Aug. 12th, 2009

First, three stories I have told about myself:

A: "My gender's has always pretty much been the same. What we think of as gendered behaviour in Western culture—the clothes we wear, the things we play with as kids, our relationship types and styles, etc—have been fairly constant through my life, with some exceptions around puberty. But, hey, puberty. Furthermore, my parents tried to free me from what I should expect in terms of gender roles, and modeled non-traditional gender roles for me. I'm lucky to have grown up with family and friends who didn't make a fuss about what my gender looked like. Anyway, I don't really feel a change to my gender post-transition."

B: "As someone who has moved through this world perceived as both male and female, I feel like I am intimately aware of the different pressures and expectations placed on men and women. The way in which men's bodies are treated as more private is particularly interesting and enraging."

C: "I've never been one to hew close to gender expectations. I've always loved trains; I am a knitter and a baker; I enjoy having emotionally close friendships; I think mucking about with tools is great fun; I love things that are beautiful and soft; I love to watch things explode. I mean, why limit yourself to the pastimes and pleasures of one socially acceptable gender?"

All of these stories are fully true. All of these stories contain only part of the truth.

I am beginning to loathe the word 'transgender' and its antonym, 'cisgender'. Or rather, I am beginning to loathe the use of those words. On their own, they're pretty unremarkable: one purportedly describes people whose gender is not in accordance with the one assigned to them at birth and the other describes people whose gender is in accordance. Also in this nexus of incipient loathing are 'genderqueer' and 'binary-identified'.*

They make me uncomfortable because I do not feel I can claim any of them as my own. If I had to choose, you know, gun-to-the-head-implausible-scenario, I'd probably choose 'cisgender' and/or 'binary-identified'. They are probably the least in conflict with my perception of myself—but they are still in conflict. Mostly because I think other people, being told the stories above might select 'transgender' and/or 'binary-identified' for me.

Now, I should say that this isn't one of those conflicts that keep me up at night, as due to the many, many privileges I am accorded, it's actually not something I have to think about a whole lot. Most of the time, I just do my thing and people see me and think: "man". Or sometimes, "weird dude...oh, he's a nerd, that's all right."**

Nevertheless, I find the whole thing a shifting mess when I wish to talk about or describe my gender in this framework—and part of the reason I don't think on it a whole lot is that I'm not sure if there is a resolution without revamping the framework, and that's work that I neither feel qualified to undertake, nor to which I have the copious free brain cycles to donate.

And finally, I find this all exhausting because I am also aware that there are assumptions that come along with 'cisgender' and 'transgender': if I were to state in comments on some blog post that "As someone who is cisgender, blah blah blah", the assumption would also be that I am cissexual***, which, you know, I'm not. Similarly (though a bit less so) if I referenced myself as 'transgender'.

So, in conclusion, basically all I want is the mess of categorizing my gender to stop being such a squishy bog. I want there to be more options in our framework. Perhaps the first step is removing the oppositionalism from transgender and cisgender? Does this ruin their meanings? Must we break everything down?


* I do not loathe people who do claim these words for themselves, as that's rude, insensitive, and toxic. Plus, that's a LOT of people to loathe. Nor do I begrudge them their identities. I just, you know, want one of my own.

**A post for another time: "how men who run in nerd circles both opt-out and opt-in to hegemonic masculinity and how, as a result, society both shames and third-genders them"

***Note that this is the first time in this post I've referenced 'cissexual' or 'transsexual'. I reference myself as transsexual without any problems, as I am, indeed someone who wants to/has changed my primary and/or secondary sex characteristics from those I was born with.

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