Question: not a woman or misogynous

Alex asks…

I’m a genderqueer person born female and I’m wondering how much of my refusal of femininity comes from internalised sexism. Any ideas?

Please post your response in the comments below.

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Posted by on January 21st, 2011 at 04:00 pm

Category: questions 29 comments »

29 Responses to “Question: not a woman or misogynous”

  1. Topho

    Me too … and I’ve thought about this a lot. I’ve decided that as long as I work in alliance with women: listening to them, working as their advocate, fighting sexism, and queering masculinity I don’t need to busy quantifying what about my gender is internalized sexism, what’s innate, etc. The source just isn’t as important as the fact that I work — as a queer feminist — to end oppression for people regardless of their gender, and especially for women and queer people.


  2. Oliver

    I see my identity as a good thing and so I don’t question it. I worried about that for awhile–what if it’s all internalized sexism and intense jealousy over privilege? In the end, you just have to go with your gut. Do what feels right and don’t question that.

    I do think that analyzing privilege, sexism, phobias, masculinity, femininity, etc is a good thing to do. Positive action may come from examining where there is oppression. Dialogue is good too, online or offline. It can make you think in new and interesting ways.

    Good luck.


  3. The Nerd

    This is a good question. I have asked myself the same thing.

    I try to think about it from a different perspective: what if I were raised male and then realized I’m genderqueer? Would I be asking the same question about internalized sexism?

    For me, I think the answer to the original question lies in how I view femininity in general – how I defend its validity. I absolutely cheer on anyone who expresses their femininity where it’s not necessarily safe for them to do so. My boyfriend wears a skirt, I give him a thumbs-up. My girlfriend gets a cute haircut, I flatter her for it.

    When I look in the closet and see that sexy feminine outfit I used to turn heads in and wish I could still wear it from time to time, I give myself a pep talk. Showing femininity from time to time does not invalidate my non-woman gender, nor indicate my rejection of masculinity.

    Maybe that’s one way to help with this issue: find the feminine parts of yourself that make you who you are, few they may be, and love them.


  4. Jay

    I’ve thought about this too – worried about it for a while, actually – and I did have some internalized sexism to get past, but it was really once getting past that that I really accepted myself as genderqueer. And in the end, I tend to be most comfortable dressing fairly masculine – its my default, my comfort zone. I have feminine times, and ‘feminine’ traits, but when something feels so right and just plain *comfortable*… yeah, that was my reasoning.

    As others have said, following that line of thought is pretty important though. More people should.


  5. elliott

    “find the feminine parts of yourself that make you who you are, few they may be, and love them.”

    ^ this. or at least, this is what worked for me to help figure out who i was. it’s common as a genderqueer person (or even a gender-nonconforming person) to be forced into the traits society associates with our biological sex while growing up, so i think it is common for us to have some degree of internalized misogyny/misandry. but remember that femine =/= female and masculine =/= male. there are genderqueer people all over the spectrum of gender expression.

    if you feel most comfortable with a masculine presentation because it is true to who you are, then go for it. but if you have certain feminine characteristics that you like, even if this confuses you, embrace them because they are also a part of who you are.

    remember, the gender binary is limiting to everyone – even cis people are a mix of masculine and feminine characteristics. the world will become a better place if we show it who we are, love each other, and love ourselves.


  6. Dazza

    I think it very much depends on what you don’t like about being a biologically female. If you don’t feel your body is right for you, that’s different than thinking women are stupid and hating having been born one for that reason. Trans people literally have a disconnect between mind and body.

    As someone in a similar situation, being forced to live in a female body for a number of years did give me some anti-women sentiments. I got angry at women because I hated being one. But now I see my anger is about my gender and not theirs. I was jealous of all the ciswomen who were fine with their gender because I couldn’t understand what that felt like.


  7. lia

    I had similar experience with internalized homophobia. I identify as pan-sexual, but have in the past preferred to be with men – partly because being with women makes me feel like a man, which I don’t like.

    Once I realized this, I also realized that this was homophobia : there’s no reason why I should be a man because I have sex with a woman. I’ve been working on this but, as I have a penis, it is still something that can be difficult for me (not to see myself as a man in such occasions).


  8. S

    I’m also genderqueer/born female.

    The only way I could be completely comfortable in my genderqueer identity and not feel as though it was internalized sexism was to really embrace my female side for a while. And read a lot about feminism.


  9. Atticus

    I’ve been struggling with this myself and I have come to believe that there’s an important distinction to be made between what you may not like about yourself vs. making generalizations about the entire gender you don’t conform to. I have felt conflicted because I do not want to be seen as female because inside I’m not. This is a separate feeling from the ones that say I don’t want to be weak, I want to be strong. I had to resolve for myself that being a woman does not make a person weak, it was just a mixed signal in my own head. Of course women, cis, trans, or any other kind, are not weak. It’s a damaging generalization that I had to overcome. I hope you’re able to take some time to think out your own conflicted issues and come to your own peace with them. Best of luck.


  10. Jessica

    This is a fascinating subject. I think I have seen some internalized sexism in other FTM friends and sometimes I wonder about myself, but it’s always easier to see something like this in others than in oneself.

    I have seen some MTF friends also who adopted very demeaning stereotypical presentations – I wonder sometimes if this isn’t internalized sexism, though some also prefer to be “feminized” because they like feeling less threatening – appearing more nurturing, I guess.

    Gender roles are weird.


  11. Anonymous

    Hmmm…I have been struggling with this quite a bit this past year. I too am female born, and I had a small instance of sexual abuse in my childhood, and I kept associating being feminine with being weak…Which is a total misconception. I’m sure many male-labeled people who are really more on the female side inside and have to confront gender-expectations constantly would attest to this. I finally just decided that to “find the feminine parts of yourself that make you who you are, few they may be, and love them” …as well as doing the same for the masculine parts… makes the most sense. I may be a mishmash of things, but that doesn’t make any of them stronger or weaker than any others.


  12. Ashtur

    I agree with Dazza, but I’d add something else as well. Because I grew up being perceived as female, I’ve had a very unique privilege as a man – I spent the first thirty years of my life being treated as “one of the girls”, and therefore I’ve heard pretty much everything women have to say when they think there aren’t any men around.

    And I’ve got to say, now that I have a proper understanding of my own gender, I find a lot of what I heard among the girls shocks and disgusts me. Women can be extraordinarily sexist; I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard heterosexual women bonding by collectively verbally bashing their men. And never once have I heard any feminist suggesting that this is a bad thing; if anything, feminism encourages it, because in the popular mind at least it frames men as inherently evil somehow.

    I’ve also never seen emotional violence the like of what women will do to one another (and to men) in a fight. And nobody ever criticises that either; it’s “normal”, apparently. Like my father I seem to be the kind of man who finds that sort of behaviour apalling in anyone, but I have yet to come across it among men.

    So no, I don’t consider myself sexist, but I also refuse to take part in the cultural game of chivalry at all – especially when it’s framed as feminism. I’ve seen exactly how far from the lily-white archetype women really are and I think that improving relations between the genders needs much, much more honesty and humility from women, and much, much more thought and analysis from men. As a trans man, I know that my culture pressured me as a child to be ashamed of my own masculinity because I’m trans; and I know that my female upbringing pressures me to despise masculinity because men are “weak” and “infantile” and “cruel”. And I can see too easily how that might translate into a preoccupation with being “good”. I fight very hard to reclaim a balanced sense of my own self-worth from everyone else’s notion of what a “good man” might be.


    Jessica replied:

    Nobody who ever attended a boarding school with girls will ever mistake them for sweet young things. Standing out in my memory is the time we all sewed a girl’s bed sheets (kind of like sort sheeting, but more sadistic – it took her an hour to pick out all the stitching and not one person helped her – or offered to).

    It can be nice to have a bloke about who wants to do heavy physical work so you don’t have to break fingernails and ruin your clothes… but there’s nothing worse than being trapped in a weak infantile role and not being allowed to do that which one is eminently more capable of doing what needs getting done than the fools who are insisting on doing them.

    And then never want to scrub pots or clean toilets (at least not properly).


    lia replied:

    Patriarchy is a system that promotes the power of men over women ; sexism being one of the ways patriarchy is expressed. It does not matter whether sexism is perpetuated by men or women (or others) – it still serves patriarchy.

    2011, here in the UK : pay gap between genders in 10% on average for the same job. 6% of rape cases that are brought to justice end up in a conviction. Sexism may be expressed by both men and women, but in the end it serves men.

    As you point out, being a woman does not make you a nice person – however the overall system we live in is patriarchal and mostly benefits men. This puts men in a privileged situation, from which it is easy not to look at the issues.


    Jessica replied:

    @Lia I cannot dispute a single thing you said.

    I always remember when Ireland joined the EEC and they had to hire a commissioner to implement equal pay for men and women. So they advertised: the pay they offered for a man was twice what they offered for a woman.

    I always used to like to debate this with men, who said it was just biology, just providence, just chance. What a sweet deal that however the dice roll, men win. Like George Carlin said, “You know how we got such a sweet deal? We made the whole fucking thing up!”


    RedRightAnkle replied:

    Just because it always bums me out when people think feminism is all about the man-hating:

    -Feminism in no way means that women are better/nicer/more awesome than men.

    -It does not mean that men are “evil” and that women are “pure/good.”

    -It does not say that women can’t be sexist, or hold up existing patriarchal structures.

    -And chivalry, is pretty much the antithesis of it.

    Feminism is about working towards equality, and if something is going to be equal it means that no one part is inherently better or worse than any other part.

    And many of the things you mentioned, like non-physical bullying, and emotional manipulation, things which lead you to say “I’m not sexist, but…” are, at least in part, responses to expected patriarchal gender roles.

    It’s considered fairly normal in a “boys will be boys” sort of way for men to express their anger and aggression loudly, bluntly, and often physically. Women, from birth are taught to be quiet, “ladylike”, we’re told “good girls don’t act that way.” That doesn’t mean that women don’t get angry or aggressive, it just means we often don’t have a socially acceptable means of expressing it openly.

    This is why when a woman is a bully, many times it manifests as emotional rather than physical bullying. It’s a form of power that allows her to remain within the bounds of her assigned gender roles and because she’s not getting her hands dirty so to speak, it can be hidden under the veneer of still being “ladylike.”

    And yes, this type of bullying, which often enlists the use of patriarchal tools like body shaming, slut shaming, and strict policing of gender roles is something feminists are extremely concerned about.


    RedRightAnkle replied:

    Ahhhh, it cut off my bottom paragraph! Basically it ended with, I can totally understand your anger at being bullied and harrassed by women. But that just because you (and myself, and many others) have experienced female bullying, does not mean that patriarchal structures don’t exist, or that feminism is a crock.


  13. Dayl

    Woo I love this question! I’ve struggled with it too!! Turned out, my masculine presentation WAS sexism. See, I was FTM for 3 years (no surgery but I NEVER went out not cross-dressed). But I never felt truly comfortable like that. But I never felt comfortable dressed like all the other girls do. I struggled with all this for the longest time. I have come to realize that I am a girl, and I absolutely love being a girl. But I am NOT what society says a girl should be. I’m not trans, I’m totally gender-nonconforming cis. I am my own definition of female.

    Maybe you should look at your past. Part of what helped me realize my own sexism was examining my childhood. I was a middle child with two brothers and an incredibly sexist father. They were always favored. My dad would take them out to do all the “cool” stuff (camping, hiking, kayaking, fishing) while I stayed home with my mom who taught me to sew and cook. You can probably see why I was so frustrated with my gender!!! But getting away from all that helped me come to terms with myself. I love being a girl, now that I have seen that the stereotypes are lies and my gender does not restrict me in any way.

    Haha I wrote way more than I meant to. Good luck!!! <3


    Atticus replied:

    I think that’s a brave thing to admit, and I think it’s important to have people who are willing to stand up and fight for the destruction of gender roles who aren’t always trans. It says a lot about equality. I think that feminist ideals are great, and the idea of equality is so important…it takes brave, fearless people of every stripe to say we’re all different and we’re better off that way. Nitpicking either sex in general for the specific behaviors of some is counterproductive to everyone’s rights. We should all be standing together.


    Arhen replied:

    I can totally relate to this!
    It is rather annoying when cis gender women are considered to be all the same, and therefore absolutely diverse from any men!
    I almost never did or enjoyed what most other girls did, I was always around boys, since I was born, and I was socialized to boys. I didn’t even know what girls were like for real since primary school!
    And when I say that, people laugh and point out that I’m a dyke. Which means NOTHING as there are gay women who are femme and would never wear trainers and play football.

    Also, my genderqueer ex gf sometimes comes up with comments that make me feel like she is being sexist more than anything else. It feels like she is patronizing me, because she isn’t a girl, but is closer to a boy than I am and so she is cooler/higher than me. I never thought of it, but maybe that is internalized sexism, really.


  14. Jessica

    We all have sexism inside of us. We all grew up in a sexist society, a sexist culture. We all have genderism inside us, too. The binary that pervades the society we live in pervades us. Just denying it doesn’t change anything. Just deciding to be different doesn’t change anything. We grow and we change. We transition, but we still carry all that stuff along with us. It’s not a matter of want to. It is a matter of have to.

    We all of us have a formula in our lives that we’re working to. We all have what we hope is the answer that will let us be who we want to be, present more like how we feel we are, respond, behave, live, love who how and why we feel is true.

    If we’re good people, we try not to harm others, if we can help it. Sexism and genderism stands squarely in my way when I want to be good for people. I fight them in myself first. Then I fight them in those I love. Then I fight them in the world at large. I have two win the first two before I can hope to even wage the last.


  15. tripod

    I hilariously enough have the reversefeminism for my own gender problems… I feel I’m not strong enough to be a woman… I am not strong enough to look in the mirror and say, yes this is my body and I own it… lay in bed sleeping on my stomach, wake up try to read on my stomach and say, these breasts are too big for me to lay down comfortably with, but any other woman would just suck it up and deal… My cramps are so bad but because I feel strong aspects of being violated when I take off my boxers and reveal yeah I am a chick, I feel awful about myself so I should find out whats wrong with my innards but haven’t because it would further prove how female I am, which wouldn’t mean females are weak, if I’m afraid of falling short when I try to be one. I think when people joke about how if guys got their period they’d have to use a week’s worth of sick days every month, they had bois in mind too. I think the normal everyday trivial inconviniences nature gives ciswomen, is enough to destroy me, a mere surge of estrogen makes me into a crazy person, and I’ve had 15 years to adapt to my hormones and just haven’t grown into them yet, I feel like a failure of a woman and I’ll still transition or not full surgeries or not probably never feel fully male, it’s hell to be in the inbetweens and so appauled by my feminimity that I’ve stolen menstral products from the staff bathroom at work because when I am in my utmost male persona, I felt like buying pads would throw everything off kilter, yet if I were a dude or really seen as one, I’d have absolutely no problem going to the drugstore at 2am to buy my gf midol and tampax, but when I go through it myself, its my lowest most selfloathing point in time, I don’t know how other women just deal, while I lay on the floor like a dying fish writhing, blacking out from pain, and wishing I could call in sick to work instead of doping myself up and hoping for the best–cisgirls are absolute tanks for being able to cope, and be on sanitary napkin commercials dancing and living crampless twirling existences. I am not one of them. I am a fortress of pain.


    Anonymous replied:

    Well first of all, those menstrual product commercials? Bullshit. I don’t know ANY ciswomen who feel that way about or during their period. Just like any other aspect of life and bodies, the feelings about and reactions to their periods that ciswomen have are ALL across the board. Some love it. Some find it mildly inconvenient. Some “just cope”, as you put it. Some absolutely loathe and despise it. Physical reactions vary wildly as well, from not feeling physically affected at all to extreme pain, like you. I personally know several ciswomen who DO have to stay home, incapacited in bed, for a day or two every time they have their period. This doesn’t mean they’ve failed as women, or aren’t strong enough to be women, or aren’t living up to some imaginary and artibtrary Woman Standard. It just means that they are people with bodies, and those bodies sometimes do wacky things! So many ciswomen have complicated relationships with their periods – including women who desperately WANT to menstruate and can’t or don’t! So, while I know I can’t change the way you feel, I hope you can remember that you’re in lots of good company while you’re suffering through another crappy menstrual period.


    Jessica replied:

    I got dragged from seeing Yellow submarine in the theater because my elder sister was quite literally sitting in a pool of blood. Her long white skirt looked like a huge tampon. The theater manager called 911.

    God, that scared me. And while we’re at it, how could God do that to my sister?

    The answer’s kind of obvious, but, hey, I was only 13. Some people get off so easy, comparatively (not meaning men, but yeah, they get off scot-free). And women like you are what most doctors call “perfectly normal.”

    “Nobody said the world was fair…” Obviously the pronouncement of a self-aware woman. Good luck Annon!


    RedRightAnkle replied:

    I can totally relate to your menstrual-hell. I’m convinced something horrible is going to happen to my liver some day because every month I have to OD on ibuprofen just so I’m not doubled over from cramps and trying not to vomit :/

    It doesn’t help with pain, but one thing you might want to consider if you hate buying period stuff is to get a menstrual cup. One purchase and they last for YEARS (I’ve had mine for two and still going strong) and I haven’t had to buy a single pad or tampon that entire time. I have a DivaCup, which is the only brand I’ve ever actually seen in stores, it’s an annoying name, and they’re big on the pink marketing, but the actual cup is totally nondescript clear silicone with no flowers or pinkness in sight, and if you have a debit/credit card you can always go online and find tons of other brands/types.

    This is a link to a menstrual cup LJ that will literally answer any question you could ever possibly have about cups (and if it doesn’t you can always post and ask them!)

    As well as a post, that while the intro is pretty trans 101-ish and seems meant for a cis-audience, it has a bunch of youtube videos of guys talking about their periods which I thought was pretty great, so in case anyone’s interested:


  16. tripod

    its not just that but when I think what by society would make me a transguy or not female, and I think of how I’ve been planning to get rid of the breasts I have worn a bra for since I was in grade 4 that after wearing a bra for more than half of my life, I just never grew into them, and never let my partners touch, they’re dead weight to me… and I think about the ovaries that I’m sure are toxic and think that given the circumstances, if I were financially stable and had a good strong partner, I would have a baby but it would mean going to the doctor [which is my biggest kryptonite] and being told how female I am every 5 minutes, I think I would look complete with a beard, but considering what estrogen does to me, I’m horrified as to what moodswings a bad dose of T would do, but I think being ill equipt to handle estrogen does not a transman make… I just feel like I don’t try hard enough to be a a woman and I’ve postponed said transition just because I am trying so hard to find any one single aspect I CAN enjoy about being female, and cannot think of any. I can think of 1000 things I love about the average woman, but myself living as a woman nothing comes to mind, I can still coo over baby animals and hug people when they’re sad, my affectionate empathetic side shouldn’t suffer because I decide to change my [f] to an [m] but I just feel like I’m not a good feminist like I’d be taking the easy way out and that the grass is always greener when you’re a boy, which doesn’t mean I’m too good and too strong to be female, and SHOULDN’T mean I’m too weak to be like the women I love and admire, but thats ultimately always how it’s felt. I feel weak when I feel female, and I hate that, because I should feel weak or strong regardless of my gender depending on a specific situation… and as much as I do get called sir, I also have people who ask me what my future husband would think of my tattoos, and ask if I have children, weird thing that as many people tell me I’d be so pretty if I grew my hair out and then maybe I’d have a boyfriend, there are also people who call us fags when I’m walking with my straight cis male friend, has also happened with my exgirlfriend, I get called fag as much as I get called dyke and its insane.


    Jessica replied:

    I wish we all lived in a world where we could all love our bodies and we find them (at least when they work right), A world in which being a man or being a woman didn’t mean a whole shopping list of consequences, requirements, and prohibitions. It would be cool to live in a time and place where all the different sizes and shapes that people come in were cool and 2/3 of us weren’t striving to be come unnaturally thin – where the shape of your face or the size of your breasts didn’t get in your way or masquerade as your only native asset.

    I’ve been a fearful shadow of the person I could have been for most of my life. I hid behind a forest of lies and held my fraudulent self so tightly that I could not let anyone else in… lest they find out how worthless and full of shit I was.

    Naturally I also considered myself better than them all, superior and beyond the touch of any rule or guideline. I was immune and theoretically immortal.

    It took quite a few things to throw me over that trans cliff. It took quite a few sleepless nights and HRT to make me see the magnitude of my folly. I was the enemy within myself. But I never hated my body, as such. It was a tool to which I was largely indifferent. If I had felt the way you did tripod, I’d have died. It would have simplified everything.

    But for me in was weakness I had to embrace, not strength. It was vulnerability that has to be accepted, not denied. It was failure and fault that needed to be admitted, not denied. There are womanly virtues, real positive differences that can make the difference in other peoples’ lives and through those differences transform your own.


  17. DJS this gentleman here has explained it better then I could


  18. Theo

    I think any answer to this depends on the nature of what you call your “refusal of femininity”. Are you talking about physical presentations of ‘traditional femininity’ or feminine-assigned behavior?

    As a transmasculine genderqueer person I feel really uncomfortable in female-assigned clothing. Even if the party is drag-themed I still dislike presenting femininely. However, I dress well as a masculine person– I wear nice jackets, pocket squares, loafers, etc. which is a trait some cismen would consider feminine. I am not ashamed of this about myself. In fact, I take pride in my appearance and those close to me comment positively about it very often.

    Yet, back to your question… refusing to be feminine does not necessarily mean you are sexist. I dislike presenting as feminine, although I acknowledge and embrace some of my feminine personality traits, but I love feminine women. There is something so sexy, alluring, and primal about feminine women that I cannot resist. I often tell people I have more femme pride than many femme women because I argue their gender presentation, within the queer community at least, is just as much a conscious act as mine. As the first poster wrote, as long as you work to abolish the power-struggle between the various forms of gender presentation, and strive to dismantle the sexist favoritism given to masculine qualities, then disliking a feminine presentation on oneself is not sexist… it’s a valid preference.


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