Philosophy and science of gender and sex

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arbiteroftruth
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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby arbiteroftruth » Wed May 30, 2018 8:16 am UTC

(foregoing quote boxes because A: I'm on my phone, and B: in my time zone it's 3 am and I have work in the morning)

First, I think that in the descriptivist sense, the original sociological meaning of the word 'gender' is largely irrelevant at this point. I think the divide on the subject comes down to those on the right seeing it as synonymous with biological sex (the term being useful for deliberately not referring to the *act* of sex, as ucim has suggested), and those on the left mostly using it to refer to that how-you-feel-about-your-biological-sex property (but, in my view, being hesitant to explicitly say as much, for fear of being exclusive against anyone). People can then debate which notion most deserves to be referred to with simple terms like he/she, man/woman, waiter/waitress, etc, but at least both options are communicating useful objective meaning.

As for that question of which category is most deserving of having simple everyday language that deals with it, I think that comes down to an implicit philosophical difference about the role of simple language to begin with. I think those on the left, generally speaking, prefer for simple language to refer to broad categories, and if you want to get more specific, that's what more complicated language is for. Meanwhile those on the right, generally speaking, prefer for simple language to refer to easily distinguished categories, and if you want to get more subtle, that's what more complicated language is for.

So for the right, complicating terminology takes you from the simple to the subtle, while for the left, complicating terminology takes you from the broad to the specific. I think you can see this difference in language reflected in multiple apparent disagreements between the left and right.

In terms of social benefits associated with one approach or the other for gender in particular, the left's approach is inherently more inclusive, but comes at the expense of conveying clear physical meaning, while the right's approach makes the opposite tradeoff.

Given that the bulk of the divide is a purely linguistic disagreement, I think the most effective compromise would be something like the following. The speaker can reasonably choose whichever notion of gender they prefer, but if the speaker's preferred terminology would make the subject uncomfortable, the subject can reasonably demand that gender-neutral terminology be used instead (and can of course specify whatever preferred gender they wish for any speaker willing to oblige). Singular 'they' already covers a lot of the need for neutral language, and 'person' should suffice as the neutral form of man/woman. Things like waiter/waitress might be trickier, but I think the 'male' form can be coopted as neutral in many cases (since the -er suffix is a neutral in general). "He's a waitress" sounds odd, but "she's a waiter" sounds fine to my ear.

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Tchebu » Wed May 30, 2018 2:21 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:(This was an ETA to my post above but then I was ninja'd by Jose's response).

While I'm here, I also want to share the model of gender-related things in which I think, for which I am searching for more apt terminology.
Spoiler:
Consider a two-dimensional spectrum, with one axis being maleness and the other femaleness:

Image

Imagine a figure in that spectrum that has position, orientation, and momentum. (Angular momentum would make sense too but nobody seems to care about what that would correspond to). Your position is your sex, and there's plenty of room for intersex people there. Your orientation is... your sexual orientation, pointing at where on the spectrum you are attracted. And your momentum is your "-phoria"/"-morphia", that thing that's often mislabeled "gender identity" but has nothing to do with social constructs like gender; it's what your position (i.e. sex) would become, if nothing stood in the way of it, i.e. if you had your way. (Angular momentum likewise would have to be something like "what your orientation would become if nothing stood in the way of it", but that doesn't seem to be an attribute anybody has need to talk about). The etymology of "-phoria" means "to bear", as in "to carry", so that also seems to fit with the "momentum" metaphor here: it's the direction you are bearing, the direction you're carrying on toward.


Things I like about this model:
- It contains within it the male-female axis thereby accounting for the notions/intuitions we already have about the majority of the clear-cut cases, without assigning any special status to that axis.
- It gives a clear depiction of what it would mean to be off that axis.
- It in principle leaves room for additional axes should such be required, so the model is easily expandable. (Although one should use this feature with caution to avoid meaningless proliferation of categories).
- Even though men and women do land in opposite corners of the space, maleness and femaleness are not represented as opposites, discouraging a "war of the sexes" type attitude.

Criticisms:
- I'm not sure exactly how you mean to depict orientation to indicate which part of the space one is attracted to, but if it's anything like an arrow or some other "pointer" shape that's anchored at my location and can be rotated to aim in some direction, that won't do.
First of all, the pointer specifies an entire line within the space, including, for example, points right next to one's own location. Since not everyone is homosexual, this is clearly wrong. You need some way to specify distance.
Second, people are generally not attracted so a specific point in that space, but a region, and potentially multiple regions without being attracted to the space in between. For example, if I'm bisexual, but like very masculine men and very feminine women, then my regions of attraction are the extreme left and right corners of the space and a simple pointer won't capture that.
Finally, the actual orientation of the pointer will change depending on my own location even if my region of attraction doesn't. This means that the pointer itself doesn't communicate who I'm attracted to, but you also need knowledge of my own sex, which seems unnecessary. Conversely, people attracted to different regions can have identical looking pointers associated to them if their own position along the spectrum is shifted in the same way as their regions of attraction

-The idea of depicting where you'd like to be on the spectrum with a "momentum" (which is basically just a second arrow, really) might run into similar problems. It depends on how people who aren't comfortable with their current poisition think about where they'd like to be on the space. Do they a) have a particular spot in the space where they know they'd want to be or b) just have a sense in which general direction they'd like to move, given where they are now? If it's a) you run into most of the problems as with orientation (except maybe the "distance" one). If it's b) then an arrow is fine.
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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Soupspoon » Wed May 30, 2018 2:42 pm UTC

There is a difference between a person's physical sex (at least a possible 2D spectrum, to account for intersex subtleties) and their gender (probably more dimensions, but let's call it 2 if younwant). And the further 2+D dimensions of sexuality make for a phase space of at least a half-dozen degrees of ultimately independent freedom.

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Tchebu » Wed May 30, 2018 2:52 pm UTC

You might not really need additional dimensions for sexuality if you can depict who you're attracted to on the same space as you already use to describe yourself.
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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Soupspoon » Wed May 30, 2018 3:45 pm UTC

That's not possible unless you constrain your description to your attractions.

As we already have (to put it crudely, as a gross simplification) both butch and femme lesbians, who might consider themselves masculine and feminine internally, regardless of their physiology, at the same time as both being attracted to (compatible) other females, already we can see the independence of gender from sexuality, while sexuality is independent to gender (complicated by the definitions being hetero/homosexual rather than andro/gynosexual for women and gyno/androsexual for men, but that still comes out as independent after you untie that terminology switch) and the sticking point is only if gender is different from sex (which it is, BTW).

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed May 30, 2018 3:50 pm UTC

Tchebu wrote:You might not really need additional dimensions for sexuality if you can depict who you're attracted to on the same space as you already use to describe yourself.


If you attempt to overload one descriptor with too many variables, you'll get a very large number of permutations. This can be unwieldy in some situations, and at some point, it's probably easier to swap to multiple descriptors.

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Tchebu » Wed May 30, 2018 4:03 pm UTC

Soupspoon wrote:That's not possible unless you constrain your description to your attractions.

As we already have (to put it crudely, as a gross simplification) both butch and femme lesbians, who might consider themselves masculine and feminine internally, regardless of their physiology, at the same time as both being attracted to (compatible) other females, already we can see the independence of gender from sexuality, while sexuality is independent to gender (complicated by the definitions being hetero/homosexual rather than andro/gynosexual for women and gyno/androsexual for men, but that still comes out as independent after you untie that terminology switch) and the sticking point is only if gender is different from sex (which it is, BTW).


I'm not sure what you mean. I'm proposing we point to two places on the chart, one for "where I am" and one for "what I like in partners". What aspect of what you just said do I fail to capture with this approach?

Tyndmyr wrote:If you attempt to overload one descriptor with too many variables, you'll get a very large number of permutations. This can be unwieldy in some situations, and at some point, it's probably easier to swap to multiple descriptors.


Suppose I have an adequate space to describe my own sex/gender. Is there more to sexuality than specifying where I would like my partners to be within that same space? If so, you have a point and I'd like to hear what I'm missing. If not, then you're basically saying that to further describe sexuality we must enlarge the sex/gender space by an exact copy of that same space for partners. I'm claiming it's just easier to stay in the sex/gender space and put two different colored dots/blobs on it. It's easier visually and captures exactly the same information.
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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed May 30, 2018 4:26 pm UTC

Tchebu wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:If you attempt to overload one descriptor with too many variables, you'll get a very large number of permutations. This can be unwieldy in some situations, and at some point, it's probably easier to swap to multiple descriptors.


Suppose I have an adequate space to describe my own sex/gender. Is there more to sexuality than specifying where I would like my partners to be within that same space? If so, you have a point and I'd like to hear what I'm missing. If not, then you're basically saying that to further describe sexuality we must enlarge the sex/gender space by an exact copy of that same space for partners. I'm claiming it's just easier to stay in the sex/gender space and put two different colored dots/blobs on it. It's easier visually and captures exactly the same information.


It depends on how many options you consider valid for each. At the smallest possible categorization, you have two genders, and if you assume that everyone is attracted to exactly one gender, you only end up with four permutations. Male attracted to male, male attracted to female, female attracted to female, female attracted to male. In such a circumstance, you can quite easily use a single label for each of the four groups, and everyone pretty much understands what's being talked about.

However, those assumptions may not cover every real-world case. If you increase the number of accepted genders, permutations rise quickly. Additionally, not all people are attracted to exactly one, and only one of those categories, and this grows more complicated as well as the number rises.

The simple ruleset probably works fine for a lot of people, but it'll necessarily be less concise if you attempt an exhaustive cataloguing.

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed May 30, 2018 5:07 pm UTC

Soupspoon, what exactly do you mean by "gender"? The possible ambiguities of that term has been a major topic of this thread, and a part of the reason for the model I suggested is to avoid those ambiguities by talking more directly about the different specific things you might want to be talking about with that term.

Specifically, in the two-dimensional space of maleness and femaleness, my model asks you to locate:
- Where are you, physically? (What is your sex)
- Where are you attracted to? (What is your orientation)
- Where do you want to be, physically? (What physical sex would you feel most comfortable being)

If you mean that last thing by "gender", then we've got you covered already. If you mean something about sex-deliniated social roles or modes of presentation, those can easily be added to the model (just specify additional points in the space that correspond to the values of those attributes).
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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Tchebu » Wed May 30, 2018 5:25 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:
It depends on how many options you consider valid for each. At the smallest possible categorization, you have two genders, and if you assume that everyone is attracted to exactly one gender, you only end up with four permutations. Male attracted to male, male attracted to female, female attracted to female, female attracted to male. In such a circumstance, you can quite easily use a single label for each of the four groups, and everyone pretty much understands what's being talked about.

However, those assumptions may not cover every real-world case. If you increase the number of accepted genders, permutations rise quickly. Additionally, not all people are attracted to exactly one, and only one of those categories, and this grows more complicated as well as the number rises.

The simple ruleset probably works fine for a lot of people, but it'll necessarily be less concise if you attempt an exhaustive cataloguing.


I don't think we're talking about labeling the possibilities, but rather properly parametrizing them. The model being proposed is a 2 dimensional square with various objects located on it symbolizing the answers to the 3 questions Pfhorrest just mentioned. The claim is that the 2-dimensional space is enough and all the permutations are captured by the various combinations of positions the objects can take. Adding a 3rd axis would mean that somehow there must be some answer to at least one of the 3 questions that isn't adequately answered by some linear combinations of "maleness" and "femaleness". This may very well be the case, but neither your nor soupspoon's examples demonstrate this.
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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed May 30, 2018 6:08 pm UTC

Neither or both seem to be possibilities, even if one focuses exclusively on the physical body and ignores the mental element. Both would be reasonably rare compared to the more usual two, but unusual biological combinations do happen. If you add in the additional layers of mental and social aspects, it can be somewhat complicated.

You could, I suppose, use one square for biology, another for preferred identity(perhaps not the best term...mental state? In any case, biology/identity may not match exactly in all cases), and yet another for preferences.

This seems to get a bit unwieldy, and perhaps not very useful in everyday conversation.

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Tchebu » Wed May 30, 2018 6:38 pm UTC

I can't seem to figure out if we're disagreeing or not...

Neither or both seem to be possibilities, even if one focuses exclusively on the physical body and ignores the mental element.

Both of which sit perfectly fine near the bottom and top corners of Pfhorrest's square, respectively.

You could, I suppose, use one square for biology, another for preferred identity(perhaps not the best term...mental state? In any case, biology/identity may not match exactly in all cases), and yet another for preferences.


Yes, that is basically the model. The simplifying circumstance on which it relies is that actually the same "maleness/femaleness" square can be used for all 3, so you can just place 3 different objects on the same square (or as Pfhorrest originally proposed, unify them into one object with adequate geometric structure, but that has the problems I mentioned). One could imagine this model not working at all, e.g. that an adequate answer to the mental state question would require a cube to properly parametrize, while the biological sex doesn't. This would prevent us from representing the answers to the biology/mental/social questions within the same square, but it seems like this difficulty doesn't occur.

This seems to get a bit unwieldy, and perhaps not very useful in everyday conversation.

Well if we agree that there are (at least) 3 in principle distinct questions at hand to begin with, no complete answer is going to be wieldy. Pfhorrest's observation that those 3 questions have answers that reside within what can essentially be regarded as the same space is a simplification, not a complication.
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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed May 30, 2018 8:16 pm UTC

Some further thoughts from my lunch walk:

I'm liking the "-phoric" root more than the "-morphic" root between my two earlier suggestions, because as I mentioned before its etymology means "to bear", and I think that lends an apt name to the quality the derived terms are describing: "bearing", like the direction a ship or plane is headed, which fits nicely alongside "orientation" in a kind of navigational metaphor (with sex simpliciter being "position" in that metaphor, of course). Of course "sexual bearing" where disambiguation is needed, like "sexual orientation" is the full term there, but in context just "bearing" itself could suffice.

And ruminating on arbiter's comments about the sociological sense of "gender" being swamped by popular (mis)usage got me to thinking that maybe it would be best to just accept that it's too late to stop that linguistic drift now, and instead introduce qualifiers for clarification as necessary. When we mean actual gender in its original sociological sense, we can say "sociological gender" to be clear. When we mean "gender" as in "gender identity" as in what I've just dubbed "bearing" above, which has nothing to do with the sociological sense, we can say "psychological gender" or "mental gender" to be clear. And as much as it makes me cringe to write it, if people are going to insist on using "gender" as a synonym for "sex", maybe it's best just to ask them to specify (ugh) "biological gender" or "physical gender" to be clear that that's what they mean.

I think a lot of people already do both of the latter things, and instead of constantly telling people that a hacker is not someone who breaches computer security damnit that's called a cracker they're wrong until we're blue in the face, we could just roll with it since it's pretty clear what they mean, even if it's technically incorrect, and just qualify "sociological gender" when we mean the original, technically correct sense of the word.
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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Soupspoon » Wed May 30, 2018 9:10 pm UTC

Tchebu wrote:I'm not sure what you mean. I'm proposing we point to two places on the chart, one for "where I am" and one for "what I like in partners". What aspect of what you just said do I fail to capture with this approach?

To define any such line-segment on that 2d layout, you need something no less complicated than Line(xme,yme,xpartner,ypartner). Which is fully 4D and might be better represented as a point(w,x,y,z) in 4D (the inverse line would be a different thing, albeit perhaps the perfect partner, just as point(y,z,w,x) is a different scattergraph point).

Then add physical sexual attributes to that. Many people are overwhelmingly male or overwhelmingly female, but plenty of other people are sited away from these clusters either naturally (those born/developed as Intersex) or by surgery (often, but not always, in an attempt to follow through upon a dysphoria).

So, at least six dimensions: Amount of male physiology, amount of female physiology, amount of male psychology, amount of female psychology, amount of male attraction, amount of female attraction. And that still doesn't handle every case perfectly.

That's if you insist on using (even multidimensional) spectra to mark people upon.

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Soupspoon » Wed May 30, 2018 9:39 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:Soupspoon, what exactly do you mean by "gender"?
" How one feels" is a simple way of putting it.

Noting that those with a sufficent degree of gender dysphoria may have feelings enough that they are "in the wrong body" that they may wish to undertake surgical change (to whatever degree possible - I imagine some would undergo whole-body re-editing at the chromosomal level, as well as structural 're-engineering', once that tech becomes available). Others are happy enough to present thrmselves through sufficient transvestism. Yet others would not even go that far, but internally feel (distinctly from sexualiry) that they think differently from others of their externally/medically apparent gender.

(Yes, one problem is that people don't really know how others think, but the more sharply defined gender roles are (to the physical sex they are) the more likely they are to disagree - whether or not they internally repress this. It is ironic that under a gender-fluidic environment that the freedom granted would probably matter far less than it gets taken up.)

The possible ambiguities of that term has been a major topic of this thread, and a part of the reason for the model I suggested is to avoid those ambiguities by talking more directly about the different specific things you might want to be talking about with that term.

Specifically, in the two-dimensional space of maleness and femaleness, my model asks you to locate:
- Where are you, physically? (What is your sex)
- Where are you attracted to? (What is your orientation)
- Where do you want to be, physically? (What physical sex would you feel most comfortable being)

That's three points in three different 2D spaces. If you insist on using the same 2D space (forcing them to map to the same plan) you have three different points upon it that do not necessarily (and often don't) match, and the shape you form from them is defining a different thing from the five other PointA=this, PointB=that, PointC=other combinations. Graphing that properly is a dimension-adding process.

If you mean that last thing by "gender", then we've got you covered already. If you mean something about sex-deliniated social roles or modes of presentation, those can easily be added to the model (just specify additional points in the space that correspond to the values of those attributes).
And add more dimensions. Maybe abstracted by "what label that point bears", but it's another dimension (or several) to track.

I've already pointed at 'my' definition of gender. Not that I use it myself, but I find that it is accepted well enough with people I have known who stray into non-binary (and even beyond the at-least-quaternary sexuality 'spectra') and I saw nobody here take up my invitation to discuss it.

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Tchebu » Wed May 30, 2018 10:30 pm UTC

Nobody's disputing the total dimensionality of the problem. The dispute is about whether mapping onto the same plane is a valid simplification or not. Yes, the three points won't align, but it's useful to map them together, especially the "where I am" and "where I want to be" parts of it, because the discrepancy between those is a relevant piece of information to be able to visualize. If you just label yourself with a point in a 6d space, you have to then start talking about how close you are to some "diagonal" subspace of it to get that information, this then requires some unified notion of distance etc. Also, "where I am" is generally a point or at least a highly localized region, but "where I want to be" might be some more smeared out blob", and "who I'm attracted to" even more so. In 6d space, these now look like pancakes and that's just ugly :D

What is it exactly that you think we are missing by representing this 6-dimensional problem as a triplet of objects in 2d? What is so different about these 2D spaces that makes the difference worth keeping track of?

Edit: We kind of are discussing your definitions of these notions. Aren't our 3 "subspaces" basically that?
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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby ucim » Wed May 30, 2018 11:07 pm UTC

Tchebu wrote:Nobody's disputing the total dimensionality of the problem. The dispute is about whether mapping onto the same plane is a valid simplification or not.
No, I think the dispute is about how many fox should be given.

So long as "most" people are either "standard male" or "standard female", a binary classification works. But then somebody comes along and says "I'm a {not-that}. Should society bother to accommodate that? Well, probably not if it's just one person, but what about two? Two percent? Two out of ten?

So (like in DnD) we come up with an n-dimensional "alignment" chart, which accommodates k% of the people. No matter what it is, somebody is going to be a "not that".

So, the question really is, how do people cluster? And how big a cluster is important enough to make a category for?

And yeah, that brings up the difference between gender and sex and attraction and dual attraction and all that stuff. But like vowels, how many are actually used in a (given) language?

Although this post seems to belittle the issue, that's not my intent. Nonetheless, I think that we need to explicitly consider just how big a nonstandard group needs to be to become standard.

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed May 30, 2018 11:16 pm UTC

I think Soupspoon and possible Tyndmyr are misunderstanding the idea here and Tchebu seems to get it.

If we can describe each of the different attributes of the person in question with a two-dimensional value of (maleness,femaleness), then you can describe that person with a series of marks on a single two-dimensional plane. Relations between those can mark can form arrows, which is how I originally envisioned it, but that's not a necessary part of it.

We only need some crazy higher-dimensional space if we're trying to mark a single compound value that is the product of all the others.

For simplicity of illustration, forget the two-dimensionality thing for now, imagine just describing each attribute with a number from 0 to 1 (one of which is "male" and the other is "female", I don't care which for this example).

On a scale of 0 to 1 what is your sex?
On a scale of 0 to 1 what sex would you feel most comfortable as?
On a scale of 0 to 1 what sex are you sexually attracted to?
(and if you want...)
On a scale of 0 to 1 which of your culture's sex-delineated social roles do you conform to?
On a scale of 0 to 1 which of your culture's sex-delineated modes of presentation do you conform to?

You could then mark, on a single scale of 0 to 1, multiple different points, one for each answer, labeling the points however you like, with words or symbols or whatever. (I had the thought earlier of a circle for sex, a plus for bearing, and an x for orientation, that way if any of them overlap with each other you can see each of them through the others).

You could also plot a single point in a five-dimensional space if you want, but that'd be a lot harder to visualize.

Now just imagine each of those questions takes a two-dimensional answer, and mark each answer with a point in the same two-dimensional space. You could plot a single point in a ten-dimensional space instead, to represent the compound product of all five answers, but that'd be a lot harder to visualize.
Last edited by Pfhorrest on Wed May 30, 2018 11:28 pm UTC, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Soupspoon » Wed May 30, 2018 11:26 pm UTC

Tchebu wrote:What is it exactly that you think we are missing by representing this 6-dimensional problem as a triplet of objects in 2d? What is so different about these 2D spaces that makes the difference worth keeping track of?

Exactly the differences you mention. A possible cross-sectional area of "I would like someone from <this(/these) region(s)>" on the sexuality superspectra. Even "some days, and in some situations, I feel I'm <here> in gender, at others I'm <there>". If you want to take it further, movement of sexual characteristics (including normal puberty, but also the revelation of Klinefelter syndrome at this time) forms a higher-dimensional shape in a phase-space of t,u,v, w, x, y, z.

Someone who is a partner-dependent switch (dom to a male partner and sub to a female partner, or perhaps 'versa-vice') has detail within their hyperdimensional diagram that cannot be easily represented by the flat one (or even three). Because life is complicated.

Personally, I'd be happier with no such pinning down of these things and let those who have (and want) to self-describe their status work out what they're going to self-describe as. I'm not about to make them produce the mathematical formula for their make-up, just to fit onto my idea of a chart they need to pin their tale upon, and even less so for a chart that I think has more limitations yet.

(For the record: I'd put my physical sex over in the obviously male point, but without claiming the hypermasculinity at the tip of that point; similarly my gender may be unambiguously but not so absolutely male (hard to know if I think different from others, and I'm not aware of fluctuations or changes during my adult life); but my sexuality is harder to pin down and likely a blob that encompasses the left (diamond-shaped) quadrant, if that's the designated "likes women" area, but with quite fuzzy/dendritic boundaries a little over into the upper (bisexual) and a perhaps more over into the lower (asexual) quadrants that mostly depict thoughts I either haven't acted upon (the former) or the periods that I haven't really had any such thoughts to act upon (the lower), so I'm really not sure that's what was intended for this particular graphing tool. As you can see, for me gender just isn't anywhere near the problem that the sexuality part might possibly be. But I know(/have known) people with a much more certain sexuality such that isn't the most undefined element of their make-up. I shouldn't really claim to be able to speak up for them, especially against anybody here with a contrary experience of being in their place, but I thought I should at least stake their claim for them if I saw the possibility of it being steamrollered over by others if I did not)

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed May 30, 2018 11:28 pm UTC

Soupspoon wrote:
Pfhorrest wrote:Soupspoon, what exactly do you mean by "gender"?
" How one feels" is a simple way of putting it. [...] gender dysphoria.

Ok, that's already captured by one of the three things originally in my model, assuming that the feelings you're talking about are feelings about the same thing that gender dysphoria is about (i.e. gender dysphoria is an example of that type of feeling).

I've already pointed at 'my' definition of gender. Not that I use it myself, but I find that it is accepted well enough with people I have known who stray into non-binary (and even beyond the at-least-quaternary sexuality 'spectra') and I saw nobody here take up my invitation to discuss it.

We have been discussing the fact that that sense of the word gets used quite a bit, and distinguishing that sense from other senses and the origin and evolution of that sense and the other ones. Just mentioning that that is a sense of it that gets used didn't seem to warrant any particular response by itself.

FWIW my interest in this kind of discussion is not to try to pidgeonhole anyone, but to have a language and theoretic model with which it's possible to discuss myself in comparison to and contrast with other people, and to make it easier for other people to communicate things about themselves in comparison and contrast to each other likewise. I see a lot of people having trouble communicating information about themselves to others, and I've had a lot of trouble communicating about myself even to people who I'd think would be best equipped to understand, because all of the terminology and theory involve seems so helplessly confused, conflating lots of different things with each other and overloading (or underloading) many terms.
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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Thesh » Thu May 31, 2018 4:54 am UTC

I think the idea of gender being "what do you feel like" itself is problematic. Long ago, our ancestors decided that human traits were either masculine or feminine based on whether they were typical of males or typical of females. Then they concluded that men are masculine, and women are feminine, and decided that males should try to be more manly and females should try and be more womanly. The modern concept of gender still takes the idea of men being masculine and women being feminine, but allows that these traits aren't tied to being male or female.

So what do you feel like is really about whether you consider yourself to be more masculine or more feminine. Well, it turns out that people have many different traits with varying degrees of masculinity and femininity, but our society is structured so heavily around gender that we are forced to make a choice and fit into one of those two categories. So I would say gender is more about how we fit into society than how we actually feel. Gender dysphoria is simply the result of someone feeling like they don't fit into society.

Really, I think we should be tearing down these notions of men being masculine and women being feminine, and simply focus on building a society that doesn't put so much emphasis on gender in the first place. Allow people to be who they are, and make sure that everyone can find a look that fits their features and personality without having to declare an identity.
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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Leovan » Thu May 31, 2018 5:21 am UTC

I agree with Thesh, instead of categorizing the differences even more, essentially trying to digitize an analog value, let's just tear down the idea that we need a label for it in the first place. The only use for gender is for a description of a person and to allow first impressions to give you a good idea of what that person might be like. Aka the only purpose is sexism. (Bathrooms are a classic example of dividing by sex and orientation, not gender. Nobody cares whether you're wearing pants or a kilt and like video games, they care whether you'll be flashing your penis to their daughter).

Maybe on your 2D visualization you should allow areas instead of just points. Especially for orientation/what you're attracted to. You could be really into vaginas, but don't give a damn whether the person is butch or dainty. Plus you could be unsure where you yourself are and what you want to be. Those are essentially feelings, and feelings tend to change on a daily basis. Plus if you are consciously moving yourself towards a certain point where you feel most comfortable, you'll probably circle it for a while, find it, drift away, find it again, not believe you've finally found the local maximum in comfort, try something else, etc. It's a lifelong journey and labeling yourself on one point would be inaccurate by next week.

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu May 31, 2018 6:59 am UTC

What Thesh is talking about is the original sociological sense of the term "gender", and I agree pretty much completely on that topic. (And also that that is the sole technically correct use of the word "gender").

But entirely aside from that topic, there is also a separate topic entirely unrelated to social constructions of masculinity and femininity, role and presentation and so on, which is entirely about how you psychologically feel about the physical shape of your body. I both have firsthand experience with this -- I couldn't give a shit about any of the social construction stuff, but I have definite feelings about my body -- and I've heard trans people very vehemently insist that their being trans has nothing whatsoever to do with any kind of social stuff, it's just that the shape of their body makes them want to crawl out of their own skin.

Even as (I'm assuming) cis people, there's an easy way you can (probably) verify for yourself that you also have feelings about your body independent of anything social. Imagine that tomorrow morning you woke up as the opposite sex, but everyone treated you exactly the same, you could wear the same clothes and do the same jobs and so on. Would you really not care at all that your genitals had been swapped and you had different amounts of hair and fat in different places and so on? Maybe you wouldn't (and if so I'd say that makes you not cis by definition), but I'm pretty certain that a lot of people would be very very upset and want things changed back immediately, regardless of the social implications. Their body would just feel wrong unto itself.

The difference between those two things is why I think the term "gender identity" does a disservice to the trans community (here using "trans" in an umbrella sense I'm not usually fond of for anyone non-cis). It doesn't seem to really have anything to do with gender, in the sociological sense, about roles and presentations and so on. It's something else, and I think we need clearer language for it.

Above I've proposed "(sexual) bearing" as the name for that attribute, both by analogy with orientation, and because the root "-phoria" means "to bear", and I've proposed that instead of "cisgender", "transgender", "agender", "pangender", etc, we use "cisphoric", "transphoric", "aphoric", "panphoric", etc (by extension of "dysphoric" and "euphoric"). That way we can talk about that topic without bringing in the social implications of the term "gender".

But if we can't stop the tide of people misusing "gender", I've also proposed that we just qualify the original, technically correct sense as "sociological gender", and let the sense of "bearing" be qualified as "psychological gender" or "mental gender", and if still other people insist on using "gender" to mean "sex", let them just qualify it as "biological gender" or "physical gender" and we'll know what they mean.

And I do like the suggestion of using areas instead of points in my visual model, which Tchebu suggested earlier as well.
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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu May 31, 2018 2:30 pm UTC

Thesh wrote:I think the idea of gender being "what do you feel like" itself is problematic.


Pretty much with ya on this. I don't think more detailed definitions will actually fix anything...social roles are much more at issue. We can tighten up the definitions as much as we want, but fundamentally folks are bothered between the difference between what role they wish to play, and what role society is forcing them into.

Pfhorrest wrote:Even as (I'm assuming) cis people, there's an easy way you can (probably) verify for yourself that you also have feelings about your body independent of anything social. Imagine that tomorrow morning you woke up as the opposite sex, but everyone treated you exactly the same, you could wear the same clothes and do the same jobs and so on. Would you really not care at all that your genitals had been swapped and you had different amounts of hair and fat in different places and so on? Maybe you wouldn't (and if so I'd say that makes you not cis by definition), but I'm pretty certain that a lot of people would be very very upset and want things changed back immediately, regardless of the social implications. Their body would just feel wrong unto itself.


I personally wouldn't give much of a crap about it intrinsically. I'm sure others would. People view identity very differently, and gender can be very important to some people.

If, rather than in your hypothetical society where nobody cared in the slightest, this thought experiment occurred in the real world, it would bother me significantly. Our society doesn't happen to treat men and women equally in a large number of respects, and I strongly suspect that the differences would irk me greatly.

Not everyone's me, of course, and the level of discomfort experienced with each of those things may vary significantly between people, but I'd imagine that either effect could be quite significant.

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu May 31, 2018 4:50 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Pretty much with ya on this. I don't think more detailed definitions will actually fix anything...social roles are much more at issue. We can tighten up the definitions as much as we want, but fundamentally folks are bothered between the difference between what role they wish to play, and what role society is forcing them into.


The problem with boiling everything down to role (and presentation and other social factors), for a clear example, is that it suggests the only difference between a ciswoman who wears T-shirts and jeans and works construction and chugs beer and hot wings while she watches football, and a transman, is that the transman is asking to be addressed with different pronouns. Actual transmen however will insist that there is something very important missing there, and that being trans is not about being a tomboy, it's about his female body feeling wrong to him.

If, rather than in your hypothetical society where nobody cared in the slightest, this thought experiment occurred in the real world, it would bother me significantly. Our society doesn't happen to treat men and women equally in a large number of respects, and I strongly suspect that the differences would irk me greatly.

Not everyone's me, of course, and the level of discomfort experienced with each of those things may vary significantly between people, but I'd imagine that either effect could be quite significant.

Sure, social roles and straining at their limitations are actually a thing that can also cause people distress. And the language of "gender" is perfectly applicable there. But what you're talking about there is the kind of problem tomboys face, not the kind of problem transmen face. To reduce trans issues to (sociological) gender issues is to say that transmen are just tomboys, which... will not go over well with the actual people involved.
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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu May 31, 2018 5:09 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Pretty much with ya on this. I don't think more detailed definitions will actually fix anything...social roles are much more at issue. We can tighten up the definitions as much as we want, but fundamentally folks are bothered between the difference between what role they wish to play, and what role society is forcing them into.


The problem with boiling everything down to role (and presentation and other social factors), for a clear example, is that it suggests the only difference between a ciswoman who wears T-shirts and jeans and works construction and chugs beer and hot wings while she watches football, and a transman, is that the transman is asking to be addressed with different pronouns. Actual transmen however will insist that there is something very important missing there, and that being trans is not about being a tomboy, it's about his female body feeling wrong to him.


That's an internal vs external thing. Using different pronouns is pretty much the only thing that others are asked to do, yes. There may indeed be an aspect that is not a result of social factors, but by and large, we can't really affect those much. You can't really change those feelings or remedy them, but you can impact social behaviors, say by using the preferred pronouns and not making a big deal of it. We can also just generally be accepting of folks pursuing niches other than stereotypical ones. In this way, the tomboy may be helping by contributing to making society more accepting of people who look feminine acting in a way society considers masculine. Even disregarding gender identity as a whole, if one values freedom, then a society with less strictly enforced roles is probably beneficial.

But none of that is enabled by definitions. We don't really need a precise definition of any subgroup to act appropriately towards someone we know.

Hell, insisting that someone is "just a tomboy" is sort of forcing your definitions on them.

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu May 31, 2018 5:29 pm UTC

I don't think we have any disagreement on the social matters. But being able to talk about purely psychological matters is important too. The tomboy doesn't experience dysphoria. The transman does. That matters a lot to the transman. Telling him that his trans-ness is all about, basically, being a tomboy, ignores and erases an important part of his experience. And that experience has practical consequences too, besides just social things. A tomboy is unlikely to want top surgery, for example, while a transman very likely will.
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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu May 31, 2018 5:34 pm UTC

I mean, telling someone else how they feel is generally not going to win you friends.

That's not a matter of definitions either, that's just being a dick.

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu May 31, 2018 5:38 pm UTC

If you define trans matters to be about social things like role and presentation, then you are making the being of a dick a matter of definitions. You're defining someone's feelings out of existence.

I'm not looking to make definitions that limit people or put them into boxes, I'm looking to untangle conflated concepts that by their conflation threaten to put people into the wrong boxes, as well as making communication and self-expression more difficult.

(Again, there's first-person motive for that here, as well as standing up for others. I don't especially care about social role or presentation and I'd like to be able to express my feelings about my body without people thinking I'm just talking about that social stuff).
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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu May 31, 2018 7:16 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:If you define trans matters to be about social things like role and presentation, then you are making the being of a dick a matter of definitions. You're defining someone's feelings out of existence.


Honestly, the being dick in that situation has nothing to do with trans matters specifically.

If one reversed your example, and told someone who said she was a tomboy that she was wrong, and really she was a transman, it would probably also go over poorly. Ultimately, telling someone that they do not actually know what they feel, but you do, is extremely presumptuous. It doesn't particularly matter what specific definition you're imposing on them, if you're doing that.

Forcing people into the wrong box is not a result of the boxes being poorly labeled. I don't think that intolerance stems from simply a lack of understanding the definition.

That said, disentangling body issues from social issues is reasonable. They can differ greatly, but I think that's going to come down to the conversation, not any particular identification. Labels only get so far when describing individuals, yknow?

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu May 31, 2018 7:50 pm UTC

That's not really a reverse of my example, it's the other side of the same example, because equality is commutative. If you say trans issues = social issues, then you're also saying social issues = trans issues, and along with implying transmen = tomboys, you're implying tomboys = transmen, which, yeah, will likely upset both of those groups.

Which is why I think it's important to be clear not to assert that equation.
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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby SuicideJunkie » Fri Jun 01, 2018 5:59 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:That's not really a reverse of my example, it's the other side of the same example, because equality is commutative.
I read it as starting from A implies B, reversing that to check B implies A, and then concluding equality rather than assuming equality and using the implies as an example.

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Pfhorrest » Sat Jun 02, 2018 4:55 am UTC

I drew a picture:

Image
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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby chridd » Thu Jun 07, 2018 9:57 am UTC

My understanding is that "gender identity" refers exclusively to what I think you're calling "bearing" there, and personally I'd also use "gender" to refer exclusively to gender identity ("bearing"), since that seems consistent with how I've seen at least some people use the term. (Not the terminology I'd use if I were the one coming up with it; I'd probably use "expected sex", since that's what I understand gender to be, but that might not be the best idea since that understanding might turn out to be wrong.) But that means I don't have any good word or phrase for masculinity/femininity.

I think part of the problem is that a lot of people simply don't know that gender (as I'm defining it) exists. I think some people think that trans people are transitioning because they're feminine/masculine (perhaps they want to fit in better or something), or think that they care about pronouns because they associate "she" with femininity; but in reality, it seems those are different things, and not all tomboys are trans men, and not all trans men would be classified as tomboys if they were female, either (and trans women can be tomboys, too). Defining "gender" as "what you feel like" or "what's in your mind" or "gender and sex are different" doesn't really help, since those could also describe masculinity vs. femininity (liking dolls is a feeling that exists in one's mind and is different from sex, after all). (I say this because that's a misconception I had until a couple years ago.)

I think perhaps what would be most helpful in clearing up the confusion isn't more terms or charts, but things like descriptions of what trans people experience.
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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Jun 07, 2018 4:26 pm UTC

You're saying basically the same thing that I am, I think. The terms "gender identity", and just "gender" simpliciter, often get used to mean what I've termed "bearing", but then they also get used to mean masculine/feminine/etc, and "gender is just a social construct anyway" is frequently trotted out as a defense of respecting people's preferred pronouns and so on. All of that helps create or perpetuate the misconception you highlight, that being trans is all about wanting to adopt the sociological gender (masculine/feminine/etc) of the opposite sex, rather than it being about things like dysphoria.

I do think, like you say, it is important to highlight the experience of trans people to emphasize that it's about things like dysphoria and not just role and presentation and such, but I think that having separate terminology both helps to prompt that discussion in the first place, and makes it easier to have.

I think the clearest way to phrase the question that bearing is about is to ask "how would you feel about your body if you suddenly woke up as the opposite sex?" If you would feel horrible and wrong and want to change back immediately, you're cis. That's what cis means. If you would feel awesome and finally right and want to stay that way forever, you're trans. That's what trans means. If you would feel somewhere not at either of those extremes, you're some nonbinary bearing.
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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Chen » Thu Jun 07, 2018 5:51 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:I think the clearest way to phrase the question that bearing is about is to ask "how would you feel about your body if you suddenly woke up as the opposite sex?" If you would feel horrible and wrong and want to change back immediately, you're cis. That's what cis means. If you would feel awesome and finally right and want to stay that way forever, you're trans. That's what trans means. If you would feel somewhere not at either of those extremes, you're some nonbinary bearing.


I'm not sure how well that question actually works for cis people. I have no feeling or indication of bearing (using your definitions). I literally have no idea what it would feel like if I suddenly woke up as the opposite sex. I could intellectually understand what the social implications could be (at least to a degree) but in terms of feelings whether emotional or physical I have no idea. I don't feel my bearing now.

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Jun 07, 2018 6:12 pm UTC

I think what's going on there is that fewer people are really cis than we usually think in a strictly binary framework where anyone non-trans is just called cis. If you don't have strong feelings of attachment to your birth sex / opposition to being the opposite sex, a nonbinary framework would say you're something more like agender/aphoric. If anything, more often nonbinary genders/bearings get lumped in as "trans" when people insist on thinking in binary ways.

I've observed that kind of ambiguity of fitting nonbinary positions into binary boxes with regard to orientation too, such as if a man seems insufficiently sexually interested in women some might cast aspersion about whether he might be gay, but of course being gay is about whether he's interested in men, which is unconnected to whether he's interested in women. He could be asexual, interested in neither; but I guess in a binary conception of orientation, asexual is a kind of "gay". Except they're asexuals aren't interested in the same sex, so they can't be gay. But wait, the binary-thinker thinks, what about bisexuals? Being gay doesn't just mean he's interested in men, it also means he's not interested in women, otherwise he'd just be bi. So being straight is not just about interest in women, it's about lack of interest in men. So is being bi a kind of being straight instead of a kind of gay? Such are the difficulties of trying to reckon with nonbinary positions on a binary scale. But when you break out of that... asexual is certainly not a "kind of gay", but it is non-straight. If you're not particularly attracted to either sex, that's not straight, that's asexual.

And likewise if you're not particularly attached to your sex, but don't especially care about being the opposite either, that's still not really cis.
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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby arbiteroftruth » Thu Jun 07, 2018 7:48 pm UTC

I think there's a certain amount of ambiguity in the question. If I woke up tomorrow in a woman's body, how much else goes along with that scenario? If the intention of the thought experiment is to mirror the situation of being trans, then presumably I can hand-wave away the turmoil it would immediately cause as my friends, family, and coworkers also deal with the shock of me suddenly being in a different body. But can I hand-wave away the turmoil caused by my own long-standing expectation to wake up in a man's body? It comes down to a nature-vs-nurture question. I'm very comfortable with my biology, but to what extent is that something I adapted to simply because that's the biology I have, as opposed to being some separate aspect of my personality in its own right?

Given that I'm completely accustomed to being male, suddenly waking up female would be very distressing. If I instead imagine having been born female, with all the accompanying influence that would have had on the development of my personality, but in some sense having the same 'core personality' as I went through that development, that's not a disturbing notion to me. The abstract notion of having been that person instead of who I am is not distressing, but suddenly becoming that person would be. Not because of any inherent preference for being male in my 'core personality', but simply because so much of my identity has already been shaped by it and I wouldn't want to suddenly lose that.

So if we're going to try to precisely define the line between trans and cis, we need to be careful about exactly what question is being asked. If it's about some inherent preference built into someone's fundamental identity, then yes, I think you'll find far fewer 'cis' people than one might expect. But I doubt that's how most people understand the term. Someone who's comfortable with their birth sex and has a lot of inertia behind that comfort would probably identify as cis, even if they're fine in principle with the possibility of having been born the other sex.

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Jun 07, 2018 7:49 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:And likewise if you're not particularly attached to your sex, but don't especially care about being the opposite either, that's still not really cis.


Meh. I feel like if you don't particularly care one way or the other, you're not going to bother to seek out any label other than the one society attaches to ya.

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Re: Philosophy and science of gender and sex

Postby chridd » Thu Jun 07, 2018 8:14 pm UTC

For me, though, my lack of realization about being asexual wasn't about thinking in terms of binary boxes—it was obvious to me asexuality was a possibility before I found information about it—but rather because I knew that attraction was a thing I was supposed to experience towards girls/women, and I experienced something towards girls/women, so I assumed that was attraction. It wasn't a matter of not having the right terms, but of understanding what those terms mean.

I think that might be sort of similar to what I experienced with gender... trying to imagine waking up as the opposite sex didn't really work for me because I wouldn't really dislike that... but I'm pretty sure now that's because I'm trans. But part of the problem is also that I don't experience particularly strong, obvious dysphoria, which means that there may be cis people who wouldn't experience strong dysphoria.

...except I actually predicted I would have a negative reaction, but not because of it being changing sex specifically. Rather, it would be more like if I woke up and my room was rearranged—even if I prefer the new arrangement, it would mean someone has been messing with my stuff. Except someone (or some magical force) that can mess with my body while I was sleeping is even scarier. ...this actually is something I worried about at one point in my life... which brings up another point: if people are born with a gender identity (or sexual orientation), that means there's a possibility of one's actual feelings about gender at any point in time differing from what they're born with (meaning another set of axes).

...if someone thinks that they wouldn't mind waking up as the opposite sex, then we don't know if
• they're like past-me and are trans but don't realize it
• they're cis, but wouldn't experience strong dysphoria
• they're cis, but have trouble imagining how they'd react to a situation unlike any they've ever been in
• they actually don't have a gender identity

I do have reason to believe most people are cis (so second and third options probably common), but that might not be true of people discussing gender on the internet.
~ chri d. d. /tʃɹɪ.di.di/ (Phonotactics, schmphonotactics) · she(?)(?(?)(?))(?(?(?))(?))(?) · Forum game scores
mittfh wrote:I wish this post was very quotable...
flicky1991 wrote:In both cases the quote is "I'm being quoted too much!"
chridd (on Discord) wrote:
Dummy wrote:Sorry You're Gay Dads
SYG'D


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