Genderfork: Exploring Androgyny, Bending Binary

Androgyny” by Rasha XO. (Via Genderfork.)

Earlier this summer, Warren Ellis (yes, that one guy we reference every ten minutes on COILHOUSE, shaddup) posted some cogent thoughts on what he describes as the end of “The Patchwork Years” on the internet: “Nobody needs another linkblog… There are already thousands of them. The job of curation is being taken care of. Look ahead.” He’s right. I’m as guilty of rehashing as the next blogger, but yeah. Generally speaking, we could do with far less circle-jerk turd-polishing online.

Paraphrasing the feisty theater renegade Maya Gurantz, those of us in any position to create new media should be baking new bread instead of quibbling over stale crumbs. At the very least, we existing curators should be doing helluva lot more cogitating instead of regurgitating the same tired old ones and zeros. (“Hey dood, check out this awesome link via BoingBoing via Fark via Digg via Shlomo McFluffernutter’s Livejournal feed. Cut, paste, click.”)

More on internet culture’s addiction to shorthand tastemaking at some later date.

Meanwhile, even in these postulated-out, post-patchwork years, it’s still very possible to be galvanized by some vital new curator. Fellow bay area sasspot Whitney Moses emailed me a while back about a blog called Genderfork, run by Sarah Dopp.

Shave by Madame Raro. (Via Genderfork.)

Genderfork is an exploration of androgyny and gender variance through artistic photography and personal essays. Dopp has two personal goals for the project:

To compile all of the genderforking resources, imagery, and ideas that I come across on the web into one beautiful repository. I want to experience a sense of cohesion with these concepts — they all too often feel scattered and disparate.
To encourage a conversation around the grey areas of gender with friends, with strangers, and with strangers who need to become friends.
…because I think we can all agree: Gender is a loaded word.

Loaded, and how. That’s why complex arguments revolving around gay marriage and partnership rights can become so volatile so quickly, and why debate rages endlessly on between gender-abolitionist feminists and their less radical sisters. It’s why surprisingly empathetic reportage on 20/20 examining the lives of transgender children feels like a huge victory, and why my co-editors and I fought tooth and nail to find a way to publish Siege’s Neogender piece in Coilhouse Issue 01, if only in a limited capacity.

Peter in Transition” by Brook Dillon. (Via Genderfork.)

A curator is as relevant as their ability to contextualize. So long as a blog can bring hazy concepts and questions into sharper relief, challenge my preconceptions, or open new channels of thought, I’ll keep coming back. Needless to say, I’ve been revisiting Genderfork a lot. It’s not necessarily that its content is new or unfamiliar to me; it’s more about the presentation, and a sense of something larger coming into focus.*

I feel like sustained focus is increasingly difficult to come by these days, as the binary code scrolls past us in a relentless blur. With every tick of the clock, we are moving exponentially faster towards…what? Alan Moore says our culture is turning into steam. Transhumanists assert that the next step in human evolution will be for us to embrace biotechnological alteration, irreversibly changing our bodies and brains. Philip K. Dick believed that we are “being bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms” and that “objects, customs, habits, and ways of life must perish so that the authentic human being can live.”

Annie” by Tara L. McManus. (Via Genderfork.)

What is an authentic human being? How have traditional, strictly binary notions of gender (or anything else) challenged those of you who consider yourself “in-between”? What are the connections, if any, between the massive changes we’re experiencing in technology, in how we process information, and in fairly recent, massive shifts in “mainstream” perceptions of gender and sexuality? Any thoughts? I’d love to hear them.

*I realize this post is far from polished or focused, but I’ve been fumbling around with these ideas for months now. Rather than sit on them any longer, I figured I’d throw ’em into the CH think tank and see what insight might be gained from our sharp readers.

60 Responses to “Genderfork: Exploring Androgyny, Bending Binary”

  1. HMSsophie Says:

    Thanks a lot for this article. The issue of gender, and more particularly the “in-between” zone, is one of the subjects that fascinate me and touch me the most. We’re definitely taught to be one or another, gender-wise, and we’re educated to fit the gender criteria. Sometimes it isn’t that simple. As it can be seen among intersex people, gender definition isn’t merely a matter of what sexual organs we have but how we feel inside.

  2. Mark Says:

    Great to have you back, Mer.

    Fuck, I’ve written and re-written my response to this 12 times, and now I’m giving up. Sitting on a word volcano, and I won’t let it erupt all over the wonderful people of Coilhouse.

  3. Ashiikankwe Says:

    This is an incredible resource, and this is the kind of thing I read you guys for. That and the words. So, thanks.

    Also, the ‘idea soup’ in this post is kind of nice. Doesn’t need to be incredibly focused writing to make you think a little.

    Keep it up, Curators.

  4. Mer Says:

    Glad to be back!

    By all means, Mark, let ‘er rip. I kept holding back from publishing this post because it was so unwieldy and all over the place, but now I’m hoping others with thoughts and ideas relating to all of these interconnected subjects will feel comfortable enough to erupt here.

    Mmm mmm, idea soup!

  5. Celine Says:

    Gender is something I’ve personally struggled with for a long time—labels complicate things and the binary just does no good save to act as something to re-act to. I fit the classic definition of a crossdresser, except the only organized and therefore recognized crossdressers are biologically male, whereas I am biologically female. Hormones, surgery, and 24-hour “passing” don’t come into play, and therefore crossdressers both male and female are not taken seriously by the GLBT community. I will be very happy to see more people like myself become visible online for what they do and enjoy.

    I wish Kate Bornstein and several other authors could be required reading as early as highschool, but often it takes an extraordinarily revolutionary liberal arts college program to expose ‘normal’ people to ideas of gender fluidity (I am lucky enough to attend such a college, but even here you are only considered legit if you firmly transition to one or the other with the use of chemicals and scalpels, which to me isn’t very different from the regular sort of binary reinforcement we face daily).

    Received my issue in the mail over the weekend. It was very pretty and I’m very glad I got to see the censored bits. My boyfriend and I are devoted readers, and one day following my graduation as an illustration major I hope to be in LA and inquire about internships in your department.


  6. Jerem Morrow Says:

    Unpolished is my speciality, Miss Mer! I won’t feel so badly about my rambling, this go ’round.


    Given that gender, as we’ve known the distinction stateside, for…oh, however long I’ve been alive, has been so boldly black and wide, it’s never made me feel comfortable in my own skin, as it were. I’m preaching to the choir here, but I’ve never felt overly masculine, nor have I been bursting to the brim with estrogen. But a heady mix of both, with dashes of whatever happened to be lying around, thrown in.

    During my years, that’s basically meant experimentation with clothing, make-up and interpersonal relationships. So, I’d hardly say I’m any sort of expert beyond those bits. But I do think it’s much larger than just gender. Or rather, that this issue harkens to something much more uber, that’s been begging to be let out, for so so so long.

    I think it’s an issue we’re dealing with, as the collective human race, on many different levels. Gender, nationalism, religion (or the lack thereof), etc, etc, etc…headachefromredundancy…We’re pushed and pulled by what we’re supposed to be, so much so that we’re all lost in a fog that’s barely passable as liftable.

    It’s things like this article (and ja, what it’s linking to ;P), though, that show a glimmer of what’s hopefully to come. A day when we can truly stretch our legs, and become what we are, without all the shackles, bonds and gods. I don’t know that our latest tech is the outright cause of the shift, but it’s damn sure urging us forward. It’s certainly shown me, if nothing else, that I’ve not been alone.

    How’s that for meandering?

  7. Jon Munger Says:

    Discussions like this are why I love Coilhouse so. The Daria and the Fashion are lovely, no doubt, but this is what the internet can do well.

    Categorization is one of humanity’s sharpest double-edged blades. On the one hand, some categories, even of people, are necessary just to get through the day. Who can I talk to, who can I trust, who are my friends. But like Franklin said, “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.” We have minds like massive nets, and the possible combinations of warp and weft will only increase as there are more of us. A love of the unique and interest in our fellow human is the only way to be.

    I wish I had something more clever to say. This is a subject I think about a lot. I’ve never had a strong gender identity, and by that I mean that I never based my identity off of my particular hormonal cocktail. So it always strikes me as strange and a tad archaic that people do. It makes me wish there were a gender-neutral pronoun that wasn’t obtuse and silly.

  8. Zoetica Says:

    I love Genderfork! I had the honor of having one of my photos up there which is when I first learned of it all. So much eye and brain candy there.

    As far as gender is concerned, it’s not a struggle I’ve ever really “faced”. the concept of gender has always seemed more of a social protocol than something I had to live up to – more of an issue of convenience for the sake of fitting in than a Big Issue. I’ve always liked both men and women, dressed feminine some days and masculine others and was very fortunate to not face any sort of persecution for doing so. I imagine that if I’d grown up in different circumstances I’d have different ideas on the topic.

    As is, I’d like to hope most people who struggle with gender will be able to one day move on, to some sort of post-gender mindset where they can do and be whatever they want without feeling pressure, especially considering sex change operations give gender even more power and so rarely lead to happiness*. So yes, I wish for less pressure to fit into a box for the world around us, or pressure to physically alter ourselves in order to feel comfortable in our skin. Easier said than done, of course, but that’s why it’s a hope.

    And Genderfork is often helping take things in that direction, blurring the lines, exposing beauty in just being.

    *I’m not making a case against surgical alteration on a grand scale – not at all. Our freedom to modify ourselves is wonderful and part of that Future we talk about so often. The distinction here lies in the sense of incompleteness and imperfection as opposed to a desire to enhance and embellish.

  9. Sarah Les P Says:

    thank you.

    as much for the link as for the comments on it.

  10. Alfonso El Sabio Says:

    I guess the question unanswered here is “what does the curatorial function mean in our present time”?

    When I first read Warren’s comment that you quote above on his blog, I had my own ideas about this, as I have my own personal and professional concerns about curatorial function with regards to digital cultural heritage.

    While you have presented an intriguing, and hopefully dialectically-engaging, review of Genderfork, you have delayed the equally deep discussion of curation. As a starting point, I submit that curation is not a predictive action but rather a reflective function, since context is best established through a thorough understanding of history.

    Looking forward to what you will have to say about all of this later …



  11. Molly Ren Says:

    ‘Fraid I’m gonna stay away from gender–not quite my kettle of fish right now. But I found what you said about “curation” very thought provoking. I well agree that it’s good to take something to the next level, but for some reason I thought that “circle-jerk turd-polishing” was how the internet WORKED. If not for the millions of “redundant” trickle downs, wouldn’t it be more or less impossible for news of something to get all over the world? When a celebrity dies, I don’t hear about it from the news but my friends’ blogs.

    So yeah… even though I just run a weird fetish blog, I want to make people think. I’m going to be putting a lot of thought into being a better “curator”. But don’t think just telling me about links isn’t useful, because I sure ain’t hip. And a lot of links–at least on fetish sites–often dissapear and break after a while, so you can also point to something that won’t be there always anyway.

  12. MercuryChaos Says:


    Well of *course* you’ve never had to struggle with it – that because your gender and your sex match up. Your body is female, your brains says that this is how it should be and so there’s nothing to struggle *about*. It’s all well and good that you’re “experimenting” and presenting in ways that are more masculine or feminine depending on how you feel, but at the end of the day you’re a biological girl with the anatomy that comes along with that, and you don’t feel that this is wrong (or so I assume.)

    This is not the case for transpeople. To them, their bodies *are* wrong, and they have to deal with this – not just at the end of the day, but all the fucking time. Gender may be nothing more than a social construct for you, and indeed many of the assumptions and stereotypes about gender are just that… but that doesn’t make a person’s gender identity any less real, and your dismissal of it as something imaginary is incredibly insensitve towards the experiences of transpeople and the problems that they face, not to mention just plain ignorant.

    As for the thing about how gender reassignment surgeries “rarely lead to happiness”… I’d like to see some statistics on that, if you don’t mind:

  13. Zoetica Says:


    I’d like to clarify that I am in no way being dismissive of the issue, nor calling it imaginary. What I am saying, however, is that sense of wrongness trans people feel is largely affected by the intense pressure of the world being, so far, divided into male and female.

  14. Z.Allomorph Says:


    Some very basic things, without even touching the subject itself.
    Your choice of words just makes me angry. What you say about other people’s feelings is not a fact, it is your opinion, a mere surmise, and nothing more than that. Based on what?
    Who are you to judge transpeople’s feelings – or anybody’s feelings? Do you realise you hurt people by telling them how they feel and why? Without being concerned yourself? Show some bloody respect.

  15. Rattenmaus Says:

    @Zoetica: You might not have wanted to be dismissive, but you were, or at least said things that are de facto dismissing the struggles of people who *have* to think about their own gender, who can’t just “be”. You made it sound like transgender folk who just want to live their lifes in their real gender and not as something “mixed” or gender-barrier-breaking were just pressed into that, and that every person who reached that state of “just being” should be happy to just dismiss this, because it’s just something in their heads… and you make it sound like all the people who have operations and still don’t fit the gender norm don’t exist.
    You say “sex change operations give gender even more power and so rarely lead to happiness”, and this sentence alone makes me think you didn’t actually do a lot – if any – research on this topic. First, it’s not sex change, it’s a reassignment. People undergoing those surgeries don’t change their sex, they make their bodies fit their gender identity (in whatever range they want and can). I’m also not happy about reading “those operations rarely lead to happiness”, how do you know that? If you have that information from mainstream media, please think about how distorted the picture is they tend to draw.
    And what do you want to say with “the distinction here lies in the sense of incompleteness and imperfection as opposed to a desire to enhance and embellish.”? To me it sounds like you’re claiming being transgendered is a mental condition, and that those people should just embrace an identy as either a manly woman (in the case of a transman), or an effeminate man (in the case of transwoman). Try applying what you said to somebody who lost a leg (or was born without it), would it be wrong to have surgery to do something against this “incompleteness and imperfection”, so he or she could walk without trouble? Or should that person also just enhance and embellish their condition?
    You are right about the pressure of conforming to a gender norm being there, but you’re wrong about blaming transpeople for enhancing this pressure.

  16. MercuryChaos Says:

    @ Zoetica:

    I know that’s what you think, but *regardless*, your comment *strongly* implies that you think they should not feel this way, and that it is *wrong* for them to feel that way, and that they only feel that way because of social pressure. Tell me, where is the social pressure to be transgendered? Is it like the supposed social pressure to be gay that all the religious people like to talk about – the media says it cool and that’s the only reason why people do it?

    If social pressure affected people’s gender identity to the degree you seem to think it does, there would not *be* any transgendered people, because people are normally pressured to act according to stereotypes associated with their biological sex.

  17. Mer Says:

    Wow. Okay, some really passionate reactions to Zo’s opinions in this thread right now. I appreciate that this a really tender-skinned topic for many of us, but if you can, for the sake of healthy discourse, please take a deep breath and a couple steps back from the anger. I think that sometimes semantics obstruct/distract us from seeing the good intentions. I completely understand where you guys are coming from, but I also know Zo meant no harm. With patience comes understanding.

  18. Rattenmaus Says:

    I didn’t say anything about her intentions, and I doubt that she intentionally said something harmful, but in the end, she did. Telling us to not be angry, even if it’s just to restore the peace or something, is a way of telling us that our anger is not legitimate.
    Also, I was trying to be patient by explaining why what Zoetica said was uninformed and hurtful. I don’t see what being patient and not saying anything would achieve.

  19. Mer Says:

    Rattenmaus, you have every right to feel what you feel. It’s very real and understandable. I share many of your frustrations, and I’m glad you’re here.

    Please reread my statement. It was a request, that if possible, the more impassioned commentators take a couple steps back from their anger for, yes, the sake of a less defensive communication with someone who lacks their own understanding and perspective. I never said (nor would I ever say) that your anger/hurt is illegitimate.

    Trust me, I get really worked up about this topic, too. I’ve learned the hard way that the more I go into “battle mode” to make my point (no matter how right it feels at the time) the less balance and mutual comprehension is achieved in the long run.

    (I wish I could look you in the eye and shake your hand… I think being trapped behind screens like this adds another layer of obfuscation to communicating.)

    Looking forward to more discussion, and thank you for your insights.

  20. Das Dingsi Says:

    I’ve wondered a long while whether to say something or not — for the record, I had been searching for a way to contact the editors more privately, via e-mail, but couldn’t find any except for the submission form, which seemed inappropriate to me for that sort of thing. I am a trans man (to be specific: biologically female, male gender identity. No hormone therapy or surgery so far, but that’s going to change soon). I’ve been a lurker on this blog for months, but could never find the courage to actually comment, and wouldn’t have in this case, either, if it weren’t for people like Rattenmaus.

    I’d like to say that I really loved the original post, and always felt that COILHOUSE allowed for a diversity in gender expression and aesthetics, which made me feel welcome. Then I read Zo’s comment on this thread, remembered that she wasn’t any random commenter but a staff member, and suddenly that feeling of safety was gone. Needless to say that I feel a mix of anger and vulnerability right now.

    I’m also aware that it is exactly the direct, very personal effect those kind of comments have on me that usually makes me stay out of the discussion. When someone talks about transpeople, that includes (and concerns) me. When someone discusses gender and transitioning (e.g. gender reassignment surgery), it might be a theoretical discussion for them, gender just a thought experiment, and the rest just semantics. But it’s not for me. For me, it’s a bundle of very real feelings, issues, and expectations, and I can’t “step away” from it. It’s a part of my life, often a difficult part. But quite frequently I encounter people who try to define that part *for* me, to tell me why I “really” am that way, why I am “being convinced” I need surgery instead of “just learning to love” my body, or what motivations I should or shouldn’t have for wanting to transition (including reifying gender instead of “subverting” it).

    I know that — in most cases — those people in no way *intend* to hurt or dismiss me. Usually, they simply think they have some knowledge that the transgendered/transsexuals don’t have (yet), or if X happened, then transsexuality or transitioning would do Y (e.g. disappear, see “post-gender” theory). But by doing that, they forget to listen to the people who are actually living that experience.

    Mer, I hope I’m not coming across like someone who just wants to fan the flames. I wanted to get some very basic thoughts out in the open, as this thread… kept eating at me, so to speak. I appreciate your last comment, as it clarified your view on the subject, and to be honest, I also appreciate that you spoke up in the first place, because at the moment, Zo would be the metaphorical red rag to me (not because I’d have anything against her as a person, it’s only about the things she has *written*), and I’d just have fumed silently in a corner instead.

    Wait and see, I guess?

  21. Tequila Says:

    “…I’m preaching to the choir here, but I’ve never felt overly masculine, nor have I been bursting to the brim with estrogen. But a heady mix of both, with dashes of whatever happened to be lying around, thrown in…”

    Well preach on brother Jerem! The rise and attention on so many women has pretty much made it impossible not to be heavily influenced by them. It redefined masculinity much more than I think even ardent feminists understand. Even the most extreme of what some would call typical chauvinist males has been muddied and transformed.

    In the physical world it’s hard to mistake my gender identification. However online people constantly think I’m a woman. I dunno if it’s my choice of words, lack of stereotypical male comments, or the fact most of my “heroes” are women has somehow re-shaped my behavior. Whatever the case it’s begun to spill over into the day to day and it’s made it hard to be “one of the guys” in certain circles.

    While I’ll never fully feel the high emotions of those going through reassignment one can somewhat understand the emerging science behind it. It’s not purely psychological and of the cases I’ve read about or seen documentaries on it makes clear sense why a person would go through it. Less about fitting a societal norm than it is about connecting ones mind with ones body. That’s my impression anyhow.

    How we define, control, understand, and even explore Gender seems to be changing faster than most of us can keep up. I remember the case of a young boy who pretty much displayed the traditional actions and behaviors of a young girl. What made the case unique was how supportive the parents were even while the local schools and town were less so. At home he was essentially allowed to be who he felt he was. At the time the kid seemed better off for it. I dunno what the story is today but I doubt it’s an isolated event.

    Ultimately that seems to be what most of us believe in. That people should be allowed to truly be who they are on all fronts without outside pressure forcing their hand.

    As loaded a word as Gender may be it can’t be allowed to dismiss the science behind what gender is and can be. Transforming it into something purely ideological or simply a state of mind seems like it would do more harm than good. If anything reassignment shows how much hard science needs to still be explored. Right now we have the term transgender for example but how long can we as a society really function with putting so many people into such a blanket statement? Should those who go through full gender reassignment be considered the gender they have been changed to or the one they were born as? Should society treat people as the gender they identify as or one they are legally recognized as?

  22. Mer Says:

    Oof. I have a huge lump in my throat right now…

    Das, thank you very much for speaking up. I share so many of your feelings. This is deeply emotional subject matter for me as well, which is why I’d prefer to see everyone stay on an even keel, rather than watch a potentially healing and enlightening discussion spiral into an angry, shut-down place. I maintain that a bit of patience and calm will go a long way towards achieving deeper understanding.

    But yes, rest assured, my mediating is by no means intended as a negation or a dismissal of any feelings or opinions being voiced in this thread. They are completely valid.

    One of the most personal reasons I have for being involved in Coilhouse is the hope of creating an online sanctuary for kindred spirits. A hub where folks from very different walks of life can connect, gaining support and empathy from one another.

    So, I hope you can feel safe here. You are not an abstraction to me. You are very real to me, and as I said before to Rattenmaus, I’m glad you’re here. I hope you’ll continue to keep this channel open, despite the emotional turbulence.

    *squeeshing your hand through teh series of toobz*

    ps: CH readers are always welcome to write us through our joint email account, [email protected]. Can’t promise you we’ll get the message right away, but we all check it as often as time will allow.

  23. Tristan Crane Says:

    I agree, Zo meant no harm, however she comes from a place of privilege in regards to her gender identity, and perhaps that’s partly what people are finding difficult to swallow. I’m not attacking you, here Z, I hope you don’t feel dog piled upon, just suggesting that unless you wake up every morning feeling wrong in your assigned gender, you can’t speak for those who do.

    I feel that it’s sometimes happens that people who feel fluidity and comfort with their own gender project their experience onto transgendered and transsexual people and begin to feel that a Reassignment surgery isn’t the way to go.

    Personally, I identify as genderqueer, and while surgery isn’t what I need to do to feel comfortable in my body, I realize that in no way whatsoever is this indicative of how Many, Many other people feel. I respect that, and I respect their decision to transition in any way they deem necessary for their comfort and happiness. I know many people who never regret the choice of surgery and are far more comfortable afterwards.

    There is this concept floating around out there that someday we’ll live in a gender-free world, and that somehow this will make us more evolved. The truth is that people need to be given the same respect and freedom to identify as a woman, a man, neither, or both. Especially right now when there is so much possibility in the world to reach out and have useful conversations in spaces like this.

    Once again, I don’t think that Zo in any way meant to be hurtful to anyone. This may be a good opportunity to admit that we really don’t know what another person is experiencing, but we can all remain open to learning.

  24. Rattenmaus Says:

    I just wanted to say that I’m happy with how this is going! I don’t have anything to say that’s relevant for the discussion at this point, other than I agree with the thought of Zoeica _meaning_ no harm! I never wanted to attack her personally, and I hope she understands/believes this.

    Also, thank you Mer.

  25. Zoetica Says:

    First off, I wanted to express how pleased I am at this remaining a place welcoming of open discussion. Part of this, however, is everyone’s freedom of opinion, including my own.

    I think the chief problem with my response is, indeed, semantic, as Mer pointed out. Perhaps it would have been easier to swallow had I prefaced every sentence with “in my personal experience” – I’ll do that in the future to prevent hurt feelings. I see now that it may have appeared that I was speaking in absolutes which is certainly not the case, at least not in my head. My sincere apologies to anyone who was upset.

    The main issue I’m taking with current discussion’s direction is the opinion that unless I have spent significant time researching the subject, or myself have experienced gender identity issues, I have no right to an opinion. If we employed this tactic there would be no comment threads whatsoever. Many will agree that there is no way to ever really know how someone feels inside, but to suggest that no opinion may be formed from my personal experience with gender or pre and post-op trans people seems unfair, as does the accusation of my information coming from mainstream media.

    Everyone, I repeat, everyone is welcome here, provided they’re willing to stop, think, and be open. I’m saddened that anything might make a reader feel otherwise. It’s very easy to be hurt when the wounds are fresh and rubbed raw by years of negative experience. With that in mind I would love it if everyone who was, in fact, offended would read my comment once again with fresh eyes. Now – am I unwelcome in a discussion on my own blog because I have not come from the same place as others? Would it make everyone happy if I kept my own experience to myself? That’s not going to happen here, whether it comes to me or to anyone else.

    Thanks for the patient vote of confidence, Tristan. I hope that, in the future, contrary opinion won’t discourage anyone and will indeed be welcome as part of the meting pot, the hub that Mer mentions, the place we all aim to create here.

  26. MercuryChaos Says:

    Saying that gender is a societal construct is like saying that *race* is a societal construct – parts of it may be stuff we as a society made up, but just because you say that race doesn’t exist isn’t going to make racism. Indeed, by saying that race doesn’t exist, you are devaluing the things that people of color go through on a daily basis. And by essentially saying that gender doesn’t exist and that the gender binary “shouldn’t matter”, you’re doing the exact same thing to transgendered people. To them it’s something they have to deal with on a daily basis – not in the form of gender *presentation* like what some people have mentioned (choosing whether to present onesself in a way that is more masculine or more feminine) that but by the fact that the way they feel does not match their body. If a transman dresses more masculine it will not change the fact that his body and the way people will probably treat him does not match what he wants in his mind.

  27. Lisa Harney Says:

    I just wrote a post addressing the kind of statements Zoetica made above about trans people, but I’ll say:

    * In my experience, trans people who get surgery are happy about it afterward. I wish I could track down the origin of this idea that trans people don’t really like surgical outcomes so I could burn it out with fire.

    especially considering sex change operations give gender even more power and so rarely lead to happiness

    I would also suggest that the billions of men and women who are alive today, who never seek transition to any degree, lend gender so much power that any amount sex reassignment surgeries might offer is lost in the background noise. One Playboy centerfold probably does more to reinforce the idea of “what a woman should look like” than every vaginoplasty performed in a year.

    And I would like to question the assumption that

    As is, I’d like to hope most people who struggle with gender will be able to one day move on, to some sort of post-gender mindset where they can do and be whatever they want without feeling pressure,

    gender is a confinement for trans people, that we’re forced to conform to boxes, rather than the fact that transitioning (to whatever degree any of us transitions – and we all don’t go all the way) is a liberating experience for us, removing the oppressive pressure of living with a body that conflicts so strongly with our brains.

    More to the point, though, why do people talk about a wonderful post-gender world where trans people won’t exist anymore? Do you honestly think this sounds appealing to many of us?

    I’d prefer a world where sex and gender are both multiple choice and often user-configurable options. I’m not interested in a world where androgyny is the only option.

    Also, Zoetica, we are all of course entitled to our opinions, but trans people are constantly bombarded by the opinions, expectations, beliefs, and mandates of cis people who have developed their viewpoints without apparently listening to what trans people have to say about ourselves. When I see someone asserting that surgery leads to unhappiness and that we should all want to be freed from oppressive expectations that drive us to transition, I get the impression you’re talking about a group of people that has very little in common with me. I didn’t transition because society demanded it of me, I transitioned because living with a male body was intolerable to me.

  28. Abolishing Gender « Questioning Transphobia Says:

    […] Right after completing this post, I followed a trackback to Coilhouse, and found a discussion relevant to this […]

  29. Das Dingsi Says:

    My reply consists of two comments. The first one is unfinished. You’ll also notice that they are quite different in tone, for (I hope so) obvious reasons. I found Zo’s response to be incredibly frustrating, and if Mer hadn’t interfered, I would just have left after reading it. I know that, when people are told they said something dismissive / insensitive / hurtful (especially towards minorities), the instinctive response is a variation of “but I’m a good person, really!” — I get that, I’ve been there (and often still struggle with that impulse). But in truth, that response is among the worse ones you can give. What it actually says is “I couldn’t have done that to you! Because I’m nice!”, or “He/she/I didn’t mean it, so stop complaining!” And no amount of claims that you want to be inclusive and a safe space for “outsiders” (for a lack of a better word) is going to change that. It’s not that I wouldn’t *believe* you. I believe that you want that safe, happy, inclusive space, and I also believe that, for many people, COILHOUSE is that space. But it stopped being one for me. I trust Mer, to some extent, but that’s it.

    Okay. The comments. I didn’t edit them any further, just left them the way they are. I know they are long, but as they make different points, I didn’t want to omit either one.

    First part, written after Mer and Tristan’s responses

    … THE Tristan Crane? I’d die on the spot. *has bought the comic twice, one for himself and one to make all his friends read it*

    Again, I find it absolutely plausible that Zo meant no harm. On the other hand, I also find it important to realize that, unfortunately, intent doesn’t always matter. For example, if friends of mine would use “gay” as a synonym for stupid/ugly/disgusting, I wouldn’t assume that they do so deliberately with the intent to hurt me. But it would hurt me nonetheless, and I would tell them so. It’s their actions that matter eventually, not their intentions. However, inspite of the anger present in some comments (and I get that nobody likes to be at the receiving end of those), I’d also like to add that when people respond, they usually *are* giving you the benefit of the doubt. If they didn’t think that a dialogue, broadening of perspective and the like, was possible — if they really thought the hurtful statements were intentional, instead of just ignorant or a sign of privilege — they wouldn’t engage in the discussion. Of course, I can’t speak for everyone on the internet *g*, but in the case of my friends (some of whom commented here) and myself, this definitely is the case.

    There’s also the frequency of having to deal with dismissive or anti-trans statements / discussions to consider, which varies from person to person and might influence their response. If you encounter “transgendered people are just clinging to rigid notions of gender” and the like for the first time, you might discuss it elaborately, but if it’s the fifteenth or fortieth time, you might think “crap, not that transphobic shit again”, and leave a much curter response. After which the person who made that statement probably wonders “who the fuck pissed in *your* cheerios today? I just stated an opinion about gender!”

    I could go into detail about this, but I don’t want to bury you under even more paragraphs of tl;dr text, so I’ll just say that the structure and underlying theories of Zo’s arguments unfortunately sounded very familiar to me, which certainly increased my frustration, as I didn’t expect to encounter them on this site. (Again, not meant as an attack; I’m trying to explain my reaction and not more.)

    It’s true that not all transgendered people undergo surgery or other treatment, and that you cannot advise the same form of treatment for all who suffer from some form of gender dysphoria. It would help a lot already if the media and people at large would stop confusing gender *performance* and gender *identity*. When you think that *all* of gender is just a form of performance — and it is easier to say so when you do not feel a dissonance that constantly reminds you of the difference — then of course a “post-gender” world would get rid of all gender identity-related problems. But even if you allowed all kinds of gender roles and expressions and made them equally accessible to everyone, it would not get rid of transsexuality or transgenderism, just like it wouldn’t get rid of all stereoytpically masculine men or feminine women. Believe me, I’ve done a fair amount of questioning whether I was trans or just had some problem with my feminine gender role, but to pick one blatant example: if tomorrow everybody agreed to call me “Sir” and “he” and allowed me to dress as masculine as I wanted, it would take a lot of pressure away (less harassment et cetera), but I’d still want to get rid of my breasts.

    Second part, written after Zo’s response

    First off, I wanted to express how pleased I am at this remaining a place welcoming of open discussion.

    Which, to be honest, is something I feel *Mer* can take the credit for. After reading her responses… and the others, and reading a bit of NEXTWAVE to take my mind of the discussion for a moment… I felt much better. And calmer. I was typing a response to Tristan and Mer (still saved as a draft), and considering signing up for a proper account.
    Then I refreshed the page and your reply showed up, and I’m back at square one.
    I’m still trying to be calm. And to explain. And not to use capslock. And to explain some more. I really try. Okay? I try. But I admit that my blood pressure has risen considerably, and if this comment has a few more swear words and is a bit less patient, that’s why.

    You have the freedom to state your opinion. Other people have the freedom to react, for example by remarking that your opinion is not rooted in facts, or dismissing the experiences of a certain group, or simply a plain rude thing to say. When I say something offensive, I have to deal with the possibility of negative reactions. Of course, that doesn’t mean that people are free to say anything that comes to mind (e.g. threatening someone, harrassing them, et cetera), but generally speaking, if people have to deal with my opinion, I also have to deal with their reactions to that opinion. Including hints that what I said was hurtful, overgeneralizing, whathaveyou.

    As I tried to explain above in my first comment, to you it’s just semantics. Good for you. To me, it’s not, because I do not have that privilege. Again: I can’t just “step away” from theories about gender and transitioning and pretend this wasn’t of concern to me. What people think of gender and transitioning, as well as gender identity and gender performance (if they even get the difference), is not a question of semantics to me. *It impacts a very real, physically and emotionally, part of my LIFE*. It defines how people see me, how they treat me, in which ways they discriminate against me (or not, if I’m lucky). In some cases, those “semantics” have been crucial in determining transpeople’s options for *survival*.

    And, seriously, I don’t by default hold it against people if they misunderstand things, or don’t have expert knowledge (everybody has to start somewhere), or accidentally fuck up. But I definitely take issue with “it’s just words, can’t you calm down already”. Or “as long as my experience is X, other experiences do not matter”.

    The main issue I’m taking with current discussion’s direction is the opinion that unless I have spent significant time researching the subject, or myself have experienced gender identity issue I have no right to an opinion.

    No. I do not have to do some research on car racing to decide that they bore me to tears. However, if suddenly I went and stated my opinion that all fans of car racing just like to watch them because of X, like cars because of mental condition Z, or that there would be no people collecting racing-related memorabilia if Y happened, then yes, I’d do some fucking research to back that up, and the least I could do was ask a few fans for *their own perspective* and maybe visit a few homepages of famous racers. Do you really not see the difference? And if some car racers came up to me and said, “not to be a spoilsport, but we found the things you said are kinda sorta incredibly dismissive of actual people like us”, do you think I had the right to shrug it off with “I do not need to do research, it’s just my opinion”?

    With that in mind I would love it if everyone who was, in fact, offended would read my comment once again with fresh eyes.

    Look, we — I say we as in “the people who stated they found your comments hurtful” — have already said that we are very aware you didn’t *mean* to harm anyone, and that we would never hold that against you as a *person*. However, do you seriously think that, when I’d reread your replies with that in mind, your words would somehow magically change? That your arguments — the ones you used to explain your opinion — would suddenly have a totally different meaning? That your words were not offensive to me as a transperson just because you preface them with “it’s just what I think”?

    Now – am I unwelcome in a discussion on my own blog because I have not come from the same place as others?

    This comes dangerously close to “stop censoring me”. Nobody is censoring you. And it really rubs me the wrong way that you have to bring the fact that this is your blog into it, because, duh, I *know* I am on your turf, here. I’m the one who’s by default starting out from a lower position, not because you’d really think you were in any way superior to me, but because, hey, I’m just a random transguy telling a *staff member* that she said something hurtful *on her own blog*, where there is a high probability of other staff members or regular readers backing her up.
    (And by the way, Rattenmaus didn’t even “accuse” you of having your information from mainstream media. She said that she perceived your statements as uninformed, and said that IF you got your info from mainstream media, you should take into account that their portrayal of trans people is skewed.)

    I hope that, in the future, contrary opinion won’t discourage anyone

    Oh for… breathe, Dingsi. Breathe.
    This is not about anyone’s “contrary opinion”. I do not take issue with the *contrariness* of your opinion. Being upset that someone’s opinion is contrary to yours is what you do if you discuss favourite bands and hot actors. If someone was to tell me, “I personally think that gays have psychological issues, and in my experience they cling to rigid notions of sexual orientation and maybe they wouldn’t feel the need to be quite so gay if only society were less prejudiced”… then I wouldn’t say “Dude, that opinion is contrary to mine, I don’t like that!” I’d say “Dude, that opinion of yours is frickin’ offensive, and it makes me frickin’ angry, and by the way thanks *so* much for calling me mentally ill, which really makes me want to hang out with you more often… NOT.”

    And now I really, really, really need a break.

  30. A.W. Says:


    (Nice name, btw!) “Should those who go through full gender reassignment be considered the gender they have been changed to or the one they were born as? Should society treat people as the gender they identify as or one they are legally recognized as?”

    I’ve a tendency to ramble, so please don’t take it as directed at you so much as whomever decides to read it.

    You’ve two questions there, one of sex and one of gender. I see a lot of people questioning gender but not many questioning sex. Both are just as constructed on birth, but for some odd notion that I haven’t been able to fathom an unchanged body (the ‘normal’ ones only, natch) are considered better, whether gender is involved or no. You can see it thrust on the disability and the intersex community as well, this insistence of being physically viewed as carbon cutout of your neighbors.

    Now, I can’t think of anything that would sway me into keeping my current bits myself. If I so chose I could wear, say, eyeshadow just as well without breasts as with. Same applies for any other socially gendered bit of behavior or clothing though. In that light I find the idea that I’m transitioning due to social pressure from conformity to be highly ridiculous, besides which (last I checked) it isn’t encouraged in the u.s.a. (where I’m from) by – any – stretch of the imagination. Admittedly, I also don’t understand the “We’ll save you from yourselves!” theme that I find floating around the internet. What, I want to ask, are some people saying I need to be saved from? Getting the body I want seems rather freeing to me.

    Now personally, the simplest way (and the right way for both questions, imo) is to treat others how you’d wish to be treated. Treat others as the gender they identify as, if they’ve one. Inquire about pronoun preferences, broaden language. There’s enough beaurocratic forms upon birth, we could just (horror of horrors) not check a box until they can choose where they wish to be for themselves (no surgery or hormones required), add the genders and sexes as needed, and for the love of God promote unisex bathrooms. Sarcasm not intended, but I loath those little sex signs on the door. They’re not magic talisman’s to keep others out and they make bathroom trips awkward.

  31. A.W. Says:

    Zoetica, (also a nice name, the ‘z’ is a grand letter)

    “It’s very easy to be hurt when the wounds are fresh and rubbed raw by years of negative experience. With that in mind I would love it if everyone who was, in fact, offended would read my comment once again with fresh eyes. Now – am I unwelcome in a discussion on my own blog because I have not come from the same place as others? Would it make everyone happy if I kept my own experience to myself? That’s not going to happen here, whether it comes to me or to anyone else.”

    It isn’t that the comment was read wrong, it’s that the rubbed raw wounds are helped into existence by your opinion. There is no way to state it plainer. I – did – reread your post with fresh eyes. My reaction to your opinion didn’t change. Your opinion about, well, me (because I can’t not take it on a personal level) is based on several flawed premises, – because – your coming from a different experience. To us it isn’t so much a ‘differing opinion’ or a question of semantics as a common, mistaken view that has a horrible, negative affect on our lives. All opinions are not equal, some are more equal than others. (thank you Orwell). The concept translates over to Bloglandia as well, it’s illustrated in your comments. In this your opinion is the ‘more equal’ one by a far margin. You’re considered the ‘right’ kind of people because there’s many more cis sexual people than there are trans people who transition, surgery-wise. The bulk of society (at least in America) wishes to be rid of us. The difference is the way people reason us away. You assume and hope I wouldn’t exist in Utopia; I know otherwise. Others have harsher means to encourage nonexistence, but they’re both based on the same flawed reasoning; that something is wrong with us. Intent matters little, it is the end result I’m more concerned with.

    At any rate, keeping your opinion to yourself isn’t going to change that opinion, so no, it wouldn’t make me happy. What would make me happy (or at least, satisfied for the moment) would be if you listened to the people that you’ve formed an opinion on. I also edited heavily and removed the sarcasm and that bit of irony between sentences 7 and 8. Also edited for superfluous words and clarity.

  32. Winominx Says:

    I don’t have much to add to this so I’ll just thank Mer for her amazing topic. It’s just so interesting.

  33. lumivalkoinen Says:

    i think the problem here is everyone’s talking about different things. zoetica started off speaking of her own personal experience, and then wishing that we as human beings can maybe someday just be, with no constraints and no rules and just exist. soul to soul.

    the emotions and issues that stem from actually being in a gender / trans dilemma is a whole different ballpark. i can’t imagine having to live with that struggle, of feeling like you just aren’t how you’re made. entirely in its own massive league as a topic and nowhere close to zoetica’s comments.

    as for zoetica’s comment on sex change not leading to happiness, that is something i do not know anything about, but i can imagine if i made every effort to change sex, it would never be quite 100%, and in that i would be dissatisfied. i might be slightly mollified, but knowing that i would never fully embody a boy in all complete maleness would be a constant reminder of how i’m not born the way i feel like i am, that i’m still all wrong, unless that less than 100% male is actually what i’m going for. always knowing that i’m not completely totally there would drive me insane. this opinion comes from me not hearing very well. with help, i kind of hear. i’ve learned to pretend so well that it seems i hear normally, but it’s still a lie. even if i went all the way and replaced my eardrums with something artificial, it would never be natural. it would still not be real. like i said, i’d be mollified, but there will always be a lingering sense of sadness i’m not all there, a feeling of worthlessness hard to get over, along with the undeniable fact i just don’t act like everyone else.

    so, anyway, back to the soul to soul (“post-gender mindset”) thing. i get so irked by boys laughing at me preferring other boys who shave their armpits. i also get irked by boys asking what i see in a certain girl when her tits aren’t big enough. i get irked by girls who need their boys shaped all muscular just so. i get irked by people saying “oh your date’s all right looking . . . but those piercings . . .” or “if you got all burnt up in an accident, no, we probably won’t be together.” “no, honey, if you were a hermaphrodite, i cannot possibly still love you.” APPEARANCES MEAN A LOT, for sure. personal preferences are very important and we are all have them and are entitled to them – and god knows i certainly have my preferences. but still, can’t they see the person for their heart and the light in their eyes? that’s all i really care about. i want the physical obstruction to just disappear, revealing the core of what really matters . . . this is so hard for people to do, even me. that’s why some of us hope for that idea it’s possible to just simply exist and be, in this world and in our lives. So this isn’t about gender, surgery, or androgyny.

  34. Lisa Harney Says:

    Fortunately, there are real trans people who’ve had surgery who do have opinions on the outcome. I’ve not come across many who feel that the results are artificial or insufficient or that the drawbacks outweigh the sheer benefits of having a body that is shaped correctly. I’ve personally not come across any who were really that dissatisfied (to the point of being driven insane) with surgical outcomes, with the exception of one woman who had serious complications.

    I mean, I’m a trans woman, and I’m saying that this “surgery isn’t satisfactory” perception really isn’t how it works out, at least for women. The surgery is less satisfactory for men, which is why many trans men don’t get phalloplasty done at all. But some do.

    And I’m wondering why the fond wish that we reach a point where we no longer want to physically alter ourselves? What’s wrong with physically altering ourselves?

    What is sacrosanct about the human body that altering it is seen as unpleasant and artificial and possibly even unnatural?

  35. lumivalkoinen Says:

    @Lisa Harney

    i’m glad they’re usually satisfied, that’s good to know. i just am sure if i wanted to be more male, it wouldn’t be all there for me enough to make me happy.

    i’m all for surgery. i love surgery. i’m it’s not about it being bad to be artificially done or wanting to no longer be altered, but that one would be not loved because of it. not loved because one has plastic breasts. not loved because it’s too hard to pigeonhole one into a societal standard. not loved because it was taken too far for most to handle or accept. that’s the only part that’s annoying. it’s like “no matter what i do to myself, please respect it and if you can, still love me for ME.”

    that said, i like natural, too. either way. whichever way! i’m all for it! :)

  36. Jerem Morrow Says:

    I find myself identifying with almost everyone replying to this thread. From what I’ve seen, it appears Zo does as well. I’m not going to slam her, nor do I know her well enough to necessarily defend her. However, I do think we’re reaching a middle ground, at least tentatively, wherein we’re bonding instead of imploding, which…forgive my love of commas, is so fucking nice to see, that I’m honestly getting a bit misty over here.

    This post, which I’m sure some see as COILHOUSE’s death-knell, is possibly it’s first defining moment. Bravo, to each and every one of you. Staff and readers alike.

  37. drakyn Says:

    Jerem, a middle ground isn’t reached just because an oppressed group decides to leave rather than attempt to educate a privileged group; when they choose to leave (or not engage to begin with) rather than deal with the same old oppressive arguments–just repackaged in “subversive” or “radical” labels.

    There is nothing wrong with anger.
    Especially anger at being silenced and erased as arguments like Lumivalkoinen’s and Zoetica’s do. Those same arguments, just in different wrapping paper, are the ones used to keep us from getting basic rights, used to allow our murderers to walk free, used to keep us silent and downtrodden and suicidal.
    Those same arguments are what kill us. This isn’t semantics to us. We don’t get to walk away and theorize about fluffy castles in the sky where everything is perfect and the people we don’t like or don’t understand just don’t exist.

  38. Jerem Morrow Says:


    Slow down buster. “This isn’t semantics to us“? You’re assuming I’m not a member of your exclusive little club. Not only have I endured many years of feeling rancid in my own flesh, but I’ve been surrounded by the entire multitude of my gender-torn kindred, the majority of my life. They’ve been the very foundation my life has been built upon.

    And despite said facts, I’m not offended in the *least* by Zo’s comments. Nor Lumivalkoinen’s. NOR do I see anyone being “silenced” and/or “erased” here. I don’t view them as “them”. I see them as fellow travelers. Fellow humans, along for the same ride I’m on. I don’t make enemies of them, simply because they have a specific perspective, that might not figure my own into the equation.

    My above comment was made regarding the fact that we’re ALL discussing this, and NOT retreating.

    If Mer will allow, here’s a message I sent her, as a reply to one of her own to me, regarding the “death knell” portion of my 2nd comment above:

    Well I’d certainly not agree! I just fear that sometimes people take themselves far too seriously and lack either a sense of humor or any real sense of compassion. Especially when they feel tread upon. We’re in this together, and too many forget it. But if any network is capable of working through it, it’s COILHOUSE.

    I’m not on about a “middle ground”. I’m on about equal footing, where we all understand and respect one another. And again, neither do I even get a hint of anyone saying otherwise here. However, I do see you being given a platform from which to say the things you’re saying without ridicule.

    Take note, most of us, if not all, AGREE with you about the injustices “we” suffer.

  39. Jerem Morrow Says:

    @ Tequila

    Not sure how I missed your comment!

    *nods fervently*

    Important queries, well worth discussion and mass-consideration.

  40. A.W. Says:

    I’m not sure how to put this without invoking the ‘pissing into your cornflakes’ metaphor. Bonding happens when people stay; The trans people in the conversation, to the best of my knowledge; we didn’t stay. Silence does not mean consent. Now myself, I had three posts responding to lumivalkoinen, beginning with the continuation of the ‘You must have been mistaken’ line. It was explained that look, everyone either said Zoetica didn’t really mean this,

    “As is, I’d like to hope most people who struggle with gender will be able to one day move on, to some sort of post-gender mindset where they can do and be whatever they want without feeling pressure, especially considering sex change operations give gender even more power and so rarely lead to happiness”

    benefit of the doubt, you know, but then the convo scampers into the ‘Hey, that’s not offensive, it’s just a difference of opinion!’. Considering that statement – I – think several of us have been downright saintly here, because word for word that’s – exactly – what dismisses what trans people ever had to say about defending identity and the right to it. Also? Even – if – you took the last comment about transitioning leading to unhappiness out, it’s declared that hey, we’re transitioning cuz of pressure!

    You know, that’s one of the themes that never dies no matter how much it’s replied to. Someone else always thinks it’s some sort of outside pressure, and if only we could fix it…. When someone is saying “One day, all those people who struggle with gender won’t exist, and hey, aren’t transexuals making it – harder – for us to acheive this utopia…” it translates to “We don’t want you”. Really simple, four words, and yet, there’s the whining of the Greek chorus over there that states we must’ve been mistaken. Again. Even though it was explained why “In the future, you won’t exist, and won’t it all be so wonderful…” is hurtful.

    And this part? “So this isn’t about gender, surgery, or androgyny” defies logic. “Exploring Gender, Bending Binary” is the title, it was also the topic. Except when someone’s called on something, then it has nothing to do with the topic or the contents of the replies. I won’t be back to this particular thread, given up the ghost. That said, it’s an interesting blog you’ve got here, I like the color scheme.

    -I forgot to add, I don’t expect publication of this comment, but the “we’re negotiating!” nagged me into a post.

  41. A.W. Says:

    “I had three posts responding to lumivalkoinen,” That was supposed to be ‘posts in draft’, to settle confusion.

  42. Tequila Says:

    “…Those same arguments, just in different wrapping paper, are the ones used to keep us from getting basic rights, used to allow our murderers to walk free, used to keep us silent and downtrodden and suicidal…”

    The arguments may sound the same but the meanings are wildly different. On one hand you have people who wish we could look past the many labels we place on ourselves (willingly placed or not.) On the other are people who wish to keep society and humanity on a path they feel is right no matter what. The first is willing to listen, understand, learn, and find some sort of compromise or solution. The second is not, it’s their way or no way.

    Being oppressed, silenced, and dismissed by those in power is indeed a horrid thing. Thing is none here have that kinda power and all have been given a voice to bring a different, maybe even more accurate, picture of the topic at hand in a real world setting by those who live it. No privileged group here, just those willing to listen and understand. Really that’s worth far more in the long run.

    Much more is won by dialogue in such a setting than say confronting those who’ve already passed judgment. Something like that requires a whole different kinda strategy anyhow.

  43. Jerem Morrow Says:


    Hopefully, you’ve not really given up. Hopefully you’ll see this. That’s no way to fight for what you appear to believe in. Mind you, I don’t mean that as a barbed statement. Merely, fact. People who ACTUALLY want change, STAY. And deal with what may be uncomfortable.

    I fully expected this thread to continue. I fully expected everyone to keep replying to one another, until we reached a point where the hostility had burned out to understanding. We are, after all, adults. Not prepubescent whiners who cry out and scuttle away at the slightest hint of dissent. Whether said dissent is imagined or otherwise. We CAN work through this, can’t we?

    I swear, taking what’s been said as meaning “we don’t want you“!? That’s a professional victim stance to take. That’s the perception you’ve chosen. But it’s simply not what I’ve witnessed being said. And to press this further, since so many keep pushing this “us against them” schtick, I’M ONE OF YOU. It just happens that I’m one of *them*, too. No matter who the “them” of the moment happens to be.

    That’s the point. We all have something to add, when we’ve had experiences in whatever area. I’ve known nothing but shithead poets. You’re not only a poet yourself, but all poets you’ve ever known, are tip effing top. Doesn’t make my saying “poets are shitheads” any less valid. If we pool our efforts, instead of biting at one another, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

    But not much hope lies in not fucking digging.

  44. Tequila Says:

    “…When someone is saying “One day, all those people who struggle with gender won’t exist, and hey, aren’t transexuals making it – harder – for us to acheive this utopia…” it translates to “We don’t want you”…”

    Realistically the struggles for identity and gender won’t end. Someone will always be born not feeling quite the way they feel they should. The idea being expressed about a “Utopia” in this case isn’t about not having trans-gender people it’s about allowing for that very personal struggle and journey to be just that…personal.

    Having so many outside forces ranging from outright hatred to gross misunderstandings and misinformation makes that personal struggle worse no? If one did not have such pressures and instead had a society that would allow them to pursue whatever course of action they wanted in that struggle…without harassment… would be healthier no?

    Any personal struggle or journey needs privacy at some point. When outside support is sought it’s better that it can be found easily and without the harsh eyes of others condemnation.

    That’s about as close to a “Utopia” as any of us can really hope. Something were respect outweighs ignorance and privacy is understood as opposed to compromised.

  45. Jerem Morrow Says:


    Thank you for saying what I forgot to.

    If we look for something awful in what others say, we’ll find it. Sometimes stepping back, means a mile, not a foot. Or metre. Or what have you. :P

  46. Mer Says:

    Hi. Writing from the road. I’ve been packing/moving my partner and our rabbit and guinea pig and fishie up north this weekend and it’s been nooking FOOTZ, hence my absence here.

    Now that I finally have a moment to check in, I’m completely overwhelmed, tearful, and just… well, fuck… what to say…

    I guess what I most want to say is that I am sad, and frustrated, and full of love. These are extremely touchy, tender topics. Also deeply relevant and important to me, my kin, my friends. I’d hoped this post would foster a warm, safe place to discuss gender identity with others for whom intersex and trans issues are NOT abstract hypotheticals, but simply integral parts of daily life (for them personally, or for their loved ones) in a world that is changing faster and more radically than I think any of us are fully capable of absorbing.

    I was eager to connect with an assurance that everyone could feel comfortable and respected. Many of you, for reasons I completely understand, are obviously not feeling that way right now.

    I’m so sorry for that.

    For whatever it’s worth, I’m grateful to everyone from the trans/genderqueer community who took the time to share their thoughts and experiences here, and for trying to explain their points of view as articulately and candidly as possible. Despite being a bit heartbroken to see so much anger and hurt on this thread (and even more devastated to hear folks say that they want leave this blog behind and never come back), I understand all too well where the pain stems from.

    I share the pain. I wish I could lessen it. I wish the world would speed up just a wee bit more, so that we could fast forward to a time where, as Lisa so eloquently put it, notions of sex and gender have in fact become “multiple choice and often user-configurable options” and no one bats a FUCKING eye.

    Maybe this is just me looking for a silver lining, but I’d like to think that unfortunate clashes like these help us move a few more frames forward, somehow? I don’t know. But as much as it has hurt my heart, I’ve personally gained a lot from this thread. I hope others have as well, and will, should they happen to stumble across it at some later point in time.

    All I have left to say, to everyone who has commented in this thread, and I do mean everyone…

    I’m glad you’re here, thank you for speaking up, thank you for being you, and may you find happiness.


  47. Rattenmaus Says:


    Your last comment really made me angry. I thought I was done here, but now I feel I have to say something again, because what you say is really hurtful.
    You say you are somewhat genderqueer (or at least that’s how I understood it) yourself, that you’re part of the “club”, and that you’re still not feeling erased or silenced by what Zo said. Well, you don’t have to feel that way to make it something Zo’s comments actually did imply.
    There ARE people hurt by what she said, and those who are are not trying not to discuss gender, they try not to be subjected to the same vague ideas about how they’re somehow something that shouldn’t exist in an ideal society.
    Your saying that it’s not offending to you is like a gay person saying they don’t mind if somebody uses “Gay” in a pejorative manner – that still doesn’t make it an okay thing to say, and that still doesn’t make it unjustified for any other gay persons to feel hurt or offended.

    I’m especially having a problem with you saying:
    “People who ACTUALLY want change, STAY. And deal with what may be uncomfortable.”
    I’m having a hard time finding words for this, since I’m a ciswoman who never had to fight this battle, and I don’t know any of the pain first-hand, and you say you’re on the boat. So I have to think that you know about how hard this can be. But since you’re so dismissive of how hard it actually is to stay where you don’t feel comfortable, where you feel silenced and not taken for something real, I just had to say something.
    See, there are people who actually, really want change, who still CAN’T stay in every “discussion”, who can’t just deal with being uncomfortable. It is not the responsibility of every member of a minority to be a fighter, and still those people deserve happiness and respect.

    You say you don’t see real reason to be offended, and – this really takes the cake – that seeing something offending here is the take of a “professional victim”. Sorry, but NO. If there hasn’t been anything dismissive on this thread so far, now there is.

    You talk like the transfolk and their allies are the ones not wanting to dig, when that was exactly what we tried to do – dig at Zo’s statement. Of course “we all can add something” to the discussion, but if somebody writes something uninformed or offensive they have to live with being corrected. And honestly, I haven’t seen any step away from what was said, just “but I didn’t MEAN to say this”, and that’s not the point.

  48. Jerem Morrow Says:


    I’m not seeking blood. But mind me if I speak plainly, please. Not doing so would be nothing less than an insult to anyone reading. Also, this is jumbled…as it’s late.

    There’s no way to decipher what Zo’s comment did or did not imply. That’s all conjecture. I could be wrong. You could be wrong. Let’s call it what it is, not what either of us may want it to be.

    Whomever may’ve been hurt by the comments…they’re *choosing* to be hurt. It’s a decision. Like quiting smoking. Could the comment stab? Sure. Do we have power over whether it debilitates? Of course. So let’s use this situation as impetus to forge forward. This, I should state, I appreciate you doing.

    “Your saying that it’s not offending to you is like a gay person saying they don’t mind if somebody uses “Gay” in a pejorative manner – that still doesn’t make it an okay thing to say, and that still doesn’t make it unjustified for any other gay persons to feel hurt or offended.”

    That’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m saying her comments, while perhaps not totally thought out, to all endings, do not come off as hurtful, to me, at all. Intentionally or not.

    Per draykn: “a middle ground isn’t reached just because an oppressed group decides to leave rather than attempt to educate a privileged group; when they choose to leave (or not engage to begin with) rather than deal with the same old oppressive arguments–just repackaged in “subversive” or “radical” labels.

    That’s where the whole leaving bit comes from.

    professional victim“: There have been some here who’ve thrown their hands up and left, claiming to be set upon by naysayers. Said attackers simply…haven’t. Of course I agree that not everyone needs be a fighter, but those who offer up defiant/opposing opinions, then drop out because they’re uncomfortable? C’mon. Professional victims. Claiming to want change, but not enacting it. That’s who I take issue with.

    There are no sides here. Unless we make them. I say if Zo comes out and says, she meant harm, but feels sorry, (as she obviously does, one way or the other…feel sorry…that is), we deal with it, forgive and talk this through, beyond this hiccup. If she still holds that she didn’t intend harm, as I think she’s stated, then we continue the course, same as the other outcome.

    I have thick skin, I realize. Others may not. That should be respected, of course. But there’s something about the “Oppressors!” stance that rubs me the wrong way. It’s the same vibe I get from Vegans who call meat eaters “murderers”.

    Thanks for speaking up, Rattenmaus.

  49. Zoetica Says:

    What a tremendously emotional thread it’s been. I want to extend a heartfelt apology to everyone who was offended by my earlier commentary. I’m sorry, peeps! For speaking hastily and not having the foresight to spend more time laying down my words. I should have attempted to provide more insight about where my ideas came from. I’ve had friends in various stages of the process – post, pre, during – and my experience with them, while not academic, is experience nonetheless. Human and real. My opinions and words came not only from my personal, limited, experience with gender issues, but from witnessing many of these friends struggle and my desire to alleviate their pain, not any solipsistic or abstract concepts. My comment was rushed but my views on the topic come from respect and compassion – nothing less. I understand, now more than ever, that not everyone’s experience with gender reassignment is the same as what I’ve encountered. Thus, my blanket statement was offensive to just about everyone here. I would like to thank all of our regular commenters and visitors from the Questioning Transphobia blog for helping me begin to evaluate, research and understand this topic in a more profound way. Thank you all.

  50. David Forbes Says:

    I’m coming to this post and the ensuing discussion late. Thank you, Mer, for a great post on an extremely important, rawly emotional topic.

    I’ve worked in media in some aspect for most of my adult life now. Online or off, I have not found any publication’s staff that are more open-minded, compassionate and helpful than Zo, Mer and Nadya. I do not believe that any of them intend, or act to, silence or erase anybody. I’ll leave it at that.

    I don’t feel there is anything else to add, except for the following, which I agree with.

    I am human, nothing human is alien to me.

  51. Speck Says:

    I know I’m coming to this after the discussion has already cooled down, but I think this needs to be said –

    I’m a bit mystified by the whole “if someone doesn’t mean to offend, then what they say isn’t offensive” line of reasoning that Jerem and Co. seem to keep falling back on. Seriously – think about that one for a while. If only the sting of some of the comments people made really was entirely dependent on the intentions of the person making them.

    The thing is, when you hurt someone, assuring them that you didn’t mean it is just the first step – if you stop there without figuring out what you did that caused the offense in the first place, well, then there really isn’t any guarantee you won’t do it again, is there? Apologies only have weight behind them when they’re followed up with action to make amends or ensure that the mistake isn’t made twice. Otherwise, you’re basically just saying, “Sorry, didn’t mean to step on your foot there,” then promptly doing it again.

    Oh, and Jerem – please, please, please take another look at your assertion that the transfolk are somehow choosing to be hurt by the offensive statements directed towards them. That kind of tactic is called “blaming the victim,” and it’s a standard tactic used by privileged people to blame oppressed people for their own suffering.

  52. Mer Says:

    The thing is, when you hurt someone, assuring them that you didn’t mean it is just the first step – if you stop there without figuring out what you did that caused the offense in the first place, well, then there really isn’t any guarantee you won’t do it again, is there? Apologies only have weight behind them when they’re followed up with action to make amends or ensure that the mistake isn’t made twice. Otherwise, you’re basically just saying, “Sorry, didn’t mean to step on your foot there,” then promptly doing it again.

    I’m in 100% agreement with you. Personally, I’m hoping that nobody’s tootsies get stepped on again.

  53. Z.Allomorph Says:

    Sorry, but I really want to say a few more things.

    I am, just as Rattenmaus, cisgendered.
    So I don’t really feel “competent” enough to say much on the subject of transpeople itself. Still, there are some things I’d like to say. I suppose, as I want to comment some “communicational problems”, my common sense or knowledge from what I experienced from other parts of my life where I’m lacking privilege should be sufficient.

    For example, Jerem Morrow: sorry, but NO.
    If words couldn’t be interpreted, communication wouldn’t be possible.
    What has been said to be “mere semantics” (like dressing your opinion up as a fact) mirrors what happens in your mind.
    For example, I told Zoetica why her words are hurtful to some people (I *know* they are, that’s why I don’t say “might be hurtful” – you get the principle?). I brought arguments.
    I don’t want to get this dismissed as “mere semantics”, by the way, because we communicate via language, we are talking on the internet, we all have enough time to think about what we say, and if we don’t, we risk hurting each other or just get misunderstood, but that’s not the audience’s fault. If you do not think long enough over your choice of words (an expression which shows what we are dealing with here quite well, it’s a *choice*), you take the risk, you are still fully responsible.
    There are a lot of things Zoetica (sorry, it’s you again – as Dingsi pointed out, it’s not about you as a person, it’s about what you wrote) said which are hurtful. You MIGHT read them differently, but then you’d have to put away a lot of context. Context is a wonderful thing, so I kind of like it, and don’t want to put it away. Also, it was said that nobody accuses her of being a nasty person who just wanted to hurt people, but in some points, she did nevertheless. She apologised, and even though I don’t have the right to decide whether this apology is acceptable or not (I feel the urge to put some exclamation marks right here, instead I just ask you to keep that in mind), her language shows she acknowledged she hurt other people’s feelings.
    That’s just on a linguistic level: She apologises, then explains what made her talk and think like that, she says (which I consider very important) she realised even the people whose experiences she observed are still not a valid source for general statements.
    She accepts she hurt people with her words.

    So, Jerem Morrow: If you don’t feel hurt: FINE.
    But I really think you shouldn’t degrade other people’s feelings as untrue, or as a choice, and blame them for that. You blame them for feeling hurt. You blame them for what others did.
    I could tell you, you were just lying to yourself, so you don’t have to face the negative emotions or anything alike. But I won’t say that. It’s a non-valid argument, something you claim about another person, a pseudo argument which cannot be falsified, because I could still say “well, you only say this because, on your inside, you still just push this away, but in fact, you DO feel hurt”. I could say you manipulate people here to act as you want them to, just by saying what is adult and what not, so, since nobody wants to act like a child, they automatically try to stick to the rules you make up.
    But I do not think I need this kind of pseudo arguments.
    Oh, by the way, what you said was exactly the same kind of pseudo argument.
    So please forgive me if I just ignore it from now on.

    If what you said were true, you wouldn’t even know some people felt uncomfortable.
    I think it is brave to participate in discussions like this if you are a member of the non-privileged group (something I am not), and feel uncomfortable or even hurt (which is, as far as I can tell from what you said, not true for you). So, do you make yourself vulnerable and do you have to overcome your feelings of being hurt when you participate here? I’m asking you, because I don’t want to judge you just like that, but if your answer was “no”, you have the same right as cisgendered people (who don’t risk anything, no outing, no talking about their bodies, intimate details about their feelings, not getting hurt, etc.) to judge those people’s choices to discuss or not, which would be: none.
    And besides, I think it’s wrong to expect every non-privileged person to be some kind of uber hero who fights every battle. Might work if you are younger, or temperamental enough, but I think it’s important not to blame everybody who gets just tired of the same discussion over and over.

    Did I get something wrong? Why are you apologising? What did *you* do wrong? Maybe I really missed something, but how exactly are you responsible? In fact, my impression was that you were one of those who really helped to de-escalate the whole thing and make people feel better if possible?

  54. Jerem Morrow Says:

    @ Z.Allomorph

    You’ve misunderstood me. At least partially…to nigh on wholly.

    I covered all of what you’ve taken issue with, in a comment that was thought perhaps too much of a firestarter. I chose not to post it.

    This discussion seems to be one too massive to have via text, as it’s thus far done nothing but lead to misunderstanding. But I’ll try, anyway, if others are willing. I’ve meant every word of what I’ve said, and more. But it appears I either suck horridly at making my point, or I’m speaking some strange, unknown language. I’m not playing all high and snobby, but I do find it ludicrous what’s been made of this.

    Not in regard to what Zo has said, mind you. That subject’s been settled, so far as I can tell. But specifically what I’ve said. It’s almost as if, in *some cases*, I’ve said “Purple”, but some want to say I, in fact, said “RED”.

    But I disgress…it’s simply not in me to continue this here. I don’t want to cause more turmoil. BUT, i am available, should anyone want to continue the discussion, via e-mail at [email protected] dot com. I sincerely welcome notes from anyone.

  55. Mer Says:

    Thank you, Z.Allomorph. I don’t think you missed anything, but yes, I was genuinely sorry to see communications following the post I’d written arguably engendering (harrr!) more hurt feelings than good ones. That hurt may have occurred through no immediate fault of my own, but you can understand why I might still feel a bit responsible somehow, right? Like the host of a dinner party gone rather spectacularly awry.

    Anyhoo –again with the silver-lining-slathering– in the aftermath of all this, I’m thinking it would be very informative and healing to invite a genderqueer or trans person to guest blog on COILHOUSE. Perhaps some sort of Trans 101 piece? Of course, there are already tons of really informative and thoughtful articles online, but a piece published (or republished) here might very well reach a new audience. While not everyone who peruses this blog may be personally familiar with the issues we’re discussing, I’d say the vast majority of our regular readers are exceedingly open, curious, and kind folks who would appreciate a chance to learn more. Anyone have any suggestions?

    Meantime, I want to give a shout out to a very diverse shortlist of people: Julie Waters, Ian Harvie, Tucker Liberman, Baby Dee, Monica Roberts, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, and of course Lisa Harney. Badasses, all, and I’ve gained enormous insight from reading/watching/listening to each of them do their thang. Make with the clickies.

  56. Jerem Morrow Says:

    @Mer: I second this idea!

  57. Das Dingsi Says:

    Jerem: let’s take a close look at your comments.

    You told Drakyn, who explained to you the difference between “reaching a middleground” and silencing, to “[s]low down buster” and that you’re somehow “a member of [our] exclusive little club” — despite later still putting “we” into scare quotes, although even later you say “I’M ONE OF YOU” (in capslock, even!) while in the same sentence claiming that you’re also “one of *them*”, i.e. not like us. Which is useful, because that way no side is allowed to doubt you and you can always pull the but I’m one of us! card for both sides. But let’s say you are, if not trans, at least gender-variant (your comments are always very vague about that). You seem to think this gave you the right to behave condescending to others or declare their arguments invalid. Hint: it doesn’t. Being a member of a minority group does not mean you cannot make mistakes — gay people can internalize homophobia, trans people can bash other trans people for not being ‘trans enough’, and so on. That means that, bluntly speaking, your own gender issues mean absolutely nothing when it comes to the question whether you can say some pretty stupid and offensive things. You can, and you did.

    You said that you do not see people being silenced or erased in this thread, despite other participants saying otherwise and explaining patiently how certain statements hurt them by telling them they didn’t, or shouldn’t, exist. You say that we “make enemies of them [i.e. people like Zo], simply because they have a specific perspective”, as if we attacked them personally or were overly aggressive — adding that you, of course, are above this sad behaviour. People who react negatively might, according to you, “take themselves far too seriously” or lack “a sense of humor” (the fairly common Can’t you take a joke tactic). Then you accuse everyone who is either too hurt or too tired by this discussion of cowardice: “People who ACTUALLY want change, STAY. And deal with what may be uncomfortable.” (Note that you chose the word “uncomfortable”, a very minor annoyance opposed to being hurt or exhausted). In short, if anyone here leaves this discussion (after, mind you, writing one or many detailed comments and still being blocked by but certainly she didn’t mean it THAT way), in your eyes that can only mean one thing: they are insincere, immature and like to complain (“prepubescent whiners who cry out and scuttle away at the slightest hint of dissent”, which is possibly just “imagined”, too. Or maybe it’s even malice, as implied in your sentence “If we look for something awful in what others say, we’ll find it”).

    If you say “I could be wrong. You could be wrong.”, you only admit this in a context where others tell you that you’ve said something offensive, in this case you use it to address Rattenmaus’ concerns and deflect her criticism. However, you seem not to have those qualms about your opinion in other contexts: then it’s all clear as day.

    You also imply that actually there is nothing to get upset about, as the people who said that certain comments hurt them are only “*choosing* to be hurt” (and you compare feeling hurt to a physical addiction by saying that stopping to feel offended is somehow like “quiting [sic!] smoking”, which makes no sense, but whatever). And although you pay lip service to the idea that the trans people in this thread have the right to be hurt and leave (“not everyone needs be a fighter,” “I have thick skin, I realize. Others may not”), in the same breath you still paint them as immature, unwilling to “enact change”, and whiney, just like you did before. You even use the term “Professional victims” (hey, if it’s a profession, I want some fucking money for it!). The only thing you didn’t was calling us a bunch of pussies, really.

    Again, you put the onus of educating solely on the shoulders of trans people. They ought to do some “digging”, or else all hope is lost, but at the same time be very gentle about it, as we’re all humans and it’s just a difference of opinion and can’t we all just get along? So, the trans people ought to stay and educate others, no matter their own feelings (the hurt is only imagined, anyway), but at the same time, they ought to leave ’em alone already. That stance of The minorities shall educate me/the majority, who has nothing to lose, by engaging in a discussion that is personal and most likely very hurtful for them is very common, by the way. And it’s very tiresome. You basically blame the transgendered people themselves for the attitudes of cisgendered people, or their unwillingness to change: it’s not the cis people’s fault, after all the trans people didn’t try hard enough to educate them! So the trans folk have to go through the same discussions over and over and over again, because apparently it’s too much to expect from non-trans folk to look up stuff on Google or read the many transgender blogs on the net.

    Your comments are contradictory, messy, evasive, and exhibit stock arguments seen a lot around anti-trans discussions. Basically, after I’m done with this, I have no intention in discussing anything with you, ever (be it here or via email), for the reasons outlined above. But I doubt this will phase you, because a) I’m just a whiny pro victim ;) and b) according to your most recent comment, I’m just misreading you. You’re only being misunderstood. Just like the “choice” to feel hurt, Rattenmaus, Z.Allomorph and I have “chosen” to misinterpret your words. Which is cool, because it means you don’t have to question anything you’ve said. The fault is, again, with the minority and their allies. Clever!

    @ Mer: email is in the making, I haven’t forgotten you but my week was a tad stressful. Sorry!

  58. Jerem Morrow Says:

    @Das Dingsi

    Alright, then let’s have this final blurb and be done with it, eh?

    You make assumptions, just as I have. See, we’re both doing what you and yours (since I’m apparently not enough like you, to be a part of the club, as it were) claim only I’m doing. As you’ve said, CLEVER! Yippee. You’ve taken what I’ve said and refashioned it into what you need it to say, in order for you to make sense of it. That, I’m sure even you’ll have to agree, doesn’t make it right.

    You can’t come to terms with my un-PC view of the situation, so you’ve turned me into a villain. At least in your own head. Which, without any sarcasm at all, is something I’m absolutely fine with.

    I used the “you” and “them” labels to point out WE’RE ALL one. Yet, most seem content to continue partitioning humanity off. Get it now?

    As I’ve said, I will not, for my own reasons, continue this further, *here*. If anyone, and I do mean anyone, would like to continue via e-mail, then lets. I promise, I’ll answer each and every one. Even if it turns out to be hundreds. And hey, I don’t even mind if someone makes the conversation public on whatever blog suits them. I’m not backing out. Simply deciding this is bringing too much harm, to this forum.

    Das Dingsi: If you’re not, indeed, just having your fill of telling me off, then you know how to reach me.

    For my part, I’m done *here*.

    Have a lovely day.

  59. Rattenmaus Says:

    Jerem, I don’t know if you’re deliberately twisting Dingsi’s words, or if you’re just not getting it.
    In either case, I don’t see why one should even bother trying to discuss this with you any further.

  60. dalai donna Says:

    oh dear, i wish i could add something to this, but i don’t suppose it would be worthwhile.

    dear mer:
    you know who would make a good subject for a good article?
    lili elbe!

    i could ramble about her for days…