[personal profile] recursiveparadox
(Well, you've all waited long enough and finally had an evening free to write. I've decided to come from the "questioning" angle on this because offense is usually incurred when you start making claims about how things ought to be. So instead, I'll ask why the current system works the way it does and how we expect to deal with the problems caused by it.)

Update 2: After a lot of discussion I came to agreement with the idea that if someone's well being is at stake, concerns about communication and definition are completely secondary to that. So in the end, if you're faced with situations where communicating clearly or applying the definition is going to hurt you, then don't do so. In no way should linguistics come above the lives of people

Update - Fun times. I guess I wasn't clear enough in how I put this across (which sucks because I spent days agonizing over how to put it.) To make it unnecessary to wade through the sea of comments generated by a simple misunderstanding I'm going to put up a point of clarification right here at the top.

I am not in any way or form saying that male or female should retain their same definitions. Just because I dislike the self referential definition doesn't mean that the current state of affairs is perfect, great or even acceptable. What would be a good solution that takes identity into account is a redefining like this:

Female: one who either possesses (and is content with) or wishes to attain (for whatever reason) or self conceptualizes more closely with the bodily structure commonly created by the XX triggered developmental path.

And there you go. A simple and easy way to create a definition of the word that is not self referential and doesn't nonsensically destroy its own capacity to communicate any meaning. While still protecting us from cissexist abuses of the biological classification system from which female and male originally came. I hope this makes it abundantly clear that I'm not a linguistic purist trying to enforce the current definitions of male and female as perfect while also making it clear that self referential definitions are not necessary to safeguard ourselves.

I think we're all pretty aware of the nastiness of identity politics and elitist hierarchies built into the sub communities of GLBT. Especially how they're used to elevate some and detriment others in an attempt to break associations that some might consider damning to them (when in reality the hate is going to spill on us all, whether we look "normal" or not). And of course, identity crises are pretty awful in and of themselves. Even when not induced by attacks by a bunch of community shredding jackals, they can still shatter self image and leave a person feeling completely lost. There are also situations wherein one using a given label, despite its base conceptual accuracy, is woefully impractical. A good example would be an individual who is well aware of their bisexuality but is attracted to so few women (and so rarely) that mentioning that bisexuality is at best irrelevant and at worst seriously misleading to interested women.

All three of these things are really good reasons to put some protections into place for people's identities and to allow some leeway in self description. Support groups (good ones anyways) tend to frown very fiercely on questioning someone's identity, pronouns, self image and etcetera. Outsiders are usually regarded as a bad judge of what someone's identity is and the common wisdom that a person knows oneself best is usually expected to be followed. None of these things are a problem. It is certainly positive to prevent the identity attack infighting that is so very endemic in the trans community (but is also a problem in the gay, lesbian and bi community as well, most noteably directed very nastily at bisexual folk). It is also benign and ultimately positive to allow simplification of the social interactions that depend on labels, because I know that (were I in the situation mentioned above) I wouldn't want people I'm not attracted to trying to get in my pants just because I'm attracted to one or maybe two members of that particular sex.

This all being said, I have to say I'm a bit confused by what seems like serious overcompensation in response to these problems.

You see, all of the responses above are perfectly reasonable. They still account for objective reality, they just prevent infighting, personal attacks and social complication. None of them outright contradict reality or counsel one that it is fine for them to do so. They might let a few people through who don't have a firm grasp of reality, but that's ultimately not a serious problem for an individual in the GLBT community. It isn't like in the pagan community where misusing words and allowing identity to contradict reality actually decontextualizes and delegitimizes cultures and tends to come from entitlement and ethnocentrism.

But when the self image a person has contradicts reality, that still is a problem. At the very least for them.

So we hit the actual issue. There is a trend in the GLBT community wherein individuals may take on any term describing themselves, even if they do not even remotely resemble the objective definition of said label. This is... troubling. For one, it makes communication unbelievably confusing and it also creates a level of social complication out of that confusion that kills any simplification excuse immediately. You aren't simplifying things if you're a single bisexual individual but you call yourself heterosexual and then get upset when lesbians don't show interest in you.

The basis behind this is what bothers me the most. I get the impression (and have been outright told by some people) that the terms lesbian, bisexual, gay, homosexual, heterosexual, straight, woman, man, male, and female quite simply all mean "one who identifies as x" wherein x is the term that we are defining. Example: bisexual is one who identifies as bisexual. Not everyone uses this basis, this is just the most common one I confront.

Why is this troubling? After all, this does mean no one can question another person's identity anymore. There's no identity crisis because if you feel like you aren't a lesbian then you aren't. If you feel like you are, then you are. Sure it makes things complex socially, but since when has social life ever been simple?

Well the reason is because the definition "one who identifies as x" (wherein x is the term being defined) is a self referential definition that yields absolutely no more information than every single other one of the words. The whole reason why I can summate the preferred definitions of those words into just one line with a variable for the term is because the definition is virtually the same among each of the words.

Now, if the only thing you feel like communicating to someone is that you personally feel like you are "term x" and absolutely nothing else, this works just fine for you. But if you actually feel like communicating your sexual attractions to someone, or whom you are more likely to date, or your body structure, or the social group you are a part of or really any other information than your own self image, then you've just utterly destroyed the usefulness of those words. And the worst part is, you've already expressed that you think you are term x if you apply term x to yourself. The definition is utterly redundant. If you say, "I am term x" then we already know that you see yourself as x. We don't need the word to mean, "one who thinks one is term x".

When I tell someone I'm a lesbian, I'm telling them that I am interested in female folk. There's a certain amount of leeway as lesbian can be stretched between principally dating a given group (women or female folk) and just being attracted to that same given group. The split between woman and female also arises from the complication that trans folk throw into the mix. I'm not trying to tell people that I think I'm a lesbian. I've already expressed this just by the context of the self application of that word. So it just strikes me as sort of... well... silly.

Of course, trans folk have trouble with this too. I can get pre op, pre hormones folk using the words woman or man because those words stretch to fit the sociological groups too. It works just fine. But when we start using the term female (or male) for ourselves when our bodies are still physically our birth sex, that's when things start failing to meet with reality. This is especially a bad idea for trans folk (at least those who require physical transition) because we need to be able to articulate to our health providers and doctors that we require a physical transition. If I were to call myself female before hormones and surgery, how am I supposed to tell the doctor that I need a female body?

Me: "Sorry doc, I'm already female but I need boobs and a vagina."

Doc: "Wait... what? o_O"

I get that the terminology is especially painful for us trans folk. I have dysphoria triggers from the word male simply because it is a firm reminder of the genitals I have. But you don't have to use painful terms either. There is nothing saying we have to apply labels in a social setting. You don't have to say that you're male or female or think about it at all. The situation certainly doesn't require something so drastic as to strip virtually all meaning from the words male/female. (Note that this applies to nonbinary as well, but usually with the medical condition word; intersexed.)

It has honestly reached the point where I've literally had to avoid the terminology in certain situations just to avoid the debates that come from GLBT folk on just my word choice. Instead of discussing my sexuality as lesbian, I've had to talk instead in terms of being a male to female transsexual who is physically attracted to the female form because I've had people who thought lesbian meant one who identifies as a lesbian and told me I automatically was one, even if I was into guys. (There's someone here who might think this is directed at her, but really hun, you were very respectful and reasonable when you brought it up. You even asked permission first, so please don't think this particular example is directed at you. I've had these conversations with a lot of people and you were the absolute best about your view.)

I don't know about anyone else, but I see it as a problem when a word loses its meaning almost completely. I also don't see the point of using labels if all their meaning is already expressed by you applying the word to yourself in conversation. That's my view on it.

I wouldn't mind alternate explanations, clarifications and corrections if I have the wrong impression about this. It's very possible I've misunderstood the justifications or even misunderstood the attitudes on identity labels. I will mind getting a shitstorm of asinine screaming at me for "attacking identities" though. Let's be mature people. That's pretty much all I'm asking here.

I agree

Date: 2009-07-22 01:57 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Actually, this applies much more broadly than to just the TG communities. Stripping words of their meaning because they have painful connotations for some individuals is actually a pretty common thing - you can't call someone "black", you must say "african-american". You can't call someone "male", you must say "girl with some excess tissue around the urethral area."

It doesn't make sense, but people aren't always rational about pain. :/


(no subject)

Date: 2009-08-06 04:16 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] amandainthesouthbay
"A good example would be an individual who is well aware of their bisexuality but is attracted to so few women (and so rarely) that mentioning that bisexuality is at best irrelevant and at worst seriously misleading to interested women."

I don't see anything particularly wrong with this. Bi people come in all shades of how strongly they are attracted to both men and women, so I simply see it as being a legitimate part of being bi. But then, I've gotten to the point where I'm so sick and tired of biphobia that I always, without fail, identify myself as such, just to stick up for myself and others.

Speaking of language, your post reminded me of the phenomenon of cis queer people, who are nominally out as trans allies, saying stuff like "gender doesn't matter," or some variant thereof. I think it was on Questioning Transphobia where someone responded to that nonsense with "no one gives a fuck that you don't believe in gender," or something like that; I can't remember.

Anyhoo, I think you write well and hope you post some more!


(no subject)

Date: 2009-08-11 10:23 pm (UTC)
shemale: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shemale
I find it kind of interesting that you make that comparison between her remarks and mine, given that i disagree so thoroughly.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-08-11 10:28 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] amandainthesouthbay
I'm sorry for what I wrote-it was a half assed comment. I'm not really good at these gender theory/linguistics comments.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-08-11 11:51 pm (UTC)
shemale: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shemale
Oh lol i'm not like, mad about it or anything. I just thought that this post and my entry were saying very different things.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-08-11 10:22 pm (UTC)
shemale: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shemale
It may be worth asking yourself just how important what you're perceiving as the "usefulness" of words like "male" and "female" is that it trumps the way trans people sex our bodies.

I think that what you may want to address first is the objectivist approach you're taking to sex and sexuality (or, well, anything) and the language used to describe it.

To use what you've said as an example, it can be inferred that, in your opinion, a trans woman is female when, and only when, she has not only started hormone replacement therapy but had genital reconstruction surgery.

But, using the arguments you've made here about maintaining the purity or whatever of the words "male" and "female," others may (and have, as i'm sure you're aware) argue that, rather than being female, a post-GRS trans woman on HRT is a male with an inverted penis who is taking artificial female hormones to induce gynecomastia--in other words, trans women will always be male, and trans men will always be female (excluding intersexual trans people).

So, objectively speaking, which one of these is correct?

Or maybe what you're saying isn't that a trans woman who starts hormones and/or has GRS is female, but that she is no longer male.

But what about, for example, a cis woman who has PCOS that drives her sex hormone levels out of what you might call a "female" range; is her body no longer female?

What role do you think self-identification plays here when it comes to the way the body of a trans woman who is on HRT and the body of a cis woman who has PCOS are sexed?

I have to ask, what is it you think you're achieving by pursuing linguistic purism with respect to the words "male" and "female?"

To repeat myself, what makes them more valuable, cissexist words that they are, than phrases like "people with penises" or "people with XX chromosomes" or "people with breasts," which are actually much more accurate and precise and, yes, objective than words like "male" or "female" which could be referring to any one of dozens of characteristics--characteristics which by the way are, arguably, perfectly aligned with the people who use those words to identify their bodies in only a minority of the cases among cis people as well as trans people?

(no subject)

Date: 2009-08-12 05:59 am (UTC)
shemale: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shemale
To save space i'm going to respond to the parts between the quotes from me from the top down separately as demarcated by number and letter without quoting what you've said:

i) a) To begin with, there are ways of articulating a desire for physical transition without unsexing the way trans people perceive ourselves--"I'm a trans woman who recently moved to Rochester and would like for [doctorname] to become my new prescriber for transition-related hormones," for example, is something that i said when making my first appointment with a doctor yesterday.

Secondly, not every trans person has access to transition-related health care for financial or medical or whatever other reasons, or even wants to pursue medical transition.

I see no more problem with someone calling a body with a vagina a male body than i do with someone calling a body with XY chromosomes a female body or with someone calling gynecomastia "male breasts": the characteristics of our bodies aren't socially constructed (an idea that i believe you called "idiocy" in a previous post), but the labels and identities of them--the language created to describe them--which are claimed by us and/or forced upon us most definitely are.

b) Well, unless we're Descartian dualists, the "mind" is part of the body.
I'm hardly an advocate of the HBS brain-sex model of being trans--frankly i don't really care about this beyond "hm, that's interesting"--but i'm also not big on the tabula rasa model of psychobiology.

I don't think that being trans is inherently dualist, because what being trans means is that you don't identify with the sex and/or gender assigned to you at birth, not that "my mind is female and my body is male" (i.e. "i'm a woman trapped in a man's body") or whatever. Whether that extends to medical transition or not, for the reasons i mentioned above is immaterial when it comes to the words we use to describe our bodies.

ii) a) You clearly do have a problem with words changing meanings--when they change to mean things that you don't think they should mean.

A "no-ho" and "non-op" trans person identifying the sex of their body as something other than the identity it (their body) was assigned at birth hardly makes "male" and "female" meaningless; all it does is reflect a change in the way we view maleness and femaleness.

This is not unlike the way the words "man" and "woman" have changed (for some) to include trans men and trans women, respectively, to reflect a more realistic understanding of sex and gender.

I've spoken with cissexual cisgender male professors of behavioral genetics in their fifties who've gotten around to viewing sex this way, so it honestly pains me that a young trans woman would be lagging behind in that respect. Your arguments strike me as coming from someone who is a couple of operations away from being a stereotypical surgical-status-elitist trans woman.

b) Being trans and being disabled are awful analogies for each other--yes, i'm dismissing it out of hand before it gets taken too far by the two of us, both of us being temporarily-able-bodied people who are therefore not very qualified to speak on behalf of disabled people--and sex doesn't come together as cleanly, as a whole, as the picture you've painted with your definition of sex.

As it stands, under your definition a post-GRS trans woman is a one-part male and not-quite-two-parts female person who identifies as a woman.
As it stands, i think that both you and i could be called "half-males who identify as women" using your definition.

c) So your argument more or less breaks down to "it's a slippery slope fallacy because those terms are used by bigots and i'm can't be a bigot when i'm just being scientific?"

I hate to be the one to break this to you, but you're not being any less cissexist here than the people (some of whom, by the way, have much more influential voices than you in the medical and other biological fields when it comes to convincing others of what is biologically accurate) in your arguments or language than the people you're calling bigots.

I mean, you know, i've had doctors who considered themselves great allies to the ~transgendered community~ talk to me about neovaginas as penile inversion and tell me that trans women's breasts are basically intentionally-induced gynecomastia.

Finally, your saying that you don't think trans women's breasts are gynecomastia because we aren't disturbed by them (and your bold-faced assumption that all men with gynecomastia are distressed by them) is admitting the importance that personal identification plays in the way one's body is sexed.

iii) and iv) Well, no, the cis woman with PCOS would not be "anatomically female" under your definition because PCOS leads to secondary sex characteristics that you would define as "male," like male pattern baldness and facial hair, for example. And, like you said, she would be hormonally male.

And, again under your definition, the "form and function" of the reproductive organs of post-GRS trans women don't match up enough with those of cissexual women to be considered "fully anatomically female" because, obviously, she wouldn't have a uterus or ovaries, and her neo-vagina and -vulva would be imperfect facsimiles of those of cissexual women with limited functionality (at least, given the admittedly anecdotal cases i'm familiar with) at best. To say nothing of the surgical options available, conversely, to trans men.

The point i'm trying to make here is that, as i expected, your reaction was based less on the cissexist (and, i would note, extremely classist, since you're privileging the right to claim the sex one identifies as only to those who can afford what is, at least in the US, a prohibitively expensive surgery) definitions you're using than on the way that the people in either of those situations would identify their bodies.

I'll respond to the second part of your comment tomorrow, maybe.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-08-12 02:35 pm (UTC)
shemale: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shemale
I think that i've pretty much expressed all i have to say except for one point:

Cissexism is not necessarily an actively malicious or even conscious thing, so "these words and this system" don't need to have been "built [with the intention] to screw us," but that they screw us nonetheless, since our bodies and health needs don't fit into the standards set up by those words and that system so we often go without coverage or without necessary health care and face legal or other kinds of ramifications for not fitting into one category or the other by cissexual, cissexist standards.

And, an answer to your question:

You said that "those definitions can be changed. Female could become 'one who either possesses (and is content with) or wishes to attain or self conceptualizes more closely with the bodily structure commonly created by the XX triggered developmental path.' (as an example)"

When you said this before, you left out the "or self conceptualizes."

With that included, this is what it means when a trans woman says "i identify my body as female" (!!).

They do not phrase it that way, because that would be long-winded, pedantic, and frankly annoying, but this is (more or less) what that means.

So, do go ahead and change the way you define "male" and "female" along those lines, and remember that when a trans man who isn't planning on having any surgeries or taking any T that when he says "i identify my body as male," what he means is generally (and again, more or less) that he "either possesses (and is content with) or ... self conceptualizes more closely with the bodily structure commonly created by the XY-triggered developmental path."

This entire discussion, it seems, was a masturbatory exercise achieving nothing.

I think that, at this point, anything more we can say would be for the pleasure of hearing ourselves talk.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-08-12 03:59 pm (UTC)
shemale: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shemale
Your post struck me as something in pursuit of linguistic purism, so i addressed that in my initial comment, and i addressed additional problematic assumptions and sentiments that were implied by your post and later comments (which i find to be equally important), and i addressed the issue of your having a problem with the words as "self-referentially defined" because you felt them to be recursive where self-identification is given a high priority after you clarified why you felt that way--something not particularly clear from your original post.

There was no straw-manning here.
This wasn't a debate over a single point.
This was me trying to get you to address the multitude of problematic attitudes and assumptions you've expressed in this post, all of which i found to be important and relevant.

It may be functional to define it that way, i guess, but god, people will absolutely think that you're a pretentious douche if you identify yourself like that.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-08-12 08:24 pm (UTC)
shemale: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shemale
Re your Note: I know?

(no subject)

Date: 2009-08-12 08:50 pm (UTC)
shemale: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shemale
Yes, i phrased that badly, my bad.

Re: Part 2

Date: 2009-08-12 02:01 pm (UTC)
shemale: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shemale
(Continued, same formatting rules)

v) Alongside what i said earlier about the meaning of "male" and "female" expanding to accommodate the way trans people choose to sex our bodies instead of just restricting that privilege to cis people (and occasionally wealthy trans women), i really think that those words are neither facing that great of a threat from us uppity trannies who don't follow the correct (read: cissexist) meanings of words nor so important as to be in the panicked state you seemingly are over the thought of them losing their meanings.

Like, as someone said to me a moment ago, and as i implied in my comment above, doctors are not so stupid that they can't figure out how to provide medical service without trans people saying "i am a male-bodied person who wants to emulate female bodies in form and function," so really, who is the loss of the words hurting?

Because, the way i'm seeing this, the loss of the meanings of the words--words used, again, to describe an eclectic arrangement of physiological characteristics that rarely all simultaneously fall into the ranges defined by your definitions for a given individual who identifies their body as such--as you seem to have defined them would help a great deal of people to see sex in a more accurate way, and in a way that doesn't, again, unsex the bodies of trans people.

The latter of these may not be too huge a concern for someone who can afford and has access to all of the medical aspects of the ~traditional MtF transitional path~, but i assure you that it is for many other trans people.

vi) The biological phrases and the specific, technical system which you are using are cissexist. There is no reason for "bigots and cissexists" to try to "twist it," especially not when they can get good little trannies to subscribe to it.

You're missing my point here: You are not "perfectly objective." No one has a single objective truth, especially when it comes to the language used to discuss it; there are only ways of describing reality as we observe and theorize about it that vary from person to person which can be cobbled together to form overarching paradigms and, in this case, classification systems.

People are subjective. While empirical research is obviously important, it is filtered through the researchers subjective perceptions when observed (and this is why, to give an example, forms of nonhuman biodiversity in sex and sexuality that would be considered "deviant" in humans went ignored by so-called "objective" scientists for centuries who couched it in other, more socially acceptable terms); objectivism and philosophical realism went out with Ayn Rand.

vii) Yes, biologists, and you, do tend to make allowances--but only for cissexual people.

The fact that it's not just a minority of trans and cis people who use the terms, inaccurately by your definitions, is precisely the problem, given the cissexist meaning they hold to so many people (including yourself).

I never said that the words were uncommon, just that a perfect match with the conditions set by you is hardly met by all people whose bodies are nonetheless identified as male or female.

Re: Part 2

Date: 2009-08-12 03:17 pm (UTC)
shemale: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shemale
Look, i'm not saying "omg you're a cissexist and you are bad bad bad," i'm saying that the system of gender classification that you subscribe to is at its foundation a cissexist one created and sustained by cis people for whom trans people and intersexual people don't exist beyond perhaps, if at all, as entertaining case studies that don't really play into the grand scheme of things (unless you think that the the people responsible for the classification system had trans and intersexual people in mind, but i think that you would have problems convincing anyone else of that).

I support the definition of male and female that makes room for trans people, regardless of their access or desire to pursue medical transition, to identify their bodies as they see fit.

This does not make it a recursive definition; "male" and "female" obviously have meanings and connotations--which, absolutely, can be cissexist, and can be a reflection of internalized cissexism due to the values placed on those meanings and connotations--otherwise people would not bother to use the terms at all.

To be honest with you, i would almost rather that those terms were meaningless and recursive, because then we could move beyond policing the sex of others' bodies, and i'm not entirely sure why the idea bothers you so much.

It could be that we're at a transitional point now, between making the words, which i absolutely find cissexist, meaningless and tossing them out of use, but i hardly think that it's something that's going to catch on all that quickly.

I do not identify as female (or male); i identify as third-sex.

"Erm... I make allowances for trans folk too, yanno. Like trans guys' SRS results."

This is an issue of class and income level; i would strongly suggest that you take some time for self-reflection with respect to class privilege.

Re: Part 2

Date: 2009-08-12 04:18 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] snugglebitch
What it will do is make us seem delusional when we describe our reasoning to people who are still using the terms as they have before.

This is why, as I think I said when you were coming out to your dad, I don't bother explaining my reasoning anymore and I don't think we as a population are doing ourselves any favors by continuing to. It doesn't matter why. Everyone else in the world gets to say "I am a man" or "I am a woman" without having to give their reasons for it, why can't we? Just the fact that so many trans folk say "I identify as a woman" instead of "I am a woman" is evidence of this issue. We're not allowed to own our identities. We're not allowed to be who we are without some complex explanation for it (and that explanation better be the right one, tranny).

And I've yet to see actual reasoning as to how classism is coming into play in my words here, just claims that it has.

So much of what you've been saying has centered the experience of those of us who can afford to physically transition. It might not be intentional (again, classism is a system, it doesn't have to be malicious), but it's there, and yes, it's classism creeping into the argument.

Re: Part 2

Date: 2009-08-12 04:45 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] snugglebitch
So when we own our identities through not having a definition of the words, what's to prevent people from saying in their heads "oh, that one is just crazy and full of shit" and continuing to treat us the way they always did?

Nothing. That's their fault, not mine. I am a human being, and if that's not reason enough for someone to respect me, then they are bad people.

But what credibility do we have in claiming an identity if that identity doesn't actually have a meaning?

No one said the word had no meaning. Definition and meaning are two different things.

Meaning is the essence of something, meaning is what words are trying desperately to grasp for. It's why we have language barriers and cultural barriers, because the meaning is there whether you have a word for it or not.

Definition is a box that humans (and especially Western humans, so influenced by "Enlightenment" ideals) use to try to contain the beauty that is meaning cuz they don't want to think about it too hard. They want to say "female means someone who was born with or desires to have the physiological traits typically generated by XX chromsomes," then walk away feeling good about the fact that they've conquered some part of their world today.

If vistarole is the only word you have to describe the meaning of (one part of) your identity, then it's the word you have, regardless of the fact that no authority gave it a definition prior to that. If female is the only word you have, even if that authority, that definition is too narrow to see it, then it's the word you have. You give it meaning in the act of using it to describe yourself.

Re: Part 2

Date: 2009-08-12 05:20 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] snugglebitch
I wasn't aware that respecting someone involved agreeing with their definition.

When it is my definition of myself, then hell yes it does.

Look, I know you really want to keep having this argument, but all this effort to lock down a concrete definition and make people stick to it is striving after the wind. You keep trying to make it about pedantry, and I'm trying to tell you that there are real people at the ends of those words, so really, fuck the definitions cuz at the end of the day they aren't important; the people behind them are, and what the hell is any part of this conversation doing for them?

Re: Part 2

Date: 2009-08-12 04:48 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] snugglebitch
Also, with regard to your "vistarole" example, if I were you I would start thinking really hard about your argument if you need to resort to the same rhetorical devices as every cissexist bigot on the planet ("NEXT THEY'RE GONNA SAY THEY'RE DOLPHINS, AND NEED BLOWHOLE SURGERY!") in order to prop it up.

Re: Part 2

Date: 2009-08-12 05:25 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] snugglebitch
I never said I found it distasteful to identify that way. I said I found your argument a distasteful parallel to people who think being trans is a slippery slope toward "crazy" identities and "out-of-control body modification" (and just in case it's not clear enough, those are scare-quotes to indicate that I do not share this point of view). At best, you made a really bad analogy, and at worst, it was the same damn argument: ("NEXT THING YOU KNOW, PEOPLE WILL IDENTIFY AS VISTAROLES, WORDS WILL HAVE NO MEANING, AND SOCIETY WILL COLLAPSE!!!").

(no subject)

Date: 2009-08-12 03:04 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] snugglebitch
I haven't yet read all the comments (and I thought I was verbose) so forgive me if I repeat something.

I get that your ultimate point is that "words shouldn't be self-referential". The issue that you're either missing or deliberately obfuscating is that the words are already self-referential, only instead of meaning "I am male because I say I am male," they mean "I am male because someone else said I was."

The idea that we are strictly a sexually dimorphic species is patently false. The fact that intersex people exist at all shows this to be true. Intersex people (generally) are not disordered, it's not a "medical condition," it's not an "abnormality". It's just another piece of human diversity, one unaccounted for by the theory of sexual dimorphism. Rather than say the theory is wrong, we've said their bodies are. (And don't tell me that "abnormal" is judgement free in the sciences; you know it is, or else genital mutilation of intersex people wouldn't be the rampant problem it is.)

It goes further than just people we've labeled intersex, though. There is a massive range of diversity even within people who are "male" and "female". People assigned male at birth have flat chests and breasts, they can be hirsute or never sprout a single body or facial hair, their phalluses can range from two inches long to a foot, they can have great upper body strength or none at all, they can lactate or not. People assigned female at birth can develop "male pattern baldness," they can have hairless skin or grow full beards, they can have hidden, tiny phalluses or protruding ones that would put some MAAB-people to shame, they can have flat chests or large breasts, they can have body hair anywhere, their muscles can develop any which way they want to. And that's just the external stuff, not getting into the ridiculous amount of internal diversity at play.

And yet because of the matter of less than an inch of flesh when one is born, none of that diversity matters. Someone glanced to see which side of that less than an inch of flesh your external genitalia had developed to, and that's what you were assigned, and all the rest of that diversity throughout the rest of your life will be ignored.

That is all those words mean: "Subject's external genitalia is/is less than X millimeters long at birth." The argument isn't about objective truth, because there is no objective truth. That "objectivity" was created within a pre-existing social paradigm, and is both shaped by and shapes that cissexist paradigm.

This is about what gets to define you. Does someone else get to arbitrarily decide that for you, or do you?

(no subject)

Date: 2009-08-12 04:08 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] snugglebitch
Honestly, I'm not advocating anything about definitions of words, but definitions of people. This is why I gave up on the idea of teaching academically. I cannot stand this stuff, this whole post and the comments pursuant to it don't really have any real world application because language, like people, is alive and cannot be confined by anyone.

Ultimately the only thing words mean is what we know them to mean, and so if I say "I am female" (which I wouldn't but I could), having a strict definition of "female" is meaningless because whether or not someone knows that definition you've decided upon for all of us, they know what I'm talking about.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-08-12 04:33 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] snugglebitch
I don't care if they make the wrong assumption. If I choose to use that word to describe myself I have communicated everything I want the other person to know.

When I used to say I was a Christian, there were a lot of assumptions that came along with that, and many of those assumptions were wrong because I was a Jehovah's Witness and it's a very unique sect. But if I just don't feel like going into all of that, I am still right when I say "I am a Christian" and that's the other person's fault for attaching assumptions and judgments to it.

But again, I don't use sex to describe my body. I gave up on that years ago. I am a woman. This is my body, and it's not very box shaped, so I wish people would stop trying to shove it into one.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-08-12 05:06 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] snugglebitch
My point is that they know what I want them to know. They know as much as I feel like telling them.

I mean, I don't really want to go here, but I know you're not out as trans to all of your co-workers. They might have their assumptions, but at the end of the day, all that they know is what you've told them, what you want them to know. Why are you arguing that anyone else should not be granted the luxury that you have?

(no subject)

Date: 2009-08-12 05:32 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] snugglebitch
And if you literally can not think of a single case where you would actually want to truly communicate and have a cisgendered person comprehend it, that's fine.

Actually, I have had that experience. It's been rare, but I've had them. I have them with my partner, and I had them when I was away at camp.

You know what was so beautiful about them? I didn't have to define a damn thing. These people cared enough about me and people like me, that they did the work themselves beforehand, and I didn't once have to explain myself. We could just talk, and know we were hearing and understanding each other, and it had nothing to do with concrete definitions of words and everything to do with the fact that these people were empathetic and these people were willing to stop seeing me as something that had to be defined and just saw me.

It was beautiful.

I need to leave this conversation now. It's clear that all you want to talk about is the abstract, and I have no interest in that. I'm talking about real people with real lives, and I honestly don't care if you think it's stupid that those people might need to use a word that doesn't strictly fit them.

Genderbitch: In ur gender, revealing ur privilege


This is a blog. About transsexuality, feminism, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, GLBT stuff and etcetera (check my tags for more on that). This is also an angry blog.

You might see me as slightly antagonistic. Oh well. I incite because I am trying to push people into thinking, discussing and breaking out of the stagnant bullshit of privilege. Which needs a nice firm kick quite a bit. Sometimes to the head. If I need a nice firm kick too, make sure to distribute it because well, I'm not immune to privilege either. XD

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