Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, etc)

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Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, etc)

Postby poochyena » Tue Jan 06, 2015 12:48 am UTC

This is kinda of a tough topic to make, but i really want to discuss it... but i'm not too sure what i'm even asking or trying to understand.

Basically.. why do people feel the need to be labeled?
This is mostly just a big "problem" with tumblr users, they feel they must make up multiple terms to to describe who they are. I simply don't understand why.
There is male and female sex, hetero, bi, and homo sexualities.
But some people feel they must use terms like "genderfluid", "non-binary", "pan-sexual", "demi-sexual" etc. Always terms that can perfectly fit under the "normal" terms i listed above.
Its like they feel they must use as specific of a term as they possibly can.. But using terms to describe one's personality is kinda... silly. No term can describe your personality or sexuality, so why do some people try to use many specific terms to do so? I think it makes more sense to actually describe what you like, rather than use multiple terms with very loose definitions.
I also don't understand why they feel they must tell everyone. Where else but tumblr (and dating sites) would you find people posting their sexuality on their profile?

I also want to ask.. what does it mean to be transgender?
And why do people feel the need to be refered to as the opposite sex? calling a female a male is like calling my dog a cat, its the wrong classification.
Male and female refer to sex, not gender.
But, again, what does it mean to be transgender? Where is the line between being cis and transgender, or the line between being feminine/masculine and transgender? Are men who follow social female gender roles transgender, feminine, both, neither, or just depends?

Any time i try to have this discussion with people, i'm just told to stop talking because i have no idea what i'm talking about, which, wow, thats kinda exactly what i'm asking..
I just hope for some actual conversation, i'm not "ignorant" or attacking anyone, I just want a more concrete ideas of the concepts.

I don't know, I've just always seen myself and everything as, for my mind, I am poochyena, i, along with everyone else, have a very unique mind that can never be accurately described with a term, so its pointless to do so, and the only terms that do matter are one that have concrete definitions and are physical (such as sex, body weight, height, etc).

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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby Cradarc » Tue Jan 06, 2015 3:15 am UTC

For the most part, I agree with you. Gender labels don't make any sense. There are some languages where one pronoun corresponds to all humans. However the English language does differentiate between genders, which is why some people are asking for more specific terms.
I think the reason people like to emphasize all these different labels is to raise awareness for the minority groups. It's the same reason why we have gay pride parades but no straight pride parades. Or why we have Black history month but no white history month. It makes people, who used to be hated, feel valued.

Let's say you are a Pokemon and you don't know what species you are. Suppose people have been calling you "Feebas" all your life, but you look at all the other "Feebas" and felt like you don't belong. Would you feel better if somebody called you a different name like "Poochyena"? The label given to you does not change who you are, but it can resonate with how you see yourself.

The interesting question is where do we draw the line? Can I define a new adjective and declare it specific to me? Would I then have the right to correct people when to refer to me incorrectly?
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby Azrael » Tue Jan 06, 2015 3:27 am UTC

poochyena wrote:Male and female refer to sex, not gender.

If male and female are words to refer to biological sex, then what terms describe gender?

No, really, answer the question. I'll wait.

Did you answer the question?

... I bet you said 'male' and 'female'. Although, you might've pulled off "masculine and feminine".

There's this odd conflict where the English language doesn't quite have the right words to easily identify sex vs gender. Mostly because sex and gender have been lumped together for a very, very long time. So here's my two cents, although you should probably listen to someone else who has some relevant experience:

Sex and gender aren't the same thing. Sex (note: massive over-simplification) refers to the nature of genitalia. Or maybe chromosomes, but that doesn't really capture it either. Gender refers to the social roles that a person holds/fits/personifies. It's more or less which of the two binary stereotypes (masculine or feminine) you identify with and where on the gradient between the two you see yourself. A person's combination of sex and gender can be mismatched from the "norm" -- e.g. someone with a penis who by stereotypical indicators identifies as female. Because people categorize (a "why?" I really don't have an answer for), there is label for people who's gender and sex don't match.

There's also a label for people who's gender and sex do match, for what it's worth.

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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby Derek » Tue Jan 06, 2015 3:54 am UTC

Cradarc wrote:For the most part, I agree with you. Gender labels don't make any sense. There are some languages where one pronoun corresponds to all humans. However the English language does differentiate between genders, which is why some people are asking for more specific terms.
I think the reason people like to emphasize all these different labels is to raise awareness for the minority groups. It's the same reason why we have gay pride parades but no straight pride parades. Or why we have Black history month but no white history month. It makes people, who used to be hated, feel valued.

When the problem is "not everyone fits into neat boxes", I'm not sure the solution is "create more boxes". I think a better solution is to recognize the inherent limitations of boxes, and recognize that some people just aren't going to fit into whatever nice boxes you choose, and that's ok.

If we were to make a plot of various sex and gender related variables, I think we would find that there are two clear clusters, and most people more or less fit into one of them. But some people are in between them, and some people are well outside both. But these people don't really form new clusters, so it doesn't really make sense to create new boxes for them.

And transexuals are people who fit into one cluster in most respects, but in one or two variables on which society has traditionally placed excessive weight (namely physical genitalia, chromosomes, and maybe upbringing), they fall in the other cluster. This causes many people to try to put them in the wrong box, when they clearly belong in the other (or neither).

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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby elasto » Tue Jan 06, 2015 11:00 am UTC

Derek wrote:When the problem is "not everyone fits into neat boxes", I'm not sure the solution is "create more boxes". I think a better solution is to recognize the inherent limitations of boxes, and recognize that some people just aren't going to fit into whatever nice boxes you choose, and that's ok.

In an ideal world that would be true. However, in this one, there's still a preponderance of social pressure that only two boxes are morally acceptable - with many teenagers (and even adults) left feeling confused and alone over what is wrong with them that they don't fit into 'their' box.

So long as that's true, a plethora of boxes serves a number of useful purposes: Not only does it shout aloud to wider society that a binary paradigm is incorrect, being able to pick from one of a dozen labels helps a person crystallize their self-identity and to know that - however unique their combination of genitalia, gender and sexual preference - that they are not alone.

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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby leady » Tue Jan 06, 2015 11:27 am UTC

I equate the idea of sex and gender being different as the same discussion as 1.001 = 1. A mathematician will state categorically that its wrong, an engineer will shrug and say good enough.

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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby elasto » Tue Jan 06, 2015 11:48 am UTC

leady wrote:I equate the idea of sex and gender being different as the same discussion as 1.001 = 1. A mathematician will state categorically that its wrong, an engineer will shrug and say good enough.

The difference is that numbers don't have feelings, reals aren't immoral with integers moral and so on.

If the engineer saying '1.001 = 1' caused 1.001 to hate itself, self-harm or attempt suicide because it knew it wasn't, then the mathematician's approach of calling 1.001 a number distinct from but just as valid as 1 would be wiser and more sensitive.

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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby morriswalters » Tue Jan 06, 2015 12:32 pm UTC

poochyena wrote:Basically.. why do people feel the need to be labeled?
It places them in their scheme of things. And in societies scheme of things. And add a touch of narcissism.

poochyena wrote:And why do people feel the need to be refered to as the opposite sex?

A large proportion of everything we do as a species revolves around the idea of reproduction. In it's simplest form the binary proposition of opposite sex determines the players in the social dance that humans do which leads to reproduction.
poochyena wrote:Where is the line between being cis and transgender, or the line between being feminine/masculine and transgender? Are men who follow social female gender roles transgender, feminine, both, neither, or just depends?
There is no line, or at least any well defined line, we don't understand the concept well enough. As to what it means you would have to ask someone who is transgender.

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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby HungryHobo » Tue Jan 06, 2015 1:38 pm UTC

poochyena wrote:This is mostly just a big "problem" with tumblr users, they feel they must make up multiple terms to to describe who they are. I simply don't understand why.


In the case of some of the terms which are almost interchangeable: because people like to form tribes with US vs THEM. Tumbler is pretty much perfectly designed to make people form tight ingroups and the way the comment/repost system works is fantastic at fanning the flames of hate and enmity, making people form ingroups and hate outgroups even more than the normally would.

http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/12/17/th ... a-of-rage/

So you get the Dr Who fans hating the Kitten pic people and every other group hating each other and feeding the fires of hatred:
http://imgur.com/je1Cj5v.jpg

So whenever a new tribe forms on tumbler they want to distinguish themselves from every other group, especially the ones most similar to themselves so they make up a (usually terrible and uninformative) set of terminology for themselves which doesn't add to the language in any way but which does allow them to make the point that they're a separate community.

It also serves as a shibboleth for recognising members of the hated outgoup who don't use the terms exactly as their tribe do.

So humans being humans, magnified by the software designed by a company which makes more money if people get really really angry about things.
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby poochyena » Tue Jan 06, 2015 4:41 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:
poochyena wrote:Male and female refer to sex, not gender.

Gender refers to the social roles that a person holds/fits/personifies. It's more or less which of the two binary stereotypes (masculine or feminine) you identify with and where on the gradient between the two you see yourself.

Thats basically how i seen gender as.. and i kinda hate that definition.
Gender refers to social roles, which, change ever decade, and even change from person to person.
I guess the main issue is, there is no concrete term for masculine or feminine activities.

Ok, i'm over thinking it.
Whether someone is masculine or feminine can be debated, and what about people inbetween, or nether?
I just feel it makes more sense to describe someone based on their sex, rather than gender, since sex has a concrete definition.
I kinda see it as, Gender is like calling someone 'tall', sex is like calling someone '6 foot tall'
gender is more how someone is preceived while sex is a more concrete term.

Derek wrote:
Cradarc wrote:For the most part, I agree with you. Gender labels don't make any sense. There are some languages where one pronoun corresponds to all humans. However the English language does differentiate between genders, which is why some people are asking for more specific terms.
I think the reason people like to emphasize all these different labels is to raise awareness for the minority groups. It's the same reason why we have gay pride parades but no straight pride parades. Or why we have Black history month but no white history month. It makes people, who used to be hated, feel valued.

When the problem is "not everyone fits into neat boxes", I'm not sure the solution is "create more boxes". I think a better solution is to recognize the inherent limitations of boxes, and recognize that some people just aren't going to fit into whatever nice boxes you choose, and that's ok.

Thats how i feel
I think the boxes are made to vaguely group people together. Its not ment to define people.
It almost like politics, are you left wing or right wing? What you chose doesn't define all of what you stand for and who you are, but it give you a very rough idea, and most people can usually fit more left or right wing.


I'm sorry, i'm not trying to argue with anyone or prove anyone "wrong" or such, I'm just trying to learn what i can.
Thank you for your comments so far


I guess something i'd like to add, I guess one thing i'm trying to say is, Gender is really only something that matters in groups of friends. If your friend gets lost, and you ask someone to help find them, do you say he is male(gender) or female(sex)?
I guess what i'm trying to say is, when people ask if someone is male or female, 95% of the time they are asking about their sex, not gender, and it feels like they are simply lieing when they respond with their gender.

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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby azule » Tue Jan 06, 2015 5:19 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:people categorize (a "why?" I really don't have an answer for)
Making sense of a world that doesn't make sense only happens when we find answers were there really is none. Answers aren't squishy-squashy things. They're concrete, black and white, things. Hence, categories.

I know that real life is full of blurred lines, analogue specificity, and the like, but you can't always go around identifying yourself via paragraphs instead of short phrases. We label our 1000 page books, our forum discussions, our president, with short titles.The US President has a lot on his plate, from being Chief Executive, to commander-in-chief, and more. If you're a teacher, you might also be a social engineer and conflict resolution expert.

Specifically on gender (sexuality? I'm not totally knowledgeable on these divisions, ironically), people want to be identified correctly. To me, it's like race and ethnicity. While I am fine with being considered whatever (such as white), I think, on a personal level, I want to be identified as who I actually am. By gender I might not be much across any line, but I probably am...a little. If it were moreso I'd probably feel like these lgbtq people.

poochyena wrote:I kinda see it as, Gender is like calling someone 'tall', sex is like calling someone '6 foot tall'
gender is more how someone is preceived while sex is a more concrete term.
Well, see, people's heights change, such as during puberty, during aging, bad posture, back injuries, loss of limb, etc.

But on your futher point, right, we can pick the closest box. But if there are more boxes closer that's an easier task.
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Jan 06, 2015 5:30 pm UTC

poochyena wrote:This is kinda of a tough topic to make, but i really want to discuss it... but i'm not too sure what i'm even asking or trying to understand.

Basically.. why do people feel the need to be labeled?
This is mostly just a big "problem" with tumblr users, they feel they must make up multiple terms to to describe who they are. I simply don't understand why.
There is male and female sex, hetero, bi, and homo sexualities.
But some people feel they must use terms like "genderfluid", "non-binary", "pan-sexual", "demi-sexual" etc. Always terms that can perfectly fit under the "normal" terms i listed above.
Its like they feel they must use as specific of a term as they possibly can.. But using terms to describe one's personality is kinda... silly. No term can describe your personality or sexuality, so why do some people try to use many specific terms to do so? I think it makes more sense to actually describe what you like, rather than use multiple terms with very loose definitions.
I also don't understand why they feel they must tell everyone. Where else but tumblr (and dating sites) would you find people posting their sexuality on their profile?


Many reasons for labels. Mostly for talking about other people in groups. Labeling oneself is usually an exercise in identification. Some people feel that their sexuality represents who they are. Some...don't. There's kind of a pile of different potential identifications, and a lot of people like to be in some sort of group, and identify with them.

The actual boundaries may indeed be vague.

I also want to ask.. what does it mean to be transgender?
And why do people feel the need to be refered to as the opposite sex? calling a female a male is like calling my dog a cat, its the wrong classification.
Male and female refer to sex, not gender.
But, again, what does it mean to be transgender? Where is the line between being cis and transgender, or the line between being feminine/masculine and transgender? Are men who follow social female gender roles transgender, feminine, both, neither, or just depends?


Basically body of x, brain o' y. If you feel you're a y, in an x body, then you may wish to identify as y. The "transgender" term isn't usually essentially. You can usually just describe them as the gender they identify as, and avoid digging through complicated terms.

This comes up more in English because of gendered pronouns. Otherwise, the him/her wouldn't matter very often at all.

Any time i try to have this discussion with people, i'm just told to stop talking because i have no idea what i'm talking about, which, wow, thats kinda exactly what i'm asking..
I just hope for some actual conversation, i'm not "ignorant" or attacking anyone, I just want a more concrete ideas of the concepts.

I don't know, I've just always seen myself and everything as, for my mind, I am poochyena, i, along with everyone else, have a very unique mind that can never be accurately described with a term, so its pointless to do so, and the only terms that do matter are one that have concrete definitions and are physical (such as sex, body weight, height, etc).


All labels are inherently inaccurate and imprecise. But sometimes they're good enough for the purpose. If I talk about "Americans", both the speaker and the hearers know roughly what is being described, even if uncertainty may exist about if a particular person is an American.

To other people, given labels may not matter. I don't really care if I'm identified as masculine or feminine. Feh. I like what I like, and which of those categories a given thing falls into is utterly unimportant to me. Sometimes it's even a little baffling just how much people insist on relating random stupid things to sex. But, we ain't all the same, and some folks do care. Use whatever's good enough to convey the relevant info in context. Sometimes this is a label. Sometimes a label will not suffice.

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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby Angua » Tue Jan 06, 2015 5:32 pm UTC

I think a lot of it is due to people wanting to know that they're not alone. If there's a word for it, then it must be something that other people have also experienced. This extends to many different areas - eg patients will often feel better if they're given a diagnosis, even if that is an idiopathic (ie, we don't know what causes it) condition that we don't have a treatment for - just having a name will often make them feel better.

Problems can occur when people start using labels as a shortcut for other assumptions about people.
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Jan 06, 2015 5:37 pm UTC

Angua wrote:I think a lot of it is due to people wanting to know that they're not alone. If there's a word for it, then it must be something that other people have also experienced. This extends to many different areas - eg patients will often feel better if they're given a diagnosis, even if that is an idiopathic (ie, we don't know what causes it) condition that we don't have a treatment for - just having a name will often make them feel better.

Problems can occur when people start using labels as a shortcut for other assumptions about people.


Well, of course. You can't reliably assume that you fully know individuals simply because of their label, but...happens basically constantly. It's a relatively pervasive issue.

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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby HungryHobo » Tue Jan 06, 2015 5:46 pm UTC

poochyena wrote:And why do people feel the need to be refered to as the opposite sex? calling a female a male is like calling my dog a cat, its the wrong classification.


Also for this one, you might find this interesting.


http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/11/21/th ... ategories/

The border between Turkey and Syria follows a mostly straight-ish line near-ish the 36th parallel, except that about twenty miles south of the border Turkey controls a couple of square meters in the middle of a Syrian village. This is the tomb of the ancestor of the Ottoman Turks, and Turkey’s border agreement with Syria stipulates that it will remain part of Turkey forever. And the Turks take this very seriously; they maintain a platoon of special forces there and have recently been threatening war against Syria if their “territory” gets “invaded” in the current conflict.


Biologists defined by fiat that in cases of ambiguous animal grouping like whales, phylogenetics will be the tiebreaker. This was useful to resolve ambiguity, and it’s worth sticking to as a Schelling point so everyone’s using their words the same way, but it’s kind of arbitrary and mostly based on biologists caring a lot about phylogenetics. If we let King Solomon make the decision, he might decide by fiat that whether animals lived in land or water would be the tiebreaker, since he’s most interested in whether the animal is hunted on horseback or by boat.

Likewise, astronomers decided by fiat that something would be a planet if and only if meets the three criteria of orbiting, round, and orbit-clearing. But here we have a pretty neat window into how these kinds of decisions take place – you can read the history of the International Astronomical Union meeting where they settled on the definition and learn about all the alternative proposals that were floated and rejected and which particular politics resulted in the present criteria being selected among all the different possibilities. Here it is obvious that the decision was by fiat.

Without the input of any prestigious astronomers at all, most people seem to assume that the ultimate tiebreaker in man vs. woman questions is presence of a Y chromosome. I’m not sure this is a very principled decision, because I expect most people would classify congenital androgen insensitivity patients (XY people whose bodies are insensitive to the hormone that makes them look male, and so end up looking 100% female their entire lives and often not even knowing they have the condition) as women.

The project of the transgender movement is to propose a switch from using chromosomes as a tiebreaker to using self-identification as a tiebreaker.

(This isn’t actually the whole story – some of the more sophisticated people want to split “sex” and “gender”, so that people who want to talk about what chromosomes they’ve got have a categorization system to do that with, and a few people even want to split “chromosomal sex” and “anatomical sex” and “gender” and goodness knows what else – and I support all of these as very important examples of the virtue of precision – but to a first approximation, they want to define gender as self-identification)

This is not something that can be “true” or “false”. It’s a boundary-redrawing project. It can make for some boundaries that look a little bit weird – like a small percent of men being able to get pregnant – but as far as weird boundaries go that’s probably not as bad as having a tiny exclave of Turkish territory in the middle of a Syrian village.
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby Azrael » Tue Jan 06, 2015 9:45 pm UTC

poochyena wrote:I just feel it makes more sense to describe someone based on their sex, rather than gender, since sex has a concrete definition.
I kinda see it as, Gender is like calling someone 'tall', sex is like calling someone '6 foot tall'
gender is more how someone is preceived while sex is a more concrete term.

How is someone's sex useful to us? After all, it's gender that refers to the outward, public facing qualities.

Assuming that you (not their doctor, nor a romantic partner) wish to plunk someone in a category male vs female. Why is genitalia, chromosomes, or which side of the reproductive cycle a useful distinction? We can't easily ascertain those things.

We can ascertain where a person falls on the masculine/feminine gradient, what their name might indicate for a gender and what pronouns they use. This context should clue us in about what gender they identify as. And if not, we have to be willing to question our own need/desire to categorize them according to the limited binary.

The bits that define sex are certainly more binary (still not entirely) and can be quite meaningful medically, but don't capture the whole story. How can we tell? Because there are people out there who are entirely, outwardly female but have male genitals (and vice-versa). Categorizing them as male is inaccurate in every instance doesn't directly involve genitals. And their genitals simply aren't our business.

poochyena wrote:I guess what i'm trying to say is, when people ask if someone is male or female, 95% of the time they are asking about their sex, not gender, and it feels like they are simply lieing when they respond with their gender.

No they're not. Not at all. Why do I know this? Because most of the time the question isn't to ascertain genital compatibility based on sexual preference, capability to fulfill a specific portion of the reproduction cycle or desire to make medical advice specific to one's anatomy.

Most of the time the question is to determine a physical description. Or whether they'd rather [masculine thing] or [feminine thing]. People are just used to the idea that the characteristics they're really asking about "belong" with a specific genitalia. But guess what? We are increasingly aware that those rigid assignments between [thing that isn't genitals] and [genitals] isn't super rigid. Or accurate. Or useful, honestly. So we need words that can appropriately separate the two.

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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Jan 06, 2015 9:47 pm UTC

poochyena wrote:I just feel it makes more sense to describe someone based on their sex, rather than gender, since sex has a concrete definition.
I also want to point out that there are some gray areas with sex.
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby KrytenKoro » Tue Jan 06, 2015 10:35 pm UTC

Yeah...the idea that there is even a clearly defined "male box" and "female box" for the "abnormals" to not neatly fit into is already woefully ignorant.

The short answer for why there's a lot of labels -- because there's a lot of identities, and the current kludgy system trying to filter them is about as accurate as a toddler sorting all the legos in the world by color, size, and shape, while you wave a piece of cake at them and also maybe bang some cymbals.

Or in other words -- because people ignorantly and chauvinistically insist on their being "male" and "female" identifiers in the first place, instead of being "non-discriminatory" like they keep claiming, so everyone with a lick of sense says "fine, if we have to have those, let's at least add the rest so we can have at least a semblance of accurancy and comprehensiveness".

If you don't want to deal with more than two identities, then don't invent identities as a concept in the first place.
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby rat4000 » Wed Jan 07, 2015 10:05 am UTC

Azrael wrote:
poochyena wrote:I just feel it makes more sense to describe someone based on their sex, rather than gender, since sex has a concrete definition.
I kinda see it as, Gender is like calling someone 'tall', sex is like calling someone '6 foot tall'
gender is more how someone is preceived while sex is a more concrete term.

How is someone's sex useful to us? After all, it's gender that refers to the outward, public facing qualities.
I think at least part of it comes from the "but I'm only sexually attracted to people with this plumbing, how do I know who to date" problem. I used to be confused about this until I read somewhere that pre- and non-op transfolk will actually reveal this pretty early in a relationship that looks like french kissing is an option -- it's not like they're not aware of the problem. (Yeah, that was a minor epiphany. You can stop laughing now.) And this is basically the only non-medical context where it will ever matter.

I have no idea if the issue comes from transphobia or from actual non-changable things about one's orientation, by the way. If you're a heterosexual woman, the default assumption is that you want to be dating men -- are romantically interested in men -- but are you sexually interested in men period, or in men with penises? I guess you can be a heterosexual woman who would love to be romantically involved with an asexual woman... in a polyamorous relationship maybe... but is there a box for this? Googling "homoromantic" gets me a Wikipedia article, but I'd literally never heard the term before now.

As an aside and in support of Izawwlgood and others: if your definition of sex involves secondary sexual characteristics at all, non-op transfolk who transition (MtF: breasts, less body hair, even stuff like your sense of smell changes) say that it can't cover all cases unless you ridiculously overengineer it; so you might as well leave it be entirely and speak of genitals and chromosomes and hormones in isolation. And if your definition of sex doesn't involve secondary sexual characteristics, you're already not using the terms as they are commonly used; so you might as well leave it be entirely, etc.

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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby Azrael » Wed Jan 07, 2015 2:10 pm UTC

rat4000 wrote:
Azrael wrote:How is someone's sex useful to us? After all, it's gender that refers to the outward, public facing qualities.
I think at least part of it comes from the "but I'm only sexually attracted to people with this plumbing, how do I know who to date" problem. I used to be confused about this until I read somewhere that pre- and non-op transfolk will actually reveal this pretty early in a relationship that looks like french kissing is an option -- it's not like they're not aware of the problem. (Yeah, that was a minor epiphany. You can stop laughing now.) And this is basically the only non-medical context where it will ever matter.


Part of it comes from that, sure. As you mention, it's not really a problem. But even ignoring that super easy solution, let's peel back the assumption that "how do I know who to date?" is really the major driver:

How many sexual partners does a person have in their life? I don't know the average, but it must be less than 25. Or even 100. I'm sure we can agree that a handful of sigma worth of people have less than 100 people they have any sort of sexual contact with. Contrast that with how many times over the course of a lifetime they ask/determine/ascertain/assume or assign the gender of another person? Tens of thousands of times, easily. Pretty much once for every person you interact with over a lifetime. Even for people you didn't really interact with, just observed on the train or whatever. (And probably way more than once per person: If your coworker came into work tomorrow with an gender identifier that would have previously been atypical, you'd notice -- meaning that you update their gender identity more frequently).

As I said earlier, establishing the compatibility of genitals (i.e. needing to know sex vs. gender) is only a tiny subset of the times you gender a person. So really, gender is what people "need" to know.

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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby HungryHobo » Wed Jan 07, 2015 2:53 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:How many sexual partners does a person have in their life? I don't know the average, but it must be less than 25. Or even 100.


How many times do you eat per day? 3-6? how many times per day do you see things and recognise them as food vs non food per day, even if you don't actually intend to eat them? hundreds?

In a lifetime how many times do you glance around a room noticing the exits? probably thousands. How many times does the average person have to evacuate a building because of a real dangerous fire? probably zero but maybe 1 or 2 times in their lives.

Compared to those things semi-consciously classifying the few hundred people you meet in a day into vague potential mates vs vague potential competitors is right up there with recognising the edges of clifs or food vs non-food and about as important to the meatware running 90% of your brain.

Though that's great if your goal is to make everyone feel vaguely guilty about things they do or think which are perfectly natural and normal.
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby Azrael » Wed Jan 07, 2015 4:20 pm UTC

HungryHobo wrote:Compared to those things semi-consciously classifying the few hundred people you meet in a day into vague potential mates vs vague potential competitors is right up there with recognising the edges of clifs or food vs non-food and about as important to the meatware running 90% of your brain.

Though that's great if your goal is to make everyone feel vaguely guilty about things they do or think which are perfectly natural and normal.

Yeah, not the point I'm making at all.

The point is that for all those innumerable encounters, it's gender not sex that you're assessing. Sex only matters for the tiny fraction of those interactions where you're actively involving yourself with someone's genitals.

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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby HungryHobo » Wed Jan 07, 2015 4:50 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:The point is that for all those innumerable encounters, it's gender not sex that you're assessing. Sex only matters for the tiny fraction of those interactions where you're actively involving yourself with someone's genitals.


And you're ignoring the point that the number of actual sexual partners someone has in a lifetime is as relevant to this as the number of pieces of gravel you classify as "not food" vs how many meals you have in your lifetime: ie it's an assessment and classification that's so insanely important to large portions of your brain that the actual small number of times it's actually useful is almost irrelevant hence implying that it's not a major motivator is either simply a really really bad argument or a nun-level attempt to guilt trip people for mundane semi-automatic thoughts/actions.

If people were designed, perfectly optimised, perfectly rational software for modern life it might make a decent argument but since they're based on meatware it doesn't.

That is unless I've got the wrong end of the stick and you weren't trying to imply that there was anything wrong/bad/immoral about people automatically and constantly classifying those around them into categories that would only be relevant if their genitals were involved.
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby Azrael » Wed Jan 07, 2015 5:46 pm UTC

HungryHobo wrote:That is unless I've got the wrong end of the stick.

Yeah. You do.

Well, twice actually. Maybe three times.

The one that matters to the topic rather than your assignation of my motives, is that you're calling the mundane male/female sorting 'critical to genitalia'. It's not. Until you're all up in there, that automatic response is only capable of relying on outwards markers of gender. It's not until you're actively involved with genitals that their nature -- and thus sex -- is relevant.

When you see that hot chick going the other way in the crosswalk and determining if she is a viable mating partner moves from third priority up to first priority (overriding whether your coffee and bagel are poison and if the oncoming truck might be a problem), you're making the assessment based solely on gender markers. I mean, unless she's naked. How do I know this? Because she could have a penis, and you'd still double take, stick your straw in your eye and almost get run over.

Sure, you're performing the gender assessment because of your reaction to her assumed sex. Because you want to mate with her, right? But until you're actually mating -- or anywhere in the typical human mating display past "what's your number" -- genitalia isn't what you're using to make the assessment.

And for the record, yes, now I am being a bit tongue in cheek about where figuring out if I can do that chick falls in the average person's hierarchy of thought.

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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby HungryHobo » Wed Jan 07, 2015 6:37 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:And for the record, yes, now I am being a bit tongue in cheek about where figuring out if I can do that chick falls in the average person's hierarchy of thought.


Well, we've all had those moments.
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genitalia isn't what you're using to make the assessment.


The motivation, what you care about and what you're actually using to make the assessment need not be the same. A proxy that's correlated >99% to what you actually care about is pretty good almost all of the time and it's use doesn't prove that you only really care about the proxy.
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby morriswalters » Wed Jan 07, 2015 6:48 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:Yeah, not the point I'm making at all.

The point is that for all those innumerable encounters, it's gender not sex that you're assessing. Sex only matters for the tiny fraction of those interactions where you're actively involving yourself with someone's genitals.
Gender identification is a heuristic for the identification of a possible sexual partner, since genitalia are obscured. Much in the way that male Cardinals are bright red and females less so. You only test the heuristic when you choose to do something about it. Just saying.

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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby KrytenKoro » Wed Jan 07, 2015 7:12 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:
Azrael wrote:Yeah, not the point I'm making at all.

The point is that for all those innumerable encounters, it's gender not sex that you're assessing. Sex only matters for the tiny fraction of those interactions where you're actively involving yourself with someone's genitals.
Gender identification is a heuristic for the identification of a possible sexual partner, since genitalia are obscured. Much in the way that male Cardinals are bright red and females less so. You only test the heuristic when you choose to do something about it. Just saying.

So...are we saying that the primary reason for gender identification is mating? I know you guys aren't saying "only" (well, Morris kinda is), but you're definitely at least saying "primary".

Even ignoring modern-day stuff like looking for friends of the same gender, etc., this rings super false. Why did Europe used to care so much about which babies were male and which were female, if everyone should primarily care whether they can eventually mix juices or not? Are we saying that, logically, the main reason to be a transvestite is to trick others into being attracted to "the wrong sex"? Really? "Can I bone this person" is the hands-down most important and prolific use of the question "What gender is this person?"
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby Angua » Wed Jan 07, 2015 7:54 pm UTC

Because of things like dowries. Who carries on the family name.

You know, mating stuff.
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby Cradarc » Wed Jan 07, 2015 8:16 pm UTC

I'm not sure if you guys are familiar with this, but I've read several books about nondiscrimination that promotes the "celebration of differences" over the "ignoring of differences". I think this is one argument for having the labels. You can't appreciate the differences between people if there isn't even a word to describe it. "I, you, him, and her are all different" tells us nothing about what makes us different. We need special words to highlight aspects of our differences.

Language, being abstract, is always ambiguous. Ambiguity can always lead to prejudice, purely because of how humans think. When we hear a word, we immediately begin associating it with past experiences to come up with a "meaning" for that word. There's nothing wrong with that, but it can cause us to jump to conclusions which aren't valid.
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby Azrael » Wed Jan 07, 2015 8:22 pm UTC

HungryHobo wrote:The motivation, what you care about and what you're actually using to make the assessment need not be the same.

Yup. That's what I've been saying.

So Johnny's subconscious is scouring faces on the street to pick out especially attractive potential mates. For the purposes of this exercise, and all exercises until he comes at distinct risk of bumping uglies with someone, Johnny can only assess gender. He wouldn't know if gender and sex are different. So, what influences this ogling? Gender markers. Want even more proof? Oh look, a girl with short hair dressed in masculine clothes walked by and Johnny didn't pass a glance. Must not be the person's sex that Johnny is so exclusive interested in. But as he goes, Johnny may really want to know about genitals of each and every person. That's not his business yet. A possible mismatch has no impact on Johnny's assessment. Not until Johnny gets a date would the person's sex actually become relevant.

Johnny, wanting to casually rate whether he'd enjoy getting his dick wet in passers-by, can continue on his way unknowing that his sexing based on gender was wrong this time with zero effect. And that's why it's gender that matters for these interactions. For Johnny to realize this, he just has to accept that there's a difference between every female-projecting person he sees and people who he might actually have sex with.

It might be hard.

A proxy that's correlated >99% to what you actually care about is pretty good almost all of the time and it's use doesn't prove that you only really care about the proxy.

Maybe now is the time to finally address the (terrible) assumption that 100% of gender assessments are made in order to establish the compatibility of bumping uglies. Absolutely zero times I've indicated gender on any sort of questionnaire, license or official document is it to establish if I am a compatible sexual partner. When you ask what gender someone's kid is, it's not to establish the kid's mating potential. When grandma forgets if her some branch of her family tree's 14 year old is a boy or a girl, it's not because she has an underlying urge to establish sexual competitiveness. All of these are for descriptive or other stereotypical gender makers -- what kind of onesie or sweater to buy.

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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby morriswalters » Wed Jan 07, 2015 8:29 pm UTC

KrytenKoro wrote:"Can I bone this person" is the hands-down most important and prolific use of the question "What gender is this person?"
Separate the reasoning part of your mind from the biological imperative that produced it. It is about what moves the race forward, which happens by procreation. If the "Can I bone this person?" wasn't the most important question then gender wouldn't matter at all. Fashion, dating rituals, dating sites, and the thousand and one ways that we chase the biological part of the human experience, and they exist to serve a purpose. The reasoning side of your mind adds other meanings. You rate the importance of what each of those added meanings have to you.
Azrael wrote:Maybe now is the time to finally address the (terrible) assumption that 100% of gender assessments are made in order to establish the compatibility of bumping uglies. Absolutely zero times I've indicated gender on any sort of questionnaire, license or official document is it to establish if I am a compatible sexual partner.
Then pray tell why are they there at all?

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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby Azrael » Wed Jan 07, 2015 8:31 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:
Azrael wrote:Maybe now is the time to finally address the (terrible) assumption that 100% of gender assessments are made in order to establish the compatibility of bumping uglies. Absolutely zero times I've indicated gender on any sort of questionnaire, license or official document is it to establish if I am a compatible sexual partner.
Then pray tell why are they there at all?

Back the fuck up: The gender on my driver's license is there so that the cop, the liquor store clerk or the person I'll never interact with at the IRS* can tell if I'm a compatible sexual mate? The marketing poll cares if I can make the sex with it rather than what set of gender markers I identify with and thus drive my purchasing choices?

No. Those are there for descriptive -- and thus identification -- purposes.

Although your point stands: Why does the IRS* need to know (as you seem to suggest they do) which genitalia I have? I have an entirely unique personal identification number registered with the Federal government. And a state one, for that matter.



*Used as a stand in for faceless, nameless government institutions. I don't recall if they actually ask for gender or not. Probably not.

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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby KrytenKoro » Wed Jan 07, 2015 8:42 pm UTC

Angua wrote:Because of things like dowries. Who carries on the family name.

You know, mating stuff.

Assuming you're not being facetious, "stuff tangentially related to mating" is still very distinct from "desire to mate, itself".

Separate the reasoning part of your mind from the biological imperative that produced it. It is about what moves the race forward, which happens by procreation. If the "Can I bone this person?" wasn't the most important question then gender wouldn't matter at all. Fashion, dating rituals, dating sites, and the thousand and one ways that we chase the biological part of the human experience, and they exist to serve a purpose. The reasoning side of your mind adds other meanings. You rate the importance of what each of those added meanings have to you.

Well, for one, I'm a hell of a lot less likely to need a hysterectomy (some might, in fact, say I'm at 0% probability), and my pain down there is probably more likely to be bladder or appendix related. That's helpful info for my doctor to ask for, with absolutely no relation to whether or not he wants to stick it in me.

But no, let's instead ignore the vast variety of human conditions and keep with the tired cliche that absolutely everything in the human brain is wired for M-F sex. I mean, people with no sex drive whatsoever surely can't tell male from female, can they? And homosexuals, I bet they just have Rule 63 Vision.

(I mean, even if we go with the weak theory that every possible instinct or bias we have must have some sort of evolutionary basis geared towards survival of the species <not race>, people do realize that if you trace that far back enough, we did have asexual ancestors, right? Like, on a fundamental level, if you subscribe to the evolutionary psychology newsletter, you have to at least admit that some instincts might not be geared towards sex.)
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby Angua » Wed Jan 07, 2015 9:19 pm UTC

KrytenKoro wrote:
Angua wrote:Because of things like dowries. Who carries on the family name.

You know, mating stuff.

Assuming you're not being facetious, "stuff tangentially related to mating" is still very distinct from "desire to mate, itself".

I don't think that's tangential at all. Propagation of genes is the core reason for mating, the rituals surrounding it were there to try to make sure that went as smoothly as possible. You wanted to know why people are obsessed with which babies are which - because it had a big impact on the continuation of the family.
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby KrytenKoro » Wed Jan 07, 2015 10:13 pm UTC

Angua wrote:
KrytenKoro wrote:
Angua wrote:Because of things like dowries. Who carries on the family name.

You know, mating stuff.

Assuming you're not being facetious, "stuff tangentially related to mating" is still very distinct from "desire to mate, itself".

I don't think that's tangential at all. Propagation of genes is the core reason for mating, the rituals surrounding it were there to try to make sure that went as smoothly as possible. You wanted to know why people are obsessed with which babies are which - because it had a big impact on the continuation of the family.

The argument above is that the instinctual reason that people try to apply gender labels is in order to know whether they can mash genitals.

Allowing that the other stuff is primarily for who to pass on genes to, that's still very distinct from the reason being debated above.
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled?

Postby azule » Wed Jan 07, 2015 10:51 pm UTC

I see the discussion is now whether sexual compatibility is important to people on a daily basis when not trying to find their sex partner. Did I see someone point out that even clothing for a baby is a possible instance of this as well? See, kids are grownups in training. We teach them to eat, dress, bathe, etc. They should not do most of that on their own until they are older. And when they are older, they still should not just go out and have sex. It's a big long transition into finding a sex partner (then in turn raising more kids). Grandma cares because she wants great-grandkids or at least for her daughter to become a grandmother. This is instinct.

I don't totally agree with my statement. That's the "everything is about sex" theory. I think it's there, the whole time, but why did I draw something that I never shared? (Probably to increase my skills so that one day I wow a girl with it and we have sex, obviously.) (shh.) Okay...I can't not argue it. Someone argue with me and then maybe I'll have a better response.

Oh yeah, my first sentence. If you already have a sex partner? Does it ever stop? Romance says it does. I completely doubt this. Even some starry eyed female who's professed her undying admiration will look around when they are pissed off by lover. Look, not touch.

Azrael wrote:I mean, unless she's naked.
If she had a penis, she might still be interested in you. If she didn't have a penis, the following are still possible: she's interested in you, too; she's not interested in you (but is straight); she's not interested in you (she's gay); she's interested in you (because you're extremely feminine for a male, she being gay or straight). You get the gist.

morriswalters wrote:Gender identification is a heuristic for the identification of a possible sexual partner, since genitalia are obscured.
Which is why if we don't dress according to our gender roles some people are really upset. That makes sense. But lifting up skirts sound like more fun. (Surprise penis! Fun still?) But damnit...who wears skirts anymore?
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby morriswalters » Wed Jan 07, 2015 11:08 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:Back the fuck up: The gender on my driver's license is there so that the cop, the liquor store clerk or the person I'll never interact with at the IRS* can tell if I'm a compatible sexual mate? The marketing poll cares if I can make the sex with it rather than what set of gender markers I identify with and thus drive my purchasing choices?

No. Those are there for descriptive -- and thus identification -- purposes.

Although your point stands: Why does the IRS* need to know (as you seem to suggest they do) which genitalia I have? I have an entirely unique personal identification number registered with the Federal government. And a state one, for that matter.



*Used as a stand in for faceless, nameless government institutions. I don't recall if they actually ask for gender or not. Probably not.

No doubt you have a point. However they seem to be able to keep which man(or women, or pick your own flavor) they are talking to differentiated from others of the same gender. I suggest they use gender because they have been using gender. It is baked in to the culture. Every one, at least that I'm aware of. It is baked in deep, so deep in fact we try to act like it isn't what it is. Gender as a heuristic for sex is predicated by the desire to reproduce. And all the hallmarks of gender arise out of that. It's kinda like your SS number, it was designed for one thing and is now used by many others for many different things. Including the IRS, your local grocer and criminals. Not that that is a bad thing.We are approaching the point of being able to change the body to match the assignment that the mind has of itself. What would be the holy grail for the transgender who was born with male body parts?

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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby BattleMoose » Thu Jan 08, 2015 2:36 am UTC

poochyena wrote:
Azrael wrote:
poochyena wrote:Male and female refer to sex, not gender.

Gender refers to the social roles that a person holds/fits/personifies. It's more or less which of the two binary stereotypes (masculine or feminine) you identify with and where on the gradient between the two you see yourself.

Thats basically how i seen gender as.. and i kinda hate that definition.
Gender refers to social roles, which, change ever decade, and even change from person to person.
I guess the main issue is, there is no concrete term for masculine or feminine activities.

Ok, i'm over thinking it.
Whether someone is masculine or feminine can be debated, and what about people inbetween, or nether?
I just feel it makes more sense to describe someone based on their sex, rather than gender, since sex has a concrete definition.
I kinda see it as, Gender is like calling someone 'tall', sex is like calling someone '6 foot tall'
gender is more how someone is preceived while sex is a more concrete term.




Sex, is what you physically are.
Gender is what you mentally, really are.

Transgender is essentially being a woman trapped inside a man's body or vice versa. Effectively, you have the wrong body. What makes this particularly difficult is how poorly this is understood in today's culture.

So if you identify as a woman, and are constantly being referred to as a man, it feels like a huge part of your identity is being denied to you. And psychologically it's actually a pretty big deal. And its done throughout society right from the top to the very bottom. Your passport even insists you are a man when you are in fact a woman. Its really damaging. Its attacking directly who you are, how you identify. Its hard to convey the importance of this and I don't feel myself if I truly understand it, certainly cannot relate.

But I do know that getting the pronoun right, (him/her) is incredibly important to transgender individuals.

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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby Carlington » Thu Jan 08, 2015 3:17 am UTC

The best recent summary I have seen of the difference between sex and gender was that sex is looking between the legs of a baby you just delivered and gender is wrapping the ones with penises in blue blankets and the ones with vaginas in pink blankets.

I like that explanation particularly because it explains the difference in an understandable way, using symbols that most of us are familiar with, but it also points out that as a society we decide someone's identity for them before they get a chance to tell us for themselves, even right from the moment of birth. It doesn't cover the notion of non-binary gender or touch on the fact that there are intersex people, but it's a start.

As to the OPs question about why people need these labels? In most cases, these people have spent their entire lives being told they don't exist, they can't possibly identify the way they do and, by extension, that they don't really know as much about themselves as someone else does. This happens in a lot of ways: the overt and aggressive things like "being $identity is just not natural!" and the covert ways (microaggressions) like addressing someone as "sir" when they're "ma'am", and even unintentional things where you really don't mean any harm like asking "why do you need these labels, though?"
It can be easy to believe that you're somehow wrong about your own identity, because it's easy to believe you're the only person who feels that way. So having a word, like "genderfluid", gives you something concrete that you can use to talk about your experiences, and to find other people who might face the same struggles and come together to organise and find strength and support one another. It's much easier than trying to articulate yourself like "Does anybody else feel like they have a vagina, so society expects them to be a girl, but they don't really feel like they're very good at being a girl, but also being a boy isn't really what they're going for because boy-ness doesn't really feel right either, and that they're not quite content calling themselves a trans person because no matter what they do, there can never be a physical body that properly or satisfactorily represents the gender they want to perform, so it would really be much easier if people stopped assuming that their gender was one of: boy, girl, boy in girl body, girl in boy body, and..."

All that said, that's definitely not the only reason that more labels exist. There are cases like using the term lesbian specifically for homosexual women, because homosexual men and women face different challenges and have different experiences, and many homosexual women sought a way to talk about those differences. And there's more recent examples of this, like an ongoing/not-quite-settled conversation about identifying as bisexual versus pansexual.

To sum up, there's many reasons that people use new and different labels to describe themselves, but for the most part it seems to come down to a combination of wanting a rallying point which can help to find people with similar experiences, and not being satisfied that any existing labels or spaces adequately describe your experiences.
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby azule » Thu Jan 08, 2015 10:13 am UTC

Carlington wrote:The best recent summary I have seen of the difference between sex and gender was that sex is looking between the legs of a baby you just delivered and gender is wrapping the ones with penises in blue blankets and the ones with vaginas in pink blankets.

I like that explanation particularly because it explains the difference in an understandable way, using symbols that most of us are familiar with, but it also points out that as a society we decide someone's identity for them before they get a chance to tell us for themselves, even right from the moment of birth.
I chose to focus on non gendered colors for my son. Not necessarily avoiding blue (which, hello, that's what my name means), just trying to not go overboard with everything being blue. He seems to like orange anyway.

I did this because of that similar thought, that his gender might not be the stereotypical and I didn't want it to be a backlash point. He also has interactions with pink, and bras (he wears them on his head). hehe. I like pink, I just don't wear it. I wonder if my gender assignment caused this, at all.
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