Tuesday, September 22, 2009

There is No Connection Between Sex and Gender

This is a post I was meaning to write when I first started this blog, but didn't get around to it.

Back then I visited the website of the Intersex Society of North America and read something that I thought was very interesting.  But first, I'll quote the first paragraph of their definition of "intersex":
“Intersex” is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male. For example, a person might be born appearing to be female on the outside, but having mostly male-typical anatomy on the inside. Or a person may be born with genitals that seem to be in-between the usual male and female types—for example, a girl may be born with a noticeably large clitoris, or lacking a vaginal opening, or a boy may be born with a notably small penis, or with a scrotum that is divided so that it has formed more like labia. Or a person may be born with mosaic genetics, so that some of her cells have XX chromosomes and some of them have XY.
 So, an intersex person has some kind of ambiguity about their biological sex.  This is the bit that really struck me though, where they compare intersex and transgender.  They state, in part:
The truth is that the vast majority of people with intersex conditions identify as male or female rather than transgender or transsexual. Thus, where all people who identify as transgender or transsexual experience problems with their gender identity, only a small portion of intersex people experience these problems.
Now, if that's true, it makes me wonder:  what are these people basing their gender identity on?  Supposedly one's gender is the same as one's biological sex.  Of course, that assumes that biological sex is always perfectly obvious.  If anybody has a "right" to be confused about their gender, it would be someone whose biological sex is unclear.   But here we have an association of intersex people which states that they are not unclear about their gender.  So it must be based on something other than sex.

 In other words:  sex is not binary.  Gender is not binary.  Things are a lot more complicated than that.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Caster Semenya, Caster Semenya, Caster Semenya

My heart goes out to her because in her I see my inner self made physical.

My heart goes out to her because she's been insulted and humiliated.

My heart goes out to her because there is still too much fucking ignorance in the world.


Caster Semenya: Part 2b of the Women Athletes series

(Posted using ShareThis)

Update:  Caster Semenya placed on suicide watch.

Posing as Female; or, the Awesomeness of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

(Note:  I've been working on this post for a few weeks now.  Not sure if it's done or not, but I'm sick of looking at it, so it's time to run it up the flagpole.)

When I was a feminist*, I disapproved of drag queens. (In fact, I disapproved of transwomen in general.) There's something especially infuriating about being told that women are supposed to dress a certain way, and then seeing men dressed that way.  Because it seems like men invented all these feminine trappings (I could certainly never have conceived of some of this stuff), and if they like them so much, maybe they should just keep them for themselves.  Why force them on me if I don't want them?  Perhaps men are really the ones who enjoy wearing makeup and slinky dresses.  That in itself doesn't bother me.  It's the expectations piled on me that drove me mad.  It's the ideal woman, that none of us can ever live up to. It's just not me.

Is it true that men are better at portraying an ideal woman, because for them it is purely imaginary?  I think that biological females tend to get distracted by biology.  Not very glamorous sometimes.

I once heard someone describing his first sight of a drag queen. It was in public, and at first he thought he was looking at a really magnificent woman, until someone clued him in. But he was still astounded. I don't recall if he actually said, "She was more of a woman than any real woman," but that's the impression I got. She had an air about her.

Now I think that the femininity of a transwoman is real. It can't be faked. Makeup and pretty clothes help; so do hormones and surgery; but the real thing is something inside you, and if you've got it, then you've got it.

Priscilla is one of the things that changed my mind, although, of course, ironically, the actors in that movie are not "real" drag queens, and so therefore they pretty much disprove my point. Terence Stamp, especially, was just amazing. That's acting!

And, of course, I've given up "posing as female" myself. That has removed a lot of my anger.  Like I said, I don't want to do drag myself.  But those who want to, and look fabulous doing it -- more power to them!  The funny thing is that I do care about my clothes a lot.  But I've always tried to create my own style. It has to look nice to me, and it has to be comfortable, which most feminine clothes aren't.

Haven't quite got my head around "posing as male" yet though . . . that is to say, I believe that masculinity is just as much of a pose as femininity -- perhaps even more so, given that men are generally expected to "excel" and not to show weakness. Fallibility is the human condition.  And I'm not interested in pretending to be superior.  Take superiority out of masculinity and what have you got?  I wonder about that.

Still feeling my way between the ideal and the real.  Still trying to avoid the unreal (by which I don't mean, the ideal.)

* I still believe in everything that feminism stands for. But traditional feminism has no concept of transgender, so it's much less useful to me now.