I’ve just finished reading Salman Rushdie’s recent novel, The Golden House, which explores issues surrounding gender and identity. In particular, the novel offers an irreverent look at trans issues: one character tells a joke about being a “trans-billionaire” stating, “I identify with being rich, therefore I am.”
The novel reminded me again of the confusion around trans issues that makes it difficult for people to get a handle on the subject. Right from the start it doesn’t help that the term “transgender” confuses our commonly-accepted frame of reference regarding the distinction between sex and gender. Typically, when people refer to “transgender” they mean someone whose identity does not conform to the sex they were born with. As such, it would make more sense to refer to “trans-sexual,” as we are discussing biological sex, not socially constructed gender.
Various issues get conflated in this discussion. I find it makes sense to separate the discussion into three elements:
- biological sex
- socially constructed gender
- sexual orientation
These three fluid elements are totally separate, yet at the same time are often tightly intertwined. It’s very difficult to understand what’s going on if you collapse these three elements into each other, or use the terminology interchangeably, as each element pursues its own logic.
Looking at trans issues via The Five Stages of Masculinity offers an interesting example of how people can operate at more than one stage at a time. “Transness,” with all its fluidity and multiplicity, is firmly based in Stage 4. However, the insistence on moving between the—by implication—distinct categories of “man,” “woman,” “masculine” and “feminine” suggests at least one foot placed in Stage 2. When we get to Stage 5, those categories of “man,” “woman,” “masculine” and “feminine” simply don’t exist in any meaningful way: as such there is nothing to “trans,” as it were.
Indeed, I suspect that the rise in transness is a response to an intuitive understanding that the whole sex/gender story is false, but this response is still anchored in daily experience of sex/gender categories. I also suspect that transness would decrease if more people inhabited Stage 5, as they would realize there are no men and women categories from which to transition, only different people. Consequently, Stage 5 is genuinely “transgender” inasmuch as having transcended gender, not transitioned from one Stage 2 binary understanding of gender to another.
More on Cryptocurrencies and Gender
I have a new article out this month, Gender, Bitcoin and Altcoins (audio version here). The article makes two separate points. First, the article identifies the lack of women in the crypto space and notes some of the individual attempts to address this. Second, the article shows there is often a hyper-masculinity performed in the crypto community: responses to the article on Twitter and Reddit offer confirmation of this. However, it would be wrong to consider the masculinity of the crypto community as monolithic, as I open up a distinction between Bitcoin (which is considered suitably manly), and altcoins which tend to be framed as effeminate.
Certification in The Five Stages of Masculinity
Certification in The Five Stages of Masculinity is now underway. If you’re interested in learning more about this new model and gaining access to a significant amount of content exclusive to students, registration is now open on a rolling basis.