on “genderblind”

i have some stuff to say about the term “genderblind.”  i’m gonna try to be careful about not stepping on other people’s toes, but please lemme know if i fail, k?

k.  so “genderblind” makes me uncomfortable cuz it makes me think you actually don’t see gender (or you like to behave as though you don’t see gender).  actually, “genderblind” sorta reminds me of “color blind,” a truly problematic and racist phenomenon.

if you don’t see gender, how can you respect gender?  if you don’t see gender and if you have difficulty respecting gender– are you going to get my pronouns right?  are you going to get, say, reneta’s pronouns right?  are you going to acknowledge the concrete differences between being a cis person and being a trans* person?  are you going to acknowledge cis privilege and trans* oppression?

if you don’t see gender, how can you acknowledge that people of different genders may have different needs and are treated differently by society at large?  like, if i’m at your dinner party and you say you “don’t see dietary restrictions,”– what if i’m a diabetic? a vegetarian? allergic to peanuts?  how can you be prepared to feed people if you don’t see or respect their dietary restrictions?  (i don’t really know if this is a good parallel; sorry if it sucks.)

i fight every single day to be seen as my gender.  i come out to strangers on the fly CONSTANTLY (cuz it’s in my self-respect policy).  i end up holding in my piss for hours cuz i can’t find a non-gendered bathroom.  i have to avoid restaurants without non-gendered bathrooms.  i have to avoid clothing stores without non-gendered change rooms.  strangers feel entitled to tell me i’m gross when i come out as trans*.  i have to lie to the government on official forms, and my partner and i are estranged from his side of the family– so i reallyreally hope you aren’t telling me you think my gender is unimportant.

i put a lot of work into fighting for the right to take up space in this world as a person of my gender– and that matters to me.  the widespread notion that people of my gender don’t even exist affects me in a million ways every day; i WANT you to see my gender.  i want you to see ME and all my little bits– and that includes my non-binary gender.

and what about (usually dmab) trans* people who face violence for their genders?  i mean, cissexism isn’t genderblind.  i also hope you aren’t blind to the realities of rape culture; rape culture isn’t genderblind, either.

this probably isn’t what you mean when you tell me you’re genderblind.  i know.  but this is what you leave me with when you just tell me you’re genderblind and act like the conversation’s done.

thoughts, anyone?  am i the only one who doesn’t think “genderblind” is just a harmless little word?

*   *   *

if you’re genderblind, i’m not challenging you; you’re entitled to id however you like without having to explain yourself to people in internet-land.

however, i do think there are ways of id-ing as genderblind that aren’t problematic.  like, if you tell me you’re genderblind and then you talk about what that means to you– yay.  cuz i know lotsa people just mean they don’t discriminate based on gender, they believe all people deserve the same basic rights, and/or  they experience attraction to people regardless of gender.  which is lovely.

this post is really just about the things that go through my head when people drop the word “genderblind” and leave it at that.

24 responses to “on “genderblind”

  1. Agreed! The one time I heard someone say they were genderblind, was this: I was at a talk by a prominent feminist. When question period started the first three people to the mic were white cis-gendered men. The speaker commented on how it’s never women who get to the mic first, and the first guy in line was like, “Oh, well you know, I don’t see gender.” And I thought, well, there’s a nice easy way to cop out of your privilege… Urgh.

  2. “…there’s a nice easy way to cop out of your privilege…”

    yep! sounds like privilege-denying right there. sucks when people do that!

    mostly, i hear bisexuals and pansexuals talk about being genderblind– and i’m not sure it’s always a way to deny their privilege. i mean, i think it’s privilege-denying some of the time, but i bet lotsa people don’t think through all the implications of id-ing as genderblind.

    like, when i first heard people talking about being genderblind, i was all like, “wow…that sounds lovely!” i just liked the sound of it and i didn’t really think i through right away.

    still, if you’re looking to deny your privilege, saying you just don’t see gender/race etc. is a great way to do it.

  3. nope, you’re definitely not the only one who thinks that “genderblind” is problematic and kind of inadvertently allows for ignoring the dynamics of privilege and oppression. We don’t live in a post-gender society. Your assigned gender has a real affect on your lived experiences and ignoring that intentionally or not, is really problematic. Props to you for doing a good job of clearly laying out the reasons why.

    Also, while I’ve heard this term on the internet, I’ve never run into anyone in real life who identifies this way, I’ve definitely hurt cis men say shitty privilege denying things like “I don’t see gender,” but I’ve never met anyone who claimed “genderblind” as an identity.

  4. “‘genderblind’ is problematic and kind of inadvertently allows for ignoring the dynamics of privilege and oppression.”

    this pretty much sums up my entire post, actually. awesome.

    i’ve only heard this term on the internet; it seems popular among pansexuals and bisexuals. i’ve never heard anyone say it in meatspace, though. of course, i’ve also only (knowingly) met a couple bisexuals in meatspace (and no pansexuals).

    interestingly, someone at work told me they “didn’t see gender.” for reals. they noticed my gender tag, laughed rudely in my face, asked me about my gender tag, and got all huffy that i thought my “gender” important enough to post it on my chest. told me she “didn’t see gender” and that i should focus on more important things. also, when she referred to my gender, she made air quotation marks. sadly, i was at work and i didn’t feel like i was allowed to really defend myself. jcfhkjfhs

    anyway, i’m glad you think my post is clear; that’s actually something i was super worried about. so, yay!

  5. I agree, and I also noticed that I was mentioned in there, and I was all like “AWESOME”, “WHEE”, and “Well I’ll be darned at the same time. I read a bunch of your recent posts, but I guess lately I’d been in a mood and had not be commenting so I though I’d come back to it.

    The way I see, “Gender Blindness” is as the little kid, “If gender is a problem then I’ll plug my ears and pretend it doesn’t exist”. This happens on both sides, within society at large, and within queer communities (especially when you and RAD FEM). One is gender enforcing, the other seems to be “gender nihilism”. Opposite extreme and neither seems to “fit the bill” so to speak.

    But, gender, as with race, does exist. As long as their are human beings and we are gendered we will have a need to communicate gender. Plan and simple. To me, a gender neutral world would be as oppressive as a gender restrictive one. Pretending they don’t exist doesn’t poof them out of existence.

    On a side note, your posts lately have been really full of awesome… Just saying.

  6. While it would be nice to think that gender doesn’t matter, you’re right. It really does matter. You mention that you hear bisexuals and pansexuals using the term, I genuinely think that a lot of them just see it as a way to say that gender won’t affect how they treat someone without thinking about the implications. I think they maybe mean gender non-discriminatory or gender non-preferential (when talking about their preferences for a partner), which I’ve heard as well. What are your thoughts on those terms?

  7. “I think they maybe mean gender non-discriminatory or gender non-preferential (when talking about their preferences for a partner)…”

    yeah, in my experience, that’s almost always what they mean by “genderblind.” i’m fine with those terms; they seem pretty clear, they don’t erase people’s differences and struggles, and i really can’t see anything wrong with them.

    also, hi!

  8. @ Rabbit – But that isn’t gender blindness. Blindness doesn’t intrinsically mean the ability to acknowledge all people’s gender equally. There is a difference between being gender equal, and gender blind. So to a degree, Gender Blind, when referring to gender equal or any sort of non-discrimination stance to gender, is a semantic misuse of the word. Same as it would be if it were “color blind”. But the English language is full of unique semantic instances like that. I’d still avoid using the term, regardless of how it is meant.

    Blindness indicates an inability to see. Think about it… Gender is an intrinsic experience of every person (as a gendered species even if they are agender), and their are many modes and ways to experience that. These things are important to people, as anything dealing with our identity is. Is gender blind really a useful term in that case? Not really, and it is “misleading”. Gender Blindness isn’t the way, seeing peoples gender, recognizing their diversity and treating them all equally is.

    The gender of someone you meet should matter to but it shouldn’t lead to you treating any one of them with disdain or preference. Even the most noble use of “gender blind” can misleadingly obliterate this. Language is a wonderful tool if we don’t abuse it. You can recognize peoples independent and unique gender and still love all, or multiple genders for romantic purposes. I think recognizing ones gender is as important as treating them equally.

    (@ All – And in a short side bar, agender comes with its own issues. As in there are some whose “agendered” experience is actually a product of cis privilege. I know genuinely agendered people, and they literally don’t feel like male or female. Just like my old gender role didn’t feel right to me, agender people will experience dysphoria with being gendered in any role. Also, the more “in sync” ones internal/external gender relationship is the less they experience “gender” as a persistent thing.

    Dysphoria amplifies and increases the frequency of the awareness of one’s gender. Many people who transition to a physical gender in sync with their own feel an “almost lack of gender” afterwards. As they align the persistent awareness declines. I felt agender and gender blind had some relevance in this case. Either way, everyone has the right to use what words they want to describe it, but it’s important to be aware of the semantic contradiction.)

  9. it totally isn’t genderblindness– which is why i don’t really consider those people asshats. it seems like people say “genderblind,” but most of them mean “gender non-preferential” or something like that. it’s kinda weird.

    i’m a little uneasy about your use of the word “agender.” as you say, many people ARE agender (huzzah!); it sorta looks like you’re suspicious of people who id as agender. i know that’s probably not what you meant (i totally know a shit-ton of cis folks who say their gender “is” their genitals and that i’m just fucked for thinking gender might be something separate), but that’s what i’m getting from it.

    i guess it sorta reminds me of how some monosexuals often talk about how “most bi/pan folks are just speshul snowflakes–” but then go on to say how some of us are real deal. you know what i mean? the whole “let’s sort out the fakers” thing.

    but, yeah, lots of cis people proclaim that gender = genitals! and that we’re silly for thinking otherwise. and it pisses me off. rrrr.

    also, thanks for the rad picture! i shall now post it!!!! <3

  10. @mx. punk
    Hi! I just discovered your blog, so I’m lurking on it a bit. Your posts are so interesting and very educational! I might be directing some other interested parties here, if you don’t mind.

    I’m aware it’s not the same. I was just stating that I think those people don’t mean any harm (or at least I hope they don’t) by using the phrase “genderblind.” I just think they don’t realize what they’re implying. I just wanted to know what mx. punk thought of those terms, since I haven’t had much of a chance to discuss them with someone who actually has an opinion. Gender isn’t often a part of a lot of conversations where I’m from and it’s so nice to hear opinions and get input from people! Any time that I have to mention or discuss gender with someone around here (often, unfortunately explaining that, no, having a penis doesn’t mean your gender identity is male, or vice versa), I usually get a weird look like, “What are you talking about?” Thank goodness for the internet and giving me chances to find thoughtful people on WordPress, right? :-) I’m sorry if that didn’t come through in my comment. I didn’t mean to sound dismissive or anything.

  11. I am not suspicious of agender people at all, I am suspicious of people whom would be more accurately categorized as cisgender, as the actively exhibit behavioral tendencies to “reinforce” or affirm the gender traits associated with their birth assignment. Essentially, people who deride the transitions of trans-feminine and trans-masculine folks because they don’t experience dysphoria that points to “gender” as they see it. I was once told by a cis person that they see “gender” as a “suit” you put on, rather than an experience while they reside safely and happily reside in their own gender role/identity relationships.

    Basically you pegged it correctly, that this wasn’t want I meant. This was basically about the argument of some cis people use out of privilege, often claiming “transition seems pointless”. I am actually quite fond of people who identify with no alignment with gender like genderqueer, agender et cetera (probably because of you to some degree as you’re awesome-sauce and you write about it a lot). I was mainly referring to cisgender people who say that they don’t experience any sort of gender as an argument against our transitions, as if their experience or lack there of when it comes to gender is share and intrinsic of all people.

    That because they don’t experience any kind of “gendered” feeling in their privilege as cisgender people, that we must not either, or that said sensation of gender in my mind is a product of trauma or some other exogenous factor that has nothing to do with gender, (rape, incest, abuse, mental trauma). The people who basically believe that “gender” is all in our heads (psychosomatic) without realizing how the evidence just doesn’t pan out, or how they only apply this to transgender folks.

    In my experience, some of these arguments stem from a ideological conflict with our identities and their own beliefs where they use a faulty/incomplete concept to rationalize our gender identity and transition (in many cases it’s religiously motivated). It was only recently that I understood this position as one of cisgender privilege (AKA Not feeling a strong sense of gender because their is no conflict of gender).

    They make these claims while having no experience of existing in another gender, and said claims often stand on a failure to understand independent factors (sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity).

    Basically conflating “agender” with “not experiencing a strong sense of gender”, which aren’t quite the same thing and have a strong correlation to gender dysphoria. I hope that makes more sense. People do occasionally argue against our position because they are comfortable as they are, and can’t recognize their own gender identity because it’s congruous (as they are not dysphoric about their bodies, genitals, et cetera).

  12. Actually, it would seem in thinking about it that there is a whole list of cis privilege argumentative fallacies that seldom get addressed, and are far more difficult to dissect, like the “no strong sense of gender” fallacy of cisgender people. We aren’t talking about the counter positions like the pseudo-moral, “ciscentricity as normal” and other such ones, but the “why does it matter” arguments. That is probably a big post coming in the future. As known as, the cisgender people who are suddenly “without gender” when it comes time for them to understand or discuss your transition.

  13. @ rabbit: i love new faces, cat; i’m glad you’re commenting! also, thanks for the compliment! <3 you're always welcome around here (and no way do i mind you sending other people to my space; yay!).

    @ reneta: k, so i think we're on the same page, but i'm going to go all nit-picky on your comment anyway. cuz i feel like i need to.

    "I am not suspicious of agender people at all, I am suspicious of people whom would be more accurately categorized as cisgender, as the[y] actively exhibit behavioral tendencies to 'reinforce' or affirm the gender traits associated with their birth assignment."

    this makes me…itchy. i could be misreading your comment (again, i know), but it looks like gender policing to me. i mean, who gets to categorize other people as trans* or cis? and what about fem trans* guys, for instance? butch trans* women? do they "'reinforce' or affirm the gender traits associated with their birth assignment?" and who gets to decide this?

    again, i'm probably misreading your words, but i'm scared the gender police will find me and confiscate my fishnets, stickers, teddy bears, and lacy underwear. so i'm always nervous about the gender police. i love fishnets!

    "I was mainly referring to cisgender people who say that they don’t experience any sort of gender as an argument against our transitions…"

    this tells me we're really saying the same thing. like, these folks are everywhere and they need to own their shit. whether they're saying gender is 100% socialization or they're saying gender = bodies, i think it comes from a place of privilege. if someone doesn't know what it's like to experience dissonance between their body/socialization/inner gender-y feelings, they have no way of separating those variables. they just sort of experience them all together, i think.

    still, i say we shouldn't misuse "agender" by applying it to grues; it's not really fair to agender folks.

    also, you're awesome-sauce, too! and i might try writing a post about this cis-people-not-believing-in-gender thing, too. it's be fun to write posts about the same thing! don't get too excited, though; school's back in and i'm busy-ful. i'll try, though!

    mew! <3

  14. @Rabbit I hear you loud and clear, and I never interpreted it in a negative way. I just try, for myself mainly, to think, operate, and describe stuff in logical and concise methods. I have varying reasons, but most of which is just an adaptation to my tendency to see things as how I feel about them, rather than as how they are. This can lead me to rationalize my emotions and appear quite “logical” about it in contradiction to the fact that they were irrationally motivated. I’d also agree, that many people are probably harmless in said gesture, but I find more often that is cisgender people using it.

    As for gender, issues surrounding it are oft discussed to downright taboo, I believe you there. I have first hand experience of explaining said things to people. Like the fact that being a non-binary, feminine-androgynous (gender fluid), trans-feminine, demisexual, lesbian with exceptions completely blows peoples brain cases. I am totally with you there, and I understand explaining that penis ≠ male/man/masculine all to well. I also love Mx. Punk’s blog thoroughly and we have “Think Tank Rock Band” sessions all the time. Ze is constantly rocking my think tank.

    In fact at this very moment recollections triggered by being on their blog again has made me realize that perhaps “gender fluid” is a better definition of how I feel than some amalgam word soup centered around androgyny. The whole way I feel about my gender has been quite snagged about my brain lately, and it just came undone a bit. I hadn’t been able to understand how I could feel one way about my body and another way about my gender. Anyhow, you can assure yourself that there is a blog in all of that. You have been the inspiration for many such blogs. Take care.

  15. @Mx. Punk. Hmm. I that light you are quite right. I have been sick this weekend, so I don’t think my brain is working as normal. I tend to over explain when I get like that, and used out of context those statement could be problematic. If you see fit, you may edit that as I feel you know my scribblings well enough. I trust you, am sure you know what I mean. I think you aptly understand the conflation, most often by cisgender people, that no strong sense of gender for them means, or should mean the same for us. You are right to feel “itchy” about it, and I feel dumb for not being able to notice it.

    I guess to aptly point to the confusion (head-cold, “leakiness” and over the counter medicine fog) a good friend I love is the one with which this conflict arose. This person was raises very differently than the cultural modus of gender. As a result they align with a culturally insular gender role, but on which is still cisgender. This person maintains and reinforces their affiliation with the female gender role specific to them and their assignment, and only resorts to the agender/no strong sense of gender argument when it comes time for them to understand my transition and gender.

    They are also “Highly” unaware of what cisgender privilege is, largely unaware of sexism (in general) almost anti-feminist, and are religiously motivated. In my “medicine head” I appear to be speaking in a way that is confusing and misleading of what I am talking about, not the first and likely not the last time. More pointedly, my protest is against the use of ones privilege to make it appear as if transition is frivolous, or the appropriation of “agender” or “no strong sense of gender” as a way to attack transition, hormone therapy, sexual reassignment surgery, et cetera. Hopefully this adds clarity, though my brain is still rather X_x atm. Sorry about writing it in such an odd way, and thank you for dissecting it for me.

  16. It also would appear that agender is not the word to use at all to define this.

  17. We should have bathrooms based on colors. Like the ‘cool’ bathroom, the ‘warm’ bathroom and the ‘neutrals’ bathroom. So like the ‘cool’ bathroom will be in greens and blues and purples and the ‘warm’ bathroom will be in reds and oranges and yellows and the ‘neutrals’ will be in browns and greys and whites and creams and then you just use the bathroom you think is prettiest! ^.^

  18. @ sparkle-cat: it’s shitty that you aren’t feeling well! <3 hugs! also, don't worry about my nit-picky-ness; i really can't resist poking at stuff (you know that by now, i'm sure) and i can see what you're getting at. your friend sounds similar to some people i've encountered– bleh.

    @ hannah: yes, please! that'd be rad! i'd probably use the warm bathroom and the cool bathroom depending on my mood– but i'm pretty much repelled by neutral colors so i'd never use the neutral bathroom. yay!

  19. Thanks. Seems this week everytime I think it’s mostly done I have issues with it. It’s most than likely just my rhinitis junk, and it’s quite painful having inflamed sinuses, not to mention creates lots of tissue paper mess. But as I said, the last thing I want is someone using something I said for bad things, especially against my non-binary, trans* siblings. And by the way, you’re nitpickiness is Awesome-Sauce (with an uppercase), and I’d expect as much from you. But it has highlighted for me how and in what ways I can internalize the biases of cis people and grues who can’t understand my decisions in the way I discuss issues. Now if I could only get over this junky dizziness, sneezy, blah, ouch face cold. I hates hay fever. Anyhow, keep being awesome as you always are. :3

  20. This is quite an interesting blog! I’ve recently made some huge conclusions about my own sexuality and gender identity, the result of a life time of self and societal oppression. I think most of the LGBTQ* world would describe me as MTF transsexual & bisexual…but I prefer trans* femme & pansexual, or merely sexual. I firmly believe that both sexuality and gender identity are socially imbued with meaning, and have no intrinsic, concrete definition. Lately I’ve started to imagine females as bald and males with shoulder-length hair, imagining make-up on males and taking it off mentally from females…and frankly I just get this constant, consistent mental image of simply HUMAN BEINGS, some with more testosterone and others with more estrogen. I see masculine features on female faces/bodies and feminine characteristics on male faces/bodies and I just can’t help be think that this whole system of “male” and “female” by classifying ourselves but our little bits between the legs is SO bloody oppressive and inherently SEXIST toward females. FOR ME, a penis is an outie belly button, and a vagina is an innie belly button, and should have no further social significance than that in that sense that we should all be treated EQUALLY and seen as EQUALS not this horrible “othering” of females and of course LGBTQ* folk and let’s not forget ANYONE who isn’t seen as “white” in the white dominated countries. I’m sincere in saying that I’m attracted to human beings, not gender, because the entire concept of GENDER being somehow intrinsically attached to genitalia is disgusting to me. We’re all bloody HUMAN and BEAUTIFUL.

  21. oh and bee-tee-dubs….you don’t HAVE to come out “CONSTANTLY” to strangers, hon. People are gonna hate and most will never understand those of us who are self-liberated and accepting of our non-binary existence within the gender binary of most societies. We cannot control others’ thoughts/reactions. Period. We can only hold our heads high and act with grace and pride as non-binary and bloody ENLIGHTENED in this sense. =)

  22. aw, thanks! <3

    i think the whole genitalia = gender thing is just dangerous. and shitty. for everyone. blerg. but i also think it's important to respect gender because it DOES impact our lives and shit.

    ok. so maybe "have to" was a pretty strong way to word that. XD (like, totally.) thing is, i do need to correct almost everyone who misgenders me in order to feel like i'm taking care of myself and not feel like i'm disrespecting myself. that's just me, though, and i shoud've made that clear. sorry about that!

    "People are gonna hate and most will never understand those of us who are self-liberated and accepting of our non-binary existence within the gender binary of most societies."

    true, that. i always feel like i need to try, but i get tired. bleh.


  23. Sorry if this is a really belated and irrelevant comment by now, but this post is of particular interest to me.
    I didn’t know that “genderblind” was a common term. It’s kind of just how I interact with my settings, and I always identified with it much better than any other term. To me, Gender is a compounding of personality traits and confidence types. It’s important to our current society, but I don’t feel that it is an efficient way to slice personalities, cultures, and “types”, especially when there are so many people with so many fluctuations and intricacies to their identities. I have trans* friends, I have genderfluid friends, and I myself am anything but cisgender, and I respect everyone’s identities and accept their struggles as very real and very sad. I also feel very restricted by “normal” gender roles.
    I’m very impressed by your spirit and determination to fight against popular culture’s penchant for gender and sexual binary. However, I believe that as society evolves, people will no longer have to wage those wars against it, and gender roles will naturally erode to create an environment that is open to infinite different kinds of interpretations by infinite different kinds of people. I hope that people will accept each other easily enough to not require labels, and that we won’t have to form all of these subcultures based on mutual suffering.
    After all, labels are not only ways for people to self-identify; they are ways for people to identify with those who experience similar problems and joys. In a world with no hate, where the “norm” and “expectation” is only mutual respect, we would not need to focus so much on how we label ourselves, because we would no longer need to explain ourselves and sort ourselves into boxes.
    Unfortunately, that is not the world we live in now. For that reason, I understand the importance of respecting pronouns and personal stories, and fighting against the oppression of any kind of good person.
    To myself, though, I envision a world where there are no war stories to tell, no battles to fight, and no veterans to respect. It may be a pipe dream now, but that’s what makes me self-identify as genderblind.

  24. I agree. I’m agender while my best friend is poly gender so it’s weird to think that someone would think we are the same. Also I have dealt with violence because of using non-gendered bathrooms. Right now I have “tranny” written on my stomach in permanent marker a fractured and newly relocated jaw and 3 cracked or broken ribs. All for walking out of the bathroom. To say you’re genderblind is like saying you don’t acknowledge the fear and shame I feel just because of who I am. I work so hard to just be me and yet people throw it all away when they say they’re gender blind even if they don’t mean it that way it’s just disheartening to hear it.

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