Another one of the books assigned for Human Sexuality, which I was nearly done with before I learned that the teacher had been reassigned. I finished it anyway, of course.

I have a lot to learn about trans issues, so please feel free to correct me if I use wrong/outdated terminology, or for any other reason.

Adding “in the modern western world” to the end of the subtitle would have been a good idea: the book does not even touch upon pre-modern or non-European/non-European-descended American concepts of transgenderism. I am certain that a more wide-ranging book exists, and I wish one had been assigned; I kept thinking, “Are you ever going to mention hijras? Two Spirit people? Sikhandi?” She did not.

As a history of transgender (and intersex) activism and history in modern Europe and America, though, it seems reasonably good, not that I’m an expert. Rudacille, a cisgendered woman (a term which never appears in the book), includes a number of interesting interviews with trans people. They are, however, similar kinds of trans people: all American, at least in their thirties, and people who strongly identified with a single gender and, to some degree or another, medically transitioned. Race was not stated for anyone, and was not made clear from the interviews; unless I missed something, there was no one clearly identified as non-white. Neither are there in-depth interviews with anyone who identifies as genderqueer or anything non-gender-binary, anyone really young, anyone who decided not to physically transition, etc, though some such people are quoted.

I couldn't help wondering if Rudacille, probably unconsciously, selected her interview subjects according to who she felt comfortable talking to (and who felt comfortable talking to her,) and so ended up with a bunch of people who were demographically similar to her and who more-or-less shared her beliefs. Irritatingly, sometimes she'd give a nod to diversity by quoting someone for one line, prefaced with something like, "So-and-so, 19, who self-identifies as a Radical Faerie trannyboy," and then not follow up with an interview.

Rudacille has somewhat biologically determinist and stereotypical views about gender, in the sense of believing that certain qualities, like compassion, nurturing, adventurousness, analysis, are inherently masculine or feminine. She also comes down heavily on the “nature” side of questions like “why are boys more aggressive/better at spatial relations/etc,” not to mention on the “oh hell yes” side of questions like “Is it even true that boys are more aggressive?”

The trans people she interviews mostly hold at least somewhat similar beliefs, citing their gender non-conformist behavior in childhood as an early indication that their true gender didn’t match their bodies. (It’s more complicated than that in some cases; some of the people she interviews are intersex.)

Rudacille concludes with a chapter making a case that DES and other environmental estrogen-affecting chemicals may affect fetuses, causing them to be transgender. I kept waiting for her to add, “Though of course, while that may be true for some people, it cannot be true for all, since transgender people pre-date the existence of any of the chemicals I’m talking about.” Alas, no.

I suspect that a subjective sense of gender is inborn, and that some people have it more strongly than others. I know people, male and female, who don’t have a strong sense of their own gender, and others who do. This seems to have nothing to do with whether or not you match a gender stereotype. But I would guess that the stronger the sense of your gender, the stronger the distress if you have a body which doesn’t match it.

I have always had a very strong sense of being female, but I was so gender-nonconformist as a child that it was a significant source of conflict. I liked “boy stuff.” I had “masculine attributes.” I liked to dress “like a boy.” But I never wanted to be a boy; I was just into stuff which (bizarrely, in my mind) was labeled “boy stuff.” I was so convinced that I was female, despite everyone telling me that I was in no way a proper one, that I decided that none of the things I liked could possibly really be boy things. I was a girl, and I liked to climb trees. Q.E.D., climbing trees was also a girl thing.

I mention that as an example of how biological sex, gender stereotypes, and the internal sense of gender seem to me to all exist independently of each other. They may all line up. Or some of them may. Or none of them may.

There must be some trans people who stereotypically fit the gender they were assigned at birth, and yet still feel that it’s the wrong one. (Say, a female assigned at birth who loves looking pretty and shopping, but knows that in his heart, he’s a man – a man who loves looking pretty and shopping.) I wish Rudacille had interviewed a couple of them, because that might have shaken her annoying beliefs in the inherent masculinity and femininity of abstract traits.

Any recs for something a bit more radical, less gender-stereotype-essentialist, and/or with more pre-1800 history and perspectives other than European and American-minus-Indians?

The Riddle of Gender
futuransky: QUESTION EVERYTHING graffiti on a wall (question everything)

From: [personal profile] futuransky


The biologist Joan Roughgarden's Evolution's Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People is an argument against scientific heteronormativity from a Darwinian perspective, and the second half is a large collection of trans- and trans-like social categories. Roughgarden is a trans woman and talks about her personal perspective in the introduction. I think it's dangerously appropriative to lump together all the nonbinary cultural gender forms as if they were 'the same' as our understanding of transgender, but it sounds like it would be a good counter to this kind of stuff!
futuransky: Romaine Brooks self-portrait with Lila Futuransky superimposed. (Default)

From: [personal profile] futuransky


Right, I do agree––I think it's worse to universalize the western perspective! I think I would want to use an anthology of readings that engage in depth with nonwestern as well as western histories if I were teaching an introduction to sexuality in general.

(Of course, if I were, it wouldn't be a psychology class... :) )
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)

From: [personal profile] oyceter


Oooo, thanks for the write up. Am lurking around in your comments to check out the recs!
movingfinger: (Default)

From: [personal profile] movingfinger


If you search Rudacille, you'll find that she is a freelance journalist, not trained and not even having a special focus on gender issues (her other books are on animal experimentation and on labor in a steel mill town). I agree that there are certainly better books on the subject available.

I'm not saying this book is bad but it seems like a strange choice for a course text. It will be interesting to see what your new instructor is like/assigns, because the two texts you've looked at so far are mighty light work.
rydra_wong: Lee Miller photo showing two women wearing metal fire masks in England during WWII. (Default)

From: [personal profile] rydra_wong


Riki Anne Wilchins's Read My Lips: Sexual Subversion & the End of Gender made my head go pop! when I first read it.
wisdomeagle: (queer!Ari)

From: [personal profile] wisdomeagle


I just read that book recently. It made me cry (in a good way). It's not heavyweight academically, but starts to introduce some gender studies stuff in a way that's more accessible than say, Judith Butler. (Wilchin's glossary says wrt Butler that "like with Foucault, we're still waiting for a good English translation.)
wisdomeagle: (queer!Ari)

From: [personal profile] wisdomeagle


(Say, a genetic woman who loves looking pretty and shopping, but knows that in his heart, he’s a man – a man who loves looking pretty and shopping.)

My understanding is that many trans people prefer "female assigned at birth" (or "coercively assigned female at birth") to "genetic female."

++

I'm (probably permenately) partway through Sexing the Body by Anne Fausto-Sterling, which deals with various issues regarding sex, gender, and science. It's very readable AND has an excellent bibliography. The focus is definitely contemporary Western, but she does have an understanding that these issues have histories and haven't always been treated of the same.
liviapenn: miss piggy bends jail bars (remains sexy while doing so) (Default)

From: [personal profile] liviapenn



"coercively assigned female at birth"

... isn't that everybody, though? I mean both trans and cis women. Well, I guess everybody except that one kid whose gender the parents aren't telling. *eyes my grammar there* Well, you know what I mean.
green_knight: (Confused?)

From: [personal profile] green_knight


That just makes me want to write science fiction in a society which waits with the gender-assignment until children are old enough to understand sexuality and-

Hm. If you're not operating in a strict binary framework, would identification as 'male' and 'female' or 'gay' and 'straight' still matter as much?
liviapenn: miss piggy bends jail bars (remains sexy while doing so) (Default)

From: [personal profile] liviapenn



Yeah, honestly, if you could find some science-fictional way to raise children with no stereotypes about gender until they reached puberty, at that point, you have a society that really doesn't even care about gender at all and probably wouldn't bother "assigning" one.

(In my head ages ago I imagined a space drama set on an all-female planet, sort of a Whileaway thing, and in my head they had a handful of "genders," sort of along the lines of "high femme/low femme/soft butch/hard butch" etc., but not exactly. And then you had the cultural confusion of women from a not-all-female planet coming in and the all-female culture being like, "... we can't tell what gender you ladies are and it's weird." And they were like, "We're women!" and the all-female-planet women were like "But you can't just be a woman, you have to have a gender!" ... I still want someone else to write that, someone who's not me.)
redbird: closeup of me drinking tea (Default)

From: [personal profile] redbird


"He's a twelve, I know he's a twelve. But how do I know he's a man?" — from "The Congenital Genesis of Gender Ideation," by Raphael Carter, who I hope is still writing
julian: Picture of Julian Street. (Default)

From: [personal profile] julian


Well, certainly doesn't seem to be writing for publication. But hopefully /something/.
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From: [personal profile] torachan


Well, no, trans women were not assigned female at birth. But I assume you meant both trans and cis people were assigned a sex/gender at birth. And yes, they were. That's sort of the point. Assigned sex at birth is just that; it doesn't say whether someone is or isn't the sex they were assigned, just that it's what the doctors/parents/etc. assumed them to be.
liviapenn: miss piggy bends jail bars (remains sexy while doing so) (Default)

From: [personal profile] liviapenn


Oh-- looking back, I think I misunderstood what wisdomeagle was saying. She said "trans women prefer..." so I thought she just meant trans women prefer it as a term for trans women, but she did mean that "coercively assigned..." is something that applies to all women.
Edited (clarity (hopefully.)) Date: 2011-10-01 08:00 pm (UTC)
wisdomeagle: Original Cindy and Max from Dark Angel getting in each other's personal space (Default)

From: [personal profile] wisdomeagle


Yes. I haven't taken to using the phrase myself, but my sense is that that's part of the point -- the reminder not only that everyone gets assigned a gender at birth (thus FAAB applies both to me, as a cis woman, and to a trans man), but that that assignment is not neutral -- it's part of a system that reifies and creates sex-gender in ways that are really harmful to some people.
lovepeaceohana: A tilted artist's rendition of a clear blue ocean with sky and clouds above; text reads "now bring me that horizon..." (Default)

From: [personal profile] lovepeaceohana


Seconding the rec for Sexing the Body. It's been a while since I've read it, I remember having loved it, and having talked everyone's ears off about it.
ironed_orchid: (wrong sort of question)

From: [personal profile] ironed_orchid


Rudacille, a cisgendered woman (a term which never appears in the book)

When was the book published? I will accept that people weren't using cis widely before the mid 2000s, but if it's more recent, I would expect there to be some discussion of the distinction.

There must be some trans people who stereotypically fit the gender they were assigned at birth, and yet still feel that it’s the wrong one. (Say, a female assigned at birth who loves looking pretty and shopping, but knows that in his heart, he’s a man – a man who loves looking pretty and shopping.)

A couple of the transwomen I know are butch lesbians. In order to appease the medical gatekeepers, they have both gone through phases of appearing more femme than they would generally choose, because if they present as butch people say "why don't you just be a straight man?".

I have always had a very strong sense of being female, but I was so gender-nonconformist as a child that it was a significant source of conflict. I liked “boy stuff.” I had “masculine attributes.” I liked to dress “like a boy.” But I never wanted to be a boy

This is so close to my experience. I never felt that I had to be a boy, or want to be a boy, to do the stuff I liked, just that everyone else should get over their ideas of what girls and boys do. This is why I grew up to be a cis-woman who is a feminist, rather than a trans-man. For the trans people I know, it seems a lot deeper and more connected with how they see themselves, and for those who discover transgender as an actual option later in life, it really is a lightbulb moment, where all the things that never made sense fall into place.

From: [identity profile] mllelaurel.livejournal.com


It's been a while since I read it, but I seem to remember Sexing the Body, by Anne Fausto-Sterling being more diverse and up-to-date.

From: [identity profile] cakmpls.livejournal.com


Good review; it lets me know that I don't want to spend my money buying it or my time reading it, which is the question I want a review to give me the information to answer.

I never had a strong sense of being female, but had no sense of being male, so "I'm a girl" was OK. But I too did a lot of gender-nonconformist things when I was a kid. I came to the same general conclusion you did: I am a girl and I do this, and boys also do it, so it's a person-thing. It wasn't particularly conscious, though, because there wasn't a lot of pressure on me (or at least I didn't feel it) to gender-conform. (Strangely enough, given the era--I was born in 1947.) The only time I can remember that anyone ever said anything to me about gender conformity was when my grandmother (born in 1878!) said I shouldn't play so much with the neighborhood boys.

From: [identity profile] sorenlundi.livejournal.com


I am a transman who has a lot of feminine interests (including looking pretty and shopping). I personally think gender is entirely or almost entirely the result of socialization, but I also think it's a subject no one is really objective enough to study properly. I don't read gender theory very much any more, but I think some of the books I read when I was figuring myself out are closer to what you're looking for.

Transgender Warriors by Leslie Feinberg is about trans people in world history, but I remember it being kind of a vague overview interspersed with autobiographical anectdotes. It's worth reading, but don't expect it to go in depth.

I remember really liking the anthology GENDERqEER: Voices from Beyond the Sexual Binary edited by Joan Nestle, Clare Howell and Rikki Wilchins. I don't remember much about it now, but most of the essays were by gender non-conforming people rather than just about them (though looking at the table of contents I see there is an interview with JT Leroy, who it has since come out doesn't exist). It is about the broader 'genders that are queer' sense of the word, and not specifically about people who do not identify as either male or female, though they are difinately included.

I also had a text book on the topic of gender in general that talked about how gender varies between cultures (among other things), but I can't remember who it was by or what it was called (it might have just been called Gender but I can't find it on Amazon), which I guess is incredibly unhelpful. I'll let you know if I find it.

There might be some questionable race stuff in any of these I didn't notice eight years ago. I have another anthology called Queer Studies edited by Brett Beemyn and Mickey Eliason which has a lot of discussion on the intersection of race and gender, but I haven't read the whole thing.
genarti: ([misc] misty morning sidewalk)

From: [personal profile] genarti


I took an intro-level anthropology class in college in which we read Gender Diversity: Crosscultural Variations, by Serena Nanda. It was interesting enough that I kept it, and reread it later. It's been a while since I read it, so I don't remember all the details.

The title's accurate about crosscultural variations, though. It has chapters about hijras, American Indian tribes (various ones, though I don't remember if there was a primary focus on one or if it tried to cast a broad net throughout the chapter), Brazil, Thailand... I didn't remember anything about modern EuroAmerican culture, but the Amazon description tells me there's a chapter on it. I do remember that the author tried to be pretty upfront about when her focus was deliberately chosen, and when it was because there was a paucity of information available about other alternatives. It's a very short book, too; it packs a lot in what I remember to be quite a quick-reading book.
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