Transgendered, Transexual, Bigendered, Bi....sexual?
April 2, 2010 11:33 AM   Subscribe

Is there such a thing as being bi-sexual or a-sexual? (Not in the way that you think.)

So we know what sex means (anatomy/genetics). We know what gender means (societal persona-based construct intended to correspond with anatomical sex).

We've got transgendered people (societally imposed gender isn't correct). We've got transsexual people (physical sex isn't correct). I'm sure there are bi-gendered people, who meaningfully feel like they have/exhibit/identify-with both genders (or maybe neither).

But, are there people who are bisexual or asexual, where the "sexual" refers to biological sex rather than sexual orientation? In other words, people who identify with, or feel like they're meant to be both sexes, or simply don't have a sex preference if they could easily choose for themselves?

Personally, I have some qualities of both genders, but I don't identify with the opposite gender in a way that makes me feel or think that I'm transgendered. I also happen to be bisexual in the sexual orientation sense.

However, in terms of my own physical/anatomical sex, I'm also ambivalent, or perhaps indifferent. I could anatomically be the opposite sex, and that would be fine, even kind of cool. It's not that I want to be non-sexed or anything, but (when I imagine it) I wouldn't feel trapped in the wrong body if I were the opposite sex, and I don't feel trapped in the wrong body as my current physical sex. I don't have a desire to seek surgical or medical treatment to transition to the opposite sex, but I wouldn't object to it either. (Well, negative/difficult components of the process itself aside, that is. And the fact that my significant other wouldn't be so into my sex being different.)

Is this a common feeling? Is it actually the norm? If it's not the norm, is there a recognized group of people with this feeling? Is there a name for the group or the feeling? (I know it's not intersexed.) It's not so easy to search for; bisexual and asexual already have meanings that aren't what I'm talking about.

Perhaps a pertinent question is: Do non transsexual people feel as strongly about being their actual sex as transsexual people do about being their actual sex? All else being equal, does the idea of being the opposite sex seem aversive to non transsexual people? (Like how straight people find the idea of having sex with people of the same sex aversive, and gay people find the idea of having sex with people of the opposite sex aversive.)

I should have mentioned this in some of my gender studies classes when we covered trans stuff, but I didn't.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
The terms you're looking for are hermaphrodite and intersexuality. While these traditionally refer to physical characteristics, they can (increasingly do) incorporate psychological characteristics as well.
posted by alms at 11:39 AM on April 2, 2010

Conceptually, you're looking for genderqueer.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:40 AM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Norrie is a person who does not identify as having a specific sex.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:40 AM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Perhaps a pertinent question is: Do non transsexual people feel as strongly about being their actual sex as transsexual people do about being their actual sex?

Who says that all transexual people feel super strongly about being one sex or the other?

Freshly Charles does a ton of really terrific youtube videos on trans issues, including discussions of feeling outside the gender/sex binary. In one of this videos (probably lightly NSFW), he talks about being happy about being a man with a "jam," as he calls it.

In my experience, this stuff is a lot less black and white than it's often presented in places like gender studies classes.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:48 AM on April 2, 2010

You might be interested in learning more about two-spirit people.
posted by rtha at 11:57 AM on April 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Do non transsexual people feel as strongly about being their actual sex as transsexual people do about being their actual sex? All else being equal, does the idea of being the opposite sex seem aversive to non transsexual people?
Based on a fair number of random late-night conversations: it varies a lot by person. Some people feel like they would prefer to be another sex, even if they don't feel like their current sex is wrong. Some people think it would be awesome to be able to switch sexes at will. Some people are pretty much indifferent to what sex they are. Some people find the idea of being the other sex horrifying and revolting, even if they can't articulate why. IME this doesn't correlate strongly with sexual orientation (eg, gays finding the idea of a sex change more/less aversive than straights). I don't have enough anecdata to guess whether one of these attitudes is prevalent enough to be called the norm, though. My random sampling of friends falls all over the spectrum.
posted by hattifattener at 12:11 PM on April 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

The people I've met who feel the way you describe call themselves gender fluid.
posted by arianell at 12:25 PM on April 2, 2010

Among people I know (most of whom seem to identify as "trans," "queer" or "genderqueer"), a sexual identity of "both/and" or "none of the above" is not at all uncommon.

One friend, who is biologically female (and likes it that way) while being very masculine in gender presentation and sexual identity, identifies as FTW, for "female to whatever."
posted by ottereroticist at 12:37 PM on April 2, 2010 [9 favorites]

All else being equal, does the idea of being the opposite sex seem aversive to non transsexual people?

There are lots of teenage-boy erotic fantasies that involve being in a woman's body. Maybe these are juvenile, but it probably means that for at least some non-trans people, they don't have an aversion to it.
posted by AlsoMike at 12:37 PM on April 2, 2010

There are a lot of people who fall under the "trans" label. It's a big tent!

As mentioned upthread, genderqueers and others like them reject the gender binary. There are "middle path" trans people who might not fall on either side of the gender binary (and are fine with it), either presenting androgynously, sending mixed messages (see "genderfuck"), or perhaps flipping back and forth between the two. Consider also, there could be people who identify as MTF who have made a full social transition but who have not undergone SRS. Where do they fall in the gender binary spectrum? (Mentally or physically -- two totally different things.)

Complicating matters, think of someone with, say, "Harry Benjamin Syndrome". Such a person might be born with male genitals and raised as male, and later in life transition and undergo SRS (with all of the connotation of "correcting" things), and identify purely as female in all of their interactions. Someone in this category would clearly reflect a gender binary.

So, for the OP, I think your terminology "transexual people" is very imprecise. "If you've met one trans person, you've....met one trans person." Many have vastly different perceptions of gender and the gender binary.
posted by QuantumMeruit at 12:55 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'll throw out another word: Androgyny. From that wikipedia page, it also lists the following words: ambigender, non-gendered, genderneutral, agendered, between genders, intergendered, bigendered, pangender, and genderfluid.
posted by Houstonian at 2:06 PM on April 2, 2010

fairytale of los angeles nails it.


Which more or less sums up how I feel about myself. I'm androgynous appearing. People mistake me for a guy all. the. time. Which in most cases doesn't phase me in the least (unless I'm walking into the ladies facilities and then it practically enrages me.

I don't really want to be a man. Honestly most days I would hate to be a man. But I certainly see how that could be awesome. I like the equipment I have today though so I'm pretty ok.

My own personal sex/gender history is something like:

come out as lesbian, evolve into dyke, capture the andro flag before moving into identifying as "butch" and moved through that to genderqueer. Genderqueer is a better label for me, if I have to have one, because I feel it honors the fact that I'm pretty okay being a masculine appearing person who happens to have breasts and is okay with that.

Seems to me that you fit in that box too.

Feel free to drop me an e/me mail if you want to chat.
posted by FlamingBore at 2:19 PM on April 2, 2010

i'm very female in presentation (big tits, very round hips, feminine hands, etc) - but from my earliest sexual fantasies, sometimes i have my cunt and sometimes i have a cock. even though i don't peg the husband, i still have a (for lack of a better term) strap on (feeldoe - they're incredible) - i'll just walk around sometimes wearing it because it feels more "right" that day then having my born genitalia. i'm bisexual in orientation and i've gone through periods of gender-bending and cross dressing. a lot of my male friends tell me that i talk about my partners like i'm a guy. i researched FTM stuff for a long time. but in the end, i don't feel not female, i just feel sort of male. genderqueer is the word that a lot of people would use, but i stopped trying to label all this a long time ago.
posted by nadawi at 2:51 PM on April 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

FlamingBore must be my long-lost twin. There's an anthology's worth of amusing ladies-room stories in my history. I might be hanging on to the female aspect of my identity because I enjoy being a dyke so much. Otherwise it's genderqueer all the way down.
posted by expialidocious at 4:08 PM on April 2, 2010

It is a fluid continuum. There are many facets of sexuality, and almost nobody (who has ever taken the time to think about it) would be 100% this or 100% that on all fronts.

It would be tricky to even try to define what is 100% male or female.

So people who enjoy having labels for themselves choose whatever label they think fits their sexual personality best. People who don't care just think of themselves as people and move on to trying to get laid.
posted by gjc at 4:23 PM on April 2, 2010

Diagram of Sex and Gender.
posted by mlis at 4:28 PM on April 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

To quote someone who's name I forget: "Who cares, as long as you look fabulous?"
posted by crazylegs at 6:56 PM on April 2, 2010

+1 MLIS. It's very tricky. The salient point is "all four axes are independent".

It isn't so easy to confirm that most people are in other than the 0% or 100% position on any of the four axes but I would bet that's true. It is difficult for many people to admit even the possibility. Therefore finding out what the norm is is a twofold challenge: getting people to answer the question, and getting them to answer it in a deeply-considered and heartfelt way. Therefore: il faut cultivater nos jardin.
posted by jet_silver at 8:37 PM on April 2, 2010

Eh, I'm genderqueer. I look female, have no desire to go through SRS, and I'm heterosexual. On the other hand, I tend to identify as male, and act male in social settings, to the point where people sometimes look at me, do a double take, and go 'oh, I forgot you were a girl' (which, um, visually is a bit ... difficult to do). Sometimes in dreams I'm female-bodied, sometimes male-bodied, sometimes not-bodied. Some days I dress feminine, some days I dress masculine.

*shrug* I'm just me.
posted by ysabet at 8:40 PM on April 2, 2010

I'm not very attached to my biological sex (female) or my gender (whatever). I present as a tomboyish female; perhaps if I were taller with a deeper voice I might be perceived as male. There would be a whole new set of practical concerns if I woke tomorrow with male genitalia, but psychologically I think I'd feel more "huh, this is interesting" about it than ZOMG. My husband, being hetero, would no doubt have a much different attitude (the aversiveness you speak of), and that would be my primary opposition to switching genitalia.

I'm not sure if this is what you're getting at.
posted by desjardins at 10:49 AM on April 4, 2010

I've heard of people identifying as "neuter" which might be what you're describing, though technically it means "neither" rather than "both."

Once genderfork's discussion forums are up and running, that might be a good place to ask about this.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:11 PM on April 4, 2010

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