Ask Gender Affinity
You had more questions, and we are back to bring you more answers.
This column answers questions posed by the Westridge community about gender. The purpose of this column is to inform. Because many of the issues and questions we will be dealing with are very nuanced, instead of having one answer per question—which could oversimplify the big picture and individual experiences of the trans community at Westridge —this column includes multiple answers from different members of Gender Affinity.
All contributors to this column are using pen names in order to maintain privacy and anonymity with respect to how out they are to members of the Westridge community, family, and outside friends.
With that in mind, we hope you find this column interesting and informative.
With love from,
This issue of Ask Gender Affinity will cover the science behind gender fluidity, neopronouns, how to talk to people who believe there are only two genders, and if you need dysphoria to be trans.
Do you need dysphoria to be trans?
The NHS defines gender dysphoria as “a condition where a person experiences discomfort or distress because there's a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity,” so yes, one does need dysphoria to be trans; dysphoria encompasses the very definition of a transgender person: someone whose gender identity does not match their birth sex. Why would someone feel the need to transition to another gender if they did not feel discomfort with their birth gender? (Without dysphoria, why would one choose to spend time and money to transition and possibly lose their closest friends and family by coming out?) The fact that one needs some sort of discomfort with one’s birth gender is not widely debated. Rather, much of the controversy over dysphoria and being transgender arises from people’s different definitions of dysphoria and the idea that every transgender person experiences dysphoria in the same way. In actuality, gender dysphoria, much like any other mental condition, manifests itself in many different ways and degrees, so just because dysphoria looks a certain way for someone does not mean that all trans people experience dysphoria in that specific way. - JH
Like JH said above, gender dysphoria takes so many shapes and forms. For some, it’s worse than for others; it may appear intensely someday and not even cross your path on other days. I think dysphoria appears in every trans person’s experience even if they didn’t even realize it. Just because your dysphoria isn’t as rough as that of others, it doesn’t make you any less valid. -
In my personal opinion I would say yes, you do need some type of discomfort, in regards to your gender assigned at birth. I mostly think if you aren’t uncomfortable with your gender assigned at birth, then why would you want to identify differently. -EL
Personally, I think the only thing you need to be trans is to identify with a different gender than the one you were born into. Dysphoria is definitely a part of being trans, but I just don’t want to list it as a requirement. -R
Yes, definitely. But in my experience, dysphoria isn’t just in your body and the way people see you, but how you think of yourself. For a while, I’ve been uncomfortable (or detached) from she/her pronouns and being called ‘girl’ or ‘woman’ - same with he/him - and recently I’ve not been able to relate to they/them either. Dysphoria can be in any form, whether it’s about your physical body or the way you think about yourself in society. -Blue
I definitely think that you need dysphoria to be trans. The discomfort with social and/or physical characteristics that identify somebody as a gender that they don’t identify with is what makes them trans. Without this feeling of discomfort related to gendered aspects of their life, why would they desire to change their name, pronouns, or pursue a medical transition? Dysphoria is not a choice, just like being trans isn’t a choice. If being trans was a choice, then dysphoria wouldn’t be necessary to be trans. Without dysphoria, no one has a reason to transition because living as one’s assigned gender wouldn’t cause them distress. -Niko
How is gender fluidity scientifically possible?
Nobody knows. According to existing theories about the causes of gender dysphoria (specifically that of binary trans people), it theoretically shouldn’t exist. However, science is always evolving, and 50 years ago, people thought that being transgender couldn’t scientifically exist. Personal views aside, I would encourage people (especially science types like me) to keep an open mind about the science behind non-binary genders and to do your best to respect people’s identity. - JH and EL
I’m not a science person, so I think of gender in a more “philosophical” way. Humans have incredibly intricate social habits cultures and dynamics, which makes everything jumbly and confusing. While the “why” and the “how” of gender is interesting (scientifically not by having a traumatic childhood), the most important thing to do is to accept the overwhelming evidence that it does exist in the first place. -R
I don’t know how being genderfluid is scientifically possible, but as a genderfluid person, it is real. Just to clarify, gender fluidity is when your gender depends on the day or just how I feel at any given moment. If you think of gender as a scale (like the one that the Statue of Liberty holds), and there’s completely female on one side and completely male on the other, depending on the day, one side may weigh more than the other, and sometimes they would be equal. For example, Monday I could feel like I have no gender, and then Tuesday I could feel very masculine. -Jaime
For some articles that know more than we do about the science behind being trans, you can check out these links: New York Time’s “Anatomy Does Not Determine Gender, Experts Say”, Spectrum South’s “It’s Not in Your Head: The History and Science of Gender Fluidity”, and Harvard University’s “Between the (Gender) Lines: the Science of Transgender Identity” (some of the language used in this article is outdated (such as transsexual), but the article is still very informative and scientific).
What would you say to people who believe there are only two genders?
I personally have had to deal with a lot of these people. If they believe this wholeheartedly, then it’s not worth wasting your energy on them. But if you think you can convince them, then I would give them examples of people in your/their life. -Jaime
I would say some people are left-handed and there are some people who are right-handed and then there are some people who are ambidextrous. -EL
For me, it really depends on the context. Some people believe that there are only two genders, and being non-binary is the absence of gender, while others believe that being non-binary is a third gender altogether. Is this person saying that there are two genders specifically for the purpose of quashing the existence of non-binary people, or does this person simply maintain this belief while still respecting trans and non-binary people? I think it also depends on what perspective they are coming from. Is the person unwilling to accept potential neurological evidence that gender isn’t necessarily binary? Is this person just misinformed or are they actually bigoted? Immediately “canceling” somebody for simply saying that they believe in only two genders presents a toxic environment for pretty much anyone looking to learn more about trans people. As I stated before, I encourage everyone to keep an open mind about the science behind being non-binary, but I also encourage people not to enforce cancel culture, especially in relation to trans issues. - JH
I’d explain gender vs sex to them. You don’t have to educate every random person, but if you want to, it’s a chill thing for cis people to do. -R
Bill Nye the Science Guy made a statement somewhere that there are more than two genders and that it’s on a spectrum, and Bill Nye the Science Guy is always right. Also, there are more than two sexes because intersex people exist, so boom. Argument destroyed. -Blue
Thoughts on neopronouns?
I’ve thought about using pronouns such as Zie/Zim/Zers, but I personally don’t like how they sound and prefer they/them/theirs. I do, however, like researching gender-neutral names for relatives, such as sib, and people have such creative ideas. Now I just have to pick what my children will call me! -R
I personally think that gender-neutral pronouns beyond they/them are rather silly to implement in the English language. The singular form of the pronouns they/them has been widely accepted to be grammatically correct and has been used for centuries, so what is the point of introducing entirely new words when there is a perfectly good word already in existence that fulfills the same purpose? However, I am very much in favor of introducing gender-neutral pronouns in languages that don’t already have any, for example, Romance languages like Spanish and French. You can take my opinion with a grain of salt though, since as a binary trans guy, I don’t think I have the authority (nor does anyone) to police other people’s pronouns. - JH
I’m not an expert on neopronouns but to me, I think the experimentation with neopronouns is excellent and can be very beneficial. Grammatically, creating a new pronoun for those out of the binary besides ‘they, them, theirs’ seems great since in a sentence without context, it can be difficult to tell if we are discussing a single person using ‘they, them, theirs’ pronouns or a group of people. And outside of grammar, I think someone who identifies outside the binary pronouns would enjoy having their own pronoun to make their own and say with pride. I encourage the testing and decision to use neopronouns as much as I encourage and support the use of ‘they, them, theirs’ pronouns. - CranberryJuice
I really like the idea of neopronouns because I feel that they/them pronouns don’t really encompass the entirety and nuances of my gender identity. I don’t use neopronouns because both my parents and society already have a lot of difficulty and complaints around they/them pronouns that using neopronouns would just make my life more difficult than it needs to be. I also am happy enough with they/them pronouns that I don’t feel the need to use neopronouns. -Niko