme A, “society” (or the state, or something like that) tells to a person that the person is X and enforces the compliance of the person’s self-presentation and appearance to “being X”.

        At extreme B, a person says “I am X” and “society”, or the state, or something like it requires others to act as if the person was X, whatever they believe.

        Both A and B are extremes, the reality has to be somewhere in the middle, and the Obergefell decision has pushed the balance in the US (and by extension much of the Western world) somewhat towards B. In particular application to marriage, it basically said “what matters for the state is that two persons believe they are married, not that some existing definition makes them married, and the state has to recognize that”. Note that being “married” is both an intimate personal identity and a long-standing social institution… just like being a “man” or “woman”.

        A consistent libertarian would place the balance at “every person can claim to be X, every other person can claim they are actually Y and act accordingly, as long as violence is not initiated”. But this would only work with a consistent libertarian state. And a consistent libertarian state might not be a great thing for a host of other reasons. As long as we *have* workplace regulations and things like that, the state has to have a position on the matter.

        Back to the example. The interest of the “pure” crossdresser is basically not to be policed in their clothing as long as some gender-neutral threshold of decency is met (the nudists are a separate movement). This interest, ideally “any dress code must always be gender-neutral”, incidentally happens to coincide with the interest of many feminists. If you can’t force someone NOT to wear heels, you also can’t force someone to wear heels.

        But this interest also coincides with the interest of the transsexual, who wants to not be policed in *being* the other sex and modifying their body to match, not just *presenting as* the other sex. The acts are different, but the need to not be policed is the same.

        In fact, if you look at history, “the need to not be policed” is basically the reason “LGBT” exists. In the public eye, Stonewall may have started it, and Stonewall was all of these “four letters” against literal police. But decades before Stonewall there was Magnus Hirschfeld.


        • This comparison between gay marriage and trans identity is not working for me. It’s comparing apples to oranges.
          Marriage is a legal and religious institution and people can’t “identify as” married. Either you have a marriage license or you don’t. People can certainly know they are in a romantic relationship even if the state doesn’t know it. Gay marriage rights are not about the state being forced to recognize the marriage of a couple who believe they are already married. This is a bizarre way of framing it.
          In the case of transgender rights, the state is allowing people to falsify documents by marking their desired sex instead of their actual sex on them. Through institutional policies and increasingly, laws, ordinary citizens are being forced to believe the lie that men can be women or that women can be men (or that people can be neither male nor female, despite the fact that they are not medically intersex and actually are one or the other). You are trying to imply that there is some sort of middle ground where people can have their identities but other people are still not forced to believe them. However, what transgender activists are trying to do is write people’s subjectively-felt identities into law so that people are unable to treat them as the sex they actually are. Women are not allowed to exclude males from female-only spaces because males have the ability to legally declare themselves female and then actual women have no basis on which to exclude them from our private spaces. There is no middle ground here, this is a conflict where either actual reality or people’s subjective feelings have to win. We can’t have it both ways at the same time.


        • “Gay marriage rights are not about the state being forced to recognize the marriage of a couple who believe they are already married. This is a bizarre way of framing it.”

          But that seems to be how Justice Kennedy framed it – with “choice of personal identity” as the basic right from which marriage is derived. This is also the original rationale behind civil registration of marriage. Marriage was seen as a natural construct pre-existing the State, which the State recognized, not created. All that has changed is that, instead of a natural law that is unnamed but somewhat broadly aligned with faith in God, personal identity choice became the source of marriage. The State was and remains the registrar, not the source.

          I am not saying crossdressers necessarily “are trans”, I am saying some people, including Leslie Feinberg, will call them trans, using that as an “umbrella” term. Others prefer a different umbrella term, “queer”. I don’t really get hung up on terminology. What I want is freedom for people to be themselves, not what the State or whatever-you-call-society tells them to be.

          Leslie Feinberg might classify you as trans, and that’s fine. It is probably true that you, too, actually need this kind of freedom from policing, though perhaps not specifically because of “men’s clothing” (not sure what that is these days – outside of folk traditional dress I am not aware of items that are somehow “not for women” in the Western world, and that’s good).

          The “sexual fetish” thing should be truly laid to rest after the Obergefell case, which has proclaimed a right to “choice of intimate identity” – and “intimate” is a codeword for “sexual” here. It simply does not matter. Sexual violence (and other violence) matters, of course, whoever is the perpetrator. Sexual motivation does not. It is just as valid as any other kind of motivation. Simple, really.

          By the way, I have solid first-hand evidence that Dr.Blanchard is wrong about the non-existence of autoandrophilia; it does exist, it is widespread in the slash fandom (where I have some friends), but until recently, because of social pressure, it did not have a way to come under clinical scrutiny. I strongly suspect that all of the work claiming men somehow have “more paraphilias” etc is flawed in the same way – women were simply not expected to show any kind of non-conventional sexuality. And that’s another place where “freedom from policing” is the aim. I want a society where female people, like those slash-loving friends, are no longer shamed for sexual motivations. And playing catch-the-pervert (when the “perversion” is expressed in entirely legitimate acts such as wearing clothing that is, by a gender-neutral standard, decent) is counterproductive for that. A rising tide of freedom lifts all boats.

          There is, of course, a difference between transsexuals and crossdressers, primarily in the area of medical needs. It’s just that I am on the other side of the ocean and a bit bewildered with what’s going on around American health care in general. There is a general medical consensus around adult transition, medical necessity in properly diagnosed cases is under no serious doubt, so it becomes “just another” health care issue in the complicated debate which I can’t really get my head around. (Of course, some deny the consensus, but that’s true about many medical things – there are the anti-vaxxerrs, the HIV deniers, etc).

          But I was explaining where they are similar, because you asked why one would want to group them under the same term.

          As for “live as” women, and as for “falsifying” sex on documents – with marriage now gender-neutral, what is the difference between “living as” men and women anyway, and what is the need for having “correct” sex on a document? For example, a passport exists to provide information to other states. Exactly what is the legitimate interest of the people of the United States in providing truthful information about the sex of its citizens to Saudi Arabia or Russia? Sex, in itself, is a biological category, a part of a person’s medical status; why should a person be required to reveal their medical status to anyone who is not a doctor? For DNA tracking “in case” of a crime? Then you can just as well fingerprint everyone.

          So you write: “what transgender activists are trying to do is write people’s subjectively-felt identities into law so that people are unable to treat them as the sex they actually are”, but what do you mean by “treat them as”? What kind of “treatment” in the public sphere is appropriate for one sex but not another? And isn’t that – the idea that people of different sexes should be “treated” differently – the very definition of gender as a system?

          I do support people’s right to exclude whoever they want, on any whim, from private noncommercial gatherings. Nondiscrimination should only apply to public licensed activity and even there I would sometimes take care, for example, forcing photographers to not discriminate against clients is very bad for the clients. But these are not trans-specific issues. But where nondiscrimination rules are valid, such as in public commerce or interaction with the State, it is quite a valid requirement to use courtesy terms according to self-identification.

          As for “what I want to accomplish”… Some authors identifying as gender-critical, including you, do genuinely try to be intellectual. I want to challenge their statements within this intellectual line – such as, for example, the claim to be gender-critical. (If you believe there are legitimate ways to “treat” one sex but not another, this means, by the dictionary, that you actually support gender). I also want to help drive a logical wedge between such authors and the right-wingers. Trans-exclusive feminist authors sometimes provide intellectual ammo and appearance of credibility for right-wing legal initiatives that are genuinely dangerous to people. (Note that I am *not* saying intellectual statements are a danger in and of themselves).

          Of course, this aim does not apply to everyone. Many, perhaps most, allegedly gender-critical sources have spiraled into the usual hate blog stuff. Anyone who uses that sort of ammo has loads of it anyway.

          In some cases I also want to counterbalance outright wrong statements of fact. And my main aim is still that same one – freedom from gender policing and, broader, freedom of expression for everyone. On an apparently completely unrelated note, I debate censorship of “separatists” in Ukraine, clashing with people who think they won some kind of freedom in the 2014 revolution/coup and now can abrogate the freedom of others. There are other things too, like abuse of copyright, but it’s still this same broad aim. I’d probably be a member of the ACLU if there was an ACLU here in Ireland.


        • It does matter whether someone is acting from a sexual fetish or sexual motivation. When a man is turned on by wearing frilly dresses, and he wears them in public while getting turned on by them in public, that is very much like public masturbation. The fact that he is displaying his sexual fetish in public means he is involving other people in it non-consensually.
          There are such thing as women with sexual fetishes, but women don’t often pose a threat to men in public places, since we don’t have power over men, so there’s not much for them to worry about. Men do things like flash, grope, and otherwise sexually harass women in public. Wearing fetish gear in public such as frilly dresses or whatever it is, is another form of sexual harassment. If people are allowed to do whatever they want, even if they are motivated by sex, then do you think people should be allowed to masturbate in public or flash people? Should couples be allowed to have consensual sex in public?
          As you can probably guess, I don’t support any explicit sexual activity in public, nor exposure of private parts for sexual purposes. I don’t mind what people do in the privacy of their own homes, as long as it’s consensual and non-abusive. I do think that people have the right to indulge in their sexual fetish for certain items of clothing or role play in private with willing partners.
          If you think that women should be legally forced to admit men with sexual fetishes into our private spaces where we are undressing, then you are a misogynist and you are pro-sexual abuse. If you aren’t willing to name the fact that there needs to be differentiation between persons with lifelong non-sexual gender dysphoria and cross-dressers with sexual fetishes then you are enabling the ideology that leads to laws that harm women.


        • Wait, so who is gender-critical here? The act of wearing a frilly dress in public is somehow fine for a woman even if she enjoys it sexually (and it is a thing, really, with no necessary connection to a sexual partner, and a good thing too), but it is not fine for a man if he enjoys it sexually?

          And no, wearing a frilly dress in public is not akin to public masturbation. There are basic gender-neutral rules of decency, and masturbation breaks them, as does exposure of private parts. Sexual motivation is not what makes an act indecent, breaking fixed accepted rules is the only thing that matters. It is more akin to a same-sex passionate kiss in public – which is also sexually motivated, and which is also seen as fine if the sex of a participant is different. And there are some people who feel that they disapprove of same-sex sexual activity but are forced to be a part of it when people of the same sex passionately kiss before their eyes.

          Regarding spaces where people undress, I would support a differentiation between people with body dysphoria (“non-gender” does not have a meaning here) and other people who prefer non-standard gender expression… IF there was assurance that everyone with dysphoria has access to the medical professionals for a formal diagnosis. Which brings us right back to the health care quagmire. That quagmire is extremely important for transsexual people, possibly more important than the “bathroom” one – a friend in the States managed to get the surgery literally the day before the recent House vote. And it is well known that right-wingers use statements of trans-exclusive feminists as ammo against covering the medical consensus treatment; they have to do it because every other source, like Paul McHigh, is easily exposed as obviously religious.

          But the bathroom issue is also widely used as a right-wing dog whistle. HB2 is the prime example – the issue was made its grand headline while all sorts of other policing were hidden under it.


        • Nah, women wearing women’s clothes doesn’t amount to a sexual fetish.
          Sexual motivation is entirely relevant. If someone wears an item of clothing for the purpose of sexual arousal, then that is indecent in a public place.
          Kisses can be quick and innocent or they can be very sexual. I don’t think anyone should heavily make out with their partner in public, regardless of orientation.


        • Re: treating the ‘genders’ differently. First of all, the right term is sexes, not genders, and I only think the sexes need to be separated in certain situations such as washrooms, locker rooms, and sleeping quarters in some situations (camps for kids, etc) and in sports, because those are situations where our biological differences mean we need different accommodations. That doesn’t mean that I want sex stereotypes enforced on either men or women.
          Re: identification. The reason sex is on our identification is the same reason our date of birth and height and eye color is on our identification: for the purposes of identification. Sex is just one of the things we can observe about human beings. Depending on what piece of identification we are talking about, sex might sometimes not be necessary. Other times it might be.


        • If you want something for the purposes of identification on a document, usually it needs to be gender, not sex. To see genital sex, one has to undress a person; to see genetic sex, one needs to run a test. What someone sees over a counter is just gender presentation.

          If “sex” is placed in documents for daily identification, and someone’s gender presentation is not congruent with their sex for whatever reason, they will not be identified with the document, causing significant problems. And, of course, foreign governments can also persecute people for not presenting “according to” their sex – and there is not a shred of reason to help them in the persecution.

          Use of gender as identification is problematic too as some people successfully change their presentation on a regular basis (for example, some drag queens). But sex is totally unsuitable.


        • Ramendik, I have observed that you are pro-trans and that you like to hang out on “gender critical” blogs where you are often taken as a troll. What is your goal here exactly? If you are going to comment on this post, how about tackling some of the issues that I brought up, such as the fact that trans identity is so vague that absolutely anyone could identify as trans. You are saying that cross-dressers are trans, and I own a few pieces of men’s clothing, so do you believe I’m trans? You are trying to show the similarities between cross-dressers and transsexuals, but do you not see the differences? Many male cross-dressers are motivated entirely by a sexual fetish; do you think these men should be allowed to legally live as women? Don’t you see how people with sexual fetishes harm the movement for transsexual rights?


  2. I found a booklet by Leslie Feinberg online:

    It looks like my guess about her in the other post went right, which sounds strange, because it was based on individualist analysis and she was a Marxist. But then she was an orthodox Marxist, so she would not propose a “sex class” or “gender class” – in orthodox Marxism classes are defined by the relationship to means of production.

    “We are talking here about people who defy the “man”-made boudaries of gender”

    “The problem is that the many people who don’t fit these narrow social constraints run a gamut of harassment and violence”

    “We are trying to find words, however inadequate, that can connect us, that can capture what is similar about the oppression we endure”

    (etc, etc)

    So to answer your question. Yes, it is very clear now, you are transgender in Leslie Feinberg’s definition. The reason she thought you belong with all those others, from transsexuals to women bodybuilders, is that she thought you and they have a clear common interest, namely, stopping oppression based on defying gender norms. Moreover, she thinks that the variety of labels “divides” you from them in a way that is harmful to all sides but beneficial to the “ruling class”.

    It is really important here to understand she would not necessarily see *all* of your interests and of those others as aligned. She was, again, an orthodox Marxist. She would not see the transgender as a “class” (unlike modern progressives) because for her “class” had a very clear definition and it was not about gender. She would, however, see the suppression of transgender expression as being in the interest of the “ruling class” – the bourgeoisie. (You could perhaps challenge her position on that ground, or perhaps state that the bourgeoisie has successfully adapted to transgender expression.)

    Anyway, in her view, your common interest with them outweighs the diverging interests specifically in areas related to gender. For example, she would see the freedom of expression inbound by gender as more important for women like you than owning the word “woman”. (I doubt she gave much thought to the bathroom/locker room issue, simply because it was not a hot issue when she was writing).

    She would also see your freedom to express your sexuality as more important than being protected from unwanted expressions of male sexuality (in the form of fetishist transvestism). That is pretty typical for the Pride-related crowd anyway; with or without Leslie Feinberg, that crowd often makes a point of flaunting various expressions of sexuality in public. I do realize that your orientation does not require you to support every Pride parade out there – there’s no lesbian card that can be revoked! Just explaining the context – why she might have set these particular priorities.

    You certainly don’t have to take on the priorities that Feinberg would outline for you. I just hope that it makes sense.

    (One place where her position seems a bit strange, as per pamphlet, is in the statement that “not all lesbians and gay men are ‘cross’-gendered”. In a way, they all are, because the gender binary includes the expectation from men to like women and from women to like men; thus, at least in that particular issue, they do defy the binary and are, in her term here, ‘cross’-gendered. I wonder if she might have recognized this bit in later writing).


  3. Neo-Nazis are doxxing and threatening Sophie Labelle and apparently others:

    I don’t think you agree with how she, or I, describe gender. I think it’s helpful to have words, such as trans, to say some of where we’re coming from and some of what we’ve been through.

    At the same time it would be helpful to have a coalition for gender freedom. I don’t know if it’s possible to have one word for everyone hurt by the gender system, since *most* people are hurt by gender hierarchy, many by two-genderism, and so on.


  4. The post and the comments contain an awful lot of analysis which seems to be devoted in part to trying to justify the emotionally held view that (anatomical) men are men and (anatomical) women are women. I’d like to spend a few minutes trying to convince you that this is not always true.
    I am a transwoman. The way I think and feel, the gender with which I identify, has been female from as early as I can remember. Eventually the strain of living as a man became too great, and I ‘transitioned’, a process which eventually involved gender reassignment surgery. Since transition, I have lived happily as a member of the gender that I have always believed myself to be.
    So far, so commonplace.
    The thing is, I was married when I transitioned. My wife and I have stayed together as a married same-sex couple. My wife says that I am a woman, and she does so, not out of loyalty, not because of some liberal, tolerant agenda but because she experiences, day by day, that I am a woman. It’s not the surgery that makes the difference, it’s who I am as a person.
    The second thing is that when I was living as a man I reached the point where I was suicidal. Then I was placed on oestrogen medication, while still living as a man. Within weeks, I was no longer suicidal. The difference was so dramatic that I can only explain it as being due to my body/mind needing the presence of female hormones.
    Based on my experience, I would say that many transwomen have always been women, even before they have changed their social role. I know it’s convenient to point to the genitals and say ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ – but I really think there are times when the genitals are misleading!


    • Hi Penny. Your comment doesn’t address any of the primary points I made in my post, which has to do with the contradictions between different types of people in the trans community and the vagueness of the trans identity. Instead, you tell me about yourself and assert your own identity to me. This tells me that you aren’t interested in engaging with my ideas.
      Just to humor you a bit, I’ll respond to what you wrote here.
      I don’t believe that male and female are words that refer to types of human anatomy for “emotional” reasons, I believe this because it’s true. Please feel free to read any textbook that includes a section on human biology and you will find out that female refers to the half of the human race whose body is designed to produce ova and bear young, and male refers to the half of the human race whose body is designed to produce the sperm that fertilize ova. This is not a political idea, it is scientific fact. I believe you know this already. You are probably aware that you cannot get pregnant, but your wife can, and that’s because you understand what male and female mean.
      You say that the way you think and feel aligns with a female ‘gender.’ This premise is false for two primary reasons. One, female is not a gender. Female refers to the female sex, which is biological. Gender is the level of femininity or masculinity experienced and expressed by a person, as defined by John Money, who coined the term gender. (This definition is provided in this very post—did you read it before commenting?) Femininity is a gender, but female is a biological category. Two, it is not possible to “feel female.” There is no way for a human who is male to know what it feels like to be female—that is outside of your experience. In addition, female isn’t a feeling, it’s a sex category, and so even humans who are female would have a hard time articulating what it feels like to be female. The only time I “feel female” is when I’m menstruating and I can feel the cramping and bleeding that go along with that. Otherwise, I just feel a variety of emotions that are not connected to my sex (tired, hungry, happy, etc). If you live in a body that is male, then however you feel is the way it feels to be male.
      You and your wife are not a same-sex couple. Sex is biological and you and your wife have opposite biology, so you are an opposite-sex couple.
      I have put you in my moderation queue, and if you would like to continue being a commenter here, you will have to do the following things:
      1. Only say things that are true
      2. Respond to the points I made in my post with coherent, related points of your own
      Otherwise, I will consider you a troll.


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