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Really hoping I won't get flamed, genuine q re transgender

(17 Posts)
PityPartay Thu 16-Jul-15 15:23:19

Hope this is the right place to ask/discuss this, as it seems to me a quite largely feminist issue but will happily admit that, although I'm a feminist, I'm not that well educated on many issues, yet. Please don't flame me, I'm trying to understand.

Basically, I was having a discussion with a relative the other night which involved discussing how women who 'appear like men' are perceived and the different way men who 'appear like women' (the stereotypical issues of dress, behaviour etc) are seen. Since then I've been wondering about the way transgender issues fit into this and can't get my head around why, from a feminist point of view, there should be such a thing as transgender at all.

In saying that I'm making a huge distinction between gender, which I see as a purely social concept and very fluid, all down to how you're perceived and the behaviours you choose, and sex, which is varying physiological/biological sets of 'solid' characteristics (solid in that you can't make different choices hour by hour but you can change if you choose to).

I can totally understand why you would want to change sex, especially if you feel you were literally born in the wrong body, but feel somehow it's anti-feminist to be supported in changing gender and then being socially expected to change sex to support that, or forever be known as 'transgender', as that's saying that certain behaviours/preferences/body types etc belong in a specific gender and can't be entertained in another gender. To VERY crudely sum it up in more stereotypes, if you're born with a penis and named Gary and you're happy with that but want to wear minidresses and stockings all day and become a beauty therapist why can't you do that and still be seen as a 'normal man'? Or be a man that would prefer his name to be Daisy? Or change sex but keep your birth name of Gary? Why is it seen as wrong, and anti transgender, to reject the idea that it's natural for sex and gender to align?

Am I looking at it all wrong? If sex and gender aren't separated how do we ever get past ideas such as 'men/women MUST be like this because of their hormones' (hugely simplifying but hope that makes sense)?

messyisthenewtidy Thu 16-Jul-15 16:31:58
This video by Vi Hart is quite good on that issue

PityPartay Fri 17-Jul-15 08:24:07

Great video (wish my stick people turned out anything like that), does make a lot more sense out of how I'm feeling that I did! I think my issue actually boils down to how we 'manage' gender when everyone has one assigned by others around birth and it may not be one they're comfortable with but then that makes other people uncomfortable later.... without having to refuse to acknowledge gender. I'm happy being 'a woman' but I don't want what I choose to do/be as a woman set a mould for what other people have to do to be a woman.

I like wearing heels but it actually repulses me somewhat and makes me want to do it less that if a man wears heels he's judged as either gay or trying to be a woman, and both judgements are usually made as though that's a 'bad thing'. I'd like (and it's not my place to set rules I know!) men to be able to wear heels and still be 'normal men' if that's what they want, and countless other examples but then what would the difference in gender be if there was no 'men do this, women do this' stuff? I'm not sure what to feel really, I don't want to do away with gender (again, not that it's down to me) when other people feel it's so strongly part of them but can't get my head round how gender will ever be feminist, won't one always be judged as 'better'? And won't transgender issues always feed into the 'you must choose your gender to justify your behaviour/lifestyle' idea? Again, genuinely confused, not stirring.

WhenSheWasBadSheWasHorrid Fri 17-Jul-15 09:38:12

I like that video too messy

why, from a feminist point of view, there should be such a thing as transgender at all

I don't think transgenderism (have I just made up a word?) is going to disappear just because it's tricky from a feminist point of view.

LurcioAgain Fri 17-Jul-15 12:10:18

I think part of the problem is that the word "gender" is now used with at least three different meanings, which pull in different directions.

In social sciences (not just feminist theory - anthropology and other disciplines as well), it is used to mean "the socially expected set of behaviours and occupations society tolerates people engaging in based on their biological sex." And this is variable from one society to another, and the degree of rigidity with which people are expected to conform to socially sanctioned sex roles varies from society to society. (To paraphrase an anthropologist friend of mine, pretty much all societies have gender roles. But a given society's reaction to an individual who crosses gender roles - a man who takes up weaving, or a woman who harnesses a set of oxen to plough a field - will vary from "bit odd, but fair dos" all the way through to "stone the pervert to death.")

As far as I can tell, in the transgendered community, it means an internal sense of one's biological sex failing to match up with a mental view of what one's sex ought to be. Straw polls on mumsnet suggest that those of us who are comfortable with our biology (though not necessarily with the gender roles - in the sociological sense above - society assigns to us) mostly don't have this internal sense. This could be because (in virtue of us feeling comfortable with our biological sex) we've simply never had to think about it (what some sections of the trans community would say was an example of "cis privilege"), or it could be that it's a bit like religious faith - some people have it, some don't.

Then there's a third way gender has come to be used, as a kind of twee euphemism for biological sex among those who think that because the word "sex" is also used to refer to intercourse, it's a bit rude, innit?

The problems arise when a subsection of transactivists who think both that the primary meaning of gender is this internal sense of selfhood, and that this is a more important distinguishing feature among adult human beings than biological sex clash head on with radical feminists, for whom the primary meaning of gender is socially sanctioned sex role. The transactivists feel discriminated against by, for instance, rape crisis centres which have as their criterion for entry one's biology, while the radical feminists feel that by insisting that internal gender identity is the primary meaning, the means to analyse the historical and current oppression of women on the grounds of their biological sex is removed.

NB, there are gender-critical transwomen out there, who can see the point of analysing social phenomena in terms of gender as socially sanctioned sex role, one of whom occasionally posts on mumsnet.

I suppose my main worry is that the gender recognition act was framed far too clumsily. It should have been designed as a levelling-up process, to give everyone equal protection. Instead it seems to have been constructed as an exercise in the worst sort of zero sum game - give (much needed) rights to trans people by taking them away from women (for example, I'm far from clear as to whether, as the law is currently framed, a biologically female woman could refuse to share a prison cell with a trans woman).

Sansarya Fri 17-Jul-15 18:30:32

And then you have people like this trans woman, which makes me wonder why s/he is insisting on defining as a woman.

I used to be fully supportive of the transgender movement but now, after speaking with some radfems and reading around the issue I can see what the problems are. And I do find that it's trans women who are wanting to occupy women's spaces, trans men don't seem to be as visible. I was speaking to some trans men once and they were irritated by this as they felt that because trans women used to be men they were used to demanding to be heard and more insistent in getting their points across.

marmaladeatkinz Sun 19-Jul-15 07:31:58

Precisely pity

Have you followed any of the lengthy threads on here? Very interesting

To my mind, the problem happens because the terms gender and sex get conflated

I am female sex. I don't have a gender. Gender is a social construct which I don't conform too and reject

It offends me, when people try to telll me that being a woman is about femininity

marmaladeatkinz Sun 19-Jul-15 07:37:12

And 'Alex' in sans link is mistaken. He is not altering the bandwidth of what it means to be a woman. He is altering the bandwidth of what it means to be a man. In fact, he's not really even doing that. He's a transvestite. Nothing new

marmaladeatkinz Sun 19-Jul-15 07:43:37

"Women can fix cars too'

Oh,fuck off

WhenSheWasBadSheWasHorrid Sun 19-Jul-15 20:33:22

marmalade ok so you don't have a gender. But other people do feel they have a gender.

Trills Sun 19-Jul-15 20:43:26

Lurcio that is a brilliant disgnosis of the problem with the word gender.

marmaladeatkinz Sun 19-Jul-15 22:43:13

And I have no issue with that when. If a man has a feminine gender, fine. It doesn't make him female sex though

Spaces are segregated on the basis of sex due to biological needs and issues. Not gender. That would be ridiculous

WhenSheWasBadSheWasHorrid Sun 19-Jul-15 22:56:56

And I have no issue with that when. If a man has a feminine gender, fine. It doesn't make him female sex though

So what does that mean in day to day real life though?
If you meet a male to female trans you still call them he as they can't be a women?
Would you object to them using the ladies bathroom?

marmaladeatkinz Sun 19-Jul-15 23:08:22

I will call a person whatever they prefer to be called.

I do object to sharing the bathroom with TG women, yes. However, I recognise that the law and my work place policy do not agree with me. Therefore I have to share that space

From a feminist perspective you're right, Op.
And it's weird (predictable) that while the mainstream media castigates Serena Williams for being the wrong sort of woman for stepping outside rigid racist sexist expectations, it lauds Janet Mock for reinforcing them. If you confound society's expectations of what someone of your sex should be like, while saying 'no actually someone of my sex can be like this and be happy' you're creating more spaces and more opportunities for others who feel restricted by society. If, instead, you say 'it's because I was born a woman in a male body' you force others who don't feel able to conform to also question their bodies when plenty would be happier if society changed rather than their sexual characteristics.
It's so individualistic and relies on the concept of a feminine brain, which excludes most women from the class of woman.

ChunkyPickle Tue 21-Jul-15 11:30:43

Lurcio that is a really good, balanced summary I think, and SuperLoud, a really good point about how restrictive and proscriptive it is, vs. taking the opportunity to really free people.

Italiangreyhound Thu 30-Jul-15 14:03:09

Very interesting thread, very calm and balanced. Love it. I have been feeling very conflicted over these issues but I have come to feel much more relaxed with the idea that for some people their perceived gender matters a great deal. And if I wish to relate to them, which I do, I need to recognise this.

I have always been happy to use any pronoun or name but now I feel more able to accept how people want to be recognised, even if this does not chime in with my view of how I am recognised, if that makes sense!

It is not about biological sex, it is about gender, and that distinction makes it easier for me to understand and relate to.

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