Columns Oct 30, 2013 at 4:00 am

Your Sister's Keeper


Do people really haggle with sex workers? I know they must, or it wouldn't be mentioned but wow.
@Gnay, you seem to have erased everything about gender & sexuality from your life. I hope that doesn't mean you experienced some really unpleasant shit at some point; but if you did, I hope you have found someone well-versed in such matters to talk to about the shit...

@2 People will negotiate anything that's negotiable. I've heard, for instance, that an escort will sometimes allow a regular to take her to dinner without paying for that social time.
SISTER: Just tell her you know, tell her how, accept her righteous anger at your impropriety, and proceed to help her with whatever comes up in the future. Loneliness is just as much of a killer as disease.
GNAY: Ignore the condescension and judgment from people who aren't in your head or your body- including @1.
MVAE: Surprise sex with your husband and a prostitute is a risky proposition- and the prostitute is the least risky aspect of it.
GNAY, I also identify as nongender (same idea, I just think it's shorter and has a better fit for me). And you should totally wear whatever you want. First of all, dresses and skirts aren't women's clothes. They are clothes that are worn more often by women than by men, but most of the cis-men I know have worn a dress or a skirt at least once. I have a friend who is cis-male, not into cross-dressing, and regularly wears skirts (with his beard), because he finds them to be comfortable. Women worked to make pants unisex. And now women can wear almost anything they want without too much flack. Men need to put in the work to be able to wear skirts and dresses, but some already are. All clothes should be options for all people, whether they are men, women, or some variety of genderqueer. Since skirts and dresses shouldn't be limited to women anyway, there is no reason that you shouldn't wear them if you want to. Your fashion sense is really a different facet of your personality.

Besides, your identity should support who you are. If there are parts that seem not to match, it means you are more complex than a simple label; it does not mean you need to try to force yourself to fit somebody else's interpretation of that label. Especially ignorant people's interpretations, and most people are pretty ignorant when it comes to those who do not identify as either men or women.
@4 re. @1. Dan's good advice: refuse to engage with idiots.
If the sister had really wanted to keep her HIV a secret, she wouldn't have left the letter where it could be found.

Ms Q's advice may be sound (I've no reason to dispute it), but she comes across as if she were a guest house hostess piling on all the extra charges she can. The cheerleading at the end without any acknowledgment of the potential budget strain (especially if this is something the couple would like to do regularly instead of just as a once-off) for many people just feels like pressure-based salesmanship.

I'm reminded of the woman who always spends at least $200 on wedding presents because she claims that at even an average wedding the guests cost at least that much per head and it would be rude not to contribute an equal amount.
I want the advice for GNAY to be on a t-shirt. A pretty fucking wordy t-shirt, but still.

@10, Autostraddle uses the slogan "You do you," with an implicit ('and anyone who objects can go fuck themselves').
GNAY - you start by describing yourself as a youth. Stay open to the possibility of your gender identity and sexual preference changing. I'm not saying they will change as you get older, but they might.

My own gender identity was pretty fluid up to late college, and my sexual orientation still hasn't settled down (I'm almost 30). I would go for months or years at a time being certain I had figured out the most applicable label, only to find I'd changed again.

I agree with @5 - if you want to pick a label, go ahead, but don't let that label (and certainly not other peoples' definition of that label) define you. Just because you've found a label you think fits you now doesn't mean you're trapped in that box forever.
Everything here is perfect except for actually typing the pseudo-word "wanna".

Over. And over.

Pretty much as bad as typing "prolly".

Other than that: talk to your family, identify yourself, and discuss a threeway beforehand (fun surprise, but there are some things to discuss).
@2 -- A friend of mine used to work for a text relay service to allow deaf people to communicate over the phone with a keyboard. They'd type to him, he'd read their message and dictate replies back. And once he wound up as a middleman handling the call between a guy and a madam at a brothel, trying to find an escort who knew sign language and was willing to do anal on an outcall. Finding the girl wasn't hard but because the guy kept haggling the price, the call took upwards of an hour. (Afterwards the madam actually offered to send someone to my friend for an hour, free of charge, out of sympathy for the hassle it was on him. He politely turned her down for a number of reasons.)
What does "binding for a while" mean in the context of GNAY's letter?
@15 - I'm gonna guess ever since her boobs started garnering unwanted (sexual) attention. I'm with @3 - I get a whiff of post-traumatic issues rather than just zero sex drive. If it really is just asexuality and nothing more (ie, the binding reflects a desire to not be seen as a sexual being) then yeah, dress however. But if there is more to it, I hope she's getting some help too.
@5: "but most of the cis-men I know have worn a dress or a skirt at least once." Really?! I've never seen or heard of a guy wearing a dress or skirt other than for Halloween (or a kilt, which may look like a skirt but is not). I guess maybe there are some guys out there who do, but again, have never known of any.
@15 I'd guess, binding one's breasts in order to make them appear smaller.
I know a lot of men who wear skirts for dancing. They are cool, comfortable, they flare out nicely when you twirl and are really fun. I don't know for sure, but I'd guess most of these men are straight and not especially into cross-dressing. They just like wearing skirts to dance in.
@20 So wearing dresses is gendered? I take it you probably think wearing pants is gender neutral. Have you ever stopped to think about the implications of that? Why are female things "gendered" while male things are acceptable for either gender? Serious questions here.

BTW, it doesn't matter what you or I or anyone else think about GNAY's gender identity. People get to identify how they want, and since it's no skin off your ass, I'm not sure why you would care.
@16 - That felt pretty amazing, didn't it? Well done.
@22 - it's not fair, but in today's society female things are gendered, male not so much. See a baby in pink or lavendar - everyone assumes a girl. A baby in green or blue - could be either gender.

@21 - really?!! Men in skirts who are straight and go dancing that way? Men, I though, usually go dancing at clubs to meet women. Don't see most young women being comfortable being approached by a man in a skirt (especially if he wears it because it twirls and is fun). If this is a club trend, I've never seen pix of it or read about it or heard anyone speaking of it. I'ts like men in make up - was very glam and edgy in the 80s - but now, men in make up - I think people assume either 'actor' or 'gay.' Even the Man Bag (purse?) has never really caught on and gone mainstream.
@24 You should come to my neighborhood. Lots of supposedly straight men with long beards in robes. I don't think those go clubbing in their garbs, though.
Just for information, 20 years ago I gave blood at a blood drive and received a letter saying I tested positive for HIV. I was in a state, mostly because I had been married for 20 years and never had a partner other than my husband. So I went to my doctor who reran the test and a more comprehensive HIV screening, and ran the HIV test on my husband. Final verdict, I threw a false positive on the HIV test in the blood drive. 10 years later, I found out my husband was seeing someone else, so I went for another STD test and I still clean, no HIV, no other STDs. The Doctor basically said that there is a certain percentage of false positives and false negatives involved with HIV (and other tests) and with blood drives, so many people get tested that statistically a few people will get that letter when there is no problem. What I'm saying is that although the sister probably is positive for HIV, she may also just have had a false positive and so there is nothing for her to tell.

I saw a guy wearing bathrobe on the street the other day. No big show about it, just a dude in a robe walking nonchalantly in a fairly large campus/ city area like it was no big thing. And no one seemed to give a shit, either.

I wonder, is this an actual trend, or just an Arthur Dent wannabe?
"Women rarely wear men's jeans."

Oh hey, it's old man hunter trying to talk about fashion! It's amazing he manages to squeeze that in between taking his meds and yelling about how things used to cost less in his day but he's found the time in his busy, canasta-laden schedule to talk about how current clothing works! Good god, how embarrassing for him.
Gnay--I'm going to second (third, fourth, millionth) the advice to fuck all the people who have shit to say. Yes, dresses are gendered, and it blows. But any clothing you wear is going to make a statement about your gender that the vast majority of people are going to misunderstand, because the vast majority of people are blithering idiots when it comes to gender issues, and because everything in our stupid society is gendered. If you go out of your way to not look feminine, people will just assume you're trying to look masculine. So wear what you like, because people are going to get it wrong either way. Because they suck, not because you're doing you wrong.
@25, @27 My point is, why should people feel like they have to play by those rules? Why can't a guy wear a skirt without being told that he's "cross-dressing"? Why can't a gender-neutral person wear a dress if they damn well feel like it, without other people calling their gender into question? Associations like dress=feminine are arbitrary, as I'm sure you know. Wouldn't it be nice if we weren't limited by them?

Just because something happens to be the status quo doesn't mean everyone should be forced to accept it. And since gender is a social construct, it's something you help create just as much as anyone else. So if you're telling people that they have to just buckle down and accept traditional gender norms because they're the status quo, you're not being a realist; you're actively contributing to the problem.
@29 Are you disputing what Hunter said and insinuating that it actually is common for women to wear men's pants, or are you just being snarky?
@ sea otter:

1) grow up

2) shut up

3) go back to watching "Sawing For Teens" before the nuclear apocalypse hits you (didn't think anyone was going to notice your avatar, did you? And I'm American no less!)
@30 - while everything "in our stupid society is gendered" might be true, "the vast majority of people are blithering idiots when it comes to gender issues" is not. While gender issues may have been around since people have been around, I never heard of anyone questioning their gender until I was in my 30s or later. Kids going to school as the gender opposite of what they appear, fighting for rights to use opposite sex bathrooms, having gender reassignment surgery - a lot of this is new. Considering that homosexuals are still fighting for basic human rights in 2013 (!), the idea that people don't know or understand much about gender issues (something not taught in schools, not seen much on the news, etc.) does not make them "blithering idiots." I try to keep informed, but I don't understand much about the terms, definitions, etc. about the world of gender. Don't know the difference between transsexual and transgendered (definitions on the web are tricky to follow), never heard of the phrase "cisgender" until reading about it here. There's so much education that needs to take place before people can truly get it.
@33 Really? I think that's pretty uncalled for.

It's fortunate that I happen to know lots of Americans who are not assholes, because you're not doing much to dispel that stereotype.
Hunter78 [16],

Marry me.
Feel free to consider yourself asexual. That, and other labels, are useful shorthand to let people know some basic stuff about you. However, we are all different in many ways, so don't try to conform to what you or others think that label means. Be whoever feels right to you at the moment.
It's always a possibility that the blood drive HIV test was a false positive. My husband got a false positive on one of those and then got tested at a doctor's, and it was fine. He donates blood regularly, so it hasn't popped up again since.
So if the insists that she doesn't have HIV, you should believe her.
(I'm pretty sure that's rare, though.)
@9 You're going to some expensive-ass weddings.
@35 Sensitive type, eh?

Okay, I retract the "shut up" part of my prior comment. That really was uncalled for, and I apologize, sincerely, for that. We're all allowed to express our opinions here free from abuse.

I'm going to remain guarded, however, on the "grow up" part. Societal standards do exist; they may suck, but there is at least some merit to them. Trying to argue with this is like dealing with the simple-minded "libertarian'" all-government-is-bad rap; I mean, yeah, governments do bad things too, it doesn't prove that a lack of them makes any logical sense.

I'm all for people fighting the status quo, societal standards when necessary. But sometimes it's just not necessary, it's just immature and stupid. Nobody here is saying that men who wear skirts ought to be threatened, abused, or put in jail. In fact, I'd go further and say that almost all regular SL readers would tend to encourage that sort of slightly risque gender-bending. But let's just calm down and acknowledge that societal standards do exist; play with them how you will.

Whores are not videographers. Hire someone who knows how to shoot a video.
Yeah, if your sister says she is negative after receiving a positive test you should definately not believe her. Help her out but be aware that there is a strong reason for her to lie. Part of te reason that it will never be beaten (as a species) is that some people think that it's not a serious disease. Realistically, if you're not covered or indispensably wealthy there is a hight probability that it's a death sentence, if not its something that will effect your ability to have/care for children, have relationships and have sex.
@40 - I don't attend weddings any more. I just remembered this one woman's comment because it was the first time I had encountered the belief that a wedding gift ought to cost as much as the guest's cost per head - does this mean that those who bring a +1 are rude if their gifts aren't twice as expensive as those who come alone? The woman in question occasionally appears to assume that Manhattan customs are indicative of all civilized society, in much the same way that Mary Crawford, when Edmund Bertram disputes her maintaining that a clergyman is nothing as being applicable to London rather than the nation at large, holds the metropolis to be a fair sample for the rest.
It seems that all these posters freaking out on GNAY should really be reading Dan's answer and thinking about how they fit into that well-worded run-on sentence. (You're so young! You're so a girl! You're so crazy!)
In the meantime, I'll be working on getting that T-shirt printed.
I'd try a dress, but I don't shave. Anything..

(I wanna (doesn't autocorrect) get a nice kilt, but haven't bothered to find a shop closer than NH.)

Is properly attired for a kilt wearing man the same as for a dress wearing man?

identify however you like


But isn't a corollary of this that people are free to identify you however they like? If someone genuinely perceives you to be feminine, masculine, both, or neither, who are you to tell them they're perception is wrong?
To pile on GNAY, there's a much better reason not to tell people you identify as gender-neutral. You get to avoid pointless discussions about gender and gender roles, which frees you up to talk about more interesting stuff.

Identify as whatever you feel like, and don't hold back if it's germane. But volunteering the information when it's not relevant sounds like you're trying to earn Tumblr Special Snowflake points.

Being a noisy Special Snowflake, unlike being agendered or asexual, is very much something to judge people on.
@20 Consider for a moment the sarong. It is a unisex garment in much of the world, although it is considered women's wear in much of the US.

I imagine there are plenty of hulking Islanders who would dispute your claims that other people's perceptions could feminize them or their clothes. Possibly violently.
Oy, yes, what @50 said, in spades.
Having spent a good portion of my life essentially chemically castrated (as a female) by psych meds I'd have to say I completely see the writer's point of view as to not feeling any particular gender. It makes a lot of sense. With no sex drive, why pin your identity to something that has little to no relevance to you? Don't think it's a sign of possible history of abuse at all. Actually surprised more asexuals don't feel this way.
@53 Personally, I don't think it's connected to being asexual. I am not asexual, but having a gender never worked for me. It always bothered me when people used gendered labels for me. When I first got to be online, I really liked how people didn't know what gender I was, and having a mix of which way I was addressed felt a lot better. I didn't identify as nongender as a child, because I didn't know it was an option. But I did spend many years wondering if I really was the sex that I was born into, because I didn't feel like I was. I considered transsexuality, but I realized I didn't want to be the other sex either, so I decided I wasn't. I didn't actually accept my own sex until puberty gave me enough physical signs that I decided that I couldn't have been born intersexed. I think that for some people, gender just isn't part of their identity. It doesn't work in their heads, and a gender just does not suit them. It did mean that it took me a while to be good on trans issues, because I couldn't understand why anyone would want to transition from one sex to the other, when you couldn't actually get the parts that made the most sense to me to want (if someone wanted to either be able to be pregnant or wanted to be able to father a child). Fortunately, I now understand that gender actually does matter to a lot of people (and not just trans people, but lots of cis people are really attached to being the gender that they are). And that's fine. But I think gender is just this thing that your brain determines what yours should or shouldn't be, and then you're pretty stuck with that. You might change your views through time, because people do change over time. But you can't really control it. Pretty much exactly like sexual orientation. It's actually tricky for me being monosexual. I feel like since I don't care about gender, I shouldn't be so hung up on the sex of my partners. But I have only ever been attracted to one sex (and don't have enough data on transsexuals to know how my attraction might work - I'm not attracted to many people and trans people are a much smaller percentage of the population), and it's just something I have to accept even if it feels like it doesn't make much sense. I think often people are complicated and it's the attempts to simplify them that make it appear so contradictory. Fortunately, I've pretty much gotten to a point where I can accept that this is who I am, so I might as well be okay with it. I am so glad I am no longer a teenager.

Oh and to the person who was surprised that most cis-men I know have worn a skirt or a dress at some point... it probably helps that I've mostly lived in places where that was safe to do. And in my social circle, it would probably make you look insecure about your sexuality or masculinity if you were really unwilling to do so. Although most of the men I know don't do so regularly, just because it's not their preference. It also helps that most of the men I know are in fields that do not require businesswear to keep their jobs. Also, some men look really good in the right dress or the right skirt. This hang-up that certain clothes are only for certain sexes is very silly. On the subject of clothing, I've found that what clothes work best mostly relates to your body shape. It's actually a little annoying to me, as the styles I most like just do not work on my body. I've had to slowly learn to accept styles I don't care for quite as much, but that really do look good on me. My partner who is much more invested in a sense of aesthetics is always trying to get me into the clothes that look good on me nowadays.
Are dresses/skirts gender-identified?
No, not necessarily.
If I see an androgynous or feminine-featured person wearing a skirt will I assume they are/identify with being female?
Yes. Though I will happily correct myself if told otherwise.

GNAY hopefully understands that and will not get self-righteous about people making that assumption.
seandr @49: It's not so much telling other people their perception is wrong as telling people they don't get to define other people's realities for them.
@50: I agree with your Noisy Special Snowflake Theory, but I don't think it applies to GNAY. Her words:

I was born female, and I've been binding for a while and identify as gender-neutral. But I'm afraid to tell others that I'm gender-neutral for fear of being told I'm wrong because I wear dresses.

"Afraid to tell others" and "noisy special snowflake" don't quite line up.
GNAY, just take Dan's words to heart and run with it. But remember that "the right to critique, dictate, or overrule your gender identity." also means accepting that your views may change with time. I was pretty androgynous in my youth, but my gender issues were tied to a deep seeded misogamy and some internalized race issues involving my appearance. While not everything's fixed I've come a long way and I've done a dramatic change style wise. On the flip side, a person I was friends in school with fully embraced her transgendered identity just about a year ago in a town where Bill O'Reilly is considered a prophet and being anti-war liberal is somehow conflated into communism and treason. After suffering years of being fired and unemployable she still walked into her new job with full makeup, a padded bra, a new haircut and name. I haven't seen her there lately, which probably hints at bad news, but I'm still impressed at her courage to live as she wishes. So no matter the reasons embrace your identity, but also embrace the ability to acknowledge it's growth and change.
"@29 Are you disputing what Hunter said and insinuating that it actually is common for women to wear men's pants, or are you just being snarky?"

Yes. :)

Women wearing "men's pants" is extremely common, either in the form of "boyfriend style" (aka men's cut) jeans or pants or the trend of companies that specialize in unisex jeans which are also very popular - they don't work on me in the slightest but lots of women (and men) wear them.

So in other words, an internet troll made a comment that showed his massive ignorance (@1), then backed up his ignorance with more ignorance. So I responded by pointing out that his advanced age has clearly put him woefully out of touch with modern reality so he should probably stop talking. He threw a hissy fit, and my work was done.

In my backyard I have a deep-seeded mohogany.
Returning to GNAY's concern:
Skirts and dresses are definitely more comfortable. But wearing skirts and dresses attracts attention--on women, on men, and on the genderqueer. Different kinds of attention, but attention nevertheless. Do you want this attention?

People absolutely should not be bossy jerks to you, but they might be anyway. Not everyone has Dan's stamina for ignoring/smacking down/engaging with/actively refusing to engage with jerks. Best of luck to you if you decide to persevere in a genderqueer presentation of self.
Once, just once, I would love to see Dan tell someone to quit labeling themself. Don't let other people label you, critique you, dictate to you, etc is Dans' most common theme - Have I just missed it when he tells folks that they might be happier if they could let go of pigeon holing themselves into pre-defined roles?
Hunter, someone of your advanced age shouldn't backpedal so hard - you could break a hip.
Surely someone who identifies as gender neutral can wear clothing that is associated with either gender.
I'm a cis female who usually dresses gender neutral (trousers, T-shirts, boots) because it's more comfortable. But in summer, skirts are more comfortable, so that's what I wear. Why shouldn't people of any gender wear skirts in summer if they feel more comfortable?

Heterosexual men who have been known to wear skirts/dresses without trying to appear female:
1. Scotsmen (kilts)
2. Eddie Izzard
3. David Beckham
4. Dutch postmen, in summer, to protest "no shorts" dress code
5. Certain subcultures including goth/industrial men
@ 49 - "If someone genuinely perceives you to be feminine, masculine, both, or neither, who are you to tell them they're perception is wrong?"

Seandr, you're way off base here. Gender is physiological. There are physical differences in the brain that determine gender. And medical science has found that trans* people's self-identified gender is reflective of the structure of their brains. Here's some of the current research:

“These data suggest a pattern (in male to female transsexuals) of activation away from the biological sex, occupying an intermediate position with predominantly female-like features”…

The white matter in the brains of female-to-male transsexuals who have not yet begun hormone therapy mirrors the white matter in male brains rather than female brains. "It's the first time it has been shown that the brains of female-to-male transsexual people are masculinised," Guillamon says.…

And then there’s this:…

From the abstract:
”Results revealed that regional gray matter variation in MTF transsexuals is more similar to the pattern found in men than in women. However, MTF transsexuals show a significantly larger volume of regional gray matter in the right putamen compared to men. These findings provide new evidence that transsexualism is associated with distinct cerebral pattern, which supports the assumption that brain anatomy plays a role in gender identity.”

From the results:
“For each of 22 significantly different regions (twelve within the right hemisphere and ten within the left hemisphere), cluster-specific box plots were generated to illustrate the magnitude and direction of gray matter volume differences between groups (see supplement 1 and 2). Altogether, females had the largest gray matter volumes in all but two significant clusters, which were located in the left and right putamen. Here, MTF transsexuals had the largest gray matter volumes (see Fig. 1). For the remaining clusters, MTF transsexuals had the smallest gray matter volumes, but their data spectrum largely overlapped with that of males.”

In other words, current research shows that gender is not a binary, that physical sex and physical gender do not always align, and that trans* people's perceptions of themselves are correct. So please, don't insist on disregarding the gender identities of others. In addition to being unnecessarily unkind, doing so is also wrongheaded.
@69, I'd be more impressed with their results if the testing looked like this:

Take images of the brains of thousands of infants and young children. Give the images number-labels, and then have another scientist who sees nothing but the images predicts which people will eventually want to transition. Years later, get back in touch with the subjects to find out who transitioned and see how good the predictions were.

Our lived experience shapes our brains, so the research you cite can't distinguish whether transgender brain chemistry results from the subject feeling trans or causes the subject to feel trans.
Backing hunter vs myd.
The ageist comments are unnecessary.
Where do you live where all these women wear men's clothes? I don't see that here. (And "men's cut" jeans for women are still that: for women).
@28: Was it THE DUDE?…
I can no longer give blood because I keep popping a positive for Syphilis. Every time I go to my doctor who runs a more accurate test and tells me I do not have it. We have never figured why I keep getting the false positive. I have never had Syphilis. So yes, false positives can happen with blood donation. You could still ask.
>>>Two years ago, I found a letter in my sister's car informing her that the blood she gave during a charity blood drive had tested positive for HIV.

Nowhere does it say LW SISTER was going through her sister's mail or that the letter was even contained in an envelope. If I was keeping an opened letter in my car, as opposed to my house or filed away somewhere out of plain sight, I wouldn't have any reasonable expectation of privacy, or consider anyone who borrowed my car to be a snoop. It's even possible that she didn't have the courage to tell SISTER but she hoped SISTER would find out anyway, and this was the only way she was capable of "telling" her.
As a 40-something dominant female who is an active part of the kinky community, I know and am good friends with a variety of CD's. Every single one of them cross dresses for different reasons and in different ways. One is a het, cis male with a full female persona, another makes no attempt to 'pass' as female but enjoys the feel of wearing stockings and skirts (and looks damned good in them too!) and a third is a submissive with a sissification fetish. I think that because I am exposed to these things so frequently, I'm less inclined to make any assumptions about any non-standard way of dressing or behaving. Or maybe its just because I'm a perverted deviant freak.

@44- I have no idea how they do it in London or New York or how priests do it but yes, it is absolutely rude to double your gift if you are bringing someone else. It obviously costs them twice as much to host you. It is also rude to take cutlery, centrepieces and food home with you without being invited to, it is rude to ask. The reception is for the couple, not the guests. There are of course grey areas and exceptions, like maybe they are an older couple or a second, third etc. marriage and/or they already have their lives together all set up and this is just a party.
I honestly can't tell if you really don't know because you never thought about it or if its just a me first thing or what but doesn't it make sense to you that you wouldn't make their gesture a burden ? Million dollar words, character not worth a shitnickel.
@ 71 - EricaP, let me first address your complaint regarding the lack of a massive, multi-decade study.

While homosexuality was removed from the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (the DSM) in 1973, transsexuality was not removed until May of this year.

I'm not sure if you noticed, but the oldest of the articles I cited was published in 2007. This line of research is still very new. As such, there are no multi-decade studies to cite.

Additionally, even in the case of major health epidemics like heart disease, multi-decade studies involving thousands of subjects are rare.

Consider that a single MRI can cost thousands of dollars. So preforming five MRIs each (one at birth, one at age 5, one at age 10, one at age 15, and one at age 20)on a thousand test subjects would, at the price of $1,000 per MRI, cost $5,000,000.

So while the sort of study you would like to see would certainly be interesting and informative, it is unlikely to happen any time soon.

As to the other part of your post, I've tried to write a few responses to you at this point and I keep getting hung up on this:

"the research you cite can't distinguish whether transgender brain chemistry results from the subject feeling trans or causes the subject to feel trans."

Do you believe that our feelings exist apart from our brains?
@79 "Do you believe that our feelings exist apart from our brains?"

Huh? not sure of your point. But my point was that people change their brain chemistry through their life choices. If a person's deformed brain shows they drank too much in life, that doesn't mean the deformed brain caused them to drink too much. They could have had a "normal" brain which became deformed from drinking.

I thought you were saying people are born trans. That may be true, but I'm saying it's hard to know if it's nurture or nature, without the kind of science that is very hard to do.
@74 If you don't have any symptoms, then ignore this, and I'm not a doctor, but my first thought was: have you been tested for Lyme disease? They are both spirochetes so having either one increases the odds of a false positive from the other. If you do have Lyme disease, then treatment can be very helpful, and the sooner it is started the better. If you have no signs of Lyme disease and/or have never been somewhere where exposure was a risk, then that's even better and ignore this comment.

As to women wearing men's jeans. I think I recall my mother mentioning that it was a good idea, because they were pretty much the same thing and the men's clothing tended to be a bit cheaper or a bit better made... something like that. Or maybe she was saying it was good for women to shop for men's t-shirts for that reason. It's been a while, hard to remember. But I do know she felt that women should often shop the men's section of a clothing store for a lot of good, practical, unisex clothing.
@ 80 - Quick point of clarification: none of the studies I cited looked at the chemical makeup of the brain. They all looked exclusively at the physical structures.


Okay, I think I understand what you were getting at. So you weren't arguing that the thoughts and feelings of the test subjects altered their brains? You were suggesting instead that their brains were altered by exposure to external substances?

If so, all three studies controlled for that. They exclusively looked at trans* people who had not yet begun hormone therapy.

So in the case of your alcoholic, it would be the same as looking at the brain after the urge to drink had manifested but before any actual drinking had taken place.
RE: SISTER - Speaking from experience, the Red Cross letter does not necessarily mean that your sis is HIV positive. I received the same letter and it was one of the scariest moments of my life, followed by one of the most relieved moments when I got an HIV test from good old Planned Parenthood which came back negative. The Red Cross does good work and a crappy job with these form letters telling you why they cannot accept your blood. From my understanding their tests are designed to err on the side of a false positive.

Best of luck with your sister, whatever the case.
@68 You forgot Iggy :D
@3: Negotiating, or less charitably, haggling the cost of a sex worker that you haven't been with isn't the same thing as giving a regular customer a break in pricing. Generally, when I see someone negotiating a price, it's for an object, not a service. Tutors, babysitters, hair stylists, and other people who are professionals at what they do generally have a set price that a customer decides whether or not they want to take. Your experience differs, but that's my take.

@14: Yikes.
Gender doesn't happen in a vacuum. It's like language - you can bend it and play with it, but you can't just make up words on your own and expect anyone to understand you. Both gender and language involve certain socially agreed-upon signs and signifiers that have certain agreed-upon connotations and meanings. One person, or a few people, cannot ever change that meaning on their own. I can't decide on my own that "tree" really means cat, refer to cats as "trees" and then expect anyone else to understand or go along with it. Any reasonable person would assume I meant a tall, woody plant when i said "tree," not a small, furry animal. I could explain that what I really meant by "tree" was this small furry animal, but they're probably just going to think I'm obnoxious as hell, even if I have a good reason for calling cats "trees." I can't make up language all on my own, regardless of my reasons for wanting to. Gender is a kind of social language in the same way. If you wear dresses, then most people are going to think "girl" or "feminine."

Can these things change over time? Sure! Pants are a great example - they are seen my most people in our culture as gender-neutral now despite being distinctly masculine in the past. If more and more boys started wearing dresses, then I'm sure the gendered meaning of the dress would change as well. But it hasn't yet, and we can't pretend that it has.

In short, GNAY, wear whatever makes you feel comfortable, identify however you feel comfortable identifying, but know that the rest of the world is probably going to see dresses as feminine. If that doesn't bother you (or doesn't bother you enough to stop wearing them, and it shouldn't) then party on, wayne! Or if it would make you happier to be perceived as less feminine, then ditch the dresses. Or switch it up depending on your mood. Do what you feel. Just concentrate on being an awesome person and no one will give a shit *what* you're wearing.

And to all the people worried about kids pigeon-holing themselves into an identity... when does that ever happen, really? Just because a kid identifies one way, no matter how intensely, does NOT mean that kid will, or is even likely to, identify that way into adulthood. If the shoe fits, they'll keep wearing it, but if it doesn't, kids/teens/young adults seem to have no problem casting it aside as they get older. Are there goth 30-year-olds running around? Sure. But not *nearly* as many as there were goth 14-year-olds. And I doubt the 30-year-olds are still going to the industrial clubs because they pigeon-holed themselves into that identity. It's because something still attracts them to it.

And there are plenty of people who came out one way before coming out another (gay before queer, bi before gay, etc), and yeah, they probably tried to cling to the first identity for a while. But eventually reality wins out and we let go of how we may or may not have "pigeon-holed" ourselves in the past.
@78: What crawled up your ass? All Mr. Ven said was that he no longer attended weddings and that he had never heard gift-giving broken down into an exact science- not that he'd spent his life grifting his wedding hosts. Have a drink.
@MiscKitty: There are also many studies that show that cis homosexuals have brains more similar to those of the opposite sex, i.e. many gay men have brains more like women and many lesbians have brains more like men. I doubt those were all just closeted trans people. It's not so cut-and-dried as most people seem to think, whether they are conservative fearmongers or radical trans activists... Gender is complicated, particularly anything involving gender nonconformity or transgenderism, and we really don't know shit about it, from a scientific perspective... All we really seem to know is that there is some sort of innate gender sense that we are born with, one that *usually* correlates more or less with our sex (which can be complicated in its own way but is infinitely less complicated than the psycho-social concept of gender), but that internal sense is, by necessity, filtered through a cultural experience because gender is a social construct. It can come out the other end as all kinds of complicated gender expressions. And then we make labels to try and make sense of what is really an infinite variety, and those labels can cause just as many problems as they solve... It's complicated!
@ 88 - Didn't actually read all the way to the bottom of my first post, did you? Here, let me C&P part of what you seem to have missed:

"In other words, current research shows that gender is not a binary, that physical sex and physical gender do not always align"

If you're going to reference studies, cite them please. I want to read them.

And you're wrong about us not knowing shit about gender. That may have been true ten years ago but it's simply not true any more. We don't know everything by any stretch of the imagination but we certainly know more than we did. And we will continue to learn more as more studies are done and as the technology we use improves.

Now, let me ask you this: why is it so important to you that the current science supporting trans* people's self perceptions must somehow be wrong?
@25, 31

I see I wasn't explicit enough. In my neighborhood there are lots of integrist Muslims. Those wear robes, have an almost shaved head and a long beard. I don't like them. Nobody likes them much - especially not moderate Muslims, who tend to prevent their boys to go to prayer in fear they'll be recruited by the bearded men in robes.
Thank you, Mr Rhone - I'd have missed that. I actually could ask a few more questions, but this time I think I shall be content to leave incomprehensible customs to the Wainthropps.
Mr. Ven @92: You're very welcome. I felt the comment required (and the commentator deserved) a certain coarseness that you do not specialize in. And, BTW, the whole 'cover the per-head cost with your gift, double that if you bring a +1' thing is total bullshit.

There's lots of negative things to say about you, most notably how bigoted and ignorant you are.

And yet having those things pointed out to you (by all of us) doesn't enrage you nearly as much so I go with the age bit. :)
@87: Just view it as an insight into the sort of mind who views weddings solely as a profit-turning endeavor, and wants to believe etiquette reflects that.

78, the correct etiquette for celebrating life events is:
a) Throw a party you can afford.
b) Your guests' presence, sharing in this important transition, is their present to you. Often there are further presents, but they are not required.
c) The size of a gift reflects the giver's financial situation and closeness to the recipient.
Follow those rules and you will find you are enjoying your wedding a lot more, when you view it not as an opportunity to go into debt that your guests had damn well better cover with adequate amounts of flatware.
Hi MiscKitty (@82),
I'm sorry for the detour into the effect of external substances. I was indeed arguing that the mental experiences ("thoughts and feelings") of the test subjects MAY alter their brains.

From wiki article on neuroplasticity:
>> A 2005 study found that the effects of neuroplasticity occur even more rapidly than previously expected. Medical students' brains were imaged during the period when they were studying for their exams. In a matter of months, the students' gray matter increased significantly in the posterior and lateral parietal cortex. [Draganski et al. "Temporal and Spatial Dynamics of Brain Structure Changes during Extensive Learning" The Journal of Neuroscience, June 7, 2006, 26(23):6314-6317]
And just to get back to the point, I'm arguing that your post @69 ("There are physical differences in the brain that determine gender") indicates only correlation, not causation. Their brains may be different because they spent so much time thinking about gender, rather than because they were born already trans.
Just to weigh in on the "women" wearing 'men's" clothes thing, I'm not sure if it is generational, location based or what, but it's fairly common in my area/friends group. I run around with a bunch of technically apt ladies (primarily straight and cis-gendered). Clothing marketted to women tend to be form fitting and restrictive. If you want better function and something that isn't going to be grabbing you at the wrong time you have to buy "men's". I could write an enormous rant about discrepancy in pocket size in cargo pants alone!

Most of my friend's feed in social media consists of women bitching about hyper sexualization/under functionalization of popular clothing trends. (Side note: I'm the only feminist of the lot of us as well.) I would also kill to have "women's" clothes made with waist size and inseam instead of the cut and pasted sizes that vary based on clothing brand and type of pants/shirt.
@96- i appreciate you thoughts on celebrating, and those seem like common sense guidelines rather than the "correct way" of celebrating life events as you wrote, you made it sound for a second like you actually believed that there was an objective right and wrong way to celebrate all of lifes events across all cultures and all events. I don't get that, but your guidelines make sense.
As I read it, we were talking about weddings not graduation parties, or Halloween parties etc. weddings are obviously different as they uniquely celebrate two people starting a life together. It's not a graduation party right ?. You obviously can afford an education so you can give a couple of bucks to a couple who could use it. (As I said) there are grey areas, if they don't need it, or whatever then do what you can. If you have been going to weddings, especially the weddings of young or poor people and you haven't been thinking of trying to cover your cost and help them out a little bit, then yes, it is a jerk move. Even if you are young or poor, do your best. if they go into stupid debt to achieve some kind of fantasy wedding bullshit then thats obviously on them, in the spirit of the thing though, do your best.
I didn't go into debt for my wedding, I really enjoyed it a lot, I don't think anyone gave flatware but if they did thanks for the thoughtful gesture, those who didn't give a gift or anything, I know that they had a great time too which is as it should be.

You guys might find that you actually enjoy your lives more if you didn't have to be so passive aggressive. To me, it honestly blew me away that someone wouldn't think about how the weddings cost would effect a young couple. Strangers who maybe just have a different perspective from yours aren't all pearl clutching evil bitches. I live modestly and strive to be generous to the people that I am close to, I didn't view my wedding as an opportunity to go into debt or make money, I don't need a drink but thanks, and nothing crawled up my ass, but the pretentious stink of self richeous, morally ambiguous wordy bullshit.
Wait, will Red Cross actually send you a letter saying you have HIV?? Do you have to agree to that communication in advance?
@100: All my comments were directed towards the hostile jerk @78 who called my friend Mr. Ven's character into question simply because he didn't subscribe to wedding gift-giving as "a profit-turning endeavor" for the couple, as Erica P put it. Since I asked @78 what crawled up his/her ass directly, I fail to see how that makes me passive-aggressive. Not thinking gifts are for covering the cost of the celebration is different than not thinking about the financial burden of a wedding on a young couple. I never called anybody a pearl-clutching evil bitch. I never said you used your wedding as an opportunity to go into debt or to make money. I never suggested that you should have a drink, nor did I suggest that anything crawled up your ass. But, considering all this fuss about shit I never asked or proposed, what crawled up your ass and perhaps you'd like a drink?
Dr. Synopsis has a good article on this at.
It describes Everyday man and His Impossible task. It may not be at all what you are thinking...
Damn. Just more reasons for eloping I guess.
Mydriasis; For Heaven's sake, everything was going fine for how long now? At least a couple months, yes? Are women's jeans really that important? If I had someone jump on me every time I said something disagreeable or thoughtless I'd be a mute. Now can we go back to a comment thread were everyone threats each other like adults? And for the record I'm addressing this to you because of comment 29, even though he's been equally mean back (but I'm starting to think that's what you were hoping for).
@103, not me, but rather IPJ @96.
@107: True enough, apologies to you and IPJ.
Men wear 'skirts' and 'dresses' in many parts of Asia and Africa, and tend to look great in them. Wearing trousers often signifies that you have Western values and are probably Christian, no matter what gender you are.

Wanting to wear a particular item of clothing shouldn't affect your view of your gender identity, but the particular culture in which you live will still make its own assumptions. If don't mind politely correcting people when their assumptions are wrong, hopefully people will respond and the culture around you will change a little bit.
EricaP's corollary:
Men like to look like men, women like to look like women....except when they don't.
I've been thinking about how I would describe GNAY's letter to someone who does not read Savage Love regularly. "This week there was a letter from a person who reports being born a female, and normally wears women's clothes, but claims to have no gender identity. I don't know if her friends believe her."

You may find this remark unfair, but I'm hardly the only one chipping in from the proverbial armchair. I mean the last part, and not only because there is no practical alternative to "her" on second reference. ("One"? Too impersonal and general. "The asexual person"? Clumsy AND possibly disrespectful.) We humans are never unaware of the sexual presentations of the people around us, and that goes for GNAY in her everyday clothes. She has to know that many people will see the way she dresses and most will draw the same conclusion. The difference between a stranger and an acquaintance in her world is that the stranger's visual, socially conditioned impression will never be contradicted by what comes out of her mouth. And if GNAY were to die tomorrow and undergo an autopsy, I have to imagine that the surgeon would declare the body a female, in default of biometric evidence to the contrary.

Most of us think of our gender identity, to the extent we do think about it, as a fundamental constituent of our personality. We cannot imagine having an integrated personality without it, however atypical an identity any one of us might have. To have no identity at all is truly rare, and prompts the impression that GNAY is bent on denying one of the qualities that make her human. If this is prejudice, at least it is not completely irrational; it is deeply rooted in most people's experiences with other people.

I agree with #20 that she could simplify many of the conversations that worry her by identifying verbally and publicly as a low-libido woman. She may think of it as a white lie, designed to fend off more invasive questions. But whatever her doubts about about identifying as a female, I doubt that it is healthy for her to confide only in Dan Savage and his dozens of online commenters, some of whom were bound to approach her letter with skepticism.
@112 Or GNAY could identify as a low-libido male. To say that it is merely a white lie is basically to say that you wouldn't mind going your entire life pretending to be a gender that you aren't. Most people are attached to their gender identity. If you refer to a man as a woman or vice versa, it is generally seen as offensive. Why do you think it's any less rude or harmful to refer to a gender neutral person as a woman?

Many people won't accept GNAY, which is why GNAY will need to learn to ignore both the ignorant (or try to educate them) and the assholes. Anyone who can't accept GNAY's gender identity though is a bad match for a friend. You may need to interact with people who pretend that part of who you are is false (for a different example let's say you're bisexual but some of your family insists you simply haven't figured out your sexuality yet, as if somehow you could fake being attracted to more than one sex), but you don't need to trust or be friends with people who do so. And more importantly, you don't need to believe people who do so.

I know it's hard to understand what it's like to not be a man nor a woman if you are one or the other. But it's the very fact that gender identity is such a strong part of humanity that makes accepting gender neutrality for those who are neither important. Maybe someday there will be more options that might fit even better than saying gender neutral, but some people are very definitively neither a man, nor a woman, and nongender or gender neutral is one of the best terms so far figured out to describe that condition.

As to clothing, I still believe in being the change that you want to see. I think clothing shouldn't be rigorously linked to gender, so I think it's fine for anyone to wear a dress or a skirt. I think clothing choices should generally be chosen by practicality and personal preference, although I will go with more traditional options at more solemn occasions like at a funeral.
sister: it is also possible tat the letter was a false positive. in any case, TELL HER YOU FOUND THE LETTER AND YOU LOVE HER. my brother in law died of AIDS back in 1987, but my brother refused to be tested. i was blessed to have 7 years with him, albeit him living in denial and not getting treatment which might have given me 10 years with him.
do whatever she will allow you to do to help.
@ Moniquecurry: Does Dr Dahiru have a potion to help you make sense?
@ Hunter78: Based on comment #1, you're an idiot. They can't wander around naked, and anything they wear will identify them one way or the other.

@ mydriasis: With comment #29, you've joined Hunter on the list of idiots. Insulting him based on age is pointless and irrelevant.

Surprisingly, despite being morons, you have both made some valid points. People are identified by what they wear. And while some men wear skirts/dresses, it isn't "normal." Same goes for women wearing jeans - they are normally made for women, not actual men's jeans.

What I don't understand (my turn to be an idiot, I know) is why it isn't ok to be an asexual female? States sexual orientation, but also allows for the fact that they are biologically female.

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