Sex & Gender & Transness, Oh My!

Sometimes you gotta repeat something five different ways for people to get it.

Other times you have to take something apart all the way down for it to sink in.

Sex, Gender, Gender Identity, Sex Identity, Transness Trans, Transsexual, Transender, etc etc etc ad infinitum.

We know the terms.  Do we know what they mean?  Do we understand them at a deep and practical level?

The Truth

Often, Trans people do.  Give or take a few minor quibbles with this or that, the basics are pretty cut and dried.  The question, though, is how well do they communicate these things to Cis people — how well do they defend themselves against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, both internally and externally, that are hurled at them?

The answer there is usually pretty well.  In day to day encounters, on the street, in the supermarket, on the bus, at work, in the places where it really, truly counts on a personal, individual level, Trans people as a whole get by explaining these things with an incredible amount of skill, forthrightness, and plain old everyday guts.

But sometimes there needs to be more.  Sometimes, the simpler, more common explanations don’t always work.  Sometimes, and especially, in places where people feel that they can get away with things; in places where they feel they have the ability to not act the way they do in daily life; where they feel that since that person isn’t standing right there in front of them, where the elements of courtesy and body language and flesh and blood and bone and sinew are all missing, they feel as if they can take it a bit further   In places where the things that people these days know they shouldn’t say are “allowed”, be it because they are given a chance to present the “other side”, or where they think they can be devil’s advocates, or where they find themselves able to lift it beyond the level of real life and into the realm of theory they will do so.

That’s where we often have problems.

There is also an internal way of seeing all of this, a desire to know more, to understand more.  That one doesn’t come in the case of everyone — for many of us, the simplistic suggestions work, and we can accept much of it all on faith, but for some of us, that just doesn’t work.

And in those cases, it helps a lot to understand some of the wider, deeper, less satisfying stuff. To know what those words mean, how they work, where they come from.

To develop trans theory, and set it forth on its own, independent of all other forms, and to claim it for our own. Something that places transness on par with Cisness and Interness and other related forms of existence. But mostly the cis thing. Something that challenges the conventions but recognizes they have a place, while also taking things that come from many places and bringing them together.

And that’s where this post is going to go — down the rabbit hole, and clutch your pearls, dearie, for its going to be a bumpy ride, and yet it is one that we’ve taken here before, many times.

We’re headed down the road to Transcentrism.

Sex

Sex is a social construct. The way we look at sex, the way that we decide what sex is, how to divide sex into categories, how to create and manifest things — these are all part of the social construction that we call physiological or biological sex.

There is a difference — biological generally gives the inference to being rooted in the world of biology, a specific science that concerns itself with the classification and functionality of life as a whole on the planet.  Biologists are the fun ones who get to decide is a virus is a boy or a girl based on many different criteria — and those criteria are what create the social construct.

Biology says that “sex” as we tend to apply it to people is not only not cut and dried, but that the system we use to convey an understanding of it to the masses is woefully inadequate.  Biology, additionally, notes at least three general sexes, and within some species  biology is finding more and more often that two is not only not enough, but is woefully short.

You may ask what three sexes does biology recognize?  Well, they recognize those that produce lots of fertilizing cells, those that produce fairly few cells that are fertilized, and those who do it in other ways.

For the “layman”, that’s sperm, eggs, and those who do it without using sperm and eggs.  SO, right form the start, the argument that “biology” only recognizes two sexes is faulty. Sometimes those who do the sperm thing are Male, sometimes they are female.  There are all manner of funky rules that were created about this and they are always arguing over ways to make these classifications more universal.

Also, the overwhelming majority of these biologists who determined all this stuff ages ago were white cissexual men who created this stuff in a time when knowledge was much less than it is now, and since then we’ve just grafted on new ways of saying things to the same existing conventions — building on the social constructs that were originally just a kind of “best guess based on observed elements in an environment that did its best to hide and erase trans people and that often refused to accept the existence of intersex people.

Indeed, part of the reason why trans people are seen as needing fixing is that they are different, and the system imposed on biology is one that is subject to deep currents of ethnocentric and cis-centric focus, so things that were not part of the most commonly encountered variety were considered “deviant” and somehow “broken”.

With being deviant and broken comes a social consensus of being “bad”, and from there the negatives pile on, using this as justification.

Now, lest you think that this couldn’t be the case, be aware that for a mighty long time the differences between the paler skinned people and the darker skinned people were attributed to biology, and they were considered to represent inferior modes and models of humans.

and, in case you doubt that, consider that the standard “evolution” image of critter to ape to man sorta ends up with a white dude as the end result.

That’s because biologists, being subject to and part of the cultures they came from are limited by their scope and understanding of the world, and it has been a major effort within the biology world to rid itself of many of those elements.

Nevertheless, even today, stuff that was accepted as “true” and “real” a hundred and fifty years ago is still part of the stuff that is used by those who dislike black people (and many others) to justify their hatred.

In other words, it is not merely religion that has done this, but science in general is far more willing to change (even if they aren’t as willing to say “oops, well, that was messed up, wasn’t it? Sorry.  Our bad.”) with the times and based on constantly testing and retesting new and old ideas.

Now, when people start with surface characteristics and say that those are what determine one’s sex, and you point out that surface characteristics can change and that not everyone is really born with one or the other, those who make that argument will suddenly go deeper than the surface.  Say, for example, they start arguing about the Penis being the sign of a male.

Well, for one, biology doesn’t say that.  The Penis is only found in a limited number of life forms and isn’t in and of itself a biological marker of maleness. Especially one that doesn’t have an actual bone in it. That’s just, well, weird.

But as shown above, it doesn’t mean that the bearer of such is considered male by biology.  It is likely, it is common, but it is not inherently true in all circumstances. Also, there is the question of what constitutes a penis in biology. And so on.

So then they push the next step and suddenly start talking about chromosomes. Well, for one, when they start at penis-male and then shift to chromosomes, that’s called a logical fallacy. It is known as “moving the goalposts” or a special pleading, and while it doesn’t mean they are wrong, it means they aren’t arguing in good faith.

And when people aren’t arguing in good faith, how can you trust them (she says, making an appeal to emotion)?

But Chromosomes are not fully understood, and there things get even messier, since they, also, are not universal.  The oft cited presence of intersex people is not a derail, it is establishing something already known to biologists — that we have a tendency overall to shoehorn things in order to make them fit a predetermined basis (that social construct that there are two sexes and the rest are wrong or broken) and that it does mean that just using XY and XX as the basis for things is flawed.  Not only that, but XY and XX are also not universal, and even their analogues are not universal as being in sync with the idea of sperm creation and egg creation.

In other words, that one is just as weak, and it gets even weaker the smaller and further down one goes.  The much vaunted SRy gene, for example, can and does migrate, and when it does, it changes the character of the chromosome it attaches to, which, in turn, changes the way that the physiology of the individual responds to various things.

So sex, itself, if a very shaky ground to be standing on as a reason for why someone is or isn’t a man or woman, a male or female.

Sex Identity

When it comes to human beings, though, people who do a lot of work in the area generally propose a set of many different criteria for determining the sex of an individual, and none of them have anything to do with the way that a baby look when it comes out of its womb — no matter if that womb is in a mother or a father.

The list includes the usual suspects, but includes two others, both of which have been established for most experts in the field as having relevance and being derived from some aspect of physiology. These two are the concepts of Sex Identity and Gender Identity.

They are also the two that create the most problem, as we don’t know *exactly* how they are formed, but we do know they exist, and that they are at the very least partially due to physiological development.  That means, most often, while in the womb, but can also mean things which change over the developmental stage of the individual (which, by all accounts, doesn’t actually end until sometime in the mid 20′s).

Sex identity is, in the most simple of terms, how someone sees themselves in terms of their sex.  It is not the same thing as a sexual identity, and it is not an identity in the sense of an affinity group of social identity, but it does influence those things. It is an identity in the sense of an awareness of self, so trying to ascribe to SI (or GI, which I’ll get to in a few) an aspect of self definition (in other words, saying that it has anything to do with the words “I Identify as”) is basically saying that you have no comprehension of the subject.

Sex Identity can match any of the other elements — the primary and secondary sex characteristics, chromosomes, genes, gender identity — that are involved, it can match some but not others, or it can match none of them.

It is also the least talked about one, in part because for many trans people — especially the better known binary identified ones — it matches their gender identity.

That isn’t always the case, though.  And that makes things even more complicated than most trans people are aware of.

Sex Identity can be expressed as seeing one’s self as what we term male, female, both, or neither.  That’s a basic, simple, commonly used way of describing it.

You may recognize the methodology there: it is the same one that applies to other groupings, the most well known of which is sexual orientation. A, B, both A and B, or C.  In SO, there are many other derivations among the population, but in basic breakdowns, that’s what it comes down to.

The same applies in terms of Sex Identity. There is no fixed degree here, either — a person can be both, and be both not at an equal degree and not even at the same time.  It is people we are talking about — they never really fit snugly into simple things.

Gender Identity

Gender Identity is also an awareness of self level thing, like the above, and so it also isn’t something where someone goes around saying “I identify as”, in and of itself.  It can also be basically broken down into four variations: Masculine, Feminine, Both, or Neither.

Note that Gender Identity really has nothing to do with what sex you are.  It has to do with what gender you are, and gender is something very unique and particularly social.

Gender identity has to do with how you are seen and perceived, how you act and behave, how you fit into the cog of interaction with other people, in relation to your Sex Identity.

Now, I am well aware that most people don’t understand Gender Identity that way.  In the common parlance, it has become a catch all, a bit of both of these two elements and then a bit more on top of it. GI in everyday use is a melange of SI and GO and 99% of the time that works and why the hell should we bother with the deeper stuff that most people don’t care about?

Gender Identity is also separate from gender expression.  It may or may not match one’s Sex Identity.  It may or may not match one’s physiological characteristics, because those are still determined by society at large.

What we know from these combinations of things is that Gender, as a systematic social construct itself, is tied to a deep seated and consistently present aspect of the human condition — like the capacity for Faith, for Belief, it exists, and it is inherent in everyone.

Yes, that does mean that everyone has one of those four Gender Identities and that everyone has one of those four Sex Identities.

Everyone.  One of them.

So, the next time someone tells you they don’t have a Gender Identity, you can now smile and say thank you and put them in the Neither category.

Because that’s where they go.

At least, if they are human.  It remains to be seen if this is just a human quality, as we are still awaiting for an opportunity to see what an alien culture brings with it. Based on available information, it looks pretty good like they will have a very different way of looking at things than we do.

Gender identity is also tied strongly to the concept of Gender, which, itself, is often misunderstood and poorly grasped. Gender Expression is also tied to such.  So are Gender roles — social sex roles is what they are most often called in the lit these days, because gender *is* social sex.

And since that’s the case, let’s look at our terminology in a new way, using the concept of social sex instead.

Social Sex versus Internal Sex

When we look at it this way, we see what Gender is about a little more clearly, and we gain the ability to discuss things with a bit more clarity. Internal Sex is how we see ourselves in the sense of an awareness, a recognition — described wholly in the phrase that we start so much of this with, yet it needs no additions for it to be any more accurate, because this is an awareness and all one has to say about it is “I am.”.

In that complete statement, those two words, is included the concept of Internal Sex Identity — the Sex Identity above.

When we add Gender into it, we see that Gender is about our Social Sex — it comes into play when there is another person — when we become social beings, instead of singletons. Where Internal Sex is navel gazing, Social Sex is being gazed at — it is entirely about the presence of other people, and how we want to be seen, be interpreted, be driven by them.

I am also includes our need, then, to be seen a certain way, because we are social creatures, and we are social animals, and when we do things worth doing, we almost always do it with someone else.  I say almost always because worthiness is pretty subjective.

But just my simply writing these words out so that you can read them is an act of social interaction, and it is not accomplished by myself on my own — my life is filled with the people around me who made it possible for me to understand this stuff, who made it allowable for me to learn to read and write, the people who created the stuff that enables me to poke my fingers at something that translates those pokes into letters and words and something to collate those and display them on a screen in a way that is possible to read, and to make it so that it sits there, available, and so that you can pull it up and read it and all the people who allowed you to learn those things, and so forth and so on.

Yes, we are indeed talking about things at that level.  These are the simple questions, really — the core and detailed stuff that is usually glossed over and walked around.

So here’s Gender, and Gender is Social sex, and that means that all the phrases that we use can be described with the use of “social sex.

Your ID marker on your drivers license is a Social Sex marker. The same thing is found on your Passport. It is, then a sex marker. And that sex would be the social one, the one that exists when your primary sexual characteristics are not on display.  We may be animals, but we certainly go to a lot of trouble to separate ourselves from them.

The clothes you wear, the way you act and behave, the speech patterns you use with tone and inflection, the decoration you choose for yourself — this is your Social Sex Expression.

The things you are allowed to do, the “work” that id given to you culturally, the expectations placed on you as part of the wider society – are you the one that attracts or are you the one that pursues? Are you the nurturer or the provider? two examples of our culture that are not universal and change through time and space –these are your Social Sex Roles.

Note that in some cultures, what your social sex role is has more power over your being a man or a woman (sex in the social sphere applied) than your genital arrangement.

Social sex, then, is the way in which people in general deal with the social manifestation of sex. When we talk about sex discrimination we are talking about the ways in which our Social Sex is treated in society.  Feminism is about changing those rules, no matter what the form, in order to improve the lot of one of the culturally limited social sexes that we’ve created, ourselves, as a social construct.

You can’t have feminism without it.

This is also why Male and Masculine and Man are all so deeply intertwined with each other in their meanings and use, why it is so easy to switch one for the other, and why even people as anal retentive about their use of them as I tend to be become flustered when we drill into things deeply:  all of them refer to sex.

It is the way in which that reference is made that differs.  Male and female are broader terms, able to be applied in a much more theoretical sense, very abstractly, enabling us to de-personalize and strip from someone their innate humanity by burying it within a mountain of similarity to everything else.

It is an act of reducing the argument to a point where our common humanity is erased, an act of silencing us, and we need to be more aware of that effort and face it using the concept of social sex more openly.

Gender as a term, isn’t going anywhere, but the meaning of it has been obscured and diluted by the way that people look at it. It is not a synonym for sex, it is a specific way of dealing with a specific way in social situations.

By using social sex instead, we gain the ability to speak to the issues with a greater sense of clarity when people start to make such arguments.

Female and woman and feminine are the same way — each of them is intertwined with semantic weight of physical sex, internal sex, and social sex, the three basic forms of sex that in play there.

Dictionaries are built using the way the words are used by the public at large.  It doesn’t matter if those words are used properly — take transgender.  It is an adjective.  As an adjective, it doesn’t need and additional “ed” added on to it, and yet transgendered is there. This is why I say that it comes in pretty handy for whited, cisgendered, maled bodieded peopled.

Why?  Because people use it. Dictionaries are there to reflect how people use words and what they use, not to determine if a word is being used well or not. And since it is used enough times to meet a critical threshold, people use it, without ever bothering to think about what the word is.

What we are doing in the case of these terms is thinking about what the words are, themselves — going granular with our examination.

And yes, by the way, this means that cisgendered is *just* as piss poor a construction and use.  It is Cisgender.  Simply.

So, back on track, we have Social Sex Identity, Internal Sex Identity, Social Sex Expression, Social Sex Roles, and Physical Sex.

Of the five there, the least important one is the Physical Sex in most social situations.  Yes, the one where sexual intercourse is involved is a bit of an exception there, but only *because* of the others.

In cultural studies, much is made of pacific Islanders where the same rules we use don’t apply.  The same can be said for various native peoples, but again, not universally.  And the impact of cultural colonization is huge in this area — which makes ethnocentrism — the idea that our culture and ways of seeing things are the only “right” and “real” ways — a huge problem for a lot of the discourse about trans lives and transness in general.

I’m hoping that by using these terms and phrases in this manner that people can see there is much more to this idea of Gender than is obvious at first blush. That the ways in which people “go after us” are really silly, but carefully crafted to take advantage of ignorance, of insecurity, and of misinformation (a lot of which we ourselves tend to promote).

Gender

Gender, or, again, your social sex, is made up of the various things I described above.

When someone says “gender”, what they mean in the end is the way that people in groups deal with the issues of sex as a group. Gender is always social.  It is always based in the way that other people deal with it.

I don’t agree with the way that Butler got to her realization that gender is a performative aspect — that is, that how gender works is part of the wider social fabric in which we live — but the final conclusion, which I reached by going through a different route, is still correct.

And when she says performative, she doesn’t mean in the sense of our conscious decision to take the time and perform, to “pretend” or “act” that way as an aspect of decision making.

it isn’t such — if we are going to be part of the society in which we live, then we are going to do what we’ve been taught.  It is the same thing as writing and reading this blog — we relay on the people around us to make that possible, both in the past and in the future.

So gender is not a single, monolithic thing, because we as people do not interact with each other in a single monolithic way.  It is composed of several parts: expression, role, and awareness of self (or, identity).

This is all why I say I don’t particularly care how people identify, and why I state that I only identify as Antonia D’orsay.  When we say “I identify as” what we are doing is declaring a sort of linkage between ourselves and a group of people who share similar experiences and backgrounds.  We are linking ourselves to something larger than us, something far more social, something that requires a social system or structure to work.

In this case, this is called an affinity group in my writings.  In the general parlance, we call that an identity bloc, and it is part of identity politics, a movement and effort that seeks to bond people together using the commonalities among them, as opposed to the differences. Affinity groups are important because our ability to feel that we are part of something social is important to us — we are, again, social creatures.

So gender is Social Sex — it is the male in the social scene, the female in world of people.  Toss us on an island by oursleves, and these things become ultimately unimportant, but bring others into it, and once more they rise to the fore.

Social sex elements are also what undermine the “traditions” that so many in our culture like to uphold.

If family is the building block of society, then what we are looking at the building blocks of family. The elements that create a relationship between two people, the most core elements of social fabric, the minimum social grouping. And because we do not fit those things, we must be wrong, and if we are wrong, then we must be dangerous or bad, and if we are dangerous or bad, then we are a threat.

Regardless of how people approach the issue of trans people, the arguments against us can always be reduced to their granular level, and those people don’t want to do that — no matter who they are.  They can be trans separatists  they can be religious right whacktivists, they can be fadical Reminists — none of that matters, in the end, what their basis for defending their views are, in the end their views always get reduced to these granules of society.

And that is all encompassed by Gender.  Feminism is a fight against the rules of social sex roles and social sex expressions being limited by the power of patriarchy, in some form or other. Sexism is the combination of power and the use of that power to enforce those social sex roles and social sex expressions on people.

Masculinity is one of those, Femininity is another. In both cases, they are referring to the combination of social sex role and social sex expressions that are found — and from whee we sit, in our internal culture, often we forget these things because we aren’t as readily subject to them.

But outside the trans culture, people are, and when we act in that world, in that overarching culture, that’s where we find the problems that so many of us are working on changing, and a lot of us are hellbent on avoiding.

The way that people change in their reactions and thoughts of you when they find out you are trans is the key to all of this.

That little subtle difference is what we either seek to avoid to strive to eradicate. And it always surrounds these granular levels, even if the person we are dealing with isn’t fully aware of them.

So gender is a massive thing, that fills nearly every single social interaction we have — and it wouldn’t be unfair or improper to point out that a lot of the reason for it being such a big deal is the whole element that surrounds relationships between two people. Because that is where the rubber hits the road.

So Gender is Social Sex.  The word and the phrase are synonymous with each other, and you can use social sex where ever you use Gender.  This is especially key when it comes to element sof legal theory, or aspects of medical care and psychology.

As social creatures, our ability to interact with others on a social level is paramount to our good health. It is also the lens through which our existence is viewed — if we aren’t healthy, then we must be unhealthy, and that in turn is influenced by the way that other aspects of us are seen — again, being different is bad, and therefore that difference must be the cause of why we are unhealthy.

Then the scientists and people get to looking at it more closely, and within the last 20 years, we’ve really seen that happen more than ever before.

Turns out they see that we are merely different. That our difference is not bad (and, in keeping with evolutionary theory, apparently there is some value in it, or it wouldn’t exist at all), and that we are not unhealthy as a result.  This kind of thinking is what went into the most recent Standards of care, where they had to balance the awareness they have (a small group of people) against the lack of understanding and knowledge of the wider public.

Now, here’s the thing: they weren’t entirely aware of that when they did it.

Still, that’s the case — and that shift is important, because it does indeed turn the focus on the problem of gender issues and related functions back onto the area where it all lies: with society (and therefore all of us).

I am a feminist, myself.  That doesn’t’ mean I am a trans feminist, it just means I’m a feminist.  My lens is often a trans one, but in and of itself I approach my feminism not as a trans person but as a woman. I approach my trans work from the lens of a woman, as well as that of a trans person — and in that aspect, I get accused of spewing the “trans borg kool-aid” by many of the people in the community.

Because what I deal with isn’t a transfeminism, but rather a Transness Theory, something similar to feminism but concerned with trans people.  And it doesn’t see trans people as being divided into discrete, easily separated areas because it is a pretty radical concept in and of itself, without direct link to cis-centric models and ways of thinking.

It is, in the end, very much about taking apart the social constructions that we have already, because in order to move forward, those scientists and such are going to need a way of expressing the changes to those social paradigms we represent in the creation of what will, in the end, become a new social construction that incorporates awareness and understanding of us.

So my approach really isn’t even transfeminism.  It is a Transcentrism, if you want to put a label on it, and it has developed out of all the stuff that I have talked about here over the last several years, as well as seeing if these things really do stand up to the power of daily use and application.

I am often accused of being resistant to being wrong — which isn’t true.  As I’ve discovered several times over the last few years, not everything that I’ve thought really works out in practice.  And each time, I’ve changed it to reflect the impact of those “experiments”.  As I noted, we don’t get to really experiment with a lot of this because it is dealing in real, true, human beings, flesh and blood, and a mistake in this sort of thing can hurt people.

So there is a sense of constantly going back to the drawing board.  And yet, these elements of sex and gender and awareness are constant   And they are also well proven.

the ideas here are not a “recent” invention — nor are they things that are up for much argument.  Consensus is a major element of the scientific community, and this is whee it stands until significant new information is tried out.

The arguments you see many people going after trans folk use are all things that were already shut dwon once before, already wrecked on the path of try and see if that works in reality. I genuinely cannot think of one arguments used against us that hasn’t already been tossed out, and typically well before 1990.

But that consensus can also work against us, as it has in the realm of the social construction of sex.  And since gender is merely the social manners of that social construction, it has many of the same forces weighing against it.

Transness

And into this really pretty simple pile of stuff we are going to throw Transness.

Simple?  With 5,000 words already and you want to call that simple, Toni?

yes.

  1. Physical Sex.
  2. Sex Identity.
  3. Social Sex Identity.
  4. Social Sex Roles.
  5. Social Sex Expressions.
  6. Sexual Orientation.

Together, these things make up one’s Sexual Identity.

That’s pretty simple.  And, as you can now see fairly clearly, it is all about sex, that thing that most American’s are aware makes them feel uncomfortable to talk about, because the end result of wanting to know about one’s sexual Identity is really so that you know who you want to have Sexual Intercourse with.

Right now a bunch of people are making faces, some of them just mentally.

Because let’s face it — most of us haven’t gone through hell and been brave and suffered and all that just so we could get laid.  Was a hell of a lot easier before.

I can say that is was seriously much, much easier to get laid before. And that I didn’t do it just to get laid.

But that is how it is looked at, and that’s the underlying basis for a lot of this stuff – especially if we include it in any sort of framework that involves social systems.

Because family is a social system and there is pretty much really one thing that links two people together. More if the family unit is considered to be dependent on more than just two people in a given culture, but ours sorta focuses on two and has issues with more involved.

No *really* good reason why, mind you, but there it is.

This doesn’t mean it is all about the potential product of that intercourse. We aren’t talking about children (yet).  We are talking about family, and family starts with two people in our culture coming together and basically saying they like each other enough in multiple ways (including the sexual intercourse one) to stick around long enough to call themselves a family.

That’s all it takes, and I seriously doubt that even the most ardent of religious right advocates would deny that two people could be a family. Would really suck for the people who are planning on having kids but haven’t yet. Not a good group of people to upset.

This is also why often the arguments against us, and the efforts surrounding us are so focused on the “can’t have kids” thing and why we are often required to be sterile just to say who we are.

Now, though, we come to the question that underlies much of this, and why these things are important: Authenticity.

This is the old existential concept of it, in play here.  We want to know about ourselves, but we also want to know about those we could potentially “settle down” with. And for us, because most of the “old ways” of looking at all of the above are predicated on things not changing, the rules don’t exactly work.

Here’s an example: Sexual orientation‘s original structure of same, opposite, both, or neither has an automatic presumption in it that the individuals in question don’t “change” along the route.  Also, it has an automatic presumption of it being about Men or Women — there’s not much in the way of allowance there for people who used to be one but are now th other, and in actual practice, the way it applies most often is that its what your genital configuration at birth is decided to be.

Because sexual orientation is a social construction.  So is being gay or lesbian.  So is being trans.  These are all “real” things, no doubt, no argument there,  But the way that we decided what we call them is constructed by us, collectively.

And when it was constructed, it never accounted for our existence.  So sexual orientation is a cis-centric concept, it posits the experience and understanding of cis people over that of trans people. It doesn’t work for us.

We shoehorn ourselves into it the same way we shoehorn genderqueer folks into “really boy” or “really girl” (and if you don’t believe we do, as k them. They will tell you, and you should probably apologize when they do) because we have this culturally placed need to make things fit into the existing social system in the way it is already built.

In other word,s strictly speaking, sexual orientation doesn’t apply to us.  Which drives those scientists nuts, because if you look at the history, we are described as homosexual when they start from birth, or some other term if they start otherwise. Which means that you can have homosexual straight people whoa re trans, and that just really doesn’t fit well with the whole system as it stands.

We, being trans people in a world that is created and designed for cis people, really mess things up.

And the reason we do that is because of our transness.

Cis folk who spend their lives trying to figure us out call it all manner of things.  Transsexualism. Gender Identity Disorder. Transgenderism. Gender Identity Dysphoria. Gender Incongruence.

And what that is, when it comes right down to it, and when you look at it based on commonality, is that people who have a mismatch between their  Social Sex Identity and their Physical Sex, or their Internal Sex Identity and their Physical Sex, or both Social Sex and Internal Sex Identities and their Physical Sex, or any one of several other combinations of the five elements mentioned previously, are Trans.

Flat out, that’s where it is.

Sometimes it is constant, sometimes it is fluid, sometimes it pops up once or twice, other times it is triggered by specific things.

It is possible for one’s Physical sex to match your Social Sex Identity but not your Internal Sex Identity. The possibilities of mixes and matches are rather large and varied, but if you take the time to plot them out in a spatial graph, using the axes of Physical Sex, Internal Sex Identity, and Social Sex Identity, what you see is something rather fascinating.

You see a massive number of people who are all clustered in tight groups. Cis people tend to be clustered in one space.  Trans folk tend to be clustered in a bunch of other spaces. And those spaces are still clusters.

And then you have a few here and there who are floating out in the space between the clusters.

And this distinction, these clusters which are statistically significant, is critical — especially to the development of a decent Transcentrist theory, but also to the description of what transness is.

It is more than one kind of different. All of them are different, but in more than one way.

In my post that I wrote a few years back on “What is Trans“, I talked a bit about these things, and I proposed several classifications. And, in the process, I was told that I was “lumping in” this group with that group, and that I was doing all sorts of horrible things.

And none of the people actually read the damn piece.  I know this because if they had, their complaints would have been in a completely different vein.

I also gave a definition of what is Trans.  It has a few errors in it, but generally speaking it holds up extremely well, and it also has an additional effect that is important to keep in mind.

I’m going to rewrite that definition.

Transness is the state or condition of someone who does not conform in a majority of aspects to the way their society or culture sees them as behaving and living in relation to their physiological sex. This is usually due to a variance between their physical sex and one or both of their social sex identity and/or internal sex identity.

In practical, day to day terms, that means the same thing as Transness being a state or condition of not meeting the expectations of the society they live for someone of their assigned physiological sex in the culture or society they live in.

But one of the two is more precise. And that precision counts because otherwise we have frightened pearl clutching people who are going to jump up and down and say “but I’m not trans and I wear boy clothes and cut my hair short and you are all men anyway!”

Of course, we’ll have them saying that anyway, because they are frightened, pearl clutching people, but still…

Following that definition I proposed a few terms, and I stated in them that these were rough and general estimates, that the people to turn to for the real terminology was going to te the people involved in them.

Just to start, it is important to realize that there is no binary here — it is not Trans or Cis. That’s the first and most key piece to this.  WIth so many possible variances in the combination of six characteristics above, each with at least four options inside them, you can see how making clear and sharp lines might be problematic, especially if you do so using conventional habits of the cultural milieu.

Those are but two of several that become apparent, and merely two of several possible.  But, just to start…

You have Transsexual, Transgender, Cissexual, Cisgender, (that’s just the Trans & Cis ones). Then you have the issue of people who are confused with the others because of some aspect like they get up on stage and act a role.  I’ve always found it odd how we have no problem separating Tom Cruise from his Mission Impossible character but when it comes to RuPaul we all have conniption fits.

Maybe if RuPaul did more challenging roles…

In any case, because of the topic of the next god awful long post, which is stigma and shame, these people often get dragged into the mess because other people think they *might* be trans in some way.

But in addition to those, we can, right of the bat, add Inter.  Intersex, Intergender.

Why the separation of Sex & Gender? Because one is physical and the other is social. But transsocialsexrole doesn’t really sound or look as good as transgender, does it? nor does transphysicalsexual.  They feel a little too contrived, a bit too silly, to be honest.

So I just keep on with the current.

And now you may see the more interesting quirk to this whole thing, and why Trans, by itself, without the additional ending, is so vauable and important here.

See it?

If you don’t, I’ll tell you.

It is possible to be both transgender and transsexual.  The distinction, again, is in the area of Sex Identity and Gender Identity. In my case, they match each other, but they didn’t match my social sex role or expression or my physical sex.

So I fixed that.

And if you can see that I dealt with both of those things, you can see how it is possible to exist as both a transsexual and a transgender person.

I don’t place much absolute importance in those separations, either — but for some people, those things are critically important to their self image and sense of place in the world, and even though historically I have engaged in some scathingly brutal attacks there, I don’t really see the value in doing so any longer — you could say that I’ve moved past that whole mess philosophically, and it wouldn’t be too far from the truth.

Once you have begun to unravel the ways in which those two things are so deeply intertwined within our community, you start to see a little more. And you see different things. Like it doesn’t matter if there are separatists. That the whole argument about all of that stuff is, really, rather stupid.

And also unending, because in the end it isn’t really about who is what, it is about who is acceptable to a particular affinity group and who isn’t.  It is an argument about what group you are a part of, and the group that I am a part of already includes both those factions and all their divisions, and it doesn’t matter what they argue or say.

It isn’t an umbrella, either. No need — it isn’t raining.

This is why I use Trans to refer to the collective group of people who are dealing with Transness. It has the same semantic weight as “apple” does — everyone knows what an apple is, and yet there are a gazillion different kinds of apple.  The same applies for “white” — there are a crapload of different white people.  Or Gay. Lots of different kinds of gay people.

Personally, I can’t think of many people who would agree that “white” is an umbrella term in the same way people think of trans stuff as one.

Well, ok, yeah I can, but I am known for having issues with people who are really not all that full of thought.

So we have Trans, Cis, Inter — what else?  How do we decide which of these categories someone goes into? My take is that people will pretty much sort themselves out accordingly — but first they kinda need to know that it is possible to be something besides Trans and Cis.

There is a lot of possibility there.  I suspect someone will figure out Meta, others will latch onto Para — pick yuour latinate prefix and go.  I’m personally good with them developing their own language, their own terminology, and recognizing that there is a lot of specific variation between what we are currently calling Trans and these other areas, these other elements.

But that doesn’t mean we are going to be able to separate that easily. Nor is this something that is going to happen suddenly or through the actions of people who are not members of the groups that still remain unlabeled.

Because these things are part of our personal awareness of ourselves, they exist at a level that is beneath our present ability to effectively vocalize — I am covers it all, and it is just as much a part of us as any other social construction in our lives. Being a social cosntruction doesn’t make these things bad, and if you think that because they are social constructions they are bad, you do not understand what a social construction is.

In and of themselves, they aren’t.  Like any other tool, they can help or hurt.  Ostracism is a horrible and painful tool, but we use it all the time, in the most literal of senses, for the public good.  So is outcasting — what are jails for?

It isn’t the tool — it is how the tool is used.  It is how it is employed — the same thing that the haters do to us we can do right back at them — but if we do it from a defensive position, we aren’t going to have any success because we don’t own the tool.

This is why the best answer many early in transition and younger people can come up with to aggression directed at them is “die cis scum”. Anger is all they have, and they lash out — which is a very, very human response.

Then again, poke the heck out of a lion and it’s likely to take your head off as well.

Hell, even slugs do it.

We cannot win against oppression by using the master’s tools.  Transcentrism is about creating our own tools, first and foremost, and the first tool we have is a greater understanding of the way these forces and ideas are present in the wider society and within our own.

Community

There are many people who say that there is no such thing as a Trans Community.  I have not only begged to differ, but I have pointed out often why there is one.

If you are reading this, and you are understanding enough of it to form opinions about various things, odds are pretty good that you are a member of the Trans community, even if you don’ t consider yourself trans (hell, much to your chagrin, especially if you aren’t trans).

For you to interact with people, for us to interact with each other, there has to be a commonality and a means of doing so and some form of trade.

Our commonality centers around the way we deal with those 6 factors above and how they create transness and the problems around it.  The means of doing so is most certainly the internet — no other tool has ever been more effective or speedy for communication in human history. Our trade is knowledge and experience. We, more than most people realize, are a community born heavily out of and in no small part due to the birth of the Age of Information.

Which has to thrill transhumanists.

In any case, if you are becoming involved with large numbers of trans people — and for the purpos eof the exercise, let’s say that if you reach more than say 10 — then you are becoming involved in the Trans community.

Now, a lot of people think the trans community should be one monolithic group that all thinks a certain way and shares common values and so froth. Yes, froth.  These are often people who spend time thinking that everyone would be perfectly fine and happy under the system they think would work. And they get frothy when you disagree with them.

I know, I was like that at one time. Very frustrating.

People are rarely monolithic.  They like to be divided when it comes to groups — some of us wily humans even have a tendency to resist agreeing with people for the sole reason that it would mean agreeing with people.  Now, I can’t think of anyone close to me like that.

That is my innocent face.

Communities are not that way.  They are dynamic, they are full of dissent, they are roiling and they often also have outside forces pushing in — something especially true for communities that are built around affinity groups of various sorts under the burden of oppression.

And make no mistake — our community is full of people who are, in fact, oppressed. We are oppressed in many ways, and perhaps the most powerful way is the verbal assault — the cries of “you are a man” and “no one will ever love you” and other things that are meant to deal with and dwell in the area of the stigma and shame that is already used to deny us and that we have fought against for much of our lives and that we struggle against in our effort to be ourselves that we call transition.

Yet not all trans people transition.  And not all trans people transition in the same way, or to the same degree, or whatever.

We all start at the same point, the same place. We are seen as cis people in a world of cis people.  We aren’t, but that’s how we are seen, that’s what we are taught to be, that’s how we are taught to see the world.

And yet, within us, within our very sense of awareness of ourselves, there is something that is different, and we can’t always describe it until we find the place, find the term, find the idea that helps us put a name and helps us see it for what it is.

For some of us, that spark is even more complected — their internal Sex identity does not match their Gender Identity, but it might match their physical sex.

Or some other combination.

We can call that aspect Social dysphoria or Social incongruence.  The body is fine, the way we live isn’t.  For others, though, the social is fine, but the body isn’t.  Socially happy as a man, but holy cow this body is all kinds of inhospitable. For some it is both.

And the possibilities that arise from there are vast, and we don’t always see them.

But the thing that makes that happen is still transness.

Cross dressers are a major sparking point.  Are they or aren’t they?

Well, truth is, many of them are trans.  But, like Drag performers, being a cross dresser doesn’t make you automatically a trans person, and beign a trans person doesn’t automatically make you a cross dresser.

And that might come as a bit of a shock to a lot of people, as it is a bit of a change from my usual position.  But, again, it comes fro mthe reality of situation.  It cannot be applied blanket either way to all of them — so the truth is, inevitably, that some are and some aren’t, and if that the case, the there is more going on there than just the surface stuff.

We need to think more closely on it. Look at it more deeply.

And yes, we should do so.  Because they get even more shit than trans people do and they are even more soundly disliked than trans people are.

Especially by trans people.

And there are a lot more of them.

But note that I only mentioned Drag.

Let’s take that to the next level.

Drag is one of the two areas that can really push Cis people into a tizzy, and since we were taught to be cis people, it often does it to us, as well.

It is performance.  Anyone can do it.  And, in truth, anyone does do it.  There are cis women who do female impersonation.  There are trans men who go out as drag queens. There is every possible configuration of the 6 aspects that can be found in Drag performers because drag is not about those things.

It is about subverting those things, it is about mocking those things, making fun of them, celebrating them, reveling in them — the possibilities vary as much as the performers do.

Here’s what it comes down to, really: if you are a trans person, you will know it.

If you aren’t, don’t sweat it.

This also why I focus so heavily on description — in the end, most of what we are dealing with here is social stuff, and social stuff doesn’t really give a rat’s ass what one person says — it is the combination of people that matter, and the larger and more solid the grouping, the cluster of people in that graph I described horribly earlier, the more solid and more “real” the things that bind them.

But it is important that we do not forget that what we see is not always what matters.

There are trans people who will never transition.  They have good reasons for it — and to declare their reasons for such to be bad or poor or whatever isn’t fair or reasonable to them, or to us, either.  Some of us wanted to transition in the early 1980′s and 1970′s but couldn’t find the information — it is much more widely available these days. Hell, in 1980 there was damn near nothing available in most city libraries.

That lack of information is just one thing — even when we did find out, we never really did anything about it until later, and we always had reasons.

We have spouses and children — people who also have their lives directly affected by our decisions and since we are not mind readers and we already know what people are taught, we usually suspect they are going to be a bit upset and that’s not something that anyone wants to go through.

It hurts, and too many of us know it, and most of us would still love for things to have been different.

That’s why they are good reasons, and we shouldn’t’ be sitting on each other for having them.

The run up to transition is full of ugly stuff, full of fear and uncertainty, and in the end, all of us know, even before we take those first few steps, and that’s going to be the third part of this unless it finds its way into part two.

Always possible.

And with this, I’ll leave you be, until the next post comes out. I think 9600 words is enough, don’t you?