Oh sure, we believe we know it all. After all, what could be more simple: men are men and women are women and sometimes they meet and make babies, and that is all there is to it.
This is why being transgender is so interesting and so exhausting at the same time. As soon as you start to really look at sex, sexuality and gender all the certainties dissolve into thin air.
Scientists and philosophers are doing one heck of a job trying to make sense of it all, but the thing is: Most of them try to force the square blocks into the round openings, in desperate attempts to make the story they grew up with continue to make sense. You know: men are men and women are women and sometimes they meet and make babies.
wxhluyp recommended Judith Butler to me. Butler is a post-modernist philosopher who has done a very important attempt at trying to get to the core about why it is that we think about sex and gender in the way we do. I will come back to her philosophy later. Here I will just point to her story about what made her think twice about femininity and masculinity:
"...you might as well know that in the United States the only way to describe me in my younger years was as a bar dyke who spent her days reading Hegel and her evenings, well, at the gay bar, which occasionally became a drag bar."
It was there she experienced an "implicit theorization of gender":
"...it quickly dawned on me that some of these so-called med could do femininity much better than I ever could, ever wanted to, ever would. And so I was confronted by what can only be called the transferability of the attribute. Femininity, which I understood never to have belonged to me anyway, was clearing [sic] belonging elsewhere, and I was happier to be its audience than I ever was or would be being the embodiment of it."
Judith Butler: Undoing Gender, NY 2004.
It is quotes like these that tells me that the gay and lesbian community and transgender do have something in common (apart from being outcasts): Many of us are struggling with the traditional concepts of femininity and masculinity. They do not fit!
Over at Small Pecuiliar Eyeteeth has made a wonderful series of comic strips presenting "Outdated Psych Textbooks" -- in the process revealing how helpless and speculative many of the theories explaining homosexuality are.
I think they say a lot about the role of sex and gender in psychology and psychiatry and therefore something about how they often think about the transgender population.
(Click on images to enlarge!)
Copyright: Eyeteeth. Republished with kind permission of the author.