Language

Someone wrote…

While I understand why some people use and identify with the language, I am seriously NOT OKAY with anyone describing me as “female-bodied” or “physically female.” Ignoring the fact that sex is more complicated than just “male” and “female” and even I don’t know my chromosomes or hormone levels, it implies that my relationship with my body is similar to that of a cis woman, which is… not the case.

While I don’t plan on going on hormones or getting surgery, I can’t pretend that I’m completely comfortable with my body, and people using terms like this to describe me are half the reason why I’m dysphoric at all.

Sometimes I have to wonder if I’ll never be seen as the androgyne that I am, but rather a “female-bodied” queer who’s trying too hard to be androgynous.

What’s your experience?

And what are you thinking about gender right now?


Posted by on March 29th, 2013 at 08:00 am

Category: your voice 61 comments »

61 Responses to “Language”

  1. Elle

    I enjoy talking about language and gender, and I don’t want to marginalize your feelings on this topic, but I’m having difficulty phrasing my questions in such a way that won’t further offend you.

    [Reply]

  2. Anonymous

    When I and everyone else I know use the term “female-bodied”, it doesn’t mean “person whose relationship with their body is that of a cis female.” And it certainly doesn’t mean “person who identifies as a woman” (for that, we would just use the term “female”!).

    What we mean is “person whose body has broad phenotypic similarities with those of cis women and most trans men” — whether that person is a woman, a man, an androgyne, or any other gender.

    If you have a preferred alternate term that encompasses this meaning, I’m totally open to changing!

    (With the exception of FAAB [female-assigned-at-birth], and the corresponding MAAB. That term refers to the use of surgery and hormones on intersex people from infancy, without their consent and almost always without their knowledge. It shouldn’t be appropriated for people whose bodies haven’t been forcibly modified in any comparable way.)

    [Reply]

    Adrian Riley replied:

    Original poster here.

    I don’t see why we need a term for “person whose body has broad phenotypic similarities with those of cis women and most trans men.” A lot of trans men are going to have more physical similarities to cis men than cis women due to the influence of testosterone and/or surgeries, so it seems to me to be a red herring of a concept. If anything, I think a lot more trans women are going to fit peoples’ ideas of “female-bodied” than trans men due to the influence of estrogen. (I know not all trans* people use hormones – obviously, ‘cause I’m not on CHT! – but for those who do, it does significantly influence aspects of a person’s sex which are relevant to a conversation on bodies.)

    I know that people don’t explicitly mean either of those things when using the term “female-bodied,” but in my experience it is nonetheless implied – and often used as a transparent replacement for “girl” or “woman,” which is blatantly cissexist. I’ve never heard it used in a non-cissexist context… and, well, I actually kind of view the language itself as cissexist.

    The terminology implies a gendered meaning to my body that I haven’t applied to it myself. This body does not belong to a female, because I am not a female. It belongs to an androgyne, so it is by definition an androgyne body. We can plead an exclusively biological definition of the terms “male” and “female,” but ultimately those words are too loaded down with cultural context and preconceptions to escape a gendered meaning, which is why I’m not comfortable with the word being applied to me in any sense (unless referring exclusively to my birth assignment, but even that can be used in cissexist ways).

    I use “male-bodied” to refer to the bodies of men and “female-bodied” to refer to the bodies of women, regardless of physical characteristics or hormone levels. If an individual conceptualizes their body differently then that’s okay, but that’s their choice to make and no one else’s.

    Am I making sense? I have other problems with the language, but I don’t want to make this too long.

    My understanding of FAAB and MAAB is that they rose from the transgender community rather than the intersex community (and that DFAB/DMAB actually came from the intersex community). In any case, I would not use any sort of “assignment-at-birth” language to refer to overarching physical or hormonal characteristics, because those vary so widely from person to person, and the physical characteristics of a DMAB man are often going to be very different from those of a DMAB woman. In any case, I do think that dyadically sexed trans* people need a way to talk about their birth assignment without misgendering themselves or their bodies, which FAAB and MAAB successfully do. If you view FAAB and MAAB as appropriative, do you have any suggestions for terminology we could use instead?

    To answer your question, when referring to any particular characteristic I usually refer to the characteristic itself (I.E. “people with utersuses”). I’m not sure what the best nongendered language to refer to the sex spectrum would be, but I don’t think it would be hard to come up with.

    [Reply]

    Anon you replied to replied:

    FAAB and MAAB have been used to describe intersex people for decades. It’s only in the last couple of years on the Internet that I’ve seen non-intersex genderqueer people latch onto the terms.

    If you’re not intersex, and the doctor who delivered you was not John Money, you can just say which end of the biological sex spectrum you’re on and people can work out for themselves what gender you were assumed to be.

    And there are plenty of reasons people might need to be able to refer to biological sex broadly, rather than by one characteristic at a time; and as distinct from gender, rather than as a transparent substitute for it.

    “This legislation would restrict male-bodied trans* people to only using men’s bathrooms, which is why we need to fight it.” “We need to guarantee that health insurance covers pap smears for all female-bodied people.” “This girl would simply be on the low end of the weight spectrum for a female-bodied child of her age, but she’s in the unhealthy range for a male-bodied child, so we should probably check that out.” “The most well-known symptoms of heart attacks are most common for male-bodied people, but the common symptoms for female-bodied people are different, so make sure you’re aware of the ones that apply to you.” “We’re starting a support group for trans men and all female-bodied trans* people to talk about their shared experiences.” And so on and so forth.

    As I said, once the trans* community gets around to coming up with that not-hard-to-come-up-with new language for the concept, I will be happy to switch.

    [Reply]

    Adrian Riley replied:

    FAAB and MAAB have been used to describe intersex people for decades. It’s only in the last couple of years on the Internet that I’ve seen non-intersex genderqueer people latch onto the terms.
    The only person I’ve ever seen make this claim who was actually intersex (that I knew of at the time – of course I don’t know if you’re intersex or not) was also cis (and had a history of transphobia). The only trans* intersex person I’ve seen make a claim on this language said the opposite. Please do tell me if your experience or research is different – it’s possible I’m totally wrong here – but this claim is so different from what I’ve heard that I at least have to call it into question.

    “This legislation would restrict male-bodied trans* people to only using men’s bathrooms, which is why we need to fight it.” and “We’re starting a support group for trans men and all female-bodied trans* people to talk about their shared experiences.” use “xyz-bodied” language to refer to the gender designated at birth, and using “xyz-bodied” language to refer to that is misleading. If a trans* woman has been on hormones for years – and hence has the endocrine system and most of the physical features you would expect of a “female-bodied person” – then how does it make sense to refer to her as “male-bodied”? If we’re talking about bodies, let’s use language that refers to bodies, but if we’re talking about birth designation let’s not use that language.

    And I actually think the medical examples you put up would benefit from referring to specific characteristics rather than the sex as a whole. For example: “The most well-known symptoms of heart attacks are most common for male-bodied people, but the common symptoms for female-bodied people are different, so make sure you’re aware of the ones that apply to you.” That puts intersex people and trans* people who have gone through any sort of medical transition hanging: what are those symptoms of heart attacks actually based on? Endocrine system? A specific physical feature? If a trans* or intersex person doesn’t know, they don’t know what information to look at to figure out what applies to them, since they don’t fit the traditional definitions of “female-bodied” or “male-bodied.”

    shaedofblue replied:

    The idea that assigned gender is specifically intersex terminology is a myth that is perpetuated mostly by cis dyadic TERFs.

  3. Cameron Joel

    I also do not like the term female-bodied; it puts gendered meanings onto my body and that feels weird. Additionally, i find it to be not specific, because there are parts of my body that are/do “female” things and other parts that are/do “male” things (because i’ve been on testosterone for a while). The best term i have found so far is DFAB, which stands for “designated female at birth;” i like that it addresses my gender history more than my body. I have heard it being used by/for/about non-intersex trans folks as an alternative to appropriative use of FAAB/MAAB–what does the community think of this?

    [Reply]

  4. Elle

    I expect that all the Genderfork fans and supporters understand the difference between physical sex and gender. I’m also going to assume that we all endorse the idea of an individual’s right to define their own gender identity and modify their own body as needed. Finally, while we all may have our own ideas on the exact structure of the spectrum we all seem to accept that gender is incredibly diverse and includes all sorts of different relations between bodies and minds.

    Physical sex is not gender. While there are a near-infinite number of quality combinations that make up gender, physical sex is a combination of internal and external anatomy, hormone levels, and genetics. Physical sex can be changed, but the fact remains that there are only so many primary and secondary sexual characteristics and only so many ways to combine them. I don’t know the original poster’s genetics or hormone levels either, but I do know that lots of people with female bodies aren’t women. Same thing for people with male bodies, or intersex bodies, or bodies that have partially transitioned from one state to another (whether or not that partial transition is the end goal or an intermediate stage).

    I’ll accept your gender however you choose to define it. I will endorse and even encourage your right to alter your body as you see fit. But if your combination of anatomy, hormones, and genetics gives you a body that doesn’t match your gender – tough shit. Androgyne up and deal with it. Language isn’t the problem here.

    [Reply]

    Adrian Riley replied:

    Language isn’t the problem here.
    This point is, fundamentally, what I disagree with. I think the language we use to refer to peoples’ bodies is problematic and misgendering. As I said above, we can plead an exclusively biological definition of the terms “male” and “female,” but ultimately those words are too loaded down with cultural context and preconceptions to escape a gendered meaning. To say that certain traits are “inherently” male or female is to ignore that we chose to apply gendered language to bodies in this way.

    Also, to refer to people as exclusively “male-bodied” or “female-bodied” is to ignore that, since individuals vary, almost no one is going to fit either polar end of the sex spectrum. If we’re really talking about scientific, biological sex, I don’t see how it makes sense to ignore the aspects of a person that don’t conform to the end of the spectrum that they’re closest to.

    The reason I point out that even I don’t know my chromosomes or hormones is that a lot of people assume that they can refer to me as “female-bodied” simply because of my assignment at birth, making the assumption that I’m dyadic and fit very closely to what we usually call the “female” end of the spectrum. Even if we accept the language used for physical sex, we can’t assume someone’s physical sex by their birth assignment, and that’s what I was getting at.

    But if your combination of anatomy, hormones, and genetics gives you a body that doesn’t match your gender – tough shit. Androgyne up and deal with it.
    Why can’t I conceptualize my body differently if that’s what works for me and eases my dysphoria? I’m not sure why you seem to care so much what my relationship to my body is. I’m perfectly fine if other people conceptualize themselves by these terms, just not if they apply them to others without checking to make sure it’s okay.

    [Reply]

    Elle replied:

    This probably doesn’t count as an apology, because I’m not sorry about the things I’m saying, but I do regret that saying them may offend you or cause you pain. I think it’s an important topic and I think Genderfork is the right place to talk about it.

    Language is not the problem. Society is. It isn’t the langauge that causes people to misue non-interchangeble terms. If you had said, “I am seriously NOT OKAY with anyone describing me as “woman-bodied” or “physically a woman”‘ I would agree 100% and be equally outraged. But man and male are not the same thing, woman and female are not the same thing. Male and female are not genders, and the only reason they have a gendered cultural context is because the average person doesn’t understand (or care) why they need to make a distinction between the two. By rejecting the terms male-bodied and female-bodied you yourself are buying into the idea that gender and sex are irrevocably linked.

    And we need terms for bodies with broad phenotypic similarities for ease of usage. Being able to make broad comparisons is useful in language. As an example, all female-bodied people have certain medical needs that male-bodied people do not, and vice versa. Using terms like female-bodied also allows us to politely avoid refering directly to the shape of a person’s genitals.

    In addition, I didn’t suggest that we refer to people as exclusively male-bodied or female-bodied. There are other categories that bodies fall into, like intersexual bodies or trans bodies. And I strongly disagree that “almost no one is going to fit either polar end of the sex spectrum”. Most people, almost all people, fit the polar ends of the sex spectrum. To suggest otherwise marginalizes the difficulties that people with intersexed or trans bodies have to deal with regardless of their gender identity.

    I fail to see how changing the language is going to make people see you or refer to you in a different way. I understand that you don’t know your specific genetic makeup or hormonal levels. But you do know your own anatomy, and the very fact that people refer to you as female-bodied strongly suggests that your sex chromosomes and hormones match the physical sex of the anatomy they have created.

    In any case, suggesting that just because you don’t know your exact genetics or hormone levels means you don’t fit into the phenotype of female-bodied is absurd. This isn’t Schrödinger’s Genitals. If you truly feel that you have an intersex condition I suggest you look into it, as it can negatively affect your health in many ways. If you’re just using it as an excuse again you’re marginalizing the difficulties faced by peope with an intersex condition.

    I’m not finished, but I will continue in a separate post.

    [Reply]

    Elle replied:

    It’s not that I have a personal interest in how you conceptualize your body. I have a personal interest in being able to communicate with other beings using shared language. Attacking legitimate words and phrases erodes that ability.

    You said that “I’m perfectly fine if other people conceptualize themselves by these terms, just not if they apply them to others without checking to make sure it’s okay.” Quite often we need to describe the observable physical qualities of a person without being able to personally contact them and clarify what terms they do and do not like. In cases where I have any doubt at all I will avoid using gendered language or ask an individual I’m interacting with what terms they prefer to describe their gender identity. But gender identity is not physical sex.

    Let’s take this to an absurd extreme. Do you really want to live in a world where every last person you interact with in any way has to stop and ask you what terms you prefer when they’re describing your physcial appearance to someone else? That isn’t a conversation I want to potentially have 7 BILLION TIMES. Usually I’d rather just walk down the street or go into a store without having to talk about gender identity and physical appearance. Gender and gender identity are very important to me, the opinions of strangers are not.

    I’m also curious about why you said, “and people using terms like this to describe me are half the reason why I’m dysphoric at all”. If a transperson falls in the woods and no one is around to see them are they somehow comfortable with inhabiting the wrong body? For that matter, who is describing you as female-bodied, and how do you know they are doing so? Are these people also claiming you identify as a woman?

    More than half of the reason I’m dysphoric is because the physicality of my body doesn’t match what I continually expect it to be. The way people describe my physical appearance is irrelevant, because I am male-bodied. I’d rather I wasn’t, but I am, I can observe it just as easily as anyone else, and if I have a problem with it I will change my appearance rather than trying to change a language shared by billions of people.

    I understand that you don’t plan to use hormones or undergo surgery. I personally share that decision at this point in my life. But are you using any other methods to change your appearance so that people will not automatically assume you have a female body? Maybe you are, and maybe your personal body shape makes those methods less effective than they are with other people. If so I can sympathize. If you are not making that effort, what do you expect people to think?

    And “Sometimes I have to wonder if I’ll never be seen as the androgyne that I am, but rather a “female-bodied” queer who’s trying too hard to be androgynous.” How does having a female body or being a female-bodied queer make you any less of an androgyne? Let’s be realistic. Very few people, cis or trans or otherwise, have the body they want. Some people can never have the body they want, no matter how much money or time or effort they invest in the problem. What cannot be cured must be endured.

    I don’t expect that anything I can say will change your opinions or personal preferences. And for the record I promise to never describe you as female-bodied, which should be simple since I don’t know you or what you look like. This isn’t really about language. This is about you letting how others describe you affect your gender identity and emotional well-being. But consider this: if you don’t care about my opinions and how I responded to your posts, why do you care if other people describe you as female-bodied?

    Male-bodied queer androgyne signing off.

    [Reply]

    Adrian Riley replied:

    It does seem to me that we have basic differences in viewpoint, so I likewise don’t think either of us is going to change the other’s mind. In any case, I wanted to answer some of your questions and clarify a few things. I hope this is straightforward and clear.

    But man and male are not the same thing, woman and female are not the same thing. Male and female are not genders, and the only reason they have a gendered cultural context is because the average person doesn’t understand (or care) why they need to make a distinction between the two. By rejecting the terms male-bodied and female-bodied you yourself are buying into the idea that gender and sex are irrevocably linked.
    Except that the terms do have gendered meaning in this societal context. If they didn’t it wouldn’t make sense to say that someone’s “combination of anatomy, hormones, and genetics gives [them] a body that doesn’t match [their] gender,” because the concepts wouldn’t be related at all. It is my opinion that they have too much gendered baggage to successfully divorce them from gendered connotations altogether, and as a result using “x-bodied” language for people is gendering their bodies, often nonconsensually. I think we’re better off finding other terms.

    You seem to think differently. I wish you luck in your endeavor to divorce “man” from “male” and “woman” from “female.”

    And I strongly disagree that “almost no one is going to fit either polar end of the sex spectrum”. Most people, almost all people, fit the polar ends of the sex spectrum. To suggest otherwise marginalizes the difficulties that people with intersexed or trans bodies have to deal with regardless of their gender identity.
    Hmm. My understanding was that physical sex was a lot more hazy than that. Perhaps I’ll need to do more research.

    Let’s take this to an absurd extreme. Do you really want to live in a world where every last person you interact with in any way has to stop and ask you what terms you prefer when they’re describing your physcial appearance to someone else? That isn’t a conversation I want to potentially have 7 BILLION TIMES.
    Of course this situation is absurd, and it’s not what I’m arguing. I think that these specific terms are too problematic to use without asking an individual first. Not every single term you could use to describe someone’s physical appearance is equally problematic.

    I’m also curious about why you said, “and people using terms like this to describe me are half the reason why I’m dysphoric at all”. If a transperson falls in the woods and no one is around to see them are they somehow comfortable with inhabiting the wrong body? For that matter, who is describing you as female-bodied, and how do you know they are doing so? Are these people also claiming you identify as a woman?
    For me personally, physical and social dysphoria are very linked, and the way that other people perceive my body affects my own feelings towards it. The term “female-bodied” is specifically dysphoric for me because people have used it in front of my face in meatspace in ways that were obviously misgendering – using “female-bodied” to refer to social rather than physical issues (I.E. “you’re female-bodied so use the women’s restroom”) and during conversations on my identity as a qualifier on my trans*ness, without my consent. It primarily triggers my social dysphoria, but affects physical dysphoria as well.

    But are you using any other methods to change your appearance so that people will not automatically assume you have a female body? Maybe you are, and maybe your personal body shape makes those methods less effective than they are with other people. If so I can sympathize. If you are not making that effort, what do you expect people to think?
    I was very actively making that effort until it became clear that it wouldn’t work no matter how hard I tried. I stopped because that presentation was extremely uncomfortable and inauthentic for me. I’m constantly trying to find the right balance of dressing in a way that’s authentic to me and conveying my gender in some way. I want to try pronoun jewelry next.

    This isn’t really about language. This is about you letting how others describe you affect your gender identity and emotional well-being. But consider this: if you don’t care about my opinions and how I responded to your posts, why do you care if other people describe you as female-bodied?
    Maybe you just pricked at a sore spot here, but I am extremely tired of people dismissing social dysphoria as “caring too much about what other people think.” Of course I would have found a way to make it not exist by now if I could have, but it’s still there. Most of your post made me thoughtful, but this part made me upset because I’ve gotten it before from other people. I’m sure you didn’t intend to come across as dismissive, but you nevertheless did.

    Elle replied:

    Adrian, you deserve a full reply, but it’s late AND Easter (Happy Easter y’all!) so it may be a while before I have the time to respond. Please don’t think that I’m ignoring your response or that I’m unwilling to continue the conversation. But in short…

    This IS an important topic, but right now in the real world I think it takes a second stage to getting the average human to simply recognize that trans identity is real and valid and that not everyone fits into the false gender binary. Like some anonie mouse said below, I’d rather be called male-bodied (or female bodied) than something inherantly insulting like tranny freak.

    Also, we’ve both pricked sore spots on each other. I admit that my pricking was deliberate, in responding to what you said that probably (almost certainly) wasn’t directed at me, but I’m just an argumentative type and not shy about showing it.

    And seriously, I hope you keep working on overcoming the social dysphoria. I don’t know how many humans you’ve met in your life, but in my experience most of them suck, and I wouldn’t bother to feed their corpses to my cat. I’m all trans-entitled and my opinion is more important than most of theirs, but I hope you understand that for you personally my opinion is just as worthless as the biggest Tea Party bigot you’ll ever meet. Please, please, please don’t let the ignorance of other people hurt you that much. It isn’t worth the pain.

  5. mredydd

    I have similar feelings on the topic, in part because medical/biological definitions of sex can be hazy and inaccurate.

    Although sex and gender are different, they are often connected for many people, so it can be important to find ways of relating the two that you’re comfortable with.

    Personally, I’m okay with language that refers to specific body parts without classing them as ‘female’, such as calling myself a vulva-owner or person-with-a-uterus. Talking about having gone through androgen or estrogen puberty can also be useful terminology.

    I don’t know if any of that’s helpful, but I hope you can find language that works for you.

    [Reply]

    Adrian Riley replied:

    Yeah, I’ve taken to using similar language when I’m in a context where I need to talk about my body. I’m okay with the standard language being used to talk about various aspects of my body as long as ‘female’ isn’t attached to it.

    [Reply]

  6. Anonymous

    At least by calling you female-bodied they’re showing that they recognize a separation between your body and your gender. Most people don’t accept any gender identity other than man and woman, and then only if the gender identity matches the physical sex. I’d rather be called female-bodied than a tranny freak.

    [Reply]

    Anonymous replied:

    Being recognized as “female-bodied” while they’re also telling you which bathroom to use isn’t so great, but I like your positive spin.

    [Reply]

    kaberett replied:

    And then again, I’d rather be called a “tranny freak” than female-bodied. At least that way people aren’t subtly undermining my gender, inducing dissociation, and triggering dysphoria while appearing to be behaving in “polite” and socially-acceptable ways.

    [Reply]

    Anonymous replied:

    Sorry. Didn’t know your body had anything to do with your gender. My bad. I’ll remember from now on they’re the same thing.

    [Reply]

    kaberett replied:

    Yeah, as it turns out I do experience my body-related dysphoria and my endocrine-related dysphoria as “having anything to do with my gender”. I’m really uncomfortable separating out “sex” and “gender”: as far as I can tell (& for context, I volunteer significant time in sexual health/education; I am ill in ways that involve me spending lots of times talking to specialists about routinely-gendered body parts), the only reason to call someone “female-bodied” or “male-bodied” is to get at “but what are they *really*”, and that’s a shitty thing to do. Plus I spend enough time dissociated from my body already without people claiming that my cunt makes me (in any sense) female, which magical property e.g. my liver is apparently exempt from.

    IME it’s far more useful to use specific language, rather than fuzzy, poorly-defined categories that fall apart the moment any significant medical intervention occurs – at the latest. e.g. describing me as “female-bodied” is much less useful than saying “stage IV endometriosis”; describing my mother as “female-bodied” is much less helpful than saying “radical hysterectomy following ovarian cancer”, in any context where knowledge of what our bodies are like from the neck down is actually relevant. (Well, and then there’s sex, but again – see above for context – I find it’s far more inclusive & helpful to specify genital configurations than to go for fuzzy-categorical-euphemisms.)

    Anonymous replied:

    Other people don’t like it when you talk about their genitals. Some people think it’s crude to go around saying someone has a vagina or a penis or something else. There’s no way to say anything without offending someone. If you’d rather people to call you a tranny freak be my guest.

    kaberett replied:

    If it’s not a situation where people’s bodily configuration is relevant then /it’s not a situation where people’s bodily configuration is relevant/. What on earth is “female-bodied” supposed to mean other than “has breasts and a vagina”, for pretty much any purpose I can think of? It’s not magically less invasive or more appropriate – it’s just dressed up to get away with it, while being less well-defined & therefore less useful to anyone who has any _actual_ reason for knowing. (& it is entirely possible to talk about people’s genitalia or body configurations in gender-neutral fashion, because look, I just did it.)

    – all of which is an extremely combative way of saying: I am glad you have terminology that works for you. Just please don’t ever, ever tell me (explicitly or implicitly) that I should be okay with being described as “female-bodied”.

    Anonymous replied:

    You can choose whatever terms you like. But it sounds like different people are offended by different things. So don’t suggest that your terms are better than any other terms.

    Anonymous replied:

    Anon,

    Way to be disgustingly dismissive of people’s body dysphoria. -^-

    Tim Chevalier replied:

    When you call me “female-bodied”, you’re misgendering me with the added implication that science is on your side and so I’m not allowed to tell you how much it hurts me to be misgendered. How is that not bullying?

  7. Cat

    Whew, hot topic.
    I’m okay with using the term FAAB, but female-bodied is a bit annoying. Different people have different bodies; some are more feminine-looking or masculine-looking than others.

    [Reply]

  8. Anonymous

    What is wrong with using “FAAB/MAAB” as a trans person? I sure as *hell* did NOT choose which one to be assigned at birth. And this misassignment leads me towards down a road where it is very expensive to get it changed, and very harrowing to leave it.

    [Reply]

    Elle replied:

    I agree that anyone who actually was assigned female/male at birth can describe themself that way. It includes all sorts of different people, since doctors generally use either F or M on a birth certificate. Being assigned female/male doesn’t have anything to do with gender identity or chromosomes or even anatomy, just the whim of the doctor.

    [Reply]

  9. Elle

    One of (I said ONE OF, people) the main objections to the phrase [physical sex]-bodied seems to be that some people don’t like being reminded of their gender dysphoria. How is ANY description of your body, especially a description that includes mention of portions of your anatomy, going to be less intrusive? How does saying that a person was assigned male at birth, or that a person has breasts and wide hips and a vagina, NOT remind you of your gender dysphoria?

    [Reply]

    Anonymous replied:

    Maybe you should show some respect and not use terms you know offend people.

    [Reply]

    kaberett replied:

    For me? Because I don’t think physical features are gendered – but “male” and “female” *are*. (Yes, even when nouned – because it’s impossible to divorce that gendering from the adjectival form, in common use.) Yes, /obviously/ I use people’s preferred terminology, and in my work I make absolutely certain I’m using an individual’s preferred language when discussing their body – but IME, and in the consensus of the (large, international) sex ed/health community I help maintain, there is a strong preference away from gendering sets of characteristics, and a strong preference /for/ using descriptive terms that do have the potential to be neutral and ungendered.

    Plus? Sure, “female-assigned at birth” can remind me of dysphoria – but it does so in a way that places the error firmly in the realm of the person who made an incorrect snap judgment, rather than on me.

    [Reply]

  10. Dana

    I would never use the term “female-bodied” or “male-bodied” to describe someone if I thought there was a chance it would trigger their dysphoria – that would be rude – but that’s a separate issue from whether the terms have value and meaning. I also wouldn’t say that a person has breasts or doesn’t have breasts if that would be triggering for them, even if they’re naked in front of me. It’s a matter of respect, not accuracy.

    Sometimes, certain sets of physical traits are very strongly correlated with each other, and it’s nice to have a name for that phenomenon that acknowledges that *in most cases*, those things all show up as a set. It’s not meant to judge anyone, just describe the reality of human beings as a group. When talking to individuals, it’s polite to not assume that they fit the statistical norm, but that’s different from actually saying there is no statistical norm, which is false.

    Would it help if we replaced the words “female” and “male” with something that doesn’t have gender baggage? I know “female” doesn’t equal “woman”, but the words are linked in people’s minds. What about XX-type and XY-type meaning “people whose physical traits strongly suggest they have XX (or XY) sex chromosomes”? And someone whose traits don’t strongly suggest either, or suggest a different chromosome config like XXY, could adjust as appropriate.

    [Reply]

    Tim Chevalier replied:

    Using “chromosomes” talk is a way of giving false, pseudo-scientific legitimacy to political and ideological concepts. How many people even know their karyotypes? The contents of other people’s bloodstreams are none of your business.

    [Reply]

    Dana replied:

    Most people haven’t had their chromosomes checked, but you can predict a person’s sex chromosomes with better than 99% accuracy based on their physical traits. It’s really not meant to imply that it’s true for every single person, only that it’s true for the vast majority of people.

    I’m a female-bodied (I use the term for myself) bigendered person. I’ve never had my karyotype checked, but based on the way my body is built, I can safely and accurately assume that my sex chromosomes are XX. It’s not a 100% certainty, but it’s close enough. The fact that I have breasts, a vagina, very fine facial hair, and a high voice isn’t the result of random chance. Those things tend to all come as a set – the great majority of people who have one of those things will also have the other three. That would be true even if society was somehow unaware of it.

    I think there’s a big problem when people start saying that common traits/combinations are better, or that rare traits/combinations don’t exist or should be “fixed”. But I also think that it’s okay to say that *most* people with one specific body part will also have another specific body part, or genetic config, if that’s actually true, with no judgment attached.

    [Reply]

    Tim Chevalier replied:

    This is going into the territory of valuing abstractions more than people, and I’ve never there for that.

    Elle replied:

    Can you explain “Using “chromosomes” talk is a way of giving false, pseudo-scientific legitimacy to political and ideological concepts.” Are you suggesting that genetics is pseudo-science?

    [Reply]

    Tim Chevalier replied:

    And XX and XY absolutely have gender baggage — no less than “male bodied”/”female bodied”, they’re a way of legitimizing misgendering-based bullying by reference to the cognitive authority that science has in Western culture.

    [Reply]

    Dana replied:

    It really does suck that physical sex has been used as an excuse for bullying and discrimination. But that doesn’t mean that physical sex, as a collection of physical traits that are strongly correlated, doesn’t exist. If the truth is being misused in terrible ways, *that* should be addressed, but the truth is still the truth.

    [Reply]

    Dana replied:

    (Sorry for double post) Same with the connection between XX and XY karyotypes and specific physical traits. The link is there, and it’s very strong. Sometimes people use that as an excuse for all sorts of crap, but that doesn’t mean we should make it off-limits to acknowledge something that’s actually true.

    Tim Chevalier replied:

    I care more about treating other people with dignity and respect than about appearing to be right, so I’m afraid we’re at an impasse here.

    Dana replied:

    I care about treating other people with dignity and respect, too. I think using gendered terms can be part of that. I wouldn’t call someone female-bodied if I thought they would find it disrespectful, but I personally like the term for myself. I don’t think I should be pressured to not use it for myself because others find it disrespectful for themselves.

    I wouldn’t want someone to describe me as “a person who just happens to have breasts, a vagina, and a high voice”, as if those were just a random collection of body parts that have nothing to do with each other. That doesn’t accurately reflect my experiences, and I’d prefer to not have that type of language imposed on me. I feel like my female body is part of who I am, and if I’d grown up with a different body, I would be a slightly different person today. Also, if I’d grown up in a world where my body’s sexual traits were not correlated with each other, so that most people weren’t recognizably male or female, that would have affected my identity and I would be a slightly different person from that, too.

    When I talk about facts and correlations and stuff like that, I’m not saying we should be forced to endure bullying because facts are facts. I’m just saying that this is a real part of the human condition, and that affects my experiences and personal identity. Not just me – I’ve talked to people all over the trans* spectrum who feel the same way.

    If you personally find it disrespectful for others to use gendered language when describing your body, then that’s fine and I respect that. But I don’t think it’s right for you to generalize that to everyone, and say that it’s disrespectful for anyone to use that language to describe anyone else. Most people are actually happy to have that type of language available, and it’s a bit trivializing to say that they must be wrong or misguided because you feel differently.

    Dana replied:

    I’d gotten kinda far from the original topic, so I wanted to add something: I think *any* factual statement, as long as it’s true, can be value-neutral in the right context. If some fact about life or humanity has been used as leverage for oppression, that might mean it’s disrespectful to bring it up in certain situations, maybe even most situations. But I don’t think it’s right to say, “this thing is true, but we can never ever acknowledge that, ever, because it’s been used for oppression.” That’s all I meant. When I said “this thing is true”, there wasn’t a hidden meaning like “this thing is true, so I’m going to toss it into conversation willy-nilly even when it could trigger somebody’s dysphoria”. I just meant, “this thing is true, and sometimes I find it useful and meaningful in my life, and so do a lot of other people”.

  11. Elle

    I’ve been trying to think of new terms but they all sound kind of silly. Maybe andrite and gynite, or is that too similar to male and female? What about penite and vagite, and at least one more term to describe someone in between? The other ones I thought of are all dirty.

    [Reply]

    Tim Chevalier replied:

    Reducing someone to a body part, especially one their brain isn’t even connected to, is always going to be objectification, and that’s always going to be abusive.

    [Reply]

    Elle replied:

    I’ve read your comments above. You aren’t even trying to help the problem. All you can do is criticize. You claim to value people over abstractions but you haven’t shown it.

    [Reply]

    Tim Chevalier replied:

    How would you know whether someone values people over abstractions?

    Elle replied:

    At the risk of offending a mythological community of goat-eaters who live under bridges, you’re a troll. I’m using the term to describe a person who participates in Internet discussions solely for the purpose of causing arguments or creating strife. As to what you value:

    “I care more about treating other people with dignity and respect than about appearing to be right, so I’m afraid we’re at an impasse here.” Dismissive and catty, and a cheap escape as well.

    Dana replied:

    Using a word to describe someone based on their body parts isn’t “reducing them to a body part”. It’s not demeaning, oppressive or judgmental, unless it’s specifically being used in that way. If I refer to someone as a redhead, am I reducing them to their hair? No. Same with gender – although physical sex is more emotionally complicated than hair color for some people, so it’s more important to be careful with words when the situation calls for it.

    [Reply]

    Tim Chevalier replied:

    So you’re saying that if somebody experiences being called a particular name as demeaning, it is not actually demeaning, because you say it’s not? What gives you authority to demand that other people feel a certain way?

    Anonymous replied:

    Nope, I should’ve been more careful with the way I phrased that actually, sorry about that. I meant it’s not *always* demeaning, since that’s the stance you seemed to take. It can be demeaning in some situations or for some people, just like tons of words we still keep in common usage. So I think it’s good to be careful and try to pick up context, but not just get rid of it outright.

    Elle replied:

    (To use one set of genitals as an example) I think I can say that some people have vaginas. Are we agreed on that much? That some people have vaginas? Or is the word vagina too gendering? What about piss-hole, is that any better? Whatever genital configuration you may have, it had better have a piss-hole built in somewhere.

    No, the word vagina is OK to use? All right. Some people have vaginas. They all have at least two things in common. They are people, and they have vaginas. Everyone still agree with me so far? Some people have vaginas, and those people are all people who have vaginas.

    But… there is apparently no term we can use to refer to those people that won’t offend someone. And I won’t be surprised to find that someone reading this thread was offended when I dared to suggest that some people have vaginas. I’m waiting for someone to be offended by the word “person”.

    [Reply]

    Adrian Riley replied:

    Rejecting standardized language to refer to one’s own body is a fairly common practice among trans* and genderqueer people, at least in the circles that I’ve been in, and I’m a bit surprised that it seems you haven’t heard of it. I know a fair number of people who do this, online and offline – FAAB trans* people people who refer to their front holes and cocks rather than vaginas and clitorises, MAAB trans* people who refer to their clitorises or straplesses rather than penises. This is often due to the gendered nature of the traditional language used to refer to those body parts, but also because many trans* peoples’ bodies don’t operate like cis peoples’, and it is often rather ludicrous to try to meaningfully compare, say, a (non-SRS) trans woman’s genitals with those of a cis man, especially if she’s on estrogen. Our current language is inadequate, and people are trying to fix that in whatever ways they can find.

    Yes, this can make it harder to talk about bodies without offending anyone. Yes, this can make it harder to have a non-oppressive standardized language to refer to bodies. We can and should talk about these things. However, this doesn’t mean we should completely denounce and mock the whole practice – it’s a fairly common response to very real dysphoria, and it’s incredibly dismissive to say that it isn’t valid because it makes things more complicated.

    What did you expect? Life is complicated. People are complicated. Trying to simplify real human diversity and complication does much more harm than good. I would think that any trans* or gender-variant person would know this.

    It is not my intention to be rude, but I honestly can’t tell if you’re trying to understand or just trying to poke fun and mock.

    [Reply]

    Dana replied:

    I’m not the one you were responding to, but I hope it’s ok if I put in my opinion too…I’m totally down with adopting new standards of language for bodies, especially in trans circles. I think it’s great, I actively participate in it and try to explain why it’s important to my cis friends. I’m just not okay with eradicating the standard ways of referring to physical sex, phrases like ‘female-bodied’. We can have multiple standards and move between them based on context.

    Elle replied:

    What’s bothering me is that ALL of the terminology ANYONE has suggested has been dismissed immediately as being offensive. Every last freakin’ term. Life may be complicated, people may be complicated, but it’s only made worse when we don’t have a shared language. Apparently every word is gendered and all gendered words are offensive. How about all you proffesional martyrs quit speaking and just communicate with grunts if language is so offensive? Or is grunting offensive too?

    ***Your physical body, your physical sex, is not your gender.*** I don’t see how refering to something that isn’t your gender can be seen as such a threat to your gender. If you have a body that doesn’t match your gender, that doesn’t magically change the innate qualities of that body, or that gender. Having a female body doesn’t make you any less of a the same thing.

    And yes, I understand there is a causal relationship between your body dysphoria and your social anxiety. I understand that on a purely mechanistic level your brain is a part of your body. So? If people weren’t born into the wrong bodies we wouldn’t have an entire portion of society dedicated to changing those bodies so that they match the brain directing them. Just because your physical sex doesn’t match your mental (and emotional and spiritual) gender doesn’t mean that your body automatically stops being of that physical sex.

    If you don’t like your physical sex, change your physical sex. If you can’t afford to do so, or cannot do so for other reasons, you have my sympathy. It sucks and I know. But don’t try to delude yourself into blaming language for all of your problems. It isn’t language. It’s you. Your body doesn’t match you, and if you can’t change it you have to learn to accept it. Well, I guess you don’t have to accept it, you don’t have to do anything logical. Have fun with that.

    Elle replied:

    Oops.

    “Having a female body doesn’t make you any less of a the same thing.” was mean to be, “Having a female body doesn’t make you any less of a man, or any less of an androgyne, or any more of a woman. Your body and your gender are not the same thing.

    Adrian Riley replied:

    Elle:
    What’s bothering me is that ALL of the terminology ANYONE has suggested has been dismissed immediately as being offensive.
    I would be willing to discuss this with you if you displayed any respect at all for other peoples’ experiences of dysphoria. However, if you’re at a point where you’re calling other people deluded because of the way they experience dysphoria (protip: any individual knows a lot more about their own dysphoria than you do, and you don’t get to say what is or isn’t legitimate), I don’t feel the need to engage with you any longer.

    Dana:
    Yep, I’m fine with “male/female-bodied” as long as it’s self-identified. Also:
    We can have multiple standards and move between them based on context.
    I’m curious what you meant by this. Do you mean “we” as a community or “we” as individuals?

    Anonymous replied:

    “But don’t try to delude yourself into blaming language for all of your problems. It isn’t language. It’s you.”

    Language can make a /world/ of difference. Language /is/ a big part of the problem when it comes to easing dysphoria. That’s why we have to change it.

    $*@# yourself, Elle. (And if you take offense, must be /you/, right?)

  12. Anonymous

    I just let people call me what they want; the important people in my life will get it right, otherwise they aren’t important, and won’t be in my life long. I have really bad social dysphoria, but I reached a point where I realised I am too important to myself and I am too valuable to my friends and family to give two shits about the idiots. Oh yeah, am I scared to leave the house most days? 100% Do I cry nearly every time I do leave and get the “looks,” whether at the store, library, dentist, or even at home when people visit? Yeah, I do. But I know pain isn’t shame, and I know that one day people like me will be treated with respect some day. I won’t be here when that happens, but humans must evolve; that’s the way of things: change.

    Just keep trying, and go easy on yourself from time to time. You’ll get where you need/want to be someday.

    [Reply]

    Elle replied:

    Thank you. I feel like that too, not as strongly or all the time, but enough. I imagine to some extent everyone here has felt it. But you’re right about that realization, it’s the only possible way to survive. Isolation is just another form of suicide.

    [Reply]

  13. Freiya

    Hi, I’m Freiya, and I’m quotes curator for Genderfork, and also the one who chose this particular quote to be published on the site.
    I knew it might create some discussion, which is why I chose it, and discussion is good, it lets us discover new things and other viewpoints to help with our own understanding of whats lets face it, can be a complex area.
    However can I just remind everyone that although we want discussion, we also very much want it to be respectful, non-judgemental and inclusive. Basically BE NICE!!!
    ( you know it makes sense, and as a plus you’ll be making me really happy as well, which can only be a good thing :) )

    [Reply]

    Elle replied:

    Sorry Freiya. I got upset and frustrated and started feeling defensive, which tends to make me offensive. Can’t say it won’t happen again, but I’ll try to keep an eye on it.

    [Reply]


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