Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

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Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby Griffin » Tue Mar 22, 2011 8:09 pm UTC

Obviously, it's a pretty big deal to a lot of people, but like many such things, I don't really seem to have a meaningful understanding of why. Also, unlike the many aspects of society I attribute to culture alone, it seems there's something much deeper going on within this concept of gender identity, something I can't really frame in terms of my own personal experience. I'm not particularly attached to my physical sex or my particular gender, and, much like sexual preference, its hard for me to view as something others see as integral to their identity, whether it is in line with cultural norms or not. On an intellectual level, I understand that being persecuted for something, or having someone actively set themselves against your preferences, is incredibly likely to internalize it, but I think it would trivialize it to say that is all that's occurring here, and I believe there's far more to it.

So what I'd like is a discussion of what it means to associate strongly enough with a gender that one would be willing to go through what some transgendered people go through, to help me better understand the feelings and emotions that drive such a process.
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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby Jessica » Tue Mar 22, 2011 8:21 pm UTC

Ok... I'll bite.

As this is a topic that is extremely close to my heart (being as I'm a trans woman), I hope you don't mind if I lay out some ground rules. I'm going to answer questions to the best of my ability, and try and explain how this works from my point of view. I don't speak for all trans people, but I do speak for myself. I will stop answering questions, or interacting with this thread if people start to question whether trans people really exist, or are generally douchebags about the entire thing. I'm not a mod, but I can only say what I will reply to. Hopefully a good conversation can come from this.

What does it feel like to have an incongruent body? It hurts, to say the least. At times it's a physical pain that comes from deep down. I feel that I'm not a man, no matter how I was assigned at birth, no matter what my chromosomes or biology states. It's a knowledge deep down, that is hard to explain to those who've never felt the incongruousness. It's more than just oppression, or breaking gender norms. I know, deep down that I'm a woman, like how I know who I'm attracted to, who I hate and love.

It's an important part of my identity mainly because people highlight the difference between me and cis-gendered women. It's hard to not have it be something I identity with when people apply the label to me.

uh... not sure what else to say...
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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby Griffin » Tue Mar 22, 2011 8:44 pm UTC

As this is a topic that is extremely close to my heart (being as I'm a trans woman), I hope you don't mind if I lay out some ground rules.


No problem. If I overstep at any point, please let me know (or just ignore me and I'll try to catch the hint, though I'm not great with subtlety).

I will stop answering questions, or interacting with this thread if people start to question whether trans people really exist, or are generally douchebags about the entire thing

Yeah, hopefully this won't happen. I also hope a good conversation can come from this.

What does it feel like to have an incongruent body? It hurts, to say the least. At times it's a physical pain that comes from deep down. I feel that I'm not a man, no matter how I was assigned at birth, no matter what my chromosomes or biology states.

What do you mean when you say "You feel you are not a man"? Is it that you feel your body, in particular, isn't right for you, how you're seen by society, or something else completely different (or some sort of combination thereof). What does it mean to you to be a man? To be a woman?

I know, deep down that I'm a woman, like how I know who I'm attracted to, who I hate and love.

These comparisons are certainly good in that they are something incredibly personal, something which can't really be denied by other people - they emphasize that regardless of the reasons, your feeling are genuine. But attraction, hate, love - while obviously more than simple emotion or preference, they are also changeable. Do you think gender identity is similarly changeable? I realize what I'm asking could be misconstrued, so I'll clarify - I'm not asking if we should change it or can change, or trying to imply anything, I'd just like to know - is it possible for people's gender identity to change over the course of their life? Even if its a strong enough aspect that for most people its unlikely to ever happen?

I'm also interested in how you came to this understanding about yourself - was it something you knew from a young age, something arrived at after a period of questioning followed by a revalation, some sort of long held out-of-place feeling that you only eventually found the cause for?

If you could change yourself somehow, your mind, to be comfortable with the body and role you were born with, would you do so? Or do you feel that you'd be losing a fundamental part of what makes you who are?
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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby Jessica » Tue Mar 22, 2011 9:18 pm UTC

I think that different people have different levels of fluidity in their gender. Also, gender is a multi-headed beast - there's gender presentation, how people perceive you, how you perceive yourself, and other aspects. Some trans-theorists (Julia Serano in Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity) who suppose that, along with gender expression and presentation, there is a subconscious sex aspect of our identities. She states, in her theory of gender that there are multiple aspects to how we view ourselves, each one is a range where most people fall on the ends, and each one is independent of each other. So, one can have a "subconscious sex" of female, even if your body is male, and your gender expression is masculine. This "subconscious sex" is described as how one feels one's body... sort of. Wow, I went off there for a bit. What I'm trying to say is that gender is pretty freaking complicated, and really difficult to pin down into the categories which we assign to people today.

So, when I say that I feel like a woman, I mean that, deep down, no matter how I dress or present, I don't feel male. Even if I wear jeans and t-shirts, I just don't feel like I'm male. I know that I'm not. How I know... well a lot of soul searching, a lot of arguing with myself, and talking to others, but it's a feeling that I can't really deny. Is it a socially constructed creation? Probably in part. Nothing is completely disassociated from culture, and if we lived in a completely androgynous world, I can't say with 100% certainty that I would still feel female with a masculine gendered body... but in a completely androgynous world that statement doesn't make sense... if that makes sense. I don't know. But, right now, I know my body didn't feel right, and sometimes doesn't feel right now. I'm pretty far into my transition, so it's getting much better - presenting as female, being seen as female by others, these things make me feel better, and less depressed. Like someone is actually seeing me, and not some fake thing that they keep talking about.

Griffin wrote:I'm also interested in how you came to this understanding about yourself - was it something you knew from a young age, something arrived at after a period of questioning followed by a revelation, some sort of long held out-of-place feeling that you only eventually found the cause for?

If you could change yourself somehow, your mind, to be comfortable with the body and role you were born with, would you do so? Or do you feel that you'd be losing a fundamental part of what makes you who are?
I first consciously thought about it at 16, and finally decided to transition at 22. There was a period between of constant questioning, whether I was really trans, or just faking it, and other such fun internal arguments. There were periods before I consciously thought about it, where I bent gender roles, but I never thought twice about it... or I just ignored it.

If there was a pill to make me feel like I was male, I wouldn't take it. Would you take a pill that would make you feel female (sorry, I'm assuming your male)?
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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby Oregonaut » Tue Mar 22, 2011 9:21 pm UTC

I haven't done nearly enough studying on this to make this question make sense:

How does one "feel" male?
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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby Whimsical Eloquence » Tue Mar 22, 2011 9:37 pm UTC

Oregonaut wrote:How does one "feel" male?


I'd like to echo this question. When you say male do you refer to the socially constructed gender known as masculinity and its general applicability to those who are male or do you mean male in the sense of having certain organs and physiology.

Jessica wrote:
If there was a pill to make me feel like I was male, I wouldn't take it. Would you take a pill that would make you feel female (sorry, I'm assuming your male)?


I've no idea. I don't know how it is to feel like anything that isn't me. I mean I could imagine what it would be like to dress and act, almost disguise myself as my opposite gender but I can do that in more or less my present body. I don't know what it is to be my current sex though, I don't know what it is to be that outside of what it is to be "me".

Does one feel male or female? Perhaps I've just misunderstood what is usually said in these contexts, I mean one can identify as the gender male or female and one can know what it is to have x sexual organs or y sexual organs, but what does it mean to feel male or female?
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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby Jessica » Tue Mar 22, 2011 9:54 pm UTC

It's complicated and difficult to describe, and I understand why this is the issue that comes up. I don't really know any way to explain it other than through thought experiments. If someone asked you what your gender was, what do you respond? Now, if someone questions you about that, how do you defend it? If you were told that you couldn't defend what your gender was with any biological reasons, how would you explain it?

For me, the physical biology of my body does not feel right to how my mind perceives it should be. It doesn't look right, doesn't move right, doesn't act right. It's better now that I'm transitioning, but the actual biology just isn't the way it feels like it should be. It's... How do you describe why you're right handed? Your mind just has a dominant side, right? Well, whatever allows my mind to recognize the concept of gender and applying it to myself, has a flipped bit, or something.

And yes, it's separate from both the physical body, and how I present myself.
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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby Oregonaut » Tue Mar 22, 2011 10:01 pm UTC

Is it necessarily flipped?

I'm "male" because that is what society has told me I am. I went to male restrooms, because I have a penis. I went to a male flight in basic because I have a penis. Everything is wrapped around that tube dangling between my legs.

I present myself as aggressive when necessary. Protective, when necessary....

I think I define myself more by emotion than by physical characteristics. "I am a defender, I protect those who cannot or will not protect themselves. My life is not my own. My life belongs to everyone else, for they need it more than I do."

That's why I have a problem with the "what is male?" I'm not harshing on Jess, she's good people. I just don't understand what it is to be "male", except by what society in itself defines as "male".

That's why it is hard for me to understand why it is hard to...that's why I make no fucking sense when asking questions and put my damn foot in my mouth.
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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby Aaeriele » Tue Mar 22, 2011 10:04 pm UTC

I'm going to start out with a sort of sombre comment, and hopefully the rest of my post will offset it enough that you won't think me a total pessimist:

You will never fully understand what it feels like to be transgender unless you are transgender.

Okay, now that we have that out there, let me explain why, and why it's not the end of the world or anything.

First, let's head off some misconceptions of what this is saying:
  • It's not saying that people who don't fully understand are lacking or bad or malicious.
  • It's not saying that you can't have an idea of what being transgender is like.
  • It's not saying you can't accept or sympathize with transgender individuals.
All it is saying is that at some point in any attempt to convey to you how being trans feels, something will get lost. It will get lost because in order to communicate meaning, we use language, and an inherent aspect of language is that it's lossy. It tries to map a much more complex experience into a limited set of words, and those words are only as good as a shared experience to which they can be tied. Since cis individuals, by definition, do not experience the feelings trans individuals do, they have no shared experience of such, and thus any words are at best approximations formed by compositing similar but not identical experiences. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of experiences that close to being trans - it is its own axis of personality, mostly unrelated to other aspects of self-identification, and thus such approximations tend to be mediocre at best.

Next up, let's differentiate a few things. Gender can be broken down into a few components (the tenets of any particular of which may be discussed independent):
  • Socially constructed gender roles
  • Physical body maps
  • Feelings

The first of these is probably the easiest to discuss, because it's the area where there is the most actual shared experience between cis and trans individuals - after all, the topic is also the basis for feminism. It's also probably the most straightforward, and doesn't seem to be what you're asking about here.

The second is slightly harder to explain, but still usually can be discussed with generally-understood terminology. Many trans individuals feel that their physical body does not match what their mind tells them it should be (the overly stereotypical and rather insensitive way of stating this is the "(man/woman) trapped in a (woman/man)'s body" description). This is generally the motivating factor behind SRS (well, that and legal matters, but that's a bit beyond the purview of this thread).

The third and last is the hardest, because feelings are hard to describe to someone who doesn't feel them. How does it feel to be a man or woman? No one could really say, because they don't have anything to compare against. You only feel like what you are; it's society's perception of you that doesn't match if you're trans. Therefore, the only thing a trans person can really describe is the feeling of a disconnect between how they feel and how society thinks they feel, and that disconnect isn't something any cis person has experienced (by definition).

Thus, we're forced to fall back to analogy, and analogies are somewhat imperfect when it comes to conveying meaning. We can try, though. Here's a few attempts:

#1: You have a name. Perhaps you chose it, perhaps someone else chose it for you, but one way or another you've taken that name to identify yourself. Now imagine that no one uses that name, because they're all convinced that you're wrong about what your name is. At the very least, it would probably be disconcerting - especially if you told them your real name and they insisted you were wrong.

#2: You go to a school that is heavily based on favoritism, though it also happens to have some good teachers. You work hard as a student because you enjoy the course material and the instructor presents it well. Everyone else assumes you're just trying to suck up to the teacher. You know that's not the case, but everyone assumes otherwise because it's the status quo.

#3: You wake up one morning and your arms are swapped. When you think you're moving the left, the right moves - but your mind insists that the left is the one that should be moving. By putting in a lot of effort, you can pretend you're wanting to move your right arm, to get your left to do things - but it's frustrating and never feels quite right.
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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby Harry Manback » Tue Mar 22, 2011 10:41 pm UTC

I have a few questions coming to mind reading over the thread so far:

What exactly is cis-gendered? I know I could look it up, but I feel like this community would have a particularly good explanation.

Are the terms transvestite and trans-gender interchangeable, overlapping, or does transvestite only refer to dressing as the opposite sex, without the identity reversal?

I'm guessing from context that a trans woman means biologically male, female identity, is this correct? And can I expect the same format elsewhere, or should I take it on a case-by-case basis?

And this last one may seem a little disrespectful, but I'm honestly just curious. Is there such thing as a trans homosexual? (i.e. lesbian identity, male organs) If so, is it at all common?

Also, Jessica, I figure you can answer this one- do trans folk usually date other trans folk? I simply can't imagine a straight male going for a trans woman (assuming trans woman means what I think it does), but it also seems a little awkward for a gay man to be attracted to a woman (even trans). What is the typical situation?


Also, pardon my ignorance. As a straight, white male in a tech school in the south, I simply don't get exposed to much (any) of this in day-to-day life.

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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby podbaydoor » Tue Mar 22, 2011 10:44 pm UTC

I simply can't imagine a straight male going for a trans woman

I know of at least one happy couple IRL and I believe there is at least one couple on this fora.

I think you should be careful about phrases like "I simply can't imagine." It goes without saying, humanity is capable of going places beyond your personal imagination.
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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby Aaeriele » Tue Mar 22, 2011 10:49 pm UTC

Harry Manback wrote:#1 What exactly is cis-gendered? I know I could look it up, but I feel like this community would have a particularly good explanation.

#2 Are the terms transvestite and trans-gender interchangeable, overlapping, or does transvestite only refer to dressing as the opposite sex, without the identity reversal?

#3 I'm guessing from context that a trans woman means biologically male, female identity, is this correct? And can I expect the same format elsewhere, or should I take it on a case-by-case basis?

#4 And this last one may seem a little disrespectful, but I'm honestly just curious. Is there such thing as a trans homosexual? (i.e. lesbian identity, male organs) If so, is it at all common?

#5 Also, Jessica, I figure you can answer this one- do trans folk usually date other trans folk? I simply can't imagine a straight male going for a trans woman (assuming trans woman means what I think it does), but it also seems a little awkward for a gay man to be attracted to a woman (even trans). What is the typical situation?


Answered in order of the questions (I added numbers in italics above):

#1 "cis" is an opposite for "trans" - cisgender is the opposite of transgender. (There's no -ed on the end of either; they're both adjectives.)

#2 Transvestite and transgender are not interchangeable. The former refers to someone who identifies as one gender but prefers to dress in the clothing of another; the latter refers to someone who identifies as a gender that is not the one they were assigned by society at birth.

#3 "Biologically male" is a more complex matter than you think. To be clear, however, a "trans woman" is someone who identifies as a woman, but was not assigned the gender "woman" by society at birth.

#4 Yes, there are trans individuals who are also gay/lesbian/queer. Sexual orientation is not the same as gender identity. Various sexualities are about as common in trans individuals as they are in cis individuals.

#5 There's no real set rule for who trans people date. Some trans people date other trans people, some date cis people, some date both, some date neither. Just because you can't envision it doesn't mean it doesn't happen. In fact, I'd wager that trans people are more likely to be dating cis people than they are to be dating trans people, simply because there are a heck of a lot more cis people out there as potential partners.

You might want to give these pages a read-through, they may help you with answers to some of the more common questions: http://tinyurl.com/4w4qg6k http://tinyurl.com/49qyven
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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby mewshi » Tue Mar 22, 2011 10:59 pm UTC

Harry Manback wrote:I have a few questions coming to mind reading over the thread so far:

What exactly is cis-gendered? I know I could look it up, but I feel like this community would have a particularly good explanation.

Are the terms transvestite and trans-gender interchangeable, overlapping, or does transvestite only refer to dressing as the opposite sex, without the identity reversal?

I'm guessing from context that a trans woman means biologically male, female identity, is this correct? And can I expect the same format elsewhere, or should I take it on a case-by-case basis?

And this last one may seem a little disrespectful, but I'm honestly just curious. Is there such thing as a trans homosexual? (i.e. lesbian identity, male organs) If so, is it at all common?

Also, Jessica, I figure you can answer this one- do trans folk usually date other trans folk? I simply can't imagine a straight male going for a trans woman (assuming trans woman means what I think it does), but it also seems a little awkward for a gay man to be attracted to a woman (even trans). What is the typical situation?


Also, pardon my ignorance. As a straight, white male in a tech school in the south, I simply don't get exposed to much (any) of this in day-to-day life.


This is all based on some research and some long conversations with some great people I know who are transgender :) If anything is inaccurate, please, correct me gently.

Cisgender means your sex (biological/external side) and gender (psychological/social/internal side) matching up, or one whose sex and gender match up.

Transgender and transvestite are pretty different. Transgender, from my conversations with people, is more of a lack of being comfortable in your own body, while transvestite is more a lack of being comfortable in the clothes ascribed to your sex.

Also, trans woman almost always means a person born with a Y chromosome; I've never seen an exception to this, actually.

I actually know a few people who fit the label of "trans homosexual", so it's not unheard of, by any means.

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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby Rheum » Wed Mar 23, 2011 12:02 am UTC

I've had gender conflict since I was a very small child. It only become an issue as I was slowly edging towards puberty and coming to grips with society's views on gender-norms. As a child I enjoyed activities assigned to both. Gender is partially innate, studies have shown boys will have a natural inclination to "manly" themed toys such as weapons and vehicles, whilst girls choose the more feminine options such as baby dolls. I never thought twice about playing with both kinds of toy and growing up, the only time I remembered gender-roles was when someone pointed them out to me. (i.e. "'cos you're a girl, you can't do that!").
I had more male friends than female and even under encouragement to play with girls, I'd always have a preference to invite my male friends back to the house and run riot. But then sometimes I'd get bored of wrestling or a good brawl and I'd go off with the girls and awkwardly play "mums, dads and babies" or just sit and make daisy chains. As is the norm for girls like me, I was labelled a "tomboy" and my parents always had hope I would grow out of it.

Come secondary school, I was the only girl who sat on the boy's side of the class (the class arranged themselves, and that happened to be the way it fell into naturally) and did not care about my appearance or gossip like the other girls did. Growing up around pubescent girls, playing sports in P.E, I felt awkward, bulky and cumbersome in my form. When around the sprouting males, I felt more frail and weak. I was bullied heavily for not fitting in, and became a recluse in the art-block. Today, these feelings still continue but around my friends I'm a lot more comfortable in myself as they tend to lean on the more gender neutral as well. However, there is the odd case if I'm around women and they talk about their hair or if I'm around men and they discuss sport (being incredibly gender-biased) there are intense feelings of dissociation.

I have quite a masculine build and have been mistaken for male on several occasions, but at the same time have been labelled "attractive" from a heterosexual perspective. Usually there is a continuous feeling of neutrality between the genders, though there are times when I feel more of one than the other. These can be random or mood-based and sometimes unrelated to hormones, as I have had a "masculine patch" whilst menstruating which was rather traumatising. :lol:
My dress sense usually reflects how I feel and is generally gender-neutral except when I'm leaning to a certain side of the spectrum. I can't wear a dress if my mind says "man" or I will feel like Dr. Franken Furter from Rocky Horror Picture Show (which isn't all bad, I find guys like him a :!: on...)
I don't bother with colour at all at the moment and stick with simple tones, thought that's mostly down to my current emotional disposition.
I got into make-up quite late by girl's standards and only mess around with it if I'm really in the mood.
Overall, I am comfortable in my body and know that if I were to undergo any hormonal therapy or surgery I would be neither happy nor unhappy. Probably I'd be more unhappy with the fact I'd feel I had mutilated myself to no benefit whatsoever. :P

Sometimes I wonder how coordinated gender and sexuality are, but then remember all the exceptions which have me scratching my head even more.
I am pansexual though at the moment express slight preference to the male form, which I think will shift around with time the same way I do.

But to be honest, this is just a rough summary of my position. There are many nuances and anecdotes which I'm sure would bore many to death.

mewshi wrote:Transgender and transvestite are pretty different. Transgender, from my conversations with people, is more of a lack of being comfortable in your own body, while transvestite is more a lack of being comfortable in the clothes ascribed to your sex.


Heterosexual gender-comfortable men can be transvestites, but that might be more fetishistic than anything else.

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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby mewshi » Wed Mar 23, 2011 12:28 am UTC

True, about the fetish thing, but I know at least one person *cough* who cross-dresses because sometimes that's the only way to feel like he fits into his own life... if that makes sense.

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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby Monika » Wed Mar 23, 2011 1:02 am UTC

Harry Manback wrote:Are the terms transvestite and trans-gender interchangeable, overlapping, or does transvestite only refer to dressing as the opposite sex, without the identity reversal?

As far as I gather:
* Sometimes transgender is used as a synonym for transsexuality, possibly to avoid confusion with sexual orientations or to avoid the use of "sex" in the sense of intercourse.
* Sometimes transgender is used for trans-gender-identity: MTF, FTM and typically including genderqueerness (androgynity, agenderedness, multiple-gendered-ness, possibly others).
* Sometimes it is used for any kind of trans-ness, including transsexuality, trans-gender-identity , but also trans-gender-expression like cross-dressing.
* Sometimes transgender is used for those who do not identify as male or female, as a synonym for genderqueer or third gender, especially on forms: [ ] male [ ] female [ ] transgender, were trans men (and cis men) would choose the first, trans women (and cis women) the second option.

I'm guessing from context that a trans woman means biologically male, female identity, is this correct?

You are right in that trans woman means "male-to-female" and trans man means "female-to-male", but it's not so good to say biologically male/female. As far as science can tell transgenderidentity is caused biologically in a way similar to the way homosexuality is caused biologically: It is present at birth, but (probably) not through genes, and most likely relates to the exposure to hormones during certain phases of the pregnancy.
Physically male / female might be okay, but I haven't seen this much.
Some are okay with male-bodied and female-bodied as equally okay to the "assigned" phrasing. (But usually not the "trapped in" expression.)
Others only accept "male assigned at birth" and "female assigned at birth" and insist that female | male body = body of a [cis or trans] woman | [cis or trans] man. So yes, that would be a female penis and a male vagina.
I have the impression that trans women are more likely to be okay with terms like "male-bodied" (for a pre-transitioning trans woman) and trans men are more likely to only accept the "female assigned at birth" (for a trans boy/man). This may be because SRS from penis/scrotum to vagina/clitoris/labia works pretty well, while the other direction is still not going so great (the penis will be very small) ... so many trans men do not do genital surgery, so they have to come to terms with the body they have, and thinking of it as a female body doesn't help that.

Is there such thing as a trans homosexual? (i.e. lesbian identity, male organs) If so, is it at all common?

Seems to be just as common as among cis people. Maybe pansexuality (basically the same as bisexuality, just considering that there are more than two genders) is more common among trans people, but this is anecdotal, I don't have numbers.

Also, Jessica, I figure you can answer this one- do trans folk usually date other trans folk? I simply can't imagine a straight male going for a trans woman (assuming trans woman means what I think it does), but it also seems a little awkward for a gay man to be attracted to a woman (even trans). What is the typical situation?

You forget bi people.
(But I have read of at least one gay trans man that he avoided dating bi guys, as the likelyhood was too high that they might see him as woman.)
Also penis or no penis is not all that matters. You can probably imagine a straight woman dating a guy with an extremely small penis (or one who lost his penis in an accident, in combat or the like), too small to be of very much use during intercourse, can't you? He would just use his hands, tongue, dildos, a strap-on ... you would not think of this as overly strange, right? They would just work around the problem. Why not the same thing with a trans man?
Similarly for a straight guy dating a trans woman. Consider that after taking hormones trans women have natural breasts, too. Post-op trans women also have a vagina. So at that point there is not much of a difference for a straight guy (as far as I understand the main difference is that lube is needed, but many cis women also use lube). For a pre- or no-op trans woman my guess is they would work around the woman's penis ... and again make a lot of use of hands and tongue and toys or maybe have anal intercourse or whatever ... I can see the penis as a challenge for the straight guy, but not as an unsurmountable problem, if he really sees the woman as a woman and loves her, I think he will be able to ignore it (or treat it as an enlarged clitoris or whatever works for the couple).

Also, pardon my ignorance. As a straight, white male in a tech school in the south, I simply don't get exposed to much (any) of this in day-to-day life.

Actually you get exposed to it just as often as everybody else, trans people are not more common in the North, among blacks or near gay people. It's just a relatively rare condition, and additionally almost all trans men and many trans women pass to a point where you have no chance to know their birth gender if they don't tell you, so you might have talked to trans people already.

mewshi wrote:Also, trans woman almost always means a person born with a Y chromosome; I've never seen an exception to this, actually.

I have. There was this case in Germany:
A person had XX chromosomes. She was born with an enlarged clitoris. It was mistaken for a micropenis. She was raised as a boy. When she was 18, she had surgery, during which it was discovered she had a uterus. It was removed during the surgery. Not only had she not consented, she was not informed of what happened while she was unconscious. This might all have been not too much of a problem if she had identified as male. But she had always felt there was something wrong. She eventually chose a female name and started medical treatment ... and sued, when she found out she once had a uterus (not sure in which order the transitioning and the finding out of the events during the surgery was).
One could say that intersexual people like here are not transsexual/transgender. But she is clearly transitioning from male-assigned-at-birth to a female gender identity, very much like XY persons who identify as female. So when using the biographic definition, she is definitely transgender ... possibly transsexual, as she also desired to make adjustments to her body to fit with her female self-image ... even though some of them would not have been necessary had the doctor left her body in the natural state.
(Much more common than this case is that XY infants with ambiguous genitalia are surgically changed to female genitalia and raised as girls, but many of them identify as boys, girl-and-boy, neither-nor or in-between. Intersex organizations press for surgical changes to be delayed until the child can understand and consent.)
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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby omgryebread » Wed Mar 23, 2011 1:47 am UTC

The clinical term right now is the distasteful "Gender Identity Disorder." The DSM tends to be a bit behind the times, partly because writing a new one takes so long. DSM-III had homosexuality, and 4 eliminated it.

DSM-V is keeping the diagnosis but changing it to Gender Incongruence. I feel the name makes sense without the stigma of "disorder," and more importantly, doesn't imply it's a kind of "all in their head, fix it with drugs and counseling" kind of thing.

The new criteria are much improved. They are basically all related to incongruence in a person's expressed gender (what they consider themselves or wish to be) and their assigned gender.

But it's still in the DSM. On the one hand, I can see the offense in saying that a person's behaviors are in the "Diagnostic and Stasticial Manual of Mental Disorders." A person who doesn't feel their assigned gender could be perfectly content and not stressed about it at all, so it's messed up to call it a disorder. On the other hand, some people are distressed about it, or would like something done, maybe counseling, maybe reassignment surgery.

I'd have to side with keeping it in (as the current proposal for DSM-V) because A) some people might not want reassignment surgery, but might like counseling), and B) sex-reassignment surgery is a big deal, and I definitely think psychiatrists should be involved. Good psychiatrists, anyway.

But I lack perspective. What do others, especially trans people think of the old definition and the proposal?
http://www.dsm5.org/ProposedRevisions/Pages/proposedrevision.aspx?rid=482#

That's the proposal, with links to the rationale and the old definition.
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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby mewshi » Wed Mar 23, 2011 2:00 am UTC

A person who doesn't feel their assigned gender could be perfectly content and not stressed about it at all, so it's messed up to call it a disorder. On the other hand, some people are distressed about it, or would like something done, maybe counseling, maybe reassignment surgery.


The thing is, by my understanding, gender identity disorder can only be diagnosed in cases where it causes significant stress to the individual (as is the case with many other things listed in the DSM-IV). So, the person who thinks "I don't feel like a dude" (or what have you) despite having a Y chromosome, but suffers either not at all or only very, very slightly, by definition does not have GID -- which I would assume would carry over to the DSM-V. If it's not causing you any stress, why would you need counseling/therapy?

And "disorder" is perhaps a very misunderstood term; I've always had it posed to me as a condition in which someone's brain (or whatever) functions differently -- for better or worse. So, the fact that it's called a disorder may put off some people, but it doesn't mean you're a freak or crazy or anything like that; it just means that, at the least, your brain functions sufficiently differently to warrant a name for it.

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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby omgryebread » Wed Mar 23, 2011 2:21 am UTC

mewshi wrote:The thing is, by my understanding, gender identity disorder can only be diagnosed in cases where it causes significant stress to the individual (as is the case with many other things listed in the DSM-IV). So, the person who thinks "I don't feel like a dude" (or what have you) despite having a Y chromosome, but suffers either not at all or only very, very slightly, by definition does not have GID -- which I would assume would carry over to the DSM-V. If it's not causing you any stress, why would you need counseling/therapy?
The stress criterion is being removed from all psychiatric diagnoses in the DSM-V. Though to my understanding, that's still under discussion. In the specific case of GID, the workgroup cited studies in their rationale suggesting that stress or impairment is due to stigma, not anything inherent in a case of GID. They also suggested that postulating inherent distress in someone who desires to get rid of their body parts is questionable. Presumably to cover people who walk into their office wanting sex reassignment surgery that aren't what you could call stressed. Though if it's diagnosed for some other reason, and it's not causing stress, then no good psychiatrist should want to treat it.


And "disorder" is perhaps a very misunderstood term; I've always had it posed to me as a condition in which someone's brain (or whatever) functions differently -- for better or worse. So, the fact that it's called a disorder may put off some people, but it doesn't mean you're a freak or crazy or anything like that; it just means that, at the least, your brain functions sufficiently differently to warrant a name for it.
End note 1 in the rationale implies that the main reason for dropping "disorder" is because the APA did a survey and trans people didn't like the term. They put in incongruence because it describes the core issue a bit better.
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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby mewshi » Wed Mar 23, 2011 2:29 am UTC

Again, most of the trans people I have talked to see the stigma as a secondary stressor -- the main thing that affects them is the relative ineffability of the situation.

As a personal example, I have bipolar disorder, and I have it controlled well enough by now that I can tell when things are going to shift for me. The problem isn't that I am afraid of what people will think of me if I do something while I'm manic, it's that I am afraid of the mania itself, since it tends to really knock me out of proper functioning for a few days, which is something I can't stand. I can't really change it in any meaningful way.

So, while stigma definitely plays a role, I would say that it isn't the primary issue here. How many people have you heard complain about not feeling "whole" for whatever reason? That's my understanding of why this is so hard for people.

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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby Iulus Cofield » Wed Mar 23, 2011 5:22 am UTC

What is the term for someone who doesn't identify as either gender? Is there anything besides "catch all" terms like genderqueer? Because I think that is probably me.

I am biologically male and I'm like 0.1 on the Kinsey scale (the .1 is for Matt Damon), but I've never really considered myself to be boyish or girlish. When I call myself a man, and when I used to call myself a boy, I am/was referring to my age and chromosomes. I once read part of a John Gray (the Men Mars Women Venus guy) and it made no sense to me. He said men want to be protectors and providers and women want to be cared for and supported. I was like, "What?" But at the same time, the people who had recommended the book to me had said reading it finally gave them a sensible perspective on their needs and desires in a relationship. There are a lot of other examples I could go into for this, but they're not terribly interesting.

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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby Aaeriele » Wed Mar 23, 2011 5:45 am UTC

Iulus Cofield wrote:What is the term for someone who doesn't identify as either gender? Is there anything besides "catch all" terms like genderqueer? Because I think that is probably me.

Agender, androgynous, or gender-neutral are all terms that have been used to signify such.
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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby greengiant » Wed Mar 23, 2011 11:03 am UTC

I have a question if any of the transgender forumites would be kind enough to answer it. How do you feel about mental healthcare as a whole? To be more specific, transgenderism seems to have been viewed as a mental illness - do you think this is part of a much larger problem with mental healthcare or a specific shortcoming? Are you completely anti-psychiatry (in either the Foucault sense or a more general 'I hate psychiatry' sense) or do you still see it as, overall, a good thing?

I realise I'd only be getting your personal opinion, but that's exactly what I'm interested in; the opinion of someone who's been through it. Thanks in advance.

Edit: Just realised this is a bit off topic for Serious Business. Apologies if it's too much so.

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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby Rheum » Wed Mar 23, 2011 4:30 pm UTC

Iulus Cofield wrote:What is the term for someone who doesn't identify as either gender? Is there anything besides "catch all" terms like genderqueer? Because I think that is probably me.


I think it's a personal thing on what one chooses to label themselves in that situation. Some find "androgynous" too physical-based, others find "genderqueer" derogatory. Some people might like "third-gender", but some might find that too alien. I personally don't prefer any term for fear of coming across to others as abnormal or even deformed, I am me and if I ever have to fill in a questionnaire that asks my sex, I always tick female. For gender, I tick male just to fuck them around :)

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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby Aaeriele » Wed Mar 23, 2011 4:41 pm UTC

greengiant wrote:I have a question if any of the transgender forumites would be kind enough to answer it. How do you feel about mental healthcare as a whole? To be more specific, transgenderism seems to have been viewed as a mental illness - do you think this is part of a much larger problem with mental healthcare or a specific shortcoming? Are you completely anti-psychiatry (in either the Foucault sense or a more general 'I hate psychiatry' sense) or do you still see it as, overall, a good thing?


This sums it up: http://wp.me/p1j5Io-m
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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby Iulus Cofield » Wed Mar 23, 2011 5:12 pm UTC

Rheum wrote:
Iulus Cofield wrote:What is the term for someone who doesn't identify as either gender? Is there anything besides "catch all" terms like genderqueer? Because I think that is probably me.


I think it's a personal thing on what one chooses to label themselves in that situation. Some find "androgynous" too physical-based, others find "genderqueer" derogatory. Some people might like "third-gender", but some might find that too alien. I personally don't prefer any term for fear of coming across to others as abnormal or even deformed, I am me and if I ever have to fill in a questionnaire that asks my sex, I always tick female. For gender, I tick male just to fuck them around :)


Yeah. I don't like genderqueer because of the previous connotations of "queer". I am not a (derogatory term for a) homosexual and while I may be strange, I don't like being called strange. I don't think I'll probably ever publicly say I don't identify with a gender outside of this thread, though. I feel like that would just draw unwanted attention on something that has always been a non-issue for me. I have a penis and a Y chromosome, so I am okay with saying I am male. It's always been a term I've applied to myself in the biological sense. I will bake cakes and watchadore My Little Pony when I feel like it; I will arm wrestle and watch UFC when I feel like it. And I will probably never understand/remain unaware of the many less obvious gender roles 97% of the time.

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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby omgryebread » Wed Mar 23, 2011 5:20 pm UTC

Aaeriele wrote:
greengiant wrote:I have a question if any of the transgender forumites would be kind enough to answer it. How do you feel about mental healthcare as a whole? To be more specific, transgenderism seems to have been viewed as a mental illness - do you think this is part of a much larger problem with mental healthcare or a specific shortcoming? Are you completely anti-psychiatry (in either the Foucault sense or a more general 'I hate psychiatry' sense) or do you still see it as, overall, a good thing?


This sums it up: http://wp.me/p1j5Io-m
Most of the article raises good points, but I do take slight issue with:

On one hand, therapists and psychiatrists have a handy book to help them figure out the basics of transsexualism and provide them with the general procedures involved.
The DSM actually doesn't mention procedures at all, it's a diagnostic manual. It's current entry really is problematic in other ways, though.
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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby Aaeriele » Wed Mar 23, 2011 5:52 pm UTC

omgryebread wrote:The DSM actually doesn't mention procedures at all, it's a diagnostic manual. It's current entry really is problematic in other ways, though.


Diagnostic procedures, sorry that was unclear.
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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby Griffin » Wed Mar 23, 2011 6:35 pm UTC

I'll try to find some time to respond more later, as I have more questions, but just wanted to edge this in here...

Would you take a pill that would make you feel female (sorry, I'm assuming your male)?

Well, it would be odd. Yes, I'm male, but I don't really "feel" male. If I get a female body to go with it, I wouldn't mind. While staying in my current body, that would probably just wind me up in the same situation you are, which doesn't exactly sound like a whole lot of fun. But I've got no real attachment to my gender. In many ways, I'd probably be happier as a woman, but I'm sure it would be more than balanced out in other ways.

Also, to the person who asked about straight people dating trans people, there's always the option of people like me who aren't exactly straight. I wanted to date someone who was trans once until I realized they were a big jerk, but the trans bit never bothered me. I can see how this in transition in some ways might bother some heteronormatives, but I also know others who really wouldn't care.

Also,
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Numbers say this makes you a guy. ;) The show is much more popular among men than woman.
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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby mewshi » Wed Mar 23, 2011 9:43 pm UTC

The DSM indeed does not include much (if anything) in terms of treatment -- that's what experience and knowledge are for within the field, and that's exactly how it *should* be, since every case is different.

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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby pizzazz » Wed Mar 23, 2011 10:52 pm UTC

Out of curiosity, for any transgender person, when deciding what gender you "feel like," how actively did you consider your DNA, the fact that you had a certain set of chromosomes? And how often, if ever, did think your feelings might be wrong, or fleeting, and was that ever based on biological factors (as opposed to societal ones)?

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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby Aaeriele » Wed Mar 23, 2011 11:19 pm UTC

pizzazz wrote:Out of curiosity, for any transgender person, when deciding what gender you "feel like," how actively did you consider your DNA, the fact that you had a certain set of chromosomes?

Not much at all. Why bring chromosomes into it when you already know how you're feeling? If my eyes are brown, and someone walks up to me and says "your chromosomes code for blue eyes," I might glance in the mirror once or twice but after that I'm going to ignore what my chromosomes "say" because reality trumps that. Likewise, if one knows what one is feeling, then that trumps what chromosomes "say."

pizzazz wrote:And how often, if ever, did think your feelings might be wrong, or fleeting, and was that ever based on biological factors (as opposed to societal ones)?

There's almost always some element of self-doubt, but at least from my experience, it's generally not "based on biological factors". There's certainly often dysphoria from biological aspects, but that's not the same thing.
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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby bigglesworth » Wed Mar 23, 2011 11:27 pm UTC

Aaeriele wrote:How does it feel to be a man or woman? No one could really say, because they don't have anything to compare against.
I'd like to pick up this point here (but I hope you don't take this as a quote-snipe).

I am a cis-gendered male man, who strongly feels that way.

I'm writing this out to put as a counter-point of anecdotal data (since the exception proves the rule) to those who've previously related their experience of finding it hard to think about being transgender since they don't feel to be their assigned gender especially strongly. I discovered my feelings towards being my gender when I experimented with feminine acroutments at university - a dress, make-up. I immediately felt strange, altered somehow. The feeling receded when I resumed male clothing. As to why I tried this experimentation, vague peer-pressure and a desire to try anything once was the reason, but the reason wasn't really as important as my reaction to it.

That day I gained a measure more of a... gut-feeling respect for why transgender people feel so strongly the way they do. Not that I'd been disrespectful before, but before I had had almost complete privilege and been oblivious other than theoretically. I'm not saying that I have the same experience as a transgender person, but that I have had a very different one to someone who doesn't feel very strongly about their own gender.

I'd be similarly happy to answer questions about this if people so desire.
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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby Randomizer » Thu Mar 24, 2011 10:04 am UTC

I read a blog once about someone going through hell over this and... the part I don't understand is the surgery. I can understand wanting certain anatomy, but... eek! But even if I understood how the desire for change is greater than the "eek!" factor, what I then don't understand is how someone could be so miserable if they aren't able to get it done. If things stand in their way.

Like, I'd like a tail (I never outgrew that...), but I'm not about to do anything about it. Ever. I just imagine I'm wagging it when I wiggle my foot. I think I was around dogs too much. :p If someone startles me, I yelp. (Probably not a good comparison, but I don't know what is, or how it might be explained so that I could understand...)
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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby Monika » Thu Mar 24, 2011 1:23 pm UTC

Think about it like this: (I assume you are cis male.)
Imagine you woke up tomorrow and your penis was gone. Or you had an accident and lost it. You would pretty definitely feel there is something missing, right? Would this only be because you are *used* to having a penis? Would you get used to not having a penis or would you be sad forever, feel incomplete or possibly even less-than-male after your loss?
If doctors offered you to reconstruct a penis or something that comes close to it, wouldn't you take that opportunity?
If doctors offered you two options, reconstrucing a penis, which is relatively risky, would use a muscle from the arm and leave a large scar there and not provide a really good result, and an alternative, they could construct a vagina for you that would be pretty close to the natural thing - would you go for the vagina option? I would venture a guess that you would definitely not go for the vagina, as you are a man after all! (For the penis there are pros and cons, maybe you would, maybe you wouldn't seeing the less-than-perfect outcomes.)
Likewise, imagine a woman woke up with a penis (and without her vagina) someday ... or (as we are already in a hypothetical world anyway) would grow one through some freak accident, let's say due to ingesting something, being exposed to raditation or whatever. I think you could understand that she would want to get rid of it and have it turned into a clitoris and vagina again, if doctors can achieve this (which they can). And the reason for this is not only that she is not used to having something hang between the legs and that she is used to having a vagina. The penis and the lack of vagina are the "eeek", not the surgery to remedy this.
I think you see this from the perspective of a cis guy and the only thing you can think/feel about this is "O.M.G. they are cutting their penis off!!11eleven" Like most cis men you have a lot of subconscious or not so subconscious fear of hurting, damaging or losing your penis. It's a sensitive organ and very dear to most men, after all. But trans women are not men. They are women with penises and many want to get rid of this superfluous body part that just doesn't belong there. (But not all, some simply don't feel body dysphoria about it. Which I find more surprising than that most have.)
Also, it's not really a cutting-off process. Very little is actually removed. After all, clitoris and penis are really mostly the same organ, just the clitoris is inside (and does NOT only consist of this tiny knob where the labia come together in the front). So it's more of a moving process ... and creating the opening for the vagina, which sure sounds scary to me, too, but evidently it works well.
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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby KestrelLowing » Thu Mar 24, 2011 2:23 pm UTC

This discussion is pretty interesting to me as trans gendered people have always confused me a little.

However, I think I can see how someone can just feel a certain gender.

I am female, but have nearly always done traditionally 'male' things. I'm an engineering student, I play trombone, I feel more comfortable with guys, I hate dresses, I hardly wear makeup, I can't cook very well, I'm all into blowing stuff up! Yet, I do not feel male. I have no desire to be a male. I do not feel gender neutral. I feel feminine and enjoy being female, despite the fact that what I do day to day is seen as masculine. (Although, I do knit a fair amount, which is pretty feminine!)

I get frustrated sometimes when people assume I cannot do things because I am female, and that sometimes it seems as if females get the short end of the stick. But that's annoyance at the stereotypes of this culture, not at actually being female.

I can only imagine what it would be like if someone said I was a male. They would be wrong.

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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby Aaeriele » Thu Mar 24, 2011 5:21 pm UTC

Randomizer wrote:I read a blog once about someone going through hell over this and... the part I don't understand is the surgery. I can understand wanting certain anatomy, but... eek!

Consider this: most trans people who opt for surgery really have no emotional attachment to their existing anatomy - if anything they tend to have an emotional detachment - they really, really want it gone. So if you're talking about an emotional reaction... remember that the feeling a trans person has is probably not the same feeling you'd have when contemplating the idea.

If you're referring to any actual physical pain/grossed-out-ness, remember that surgery is done under general anesthesia. I wouldn't want to watch an SRS procedure either.

Randomizer wrote:But even if I understood how the desire for change is greater than the "eek!" factor, what I then don't understand is how someone could be so miserable if they aren't able to get it done. If things stand in their way.

Because there is an intense dysphoria that arises from the sense of wrongness. Imagine this: you wake up one morning and you only have one arm, but your mind is certain that you should have two. You feel like it should be there, you can see other people with two arms, and whenever you go to do something, you start to do it only to realize whatever you're doing isn't working and isn't going to work because you were attempting to do it with two arms... but wait, that second arm physically isn't there. No matter how hard you convince yourself to try and think in terms of only one arm available, you find it impossible not to frame things in a two-arm context.

Don't you think that would get pretty darn frustrating over time?

Randomizer wrote:Like, I'd like a tail (I never outgrew that...), but I'm not about to do anything about it. Ever. I just imagine I'm wagging it when I wiggle my foot. I think I was around dogs too much. :p If someone startles me, I yelp. (Probably not a good comparison, but I don't know what is, or how it might be explained so that I could understand...)

You say you'd like a tail. Being trans isn't about that. Being trans is about knowing that you should be one way and currently are another. It's about a feeling of wrongness.
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Jessica
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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby Jessica » Thu Mar 24, 2011 5:27 pm UTC

To add to that: I remember reading a study (now I can't remember where it was...) about trans men who have the same phantom limb syndrome for their penis, and conversely how trans women do not have that same phantom limb experience after surgery. The second part wasn't as convincing as the phantom penis study was.

Pre edit: Here's an article in the SF gate about it.
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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby Iulus Cofield » Thu Mar 24, 2011 5:33 pm UTC

I'm hesitant to draw the comparison, because I'm concerned it will make transgendered people sound like they have something psychologically wrong with them, but it might be helpful for randomizer.

You would like having a tail. Oxana Malaya believes this is who she is. She believes this because she was abandoned by her parents at a young age and lived with dogs. Transgendered people are not products of extreme abuse. But neither can change the fundamental disassociation between their personal identities and their biologies.

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Re: Discussion of the nature of being transgender/cisgender

Postby Роберт » Thu Mar 24, 2011 5:39 pm UTC

I'd just like to thank Jessica and Aaeriele for being patient and understanding of those of us who are cisgender and very ignorant on trans issues. I'm sure some of the stupid misconceptions get tiring. Thanks!
Last edited by Роберт on Thu Mar 24, 2011 7:01 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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