I think you have a good point, but I want to throw out there that not all trans folks go at it the same. There’s a high level of variability in experience. White trans folks have a different experience than trans POC. There is more than those transitioning MtF or FtM, with genderqueer, bigender, etc.
Does this mean that heterosexuals decide to be heterosexual?
You’re reducing the situation to only two possible options, when in reality there are more.
Does a Christian choose to become a Christian? Are they born a Christian? Or is there a third option? Are they perhaps merely reared in a Christian culture, and belong to it as a result of sociological forces?
Now, with religions, yes, some people do “choose” to become a member of this or that religion, because conversion is a thing. But their first “religion” - or perhaps even lack thereof if they are raised Atheist - their first “world view” is not something they are born with, nor something they choose, but rather something they are brought up within and adopt out of convenience, just like language. You aren’t born speaking English or what have you, nor do you choose to speak it, but because you are a child in a family and community that speaks English, you quickly adopt it naturally, because it is the most convenient thing for you to work with as you develop.
Gender is the same way. You aren’t “born” with a “masculine” or “feminine” identity (Do such identities even objectively exist? What is masculine in one culture is feminine in another!), nor do you as a child “choose” to identify with the male or female gender, you merely grow into one or the other as is convenient for your community and personal development.
To return to your original question, does a heterosexual decide to be heterosexual? At first, no. They grow into it as a product of the culture of their community. It is “the way things are”, at least as regards a child. The child isn’t “born” heterosexual, but rather they are “born into” heterosexuality, or perhaps more accurately a culture of heterosexuality.
They may later actively decide to remain heterosexual, or to become homosexual, or they may even fail to give the matter any thought at all and not make any sort of actual “decision” other than defaulting to the status quo. But this only occurs once they have become more developed, and have become aware of the possibility of other ways of thinking and behaving that differ from “the way things are” as they have grown up to understand them.
Ooh, can I chime in?
I had an ex who really said something that stuck with me. She identified as lesbian but for some reason we clicked really well. I was a single father of a toddler and had taken on a broader set of gender roles because of that. She described her sexuality as ‘narrow’, that there were certain traits that really excited her, and because she wasn’t pushed one way or another, she felt brave enough to try spending some life with me.
That made me think about my own sexuality, and wonder how much of my own heterosexuality was influenced by choice and my environment. Would I have had different attractions were I a Spartan warrior for example, as many behaved physically in a way that would definitely be considered bisexual in today’s society.
I think . . . I think we DO choose. But that’s not an argument we should be having or defending. At this point I couldn’t turn back, nor should I be expected to. People should be respected and encouraged to love who they love as long as it’s consensual and not taking advantage of anybody. We shouldn’t be polarizing and instead embracing the whole spectrum.
Certainly, the problem is not that people question their own identities, but rather that they are poorly treated for doing so.
Of course, that sort of judgemental treatment by society isn’t restricted merely to gender issues. Career choice, religious beliefs, body image, reproduction, economic models, furtinute aesthetics, masturbation techniques… it seems there’s always something that matters to you personally that other people are more than willing to decry you for wrestling with, because they’re convinced that theirs is the one true god / way / belief / theory / viewpoint / philosophy / “truth” / et cetera.
On a separate tack, I feel somewhat compelled to point out that “deviant” is actually a very apt term for usage here. A deviant is merely one who deviates from the norm - one that is not the average, or the usual, or the obvious, or the expected, or the default.
Perhaps instead of treating an otherwise accurate word as an insult, you should consider subverting it? When the British mocked the Colonials with the term “Yankee Doodle”, they took what was meant as an insult and turned it into a badge of honor. They didn’t take offense to having the term applied to them, but rather defied the intended usage and supplanted it with their own meaning.
I’m personally clearly a deviant in many respects - yet rather than feeling insulted or scandalized by that fact, I take pride in it. People differ. I’m not average or ordinary, at least for certain definitions of such. It would be absurd to insist that other people pretend there was no difference between them and myself, and it would be equally absurd to be upset by having such differences pointed out to me.
“You exhibit behaviors and hold beliefs that I do not!” Why, yes! Yes, I do! What of it?
“That makes you a deviant!” Certainly it does! …and?
“Well… uh… that makes you evil / bad / amoral / misguided!” Ahh, see, there we disagree. If you’re willing to have a reasonable discussion, I’ll chat with you about the matter and maybe change your mind. But if you’re truly set in your ways, no skin off my nose, I’ll just make sure to not associate with you in the future. Toodles!
Science be damned! Political Correctness trumps facts round these parts…
(I actually managed to type that with a straight face)
[Disclaimer: I ramble for a bit here, so I hope that I do not offend any one in the process. Despite my confusion, I still think the only polite thing to do is to use the names/pronouns that are appropriate for a particular person’s gender identity.]
I have googled, so I have read about the differences between sex, gender identity, and gender expression … but I am still confused. I am biologically female and identify as female. I do not, however, always express my gender in the stereotypical “feminine” ways. My response is to argue that society needs to expand the definition of what it means to be “female” … I have never felt like my expression indicates that maybe my identity does not “match” my sex.
More googling (after writing the above) led to this: http://freethoughtblogs.com/nataliereed/2012/03/21/gender-expression-is-not-gender-identity/ I think statements like this:
I did not come to the conclusion that I am a woman because I like men, jewelry, make-up, dresses and My Little Pony. I was a woman first. The jewelry, make-up, dresses and (to a lesser extent) My Little Pony are simply the means through which I express my being a woman. Another woman may express her womanhood through a spikey colourful pixie cut, torn jeans, and a Smiths “Meat Is Murder” t-shirt. Another woman may express her womanhood through a flannel shirt, blue jeans and a pair of work-boots. We’re all women. How we choose to go about being women is irrelevant.
help me think, because definitions like this (https://www.genderspectrum.org/understanding-gender) (emphasis mine):
Transgender. Sometimes used as an umbrella to describe anyone whose identity or behavior falls outside of stereotypical gender norms. More narrowly defined, it refers to an individual whose gender identity does not match their assigned birth gender. Being transgender does not imply any specific sexual orientation (attraction to people of a specific gender.) Therefore, transgender people may additionally identify as straight, gay, lesbian, or bisexual.
confuse me. I feel like I spend a lot of time arguing that “Being female does not mean that I should be required to do A, B, or C and being female does not mean that I am unable to do X, Y, or Z.” … so, I do not understand why someone would focus on gender identity not matching sex. Would it still be accurate if the definition looked something like this?:
Transgender. Refers to an individual whose gender identity does not match their assigned birth gender. Being transgender does not imply any specific sexual orientation (attraction to people of a specific gender.) Therefore, transgender people may additionally identify as straight, gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Being transgender (or cisgender) does not imply that a person’s gender expression falls within society’s stereotypes for that person’s gender identity.
Or is that too narrowly defined? If it is accurate, then my brain can just focus on sex < - > gender identity. Since I do not remember deciding that my gender identity matches my sex (although some may argue that I let society decide for me), I can easily imagine someone just knowing that those two things don’t match. If it is too narrowly defined, then I need some more help here …
Why would someone “born into” a culture of heterosexuality actively decide to become homosexual? If a person has spent their whole life hearing that homosexuals are disgusting sinners and know that they are going to be treated very badly for coming out, it seems a rather strange thing to do. Also, how do you respond to the argument that therapy cannot change someone’s sexual orientation?
I think the problem with the word “deviant” is when the last statement goes something like:
“Well … now I am going to fire you.”
“Well … now I am going to hurt you.”
In the modern world, it’s very hard to go through life without being exposed to any other cultures and values. Even extreme isolationists, such as the Amish, experience friction between their own cultural values and those of the various neighboring cultures that surround them. Despite all the best efforts of the Amish community, every so often members of their group decide to leave in order to explore and experience the other cultures which they have heard of or even come into oblique contact with.
Now, in those bizarre and unusual circumstances in which a person has zero exposure to other cultural viewpoints, overwhelmingly they do not decide to go against the values of their culture. Most of the time, alternative behaviors wouldn’t even occur to them. When literally everything you’ve ever known has told you something as absolute truth, you only begin to question that concept when exposed to contrary evidence.
To use an extreme example, it would never occur to you or I to actually, seriously imagine that water is not wet. That makes no sense to us. It’s nonsense. I’m trying right now to conceptualize water not being wet, and no amount of willpower will allow me to do so. I have no capacity to produce such a conceptualization. It goes against my most basic understandings of the universe. I have no relevant values to attach to the statement “water is not wet”, other than that it is an absurd negation of a fundamental truth.
If you were to somehow throw me into a pool of non-wet water, and I were able to experience firsthand what it is for water to be non-wet, only then would I be able to begin properly conceptualizing non-wetness. Of course, confronted with the quality of non-wetness, I would be strongly inclined to believe that what I had been thrown into was not, in fact, water, because water is wet. So I’d also have to somehow have to have the water-ness of the non-wet water also proven to me on some level before I’d be able to accept it.
Well, on one level I don’t like the usage of the word “therapy” in regards to attempts to force sexual preference onto others, since θεραπεία means “curing” or “healing”.
But as for the argument that it is impossible to change someone’s sexual orientation? I highly doubt that. It’s just that to do so would be extremely horrific and likely would cause irreparable harm to the victim’s psyche.
People change their sexuality. It happens. Moreover, it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. People don’t just wake up one day and have their sexual preferences inexplicably changed. Rather, the things which they associate with sexual arousal change. The triggers which set off their biological functions shift. How? Why? That’s a complicated question, and it varies incredibly from individual to individual.
That said, we can at least recognize that sexuality changes over time. People can be aroused by one thing when they’re young, but something entirely different when they’re older. A behavior that used to be a major turn-on in the past can become a major turn-off in the future. And these changes can occur for any number of reasons, all tied into an individual’s psychology.
On a basic level, there are two basic factors of sexual arousal - the physical, and the mental. The physical aspect of arousal involves all the biochemical stuff like hormones, pheremones, and to some extent instinctual drives. The mental aspect involves the various cognitive associations we have between different stimuli and our physiological responses.
Compare with hunger. We all get hungry physically - it’s just how our bodies operate. But we also have mental influences on our hunger. We often associate a particular smell or even the way a piece of food looks with being hungry, and we can trigger our appetite by providing the appropriate stimuli. For example, someone who really enjoys barbeque can be made to feel hungry just by smelling woodsmoke.
Conversely, certain stimuli can actually negate our hunger, and suppress our desire to eat. A delicious cake thrown into a blender with some green food colouring ends up looking “unappetizing”. The food itself is still just as nutritious as it was before, and our bodies still need just as much nutrition, but suddenly we feel less hungry because the blended cake now looks disgusting - it triggers a psychological response of revulsion. So despite the cake being perfectly fine to eat, we don’t want to eat it any more.
Sex works much the same way. A certain sex act can stimulate arousal, or it can negate it. Some people are turned on by bloodplay, others are turned off by it. Why? Because different individuals have different psychological associations in regards to that stimulus.
Personally, the sight and smell of blood sometimes triggers a very mild anxiety in me - I almost instinctively go into a sort of “alert” state, assessing the situation as if in a mildly dangerous scenario, basically feeling compelled to ensure that the “wounds” get properly treated, even if they’re just cat-scratches. Meanwhile, Joe Kink sees blood and instead of associating it with defensive or protective responses, he associates it with raunchy tabboo high intensity passion and gets turned on by it. It’s all relative to the individual’s psychology.
So… you object to the usage of the word “deviant” on the grounds that hate crime exists? That’s like objecting to the usage of the word “fuck” on the grounds that rape exists.
The word “deviant” is in no way responsible for bigots and psychopaths abusing innocent people, and blindly crusading against the term and its usage is not only unhelpful, but actually a waste of time, effort, and consideration on something completely unrelated to the evils you seem to actually be objecting to.
I very much appreciate the correction, thank you!
The last time I was in the UK it was still commonplace to see coin donation tins labeled “Help Scottish Spastics” on store countertops in Edinburgh; the euphemism treadmill wasn’t up to speed there yet. I had hoped they’d managed to avoid it, but apparently they caved in the mid 90s.
Good comparison to ‘retard’ - the root word had history and meaning, but after its adoption as an insult, the schools in my area started using “special education student” instead of “retarded student” in their materials. So all the kids started calling each other ‘speds’ on the playground instead, effectively widening the insult to a larger group of people.
Kids today still say “that’s so gay” as an insult. The high school kids refer to hybrid cars as “gay cars” in my area, which I have totally adopted… I’ll happily refer to my plug-in Prius as a gay car in nearly any company. Gay cars are the best cars.
The worst case in the UK was the adoption of Joey as an insult after a documentary was made for a children’s program about Joey Deacon, a man with cerebral palsy.
I can’t help but think that story is by turns a hero tale and a sad indictment of our entire species. Thanks for the link.
Sounds like, to use your examples, you are trying to differentiate from cis-gendered masculine of center women, and transgendered people. I think. It’s morning, and I’m groggy. I know butch women, or masculine of center women, who do not think their gender is anything other than woman.
Someone like me, who was a tomboy, masculine, and butch, but is seeking testosterone and surgical reconstruction (although there are lots of trans men that don’t!) don’t identify as women.
On the surface, we could both look the same to the outside gaze.
I think a lot of the older definitions are bound up in transitioning as a goal, when these days there is a lot of folks that identify outside of a traditional gender binary. I simply don’t think culture has caught up to folks that are genderqueer.
I can only use myself as an example, because we are all so different in how we approach things. I identify formally as genderqueer, but will probably transition to male, and identify as male. I still like a good dressy set of heels once in a while, and probably won’t give that up, but shhh! don’t tell my doc or I won’t get past his gatekeeping to get a script for my testosterone, or top surgery.
I like your last definition because that fits me better. I find the more educated folks get on the issue ,the more . . . delicate. . . the definition gets. There is a lot of grey area, and room for discussion.
Also you are right, we know things don’t match up pretty young. My first instance was in kindergarten when I was shocked, shocked! I tell you!, that I was disallowed entrance to the boys bathroom. I was certain I did not belong in the girls bathroom. I argued that I was a boy, even then.
They may think this but will, instead of saying these things, go on a character assassination campaign, spreading misinformation and lies and generally poisoning your well.
While it’s accepted usage, and I’m on the losing end of a nitpicky word thing, and I know I will be beaten down by the forces of history…
I still don’t like the term “rate” when it’s used to describe the incidence of X in population Y.
I know, I know, I’m wrong.
Still don’t like it.
Go search out information on David Reimer. Maybe read “As Nature Made Him.” You’re just dead wrong.
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