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Gendered Enough: Who Defines Gender?

Updated on April 19, 2017
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I have a B.A. in English with a minor in Gender and Sexuality Studies. I've been a Goth since age fourteen, and a Pagan since age fifteen.

Male & Female Symbol Stock Photo. Published on 18 April 2012 Stock Photo - Image ID: 10080426
Male & Female Symbol Stock Photo. Published on 18 April 2012 Stock Photo - Image ID: 10080426 | Source

Would you define your experience as a wo/man through medical issues?

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A gay male and I were discussing an article titled "Germain Greer: I don't believe in transphobia" by Nick Duffy. He had not read the article, but I explained that it was about how Greer made a statement that transwomen are not real women due to the fact they have never had a smelly vagina. Personally, I find the statement offensive not only to transwomen, but cisgender women, too. As a cisgender woman, I would never define my womanhood by the experience of an unpleasant feminine medical condition or even my genitals. My womanhood involves psychological and sociological experiences—but I digress.

To my horror, he agreed with Greer! He proceeded to explain how being a woman is biological—which means hormones, body, and all. As someone who studied gender and sex for years, I know it's "sex" he was thinking of, not gender, and "woman" is a gender term; "female" is a "sex" term. Again, I digress.

I attempted to question this with, the should have been predictable, "What about women who cannot reproduce?" His response was that it is a "medical condition." I did not wish to continue the 'argument' I had unwillingly gotten myself into, but I would have gone on to explain how if he were to ask any trans person, male or female, they would say their "trans" status is a medical condition. What bothered me the most about this situation was that it was a gay man saying this. Gay men have had enough experience having to prove their masculinity because of their sexual orientation. Hell, any male has experienced this, regardless of sexual orientation or how they came to be male—biologically or surgically; therefore, he should really know better.

Gender Cake for Baby Shower
Gender Cake for Baby Shower | Source

Transphobia in LGBT

Just as bisexuals are discriminated against in the LGBT community, so are trans people. It is a never ending battle of "who has it the worst" rather than coming together, like it is supposed to be, and accepting each other for who they are. Trans people are given the same types of biological arguments gays and lesbians receive from homophobic people:

  • "You aren't really a [man/woman] because you weren't born as one."/ "You aren't really a homosexual because you can't be born as one."
  • "You aren't really a [man/woman] because you can't have kids."/ "Homosexuals can't have kids because they need both a male and female."
  • "You can't really have sex because your genitalia isn't biological."/ "Homosexual sex isn't real because there aren't both male and female body parts."

The "you aren't what you define yourself as because you weren't born that way" is no different from homophobic people telling gays that being gay is a choice. Similarly, the most common reasoning to be against same-sex marriage has been the inability to procreate with just each other. If a trans woman is not a woman because they cannot bear children, then a homosexual couple wouldn't be a couple because they cannot procreate. Those things have nothing to do with the subject. Furthermore, any reason used against trans people doing any everyday activity, including being intimate, is just as ridiculous as labeling homosexuality as a lifestyle rather than as an identity just like being heterosexual.

Rusty: Darling, I am more man than you will ever be, and more woman than you will ever get.

Have you seen "Flawless?"

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In the film Flawless, Rusty (Philip Seymoure Hoffman) is constantly trying to prove her femininity while Walter (Robert De Niro) spends his time trying to prove she isn't a real woman, as he says in a memorable quote: "I could understand if you wanted to be a woman." His point is that wanting is different from being. This same claim is sometimes used by those who think they support the trans community even if they "don't understand" or "don't think they could really be" the other sex. Continuing to push the notion that it is impossible to really be the desired sex, it is clear they believe the concept of being transgender is a falsity; therefore, they are trying to disprove something they pretend to believe in. It is no different from someone saying they are not homophobic, but that they do not believe in gay people.

Have you ever had to prove your masculinity or femininity?

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Passing vs. Not Passing

YouTuber, Princess Joules is a transwoman. She has documented her journey into sexual reassignment surgery, and speaks about trans issues such as being able to "pass" in a heteronormative society. Like every other trans person, when she started out she did not have the ultra-feminine appearance. In fact, due to her lack of education on being transgender, she identified as a gay man in the beginning because it was easier to find a romantic social life; however, now that she has been able to "pass" for years, she makes videos when she witnesses transphobia against non-passing trans people. This problem is what makes being openly transgender so difficult.

Passing is something most cisgender people take for granted. By questioning a trans person's legitimacy, they are attempting to use their cisgender privilege to punish trans people; meanwhile, everyone has had to prove their gender at one point or another because we live in a society that is obsessed with separating masculinity from femininity; hence, all of the gender and women's rights movements were created from gender inequality.

Leelah Alcorn

The recent death of transgender teen Leelah Alcorn has inspired many to get involves in transgender politics. Leelah committed suicide because she was not accepted for her gender identity. Her parents had sent her to conversion therapy—a place many religious parents of gay children send their youth in hope they will be "cured" of their sexual orientation. A new petition for "Leelah's Law" was created to ban conversion therapy, given its damaging results. As with too many lgbt tragedies, it often takes a horrific event to gain better laws.

I don't know why there are so many people in the lgbt community or other communities trying to outdo each other's "most dramatic existence." Everyone experiences discrimination, regardless of sexual orientation, sex, race, etc. So, why aren't we accepting each other and learning from our differences that only we can define ourselves?

© 2015 social thoughts


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