I’ve seen so many arguments and misunderstandings pop up over the conflation of these THREE dimensions of what we collectively refer to as gender:
- Gender Orientation: One’s subjective experience of one’s own physical sex.
- Gender Identity: One’s culturally influenced identification of one’s sex within the context of a social grouping.
- Gender Expression: One’s situational expression of cultural ques which communicate gender identity.
Note that gender identity and expression are absolutely culturally influenced. However, stick me on a deserted island, I am still going to have a subjective experience of my physical sex. It’s through culture that I label my gender orientation and situationally express/repress it. Just because someone’s gender orientation is female does not automatically mean that the person’s gender identity and expression will also be female. So-called reparative/curative therapies focus on controlling one’s gender identity and expression in an attempt to change one’s gender orientation. Ironically, this approach reveals the reality of a fixed gender orientation:
I had become addicted to certain forms of behavior in order to nurture that fantasy. I had chosen to abandon my manhood, one of God’s good gifts to me… Eventually I could see that abandoning that behavior was best for my life. Daily I continued to yield my life’s choices to Christ in the pursuit of personal wholeness… My own reflection in the window pane is different now. It’s no longer a stylish woman, waiting for the receptionist’s announcement. Now I see the man God created me to be. No longer must I be seen as Jennifer. My real identity is contained in the name I proudly answer to: Jerry. – Reality Resources, Jennifer or Jerry?, p.23
The individual in the above narrative is attempting to change their gender orientation through a perpetual practice of ritualized rejection which involves demeaning their orientation while taking on male identity and expression. The foundational falsehood of this strategy is immediately apparent to those who understand that gender is more than a cultural modalities for if there is no innate subjective experience of one’s own sex, the “ex-transsexual” would not require a daily ritualized practice of denial and repression.
This strategy is again employed in the following religious “healing” narrative:
He could see that I was processed of this thing, which only now, I realize was demonic. I knelt on the study floor, in tears, I was choking, forces were telling me not to do it, to walk out; freedom as a woman awaited me, after all, I had made such progress. I fought back, I cried aloud, I repented, I rebuked what had gone on in my life… All this happened 18 months ago… I gave them my suitcases of dresses, clothes, make up etc. It made me feel sick, and it was a major thing for me to do. I had to get rid of all that had held me before. They disposed of the stuff. I stopped having manicures, and cut my nails short, I grew a small beard. I threw all the [hormone] tablets away, and turned away from anything that had to do with my desires. I asked my Pastor for a verse that I could look at every day and enjoy my new freedom as a man, a father and a husband. I put a piece of paper next to my bed, with encouraging verses, which I read every morning when I got out of bed. I knew that the woman inside was dead. The power of Christ had destroyed her, and all she stood for. Eighteen months on, the devil still tries to persuade me, but he knows that I will not go down that path, as the consequences for my family would be immense. I am accountable to several people, and I am enjoying my manhood. – Sam’s Story
Again, the strategy is to change one’s orientation by assuming an identity and expression in opposition to their orientation. The failure of this approach is apparent in their need to engage a daily ritualized practice of denial and repression. RadFems make the same mistake that anti-trans religious apologists make when they conflate gender identity and expression with gender orientation:
My main conclusion is that transsexualism is basically a social problem whose cause cannot be explained except in relation to the sex role and identities that a patriarchal society generates. Through hormonal and surgical means, transsexuals reject their “native” bodies, especially their sexual organs, in favor of the body and the sexual organs of the opposite sex. They do this mainly because the body and the genitalia, especially, come to incarnate the essence of their rejected masculinity and desired femininity. Thus transsexualism is the result of socially prescribed definitions of masculinity and femininity, one of which the transsexual rejects in order to gravitate towards the other.
Thus I will argue, in Chapter III, that the First Cause of transsexualism is a gender-defined society whose norms of masculinity and femininity generate the desire to be transsexed…. I believe that the primary cause of transsexualism cannot be derived from intrapsyic attitudes and/or behaviors, or even from family conditioning processes. One must begin with the roles of a gender-defined society, as the First Cause of transsexualism (that which, in the Aristotelian sense, sets all other causes in motion.)
- Janice Raymond (1979), The Transsexual Empire, page 16
There you have it: framing the transsexual experience in terms of gender identity and expression. Raymond asserts a belief that the transsexual’s subjective experience of their own physical sex is cause by (and can therefore can be cured by) modifying the cultural gender modalities available within the context of a partiality society. After asserting her views of transsexualsim with all the hubris of the religious fanatic, a year later Raymond wrote the brief that the Reagan Administration used to justify excluding trans health care from care plans:
While there are many who feel that morality must be built into law, I believe that the elimination of transsexualism is not best achieved by legislation prohibiting transsexual treatment and surgery but rather by legislation that limits it and by other legislation that lessens the support given to sex-role stereotyping, which generated the problem to begin with. Any legislation should be aimed at the social conditions that initiate and promote the surgery as well as the growth of the medical-institutional complex that translates these stereotypes into flesh and blood. More generally, the education of children is one case in point here. Images of sex roles continue to be reinforced, at public expense, in school textbooks. Children learn to role play at an early age. - Raymond (1980), Technology on the Social and Ethical Aspects of Transsexual Surgery
Here again we see the RadFem narrative mirroring the religious fundamentalist narrative by asserting that the issue transsexuals face is one of identity and expression. Nowhere in Raymond’s burbelings does she recognize that each of us has a subjective experiences of our own physical sex.
To be clear: The issue for the MTF transsexual isn’t that we are a culturally constructed woman trapped in the physical body of a man; rather, a MTF transsexual’s subjective experience of their physical sex is female. When I assert that my subjective experience of my body has been always female, I mean exactly that. I only acquired a pervasive horror about my body shape when I learned around the age of 5 that, my body shape was different from other girls. That particular horror is called dysphoria… as in, Gender Dysphoria. My issue wasn’t that I wanted to necessarily wear certain clothes or act a certain way; of course I wanted to be treated and identified as any other little girl in my culture, but my by dysphoria wasn’t primarily situated around this secondary issue. I went to bed praying to have a god fix my body or allow me to die in my sleep not because my gender identity and expression wasn’t feminine; I began praying to die around the age of 5 because my body betrayed me.
While RadFems and religious fundamentalists seem particularly invested in asserting that the issue of gender orientation for transsexuals is simply a question of cultural modality, all one need do to test the efficacy of their fact assertion is to look at the suicide rate among transsexuals living within systems which attempt to modulate gender orientation through controlling their gender identity and expression (BTW, in a study of 6,400 trans folks, the rate of attempted suicide was 41% as compared to 1.6% in cis folks). While transsexuals generally point to our innate gender orientation at an age long before we’ve developed a sophisticated vocabulary to describe our experience, RadFems and religious fundamentalists seem perpetually poised to focus on, describe, critique and literally demonize the finger with which we point. Our issue only becomes defined by gender identity and expression when people like RadFems and religious fundamentalists use gender identity and expression to “cure” our innate gender orientation.
Nonsexist counseling is another direction for change that should be explored. The kind of counseling to “pass” successfully as masculine or feminine that now reigns in gender identity clinics only reinforces the problem of transsexualism. It does nothing to develop critical awareness, and makes transsexuals dependent upon medical-technical solutions. What I am advocating is a counseling that explores the social origins of the transsexual problem and the consequences of the medicaltechnical solution. - Raymond (1980), Technology on the Social and Ethical Aspects of Transsexual Surgery
And here you have it, Raymond herself advocating for the development of a curative therapy model focused on gender identity and expression as a way to readjust gender orientation. If you want to know what happens to a someone who is forced to adopt a female identity and expression even though his orientation was male, I suggest you read up on the cautionary story of David Reimer.
Feminists like myself envisage a time beyond gender when there is no correct way to behave according to body shape. In such a world, it would not be possible to conceive of a gender identity clinic. The idea of GID is a living fossil – that is, an idea from the time when there was considered to be a correct behaviour for particular body types. - Sheila Jeffreys
Contrast RadFem/Fundie dogma with what the evidence has born out over the last half century:
In over 80 qualitatively different case studies and reviews from 12 countries, it has been demonstrated during the last 30 years that the treatment that includes the whole process of gender reassignment is effective. Accordingly, all follow-up studies mostly found the desired effects. The most important effect in the patients’ opinion was the lessening of suffering with the added increase of subjective satisfaction. - Pfäfflin F, Junge A. (1998). Sex Reassignment. Thirty Years of International Follow-up Studies After Sex Reassignment Surgery: A Comprehensive Review, 1961-1991 .
Contrast the above demonstrable reality with the apparent schadenfreude RadFems enjoy by conflating gender orientation, identity and expression with sexual orientation, identity and expression:
“because the fact of the matter is that unlike born-women, who have everything (literally, everything) to lose from rape culture, transwomen have at least something (everything?) to gain. to a transwoman, cutting off her dick and turning it (inside out) into a fuckhole between her legs makes her feel better. from transwomens own mouths, we know that these fake fuckholes alleviate transwomens suffering. turning their dicks into extra-large condoms for other men to penetrate (or not, whevs…thats my hat-tip to the internet “lesbian transwomen”) actually tamps down their anxiety, and feelings of dysphoria.” - factcheckme.wordpress.com
In the above purportedly feminist representation of the issues facing transsexuals, the subjective experience of one’s sex is reduced to sexual function. In the above context, my issue at the age of 5 was that I wanted a “fuckhole” so that men and/or women could sexually gratify me. In this version of feminism, it is represented that my 5 year old death wish fueled by anxiety and feelings of dysphoria could have been cured by a man penetrating me.
Either the RadFem/Fundie position mirrors reality or it doesn’t. Either bringing the body into alignment with the transsexual’s subjective experience of their physical sex is demonstrably beneficial or it isn’t. Either the neurology of MTF transsexuals has been shown to be female over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again or it hasn’t. Either controlling gender identity and expression changes one’s gender orientation or it doesn’t. Either the RadFem/Fundie position harms people or it doesn’t.
Since Raymond asserted her belief about gender as it relates to transsexuals, I will take the liberty of doing the same about the RadFem and religious fundamentalist effort to cure gender orientation: I assert that concealed under the hyperbolic anti-trans rhetoric of RadFems and religious fundamentalists is a singular purpose. I assert that this purpose seeks to control gender identity and expression as a means of reparative/curative conditioning. I assert that RadFems and religious fundamentalists have been very clear about voicing this specific purpose. When viewed in this context, their nonstop effort to halt and overturn anti-discrimination protections based on gender identity and expression can be more clearly seen as insidious and cruel.