Musings on Gender and Definitions.

A friend of mine recently sent me a link to Kate Borenstein's Gender Aptitude Test. Now, this isn't the first time I've taken the test, but it got me thinking. You see, I identify as male. I don't give a rat's ass about how others view me, I feel that I am supposed to have a penis. This seemed to really mess up my score, however, as I felt that many of the answers didn't actually reflect my thoughts.

I've been told that I am TS because my gender identity is male, and there is a growing body of research that suggests that there is some sex differentiation within the brain. The majority of transpeople I know (which consists of a fair number of non-binary individuals) tend to relate their gender identity to their bodies, and specifically the presence or absence of features typical of a certain biological sex. I don't assume that every TG individual is within the binary, yet there are numerous answers offered that suggest that, if one identifies strongly as a member of a binary gender, they must assume that others do also.

So, that got me wondering: how were people defining gender when they wrote or spoke of it? It all seemed to fall into two categories: How one relates to their bodies, and how one's body affects how they relate to the world. So, I have to ask- how do we make a distinction between the two? This isn't the first time I've voiced my frustration on the lack of distinction between the various facets of gender. Gender's a complicated thing, and yet we use the same term to refer to vastly different things. The idea that "gender is caused by socialization" is just as true as the term "gender is biological and innate," depending on how one defines gender.

Seriously, people, we need some new terminology. I have yet to see two definitions that refer to identical aspects, and it's getting frustrating. How are we supposed to get real dialogue going regarding gender if we can't even agree on a definition? Yes, gender refers to whether a person identifies as a member of a certain sex. Yes, gender refers to how one portrays themselves as a member of the sex they identify as. Yes, gender is how a person allows their biology to influence their roles, actions, and thoughts. Yes, it's socialized, but it's also inborn. And yes, you can agree with everything said there, if you use various legitimate definitions of the word gender. Add to this the constant confusion of the words sex (referring to a person's biological and/or genetic state of being male, female, intersexed, or a eunich) and gender, and you get something that seems somewhat scary and overwhelming to the average person who never really has a reason to wade through this stuff when they have someone willing to tell them that gender is just another word for sex, and anyone who thinks otherwise is a freak/sinful/sick/whatever.

Frankly, I can't blame them- I grew up in an environment that pushed that type of thought, and I've seen how pervasive it can be. The term gender has become some sort of monolith, and the number of conflicting yet accurate definitions in use makes it complicated, especially since many authors do not explicitly state which aspect of gender they're referring to. I had a textbook which contained three different definitions of gender, while my professor used a fourth in her lecture (which differed from the fifth used by a substitute when she fell ill part way through the semester).

So why haven't we come up with any new terminology? I'd like to see some thoughts on the matter.

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