On the Conflatation of Sex & Gender

Once upon a time, s.e. smith wrote a post called How Shall I Describe My Body?, in which one finds the following quote:

But I wouldn’t describe myself as “female bodied” because my body is not “female,” it is genderqueer. I have a genderqueer body. Describing it as “female” not only erases my gender identity, it conflates gender and sex, it reinforces a binary view of gender, and specifically it reinforces a cis binary view of gender.

I am a genderqueer person. I have occasionally described myself as “female-bodied”; I occasionally identify internally with having a “female” body. Maybe there’s better language than this. I’ve seen “female-typical body” used, but I imagine that’s problematic in its own right, as well as being unwieldy. However, my body is shaped (and behaves) like a body that tends to indicate its inhabitant is female. That doesn’t change the fact that I am not female. However, it also doesn’t change the fact that I share something with people who have the same type of body, no matter if they’re female, genderqueer, or male. It’s that camaraderie that I am identifying with when I say that I have a female-typical body. Female-bodied is a regrettable shorthand that I have previously used; I’m making an effort to change my own language.

And yet, a part of me can’t help but think that yeah, my body is female. I am genderqueer; it does not agree. This is why I also identify as trans: there is a disconnect between what I am and what my body is. I am other than my body. How is it conflating gender and sex to recognize that my body’s sex is other than my gender? If anything, it’s the opposite of that. (Neither my brain nor my thesaurus offers any antonyms) What better way to deconstruct the link most cis people make between sex and gender than to openly and blatantly say, “My sex is female; my body is female. My gender is genderqueer; I am transqueer”?

I don’t feel like I’m conflating gender and sex. I even more don’t feel like I’m reinforcing a binary view of gender. If I feel the need to emphasize that my body is female, instead of saying “I am female”, then someone will realize that there’s a reason for that. Even more importantly to this, I have never called myself female-bodied without also stating my gender. There are things that I do that reinforce a binary view of gender. This is not one of them.

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2 thoughts on “On the Conflatation of Sex & Gender

  1. “There are things that I do that reinforce a binary view of gender. This is not one of them.”

    Yes. I’ve been wondering about this lately though, whether we should come up with another word for the “female body”. I always intentionally put it in quotation marks because I feel it is problematic in many ways, and I know a lot of trans people do not agree that their body should be called female or male, but should be called whatever their gender identity is. And I really do understand that point. Calling it “biologically female” further fuels gender dysphoria for many people connected with their bodies because it is implying it is wrong – it does not fit. And I am a supporter of fighting that inherent body dysphoria by saying that male body can have breasts and a vagina just as a female body can have a flat chest and a penis, queer bodies can have either and basically you can have any combination thereof and still call your body and yourself whatever feels right to you.
    But I think your point of view has a lot of merit too, though it is a bit more activist in a way which not all trans*/queers are willing to do.

    • I’m always jealous of “this is my female penis” and related viewpoints. I’m jealous that people can say that and be okay with that; I can’t, personally, be that way about my body. I absolutely believe that a male body can have breasts! If you are happy with your male body having breasts, I am happy for you. I, hmm. I also support fighting it, and I support people who have fought it, but I also can’t be on that side of the line. If that makes any sense. (probably not.)

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