A Glossary Of Terms (Because Trans-Activists Won’t Answer Me)

Dictionary.com defines gender as “either the male or female division of a species, especially as differentiated by social and cultural roles and behavior”. It even gives an example: the feminine genderTypically, however, if you ask people who believe that “transwomen are women” and “a woman is anyone who identifies as a woman” for a definition of gender that does not refer to observable biological sex, you will not be provided with one. You’ll be told to educate yourself, even if you are yourself a literal transsexual. There is a good chance that you will be directed to purchase a $50 book to learn more. If you do so, after reading 300 pages of circular logic, you will be exactly where you started: with no cohesive definition of gender. Plus, you’ve just paid your debate opponent, because they wrote the book.

Oops!

Lacking a proper definition makes it impossible to have a discussion where all participants are on the same page. So I’ve made a list, because I like lists and I like putting things in my own words. Confusion and discord make people vulnerable to abuse and manipulation. If anyone disagrees with the definitions here, that is fine, but I certainly won’t be revising my definitions without a coherent, detailed, non-circular replacement. I would encourage anyone who agrees to do the same.



Sex:
Whether a person is male (has Y chromosome) or female (has only X chromosome). Whether a person’s body is set up to produce sperm or eggs.

Specific Terminology: Man & Woman describe the age, species, and sex of individuals. Man is an adult human male. Woman is an adult human female. Note that the terms Man and Woman describe a person’s sex, NOT their gender. Similarly, boy and girl describe young human males and females respectively, although these terms are also used for other species as terms of endearment, especially as humans may think of even animals as their “children”. For instance, a beloved dog may be a “good boy/girl”.

Gender: The societal and cultural aspects of each biological sex. Not to be conflated with sex. This includes roles, expectations, and behaviors typically associated with each sex. Examples include Masculine and Feminine- NOT Man and Woman. A Man may have a Feminine gender and vice versa.

Sex Dysphoria: When an individual perceives their biological sex as incorrect. This is usually described as distress over specific body parts. This does NOT include distress about social roles.

Transsexual: When an individual has taken steps to modify their body to superficially resemble the opposite sex in order to alleviate sex dysphoria. A transsexual person does NOT become the opposite sex. Note that because Man and Woman are descriptors of sex (and age/species), a transsexual Man does not become a Woman.

Transwoman: An accommodating term for a transsexual Man that denotes her (or his, biologically speaking) status as a transsexual. May be shortened to woman for the sake of politeness, although a Transwoman is NOT a Woman.

Transman: An accommodating term for a transsexual Woman that denotes his (or her, biologically speaking) status as a transsexual. May be shortened to man for the sake of politeness, although a Transman is NOT a Man.

Sex Identity: A person’s relationship to their biological sex. Note that experiencing distress about one’s biological sex does NOT make one a member of the opposite sex. A Woman who would prefer to be a Man is NOT a Man.

Gender Dysphoria: When an individual experiences distress over the social expectations set upon their sex. This does NOT include distress about body parts.

Transgender: When an individual has deliberately taken steps to present as a member of the opposite sex socially in order to alleviate gender dysphoria.

Gender Identity: The precise extent to which a person identifies themself as masculine, feminine, both, or neither. Not every person has a gender identity and each person’s gender identity is so unique that there is no possible way to describe each one. Man and Woman are NOT gender identities. Male and Female are NOT gender identities. You might call it your relationship to the expectations placed upon your sex and the opposite sex.

Gender Expression/Presentation: The precise combination of masculinity & femininity that a person presents to society at large. Not everyone pays attention to their gender expression/presentation. Again, Man and Woman are NOT gender expressions/presentations. Male and Female are NOT gender expressions/presentations. Man, Woman, Male, and Female are biological terms.



What do we mean when we say that trans activists will not define gender? Well, let’s have a look at the definition of… a definition.

Definition: noun

  1. a statement of the meaning of a word or word group or a sign or symbol
  2. the action or process of stating the meaning of a word or word group
  3. the action or the power of describing, explaining, or making definite and clear


Now let’s take a look at a definition of “Gender” provided by
Make No Assumptions. This is not intended to single out this particular group, but simply to provide an example of the circular definition that is being used in actual political and social debate.

Gender:
Gender is a term that refers to a myriad of different concepts and ideas, including a person’s gender (otherwise referred to as gender identity), and the social construct of gender which individual gender identities are in reference to.

In other words…
“Gender is a term that refers to… concepts and ideas, including … gender… and… gender which… gender identities are in reference to.”

Does this meet the definition of a definition? Is it a statement of the meaning of a word? Does it describe the word? Does it explain the word? Does it make the word clear?

No- it simply restates the same word several times. It is a circular definition– and a particularly egregious example of one at that.

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“A” Genderbread Person

agenderbreadperson
click me for a closer look

In the spirit of the month of December, during which it is common for adults and children alike to come together and craft communities made entirely of gingerbread in preparation for the holiday season, I’ve elected to be entirely Extra and have created this happy chap. Enjoy with your favorite hot beverage.

Original: The Genderbread Person

Sexual Orientation & Transphobia (or how, again, misconceptions can really mess you up)

Hello Ladles and Germs,

Today we’re going to talk about transphobia and sexual orientation and how they’re not the same thing. Ever. No matter what.

I’ll start with a Relatable Story. When I was around 12-13 years old, I had a crush on a boy. I really big crush. We’re talking diary We were friends and I liked his personality. This was my first full-blown, pubertal crush on a real-life boy who wasn’t an actor or a fictional character. He picked me up once, bridal-style, for just a minute, and I remember how much I didn’t want him to put me down.

He also happened to be gay. So a teen romance wasn’t in the cards. I knew that, but the crush happened anyway because these things aren’t rational, especially in children. It started out as “I wish he liked girls” pining and ended up as “If only I were a boy”. If only I were a boy, he would fall in love with me and… well, I wasn’t sure what happened after that. All I knew was that it would be perfect. Because Love. I can’t overstate how infatuated little-me was with this boy. I thought he was the only one for me. But I wasn’t a boy, so my True Love would never love me. I wasn’t a boy, so I was unloveable. I wasn’t a boy, so I was destined to be… alone.

a dysphoric option

Dude! That’s a TERRIFYING thing for a 13 year old to think!

Another interesting piece of information about me: I felt intense shame about having romantic feelings. Not just embarrassment, but severe anxiety. I don’t know the reason, but I suspect it’s not anything nice. So I kept my feelings to myself, meanwhile dealing with other ordinary adolescent problems and some not so ordinary ones. (I have a high ACES score.) There wasn’t really anyone around who I would have felt comfortable talking with- not about love or sexuality or “gender”. That’s a big deal! It’s probably something that should have been discussed in my pre-transition therapy, but it wasn’t.

Once my mixture of feelings had coalesced into the big, bad Sex Dysphoria that we all know and love, my brain rewrote this story to fit the narrative- to make some sense of it all. I was attracted to a gay boy because I was actually a gay boy too- I just… didn’t look like one. I had felt somehow “different” from my peers for a long time. I didn’t quite relate to my idea of a heterosexual girl, to what I saw in many of the girls around me. Maybe this was why! I mean, for a long time, even after starting to experiment, I didn’t realize females had vaginas- no, I mean the actual literal organ. I thought it was just the outer parts and then BAM- uterus. I had no idea that penetrative sex existed. I thought rubbing together was The Thing To Do. Clearly this meant that my body map was wrong, since I hadn’t managed to find that part of my body on my own.I’m going to be kind to myself here and say that I don’t blame myself for making the mistake of thinking I was a gay boy. I was in a bad environment and was not well.

Anyhow, this is all to say that the problem was never sex-based attraction. Sexuality isn’t transphobic. (No, not even that person who called your reproductive system icky. That’s a personality problem, not a sexuality problem lol.) The problem was with my perception. As with “male” and “female”, I was overcomplicating the words “heterosexual” and “homosexual”. They weren’t just words to describe something about people, they had certain connotations to them. When I identified as a trans man, it hurt knowing that the people who I regarded as “like me” would most likely not be interested in me in a romantic way, and it’s obvious to me now why it hurt so much. These feelings were old, festering wounds.

De-fanging words- concepts even- stripping them of all but their most basic meaning, has been comforting and necessary. Homosexual males not being attracted to females doesn’t need to hurt. Gay men go from “gay men who will never love me because my body is disgusting and wrong” to “uninterested people”. No need for more information because when it comes right down to it, that’s all that matters. Straight men go from “straight men who like the disgusting body I’d love to escape” to “people who might be interested”. Shockingly, there are bi/heterosexual males who actually LIKE androgynous or masculine females! Boyish women. And there are women who like willowy bald men with zero body hair and glasses. (It might be me.) Because men and women aren’t that different- it’s literally just your reproductive business. And if someone isn’t interested in your reproductive business, that’s fine, because someone else probably is.

Nice.

The hard part is finding someone who likes your stunning personality. 😉

My (Second) Coming-Out Letter

This will be brief. (Ish.)

I came out to my mom as trans when I was 17 years old, but it was a tentative sort of coming out. Four years later, when I turned 21, I wrote her a letter and emailed it to her- I guess hoping to more clearly outline my feelings and expectations. I’d like to point out that 21 is a milestone age, because we tend to take drastic actions at milestone ages- you know, like when I turned 25 and panicked and started transition.

I was 27 when I detransitioned. Not particularly noteworthy. Does that have any implications?

Anyway, I forgot about it for a while, but it turns out I still have a copy of it in my email account. So here it is, in all its glory. I’ll let you form your own opinions on it and on the author at the time.


Hi Mom,

This is the letter that I said I would write you ages ago. I’ll try not to write too much and if you have anything you want to ask, I’m willing to try to answer you. It’s easier to write answers than to say them, but if you really want to talk, I can even try that.

As I’ve told you before, I’m transgender. I know that I’m physically a girl, but mentally I’m a boy. For about 10 years, I’ve been very uncomfortable with my physical self. (It’s the reason I would cover up all the time in middle and high school, not because I was “cold” in [HOT PLACE] summers.) It’s called dysphoria, and it’s a horrible feeling. Honestly, I would like to be more social and outgoing, but every new person who calls me “she” and knows me as “her” only makes things worse. [BOY WHO LIKED ME] wanted a “girlfriend”, but I couldn’t say yes to that- and I felt terrible for making him wait for so long, just in case what you said (and hoped) was true: it was just a phase.

Mom, it’s not a phase. When I was little, I used to imagine I’d suddenly just morph and grow up into a guy. Since it became that was not how things worked, I have not been happy. I’ve been miserable and I know I’ve made the people around me weary too. But I’m really tired of being unhappy and spreading the gloom around. So I’m going to start taking baby steps to actually grow up the way I expected to when I was a little kid. (If you want to know what sort of steps those are, I don’t mind telling you, but you have to ask, not just tell me that you don’t know what to do.)

I’ve already asked my friends to start using the correct pronouns when it’s just us and peers. Even [FRIEND], who has known me almost as long as you have, has agreed- and told me that she was only upset that I had lied to her, my best friend, for so many years. But I need your cooperation too. I don’t expect you to suddenly start talking about me as “him” in front of family. If you want me to be honest, what I do hope is that you’ll attempt to be neutral- that you won’t use decidedly “girl” nicknames, or introduce me as your “daughter, [GIVEN NAME]” (I intend to change my name, too, not because I hate the name, but because I don’t feel that it’s “me”. I guess changing it would distance me from the character that I feel I’ve been playing for years- plus, I like playing with names.), and that you’ll attempt to avoid using pronouns when in front of strangers. Especially when I’m trying to present as male, which I usually am, unless I don’t have time and it’s extremely obvious…

In a perfect world, you would have figured out why I was different years ago and this wouldn’t come as a shock to you. You would already see me as your son, the way I’ve always seen myself. You wouldn’t continue to insist that it was a phase. You wouldn’t think that something is wrong with me. That’s what hurts the most: that you might dismiss it as something wrong with me and try to stop me. Please don’t do that. I want to make myself happy. There is nothing wrong with me, so don’t tell me that there is. Don’t go around asking other people for advice, or if they think it’s abnormal or weird; I’ll tell you right now that, while it might not be normal for them, it’s normal for me.

I apologize for being a little defensive in this letter, but I don’t think there’s anything that I feel more strongly about. I want you to take me seriously. I desperately want your love and support, but I’m tired of being a fake person to feel like I deserve it.

Alternatives to Transition: A step-by-step guide to thinking your way out of dysphoria without repressing it.

holderIf it’s not already obvious, dysphorics tend to read into eeeeverything.

To use a personal example: “Oh yeah, I was always the dad when I played house in Pre-K. I’ve always thought of myself as a boy, really.”

Nevermind that I also played the dog or the (apparently sexless) “baby”. Anyway, we’re thorough. We like having all of the information available… despite what our particular beliefs surrounding sex and gender would suggest lol. So that’s why I feel I should write this post- this entire blog, really. Although I don’t think I’m ultimately saying anything *Brand Spanking New*, I wanted to really break it down into steps, because steps are easier for me to understand than abstract ideas. “Accept your natural body” is an excellent sentiment, but it didn’t make sense to me when I thought my natural body was wrong.

The information I wanted from other dysphoric people was how they thought– how their very brains worked. How they rationalized their feelings, how they came to certain conclusions, how they perceived reality, what dysphoria felt like to them. Similarly, what I wanted from detransitioners was a literal guide to reframing your own thoughts. Some people phrased this as “unlearning internalized misogyny”, but that was too vague for me at the time. It also didn’t cover male detransitioners, with whom I felt (and feel) a kinship because I don’t think we’re really all that different.

I believe it is a misconception that people who ID as trans think male and female are the same and cannot distinguish between them. On the contrary, I’d suggest that dysphorics perceive the differences between the sexes to be even greater than they actually are.

Example:
I frequented trans subreddits for a time. A common worry was that “cis” people could tell they’re trans by the sound of their urination. Now, if you’re thinking “that’s absolutely mad, no one’s listening to you pee, and if they are, they’re probably just waiting for you to leave so they can poop in peace”, congratulations, you’re thinking rationally. But for a dysphoric person, this seems like a completely logical concern.

Neither sex is better or worse on its own- nature has no use for such value judgements- they are only different. But dysphorics are lost in analysis. We unconsciously exaggerate the strengths and weaknesses of the sexes- but particularly our own. We don’t know what being the opposite sex is like, but we definitely don’t like something about our own and perhaps see something desirable on the other side. True “Grass is Greener” style. Dysphorics are Pissed (with a capital P) that we didn’t get to choose our bodies. We assign a sort of almost-moral value to sex- to otherwise innocuous organs with no inherent meaning. For whatever reason- be it a certain type of personality, faulty thought processes, upbringing, or all of the above- we crave an explanation for something that most people understand intuitively. And being “trans” is the closest some get to The Answer.

Ultimately, sex is a physical trait like any other: short, tall, male, female. A product of nature- impartial, unfeeling, merciless nature. The result of many thousands of generations of humans and whatever creatures came before us, tracing all the way back to your most primordial ancestor.

Your biological sex is your birthright.

dysphovisionThis is not to disparage people who resemble the bottom pair, but such people are individuals with unique personalities and traits. They should not be the default image next to the dictionary definition of “man” and “woman”. Does this make sense??


“So you think you’ve got it all figured out, eh?”

I don’t know, I’m not a Mental Health Professional. I’m not anyone noteworthy or special. I’ve just thought about this a whole awful lot. In any case, here’s my proposal:

  1. First, you must be honest with yourself. I know this sounds like I don’t care about your feelings, but I do. Very much so. I want to help. Acknowledge that modern medicine can only make you look like the opposite sex. It cannot actually turn you into the opposite sex, any more than bleaching your hair makes you a natural blonde. Sex dysphoria- body dysphoria, that is- is ultimately a thought. A want. A desire for something that cannot be achieved. You can try anyway, but short of a miracle, you will fail. You may imitate, but if you are not happy with surface level imitation, you will not have a good time. You need to deconstruct the way you think about sex and start from scratch. Recognizing and working with your limitations is an important part of life.
  2. It’s surprising how big of an impact words can have. This is why pronouns and names are such a central part of discussing trans people. (How weird is that?) Stop thinking of yourself as a man or a woman. No, not in the trans way- we’re going to come back to them later. Whenever you think “I’m a man” or look in the mirror and think “that’s a female”, STOP. These words are tainted for you at the moment. Force yourself to think “that is a person” or “I am a human”.
  3. Take step 3 and apply it to people who are not you. If you find your first thought about someone is related to their sex, correct yourself: Person, Human, Individual. Don’t confuse yourself or anyone else- obviously you’re still going to be calling them he/she/Bob/whatever. Just make a quick note in your head that they are, like you, human.
  4. Once you have a better understanding of how all humans are the same, you can then begin to form an objective understanding of how the biological sexes differ. Start by thinking in terms of gametes, which I think are probably relatively neutral for most people- big gametes, little gametes. How is this different from trans language like “people who menstruate”? Well…
  5. Slowly start introducing the words “male” and “female”. Think of them only in the sense that they are a concise way to label a certain category of people. “I am a person who happens to be in the female reproductive category” is a mouthful, but it’s easier for a dysphoric person to accept than “I am female”.
    1. Male: of or denoting the sex that produces small, typically motile gametes, especially spermatozoa, with which a female may be fertilized or inseminated to produce offspring
    2. Female: Of or denoting the sex that can bear offspring or produce eggs, distinguished biologically by the production of gametes (ova) which can be fertilized by male gametes
  6. “Man” and “woman” should come last, being that they are the most loaded terms, socially speaking. Again, these will need to be thought of only in the sense of concision. Woman: Adult human female. Man: Adult human male. Subdefine these words:
    1. Adult: Fully grown or developed
    2. Human: A bipedal primate mammal (Homo sapiens)
    3. Male/Female: Addressed in step 5
  7. Integrate these words back into your vocabulary. You don’t need to identify with them or have any particular feelings towards them. They mean only exactly what they mean and nothing more. If you like one word more than another, you’re allowing yourself to get into dicey territory. Words are just tools. If you have a particularly bad episode of dysphoria, Step 2 is where you should start. Ultimately, we are all the same species: human. As different as we can be, we all have very similar thoughts and feelings and many of us want the same things. Male and female humans are not vastly different, other than their reproductive role. Again, be honest with yourself. This is an exercise in accountability.

If you are not honest with yourself, you will fail.

Final Word:

Although it sucks, don’t be angry at your dysphoria. The goal is not repression. It’s a feeling, so treat it like any other negative emotion: sadness, anger, frustration. Be aware of it, understand it for what it is, try to figure out where it comes from, and remind yourself that there is a way out of it. I find a lot of comfort in simply understanding why I’m feeling a certain way. Sometimes I’m justified, sometimes I’m not, but that’s part of the Universal Human Experience.

Be honest with yourself, but be kind too.

Internalized Misogyny: “I don’t have that?”

I think there’s a big problem with the way girls are raised: adults often do not practice what they preach. My father always told me that I could do or be anything that I wanted to be, but frowned when I wore a (glittery, purple) shirt that read simply “Girls Rule!” I was allowed to like dinosaurs and videogames, but was teased if I didn’t shave my legs- light teasing, mind you, but it was enough to make me think that I would die a social death if I didn’t shave every day. No matter that I always wore long pants- what if someone glimpsed my ankles?

Girls receive mixed signals- hearing that they are just as good as boys, but observing something very different. I knew this before I transitioned, but by that point, I was so entrenched in the idea that my dysphoria was something innate, something that I was born with, that I thought, “Well, perhaps that exacerbated the issue, but it’s not the root cause sooo…” And so I downplayed the issue and transitioned anyway, not coming to truly understand how big an influence misogyny had been until after I’d already had a mastectomy.

Oops.

I believe that the tendency towards dysphoria may be something that we are born with- a certain sort of obsessive, perfectionist personality trait, not unlike that which compelled me to aim for perfectly smooth, shaven legs that no one would even see. Or perhaps it’s the result of a certain style of parenting. (Insert your nature vs. nurture argument of choice here.) I also believe that internalized misogyny is a different beast entirely.

But when we mix perfectionism with misogyny, “I should- nay, MUST be male,” seems an obvious, entirely logical conclusion.

You have to be able to recognize both aspects in yourself, untangle them from one another, and approach them from an objective angle. No chastising yourself for misogyny- it’s not helpful. Rationalize: when you see a reeeally cool bird, do you care if it’s male or female? Should you care?

Be the cool bird you want to see in the world.cool bir

No one wants to silence detransitioners, but-

“No one wants to silence detransitioners.”

For everyone’s sake, let’s assume that this is true. I think most people are well-intentioned. I assume no one reading this is Evil Incarnate.

I transitioned because I genuinely believed that being born in the wrong body was a Real Thing. In order to believe that transitioning is an appropriate, medically-justifiable treatment for a medical condition, you must believe that a person can be born in the wrong body. Otherwise, it’s just cosmetic surgery and while I don’t mind what other people do with their bodies, I want my body to be as natural as possible, as long as it’s healthy. It took 9 years of internal debate (on top of a lifetime of “what-if”), but I finally managed to game my own brain into believing this was A Thing. And that I had it.

At times, even during transition, I felt like I’d been hit with some black magic.

“How incredible that we can be born into the wrong body. How amazing- and horrible- it is that a man can be born in female form. How strange- absurd- and what are the odds that this should happen to me? Of all the rotten luck…”

I detransitioned because that core belief was shattered. If I still believed that someone could be born in the wrong body, then I would feel obligated to take Testosterone, because that’s Me As A Person. I brush my teeth twice a day. When I had surgery, I followed the post-op care recommendations to the letter. If I thought transitioning was best for my health, I’d keep at it, even though injections and routine blood drawings are a real drag.

If I want to discuss my experience, to really get into the icky-sticky feelings and thoughts I had while going there-and-back-again, it’s really not possible to avoid talking about how I changed my mind and what that means. “It wasn’t right for me,” doesn’t cover it. That works for some things, but we’re talking about the #1 recommended treatment for this condition. No, wait, the “ONLY” treatment that works. At all. I wouldn’t stop a course of antibiotics halfway through because it “just wasn’t right for me.”

But you have to believe in transition in order for it to work.

Having once believed in the benefits of transition as a cure for dysphoria, I felt horribly sorry for de- and non-transitioners. How masochistic, I thought, forcing yourself to live with dysphoria for the sake of being normal. Internalized Transphobia. How sad. It might have been their decision to make, but I still felt bad for them. I wanted to help them.

This is not entirely unlike how I feel now, although I am more interested in word-vomiting into the void and seeing what resonates with someone else. I have no particularly desperate investment in strangers’ transitions and I certainly don’t care to Ban All Transition Surgery, any more than I care about banning all nose jobs.

Want is the key word here. No one’s goal is SILENCE THE DETRANS HERETICS! It’s just that simplifying the whole deal to “just not right for them” and chalking up any additional complexity as “bad for trans people” happens to do just that. Regardless of what people want.