If gender is a social construct, why do transgender people KNOW they are the wrong gender?

23 Sep

Hey, remember last year when I complained about all the boring whore costumes women sport on Halloween?


For the record, I went as Lara Croft, and I was awesome!  This year, just to prove that pretty much nothing I write makes any sense at all (ha!), I have selected one of the sluttiest costumes I could find at our local Halloween Superstore:


Yes, I am dressing as Sexy Gretchen, the trampy beer maiden!  You know what made the decision for me?  This particular store is one of the only costume emporiums that CARRIES PLUS SIZES in ALL the “sexy” categories.

And you know how much I hate fat shaming, right?




Giant ladies have every right to cram their butts into skimpy costumes and continue on with their delusional belief that having massive tits makes up for the rest of the body.

Ah, that was mean.  Fat people are still people, but seriously SIZE 18 SEXY GRETCHEN COSTUMES!

That can only mean one thing:  yes, Mr. JB and I are going to wear the SAME COSTUMES!

The reaction from our friends has been pretty interesting.  Mr. JB actually has a long history of cross-dressing for Halloween, beginning with his award-winning turn as Carmen Miranda in the 9th Grade.


He has also taken his turn as Wonder Woman, Little Red Riding Hood and Little BoPeep, all of which have been absolutely hilarious, given his size and how normally conservative he is in appearance and dress.

Our younger friends all think matching costumes is an outstanding idea, and a few of them are even hatching plans to acquire their own sexy Gretchen costumes.  The Monster Ball may be awash in sexy beer maids this year. Clever Guy was over last night and he insisted on donning the costume and the blonde braids to pose for pictures which we immediately sent out to family and friends.  Clever Guy’s mom gets exceptionally giggly over her son dressed in silly costumes.

It’s really not that big of a deal, right?  Well, our older friends get downright hostile.  BigDaddy from down the street, who has two sons of his own, was actually rather angry when he saw the costumes.  Of course, his own sons dressed as Marilyn Monroe and The Evil Queen (from Snow White) last year, and they were totally gorgeous, but there is definitely a generational divide when it comes to the whole idea of cross-dressing, even when it’s done in jest.

Younger men don’t feel the slightest bit threatened by donning the wardrobe of the opposite sex, while older men seem to feel that wearing a dirndl and some sheer stockings with cute little bows somehow hurts men and masculinity.

I think there is a happy medium, and it comes down to how fiercely we believe that gender is something that can be consciously determined.  The men who are angry and threatened by Mr.JB’s antics are reacting to a certain concept of gender that is 100% rigid, and while I can agree that certain aspects of masculinity have been carved too deeply into the concrete of our social psyche, I do NOT believe that the extreme alternative of believing NOTHING about gender is innate or inherent is a better way of understanding how gender works.

Some ideas about masculinity really are very destructive. Men are more naturally stoic and less likely to allow their emotions to govern their actions than women are.  That has all kinds of benefits when it comes to demonstrating leadership qualities and accurately assessing risks and being willing to shoulder a disproportionate amount of work and responsibilities.

Being stoic and governed by rationality is a net positive, but it becomes destructive when men believe that is the ONLY acceptable way to be.  The most brutal consequence of defining masculinity so rigidly is suicide.  When men get staggered by life, and decide they no longer wish to continue, they tend to be extremely good at making effective plans to end their own lives.




Male suicide is a public health crisis reaching epidemic proportions, yet it still receives very little in terms of funding or attention.  Pink ribbons line the landscape from one side of the country to the other, despite the fact that the mortality rates are pretty much the same.

Deaths from suicide (mostly men) in 2010:  38 364

Deaths from breast cancer (mostly women) in 2010: 40 170

http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@nho/documents/document/f861009final90809pdf.pdf (p.2)

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr61/nvsr61_04.pdf (p.58)

It’s really kind of sickening that masculinity itself gets blamed for male suicide, when the problem has far more to do with a broader society that defines men only in terms of the utility they can provide for others. Here’s an actual quote from a study exploring why men commit suicide so much more frequently than women:

One way of taking back one’s own masculinity is to take one’s own life.


Yes men, if you really want to prove you are a man, please do it by killing yourself.

The majority of the report examines how working class men have lost their traditional manufacturing jobs, how divorce devastates men in particular, how downsizing squeezes male middle managers out of the corporate structure, how schools and colleges are failing to provide men and boys with the training they need to take their places in the new economy and then comes to the conclusion that masculinity is the problem.

Yeah, that must be it.


Let me think for a minute:  is there a  particular ideology circulating in the culture that claims masculinity is something you can just choose to do or not to do?  Is there some sort of political philosophy that claims one gender’s ways of doing and being are acceptable and the other’s is not? Is there a view of education that sneers at training and vocational skills, which tend to be the domains of boys?

Help me out here.

Over and over again, reports into the issues and challenges facing men come up with the same solution:  masculinity is the problem, so let’s get rid of it.

book 3

book 1

book 2


All of which rests on the assumption that masculinity isn’t something you are born with, it’s something you learn.  Something you perform. And with the right social programming, you can unlearn it.

man book

Which brings me to the title of today’s post:  if gender is something you learn, not something you are born simply knowing, how is it that some people KNOW they were born the wrong gender?

True story:  a member of Mr. JB’s distant family (his mother’s cousin) has two children.  The daughter was born with something called Turner Syndrome, which is a chromosomal abnormality in which all or part of one of the sex chromosomes is absent.


The daughter has no ovaries and she has a strangely masculine look to her.  She suffers from something called “neck webbing” and the disorder has obviously profoundly affected her life and understanding of herself as a person.  She very much considers herself a woman.  She is female.  She is 100% a she.


By all appearances, the son was a perfectly normal little boy, suffering from no disorders or problems anyone could detect.  But for as long as he can remember, he has harbored a terrible secret.  He is really a she, too.  The son is transgender.


I very sincerely doubt those two conditions, being transgender and having Turner Syndrome are unrelated.  Something having to do with sex hormones is very fucked up in the mother and she passed that along to her children.  They have different fathers, so it is almost certainly a problem with the mother. I absolutely believe that transgender people are suffering from a very serious illness, and they deserve all the compassion and treatment options that we would extend to anyone else suffering from a severe birth defect.

We are born knowing that we are a particular gender.  The idea that gender can be “performed” is true, to the extent that we can don the clothing and markings of our opposite sex.  That’s so trite an observation, is scarcely seems believable we need to acknowledge it, but something very malignant has happened in that intersection of feminism and playing dress-up.

Judith Butler is perhaps the most famous of the “gender is a social construct” theorists, and also one of the worst writers you will ever have the pain of attempting to understand.  The obfuscation that marks her writing is not a mistake, though.  It’s a very deliberate strategy to disguise the real agenda behind the “gender is a social construct” philosophy.

When Simone de Beauvoir claims, “one is not born, but, rather, becomes a woman,” she is appropriating and reinterpreting this doctrine of constituting acts from the phenomenological tradition.’ In this sense, gender is in no way a stable identity or locus of agency from which various acts proceed; rather, it is an identity tenuously constituted in time-an identity instituted through a stylized repetition of acts. Further, gender is instituted through the stylization of the body and, hence, must be understood as the mundane way in which bodily gestures, movements, and enactments of various kinds constitute the illusion of an abiding gendered self.


One gender is acceptable.  One gender is laudable.  One gender is to be preferred.  One gender is favored.

One gender is unacceptable.  One gender is detestable.  One gender is to be eradicated.  One gender is hated.

The idea that gender is something you choose is the very essence of feminism, and it’s the most perfect expression of how much feminism hates both men AND women.  Feminism is an attempt to redefine HUMAN as feminine, thereby eradicating any meaningful distinctions between men and women.  It’s kind of like insisting that everyone bleach their skin white and voila – racism disappears!  We’re all equal now!

Equally white.

Halloween is one of those great holidays that challenges the idea that gender is something you choose by deploying the irony of dressing up as the opposite gender.  Performing gender in the form of a costume doesn’t challenge gender difference:  it confirms it.

wonder woman

Seeing men dressed as women is hilarious precisely because you can’t just change your clothes and presto, you’ve changed your gender.

Younger men seem to get that we are all humans who exist on a continuum, clustering mostly in the tails with some important overlapping characteristics that allow us the opportunity to relate to one another and love one another.  I think we can credit early feminism with freeing us all from overly rigid expectations about how men and women “are”, but we can also condemn modern feminism, very loudly, for not being satisfied with equality and chasing down supremacy.

When there is room in our culture to tell men that one way to capture their masculinity to kill themselves, something has gone very, very wrong. Inciting people to kill themselves is the very definition of hate, isn’t it?  When a transgender girl in California is crowned homecoming queen, and then trolled mercilessly on YouTube with exhortations to “kill herself”, we quite rightly respond by condemning the people who hate her as bigots.



And I personally feel no compunction whatsoever calling out feminists who think masculinity is something that can be chosen, or more importantly NOT chosen, as bigots in the exact same vein.

This Halloween, consider dressing up as the opposite gender.  Or in a really trashy slutty costume, as long as you can find a date who will wear the matching costumes.

I highly recommend “Sexy Gretchen”.  Who doesn’t like sexy beer maids?  Even the ones with hairy chests.

Lots of love,


40 Responses to “If gender is a social construct, why do transgender people KNOW they are the wrong gender?”

  1. Master Beta September 23, 2013 at 16:42 #

    Gender is a social construct. That’s why only humans have gender roles – you don’t see chimps or lions or gorillas with gender roles……… oh, wait a second.


  2. feministhater September 23, 2013 at 18:49 #

    Your husband’s costume freaks me out. I’m with the old guys on this…. lol


  3. James Thrice September 23, 2013 at 18:56 #

    LOL! There you have it, logic.


  4. Wallace Black September 23, 2013 at 19:29 #

    I’ve actually asked a feminist about this, and her response is just “eh I dunno how transgender people work, but maybe if the patriarchy didn’t exist maybe transgender people wouldn’t feel pressured to get surgery”.


  5. Spaniard September 23, 2013 at 19:33 #

    Spain is a very transexual friendly country.
    Very passable and gorgeous trannies here!
    It is the national pervertion, like sadomasochism in Britain or dressing like nuns and priests in Italy or cuckolding in States or coprophilia in Germany.
    A friend of mine says: “You have to be very gay if you do not like this so passable trannies”.


  6. Spaniard September 23, 2013 at 19:35 #

    Simone de Beauvoir was right:
    A female borns like a baby, then she reaches teenhood, then she becomes a woman, like Miley Cyrus.


  7. GinkgoGinkgo September 23, 2013 at 19:41 #

    Norah Vincent found out exactly how hard it was to try to live as a man. after two years she had a nervous breakdown.

    You can’t change what gender you are, but the way you express it is something you learn very young. in China it’s considered effeminate to have religious beliefs. In Saudi Arabia men give each other perfume. That doesn’t mean a Chinese man is going to wonder if he’s really a woman if he does develop striong religious beliefs.


  8. judgybitch September 23, 2013 at 19:43 #

    I wonder if it’s the patriarchy’s fault that people born without limbs tend to like to use prosthetics so their bodies can function as close to normal as possible?

    Patriarchy or no, I’m pretty sure transgender people would prefer to have been born the gender they feel they are.


  9. historyupclose September 23, 2013 at 20:45 #

    Gender is the outward display through clothing and personal behavior, that denotes your sex, which is defined by your anatomy. For a while now, in our society we have been using the word sex only as a verb instead of a noun.

    Social mores definitely pressure gender norms and displays. Only anatomy defines a person’s sex, although their hormonal or psychological makeup will determine how that person uses his or her sexual capacities and which social gender that person identifies with.

    I enjoy this blog- thanks for posting!


  10. Ric September 23, 2013 at 20:56 #

    I always saw this distinction between gender and sex as a clumsy effort to suggest the 2 are unrelated….as if to say that manhood or womanhood become something we just choose for no other reason then to fit in and not because it feels right.

    I wonder how feminist would feel about incestous relationships…cause if gender is socialized then is our lack of attraction to family members also a product of socialization or are their inhibitors on a biological level to discourage most brothers from fucking their sisters.


  11. Quiet Like Snow September 23, 2013 at 21:00 #

    I was about to comment that Norah Vincent is really unfairly used as a construct example. The biggest things I got from the chapters I did read (I didn’t the whole book, just the attempts that interested me) were:

    1. She came to understand that even though she might have more masculine personality traits than most women she still couldn’t be a man.

    2. That despite all she did she couldn’t act or think like a man.

    3. That despite #2 she learned some things about being a man among them being “it’s not all wonderful male privilege and lots of things suck for men”.

    Again, I only read the parts that interested me but she was one of the few female voices I read at the time that actually wrote of men as human beings with real goals, feelings, thoughts, fears, etc that women are happy to credit women as having while still understanding men are different from women (having tried to be one).


  12. historyupclose September 23, 2013 at 21:18 #

    It’s complicated. Sex is anatomy; gender is social display. But both affect a person’s self image and personality or how they relate and display or act in context of both gender and sex.


  13. Alex September 23, 2013 at 22:32 #

    i thought her thing was just to see what it was like to be a man


  14. orion September 23, 2013 at 23:02 #

    To use Norah Vincent´s bookcover is a tad unfair, because she basically writes how much the men she encountered where NOT like she thought they would be.

    She also was flabbergasted how rude straight women could be when out on a date.

    As a lesbian woman she had never encountered that.

    All in all a good and honest book, not what one would expect.


  15. Dee Omally September 23, 2013 at 23:36 #

    gender is the outward expression of one’s inner sex.


  16. Jack.Rayner September 23, 2013 at 23:54 #

    Just wanting to interject to make a quick point about one of the books you feature here, “Self Made Man”. I watched a video on the subject a little while ago, and I don’t think it fits in with the rest of the books featured. Here’s the link to part 1: http://vimeo.com/28614921

    Please watch it and the others (part 2: http://vimeo.com/28616724 , part 3: http://vimeo.com/28617496 ), I think you’ll agree…


  17. texasjon September 24, 2013 at 00:21 #

    Sorry, no.

    Gender is a grammar construct that has been misappropriated by bigots and charlatans to drive a destructive agenda.

    You are correct, though, that sex has been morphed into a verb – partly to support the idea that gender is an appropriate replacement as a noun.

    Which social gender a person “identifies with” matters exactly zero to reality or sex. I am 5′ 7″ tall – it doesn’t make a bit of difference if I “identify with” tall people -say NBA players- I am not one.

    Similarly if I look in a mirror,( with an extremely small percentage of exceptions) I either have an innie or an outie . This determines which sex I am – not how I identify with or otherwise feel about it.
    To look in the mirror and deny what is there is to deny reality.


  18. Moose September 24, 2013 at 00:59 #

    Every thing is a social construct. Every thought and every item mankind has or has created is a social construct. It is social constructs that set one society/culture apart from another for better or worse.

    It is in the efforts to repress and deny these constructs that is leading to the demise of most western societies. On the blackboard of universal equations social and cultural relativism may be true, but in the real world they are the standards by which life happens.
    Abolishing all standards may seem like the way to Utopia for the weak-minded but it is digging its own grave.


  19. Modern Drummer September 24, 2013 at 02:30 #

    I thought Norah Vincent’s book was interesting and fair,as well.
    She said her experiences with dating women as a man were turning her into a misogynist.lol.
    I’ve dated some very nice women and my currant girl is a real sweetie,but there are a lot of entitled,disrespectful pains in the ass that will sour you on women if you aren’t careful.


  20. Marlo Rocci September 24, 2013 at 03:41 #

    While I tend to urge against male suicide, let’s consider the following. 75% of the women will only date the top 25% of men. Work has gotten safer over the years, so there’s fewer men dying on the job. Our last war I think only cost us around 6000 men (no I didn’t check this, working from memory) which is nowhere near the 5000 men we would lose in a single day in WW2.

    In other words, there’s too many men for the available women. We’re not dying fast enough to make the women happy.

    Since men who aren’t datable and are still alive are considered a threat, there are four basic solutions to the problem of too many men:

    1. Women let up on the hypergamy and learn to be happy with less.
    2. Men kill themselves.
    3. Throw them in jail.
    4. Men live alone with only the companionship of the occasional prostitute.

    I’m sure I made a few women laugh with option one, so we know that’s off the table, and the feminists will make sure that option 4 leads to option 3, so there you go.

    So what’s left?

    I don’t agree with a guy’s choice to off himself unless he has a damn good reason, but I can see where the rest are coming from.

    or maybe women could stop being so afraid of men? Just a thought.


  21. D-Squared September 24, 2013 at 04:20 #

    Hello Ms. JB,
    I stumbled onto your site some time ago and have read it with interest since.

    It is interesting that my first comment to you is actually a small objection. “Are Men Necessary” turned out to be a counter-intuitive book title. Ms. Dowd eventually came to the conclusion that men are indeed quite necessary towards the end.

    Personally, I do not think I have the legs to pull off the barmaid outfit…

    Thank you for your thought provoking (and sometimes laughter inducing) posts, please keep it up!


  22. Landi Janes September 24, 2013 at 05:01 #

    When people start telling the truth, everyone wins: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4zSRkBMPng&list=UUXzU-ga7_6hCMQYbnQF4jeQ


  23. Homeless Ronin September 24, 2013 at 08:28 #

    I guess male suicide rate has less to do with gender strict roles and more to do with being born as a convicted criminal or a slave.
    A woman can, at first be afraid of men, with all the propaganda going on. But I think that later, at some point, she can see the truth, that men keep groveling and doing everything that is asked, to prove their innocence and peaceful intentions. Very few women, those capable of morals, understand this and drop the defensive instance. Aside from the ocasional mentally unbalanced, the rest also understand, but chooses to capitalize upon it. That’s why they don’t give up feminism.


  24. Spaniard September 24, 2013 at 08:38 #

    There is another one: men marry very passable trannies (the Oktoberfest bimbo at the top of the article looks like a very passable trannie)
    So, no children, and maybe less bitch (she is a man, after all)


  25. Spaniard September 24, 2013 at 08:41 #

    In France men they give a couple of kisses in the cheeks to each other when they meet. Even when they meet strangers.
    In Greece male friends go hand by hand walking down the street.


  26. patriarchal landmine September 24, 2013 at 12:41 #

    this is particularly something I see white suburban millennial teenagers doing lately. transtrenders.


  27. Jeremy September 24, 2013 at 14:42 #

    JB, this:

    Being stoic and governed by rationality is a net positive, but it becomes destructive when men believe that is the ONLY acceptable way to be. The most brutal consequence of defining masculinity so rigidly is suicide. When men get staggered by life, and decide they no longer wish to continue, they tend to be extremely good at making effective plans to end their own lives.

    ..finally has me understanding why everything between me and my parents came to such a head that I deliberately separated myself from my parents/siblings 2 years ago. I was being forced into a stoic role every time I visited, even going back to childhood. I felt forced into that role because if I did not keep myself in such a state, the women of the house would attempt to “extract” emotions from me when they wanted, or when they felt like manipulating a situation. In fact, the extraction of emotions from the men in the house was/is a common practice in that house to essentially “win” an argument or soften the blow of a valid grievance against one of the women. My mother was/is the worst of it, since she would use this tactic on her kids just to make herself feel loved by her kids. At some point, when I was quite young, I recall I saw through the transparency of her manipulation (not consciously mind you, but I at an instinct level knew that what she was trying to extract was for her benefit and not mine) and I refused to hug her. From that point on I refused to hug my mother. She responded to this development with chronic shaming directed at me for not expressing love to the family, this behavior continues to this day.

    Of course, if you shame a man who is forcing himself into stoicism, you win nothing except more deliberate stoicism. She doesn’t realize that. Further, since the women were using emotion extracted from the men of the house (of which there were many) for their own ends, I felt rather strong pressure to maintain that condition or else I felt the women were “winning”, and I just couldn’t stomach that based on how unchecked they seem to be.

    Eventually I’ll have to confront them all. Not yet.

    I just wanted to mention that that paragraph helped a lot.


  28. JBfan September 24, 2013 at 18:13 #

    Very true article JB and PPP. I would mention though that while sex is rigid, gender is a bit more fluid and changes with fashion and society. e.g. Male sexuality in Shakesperian England was expressed differently to Georgian or Victorian England. Ideas of machismo nowadays would look odd to Ancient Greeks & vice versa, but the feminists have completely misinterpreted this into assuming that this means everything associated with gender is bad and must end.

    BTW Google “Elliot Prior” JB. Trust me on this, you WILL want to know about this kid, it’s entirely relevant to your blog as per debating the dumb idea that masculinity = evil. Also, look up “Samantha Lewthwaite”, she’s entwined in the same situation in a different role, and rather ruins the “what-is-it-with-men-and-violence/terrorism/take your pick.


  29. JBfan September 24, 2013 at 22:04 #

    Also some feminists like Julie Burchill seem to be very bigoted towards transgender women. Maybe there’s a connection?

    Again, look up “Elliot Prior Kenya”. This will tie in nicely with the Tsarnaev article and . . . Well, the story will make your friggin’ jaw drop!


  30. Cid September 25, 2013 at 03:51 #

    Numerous feminists have had major problems with transmen and transwomen and that fight still rages on. Transwomen are often banned from “women-only spaces” and feminists have called transwomen patriarchal spies and accused transmen of mutilating themselves so they could get out from under the patriarchy’s foot.

    I doubt any gender feminists will ever truly accept them because being trans proves their theories wrong. Kind of like how they can never truly accept men in their movement because it pushes the cognitive dissonance of their followers too far.


  31. Dire Badger September 25, 2013 at 12:25 #

    I find watching ‘designated victim’ groups fighting it out over who is the greatest victim to be enormous fun.
    I only wish such deathmatches would end in both designated victim minorities getting backed over by a tank. That would be the icing on the cake.


  32. xiseria September 27, 2013 at 23:24 #

    I’ve been studying gender for about twenty years; not officially in the sense of schooling, but in the sense of keeping up on thesis papers, medical information, and so on. It’s kind of common if you happen to be transgendered, because to be blunt, it’s confusing as hell to be in that situation.

    So yes, I happen to be trans; my life would’ve been a hell of a lot easier and less complex if I were even just gay, but you’re stuck with what cards you’re dealt. You can still bluff, but there’s only so much you can do when you get your bluff called.

    Alright, enough metaphorical imagery; let’s get into what gender is:

    There’s two main aspects of gender – innate gender identity, and learned gender behaviour. These have very little to do with sexual characteristics, and are irrelevant of your penis or vagina, XY or XX chromosomes, and so on.

    First off, your innate gender identity is determined, in most cases, at birth (or earlier). The easiest way to think of this is as a lever that has two primary positions: male and female. Normally, your brain just settles into one position or the other, typically whichever coincides with your physical sex.

    Now, here’s where things get a bit messy and complicated… first off, your physical sex is not necessarily male or female; about 2% of births are intersexed, as in not clearly male or female. 1 in 50, just to make that number stand out more clearly. Yeah, that high. Lots of things can affect this, from things like XXY or XXYY chromosomes, to an immunity to testosterone (estrogen has virtually zero effect on sexual characteristics; testosterone in high values means penis, low values means clitoris; estrogen just doesn’t do anything), and so on and so forth. What makes this even more confusing, is that literally all your X/Y chromosomes provide is… a blueprint for how much T or E to produce, and whether you get ovaries or testicles. Literally, the rest of it is hormonal.

    It only gets more strange from there. Why don’t we hear about more intersexed individuals? Well, they have a way to “fix” an intersexed child normally; surgery done shortly after birth, where they surgically create a labia/vaginal canal, or a penis, based upon a test to determine whether the child should have been male or female.

    Oh? DNA testing? No, no no no. You probably thought they used that. Oh, no, that’d be silly. No, they use a ruler.

    Yeeeep, you read that correct. 1.5 inches or greater is destined to be a penis, 1.0 or lower is a clitoris, and anything in between is the parent’s discretion of which they’d rather have.

    So, to digress, the physical sex is typically male or female (and either by genetics or surgery/hormone replacement therapy). Your brain typically is sent the instruction to set that lever to the “correct” position of male or female, and there you go, for most people it works great.

    Here’s the problem, that lever can be set to the wrong position (or the body can be given incorrect information telling it to be different from the brain), so that the physical sex is one way, and the brain is given a blueprint that tells it that it’s a different gender. Even better, it can sometimes get stuck partway between the two primary genders, and occasionally it’ll even have the brake on it broken so it just randomly flops between gender identities at random with no real rhyme nor reason to it.

    The point is, your identity is clearly stated in your brain. It tells you that you are male or female normally, though it can wind up doing all sorts of other things as well. Typically though, male or female are the most common options. Your brain knows to look for a penis or vagina, much in the way that it knows to look for an arm or a leg; if they’re lacking, the brain gets a little bit confused. This is where you get things like gender dysphoria.

    For a quick example of gender dysphoria, it’s like a few years ago, I’d walk past a mirror, and just pause in confusion for about half a second, and then suddenly clue in “oh, yeah, right… male face, forgot”. The issue was my brain would be looking for a female face and body structure, and when it saw a male body in the mirror, it simply wouldn’t recognize it as “me” because it was being given a blueprint which said it should expect to see a female body there, and that’s part of the innate gender identity – it’s not just what you think of yourself, it’s physically represented in many cases, to some degree or another.

    Again, however, the switch that feeds your brain the knowledge can also be damaged, and whether your brain gets sent any blueprints of the body, let alone the correct ones, is up in the air. We’re not perfectly constructed; none of us are. We have so many millions of little genetic switches that the chances of every single one being correct is absurdly ludicrous.

    Regardless, what this means is that your brain is set to one gender or the other in most cases, and it typically doesn’t change positions once it’s set in place. This has nothing to do with cultural norms, socially constructed gender values or expectations, or anything else. At a very physical level, your brain knows if you’re male or female, or anything in between.

    Now, the second part: learned gender behaviour.

    Just as your brain is given instructions on what your body should look like, it’s also given a really bare-bones rundown of roughly how you should act according to gender. This is a really vague definition that it goes by, and only seems to cover a very few traits, and the instruction manual for your emotions, mindset, sociability and so on, are all pretty limited.

    As such, the vast majority of our behaviour is learned. Typically, most of this behaviour has some vague roots in the innate gender identity, but this is akin to saying that you could somehow predict how a building would look, fully built, just by glancing at the foundation. The foundation affects the building’s design, but there’s a near infinite number of ways to construct various alternative buildings from the same foundation.

    So, too, in gender behaviour do you find that there are some parts which are derived from the innate gender identiy, and some parts which are derived from the hormone cocktail (pun intended, mwahehe… because, cock… from sexual characteristics, and tail from our vestigial remains of tails which no longer have use… yeah never mind), and then we build up the rest based on cultural perceptions of what the gender roles should do.

    To this end, much of what we believe to be “gender based traits” are often not really gendered at all; they’re just culturally enforced because of our gendered expectations. It’s like if you went back 200 years or so, people would have made claims that africans were inherently submissive by nature, because it was culturally enforced that they would be punished if they did anything else. Obviously not all africans are inherently submissive, and while I don’t know enough to be certain, I’d hazard that it’s probably not even half. The point is, just because you enforce it, doesn’t mean it’s innately part of the genetic code, even if you don’t consciously recognize that you’re enforcing it.

    As such, this means that we can have an inner gender identity which is hard-coded into the brain by default, and we can have an outward perception of what we think are gendered traits and behaviour, and these two things DON’T HAVE TO COINCIDE.

    Also, just because some people don’t exist in the gender binary, doesn’t mean that the two binary options somehow just magically disappear – they can still coexist alongside various other options as well, something which many people don’t seem to understand. 0 and 1 can still exist even if 0.25 also exists, go figure.

    Anyway, this is getting kind of long, so just to break it down in simple terms for those who skipped to the end:

    1: Gender identity is innate. It is usually male or female, and usually is the same as your physical sex.

    2: Just because it “usually” exists one way or the other, doesn’t mean it can’t do all sorts of other weird things like gender/sex not matching up, having a gender that isn’t purely male or purely female, or an unstable gender that moves and shifts constantly.

    3: Some of our traits and behaviours are innately gendered, but typically only by a small amount.

    4: Social constructs alter how these innate traits and behaviours are displayed.

    5: There are so many factors applied to any given behaviour, from memory, to innate gender, to social expectations, to training and so on, that we have no idea how much of a behaviour is innate, nor which behaviours are innate at all.

    6: Oh, and almost everything you were taught in school about gender has been proven wrong in the last 20 years or so. Like… pretty much all of it. Even the X Y chromosomes thing, or that boys have a penis or that girls have a vagina.

    7: Gender is innate, but our expectations of that gender are socially constructed based upon the innate parts of that gender.

    Hopefully that covers the question in enough detail ^.^


  33. SK September 29, 2013 at 07:33 #

    Excellent post!

    Very informative.


  34. historyupclose September 29, 2013 at 14:13 #

    Very good explanation, thank you!! It sure would be great if people in general would think about all of the inputs you have outlined here. Even so, your twenty years of research has sure benefited me. Thank you!


  35. amym440 October 31, 2013 at 01:10 #

    As a woman of transitioned history I can’t stand the word Transgender and I want nothing to do with either the LGBT or feminism. I feel totally used and abused by both. Never once in my youth did I ever suspect I might be “Gay” or ever feel an attachment to the LGBT. When I reached out to the LGBT I was heavily discriminated against by them and still am being discriminated against every time the word Transgender is used. The correct scientific word for what I am is Transsexual. Dealing with the stigma from just being that was hard enough add another label to it (Transgender) and the LGBT and you have one of the big reasons their is a such a high suicide rate in transsexuals and in children with LGBT labels being placed on them. Its the same for same sex attracted kids they can barely handle coming to terms with being same sexed attracted and what that means then someone puts a controversial adult label on them and wonders why these kids are killing themselves in crazy numbers.
    For people classified as Transsexual we are never simply allowed to truly move on with our lives or simply enjoy finally being legally and medically recognized as the sex we’ve told people we are on the inside. It gets very tiring fighting the fight not to be called a liar when you express how you feel or being called mentally ill for taking the only steps you can to try and find a point in life where you want to keep living and can feel comfortable in your own skin.
    I liked what you had to say but people who are born identifying as the opposite sex and medically and legally transition to it are scientifically called transsexual. Not all Transsexuals are okay with being labeled “Transgender” and not all transsexuals are members or supporters of the LGBT. Think about this I transitioned to become legally and medically as much as possible the female and woman I identify as. How could calling me Transgender not be undermining that and reinforcing the myth we are gay men that will change our sex to fool and attract straight men. That is the stuff that justifies us getting murdered at disproportional rates. It is also the stuff that justifies people referring to us as a birth sex we never identified with.


  36. amym440 October 31, 2013 at 01:27 #

    A little extra food for thought and you pointed it out that some feminist exclude “Transgender people” from women only spaces. Those feminist are primarily Lesbian self identified. Transgender activist are livid about it but at the same time they are doing the same exact thing to non-LGBT transsexuals as they are complaining about that Lesbian feminist do to them. Transgender activists will not let us out of the LGBT by stopping including us in “Transgender” which is a part of the “Gay Community” so they are inflicting invalidation on us as women who see ourselves as heterosexual. Not one of my heterosexual girlfriends is being included in the LGBT against her will why should I be? and why shouldn’t it be seen as sex discrimination? Matter of fact the LGBT does not allow heterosexuals to be members and the “Gay Community” is all about same sex attraction.
    A great example of the marginalization of non LGBT identified Transsexuals being included in the “Transgender Umbrella” is Huffington Post’s “Gay Voices” section of which “Transgender” is a sub category.


  37. anonkneemouse June 11, 2014 at 05:15 #

    To look in the mirror and deny what is there is to deny reality. (Require from someone below). Everyone has “feelings”. Everyone chooses how to present themselves. There are some things unconscious that we can’t change. But to say that Trans* people don’t have the ability to conform to their biological sex, even without conforming to stereotypical gender roles, is a lie. If you have a penis you are a boy,vagina you are a girl. Trans* is NOT an intersex condition.


  38. astrogirl7 November 16, 2014 at 08:26 #

    As a transgender woman, I have to agree with your assessment. No one who has been through the painful, difficult and socially harrowing process of transition can ever doubt that gender is as innate as being left or right handed. It’s something you can’t get rid of or alter in any way and eventually, it drives we trans girls to go through medical transition because our gender is female and trying to live as a man, when you are a woman, is sheer, unmitigated hell. I have read the neurology and psychological studies and they alll point to an an innate disconnect between the gendering of the brain and the formation of the rest of the body that requires medical intervention to fix. When I read gender social-constructionists, I am struck by how this view assumes we are born blank slates without hormonal or genetic differences that make our brains slightly different from onne anothers when the reality is that we are born with brains programmed genetically to carry certain hormones and those hormones effect feelings, behavior and personality and that is the phenomenon we call gender. Trans people simply have a different neurological gender and in its way, that proves your point. I always knew i was female and could never feel any other way no matter how hard and unsuccessfully I tried to be a man because my brain was female and could never accept male social roles so I cannot dismiss gender as a social construct. It is the single most constant feature of my existence and what makes me a woman and not a man is so intrinsic and so fundamental to my existence that it defies explanation or alteration of any kind. We have to develop a healthier and more accurate view of gender because it is simply a fact that no amount of abstruse therorization or women’s studies courses can disprove in the everyday facticity of the thing.



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