Binary genders

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The binary genders are the two options for gender given in cultures that use the gender binary system of putting all people into gender categories. The binary genders are female (woman, girl) and male (man, boy). For gender expression, the two options are feminine and masculine. Nonbinary genders are those that don't fit into the gender binary system, and don't entirely match one of the binary genders. That said, some nonbinary people identify with one or both of the binary genders, at least in part. Although the gender binary system is coercive and limiting, the binary genders themselves are valid identities. The existence of nonbinary genders doesn't make the binary genders less valid.

Female

The female gender symbol. Depicts the hand mirror or distaff of Venus, the Roman goddess of love.

Anyone with a female gender identity is female: she is a woman or girl. Experiences held in common by women of all walks of life include that they want to be called by "she" pronouns, and that they are systematically oppressed by patriarchy. Any woman's womanhood is valid no matter what kind of body parts she has, or what gender she was assigned at birth. Having or wanting to have a vagina, or having the ability or desire to give birth, are not what makes someone a woman. Only identifying as a woman makes someone a woman. Cisgender women and transgender women are both equally women. Because gender isn't the same thing as sexual orientation, women are still women whether they feel sexual attraction to men (heterosexual), or to women (lesbian), either/any gender (bisexual or pansexual), or none (asexual). Although "female" is one of the binary genders, someone can be both female and nonbinary.

Sources with limited understanding or familiarity with transgender and intersex issues sometimes use "female" or "women" to mean not only people who identify as female, but also anyone who was assigned female at birth (AFAB), and people who are perceived as women (PPW). However, people who are AFAB or PPW don't necessarily identify themselves as women, which is the crucial criteria for whether someone is a woman.

Cisgender women

Cisgender women are women who were assigned female at birth (or were born with certain intersex conditions), and who have a female gender identity. Cisgender (from Latin cis "same side of" + "gender", this word was "coined in 1995 by a transsexual man named Carl Buijs"[1]) means "not transgender," as they don't transition to female from some other gender.

A few of the physical characteristics of a cisgender woman often include:

  • A uterus, ovaries, and vagina, unless if she was born without one or another of them (agenesis), or had them taken out (hysterectomy, oophorectomy, or vaginectomy, respectively) to treat or prevent disease
  • The ability to give birth, unless if sterile, or without some of the anatomy listed above, or past childbearing years
  • Breasts (a secondary sexual characteristic), unless if they never developed, or they had them removed (mastectomy) to treat or prevent breast cancer
  • Has a hormone balance with estrogen higher than testosterone, and the presence of progesterone
  • Chromosomes that are XX (textbook example), XY (androgen insensitivity syndrome), XXX (triple X syndrome), XXXX, X (Turner syndrome), or others. People rarely take a test to find out what these are, unless if they think it might explain another physical challenge.

It is possible for a cisgender woman to have a body with few of the above physical characteristics that are usually used to describe a typical cisgender female body. For example, cisgender women who have had hysterectomies and mastectomies to survive cancer are nonetheless real women, as much as they ever were. Furthermore, having the above characteristics do not make someone a cisgender woman. For example, some people who were assigned female at birth but identify as a different gender have these characteristics. Some people with intersex conditions have these physical characteristics, but don't consider themselves cisgender women. Some do.

The ability to give birth creates a physical vulnerability that is exploited by patriarchy. Patriarchy began as a system based around the control of the part of the population who generally can give birth, by the part that generally can't. Women and people who can give birth are not completely synonymous groups. (There are sterile women, fertile trans men, and so on.) Still, these two groups have the most overlap. Patriarchy means that, as a group, men control women. They exert this control in every part of society, through the systems that are built into that society. Some of the many forms of how patriarchy controls, oppresses, and abuses women include:

  • Violence. Patriarchy tells women that they need a man close to them at all times, if for no other reason than to protect them from violence from other men. However, domestic violence is a very common cause of women's deaths.
  • The idea of rape as normal (rape culture). Rape culture includes the idea that women are the ones who should take responsibility for preventing themselves from being raped (victim blaming), and defending rapists as not responsible for their actions, without educating men to not rape. Rape is specifically a significant part of the oppression of cisgender women due to the risk of unwanted pregnancy. Much of patriarchy is based around this.
  • The idea of women as being less human (dehumanization). Dehumanization of women means that society assumes that women's minds are more like animals' minds (sometimes said in ways that seem positive, like "intuitive" or "closer to nature"), and are thought to be less able to do what men's can do, and therefore won't let women have educations, work most kinds of jobs, or drive. Without these things, it's difficult for women to free themselves from oppression.
  • Ownership of women. Patriarchy often makes cisgender women have the legal status not of people, but of possessions (chattel) owned by men (their husbands or fathers). As chattel, women have no say in what happens to their bodies, can legally own no possessions, and can't vote.

All of these things oppress women. The system of patriarchy maintains itself by making it difficult for women to get the power to challenge or escape the oppression.

Feminism is activism against patriarchy, and it begins with activism to give women the legal status of people. The outward signs of that legal status are the right to choose what happens to their own bodies (legal access to birth control), the right to own property, and the right to vote. These can only be done by those who are legally recognized as persons. Feminism is a movement that can make equal rights for people of all genders by liberating them all from patriarchy, but feminism has its main focus on fulfilling the needs of cisgender women, because patriarchy has its main focus on oppressing them.

Transgender women

Transgender women are women who were assigned male at birth (or had certain intersex conditions), and who have a female gender identity. Like any women, they ask to be called by "she" pronouns, and their sexual orientation can be lesbian, heterosexual, or otherwise. This is the male-to-female transgender spectrum. Older psychological and medical writings wrongly call trans women "male transsexuals" or "male transvestites", and call them by unwanted "he" pronouns. Trans women are women, not feminine men or gay men.

Many transgender women transition to address gender dysphoria, and some also consider themselves to be transsexual women. Any transgender person's transition path is very individual. Common features in a transgender woman's transition path include hormone therapy to create a balance with estrogen higher than testosterone, and a wide variety of kinds of surgery to choose from.

Patriarchy oppresses and devalues all forms of womanhood and femininity, not only of cisgender women, but also of trans women, called trans-misogyny. Julia Serano made the word for her trans-feminist book, Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity (2007). Patriarchy sees trans women as a threat that could undermine its power and rigidity. One feature of a trans-misogynistic culture is that by far, the most kinds of hate speech and slurs used against trans people are those used specifically against trans women. Violence against and murder of trans people also, by far, most commonly targets trans women, especially trans women of colour. The Transgender Day of Remembrance gives a memorial to the many trans people who are murdered each year around the world. These are nearly all trans women of colour.

In the transgender community, "gatekeeper" is slang for the system of health providers that decide whether to allow a transgender person to get gender-validating health care.[2] Medical gatekeepers, as well as the serious risks of living in trans-misogynistic culture, both put pressure on trans women to conform to society's behavioral and physical ideals for feminine cisgender women. One form of this pressure is that gatekeepers told trans women not to interact with other trans women outside of gender centers, saying that this would invalidate their womanhood. Keeping trans women isolated from one another in this way made it so that trans women couldn't organize among themselves to do activism for their own rights.[3]

Some cultures that recognize(d) male-to-female spectrum gender roles include the Ethiopian Maale people (Ashtime), the Madagascaran Sakalava (Sekrata), the Lakota (Winkte), the Navajo (Nadleehi), the Zapotec (Muxe), many south Asian countries (Hijra), Oman (Xenith), Nepal (Metis), Myanmar (Acault), Samoa (Fa'afafine), Maori (Whakawahine), much of ancient Europe (Gallae), and many others. Historically, these male-to-female spectrum people have been made of some people who were analogous to modern, Western ideas of trans women, as well as some people who are not so analogous to that.

Nonbinary women

Some people identify as both nonbinary and as a binary gender such as female. They see themselves as almost but not quite fitting into the gender binary, and feel an association with being female, while still feeling that it's significant that they don't fit into that category. Depending on how the individual defines their identity, they may consider themself to be nonbinary women if they also consider themself to be demigirl, femme, butch, stone, genderfluid, multigender, genderqueer, female bodybuilder, or other kinds of identities.

Male

The Mars or male gender symbol. Depicts the shield and spear of Mars, the Roman god of war

Anyone with a male gender identity is male: he is a man or boy. Experiences held in common by men of all walks of life include that they want to be called by "he" pronouns, and that patriarchy grants them male privilege in exchange for conformity. Any man's manhood is valid regardless of what kind of body parts he has, or what gender he was assigned at birth. Having or wanting to have a penis are not what makes someone a man. Only identifying as a man makes someone a man. Cisgender men and transgender men are both equally men. Because gender isn't the same thing as sexual orientation, men are still men whether they feel sexual attraction to men (gay), or to women (heterosexual), either/any gender (bisexual or pansexual), or none (asexual). Although "male" is one of the two binary genders, someone can be both male and nonbinary.

Sources with limited understanding or familiarity with transgender and intersex issues sometimes use "male" or "men" to mean not only people who identify as male, but also anyone who was assigned male at birth (AMAB), and people who are perceived as men (PPM). However, people who are AMAB or PPM don't necessarily identify themselves as men, which is the crucial criteria for whether someone is a man.

Male privilege means they have the power to use systematic oppression against others if they choose. That power to choose is a privilege, one that systematically oppressed people don't have. Conformity means that if men don't keep up acting male enough, their privilege is in a state of jeopardy. Men tend not to challenge patriarchy for a variety of reasons. These reasons are based around a lack of awareness of the situation, and fear for their own wellbeing. This is how the system of patriarchy makes sure that even the oppressors are kept under control and working in its service. These obstacles make it unlikely for men to take up feminism. The male feminist movement was short-lived, and was replaced by Men's Rights Activists, who do activism to maintain the oppression of women, and to bring back 1940s-style gender values.

Cisgender men

Cisgender men are men who were assigned male at birth (or were born with certain intersex conditions), and who have a male gender identity. Cisgender means "not transgender," as they don't transition to male from some other gender.

A few of the physical characteristics of a cisgender man often include:

  • No vagina or uterus. However, some men were born with one or another of them (persistent Müllerian duct syndrome). Some only find out they have a uterus if they have scans or surgery on their abdomen for other reasons, or if they menstruate.
  • Descended testes and scrotum, although sometimes testes never descend (cryptorchid), or are removed to treat or prevent disease
  • Penis or large clitoris. With some intersex conditions, the difference between these can be unclear.
  • Chromosomes that are XY (textbook example), XX (de la Chapelle syndrome), XXY (Klinefelter's syndrome), XXYY, or others.

It is possible for a cisgender man to have a body with few of the above physical characteristics that are usually used to describe a typical cisgender male body. For example, cisgender men who have lost their genitals due to disease or injury are nonetheless real men, as much as they ever were. Furthermore, having the above characteristics do not make someone a cisgender man. For example, some people who were assigned male at birth but identify as a different gender have these characteristics. Some people with intersex conditions have these physical characteristics, but don't consider themselves cisgender men. Meanwhile, some intersex people consider themselves to be cisgender men.


Transgender men

Transgender men are men who were assigned female at birth (or had certain intersex conditions), and who have a male gender identity. Like any men, they ask to be called by "he" pronouns, and their sexual orientation can be gay, heterosexual, or otherwise. This is the female-to-male transgender spectrum. Older psychological and medical writings wrongly call trans men "female transsexuals" or "female transvestites", and call them by unwanted "she" pronouns. Trans men are men, not masculine women or butch lesbians.

Many transgender men transition to address gender dysphoria, and some also consider themselves to be transsexual men. Any transgender person's transition path is very individual. Common features in a transgender man's transition path include hormone therapy to create a balance with testosterone higher than estrogen, and surgery to remove breasts (double mastectomy, in this situation called female to male chest reconstruction), and sometimes to remove their internal reproductive organs (complete hysterectomy). Many trans men choose not to get genital surgery, or are satisfied with contemporary methods that create a penis that looks and works differently to that of a cisgender man. With hormones alone, a trans man can easily be seen as a man in daily life, which owes partially to how patriarchy polices manhood differently than womanhood.[4]

Many people-- even young trans men-- grow up in Western civilization without knowing that trans men exist. Trans men are an invisible minority. Invisibility makes it difficult for trans men to take their first steps to come out and begin their transition. This is safer than the hypervisibility that constantly puts trans women in physical danger. Trans men are rarely targeted with violence for being trans.

Starting around in the 1980s, because gatekeepers weren't able to accommodate the needs of trans men in a worthwhile enough way to make them feel unable to leave the system, many trans men organized among themselves to do activism, "to get away from the gender center and work around it". As a result, many trans rights groups are made up of more trans men than trans women, or at least started that way.[5] On the other hand, starting in the 2010s, a movement of trans men calling themselves "truscum" seek validation from the gatekeepers' system. Truscum argue that a person is only really trans if they can get a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, because they see transsexuality as nothing more than a medical condition. They judge many other kinds of trans people as "fake" trans people, particularly nonbinary people.[6]

Some cultures that recognize(d) female-to-male spectrum gender roles include the Kingdom of Dahomey (Mino), the Blackfoot Confederacy (Ninauposkitzipxpe, "manly-hearted women"), the Navajo (Dilbaa), the Maori (Wakatane), and Albania (Burrnesha, "sworn virgins"), and many others. Historically, these female-to-male spectrum people have included some people who were analogous to modern, Western ideas of trans men, as well as some possibly cisgender women who took up a male gender role or appearance in order to escape patriarchal oppression, to protect themselves from violence, and to have jobs that only men were allowed to have.

Nonbinary men

Some people identify as both nonbinary and as a binary gender such as male. They see themselves as almost but not quite fitting into the gender binary, and feel an association with being male, while still feeling that it's significant that they don't fit into that category. Depending on how the individual defines their identity, they may consider themself to be nonbinary men if they also consider themself to be a demiboy, butch, stone, lesbian man, genderfluid, genderqueer, multigender, eunuch, or other kinds of identities. A self-described nonbinary man may consider themself to be on the female-to-male spectrum, or trans masculine. However, a nonbinary man could also be someone who considers themself to be on the male-to-female spectrum, or trans feminine, and partly identifies with having been assigned male at birth.

See also

References

  1. Julia Serano, "Whipping Girl FAQ on cissexual, cisgender, and cis privilege." 2009-05-14. [1]
  2. "Trans, genderqueer, and queer terms glossary." [2]
  3. fakecisgirl, "The Misery Pimps: The People Who Impede Trans Liberation." October 7, 2013. Fake Cis Girl (personal blog). https://fakecisgirl.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/the-misery-pimps-the-people-who-impede-trans-liberation/
  4. Cary Gabriel Costello, "Testosterone Does Not 'Work Better' than Estrogen." January 19, 2015. TransFusion (personal blog). http://trans-fusion.blogspot.com/2015/01/testosterone-does-not-work-better-than.html
  5. fakecisgirl, "The Misery Pimps: The People Who Impede Trans Liberation." October 7, 2013. Fake Cis Girl (personal blog). https://fakecisgirl.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/the-misery-pimps-the-people-who-impede-trans-liberation/
  6. Jack Molay. "Transgender and transsexual glossary." January 25, 2010. [3]

Further reading