PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS ASIDE, CAN MEN BE DISTINGUISHED FROM WOMEN?
If we were to take every human being on the planet and remove from them all any signs that could outwardly point towards one gender of another, would we be able to tell the difference? In effect, would it be possible to choose one's gender? How many stories have you heard about people using other-sex personalities in online chatrooms and forums? Who's to say that some members of this site are or aren't the sex that they claim to be?
Our society is full of sweeping generalisations as to how men and women are 'expected' to behave, but if, aside from the physical differences, there is no way to distinguish the 2 sexes, then should these roles continue to be perpetuated? Or is the physical link too much to overcome?
Hat tip to Kate McKay for this topic - thanks Kate!
I am going to tell you something that I omitted from our previous discussion.
I am transgendered. I was raised and socialized as a female. At first I didn't think there was anything strange about this - after all, when you're a child and every adult around you tells you something again and again, you tend to assume it's true. So when my parents and everyone else around me treated me like a girl and told me I was a girl, I assumed that they were correct.
But as I grew up, I began to get the sense that this was wrong. And here's where I'm going to get a little tricky - by female standards, my dress and behavior are somewhat masculine. By male standards, they aren't. Not at all. And still, I felt like calling myself female was fundamentally wrong, and to continue to represent myself as such was a lie. I began using a different name - the one I'm using right now - and it just seemed right. I wasn't distressed or confused anymore, because I'd finally figured out what my problem was and what I needed to do about it. When I told my parents, they wanted to know - why can't you be a woman? Why can't you just be a masculine woman?
And my answer to this was, because I am not. I cannot be a masculine woman, any more than my mother could be a feminine man. I cannot tell you exactly how I know this, because all I know is that in spite of the fact that I was raised and socialized as a girl, and even the the fact that I was actually a fairly typical girl as a child, being a woman just seemed wrong on a very basic, mental level for me.
So. When I say "I am a woman", I know this is a lie. When I say "I am a man", I know that it's the truth. And this is how I know what my gender is. I don't need a certain genital configuration, or a certain type of clothing, or a certain hair length, or anything else to tell me this, because I already know.
These days I generally wear pants. But when I was little I dressed up just like most little girls did, in dresses and skirt and sparkly stuff. My life doesn't exactly fit into the typical "trans person life story" that you see on TV, where the person has always known since before they could talk - and if you hang around enough trans people for long enough, you'll see that this is actually quite common. Gender is really, really complicated, and feeling uncomfortable with your assigned gender is often really hard to articulate when you're just a kid.
And now I have to make a correction:
This is accepted by transgendered people, which is why they take hormones to make them feel more like a man or a woman.
We do not take hormones just to feel more like a man or a woman. We take hormones because they induce very real physical changes that are basically like going through puberty a second time, and which cause us to develop the secondary sex characteristics of the gender that we truly identify as - in the case of trans men (like myself) this would be things like facial hair and a deeper voice. There are many trans people who don't take hormones, either because they can successfully be read as the correct gender without them, or because they simply don't feel they need hormones to be a complete person. I don't feel any more or less like a man than I did before my first testosterone injection, and in fact the only reason I'm even taking it is because if I don't then people will forever perceive me as either a woman or a prepubescent boy, and this isn't something I can tolerate. But the fact remains that the hormones aren't making me a man, they're just going to cause other people to perceive me as such.
And I also need to go to bed now. Good night, everyone.
I get the certainty part, but not what you're certain *of*. What is it you know? That you're a man. But what does that statement mean when you say it? You've made it clear that when you say "I am a man," you don't mean you have XY, or the requisite organs. So what do you mean when you say it?
My wife have strong differences that relate to something other that what style of clothes we wear -- and they're much the same as others. My wife reads romances; I want spaceships and explosions. She adores children; I'm only really interested in my own. This is not because we're exaggeratedly adherent to stereotypes. She's an engineer -- not a typical job for a woman, and when she has to go on a job, she's often the only woman around that's not a secretary. I'm no Schwarzenegger, and I have a job (professor) that has a lot of men *and* women. She was more into building things as a kid than playing with dolls, and I was more into building things than playing cops and robbers. But... I just don't see how any married couple can not see, with a member of the opposite sex there so close, that the differences are real.
We all know of research into different behaviors and even brain structures, too.
Exceptions do not disprove rules. Sure, some smokers don't get cancer, and some nonsmokers do, but it doesn't mean smoking doesn't cause cancer. Similarly, some women are all into huntin', fishin', and shootin' and scratching themselves (well, OK, I never met or heard of any, but I guess it could happen) while their hubbies are all into keeping the frilly pink canopy over the master bed well-decorated with teddy bears (again, never met or heard of any), but when you take into account all men do and all women do, beyond reproduction, facial hair, and the like, there's too much for it to all just go away if external characteristics disappeared.
But the existence of a rule isn't going to invalidate or nullify the exceptions. A very basic example - just because most men are attracted to women doesn't mean that any man who isn't is therefore not a man. He's just found a slightly different way of being a man and of "doing" masculinity.
Although I don't dispute your post -- at all -- I still find myself stuck at the question: when you say "being a man," what do you mean? It's obviously very important to you, but I don't know what you mean by it. I'm repeating myself, but:
-- You've made it clear that when you say "I am a man," you don't mean you have XY, or the requisite organs. So what do you mean when you say it?
@ Abby: You've phrased this wonderfully, thank you.
@ Will: When I say "I am a man", that is exactly what I mean. It's very straightforward. I tried living as a girl and then as a woman for almost 20 years. It felt wrong, just as wrong as it would have been if some tried to make you be a woman. I realize that, as a cisgendered person who has never felt any level of discomfort with his body or assigned gender, this may be a difficult thing for you to grasp, but this is the only way I can think to explain it to you. My name, the pronouns with which people referred to me, the idea of being someone's "girlfriend" or "wife" - just seemed completely wrong.
Well I know a lot of women who'd rather see a sci-fi movie than read romance novels, who don't ever dress in a stereotypically feminine way unless they absolutely have to, and who aren't interested in having children at all - does this mean they aren't women?
You are drawing your views of what the differences between men and women are from your own experiences, and I'm gathering that you haven't had much experience with people who go too far outside the norm. I am absolutely not saying that the differences between you and your wife aren't real, because they are. But they are not what causes you to be male and female - that's your brain, and your internal sense of identity.
So, forgive me if I'm wrong, but what I've gathered out of the discussion here is that it's not so much what genetics tell someone or what external forces say, but some innate sense of gender, of masculinity and femininity?
Transgender is really something to think about, I will probably end up thinking about this a lot today as I do my work. Seth, I think it is interesting that you keep saying that you were raised and socialized as a female but you never say that you were born a female. I don't know if that is some force of habit or if you are leaving that as a given. Leaving that out could lead people to think that your parents were purposefully trying to raise and socialize you against your obvious gender in some weird "Sleepaway Camp" sort of way.
What I mean by this is that when I was born, the doctor looked at me and decided that I was a girl, and I was raised accordingly. I don't say that I was "born female" because I'm not even sure if that's true - for one thing I can't remember that far back.
I’m a pragmatist. So, what I say may be taken as harsh. I prefer to be honest rather than dance around the facts. By your own admission you are outside the norm. Here in this community you can learn more about what it is for normal men to be men. I seriously doubt you’ll find what it is to be transgendered here. Most men are motivated by testosterone and sex drive on various levels. If you don’t or haven’t experienced that we cannot impart that struggle to you. Every man has struggled with what a man is, when going through puberty. That struggle was complicated by the changes that men go through. Our voices changed, our hormones drove us crazy, and there were a host of issues that were complicated by those pesky hormones. Most men didn’t question their sexuality. They knew they liked girls because their bodies reacted to the very sight of a girl. Those sexual feelings drove us to do stupid things. Testosterone caused us to be aggressive. Some were more aggressive than others. Some were less than others. In many ways that continues into adulthood. We came to this community to share our experiences with other men and to make sure we are getting it right. We want to learn to embrace those differences between us and women. We came here because we recognized commonalities in ourselves. If you ask anyone including transgender or homosexuals I’m pretty sure they can describe a stereotypical male. There are many here that are happy to share what being a man is with you. But we don’t have questions about what we were born as and what we are now. Being accepted is a huge struggle. I don’t believe many men will honestly accept you as just a man. I believe most men will accept you as a transgender but few will know exactly what that entails. Some men have struggles because they may feel they exhibit less than many traits. That is one thing that has been addressed in this community. Your experiences are going to be difficult and I’m sure you can find acceptance as a transgender. But if you want to be accepted as a man and not as a transgender I’m not sure that will ever happen. You are what you are. You’re going to have to answer the question of what you are for yourself. But you can’t answer that question for us. I expect men to act like men. If they don’t act like men it’s annoying to me. If they don’t act like men they wont be treated like men. I believe it’s the responsibility of other men to tell them to man up. I don’t know if it’s all part of that alpha male vs. beta male thing but most men have experienced it. That’s what this community is all about. Encouraging men to man up.
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