“Why do you care about being called a woman?”


A commenter on my latest video asked:

So I’m just confused… What is the difference between being a man and being a woman? Gender stereotypes are just myths aren’t they? So why do you care about being called a woman? I’m not saying I don’t want to call you what you want to be called, I’m just honestly confused. It’s fine with me for you to dress, groom, and be labeled however you chose, but if you don’t have preconceptions about gender roles, then why believe you’re really a woman? Pardon my ignorance, I really want to learn.

First off, I should point out that I’m currently not as insistent on this point as others may be. I’ve spent a great deal of time keeping my gender intentionally ambiguous and telling people I’m fine with either set of pronouns, and I don’t think I can be all that taken aback when they continue to act accordingly. I understand that most people who refer to me as male probably don’t intend it in a derogatory sense. And the few who obviously do mean to insult me via intentional misgendering have laughably overestimated how much I actually care. So you angrily called me a man? Whoa, watch out guys, we’ve got a badass over here…

But while this may not be so important to me right now, it can still be important to other trans people, and understandably so. Unlike cis people, we’ve had to fight for our gender – for who we are, and for how we’re viewed. The process of finding and becoming who we are, mentally as well as physically, is far from easy, and even after we’ve accomplished that, being accepted as who we are by the rest of the world is a whole other challenge. Cis people have their gender served to them on a silver platter from the moment they’re born: they know who they are, and so does everyone else. Their gender is above questioning, and they aren’t required to put any amount of effort into recognizing that they are their gender, accepting themselves as that gender, and being fully accepted as their gender by all of society. But trans people are, and it shouldn’t be surprising that many of us want our struggles to be recognized in the most basic and unimposing way: by simply acknowledging who we are. We didn’t spend six years in evil medical school to be called “mister”, thank you very much.

And even without taking the challenges faced by trans people into account, recognizing and respecting someone’s gender is a basic and well-established article of courtesy. When you ask us “why do you care about being called a woman?”, you could just as well ask a cis man “why do you care that people call you a man rather than a woman?” But it’s notable that nobody really does bother to ask such questions of cis people. When cis people expect that their gender will be acknowledged by others, no one balks at this. It’s so utterly normal that no one even notices it. They only make an issue of it when trans people expect the same.

I’m sure that some people might respond, “well, no one should care about being addressed by their gender, whether they’re cis or trans”. While the validity of this sentiment can certainly be discussed, it simply doesn’t reflect reality at this time. The fact is that people largely do care about having their gender respected and not being continually and intentionally misgendered. It should not be any more questionable when, like most others, trans people care about this as well.

If it were normal for no one to be bothered when they’re addressed as a gender other than the one they identify as, and such careless and carefree misgendering was commonplace and accepted, and we were the anomalous ones for making an issue out of it, then yes, it would be quite legitimate for you to ask us why we care. But this is not the case. And as long as the expectation of being treated as one’s identified gender remains a norm, suggesting to trans people that we shouldn’t care about this essentially means asking us to expect less than cis people, who probably aren’t going to stop caring about having their gender respected any time soon.

Why do we care about this? Go ahead and ask yourself: Why does anyone? The answers aren’t all that different.

Comments

  1. wajib says

    I normally prefer text to video, but this time I really want to hear you say “Whoa, watch out guys, we’ve got a badass over here!”

  2. Cara says

    Almost no one directly misgenders cis people as an insult, so if I called a cis person by the wrong pronouns or honorifics they’d probably be more confused than annoyed. (Though watch how fast
    most people apologize to cis people after accidentally misgendering them!) However, questioning a cis man’s masculinity will insult most cis men, and the same for cis women and their femininity. Cis people do care about their genders and being misgendered, they just care about it in different ways than trans people do because people don’t attack cis people’s genders the same way they do trans people’s.

    • says

      It’s really weird, but I get misgendered occasionally. It doesn’t bother me at all, but I don’t identify as strongly with my gender as many other cis-woman do. My son gets misgendered as well, but he is five. :)

      It really depends on the person, obviously.

      People DO use misgendering as an insult to cis-men, however. That’s done quite a bit.

      It’s pretty upsetting really, that misgendering a cis-man is considered a high insult as well as using female-gendered slurs, but not so much the other way around (at least not to the same extent).

    • Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

      Perhaps as regards adults; in my experience it’s routine in playground insults.

    • says

      Almost no one directly misgenders cis people as an insult

      “Come on, ladies! You’re playing like a bunch of girls out there!”

      “Stop being such a little bitch!”

      I saw a wrestling show on tv sometime this year where Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson referred to another man as having “lady bits”.

      It seems to me the two go-to insults men throw at each other are calling one another a woman or gay.

      • says

        Funnily enough, as a boy I never minded being called a girl! I actually used to enjoy it (though I never went so far as actually flat-out encouraging it — or maybe I did try it once, but received a sufficiently stern punishment to make me avoid repeating it and block out the memory).

        It always ticked me off that e.g. “George” (Georgina) from the Famous Five books was more socially acceptable than the other way around — for instance, a boy named Andrew dressing and acting like a girl and calling himself Anne.

        • says

          Before I even acknowledged to myself that I was trans, being gendered as a woman just made my day. Even moreso when I wasn’t even trying.

    • SG says

      “Almost no one directly misgenders cis people as an insult, so if I called a cis person by the wrong pronouns or honorifics they’d probably be more confused than annoyed.”

      My correction to that: almost no one directly misgenders cis people as an insult and really means that they think the cis person is a gender other than the one they are. When a playground bully calls a boy a girl, they both know that the bully doesn’t actually believe the boy is a girl, but that the bully is claiming that the boy is like a girl, or is of the same status as a girl among the social group of boys. When someone refers to a trans women as a transsexual male, or intentionally uses the wrong pronouns, it is always a direct denial of the gender of that person.

    • says

      A lot of people directly misgender ‘Dirt’ as an insult.

      In addition, people implicitly misgender butches, lesbians and gays, and feminists as insults, as they do trans people. I suppose to some tradcons I must be “a man who wants to be a woman who wants to be a man.”

  3. says

    Being mis-gendered, especially intentionally, is very difficult for my nephew. He constantly gets the, “Really, that’s your name?” with the inevitable story about some “other girl” they know with a “cute” masculine name.

    Ironically, the problem would be lessened if fewer people got offended by being mis-gendered.

    For the first time, in possibly forever, he mentioned his name and the person he was talking to thought about it, paused, and then asked, “Do you identify as male or female?”

    “Male!” he said, and that was that.

    How much easier would it be for trans people if this were universally considered a polite question?!

    It made his frickin’ day.

    • Tigger_the_Wing says

      How much easier would it be for trans people if this were universally considered a polite question?!

      This. If every single person were always asked this, there would be no more problem. The appeal to a perfect future, “Wouldn’t it be better if gender didn’t matter?” leading to the title of this blog post “Why do you care about being called a woman?” need never be raised again. I liken it to “If everyone were bisexual, no-one would need to identify as homosexual!” Not going to happen, folks.

      But most cis-gendered people probably won’t accept that. They seem to expect everyone to know, without asking, which gender they identify as (just as straight people expect to be accepted as straight without question). They generally become extremely upset when misgendered, or even merely asked, while at the same time expecting trans* people to put up with whatever gender they want to assign to us! Some even call us ‘deluded’ for insisting that we know full well which gender we are, thank you very much, even if that doesn’t happen to match what they think. They really think that their views trump ours.

      And yet, as your nephew shows, it is such an absurdly simple and painless way to make someone very happy indeed.

      (I’ve a horrible feeling it’s because they really think that anyone who isn’t exactly like them is actually not fully human.)

  4. drakepitts says

    I’m an ignorant and confused cis-gendered person when it comes to gender issues, so if I say anything that is considered rude or disrespectful, please explain so to me so I don’t make the same mistake in the future.

    I’ve always wondered why trans* people will identify as a given gender while rejecting the notion that gender roles are valid. What does it mean to identify as a woman when you reject gender roles/stereotypes/binariness? It seems like the whole notion of gender relies on gender roles and stereotypes to be meaningful because stereotyping is what is being done when we are talking about gender: we are generalizing about a group of people based on common characteristics among members of the group. This stereotyping is, of course, oversimplified and leads to many members of the gender to not fit the mold. It seems we would be better off to do away with the whole gender system since the best we can do with it is stereotype and that’s something we’d rather not do. I’d love to hear other people’s take on this.

    • Emu Sam says

      Binariness should be easy. “I identify as this (small set of) point(s) on the million-dimensional graph that defines a human, and it happens to be more female than male. That’s me. These female, bookish, athletic, green, crazy points.”

      Stereotype should also be easy. “Sure I know people who are kind of close to the point you describe, but no one entirely like that, and I’m way away from it regardless of which role (work, friend, family) I’m enacting.”

      Rejecting gender roles might be a bit tougher depending on definitions. The post might be read as saying that most people don’t reject gender or some of the roles that come with it. Or I might just repeat the stereotype objection.

    • says

      I just posted on broadly the same issue in another thread. But, to paraphrase myself: Because we’re not there yet.

      A society which did not have the gender binary is just so hard to imagine when you are living in one that does.

      For my part, I just sort of realised that it made less sense to think of myself as a man with so many deviations from the cultural ideal of what a man should be, than as a woman with just one deviation from the cultural ideal of what a woman should be. Framed in those terms, the situation is a whole lot more tractable.

    • Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

      A better conceptual frame might be “how, in the absence of gender roles and gender policing, would ‘being a man’ or ‘being a woman’ be described to someone who doesn’t immediately ‘get it’ intuitively?”

    • Vicki says

      Do you also ask feminist cis women why we care about being seen as women when we reject sexist stereotypes?

      If a cis man rejects the idea that men can’t show emotion, do you assume that he doesn’t identify as male?

      You’re looking at different questions here: “Being a woman doesn’t make me weak” and “Being a man doesn’t make me violent” are different statements from “there’s no such thing as gender.”

      I think part of why most people, cis and trans*, care about having their gender seen correctly is that we’re told that this is the, or one of the, most important attributes about a person. The first question most people ask about a baby is “Boy or girl?” Not “Is the baby sleeping well?” or “Is the baby healthy?” or “Did you have a difficult labor?” even though sleep deprivation is so common among mothers of infants that it’s taken for granted.

      • drakepitts says

        Do you also ask feminist cis women why we care about being seen as women when we reject sexist stereotypes?

        If a cis man rejects the idea that men can’t show emotion, do you assume that he doesn’t identify as male?

        You’re looking at different questions here: “Being a woman doesn’t make me weak” and “Being a man doesn’t make me violent” are different statements from “there’s no such thing as gender.”

        I think part of why most people, cis and trans*, care about having their gender seen correctly is that we’re told that this is the, or one of the, most important attributes about a person. The first question most people ask about a baby is “Boy or girl?” Not “Is the baby sleeping well?” or “Is the baby healthy?” or “Did you have a difficult labor?” even though sleep deprivation is so common among mothers of infants that it’s taken for granted.

        Do you also ask feminist cis women why we care about being seen as women when we reject sexist stereotypes?

        I just did. The question was for everybody, not just trans* people. I used the word woman to phrase it for ZJ, but men could answer too. My point was that I don’t see why we should bother using gender as a way of labeling people. It seems unnecessary. People have this sentimentality with gender, but that’s just because the system is in place.

        I think part of why most people, cis and trans*, care about having their gender seen correctly is that we’re told that this is the, or one of the, most important attributes about a person.

        Well maybe we should stop telling people that. It’s one adjective that seems to cause more trouble than it’s worth. Of course, in the context of our current society this is pure idealism, but that doesn’t mean we should support the continued usage of gender-labels. Do we really need the abstraction of gender? If so, why? What are the pros and cons?

        • drakepitts says

          Also, disregard that I copied your post above mine. I just did that so I could reference it while I was replying to it since the comment box is for some reason anchored to the bottom. Bad design if you ask me. I just forgot to delete your post from the box when I was done.

  5. says

    drakepitts, I think that’s a really excellent question. I can’t speak for Zinnia or any transwomen, but here’s a couple of points I’d make, as a fellow cis anti-stereotype feminist. And one who thought like you when I first encountered these issues about 25 years ago.

    1. NOT all trans people reject gender roles at all – no more than all cis people do. In fact many of them, back in the day, bought into those roles very heavily. The hate-on that some old school radical feminists have for transwomen was not actually one-sided when it started. Fortunately, as time went by, most of us have learned better. It’s also important to note for context that the 1980s & 1990s gatekeepers for SRS imposed strong gender-role conformity as a requirement, even on transwomen who did not actually want to conform. It was femme-up or no hormones/surgery for you!

    2. My sex is not my gender. To me it feels totally normal to have breasts, a vagina, etc, just as much as it feels normal to have arms and legs. I would feel really weird and wrong if I woke up with tentacles instead of arms one day. There are brain mappings to body parts, and this brain function can be at odds with one’s actual body. Amputees have phantom limbs, why should not a transwoman have phantom female bodyparts, and feel really weird and wrong at having a penis?

  6. Tigger_the_Wing says

    To drakepitts; as Alethea H. “Crocoduck” Dundee said, gender presentation is separate from gender roles and both are separate from gender identity. For a simplified graphic of this, please see the Genderbread Person at http://itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/1600-Genderbread-Person.jpg.

    No amount of refusing to accept the traditional expression of either of the first two ever helped with the third.

    I have never reconciled my brains body-map with my actual body. As it happens, Alethea and I have met. In many ways, we appear similar to one another; as outwardly female, neither of us dresses/presents ‘traditionally’, behaves ‘traditionally’ or has followed ‘traditional’ roles.†

    Where we differ is that her brain is the same gender as her body and mine isn’t. As she said, her female body-parts have mappings in her brain; mine don’t. Instead, mine feel alien and I have phantom male-bits. Stereotype has nothing to do with it.

    Does that help?

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    † In my twenties, in some ways, I did try to be stereotypically female; I married young, had children (and even stayed home to raise the first three), did the whole housewifely bit. In my thirties I gave up because otherwise the depression and self-loathing would have killed me.

  7. Tony aka The Psychic Octopus [safe and welcome at FtB] says

    Tigger:

    To drakepitts; as Alethea H. “Crocoduck” Dundee said, gender presentation is separate from gender roles and both are separate from gender identity. For a simplified graphic of this, please see the Genderbread Person at http://itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/1600-Genderbread-Person.jpg.

    Thank you so, so much for that link. I read Zinnia’s post, and some of the responses, and was having a hard time grasping, well, pretty much everything. The gingerbread person explained some key issues discussed here in a way that I can grasp. I know there’s a lot more than I need to learn, but that was a tremendous start.
    Based on that (admittedly beginning level of understanding on my part), I’m :
    Homosexual
    Male
    Close to the masculine end of gender expression
    Uncertain about gender identity (I still don’t quite *get* this category).

    • Tigger_the_Wing says

      Remember, that graphic is very simplified (just not as simplified as the mythical ‘gender binary’).

      There are far deeper levels to every human being; the Genderbread Person is merely a jumping-off point.

      To put it simply, gender identity is the gender your brain feels it is. Cis-gendered means that the brain matches the body; trans-gendered means it doesn’t. A-gendered means that the brain doesn’t think of itself as either male or female. The brain is a sex organ; its sex needn’t be the same as your gonads would imply, nor does a brain’s gender have to be fixed, necessarily. Some people change from feeling male to female, and vice versa. How an embryo develops into one sex or the other is a complex, time-critical interaction between chromosomes, hormones and receptors; at any stage in the process things can take a different path to the most common one, leading to a person with mis-matched gender identity and sex.

      For instance, a male brain has a different number of neurones in some places compared to a female brain; for instance, in research undertaken 12 years ago on the brains of deceased persons, trans* women’s brains were found to be the same as cis-women’s brains, not cis-male brains. (http://jcem.endojournals.org/content/85/5/2034.full)

      Trans* people often have a mental body-map that doesn’t correlate with their pre-operative body (http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/imp/jcs/2008/00000015/00000001/art00001)

      It makes self-description complicated. Let’s take your self-description:

      Homosexual
      Male
      Close to the masculine end of gender expression
      Uncertain about gender identity (I still don’t quite *get* this category).

      1. Like you, I am exclusively attracted to men.
      2. My body is female. (Combined, these two make people most assume that I am a heterosexual woman.)
      3. My gender-expression is fluid; I dress anywhere from moderately-feminine to totally masculine but am usually somewhere on the masculine-end-with-a-feminine-twist (think men’s shoes, trousers, shirt and jacket but with a pink waistcoat or scarf) and after decades with waist-length hair I have had a close shaved head four four years. This has sometimes led to people assuming I am lesbian.
      4. But my gender identity is male. In other words, in my head I’m not a woman, but a gay man. What do you feel yourself to be, in your head? Does your body bother you in any way? Do your ‘bits’ feel alien? If not, if you feel comfortable in your shape, you are cis-gendered. Your brain is male gendered.

      Note that neither of us has yet mentioned gender roles; my cis-gendered, straight hubby is currently ironing. This afternoon he did the shopping and when he came home he cooked dinner. My sons did the laundry and the vacuuming. These are ‘traditional female’ roles, but because I am disabled I cannot do them†. However, even when I was more able, tasks still tended to be divided between us such that I did the traditional ‘male’ chores, like DIY, lawn-mowing and vehicle servicing, and hubby did the ‘female’ ones. Apart from my taking the primary role in child-care, we have more-or-less swapped traditional gender roles throughout our 34 year relationship.

      † I do what I am able when I can. Last week I built a desk with help from our lodger and I serviced my wheelchair last weekend.

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Try Natalie Reed’s “ESSENTIAL REEDING” for more information. This is a great starting point: http://freethoughtblogs.com/nataliereed/2012/03/21/gender-expression-is-not-gender-identity/

    • says

      My one issue with the categories used by the genderbread person is that the expression axis can be (and seems to me often is) badly misused. The graphic does point out that this is relative to local stereotypes, but this usually seems to be glossed over or reduced to trivialities.

      The definition is the “ways you act, dress, behave and interact.” In all of these cases, what is masculine or feminine is *heavily* culturally dependent. Attributes like “pink” and “long hair” and “wears jewelry” fluctuate over time and place as to which gender gets it.

      But what’s worse than that is that the categories are non-neutral, and yet people act as if they are and that feminine is just as good as masculine. But it’s not: the feminine is socially constructed as the lesser – in many ways such as intelligence, abilities, seriousness, assertiveness, strength, worthiness of respect and so on. It’s feminine to defer, step aside, flatter and serve.

      If we could split the presentation aspects off from the Stepford personality and other subservience displays of femininity, it would be a big improvement. Because if you like to wear pink and you’re also a kickass mathematician, then you’re so NOT socially feminine. And that angle is not depicted.

  8. A 'Nym Too says

    I will intentionally misgender cis people who disrespect someone’s gender identity. 24 hours of it really rattles them.

    Same goes for straights who persistently fucking well ask/talk about my partner, and ask how ‘he’ is doing, and what a good ‘man’ I have.* I flip their own script on them, and act as if they have same-sex partners, and act like it’s weird to be in an m/f relationship.

    *sounds farfetched, no? I was recently an inpatient in my local NHS hospital. Everyone was great except the ward sister, who’d apparently decided I was faking, despite multiple scans showing that I really was very ill.

    She repeatedly referred to “[my] BOYFRIEND visiting” or “calling [my] fella”. We’re both (on the surface) femme cis-dykes. It was really jarring, and the smirk, followed by the “Sorry, I meant your GIRLFRIEND” was really weird.

    Still, a few mentions of her ‘wife’, asking if ‘she’ worked in the hospital too, at least got her to say ‘partner’. It was weird, and very unsettling having to be washed and dressed by someone so overtly homophobic.

  9. says

    I would also like to point out that being called a woman when one is presenting as such is also a safety issue.

    I am currently taking a summer class and the teacher has started referring to me as “sir” and “he” in spite of knowing my trans status (I complained to the school and he was told). This has led to me being bullied in school and I have had people follow me out of the school which is very frightening.

    Whether I subscribe to the gender binary in relation to gender roles or not many people in society do and for trans woman this can literally be an issue of life or death. Someone using the wrong pronoun on me can put me in situation where I get killed.

    • Tigger_the_Wing says

      That is terrifying; and a reminder of just how dreadfully misogynistic society is. I am well aware that were I to transition completely F2M I would not face a fraction of the danger that M2F people like you face†, but there is still that extra worry.

      († because of the patriarchy; it’s perfectly understandable for someone to want to join the superior half of the human race, but who would want to be a gender traitor and join the wimminz? Ugh, I shuddered typing that.)

  10. says

    I used to think I didn’t care about getting “misgendered” because people would call me the “wrong” title about half the time, and it made me kind of happy, but then I realized I liked it because I was actually trans.

  11. says

    So..
    possible TMI?
    When I’m having sex, if the other person touches those blobs of fat on my chest, it doesn’t cause me discomfort or anything. Rather, I literally can’t feel anything. I can see, like, their hand on it… but I don’t feel anything. But if I touch them in the shower, while washing, I can feel it. Anyone else experience that?

  12. says

    The genderbread person is nice. But I don’t like the explanation of orientation. If you’re intersexed/androgynous/genderqueer, then the gay/straight terms don’t make sense. It’d be better, I think, to say androphilic/gynephilic, but still not perfect, as people could be attracted to someone based on their expression as opposed to their sex or gender, and idk maybe you could be attracted to people based on hair color. I don’t think it can be summed up on one little axis.

  13. left0ver1under says

    LGBT, transgendered, CIS, etc….too many labels! You’re confusing me!

    Can I just call you a person or a human being? Or is that now an inappropriate term?

    • Anna says

      You can call everyone a human being if that is what you in fact call them. If you call them by gendered pronouns or make referrence to their sexuality or gender identity then you need to use the vocabulary appropriate to be respectful of the individual.

      BTW, some labels are necessary, unless you want to buy the wrong soup. People are like that too. They want their indivduality recognized because we are not all the same and have differant needs. Calling me a human in a discussion about gender identity is not specific enough.

      • left0ver1under says

        Evidently the intent of the words was misunderstood by all three who responded. It was an attempt at humour, and to show that I see Zinnia and others as people, which means they deserve the same rights and protections that I get. (Why is everything without a smiley or qualifiers taken literally nowadays?)

        As well, which I didn’t say, I’m not against specific identities and those who are not bigoted don’t see them as negative. But when dealing with those who are bigoted (e.g. far right christians), specific identities become an excuse to treat people as not deserving of equal rights (i.e. gay people being fired from jobs, evicted and subjected to verbal and physical abuse). Bigots need to be made to see people as *people* first.

    • says

      Sorry, left0ver1under, but until the whole world starts seeing all people as human beings despite their differences, those differences matter and need to be addressed and acknowledged. Even if we get to that place of perfect equality, on some level a person’s specific identity is formed by those things, and can’t be disappeared.

      Plus when you say that, you sound like one of those “colorblind” people who “don’t see race” and therefore also don’t see all the racism going on around them and erase the actual cultural differences that exist.

  14. says

    Growing up as a wild cis girl, I hated being misgendered. It hurt so much. I had short hair (that’s a generous expression, I hardly had any hair at all, even the lice didn’t like it), I was a daredevil. But I was always a girl and I was so glad the day I was allowed to have my ears pierced.
    I have a serious problem with the whole idea of gender expression. It presupposes that there are certain things that are masculine and certain that are feminine and if you do the right one you’re more female and if not you’re less female.
    Really, that story about the pink berries was crap.
    But our society is salient with gender and gender-expression and it’s something I seriously struggle with: I really want to give my daughters the sense that they can do whatever they want and they won’t stop being girls for anything they do. On the other hand I’m afraid that engrains cis-normativity.

    As for people missgendering: us privileged cis-folks actually often don’t think about it. Casual cruelty. The difference is that decent people stop it once they’ve been told and the others are assholes

  15. Pen says

    I am one of those people who doesn’t care if people get my gender right or not. It’s part of how they perceive me, not part of how I perceive myself. My preference would be for de-genderised speech as much as possible anyway.

  16. says

    Every time I see something about this, there are inevitably fellow cis people who say “I don’t mind when I get misgendered”. I’m acutally surprised they haven’t showed up yet, maybe they will. To them: Misgendering is like an allergy. For most people, the more it happens, the more irritating (and then frustrating, and then devastating) it gets. Okay? So NO, you cannot relate because you got misgendered on Halloween, or whatever. Or even because you enjoy presenting as not-your-own-gender on occasion.

    Also, rambling on this general topic: for lots of cis people who do get misgendered regularly, the problem isn’t even that they can’t assert their gender; it’s that they begin to feel like their bodies are wrong, undesirable, that they are unlovable as members of their gender. I’ve noticed this a lot from butch lesbians, or from women with large muscular bodies, and/or who are athletes; and men who worry they’re too effeminate (to be sexy, or to be taken seriously) are quite common. I don’t really understand the effects of misgendering on trans people; I’ve always thought the primary effect must be like a forcible flashback to a time when one was miserable, or at least much less in touch with oneself. But these secondary messages of “you are not right for what we expect of someone of your gender, therefore you are wrong” may be part of it too.

  17. angelina says

    Thanks for this interesting piece.

    It is a subject that I find difficult to understand, personally, because I do not ever think about my gender. Whether that is because I am cis, or lean towards androgyny I do not know, but I have no concept of what it means to “feel like a woman/female”, aside from those times when my hormones go crazy once a month and it hurts like hell. I am also aware of emotional differences between myself and my friends, and that is something they are aware of too, “Anj is one of the guys, but we can talk about emotional shit”

    This is a conversation I have had with friends, and there are a wide range of responses, usually the majority say that there is a definite sense of gender for them, and they feel male or female, and feel that they are perceived and treated as a certain gender and a few who are not aware of these feelings.

    Maybe it is because I mostly associate with those of the opposite gender to me, so am completely used to “one of the guys”, “we are all men here”, or “Anj is just a guy without the attachments”.

    To me, Zinnia looks absolutely female, so I would refer to her as, well, her :) There have been a few people who I am not 100% certain of gender on first meeting them, so if I do not know their name I have tried to find out by asking the person who introduced us “oh, so what did your friend think of the bar we were at”, which then results in the answer “He/she thought X”.

    These have all been people who occupy the middle ground on gender identity though, so neither clothing nor appearance is markedly of one gender or the other.

    I understand that there is a deliberate hatred/fear underlying mis-gendering people, and that this can escalate to violence. It is not the same level as for trans people, but I have been harassed while out with a boyfriend because a group of men thought we were both male.

    In my experience, the majority of trans people I have met are very clearly identifiable as their gender, so any mis-gendering is deliberate and bigoted, and with the sole intention of causing hurt to the individual.

  18. Mylene says

    I never thought of it that way, so I’m glad you pointed it out to me. I can’t argue with anything you said about being called a woman, and it seems so obvious now. I am not transgender, and I am someone who never understood the experience of being transgender. I think that it must be more of an aesthetic problem than anything else, because to me, transgender LOOKS LIKE someone who cannot accept the reality of who they are. Someone who’s in denial. Which, incidentally, is ironic, because I’m sure that I’m personally in denial about certain realities myself. However, I’ve noticed that when people look more “real” to me, or more “natural,” it doesn’t bother me as much, accept that it implies that a football player looking guy dressed as a woman is not a fake because if I can accept one, I must be able to accept the other as true. Which makes me a hypocrite. It makes more sense now.

    • says

      I think that it must be more of an aesthetic problem than anything else, because to me, transgender LOOKS LIKE someone who cannot accept the reality of who they are. Someone who’s in denial. Which, incidentally, is ironic, because I’m sure that I’m personally in denial about certain realities myself. However, I’ve noticed that when people look more “real” to me, or more “natural,” it doesn’t bother me as much, accept that it implies that a football player looking guy dressed as a woman is not a fake because if I can accept one, I must be able to accept the other as true.

      If I tried to present as a man, that wouldn’t be the reality of who I am. That’s not just my opinion – you would actually notice it, because it would look utterly strange on me. I mean “football player looking guy dressed as a woman” levels of noticeable, just reversed.

  19. daenyx says

    Awesome post; wish I’d seen it sooner!

    I’m a ciswoman, and I have had cause to think about why I care that my gender is read correctly – I got asked why I cared so much on a regular basis when I was a child, because thanks to my short hair and tomboyish presentation, strangers gendered me male more frequently than female, and I HATED it. I lacked the conceptual vocabulary to answer my mother and other people then, but it’s been really interesting to revisit those memories as an adult.

    I cared so much as a kid because when someone misgendered me, it felt like an invalidation of my asserted identity. They weren’t seeing *me*, they were seeing my short hair and then filling in the rest. (I DID look more like the boys my age than the girls, so it was a pretty honest mistake, but that didn’t make it hurt any less when, for instance, I was announced as a medalist in the boys’ division of a martial arts tournament despite the “female” on my registration.) Now? My attitude has shifted, but I think that’s because no one would misgender me without a substantial effort on my part to look androgynous (and it would, at that point, be my CHOICE to make my gender ambiguous). Instead, I can compare the way I felt as a misgendered little girl to how I feel now when someone tells me I can’t possibly be queer, because my features and body are very conventionally feminine and/or because I’ve ever dated men. It’s an erasure of how I consider myself, and therefore, it’s offensive.

    • daenyx says

      (Addendum: I won’t begin to pretend I know what misgendering feels like to anyone else, trans* folks in particular. But the above is why I cared, and cared a lot, at the time.)

  20. says

    i consider myself male, always been physically male, never terribly ‘manly'(mucho manboobs though), but i’ve seen the ‘why do you want to bother identifying yourself as any gender at all?’ thing, in reverse, sorta. i mean, being told, to identify as the physical gender you’ve always been, is bad. that makes sense?

    being upset that you’ve been misidentified, gtfoi, if it’s ‘misidentified’, i.e. insult, good reason to be cranky. i can’t see it as all that important, if you dress a certain way, you have to be prepared to be identified that way, at least sometimes, by strangers. dressed in workboots, denim jacket with a bunch of spikes and vile green mohawk, someone’s gonna think ‘punk’. jumping to apologise for misidentifying someone, that’s almost like believing that you’ve intentionally, subconsciously, insulted someone, or that you risk your life for not making amends immediately, some day perhaps there won’t be a need, though there still is.

    i’ve always identified zinnia as female, that’s not the problem, problem is, at one time, i mixed her up with that happy goth person, the one in the vids that wipes boogers on people.

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