i don’t believe in sex

(this post is where i think about stuff asher wrote: not your mom’s trans 101.  go there.)

it’s true.  i no longer believe in sex.  allow me to explicate.

i still believe in the rough/sweet noisy/muffled wet act of sex– just not the concept of sex as opposed to gender.  see, i used to say shit like “gender is between you ears and sex is between your legs”, “sex is physical, gender is emotional/social”.  i used to try to carefully untangle these two closely related ideas.  i used to say that my gender was “other” and that my sex was “female” as an easy way to explain my transness– but no more.

my body belongs to me, lovelies.  i do not belong to my body.  i am not a woman, so this body can’t be a “woman’s” body.  it’s my body.  this body is a non-binary trans person’s body.

our bodies do not come with words attached to them; we attach words to our bodies.  we attach the word “female” and all its connotations to tits and pussies.  we attach the word “male” and all its connotations to cocks and balls.  even when we expand the word “sex” to include our voices, our hairiness, our various dimensions and textures– we are still attaching concepts to our concrete bodies.  sex is not separate from gender.  rather, sex is gender attached to bodies.

if sex were only about bodies, not the gender of bodies but the physical characteristics of bodies, cis women who have had hysterectomies would not be women.  men with tiny dicks would not be men.  if sex were only about what bodies look like, doctors/nurses wouldn’t pronounce a newborn a “boy” or a “girl” based on its genitals and parents wouldn’t assume their babies’ genders based on their genitals.  sex isn’t about facts, lovelies.

sex isn’t about pussies and cocks, who has what and all those gossipy-juicies.  sex is not about what part you play in reproduction– we aren’t as straight-forward as flowers.  not everyone who is assigned a binary gender (male or female) even takes part in reproduction.  some people/couples are infertile with or without medical intervention.  some people choose to remain childfree.  some intersex people entirely defy classification based on their reproductive organs.  some people “get fixed” and others get cancer and have hysterectomies.  sex has little to do with procreation.

sex is about OTHERING people, dehumanizing people, categorizing people.  sex is about being othered, being dehumanized, being categorized.  sex is not about facts.  sex is about saying, “we are this and they are that“.

for the above reasons, sex is not simple, peoples.  it’s not an easy way of dividing humans into 2 groups for categorization purposes.  i don’t get why people think it’s ok to dumb down this complex and personal issue.  sure, lotsa people fit neatly in the gender/sex binary; most people are neither intersex nor trans.  but that doesn’t mean humanity fits the gender/sex binary.  humanity doesn’t look like this:

and this isn’t cute, by the way.  the plug and outlet joke is not cute.  reducing humanity to pussies and cocks is not fucking cute.  it erases trans people (op and non-op), intersex people, and anyone who considers themselves a person as opposed to a reproductive system.  i don’t know about you, but i don’t tend to think of women as pussies and men as cocks.  aside from being disrespectful, it’s simply fallacious.  i tend to think of people as, well, uh, people:


i don’t think sex is a meaningful concept.  if my gender is non-binary, then my sex must also be non-binary because sex is body-gender.  so why bother?  why not just call myself “non-binary” and move on?

i don’t think making a distinction between sex and gender is very helpful.  yes, it helps trans people explain their transness to cis people (“i’m a man born in a woman’s body”).  and yes, it helps parents decide what color to paint their babies’ rooms (based on their babies’ genitalia).

but wouldn’t it be MORE helpful if we stopped simplifying things and we started sharing our experiences and ideas without editing them first?  our discourses would become increasingly involved and reciprocal, enriching our understanding of human diversity.

and why not admit that clits don’t like pink, penises don’t like blue?  your baby’s genitals don’t care what color the bedroom walls are.  why not wait til your kid is old enough to declare their gender themselves?  just paint your kid’s room your favorite fucking color–   bedroom walls shouldn’t have anything to do with genitalia.

unless you’re talking about a vertical sex move.

*   *   *

so tell me how you feel about this, peoples.  is the concept of sex valuable?  is sex simply anatomical configuration– or is it body-gender?  the perceived difference between gender and sex is important to manymany people, so this is an important discussion.

i’m not saying that i don’t think you should make a distinction between gender and sex, by the way.  i understand and respect that some trans people specifically state that their sex and gender don’t coincide.  i’m just saying that i don’t make a distinction between my gender and my sex.

*   *   *

i would like to assert that i DO NOT advocate pretending that your body has different medical needs than it truly does.  get your mammograms, prostate checks, pap smears etc. as needed!

16 responses to “i don’t believe in sex

  1. I absolutely agree that you cannot reduce people to reproductive organs, that is disgusting and fallacious (not only does the depiction erase and invalidate trans and intersex people, but contributes to objectification and violent misconceptions). As a genderqueer person, the less I distinguish MY body from the sex and gender I was assigned, the more comfortable I feel within it. I can’t help but think the reason why so many feel “trapped,” within their own bodies is because of the extreme gendering of anatomy (which I agree, this is the function that sex has and still serves). Sex is a way of gendering anatomy, and separating us into these nice cookie cutter categories, and is partly responsible for the erasure and confusion trans and intersex people face. There isn’t even a space for intersex people within the term “sex” apparently… It’s important to avoid biological essentialism because it contributes to the misconception that trans people who decide to physically transition “are mutilating their bodies.” Somehow, therefor, they’re leaving “this “holy, natural space,” that they were “born with.” The more we realize anatomy to be ambiguous, fluid, and capable of going through many births, the more we will learn to own them and love others (we don’t love members of another sex, we love people and their bodies make us feel whole). Now this not meant to invalidate or devalue those who decide to transition both physically and mentally to another “space.” I will always respect what people do with there own bodies, that’s not my decision. I will decide, however, that the concept of sex is disheartening and leads to the further disfranchisement of our people.

  2. I actually think there’s an important distinction to be drawn between sex and gender, and it is about medicine, and the physical nature of a person’s body. Don’t get me wrong: Since I met you, Mx. Punk, I’ve totally embraced the idea of the non-binary gender (even though I fall within it, and have other questions in my head about the implications of the “other” genders). However, there are biological situations that people who were born “female” and people who are born “male” simply have different from each other. The most obvious example is that some people have periods and the ability to have babies, but there are many others; “women” go through menopause, and are more susceptible to things like osteoporosis and breast cancer. “Men” are treated differently than “women” by their doctors because science has proven that women need more calcium in their diets (for example); this doesn’t change if you happen to be a man trapped in a woman’s body, or identify as a non-binary transperson. What are the implications of that? If your doctor treats you like a woman, do you demand to be treated as a man, instead? There’s almost no middle ground, here.

    I don’t mean to offend or challenge, of course; I’m just curious.

  3. Sex, as your post extrapolates, is Sexism. Sex is the core of it, part of it, even at a more basic level one and the same. Sexism isn’t just about men oppressing women in a binaryist society, but about the compulsory, discriminatory nature of segregating people on the basis of sex. Mind you much of our culture is not segregated overtly by sex, some things like restrooms are (though honestly there is more reason for that than sexism). I don’t personally know whether restrooms should be desegregated, or not; though I personally say not. My not isn’t because of sex, but because of function, but I digress.

    Sexism is the focus of culture on genitals, and this post highlights very clearly something I have felt myself but really hadn’t hammered out in this way yet. I really do like your take on it. Sexism cares about your sex alone and derides you identity to the sum of your parts. Sexism cares what you have because having sex is fundamentally what sexism is about. People declare their own distinctions though, they don’t need a derogatory labeling system to do it for them. But because of the obtrusive nature of sexism it’s hard to think of relationships outside of that false dichotomy.

    Like I said, I have hammered on that issue myself quite a bit, but your take on it Mx. Punk totally makes it clear what you were talking about. It really makes a shitload more sense to me, and I was torturing a lot of logic trying to understand it. Just like I did with my religious beliefs, I will submit myself to non-belief in sex. I don’t want to live in a culture that cares more about what is in my pants than who I am. I never did. Thanks a bunch for your post. I had been certainly eagerly awaiting it, and it was far more glorious than I could have hoped. It is spaceships with warpdrive awesomeness.

  4. Pingback: Gender Identity: What is Androgyny? « Reneta Xian

  5. @ brenn (sorry this is so long):

    hey, man, challenging is good; i write because i want to engage in vibrant discussions with awesome people. so you’re like, allowing my blog to live out its little blog-dream. thanks!

    onwards. of course people have biological needs and functions that shouldn’t be ignored. i certainly don’t advocate pretending that our bodies are all the same– because they aren’t. people with breasts need regular mammograms in the same way that people with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin. you’re right; there’s no middle ground.

    something to bear in mind, though, is that doctors don’t typically treat all women as WOMEN and all men as MEN– they treat them as individuals. doctors ask me about my period, for example, not assuming that i even have one and not assuming what it’s like. doctors don’t drop people into a “sex” category and walk away; there’s too much variation for that to be valid medical practice.

    furthermore, trans people don’t need to have their bodies referred to as belonging to someone else. if, say, a trans man has a period, he doesn’t need some doctor telling him that his “womanly” body needs more iron. the trans man just needs his doctor to tell him to take more iron because he has a period. referring to trans people as “born female/male” or “female/male-bodied” reinforces the idea that they aren’t “really” women/men/others and that they don’t own their bodies. it also forcibly attaches gender to bodies.

    we attach gender to bodies through our usage of sex-associated language. let’s look at the word “female”. if someone describes their group of friends as a bunch of “civic-minded females”, for example, you probably aren’t going to picture a bunch of vulva volunteering at the local homeless shelter. please correct me if i’m wrong, but you’re probably going to picture a bunch of women– whatever you think women look like. words like “female” and “male” come with a host of non-detachable connotations. these connotations are not about sex– they are about gender. when you picture a bunch of “civic-minded women”, you draw on the gendered connotations attached to the word “female”. likewise, when a kid is born and the doctor/nurse says “it’s a boy!”, what they’re saying is that the baby has a penis– and that’s it. but the parents probably go home and paint the kid’s bedroom blue and buy baby clothes with trucks and frogs on them. they take their knowledge of the kid’s “sex” and extrapolate the kid’s gender.

    when speaking of humans, sex isn’t simply about biology; we don’t think of it as simple medical classification. if we did, words like “male” and “female” wouldn’t come equipped with gendered connotations. if we thought of sex as being purely medical, it wouldn’t come up very often in casual confabulation. parents wouldn’t talk about their newborn being a boy or a girl– because they can’t know their baby’s gender right away and other people don’t need to know what the baby’s genitals look like. i mean, you wouldn’t say, “oh, my newborn has this awesome little vagina”, would you? but people DO say “OMG– it’s a girl!” because they’re conflating gender and sex.

    gender and sex are so entangled that i don’t think they can be untangled– i seriously give up. even when we untangle gender and sex as far as possible, sex is still body-gender. even people who say that sex and gender are totally different still conflate them. so i give up. i have a gender, i have a body, my doctor knows what my body looks like and what it needs– and that’s pretty splendid, man.

    thanks for sharing your thoughts, brenn; i ALWAYS want to know what’s going on in your brain. and feel free to ask questions about “the implications of the ‘other’ genders”. i’m not shy and questions lead to knowing stuff. asking about and taking an interest in things is a major component of your awesome.

  6. @ reneta: the focus on genitalia is ridiculous; nobody really needs to know what juicy bits other people have. except for doctors and sex partners. cuz doctors need to know about genitals and hormones and stuff– and sex partners have vested interest.

    spaceships with warp drive awesomeness is pretty rad! i’m gonna go color some silly pictures… yay!

  7. And so are Elephants with Cupcakes! Lookies, I has cupcakes! I really <3 the picture you sent me, and I hope you don't mind it being my avatar… It was too cute to not put up somewhere's. Thankies….

    As for the other part, you're totally right "focus on genitals" is ridiculous. Eventually we are going to smear this "ridiculous" crayola drawing of gender without own crayolas and then everyone will be happy and gender free. A least that is what I hope. Trans peoples are already blurring gender in the public perception sense. I long for a day when all gender soups of peoples will be treated as valid, and considered attractive and wanted for who they are, not what is in their pants.

  8. I’m really looking forward to reading both of these texts that would offer a lot of insight to what mx. punk and some other people were saying.

    Laqueur’s “Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud.”
    Sterling’s “Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality.”

    Anyway, I’m hopefully getting Brazen Femme and Stone Butch Blues for my birthday on friday and i’m super excited for those :DDDDD

  9. ok, i just looked up those books and they look interesting. the laqueur has some bad reviews, though: apparently, laqueur’s science isn’t sound. still looks interesting, though. lemme know what you think of the books!

  10. random thought: how do transmen who have had their breasts removed have mammograms? There’d still be as much likelihood for breast cancer, wouldn’t there?

  11. i honestly don’t know, but i imagine that the risk of breast cancer would be lower after top surgery. if i decide to get top surgery, i guess i’ll ask my doctor about that and let you know. :) i really doubt i’ll go that way, though.

    or maybe i’ll do some research and get back to you in a bit…

    one thing i’d like to point out; all sorts of trans folk who AREN’T trans men get reductive top surgery. for instance, i’ve been considering it since i hit puberty– and i’m not a man. not criticizing, just sayin’.

  12. Of course! Sorry, I can see that my wording wasn’t as inclusive as I meant it to be.

    After talking to Buck Angel and James Darling on Twitter, risk is greatly lowered, but still something that one needs to be aware of.

    And, unfortunately, there hasn’t been a more pleasant test method developed. To quote Buck Angel, “u have to use the machine and it hurts not in a good way.”

  13. owweeee… i haven’t had a mammogram, yet; i hear they suck. not looking forward to it. blerg.

    and no worries! it’s hard to be inclusive ALL the time; we slip up now and then.

  14. Interesting article. I think there’s a huge difference between sex and gender. I don’t think the problem of sexism lies in the concept of sex itself, but in the judgments made based off of phenotypic (displayed) sex. I think sex exists, but it’s not in all cases an accurate measure of a person’s gender.

    Just out of curiosity, there was a story in the news a little while back about some parents who refused to tell anyone what their child’s sex or gender was. When they started to mature and show interest in toys and clothes, they prohibited the child from wearing “gendered” clothes or playing with “gendered” toys, but paradoxically once made the kid attend school in a blouse. Meanwhile, their other siblings were allowed to express their gender identity however they wanted. I’ll have to find the link… but what’s your view on something like this?

  15. yeah, i totally think this post is somewhat incoherent. maybe i should write an apology at the bottom of it… vjjjkldf i guess my entire point is that sex and gender are so deeply entangled that i doubt we can ever untangle them. to that end, i’m cool with my sex being described as nonbinary, i’m cool with telling my doctor what my body’s like so they know how to treat me– but i insist that people not label my sex as female. it just isn’t their business and i don’t trust them to sufficiently untangle gender and sex in their own heads. know what i mean? yeah. i’m still being incoherent, i think.

    i think it’d be plasmic if parents would avoid gendering their kids. technically, they can’t possibly know what their kids’ genders are til they ask their kids about it. in the meantime, why pressure your kid by gendering them? basically, i think this is a rad idea. HOWEVER, if we’re talking about the same parents (there’ve been a few stories like this), i declare shenanigans. if you’re going to raise your kid without assigning them a gender– rad. but if you’re going to restrict their access to gendered toys/clothes– shitty. cuz you’re basically pressuring your kid to be non-gendered. i think c.j’s mom has the right idea.

  16. Pingback: biological sex as social contruct | rainbowgenderpunk

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