A note on gender jargon

I am somewhat well versed in the latest jargon related to gender. It seems that the newest trendy term is “gender expansive.” How ironic is this?  Instead of a woman or man actually expanding what it means to be a woman or a man, people now have to claim one of a kaleidoscope of “identities.” Expansive? It’s more like dicing the mysterious whole of a human being into smaller and smaller pieces; squeezing the entirety of who one is into a narrow definition. Psychological and political reductionism has been imposed on all of us–especially young people–by post-modern gender theorists and their activist and media minions.

Just as modern scientists have come to realize that you can’t reduce the gestalt of a living organism into a collection of parts, humanity doesn’t fit into a collection of micro-identities cooked up by a brain obsessed with its own ability to draw distinctions.

This plethora of “identities” imposed on the body politic is anything but liberating. It does not expand us; it confines us. Even the term “gender fluid” is constricting, because the very mental act of claiming that self-definition means the “gender fluid” person is dissecting and analyzing their own behavior from moment to moment, instead of just being.

In his “Song of Myself,” the poet Walt Whitman said it best in 1892:

Do I contradict myself?

Very well, then I contradict myself,

I am large, I contain multitudes.

walt whitman

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7 thoughts on “A note on gender jargon

    • I agree atranswidow. If people want to get their panties in a twist over the wording, I can deal. But I can’t deal with the fact that they deny what is really going on and the reasons for transitioning. Since this has gone from a medical/psychological condition to now being considered an ideological and social one, nobody will be looking for alternative treatments that are less drastic. I believe one with AGP can suffer tremendously with the thoughts and that they are very motivated to seek some sort of relief. So I’m not denying they aren’t going through something. I just am very dismayed that there aren’t alternative solutions. I think Eugene may be onto something, and I am so glad he stopped by to tell his story. But, how do we get other people to consider it? That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out. If I ask questions, people just shut me down and call me insensitive. I’m tired of that. I’m not insensitive. I happen to care very deeply about a family member going through something and I want a good outcome. I want options. I don’t want him being pushed into the current treatment protocol because I have no reason to believe it would help him. He expresses no desire to actually be a member of the opposite sex. You know what I get when I tell people that? They tell me anything from I’m preventing him from telling me how he really feels to I’m being cruel by putting incorrect ideas into his head. Whatever. It would be a much easier pill to swallow if he had said he wants to be a girl. I might not be here right now. But it has been apparent along the way of trying to learn more about this that he isn’t allowed to have his real story. People just twist what he says so it matches what they want everyone to believe .

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  1. I despise the word “gender” and consider it a prime example of what some people call a “weasel word”. It’s a vague word that obfuscates, rather than clarifies, as it’s increasingly come to mean whatever the speaker wants it to mean.

    I’m old enough to remember when gender referred only to grammatical gender: the masculine, feminine and, sometimes, neuter, in gendered languages. I remember studying German in high school, where a pen was “feminine”, a pencil was “masculine”, but a young girl was inexplicably “neuter”.

    Then, it began to be used to refer to the stereotypes of what society calls masculine and feminine, to emphasize the cultural origins of these stereotypes in order to distinguish it from the biological features of sex. As an example, the term “sex roles’, often used in my college textbooks in the late 70s, later gave way to “gender roles”.

    But even this usage kept the meanings of sex and gender distinct. Sex was what you were, male and female, man and woman. Gender was what kind of personality and personal expression any given society expected of the sexes, a cultural construct.

    But, then, in the last 20 to 25 years, the mainstream media has been using the words sex and gender as if they were interchangeable. I’ve seen forms where they ask for your “gender”, instead of your sex, but what they’re really asking is if you’re “a feminine” or “a masculine”, which is, of course, totally ludicrous. Even in novels, I’ve seen references to “the fair gender”, instead of “the fair sex”, and so on. One example I saw today was in reference to an article about a French court ruling to recognize an intersex person as “gender-neutral”, where “sex-neutral” should have been used, as being intersex is a biological condition and not a cultural one.

    I’ve seen books and articles in the media where the author uses both sex and gender both correctly and inccorectly, going back and forth, all within the same piece of writing. Even they aren’t sure which one is right in which context.

    And then there’s the specifically trans jargon uses of gender which further muddies the waters for the general public not well-versed in these issues: Gender identity, gender-neutral, gender non-conforming, misgendering, gender fluid (which sounds like something that could leak, like brake fluid, eww, and so on.

    Some of their own jargon has changed over the years, becoming increasingly more Orwellian and obfuscating. “Gender confirmation surgery” is the most egregious examples. It started as “sex-change surgery”, then went to “sex reassignment surgery” and now the weaselly “gender confirmation surgery”. As with the change from transsexual to transgender, it further divorces this phenomenon from reality, as at least transsexuals didn’t deny that they were born one sex that they wanted to change to the other, despite the fact that changing one’s sex is biologically impossible. But transgenders refuse to even admit that they were ever the sex that corresponds to the fact of their bodies and insist that these pesky biological facts are nothing more than birth defects to correct.

    I use the word gender very sparingly without quotation marks around it. I use it in its original reference to grammar, and I think it’s ok to use it when referring to the stereotypes of what societies deem as masculine and feminine, as it distinguishes what’s cultural from what’s innate and biological (sex). But, even then, I still prefer other terms as trans activists have obfuscated the legitimate uses of the word.

    I refuse to use trans-related jargon uncritically. Most of the way the word gender is used to today is a non-concept to me. I don’t have a gender or a gender identity; I have a sex and a personality. To do so legitimizes and helps to spread these erroneous concepts and perpetuates the obfuscation that currently confuses those in the general population. A few examples

    Gender (meaning the stereotyped roles of masculinity and femininity): Sex stereotypes
    Gender Identity – personality, personal expression, personal style
    Gender non-conforming – non-sex stereotyped personality
    Gender-neutral parenting – non-sexist parenting
    Gender neutral: sex-neutral, unisex
    Gender equality: equality of the sexes. We’re not fighting for the equality of the stereotypes of masculinity and femininity; we’re fighting for the equality of men and women and working to eliminate stereotypical ideas of what kind of personalities, interests, personal style, and how people should behave.

    Some may see this as petty or nit-picking, but language is important. How language is used affects people’s perceptions of concepts. I think the increasing use of gender as if it were interchangeable with sex is training the general public who, for the most part, is not well-versed about feminism or transgenderism, to accept the idea that the stereotypes of “gender” are innate and to accept the junk science of brain sex, which fuels the perpetuation of these stereotypes and discrimination against women – and also limits men in different ways. And it fuels the trans kids movement – instead of seeing kids with personalities and interests atypical to their sex as just tomboys or sensitive boys, now being atypical is seen as a problem that needs invasive medical intervention, rather than just a normal and natural personality variation.

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  2. There was a news article this week where someone genderfluid summed up “being all woman” as indulging themself with lipstick and lace and pinkness and being soft and frilly.

    I have never felt so strongly that my own identity as a woman was being ripped from me.

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  3. Kudos for the Whitman quotation and the engraving (from a photograph) which was used as a frontispiece for ‘Leaves of Grass.’ It’s a very apt aperçu, for your site and many other places as well. (One demurral: the lines and image actually date from 1855, not 1892. Walt did keep revising till the end however.)

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