What is it like to feel gender?

2 months 1 week ago #374301 by Adder
I think the approach generally taken is to avoid discrimination insofar as it doesn't discriminate on others.

And when that intersection does happen then the discussion changes from one of understanding one thing, to understanding at least two sides and the dynamics of the 'conflict' for want of a better word.

I'd say when groups feel anti-discrimination of one group is discriminating on other group/s, then some type of distinguishing is probably required to be extended to try to mitigate it and minimize it, if not ideally remove discriminating anyone.... even at the expense of inevitably having to have some duplication of characteristics - which inherently is likely going to be identified by those very contested differences. Which in these cases are likely going to be remnants of said confliction unfortunately. But I don't view that process as discriminatory, for the intent is to minimize discrimination and maximize equality, fairness, and accessibility in a situation. It's usually the best anyone can do when two sides claim their rights are conflicting.

Which yes, then it rightly begs the question are the claims valid (on both sides)! And that to be fair always needs to be considered in a framework of real or perceived impacts of all realistically possible solutions to and from both sides. Not an easy thing to do when conflicts generate emotions on both sides, and are supported by history or science. I think it's why most folk I know seem to think the easiest and fairest solution is creating new groups in those environments when people are being divided into groups (eg sport competitions etc), but no it's not going to appease everyone to address ideals which might favour one side or the other. When there are actual arguments against the claims of the other side they must be considered in the same spirit of fairness and equality even/especially if we disagree; since we all carry bias and presumptions and especially, albeit different types depending on whether an issue is foreign to us or not. Most people won't be willing or able to get into the detail that impacted people will.

So it's interesting to consider it from the social identity theory aspect, even if it's a parallel and totally simplified paradigm for it; when how one group wants to join another group it really needs to be given entry by the existing group, rather than forcing entry into an existing group. The later creates conflict which will continue until one side wins and the other loses or the conflict is ceased by avoiding the conflict entirely by some other means. So back to my intro, the theme I tend towards is, if not being able to avoid conflict, then to minimize it in a manner which endeavors to most fair and most equitable to the competing sides. Part of that might be both sides acknowledging they both might have to lose something to win something and negotiating that becomes the main effort to achieve a peaceful outcome.

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2 months 1 week ago #374305 by Cornilion Seadragon
I think that raises some interesting elements to the conversation, some that address the most recent direction the thread has gone and some that go back to the beginning of the thread. I'm going to set the conflicting rights, desires, and viewpoints aside to first address an interesting perspective that you bring up with social identity.

One perspective is an outside group asking for admission into a group, but I imagine (and anyone who is trans, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong) most trans people would view it the opposite, as being rejected by the group they are a part of or being told by others in society that they are not a part of the group that they consider themselves to be a part of. I'm going to view this through a lens of less emotional topics. First, I imagine people being split up according to favorite color. Imagine your favorite color is blue so you go stand with the blue group and then people tell you "No, you're not a part of that group, you had a yellow blanket when you were a baby so you can't like blue. Go back to the yellow group." Now imagine you could only wear clothes of the color from your group, drive a car, live in a house decorated with, and have everything else in your life defined by that color. You may hate yellow, but you've now been told you don't get to be blue even though your favorite color is blue. You were born with a yellow blanket which was the most identifiable colored object when you were a baby, so it doesn't matter if you're blue, society won't accept that. (I'm leaning into the fact that genitals are only one of dozens of different sex characteristics, with the blanket analogy here). What's especially interesting about this lens is that it also begs the question: what about people who just don't have a favorite color, or are color blind? Does everyone have to have one clear favorite color or is it possible that some people might just have zero affinity for any one particular color?

Another interesting lens comes from my own life: hair color. When I was born I had brown hair. I always knew that my hair was brown. If you look at my profile picture you may notice that my hair is now black. The transition was so gradual that I never noticed. One day in second grade we were splitting up into groups by hair color and I ended up getting into an argument with people who told me my hair wasn't brown. They were right, of course, it wasn't. It was a bit of a shock, though, to realize that my hair color was different than I was born with, different than on my birth certificate (slight exaggeration, I don't think hair color is on birth certificates, though eye color might be and I have experienced a similar change there). Either way I no longer fit in with the brown hair group. I truly wasn't one of them even though that's the group I was born into. It would have been even more jarring if I then went over to the black haired group since that's the group I was now clearly in and they told me I wasn't welcome because I was originally a brown hair kid. Again, imagine basically every aspect of society was built around hair color: what sports teams I can be on, what bathroom I can use, what clothes I wear, but I'm not really welcome in any group, not the one that I was born into, nor the one that I now fit. Instead I have no bathroom where I'm welcome, no sports team that I can participate in, or stores where I can go shopping for clothes. I can't imagine being in that position, and I'm very glad I'm not, but I can have empathy for those who are.

Now setting all that aside, Master Adder brings this back to a really important conversation: there are two sides to this, and at least some of the concerns on each side are valid. For those who are trans they want to be free to be themselves and still enjoy all the same opportunities as everyone else in the world, free from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. They want the government to stay out of their healthcare decisions and leave it to them and their doctor (and their parents if the are kids). They want to be able to participate in sports just like everyone else and strive to accomplish great things. They want to not be treated like pariahs in society or have to constantly face commentary about who them are being invalid and how them just trying to be themselves is a sign of mental illness (which notably the idea of it being a mental illness has been soundly rejected by the APA, WHO, and other leading authorities on the subject). They want to not face discrimination when looking for a job or trying to get an education.

On the other hand people are worried about fairness. There have been at least a few notable examples where a trans person (usually a trans woman) has had an unfair advantage, and perhaps even a couple situations which have created a dangerous environment in middle school and high school sports which leaves people understandable concerned. There is also a fear of sexual predators. While the data doesn't support the fear that trans people are somehow more likely to be sexual predators, it doesn't mean the fear itself doesn't exist. I would argue that it is largely people projecting, men thinking about what they'd be doing in a women's bathroom (as though anything private isn't happening inside a stall anyway). in part I think this fear is also just a fear of what is different. We are hardwired to fear the unknown and that which is different. That instinct protects us, it keeps us away from things we don't know are safe. There's also a lot of rhetoric and hype on the issue, causing people to rally to the aid of people who don't need it and are actually harmed by the aid provided (that aid being legislation that limits that person's freedom to make their own healthcare choices).

The sports issue is a complex one. It was generally held that after a few years of being on hormone therapy the effects of the higher testosterone would have worn off and the person would no longer be competing in the same fashion as the higher levels of testosterone. This may not account for the impact of a person continuing to very actively use those muscle groups through the transition, though, such as an athlete continuing to train. Even if they took a few years off of the sport, if they had been actively training during that time their muscles may not have atrophied enough to shift to the levels normal for a different level of testosterone. The human body is very efficient and doesn't leave extra muscles that aren't being used (so for those getting older, please stay active so your muscles don't atrophy), but if you are using them, and using them to the fullest, the body isn't going to break them down and reuse those resources elsewhere. For someone who has transitioned before puberty (including hormone therapy), their muscles would never have developed to that higher level in the first place, but for those who have been lifelong athletes and didn't transition until later in life, particularly if they transitioned during their peak around 20 which is not uncommon since 18 is when many are able to make their own choices, I can see there being some issue with the body fully adapting while actively continuing to train those muscles.

It's also important to recognize, as Master Adder pointed out, that this is conflicting needs and desires going against each other and that means there's no easy answers. Understanding the other side of the issue and not just writing them off. Having had a number of patients who are trans, and knowing others who are trans besides, I certainly am biased toward protecting trans people as I've seen the level of discrimination and the challenges they face every day of their lives. Still, I recognize that there are some genuine concerns, some of which are perceived issues and others that are valid problems that haven't been fully addressed. We're not going to be able to address those as a society until we have an honest conversation about them.
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1 month 2 weeks ago #374480 by ZealotX
I think this subject is probably a little overcomplicated because society is currently in a state of rejecting a previous social order as it relates to gender roles. And that's a good thing. Saying "It's a different time" doesn't go far enough. For too long women have been oppressed and not simply forced into a gender role, but basically a glorified servant depending on their culture.

For men, realizing how wrong this always was it may feel somewhat embarrassing for lack of better terms, that this still needs to be addressed. But that's the thing. If a problem still exists then it's still going to have consequences even as those consequences fade over time. Rejecting societal norms is a process. But just because men (generalized) were wrong doesn't mean we can just switch. Sometimes accepting responsibility for something is best done by making sure you're not adding to the guilt and are instead trying to make things better by treating women as equals, not literally trying to become them.

That being said, I think (**MY OPINION**) is that a lot of the "I think I'm____" is BS. I apologize for any feelings rubbed the wrong way but we do need honest conversations in order to understand and deal with the issue. It's not that anyone is lying, but rather I think it is a consequence of this rejection of norms. On some level, problems and issues are internalized much like psychological trauma. Pieces of the traumatic memories stay and create a type of psychic infection. 

In this case, the male identity is really just a social construct that we all feed into. What does it mean to be a man? That's subjective. Being a man and being a testosterone-filled macho man isn't the same thing. Confusing being macho with being a man is therefore a mistake. There is a female equivalent to "macho" but just because only men are called macho doesn't mean macho is a standard of manhood. If you don't like that, you don't have to. 

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1 month 2 weeks ago #374481 by ZealotX
But because identity itself is a construct, subject to our ideas, if our ideas about something become corrupted by an infection of negative ideas, then it makes it difficult to hold on to that mental image of that identity. So it's not purely accurate that people feel like they are _____ but rather that they are not ______. It is a judgment about the thing they don't want to be. But instead of saying "I don't want to be macho", assuming that is what society wants and expects, it's confused with "I don't want to be a man." 

And this is why I say it's BS. Because it's based on negative judgments and assumptions about what being a man or woman is about. And now that people are "allowed" to simply think they know what the other gender is about then switching isn't even something you have to go through a psychologist to do. It's becoming fashionable and therefore all of the "transitions" cannot be trusted. 

Let's say that historically men have had the role of protector and provider. Is there something wrong with that? No. But that doesn't mean women cannot do both. Men have a slight advantage physically but that can be easily negated by weapons and skill. So instead of saying "that's not me" I feel like we should be saying, "Women can do it too" and really uplifting women for what they can do which then frees these identities and roles from their gender assignments. The fact that women can do what men can do is not a new concept. It's been the case forever. By the same token if you're weak and you have no job prospects does it mean you're not a man because, in your current state, you can't provide or protect? If that were the case then what about boys? 

So the problem isn't men or women. It's trying to tie other ideas to what it means to be a man or woman. Gender isn't something you feel. It's what you are. I think what we need to fundamentally realize is that men are related to a masculine designation that is simply physical. And there is a spectrum of masculinity that all males fall into. On the other side, there are women which is a feminine designation that is partially being rethought because it comes from men and often even the rejection of which is also... coming from men.

Not only are women dealing with the oppression of being cast into gender roles, but they're also being told by males who reject masculinity that they are women because they feel like women; thus claiming to know what being a woman is. And there is no way they can even communicate that without mansplaining because they are literally men. 
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1 month 2 weeks ago #374487 by Adder
I agree with most of what you said ZealotX, I think. Buuut I think gender can be felt.... because to me its most logical manifestation when stripping societal influences is being one of 'energy circuits'; that is the patterns of tension which define shape and movement, and thus play a significant role in 'feeling' (among others factors).

In this regard it links directly to morphological differences of male and female sexual differentiation. Things like the orientation and shape of the pelvis influences a wide range of physicality; be it sitting, standing, walking and moving... when compared to the orientation, size and shape of the male. This also goes to other parts of the skeleton like shoulders, but also height etc. Then there is the difference in function, shape and size of reproductive related organs and attributes associated with sexual differentiation. This alter the weight and balance as well which imparts differences on biomechanics of self. And then of course the impacts of there being a 10x difference in the level of testosterone, and over 3x in amount of estrogen, which incur a difference in the emotional baselines which our self emerges and operates.

If those differences are large enough between those majority groups, then it's going to denote real tangible difference rather than simple stereotyping.

Note this is all speaking in terms of statistical averaging within groups and not meant to misapplied to the level of analysis of individual (because so much variation is natural within groups attributed to either sexual pole). Certainly not for identity purposes, just the discussion of if, how and why gender might be felt, and by extension why it might exist historically and moving forward.

Why I view all that relevant is because it represents the different types of internal influences when comparing those group stats, but more importantly because it seems to relate to how those old fashioned stereotype norms of gender developed and maintained certain characteristics over human history outside of the external influences such as patriarchy, religion, culture etc.

That does not mean I consider gender a synonym for sex, not at all, as I do think that lots of other factors can play equal or greater roles than what I've outlined here... but to me these physical differences from traditional associations could explain why often it appears people switching genders tend to align and adopt gender practises and behaviours associated in many ways with traditional gender poles. I presume this is to feel more like and target gender and/or sex, but it stands to reason to consider that it could also be to better fit into society based on the way they already feel - though that of course begs the question what are the characteristics of the feeling that is being attributed to gender. I imagine people either choose to become, or believe they always have been, the target gender and in the later it would logically be because it is how they feel I suppose be it internally or fitting in socially? I'm just trying to boil it down to if and why might or might not concepts of gender even continue exist if it's just a social construct.


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1 month 2 weeks ago #374489 by Cornilion Seadragon
I find it interesting to observe who the arguments in this conversation seem to play into a much bigger conversation about minorities, be it gender minorities, ethnic minorities, or any other group that is only a very small subset of a population whose experiences are completely foreign to the vast majority of the population. Trans people make up roughly 2% of the population. For the other 98% of us, we really can't even comprehend the experience of that 2%. We can be quick to assume that our own experience and observations are the universal human experience and question the validity of the experience of others when they don't match our own, but that doesn't mean that the experiences of others are B.S. just because we ourselves can't comprehend it or because it doesn't match with our own experience in our lives. Probably one of the greatest challenges in life is to try to understand those whose experiences are dramatically different from ours, so much so that we can't even comprehend it.

Having known many trans people, I can honestly say that one or two of them seem to be running away from something or identify as the opposite gender primarily because their personality and interests fall in line with the opposite gender than they were assigned at birth. Most that I know, however, the idea that they were ever the other gender seems somehow out of place. It seems as though they really are one gender with only one or two notable differences and those notable differences are the characteristics under which the legal gender was assigned at birth. There are the exceptions to the rule as there is in any topic, but as a rule, trans people are not trying to avoid some stereotype of the gender they were assigned at birth or are basing their identity on some cultural idea of what a person of a specific gender is supposed to be. Also, contrary to what is probably popular belief, there are clinical guidelines for when gender affirming care is warranted. If medical intervention is involved (such as hormone therapy), it's not a matter of someone waking up and deciding one day that they are the other gender. In some cases those guidelines do call for psychological evaluation to ensure that it isn't a manifestation of some mental health issue, but generally that wouldn't be necessary unless there are specific red flags. There are none the less specific criteria that a health care provider would generally follow. While bodily autonomy and a person's right to govern their own body are one of the most critical principles of bioethics, doing no harm and ensuring that the benefit outweighs the risk before performing a medical intervention of any kind is also a huge part of bioethics, so the criteria for gender affirming care includes an evaluation that essentially has to determine that it would be harmful to the person to not receive that medical intervention.

Gender involves a LOT of different characteristics, and many people are born with both male and female characteristics, to the point where in some cases assigning a gender at birth becomes a judgement call or even a flip of the coin (and in these most extreme cases usually involves surgery shortly after a child is born to bring all reproductive organs in line with the gender assigned). Internal and external reproductive organs are a couple of them these characteristics. Hormones are another set of these characteristics which often but not always coincide with reproductive organs (particularly because those reproductive organs themselves produce many of those hormones). Most of us don't have to worry about it because we're born with all or most of our sex characteristics matching our external genitalia (the sex characteristic off which our current society judges gender). For all of us in that boat, it's hard difficult to understand or empathize with the 2% who are born with a mix of male and female sex characteristics.

It's also worth noting that the many physical differences between male and female bodies such as muscle mass, height, weight, skeletal differences, balance, etc. are almost exclusively products of different testosterone levels, not differences in reproductive organs. While women on average have lower testosterone than men on average, the range of highest and lowest levels of testosterone are pretty much the same in both populations. (More women are at the lower end of the range, and more men are at the higher end of the range, but the range is basically the same for both groups.) Those who transition before puberty (including hormone therapy) will have the muscle mass, height, weight, etc. of the gender they transitioned to, not the the one they were assigned at birth based on their external genitalia. Those who transition after puberty admittedly do become a more complicated topic (such as the swimmer Lia Thomas).

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