Genders Without Number

I was hanging out with my friend Ènziramire who told me about a certain page from Kevin Crawford’s recent cyberpunk rulebook Cities Without Number, about corporate genders. He was surprised that I hadn’t heard of it, so he explained it to me: in the world’s setting, corporations mass-produce new genders and sell them to targeted audiences. He was even more surprised when I said that sounded fascinating as hell. So, later, I got the book to find the page and read it for myself.

In this post, I want to explore the context of gender discourse in which this page was written, as well as the relationship between that and digital-age structures of consumption. This is not meant to be a justification or reinterpretation of the page per se, especially in that I'm not trying to argue that the author was not intending to write something negative and conspiratorially-minded about trans people. Rather, this is sort of an "immanent critique" of the text. I want to poke at its deeper implications about the social construction of gender and its treatment of trans-gender people (put a pin in it), and argue that as much as it is a dystopia for (conservative) cis people it is even more so for trans-sex people.

Let's remember that the author is dead, and read this work with fresh eyes.

The Text

From Cities Without Number, p. 209:

While the impoverished, cautious, and bio-reactionary remain wedded to traditional biological sex, successful modern consumers have access to a wealth of cutting-edge gender identities developed by numerous media and medical corporations. Nova Vida’s “Passion Play” gender drop is one of the most important annual style events in the City, and private biomod clinics will pay handsomely for preview leaks.

Corporate genders are created by a mix of markets and medical techs, with stereotypical gender traits and body formats implemented through drugs, implants, and fleshmods. Nova Vida prides itself on its ability to provoke even very complex emotional habits through the right mix of chems and neurostims, with the side effects well within acceptable parameters. Even sexual attraction can be modulated by the right chem mix, with no legally actionable consequences.

These gender identities are then marketed to different consumer segments based on perceived needs, with corp-friendly genders pitched to ambitious climbers and “rebel” identities fed to subcultures through sponsored influencers. Some iconoclasts insist on assembling their own gender identities from preferred behavioral patterns and body mods, but these individuals are often dismissed as freaks and malcontents unwilling or unable to finance a “real” gender.

Others find their mods deactivated and drug regimens terminated when their gender subscriptions end. Several thousand “Platinum” and “Sunset Rose” gender subscribers recently found themselves in critical medical distress when Prakhet Identity Studios was bankrupted by rogue operators. In a spirit of public service, Nova Vida is generously providing a discounted, time-limited upgrade opportunity for these consumers into their similar but fuller-featured “Cordova” and “Spartan” gender products.

Social Implications of Gender & Sex

I found a really old post (at least, one I think of as being really old) that explains my feelings on sex and gender better than I could now. I’ve copied, edited, and expanded it below, since it helps frame my exploration of Crawford's text.

Gender is the categorization of individuals according to their sexual characteristics: women and men.1 This classification determines the expectations according to which individuals are expected to behave. The expectations levied on women and men respectively are taken for granted as expressions of behavior particular and essential to those genders. Society compels individuals to adhere to gendered expectations lest they deviate from those norms and, as it were, their ‘gender’. There are two orthogonal strategies to criticize and overcome these expectations.

Strategy A: Trans-Gender, Beyond the Binary?

The first strategy is to agree that gender indeed categorizes individuals according to their essential natures, but reject the notion that these essential natures should necessarily correspond to sexual characteristics. Through this lens, a trans-gender individual rejects the essential personality which they were ‘assigned’ at birth according to their sexual characteristics. Since gender (as essential-personality) has an arbitrary relationship to sexual characteristics, why it should correspond to sexual characteristics at all? Perhaps the solution is to acknowledge new genders to represent different essences not encompassed by ‘woman’ and ‘man’, or to reject the categorization of gender (as essential-personality) because such a thing cannot be categorized without something being left unrepresented.

Another way I think of it is: the rhetoric of trans people becoming “their true selves” was appropriated and transformed into a notion that one’s gender is their holistic self. This has two effects: some people invent highly specific genders and pronouns to label increasingly specific personalities which they take as essentially or fundamentally distinct experiences from other genders, especially from women and men; then some cis-sex people self-identify or are “diagnosed” by others as non-binary because they do not meet the essential expectations of their gender.

As an example, one cis male friend said:

If 20-year-old me was growing up today, they’d definitely be self-identifying as at the very least non-binary. And that would be motivated by three things:

a) Growing up is hard, and they don’t 100% jive with all the markers of masculinity, especially in the local context.
b) Cis-male patriarchy is obviously bad, and they’d want to distance themself from it (and the responsibility to correct it).
c) The identity category has cool-kid factor; belonging to it would be belonging to a micro-group with exclusive parties, signifiers etc.

The last bit isn’t really the fault of real-life queer spaces, but the performance of them in media both social and market-oriented. Queerness as exclusive, ever more granular identities, not as an expansive project.

In other words, patriarchal relations are seen through this lens as essential aspects of the “basic” genders (female and male). As a result, one who adheres to this belief may find it difficult to conceive of a non-antagonistic relationship to these “basic” genders that isn’t naïve (female-coded) or problematic (male-coded).2 A cis male like my friend in the above example may distance himself from the gender of “man” because of its social associations with aggression, entitlement, and patriarchal relations. A cis female may likewise distance herself from the gender of “woman” because of its associations with docility, as well as in an attempt to free herself from patriarchal relations on the basis of her individual self-identification. Neither of these motivations have anything to do with their sexual characteristics, except insofar as they may socially signify the gender from which they want to distance themselves.

Strategy B: Trans-Sex, Rejection of Terms?

The second strategy rejects the notion that gender, as the categorization of persons according to sexual characteristics, really defines or reflects the essence of one’s character (except insofar as this categorization shapes the personality of that person). Under this lens, a trans-sex individual experiences dysphoria, i.e. distress caused by their sexual characteristics and, only by extension, their gendered expectations.3 The individual is compelled to perform the expectations of their ‘correct’ (internal) gender rather than the one they were assigned at birth, in addition to seeking sex-corrective treatment. The distress and enjoyment caused by this compulsion is no different than what is experienced by a cis-sex individual,4 except that the trans-sex individual was born to a different body and therefore has dysphoria which is distinct from that compulsion.

Although trans-gender and trans-sex individuals, using the specific definitions above, are not mutually exclusive, defining both groups as though they experience the same conditions does no service to either. A trans-gender individual may not experience sex dysphoria at all. Not only may they not desire to seek treatment as trans-sex individuals, but doing so may cause dysphoria if they develop sexual characteristics which contradict the internalized image of their sex. On the other hand, a trans-sex individual cannot be adequately treated by the loosening of gendered expectations or the expansion of gender to encompass more essential categories irrespective of sexual characteristics. The dysphoria they experience is a direct consequence of their sexual characteristics, and only subsequently the distress that results from the contradiction of their internal and external gendered expectations.

The treatment of gender as an essential nature with no relation to sex (except an arbitrary one) does no favors to trans-sex individuals or to the discourse at large. For one, it does not criticize the essentialization of gendered expectations but solidifies it by asserting that there is a gender-truth outside of sexual characteristics. It also diminishes the understanding of sex dysphoria, if one claims that gender is wholly a categorization of essential personality and therefore dysphoria is an re-essentialization of gender with respect to sexual characteristics (!). If this notion of gender is not rejected, it should at least be made clear that dysphoria is a relation to one’s sexual characteristics with no relation to gender-essence per se.

The personality traits ascribed to gender should be considered arbitrary. The categorization of individuals according to sexual characteristics has no bearing on their character except an arbitrary one determined by social norms. By extension, there is no such thing as an essence of character, related or unrelated to sexual characteristics. As per Marx, “the human essence is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In its reality it is the ensemble of the social relations.”

Digital-Age Gender (De)Construction

Cities Without Number supposes that the setting’s corporations, in contrast, find gender-essence an extremely profitable venture. They prey upon individuals’ desire to distance themselves from “traditional biological sex”, or to modify their physiology to reflect their own (apparently) essential or desired character. Gender becomes a subset of fashion, or a new register of microculture expressed (and constructed) through individualist consumption. Firms design and release new genders in order to target increasingly specific personalities and aesthetics. Since the outcome of this industry reflects the reality of gender discourse in the real world, it seems that Crawford analogizes this new reality (directly or indirectly) to the creation and consumption of microculture identities, which are structured by firms to produce highly loyal consumers and generate revenue in proportion.

This business strategy was first predicted and later pioneered by Jonah Peretti, once a graduate of computer science exploring Marxism and psychoanalysis, who became the founder of digital multi-media corporation Buzzfeed.5 In 1996, the journal Negations published an article by the then 22-year-old Peretti titled: “Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Contemporary Visual Culture and the Acceleration of Identity Formation/Dissolution.” Peretti argues that self-identity under capitalism is “inextricably linked to the urge to consume, and therefore the acceleration of capitalism necessitates an increase in the rate at which individuals assume and shed identities.”6 Since the Internet has improved the efficacy at which consumers are exposed to advertisements and then are pressured to buy and consume products, the optimal strategy for firms would be to ramp up their marketing to meet this high-speed consumerism.

The psychoanalytic figure of the schizophrenic, one who has not internalized a cohesive self-identity, is considered alternatively by Jameson and by Deleuze & Guattari either as the epitome of capitalist consumerism or its natural enemy. Either the schizophrenic is especially prone to the rapid consumerist identity-formation forces of capitalism, able to easily switch from one identity to another, or they are immune since they cannot internalize and retain an identity at all. Peretti finds a solution through Lacan's theory of ego formation. The ideal consumer oscillates between a schizophrenic blank slate and a fluid ego construct, as if swaying back and forth to the rhythm of capitalist media. He says, “The acceleration of the process of de-translation and re-translation has necessitated new modes of shopping”. It may be more accurate to say, however, that the new digital age necessitated the acceleration of identity (de)translation.

The Individual and the Group

The megacorps want atomized consumers that can be divided up based on market segmentation and hyper-specific product targeting. Because of this, the corps actively cultivate a radical individualism among consumers. Every person is a self-contained island, the only arbiter of their personal interest or social ties. Incidental ties of birth, blood, or inherited religion are meaningless save that they provide some concrete benefit that the individual recognizes. The only identity that is valid is the one you choose to be.

Kevin Crawford, Cities Without Number p. 204.

The emergence and proliferation of gender-essences seems structured after the same for consumerist microidentities in general. Even though these are not invented by firms, they operate on the same desire to find increasingly small, specific boxes to shove oneself in. John B. from The Retired Adventurer reminded me that although this has been happening with gender, it happened initially with sexuality. If you were on Tumblr, you’d remember all the variations of asexuality on the “gray spectrum”, as well as new terms to distinguish between (even different types of) attraction towards cis or trans people. This tendency evolved to encompass gender, with a strict taxonomy of non-binary genders between or beyond women or men, and neo-pronouns to signify them. This has little to do with one’s relationship to their sexual characteristics, but instead with a desire to express their own character-essence as accurately and precisely as possible using the language afforded to gender presentation (especially online) instead of with their dollar bills.

Gender & Anxiety

Maybe the “Gender & Identity” page comes from a place of conservative anxiety about bourgeois liberal culture, with regards to gender discourse. As much as it may recognize a certain social phenomenon and its construction by modern society, this critical analysis is geared towards nostalgic advocacy for a traditional past state. Miranda Elkins of In Places Deep shared with me Evlyn Moreau’s video about the page’s transphobic implications—most glaringly, that poor people or reactionaries are “wedded to traditional biological sex” unlike the rich consumer class who can afford and take treatment for boutique genders. Moreau points out that, in our reality, there is a real crisis of gender-affirming healthcare being far too expensive for most trans people.

What puzzles me is that, you would think, this holds true for the setting of Cities Without Number as well. If the gender-affirming healthcare industry is geared towards the desires of ultra-rich liberals with identities completely subject to the invisible hand’s whims, that necessarily excludes most individuals suffering from dysphoria. Many cannot afford to be treated, especially in the context of the high-fashion gender industry Crawford describes, and even those who can seek treatment must navigate the insane commodity language of hyper-specific identities. Crawford sees in his own work a dystopia for cis-sex people and conservatives, but it is just as well a dystopia for trans-sex people.

This is why I found Crawford’s work here so compelling at first sight. Conservatives think they’re going crazy because they see the surface level of liberal gender discourse. They are fed enragement bait by their legislators to take their annoyance, confusion, and irritation and translate all that into a mass political repression of trans people. Crawford seemingly falls prey to this culture war, seeing individuals of “traditional biological sex” as a natural opponent to a liberal bourgeois gender discourse marked by the commodification of self-identity. He can’t perceive that this gender discourse impacts trans-sex people as well—even more gravely and directly than it does cis-sex people. The commodification of one’s identity is suffocating: mentally, socially, and monetarily.

My friend Magnolienne of PinkSpace put it succinctly: “I don’t think the book is saying that those poor girls scraping together the cash to take estrogen in their bathroom are not real. If anything, it’s taking the opposite stance—they are still VERY real and VERY affected by this gross future.” Crawford may not recognize the reality between the lines of his own book, but it is apparent for those with eyes to read.

Thank you to everyone who talked about this with me and read over my draft! Also wanted to mention one of my early posts, "The Representation of Gender in PBTA Games as Aesthetic or Ontology", for how it prefigured this one from the opposite direction so to speak. Finally, I wanted to pass the ball to Ènziramire to peer-pressure him into talking about race and religion in this same book. :P

  1. I agree with Butler that sexual characteristics serving as a basis for social stratification itself originated due to the social forms of “woman” and “man” already existing. However, just like use-value despite being the justification for exchange-value still ‘exists’ outside of the commodity form, sexual characteristics and the ways in which they affect human life still ‘exist’ outside of any gender schema. Put a pin in it. ↩︎

  2. Where “gender” in this case refers to the essence of one’s character underlying their social presentation, rather than one’s body and their relationship to it. ↩︎

  3. I am using “trans-sex” instead of “transsexual” because the suffix ‘-sexual’ now more often refers to sexual orientations, than anything having to do with the noun ‘sex’ in any sense. ↩︎

  4. Butler’s notion of gender performance refers to this compulsion insofar as it is not a conscious choice but an unconscious demand, resulting from the internalization of social norms. We can rephrase the paragraph in this context, by arguing dysphoria cannot be reduced to simply atypical gender performance. My pet theory has been that dysphoria is a physiological phenomenon, or another type of intersex, that we just don’t fully understand as such yet. What comes to my mind are Freud’s clinical records of dreams communicating bodily ailments of which the dreamer is unaware consciously. ↩︎

  5. Also the brother of actress and comedian Chelsea Peretti. ↩︎

  6. Compare to Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle. Something important that I always try to bring up, now, is that this spectacular society is one specifically located in the imperial core of capitalism, which constitutes the world-system’s consumer base. ↩︎


  1. As a big Kevin Crawford fan who observed a decent chunk of the writing of CWN on Reddit and through Kickstarter, I read the section on gender and could not decide whether it was a conservative-minded satire or a liberally-minded cautionary tale. I think he's a clever enough author that's probably intentional (though he also lives on a farm and basically homesteads, so I suspect his instincts skew at least libertarian). I also think your breakdown of the two perspectives on gender is very insightful here.

    I especially think this sentence "Some iconoclasts insist on assembling their own gender identities from preferred behavioral patterns and body mods, but these individuals are often dismissed as freaks and malcontents unwilling or unable to finance a “real” gender." is the one that would most closely represent his true feelings. He was very clear throughout the drafting that in his view, this is perilously close to the worst possible world, and the book should be read in that light.

    Also, fundamentally he's a librarian. He's aware that categorization is artificial and changeable (if often with some fundamental truth to it). He also rarely gives interviews (he has ONE long-form podcast interview) - he's quite private about almost everything, and not the type to just throw a political hot-take into the game without actually thinking about it. I think it would be very unwise to read this section and conclude that Crawford is simply being all conservative. Basically, I think you're right, but I also think that you (and others) may not be ascribing him sufficient insight. I think the liberal reading of this (for lack of a better term) is 100% intentional.

    1. thank you for reading! :) i agree that there is definitely a lot of intentionality in the text, but it's the framing that seems to betray a reactionary perspective in my reading: specifically, the juxtaposition of ultra-bourgeois transgender liberals with "the impoverished, cautious, and bio-reactionary" echoes conservative anxieties about trans people.

      to be clear, in my view, the liberal reading is one which dismisses the text as straightforwardly and irredeemably transphobic. i think, instead, that there is an incisive commentary on modern notions of gender that is ultimately misguided by anxiety and phobia.

      it would have read differently if the conflict between commodified gender and authentic experience were foregrounded, and it's understandable that crawford may have avoided that for not wanting to speak out of turn, but then it comes across a lot like the goofy anti-bullying film: "A WORLD WHERE GAY IS A NORM & STRAIGHT A MINORITY"

  2. I was clicking on the link "let's remember the author is dead", expecting to read find out about the death of Kevin Crawford.

    I feel really, really stupid now.

  3. I definitely agree with Evlyn Moreau that this focus in CWN on the lifestyles of the rich and privileged is leaving the “punk” out of “cyberpunk,” but Crawford's weird SF take on gender is…pretty cool? Like, yeah, maybe he's coming at it from a conservative angle and an assumption that every step away from a “traditional” gender binary is a step further from God's grace or whatever, but even if that's the case, his approach fully accepts that gender is a construct (perhaps it does so by suggesting a retreat to a “well sex is the actually important thing anyway” bailey? I dunno), which is more than you can say for 99% of conservatives. And I'm inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt—he clearly thought deeply about this, and the table of “stereotypical gender traits,” rather than being ten “typically male” and ten “typically female” traits, contains a bunch that are ambiguous or have been stereotyped both ways at different times and in different cultures. It doesn't seem to me that you could think this hard about how gender MIGHT be constructed and not understand that, yeah, even “traditional” genders are just social imaginaries.

    I do think a lot of unnecessary ambiguity is introduced by the ugly phrase “wedded to traditional biological sex," which is something I'd have flagged as an editor for prosaic reasons more than political ones. “Traditional” and “biological” are really clashing there; there's nothing “traditional” about the idea of “biological sex" (which the traditionally minded, at least in the “Western” tradition, would regard as redundant). Seems like something is missing; should be “wedded to traditional views of biological sex” or “a traditional binary derived from determinations of biological sex” or something. Who knows!

    1. I mean, when you can gene-edit, biological sex IS somewhat traditional.

    2. People of means might think it's "quaint" or "old-fashioned" to stick (or be stuck with) the genes you were born with, but I still don't think the word "traditional" applies. Biological sex is a pretty new concept (basically nonexistent before the 1960s), and its embrace by right wingers who push the false idea that it's a binary (ignoring intersex people or just handwaving them away with "well, they're all close enough to one or the other") is VERY recent.

  4. There's a pretty obvious contradiction between the idea that race-changing modifications are so cheap that there are entire gangs of poor people using them (on the first page of the spread you posted), yet sex-changing modifications are so expensive that only the rich elite corpo types have them. Which I guess isn't explicitly stated, since there's no mention of trans people in the modern sense at all; all these corporate gender identities are artificially induced (which, incidentally, implies a certain acknowledgement that gender identity is a real thing, doesn't it? Especially given the note that losing your subscription causes crippling dysphoria, or at least I assume that's what's meant by "critical medical distress"?)

    Then again, that page also says that nobody has any kids in this future, so... where do all these people come from, exactly, if the poor can't afford kids and the rich are too busy working? Is this society going to vanish within a generation? Does everyone come from offscreen clone farms?

    My main impression of the text you posted is that it's so busy trying to be a right-wing analogy for the present day that it never bothers to pay any attention to the interesting science fiction concepts it raises.

    1. stopping your gender-affirming care suddenly can have medical consequences far beyond dysphoria, even irl. as a trans woman, I'll suffer the equivalent of menopause if I stop taking my estrogen, and after I get a vaginoplasty I'll have to dilate it at least once a week for the rest of my life. if someone gets their gonads removed and then stops taking sex hormones altogether, there's all kinds of medical conditions that can arise from that regardless of sex.

    2. thank you for reading, and love that you pointed out all the contradictions of the premise! that's an indicator of a reactionary text if there ever was one, that the entire thing is set up to fantasize about inconsistent, misplaced anxieties.

  5. There are definite, though probably accidental, left-wing implications to be read into a world where people routinely subject themselves to conversion therapy into corporate-designed genders in the hopes that their employers will like the stereotypes about their new gender. The analogy to current-day construction and enforcement of gender is obvious - imagine a cologne ad showing the wearer as a wealthy, successful "alpha male" with a gold watch, or imagine a woman worried about losing her job if she doesn't spend hours on her makeup each morning. I'm strongly reminded of the excellent short story "I Sexually Identify As An Attack Helicopter".

    1. thank you for mentioning that short story because i had meant to but forgot! very much agree, there is something really interesting about the text that is just trapped behind reactionary anxieties---almost as if it's those anxieties that prevent him from fully realizing the implications of his world and that in which he lives.

  6. I've got some background in Religious Studies, and so had a glance through the characterisation of religion in the book. It's interesting, though I don't think its as much a focus as gender expression is to Crawford. Religion is broadly depicted as just escapism, with little depictions of set religion or unified religious groups and the positive social structure they provide, similarly to how Crawford depicts ethnic groups to heighten the sense of not-belonging most people in his dystopia feel.

    Like gender expression, faith has been partly taken over by the corps who happily sell new cults or religious retreats, and some religious movements even venerate the corps themselves and aim to "obey the company word and get promoted". I'm surprised as to how little mention material religion gets - as in our world the greatest source of capitalising upon religious expression is undoubtedly through gift-shops, clothing, specialist books, prayer/meditation accessories and apps, etc.

    I'm also curious as to why only Catholics are mentioned as a faction; but I guess that's to allow for the creation of more diverse religious movements tailored to the GM, which is cool. Their characterisation as a "worldwide network" who, themselves, have splintered into beneficial communities and also terrorist cells seems quite contradictory - but I guess that is, again, the part of the theme of balkanization.

    The "Religious Purge" section leaves a bad taste in my mouth, where the disposessed group is described as "often considered disloyal, hostile, and dangerous to the locals" and then the text says; "[t]his assessment may be correct for many of the angriest among them". When any religion is pushed underground there will be pushback and anger, but adding any legitimacy to such a purge makes me uncomfortable. Arguably, with birth-religion being done away with in this setting, religion as ONLY a set of changeable world beliefs (like our modern politics) reduces some of the genocidal undertones here, but this still smells a bit fishy...

    In general, the perception of religion here is very Christian, or at least Western, focused. There are mentions of churches and shrines but not (real-world) temples or gurdwaras. Though they're two very different mediums/settings with very different goals, I think it is somewhat interesting to compare this to the Cyberpunk 2077 video game - where Christianity, Buddhism, and modern Esotericism are central to the themes/side-quests; while other faiths (Judaism, Islam, strange new cyber-faiths) also get specific mentions at a minimum. Perhaps that's to do with the fact that Night City has a strong multicultural, especially Japanese, influence and CWN seems to be more focused on the USA itself, and is also only written by one person. Another explanation is that the setting is deliberately very open ended, allowing for GMs to insert whatever faiths or religions they want to, which I'm personally a huge fan of.

    But yes, broadly religion here isn't fully engaged with - seen mostly as a societal force perpetuating history/action than as something players can directly adopt or be part of. I'd also say that it is seen through a mostly negative lens, with a focus on zealots and fanaticism, but that's something broadly true for most TTRPGs and dystopias. "Cultish" corps are described off-hand as having "a religious kind of isolating devotion" which strikes me as a very sour view of faith communities.

    On gender issues, I'd be very interested in an analysis of the "Neos" who are depicted as "[a] multi-factional ideological movement aimed toward rejecting the conventional definition of humanity in favor of a new, transhuman existence. Wealthy Neo leaders fund mod work for their most capable followers, making the movement something of a cross between a cult, a militia, and a pyramid scheme" which I personally read as very much how the right currently characterises trans movements. I'm no expert in this though, so perhaps I'm seeing things that aren't there!

    Thanks, this was an interesting subject.

    1. No wait, I was wrong! Temples do get mentioned, but as the HQ for a "frenzied cult". They are directly mentioned alongside churches under the "Religious Zealot" section though, so there's that.

    2. thank you so much for reading and for all your thoughts!! worthy of its own blog post :) from what i understand, crawford is either lapsed or straight-up catholic, so your read is accurate to that. also definitely agree that many of the through-lines in the book seem like conservative talking points, like how muga above described the similarities and differences between how racialized people (and trans-racial people!) are described.

      the "narrator", to avoid speaking of the author per se, seems very caught up in cabals of strange, deviant or even degenerate people (that are either ultra-rich or ultra-poor depending on what validates the fantasy in each context).

  7. your distinction between "trans-sex" and "trans-gender" is a fairly nonsense one, honestly. there's really no reason why changing your name and pronouns isn't as significant as taking new hormones or undergoing surgery. I know (irl) people who've undergone medical transition without considering themselves "a new gender"-- they're just a boy who has tits and hips now, or a girl who has facial hair and a deep voice, or whatever-- I know no fucking shortage of people who eschew certain gender-affirming treatments, or even all gender-affirming treatments, for any number of reasons, and don't consider themselves any less of a man/woman/whatever for, say, not being on hormones. and then, like, probably around half (idk?) of the "nonbinary" people I know irl are currently on some kind of gender-affirming medical care. social dysphoria and bodily dysphoria are often-but-not-always intertwined, and sorting people by who takes what kind of medical treatment is often counterproductive to actually mapping the territory. THAT SAID, YES the online tumblr mogai niche microgender approach to gender identity is kinda critically misguided, but that online scene was also mostly children/teenagers with very little (if any) irl queer community, and is also mostly extinct now, and can generally be dismissed out of hand. nonbinary people have existed long before tumblr and will continue to exist long after that website's gone.

    1. since you aren't exactly being polite, i'll cut through the shit: your canned response to me using "trans-sex"/"trans-gender" indicates a kneejerk reaction to the terms rather than an actual engagement with what i wrote and why. if you'd read with your eyes, you'll see that nothing i said contradicts you: it's entirely possible for trans-gender people to seek medical treatment or for trans-sex people not to, and i even talk about that in the post.

      the difference is not whether or not someone takes hormones or gets a sex change, but their relationship to their body and to the social dimension of their gender. does someone find that their assigned gender (or gender in general) does not reflect their essential character, or do they find that their own body is alien and hostile to them? both groups may (or may not) seek what's called "gender-affirming care", but for orthogonal reasons.

      likewise, i know non-binary people who've medically transitioned and those who have not. what's clear to me is that despite both self-identifying as non-binary, they have distinct relationships to their bodies in the same way that binary cis-sex or trans-sex people differ. what this indicates to me is that the liberal understanding of gender is an entirely different axis than the (seemingly) physiological force of dysphoria, which results in the various permutations of gender and sex that we see.

      that said, changing your name and pronouns is nowhere near as significant as taking new hormones or undergoing surgery. one is something you can do on your twitter bio, the others are semi-permanent medical procedures which require consistent access and whose legality is constantly being litigated for political plays. past a point, as you've said yourself, it's not just a matter of mental health but physical health too.

      this is not about gatekeeping anyone from healthcare, which i'm obviously not advocating for, but about not allowing one group's experiences to speak over another group---and then for that to impact social perception and political legislature in turn, on account of "gender affirming care" being understood as an option rather than a need.


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