FtM 101: Sex, Sexuality, Gender, Gender Expression

This is something I probably should’ve posted months ago since it’s so useful for explaining not just transsexuality, but also how I can be a gay, effeminate FtM transsexual.  Back when I started this blog it was everywhere though so I figured I didn’t have to.  Apparently the trans community has changed a lot since then.

Everyone take out a piece of paper.  On that paper draw 4 horizontal lines.  Label the top line “Sex”, the second line “Sexuality”, the third line “Gender”, and the final line “Gender Expression”.  So now your paper should have something like this on it:

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Now we need to add descriptions for the end points.  So on the Sex line label one side “Male” and the other “Female”.  Sexuality gets a bit tricky because people get confused by “gay” and “straight” when the person is trans.  So in this case we’re going to put “attracted to men” (or just “men”) on one side and “attracted to women” (or “women”) on the other.  Gender gets “Man” and “Woman” and Gender Expression has “Masculine” and “Feminine” (or butch/femme, masculine/effeminate, whatever similar words make you more comfortable).

Go ahead and add a marker in the centre of each line.  For Sex we’ll assume this is what most people would consider “true hermaphroditism” (horrible word, use “intersex person with ovotestes” instead).  In terms of sexuality it could be bisexual, pansexual, or whatever new word for “I like people, not parts” is in vogue at the moment.  The midpoint for gender would be genderqueer, bigendered, two-spirit, etc.  For gender expression we’ll call it androgynous.  Label these if you want, I’m not going to because it takes up too much space.  Now we have something like this:

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Time to define our terms and fill in where we fit.  Sex is the physical sex we were born as.  Most of us were given an easy male or female and have found no reason to question that.  Some people have an intersex condition and therefore fall somewhere along the line.  In my case, my sex is considered female (though I’ve started to wonder).  Dot goes all the way at the far right end of that line.

Sexuality encompasses the people we are sexually attracted to.  Transmen are included with men and transwomen are included with women.  If you like “women and transmen” you really need to go read this because that’s a controversial (at best) view to have.  If you only date people who identify outside of the gender binary go ahead and put your dot in the middle or even somewhere off the line if you feel that fits you better.  I’m pretty boring, I like men.  So my dot goes all the way on the far left end of the line.

Gender is where it starts to get fun.  This is your internal sense of whether you’re a guy or a girl.  If you identify as non-gendered put your dot off the line.  Genderqueer leaning towards guy?  Somewhere towards the left of the middle.  Once again, I’m boring.  My dot goes all the way at the far left because I identify as 100% male.

Now we’re onto gender expression.  This is where people get confused.  Gender expression is not gender identity.  Just because I like glitter and stuffed animals does not mean that I’m something other than male.  I simply have a different way of expressing my gender.  I’m a bit of a queen, much like my non-trans friends.  My dot goes towards the far right, but not all the way to the end.  So now my paper looks like this:

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One thing I see more and more newly out kids doing is saying “well, I’m not FtM because I’m not really guy-ish enough…”  You don’t have to be macho to be a transguy.  Just because you’re not a perfect 1950s image does not mean you have to identify as genderqueer.  If you really do feel like you’re not a guy or a girl then that’s great, but don’t say it because you think there’s only one way to be a guy.

By the same token, just because you like sports and cars and…I dunno, spitting doesn’t mean you have to be trans.  Plenty of tomboys exist in the world.  My mother is one of them, she’d be vastly offended if anyone implied she wasn’t a woman.  That’s why gender and gender expression are split, it all comes down to how you feel inside rather than how you present outside.

Finding Our Place: Social Acceptance for Non-Traditional Transmen

I tend to get into fights when in areas designed solely for transmen.  Actually, I tend to get into fights when in areas designed for transpeople in general.  It’s odd for me because I do have trans friends (both men and women), it’s the only way I would have managed the early days of transition.  However, I can’t seem to get along with the trans community in general.  At least, I can’t online.  In person it’s a little better.

The reasons for this are two-fold.  First of all, I’m not a gender/women’s studies major.  I don’t do queer theory.  I don’t care about the latest research on gender socialisation.  Just about everything being said now was debunked with the Reimer case in 70s so I’m not sure why we insist on going back to it.

The second reason is that I’m simply not like the vast majority of the trans community.  Rather, I’m not like either of the sides that present themselves online.  I’m not masculine enough for the man’s man FtMs, but I’m also not genderqueer.  I have a very distinct, binary gender identity, but my expression isn’t stereotypical.  I like glitter and I’m not afraid to say so.

I’ve come to terms with this.  I no longer really care if I’m accepted within the trans community because I don’t need a trans support system.  I’ve hit a point where every few years I may need a factual answer to a specific question, but beyond that I’m pretty good.  What concerns me is what will happen to the guys coming out who are like me.

That’s why I have this blog.  There aren’t a whole lot of guys like me, I realise that.  Most guys fall into one of the two major camps, either masculine or genderqueer.  However, if I help even one scared kid realise that he isn’t alone then the time and effort put into this are worth it.

I do wish there was somewhere else these guys could go.  Somewhere that has passing tips for effeminate guys, suggestions on how to bind while still wearing tight shirts (hint: it’s not always possible), ways to pass without sacrificing who you are.  I can do some, but let’s face it, there’s nothing quite like having a bunch of people you can go to with a problem.  Unfortunately, I don’t know enough guys like me to set up something like that.  Let alone guys like me who have transitioned, most of us simply assimilate into the gay male world.

There’s Femme-FtM on LiveJournal, but they’re more genderqueer than FtM transexual.  Beyond that, the vast majority of guys on there aren’t effeminate in the “flaming queen” sense of the word.  Lots of emo, scene, and punk.  If you want to gauge your ears you’ll be welcomed with open arms.  Some anime-style bishounen (did I spell that right?) if that’s your style.  Not so much for the guy whose ideal look is a cross between Brian Kinney and Emmett Honeycutt (from Queer as Folk for all you youngin’s).

Dreamwidth has a few trans groups that are more open to effeminate guys, but none of them are very active.  I’m not sure the mod for most of them has checked in in a few months.  Other than that there’s not really anything.

It’s too bad.  Effeminate men in general are marginalised, transmen even moreso.