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1.11.07

Third-sexing

The new job and finishing up dissertation-related paperwork have kept me busy lately, but I wanted to note something before the post it relates to falls into archive-land. Mandolin wrote a much-praised post listing and linking all the many types of feminism out there (in the course of which she considers me not only a feminist, but also the representative of cissexuality). What I wanted to make particular note of, though, was a comment by Lisa Harney. Harney points out that we should write (and think) "trans woman" and "trans man" as two-word descriptions rather than running them together into a single word. The underlying principle here -- which applies more broadly than just in the choice of spellings -- is to avoid "third-sexing" or "third-gendering." Third-sexing occurs when trans people are accepted, but accepted as a third (and/or fourth) sex alongside and equal to (cis)men and (cis)women. The problem here is that for (most*) trans people, they see themselves as being fully members of their transitioned-to sex/gender. The preferred alternative to third-sexing is to see trans and cis as subcategories of "men" and "women."

I'd add to Harney's discussion that I've encountered third-sexing with respect to gays and lesbians as well. In particular, I've seen traditional Native American societies praised for accepting gays and lesbians as a "third sex" and/or some form of male-female hybrid. While that is certainly better than burning them at the stake, and I can't say how well it worked within the context of traditional Native American society, I always felt that such an arrangement would be quite inadequate to the needs of modern LGB people.

* I say "most" to leave the door open for some people (trans or cis) who do actually identify as neither male nor female.

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