Tag Archives: Gender identity

Gender Identity, Gender Expression, and Biological Sex

The Gender Unicorn, graphic by Landyn Pan

The Gender Unicorn, graphic by Landyn Pan

Virginia Prince popularized the phrase “Sex is what is in-between your legs, and gender is what is in-between your ears.” She separated sex and gender into two social constructs: one biological and one psychological. This concept is also used in The Gender Unicorn infographic, which adds gender expression, and romantic/sexual attractions into the mix. The unicorn allows for infinite possibilities, including a continuum titled Other.  How do you measure otherness?

My gender identity has been clear to me since I had the vocabulary for boy and girl, and the concept of self (I am). I am a boy. I also got the social construct of gender expression pretty quickly because I kept trying to do it my way instead of their way. I never understood biological sex, and it still perplexes me.

The pre-puberty loop used to run something like this: I am a boy, I don’t feel like a girl, I don’t want to do girl stuff, I want to wear boy’s clothes and look like a boy. It goes from straight from gender identity to gender expression, and avoids the issue of biological sex. I don’t remember thinking that I wanted a boy’s penis. I don’t know if that is because I knew I didn’t have it and couldn’t get one, or because it seemed besides the point. Who needs that stuff to be a boy?

ostrichSex (biological or assigned at birth) is a confusing mess of gonadal hormones, the endocrine system, chromosomes, gametes, internal reproductive organs, and genitalia. It courses through my veins. Legal sex is stamped on all my documents. I did not understand why people kept telling me “because you’re a girl” when it was clear to me that I wasn’t really a girl. I knew that I was the only child who felt they were on the wrong line every morning in the school yard. Continue reading

The Sanity Clause

This is the recommendation letter for top surgery that I wrote but didn’t send. Disclosure – my therapist reads my blog because I am not a big talker.

Jamie is an adult and is mature enough to decide to get top surgery. If Jamie wanted breast augmentation I wouldn’t be writing a permission letter, you’d just ask what cup size and take the money. 

As confused as Jamie has been about being trans, and as long as it took to get to this point, I don’t think anyone can talk Jamie out of this. It is her their body and I am honestly tired of listening to her them complain about wearing a binder and being a boy. Enough already. Please schedule this ASAP. Maybe then she they will deal with the remaining issues so that she they can finally finish therapy.

Grouch Marx and Chico Marx discuss the "Sanity Clause" in A Night at the Opera.

Grouch Marx and Chico Marx discuss the “Sanity Clause” in A Night at the Opera.

I’ve written my own recommendation letters before. A letter from a professor for a job, one from a friend for a co-op apartment purchase package, and my annual performance review at work. I always knew what to say.

Lo, those many years ago when I started therapy, I told my therapist that I had three issues I needed to work on: compulsive eating, my Dad’s death, and “gender stuff.” I spent many years avoiding talking. It’s been an expensive game of chess. One move and then a lot of silence. Then another move. When she questioned me I clammed up. Session after session. She waited me out.

I’m slow to trust and make personal connections. I expect people to judge me.

I look like an old-fashioned butch lesbian. Masculine attire, short hair, sensible shoes. A long-term relationship, a cute dog, and a dented green Subaru Outback. I thought I was keeping “it” under control. No one questioned whether I was butch enough; no one asked me if I was transgender. When there was an opening to talk about it I teetered on the precipice, but regained my balance. Continue reading

Mourning a Lost Boyhood


Photo by xakeshot on deviantART

I can accept that I am butch and transgender, but I have trouble accepting that I will never be a boy. It should be obvious; I am chronologically an adult. I can’t time-travel backwards. It is unfair that I only got to be a child once, and that I went through it as a girl. No second chance.

The adults tried to convince me that I should want to be a girl. That I should be happy I was a girl. I kept hoping I would morph into a boy. I refused to believe that body parts were destiny. I kicked and screamed and dragged my feet through childhood. I would not march willingly into the strange territory of teenage girls. I dug in my heels and hoped for a miracle. Continue reading

Sticks and Stones

A couple of posts ago, I referred to myself, in my youth, as a stone butch. This created a controversy. Everyone has their own ideas about what a stone butch is. All negative. And they didn’t include me. Butch, no argument, but not stone. That is because I am, and aways have been, a big softy. A big hugger, a big kisser, and a big cuddler. I’m sweet and I’m considerate. With humans and with dogs. I just don’t like taking my clothes off or having my “girl” parts fiddled with.

No seat at the gender tableStone butch sounds hard and immovable. Stone butch sounds cold and rough. It isn’t. I’m not made out of bedrock. I am a butch with contradictions. I am a butch with limits. Some labels are too hard, some labels are too soft, and none of them feels just right. Not even the little bear’s. Continue reading

Embracing Contradiction


Roman mosaic – Conimbriga, Portugal

My mother was a bully. She was abusive. I thought it was my fault. She wanted a normal child and she got me instead.

My mother felt cheated. She wanted a daughter. I was supposed to be sweet and polite, neat and nicely dressed, smart but deferential. I was supposed to go along with the plan. My brother complied. I resisted. Resistance is not the same as doing what you want.   Continue reading