Anyone into Queer Theory- Explain this, I'm confused

(60 Posts)
dashoflime Sun 10-Mar-13 11:01:09

Right so,

someone has recently said to me that in Queer Theory you don't draw any distinction between someones biological sex and their gender identity and in fact, it would be threatening and offensive to Trans people to do so.

I'm lost. I thought the whole point of stuff like Butlers Femininity-as-Performance was that you DO draw that distinction confused ?

Someone come and explain in simple words what this person was on about would you.

LRDtheFeministDragon Mon 11-Mar-13 21:32:24

Thank you, that is very interesting. I don't think these are labels I would want for myself at all, but it is interesting to see how they're applied and how they work to help people think through all of these issues.

I still don't get why gender itself is a useful concept - do you have any insights there? No worries if not or if it's just too big/fraught a debate (I know it's something lots of people just don't want to go over again and again, and I respect that). I just wondered.

Is the 'cisbinary' the same thing as the patriarchy, or something slightly different, btw?

BigSpork Mon 11-Mar-13 21:28:24

To simplify his complication: Sex is what you were assigned at birth, Gender Identity is how you perceive yourself and reality within our imperfect societies, Gender Expression is how you attempt to express yourself so others perceive you on sight. He does overcomplicate it a lot but the picture itself I find to be good for terms (though doesn't discuss when those things are fluid).

So someone could be assigned female at birth, define as a woman, but express themselves in an androgynous or masculine way. A man who views himself as a man is still a man if he's wearing a dress. A trans*woman is still that even if she dresses in an androgynous or masculine fashion.

Not everyone views the labels important, even within the trans* community, but some find them very important to their identity and their place in the world and their way of expressing themselves to a world that doesn't tend to understand beyond the cisbinary. I don't particularly but I have friends for whom it is their main identifier and social/political/everything else is viewed through that lens (where as my identity as an immigrant colours mine a lot more than my gender identity though I'm still working on finding a comfortable expression). Some people like to label themselves and in academic discussions it makes it easier to define groups from another and how each intersection affects the statistical whole (for example, trans*women of colour who try to express them femininely are far more likely to abused, assaulted, and by far most likely to be killed for their identity. Recognising these is recognising the structures of oppression as well as seeing where groups need to focus their help to get the greatest impact). People will give their labels as they feel comfortable and respecting the labels, pronouns, and the other factors of a person's identity are part of treating them with respect.

Trekkie Sun 10-Mar-13 20:39:36


dashoflime Sun 10-Mar-13 20:32:29

Agghhh I don't know what I mean anymore!!!

Trekkie Sun 10-Mar-13 20:25:21

sex oppression you mean


LRDtheFeministDragon Sun 10-Mar-13 20:21:20

Yep, absolutely.

dashoflime Sun 10-Mar-13 20:20:09

"True, he might be trying to expose the absurdity. But if so, why the need for these labels? Because the labels he proposes still do refer to a binary, even if it's a binary with a more complexly intersecting set of sliding scales."

This is what I thought about it too.

I also think there's a danger that if the working model is too complex- it can obscure rather than explain gender oppression.

LRDtheFeministDragon Sun 10-Mar-13 20:08:29

dash - this, I do not know! I would like to know too. Is identity the inward feeling and expression the way you act? kim probably has answers here.

LRDtheFeministDragon Sun 10-Mar-13 20:07:23

Ohh, I am jealous, I have to wait an hour until it comes up on Iplayer. envy

I suppose it might be that he means he feels he can't act in those stereotyped ways without feeling 'feminine' because that's how society makes him feel? But then I do have issues with that because I think it is not great for women really.

dashoflime Sun 10-Mar-13 20:07:12

I think the genderbread person is a clear enough representation of the different ideas but I still have questions about the concepts.

Can someone explain why gender identity is different from gender expression? Surely if gender has no real basis in biological sex then expression is all there is to it?

What does it mean to have a gender identity? I feel like the main way I know I'm a woman is by how people treat me. Its more an awareness of a set of social expectations and obligations than an intrinsic thing IYSWIM

MooncupGoddess Sun 10-Mar-13 20:05:32

But he says that being sensitive, etc, 'is a large part of my gender identity'.

We need more info on how he sees the gender expression sliders working in practice.

Needless to say, entirely agree with your view on the ridiculousness of gender.

<opens bottle of real ale and switches on Call the Midwife>

LRDtheFeministDragon Sun 10-Mar-13 20:02:36

True, he might be trying to expose the absurdity. But if so, why the need for these labels? Becuase the labels he proposes still do refer to a binary, even if it's a binary with a more complexly intersecting set of sliding scales.

I suppose it is possible that, eventually, the complexity of trying to define yourself as a 'woman, who's female, but not feminine, but expresses female gender, but ..., and ...' might eventually work to do away with gender as a concept - but do you think that is the idea here? It just seems so long-winded to me, and I can't help but see that it would reinforce the same old binaries.

Trekkie Sun 10-Mar-13 20:00:02

It all depends whether he is identifying "feminine" and "masculine" things in order to expose the ridiculousness of applying a gender to things like enjoying cycling or watching football or going for a walk, or whether he genuinely believes that things are intrinsically gendered and listed like that.

I took it for the former. As clearly many men like chocolate and are family orientated, and many women like drinking beer and having someone else look after the children!

The eventual aim surely is to do away with gender and allow people to simply do what they enjoy, dress how they please and fancy who they fancy.

MooncupGoddess Sun 10-Mar-13 19:56:21

But if you think of yourself as a woman, Trekkie, then your gender identity is female, isn't it? But your liking of various things that are stereotyped as male means that your gender expression is on the spectrum somewhere between male and female, with aspects of both (androgynous?).

I think.

To be honest, it would be much easier just to say you're a woman who likes wargaming (or whatever). There really shouldn't be a problem with that.

LRDtheFeministDragon Sun 10-Mar-13 19:53:29

Cos my issue with someone saying that men can be feminine, and being feminine means x, y and z, is that you're still using labels that reinforce the binary 'feminine is this and masculine is that'. If you're claiming to be a man who is feminine, a man who likes chocolate and is 'familial', you are still saying that these are feminine things. Which means you are still telling women that this is how they must be if they want to be 'feminine'.

LRDtheFeministDragon Sun 10-Mar-13 19:51:53

But wouldn't it be better if, instead of reinforcing that stereotype and constructing this very complicated system of intersecting things, we just accepted both men and women like chocolate and family?

Trekkie Sun 10-Mar-13 19:50:40

Not sure where that gets me though.

Trekkie Sun 10-Mar-13 19:49:04

I don't mind that genderbread thing - he is identifying sex as something that is distinct from gender (although I don't quite understand the difference between gender identity and gender expression) and identifying gender as a set of stereotypical behaviours (although he doesn't say this explicitly I take it from the sensitive & chocolate stuff).

I suppose maybe he means (taking me as an example)

My sex is female (it's a girl)
My gender identity is predominantly male (in preferred activities, interests and personality traits)
My gender expression is female - I adhere generally to the norms that are expected of females in our society in terms of the clothes I wear, shaving, makeup and so on

So all in all I can go with that because it does recognise that gender is a bunch of stereotypical traits which are independent of sex.

LRDtheFeministDragon Sun 10-Mar-13 19:47:24

I agree with you, I just thought that might be what was meant.

MooncupGoddess Sun 10-Mar-13 19:45:53

But if that person was identified as male at birth and male in all biological respects, LRD, then their biological sex would be male, no? If they were identified as a girl at birth but turned out to have AIS (for example) they'd be intersex.

LRDtheFeministDragon Sun 10-Mar-13 19:42:04

Does it mean people who were born and identified as male ('it's a boy'), as opposed to people who got the 'it's a girl!' at birth but then identified as male?

MooncupGoddess Sun 10-Mar-13 19:39:38

I don't understand why there are five categories under biological sex (male, female, intersex, male self ID and female self ID). How can identifying as male come under biological sex... surely that is for the gender identity spectrum?

LRDtheFeministDragon Sun 10-Mar-13 19:36:10

Incidentally, I certainly don't find it 'adorable' that it's a gingerbread ('genderbread') man. I am a bit torn between wanting to laugh at the person who thought that was a good image for what they're trying to say, and wanting to be angry that they did.

Though I suppose it's possible I am overthinking, and they just didn't expect any women to comment on the site or read it? I'm not familiar with it so if it is a very blokey blog, perhaps I'm out of order.

LRDtheFeministDragon Sun 10-Mar-13 19:34:02

I like the idea on that site that the spectrum going from male/man/masculine to female/woman/feminine could be replaced with something else. That's true. But it's bollocks that those things cited are to do with 'what it means to be a woman', and I do find that very rude, really. Probably not intentional, but I don't quite understand how that site is using the term 'feminine' and 'woman' ... they seem to describe some stereotypically 'feminine' behaviours as 'what it means to be a woman'. Isn't that negating the point that's just been made? confused

MooncupGoddess Sun 10-Mar-13 19:30:45

What does being genderfluid mean to you, BigSpork?

Agree that people should use other people's chosen names and pronouns.

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