The GENDER book will: educate community members about gender concepts and concerns; make available a free and widely disseminated resource that lists additional comprehensive resources for further learning; confirm and spread awareness of a universal vocabulary around gender, aiding in communication; clarify common misconceptions and misunderstandings in order to promote acceptance of gender variant people; and alleviate societal oppression of gender minorities through education and tolerance-based learning. The target audiences of the project include therapists, friends, schoolteachers, families, and individuals in the GLBTQIA community.
First of all, I think this is a great basis for creating a book. There are only a few samples available so far and I’m mindful that this is a work-in-progress. Their gender vs. sex illustration and description is fairly solid, although I’m not sure what to think of “Sex can be thought of as one aspect of someone’s gender”…huh? I think sex identity can be understood as…sex identity, and having it fall under gender is rather confusing, as well as inaccurate. Sex identity includes sex-assigned-at-birth, biological components of physical sex (chromosomes and body structures), self-understanding of physical sex characteristics, physical modification through medical procedures, and modification in appearance with items like breastforms, packers, and strap-ons. No doubt there are a variety of areas in which sex and gender overlap in terms of identity (for example, those who identify as men also identifying as male, neutrois people who are desirous of medical procedures and clothing to make their bodies appear neutral, and so on), but the point is the terms are related, while not meaning the same thing.
I have a number of issues with the transgender umbrella. Intersex persons may not want to be considered under the transgender umbrella, nor might masculine women or feminine men. Indeed, it is even problematic how feminine women and masculine men are on the outside of the umbrella: what about trans* people who identify and/or present as feminine women and masculine men? Trans* can be a handy “umbrella term” to be sure, but a reexamination of who is included and why appears to be in order here and besides, what about when genderqueer is used as an umbrella term? I’d like to quote this section from my Genderqueer History and Identities project, in relation to the above:
“Transgender”, while often considered an umbrella term for persons whose gender expression and identity is non-normative, an umbrella, as such, under which genderqueer may belong, is a term that tends to be associated with the binary identities of male and female, such as Female-to-Male (FTM, trans men) and Male-to Female (MTF, trans women), and with the process of transition, physically or in presentation, along binary lines. Identifying as transgender specifically may not express a genderqueer-associated or non-binary identity as clearly as the term “genderqueer” does, which may be seen as its own “umbrella” category as differentiated from, and overlapping with, transgender. Sexuality and law professor Nancy J. Knauer wrote in Gender Matters: Making the Case for Trans Inclusion (2007):
In some circles, the term genderqueer has emerged as an umbrella category that is distinguished by its oppositional stance to gender and its critique of the binary…Genderqueer recognizes that gender matters. It rejects, but does not deny the binary…genderqueer allows for the realness of gender, but declares it to be ultimately malleable and fluid. The label genderqueer signals an oppositional stance to gender as a primary mode of identification…Even if you reject the proposition that we are all a little genderqueer, you will have to allow that we all experience gender and to varying extents we all participate in the gender system.
Again, I appreciate the efforts of The Gender Book. What I would like to see is, when there are conflicting perspectives about what category a concept belongs to, if any, to illustrate that there are varying understandings meant to be taken into consideration, while also highlighting the areas in which there are more clear-cut answers and tips. Feedback for The Gender Book can be sent over here: http://www.thegenderbook.com/#/community/4553374749