As the inventor of the word “cis by default” and a person who occasionally checks who’s linking to my blog, I get to see quite a lot of people using the word “cis by default.” My estimate is that about half are using it wrong.
There are two equal and opposite errors. First, many people identify as cis by default when they are in fact gender dysphoric people who don’t want to transition. I certainly understand why gender dysphoric non-transitioning people relate to “there’s no part of their brain that says “I’m a guy!”, they just look around and people are calling them “he” and they go with the flow”, since there is in fact no part of their brain saying “I’m a guy” and they are in fact going with the flow of how other people refer to them. But not having a gender identity is a quite different thing from having a gender identity and choosing to present differently from what your gender identity is. I see people write things like “I really wish I was a woman. It would make me so happy to wake up one day and everyone is calling me ‘she’. It’s so weird to look at myself in the mirror and see a man. Female bodies are just inherently softer and better and more beautiful. I don’t like sex because having a dick disgusts me. I spend hours carefully removing all my facial hair because having a beard makes me want to cry. But I’m worried about facing transphobia and that I wouldn’t be attractive if I transitioned, so I guess I’m cis by default.”
In general, if you can write an entire paragraph about all your emotions about your gender, you are probably not cis by default.
Second, many people identify as cis by default when they are in fact regular cisgender people who are bad at introspection. I suspect this is part of what’s up with the Less Wrong survey finding that half of cis people are cis by default (the other part is that rationalists are pretty genderweird in general). It makes sense that cisgender people, particularly ones with relatively weak gender identities, have a hard time noticing their gender identities: in most cases, cisgender people have a body that is aligned with their gender and are very rarely misgendered, so there’s no reason for the issue to come up.
I also think that people’s ability to notice their gender identity is affected by what community they’re in. For instance, evangelical Christian books are full of passages like this:
Sometime between the dreams of your youth and yesterday, something precious has been lost. And that treasure is your heart, your priceless feminine heart. God has set within you a femininity that is powerful and tender, fierce and alluring. No doubt it has been misunderstood. Surely it has been assaulted. But it is there, your true heart, and it is worth recovering. You are captivating.
And New-Agey books are full of passages like this:
To answer these questions, we need to understand the nature of sexual passion and spiritual openness. Sexual attraction is based on sexual polarity, which is the force of passion that arcs between masculine and feminine poles. All natural forces flow between two poles. The North and South Poles of the Earth create a force of magnetism. The positive and negative poles of your electrical outlet or car battery create an electrical flow. In the same way, masculine and feminine poles between people create the flow of sexual feeling. This is sexual polarity.
This force of attraction, which flows between the two different poles of masculine and feminine, is the dynamism that often disappears in modern relationships. If you want real passion, you need a ravisher and a ravishee; otherwise, you just have two buddies who decide to rub genitals in bed.
Each of us, man or woman, possesses both inner masculine and inner feminine qualities. Men can wear earrings, tenderly hug each other, and dance ecstatically in the woods. Women can change the oil in the car, accumulate political and financial power, and box in the ring. Men can take care of their children. Women can fight for their country. We have proven these things. Just about anyone can animate either masculine or feminine energy in any particular moment. (Although they still might have a strong preference to do one or the other, which we will get to in a moment.)
The bottom line of today’s newly emerging 50/50, or “second stage,” relationship is this: If men and women are clinging to a politically correct sameness even in moments of intimacy, then sexual attraction disappears. I don’t mean just the desire for intercourse, but the juice of the entire relationship begins to dry up. The love may still be strong, the friendship may still be strong, but the sexual polarity fades, unless in moments of intimacy one partner is willing to play the masculine pole and one partner is willing to play the feminine. You have to animate the masculine and feminine differences if you want to play in the field of sexual passion.
(After having read The Way Of The Superior Man, I never want to hear complaints about trans people’s autogenderphilia again. At least we don’t claim that sexual attraction is literally impossible unless you’re an autogenderphile.)
There are lots of reasons to object to these passages! For one thing, they assume that everyone has a gender, which is not true: my guess is that a sizeable minority of cis people are cis by default. For another thing, they assume that the way that the author happens to feel gender is the way that every other person in the whole entire world happens to feel gender. If you’re a man who feels deeply affirmed in your masculinity by cherishing and loving your romantic partner and prioritizing him over your work, The Way of the Superior Man doesn’t want to hear from you. If you’re a woman who finds that being fought over by men makes you feel awkward and uncomfortable rather than assured in your femininity, Captivating has nothing to say to you. And they erase people who understand their genders in a nonbinary or gender-non-conforming way.
But I think it’s also possible to recognize the human experience described in those passages. For the author of Captivating, feeling feminine is a real thing and very important to her– a source of pleasure, a way of connection, an aspect of herself. For the author of The Way of the Superior Man, sexuality is fundamentally connected to gender. They might not frame their experiences in the same way I do, but I think in a certain sense they’re feeling the same thing I’m feeling.
However, I think a lot of liberal communities tend to stigmatize the open expression of cisgender people’s genders. Interestingly, feminists don’t. For instance, radical feminists have a framework for gender in the form of Adrienne Rich’s thoughts about lesbianism, Janice Raymond’s work on female friendship, or Mary Daly’s… Mary Daly-ness. Queers incessantly navel-gaze about gender.
But when you venture out from the weeds of feminist theory into the way normal liberals live their day-to-day lives, I can’t help but feel that a lot of liberals feel like the open expression of cisgender people’s genders is somewhat… déclassé. Not at all what our sort of people does.
(Transgender people’s genders don’t seem to be as stigmatized, because the popular sort of feminism that filters through liberal communities tends to believe that Trans Women Are Women. Consistency is not the strong point of shallow feminist analysis. That said, I think a large number of trans-exclusive radical feminists are not really radical feminists, but instead shallow pop libfems who are clever enough to notice that trans people’s existence contradicts their ideology.)
I want to emphasize that I’m not limiting this argument to people who actively identify as feminist, or even to people who don’t identify as anti-feminist. You can identify as anti-feminist and have a framework for gender which is influenced by your culture (as everyone’s is). If you grew up in any sort of vaguely liberal community, one of the things that influences it is the feminism– often oversimplified and misunderstood– which filters down to you.
But if you don’t read theory books, and your feminist thoughts are mostly along the lines of Women Can Do Anything Men Can Do and Feminism Is The Radical Notion That Women Are People and Look At This Badass Woman Breaking Through The Glass Ceiling, it’s easy to be leery about cis people’s gender identities. If you say that you have such-and-such a trait or do such-and-such a thing because you are a woman, isn’t that sort of like saying that women have to have that trait or do that thing? That is kind of suspicious! Men and women are the same except for their genitals! You can’t just go around saying you like wearing suits because you’re a man, I literally just posted on Facebook this Buzzfeed listicle of Fourteen Hottest Women In Suits.
And if you’re in that sort of situation, and you feel like it’s sort of shameful to go around having feelings about your gender, and you’re cisgender and don’t have particularly strong feelings about your gender in the first place… it’s easy to just sort of not notice them.
Like, that’s not even on the top twenty list of the weirdest contortions people get into about their gender.
And thus you get the situation that happened on one of the links into me, where a person said they were cis-by-default and then was asked whether they would crossdress if they knew that no one would think less of them for it and said “obviously not, I’m a man.”
Unfortunately, it is somewhat difficult to police these uses of the term, particularly since there’s no such thing as an objective measurement of whether or not someone has a gender identity. But this is why I am very skeptical about getting any sort of population estimate of how many people are cis-by-default.
Does ‘cis by default’ require that you’d be totally cool with becoming a different gender now, after having lived your whole life as one gender, or does it just require that you’d be totally cool with having been born a different gender?
I don’t think I’d be super happy if I suddenly became a woman right now, but that’s largely because I’ve spent multiple decades as a man. I feel roughly the same way about being a diehard fan of The Smashing Pumpkins. If I woke up one day and had a deep hatred toward them, I would feel super weird. However, I don’t think that my love for them (or my gender) is some deep part of my personality; it’s just become part of my identity over many years. If I had been born a woman (or someone who was never exposed to 90s alt rock), I think I’d be roughly as happy as I am now.
For the record, I would totally try cross-dressing if there was no social stigma, but mostly just for fun. I am of the opinion that clothes marketed to women (in general) don’t tend to look good on bear-mode men like me.
Note: Apologies for any misuse of gender terminology in this comment; I have a hard time remembering which terms to use, and I know I’ve occasionally offended people before.
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Yeah, I think the idea is that “waking up as the other gender” wouldn’t induce any sort of visceral panic or deep identity crisis, though there are still human universals such as “Fuuuuuck, now I need a new driver’s licenses and I haaaaaate the DMV”. I categorize as cis-by-default in part because my reactions would largely be a) annoyance at being asleep through an event worth at least a first-author Nature paper, and b) annoyance at impending paperwork.
I think it helps to have another dysphoria to compare it to, even if it’s not one that’s acceptable or transitionable. A change in gender would merely be changing the jacket on my person-suit.
I have a deep visceral panic about my body changing at all. I hated puberty and each of my pregnancies because when my body changes significantly, it feels like it’s not mine. *shudder*
@sconn: Interesting. I wonder if something that measures “general aversion to body changes” would be relevant to include in my gender surveys.
I think ‘visceral panic’ is too strong to describe my likely reaction, but it’s definitely something more than mere practical inconvenience.
I think it’s very possible to be able to write several paragraphs about one’s gender feelings without being either dysphoric or firmly rooted in one’s own gender. There’s also “mixed gender feelings that don’t cause particular distress but also don’t particularly coalesce into a clear gender identity”.
(This is maybe the case for me – if I wanted to give an amount of information about my gender feelings which is truly overkill in virtually all circumstances, I might describe myself as “very weakly genderfluid”, but I am definitely cis in practice. I’m not sure if I can call myself cis by default exactly in that I can’t particularly imagine being a man and I think I have feminine gender feelings more often than masculine ones, but probably if there was zero social cost to identifying as nonbinary I would slightly prefer it, so in that sense “by default” somewhat applies.)
Please interpret this as genuine curiousity. How do gender feelings other than physical dysphoria work? I can definitely understand not feeling like your body “fits”, but are there non-stereotypical “mental patterns” or such that correspond to “gender” per se?
Well, for one, trans people often experience social dysphoria – distress at being categorized a certain way by other people.
As for my personal experience:
– The main thing is that I sometimes have strong feelings about whether I want to dress/present more masculine or more feminine on a given day. This has been less strong recently, but when I was in high school, for whatever reason on some days I would feel that I need to wear something masculine or else it felt Wrong, while on other days I enjoyed putting together a more feminine look (and sometimes I would mix and match, and sometimes all the presentation I could muster was “I have no energy, let me find the items that are easiest to put on my body”).
– Sometimes if I dress “masculine” or “butch” it feels powerful and correct in a cool way which seems to have something to do with the gendered significance of the style. (I currently have a dearth of clothes that enable this. Hmm…)
– Other times, dressing in a pretty and feminine way is differently pleasant and satisfying (here it’s difficult to distinguish “gender feelings” from “I feel pretty”, I guess).
– A couple of times I found myself feeling something like “it is really shitty that I have to exist within a system of gender, why can’t I exit it and be perceived as outside this system, gah”. But like, I have had this experience literally twice*, and it doesn’t bother me when people use gendered pronouns for me or anything.
*…I guess now three times, as I am having this experience now as a result of thinking about it, which is not super pleasant, which makes me a little bit more sympathetic to people who speak of transness as an infohazard
Tracy W said:
How interesting. This is a novel take on dress to me that strikes me as missing out a lot of other dimensions. To put it another way, out, of all the ways to dress (eg power suits, minimalist black turtlenecks, casual sporty, hard core sporty, dramatic shilouttes, shabby comfort, wild prints), narrowing that down into feminine versus masculine seems like throwing out a lot of important information. For example, there’s a commonality to how Steve Jobs and Audrey Hepburn dressed that’s not really captured by masculine/feminine.
And on the other hand when I was doing my machine workshop and living in overalls and steel capped boots with my hair cut short, I didn’t feel any more masculine. It was just practical.
Although fundamentally my style is “dragged backwards through a hedge” so what do I know?
Yep, certainly this is a simplistic take on fashion, which is surely due to the fact that I find shopping to be a terrible pain so I haven’t developed a very sophisticated fashion vocabulary, especially on the more “masculine” end.
Tracy W said:
Maybe “gender identity”/”cis by default” is really a split between “big picture”/”bogged down in detail” thinking?
How do you distinguish between cis by default and agender? My body doesn’t upset me but I’d remove my breasts as a matter of practicality if it weren’t for the fact that guys find them attractive, and I’m fine with pronouns but get really really ticked off about having gendered expectations applied to me, including the expectation of dressing or grooming in a feminine way. When I’m picking avatars for games or forums or whatever my preference is non human and/or genderless.
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The word “agender” seems to be a mix of two concepts, one of which is “cis by default” and where the other is a sort of gender-aversion. Ozy talks about it in this post:
For me, at least, it’s that agender is (somehow) a trans identity. I’m cis; it’s very important to me that my body be cis. By happenstance this makes me male, until and unless it becomes possible for me to bodyhop, and maybe still then (I’m pretty lazy). Unfortunately, I don’t have any words to express this fact, because any time anyone comes up with some that kind of fit, they immediately get dropped in the “trans” bucket, never to be seen again.
For some bizarre reason, if I decide to start calling myself agender, people will start tossing me in the same general bin as Ozy, and I’ll be expected (or I expect to be expected) to be “a part of the trans community” in some way. Like, no. I am not trans. That is the only way you could misgender me! Congratulations, you found my gender button, to the extent that it exists!
It’s sort of like this: I’ve spent my whole life with this flag that says “boy” glued to my face. That’s kind of annoying; it interferes with some things that I’d like to do sometimes, like “raise exactly one eyebrow” or “look at things without having to move the inconvenient flappy bit”. Nevertheless, I’ve basically gotten used to it, and my alternatives seem to be “switch to a flag that says ‘girl'” or “switch to a flag that says ‘loves these fucking flags'”, or maybe if I’m lucky “switch to a flag with a custom label”.
If I have to pay attention to this flag, I would like it to be because I am getting rid of the flag entirely, not swapping it out for a different one. Swapping the flag does make things “worse”, but not in a way that really gets at the problem. The label doesn’t matter, except to the extent that it might make you think I actually want a flag on my face, which is a mistake I’d rather avoid, since it will probably lead to all sorts of unhelpful evidence like “where to get neat custom flags” or “how to swap flags at home”. I do not like the flag, Sam! Don’t buy me another one!
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Could you rephrase this in a less abstract/opaque way? Or explain it?
I cannot parse your words in a way that makes any sense to me.
Probably best to forget the metaphor at this point. I sometimes find that the gender I have interferes with things I’d like to do (usually by weighting social interactions in annoying ways). The trouble is, it seems like the only options are to replace it with a different gender, rather than get rid of it entirely. Any other gender I care to choose would of course have somewhat different effects, but they’d all be bothersome. Even if I try to call myself “agender”, I don’t expect that to quite work, because the thing I want isn’t for people to assume that I am “genderless” in some sense, but rather for me to interact with people without gender-y assumptions / subtexts.
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The way I see it, there is a collection of socialized behavior that is necessary for society to function. Currently, quite a bit of this socialized behavior is divided unevenly between the sexes (and part of it is obsolete & some shit is sprinkled on top as well), which forces people into different behavior based on their sex.
I perceive the agender/genderfluid people as generally rejecting important social enforced obligations for themselves & their ingroup, rather than to want to equalize the obligations for each sex and merely purge the obligations which are (now) unnecessary. This is where I object and I understand why people will try to push people who abandon one gender role into the other gender role, because the agender/genderfluid people haven’t established an alternative that involves taking on the necessary responsibilities to make society work. If one merely demands benefits and refuses responsibilities, which would destroy society if everyone would do that, then IMO it is just for society to resist that.
When atheists rejected religion publicly, they didn’t just reject religious doctrine, but they established an alternative doctrine based on responsibilities (humanism). The result is that even in highly secularized nations, you still have a mostly shared sense of morals, which retains a large part of the religious morality (like ‘thou shalt not kill’). Abandoning religion did allow for a cleanup of some of the obsolete and shitty rules.
So for me, abandoning gender has to mean taking male and female rights and obligations and turning them into human rights and obligations, while getting rid of the obsolete rights and obligations in the process.
However, the current mainstream conversation surrounding gender is not doing very well at this; as:
– There is a strong rejection of the idea that men and women are actually quite similar (and this is especially visible in people’s revealed preferences). This is especially true when claiming that the virtue of men and the vice of women is very similar to the other sex/gender. Talking about these things is frequently dismissed as misogyny. The opposite claims are usually allowed, resulting in a lop-sided discussion.
– There is a strong refusal to recognize and/or address many of the gendered obligations on men, because presumably, people see these obligations as necessary, yet are unwilling to share them evenly between the sexes.
– In general, much gender activism has been built on traditionalist ideas, while denying that this is the case. The result is that many people are claiming to fight against traditionalism, while they frequently are working to entrench (parts of) it.
TL;DR: I don’t think that society will or should allow ‘genderless’ until a fair set of gender-neutral rights and obligations has been established.
Yeah my observation is that sometimes cis by default appears to resonate with cis people who just aren’t good at introspection.
But I can’t think of any significant harm caused by the error. In many cases, it could be an improvement over a person’s prior beliefs. If a person wrongly concludes that they are cis by default, they at least learn the important lesson to not overgeneralize their personal gender experiences.
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I don’t think it causes harm, but I’m interested in understanding the facts of how gender works for people, and an unknown amount of my data is corrupted because people are bad at introspection. 😛
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I disagree with the first part of your analysis. In your first paragraph, you start with ‘some CBD people have gender dysphoria’, which I agree with, but then make the assumption that this means they have a gender identity that is different from the gender they present as, so (implied) they’re actually closeted or unaware trans people.
I don’t think having a degree of gender dysphoria necessarily makes you trans.
One of the things that I think can come under the umbrella of CBD is what you might call subclinical gender dysphoria. Just like not everyone who feels down sometimes is clinically depressed, you know? Your gender just doesn’t sit right sometimes, but it’s not severe or life-affecting enough to make you count as trans.
It also seems pretty obvious to me that dysphoria does not have to be the result of having a gender identity and can absolutely be the result of not having one. Instead of ‘People keep treating me as a girl, but I really strongly feel that I’m a boy,’ it’s ‘People keep treating me as a girl, and I don’t feel like I really relate to that concept the way they seem to expect me to.’
Where I do agree with you is that there is probably no deep down internal difference between some kinds of CBD people and some kinds of trans people. The difference is in a personal choice to start identifying as something (agender I guess) or not, which will be influenced by how strongly you feel about your lack of gender identity and other things, like personality or circumstances.
Almost certainly, there are people out there who would respond to feeling exactly the way I do about my gender by identifying as agender or nonbinary and trans. But I don’t think that invalidates how I respond to it, and I definitely don’t think that makes me trans. Choosing to transition would make me trans. Choosing not to – being like, eh, I will take the default category because I really don’t care hard enough to be a Trans – that’s what makes me cis by default.
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I made the word up so I think I ought to get some say in what it means. 🙂
But I don’t think it makes sense to put “people who don’t seem to have any sort of feelings about gender qua gender” in the same category as “non-transitioning gender dysphoric people” (even non-transitioning gender dysphoric people who identify with their assigned gender at birth at least sometimes or in some ways). Like, there’s a difference between asexuals and voluntary celibates, you know? Even though the line between “asexual person” and “very very low-libido celibate person” can be hard to draw, it isn’t necessarily very helpful to put them in the same category in general– they’re two different groups of people, in part because (most) volcels have an experience that asexuals don’t.
I agree that not all non-transitioning gender dysphoric people would be served by transition, and I’ve written about that in the past.
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I will remain tempted to misuse it as a term of self-description in certain social situations–it works much better than “non-transitioning somewhat gender dysphoric person” to create the social outcome where people call me by cis pronouns and don’t describe me as anything other than cis to third parties, but won’t assume that I strongly identify with any gender. (Apologies for any resulting dilution of your excellent term.)
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It seems plausible to me that there is a smooth continuum from “strongly cis” to “cis by default” to “crossdreamer” to “trans”. I haven’t been able to find any clear categories in my surveys.
(Though if anyone has ideas for something that could lead to clear categories, please let me know!)
“I made the word up so I think I ought to get some say in what it means. 🙂”
Death of the author, dude. 😛
For real, though, I do think it makes sense as a category. I’ve been back and re-read your original post and the kind of person I’m trying to describe is still entirely consistent with what you wrote there. These are people who lack an internal sense of being a particular gender; it’s just that some people are more bothered by that lack or by the expectation that they should have this internal sense than others.
I think I need to be clear here; I think the category of ‘dysphoric non-transitioning people’ overlaps with CBD but isn’t the same. If you do have an internal sense of being a specific gender and just choose not to transition to it, then obviously that is a different thing.
And I think gender-identity-lacking people with some degree of dysphoria might be even more prone to having Super Wrong ideas about trans people than people whose CBD-ness bothers them less! This is a really good source of the feels that go:
“Ugh, nobody *identifies* with their *gender*, everybody chafes at the whole concept of having a gender sometimes, you need to stop being a special snowflake and learn to accept that this is something humans do for no clear reason, because identifying as nonbinary is incredibly counter-productive! Your life will be way harder and it will attract *more* attention to your gender! Sucking it up and being cis is the correct decision for me so clearly this is true for everyone…”
But yeah, tl;dr my take is CBD people can’t *have a gender identity* but they can be varying levels of dissatisfied with their assigned gender so long as they make the CBD decision that it’s doesn’t bother them enough to be worth stopping being cis. I argue that this is in keeping with your original post, and that it’s still a cromulent category to contrast with classically cis people, who have actual gender identities matching their assigned genders.
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Tracy W said:
@tailcalled: It seems plausible to me that there is a smooth continuum from “strongly cis” to “cis by default” to “crossdreamer” to “trans”.
If anything “strongly cis” seems closer to me to “trans” than “cis by default”.
That’s a valid way to see it.
My continuum is more of a “cis trans” continuum whereas yours is more of a “weak identity strong identity”.
(Realistically, it’s probably more a 2D thing; autogenderphilia on one axis and psychological masculinity/femininity on the other…)
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Alex Mackenzie said:
I suspect you’re going to have a spectrum from “people who don’t have any feelings about gender qua gender” to “people who don’t transition because their feelings about gender are too mild to be worth the trouble”. I agree “has strong feelings about gender but stronger aversion to surgery and/or transphobia and/or other reasons not to transition” is a good category, although it’ll have a spectrum with the second kind.
Personally I’m going to keep identifying as “cis by default” for social purposes because 1. it quickly conveys “I have this body because I was born with it and changing it is too much trouble, and I don’t have strong feelings about gender”, roughly what Loki was saying- it’s a useful category by results rather than underlying causes- and 2. I’m *probably* the sort of person who it’s actually intended to apply to, but my brand of rationalism mixes with scrupulosity such that I can’t just go “this post is clearly not about *me*!” even after half an hour of introspection on whether either of the opposite mistakes describe me.
Crap. Broke a tag. Ozy, can you fix?
I’m not really sure how relevant this is to anything, but;
I’m male, but I kinda wish that I’d been born female, but not because I identify with it? I don’t identify with any gender; I’m probably cis-by-default. It’s more that I fell on some subconscious level that feminine-cluster traits are generally better then masculine-cluster ones, and I wish that people encouraged and expected them of me? And I was raised, I guess, in that kind of gender-agnostic environment where the parents don’t try to impose gender norms on you, but they don’t try to stop you from picking them up from your peers, if that matters.
Tracy W said:
It’s more that I fell on some subconscious level that feminine-cluster traits are generally better then masculine-cluster ones
This points to something I just don’t get. Given all the complexity and variety of human traits, how does anyone divvy them up into feminine-cluster and masculine-cluster?
(And why, of course? But mostly I puzzle about the How.)
Not to pick on hitherby in particular of course.
… feminine-cluster traits are those more similar to the modal woman, whereas masculine-cluster traits are those more similar to the modal man, I’d guess?
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I think the situation as it stands is that you can quite reasonably argue that the entire concept makes no sense, but at the same time it is unquestionable that *society* has deemed one set of values and traits masculine and another feminine, and whether or not that has any connection to actual maleness and femaleness, we all have a good idea of which are which.
(Contradictions and historical fliparounds notwithstanding. Like how many times did we switch who was supposed to be the horny ones again?)
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Tracy W said:
@tailcalled: but personality traits are continuous variables (eg we can speak of someone being “very extroverted” or “mildly introverted”), so how does anyone estimate a mode?
@loki: indeed society has done that, but I’m still baffled by how.
And, people in society are also capable of describing individuals in much more detail: “He’s generous,. outgoing, brave to the point of recklessness, hot-tempered , but he never holds a grudge” versus say “He’s frugal, reserved, even taciturn, cautious, even-tempered but he never ever forgets”. And then they turn around and talk about masculine and feminine like you’re one or the other. How?
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veronica d said:
The answer begins here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_semantics
Tracy W said:
@Vwronica, I’m greedy: I want the whole answer 🙂
Huh. I’m not sure where I would fall in all this. I have complicated feelings about gender/sex stuff. I have a deep-seated loathing of some of it (pregnancy, menstruation), vaguely negative feelings about some of it (breasts, being short), positive feelings about some of it (being a primary caregiver in a culture where this is supported and expected, getting to be in all-female social groups, wearing skirts and fancy hairstyles once in awhile). And these feelings have changed throughout my life, where I spent a decade actively hating having breasts, but don’t mind so much now; and looking forward to giving birth before I’d done it, while now I would NEVER EVER do it again.
I don’t think I would like to be a man. But I think I would like being somehow genderless, provided my husband was still attracted to me. Not sure where that leaves me.
Tracy W said:
This seems ordinary to me. I mean why would someone’s feelings about breasts be correlated with feelings about pregnancy, let alone feelings about being a primary caregiver? They’re different things.
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Oh! I did a gender survey (two, actually) where I asked people about their feelings (rated from “very unappealing” to “very appealing”) about various sexed/gendered things!
There are some strong correlations; for example, among cis women, there is r ~ 0.42 between the appeal of having a breasts, and the appeal of having a feminine hairstyle.
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Tracy W said:
@tailcalled: if r = 0.42 then r-squared is 18%, so 82% of the variance in cis women’s feelings about their hairstyles are not explained by their feelings about their breasts. (Even if omitting the 2 term was a typo that’s still 58% of the variance unexplained.) So in that sense it’s quite ordinary to have complex feelings about different sexed/gendered things.
Though I do think that these things are surprisingly correlated, even so.
Oh, I wasn’t trying to imply that there was a perfect correlation, just that there is significant correlation.
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Can I mention a weird tangential topic? Namely, what is up with bisexual men?
I’ve done, uhm, *way* too many gender surveys, and I’ve recently noticed that bisexual men tend to answer in trans-like ways. For example, here is a link to some results I’ve found: http://imgur.com/a/5zd3E
Generally, bisexual men seem far less attached to being male than any other gender/sexuality group. If this holds in practice, then it seems like a really big finding.
*puts on Blanchardian hat*
It kind of makes sense if you assume TruBi men don’t exist, or at least are very rare. I’ve found that autogynephilia, which can cause pseudobisexuality, is common among bi men: http://imgur.com/a/64l91
(Some notes: I’ve found results like this in my Slate Star Codex sample, in several /r/SampleSize samples, and in an Amazon Mechanical Turk sample. By “bisexual”, I don’t mean kinsey 1/kinsey 5, but instead men who say that they are either “frequently” or “sometimes” attracted to both men and women, rather than saying “rarely” or “never”.)
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(Also, it is not clear that my way of testing for AGP – simply by asking – is correct, because I get ridiculous results like “50% of all people are at least slightly A*P”. Also, in general the high amounts of genderbendyness that I get from internet samples make me somewhat suspicious of all my numbers.)
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The 50% thing seems kind of plausible to me *shrug*
Do you see among cis people a correlation between A*P and being attracted to that gender? That is a result that I would expect.
I also still don’t see how “pseudobisexuality” is a reasonable description of people with the degree of bisexuality you describe.
“The 50% thing seems kind of plausible to me *shrug*”
Maybe, it does have some things going for it. For example, the autopedophilia paper found that 50% of pedophiles are autopedophlic.
However, other people than me have tried to examine this and found rates around 15% instead. (There’s probably even lower estimates out there if you look a bit around.)
“Do you see among cis people a correlation between A*P and being attracted to that gender? That is a result that I would expect.”
*opens up my biggest gender survey*
In cis men, autogynephilia first and foremost correlates with attraction to feminine/androgynous men (r ~ 0.4). I did not define what I meant by “very feminine/androgynous men” in the survey, and I know that at least some have assumed that I meant trans women. It is well-known that AGP correlates with this, but I’m not super convinced by any explanation about why.
Secondly, it correlates with attraction to masculine/butch/androgynous women (r ~ 0.3), which again I did not define in more detail. I think this might be relevant to the AGP correlation with femdom kinks (r ~ 0.4), and perhaps it might be similar in nature to meta-attraction. It could also just be because autogynephiles are less judgemental about gender nonconformity in general.
Thirdly, it correlates with gynephilia (r ~ 0.16). This is a rather weak correlation, but that might have something to do with there not being very much variance in men’s self-reported gynephilia in the first place (80% of men picked the maximally gynephilic options).
Lastly, it also correlates with androphilia (r ~ 0.13). This makes sense since AGP can cause meta-attraction.
In cis women, the results are different.
Again the top correlation is attraction to feminine/androgynous men (r ~ 0.4). However, note that if it was truly a genderflipped version of the previous, it should’ve been attraction to masculine/butch/androgynous women.
After this, we have attraction to masculine/butch/androgynous women (r ~ 0.3), and then general gynephilia (r ~ 0.2). At the end, we have androphilia (r ~ -0.06).
Now, this is really weird from a Blanchardian perspective, and it is something that has puzzled me a bit. It seems *wrong* for autoandrophilia to have a negative correlation with androphilia. Other than a crazy evopsych theory involving single mothers, my best explanation would be that autoandrophiles are actually attracted to being really feminine and androgynous men. (This does match some stereotypes, but I haven’t examined how accurate those stereotypes are…)
There are also all sorts of other factors that can influence this. For example, among men there is a negative correlation between androphilia and gynephilia (r ~ -0.55) whereas among women there is no correlation (r ~ 0.01). I probably need to better understand the differences between men’s and women’s sexual orientations before I can fully understand these results.
“I also still don’t see how “pseudobisexuality” is a reasonable description of people with the degree of bisexuality you describe.”
It’s hard to say for sure. I have only recently noticed the phenomenon, so I haven’t designed my surveys in ways that give me useful information about it yet.
The next thing I want to look into is how much bisexual behavior these bi men have.
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Thanks for the info! Actually though, I primarily meant A*P for their *own* gender. Like, I expect gay/bi men to have more AAP-type feelings than straight men, and likewise for women. Do you have numbers on that?
I’ve tried to measure it, but my tools for doing so are really bad (for example, many of my measures of own-gender A*P correlates positively with magic button transness, even though you’d think it correlated negatively) and I haven’t done it many times.
(Note to MetaCis people: I’d be really interested in suggestions for things that could measure it.)
Since my measures aren’t all that great, I’ll answer on an item-by-item basis:
Among men, several measures correlated with androphilia and either not or negatively with gynephilia:
* feeling that what one finds attractive affects how one would like one’s body to be (r ~ 0.37 for androphilia and r ~ -0.006 for gynephilia)
(Several people interpreted the above question in unintended ways, e.g. as asking about AGP instead of AAP.)
* having been aroused by one’s own body (r ~ 0.36 vs r ~ 0.03)
* feeling that what one finds attractive affects which kind of style one would like to present (r ~ 0.3 vs r ~ -0.1)
(IIRC this was also misinterpreted)
* doing preparations (e.g. by wearing sexy clothes) in order to get into the right mood before masturbating (r ~ 0.3 vs r ~ 0.06)
(Several people interpreted the above question in unintended ways like “watching porn” or “crossdressing”.)
* having had sexual experiences focused on admiring one’s own body (r ~ 0.3 vs r ~ 0.05)
* getting aroused by feeling masculine in general situations (r ~ 0.26 vs r ~ -0.001)
(Due to bad wording, this could also be interpreted as “getting aroused by feeling feminine in general situations”, which, again, some people interpreted it as.)
Other than this list, there was the case of getting aroused by feeling masculine (or, again, due to misinterpretations, feminine) in intimate situations, which correlated more strongly with gynephilia (r ~ 0.2) more strongly than with androphilia (r ~ 0.1), and getting aroused by feeling masculine (or feminine) when alone (e.g. when masturbating), which correlated (r ~ 0.24) with androphilia and (r ~ 0.14) with gynephilia.
The fact that the questions could be misinterpreted to be about AGP might mean that bisexual men completely messed up all the above correlation.
I didn’t have much data for women in this survey because I titled it something with sex and marked it NSFW, which apparently leads to fewer female responders, but here’s what I got:
The list of things that correlate with gynephilia but not androphilia is the following:
* being aroused by feeling feminine when alone, e.g. when masturbating (r ~ 0.38 with gynephilia, vs r ~ -0.04 with androphilia)
(could’ve been interpreted as masculine rather than feminine)
* having had sexual experiences focusing on admiring one’s own body (r ~ 0.18 vs r ~ 0.05
* having one’s preferred style be affected by what one finds attractive kinda correlates more with gynephilia than androphilia (r ~ 0.15 vs r ~ 0.08)
It is… much shorter than the list for men, which might be because of women’s different patterns in sexuality.
Being aroused by one’s own body doesn’t really correlate with either (r ~ 0.03 vs r ~ 0.06). There are a lot that correlate with both:
* feeling that what one finds attractive affects what one wants one’s body to be like (r ~ 0.35 vs r ~ 0.24)
* being aroused by feeling feminine in general situations (r ~ 0.12 vs r ~ 0.14)
(again, could be misinterpreted as masculine instead)
* preparing before masturbating by getting into the right mood (r ~ 0.12 vs r ~ 0.14)
I really should do more surveys on this, but first I need a better instrument, which probably requires me to get advice from some MetaCis people.
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Also, relevant to the bisexuality thing: it might be the case that bisexual men are *both* AGP *and* AAP. This is something I need to test more, but I have various pieces of evidence for it.
By the way, Ozy, if I ever get around to writing a thing about my gender survey results, would you be interested in hosting it on your blog? I’ve done surveys on all sorts of interesting things, including “are sissy fetishists sexist?” and “how did people feel about puberty and does this relate to adult genderfeels?”.
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Vadim Kosoy said:
What I think we need is The Official Ozy Questionnaire on Gender. That is, a list of relatively straightforward questions and an algorithm to compute from the answer whether you are proper-cis, cis-by-default, non-binary-trans or binary-trans.
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Is it possible (I’m asking this as ‘here’s something you might not have considered, and if you have considered you probably have interesting thoughts on it people should hear’, rather than ‘gotcha’) that this is because the majority of people without serious gender dysphoria simply don’t have strong conscious gender identities, regardless of the presence/absence of genderfeels and genderfeel-type experiences, and so relate to ‘cis-by-default’ as “oh, here’s a term for the fact I don’t have a strong gender identity on a conscious level, and that’s why all these trans people I keep meeting who talk about their strong internal feelings of themselves as fe/male don’t make any sense” as opposed to the intended meaning of ‘person who does not feel anything gender-adj’?
I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone who fits the second definition of CBD, but every cis person I’ve talked to about gender, without exception, fits the first.
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(addendum: anyone who fits the second definition of CBD and identifies with their natal sex, as opposed to identifying as X nonbinary gender)
This post sorta approaches a notion I’ve been mulling over, which is that I sometimes use “cis by default” as a shorthand for “I appear to have an ontology of gender that lacks a notion of gender identity”.
In many ways, I’m the opposite of hitherby above- I’m a man that really *likes* being a man, and much prefers it to the thought of being a woman. Increasingly so, as time goes on. I like my body and think it’s sexy as hell. I like it when people think of me as male, and I like engaging with the assumptions that people make when they perceive you that way. I like masculinity and the various ways of achieving it.
And yet I hesitate to describe myself as cis, because that introduces a whole mode of understanding my gender that I don’t need or use. I enjoy masculinity in a way that’s basically aesthetic (although not superficial or shallow). When I was younger, I didn’t have that same level of appreciation; it’s grown as I explore the various social and biological realities of my sex, and especially as I’ve fallen in love with *other* men and used gendered feelings of sexual attraction to find joy in the world. Identity plays a role here, but in a way that seems orthogonal to the way it’s used in trans spaces- when I say that I like my body and my masculinity, I’m also saying that I like myself, since I am descriptively a masculine object. But I’m not sure what to do with a notion of ‘identity’ that’s specifically meant to be *different* from the thing that I materially am, and it doesn’t seem like a useful way to predict or explain my feelings. (Let alone behavior.)
This is clearly not the case for other people, some of whom describe the notion of a gender identity as a powerful part of their lives. But even then, that concept doesn’t actually do much work *for me* in the sense of helping me to understand the social world around me. If you get three trans folks in a room and ask them to tell you what ‘gender identity’ means, they’ll give you five different answers with seven mutual contradictions. It’s like freakin’ rabbis. Sometimes a gender identity means a specific set of looks and behaviors, sometimes it means that recursive a-man-is-a-person-who-identifies-as-a-man thing, sometimes a preference for a social role or aspiring to be perceived in a certain way. So, as has happened once or twice, if I find out that one of my friends has a male gender identity, I have trouble feeling like I learned something about him. Of itself, that identity isn’t descriptive, or proscriptive, or predictive. It’s more… totemic, I guess? If he then expands on his identity, I can figure some things out, but “I would like male pronouns” is a perfectly coherent ask whether or not you start with “I identify as male.”
So I’m gradually settling in to this place where gender identity is something that other people do. It’s not entirely unlike my feelings about transubstantiation in Catholicism- in the (material) domain where I find personal knowledge to be meaningful, we don’t disagree, but there’s a whole layer of philosophical kinda-Platonism stacked on top that means we’re looking at the same scene in very different ways. That feels… sorta disrespectful in some ways? So it’s kinda troubling. But IDK.
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It’s not clear to me that there’s necessarily a difference between how you feel and how many trans people feel, instead I think it’s just because trans people tend to use confusing language. Here’s an explanation of that:
tl;dr: “gender identity” does not seem so much like a belief as much as an aspiration, at least in pre-transition trans people.
Now, if you will allow me to suggest a slightly insane theory:
I’m a Blanchardian. I believe most trans people are ultimately sexually motivated in their transition. In the FtM direction, this motivation would be called “autoandrophilia” – attraction to yourself as a man. Autoandrophilia arises from androphilia plus erotic target location inversion, which is a thing that directs your sexuality to yourself instead of others.
Some of what you’re talking about sounds autoandrophilic, except maybe more overt (or maybe not?) than what we usually see among trans people. For example, the very first thing you mention as an example of attachment to maleness is… “I like my body and think it’s sexy as hell.”
I call attachment to your assigned sex because of autogenderphilia “MetaCis”. So far, it is mostly hypothetical, but in theory it *should* exist, if a gay cis person has the same ETLI as a gay trans person has.
Does MetaCis seem like a plausible fit to your experiences?
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Eh, this is part of what I mean about three trans people with five opinions. It’s perfectly easy to find people who frame gender identity in aspirational terms- just as easy as it is to find people who view gender identity as an innate preverbal characteristic of the brain/body map and people who think of gender identity in Blanchardian terms. If I could have any confidence in what a stranger meant when they said “gender identity”, then it might be a bit more useful as a concept. As it is, we don’t really seem to be approaching that consensus.
As for autoandrophilia… *shrug.* It’s not like you have to look hard to find examples of dudes showing affection for male anatomy, even straight dudes. That’s as constant in ancient history as it is in modern bathroom stalls. But my “erotic target location” is not myself, as far as I understand you- I enjoy masculinity in others as much as in myself, and for basically the same reasons. “Leaves of Grass” probably gives as good a sense of it as anything. Sexuality matters here, and *homosexuality* matters here, but I doubt psychological onanism is powerful enough to explain my relationship with gender.
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veronica d said:
Well to start, you have basic polysemy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polysemy
Thus to find that people use “identity” in different ways is unsurprising.
One good way to clear up confusion: ask if the person wants to talk about inner psychological aspects of identity or if they want to talk about communal aspects, in the sense of finding shared social spaces of people who face similar struggles, or if they mean the social/material aspects, in which case, whether or not you feel cis or if I feel trans is rather beside the point. What matters in the latter analysis is that 40% of the country thinks I am subhuman. If you don’t have to deal with that, well it makes a difference.
These are all aspects of identity, because they tend to occur together. I feel trans. I find shared social spaces with other trans people helpful. I am a member of a widely hated minority. Those are all aspects of the same underlying fact: I’m trans. We call this cluster of issues “identity.”
We spend a lot of time on this forum exploring “Gosh, how do I feel on the inside?”
It is a cool question. It is not the only thing that matters.
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“As for autoandrophilia… *shrug.* It’s not like you have to look hard to find examples of dudes showing affection for male anatomy, even straight dudes.”
I’m expecting that there are going to be different kinds of cisness, such that straight men might be cis in a different way than MetaCis men. However, since MetaCis is a very new concept, I haven’t had the chance to examine this in further detail.
“But my “erotic target location” is not myself, as far as I understand you- I enjoy masculinity in others as much as in myself, and for basically the same reasons.”
While there are trans people who are exclusively autosexual, it seems somewhat rare. The experience you write about here seems exactly like what you’d expect from a cis man who’s both autoandrophilic and alloandrophilic. For example, saying that you enjoy masculinity in yourself for the same reason you enjoy it in others seems almost like a description of how autoandrophilia works.
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It seems perfectly expected to me that if you like a certain type of body and you don’t have an aversion to your own body being like that, then you’ll like it if your own body is like that.
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What about people with Body Integrity Identity Disorder, though? They seem to end up with painful dysphoria despite likely having aversion to losing limbs.
I think what I was really thinking of is the kind of aversion that can be conceptualized as stemming from an incongruent identity, rather than a more instrumental aversion to straightforward pain and loss of ability.
What I mean is – if you’re a woman and you’re into women, it seems likely that you’ll be happy if your body is similar to your image of what an attractive woman looks like. If you’re a man and you’re into women, you are likely not to react that way because your sense of yourself is incongruent with being a woman even though you like women. (Also possibly if you’re a queer woman but you have a Type that you’re interested in which doesn’t match your sense of yourself – like, you feel strongly butch but you’re into femmes – this might be more similar to the case of the man being into women.) I expect this would manifest differently for cis people vs. trans people due to the obvious difference in experience, but would also share some commonality and possibly a common cause.
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Like, I think ‘autoandrophilia’ and ‘alloandrophilia’ make some amount of sense if you’re trying to develop a Blanchardian theory of The Trans Male Experience, but you’re a little outside the usual domain here and the framework gets hinky. Are you asking whether, in sexual fantasies involving myself, it’s important that ‘I’ have a male rather than female body? (If so, yes. Especially the ones that are memories :P) I have never masturbated to images of just myself, nor to I ‘turn myself on’ in that sense. I answer the clone-fucking question in the affirmative?
When I reach for metaphors to describe my enjoyment of my own gender, I often end up describing it like living in a city you enjoy, or being in a successful and loving arranged marriage. It differs from my experience of sexual orientation in important ways- one is that it feels more contextual than innate, and another is that it is not inherently erotic (although it does incorporate eroticism.) Sexuality informs my experience of gender, but that experience of gender is by no means a subset of sexuality.
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So you think you experience elements of MetaCis, but also things beyond that?
If so, I wonder if this is like with A*P trans people who don’t think they are sexually motivated, or if it is that you also have whichever thing that Non-Meta strongly cis people have…
“Like, I think ‘autoandrophilia’ and ‘alloandrophilia’ make some amount of sense if you’re trying to develop a Blanchardian theory of The Trans Male Experience, but you’re a little outside the usual domain here and the framework gets hinky.”
The theory of Erotic Target Location Inversion seems to predict that it should at least *exist* in some gay people (even if most Blanchardians miss that implication), and the results that low-intensity A*P is pretty common (some have found 15%, I’ve found more by using a less specific question) suggests that low-intensity ETLIs in gay people might also be common.
“I have never masturbated to images of just myself, nor to I ‘turn myself on’ in that sense.”
I’ve used questions about those kinds of things as attempts to measure cisgender autosexuality in my surveys, but I’m not actually sure I believe they’re the correct way to understand A*P. It’s hard to explain what the difference is, though.
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I started out by criticizing the common phrase ‘gender identity’ as being less-than-useful (on the personal level) for understanding my own experiences and for understanding the experiences of others. Blanchardian cisgender autosexuality doesn’t seem like an improvement on that. It has different problems, but a lot of the assumptions about the relationship between masculinity and sexual attraction seem *way* too strong, and invokes too many moving parts to explain a situation that doesn’t seem all that complicated. I’m not sure what all those moving parts and assumptions buy you, at the end of the day- do you have any more predictive utility than the next guy?
Sexual attraction to men often nurtures an aesthetic appreciation of masculinity, and if you’re a gay man, the category of masculine things includes yourself. Does this really need an explanation beyond the obvious fact of positive reinforcement? Drawing a distinction between manhood-the-sexual-fantasy and manhood-the-self is as awkward a distinction as gender-the-identity and gender-the-body; from my perspective, it all just feels like that parable of the blind men and the elephant.
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“It has different problems, but a lot of the assumptions about the relationship between masculinity and sexual attraction seem *way* too strong,”
I mean, that’s a classical objection to Blanchardianism in general, isn’t it?
“and invokes too many moving parts to explain a situation that doesn’t seem all that complicated.”
Are there really that many moving parts, though? It’s just androphilia + ETLI, both of which are elements that are already known to exist. I’m just applying the theory in a new domain.
OTOH, what is it that you are proposing? A lot of what you’re saying sounds very similar to androphilia+ETLI (perhaps more similar than you think?), and I’m not quite sure how it differs.
I find it hard to see how you can explain it with less complexity than androphilia
+ ETLI. You can place the complexity elsewhere, explain some parts better or worse, but will you *really* be reducing it?
“do you have any more predictive utility than the next guy?”
Maybe eventually, I’m still in a very early phase of studying metacissexuality and there are many questions that I’m still trying to figure out.
The *hope* is that I will eventually have a good map of a specific and real cluster of people, and that this cluster will be useful for inferring traits about them. So far, because MetaCis is still somewhat hypothetical, I mostly have to use A*P trans people as a reference. I don’t know how good that reference is, because again, I am in the very early stages of studying MetaCis.
I do have some conjectures, but they’re mostly untested and might be completely off:
* MetaCis gay men are going to date people similar to themselves (Masc4Masc/Fem4Fem)
* Alternatively, MetaCis gay men experience something similar to meta-attraction which makes them seek less masculine men (Masc4Fem)
* We might see more overt meta-attraction, i.e. attraction to women. (I still have trouble explaining what meta-attraction looks like to people who haven’t seen it and don’t believe it…)
* MetaCis is the *only* form of strong cisness that gay people can have – everyone else is going to be either cis-by-default or repressed HSTS
* There is going to be a continuum of MetaCisness/ETLI strength, where one end of the spectrum is exclusively autosexual but also *very* cis and the other is mostly allosexual and not as cis.
* Among non-MetaCis gay men, their happiness about being men is probably proportional to their gender conformity, whereas among MetaCis gay men conformity matters a lot less. Corollary: sufficiently feminine gay men are either MetaCis or gender dysphoric.
* When asked about how they feel about gender, they are going to write something very similar to what you did, unlike non-MetaCisses who are going to write something different. Corollary: straight strongly cis people relate to their genders in different ways than you do.
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Also, of course, there’s a really strong and likely false prediction:
All gay people are either MetaCis or repressing HSTS.
I don’t think it’s true, but it’s fun to shitpost with on 4chan.
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[referring to all interlocutors in the third person for disambiguation I guess]
I think the simpler explanation is “if you’re attracted to people of a similar ‘type’ to yourself (or to your idealized conception of yourself), then it is likely that you will also be somewhat attracted to yourself (or the idealized-conception version of yourself)”.
I guess it’s sort of just a rearranged version of tailcalled’s theory, in that I think that [something identity-like]+[attraction to gender in question]=[attraction to some version of self] makes way more sense than [attraction to gender in question]+[attraction to some version of self]=[something identity-like]. It only seems simpler to me because I see less difference between “something identity-like” and people’s actual experiences of gender feelings than between A*P and people’s actual experiences of gender feelings.
Then again, Toggle says he doesn’t feel he has a gender identity, even though his experiences sound similar to something I’d expect someone with a gender identity to feel. So arguably tailcalled and I are both just imposing our external conceptions of How Gender Works on Toggle’s experience which doesn’t really match either.
Basically I feel that “cis people often don’t notice their gender identity because they have no reason to because nobody challenges it” is just way more plausible than “people often don’t notice their A*P or don’t notice that their gender feelings are actually sexual in nature”.
Though to some extent I’m possibly leaning too much here on the notion of identity. My view is more like “gendered experiences are really diverse, and the directly observable things are things like dysphoria/euphoria, discomfort/comfort, desire/satisfaction, and we don’t exactly know what causes them. The notion of ‘identity’ is an abstraction that we often can’t observe directly, but it works pretty well as a description of how gendered experiences often work and a plausible hypothesis for something that might be going on in people’s brains”.
“I think the simpler explanation is “if you’re attracted to people of a similar ‘type’ to yourself (or to your idealized conception of yourself), then it is likely that you will also be somewhat attracted to yourself (or the idealized-conception version of yourself)”.”
If I’m getting you right, this is basically proposed as an explanation for how ETLIs work? E.g. when I brought up BIID, you didn’t say that your self-attraction model only applied to autogenderphilia; instead, you explained that the negatives of amputation are Different in a way that still allows people to be apotemnophiles.
I guess when you consider the patterns of who has ETLIs, your theory probably has a different set of predictions from my theory. Some basic guesses:
* You’d predict higher rates of autoandrophilia among gay men and autogynephilia among gay women than I would (nearly everybody? versus only as many as there are of men with AGP or women with AAP).
* You’d predict that A*P “follows identity”, in a sense; e.g. feminine gay men are often not attracted to being masculine gay men. (Historical fact about MetaCis: the person who gave me the idea was a somewhat feminine gay man who was attracted to being a masculine gay man.) My prediction on this topic are slightly complicated, because I think feminine gay men might do their best to become more masculine if they are AAP, but I think it’s likely to me that there are gay men who start out feminine, but then get AAP and do various things to become more masculine. (Relevant thought: isn’t there some pattern with gay people becoming less GNC at puberty? This pattern might be partially driven by ETLIs.)
* You’d predict that whether a straight cis person has some A*P should be very strongly correlated to whether they’re either cis-by-default or magic button trans. (The numbers say this is possible; I’ve generally found around a 50:50 split for both. However, we’d need a cis-by-default question that people don’t misinterpret.) I’d predict that it’s less strongly correlated, especially among people who aren’t cognitive sex difference deniers. (Though I guess since AGPs are more likely to be cognitive sex difference deniers (r ~ 0.2) it can be difficult to test this prediction…)
“Then again, Toggle says he doesn’t feel he has a gender identity, even though his experiences sound similar to something I’d expect someone with a gender identity to feel. So arguably tailcalled and I are both just imposing our external conceptions of How Gender Works on Toggle’s experience which doesn’t really match either.”
I completely 100% agree with your observations about the similarity… except I’d of course replace “gender identity” with “autogenderphilia”.
As a Blanchardian, I’m already imposing my conception of How Gender Works on lots of trans people, so I’m getting kinda used to this situation. I’d probably be less comfortable about doing this if Toggle’s descriptions of himself didn’t sound *so incredibly MetaCis*, though.
(Hey Toggle! May I use what you’ve written as examples of “This is how I think a MetaCis person feels” for doing research on MetaCis? E.g. showing a bunch of gay people excerpts from your posts and asking them how relatable they think they are?)
“Basically I feel that “cis people often don’t notice their gender identity because they have no reason to because nobody challenges it” is just way more plausible than “people often don’t notice their A*P or don’t notice that their gender feelings are actually sexual in nature”.”
If I’m understanding him right, he does think *some* (just not all) of his gender feels are sexual in nature, whereas none of them really match anything like Magical Innate Gender Identity?
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I’ve got no problem with that comment being quoted, so long as it’s clear in context that I’m not endorsing Blanchardian models or trying to describe them. As long as you’re treating my text as the *subject* of a Blanchardian analysis, then I’m happy to be used as an example. If the intended audience is large or public, maybe take the name ‘Toggle’ off?
Let me try to deploy a tortured metaphor to explain what I mean by ‘too complicated.’ It’s one of the basic truths of advertising that if you want a straight guy to buy something, one way to get his attention is to put an attractive woman on the billboard. It’s pretty much the oldest trick in the book. He sees the image of the woman next to your chicken nuggets or whatever, experiences a set of pleasant emotions, and associates those positive feelings with your product. Then when he sees the chicken nuggets later, that same straight guy will be more likely to spend money.
This is all pretty well understood, at least as well enough to turn a buck. But suppose I came along and said that the straight guy had experienced an Erotic Subject Transference from the image of the attractive woman to the image of your product, and now he’s sexually stimulated by chicken nuggets. If you said, well, I grant that sexuality is in play because of the sexualized billboard, but he doesn’t appear to be doing weird sex stuff with the nuggets, he just buys them a lot and eats them normally- then I would respond that of course it’s a *subconscious* erotic transference, that he’s not aware of, and which manifests itself by eating. Thus he is a different kind of customer than the people who only enjoy chicken nuggets on a purely culinary level.
In this case, given the widely accepted psychological theories of Pavlovian conditioning at work in the billboard ad, I’m doing one of two weird things. Either, one, I’m adding this whole layer of erotic transference, another whole layer of subconscious repression that hides the erotic transference, on *top* of the well-understood positive reinforcement loop, in a situation where the guy’s behavior is already adequately explained by existing theory. Or two, I’m implying that this ubiquitous theory is *wrong*, and that erotic chicken nugget transference is *actually* what’s going on, in such a way that demands that I shoulder a very heavy burden of proof. Either way, it feels like you’re obliged to deploy a healthy skepticism in response to my theories.
If I drive by a billboard every day that says, “Have you tried… Gender?” and it has a picture of a sexy cowboy with his shirt unbuttoned halfway down to his navel, this will tend to habituate positive associations between me and gender. I will become a loyal gender customer. And the nature of gender is such that it does, indeed, come packaged with sexy cowboys. What else needs explaining?
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(Sorry for the late response, I was waiting for trentzandrewson to answer a question I had, but I ran out of patience.)
I’ll make sure not to imply that you agree with the Blanchardian explanation, and I’ll also drop the ‘Toggle’ name.
I tend to be… skeptical… of explanations based on Pavlovian conditioning, because I think what’s really going on is more complicated than the basic theory of conditioning implies. That said, if we do accept a simplistic conditioning-based model, then it seems to me that this should also apply to trans people’s A*P.
(One often says that the intensity of A*P-induced dysphoria increases over time until transition, which could be explained by a conditioning-based model.)
I’m not sure if A*P-dysphoria-as-conditioning is a standard Blanchardian interpretation (that’s the question for Trent), and I don’t think I personally buy it, just like I in general don’t buy conditioning-based models.
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Incidentally, the set of feelings described here is like a bizarre inverse of my own gender-related feelings. I really enjoy being cis, but don’t have any strong feelings about being male per se. There’s a set of bodies I’d enjoy having; the maleness or femaleness of them doesn’t really enter into my assessment of them, though. It just happens that, in the world we live in, only my ideal male body is accessible to me.
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Neat! I can’t empathize with this at all. ^_^
At the risk of asking a vacuous question, what is it like to enjoy being cis, qualitatively? Is it, like, a strong aversion to the thought of gender nonconformity or intersex anatomical conditions, or a positive pleasure in conforming to social expectations? Like, personally, I’ve had great fun with public crossdressing, when social occasions called for it- would that be a stressful experience for you?
A combination of an aversion for intersex anatomical conditions and a dislike of the process of making changes to my body that involve long intermediate states. I wear my hair long, and likely will until and unless it falls out, because if I cut it off and decided to grow it back in, it would take years and involve a long middle period of just being kind of awful (in an aesthetic sense, not a discomfort sense – my hair just doesn’t look good at chin- to shoulder-length, and things that would look better later look ridiculous part way through the process). Over the past year or so I’ve been slowly and painfully reshaping my (also longish) beard to make it wider than it was before; the missing “chunks” are extremely irritating. I only grew the beard in the first place because of an Old Woman who Swallowed a Fly process of amending and experimenting with my facial hair. Not having to deal with all this with respect to my entire body, and also my voice and my mannerisms, is quite nice.
There’s also probably some degree of positive pleasure in conforming to social expectations, since I strongly dislike having to correct people’s assumptions about me, or being in a situation where I have reason to think they will develop wrong beliefs about me.
That impacts your last question too: it depends very strongly on what you mean by crossdressing. If you mean crossdressing as in “altering one’s appearance to fit what would be considered a female mold” (ie drag of some sort), I don’t think I would enjoy that. If you mean “wearing clothing typically restricted to women”, then, no, that in and of itself wouldn’t be a problem. I wouldn’t wear a dress, because I don’t have the physique necessary to pull off a dress as a man and would be read as … I’m not sure, actually, probably some sort of political statement related to trans people. I’ve seen it (that is, non drag- or transition-related male dress wearing) done well*, though, and if I were in better shape I’d do it if the dress fit properly. I’ve been considering buying a kilt for a while now, but they’re out of my price range. Last fall and winter I tied a sweatshirt around my waist over my pants as an accessory of sorts; I stopped because it got too warm to do it and it was not great for the sweatshirts. I would very much like a garment that wore like those sweatshirts did, but as far as I know such a thing does not exist except possibly as an expensive form of lingerie. I might start doing the sweatshirts again anyway once the weather cools off.
* For a sense of my aesthetic evaluation of men-trying-to-be-men wearing dresses: Chris Evans or Pine could probably look great in the right dress. Chris Hemsworth would struggle to, I think.
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As I’ve argued before, I think that there is a tendency to conflate body dysphoria with gender norm dysphoria, which is not helpful. A person can feel completely OK with whatever parts are dangling off his/her body, yet can be unhappy with the gender norms that others demand of that person.
I think it is perfectly sensible to consider yourself ‘cis by default’ if you feel absolutely fine with being a man/woman physically, but not so much with the role people demand of you.
As a man, I don’t see how any of these sources destigmatize the open expression of gender by cisgender men. For example, when Adrienne Rich describes the characteristics of male power as:
I see this as pure vilification of men. Completely ignoring the ways in which male power often involves sacrifice (the roles of provider and protector are built around male sacrifice) is typical of radical feminism and in a less extreme form in most non-radical feminism.
To hold this up as evidence of feminists not stigmatizing ‘the open expression of cisgender people’s genders’ is really, really offensive. Building up a narrative that leads all male behavior to be judged as one of those 8 bad behaviors is stigmatizing men and limits their freedom.
While I think it is somewhat obvious that mentioning a book or essay exists does not mean I endorse all of its contents and I thought it was fairly clear from context that I was talking about her discussion of lesbians, I am actually willing to endorse “these things are manifestations of male power historically and cross-culturally.” These are observably things that men did in most patriarchal cultures. If it makes you feel ashamed and stigmatized to belong to a group many members of which have done horrible things in the past, then I suggest never looking up the history of your ethnicity.
By saying “cisgender people’s genders,” rather than ‘cisgender women’s genders,’ you implied very strongly that it was about both genders. Other parts of your post were also about men and/or stated for both genders, so it’s not like I could assume that the entire thing is about women. What you stated is false, unless one reads something more restrictive than what you wrote (by replacing “people” with ‘women’).
Also, you are misrepresenting Rich’s statements, as she is not claiming that these things sometimes happen(ed), but that they are “eight characteristics of male power in archaic and contemporary societies.” That is a far stronger claim. The way that frameworks are used, is that people start interpreting reality to fit within their framework. So a man who wants custody because he believed that the woman is an unfit parent is suddenly seeking to “control or rob them of their children.” That’s how these things work (in general, for all interpretative frameworks).
I have often seen feminists argue that certain historic laws and customs had the intent of subjugating women, when the people of the time thought differently and where different explanations are possible. If you assume that men are untermenschen and are only willing to see the bad things that some of them do and give zero credit for the good things that some of them do, then the end result is dehumanization and hatred.
‘But it makes women feel good (when you offer them an enemy to dehumanize and blame their problems on)’
That is how I interpret your statement that Rich’s essay destigmatizes the open expression of their gender by women. It’s probably correct if you define female gender expression as part of a gender war.
“I suggest never looking up the history of your ethnicity”
Ethnicity? I didn’t get further than my family group before finding the inspiration for the Red Wedding! 🙂
I’m absolutely fine with women being proud to be women, to have feminine traits, to build an identity around having sex with women, to prefer female socialization over male socialization or whatever. Much of that is irrational and tribalist, but humans are fairly irrational and tribalist, so my main concern is that their irrationality doesn’t result in too many skulls.
However, the essay by Rich goes much further and builds up a scapegoat, based on a one-sided narrative where male behavior impacts women, but never positively and never vice versa. My observation is that SJ people are extremely prone to see critique of their ingroups as creating a dangerous scapegoat, while critique of their outgroup tends to be judged as if there is no risk to it. Such bias is skull territory and not something that should be celebrated as not “stigmatiz[ing] the open expression of cisgender people’s genders”.
I reject hereditary sin and especially the racist/sexist/etc way in which it is often used (for example, Africans and Europeans worked together for the slave trade, yet the modern mainstream narrative is that white people are exclusively to blame and/or exclusively profited from it).
People who are alive today can legitimately request my help for problems they have today, but it doesn’t matter at all if their disadvantages can be linked to my far removed ancestors, to my ethnic group, to my gender or whatever.
The entire idea that people ought not act kindly because of mere responsibility to humanity, but rather because of guilt, is IMO very toxic. If anything, this narrative makes me less willing to sacrifice for other people, because as the designated villain, this narrative explicitly excludes me from kindness.
I identify as cis-by-default as I don’t feel much of anything about the scenario of waking up in female body. I’d prefer not to, as any well-detailed scenario like that (no matter how sci-fi-ish) is going to have a lot of complications.
I still don’t really grok gender as it’s thought of in feminist theory. Is it “a set of social expectations around person’s physiological sex”? If it’s not about sex, then can boys and girls be thought as separate genders from men and women? Old people? Social expectations for them are different and are connected to physiology. These are 101 questions, so feel free to not answer them or redirect me somewhere they’re answered.
Can you explain what you mean by it not being about sex? It is about sex in that some elements of gender (in the feminist sense you described, not the identity sense) are a consequence of societal attitudes to sex differences. For example whether or not suitable medical care is available in pregnancy.
Gender has a cumulative impact over the course of a lifetime – health in childhood has an impact on outcomes in adulthood. For example fgm during girlhood frequently leads to complications later on during childbirth. It would be very difficult to study the impact of gender if we viewed girlhood and womanhood as entirely separate in gender terms.
But maybe this isn’t the kind of feminism you mean?
On an individual level, in terms of gender identity, it would make more sense to me if people talked about societal constructs like ‘mother’ or ‘girl’ as gender identities. I am cis by default, but if people say ‘mother’ is a gender identity, that would make sense to me. It’s all this talk of AGP and a sexual element that I’m not understanding. So I’d be happy in that sense if mother, girl and similar were separate gender identities.
Before I learned about gender I believed there are biological sexes with different societal expectations for them (though expectations are based more on the appearance and hormone levels than on actual chromosome makeup, so a more precise phrase is “expectations around proxies of sexes”) and people not liking some aspects of their position, be it parts of their bodies or the way other people behave around them. There is a lot of things to dislike and they should be changeable, so no real surprises there.
Gender, on the other hand, still confuses me quite a bit. It can be changed just by changing your mind but also somehow strongly correlates to biological sex and has a lot of consequences.
Maybe there are some other things that behave in a similar fashion. Names/surnames, religions and nationalities. Are any of these good metaphors for gender?
veronica d said:
I would suggest that the sex/gender division is somewhat artificial. It is better to view things as a combined sex/gender social system. Now, this certainly has a material basis in human sexual dimorphism, particularly in our reproductive capacity. However, tremendous social complexity is built on top of that. It’s hard to point to one bit and say “that’s sex” and another and say “that’s gender.”
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Veronica, I would consider the gender elements to be those that differ between cultures, but yes, there will always be boundary issues. Certainly there is huge interaction between sex and gender.
Vamair, I am still uncertain as to what you mean by gender. Do you mean gender roles or gender identity?
What if I can write the paragraph, but all my emotions are mild annoyance? :p
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That probably depends on what you write in the paragraph.
Interesting discussions around AGP and the kind of person you’d like to be vs fuck. Am I the only one who has a very different type for the kind of people I’d like to see in my bed vs in the mirror? I’m an androphilic cis-by-default or a little trans-er than that woman (wanted to be a boy as a kid but mostly because people told me I’m a defective girl, don’t have any physical or social dysphoria now) with fantasies that include autoandrophilia.
If I could choose a perfect male body for myself, I’d pick something like David Bowie in his Thin White Duke phase – undeniably masculine but thin and wiry. My perfect male body for purposes of lusting over is much more fleshy and muscular, more like that Uruk-hai Lurtz from the LotR movies.
There’s a “play the cards you’re dealt” feeling – if you don’t care that much, and happen to have a male body, it’s easier and in some ways more rewarding to perform masculinity than to perform femininity.
From my perspective, the rewards for wearing a dress and lipstick are higher if you are perceived as female, and the rewards for letting people pass through the door in front of you and not interrupting them are higher if you’re perceived as male.
I imagine that I’d be mostly OK with suddenly being female, and that I’d be pretty feminine in affect – more skirts and lipstick, again, because given my preference set, the rewards are greater.
(I think assuming no social consequences of the change, I’d be just about indifferent if the change also made me five years younger or one “point” more attractive on a ten point scale. Maybe that’s a gender identity, or maybe it’s just a perception of male privilege and what I perceive as some of the inconveniences of being female).
I think you’re misinterpreting The Way of the Superior Man, though I don’t have it on me right now:
“If you’re a man who feels deeply affirmed in your masculinity by cherishing and loving your romantic partner and prioritizing him over your work, The Way of the Superior Man doesn’t want to hear from you.”
If I recall correctly, the book explicitly says that the masculine/feminine “polarity” doesn’t have to line up with sex or gender. It’s a bit tricky to state that the book’s thesis in a way that’s both precise and falsifiable, but it’s something like “If you’re someone who strongly prefers to cherish and love your romantic partner and prioritize them over work, then you will probably be most sexually attracted to people who prioritize their work over cherishing and loving their romantic partners.”
The book says that people without this type of sexual polarity exist, but I think it claims their relationships tend to be less passionate in some way or other.
Yes, but I know a few men who prioritize their romantic partner over their work and would feel really unhappy about being characterized as “the feminine polarity”.
From skimming the book, if you’re a man with a “feminine sexual energy,” the author doesn’t have anything to say to you, just stuff to say to your partner about how to understand you and make you happy.
I have my doubts whether it’s useful or not, but haven’t put it to the test.
‘If you’re someone who strongly prefers to cherish and love your romantic partner and prioritize them over work, then you will probably be most sexually attracted to people who prioritize their work over cherishing and loving their romantic partners.’
Surely this has got to be a tiny, minority way of organising a relationship? I have never met anybody ever whose priority was cherishing and loving their partner. It’s surely not something many women have ever done, so why is it considered feminine?
Funny, I came to this thinking “who the heck prioritizes work over relationships?” Answer: probably my husband. But I can see how a relationship like this would be suboptimal, since one person is more invested in the relationship than the other.
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Sconn, I know many women who prioritise their kids over their work, but that is different to their priority being loving and cherishing their partner.
I’ve now looked at ‘The Superior Man’ and it does seem to saying that the best relationships are one in which a feminine person prioritises the kids and the masculine one prioritises work. I don’t know how that has translated on here into the feminine one prioritising loving and cherishing their partner.
@Audrey, that’s what I get for pontificating without the book in front of me. Am I still remembering incorrectly or does it talk about prioritizing relationships in general, with the kids and the partner being especially important?
I read some of it yesterday, from a PDF online. It tends to keep repeating the ideas of masculinity and femininity in slightly different ways. I’d say it is looking at femininity as being a focus on nurturing, love, romance and eating chocolate (definitely mentioned in the book!) with a particular focus on the family, which I assume must include the partner. That’s contrasted with masculine people needing a purpose beyond love.
I’d say those were quite uncontroversial descriptions of masculinity and femininity. The more controversial aspects are the autoandrophilia tone (if I’m using term correctly) about penetrating the world etc, which I admit did make me laugh, and the connecting an interest in nurturing and love with an interest in being ‘ravished.’
It reminds me of Julia Serano’s descriptions of femmephobia, where she describes how feminine traits of nurturing and compassion are redefined by sexism as being about devotion in a relationship, or how feminine trait of interest in aesthetics gets redefined as vanity.
Anyway, if femininity is a kind of peaceful, nurturing, puppy cuddling, child caring, hippy George Harrison in orange, call your mum, love your community, go to an art gallery and dream of unicorns kind of thing, I’m all for that. But I’m not convinced either that or what the Superior Man has to say are really the same thing as gender. But I could be really wrong here.
And if I woke up tomorrow as a man, then I’d be a gay feminine man, and be perfectly happy with that. So I’d still say cis by default.
I think that there are men who will say that their personal version of manhood involves being a puppy-cuddling child-caring hippie George Harrison in orange, and that they can perfectly well do that and be masculine at the same time, and this seems to me to be a reasonable objection.
Yes, Ozy I agree, but that’s why I’d say those things are not usually what people mean when they’re trying to explain gender identity.
Or we just accept that people mean very different things from each other when they talk about gender identity.
From a brief skim, the author of the Way of the Superior Man explicitly says you don’t have to be AMAB to have a “male sexual polarity,” but he does assume that the male characteristics are a basket that always goes together, or goes together frequently enough that people who want to select a la carte and still have good sex can go read some other book,
In other words, if you have a masculine sexual energy, you are going to be unfulfilled unless you prioritize your “purpose” over your home life, and you will be happiest with someone who has a feminine sexual energy, and that partner can be best understood as wanting to be valued, cherished, etc.
I’d read Ozy as saying that if you’re a man who wants to prioritize family over work and doesn’t meet the other characteristics TWOTSM assigns to “feminine sexual polarity,” (in particular if you’re not attracted to partners with “masculine sexual polarity,” then the author can’t really help you).
The end of this post was really upsetting to me and I think I may be misreading it.I grew up in Texas, where men are men, women are women, and queer people stay in the closet. My most comfortable gender presentation is chapstick lesbian, and I got SO MUCH SHIT growing up for not performing femininity in the expected manner. I never wanted to be a boy – I just wanted to run around and play in the dirt and touch interesting bugs and wear clothes that were comfortable and practical, but young ladies didn’t do that.
I think a lot of writing from tumblr rationalists assumes that everyone with left-type views grew up in a liberal bubble. Some of us really needed to hear that women can act and dress however they want. For me shallow pop feminism is articles by women explaining that yes, they’re feminists, but they’re still normal women with makeup and boyfriends, not dykes who don’t shave their legs.
I remember one tumblr post going around where OP was asking people about their experience of gender and specifically whether women liked being women. A lot of radfems wrote back and said that they hated being women, that they were forced into the role of decorative sex object from birth, that they’d been targeted by predators, and that they had to deal with misogyny every day and they were exhausted. OP said that if they disliked being women so much that maybe they should transition.
I like my body but I hate being assigned a gender role on that basis – doesn’t mean I want a different and equally restrictive gender role.
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I am sorry. If it helps, that’s not my intent– I intended to sketch out descriptively why I think a lot of liberal-bubble communities tend to stigmatize cis people saying they have a gender, not erase the existence of people who grew up in less liberal communities.
I think that “some people have genders” and “women can act and dress however they want” are compatible beliefs. I think if we’re going to do gender in anything approaching an ethical way, we’re going to have to start from a perspective that “manhood” and “womanhood” are diverse, that people adopt the social role of “man” or “woman” for a lot of different reasons, that men and women behave in a lot of different ways, and that people can have a lot of different self-understandings of what “man” or “woman” means to them. I think a woman can say “wearing a dress makes me feel feminine and authentic” without then going on to criticize the woman next door who feels feminine and authentic in a tailored suit, or the woman across the street who likes her female body and doesn’t see what all this clothing has to do with anything anyway. And of course no gender identification justifies a person being mistreated.
In my ideal world, I think, gender would be something done in private among consenting individuals, but I don’t know how to get there from here.
From everything you’ve written you seem like a person who tries to see other people’s viewpoints and not make assumptions – I’m just annoyed by reading this coming off a lot of other stuff about how “TERFs” are all probably trans and in denial because they say they don’t like their gender roles because being trans is the only reason for not liking gender roles.
I think its important to acknowledge that gender is imposed on people by society starting from birth, and that people’s experience of gender depends both on self identity and how they are treated by those around them. I know that my views on makeup have gone from ehh, not for me to hell no because I was pressured into wearing it. I also know a trans woman who got beat up and called a f*****t in school for wearing lipgloss, so now she wears a lot of heavy makeup.
Lots of times I see women saying things like “women have a right to not wear makeup or shave if they don’t want to” and then get jumped on by other women saying that they like shaving and wearing makeup and it makes them feel empowered and then OP will come back with “the only reason a woman would feel empowered by makeup is patriarchal brainwashing,” and things devolve from there.
I also think that if you support women expressing their gender with clothes, you should also support women expressing their gender with menstrual blood art and suggestive pictures of fruit.
I have no objection to menstrual blood art or suggestive fruit pictures. (I do think it is considerate for people to make it clear that they are making art about their own personal relationship with their periods and not about how women in general ought to relate to their periods.)
Like Discworld dwarves? I envy them for their utter lack of gender expectations. Pratchett seems to assume the female dwarves will be happier if they are allowed to present their gender in public, but I think it isn’t necessarily a net positive. The first generation would be “yay, we’re female, out and proud!” but probably the next generation will say “why do I have to wear lighter chainmail?” and “everyone treats me different.” So they’ll want to go back, but how do you get back to a social standard of gender being a secret once it’s no longer considered rude to ask?
(My apologies if you haven’t read any Discworld.)
However, I think a lot of liberal communities tend to stigmatize the open expression of cisgender people’s genders. Interestingly, feminists don’t.
This does not match up in any way to my experiences dating back over a few (several?) decades. Yes, there has been dichotomy regarding the expression of femininity among various circles, with those feminists whose feminism was in service to their radicalism being strongly critical of traditional trappings of womanhood, while we hippie holdovers built up proto-religions on the life-giving nature of the divine feminine.
But every sect agreed that “masculine” behavior was the source of all the problems of the world. Has that really changed? What fraction of the word “masculinity” written today does not have the word “toxic” written immediately before it?
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What if we can ramble on for an entire paragraph about gender-emotions, but are *also* tragically lacking in introspection. Huh?! What then!?
I was one such person to link to the original page from a blog post, though I didn’t firmly identify as “cis-by-default”. I also don’t really care if I truly honestly, really have that gender identity, or am actually full-on transgender, or full-on cis, at least insofar as I don’t get hurt by it any. The relevant (multi-paragraph ;]) quote:
“Given my above thoughts, I’ve found that I don’t personally identify with terribly much, or at least not along the axes that people most commonly use to structure their identities. I am who I am, and there it generally stops. In terms of gender, for example, I don’t have any powerful internal sense of masculinity or manliness, which I guess would place me under the genderqueer umbrella (as “agender”) if it were sufficiently rainy (or potentially “cis-by-default”). I think in practice my “gender expression” conforms to societal expectation in many respects because 1) it’s the path of least resistance, and going too against the grain would require more effort for too little reward than not, beyond, IDK, the occasional bout of flamboyance and wearing skirts and makeup and arranging flowers or w/e and 2) I like to engender certain outwardly expressed virtues in myself that are traditionally “masculine” or manifest as “masculine” gender performance, such as strength, durability, power, ambition, etc., which modify my appearance in “masculine” ways (e.g. building muscle). My preferred traditionally “feminine” virtues like gentleness, gracefulness, warmth, etc., meanwhile, are less likely to manifest themselves externally, and so would be less obvious to some outside observer.
That said, I imagine that if I woke up tomorrow to see my body transformed into one expressing the suite of primary and secondary female sex characteristics, I think the overwhelming majority of my concerns would be logistical (e.g. now I need new clothes, securing gov’t ID will be tricky, I hope Kate still finds me attractive, etc.) and not intrinsic (woe is me, this is not who I truly am!). I might experience some amount of dysphoria, who knows (I can’t quite draw upon any comparable experience — the closest might involve rapid weight loss/gain during bulks/trips, where I’ve gained upwards of 60 lbs in nine months and lost 35 in two, and that didn’t really bother me any, outside of mild frustration in the latter case at watching my gains slip away. I do recall feeling more “corporeal” going from 140 lbs -> 200 lbs, though, in the sense of being less affected by wind or crowds, but that seems more a response to external stimuli than any shift in my self-ID). Currently, I see my body as something of a meat puppet, a tool to be used and cared for that I might do neat things. It’s not really me, but it’s also not really not me – it’s just there, and I have experience operating it in a fairly seamless manner, as a trained surgeon might find a scalpel to act an extension of her will and herself.
I think this is partly attributable to my steady childhood diet of sci-fi and fantasy, where people would routinely transform into (or already be) sapient trees or living mountains or whatever. If I were made much smaller, I might lament my loss of strength or ability, though perhaps the positional nature of that sort of thing would soon reassert itself and return me to normalcy. I currently have some minor dissatisfaction with my body, in that I’m not a 10ft tall, planet-busting Bruce Banner, perhaps with the proportions of Robert Timms, glowing with an eerie internal light and capable of advanced displays of power in flagrant violation of all known physical law, but there’s little to be done there. And even if I were to take such a form, I’d still lament my disability relative to some higher possible state of being.
I’d also say I bristle a bit whenever gender is invoked to impose some standard of behavior upon myself, e.g. of the form “real men: drink vodka/play football/eat meat/never back down from a fight, thereby failing at basic conflict resolution/etc.” You can’t tell me what to do! I do what I want! Incidentally, there’s a bit of a double standard here — I don’t care so much about being told to veer left instead of right to enter one locker room over another, but since that neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg it might not be as comparable (not to trivialize those with gender dysphoria who feel genuine distress over being forced to use the wrong room).
I could also just be spectacularly lacking in introspective ability, and the whole “I don’t feel any special affinity towards masculinity, I’m just me!” thing is just what it’s like to be a cis-man in a cis-normative society, or something.”
I’ve identified as cis by default since I read the initial post, it really resonated and rang true for me. And I liked to think I’m pretty good at introspection…
But now I’ve read this and I’m re-examining whether or not that’s true or if I’m actually bad at introspection. I’d like to still believe I’m good at it, but that could be a conclusion I would reach if I was bad at it; I’d have no way of knowing via introspection. Likewise for that one, it’s self-doubt all the way down.
And just being able to consider this in the first place has to mean I’m good at introspection, right? At least the part where I examine my assumptions? But not being able to reach a definitive answer must mean I’m bad at it, right?
So yeah. Thanks Ozy. 😐
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Kevin Graham said:
I’ve read both this and the original post. And I want to say: I am agender or you could also call me “cis-by-default”, which I do think of as the same thing. I generally prefer not to be called “cis” or “trans” though because both of those things kind of miss the point. I don’t wear dresses nowadays because they generally don’t look good on me or fit me but I look foreward to living in a virtual world one day where I can switch to a femme body sometimes and wear dresses there.
I do think it’s highly likely that the majority of “cis” people are actually agender/cis-by-default. I think a lot of people are adverse to this because it seems like a weird idea but it’s just a bullet that I bite.
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