General Question

Caravanfan's avatar

How do you feel about gender?

Asked by Caravanfan (7669points) August 11th, 2019

Do you feel that gender is binary, that is male/female? Or do you accept that gender is fluid and complicated?

For information and reference, here is an article

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46 Answers

elbanditoroso's avatar

Is this a question? Or an opportunity to pontificate?

My view is that for a huge percentage of the population, gender is a binary attribute, but that for some small percent of humanity, it isn’t that cut and dried. For that smaller group, a percent or fewer, life is complex.

Caravanfan's avatar

@elbanditoroso I phrased it as a question. How is it not a question?
Thanks for your answer, though. I more or less agree with you.

Yellowdog's avatar

Sex is binary. But some men are androgynous, And many women are very strong leaders.

Androgynous men often play roles traditionally ascribed to women, but are not necessarily effeminate.

In my opinion, men who try to be women really don’t ‘get’ the role, and act in a way that’s really not like that of women.

Caravanfan's avatar

@Yellowdog Did you read the link?

Yellowdog's avatar

No. Sorry, but I will. Will get back later.

You might be interested to know that I am a hermaphrodite. I was made male in stages. I am not kidding.

ragingloli's avatar

Oh I love Futanari.

johnpowell's avatar

Sometimes you just want to suck a dick.

Caravanfan's avatar

@Yellowdog Wow. So was male a gender that was picked for you? What would have happened had the decision been to be female?

Seriously, I want to know more, if you’re willing to share, and for you, especially read the article.

@johnpowell You could still consider yourself male and be homosexual. That is just sexual preference.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

For the vast majority of us it’s binary and uncomplicated. For those where it is not and have one of the rare genetic disorders they are in the extreme minority. Also in the minority are those with gender dysphoria. The definition of “gender” is itself binary as some have taken the definition to mean something other than biological sex. Problem with that is a good percentage of the population have not accepted the “new definition” and still see it colloquially as biological sex. Who you are attracted to is very complicated but gender is not. ....and no, I did not read the article, I’m pretty sure it mentioned things like gender dysphoria and Klinefelter’s. I have no problem treating people with those disorders as gender fluid because they are. I get crossed when the rest of us are expected to think it’s a common thing when it’s not. It’s downright trendy to be “gender fluid” these days. It outlines just how bad people are influenced by over the top identity politics.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Fluid, I just dont care about except enough for my friends to be comfortable.

Demosthenes's avatar

@johnpowell I’ve been there, pal. :)

I’ve always seen gender as separate from biological sex. Most people’s gender (man/woman) aligns with their biological sex (male/female) and for some it doesn’t. Some identify with the opposite, some are somewhere in-between, or have some other kind of non-standard identity. None of it is difficult for me to accept. It’s possible that being gay and being a member of the LGBT community has made me more open to non-standard genders, I don’t know. There are some issues that I have with the concept: children being too young to identify as trans, the question of whether trans people can participate in gender-separated sports, the quest for gender-neutrality at the cost of sanity, etc. But for the most part, it’s not a problem.

Also, as someone who studied linguistics, when I think of “gender” I think of noun classification systems. And it may be binary in familiar Romance languages like French and Spanish, but it definitely isn’t in all languages.

stanleybmanly's avatar

I have shifted radically in beliefs I assumed on the topic in my youth. But long before my 20s I decided that the odds of someone deliberately deciding to assume the stigma that accompanies “being different” made absolutely no sense. Now I certainly believe that gender is indeed fluid with perhaps the traditional definition of girl/boy specs dominant among us. But I have absolutely no way of determining the reliability of such perceptions. But to deny that there is a spectrum to gender in light of today’s evidence is just unthinkable.

cookieman's avatar

Fluid on a sliding scale.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@stanley Well put. Although we debated here ans discovered its not ‘choice’, its invorn.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

So being strict homosexual is roughly 3.5% of the population. Those are not trivial numbers but…
being generous… the population with gender dysphoria stands at roughly .005% and those with genetic gender disorders stand at even less than that. For perhaps 96% of the population gender and sexuality are fixed, binary constants. I don’t see this as “fluid.” It’s frankly more “Fixed.” Anyone who has ever lived and dated in a populated area knows this as a matter of fact. I have a hard time understanding why people think this is still a topic of discussion.

Yellowdog's avatar


I have been advised in the past by fellow jellies not to give TOO much information on fluther or online, not because of personal shame but because, well, there are a lot of kooks and mean people out there.

Anyhow, there are several chromosome combinations that can make a hermaphrodite. But only one that is a “true” hermaphrodite, in which sex actually cannot be established.

My maleness was determined by the fact that I had small testicles in my, um, cetacean vaginal folds. That is so weird saying that. So I had a surgery shortly after birth that some would argue should not have been done. And from the time I was ten until I was 16, I had regular hormone treatments, which, by age ten, I wanted.

In my Junior High years, it was rumored that I was a hermaphrodite and a lot of people said I was gay.

I have always liked girls romantically, always had a girlfriend from the time I was 14 until I was in my early 20’s but never been that much (read, none) interest in sex.

No one confuses my gender, but when I was a kid, I frequently told people such as the counselors at the Park Commission that I was a girl. And a lot of people didn’t believe I was either male or female.

I joined Camp Fire inc when I was ten instead of Boy Scouts because they included both boys and girls. Of course, there was only one other guy, a guy named Brock. who was in it with his girlfriend.

So, yeah, there IS some fluidity in gender. But there are only two genders and variations thereof, so it is also binary. I am glad to see individuals in public of whom it is hard to tell their gender. They may be a little hardened in their personalities but I always feel a kindhip with them.

I haven’t looked somewhat like a girl since my mid ‘20s.

Caravanfan's avatar

@Yellowdog Thank you so much for sharing your story! Do you ever wonder what your life would have been like had you “picked” being female?

Yellowdog's avatar

Hard to tell. Either way, I am me. And that’s all it really feels like.

stanleybmanly's avatar

You’re a brave soul dog.

Yellowdog's avatar

Well, thanks—I guess I’ve revealed a lot about myself on Fluther.

But for the record, life has always seemed pretty ordinary as far as these things go.

When I hear stories or learn about transgenders and LGBT-Q, I find it hard to relate because so many are dealing with intense, raw emotions. When you suggest, for instance, that some transgender person with body peircings that they are hurting or have scars from their experiences, they get very angry and attack.

wiscoblond's avatar

These answers make me happy. Raising a transgender child isn’t easy when the world is against you. You all give me hope.

gorillapaws's avatar

I didn’t read the article. My initial answer is that I was taught that sexual orientation was a non-binary spectrum. If I extrapolate from that logic, it seems like a reasonable working hypothesis that gender could function that way too. I’m sure there are experiments that can be done with DNA, FMRI and questionnaires to quantify gender. I’ll give that article a read when I have more time.

JLeslie's avatar

How do I feel? I feel like gender is told to us when we are very young. That’s my experience anyway. I remember being very young and told I was a girl. I don’t remember exactly why it came up. I remember one time figuring out boys don’t wear dresses. I don’t think I would have thought much about gender at all as a very young child if there weren’t signals from our culture and society.

When I was very young growing up in a liberal town outside of NYC there was never any talk among my friends of differences between boys and girls or liking children of the opposite sex in some sort of dating way. That was for older teens, we were kids. It was very different when I moved to Maryland. I arrived there in 5th grade, and kids were already talking about who was their girlfriend in 3rd grade. What?!

My family liked art and fashion, and so for me, a lot of being a girl was very superficial in my mind. Hair, clothing, make-up, shoes, etc. I didn’t think about it in terms of interests or careers, although as far as interests I tended to go towards typical stereotypes liking dance and tennis, but academically I was mostly aligned with male stereotypes I guess. I never thought about it that way at all as a child.

There are many people among us who have various physical or genetic variations outside of what is “normal” and I think they find their way to their own normal. Most of us are completely unaware when these people are standing right in front of us or even family members or friends.

I have no idea at all what I would do if my own child had one of these abnormalities known at birth. Pick a gender? Hormones? Surgery? I’d be loathe to do surgery I think, but I don’t really know. I’d be nervous about hormones. I might give my child a name that can be used easily as a female or male name and see how it goes for a while if that’s medically ok.

In my teens I was around a lot of gay men, and a lot of transvestites and transgender people. I’m not sure I can say it was normal to me at first, but I didn’t have any judgement about it. Not having any information on the topic at the time, I just figured they liked to dress up as women.

What I think is I can’t see why it’s necessary for there to be a such thing as legal gender. Why does the government have to pronounce us male or female? Why is that necessary? Just stop doing that altogether and that issue disappears. Or, so I think.

I guess doctors have to ask, but they could leave a blank rather than checking one of two boxes.

There is no getting around there are males and females though. We can’t just erase that, but we can put much less emphasis on it, I think we already do as a society.

The one thing I question myself on is, it’s probably very easy for me to say to say gender shouldn’t be given so much attention. I’m female genetically, physically, was raised female, and “feel” female. For those who don’t have that all line up, maybe it is important to them to have acknowledgement by a government entity, I can’t speak for them.

I’ve said several times on fluther regarding gay people that I think it shouldn’t matter whether someone is “born” gay. The gay community uses this as an argument against the Religious Right trying to say God made then that way and they can’t change it, just like a straight person couldn’t be gay. My point is, I don’t need scientific evidence to be accepting of someone who is attracted to the same sex. They are adults, they can have sex with any other consenting adult. Furthermore, and this is even more important than the sex, is any two people who want to share their life together is fine by me.

Following that same thought process, I’m not worried about someone’s DNA in the end, I think each individual decides for themselves, and most people strongly identify as male or female, but then there are some people it’s more fluid, and that’s fine with me too. I do acknowledge there are some societal ramifications though for some people, especially if they don’t easily physically pass for the gender they identify with.

Yellowdog's avatar

I credit the internet for LGBT-Q. hermaphrodites, androgynic individuals, and others, for connecting people who were formerly marginalized.

I really don’t know how much of this trangenderism is psychological and how much of it is physiological. But since it has all been out there, I appreciate more pure examples of clearly defined male and female.

True masculinity, in my opinion, is that of men as they are in churches—who model leadership and compassion and spiritual integrity—not the “macho” type. The best example for women is also to be a strong leader. But there are all types of people that make our societies work,

Cupcake's avatar

There is a lot of confusion in this thread between sex, gender and sexual orientation.

Gender is a social construct whereby individuals express traits that are traditionally viewed as “feminine” or “masculine”. The dichotomy is socially made based on these traits and how we value them. Individuals are driven and, to some extent, choose which of these traditionally “male” and “female” traits they display. They may feel forced to demonstrate certain “gender-based” traits in certain environments, such as school, work, jail, etc. (such as aggression, leadership, empathy, etc.).

Gender has absolutely nothing to do with your biological sex or sexual organs. Gender expression also has nothing to do with who you are romantically or sexually attracted to.

This article contends that an acceptable definition of gender is “sex”. This is outdated. The two are increasingly viewed as entirely separate (although commonly overlapping) constructs.

Caravanfan's avatar

@Cupcake Thank you. It is confusion, and that’s why I asked the question. Thank you for the answer

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@Cupcake Not everyone agrees that sex and gender are different. Those distinctions often fall between ideological lines as some accept the new distinction and others use the traditional one without any. I personally do not care in this case but I don’t like definitions of words being changed for political reasons. Some people want to believe that gender is a complete social construct. I’m not totally on board with that. For vast majority of us who are binary there is a large biological component to what we consider to be gender.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Cupcake Agreed. All the overlap in social constructs is a bit hard to navigate.

A transgender friend who is hetero, is how I try to remind myself the two are seperate. She identifies as female, is transitioning legally and physically, but dates women. Luckily she has a great sense of humor, and is very patient and loving with her redneck, non-PC friends and community ha!

(If I said anything wrong, sorry in advance. Not intended, just doing my best.)

Yellowdog's avatar

Sex is still binary.

Even with all the multifarious components and psychological and sometimes chromosome combinations mentioned in this discussion, there is still just male and female— everything else is just combinations and variations thereof.

That’s because sex IS biological and all about chromosomes, genitalia, and internal organs such as ovaries and external organs such as testicles.

But its all pure and combined variations of male and female.

No third sex, like trimale or xmale or quantraped

wiscoblond's avatar

And now I’m very disappointed in some of these comments.
How sad.

@knowitall I’m not referring to you. :)

@cupcake Thank you for sharing an educated response.

Yellowdog's avatar

Can you think of a third or more sex or gender, @wiscoblond ?

If so, maybe you could make up a race for Star Trek.

All we have on this planet are male and female, and variations/combinations thereof.
I don’t see how this is so upsetting, and I see no way any of these responses could make you sad. But you seem to want me to know its me by eliminating everyone else.

wiscoblond's avatar

^I’m mostly disturbed by Areyoukiddingme’s last response. The comment about changing words for political purposes.

My family is always having to defend ourselves against people who don’t understand. A common argument from them is to say being transgender is a liberal concept. It’s ridiculous. Maybe liberals are more open minded and understanding of people who are different but being transgender isn’t a political statement.

This is a favorite quote from a friend of mine who also has a transgender son. This is her response to those who tell her she needs to respect their opinion about her son:

“I’ll say it again, my son’s existence isn’t an agree or disagree matter. He is not a paint color or a food choice or a tattoo design. He is a human being who is simply existing, living his life.”- Vanessa Lee Nic

Yellowdog's avatar

Its not my place to say, but people can make choices.

I’m personally not against sexual reassignment surgery. Some people are desperate for it. But at least a fraction of those who undergo it may find that they no longer have the sexual feelings they had before the surgery if it involves hormonal alterations, One can alter their own body any way they wish, but undoing such changes is another matter.

I just don’t like it to go so far as to have people entering bathrooms that are not of their biological sex. There should be alternate unisex bathroom options for people who prefer them.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@wiscoblond Now wait a damn minute, did you not read my response before that one? Outside of gender dysphoria and certain gentic conditions gender is a binary thing but not with people who have those conditions. “Sex and gender” have meant the same thing for ages until it was basically decided by certain groups to mean something else and then pushed on the rest of us. My adversion to that has nothing to do with accepting people with gender disphoria which is a real, documented medical condition. Working language like that under any circumstance is dangerous IMO. Did you not also read where I said that particular instance is not my concern but the manipulation of the language is? I’m fine with people calling their situation “gender identity” but I’m not really ok with sex and gender defined as separate. I don’t care what the situation or word is, that’s a line we should not cross.

Demosthenes's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me And why shouldn’t we cross it? What is so “dangerous” about this particular language change?

(I would argue that the word “gender” retains its original meaning of being synonymous with sex but has adopted a secondary definition that helps clarify gender dysphoria. The original meaning hasn’t been supplanted, but even if it someday is, that will be a natural process. Trying to change language by force usually doesn’t work).

The fact is that people do use “gender” to mean something separate from sex. Definitions are determined by usage. You can’t fight language change.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Because manipulation of language is one of the oldest, most sinister tricks in the book. Imagine if we let racists redefine “human” or fascists redefine “freedom.” Eric Blair was Keen to warn us of newspeak and he was right. For good means or bad language is off limits as far as I’m concerned. I will not accept political manipulation of it. Even doing it for positive means opens that door. No sir.

Demosthenes's avatar

Yes, I’m wary of racists and fascists too, but these aren’t racists and fascists using this definition, so that doesn’t sound like a fair comparison to me. I’m not sure why you find this definition of gender so nefarious and manipulative. This usage of gender seems to have arisen in 1960s academia, as opposed to politics. Nonetheless, the definition was adopted because a term for this concept was lacking (neologisms often have trouble catching on; but then again many people don’t expect an academic definition to catch on. This one has because it describes a very real concept for many people).

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Like I said, good or bad many of us will not accept the new “academic” version of this because it is a manipulation of the colloquial language. It’s not ok to do this just because it may serve positive means. I can understand it’s hard for some to see the damage allowing this can cause. I’m not crossing that line. Doing so opens the gates.

Demosthenes's avatar

This kind of thing happens all the time. The word “berry” has a colloquial definition of “small fruit”, but the word was co-opted by botanists to have a technical definition that excludes many fruits we commonly think of as berries, like strawberries and raspberries, and includes fruits like the banana. But this usage I would argue is even less intuitive than the new definition of gender. Nonetheless I generally have no problem with words gaining new meanings from technical or academic circles; in the case of gender, it’s a meaning many find useful (perhaps only botanists find the new meaning of “berry” useful).

Cupcake's avatar

@wiscoblond Love to your family. I’m here for you and hope you are getting all the support you need and want.

I am currently teaching sexual health at the undergraduate level. I’ve certainly learned a lot and work hard to speak with precision and without judgment. Teaching this class to these students has been a dream job.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@Demosthenes this is different because it’s political.

LostInParadise's avatar

How can we simultaneously speak of gender equality and also of being able to choose one’s gender? Gender equality says that women can do whatever men do. They can be politicians, athletes, artists and scientists. Men can be stay-at-home dads with the mother as the breadwinner. Men and women can be gay or straight. Then what specific characteristics does the female gender have that the male gender does not have? Is it appropriate to even ask this question?

Demosthenes's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me As I said before, it’s academic in origin, not political. And the means it serves is not necessarily political either. What is political about a trans person feeling a disconnect between their body and their mental conception of their gender?

@LostInParadise “Gender equality” means equality of opportunity; it doesn’t mean “men and women are exactly the same”.

LostInParadise's avatar

Given that gender is independent of physicality, what difference is there between the genders of male and female?

Demosthenes's avatar

Gender can’t be independent of physicality, though; if it were, then no one would ever desire a sex change or hormone therapy. One would be okay “feeling like a woman” while having the physical appearance of a man. But they’re not. People with such a disconnect often desire to change their physical appearance to align with their sense of being a man or woman. So clearly physicality is part of it. What being trans shows is that there is also a mental aspect to it.

I find any statement such as “gender is purely physical” or “gender is a social construct” to be too reductive. It’s physical, mental, and socially constructed in part.

You’d have to ask a trans person to go into more detail about the mental concept of gender. I’m not the one to answer it, though it is an interesting question.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Well from this discussion it appears that the term is so fluid the definition must be determined by the individual concerned. Just as his or her name is up to them.

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