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Old 01 February 2019, 07:31 PM
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Default The Nature of Sex

Interesting article that attempts to address some of the complications inherent in the movement for transgender rights, and in particular how it relates to gay/lesbian identity. I don't entirely agree with some of the premises, and have occasionally seen some paranoia regarding transwomen in parts of the lesbian community that I thought was seriously overblown. At the same time, I think there is an argument to be made that there are still some valid distinctions between trans- and cis-gendered persons, so long as they don't interfere with fundamental rights. Then again, my own views on the matter come from a personal perspective that is a confused and (in my opinion) not entirely healthy one.

In other words, worth reading and thinking about; but I am not necessarily endorsing the viewpoints within. In some cases, I'm not sure there are right answers.

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It might be a sign of the end-times, or simply a function of our currently scrambled politics, but earlier this week, four feminist activists — three from a self-described radical feminist organization Women’s Liberation Front — appeared on a panel at the Heritage Foundation. Together they argued that sex was fundamentally biological, and not socially constructed, and that there is a difference between women and trans women that needs to be respected. For this, they were given a rousing round of applause by the Trump supporters, religious-right members, natural law theorists, and conservative intellectuals who comprised much of the crowd.
http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/...re-of-sex.html
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Old 01 February 2019, 09:10 PM
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Interesting take.

Some of it is off base, I think. But some of it aligns with some of my own views as a woman who identifies as female but has a "masculine" or gender norm transgressive gender presentation. I have been fighting for expanding the view of how women act, or what women do, or are interested in, etc. my whole life. (That is, we can do/like/be interested in anything, and still be women). I try to teach my kids that too. But, there's also a different push saying, if you were assigned male gender at birth, but you like pink, playing with dolls, and having long hair, maybe you're a girl. Which is fine in some ways, but it can be in tension with the idea of smashing the stereotypes, because it can be stereotype-affirming. And it can be, I think, more appealing to kids, who like to categorize.

I think women, lesbians, transfolk, are all harmed by the existing gender norms, which support patriarchy. (Yes, others, including straight cis men, are harmed too). Gender is, I think, primarily socially constructed. But, like race, that does not mean it doesn't exist, or that erasing all recognition of it in the present is a solution. In fact, that would be a disaster. It may be that we would all wind up in the same place if we could magically be transported to the end point of our movements. But it feels like the paths for getting there may be at cross purposes in some ways.

I appreciate too that the article makes a point of saying that it is a tough time to question or take issue with any of this. There's an orthodoxy, and judgment and labels for people who stray from it.
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Old 01 February 2019, 09:36 PM
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I will say that at one time I believed the theory that if we eliminated artificial gender distinctions between men and women -- so that men could behave in a completely feminine manner, or women in a completely masculine one, and no one would even question it - that the whole idea of being transgender would fade away. I no longer think that: I think there is something more fundamental at work in the brain (or somewhere) that drives some people to consider their gender identity to be different than the sex they were assigned at birth. (That doesn't mean that removing any stigma for behaving in a way identified more with the opposite gender isn't a good idea anyway, even for those who are completely at ease with their gender identity.)
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Old 01 February 2019, 10:06 PM
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I heard a podcast episode that talked about how you could imagine a child as having all of their various charcteristics that make up their entire person. At a particular point, (via socialization) a line is drawn, and things are sorted into masculine and feminine traits, and you are expected to suppress/get rid of the ones on the "wrong" side. They referred to it as the "halving" process. It generally happens most strongly to girls in middle school. It starts, in earnest, with boys before kindergarten.

You are presented with a choice, where either you give up part of yourself to conform (and gain more acceptance) or you fight to keep those parts, and pay a price in social acceptance/bullying/etc.

I would like to see everyone get to be a whole person. If some people find that physical things are not lining up right for them, that would still be something to address.

I also know there are some transfolks who have also been fighting to say that, by transitioning, they are not choosing to go along with the halving, as they can be pressured to. IOW, a transman does not have to bury his "feminine" traits when he transitions. He can be a nurturing, supportive, collaborative, etc. man.

Last edited by erwins; 01 February 2019 at 10:12 PM.
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Old 01 February 2019, 11:54 PM
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I don't have any interest in stereotypical "feminine" activities like cooking, wearing dresses, or having long hair.

I still identify as trans because I have gender dysphoria. Every time I look in a mirror I think "this is not the shape my body is supposed to be."
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Old 02 February 2019, 02:03 AM
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I really disagree with a bunch of what he said. Rereading my post, I'm not sure if it seems like I'm mostly agreeing, but I really strongly disagree with how he uses this as an attack on the left, how he makes male=having a penis, and an overemphasis on "biology," and a lot of other points, and I'm not sure I trust how he characterizes the proposed egislation.

It was a springboard for me for some thoughts I've had about some of this.
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Old 02 February 2019, 02:29 AM
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I think that article is massively confused and confusing.

But then, I've got to admit that the entire subject (subjects?) of sex and gender in humans is massively confused and confusing.

(Maybe it would be simpler to say that humans are massively confused and confusing. The problem's not limited to gender.)

-- when I was about six, one of my male classmates asked me "Why do you walk like a boy?" I was confounded by the question. What could he possibly mean? I was a girl, how could any way that I was walking not be a way that a girl walked?

I had no idea at the time that the question was supposed to have anything to do with genitals. It was the 1950's, I had no brothers, all our dogs were female. (Cats, at least neutered cats, don't show.) I assumed that everybody had the same genitals. Finding out differently cleared up a couple of things I'd been puzzled about; but it still didn't seem to have anything to do with wanting to wear dresses.

Mostly I thought slacks were more comfortable, though I liked dresses once in a while. I hated sewing. I wanted to be outside. I wasn't interested in fashion. I was no good at makeup, and thought it was silly, except maybe as a game like playing halloween dressup. I liked books about exploring "wilderness". I talked fast and loudly. I didn't want to sit politely still in chairs with my knees together. When I thought I was right about something I didn't want to have to nod politely while other people told me things I thought were wrong. I would have also made a terrible 1950's boy, though: I was a klutz, uninterested in sports at least unless they involved horses, and cried easily.

All of those things are still basically true of me; some of them if anything more so. The side-zipper* girls' slacks have turned into men's work cargo/tool pocket pants; I'm still not much of a mechanic but I now know what all those sockets in the Sears catalog were for, which also used to puzzle me; I can run a chain saw and a tractor.

And nowhere in any of that did I have the slightest doubt that I was female. I am a woman doing these things: therefore these must be things that women do.

And I still have no doubt of either part of that. But --

there are lots of people who are just as sure that they're female as I am. And it turns out that some of them got born with male genitals.

So if nothing anybody could say to me about how I was or am behaving could make me doubt that I'm female -- maybe nothing anybody can say to them about how they were or are shaped can make them doubt it either. And maybe it really isn't essentially to do with genitals.

And if they and I can be so sure about being female, and other people can be equally sure about being male -- yet other people can be equally sure about being both or neither. There are more than two boxes in the universe. (There probably aren't any boxes in the universe, except the ones we made.)

I will argue extremely vehemently against anyone who says that being female means that one must love frilly pink dresses, and/or means one mustn't get greasy under the tractor with a socket wrench. And I've got considerable sympathy with anyone being told they must be trans because they want to do the "wrong" things. But if I can feel female under the tractor swearing at the bolt that won't come off, I don't see why somebody else can't feel female in a frilly pink dress. Or feel male in a frilly pink dress. Or want to wear a frilly pink dress when they get out from under the tractor. Or want their body to be shaped the way that they feel.

This has been a Long Confused and Confusing Rant from a member of the human species. (And no, Firefox, I don't want to update right this minute!)




*there are still slacks made that are very definitely girls'/women's slacks. Why, oh why, do they now all have zip flys in a location only useful to those with male urinary equipment? Why doesn't somebody design some with the fly in the right place?


ETA: erwins, it did seem to me that Sullivan was aiming his argument at a particular political position, and it seemed to me to take considerable wrenching around to get it there. I wasn't at all convinced that he was trying to seriously tackle the issue, as opposed to trying to use it as a weapon.
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Old 02 February 2019, 04:19 AM
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Very well said. All of it.

I'm not sure about the fly question though -- where are you thinking it should be? It doesn't seem only useful to people with penises to me, since I find the fly useful for putting on and taking off pants. But I know I'm missing your point.
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Old 02 February 2019, 04:43 AM
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Back when women's pants fastened up the side, the reason that men's fastened down the front was so that men could (and can) piss without having to drop their pants. Women didn't, and don't, need a fly in the front: the opening to get one's pants off can just as easily be on the side or even on the back, which allows for more variation in styles. [ETA: if the pants have pockets, a side zip can be hidden entirely.] I can see why the front fly in unisex styles; and I can see it as a deliberate style variation in women's slacks; but why did it become the only place to put the opening in what are clearly women's styles? That happened long before anyone could possibly have been designing with trans women in mind.

Further back, when women wore long skirts often with no closed-crotch underwear, women could piss without getting undressed.

I suppose an actual zipper between the legs might be uncomfortable. But couldn't something be done, these days, with some form of velcro? It's a royal nuisance to have to take half one's clothes halfway off every time one needs to piss. Worse in public bathroom stalls, which are often miniscule; and worse yet outdoors if the weather's bad or visual cover is poor.
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Old 02 February 2019, 06:03 AM
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Wouldn’t a side zip suck for someone with less than full mobility in one arm? Plus, I use both hands to secure the fly. I guess I could use one if I had to, but... I’d rather not have to.
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Old 02 February 2019, 08:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thorny locust View Post
I will argue extremely vehemently against anyone who says that being female means that one must love frilly pink dresses, and/or means one mustn't get greasy under the tractor with a socket wrench. And I've got considerable sympathy with anyone being told they must be trans because they want to do the "wrong" things. But if I can feel female under the tractor swearing at the bolt that won't come off, I don't see why somebody else can't feel female in a frilly pink dress. Or feel male in a frilly pink dress. Or want to wear a frilly pink dress when they get out from under the tractor. Or want their body to be shaped the way that they feel.
Love this.

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Wouldn’t a side zip suck for someone with less than full mobility in one arm?
As most people are not full ambidexterous, I would imagine a zipper on one side would be okay, but the other, not as much. There are also trousers with a rear zip, which eliminates the one side-related problem, but then adds another. Probably a skirt would be better, or pull-on trousers.
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Old 02 February 2019, 01:47 PM
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Addressing the side-zip specifically, so now problems with finding the right size/fit for various body shapes can be further complicated by introducing handedness as a factor? Like you need that one in fifty set of measurements, but—oh wait!—you’re a lefty, so your odds just went down to one in five hundred.
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Old 02 February 2019, 02:05 PM
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Side zip used to be the standard in women's slacks. It sits a little bit toward the front, usually, not exactly at the side; not difficult to get both hands on it, at least with normal mobility. I don't remember people having problems with it; though I suppose maybe I just didn't know about it. I'm fairly ambi.

But then, at the time quite a lot of women's clothes fastened up the back. Some of them you really couldn't get on and off without help; but it's surprising what you can learn with a little practice. I can still tie and untie an apron behind my back, though now it's a tool apron.

ETA: in general, a whole lot of women's clothing styles are not designed for the convenience of the woman. I'm not sure why this one would have become a total exception. I think it's more of a matter of applying a male pattern as default. -- my guess is that women with arm mobility/grip issues probably wear pants without fly closures; there are quite a lot of those around. An elastic waist or drawstring will hold pants up on most women. Does anybody here with experience with that want to weigh in.

Last edited by thorny locust; 02 February 2019 at 02:14 PM.
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Old 02 February 2019, 02:45 PM
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I still occasionally see women's dress pants that zip up the side, usually for reasons of style.
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Old 02 February 2019, 07:04 PM
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I'm a lefty ultimately, but overall quite ambidextrous. I had a two-year experience of having frozen shoulder, though, in my right shoulder. A side zip would have been somewhere between very difficult/painful to impossible, on either side, I think. And definitely impossible in the back. (Normally I can tie an apron in the back, no problem.) The front closure of my pants might have been slightly difficult at times, but I never had to switch to anything else.

But I have no problem with it if others prefer that, as long as I can get what I prefer. I just don't see any anatomical advantage to moving it. If the ability to pee with minimal inconvenience is the goal, then I think skirts make sense, and maybe some historical garments that might make sense, or variations thereof.

I like the pants I buy in the "men's" department just fine.
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Old 03 February 2019, 12:53 AM
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I've started buying men's jeans, because they are of better quality. Unfortunately, I have to cuff them, due to them being too long, but I'll take too long over too tight.

Anyway, I do not get TERFs at all, how they are always attacking Trans people as being part of some sinister plot to infiltrate women's spaces. Because, yeah, being transgender is nothing but fun and games. Sure, transgender people have the highest suicide rate of any demographic, are more likely to be the victim of a hate crime than any other minority group, after which the defense will likely attempt the Trans Panic Defense, blaming them for their own murder. Thanks to stuff like this, a trans person's average life span in in the range of 30-35 years, but they can use the other restroom, which somehow makes a life rife with abuse, mental illness, and violence totally worth it.

I've developed a rule, regarding TERFs: if you identify as a feminist, yet find yourself allied with the Christian Right for whatever reasons, you need to reevaluate your life choices, because you are a lot of things, but not a feminist.
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Old 03 February 2019, 06:30 AM
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A few places I've started seeing FART (Feminism Appropriating Reactionary Transphobe) pop up as a replacement for TERF. It seems fitting to me, since the majority of such individuals I've seen only appear to be using feminist language as a means of promoting an anti-trans agenda.
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Old 03 February 2019, 12:23 PM
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As a teen going through a minor 'not like the other girls' phase of rejecting anything feminine (and especially anything pink), I used to have a kneejerk emotional reaction to the concept of gender identity that I suspect is the same reaction TERFs have. It seemed to me to say that because of my biological sex I was predestined to be a certain way and that way was paved in pink.

My attitude changed almost instantaneously when I discovered that trans tomboys and trans pretty boys exist. Although I hadn't put much thought into it previously, I suppose I had been harbouring an underlying assumption that trans people are always extremely masculine or extremely feminine and that's why they become trans. After realising that this was not necessarily the case, other things started falling into place. I began to realise that if gender is just a social construct made out of stereotypes then far more people who aren't the stereotype should be trans. There should be no distinction between the gender identity of a drag queen and a trans woman, but there is. There is something that makes a man who puts on dresses and makeup every day know that he's a man and something that makes the trans woman in man's clothes know she's a woman.

We need to seperate gender identity and gender norms. I wake up every morning without any confusion about whether I'm a woman or not because something in my brain tells me I'm a woman in the same way that something tells me I've got arms and legs without checking. Call it a sexth sense. I don't need to accept gender norms to accept the concept of gender identity. Gender norms are a social construct - gender identity is personal. Personally, I'm a woman and I'd continue to be a woman even if I somehow lost my genitals. For a group that claims to be about empowering women, TERFs sure do have a nasty habit of reducing women to body parts.

Meanwhile, intersex people and their gender identities get quietly swept under the rug.

What bothers me about TERFs, other than the obvious fact that they bash a bunch of innocent people, is the insistence that trans women (let's face it, it's the ladies who are bashed the most) are infiltrating feminist spaces. There's an underlying assumption there, and a rather telling one, that any group of women will always bow to the authority of anybody with a penis. The fact is that trans women do not take over feminism and are unfortunately given very little consideration when it comes to womens' issues. They do not wield any kind of undue power regardless of what they may or may not have in their pants. The other sad fact is that a man who wants to try to take over feminist discourse would not need to go the convoluted and time-consuming route of pretending he's a trans woman in order to do so. Men enter feminist spaces in order to talk down to women all the time - there's no magic barrier saying 'you must look this feminine to go on this ride'. The idea of the great trans conspiracy is flawed to the core.

Edit: my apologies for the long and possibly disjointed post.

Last edited by Blatherskite; 03 February 2019 at 12:31 PM.
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Old 03 February 2019, 03:21 PM
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Yeah, a lot of what they do is actually working to enforce rigid gender roles rather than combat them.

It reminds me of the pigs in Animal Farm, specifically the line about "we could let you make your own choices, but then you might make the wrong choices so we'll make the choices for you."

Quite a bit I've seen from such people does indicate a worldview that women really are silly and foolish and therefore must be guided by a wiser person who can make all the right choices for them.
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Old 03 February 2019, 04:15 PM
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Originally Posted by erwins View Post
If the ability to pee with minimal inconvenience is the goal, then I think skirts make sense
Skirts do not IMO mix well with either tractors or chainsaws. A narrow skirt doesn't allow free movement, and a loose skirt is a hazard: loose fabric can get caught in power equipment, pull in body parts, and maim or kill you.

I would also find skirts awkward to hike in; though I suppose somebody sufficiently used to doing so can manage -- in fact there are places in the world where women usually wear skirts and people ordinarily get around by walking, including on rough ground. I don't know whether this adds another layer of difficulty to such women's lives, though.

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Originally Posted by Blatherskite View Post
I used to have a kneejerk emotional reaction to the concept of gender identity that I suspect is the same reaction TERFs have. It seemed to me to say that because of my biological sex I was predestined to be a certain way and that way was paved in pink.
The first thing I remember reading on the subject, many years ago, left me with a similar reaction, except that I felt sorry for the person who wrote it: I thought she must have bought so thoroughly into the idea of rigid sex roles that she thought the only way she could behave 'like a woman' was to get her body changed to match. I particularly remember a bit about her becoming magically unable to change a tire after transitioning. I could change a tire! And even back then, I knew women mechanics.

But as I found out more about it I realized something else was going on. And it occured to me that whatever it is that makes me so sure I'm a woman might be making others equally sure regardless of the shape of their bodies; and/or might be making others sure they were both male and female, or neither male or female; and/or might not be working strongly at all in some people, so that they don't feel particularly any gender at all.

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Originally Posted by Blatherskite View Post
a man who wants to try to take over feminist discourse would not need to go the convoluted and time-consuming route of pretending he's a trans woman in order to do so. Men enter feminist spaces in order to talk down to women all the time - there's no magic barrier saying 'you must look this feminine to go on this ride'.
To be fair, I think part of the issue is about all-female physical retreat spaces. Some people want to be able to be, for a period of time, in a physical space in which they'll meet only other women (or, for some people, only men); and some of them don't want to encounter a penis in an all-female space, or a person much of whose life experience has been of being perceived as male.

And I can somewhat understand that impulse. Problem is, both that it does damage to trans people, but also that it requires jamming everybody into one of two boxes, with nice neat defining lines. And there aren't only two boxes . . .

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Meanwhile, intersex people and their gender identities get quietly swept under the rug.
Indeed. There's part of the proof that there aren't only two boxes.
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