Tag Archives: Gender identity

GENDER AS SOCIAL GROUPING (Reblog)

WHAT IS GENDER? PART 4:

This post is the fourth in a series on What is gender? Click here to read the first post, or here to return to the previous post.


 THE CONVERSATION ON GENDER GROUPING.


As I detailed in the last post, for many transsexuals the site of gender embattlement is their subconscious sex, which is often confused withgender identity. Subconscious sex is a person’s persistent embodied sense of belonging to one sex or another. It is not how one chooses to identify, but how one experiences oneself. For example, technically speaking I had a male gender identity for much of my life. I identified as a male because everyone told me I was male, and I more or less believed them. I at least believed them enough to consciously think of myself as “one of the guys,” even if I didn’t experience myself precisely in that way. However, despite actively choosing to identify as a male, a boy, a man, and a guy, I had a persistent subconscious sex: female.

At least for my early years, I determined my gender identity according to mygender grouping. This gender grouping was a complex interaction of myassigned sex, legal sex, and how people perceived me (my perceived gender). All these factors made people treat me like a guy, so for all social intents and purposes I was one.

In that sense I’ve changed genders. Since I usually think of gender in terms of my subconscious sex, I think of it as being constant throughout my life because my subconscious sex hasn’t budged an inch. But for people who see gender as the social group one “swims in,” after transitioning my gender changed from boy to girl. With that change came a difference in how I was treated, what was expected of me, and who related to me familiarly.

This particular definition of gender – social grouping – is where a lot of the tension comes between transgender women and so-called trans-exclusive radical feminists. Since many radical feminists define gender as an experience of being part of a social group, they define their own womanhood and feminism in terms of their experience of being perceived and (mis)treated as women in a sexist society. Since I spent many years of my life being perceived and treated as a man, those feminists want to exclude me because my social experience of gender differs from theirs.

This assumption is partly untrue. While I haven’t lived my entire life being perceived and treated as a woman, I’ve lived some of it in that capacity, and certainly enough to have experienced a broad, frightening range of misogyny. In some ways, as a transsexual woman the degree to which I experience misogyny is heightened: I’m held to more demanding stereotypes of femininity; threat of rape also becomes threat of homicide; and my body is questioned, objectified, judged, interpreted, and claimed by patriarchal forces to an outlandish degree. Also, while my childhood was not marked by abuse and propaganda aimed directly at me, because of my subconscious female sex I still internalized a great deal of it. Even being treated as a boy, I still flinched with a sense of personal affront when men objectified women’s bodies.

Even my male privilege was a two-edged sword. I imagine it’s a parallel experience to a butch lesbian who get mistaken as a man. While the social benefits were appealing, all it did was reinforce the idea that it’s better to be perceived as a man; it didn’t particularly glorify me.

For some transgender people, their gender identity is based on this social grouping. For example, a very feminine male who expresses herself flamboyantly might identify with women because she fits in – with their world, their oppression, their perceived place in society. An androgynous female might identify as neither a man nor a woman because they don’t fit in with typical femininity, but they also don’t fit into the world of male privilege. Heregender means a different kind of belonging – not what sex you belong to, but which social group.

Gender breakdown transgenderist

Conversations on gender, whether within philosophy, ethics, or sociology, need to take this perception of gender seriously. Gender identity is caricaturized as radical self-definition, just as willful and random as picking out a dress. Sometimes this is the case, but gender identity rarely happens in a void. Some people’s social reality simply lies outside the binary, and for them it’s meaningless to say “you’re a woman because you have a vagina,” if they haven’t experienced their social reality as a woman.

It’s sometimes remarked that “the experience of the sexes” is markedly different, and this is true. A female with regular menstruation has a different experience than a male with regular spontaneous erections. Even though I experience an emotional “period” from my hormones cycling and syncing to other women via pheromones, I do not bleed on a monthly basis. Similarly, the material fact that I have functioning mammary glands and a feminine center of gravity, as well as the possibility that my neurological wiring is transsexed, separates me out from males. These are material facts that can’t be overlooked.

However, “the experience of the genders” is much MORE markedly different. If you are perceived as a woman or treated as a man, regardless of your anatomical sex you are participating in a widely encompassing social experience. If you are a female who is perceived and treated as a man, the fact that you are anatomically female only means so much when it comes to your gender; your experience day in and day out of being perceived as a man is much more defining in some ways. Very few people ever “see” your “sex,” as in spot your genitals or chart your DNA. 99% of the time we rely only on perceived gender, from which we also assume anatomical sex.

This “social grouping” concept of gender affects a large array of people, both transgender and not. Bearded ladies, feminine men, butch lesbians, drag queens, transsexuals, tomboys, intersex persons… all may experience this distinction between the brute fact of one’s primary sex characteristics and where one fits into society. The fact that one’s perceived gender has such far-reaching effects can’t be overlooked. Most conversations about manhood, womanhood, and everything in between are meaningless without engaging the social grouping of gender.

Massachusetts Education Department Accommodates Transgender Students

There is good news for in Massachusetts-based transgender students and and their parents.
Last week, the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education mandated that transgender students be allowed to use bathrooms and play on the sports teams that coincide with their gender identification, reports The Boston Globe.
“These students, because of widespread misunderstanding and lack of knowledge about their lives, are at a higher risk for peer ostracism, victimization, and bullying,”the new directives read, according to the Globe. “Some students may feel uncomfortable sharing those facilities, but this “discomfort is not a reason to deny access to the transgender student.”
The decree was put in place to help schools follow the state’s 2011 equal opportunity law that protects transgender residents. Similar policies in various states, advocacy groups, parents and students were also consulted by the Education Department, reports GLAAD.
“Research shows that transgender and gender non-conforming students suffer higher rates of verbal harassment, physical harassment, and physical assault in school,” Gunner Scott of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition said in a statementon his group’s website, acknowledging that there “is a lot of misunderstanding about transgender students and that some schools may not have the internal expertise to address all issues of concern as they arise.”
Scott salutes the effort, but acknowledges that there has been some opposition. The Massachusetts Family Institute has argued that the bathroom policy endangers other students and violates their privacy.
“Fundamentally, boys need to be use boys’ rooms and girls need to be using the girls’ rooms, and we base that on their anatomical sex, not some sort of internalized gender identity,” Andrew Beckwith, general counsel for the institute, is quoted by the Associated Press as saying.
– continue reading Huffington Post

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Transgender Lives: Diversity in the Body of Christ

Jan. 6, Feast of the Epiphany. Coming as it does so early in the year, the celebration still seems to arrive a little late. Christmas festivities and holiday meals, topped off with New Year’s Eve parties, have more than filled our feasting needs. Now it is time to get back to diets and email. Yet something about this day still grabs our attention. Epiphany is a feast of “something’s up.” With portents in the sky and the hint of myrrh in the air, perhaps we’re being signaled: Stay alert — this could be the year!

The first epiphany sprang a large surprise: a vulnerable infant who is God’s own son. How likely is that? The annual feast invites us to expect the unexpected, to be aware that graces come from surprising sources. Perhaps this year — within your family or your work site or your faith community — you may hear a personal story of courage and faith shared by a transgender person. This will be an epiphany and a grace.

To our own surprise, we have been blessed by such an epiphany. The past year has brought us deeper appreciation of the experience of transgender members of the human community. Mentored by a Catholic sister who has dedicated her life to ministry among transgender persons, we have been instructed by the witness of these often vulnerable members of the body of Christ. Their life stories carry a common theme: an abiding sense of “disconnect” between their inner sense of self and the evidence of their body. In their deepest awareness, gender identity (who I know myself to be) has been in conflict with the social role their physical anatomy suggests (who others expect me to be).

Attempting to conform to the expectations of their parents, spouses and children, transgender persons often struggle to override this sense of disconnect. Some enter into marriage, hoping this will suppress the daily reminders that they are not as they appear. Many more put effort into presenting a “false self” to the world, to protect against being discovered for who they really are. But the price of this unnatural effort is high. Alcohol and drugs offer false comfort along the way; suicide begins to appeal as an exit from this distress.

via An epiphany of transgender lives reveals diversity in body of Christ | National Catholic Reporter.

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Lutherans for Full LGBT Participation

On July 8, TransLutherans was announced as a new affinity group in ReconcilingWorks: Lutherans for Full Participation at our assembly in Washington, D.C. Thanks to the board for approving the formation of this group at its 2012 spring meeting in Minneapolis. TransLutherans has been a long time in the making. A word or two about the history of this process is in order.

The board of LC/NA approved a resolution in the fall of 2002 to add transgender and bisexual to our vision and mission statements, and a task force was formed to integrate this work into the RIC program. In 2003 transgender and bisexual identities were to be included in all subsequent mission statements of congregations who were to become RIC. All congregations previously approved as RIC were asked to update their statements as well. Many chose to use the wording “all sexual orientations and gender identities.” Those gathered at the final business session of the 2010 biennial assembly of LC/NA in Minneapolis approved a resolution to

  • increase transgender and bisexual training opportunities for board, staff, and Regional Coordinators,
  • create a national speakers bureau qualified to provide education,
  • commit the Legislative team and trans/bi/queer communities to work together to create resolutions for synod and church wide assemblies.

These resolutions would expand the welcome of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to specifically include trans*, bi and all people affected by binary gender oppression.

– full report at Huffington Post

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(American Lesbian) Pauli Murray bound for sainthood

The late Rev. Pauli Murray, a woman of many accomplishments – civil rights activist, feminist, author, lawyer and the first female African American Episcopal priest – will likely be named in the next few days to The Episcopal Church’s book, “Holy Women, Holy Men.”

Her nomination is up for a vote at the Anglican denomination’s general convention, meeting in Indianapolis through Thursday.

If it passes, Murray will have her own date on the Church calendar, July 1. Later this month, St. Titus’ Episcopal Church, where Murray worshipped, will hold its annual service in celebration of her work. She was born in 1910 and died in 1985. Murray’s impact goes beyond just her racial and gender barrier breaking in the church.

“Pauli Murray’s significance to The Episcopal Church is as a pioneer, as an advocate for racial reconciliation, an agent for social justice, racial and gender equality both in the church and society,” said Rev. Brooks Graebner, rector of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Hillsborough and member of the steering committee of the Pauli Murray Project based at Duke.

“I would consider her a woman who in many ways anticipated major movements in the life of church and society,” Graebner said.

After being turned away from UNC Chapel Hill’s graduate school in 1938, Murray participated in civil rights protests in the early 1940s and graduated first in her class and the only woman from Howard Law School in 1944. In 1965, she was the first African American to receive a J.S.D. from Yale. A year later, she was a founding member of the National Organization for Women.

Among her law and other publications is the memoir “Proud Shoes: The Story of an American Family,” regarded as her seminal work. In it, she talks about growing up multi-racial in Durham’s West End. She became a priest in 1977.

The Episcopal Church’s book of saints, “Holy Women, Holy Men,” is a major revision of “Lesser Feasts and Fasts,” a worship book that included biographies of those commemorated on the church calendar. In 2009, the last time The Episcopal Church General Convention was held, more than 100 women and men were named to the new book in trial usage. Murray is among a handful to be considered at this year’s convention.

Read more: The Herald-Sun 

(What is not stated in the Herald-Sun, but is clearly stated on Wikipedia, is that “She was a lesbian”).

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U.S. Episcopalians move closer to allowing transgender ministers

The U.S. Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops on Saturday approved a proposal that, if it survives a final vote, would give transgender men and women the right to become ministers in the church.

The House of Bishops voted at the church’s General Convention to include “gender identity and expression” in its “non-discrimination canons,” meaning sexual orientation, including that of people who have undergone sex-change operations, cannot be used to exclude candidates to ministry.

The move comes nine years after the Episcopal Church, an independent U.S.-based church affiliated with the worldwide Anglican Communion, approved its first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, sparking an exodus of conservative parishes.

The Anglican Communion is a global grouping of independent national churches, which develop their own rules for ordination and other matters pertaining to membership and conduct.

The Episcopal Church, which has about 2 million members mostly in the United States, now allows gay men and lesbians to join the ordained ministry.

The resolutions on gender would allow transgender individuals access to enter the Episcopal lay or ordained ministries, and extend the overall non-discrimination policy to church members.

The resolutions must now be approved by the church’s House of Deputies.

The church already bars discrimination, for those who wish to join the ministry, on the basis of race, color, ethnic and national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, disabilities and age.

When a similar resolution was considered at the church’s last convention in 2009 the bishops agreed the church would ban “all” discrimination, rather than identify individual groups.

But supporters of the change said it was time to go further.

At this year’s triennial convention, being held in Indianapolis, the church’s leadership is also due to consider approving a liturgy for same-sex weddings.

If approved, the church would establish a standard liturgy to use in same-sex unions for use on a trial basis starting in December, 2012.

Currently when church members ask for a blessing for their same-sex unions, they rely on their bishop for approval of liturgy, whether for a purely religious ceremony or for solemnizing a marriage where such unions are legal.

– Reuters.

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The Truth in Transgender: Will the Episcopal Church Amend Its Rules?

Out of the Box documentary challenges the church on transgender inclusion

Why Add the “T” to “LGB”?

As the Episcopal Church prepares for its 77th triennial General Convention in Indianapolis next month, transgender Episcopalians and their allies are preparing to challenge the denomination’s commitment to the full inclusion of all God’s people—without consideration of “race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disabilities or age”—in discernment for lay or ordained ministry in the Church. The italicized language is a proposed addition to the current canons of the Episcopal Church, which were previously amended to include sexual orientation as a characteristic that could not be considered as an impediment to ministry. The new language was proposed at the 2009 General Convention, and was passed by majorities of lay and ordained deputies. However, Episcopal bishops amended the proposed new canonical language to remove reference to gender identity specifically, preferring broader language that would ensure access to all the ministries of the Church by “all baptized persons.” Members of the trans community and their advocates persuaded deputies that the bishops’ revised language obscured the challenges faced by transgender Episcopalians, and the amendment was defeated.

“I think there was a tremendous amount of confusion the first time around,” says Louise Emerson Brooks, a media consultant and communications director for the Episcopal LGBT advocacy group Integrity USA, of the failure of the 2009 resolution. “There was a clear need for education among the bishops and the delegates in general on what it means to be transgender and why it matters that they are not prevented from serving the Church in any ministry, lay or ordained.”

“I have to confess,” continues Brooks,

“that I was one of those people who used to say, ‘Why do we have to put the Twith the LGB?’ I thought it was a different issue. I thought it was confusing. I thought it was polarizing. I thought we should just separate the issues, take on one battle at a time.”

A seminar by the advocacy group Trans Episcopal changed Brooks’ understanding of the issues, and Brooks channeled her own learning experience into Voices of Witness: Out of the Box, a documentary that tells the story of trans women and men now serving in ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church.

-full report at Religion Dispatches

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Telling Trans-Faith Stories

Despite the recent rise of murders motivated by a bias against LGBT people along side increasing anti-gay measures in states such as North Carolina, the growing body of anti-discrimination laws focusing on sexual orientation afford many gay and lesbian individuals the opportunity to live their lives authentically. The same cannot be said for transgender individuals. Few laws that prevent discrimination on the basis of gender identity protect this community and allow them to express who they are in public. Because of this, trying to estimate the exact number of people who self-identify as trans-sexual remains a challenge for researchers, health providers and others working with this community.

At the 11th annual Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference, the largest trans specific health conference in the world, 2,400 participants converged to explore in a safe environment the health and well-being of transgender people, communities and allies. This year there was a strong interest in spiritual health, with over 50 spiritual activities available including interfaith workshops, film screenings, worship services, meditation/yoga and exhibition booths.

T Forward, a new initiative announced as a component of TransFaith Online‘s Interfaith Working Group, will serve as a hub for religious leaders working with transgender people and communities to share stories and to advocate for “secular” legislation. Those religious leaders present T Forward’s launching session reflected on the disconnect between national church policy that affirms those who are gender nonconforming and how local congregations implement–or ignore–these nonbinding resolutions.

-full report at The Revealer.

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Australian Passport Regulations to Reflect Gender Complexities

Gender and biological sex are not simple matters of binary opposites. It is simply not true that we are all either male or female. A small but significant proportion of people are born with one or other intersex condition (although the deviance from male or female norms may be so small, they may not even be aware of it). Others   may experience a disconnect between their biological sex and their experienced gender identity, leading them to a journey of gender transitioning. For all these, myopic bureaucracies that attempt to force everybody into simple “male” or “female” categories consistent with birth certificates create real problems. 
Now, in a welcome move, Australia is introducing changes to its passport procedures that move towards greater recognition and accommodation for the complexities of gender in the real world. For intersexed people, there will in future be a provision for a “neither” category, in addition to the usual “male” and “female”. For those who are undergoing gender transition, regulations permit applicants to identify themselves either by birth sex, or by the new gender identity – according to choice.
“In an effort to boost sexual and gender equality, Australia will make it easier for its citizens to apply for passports that reflect a third gender that is neither male nor female, or a gender different from the one on their birth certificate.
Transgender people who haven’t had sex-reassignment surgery will now be able to select their new gender on the passport application, and the process of applying for a passport designating the holder as intersex—neither male or female—will be simpler, the government said.” 
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