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Sex appears to be easily definable, but it’s not

Commentary: Trans Progressive

How do any of us know what our gender is? If one is assigned male at birth and loses one’s genitalia in an IED explosion, is one still male? If one is assigned female at birth and lose one’s external genitalia, breasts or uterus to disease, is one still female?

Obviously the answers to those questions would be yes.

I love to cook; that’s stereotypically perceived as a feminine activity. So does loving to cook identify me as female? My son is a trained chef; does his love of cooking identify him as female?

Obviously not.

Do following professional sports mean one is male and not following professional sports mean one is female? Does playing sports mean one is male and not playing sports mean one is female?

Obviously not.

We may have genitalia or secondary sex characteristics that may conform to a particular societal sex and gender norm, but those body parts may or may not align with the gender one knows oneself to be. One may engage in activities that are stereotypically perceived as associated with one sex/gender or another, but engaging in stereotypically male or female activities doesn’t mean one knows oneself to be the sex/gender stereotypically associated with that activity.

I’d argue we know what gender we are just because we know.

Even transsexual separatists that try to define sex and gender as connected to genitalia – and in their own specific cases about genital reconstruction surgeries, tacitly understand this. One cannot have genital reconstruction surgeries unless one identifies as one’s target sex, unless one’s gender identity is different from one’s assigned gender at birth.

This simple concept of just knowing what gender we are because we just know applies in journalism. Journalists should step back a moment and reflect about how they know what gender they are when they write about trans people. When I see mainstream media reporters trying to use body parts to confirm a trans adult’s sex or gender identity as male or female, or when I see mainstream media reporters trying to use likes, behavior or activities to confirm an adult’s or youth’s sex or gender identity as male or female, I usually shake my head.

I have read the articles of many mainstream media reporters, and note that a sizable number of them just do not step back for a moment and ask themselves how they know – what confirms for them – their own sex/gender. If they did, I believe we would see less of the trans identity stories that ignorantly link sex/gender to genitalia, secondary sex characteristics, likes, behavior or activities.

Each of us knows what our gender is because we just know. For many of us cis and trans folk, who would like clarity for how and why cross gender identities exist, we are confronted with a reality that for each individual trans person we may never know how or why that particular individual has a cross gender identity. Using sex and gender shorthand, such as societal sex and gender norms that equate genitalia to gender and/or certain activities to being male or female, is easy and lazy, but these sex and gender norms are inadequate to explain how or why for situations that defy the “common sense” notion that sex and gender should be binary and simple.

Eric Vilain, chief of medical genetics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, wrote the 2004 Los Angeles Times commentary Gender Blender, Intersexual? Transsexual? Male, female aren’t so easy to define. In the article he was arguing for marriage equality and against a federal marriage amendment that would limit marriage to one man and one woman. He concluded his article with this paragraph on gender and genitalia:

“Sex should be easily definable, but it’s not. Our gender identity – our profound sense of being male or female – is independent from our anatomy. A constitutional amendment authorizing marriages only between men and women would not only discriminate against millions of Americans who do not fit easily in the mold of each category, but would simply be flawed and contrary to basic biological realities.”

Biology isn’t destiny. One knows one’s gender and gender identity – because one just does. What a simple and difficult concept that can be.

Short URL: http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=39376

Posted by on Jul 25, 2013. Filed under Bottom Highlights, Trans Progressive. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

27 Comments for “Sex appears to be easily definable, but it’s not”

  1. A Woman, Period

    Actually, for the vast majority of the population, it is easy…if you have a penis, you are a male. If you have a vagina, you are a female. I find it interesting that most of this article has NOTHING to do with sex, but is about what is commonly referred to as gender, and more specifically, gender roles. Sex is a multi-faceted subject. There is genital sex, there is chromosomal sex, there is hormonal sex, and there is the sexual differentiation of the brain. Sadly, this is all complicated by any number of issues, including mental illness, that can make these things a bit less clear. Some are born intersex. There are XY females, who suffer from complete androgen insensitivity syndrome. One can have various conditions that affect hormones. And, quite frankly, people can lie about what they think they are, though a competent therapist (far too rare these days) can usually sort that out.

    Interestingly enough, the one that is immutable, in spite of spurious claims from some extremists, is the brain. If one is born with a male brain, it will always be a male brain, and vice versa. Even if, after a long and successful career as a man, one suddenly decides one is really a woman.

  2. Transsexual separatists, Sandeen doesn’t know what she is speaking of.
    Apart from what Autumn?
    What is it we want to segregate ourselves from?
    Because it is not away from living a normal life in mainstream society.
    YOU and your extremist friends are the separatists, you segregate yourselves from the mainstream you refuse to fit in, you and your TGLBQ friends built your ghetto and you are crying and whining because we don’t want to belong, because we won’t kiss your ass and join in.

    We have real lives, we pass, we fit in, you don’t and you are angry about it.


  3. A Woman, Period

    You have to love comedy like claiming that sex and gender are not connected to genitalia. Sex, obviously…women don’t have and want to keep penises. That is, if you are a rare person born with a female brain in a male body, you will want to be rid of your penis. And you won’t miss it when it is gone. As to gender, if what the TG extremists claim were true, things would be a lot different. Simple common sense shows that they are simply wrong.

    • The analogies used in this article to prop up their false beliefs are laughable at best, at worst they are dangerous to those of us who have transitioned and are living normal lives outside of the GLBTQQ ghetto.


  4. Well, sd woman, you might have a normal life except for being a blog troll. You yap on and on and on without saying anything new at all.

    • Actually, Jennifer (A Woman Period) is the blog troll. sd woman is just her toadie.

      But anyway, isn’t it nice to have someone come to an LGBT website and post a comment referring to “the GLBTQQ ghetto”? People who do such things must really have balls… both figuratively and literally.

      • Perhaps Jenna or whatever your name is, you should find a dictonary and look up the word Ghetto. You guys, ( I am not misgendering you it is a figure of speech,) do have problems with the meanings of words.

        Have a wonderful day,

        Toadie I hardly think so, SD Woman and I only cross paths here, this is a local issue for me. I happen to know you live nowhere near San Diego, Autumn and her propaganda are right in my back yard.

        • Um, why are you referring to yourself in the third person? Forget which sockpuppet account you were using, Jennifer?

          There you go, folks. Proof that internet troll Jennifer Usher posts comments here not only as “A Woman, Period” but also as “sd woman”!

          • Sorry typo on my part I meant to say A Woman Period and I.
            That first cup of coffee this morning didn’t quite sink in when I typed this.

            By the way what are you doing here since you don’t live in San Diego, what point do you have commenting here. Like I said Autumn is literally in my back yard. What Sandeen posts embarrasses the true transsexuals here in San Diego.


        • A typo? A TYPO???

          No, a typo is when you misspell a word because your finger accidentally hit an adjacent key, not when you refer to yourself in the third person! No, such things are commonly referred to as a Freudian slip. The truth wants to come out, so it did!

          What am I doing here? Arguing with a fool, that’s what! And you’ve just shown what a fool you are by making that statement about where I may or may not live, since you know absolutely nothing about me. But then that kind of thing is a diversionary tactic, to draw attention away from the fact that you slipped up and outed yourself here, Jennifer!

          • So Jenna or whoever you say you are, you are a mind reader also?
            Or are you a member of the word police, the word police that decides what words are offensive and what words are not.
            Glad I am not Tee-Gee, thin skinned and unable to pass and work in the mainstream like any normal woman.

            A fool, that’s laughable.
            Missy I transitioned before there was a Tee-Gee movement.
            I have had my right to marry a man since the day my old documents were sealed. Living stealth as you call it is great, you should try it sometime if you can. You should find it what it is like loving a man like a woman should, Oh wait you cannot, you haven’t transitioned, you haven’t become female.

            You and your ilk will never know what it is to be a woman.


          • Say whatever you like, Jennifer. Blow more smoke in your feeble attempt to hide the fact that you outed your own sockpuppet.

            Call me a man if you want. Call me a transgendered person if you want. It changes nothing, and only serves to show you for the fool that you are.

          • This is truly Funny.
            I live in San Diego you uninformed person, whatever you identify as.


      • A Woman, Period

        Why don’t you try making logical arguments, rather than insulting people, and posting lies… Oh wait, never mind…

        • By the way, how is little Lizzie doing? I guess you forced her to delete her blog post about you, after Autumn tried to show her some sympathy. Pretty sad, that whole post, about how you used to beat her mom. Once a control freak, always a control freak. Right, Jennifer?

          • Another situation of Sandeen poking her nose in where it didn’t belong, like outing a TS to her church and everybody.
            Sandeen does this crap and then pleads mental illness.
            The evidence is all over Sandeen’s twitter account which I am not blocked from Reading,


          • A Woman, Period

            A little secret, for those who haven’t figured it out. You can read ANYONE’S Twitter account, even if you’re blocked, simply by logging out of twitter, and then going to their account again. The only way around that would be to block EVERYONE, which would sort of defeat the purpose.

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