core gender

My commenting on Ralph in a Dress's blog the other day made me think of core gender.

Core gender is the gender each of us believes we are which, for most individuals, is normally aligned with birth sex. It is tied to femininity and masculinity yes, but that is only part of the answer since we all know men and women who buck the trend and still feel comfortable within their prescribed gender roles. So there is something else we are missing but we don’t know what.

I think that the case of David Reimer (who I write about in one chapter of my upcoming book) shows us a little of what this concept is all about. Raised from birth as a girl, he proved John Money’s ideas wrong by reverting to living as a male upon discovering he was born that way. David knew deep down there was something wrong and the discovery only confirmed it. While living as a girl named Brenda she rejected dresses and was a tomboy who favoured playing with boys over girls.

This is because at his core, David knew he was male.

This case helped us understand that feeling one is a certain gender cannot be just the result of socialization and that there is a biological component involved. It is this biological gender core which overrides everything.

David Reimer helped us to see the validity of claims from transgender people that despite their socialization in a gender role expected for their birth sex they feel more aligned with the opposite. What Harry Benjamin's work then helped us to understand is that this misalignment exists on a graded spectrum.

You will find a very good explanation of core gender in Felix Conrad's blog here


  1. I think we have ample evidence that there is some correlation between mind and matter. That is to say, matter arranged in one way subjectively experiences something different from matter arranged another way. Tweak the arrangement of atoms and molecules, and you tweak the subjective experience that correlates to it.

    To abstract? Start with a human being. That human has a mind. Now put chocolate in their mouth. The experience of that person has changed. Their consciousness has shifted, even if only temporarily. Now have them swallow 3 shots of vodka. Or inhale THC. The mind changes.

    Those who posit that gender is mere social construct with no essence or core argue literally that the subjective experience of all human beings is either the same, or to the extent that it is different, none of those differences correlate with any of the neurophysiological differences among the sexes. That if a reproductively male person actually could be changed in an instant to a reproductively female person in every anatomical way while preserving all memories and other factors necessary for continuity of consciousness, that said Person would feel NO DIFFERENTLY until forced to interact with society. That person's consciousness would resonate exactly the same, but for having to become accustomed to a new 3D map of their body.

    I find that very difficult to buy. Of course, that person's social experience would result in other changes, but having been so rearranged at a genetic and atomic level would also change the mind. Not so different that we would not call it a human mind, but a changed mind nonetheless.

    Some sort of subjectivity correlates with being arranged as male, female and intersex. This does not mean that each person within those categories will enjoy the same things or want to wear the same clothes, etc. It just means that there is something about the subjectivity that correlates with the body.

    In the case of an ostensibly reproductively male person who insists that their subjectivity aligns more with their fellow humans who are reproductively female, it hardly seems a stretch to say that SOMETHING biological is going on, something about the arrangement of their anatomy is giving rise to this sense of gender core. Nature may appear ordered, but it also produces anomalies. Everywhere. That an ostensibly reproductively male anatomy can correlate with a female gender core could easily be one of those anomalies. I would venture that it PROBABLY is. And hypothesizing as much makes more sense than dismissing all possibility of gender core itself or as mere delusion when trans people are fully aware of their obvious anatomical realities.

    1. I believe that those who claim that gender identity is "all social" are cisgender and thus have zero understanding or empathy for those who experience gender dysphoria and/or are transgender.

      Further, although we are relatively rare at 0.6% of the population (more or less) we exist as examples of normal human diversity. I just don't pay attention to those naysayers any more. It's not worth my time. I'm more at peace with myself these days expressing myself as a woman in public than I have ever been in my life of 61 years. I have a lot of history of discomfort, that's undeniable.

    2. Here's some information, not a challenge or invitation to argue. The notion that gender is a social construct was popularized (if not created) among feminists in the 1980s. (I was one.) We were trying to refute the idea prevalent at the time that gender was biologically-based and, thus, that social devaluation of women was "natural." We were actually trying to open up opportunities for women that were closed to them before them due to this thinking. In hindsight and with more science, it's easy now to see flaws in the position but that's not to say it didn't serve a political purpose at the time. Everything always needs to be evaluated in its context, not decades later.

    3. what you are referring to Ally is the basis for TERF feminism which sought to remove the biases against women and their repression in society.

  2. Your comments here are all important and correct. Just the mere fact that we are aware that there is a disconnect in spite of our self awareness that we were born with male genitalia already points to something biological. We are not stupid nor delusional and yet that anomaly persists and refuses to be ignored in spite of our strongest efforts.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Of your own making


Language matters