A question about social constructionism

Commenter Generalheinz57 asked a question this week and I always answer a question if it’s sincerely asked. I thought I’d write the answer as a post because I tend to be long-winded.

you talk a lot about gender roles, and unless I am misunderstanding your position, you seem to be of the opinion that they are almost completely, if not 100%, patterns of learned behavior. women are submissive, timid, fragile, nurturing, sensitive, empathetic, while men are domineering, gregarious, combative, independent, courageous, assertive. my question is, if you are willing to believe that there is an innate basis for MBTI personality types, and that you have to heed your nature in order to care for yourself, why do you believe that so-called “gender roles” are simply socially constructed, toxic for both sexes, and that they should and must be shed? do you think there is no value to the idea of balance between the sexes, in a yin-yang sort of way? do you not think that rather than shedding the roles entirely, there are healthy ways of embodying both sets of traits, and that it is okay for men to find feminine women desirable, or women to find masculine men desirable?

As regular readers are aware, my views have shifted a lot over the last few years. Some of my views have adjusted a bit and one of them (political lesbianism) did a complete 180. The topic of social constructionism is something I’ve shifted on.

I see a continuum between social constructionism and biological determinism where many feminists are pretty far to the side of social constructionism and many conservatives are pretty far to the side of biological determinism, although there are lots of exceptions and nuances. Feminists tend to believe that gendered behaviours are socially constructed and if we construct a different society, we can construct different behaviours. However there are a lot of different versions of feminism out there and there are some feminists who are biological determinists. Those are the “men are inherently evil” variety and from what I’ve observed they’re fairly rare. Generally it’s understood among our movement that people can change, and we don’t have to embody stereotypes and male violence can be solved by raising boys differently and holding criminals accountable for their behaviour. Feminists will sometimes point out that if we did believe that men were inherently evil, there would be no need for feminism at all because there would be no hope of changing anything.

I would say that around 5 years ago I was pretty far on the side of social constructionism, and I’ve been steadily drifting away from it. However, I’m not going to drift all the way to being 100% biological determinist either—surely both nature and nurture are factors in our behaviour, and nobody is unaffected by either force.

Where this leaves me in terms of gender roles is that I do think women tend to be more nurturing and more emotional, and men tend to be more aggressive and violent, due to the effects of estrogen and testosterone on our bodies and minds. After having listened to trans men talking about how they change going on and off testosterone injections, it’s hard to deny that a person with more testosterone in their body cries less often, feels more anger, and has a higher sex drive.

This doesn’t mean I’m giving up on feminism though. I don’t believe that men are hopelessly violent with no possibility of reform. I think they are competent people able to control themselves and behave properly. And I don’t think women are too emotional to be in positions of power. We may cry more often, but that doesn’t mean we can’t use our brains. We certainly can. There are some people who would probably want to burn me at the stake for saying there is a biological basis for masculine and feminine behaviours, but I think there is. I think we can acknowledge that while still calling for a culture that is less misogynistic and that doesn’t constantly promote stereotypes about men and women, to the benefit of us all.

This might sound contradictory because I always say that masculine and feminine behaviours are complete bullshit. When I come across as contradictory I’m always willing to examine what I’m saying to try to make it more clear.

There is a tendency in popular culture to present people as very one-dimensional and stereotyped, and we are actually a lot more complex than the way pop culture presents us. For example, it is probably true that women purchase more chocolate than men do. That’s fine and I don’t need to pretend that difference doesn’t exist. However, if you look at a TV commercial, women are senseless chocolate-obsessed animals who will run in front of a truck trying to get their hands on some chocolate. This is a silly example, but I think you can see what I mean about the difference between (a) a real-life difference that exists between the sexes and (2) that difference turned into a ridiculous spectacle by pop culture.

I don’t have a problem acknowledging a statistically proven difference between men and women, but what really makes me angry is when people expect others to behave just like the over-the-top stereotypes that pop culture sells to us.

If masculine and feminine behaviours are biologically determined, that may appear to justify trans people’s claim that they have the mind of the opposite sex based on the fact that their natural personality reflects the usual gendered behaviour of that sex. But I’m not buying that line of thinking, because there are always exceptions—there are men with “feminine” traits and women with “masculine” traits and this is because humans are all unique. Just because a person is an exception to a rule doesn’t mean they are literally a member of the opposite sex.

If I was born with a personality called “INFJ,” then yes, that does mean I believe other people are also born with personalities. They might be born with certain traits that are classifiable as masculine or feminine, and they might be born with tendencies to be violent, and they might be born with tendencies to develop dysphoria, and any number of other things.

When someone describes what INFJs are like, they are definitely generalizing about a large group of people. Stereotypes can definitely emerge. Sometimes when I see a narrative posted online about how an INFJ would behave in a certain situation I identify with the overall message but disagree with specific details. We are all, of course, individuals. I’d say about 95% of what I’ve read about INFJs deeply resonates with me, and that’s enough to make me unlikely to worry about a few details I don’t identify with.

I hope that answers your question, and if anything is still unclear, feel free to ask.

I’m going to throw in one more subject I’ve been shifting on lately, just for the fun of it. It’s regarding the subject of how much blame should be given to structural and external problems versus our own attitudes and behaviours in creating our personal life problems. I used to be really far over to the side of blaming structural problems, such that I’d be full of rage when anyone suggested that a change in attitude and behaviour might help a person. My blood would boil and I’d shout that there’s no way that the way a person thinks has any effect on what bad things happen to them in life. Bad circumstances surely are born from the physical world around us and are not created by our thoughts! Ridiculous!

I think that’s partly because people are not sufficiently nuanced for my taste when they talk about this. It’s pretty easy to scoff and dismiss someone who says that the physical world is literally created by our thoughts. Because the physical world is literally not created by our thoughts. But if these people would stop being so simplistic about it and say something like “If you keep expecting bad things to happen you’ll be super sensitive to anything that can be perceived as bad and you’ll feel as though bad things are always happening” then I would be able to buy into that.

With a bit more life experience, I’ve come to see that some people react to bad experiences and circumstances by milking them for all the suffering they can get, rather than trying to rise above it and overcome. And I’ve come to see that I can heal myself and gain a better quality of life by changing my limiting and negative beliefs. I’ve actually started doing some new-age healing methods that I would have dismissed as ridiculous bullshit not too long ago. However, they are working.

Well, since I’ve already wandered down a tangent into the topic of “other things I’ve been thinking about lately,” here’s something that’ll feel kinda random to leave you with. I’ve been researching how people lived in historical times, and it’s been giving me amazing perspective on life today. For example, I watched some YouTube videos of people making soap out of ashes and animal lard. Our ancestors had to collect ashes from many fires, mix them with water, boil them, strain them, mix them with exactly the right proportion of animal fat from animals they had to hunt and kill themselves, stand at the pot stirring for hours, and then end up with a finished product of one bar of soap, which they then had to use to wash with. These days we just buy detergent at the store, pour it into the dishwasher, and press one button. Voilà! Instant clean dishes. This just shows you so much about why people are the way they are these days. People have become much less resourceful and brave and strong, and they’ve become much more entitled, lazy and spoiled.

I don’t know if I’ll ever manage to write a historical novel, and maybe I won’t, but the journey so far has been so rewarding. I’m fascinated by human behaviour and learning about the past is really quenching my thirst for cultural analysis.

I have even more disdain for people who think “misgendering is violence” these days. These overprivileged college kids sit in their ivory towers with all their modern conveniences and cry oppression over nothing, when their ancestors experienced more hardship every day before breakfast than they’ll ever experience in their whole lives. What a disgrace!

Well, thanks for the question GeneralHeinz, and sorry about the long tangent!

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21 thoughts on “A question about social constructionism

  1. When I talk about feminine and masculine genders being socially constructed, I am not talking about the fact that men are generally more violent than women. I also think that women, because of our bodies and the potential childbirth aspect, automatically experience life differently than a male individual. When I say I believe gender is socially constructed I am talking about the ideas that women love makeup, clothes, are nurturing in a specifically passive manner, aren’t interested in science, like being taken care of, and then rhe gender expectations of virginity, etc. in women as compared to the horn dog expectation of men. What trans ideologists never explain is what they MEAN by having a “male” or “female” brain. Do they realize traditionally a female brain meant the inability to do math, science, vote, govern, etc.? Because that’s the feminine gender. Or are they just talking about structural brain differences, which science has proven to be minimal? When I say I want to abolish gender, I mean the aforementioned crap, not actual biology. I really am beginning to think that people have forgotten women were and are oppressed by gender, and what all gender roles ACTUALLY mean.

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    • I’m not extremely well-informed on the subject, but I believe there is framework that sees yin and yang energies as relational poles that both exist simultaneously within the same individual, independent of their sex. As you say, one sex may have tendencies in a particular direction in comparison to the other, but none of it is necessarily fixed.

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  2. Actually, it is not that people have forgotten about gender roles being oppressive, it’s that the dialogue on the feminine gender is being lead by trans women – i.e. MEN who will never understand the true oppression of the feminine gender role. And even if the gender roles are abolished, they still cannot understand being a woman because I believe being in a female body matters.

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  3. I’m probably also in the middle somewhere in my beliefs about nature/nurture and gender roles. But I’m curious about the idea that testosterone makes people more violent and horny. I wonder if there has ever been a double blind study with participants who have never taken testosterone, ( so they wouldn’t recognize the feeling ), using both testosterone and placebos. Because if a person expects to feel more like the masculine gender role every time they did testosterone, they might feel it even if it were a placebo. And what does that mean for Women who have reached menopause, who have more testosterone, and less estrogen? And what would that mean about men in Thailand who are not very domineering, gregarious, combative, independent, courageous, or assertive. Do they have less testosterone? I know it’s not simple, there are many hormones and they act in concert in mysterious ways I’m sure.
    Regarding nature/nurture and gender roles, there have been societies in Nepal, Africa, and southern Mexico, for instance, in which Women’s gender roles were what we would consider “manly”. So many conversations about nature and gender roles seem to exist in a realm divorced from cultural anthropology! ( And as though we’re all white Women.) My understanding is that we’re more able to talk about gender roles because of the work of feminist anthropologists like Margaret Mead, who found a great variety of gender roles from country to country, and even village to village. Anthropologists helped Women here look more critically at our own culture, and question the assumed naturalness of our roles. The gender roles vary here in the U.S. because of race and class and it looks like Black Women have different gender roles than white Women. And if that is so, how does it affect the nature/nurture conversation?

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    • My other thought about the whole thing with trans-identified women taking “T” and having higher sex drives is that they are all excited about their transition and making their body how they want, so now they HAVE a sex drive, as I can’t imagine hating your body and feeling disconnected from your sex organs gives you much of a sex drive. Literally everything on trans is made by assumptions, there are no studies about why someone is feeling some way.

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  4. Thank you so much for answering this question as a post. I’ve actually been struggling with my views on these very issues recently, and hearing what you have to say makes me feel a lot more sane.

    Its so awesome that you’re questioning issues that can be so controversial and are willing to share your thought process with us! Especially the structural reality vs attitude and behavior issue. The more life experience I get the more I agree with your thinking.

    If I can ask, what kind of new age healing modalities are you interested in? I’ve recently gotten involved in learning energy work, and am interested in discovering more alternative healing techniques.

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  5. really appreciate the thoughtful response. it does sound like you’ve gone through some pretty serious personal upheaval lately, and that you’ve come out stronger, wiser, and more balanced. I have tried to do that in my own life too. your comment to the effect of being overly sensitive to negativity is spot-on, and in that regard we really do “create” our own reality, or at least exert a pretty non-negligible influence over it. and I do agree very much that as a society we have to reinforce those positive traits that are inherent in each of us, whether it is for our biological sex or other reasons, while doing our best to control or redirect the negative ones so that they don’t cause harm.

    history is so interesting, right? I am sitting in on a class on old germanic languages right now, and while the focus is linguistics, you see the common humanity reflected in words throughout the ages, and studying that history honestly does give you the impression that there is so much we take for granted–not even in a cliched way, but in this real, tangible disconnect from physical struggle that’s developed in modern times. I feel the same way about “words = violence”. I just want to shake these people and get them to ask themselves, “what the hell am I on about?” but they are so out of touch, and so enveloped in their own superficial outrage that it feels impossible to reach them. I am someone who gets very passionate about such things too, which is why I liked your blog in the first place, but I’ve had to learn to step away too for my own health. it’s hard when, as a naturally reflective person, you see something that may not directly affect you now, but whose consequences you will have to live with as a member of the future society, and you know there’s so little you can do. I’ve started to feel it’s fairly likely the worst of those consequences will have to bear themselves out and cause serious societal damage before people will wise up and reel back, so the best we can do is remain wary and care for ourselves and those we love the best we know how in the interim.

    anyway, keep that new wisdom close to heart, and take care of yourself.

    (it’s telling me i already posted this, but i don’t see it showing up. feel free to delete this if i did actually doublepost somehow)

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  6. Regarding biological tendencies, I think we might see that the rough average is higher in one area among men, and higher in a different area among women, but those are only rough averages, and they are not predictive of any individual behavior.

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  7. Trying to divide nature and nuture is almost impossible, I’ve seen someone say it’s like getting into a debate about which is more important – the horizontal or vertical lines of a rectangle?

    I think there are three divisions, your personality, your biology which if female and which mean you can get pregnant has a big impact and then there is all that social stuff which tries to put men and women into different social roles according to sex. Of course one is superior and one inferior and we all know which one is which. The idea is is at the core depending on what personality and biology you have that will greatly influence your life, if a woman ends up having a child they will be pretty dependent on them for a long time. Things could be pretty egalitarian if we’d left it there but we add in masculinity and femininity, this varies depending on where you live and has changed over time but it’s this where they try and say women are “naturally” suited to staying at home, caring for kids and scrubbing the toilet and men suited for public life with women being kept firmly in their place for many centuries and some not free even now to enjoy equal rights..

    If you look at this: “women are submissive, timid, fragile, nurturing, sensitive, empathetic, while men are domineering, gregarious, combative, independent, courageous, assertive.” that fits exactly no one, no person is the archetype and the literal stereotype of the traits supposedly associated with their sex. In fact these are human traits, and women can be assertive and independent while men can be shy and sensitive. None of it truly describes us.

    We were getting past those stereotypes a few decades back, now we cling to them and the prevailing ideology says if a male doesn’t display the right traits they are literally female and vice versa. Just letting people be themselves just isn’t in the picture.

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    • well first of all, i don’t think that adhering to more narrowly defined social roles necessarily implies that one is inferior to the other. what i was getting at in my initial question was that a truly “egalitarian” conception of these roles would in theory regard them as fully complementary, each requiring the other to complete the system, and that it’s unlikely that either of these roles is 100% socially constructed.

      for example, my parents have a fairly traditional marriage. both embody their respective sex stereotypes (“gender”) fairly consistently, and both take on traditional roles. i was cared for by my mom at home while my dad worked, my mom does things like sewing and cleaning while my dad builds things and maintains the cars, my mom was the nurturer while my dad was more often the disciplinarian, etc. they have their problems but they have the most successful marriage of anyone i know and are still deeply satisfied in being together. i don’t think my dad would ever dream of saying or even implying that my mom’s role is in any way inferior to his own, and my mom would tell you that she has never, ever been made to feel that way. some might speculate that by the fundamental nature of marriage she’s been “gaslit” into being happy with the arrangement, but i think that would be going too far.

      to your point about gender stereotypes, it’s true that those qualities i listed don’t fully capture any one individual of either sex, but that isn’t the purpose of generalizations. even if we acknowledge that it’s harmful to shoehorn someone into social categories based on inflexible, a priori assumptions about their temperament, it would be missing the point to reject out of hand the notion that men *on average* tend toward certain psychosocial traits, and women *on average* tend toward others. since we know from animal models that hormones play a role in the regulation of behavior, this follows from an understanding of men and women as distinct biological entities who differ along measurable physical dimensions.

      lastly–and this may be where i differ most from you, and maybe miss sage as well–i think it technically is the case that women are *naturally* better suited to certain tasks, and men others. child-rearing is an obvious example because infants require nourishment that, at first, only the woman can physically provide. since pregnancy and tending to an infant is time- and energy-consuming, it *naturally* falls to the man to go out and procure food/resources, to protect the woman, etc. i emphasize the word “naturally” because it really is only through modern, technological, and artificial means that we are able to transcend these roles. that may be desirable, and i won’t dispute that, but it goes without saying that without contraception, birth control, and abortion, any woman who entered into a sexual relationship with a man is at risk to become pregnant. without artificial formula, any infant must be breastfed. you may regard these as unfortunate, but without our the contrivances of our modern society, the “purpose” of life is merely to survive and reproduce (if you eschew spiritual purpose), and the sexes are suited physically–and as a result, behaviorally–to support each other in those pursuits.

      i completely agree that modern society goes far beyond that in its propagation of increasingly narrow and artificial beauty norms for both sexes, and certainly there are many gendered customs that are mostly cultural, and don’t stem directly from some underlying physical component. all i’m saying is, if we’re arguing from “nature”, which i think is a necessary part of any transcritical argument, we have to acknowledge that certain sex stereotypes (which is at root what “gender” is) have their foundation in biology, and that trying to distort or pervert them may have negative consequences for the individual and society.

      sorry for the wall, but one question for sage if she happens to read this. i know you’ve spoken of something along the lines of “green” anarchism before, but to the extent that you denounce the technological society as oppressive or harmful, do you not also think that female liberation depends on technology to relieve them of otherwise limiting biological traits? that is, menstruation and propensity to become pregnant. i can’t remember if you’ve touched on this before.

      (it’s telling me duplicate comment again, wtf)

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      • Hi GeneralHeinz. So you’re bringing up some points that are very large in scope and would require a huge dissertation to be answered fully. I don’t have the energy right now to write a dissertation (which is rare for me lol) so I’ll just write a short response this time around.
        I wouldn’t say we’re entirely in disagreement here. I’ve witnessed a lot of heterosexual relationships like your parents where each person falls into a role but performs it quite naturally and isn’t interested in doing anything differently and if people are happy that’s fine. I think we both agree here that it mainly becomes a problem when people are forced to play roles they don’t want to play or are punished for not living up to a role.
        In regards to how women and men would relate in a world without modern technology, yeah, I think that women would be closely tied to the mothering role and fathers would have to protect their families.
        There is definitely a paradox going on between the fact that technological advancements help women be independent and the fact that these same technological advancements are contributing to destroying the environment. And I don’t have an answer for that. I was exploring both communism and anti-civilization theories while I was writing this blog because I was curious to know which one I was more aligned with, and I honestly don’t know. I know that I don’t like the way the world is now but I don’t know what would be the best thing to turn it into. I suppose that’s the answer everyone interested in politics is looking for.
        Over time I’ve realized that the answers I’m looking for just aren’t there and I’d be better off to just enjoy my life the best I can without trying to determine how to fix everything. In the words of Gertrude Stein, “There ain’t no answer. There ain’t gonna be any answer. There never has been an answer. That’s the answer.”
        One more little comment: lately I’ve been feeling like I’m surrounded by a lot of shallow people with no important thoughts in their brains, and when I come here and see people are leaving thoughtful comments about what really matters, I feel good. Judging by your tone I think you sometimes worry you’re going to anger me but you don’t, you let me know someone else in the world has a brain, and I’m happy about that.

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        • appreciate your thoughts. yeah, maybe I am more cautious than I need to be. I just remembering reading some of your old stuff, and wasn’t sure to what extent I might be saying the wrong thing, and I don’t want to create a hostile dialogue if it’s not necessary. then again, I think we both established how we’ve been seeking more balance in life and perspectives so I suppose I didn’t need to be concerned about that.
          I wholeheartedly agree though. i’m very frustrated these days going about my life, encountering people who have apparently no capacity for deep thought on any level, let alone whether or not I would agree with them. then everyone who does think they can think deep is actually just really good at parroting orthodoxy, which especially online consists of the most insane version of the trans agenda, as if rational people don’t exist anymore, or won’t notice or care when they just quietly throw biologically completely, 100% out the window. and since it’s taken some time for me to figure out how to be a “man”, that’s really unsettling to me, because I know that at least part of coming to terms with who you are, man or woman, is coming to terms with your biology and the way it figures into your behavior.
          anyway, i’m happy you have a brain too. I used to really enjoy your semi-frequent blogs but I agree with your decision to back off a bit and just live your life and take care of yourself. the internet, especially social media, has actually gone completely mad.

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  8. Hi there. I’m new to your blog. I sat up late last night reading through many of your posts and the comments left by others, and now I feel compelled to reach out. I’d really like to talk to you. Some people might say I’m reaching across the lines here, trying to befriend and learn from “TERF’s”, but I think there is so much truth and value to what you’re saying.

    I’m 30, gender non-conforming, assigned female at birth, and have been at-odds-with and questioning the gender binary and patriarchy ever since I was a little kid. I mention my age (born in 1988) because maybe that gives a clue about what thoughts and ideas I was or wasn’t exposed to growing up. I read The Manifesto of The Gender Rebels and feel it quite deeply – I believe I am a gender rebel. I have not transitioned or had any medical procedures, and it pisses me off that I’ve strongly considered it, just in order to be seen and treated the way I actually feel and experience myself.

    It’s not that I feel like, or want to be seen as a man exactly, but I don’t want to be seen or treated as a lady, ma’am, chick, or miss either. I’m sick of being called “ladies” when I’m on a date with my girlfriend. Every time it happens, I just think… “What do they see when they look at me?! Just look at how I dress, how my hair is cut, and how I carry myself… What makes them think I would want to be called that?” And why do people use such gender-specific greetings anyways? Can’t it just be something like, “Hi, I’m Alex. I’ll be serving you today. What can I get started for you two?” In general, it irks me more when men do it than when women do, because it feels like they get some weird satisfaction from making sure I know “my place.”

    I’ll be honest, and I know you and the community here might not like this, but I currently use the term non-binary to describe myself/ my gender identity. I think it resonates for me because the rebellion is in the name. NON-binary. I’m saying, fuck the damn binary that society tries forcing everyone to buy into. Gender NON-conforming also works for me, for the same reason. I really like that you’re trying to make the world a happier, safer place for GNC people. I am too.

    The thing is, I believe actual transgender people do exist – people who are able to live happier, fuller lives once they transition – but I also think, more often than not right now, people (especially those a little younger than me) are jumping to conclusions about themselves and making these irreversible changes, before they’ve done a deep dive into themselves, and into society’s enforcement of gender roles (and how they internalize these things). I speak on this in my music and public appearances by asking, what would the world be like if, instead of prescribing traits, abilities, behaviors, and roles to kids based on their genitals, we supported each child as an individual – getting to know their unique qualities, interests, and strengths as humans – regardless of genitals!?

    I question everything. And I’m still digging. The fact that I’m a singer has been one of the biggest deterrents from going on T, because the vocal changes are unpredictable and irreversible. I’m SO GLAD though, because this has caused me to take my time and think things through very thoroughly. I do feel a certain pressure and even jealousy when I see trans guys flaunting their T-enhanced muscles and flat chests all over social media- I want to take off my shirt and dive into a public pool without being sexualized “as a woman”- but at the same time, I feel a sense of sadness for these people… That they felt they had to conform to the binary. That they felt they had to change themselves since the world isn’t changing fast enough, not realizing that this action might be counterproductive to the whole cause. And I mean, I get it, it’s a lot of weight to carry.

    The “in-between” is a difficult space to occupy because, as you well know, there are so few spaces FOR us. I often “pass” in public, which makes it hard to choose which bathroom to go into. I make a lot of women nervous in the women’s restroom, and it’s uncomfortable to be confronted when I just want to pee. I usually go into the men’s room, but sometimes I’m nervous I’ll still be questioned. In actuality, I’ve only ever stopped once in a men’s restroom, but *many* times in women’s restrooms. For me, “All Gender Bathrooms” or “Gender Neutral Bathrooms” that are starting to pop up (especially in California, where I live) are a huge relief because then I don’t have to be confronted with that choice every time I go out.

    I was also excited to see that a third gender marker “X” is now useable on drivers licenses and legal documents in CA. I think this helps create space for those of us who exist in-between. Why does anyone checking my ID need to know what’s in my pants? Not only is it none of their business, but also, I enjoy being androgynous and ambiguous. It’s what feels most natural to me.

    That said, I see that you and others here think having additional sex-identification options only complicates and dilutes the conversation and feminist efforts. That’s something I’d be really interested in talking more about.

    Shit. I’m really going on some tangents now… I could talk about these these topics all day. One more thing, and then I’ll send this to you in hopes that we can talk more about all of it. When it comes to having sex, I really prefer having “my dick” and referring to my parts as such, even when I’m not using a strap on. My cock is very realistic looking and provides a great amount of pleasure to my partners and to me (look up the Joystick by transthetics). And I like being called “daddy.” These are some examples of how my “maleness” i.e. – male brain or whatever – shows up. I don’t know why these are the things that turn me on, but they are. So let’s just say I had amazing sex with a woman this way, then we go out to breakfast and we get called “ladies.” It’s disorienting to me, and a turn off. I notice I feel like everything that just happened is somehow invalidated (even though I know, as the famous Eleanor Roosevelt quote goes, “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”)

    Okay, thanks for reading… I am coming from a place smack in the middle of parsing through all of this, so please be patient. I would love to hear from you and anyone else on here about these subjects.
    -Dani

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    • Hi Dani! Thanks for reading! I do appreciate long messages as long as they’re thoughtful and sincere, and I don’t mind your TMI either as I am a fan of oversharing! I’d be happy to talk to you about any of these topics. One of the main questions you seem to have here is about the gender marker on identification papers. I happen to have a post on that topic already so you might be interested:
      https://purplesagefem.wordpress.com/2017/07/16/identification-papers/
      You can also email at psage681@gmail.com if you don’t want to post publicly. Happy reading!

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      • Hi PurpleSage! Thanks for responding. I’m glad you’re okay with my long-winded, TMI-filled message. I read your post about gender markers, thank you for sharing that. It makes sense; I don’t have a need or desire to change the ID marker on my birth certificate, but the “X” option for drivers licenses is as close as we can currently get to removing the gender marker altogether. It leaves it ambiguous, which I prefer.

        Is it your preference that I email about these things privately? I don’t mind having it be public, because I find myself reading other peoples’ comments and learning from the dialogue. However, I will email you if I find something to be too personal to post, or if you would rather we correspond that way.

        I just read your post about being woman-identified and male-identified. Found it fascinating and important. Based on my previous message, are there other posts you’ve already written that you think I might benefit from reading? Thanks a bunch!
        Dani

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  9. Okay, I just read your post “From Trans Mission To Feminist Mission” about Alex Bertie and really, you hit the nail on the head. I mean, damn. Thank you for the time you’ve taken over the years dissect these things. It makes sense, due to how we’ve been taught we’re “supposed to be,” based on the bodies we were born with.

    A follow-up question I have is: I’ve read your thoughts on how sexism, homophobia, the patriarchy, and commercialized misogyny have influenced the direction of FtM transgenderism (inspiring more transitioners), but do you also think MtF transgenderism is a product of these influences?

    I definitely think society puts harmful and limiting boxes on boys and men (shutting down emotions, viewing vulnerability as weakness, etc), but MtF folks have to make the choice to step into, what society deems a “subordinate” role and become vulnerable to even more harassment and criticism than they probably would as a feminine male. But maybe I’m wrong or missing something about that? Do you think for them, it is still about conforming to what society’s considers outwardly “acceptable”? Thanks.

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    • Hi Dani, thanks for reading! In terms of MtF trans people, there are huge differences between homosexual men who transition and heterosexual men who transition. The homosexual men who transition look and act more feminine and therefore pass better, and they try to enter into relationships with men and they don’t tend to harass women. The heterosexual men who transition are motivated by autogynephilia and they often continue to behave in a masculine way (agressive, violent, misogynist). If you look at high-profile, famous transwomen they’re often not at any disadvantage for being trans and are actually having a great time of it (for example, Bruce/Caitlin Jenner). The transwomen who are likely to be murdered are those who are working class and who enter the sex trade, which is a dangerous business for anyone. In terms of whether or not transwomen ever do step into a subordinate role, I would say the only ones who do are the working-class homosexual men who transition. Certainly the rich white men who transition later in life and who campaign against women’s rights aren’t stepping into a subordinate role–I’m seeing them retain their male privilege entirely and are treated like extra special men rather than like women.

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  10. Thank you for this post, which I just came across yesterday. I’ve mostly stopped commenting on feminist sites because this is one area where I just cannot go with the party line. My background is science and when feminists cherry pick research or insist that all personality is all learned, I feel shut out. I’ve been team “nature, nurture and interactions” for decades because that is the science I was taught (with details on where the science came from) and because I am gender nonconforming in ways that make it impossible for me to believe it is entirely learned etc. I actually think the radfem stance that it is entirely learned is holding feminists back when it comes to dealing with so many things. More recently I did a lot of reading on evolutionary psychology, finally get what they are talking about and agree with a lot of it, and I really think radfems would benefit from owning that stuff instead of shutting it out.

    So I’m really glad to see someone’s opinions shifting over time. It gives me hope. Thanks.

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