Week 1: Class 3

Posted on July 15, 2010

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The assigned reading for Class 3 was Kate Bornstein’s My Gender Workbook: How to Become a Real Man, a Real Woman, the Real You, or Something Else Entirely. The workbook contains test to measure your gender aptitude with sections including assumptions, perceptions, love and sex, and no gender. The lower your score, the more expressive/free you are in your gender, the group is called “Gender Freak.” The group for the highest scores is “You’re Captain James T. Kirk!” The name is that of a character from Star Trek, at first I wasn’t sure what the reference meant until I looked up the character on Wikipedia.

Kirk has been called “the quintessential officer, a man among men and a hero for the ages”.

I’m guessing that by having such a high score means the test-taker is someone who strongly feels in line with his/her gender, but my interpretation may be off.

My score landed me in the middle group, “Gender Novice.” Honestly I was surprised with that score and I expected I would be in the second-highest group “Well Gendered.” I assumed that because I have always felt cis* I would belong with the Well Gendered group.  My guess about why I scored into that group is because of my (relatively) open-minded attitude about gender/sex/sexuality.

I was shocked with just how fluid identity can be over time. The author’s own experience with hir** and hir partner. Initially, hir partner was a “lesbian lover” who then decided to become a man.  They stayed together as a heterosexual couple for a few years and they stopped being lovers. Then hir straight partner discovered his gay male side. It felt like a Spanish-novella with all the twists.

The discussion in class about the book left a rather foul impression. I specifically mean the conversations about people who are androgynous/gender-ambiguous. One person saying he wasn’t sure how to react to a gender-ambiguous person. His reasoning being that he wasn’t sure to treat hir as “one of the guys” or as a girl. It upset me that someone would base his interactions with people solely on the person’s gender.

The second person claiming that he was open-minded and respectful but still believed he had the right to police another person’s gender. He mentioned a male-to-female transgendered friend***. He agreed that while in the vicinity of his friend he would use female pronouns and refer to her as female. However, he still thought that no matter how many hormonal treatments, surgical procedures, or what clothes she wears, he will always still think of her as a man. It does not matter what you believe, it is never your position to police or decide another person’s gender/sex/sexuality for hir. That person has the sole responsibility and it is up to that person to decide how they want to be identified.

Unfortunately it is common for those who blur and otherwise threaten (either intentionally or not) the dichotomous male/female gender line to be treated with little respect. For example, Lady Gaga and Caster Semenya.

The rumors of Lady Gaga’s gender still remain despite it being obvious that Lady Gaga is a (for lack of a better term) biological woman. These rumors had gotten so large that E! Online has an article entitled Does Lady Gaga Really Have Man Parts? You can go to the Google homepage and start typing into the search bar “is lady gaga” and the first results to accompany that will be “a man,” “a hermaphrodite,” “a man or woman,” “a boy,” “a transvestite,” and “really a man.”

Lady Gaga even mocks these rumors in her music video Telephone (explicit version). She is brought to her cell and stripped naked by the prison guards and is left wearing fishnet stockings. She then climbs up the bars and essentially flashes the viewer, showing a very notable absence of “man parts.” The guards walk away saying this:

Guard 1: I told you she didn’t have a dick.

Guard 2: Too bad.

Caster Semenya is a World Champion runner from South Africa. Shortly after winning a Gold medal, a media frenzy ensued questioning her gender. From what I understand, the only reasoning being that she does not look traditionally female. Semenya has a well-muscled physique and wears her hair short, so obviously she must be lying about her gender. It’s completely revolting that an (then) 18-year-old’s identity be scrutinized so cruelly with the world watching.

The tests were done and Semenya was allowed to continue competing. Thankfully, for her sake, the medical results are kept confidential.

*Cis referring to the terms cisgender and/or cissexual. Some helpful pages about the term. I am also aware that simply using the term can create negative connotations but I could not think of a simpler way to describe myself.

**Because the author identifies as “no-gender,” I’m attempting to use gender-neutral pronouns.

***I cannot recall if the person was male-to-female (MTF) or female-to-male (FTM) but for the narrative sake of this post, I chose to use MTF.

The rumors of Lady Gaga’s gender still remain despite evidence proving that she is a woman. These rumors had gotten so large that E! Online has an article entitled Does Lady Gaga Really Have Man Parts? You can go to the Google homepage and start typing into the search bar “is lady gaga” and the first results to accompany that will be “a man,” “a hermaphrodite,” “a man or woman,” “a boy,” “a transvestite,” “really a man.”
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