and was curious why she was using psychological gender at times to discuss identity
If you are a trans educator, I would assume you are familiar with the work of Julia Serano. Julia Serano popularized the idea of psychological gender in Whipping Girl, where she referred to it as “natural gender identity or subconscious sex” (with chapter 5 in the book titled “Blind Spots: On Subconscious Sex and Gender Entitlement”), a term used throughout the book:
“Throughout this book, I will use the word trans to refer to people who (to varying degrees) struggle with a subconscious understanding or intuition that there is something “wrong” with the sex they were assigned at birth and/or who feel that they should have been born as or wish they could be the other sex. (It should be noted that some people use the word “trans” differently, as a synonym or abbreviation for the word transgender). For many trans people, the fact that their appearances or behaviors may fall outside of societal gender norms is a very real issue, but one that is often seen as secondary to the cognitive dissonance that arises from the fact that their subconscious sex does not match their physical sex.
There are many different strategies that trans people may use to ease their gender dissonance. Perhaps the most common one is trying to suppress or deny one’s subconscious sex. Others may allow their subconscious sex to come to the surface occasionally, for example through either crossdressing or role-playing.
Many trans people say they understood themselves to be female or male for most of their lives despite the fact that it wasn’t the sex they were assigned at birth. Therefore, when a trans person transitions, their subconscious sex or gender identity essentially stays the same — rather, it is their physical sex that changes (hence the term transsexual).
So although I will be discussing transsexuals throughout this book, I will also be spending a great deal of time discussing the beliefs and attitudes common among cissexuals — that is, people who have only ever experienced their subconscious sex and physical sex as being aligned.
Focusing primarily on those trans people who undergo the most procedures during their transitions not only shows a more dramatic change — one that reinforces the idea that sex reassignment is “artificial” — but also fosters the audience’s assumption that trans people are merely mimicking or impersonating the other sex rather than expressing their natural gender identity or subconscious sex.
with regard to transsexuals, the phrase “gender identity” is problematic because it seems to describe two potentially different things: the gender we consciously choose to identify as, and the gender we subconsciously
feel ourselves to be. To make things clearer, I will refer to the latter as subconscious sex.
Perhaps the best way to describe how my subconscious sex feels to me is to say that it seems as if, on some level, my brain expects my body to be female.
After twenty years of exploration and experimentation, I eventually reached the conclusion that my female subconscious sex had nothing to do with gender roles, femininity, or sexual expression — it was about the personal relationship I had with my own body.
1. Subconscious sex, gender expression, and sexual orientation represent separate gender inclinations that are determined largely independently of one another. (This model does not preclude the possibility that these three inclinations may themselves be composed of multiple, separable inclinations, or that additional gender inclinations may exist as well.)
2. These gender inclinations are, to some extent, intrinsic to our persons, as they occur on a deep, subconscious level and generally remain intact despite social influences and conscious attempts by individuals to purge, repress, or ignore them.“
Elsewhere, Julia Serano refers to subconscious sex as an “intrinsic inclination”:
“But it also oversimplifies the concept of “gender” by dismissing the possibility that there are any intrinsic inclinations, such as subconscious sex and gender expression, that contribute to our gender identities and gender roles, respectively.”
“Because academics in the fields of sociology and gender studies have been disposed toward seeking out the societal causes of transsexuality, they have tended to overlook or dismiss the possibility that intrinsic
inclinations (i.e., subconscious sex) drive trans people toward transitioning”
The term “subconscious sex” is I suppose too hippy-dippy for the 21st century, and the word “sex” has become taboo in mainstream trans activist circles (even the word transsexual is considered too demeaning and controversial to use), so both terms were replaced by “psychological gender”, but it’s essentially the exact same thing. “Psychological gender” is “subconscious sex” (or “natural gender identity” or “the gender we subconsciously feel ourselves to be”, an “intrinsic inclination”) under a new name.
What I wanted to offer is that when we look at gender through such a philosophical or academic lens, I find that people tend to ignore or discount the biological aspects of it.
There is no biology to gender. If gender was biological it would be the same all around the world and we know that is not the case on the basis of all the available anthropological evidence. Look up the definition of gender on anthropological websites, the definition given is always that gender is culturally contingent. This is why some societies have more than one gender, because their culture decided to have those other categories. When an anthropologist studies gender they look for these differences around the world. Being a woman on the ices of Greenland is not the same thing as being a woman on the African savannah, so gender is cultural, is wholy depends on where you are born on the planet, just like language. The ability to learn a language is an in-born ability, but which language you end up learning depends on where you are born on the planet. The claim that gender is biological is a recent invention for political reasons. If you go back, say, 10 years ago, transwomen themselves were uploading videos to Youtube explaining that sex is biological and gender is a social construct. People who say “pink is for girls, blue is for boys” only reveal their extremely narrow Eurocentric lens when it comes to looking at gender. Other societies do not classify boys and girls by colour at all. Or take the other common-place “dolls are for girls, trucks are for boys”. Many societies do not have gendered toys at all:
In a South American Indian community, boys often play bow-and-arrows; boys and girls of varied ages dive and swim in the river and play chase around the village, with little or no adult supervision. They use primarily natural objects in their pretend play (i.e., sand, water, stone, plants).
It is because we now understand gender identity to be part of our neuroanatomy, that according to developmental psychologists develops around three years of age
I am aware of the research you are referring to (Maccoby EE. Gender and relationships. American Psychologist 1990;45(4):513–520, claims that children express preference to playing with members of their own sex at 3) and it’s extremely spurious research, to say the least. The suggestion that gender awareness and even gender identity preference would predate a child’s linguistic skills is ludicrous. Three year old children can barely make subject-verb-object sentences, barely understand “who, what, where” questions and have an average vocabulary of about 300 words. The suggestion that someone of such limited vocabulary and linguistic skills would be able to understand or express gender identity preference is completely absurd. I consider such research of similar scientific value to research purporting that chimps can learn language.
I’m a trans educator in a very red state and using the biological lens has been an effective tool in allowing some people to get closer towards the place where they could accept trans individuals.
But eventually these people might get on the internet, where they learn that you don’t need gender dysphoria to transition, that many trans people never felt like they were the opposite gender as children at all (including the maker of these Youtube videos, who disputed the claim that they felt as a girl when they were a child), that trans activists want transition on demand/transitioning as a form of elective surgery… and then they realize that educators like you misled them and the reality is completely different from what you told them it is. The reality is that anyone can chose to transition for any reason they feel like and this “biological basis of gender” stuff is just a subterfuge to present a narrative that might make transitioning seem somewhat acceptable to the kinds of conservative transphobes who trust doctors blindly the same way they trust their preacher.
Even when I do talk about the various third gender options of many cultures throughout time
Which are cultural, not biological. If there was a biological basis to third genders every society would have them, but different societies around the world at different times chose to deal in different ways with the universal phenomenon of gender incongruence. Therefore gender is cultural, not biological.
the thing people say they found the most useful was talking about the neuroanatomy of it.
Only because most lay people are too inexperienced with hard science to be able to think critically about it, which people like you use against them to technowow them with stuff their don’t really understand and cannot argue against.
I see the trans condition on the whole as an intersection of several inter working layers where many of our inputs are variables.
This, again, is a subterfuge. Either you accept the idea that people have a right to do whatever they want with their bodies for whatever reason they feel like, either you support the idea of bolidy autonomy of an individual, or you don’t. What does it matter whether someone wants to transition because of one single variable or because of different variables, internal or external? The point is whether they get to transition or not. Why they do it is irrelevant from a bodily autonomy perspective. Which is the position that trans activists take.
Though, as someone also specializing in educating an audience that is often indifferent or hostile towards transgender individuals, my language and how I bridge that gap is going to be different than someone talking about theoretical frameworks.
But you need to realize that many of us who began looking into the topic of transitioning encountered people like you, who assured us about the science of it all, assured us it was “sex between the legs, gender between the brains”, assured us it was “people who were just born this way”… only to go online (or out into the world, where actual trans people are) and discover that none of that is actually true and it’s completely different from what we have been told it is. I have seen so many feminists who were once trans allies but ended up hating trans people because what they encountered online was completely different from what they had been told by “trans educators” like yourself. Have you ever stopped to consider the possiblity that you pushing this strictly medical narrative is actually making things worse once people hit the ground and encounter a very different reality?
I don’t know whether you see any educational value in these ContraPoints videos. These videos essentially ridicule and caricature trans people for the “infotainment”(?) of a mostly cis male audience (the maker admitted in a pre-transition Livestream that their audience is overwhelmingly male and cis), the same cis males who turn to pornography to learn what trans people are “really” like rather than watch a documentary or read an article, it constantly presents trans people politically across the board as monstrous, grotesque, extremist, asocial and dysfunctional, it lionizes trans people who want to beat up cis people (the catgirl anarchist characters but also the clip of Zoey Tur threatening to beat up Ben Shapiro live on air) which only feeds into the transphobia that cis people have of trans people coming to “get” them, and does absolutely nothing to further trans acceptance other than gain the maker notoriety and an income. The really big trans Youtubers with millions of subscribers who simply run make-up channels or post vlogs of their daily lives have contributed immensely more to trans acceptance by being relatable and sociable than this channel which makes a total mockery out of trans people. Thank Gawd there are so many other good decent lovely honest trans Youtubers I can point cis people to. The kind of people like the ones you are educating, who are worried that the government is going to force them to have to look at a transsexual at their dead mother’s funeral.