A couple of hundred years ago there was only one sex - the male one!
The other one was an "incomplete" male sex (that's why Queen Kristina of Sweden (1626-1689) could be educated (!) to be a man). But about 150 years ago, both the church and contemporary medical science realised that the "incomplete" sex actually should be thought of as complete, that is, a sex of its own - and suddenly there were two sexes!
A male and a female sex! And thus there were also two expressions of the inherent sex - a masculine and a feminine gender!
Before the shift you were either a "man" or "not a man" Afterwards, you were a "man" or a "woman". A pivotal discovery! Especially for the women.
What if there are more sexes?!? What would they be? A sex that's both male and female ... or neither ... or possibly there's a third sex. The thought is mesmerizing!
Most people never think of what gender they belong to, or what traits are masculine and feminine. Or indeed, why we even consider certain behaviours masculine or feminine. It's just the way things are! The social norm has established how we should act, and through the expressive medium of clothes and other attributes we create the roles of either "the man" or ‚"the woman".
If we consider the genders in terms of two "poles", we inevitably create the picture of a space in between these genders. Not unlike the space between the North Pole and the South Pole. It's actually quite a good analogy!
Not very much happens on either the North or the South Pole. It ALL happens between the poles.
This is exactly the case with the two genders. Nobody inhabits their poles of extremity! There is not a single person who is a 100% man, nor a 100% woman. We all belong somewhere between the poles. And like the people on the planet Earth, we usually don't stay in the same place all our lives. We constantly move. Sometimes we feel more masculine ... and sometimes more feminine!
What should we call ourselves when we are exactly in between the poles ... or when we cross the gender equator?
Can a man cross the median line and still be a man ... what would he become otherwise? And what happens when a woman performs a similar action?
In every time period and every culture there has been a number of invisible rules for how each sex is expected to act - or not act. These rules are called "norms" and they are the blueprints for how our lives should be led. The norm, which controls the choice of sex and gender of the person we love, and make love to is called the "hetero norm". According to this norm, a man should look and act like a man, and furthermore, love a woman who looks and acts like a woman.
Everything that fits into this norm is considered "normal" and all the things that don't are discarded as "abnormal".
But how do we know what is normal and what is abnormal? Nobody has ever properly described exactly what this ‚"norm" contains. The truth is that nobody knows what the norm contains and nobody is truly "normal". But out of fear of being "abnormal", we hide up to 3/4 of ourselves, so that we seem more like other people who are considered "normal".
Silly question! It's located in the same place on everybody, isn't it?
When we talk about sex in everyday situations, we usually don't specify the type of sex we're talking about, but you can divide the concept of sex into four aspects.
Biological sex - refers to the procreational functions, that is "male" or "female".
Social sex (more commonly referred to as gender) - marks which gender role a person enacts in society, or how people around the person sees him/her. It is a question of whether you look, act and are seen as being a part of one or the other sex.
Mental sex (more commonly referred to as gender identity) - the sex experienced and identified with by the person. It's a matter of what sex you think you are, and how you want the people around you to see you, that is, the sex you want them to treat you as.
For most people the social sex (gender) is the same as the biological sex. And so is usually also the mental sex (gender identity). Because of this, most of us don't reflect on how we define ourselves and what mechanisms control us. Transpeople, however, for whom the biological sex is not always coherent with the social sex, experience a more complicated situation. This is where the most important sex comes in - the mental sex. A transperson can thus have a male body and a feminine social and mental gender role. Then this person is probably transsexual and wants to change his/her physical body, so that it's more coherent with the social and mental sex.
As Sara Lund I have a male body, a non-masculine social gender role and a masculine mental gender role.
As Claes Schmidt I have a male body, a masculine social gender role, and a masculine mental gender role.
My biological sex always remains male, that is, the sex of a man.
"Sex" can thus be considered an collective concept and it's not always the body that determines the sex.
Sometimes it's important to refer to the biological sex, when the international terms for transpeople are used.
"Male-to-female", MTF, where the first letter marks the biological sex and the last letter stands for "direction". The opposite concept is referred to as FTM (Female-to-male).
I thus identify as an MTF transvestite.
If you are confronted by a gender transgressor and feel unsure of how you should address that person, the simplest way to solve the problem is just to ask him/her how he/she identifies and wants to be addressed - and to then hold on to that form of address.
Gender identity (man or woman)
A transperson naturally spends a considerable amount of time pondering over his/her gender identity, that is, his/her experience and sensation of being a "woman" or a "man", "both" or "neither" or leaning towards one or the other direction. Human beings always know what sex they belong to, regardless of what biological sex they've been born into. You may not know immediately, but you will usually know quite early if something isn't right. And that you're not like everybody else. The sense of alienation comes at an early age. You really want to be "normal", and you're ashamed that you don't fit in.
I was so ashamed I didn't even dare to tell my mother how I felt. Or later my wife.
Gender expression (masculine or feminine)
Does a man have to look like and dress like a man in order to be considered "normal"? Only 50 years ago, trousers were thought of as typically male garments, and a woman dressed in trousers would have been considered highly "abnormal". People peeked at her and whispered about her behind her back (very much like they do about MTF transvestites today). But the few persistent women, who had the strength to be different, turned the other eye and persevered. This has led to the fact that they*ve conquered the whole masculine wardrobe, and are allowed to dress even in a suit and a tie without being thought of as deviant or "abnormal".
How far would you say that the men have come?
Is it men or women who really need to liberate themselves?
Are transpeople hetero-, bi- or homosexual?
For an outsider it may be easiest to assume that the so-called hetero norm (man + woman 4ever) is at work also in these situations. That is, if a man uses the clothes and attributes usually used by women in order to attract men, he must be doing so for the same purpose - to attract a man!
The problem is that the "norm" once more clouds our sense of reason. Is it really logical that a man who is interested in men who like men, would want to "dress up" like a woman? Obviously, there are men who like "phallic women", men in women's clothes, but usually this is not the case.
There are also women who accept, or even like, men in women's clothes. And, thankfully, there's quite a few of them.
But why do you do it then, if it's not to have sex?
- Seriously! There IS more to life than sex!! Can you really not come up with any other reasons? Is it just because we're gender transgressors, that it has to be connected to sex? Do you think in the same way about parachute jumpers and divers? And singers or actors who "just looove being on stage". Is it your honest opinion that even these people give expression to their "penchant" in order to get a sexual kick out of it, or is it the "hetero norm" that makes you automatically see things in a sexual light?
What if they do it for the same reasons as I would give you - because they enjoy it and it makes them feel good!
My conclusion is thus that "sexuality" and "gender identity" are not directly related.
It's very common that transsexual men (e.g. born women) are drawn to men also in their new gender identity and thereby become homosexual or "gay" in their new identity.
The percentages of homo-, bi- and heterosexual people among transpeople are practically the same as in the rest of society.
The fact that a person is born a man but feels like a woman, or the other way around, has nothing to do with his/her sexuality, but only with the gender identity that is right for that individual.
There is thus a great difference between gender identity and sexuality.
Sara Lund/Claes Schmidt
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