And it never ends.

What exactly is the difference between Demigender and Gender Non-Conforming?

And hell no he isn't a Lesbian unless he's planning to transition to being a woman. Lesbians, by definition, are WOMEN.


I think your husband should definitely put his profile up on SCISSR.

I guess we can't stop people from identifying however they want, but this complete devolution of gender identity into "I just want people to know I'm different" IMO will have long-term deleterious effects for those who cannot round themself into a normative identity (even if there are more normative gender identities than 20 years ago).

These Boutique Identities are just as much "appropriation" (I'd argue more so) than any two white ladies who want to make burritos or wear a dress - they're merely taking opportunities from hypothetical people which likely don't exist - whereas the value of being able to identify, without jumping through hoops, that you're (for eg) a butch dyke or a bear without getting bogged down of the mockery brought about by the Tall Mocharacial Half-Fasc Transqueer person.


"To be perfectly honest, JW, 2014 was the year I stopped trying to keep up. I simply didn't have the bandwidth to . . . commit to memory the brand-new, thinly-sliced gender identities and/or sexual orientations . . . . Of course I don't begrudge anyone their identity, their orientation, or their pronouns; there's enough respect and to go around for everyone."

I don't doubt that @Dan models respect towards everyone, but when someone whose professional life would give them the time and incentive to stay abreast of these gender identities cannot, there is no hope that anyone else can do so. And if we acknowledge that we cannot, what point is there in creating these labels when they stop having widespread understanding?


@3 the labels have been fully co-opted by... wait for it... average-ass white people, who still need to find a way to express their moral and ethical superiority to us proles out here. This process WILL NEVER END until Upstanding, Proper Liberal Folks - like you Sublime - start calling out obvious bullshit when it starts. The rearranging of the social hierarchy from Highly-Trained-And-Skilled-Cis-Straight-White-Men to Highly-Trained-but-moderately-skilled-White-Women-And-They-Friends is lipstick on the racism and sexism pig. In 50 years, it'll be a different group of power-adjacent folks who rise up, morally castigate the old regime (those repressive old women-and-gays), and put themselves on the top of yet another new hierarchy. Ad nauseum. You can't bring order to Calvinball by playing Calvinball.

The "marginalized identities" that are ascendant today are only ascendant because they already had the necessary component: Certification from the nation's top private universities. All the people who only went to community college, or trade school, or just worked a regular job out of HS are absolutely just as fucked as they were 50 years ago, because all the "progress" that was made from 1960 to 1990 was undone by a group of power-adjacent people who wanted to reorganize things so that they would be in power, and actively work to shame all those left behind by this reorganization while simultaneously claiming to be working in their interest. It's insidious and no less evil than the literal White Patriarchy we had last century. Power and Marginalization are oil-and-water, they don't mix, and you can't claim both.


When a woman starts asking if her husband of 20 years is a lesbian, well... I mean... yeah. Here we are.


Everyone on Earth should have their very own gender identity and set of pronouns. Only then would it stop riling up the easily-peeved, I guess. (And we'd all develop a fantastic memory from very early on in life - quite a bonus, that.)


It is no surprise that everyone wants to feel seen and accepted. This is a basic human need, and to be a kind and decent human being it is important to acknowledge and respect gender identity. At the same time, coming up with the right label to perfectly encapsulate all individual identities means that so many labels are created that no one can keep up. It's getting to the point where people are starting to use words that only they and a handful of other people understand. I don't see how that can be useful when the point of having a label in the first place is to help people understand who you are. If you have to explain your label to everyone you come out to, the need of a specific label just seems superfluous.


To the LW: I would just say "Queer." Maybe that's not specific enough for you, but out of all the labels I know, it seems like the best way to describe your partner's sexuality while honoring his gender.

To the other commenters (1-3): I don't think everyone needs to memorize or fully understand every single gender possibility. It just comes down to... basically what Dan did/said... When you encounter a new term, be respectful and validating. That's pretty much it :)

Also, I think my generation (I'm a millennial) has embraced a variety of gender labels for two reasons:

(1) As a way to push back against all the unhealthy gender norms that feel constraining, and at times even traumatic. (For example, being bullied as a teen boy for wanting to wear a dress, then growing up and identifying as genderqueer and feeling free to wear dresses every goddamn day!)

(2) If you find out that gender is a construct, then it's like... Wait well what IS my gender? What does gender even mean? You suddenly feel free to explore your own personal feelings. Why should people fit into the box of a couple gender identities?? Human expression and identity is limitless.

I do know that the younger millennials (and Gen Z) can get carried away on Tumblr, but I think that's more of an issue of extreme SJWs than anything else. If you're in the non-binary community, you'll see that it encompasses a lot more people than just the stereotypical Tumbler SJW. But of course, they are the most vocal and widely known.

The future of this country is... People feeling free to be whoever the fuck they want. That's already how it is for the younger generations. It's normal for them to respect and validate each other for every gender under the sun. So embrace it; respect it even if you don't understand it; or be left behind... It's up to you! The next generation will be themselves regardless.


Are you wondering what to call his sexual orientation? According to the Non-binary Wiki it would be "Orbisian/Trixic" meaning "a nonbinary person who is attracted to women (exclusively or not)."


I have a really great bicycle jersey that looks like that flag.


So... he's not attracted to people he's not attracted to?
Got it. Thanks for sharing. Enjoy your specialness.


I admit to finding this all baffling.
But then, I'm Gen X.

@KindnessIsKey @8: I don't think those of us who are wondering what this is all about are doing so because we think people should have to fit into one of two boxes. It's more that...these other boxes are starting to seem so specific and small, they don't really feel like they qualify as separate boxes. As @7 says, what's the point of a label if it communicates next to nothing?

"So embrace it; respect it even if you don't understand it; or be left behind... "
I can't embrace something that seems ridiculous, and I can't respect something I don't understand. I'll try to refrain from snarky comments, though, as an acknowledgement that I know I just don't understand. And I guess I don't mind being left behind, that's part of getting older. But I sort of would like to understand...

Question for the crowd: my transgender friends feel pretty strongly that gender is real--in that they knew from early on that their gender didn't match their assigned sex. And I believe them! Given that, what does it mean to say gender is a construct? I mean...I understand that a lot of the things we think of as "girly" or whatever are sort of arbitrary, and due to culture--but that's still real, culture is real, it has real effects. Right?

Can anyone explain what demigender means for this guy, or should mean to me in this context, other than "I don't always like typically masculine things"?


@1 "What exactly is the difference between Demigender and Gender Non-Conforming?"

As I understand it (and I have no expertise to claim aside from being a person on the internet in 2019), gender non-conforming has less to do with how you perceive yourself and more to do with how you present outwardly and and are perceived by others. Think modern day Tomboys. A person who identifies as female, but presents with more masculine attire, interests, and mannerisms. Most of the other terms define how a person feels about their own gender rather than about how they present to others.


@1 "What exactly is the difference between Demigender and Gender Non-Conforming?"

As I understand it (and I have no expertise to claim other than being a person on the internet in 2019), gender non-conforming has less to do with how you perceive yourself, and more to do with how you present outwardly and are perceived by others. Think a modern-day Tomboy - a girl who identifies as female, but presents with more masculine attire, interests, and/or mannerisms. Someone who presents themselves in a way that isn't in the stereotypical alignment with how they identify.

Most of the other descriptors relate to how a person feels and defines themself.


Ugh, I refreshed the page SO MANY TIMES to prevent a double post.


To clarify, I think demisexual is a great signifier. It has excellent explanatory power. This is a time of unsettled definitions wrt/ nonbinary identities, and many options will proliferate and then probably coalesce some.

To be asking whether your demisexual husband of 20 years, who uses he/him/his, has male genitalia and is attracted to women should be called a lesbian is ridiculous. Maybe there's not a word yet and you should search for one. But you can't use that word. I mean, come on.


@12 (ciods):

Ahhh I see. I think the point of gender/sexuality labels have shifted. The point of the label was to quickly get across how you identified (or so I assume). I don't think that's the point of labels for many of us in the younger generation. The point is (for better or worse) to feel understood by yourself and your community. (I prefer more well-known labels myself, but to each their own.)

As for the rest of your reply: Fair enough :) (And thanks for communicating your thoughts in a respectful manner, I appreciate it.)

As for gender being a construct, I'll add this... (to balance out my original comment)... Gender is both a construct AND real. It's a paradox and I won't pretend I can explain it. I respect both trans people who are a "binary gender" AND I respect non-binary people. Seems contradictory maybe, but life is a paradox anyway (in my opinion ;))


A lot of folks are throwing shade so I wanted to say that this column made my day by introducing the concept of demigender to me. It suits me perfectly. I'm not inclined to change anything about my pronouns, presentation, etc. I present cis, and I always felt I would be appropriating trans experience by claiming some kind of identity without experiencing significant dysphoria. But I've never been comfortable in the "role" of my gender, while also feeling identifying with the other gender was even less right. Just knowing there is a word that describes how I feel about my socially-gendered self--it's fine I guess but I'm not super into it and wouldn't miss it--is really gratifying, however I decide to describe myself going forward.


@12 Google 'Genderbread Person' for an illustration that might help you better understand it.

I'm a Gen Xer too, and think a lot of older people get confused by this stuff because we were raised during a time when ideas of gender and sexuality were really narrow. When you break it down in the terms described in the Genderbread model - biological sex (physiological sex traits such as hormones, chromosomes, anatomy), gender identity (who you think you are), gender expression (how you present yourself to the world) and attraction (who you are sexually or romantically attracted to) - it all makes so much more sense.

Everyone has a biological sex, a gender identity, a gender expression and preferences in terms of who they are or are not attracted to. These are each separate and distinct components that make up people's experience of gender and sexual identity. The confusion tends to come in when people conflate them and get them all muddled.

The question, "Trans people are often saying gender is a construct, but how does that align with the idea that they often identify as a specific gender?" is a really common one. The answer is pretty simple. Gender roles, gender presentation, etc. are socially constructed. They are, however, entirely separate from how we identify as people. So while it's true that gender is in many ways a construct (gender roles/norms, gender presentation), there are some aspects of it (biology, identity) that are real.

In other words, "Boys shouldn't wear pink" "Girls don't like sports" is part of the gender construct BS. Being told that you are one gender or another based on genitalia is part of that social construct as well, because it ignores very real issues of identity and even physiology. Looking at those things one can say, "Yeah, gender is BS - a total construct."

On the other hand, there are biological and identity components of gender that are very real. So it's also perfectly accurate to say, "Gender is a real thing."

There is science to back this up, by the way. There's a reason that the scientific and medical community backs transgender identities.


The letter writers are almost certainly Gen X as well... I'm a Millennial who also stopped microanalyzing identity in roughly the mid 2010s. By definition, marginal subgroups are a minority.

We also have no evidence they're white, one way or another. I feel like the queer people in acquainted with are less white than the non queer people I know.


KindnessIsKey, thank you. Your explanations are fantastic.

I'm a 50-year-old cis gay male who has recently realized that if the option had been there when I was a young adult, I almost certainly would have identified as nonbinary. I haven't quite figured out what that means for me yet, but it's interesting to realize that even the question of how many labels there are, and who/what those labels are for, is in itself a socially-constructed question.


(By percentage of group, not as applied to an individual.)


@18 I'm throwing shade because I perceive that the motivation people have for adopting identities is NOT to better communicate to others critical parts of their personality, but to claim a place in the new hierarchy that demands people adopt an identity that can reasonably declaim power. As far as the label fitting you personally, who am I to say, but I would challenge you on this: If the label, from an outsider's perspective (and again, your label exists only to mediate between the inner you and the outside world - you're personal pronoun is always me/I/mine) is indistinguishable from cis/het/male (or whatever well established identity you slot into), what is the value of the label?


Happy for 18/GelOShot :) THIS is exactly why new gender labels are created... They often help explain how someone already felt, but didn't have the words for.

@21/bouncing: You're welcome! Happy to hear about your recent gender exploration. And that's a great point ;) I often think, how many people throughout history would've identified somewhere on the non-binary spectrum?? I watched "Gentleman Jack" (based on the true story of Anne Lister), who is basically a very butch lesbian. Would she have identified as non-binary or even transmasc if that had been a thing back then?? Who knows, but it's cool to think about how powerful it can be to suddenly have the language to describe your experience. (Which ties back to @18 -- yay gender euphoria!)


I'm pretty old, and I admit I have trouble following it all sometimes.

However, when people I actually know have had something to tell me about their gender, I've always been able to understand what they have to say - which is mostly about how they'd like to be referred to and treated - and it's fine. And the times when I have suspected that someone is not following the gender rules I grew up with, but they don't know me well enough to find it necessary to explain it all to me, that's fine, too. I can still say "So, what are you up to these days?" to someone I knew fifteen years ago when they were a teenager and I see them now at a wedding or funeral, without knowing exactly what's going on.

I can't see any point in being angry or contemptuous or disrespectful to/about people on the internet I'm never going to meet just because I can't quite grasp the nuances of their gender identity or presentation. It's not about me.


@Ciods, it's both. Use marriage as an analogy. There is nothing objectively real about it- it is entirely a social construct. It exists because people in a society create it and maintain it. That does not mean it's not "real". We experience it as extremely real and important in most aspects of our society (legal, social, cultural, spiritual) & you can even measure data that correlates with it (finances, health, mental health, life expectancy), etc.

Gender is like that. It is a social construct. That does not mean it's not "real" and I have no doubt that your friend experienced their gender from infanthood. But since they did not grow up in a vaccuum nor in a genderless society, they really can't make the claim that they'd experience this particular gender from birth- if they grew up in another time/place they would not be identifying as this gender. Nor would you nor would I, etc.

As for demigender, we are all just speculating (hopefully someone with more experience can answer) but my guess is that he probably felt that there were aspects of masculinity that he did not relate to and there were aspects of feminity that he did relate to and since we live in an age when a lot of alienated people get more social interaction from the internet than real life, he ended up discussing / googling and found his way on Tumblr where instead of universalizing his experience (most find there are aspects of traditional gender that do not apply to them) he instead discovered he could highly personalize his experience, making him feel special as an individual while simultaneously receiving membership in a community (again probably Twitter) and giving him a way to be a personal part of a larger shared struggle. Whcih is something everyone wants, and I see no reason to sneer at it. We should instead take stock in why so many people have no other way to feel a personally empowered sense of belonging.

But that's just my guess, as good as anyone's I suppose.


Aha, the first column in a while where I have both time and personal insight to contribute! (I've never been one to chat aimlessly, when I have nothing to say that hasn't already been said.)

I'm an "OK Boomer" but I do try to stay reasonably current in my attitudes, primarily by cultivating close friendships with younger people. I've always gone with the term "androgynous" to describe my own lifelong lack of any defined gender; it's hardly a brand-new societal phenomenon, although millennials' accepting attitudes (and those of some Gen X-ers - kudos, KBW @19!) have definitely made it easier for many gender-questioning individuals to live authentic lives.

Androgyny does imply a binary split, whereas one's gender identity can range over a continous spectrum, like sexuality. Hence the crazy proliferation of self-identifying terms! But I think
my term of choice works just as well on a non-binary spectrum, since I am very close to the midpoint between absolute cisgender and absolute non-identification with my assigned-at-birth gender. But it sounds like LW's husband would place himself at something more like a quarter-point, maybe somewhere between cisgender and androgynous/genderfluid (my favorite modern terminology).

To answer LW''s question, no - your husband hasn't suddenly become a lesbian by realizing his authentic gender identity. and you remain the same cis-het woman you always were. Not every marriage can survive this type of revelation, but it sounds like he sent up a few smoke signals along the way, so you weren't totally. Keep the love strong and the communications channels open, and good luck to both of you as you make this unexpected but valuable transition within your relationship.


Tumblr not Twitter oops


If the husband decides he is a lesbian, can the wife still call herself straight?


@Sportlandia/23: The value is to feel understood by one's self. That alone is enough of a reason. Labels are not always for the benefit of others.


Hmm. Maybe what baffles me is that there are apparently people who feel that every single aspect of their normally-assigned gender does apply to them. Or, that other people think there are, such that they feel like not feeling that way makes them different in some way that needs labeling.

If that sentence is parseable.


EmmaLiz @29 -- if a transwoman comes out to her straight wife after many years of marriage, that doesn't change the wife's lifelong orientation. But a wife in that situation may be sensitive to her spouse's feelings and to the new optics, and may start calling herself bisexual or pansexual or heteroflexible so as to reduce the odd looks they'd get otherwise.

As for Just Wondering, I would encourage her to not make any sudden decisions about her own sexual identity but to just let some time go by. Maybe they'll start hanging out with more genderqueer folks, maybe she'll find herself attracted to some of them, and "pansexual" will feel like the right label in five years. Or maybe she'll become more sure of her own "straight" label. No need to decide this week.

Another option is to talk about one's sexuality without relying the usual labels, so instead of saying "I'm straight," a woman can say "I usually date men."

That acknowledges a partner (past, present or future) who isn't of the "usual" sort.


@sportlandia 23 No, labels are also a way to understand yourself and sometimes bring great relief and peace of mind to people who have been feeling "weird" in a way that's hard to describe. That's true for gender and sexuality, but also for neurodivergence ("mental health"), kink and a lot of other things. People even like hyper-specialized labels for things like hobbies and religion! I don't keep track of the differences between all the christian churches, but I don't go around telling people that calling yourself a mennonite is meaningless because I don't understand clearly what it implies and how it differs from a quaker or an amish.

To go back to gender- and sexuality- specific labels, of course it's nice to be able to communicates things simply and quickly. That's why "queer" is an important umbrella term ("I am "weird" under the hetero cis-patriarchy, proud of it, and I stand in solidarity with all those who feel that way as well, no matter what their precise experience and identity is") for when people don't want to get into the nitty-gritty of things. More "obscure" or specialized labels allow similar people to recognize each other, discuss the fine nuances of their experience, and think about gender. The labels are not necessarily something people would mention upon introducing themselves.

But it looks like you're convinces that intersectional feminism and tumblr-style identities are all about performative morals and position on the totem-pole of oppression so what I say won't matter anyway...


@30 maybe we're speaking into different reality but... I don't see how the label accomplishes what you speak of. A rose by any other name, you know? Your understanding of yourself comes from millions of places - your experiences, your time spent in thought and reflection, reviewing your actions, the ways in which the world reflects back upon you... of all the ways, the label seems to be far and away the least valuable. To be honest, I find the idea that a label could provide a person meaning -about themselves- to be... distasteful? Indicative that someone isn't "self aware" or... like, you live your life, and you see a label that fits, and feel that huzzah moment - did that label tell you anything about yourself that didn't already know? The only thing IMO it could really say about you is that other people - who maybe you haven't met - are similar to you. But of course, anyone who's done any real thinking on the issue realizes that they (we) aren't special, we aren't unique - there are simply too many people for your combination of variations that all exist within the human range are distinct. Perhaps, as a gen-xer, I was raised to view labels as inherently reductive and restrictive and to reject them in general. I dunno - the idea that a label is of any benefit to the person internally just sounds completely foreign.


Freia @33, I like your religion analogy. That made sense to me in a way the other explanations didn't.


As "Gender Fluidity in the Gods" (linked below) highlights, gender fluidity is nothing new. And, unless it actually affects how you teach my children, fix my car, play in a concert, operate on my loved one's knee, pick up garbage, do my taxes, etc., your gender or that of your husband is not my business. Ever.
So, LW, if you really want a label for your husband, have some fun and name him after a fluid demigod(ess)


I'm with @8 on this one - just call yourself queer. That's what the word is for. but yeah, feel free to dig around tumblr or wherever the KewlKidz are hanging out nowadays if you need to get into it more - no doubt someone will have some sort of manifesto on it somewhere.


The world must be coming to an end. I'm only a handful of comments in, but I agree 100% with everything Sportlandia is saying.


My sense is that people are being a little cynical about this SLLOTD. By my reading, the poor bloke suddenly realized he'd somehow been demigendered. That's not unlike discovering you'd been gayed, or transgendered, and probably just as surprising.


@Sportlandia: For obvious reasons, someone who trumpets some trait hoping that you'll equate said trait with virtue will be louder and more visible than someone just exploring the trait/identity. (Also, someone who takes up a trait for political reasons is suspect. Someone who claims a gender identity as a protest against the gender binary/the patriarchy/etc. is as likely to stick with it as a political lesbian is.) So really, all you're discovering is that genderspace is a popular place for noisy virtue signalers to camp out, and that virtue signalers are really obnoxious. If history is any indication they'll crap things up for people exploring genderspace, and move on to whatever's the hip new thing to be once this turf has become equivalent with noisy, self-aggrandizing types.

@19: Do any of these "gender is just a construct" schools of thought make any solid predictions? Because if they're true, they make me ask why trans people require costly surgery and hormones, and why certain sex-linked chemicals (e.g: testosterone) can cause such marked changes in behavior.

I get that a lot of thought has been put into genderbread and similar theories, and that they reflect things that a lot of people would like to believe about the world. I just care less about how nicely constructed something is or how nice it would be if it were true, and instead care about how well it reflects reality.


I don't do this for a living, so I don't need to show as much respect as Dan does.

So, the LW's husband is kinda like a straight white cis male (probably monogamous too) who doesn't conform to 100% of male stereotypes and wants to think that makes him special?

Almost nobody conforms 100% with their biological sex. Biologically male, sleeps with women, calls himself he and considers himself more male than female? Me too. We're straight dudes.


My new gender is god of masculinity, insemination and virility. By definition, there is only one of me. My pronouns are virilitee and virilitem. The posessive is virilitie's (yes, the dumb spelling is deliberate).

Biologically, I'm male. By appearance, I'm male, but I do sometimes wear shirts that are pink or purple and one time when we were playing some sort of mystery game, I wore a friend's sister's dress and ruined it. My preference is for females without penises, but one time when I was drunk I got a blowjob from someone I later realized was either a cross-dressing gay man or a trans woman (it was the early 90s, so my money is on gay man, but I didn't get to ask about pronouns.

I may sound like a straight white cis man, but I feel like a god of masculinity, insemination and virility and expect people to refer to me as such.

As an aid for the clueless, a coupke of sample sentences would be: "That god of masculinity, insemination, and virility is so far up virilitie's own ass it makes me want to hurl. Virility is lucky virilitie's wife puts up with virilitem."


Between this letter and refreshing my Google search for NH primary results I'm just gonna scream myself to sleep. I don't care what anyone's gender identity is. I will respect pronouns, etc, but I care so much more about if you're kind - do you like music? What kind of food? Cats or dogs? Literally anything else about your personality is more important to me than if you're a boy or a girl or somewhere in between because YOUR gender Doesn't. Affect. Me. Is this the gender equivalent of being racially "color-blind?" Maybe. But that's where I'm at. I feel like an asshole for it, but this stuff can get exhausting. Thanks for being kinder and more understanding than me, Dan.


Something I’ve been chewing on comes out with the perhaps inevitable introduction of the patriarchy as an organizing force.

Elaine Bennes summed up my sexuality well when she told Jerry, “just because I hate men, doesn’t mean I’m a lesbian!”

The punchline reveals something uncomfortable about being a woman who likes dick — our orientation (self labeled or otherwise) can bring us a lot of grief. Statistically a much much lower chance of attaining orgasm with a partner. A rather high risk of interpersonal violence. Dating potential mansplainers. The expectation to be the “girl” in the relationship, as another letter put it.

I still feel very much that my gender/sex was nor something assigned to me, like an airplane seat, but just is. I can find fellow women attractive but feel no sense of urgency the way my attraction to men has felt since childhood.

But I certainly don’t just love the lane I’m expected to stay in (that does feel arbitrary). I wonder if the proliferation of artisanal, boutique identities isn’t something that everyone is just “born” with (an extremely weak argument for human and civil rights), but an effect and the cause is a shift in the understood implications of our genitals and whose we want to rub up against.

There was a mention of Gentleman Jack. What would a woman like me — unattached, childless, employed, living alone, relatively promiscuous — be labeled as in the nineteenth century? Quite possibly a gender traitor, or a whore.


nocutename@38: I hear you.

Poe's Law: it's not just for conservatives. I wouldn't be surprised to discover this letter was fake, and I wouldn't be surprised to discover that it's not. There are segments of the woke left that are dead-set on confirming every ridiculous caricature the alt-right dreams up about them.

JFC. No, your husband is not a "lesbian". He is a male-bodied person exclusively having sex with a female-bodied person, which is the literal definition of heterosexuality. The word you're looking for is "queer", as other people have pointed out, because it is intentionally broad enough to cover things like this.

The obsession with labels strikes me as an obsession with certainty: if we can label something we feel like we understand it and can control it. That's a comforting illusion - but the only thing in life that's certain is death. It's actually quite normal to feel uncomfortable with the labels other people use for you, because labels are inherently reductionist.


I dunno, I'd never seen the word "demigender" before but on first sight had a pretty fair guess what it meant. Because I know the "demi-" prefix and I know what gender is. This doesn't seem so hard?

This is not like getting the sex/gender distinction, which is a real conceptual leap for many people who grew up without it. This is just regular English word formation and doesn't even need memorization.


I feel people may be taking their reaction to the lesbian speculation (which is at least bad math, LW, halving a number doesn't change its sign -- and also tripped my fakedar) and splattering it onto "demigender".


@12 "these other boxes are starting to seem so specific and small, they don't really feel like they qualify as separate boxes."

"Kinsey 1" is a specific small box, not crisply separate from "Kinsey 2", and we'll never know if I mean quite the same thing by it as you do. But people manage to find some communicative value.

If somebody is drawing rigid lines or policing boundaries on a super-fine-grained descriptor, then I'll tsk at them. But if they want to use that descriptor, with the awareness that meaning between people is fuzzy and somebody might think of it like another word semantically nearby, what's the problem?

I mean, sure, there's diminishing returns to increasing precision. You can choose to nod politely or freshen up your drink if somebody's geeking out their self-description in more detail than you need. But if someone else is still listening...


DC270 @ 44
You agonize your bad luck for being a cis het woman. Lower chance, higher risk, splainers, expected to be.
Yet when someone in “another letter” offers to change the roles and expectations, giving a woman the chance to lead and possibly be more attentive to her needs, you dismiss it as “fetishizing queer women.”
Please explain. Thanks.


You left out the demimoore which is when someone thinks you are so hot they are willing to pay a million dollars to sleep with you. Aka demi -more because of the high price tag.


Call yourself whatever you like, I’ll accept and respect. Just don’t expect me to remember next time, memory loss is an issue, for some.
Maybe people could start wearing tags on their chests just so the slow ones in the back can stay woke.


@51, indeed, chest tags would be appropriate. I note some people are now explaining their preferred pronouns beside their names in emails ("she, her").


@Sportlandia: I do think we're coming from completely different worlds. And I want to thank you again, for taking the time to explain your perspective, and being respectful as you did so. I often bemoan being in a bubble of my peers, so talking with you and other commenters here was actually refreshing. Also it's interesting what you said about being a Gen Xer and how you felt about labels... I was good friends with a Gen Xer who said the same. (So maybe it's a Gen X thing?) It's extremely interesting to me how the time period we grow up in influences us. It seems the next generation often swings to the other side...

I'll end with this... I hope in 20 years I reflect back fondly on this conversation. I hope I can still relate to the "kids," but I'm sure I'll relate even more to you at that point :) If that makes sense. (Not saying being Gen X is even that old; just saying someday I'm gonna say, "I'm out of touch I guess, oh well" ;))


@12 As a non-binary person, allow me to explain as best as I can.
Gender is not a construct. Gender is an innate psychological experience that varies widely from person to person. Trans men and trans women are strong evidence for this. But many cis men and women also strongly identify with their gender and are aware of that, despite it not causing them problems.

Gender roles are a construct. The idea that girls like to bake or that dresses are for girls or that men are aggressive are all gender roles. Gender roles are horrible and damaging and what people need to destroy. They tend to limit what a girl or a boy feels comfortable doing.
Gender performance is a separate thing as well. Gender performance is the personal way that an individual expresses their gender. Gender performance tends to be heavily influenced by gender roles, which is unfortunate, but it can also be a natural expression of who you are. Even when it is influenced by gender roles, we should be kind to people, as it isn't their fault they grew up in a sexist society. Unfortunately, sometimes people get crap for their gender performance not matching their gender role and sometimes people get crap for their gender performance matching their gender role. Instead, we should try to have a society where people are encouraged to have a gender performance that is just whatever they truly feel comfortable with, including whichever parts are currently thought of as feminine and masculine as work for them.

As a non-binary person, people always want to make it about my gender performance or how it matches with gender roles, which is highly frustrating, as it isn't. I'm non-binary because my gender is not that of a man nor that of a woman. It has absolutely nothing to do with my gender performance or how well it matches the gender I was assigned at birth. So, I get social pressure to match less well to seem like a "real enby", which is just as stupid as other gender roles.

I also like the terms "androphilic" and "gynophilic" as easy to understand orientations for monosexual enbies.So, he's gynophilic, and I would consider the wife to be straight. It's not perfect, but pretty much everyone who has sexual attraction is capable of being attracted to some enby folks who seem a lot like whatever they are attracted to. So, I just think of straight as attracted to the opposite sex and some enby people. Gay as attracted to men and some enby people. etc. I do not want enby folks trying to misuse gay or lesbian, since those terms are there to describe their own thing, and they each imply that the person with the attraction fits into a specific gender. If an enby person who has recently realized they are enby but been identifying as gay or lesbian for a while wants to keep the label, sure, whatever you've had the societal experience of living as that and being perceived as that, but realizing you're enby shouldn't cause you to use those labels.


@2. Sportlandia. Apropos your point re how the thin-slicing of gender identity will have deleterious effects on the non-gender-normative, I think there's enough of a difference between the agendered and bigendered for someone to want, legitimately, for that to be reflected in their ascriptive identity category.

Otherwise, I'd encourage this guy to go with 'demigendered' or 'queer' for his gender identity and 'queer' for his sexuality.

I'm dreading reading the comments...


Demigender, a.k.a. "I have a gender but don't have strong feelings about it".
I do not understand the need to demarcate every variation as something ~new~ and ~original~ (do not steal). Some people shouldn't be trusted with a label printer.


I think that the explanation for the negative reaction a lot of people are having here is right in the letter: "It's academic". This has no real stakes for these people, they're just curious because they're. I'm also a nerd and find it fun to examine the subtleties of terminology (hence clicking on this blog post), but gender identity is decidedly non-academic for a lot of people, not something which they would be looking for an excuse to discuss because it's interesting, but something they are forced to confront, with real impact on their lives. It's very easy to see how our fun with words would come off as trivializing or "struggle-stealing" (if that's a word).


@2. Sportlandia. Also, some of the 'butch dykes' of yore are now self-describing as 'masc-of-center persons'. That is, their gender self-descriptions are not being displaced by new terms--it's rather that they, too, are participating in the redefinition of gender.

@3. Sublime. The question (maybe) is whether there's actual community of some of the people using these new terms--beyond just the self-pleasing of optatively or voluntarily non-normative people. And sure, if your credo is 'do as you would be done to', you're not necessarily to wonder what shape or color or infinetisimally fine flavor of person is doing the doing.

@8. Kindness is Key. Well said, and I said the same thing.

I have the feeling the lw did not get the response she expected.

@12. ciods. There's a question of whom we want these distinctions to communicate to--of how broad we want the constituency to be among which distinctions of gender identity circulate as intelligible.

Just as there are people (eg some non-College educated Republicans) for whom the distinction between two kinds of feminist is never going to mean anything (they will all be eg 'feminazis'), there will be people to whom any not-assigned-at-birth gender identity will be simply aberrant. Freakish. But this, clearly, is not the constituency of the engaged, presumptively non-prejudiced, activist left. As a GQ person, I think, I would want the people broadly on my side to know, or grant, that trans people and GQ people are not quite the same; or that, for instance, there was not some notional scale of gender (as I've read here) with male on one side, female on the other and all trans/agendered/bigendered/GQ people clumped at the same point in the middle. That is, I'd want the cultural literacy of an older generation of liberals to be better than that--even at the cost of requesting from them some learning.


@57. afreschetta. Yes--and further, the model of 'just wanting to know what there is' might transfer badly from the practice of natural science to the elucidation of gender, in that gender identities are probably not natural kinds.


Confronting gender identities is not a new thing. It began in the 60s-70s, with the baby boomers, via feminism and the hippies. Men started growing their hair, and women demanded more than sitting at home with the babies and doing the washing up. Women went to universities en masse. We rejected our 50’s parents ways. We were pushing back against stereotypes of how we had to be, then. We raised our children with less pressure on gender roles. Etc.
The situation today, as I see it, is the evolution culturally/ socially of what was started back then.
So it’s not some new awareness of how gender roles constrict humans. Also see Berlin before rise of Nazis, Paris early last century. The Bauhaus Art schools. Many people in the West have been challenging gender roles for a long time. Now, it’s become more mainstream.
Remember too, until the pill etc. and easier legal access to abortions, / which were backstreet jobs and cost big money/ we were constrained by our biology, If one was hetero.


I was coming here to suggest "gynephilic", but I can see uncreative @54 has beat me to it :) The issue with terms like "straight", "lesbian", etc, is that they refer to ~both~ the person's gender/sex, and their sexual orientation. While that is useful terminology in some cases, it was never gonna be a good fit for gender non-binary people. Gynephilic is not perfect, since:

It sounds like a DSM-listed medical condition, and
It doesn't seem to differentiate between "attraction to femininity" and "attraction to female sexual characteristics" , which are two very different things.

But it might be a good enough fit for the LW's husband?


@61 I absolutely agree the terms aren't perfect. I also personally feel like gynephilic feels more focused on anatomy, when it absolutely isn't - and should be just as inclusive of trans and cis women. And I also think a lot of actual sexuality is complex and hard to sum up in one term. For example, I know a man who identifies as gay, but has mentioned that really he's attracted to masculinity. So, while I do not know if he's ever dated a woman, he has mentioned that every now and then he'll see a very masculine woman whom he finds attractive. There's no real term for that, and rounding to gay is workable.

What I like about androphilic and gynephilic is that they are fairly easy to understand from their roots if you have a general grasp on the language, and they kind of work to fill the gap. I'd be happy to have a better solution. Bisexual and pansexual are great for getting around these problems entirely, but they only work if you are attracted to men and women, as I'd feel odd identify as either of those when I've never been attracted to women. And you can't just become bi/pan to get around language issues.


M?? Harriet - I think people lumping various groups in one box may be an undesirable side effect of counting various groups as subsets of trans by using the wide definition of "not matching AAB gender".

Overall - I rather expect some things to stick and some to fall by the wayside. It reminds me a little of that truth game they played in Metropolitan burning holes in a tissue until the coin dropped. My general principle is to wish good luck to those trying to establish their own place if they aren't taking away from anyone else.

Of my various possible identities, gay is the only one which resonates strongly. I'm much less attached to male; it's more amusing than anything else when I'm occasionally called "Miss" or "Ma'am", but being taken for OS feels like an insult. In a sort of parallel to Mr Bouncing, I think that, had all these categories been around in my youth, I'd have been pressured into some label like NB or GQ or GNC - and it would, I say hopefully, have been a loss to the gay movement in my area.

Ms Kindness - While you are very kind, you strike me as the target audience for the Tolerate My Intolerance crowd.

Ms Cute - To some extent, I can say, "I hear you," but for another part of me it's like watching the recent first Fischer Random Chess world championships.

More later, I'm sure.


Lava @ 51 - "Maybe people could start wearing tags on their chests just so the slow ones in the back can stay woke"

Another reason why I love you.


tim browne @1

"What exactly is the difference between Demigender and Gender Non-Conforming?"

I suspect that question was a rhetorical springboard for an anti-enby mini-rant, but I will try to answer it in earnest. As I see it, "gender non-conforming" is a very broad umbrella term, which can include any transgender or non-binary people, as well as cisgender individuals whose gender presentation is somewhat unconventional (David Bowie et al). I don't know if anyone actually self-identifies as "gender non-conforming" - I mostly see this as a general descriptor applied to other people. Under the "gender non-conforming" umbrella, there's a broad "non-binary" subcategory. Within "non-binary", there are further distinctions, like demi-boy/girl, gender-fluid, agender, etc. They all describe different facets of non-binary gender identity.

I actually have a non-binary friend, an LGBT+ activist and councillor in our university, who id's as a demigirl. Most people don't know this about them, because it only really comes up in in-depth personal conversations about their gender. For all other intents and purposes - political, social, official, etc - they just id as non-binary. The demigirl identifier actually makes perfect sense to me, at least in relation to this particular person.

I don't really understand all this outcry about gender descriptors. Surely having a wider, more nuanced vocabulary to talk about a complex concept like gender is a good thing? You don't have to use these new-fangled words for yourself, if they don't apply. In the kink community, we have a gazillion words to describe various kink roles, and nobody bats an eyelid. Like, if you like to play on the right side of the slash, you can call yourself a sub, a bottom, a slave, a masochist, a babygirl/boy, a little, a pet, a pup, a rope bunny, a spankee, a sissy, a brat, and so on. All these terms convey some subtle but important nuance.


nocutename @38 Did you happen to notice Sportlandia's subtle dig @4?

"The rearranging of the social hierarchy from Highly-Trained-And-Skilled-Cis-Straight-White-Men to Highly-Trained-but-moderately-skilled-White-Women-And-They-Friends is lipstick on the racism and sexism pig."

Apparently "moderately-skilled-White-Women" have supplanted "Highly Skilled Cis Straight White Men", and once again, women are mediocre while men are exceptional. Which is why he views the rearranging of the social hierarchy as such a perversion.

Sport's misogyny hides in plain sight. I can't take any of his arguments seriously when he sneaks in crap like that. Ugh.


uncreative @54: I was with you until you said "men are aggressive" [is a] "gender roles." Here I must insert a hard disagree. Male mammals (well, one could go further, but for now let's stick with mammals) are aggressive. Aggression is a known side-effect of testosterone. In fact, it's really more the main show than a side effect. Unless you think my rams are out there beating the bloody shit out of each other because they're conforming to sheep societal pressure? Bull elk? Male mountain lions who both smell the same female?

Sorry, that bit has to go in the "real" side, not the "construct" side. Or, this me confusing "gender" and "sex"?

Well, either way, I don't mean that we can't ask those males around us with big-ass frontal lobes to try to moderate their aggression. But pretending that it's a construct is problematic and (I think) denies the lived experience of lots and lots of men.

That said, the rest of your discussion of gender v. gender roles made sense to me.


@8 KindnessIsKey
Nothing has done more to make me love millennials that this post.

@12 ciods
"these other boxes are starting to seem so specific and small, they don't really feel like they qualify as separate boxes"

But as I read @8, this is a feature not a bug. I mean, how better

"to push back against all the unhealthy gender norms that feel constraining"

than to make a complete mockery of them by leading towards (now quoting Ricardo@6)

"Everyone on Earth...hav[ing] their very own gender identity"

In other words, perhaps atomization of gender is just exactly what unhealthy gender norms need.

"I can't embrace something that seems ridiculous"

I can't either, but maybe that's the point. I'll just smile and revel in my thought bubble in the dissolution of arbitrary gender roles.

"what does it mean to say gender is a construct?...culture is real, it has real effects. Right?"

Yes, gender is real and culture is real. But they're both constructs.

@13 Xilonen03
"a person on the internet in 2019"

What kind of technology are you using to make posts in the future here in 2020?


@67 ciods, this is a tangent, but: I am, for your purposes, a female animal. I’m on HRT that has raised my testosterone levels, and I’ve had virtually none of the behavioural effects people claim are T-specific. Both my aggression levels and my libido have actually, mercifully, settled into lower gear. I have not become unable to cry, I make small talk more easily, I still like crafts. My sense of direction and hand-eye coordination are as middling as ever. Etc. I do feel different, and overall better enough to continue treatment, but not in some macho direction.

As for male human animals, some of the most aggressive and randiest ones I’ve known had known low T levels, and some of the mellowest had high ones.

I am NOT saying that testosterone has no real effect, but the correlation with aggression applies at the level of population averages, it’s not invariant, and it’s complicated by all sorts of other factors, even in non-human animals (social imitation, behaviour payoffs, how much competition there is for mates, all that kind of thing).


Occasional @69: I absolutely believe there is a lot of variation! That's true of almost everything biological, so far as I know. But as you also say, it's true at the level of averages, which is, ya know, where most people/animals hang out. The middle of the bell curve represents the majority of the population. So to compare "males are aggressive" to "girls like pink" and claim that both are arbitrary rather than a reflection of real innate differences is a mistake. Pink is arbitrary. Aggression is real.

I also agree, as you say in your last paragraph, that there are many complicating factors. That's one of the nifty things about humans: we have a million parameters we're always tweaking. I appreciate that we try to tweak things, to make them better; for instance, something that looks (to us) a lot like rape is pretty common in the animal world, and I for one think it's great that we're trying not to do that so much ourselves.

I just think we do ourselves and our attempts to be better a disservice if we pretend that there's no true biological impulse toward violence (or what have you) that we have to work against; that if we all just agreed instantly that men aren't supposed to be aggressive, that would somehow end aggression. (Besides anything else, history suggests we've been selectively breeding for violence in men for several thousand years or more--it's a bit funny that now, in the course of a couple generations, we want them all to cut it out...)


@LW, if your husband identifies mostly male, it seems like you’d have to do some way over the top rounding up to make that add up to lesbian. Other people have covered the “gynophile” options.

As a GenXer: back in the 90s, to my personal joy, a certain kind of alt-leftie AMAB often took to eyeliner and nail polish and occasional wearing of dresses and “girly” tops. Sometimes that was just to bug the squares, as the boomers used to say, sometimes it was to play around with gender presentation and gender role expectations just for the fun of it. A lot of times it went with fluidity about sexual orientation. Sometimes it was a kink. Sometimes it was about gender identity issues. Often it was some mix of all or any of these.

Thing is, much as millennials sometimes baffle me, I think the fact they have a bigger vocabulary to parse those issues is a good thing, even it does come with overuses and misuses. If you are drawn to AMAbs in dresses, it can be a good thing if you know why, and a good thing if they know why they’re doing it, because then you can work out if your reasons and theirs fit together before you get your interactions in a muddle.

Other times, it’s a matter of context if the distinctions are cost-effective - not everyone, all the time, needs to parse cerulean from azure.


@ciods, I’m very much not a biology denialist: I’m sorry if that wasn’t clear. But I think we do need to keep in mind that the debate isn’t just being distorted from one side here. There are people who would try to lump all human sexual dimorphism under “arbitrary social conventions and effects of same”. There are also people who try to lump everything, including “girls like pink” under “innate evolved differences that there’s no point trying to act against”, e.g. just so-stories about how girls like pink because pink is a shade of red and women used to gather berries, which are often red.


@66 you're missing that one of the key cultural trends of the past 50 years is the devaluation of experts and expertise along with the democratization of learning. In some cases valid, in some cases not, but there's no denying the process is well underway. I don't know how you get to misogyny from "this is the same as that", however, unless you fundamentally believe that women belong on a pedestal.


@67 You seem to have a misunderstanding of what it means for something to be part of a gender role. It is completely neutral on the subject of whether or not there is a statistical tendency towards it being true. Saying it is part of a gender role means that society has latched onto it as an expectation of the gender and that it considers those lacking that trait to often be less of that gender. So, men may be statistically more prone towards aggression for biological reasons, but if aggression were not part of the "being a man" gender role then men who are low in aggression wouldn't be given any societal problems for disliking violence, whereas currently they often are viewed negatively. A clearer example of a portion of the "being a man" gender role with a clear biological link is having a penis. Obviously most men will have a penis. But because some people consider it part of the gender role, they will want to exclude men who do not have a penis from the category of men or think of them as lesser men. Whereas if you do not put that trait into the gender role of "being a man" then it will be irrelevant to whether or not someone is a man or is manly.

How a society constructs gender roles is likely influenced by biological trends, but is also influenced by many other factors. So, different gender roles will fit most men/women to different extents. The ones with a more biological basis will fit a lot more people and thus cause fewer people problems, unless it's a negative trait that it discourages people from self-improvement on. The more arbitrary ones will fit fewer people and often get broader pushback against them. Both cause problem though, because it's very difficult to pick any trait that fits the entire category of every man or of every woman, so gender roles are pretty much always going to be pushing out some legitimate members of the category and making them feel bad.


uncreative, yes, I misunderstood, I think. I read your original post @54, with the two sections: "Gender is not a construct. Gender is an innate psychological experience..." and then "Gender roles are a construct..." as a sort of "real" vs. "made-up/arbitrary" distinction, which is apparently not what you meant. I can get overly literal; the first definition of "construct" (as a noun) that I find says "an idea or theory containing various conceptual elements, typically one considered to be subjective and not based on empirical evidence." That latter part feels like what is usually meant in the phrase "gender (roles) is (are) a construct." So I was objecting to in the connection I made between "gender roles are a construct" and "males are aggressive is a gender role." If one goes by that definition of "construct," then you see how I might think you were saying that aggression in males isn't based on empirical evidence.

In @54 and your last paragraph @74, it sounds like the conclusion to draw is that all gender roles are problematic, because they're likely to exclude some people. Of course, other people enjoy conforming, and without roles, there's nothing to conform to. For that matter, some people (like myself) enjoy not conforming, and without roles, that's hard, too. It's natural to make generalizations and stereotypes; mostly they're helpful, sometimes they're highly problematic. But I don't think it's possible to just get rid of them.

To be clear, I believe people should be able to act how they want, within reason (by which I mostly mean without hurting others). Like Delurker, I love me a man in some eyeliner. So if the point is that we wish society would let up on the vicious internal enforcement of what you are calling gender roles, I will 100% get behind that.


It does feel like the labels are becoming so specific as to essentially be meaningless. Perhaps we should take a cue from thar great pioneer of gender non-conformity Prince and just express our totalities as a symbol.


@75 Yeah, this gender stuff is tricky, and I was really only motivated to try to sort it out due to decades of personal discomfort over not being cis. I don't expect anyone to have a well developed view of it from me trying to make a few comments. I just appreciate that people try to understand other perspectives.

I do agree that removing all gender roles is probably not going to happen and might be impractical. It's hard to imagine what such a society would be like, because I've never seen one anything like that. I absolutely do think that less vicious enforcement of gender roles is a good start. I also think more recognition that not everyone fits them and you shouldn't assume too much about any individual man or any individual woman is a good idea.

I don't think it's too bad for society to say, here's a model that works for a lot of people, but if it doesn't work for you, then that's fine. In that sense, if gender roles became suggestions, they could be helpful while still giving people the freedom to conform or not conform to each bit as best suits them or to the degree it is possible, since some of it involves harder to change traits. Mainly though, I don't want someone who doesn't fit the role to be made to feel like it makes them flawed or not really a man/woman. Nor do I want someone who isn't happy fitting the role to force themselves to do so. Especially for some really damaging roles to force yourself to fill, like women who do not want to have kids who decide to do so anyway because they're "supposed to" and now you've got a bitter, miserable woman and an even more miserable kid. Having and raising kids is a fine path for society to recommend, as it really does bring happiness and contentment to many who follow it. But it's a terrible path to push on those who do not want it or aren't fit for it. And neither path should make someone more/less of a woman.


Sport @73

The letter writer had questions about gender and sexuality. I'm not sure what "one of the key cultural trends of the past 50 years is the devaluation of experts and expertise along with the democratization of learning." has to do with it. I guess you're trying to justify the inherent sexism in your claim that HIGHLY-skilled MEN are being replaced by MODERATELY-skilled-WOMEN

I suspect what you were originally trying to say is that ever since women got some power, gender has become meaningless? Because women ("and they friends") let people define themselves I guess?

Properly unpacking the sexist b.s. in your new response would take more time than I have to spare right now. Just know that I can see through the code words you use to disguise yourself.


uncreative @77: "It's hard to imagine what such a society would be like, because I've never seen one anything like that."

Agreed! Playing with questions like this is one thing some of the sci-fi I like tries to do. As an example, if you haven't, you might read "The Dispossessed" by Ursula Le Guin, which tries to imagine a fairly equitable, sort of commune-like world where gender isn't a big thing (and isn't indicated by names, for instance), and what happens when someone from that world travels to one where there's a patriarchal/capitalism structure in place.


@79 ciods: and speaking of Ursula LeGuin and the question of gender/biology:


Ricardo @64, I could get used to this. Whenever you’re in the neighbourhood, drop by, meet the family, we’ll have a barbie/ que and smoko in the garden.
/ Practicallly What does being non binary mean? Besides asking others to use certain pronouns.
Cultural expectations re gender behaviour, in the West has been getting looser for decades.
And how does having a zillion labels really change how one conducts oneself publically or privately.
And what’s with all this preciousness when this subject comes up? Either we can speak freely or not.


@40 - Not sure you really understood my comment. I think I made it pretty clear that some aspects of gender are constructed, and some aspects of gender are innate.

Gender roles, for example, are almost entirely constructed. Women can enjoy motorbikes just as much as men. Men can raise children and clean and cook just as well as women. There are plenty of women with superior STEM skills. There are plenty of men with exceptional gossiping and chocolate eating skills. The notion that gender should define how we behave or where we should fit within society or what we should be interested in - that's a construct.

Same with gender expression. Men can wear makeup and skirts, women can swear and spit - the world won't crumble if they do.

Everyone - regardless of gender - is a combination of some traits typically defined as masculine and some traits typically defined as feminine. Everyone.

Gender identity is innate. It's not constructed. Regardless of anatomy, regardless of what society expects, regardless of roles and presentation, we each have an internal gender identity. Most people don't really think much about their gender identity - and often the entire concept of gender identity is foreign or invisible to people - because they don't have any reason to question it or think about it.

That is not unlike how most people used to experience sexual preference. They didn't really think about it much because their sexual preferences were aligned with what society expected and with what they themselves were raised to expect. For queer people, on the other hand, sexual preference loomed large in their minds because it was clear to them that something they were expected to feel wasn't there, or something that they felt deviated from social expectations and even from what they were taught to expect of themselves. Now we are at a place in history where most people understand that sexual preference is innate and not something we 'learn' or 'choose'.

Similarly, for trans people gender identity often looms large because there is a disconnect between what is expected, who someone is taught to believe they are, and what they feel inside. We know when we aren't 'normal', we know when something inherent about us doesn't align with what we've been taught to expect. So if trans people spend a lot of time thinking about and talking about gender that's because they are forced to because of life circumstances.

This 'reflects reality', 40, which is why gender dysphoria and gender identity are broadly accepted by the scientific/medical community to be 'real' things.

The Genderbread model is just there to give people a framework for discussing these things in a more nuanced way than, "Genitals define gender" or "If you were assigned male at birth and grow up thinking you are a woman you're probably just a gay guy." Our gender identity isn't always the same as our biology. Our gender identity doesn't define our sexuality. A guy wearing a dress isn't necessarily gay, nor is he necessarily transgender.

In my experience, the vast overwhelming majority of misunderstandings, misconceptions and confusion about gender and sexuality are directly rooted in the mistaken idea that these things are all one and the same. Being taught the distinctions between biology, identity, expression and sexuality is often all it takes for people to start to understand the often confusing landscape of gender/sexuality.

@66 You're not the only one who has been noticing that stuff.


Also, @Uncreative - I really appreciate your perspective and the way you are expressing it. I think it mostly aligns with my own, but even if it didn't I would still appreciate the level of kindness and clarity you are bringing to the way you discuss things.


I don’t live in a city so to me this level of gender talk doesn’t compute, because it seems a city obsession.
However, living in the hinterland of a coastal area, I observe gender expectations are relaxed. A family I know the wife goes to work and the husband stays home with the no longer little kids and fixes cars. He’s got a garage full of male interest items, he cooks some meals / I didn’t say it was an equal dynamic/ washes clothes etc. and this family are ‘Ordinary’ folk. If I asked them what gender they are they would just blink at me in confusion. Yet their behaviours are gender non conforming, in the traditional sense.
Yes, blowing up all expectations to free people from constraints they don’t feel comfortable with, is an interesting cultural phenomenon. Except for dropping six babies and feeding them from my body, I’ve railed against culture telling me how I should express my gender, for decades. No body shaving, no high heels, no little black dress showing off my pert arse. When I had one. Lipstick only for makeup, my daughter pulling out stray eyebrow hairs because I can’t be bothered plucking them.
When it comes to needing male body strength, I’ll call on that because I don’t have it. Most males have greater body strength than me so opening the stuck jar, carrying heavy objects etc.. no issue asking a strong male bodied person to do stuff I can’t, seems sensible.
Internally, I just am, if I question how I define myself, Woman covers all bases for me, despite not being traditionally very feminine.
I’m proud to be a woman, proud my body has tunnelled me towards certain experiences of life which after sixty eight yrs has involved much child rearing and the joys and woes of that direction.
If others are proud to be their own version of human, more power to you.


@81 In practical terms what non-binary means to me is having a term and some ability to communicate my life to other people and be understood. For some people, I don't even have to do a whole gender 101, because I can tell them I am agender and they will already understand. It also means a chance for children who are like I was then to not have to suffer for decades because they don't have a framework to understand themselves.

As a kid, since I think before I could read, I didn't feel right about being identified as the gender I was assigned at birth. It had absolutely zero to do with gender roles. In fact, my father treated all his kids the same and had the same expectations for all of us regardless of gender. Gender roles weren't an issue for me until later in life, and even then, I've mainly been in areas where people are encouraged to only conform as much as feels right to them. No, the problem was entirely one of gender. I have described it a bit like imposter syndrome. People would call me the gender I was assigned at birth, and I would pass as it, and I would feel icky, like a fraud and a liar. But I couldn't tell anyone that, because at that time period it wouldn't have meant anything to anyone. So, I just secretly felt bad a lot of the time. I got older and learned about trans men and women, and I considered that might fit. But I didn't want to be the only other option I knew was available to me. In some ways it felt maybe a bit more right, but not really, and it didn't seem to make sense to identify as trans or try to transition when I didn't actually want to be the other option. So, where did that leave me?

Eventually, I came across the idea of agender, and it was what I had always felt I was, but now having other people write about it and describe it meant that it was something I could actually assert and have some small chance of other people treating my experience as real and valid. When I accidentally spoke before thinking and told people I wasn't the gender I was assigned at birth, I would have a followup when they asked what I was or why I wasn't that. I wouldn't just feel bad about messing up and publicly stating the truth I was never supposed to talk about because society had no concept for it. And I think of those kids today growing up with that concept and not having to constantly deal with the stress of being told that they have to be something they know they aren't, and I am really glad it is getting more attention.


Thanks uncreative. Now I have a bit more of a clue. Then what in practical terms is different for you now? Is it just because you aren’t called he/ she, does that relieve the discomfort? It’s how these terms relate practically that I’m not understanding. Wear any clothes you want, which as a woman I already can without anyone getting their knickers in a knot. Not so easy for a male bodied person to walk around in a dress. Is it.
Is agenda the same as non binary?
Practically, what is different, besides the pronoun change. Is it the language only that has released you.. seeing your dad didn’t impose strict gendered behaviours. Still stand up to piss? If you’re a male bodied person. What and where is your life different.. that’s the area which stumps me.


I am a third born daughter, and as I see it my dad gave up on having a son and I became the surrogate. Even my birth name, which I no longer use, is a derivative of a male name. I was a tom boy, watched my father in his intellectual pursuits, not my mother in her domestic ones. If I wanted a bike, I got it. One Xmas I even got bongos I’d asked for. Couldn’t really cook well till I was forced to feed children proper food. Don’t get off on being much of a gossipy or competitive woman, hardly ever wear dresses. Much of who I am, sans my womb and what it’s brought me, is masculine.. in someone else’s definitions. To me, it’s how I do and have expressed myself. Still the term woman fits because that term in my lifetime has been stretched real wide, bit like my vagina when babies came out of it.


@86 The biggest difference is I don't feel I'm living a lie and have to constantly lie to other people. I really value being honest, and the gender issue meant that I constantly had to tell people something that felt false. Personally, I don't care that much how other people view me or if they get it. I mean, I feel better when they do. It's nice feeling seen for who I am. But I really like having language and ability to explain myself so I can feel like I'm being honest to those close to me. However, the language thing does help. While I never really cared about pronouns, gendered terms like "man", "woman", "lady", "gentleman", etc. always made me feel bad. Not having people use them when referring to me keeps that regular bit of icky feeling away. Which again, I think has to do with feeling like I'm not lying about who I am.

Agender is a subset of non-binary. I also use the terms "genderless" and "nongender" to mean the exact same thing as "agender". People who are agender don't feel like they fit with any gender. I don't feel like I'm a man or a woman, but I also don't feel like I'm halfway between those two or both or like my gender changes. I just never felt like any gender was part of who I was. It was always just some memorized fact I was told about myself that I was supposed to tell others when it came up - nothing real to me. Every now and then, I can forget which gender I was assigned at birth despite the fact that my body means that people always think that's what I am. But to me, it feels less real than which Harry Potter house I would want to be sorted into, and I am not certainly not going to go around claiming I actually am a Hufflepuff.


Thanks again uncreative, your sharing is helpful.


DC270 @44, I feel like I both sympathize with your predicament (dicks tend to come burdened with annoying ass dick-having people attached to them) and am also glad you have it. There would be a lot of lonely men out there if the full advantages of dick could be had with a dick-haver being in the room (or on the other side of the glory hole, or whatever). On a totally unrelated point, has anyone been watching "The New Pope"?


Lava @60. You just reminded me that, as a kid in the 70s (and maybe early 80s) I got people asking me if I was a boy or a girl because I had long hair. I don't recall this happening at home in Berkeley, but it did when we were outside of the Bay Area.

Maybe I really should invent a label for myself. Nah. I'll let the people who've actually experience the pressures of being a queer person in a mostly cis- and straight culture get all the cool labels. I don't need to steal any street cred I didn't earn.


ciods, You're absolutely right that there is nothing made-up about male aggression. A good clue that male humans are prone to aggression and violence is the fact that we're about 50% heavier than female humans. That's a dead giveaway that we were evolved to compete for mates through means including violence. Most of us are civilized and don't beat other men to try to steal their mates or rape women, but those behaviors are not unnatural. Minimizing those behaviors by legal punishment of those who engage in them is a very positive unnatural social construct in pretty much any complex human society, although the rules are less often enforced against the powerful in some societies, like Mongol society at the time of the Golden Horde or the United States (yes, that was a political comment about the grabber-in-chief).


@65 "In the kink community, we have a gazillion words to describe various kink roles, and nobody bats an eyelid."

That's a better example than my use of Kinsey 1 2 3, because kink descriptors aren't a one- dimensional scale.

So for people who have a bunch of specific labels in their kink profile, but find detailed gender terms ridiculous or empty, can you expand on why?


dcp @123: “ if you’re going to San Franscisco, be sure to wear a flower in your hair.”’


@63. venn. I don't want people who, as it were, 'would have been trans/GQ in another era' to switch their gender identification and align with people in a current gender-styling. An effeminate gay guy in his 70s 'being male' is fine. A crusading but ineluctably mannish transwoman in her early 50s 'being female' is fine. It would be wretchedly presumptuous--really awful--to tell these people they don't know what their gender is.

Part of claiming that gender is constructed, though, is thinking that these people might well have self-assigned differently in a different time.

My concern wasn't so much with people confusing different stripes of NB so much as getting gender wrong in a thorough or categorical way--holding, say, that 'a man can't become a woman' or that 'in being less male, someone becomes more female' (the single spectrum model).

I can't understand why nocute is surprised she agrees with Sportlandia. Wouldn't she understand that her fundamental commitment, or belief, is to sexual difference, or to gender difference mapping on, almost exactly, to gender difference; and, in this basic question as to the nature of gender, second-generation feminism (or, more specifically, radical feminism) and antifeminist misogyny have the same view? (This isn't saying she's a radical feminist, just that she shares some of the movement's intuitions).


@65. Lost Margarita. Excellent, patient answer!

@67. ciods. Testosterone is connected to boosting and managing social status for males. Yes, a monkey fighting to become the breeding male registers a surge in testosterone. So does a human demonstrating largesse in giving away money as a dominant patron or benefactor.

@81. Lava. Often if you're NB, people take one look at you and they're circumspect, wary or hostile. Being NB means everything. It conditions every fact of your social existence, and it's much more primary than sexuality or any belief.

@85. uncreative. Absolutely and treble underscore your first sentence.


@94 cont; “ All across the nation
Such a strange vibration .....
There’s a whole generation
With a new explanation.”


Harriet @96. your words make no sense to me. How do people know you’re non binary? Unless one tells them. Or what other signs do you think NB people show?
Re kink labels.. they specify certain behaviours between people. How is that comparable to someone being non binary etc.
are there certain NB behaviours then?


@98. Lava. I look intergender. I always have. After some surgery, lots of working-out and (very much so) ageing, now--peculiarly--I look more like a woman when a woman and more like a man when a man.


Then what’s the issue Harriet, if you look like a man when a man and like a woman when a woman.. why do people look at you with hostility?
You tie yourself in knots with your words and offer no real clue to me wtf you’re on about. Hence I don’t take you seriously.. like others here.
Full of shit mate, that’s what I come out feeling about you.

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