Is it a little or a lot?


There was a pretty good Fresh Air yesterday based on a book, Trans Bodies, Trans Selves.

The new book Trans Bodies, Trans Selves is a collection of essays describing the varied experiences of transgender people — and the social, political and medical issues they face. It’s written by and for transgender and gender-nonconforming people.

The idea was inspired by the groundbreaking 1970s feminist health manual Our Bodies, Ourselves.

That book “was put together … by a group of women who … weren’t getting the care that they needed from what was mostly male physicians at the time,” the book’s editor, Laura Erickson-Schroth, tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “And so they put together this really radical book that included topics like abortion and rape and lesbian identity. And this was something that I thought we could duplicate — something that was written by and for trans people about all aspects of life.”

Sounds like a plan.

There is relatively new language within the transgender community, like “cisgender,” which means not transgender, says Jennifer Finney Boylan, who wrote the introduction to the book. Finney Boylan transitioned from male to female.

“It’s worth noting that it didn’t seem that this was a word that people knew we needed for a while,” Finney Boylan says. She’s a professor of English at Colby College and the author of several books, including Stuck in the Middle with You: Parenthood in Three Genders. She is now a writer-in-residence at Barnard College.

The book covers all ages, including a chapter about gender-nonconforming children written by Aidan Key. He’s the founder of the family education and support organization Gender Diversity and co-founder of Seattle’s Transgender Film Festival.

I was gender-nonconforming as a kid. (I still am, but now nobody yells at me about it.) (Well, except for harassers of course, but they don’t count.) I never ever ever wanted to wear skirts.

Key transitioned from female to male.

“I never felt female, and I don’t fully feel male,” he says. “And I’m not sure whether that’s my innate sense of myself or just because of … my socialized experience in life. But I do feel at peace and at ease with who I am, and when people ask me questions about my gender I say, ‘I’ve got a lot of it!’ “

I liked that line; it made me laugh. Is it a lot though, or is it a little? Not feeling fully either one seems like less gender rather than more. I don’t know – I’m always hesitant to talk about it because I really don’t know.

Comments

  1. moarscienceplz says

    I never ever ever wanted to wear skirts.

    When I was in elementary school and middle school, it was against the school rules for girls (and I think female teachers, too) to wear pants, except on Friday. Finally, when I was in 5th grade, a lot of girls and some (but not all) of the female teachers pointed out how dumb that was, and it was finally done away with.

  2. says

    I got fussed at recently by an older woman for starting a Girl Scout troop because “I’m too masculine to work with girls.” I’m a pretty masculine-appearing cis woman and a Boy Scout leader, and even though the first meeting we did with the girls, we embroidered tea towels (which is what the girls wanted to do), my boots and jeans and deep voice made me A Bad Example. No amount of feminine-gendered hobbies can apparently make up for my flaws in the clothing and body department.

    Sigh.

  3. Claire Ramsey says

    A possible way to think about quantities of gender might be considering what one samples from. If you sample from only one gender, say, female, then you can select anything from <1 to 100. Hypothetically, that is, in the system I have just invented. But if you feel free to sample from all genders, then you could get a lot more gender for your money. You could get a combination that adds up to 200. Or more, maybe 300. (It is a new system and the bugs need to be worked out).

    That's my new system for measuring gender sampling for fun and profit, and I'm sticking to it.

  4. M can help you with that. says

    I think it can go either way.

    Feeling and identifying as something other than or in between “man” and “woman” can mean that in terms of gender one can be, well, “a little or a lot.” And the two aren’t equivalent. Just by what you quote, for instance, it sounds like Aidan Key may have a wealth of gender feelings — some like a man, some like a woman, some just like Aidan. Other people — me, for instance — might just feel very little affinity for any gender. We’re both genderqueer, but in “maximalist” or “minimalist” flavors. I tend to think that my inclinations lead to an easier time, since it doesn’t deny a major part of my identity when I’m taken as a plain cis man — but the “easier” there is a matter of privilege, and I’d fail at solidarity if I didn’t take the opportunity to insist that “a bit of both” is entirely as important to respect as “not much of either.” (And yes, “either” and “both” there should be “many” and “any.” Instead of pretending I didn’t slip into the binary there, though, I’ll leave it in and add this correction.)

  5. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Ophelia, you might try looking through my post
    over here.

    In particular, I feel like “gender non-conforming” is a lot less useful than others seem to think it is, while gender mores (defined in that post) helps create a much narrower fuzzy line between cis* experience and trans* experience.

    Finally,

    Is it a lot though, or is it a little? Not feeling fully either one seems like less gender rather than more. I don’t know

    While I salute your ability to talk about not knowing, this seems to not merely “not know” but to actively embrace stereotype.

    To be something other than masculine is to have less (of a certain type) of gender?
    To be something other than feminine is to have less (of another certain type) of gender?
    There are only 2 types, ever?

    That’s something you ought to think about.

  6. says

    Crip Dyke – to answer your last 3 questions – no, no, and no. I wasn’t saying that. Thinking about it is what I was doing. I was not actively embracing stereotype.

  7. says

    To elaborate just a little, I’ve never considered “masculine” and “feminine” to be particularly meaningful words. I don’t use them, and when I hear or see them, they generally strike me as being more to do with policing than anything else – they’re not particularly descriptive or precise.

    And why the fuck you would assume I’ve never thought about any of this is beyond me.

  8. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    I don’t assume you’ve

    never thought about any of this

    What I read you say was,

    I don’t know

    Which I specifically called out as a great thing to say. I try very hard to admit where I don’t know instead of allowing vanity to deceive others (or myself) into believing I do have relevant knowledge.

    I was complimenting you and responding to

    I don’t know – I’m always hesitant to talk about it because I really don’t know.

    with other perspetives/information.

    Why the fuck do you assume that when someone actually believes what you say when you say “I don’t know” that that means the other person believes you’ve “never thought about any of this”?

    What’s with your response is fucking beyond me. Seriously.

    If this is how you generally treat trans* people trying to help you out when you engage in your rare attempts at speaking about trans*-related topics, I can think of another factor besides your ignorance that may be contributing to fewer fucking conversations.

    If you’d like to have a go at explaining how you arrive at the statement:

    Not feeling fully either one seems like less gender rather than more.

    which is ***very fucking specifically*** a statement that
    1) a person who is less than fully a man (less masculine)
    and
    2) less than fully a woman (less feminine)
    3) has less gender.

    This could only possibly be true if a) knowing masculinity and femininity were sufficient because other gender options aren’t available – otherwise how would you know less gender exists for that person, they could have TONS of gender 3, 14, and 256.

    There may indeed be an interpretation of your statement that fully conforms with those words **and** somehow manages not to make statements 1, 2, and 3 (and in the process requiring the assumption that you know enough to know whether less or more gender exists – not “actively embracing the stereotype,” but engaging in reasoning that doesn’t appear to follow a logical flow unless it implicitly includes the assumption).

    I’d be happy to hear it. I’d learn something – at the very least about your communication style, but probably significantly more than that.

    But in the meantime, why don’t you stop assuming that I believe you’ve never thought about things just because I disagree with you and attempt to provide a different analysis of your statement that might be helpful to the kind of person who might make the statement, “I don’t know”?

    I’m no tone troll, and I don’t really give a fuck about your tone, but I do notice that you certainly come across as defensive on topics related to trans* experiences. You might consider the possibility that you respond differently to trans* statements about your writing (not necessarily even critiques, which my #6 wasn’t) that appears to contain suggestions that further thought or new information might be useful.

    Why are trans* suggestions of new information or suggestions of topics to think about less welcome to you (if they are, in fact, less welcome as they appear to me to be) than
    suggestions of new information or topics to think about from people explicitly writing from other perspectives?

    I never assume you hate trans* people or your heart isn’t in the right place, but I don’t know why I should be subjected to extra hostility (if, in fact, I am and that isn’t an erroneous perception on my part) compared to people who chime in about race and racism or the particularities of a Buddhist context or whatever the fuck.

    I personally would love to only receive the hostility I’ve actually earned.

  9. says

    Why the fuck do you assume that when someone actually believes what you say when you say “I don’t know” that that means the other person believes you’ve “never thought about any of this”?

    What’s with your response is fucking beyond me. Seriously.

    Because everything after the quoted passage looked like a rebuke ending with an accusation of not having thought about it. That’s what “That’s something you ought to think about.” looked like to me.

    Also, the part after the quoted passage reads as if it (you) took my comment a good deal more seriously and literally than I meant it. It was just a small rumination, an expression of uncertainty about what was meant. It wasn’t intended as a firm and vehement insistence that anything in your 3 questions was the case. So no, it wasn’t very specifically a statement that anything. I would think that the word “seems” if nothing else would hint at that.

    If this is how you generally treat trans* people trying to help you out when you engage in your rare attempts at speaking about trans*-related topics, I can think of another factor besides your ignorance that may be contributing to fewer fucking conversations.

    You seem to be assuming I know in every case that trans people are trans people, but I don’t. I have no idea, in fact.

    The extra bit of hostility (or irritability, I would call it) in my last sentence came from your apparent suggestion that I hadn’t thought about the oddities of gender before. But you’re right, that probably wasn’t warranted. I don’t know who commenting here is trans and who isn’t, so by the same token, people commenting here don’t know much about me.

  10. HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr says

    Thank you, Crip Dyke, seriously. I really don’t get why anything at all related to new trans information gets this response here. It’s weird and honestly so incongruous.

  11. says

    What? What is this now? What is this about how “anything at all related to new trans information gets this response here”? There was my response to one comment last week, and my response here. That’s two. Is that enough to warrant this generalization?

  12. HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr says

    The comment and doubling and tripling down last week, plus this, is honestly surprising. That’s why people are upset about it. It’s incongruous, as I said, for you to be as curt about something like this. I could definitely be wrong, and just be seeing it as a thing because I was rather hurt by last week, but I know I’m by far not the only one who was, and who was surprised by that and this. That’s all.

  13. says

    Right – well I said I was probably too brusque last week. I probably was.

    On this one – I don’t think I’m doubling or tripling down. I didn’t say much of anything in the first place, and all I’m saying is that I didn’t say much of anything in the first place. It’s not as if “more” or “less” gender is some kind of self-evident Thing, and I wasn’t making a firm claim about it in any case.

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