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Marvin

Gender

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Marvin

I think this counts as a musing rather than a ranting, but this is probably the right place for it.

It's been bothering me for a while (understatement).. I can understand defining gender anatomically, if only for medical reasons, but beyond that I've never really seen a point.

What is 'gender', anyway? I've never seen any convincing evidence why it should exist. People are people, what more is there to say on the matter? It's just a relic of socialisation. I know that before school and the whole 'boys/girls [delete as applicable] are icky' thing started I never so much as considered the gender of people I was around (is this a general thing with children though?), and I have vivid memories of the torment I got for attending school in 'girls shoes' for a few days. I just thought they were comfortable. I tried feigning conformity from then on, and put up with all the stereotypes, but I still don't see what those stereotypes have to do with reality.

Everything that's ever been described to me as 'gender' seems to be to do with social conduct, which, by its very definition is a result of society.. There's nothing that I can find to justify a split in gender, or the existence of the term itself. It's as irrelevant to me as 'race' is.. Just some construct enforced by historical prejudices, which themselves are too inconsistent and prone to flux to be considered a true justification for anything.

I have, on a few occasions attempted to make myself look somewhat more androgynous. It seems to work for other people who don't identify with traditional concepts of gender, but that serves no purpose. I utterly fail to see the point to it. I can wear 'effeminate' clothing, and apart from the glee I get from wearing something I like it means nothing.. there's enough typically 'male' clothing that will have a similar effect on me. Ive tried altering my outward appearance in other ways, but that was a lot of hassle for no worthwhile result. It all just seems meaningless to me.

It leads me to problems defining orientation, as well.. I mean, I could hardly call myself 'straight', could I? As soon as gender isn't assumed to be something absolute, most of the terminology in common usage is instantly ill defined. 'Bi' works (to an extent, limited for obvious reasons), and so does 'pan', which is about the only one I can vaguely identify with. This is probably an entire topic in itself though..

I suppose this is all part of my more general problem with labels. They're just.. inadequate. The same as all language, really. No matter how much effort I may put into defining aspects of myself I've never had much success. Suppose that's the scientist in me, trying to categorise things that shouldn't be categorised for the sake of 'easier' analysis.

I still don't feel any real link to the term 'asexual', and apart from a brief 'rush' from the thought: "You mean I don't actually have to do that?", never really did. It's just a word I (hesitate to) use to try and explain myself to a society which consistently proves itself incapable of comprehending anything that isn't defined by 'difference'. Other people are happier to describe me as it than I am. It's not that it doesn't 'fit', it does better than any other term I've yet heard, I just.. really don't like having to say it. It's almost an imposition, more than a definition. If that makes sense.

Whether this is an asexy thing or just my general detachment kicking in again I don't know, but I'm thinking this is probably the place I'm most likely to find a similar opinion..

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Cakey

I identify with gender through the mind, the persons thought processes... with a couple of my gay male friends, it is just like talking to one of my girlfriends..

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ThePieMaker

Many people complain about labeling things, but it's not as stupid and pointless as people say. Without labels, what do we have? Chaos and confusion. Labels allow us to describe and relate. I think the problem comes when people are very strict with sticking to such labels. Labels aren't bad, just when people abuse them. It's natural to label. I can't imagine a world where we didn't label.

As a general pattern, my gender goes along with female. At the same time, I have a hard time completely relating to most women I come across because personality wise, I'm pretty androgynous, meaning I have a fair amount of qualities seen in the female gender as well as those seen in the male gender. For me though, the female qualities are more numerous.

Gender is both nature and nurture. You can't discredit nature when it comes to gender, because where do you think societies ideas of gender came from? They had to have some base in nature.

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CBC
I suppose this is all part of my more general problem with labels. They're just.. inadequate. The same as all language, really. No matter how much effort I may put into defining aspects of myself I've never had much success. Suppose that's the scientist in me, trying to categorise things that shouldn't be categorised for the sake of 'easier' analysis.

I relate to this part a lot. I've been labelled many things over the years [some correct, I guess; others that couldn't be further from the truth]. Most of them have had to do with my personality, my sexuality or my mental health. I've not really experienced the same feelings you have in regards to my gender, but I definitely understand where you're coming from. I despise being labelled, pigeon-holed, diagnosed, etc. I always prefer to say that I'm simply me. Labels make me feel like a scientific case study.

Paradoxically, since a young age, I've been interested in personality analysis, e.g. stuff like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator [MBTI]. I like reading about those sorts of things, and analysing my own personality. However, I do it more out of curiosity and a desire to "figure out who I am" than to come up with a fitting name or diagnosis.

So, yeah... Although I don't have any issue with gender specifically, I can really relate to your general sentiments about "labels".

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metalgirl2045

I can't remember the name, but one of the most compelling cases in favour of gender being real I've seen was a boy who lost his penis in a medical accident as a baby, was given a sex change to a girl and not told until puberty. It turned out "she" had a firm gender identity as male all along, and on finding out the truth about their birth gender had another sex change back to male.

Even ignoring extraordinary cases such as that, if gender doesn't exist, how do transsexuals exist?

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Billie

Actually...your post could easily have been written by me (if I could write to save my life, that is)

Really, the concept of the gender just confuses me. I tend to look at people as persons and not as male or female. Most of the times I think it's something similar to the people who feel they have a different gender from their biological: I feel like that, too, but it's closer to feeling that I have no gender at all.

I also have the same thoughts about gender being a social construct. Maybe it's due to my genderlessness, I don't know.

I suppose this is all part of my more general problem with labels. They're just.. inadequate. The same as all language, really. No matter how much effort I may put into defining aspects of myself I've never had much success.

Couldn't agree more with that. I have a weird way of perceiving things. For me, labels are unnecessary in most cases and just make me confused. I've put thought on this fact and reached the conclusion that when you use a label (or any word in that case) you can't fully communicate what you mean. People understand things filtering them through their experiences, so a word could have the same general meaning but as many different details as the people who use it.

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Mr. Ten Below

Sometime I'll have to read some things by transsexuals, because I'd love to get a better understanding of what it's like to know that strongly what your gender identity is. I definitely know what it's like to be told how to act or dress, and I rebel against that, but I don't have any sense that the boxes "male" and "female" should even exist, never mind that I fit into one of them. I do, however, like labels (maybe too much, according to some) so I happily call myself agender.

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Marvin
Even ignoring extraordinary cases such as that, if gender doesn't exist, how do transsexuals exist?

I can see the need for gender to exist biologically, and I'm not denying that it does (having re-read it does sound a bit like it). I just fail to see it as being of any importance socially (or personally), and as such struggle to see the need for definitions.

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thecynicalromantic

I'm quite with you on this.

I'm sure gender identity exists... I know some people have a definite view of themselves as male or female, and I have a pretty certain sense of myself as female... but I don't really feel like it means anything, it just is. The notion of labelling certain types of social conduct, thought processes, or emotions as "masculine" or "feminine" bugs me. I feel like most of the differences I notice between males and females seem to be differences in what/how they are taught to think... so the difference is there, but it shouldn't be. It's artificial and limiting and I go -batshit- when people try to use it as a justification or explanation for how they think. Two hundred years ago, being ABLE to think was a "masculine" trait, and I think we've proven that that was entirely a result of males being the ones with better educations... so even in lesser extremes, I still don't buy it.

I'm generally the last person to blow of things as being "merely societal constructs." Societal constructs are important, and once they've been constructed, they definitely exist. But most of them also serve a purpose, and I'm not sure what the purpose of gender roles is except to limit people. And since I'm not sure where to draw the line between "gender roles" and "gender", I'm not sure what to think of gender.

I guess if you have an innate sense of your gender as part of who you are, that's fine. But I don't see how it follows that you then "should" think, feel, act, or dress a certain way... don't we have things called "personalities" to help us make those decisions?

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metalgirl2045
Even ignoring extraordinary cases such as that, if gender doesn't exist, how do transsexuals exist?

I can see the need for gender to exist biologically, and I'm not denying that it does (having re-read it does sound a bit like it). I just fail to see it as being of any importance socially (or personally), and as such struggle to see the need for definitions.

What does it have to do with biology? Why would someone be so desperate to change their body if there was no motivation from an internal gender identity? Unless by "biology" you in include differences in brain structure, which has pretty obvious implications for differences in the mind.

Some masculine traits have turned out to be obsolete, but some have not. Doctor, lawyer, scientist, engineer were in the past 100% male things. How come doctor and lawyer have switched to female dominated at present undergraduate university level but engineering and physical sciences have not?

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ThePieMaker
But most of them also serve a purpose, and I'm not sure what the purpose of gender roles is except to limit people.

It only limits you if you let it. I'm hardly a girly girl and I don't feel limited at all. Sure, I identify as female because I have more feminine personality traits than male, but I still have more masculine traits than most women. I don't follow my gender role how I'm "supposed" to and I hardly hear any flack about it. I think people who really matter respect you more when you don't take the conventional route. I honestly don't think society always sees it as a bad thing to defy gender roles. I think you're only limited with it as much as you let yourself be limited (and what biology limits as well).

And gender roles aren't just a societal construct. You see them in nature as well. One sex taking on certain roles. So they have gender roles as well, and to say it's society's influence is a bit ridiculous. We too are animals and have natural roles that our sex and thus gender influence. Not all of us follow them because it's not what our nature dictates and we don't naturally fit that particular pattern. Gender is a state of mind, usually influenced but not exclusively by our biological sex. There is evidence of it in primitive people of long ago. It can be seen in even the most isolated of cultures in the world, similarities between our gender roles and theirs. Gender is not a moot point, nor is it purely dictated by society. There are naturally feminine and masculine traits.

I think we have genders because it's what has worked. Through evolution, they were the most fitting to the physical body. Women are able to feed the children, thus it fit that they were nurturing and delicate. Men are (as a general pattern) stronger, thus they are the protector and provider. Then I think it's grown in nature from there. Maybe it only seems like common sense to me.

Now we hardly face the gender role issues that society once faced. We have more freedom to explore gender now than ever.

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Djet

I totally agree with you.

As a sexual, I find the physical traits of one gender more attractive than the other, but I've spent a lot of time thinking about it, and trying to look at things from different angles (even posing as a male on another forum and looking at the different interactions) and most of the differences that I see are just people trying super-hard to fit these silly labels.

(FYI I wear guy's clothes all the time, they fit better, can be found cheaper, and are often more durable! Plus I love cargo pants, and they just don't make decent pockets on girls pants...)

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Asexydragon

The only thing I dislike about gender is when people confuse it with the word 'sex'. That's a pet peeve of mine.

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Alphawolf

I agree with you, gender is irrelevant. But...at the same time (like you mentioned) it's confusing with my orientation. I'm a Heterosexual Romantic Asexual, but if gender is irrelevant than what am I? When that happens I think of it like this: I like the mentality of females romantically, which makes me straight. It's like the old saying: "It's what's on the inside that counts".

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Marvin
What does it have to do with biology? Why would someone be so desperate to change their body if there was no motivation from an internal gender identity? Unless by "biology" you in include differences in brain structure, which has pretty obvious implications for differences in the mind.
The only thing I dislike about gender is when people confuse it with the word 'sex'. That's a pet peeve of mine.

I think this is possibly just a case of confusing 'Sex' and 'Gender'.. I see transsexualism as being biological, because it's to do with 'sex', the biological bit of gender, and transgenderism to be a mental thing, which is what I'm getting at here. I'm not so good at explaining myself though.

How come doctor and lawyer have switched to female dominated at present undergraduate university level but engineering and physical sciences have not?

I'd appreciate it if someone could tell me that, actually. I've seen no reason why engineering and the physical sciences are so male dominated. It wouldn't at all surprise me if it was to do with money in the case of the physical sciences.. You're doing what is essentially a very unappealing job to the majority of the population for comparatively little pay, when the opposite is true with many other professions where the discrepancy is decreasing, particularly in business/law.

I think there's been an improvement in Chemistry in recent years, actually, but Physics is still stuck.

I agree with you, gender is irrelevant. But...at the same time (like you mentioned) it's confusing with my orientation. I'm a Heterosexual Romantic Asexual, but if gender is irrelevant than what am I? When that happens I think of it like this: I like the mentality of females romantically, which makes me straight. It's like the old saying: "It's what's on the inside that counts".

My difficulty is that if I can't define my gender, then how could I call myself hetero- anything? The prefix 'hetero-' means 'opposite', but you can't really have an opposite of something which doesn't exist. It gets even more confusing if you consider gender-fluidity, because, strictly speaking, the 'hetero-' bit would then be changing at the same time, at least in terms of the model produced by the terminology.. I'm possibly being a bit too pedantic here, but I think you can see the problem. 'Bi' or 'Pan' would still (just about) work as terms because they're not defined by the attracted persons gender, but in terms of the attractee's (which may be more.. stable). They're still far from perfect though.

Again, there's a discrepancy between 'sex' and 'gender' (I really need to get past my aversion to saying 'sex') though. In most cases, sex is far more.. concrete than gender. It's something physically manifest and is more stable as a result. Terms like 'hetero-' or 'homo-' are more applicable if you're considering physical aspects of attraction, particularly sexual attraction, but attraction to 'gender'.. I don't see how they can be.

I think I've explained that in a way that makes sense.

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metalgirl2045

One of us is either not explaining ourself well or not being understood, as I believe it is a transgender person is someone whose sex and gender do not match, and wish to change their body to match their gender. A surgically altered body is NOT a functional biological body of the opposite sex and it's a very traumatic and drastic procedure, if gender identity doesn't exist what on earth is the motive?? If sex is just biological chance, why should someone be so bothered about which body they've got? That would make transsexuals just who leech off the NHS and health insurance companies for plastic surgery to a nicer looking body when there is no real psychological need to do so...a view I really don't want to support but would be the only logical conclusion from "gender does not exist". I have never come across a transsexual who identified as gender neutral. My personal gender identity feels non-existant but maybe that's just easy to say when I've got the right body and I've come across people with far less androgynous minds than myself.

I've rather changed my mind on maths and physical sciences now, it seems that there actually similar cultures where the gender split is around 50/50. So maybe that is a social thing that will be sorted the way law and medicine are being.

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Cakey

My gender changes dependant on the people i am with sometimes...

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AVENCakes

Gender is more than just that. To some people it matters very little, to others their gender is a very vital part of their identity- and I think if you're cisgendered or not strongly attached to whatever you identify as it's hard to understand why gender can be such a big deal to others, but it really is. And then it gets complicated because some people have fluid gender, so not only might it be different from their body it might change so at one point in time you're totally content as you are and at another you've got a huge attack of dysphoria and at another you're kind of in betweena nd so on and so forth.

The only thing I dislike about gender is when people confuse it with the word 'sex'. That's a pet peeve of mine.

Ohmahgah, YES! I hate it when people can't get that gender=identity and sex=body. Or when people just use gender because tehy don't want anyone getting all giggly over the use of the word "sex". *rolls eyes*

Even ignoring extraordinary cases such as that, if gender doesn't exist, how do transsexuals exist?

This is why at least one feminist hates us- they feel that there's only a physical difference between men and women, so someone saying "I've an XX chromsome but I'm a man" or, even worse, "I'm not male or female, I consider myself to be both/neither/other/etc" undermines that.

One of us is either not explaining ourself well or not being understood, as I believe it is a transgender person is someone whose sex and gender do not match, and wish to change their body to match their gender.

That part needs to be crossed out if you mean hormones/surgery/etc. Some people are content simply knowing that's who they are or dressing more whatever, some people need to change a little, some need to change it completely, and it's really hard for most non-binaries because how do you get a fully androgynous body? What hormones do you take? It's too easy to go too far and end up in the same hell again.

I have never come across a transsexual who identified as gender neutral

Um... by definition, transsexuals feel they are either male or female. If you met someone who was neutrois, they wouldn't be transsexual they'd just be transgendered. I'm kind of on the edge between neutrois and male, so I always feel odd calling myself transsexual for it.

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metalgirl2045

Well, I suppose dressing to present the body could just about mean modifying the body. I think you know what I meant, maybe I should have said transsexual rather than transgender to keep it to relatively simple and obvious examples.

You're right, I did forget neutrosis people, but the argument still stands for FTM/MTF transsexuals - it would be at best pointless, at most impossible, to be one of those and not believe gender exists. Marvin seems to be arguing that it makes sense because it has nothing to do with gender identity.

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AVENCakes
I think this is possibly just a case of confusing 'Sex' and 'Gender'.. I see transsexualism as being biological, because it's to do with 'sex', the biological bit of gender, and transgenderism to be a mental thing, which is what I'm getting at here. I'm not so good at explaining myself though.

Sex is the body (relating to legal/genetic/biological sex). Gender is identity. Transsexuals are people who are transgender (their gender doesn't match their sex), but fit into the gender binary (male or female). As you can see, transgenderism encompasses transsexualism, but also includes genderqueers.

Again, there's a discrepancy between 'sex' and 'gender' (I really need to get past my aversion to saying 'sex') though. In most cases, sex is far more.. concrete than gender. It's something physically manifest and is more stable as a result. Terms like 'hetero-' or 'homo-' are more applicable if you're considering physical aspects of attraction, particularly sexual attraction, but attraction to 'gender'.. I don't see how they can be.

But then there's intersexed, which is just delightfully complicated because it proves that sex isn't actually that stable.

Well, I suppose dressing to present the body could just about mean modifying the body. I think you know what I meant, maybe I should have said transsexual rather than transgender to keep it to relatively simple and obvious examples.

Yeah, probably, it's all too complicated. ^^; Dressing can be considered that, since it can include hair cuts and exercising certain ways, which does change the body beyond clothes.

You're right, I did forget neutrosis people, but the argument still stands for FTM/MTF transsexuals - it would be at best pointless, at most impossible, to be one of those and not believe gender exists. Marvin seems to be arguing that it makes sense because it has nothing to do with gender identity.

I don't really understand what he means by that either, seeing as being transsexual has everything to do with gender identity.

I can see how people with nonbinary identities could have a harder time seeing the difference. If you feel you're both or neither, then it would seem strange to think that people could feel strongly enough that they're one or the other to want to go through transition like that.

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Marvin
You're right, I did forget neutrosis people, but the argument still stands for FTM/MTF transsexuals - it would be at best pointless, at most impossible, to be one of those and not believe gender exists. Marvin seems to be arguing that it makes sense because it has nothing to do with gender identity.

Ah, I see where I'm going wrong here.. I'm treating it as there being two gender identities. One relating to physiology (and the individual's perception of themselves physiologically), and one relating to gender. I for some reason see the perception of one's sex to be seperate from the perception of one's gender, which is apparently more odd than I realised. I should probably actually research things before trying to create my own models from scratch, I might confuse less people that way.

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AVENCakes
Ah, I see where I'm going wrong here.. I'm treating it as there being two gender identities. One relating to physiology (and the individual's perception of themselves physiologically), and one relating to gender. I for some reason see the perception of one's sex to be seperate from the perception of one's gender, which is apparently more odd than I realised. I should probably actually research things before trying to create my own models from scratch, I might confuse less people that way.

The perception of one's sex is separate form the perception of one's gender because the perception of one's sex is related to the physical while the perception of gender is related to the mental. I honestly don't know how you're using sex, but it isn't in a way I'm familiar with.

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ALexah
Sometime I'll have to read some things by transsexuals, because I'd love to get a better understanding of what it's like to know that strongly what your gender identity is. I definitely know what it's like to be told how to act or dress, and I rebel against that, but I don't have any sense that the boxes "male" and "female" should even exist, never mind that I fit into one of them.

Totally agree with the reading things by/about transsexuals.

Personally, I think gender is the social construct we have created i.e. roles, stereotypes, etc. that are based on the differences between the sexes. Like, if you have a vagina (sexually female), your gender role as a woman says you must be feminine, soft, sweet, caring, etc, etc. Buuuut, for myself, I don't really by into *all* of that. I'm perfectly happy going with the flow, calling myself a person, conforming to some gender roles/stereotypes (I can be quite feminine and giggly sometimes), and resisting others (I hate wearing skirts and high heels and love pants). Anyway, just my thoughts... ^_^

(Great discussion, btw! I've been grappling with these for a while. Always nice to hear what other people think!)

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AVENCakes
Personally, I think gender is the social construct we have created i.e. roles, stereotypes, etc. that are based on the differences between the sexes. Like, if you have a vagina (sexually female), your gender role as a woman says you must be feminine, soft, sweet, caring, etc, etc. Buuuut, for myself, I don't really by into *all* of that. I'm perfectly happy going with the flow, calling myself a person, conforming to some gender roles/stereotypes (I can be quite feminine and giggly sometimes), and resisting others (I hate wearing skirts and high heels and love pants). Anyway, just my thoughts... ^_^

You'd think that, but then there are tomboy transwomen and feminine transmen, so it is social to a certain degree, but I think it's more ot it than that.

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Raef

Been reading this thread, but not sure what to say yet.

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KayleeSaeihr
Been reading this thread, but not sure what to say yet.

Ditto. It is relevant to my interests.

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Raef

Same; something I think about a lot and which affects my life in a big way - but from reading this it seems many people define sex and gender differently, which makes it complicated to talk about it.

It's interesting though.

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AVENCakes
Same; something I think about a lot and which affects my life in a big way - but from reading this it seems many people define sex and gender differently, which makes it complicated to talk about it.

It's interesting though.

The majority of people/sites I've seen who deal with transgender stuff agree on the body/identity sex/gender difference, the problem is that not everyone does so it gets confusing because sex and gender can be used interchangeably by the cisgendered majority.

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Beardless

I took a while to realise that some people had a fixed gender identity, but this is how I've come to think about it. Imagine yourself as an amorphous blob, a human mind without a body. Now you have no genetalia to reference, do you still know what gender you are? I don't. When I dream, that is when I construct a world for myself subconsciously, I dream myself sometimes as male, sometimes as female, and sometimes it doesn't come up. None of these feels less natural than any other.

Now, I think we are confusing the issue that Marvin originally meant. Marvin says that gender doesn't matter like race doesn't matter. You can't say that there aren't different races, and that people don't identify as different races, but that shouldn't affect anyone's dealing with them. Same with gender. But why bother identifying as something if it doesn't matter?

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AVENCakes
Now, I think we are confusing the issue that Marvin originally meant. Marvin says that gender doesn't matter like race doesn't matter. You can't say that there aren't different races, and that people don't identify as different races, but that shouldn't affect anyone's dealing with them. Same with gender. But why bother identifying as something if it doesn't matter?

Because it does matter. Anyone who feels each incorrect pronoun as a sharp pain or sank into despair that no one would ever see them as what they are knows this. You don't choose to, it just happens. And minorities do identify witht heir race, if I understand correctly. A large part of your identity can come from being from a certain location or your ancestors and heritage, it's not just "oh, you're skin is this shade so you identify as X" it's about where you came from

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