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Trans 101 - to clarify gender identity issues some

Posted Apr 1, '14 at 1:02pm

Zophia

Zophia

9,535 posts

Moderator

I started typing a reply to this thread, but as it went on it escaped the scope of a single post. So I'm putting it here instead.

This is information that can all be found in plenty of other places, but I find it's generally better to explain things directly than just shoo people off to resources.

Stuff covered:
Bodies
Physical transition
Social transition
Body dysphoria
Sexual orientation - a separate topic
Mentions of more related stuff

About Bodies in General

Whether you are a transgender person or a cisgender person, you have your physical body. It is likely to grow up in a shape that is either male or female, especially if you only look at the reproductive organs. Intersexed people do exist, but they're fairly rare.
Your exact physical traits - like muscle mass, hair color, overall hair growth, distribution of body fat, skeletal structure and so on - will vary depending on your genetics and the hormones that influence your growth.
If you have normally functioning testicles, for example, puberty will come with a growth spurt, deeper voice, easier muscle growth and a beard. If you for some reason do not produce the normal amount of hormones, the things they would have affected will not be as affected and vice versa - more testosterone than normal in a woman, for another example, can lead to increased hair growth (potentially including facial hair) and irregular menstrual cycles.

This was not very in depth but the point I'm trying to make is that your physical sex is not nearly as black and white as "has a penis and testicles vs has a vagina and ovaries" (especially if you're an intersexed person).

Physical Transition Stuff

When choosing to medically transition (some trans people don't choose to transition and some are happy with what they can do without modifying their body), the Hormone Replacement Therapy starts doing a number on the body.
For male bodied people, this typically includes softening of the skin, no further balding, breast development, weaker muscles and fat deposits arranging themselves more along the hips and thighs than the belly.
For female bodied people, it's typically things like developing a beard (and more body hair in general), oilier skin, voice deepening, easier muscle growth, menstrual cycles coming to a halt and aforementioned fat deposits favoring the belly instead of the hips and thighs.
For both sexes, HRT will result in infertility.

Of course, hormones only do so much. Trans women must usually train their voice extensively to get around their long vocal chords. Trans men will usually bind their breasts down or have them removed entirely with a mastectomy.

Then there's the Genital Replacement Surgery (one of many names for it, friggin' terminology is always in a flux), which is not necessary to transition socially but sadly still required for many legal documents. Not all trans people have GRS and only prospective sexual partners of theirs should be at all concerned with what's in their pants, how they have sex or how they pee or any of the other super invasive questions that trans people are all too frequently asked. It varies, just like it varies across other groups of people, and it is generally not anyone else's business.

I would describe the available surgical processes, but it's a tad too graphical for this site. They keep improving, though.

Social Gender Stuff

Not all trans people need HRT, voice training or binding to "pass" as their gender (and unless they have a job that involves being in their underwear or naked, none of them need to get GRS to pass).

As mentioned, bodies vary a lot even within one of the standard sexes. The gender other people perceive you as is mostly about facial structure, hair and clothing (not necessarily in that order), unless they're looking at your naked body. Cisgender people can be mistaken as the other gender if their gender expression happens to be opposite of the "norm" - e.g. tomboyish girls or guys who like to wear dresses. Deviating from what people expect is sometimes dangerous, sometimes considered just fine - again e.g., tomboys are a lot less likely to be hassled than guys wearing dresses.

You could argue (and some people certainly do), that because gender expressions (and by extension, gender roles) are a social construct, it shouldn't be necessary to transition. You should just be yourself regardless of your body, screw the norms. This is typically the path non-binary people go, but when you really would fit into the socially accepted binary boxes and want to but can't because of your body or society's judging glare (again with the male bodied folks who likes to wear dresses - regardless of their gender identity - good luck avoiding judgement for what you like to wear :c ), you have a problem and would probably like to fix it.

A lot of this is about the initial impression you want to make. People expect different things from men than they do from women and vice versa. As society is not going to magically get over its tendency to judge people according to binary expectations, many trans people will be happier and have easier and/or more fulfilling social interactions once they get to transition - not necessarily including relationship interactions thanks to the bias against them, but relationships are only a sliver of the social interactions pie chart.

Body Dysphoria

Something I haven't touched on yet because I want to de-emphasize its importance: Body dysphoria is a very real issue that affect many trans people (and some cis people).
This is similar but different to the sense of wrongness experienced when people apply social gender expectations that don't fit - again something that doesn't hit only trans people.

In a trans context, body dysphoria is an inherent feeling that your physical sex (genitals and/or secondary sex characteristics) are wrong for you. Alternatively a strong inherent sense that the genitals and/or secondary sex characteristics of the opposite sex would be very, very right for you. Regardless of the direction, this leads to distress. The distress may be alleviated by modifying your body, frequently but not always a primary factor in deciding to transition. Whether the body dysphoria weighs more heavily than the frustration of being viewed with the wrong gender expections varies greatly from individual to individual.

At the heart of it, people (not only trans people) who choose to modify their body generally do so to be happier with it.

Sexual Orientation and how it's a separate but related issue

Sexual orientation and gender identity are not tied to each other and I can not stress this enough because one of the most common misconceptions is that trans people just don't want to be gay so they have a sex change instead.
One, a "sex change" is a heinously complicated process and a huge life decision that affects so much more than just your sex life; two, trans people come with as many varied orientations as cis people do. Maybe even more, since they're typically more aware of diversity. The same variance goes for libido, although trans women undergoing HRT are likely to experience a reduced libido due to lack of testosterone.

Finding a partner is harder for trans people, not only because of the bigotry against them, but also because of their own potential dysphoria and how others may or may not find their body attractive.
This is not actually different from any other aesthetic evaluation. "I don't want to have sex with you because you have a penis" is a valid reason to reject someone, on level with "I don't find you attractive because you're really hairy". These can both, like any rejection based on aesthetics, be expressed in many ways. Rudely, politely, mockingly with a wow-you're-beneath-me attitude, or even apologetically if you like the person in general but don't want to have sex with them.

Sadly those ways are sometimes violent when it comes to trans people. :c

Stuff I'm Going To Skip For Now:
Misrepresentation in media.
Non-binary identities and expressions.
Clashes with feminism.
Erasure issues.
Terminlogy and how it keeps changing.
Probably some other stuff I'm forgetting.

I could write multiple paragraphs on each of these things, but this is already really long and I feel like the core topics of why and how trans is a thing are the most important ones and the ones most people seem to have a poor grasp of.

Feel free to ask questions, discuss, or randomly link to this if you think it's a good summary.

 

Posted Apr 1, '14 at 8:05pm

FishPreferred

FishPreferred

1,688 posts

1 Your mention of gender in the physical and social categories is hard to follow, as you have not made it clear how an individual's gender is being ascribed here.
2 Your definition of body dysphoria is incorrect, as the term applies to more than gender.
3 Your claim that sexual orientation and gender identity are mutually independent is highly dubious. Can you explain how such an extreme comorbidity could occur in two totally unrelated conditions?

 

Posted Apr 4, '14 at 9:22am

Zophia

Zophia

9,535 posts

Moderator

1 Your mention of gender in the physical and social categories is hard to follow, as you have not made it clear how an individual's gender is being ascribed here.

I didn't realize I needed to.
Physically, people are generally declared male or female at birth, based on their external reproductive organs (sometimes surgically made to look like either male or female ones if the baby is intersexed and it's hard to tell).
Socially, I actually went over it.
The gender other people perceive you as is mostly about facial structure, hair and clothing (not necessarily in that order), unless they're looking at your naked body. Cisgender people can be mistaken as the other gender if their gender expression happens to be opposite of the "norm" - e.g. tomboyish girls or guys who like to wear dresses.

That is, if you "look like a guy" and/or act and/or talk like one, people will probably assume you're a guy regardless of your genitals, chromosomes or hormones.

2 Your definition of body dysphoria is incorrect, as the term applies to more than gender.
You do realize I pointed that out three times in that section, right?
To be fair, though, gender dysphoria would possibly have been the more correct term to use. It covers both the gender identity related body dysphoria and also the gender expression related dysphoria - e.g. what a trans man experiences when being highly uncomfortable being referred to with female pronouns.
I wanted to talk about the body dysphoria side specifically, though.

3 Your claim that sexual orientation and gender identity are mutually independent is highly dubious. Can you explain how such an extreme comorbidity could occur in two totally unrelated conditions?

Do- you actually see non-heterosexuality as medical conditions?

Either way, what gender you are does not imply what gender you are attracted to. For example, being a cis woman does not mean you will like men by default (although it is more common), and being a trans woman does not mean you like men by default either.
I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say that orientation is mutually independent of gender identity (cultural pressure certainly tries to ensure that they're not), but they're not a one-thing-leads-to-the-other thing either, which a surprising amount of people seem to believe they are.
 

Posted Apr 4, '14 at 2:10pm

FishPreferred

FishPreferred

1,688 posts

You do realize I pointed that out three times in that section, right?


You didn't, actually. The entire section, including your definition, was devoted solely to gender-related matters.

Do- you actually see non-heterosexuality as medical conditions?


No. They are mental conditions, in that they relate to the condition of the individual's mind. Would you rather I called them "issues"?

I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say that orientation is mutually independent of gender identity (cultural pressure certainly tries to ensure that they're not), but they're not a one-thing-leads-to-the-other thing either, which a surprising amount of people seem to believe they are.


Now I see. By "not tied to each other" you meant that they are not intrinsically concurrent. I thought you were saying they have no correlation at all.
 

Posted Apr 5, '14 at 12:26am

Zophia

Zophia

9,535 posts

Moderator

You didn't, actually. The entire section, including your definition, was devoted solely to gender-related matters.
Let me point them out for you.

"Body dysphoria [...] affect many trans people (and some cis people)."
"[...] again something that doesn't hit only trans people."
"In a trans context, body dysphoria is [...]"
"[...] people (not only trans people) who choose to modify their body generally do so to be happier with it."

First and second bits refers to other types of body dysphoria to point out that this isn't something that only affects trans people. Third bit points out that in that paragraph I am talking specifically about the trans related dysphoria. Fourth bit is again a broader thing and the statement includes stuff like cosmetic surgery, getting tattoos or even body building.

No. They are mental conditions, in that they relate to the condition of the individual's mind. Would you rather I called them "issues"?
Comorbidity is a term used about coexisting medical conditions. Considering how strictly you tend to adhere to definitions of words, I'd have assumed you'd understand how that sounds unfortunate.
 

Posted Apr 5, '14 at 12:22pm

FishPreferred

FishPreferred

1,688 posts

Comorbidity is a term used about coexisting medical conditions. Considering how strictly you tend to adhere to definitions of words, I'd have assumed you'd understand how that sounds unfortunate.


Yes, to describe two conditions which appear together, but are not actually related, which seemed to be what you were suggesting. I considered the possibility of the term being interpreted negatively, but because the underlying meaning is the same, I chose not to change it. I will not tiptoe around words simply to spare anyones feelings.
 

Posted Apr 5, '14 at 9:47pm

samy

samy

5,043 posts

Zoph, thanks so much for this! I've realized recently that my understanding of trans individuals is lacking, and posts like this go a long way to move me, and others in the community, in the right direction.

Fish, I'm not familiar with you or your argumentation style so I apologize beforehand for making what may be untrue assumptions. That being said, I'm going to make them anyway.

Provided you aren't trying to play devil's advocate, especially given that your tone doesn't lend itself to such a conclusion, I'm curious what your long term goal is here. Your arguments have largely attacked Zoph's without providing any reasoning behind your dispute. Moreover, you've argued semantics when, quite frankly, there doesn't appear to be a need to do so.

I imagine you're getting at a general "disbelief" in the existence of legitimate trans individuals (an incredibly odd position to take, but sure). Would you care to provide any indication as to why, or do you plan to continue prattling on in an attempt to stop any constructive discussion?

 

Posted Apr 6, '14 at 12:35am

FishPreferred

FishPreferred

1,688 posts

I'm curious what your long term goal is here. Your arguments have largely attacked Zoph's without providing any reasoning behind your dispute.


There is no dispute. I was addressing some points which were unclear and/or misleading in the opening post. These points have now been settled.

Moreover, you've argued semantics when, quite frankly, there doesn't appear to be a need to do so.


Semantics are of vital importance. They are arguably the most crucial preliminary to a mutual understanding the discussion. If they are not addressed, general confusion and pointless bickering are prone to ensue.

Would you care to provide any indication as to why, or do you plan to continue prattling on in an attempt to stop any constructive discussion?


No. Your imagination has led you astray. Furthermore, I would like to know just what constructive discussion there was to impede within the past four days that this thread has been here.
 

Posted Apr 6, '14 at 8:04am

Kalaina

Kalaina

23 posts

Wait, you actually think that pedantically arguing about the exact meaning of words and phrases actually alleviates more pointless bickering than it causes? That's... an interesting mindset.

 
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