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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Gender Issues » Gender Confusion

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Author Topic: Gender Confusion
AnotherAnon
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Hi,

I was hoping the people here could help me out about an issue I'm struggling with in regards to... well, I guess, gender identity. I've looked at various LGBT boards, hoping for some good area for a total "newbie" to ask questions, but have been scared to post. I stumbled on to this site recently, and it looks like a good resource for clueless people, so I hope this is a good place for me to post this.

Um. So, I'm like a boy that wants to be a girl, okay? I'm not sure if this means I'm transgender or genderqueer or what. I, uh, am a boy, but I like being thought of as a girl...?

I have developed an androgynous look that lets people come to the assumption that I'm a girl, but without being so overt that my parents think I'm doing anything on purpose. I probably look like a butch lesbian to people, but I get referred to as a girl all the time, and I like that. When I'm out eating with my mom and grandmom, the waiter always addresses the table as "you ladies", and me as "ma'am" or "miss", which I like, and I don't like it when my mom points out I'm male by ordering for me with a "he would like...".

I dislike the masculine parts of me, but I like that I've gotten to look feminine enough in the mirror. I don't like body hair, and want to get it removed permanently in the future. I might want feminine curves, but have no interest in a sex-change operation. Some would think I'm a transvestite, but I have no sexual fetish about it. I just like the idea of being a girl.

I've gotten interested in feminist theory, which is weird for a boy. I actually made a video on youtube of me talking about feminism, and got some guy saying that as a girl I wouldn't understand how feminists attack men. I kinda want to say that as a male who can see the female perspective, I know the subject better than him, but I like being thought of as a girl too much to compromise that.

I don't know. Confused.

It's gotten kind of rough for me lately, because I want to express myself with things girls get to do like wear makeup or even own something that's pink. A while ago I suggested to my mom that I get a cheery pink laundry bag (there were identical ones of different colors in the store), and she just froze, said she wasn't comfortable with that, and got me an orange one of a similar color (it's still orange!). I'm feeling all shaken up because I can't talk about it with anyone. A while ago I suggested to my dad that I might want to be a girl, and he laughed and said that he always feels sorry for men who think they have to dress up like women and that I'm male and should learn to feel good about that, along with some stuff about how feminists have made men ashamed to be male. I don't want to be male-bashing, but girls living in a state of being girls has always seemed appealing for me.

I've read stuff written by transgender folks, though, and I'm not sure that experience applies to me. I don't recall saying I was a girl and being rejected. I've just been a boy that wants to be a girl.

I've also recently found out about the genderqueer identity, which looks interesting. I can relate to the idea of never wanting to check male or female on a sign-up sheet. I also like to say, "I'm not a boy, I'm an alien", which apparently is something genderqueer and intersex folks tend to say. I'm an alien possessing a male human's body for a lifelong anthropological study, and when I'm done a ship will come to take me back to where I belong. [Frown] My main concern is a lack of understanding as to exactly what genderqueer means. Resources have been very vague, I think mainly from the idea that gender is fluid and can't be pinned down.

Anyway, I've got to go now, so if someone qualified could just offer some suggestions, that would be very helpful.

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Karybu
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Hey, AnotherAnon, welcome to Scarleteen. I'm just heading offline, but in case someone doesn't get to this before then, I'll be back around tomorrow morning.

--------------------
"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." -Arundhati Roy

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Karybu
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Ok, I'm back. [Smile]

First of all, I'm sorry your parents haven't been terribly understanding or supportive. Unfortunately, a lot of people have pretty rigid attitudes towards gender, often based in a lack of understanding about how fluid it can be and the difference between biological sex and gender. It doesn't make it ok, but you are far from the only person who has had to deal with views similar to your parents'.

From what you've said here, your biological sex is male, but you're more comfortable identifying as female and/or feminine, does that sound about right? Based on that, it does sound like transgender or genderqueer are fairly good ways of describing your gender identity - trans and genderqueer are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and there's no one way of being trans or genderqueer. (Also? Not everyone who is trans chooses to undergo hormone therapy and/or any kind of surgery, so I wouldn't take that into account when you're thinking about all this.)

I'm going to link you to a bunch of different resources (if you've read any of these before, I apologize), and if you still have things you want to talk about please come on back.
Genderpalooza! A Sex & Gender Primer
http://www.genderqueercoalition.org/QueerGender
http://gayteens.about.com/od/glbtbasicsforteens/p/genderqueer.htm
And, just because it's an awesome demonstration of how many ways there are to "do" gender: http://genderfork.com/

"My Gender Workbook" by Kate Bornstein may also be a really useful resource for you.

--------------------
"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." -Arundhati Roy

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AnotherAnon
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Thanks for the advice. I've been reading the material and thinking things over. I guess my biggest issue is uncertainty as to what gender identity really is. Is it just how you think? How you feel? What kind of avatar you choose on websites? Is it the kind of thing where I'm wrong to ask if I have to ask? If I could get some clarification of what gender identity means, that would be great.
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Karybu
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Gender identity can be a pretty complex (and unfortunately, somewhat vague at times) term to define, but generally what it means is this:

A person's own sense of whether and in what sense they feel they might be a man, a woman, a boy, a girl or gender nonconforming.

(That's from the main site glossary, here: http://www.scarleteen.com/glossary/term/3319)

From what you've said here, it sounds like your gender identity is somewhat feminine, and that sometimes at least, you would like to be perceived by others as being female or feminine. Does that sound about right?

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"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." -Arundhati Roy

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AnotherAnon
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Yes, that's right. I like being perceived as female and dislike being perceived as male. I guess I'm reluctant to claim any trans identity for fear of really being a boy, maybe just confused from sexism, and maybe I'd offend real trans people.

I read a thing where a trans person was talking about having neurological mapping incongruent with their biological sex, producing effects similar to phantom limb syndrome where the person experiences sensation from amputated limbs. I don't have that map thing, though. Do you need to have that to be trans?

I'm sorry; I feel rather idiotic talking about this. I just would really like information to answer these questions anonymously, so I hope you don't mind me posting here.

[ 09-03-2010, 09:22 PM: Message edited by: AnotherAnon ]

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Heather
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You're not being at all idiotic.

There's nothing anyone "has to have" to be trans. Being trans is a chosen gender identity, based on the way a person themselves feels. There are some medical standards for hormone therapies and SRS, but standards for those things aren't the same as standards for identifying your own gender yourself.

I'm not sure how, in your head, you're conceptualizing who "real" trans people are. In my book, and per what you'll hear most trans people say, who is a "real" trans person is the person who feels their gender is, effectively, the opposite of their assigned sex. What's real is based on what feels real.

Can you give me a sense of your timeline in all of this: both your timeline in having the feelings you have about your gender, but also your timeline in finding information about trans/gendernonconforming identities?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Djuna
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Anon, welcome to the boards! [Smile] I'm sorry to hear your family isn't being supportive with this - as Karybu says, that's really to do with their own feelings about gender, not yours. I have a similar deal with my family.

Too, being interested in feminism isn't something that's 'weird' for someone who's biologically male, or who identifies as male. Feminism is probably where I want to focus in grad school, and a lot of my lecturers for that are male.

Current feminist theory has a lot to do with deconstructing gender (you say you've been doing a lot of reading, so you probably are familiar with that idea). So it follows that an interest in that isn't (or shouldn't be) a gendered trait.

As for what constitutes gender, it's actually a linguistic term. It has to do with grouping nouns according to arbitrary rules in order to know what to do with them grammatically. In European languages, that usually takes the form of a male/female binary - and you can say then that gender has to do with grouping people and things according to arbitrary rules in order to know what to do with them societally.

Swahili, for example, has four genders, which if memory serves are roughly masculine, feminine, foods and tools. Navajo has ten genders. And at that point (for me, anyway) it becomes clear that whatever 'gender' is, it's pretty much a made-up story that gets pushed upon us.

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AnotherAnon
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Thanks for the helpful discussion.
quote:
Can you give me a sense of your timeline in all of this: both your timeline in having the feelings you have about your gender, but also your timeline in finding information about trans/gendernonconforming identities?
Well, I've wanted to be a girl since kindergarten or so. I first learned about trans people from an episode of Judging Amy when I was around 12. The plot involved a male-to-female kid, and I recall thinking that it made perfect sense and wishing I could have just decided to be a girl like the kid did in the show, but gave it no further thought. Some years later, I got into this online fiction with transgender themes and that has a lot of trans people in its fanbase. I followed links to some transgender info sites, where I really started learning serious information on the subject.

When I stumbled into an androgynous look and found myself happy to be seen as a girl, I started considering if I were trans. I've gone through periods of serious consideration, which tend to taper off and start back up again a few months later. I think a lack of sufficient information is the main reason I periodically give up. I keep meaning to post on various LGBT boards, but they always looked imposing. So now, I've posted here. *shrug*

quote:
Too, being interested in feminism isn't something that's 'weird' for someone who's biologically male, or who identifies as male. Feminism is probably where I want to focus in grad school, and a lot of my lecturers for that are male.
That does strike me as surprising. I would estimate that in the general male population, those that would be into feminism would be in the extreme minority. Though feminism is unpopular, it surely is of much higher standing in the general female population. That in mind, it seems terribly ironic for there to be a lot of males in the business of teaching feminism. I would expect the demographic to remain in the minority, or am I missing something?

quote:
Current feminist theory has a lot to do with deconstructing gender (you say you've been doing a lot of reading, so you probably are familiar with that idea). So it follows that an interest in that isn't (or shouldn't be) a gendered trait.
I would agree that it shouldn't be, but that's different from what is. Sexism is deeply ingrained in our society and most people just internalize it without much thought. As males are benefited by the sexism (primarily), they are more likely to dismiss feminism or feminist concerns. A boy being so pro-girl is very unusual in my experience.

quote:
As for what constitutes gender, it's actually a linguistic term.
I don't see the relevance. I've read that gender used to mean just "type", and feminists borrowed it to describe sexes' norms and such as social constructs, separating physical sexes and abstract relation to sexes, dubbing the latter gender. In modern English, gender really means three things: sex, gender identity, and gender as the social construct.

quote:
it becomes clear that whatever 'gender' is, it's pretty much a made-up story that gets pushed upon us.
Language is an abstract creation used to communicate ideas. Some languages have flaws that make it hard to communicate and can impose an incorrect perception. I can't see the relevance to the conversation, though.

If you cite language as a definition of the world, you can twist it any sort of ways. It really isn't, though. A homophobe with a poor knowledge of history once insisted that homosexuality couldn't be natural because "gay" really means "happy" and therefore the recent ideology of homosexuality didn't exist until homosexuals stole the word in the '60s. I don't see how citing "gender" as really meaning a category of nouns to make a point about the arbitrariness of a "gender binary" is much different. Words change. I'm sorry if I'm missing something, but I just don't get it.

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Heather
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Bypassing the discussion about gender and language, I want to address your timeline.

In a word, you've obviously been having these feelings for quite a long time, and since before you probably had any solid sense of the impact of sexism. In other words, I hear you expressing feelings those who are trans or otherwise gendernonconfoming -- identities that often tend to first be expressed pretty early in life -- tend to express. This doesn't sound intellectual or situational to me, it sounds very emotional and personal.

Have you been able to get your hands on that Kate Bornstein book yet? Or, has anyone suggested "The Transgender Child" before? That'd be a good one, too.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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AnotherAnon
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I checked the gay/lesbian section at Barnes and Noble, but they didn't have either. Because of privacy issues, I'm hesitant to buy that kind of thing from Amazon. I have, however, skimmed through the books via the sample pages offered online.

I don't know. "The Transgender Child" makes it seem likely that I'm not really trans after all. All those referenced kids are very assertive about their gender identity at a young age, knowing that it's incongruent with what adults say they should be. I've been more like a boy that wanted to be a girl than a girl told she's a boy, and I've always been reserved about it rather than assertive (as in that being at the forefront and not just personality differences). I guess that doesn't rule out the genderqueer identity, though.

"My Gender Workbook" is interesting mainly because I haven't heard those kinds of ideas expressed like that before. It's kind of hard to understand. Maybe I need to read the whole thing to get it. I just don't feel comfortable trying to order it, though. I prefer the free online resources for that reason.

This is an emotional subject for me, and I'm trying to word this rationally to be useful. I really want to be a girl, and the thought of being trans feels good to me because then I'd be a girl at the mind, which is the core element, but I'm probably just kidding myself. I have some hope for the genderqueer thing as I don't want to be boy-like and that at least legitimizes that. Thanks for providing information to help me think this over.

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Heather
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Not everyone trans knows from childhood, though. And in your posts here, you also did seem to be expressing feelings of gender conflict from pretty early ages. Ultimately, I'd not say that's a book that's good for just a sample page skim, because it's just not that simple.

With the books and bookstores, when they don't have them, you can always ask them to special order for you.

But if you ant some other good reading that's online, if you're not yet familiar with Julia Serrano, she's amazing: http://www.juliaserano.com/

Also, Kate keeps a blog online: http://www.katebornstein.typepad.com/

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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AnotherAnon
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The thing is that I have a disability that makes it hard to do things without assistance from someone like my mom, especially outside the house. I have privacy surfing the Internet, so I prefer anything I can view for free online. Thanks for the links.

I've been thinking about the trans thing a lot lately. I've been looking at blogs and downloading podcasts, trying to learn more and make sense of my issues. My main conflict is trying to understand if what I've got is real serious transgenderism or just misandry. I am a bit sexist, which I'm trying to work through, but I don't know if it's all that. All these real transgender people talk about gender dysphoria, which one person describes as like when you break your arm and see the wrongness of your form disfigured, and I'm not sure I really have that. But on the other hand, I have taken efforts to develop a feminine appearance to the point that I can look in the mirror and favorably compare myself to a girl, so maybe I've just worked past that?

I'm worried about being a poser. I've read on the blog Questioning Transphobia about cis people appropriating trans identities, and I don't want to do that. I don't want to offend any real trans people.

(On a side note, how is "cis" pronounced? Is it like "sis" or "kiss" or something else entirely?)

The thing about me being young when I first wanted to be a girl is - I don't think it's necessarily a "gender conflict" as in dysphoria. I just felt admiration and wanted to be a girl. I also disliked sexist gender role stuff like where I couldn't wear makeup or be called pretty because I was a boy, and I thought it was unfair that girls couldn't join the Cub Scouts, so I think it's a mistake to say I wasn't aware of sexism at that age. Does that count as "gender conflict"? Could I just be sexist?

I also have been offended in the past from anti-male comments. The world is committed to this big "battle of the sexes", so there are sexist comments flying everywhere. I used to be offended by anti-male comments, and these days I just kind of analyze them from an outsider's perspective. I don't know; "Gender Workbook" describes people changing gender over time. Could that be a plausible thing in my case?

Thanks for the help in answering my questions.

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