Gender labels are confusing children

    1. I never said that the gender labels are confusing children. I am simply saying from a legal standpoint its easier to protect under the basis of sex than gender identity, and that is a good reason to get rid of the labels. In a sense by making labels people in the transgender community are “othering” themselves and making themselves a more easy target for descrimination.

      WIth that said, I the main point of my arguement was not one about sexuality, as sexuality and gender identity are completely different. One being immutable, and the other, as fars as we are aware being highly mutable untill about halfway through puberty.

      In some ways Identities can tie you to a community, but in other ways it can isolate you from other communities. The idea of someone being Genderqueer is really just a more overt aknowledgement of the fact that they do not subscribe to the traditional boundaries of gender norms. It is essentialy Agender. Much like being an atheist means not conforming to any religious norm. People in this category define themselves rahter than the gender they fit into. They simply eliminate one form of self stereotyping that everyone else does. With that said, there are a lot of scientific inconsistencies in the trangender narrative, and they only exist in an effort to fight descrimination. I am saying that beig transgender does not have to be a biological condition for it to be protected under the law. I think you are misreading my point as it really is to the support of the transgender community. The main idea being, gender is completely made up, and therfore would be as protected as other made up things such as religious identity. And that being made up does not make it any less important that things such as religious or political affiliation. And that unde the current laws as they are, discrimination against them is not allowed. You are strechting my point to something that really is not what I am saying. And I think you are being overly deffensive where you don’t need to be.

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      1. Sex is biological; gender is social. You don’t understand the laws protecting gender minorities and it’s clear you don’t want to. Gender is a social construction but it is still meaningful to individuals and communities, as my article explains and as I’ve already outlined. Writing a sociological post using sociology is not being “deffensive” [sic]; though you do seem to expend a lot of energy peddling your subjective ideas about gender and sexuality, which have no scientific basis. I’m only allowing your comment here to note for the last time that transphobia is not allowed on this blog. I have a clear set of guidelines about comments, which include the fact that this is a sociology blog that educates. Your opinions about how transgender people should be defined bear no weight to this discussion.

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        1. Hi! great article. I was just discussion with one of my colleagues a subject along these lines…he referred to gender as not social but mental. he referred to a diagnosis once given, gender dysphoria, and describes the need to fit in not because of social standards nut for mental reassurance. what is your thought on this idea? we discussed that anatomy be more for the social standings because it is a physical seen trait and gender was not.

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        2. Hi Clarise. Gender is a social construct, not a “mental construct” in the way you mean, for the reasons outlined in this article and in this thread. I’m afraid your colleague has an outdated view of the term gender dysphoria, which has evolved and changed in the psychological literature. Gender is not about a mental reassurance; it is about the social norms that are imposed upon people across cultures and at different points in time, as well as how individuals respond to, identify with, and challenge these norms, in ways that are meaningful to them as individuals.

          Gender dysphoria as a psychological term once referred to the erroneous view that transgender identity was seen as a mental illness; this is no longer the view of mainstream psychology, which now focuses on how discrimination, social pressures, bullying and social stigma negatively impact on transgender people’s wellbeing.

          As I’ve outlined above, biological aspects which are used to ascribe “sex” (including “anatomy”) do not describe gender. Gender is the social meanings assigned to various expressions of masculinity, femininity, gendernonconformity and other gender roles and identities.

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    2. Hi Dr Zulekya, in the society we live in, I have observed that feminist who tend to defy the traditional social functions of a woman such as cooking, cleaning, etc, and venture into leadership positions are seen as ‘wanna be men’. How can women be more involved in the construction of femininity and the change of their roles in the modern society?

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      1. Hi Nelson, this sounds like an assignment question, which I do not answer. What I will say is that you might need to critically reflect on your framing of gender. Women in leadership positions are not “wanna be men” and, to invert the logic of your question, women in paid work are not disengaged with the construction of femininity. Quite the opposite, women in leadership positions are punished for leading in ways that managers consider to be feminine, as I’ve shown elsewhere. Your question shows that you accept a dominant view of gender that sees “cooking, cleaning, etc” as inherently feminine and leadership as “men’s work.” Femininity is a social construction that varies across cultures, time and place. It might be good for you to read my article above and check out the sources I link to – to think sociologically you must critique taken for granted assumptions about society, starting with gender roles.

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      2. You are using a straw-man argument, nobody is stopping them from doing things they like as long as they are legal and aren’t hurting anyone.

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    3. God you’re rude, not letting your readers and yourself to see other opinions? He isn’t even transphobic. I’m sorry but you’re being close minded, he did add to the discussion but because you LABELED him as transphobic, his post doesn’t even matter. Please try to see and understand both sides as there is more than 1. Both sides have intelligent people, and both sides are right in their opinion. Please show more respect to your readers (who are respectful in their argument) you don’t agree with, it makes you look better too.

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      1. Hi Chester. It is not “rude” to point out transphobia, least of all not on a sociology blog dedicated to addressing the otherness of minority groups. Transphobia is not subjective; you don’t get to decide what transphobia is and what it is not. Transphobia includes attitudes, beliefs and actions that contribute to the discrimination and denigration of transgender people. Cisgender people saying that gender is determined by biology is exactly how transphobia is maintained.

        Contrary to your emotional argument, there are no “both sides” to a discussion about transphobia. Transphobia is the antithesis of this blog. My commenting policy is clear: feel free to learn from the sociological research discussed, but you cannot dismiss sociology based on personal feelings. You can “debate”/ perpetuate transphobia all you like anywhere else on the internet (but please don’t – have a cup of tea instead and get better educated on social inclusion). My website is not the internet. You, a casual interloper who has parachuted here to sprout hatred, nor any of my regular readers, get to demand to use my publishing space as a means to maintain the status quo. This is research blog maintained by a professional sociologist, with commenting guidelines established to meet the aims of intersectional feminism. Giving any more air time to transphobic apologists is not part of these aims.

        Liked by 2 people

    4. Can you give me some examples of you or someone you know acting gender differently in different situations? Also, I need help analyzing the components of feminity or masculinity that someone as emphasizing or downplaying in these particular cases.
      Thank you so much!

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      1. Woah, here you are again, Calvin! Here you give me your homework question; and when I don’t oblige you go and attack the social construction of gender. Read the references your sociology lecturer assigned to you; think critically about these; and then take a step back and reflect on why it makes you so upset to learn that many cultures see gender in non-binary ways.

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    5. Is your commenting policy nobody can disagree with you? There are 2 genders. no matter what social construct you believe in. At the end of the day there are 2 biological genders male and female, penis and vagina, women and man, he and she. If you want to get your sex change or even identify yourself as a mashed potato go right ahead but science will forever disagree.

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      1. Hi Calvin,

        It must be very scary to live in a world where reading the science showing that the rigid laws about gender you hold dear are not, in fact, real. I make the distinction here between sex (biology) and gender (social construct). I discuss scientific research showing how gender is organised differently across time and space, including in Western nations like the one you live in, and here you are, with your personal opinions evoking the sanctity of science. Feel free to actually read the research, and take comfort: other cultures and individuals’ gender identifications are not a threat to you.

        Oh, and by the way, my commenting policy clearly states that I’m happy to engage with credible sociological and other scientific evidence. You have provided neither. I am an expert in this field and you are not. You are entitled to your opinions, but not your ‘facts.’

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      1. Hi Oyindolapo. Sadly, children of female husbands are currently not entitled to inherit property and are socially stigmatised. (Important to note why I used the term “illegitimate” in quotation marks as there is no such thing as an “illegitimate” children. No human being is illegitimate.)

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    6. In school I was constantly being told by other girls to behave/be/dress more feminine, never the boys. So for me it was really more the girls who were policing gender roles. I´m wondering whether this is some form of hegemonic femininity (within the group of people perceived as women). But I see the point that hegemony would imply a position of power over people of other groups. And those women who are “successful” at being “female” don´t necessarily assume a position of power in society, maybe even less so because being feminine is also seen as incompatible with holding power? I´m curious about your thoughts and maybe some reading advice on this. Thank you!

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      1. Hi Passerby,

        Thanks for your comment. To answer your question, is there hegemonic femininity, the answer is no. While in your subjective experience girls policed femininity, more generally, people of all genders police gender. Hegemony is the process by which the interests of elites and those in the dominant group are established through consent, often through socialisation. Hegemonic masculinity is a concept theorised by the Australian sociologist Raewyn Connell in her book, Masculinities. Hegemonic masculinity is established through various social institutions, including the media, which holds up some forms of masculinity as being the ideal (White, heterosexual, athletic, able-bodied). An example is the male protagonist of any Hollywood action film. Connell describes clearly that there is no such thing as hegemonic femininity as women do not have cultural power.

        Women policing gender are actually doing the work of patriarchy (same goes for men who police gender). Cisgender men benefit most from the construction of gender as a binary, not women, because this binary positions masculinity as universal and superior.

        Thanks for passing by!

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    7. Hey, Ms. Zevallos!
      I have a question pertaining to the target audience of this article. I read, cited and I am currently doing an in depth study of “Sociology of Gender” and I am curious as to who your targeted audience was. Any information would be wonderful and graciously accepted!
      Thank you!
      Jaiden Raimondi

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    8. Greetings Dr. Zevallos,

      I am trying to understand the differing perspectives on gender and sex in academia. From what I have observed, being a Transwoman is not simply a case of a male feeling very feminine and then “deciding” to transition to fit society because society says only females are feminine. Transwomen state that they are women, and some are masculine, feminine, androgynous, and have various sexualities. So, I get that gender is socially constructed, but I think that there must be some sort of gender consciousness that causes a human consciousness to see itself in terms of gender, as a man, woman, or in between. And that this gender consciousness is linked to external genitals and secondary sex characteristics, because these aspects cause transgender people distress because they do not align with their gender consciousness. This consciousnesses must be rooted in neurological structures that impact human consciousness.
      Consider this:
      How could a person be raised in a typical female body, be raised as a girl socially, and yet always have an internal sense that they are a boy? what if this boy is also very feminine and gay, which from the outside would make him seem like a “typical” feminine girl? yet this “girl” is really a boy. Doesn’t this suggest gender consciousness that is separate from society? If gender identity can go directly against society, and be the opposite of what society dictates, it must have some function distinct and independent of society. It will be viewed through societies lens, but that doesn’t actually effect the transperson and their gender consciousness. To elaborate, a person might see transpeople as duped by patriarchy, as mentally ill, or as authentic men/women. These views do not change the transperson’s own internal gender consciousness. Someone thinking that transpeople are duped, doesn’t mean they are. I hope I’m making sense. This has been weighing heavily on me because to suggest that gender is completely socially constructed runs the risk of invalidating transgender peoples experiences because transpeople simply would not exist in a world were gender is 100% socially constructed with no neurological component that is independent of society.

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      1. Hi Lucas,

        Gender is indeed a social construction because it varies across time, place and cultures. Neurology does not determine gender, nor does biology. Gender is the social meaning ascribed to what it means to be male and female. These ideas are shaped by society in rigid ways. Transgender people’s gender identity does not match their biological bodies. There is no such thing as gender consciousness in the way you refer to it, I’m afraid. There is no collective higher order consciousness that determines gender. The argument that you present is known as biological determinism, and it is often used to invalidate transgender experiences. Have a read of the resources I’ve cited to see varied examples of gender in different social contexts.

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    9. Hello Dr Z. (Sorry I like to use shorthand typing hahah) Your article has helped me out tremoundesly in my research for my class. I appreciate you going out into such an interesting field and creating a wonderful article. Again Thank you so much!

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    10. This is not a question but rather a compliment. Thank you for this article, it has lead me in the right direction with my work on Gender and Reproductive health. I hope to continue engaging with your work further and maybe I might have some questions

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      1. Hi Rosalie. The answer to this question is that the joy of sociology is reading, synthesis and completing your own assignment. This is only surpassed by the sociological insights derived from reading my commenting policy. Good luck with your assignment!

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      1. TW: suicide and depression.

        Hi Juan. Thanks very much for your comment. I have indeed – David Reimer’s case shows the tragic circumstances of medically-driven gender interventions that ignore the wellbeing of individuals. His case is also important for medical ethics, due to the doctors and psychologist who obscured facts about his medical history and profited from his experience.

        For others reading along, if you read further into his case, Reimer died by suicide after a long battle with depression.

        For a succinct overview of his case, see the Intersex Society of North America, who write: “We like to point out that what the story of David Reimer teaches us most clearly is how much people are harmed by being lied to and treated in inhumane ways.” http://www.isna.org/faq/reimer

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    11. I noticed that in an image explaining sex, gender, and sexuality, that intersex was listed as an example for gender. I believe that that is inaccurate, at least to some extent. Being intersex is a chromosomal variation other than XX or XY (XXY, XYY, XXX, etc). I acknowledge that some intersex people may identify their gender as corresponding with being intersex, but I still believe that intersex should be used as an example of sex rather than gender. Can I know your opinions on this?

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      1. Hi Aeyrn, thanks for your question. Intersexuality is a gender identity. While “sex” refers to biological descriptions, people who identify as intersex are describing their unique gender identification and experiences. That is, the social aspects of their masculinity/femininity/genderqueer or other gender identifications. Their biological status (having a unique chromosomal “variation” from XX or XY for example) does not define their gender identity. In fact, intersex people show that gender is a fluid social construction. For example: who decides that XX = certain body parts = woman? This scientific definition emerges from a Western definition of sex. There are so many biological combinations that are found amongst humanity that a binary sex/gender do not adequately capture. Sex = defined by convention. Gender = defined by social meaning, including individual expression and experiences. Hope that helps!

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    12. Hi I’m currently doing an assignment on sociological perspectives on gender – mainly how biological determinism and socially constructed notions of gender are used to explain gender differences…

      I was hoping to use functionalist and marxist-feminist theories to compare, could you recommend any good names to read up on for any theories that will help me with this assignment?

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    13. Your article does a great job showing that gender norms vary across cultures and are therefore socially constructed. Do you think biology influences the construction of such roles? For instance the fact that women give birth and produce milk may have made them more likely to take on a more active role in raising children, whereas the advantage in a fight that men have from being stronger on average than women may have made them more likely to take on a more active role in (pre-gun, melee) warfare.

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      1. Hi Inertia. Biology has no influence on the social construction of gender. When we talk about this concept in sociology, we are showing how social meaning is ascribed to certain biological characteristics. You’ve given the example of “producing milk.” Well, not all mothers are able to lactate, for starters, and not all women are mothers. Also in many cultures, including in Western European cultures until the advent of the industrial revolution, women either did not lactate if they were rich, or they would swaddle their babies to keep them restrained while they worked long hours of demanding physical labour. See The Making of the Modern Family by Edward Shorter. Similarly, there is wide variation in how societies organise combat, with women often taking on such “warrior” roles, from military leaders such as Ahhotep I and Hatshepsut in the 17th and 15th Centuries, to The Lady of Yue and Huang Guigu in the 5th and 3rd Centuries, to the Tausug women in the Southern Philippines when their communities were being invaded, to women who work in wrestling and combat sports in the present day, and many groups in between. The fact that there is variation in women’s physical abilities shows that there is no biological restriction to how gender is organised. The differences emerge due to cultural, historical and social context.

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    14. This was such thorough and helpful information. Thank you so much for your dedication and expertise when gathering all this information! When people come to me with arguments about sex vs gender, I always have to search through all these not-so-quite-what-I-need articles on google, and then I found this! Absolutely great, thanks again!

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    15. Hi there,
      Thanks for the article.
      One thing I’ve been struggling to understand is how gender can be both a social construct and a personal identity. I haven’t quite been able to wrap my head around this.
      As I’m sure you know, gender as a social construct has been used as an argument by some transexclusionary feminists against the existence of the concept of gender identity (and, therefore, transpeople). They say gender is not something you feel, but something imposed on you by society.
      I reject their conclusion, but I also haven’t been able to form a satisfactory rebuttal to this line of thinking. Am I missing a key detail? Is it a strawman argument? Is there actually no conflict between gender as identity and gender as social construct? What am I missing here?
      I’m going to keep reading and thinking about this and trying to muddle through it on my own, but I’d appreciate any thoughts you have on this subject.
      Cheers,
      Sarah

      Like

      1. Hi Sarah. I’ve answered versions of this question many times on this page as you see in other comments. Gender, as I describe in this article, is the social meanings attached to notions of masculinity, femininity and other expressions that draw on, or reject, these ideas in various ways, such as agender people who don’t ascribe to a gender binary. Gender is a personal identity because it cannot be dictated to you. It is about your understanding of your social experiences, including socialisation, cultural norms, behaviours, embodied preferences, and other ideas. Gender as a social system tries to control these identities and expressions; in Western cultures, by setting up “man” and “woman” as two opposites, but as I’ve shown, cultural variability across time and place shows that many other gender categories and understandings exist.

        “Feminists” who are exclusionary of transgender women are not feminists at all, because feminism seeks the gender liberation for all people, with a specific focus on the inequality faced by all women. Transgender women, are women. Anyone who disagrees is contributing to gender inequality.

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    16. “Entrenched gender inequality is a product of modernity”. Despite gender inequality being present, I do believe that certain characteristics are biologically/genetically inherited. if you look at the caveman era, the mother would care and feed her infant whilst the father would hunt for food. Certain things can not be argued against, such as the fact that only the woman is able to breastfeed. Yes inequality does exist, but sometimes people seem to exaggerate this inequality by trying to defy nature.

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      1. Hi Luca. You are entitled to your beliefs, but unfortunately not to your facts. And the fact is that there is no “caveman era” as you describe it, as anthropological evidence shows pre-modern societies had far more varied social systems than previously thought. Another fact is that not all women breastfeed. Some women cannot breastfeed for a variety of reasons, whether it be their child’s suckling technique, or complications with their bodies. Other women may not breastfeed because they are transgender, while others simply choose not to breastfeed. In fact, across time and in many cultures, entire groups of women would not breastfeed, such as aristocracy in England or slaveowners in Australia and the USA who used nursemaids. These are complex examples of how nature does not dictate gender inequality; instead, social organisation of gender reproduces class, racial and other gender inequalities.

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        1. I totally get your point and agree, but there are facts which we can’t deny, such as the fact that males are physically more dominant, due to the biological structures such as hip structures and natural muscle mass, these things can not be argued against as they are facts, take sports for example…get the fastest male time in any olympic sport and compare it to that of the fastest female, statistics do not lie

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        2. Your argument regarding breastfeeding is ridiculous, he was stating the FACT that only women and NOT men are capable of breastfeeding, not that some can’t or choose not to, but PHYSICALLY CAPABLE! You are very argumentative when someone doesn’t agree with your “empirical” data and completely delusional if you refuse to acknowledge the physical differences in men and women, they exist, that’s empirical data

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    17. So I found this article while looking for resources about gender being a social construct. My friend did a version of the I identify as an attack helicopter meme and I’m trying to explain to then why that is upsetting and wrong.

      I’m cis gendered and having trouble finding the words to say that yes gender is a social construct and how people identify themselves is still valid and should be respected. If you have any reading suggestions or good arguments I would love to hear them because I’m having trouble.

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      1. Hi Emily. You can use the examples on this page to explain how gender varies across cultures and how it’s changed over time, including in Western societies. You might try having a conversation about why your friend feels so upset over the fluidity of gender and ask them to reflect on the gaps in their knowledge about how gender is organised in different societies.

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    18. The social construct theory of gender is one of the best examples of circular reasoning I’ve ever encountered:
      Premise 1: Some obscure societies practice non-binary gender
      Premise 2: Western and industrialized societies practice binary gender
      Consequent: Western and industrialized societies are wrong.

      You asked a commenter to reflect on why the idea of other cultures practicing different beliefs causes them so much discomfort, have you asked yourself the same? I mean here you are, ragging on western culture, because it doesn’t agree with you.

      You should also ask yourself why the majority of advanced nations practice binary gender while some obscure societies that either no longer exist or currently exist in turmoil don’t. You use countries in your argument that are overrun by rape, murder, and a callous disregard for human life. You know what they do to homosexuals in Nigeria, don’t you? Here’s a quote from a recent article “Nigerian prosecutors have charged 53 people for allegedly witnessing a same-sex marriage, which is punishable by 10 years in prison in the socially conservative West African country”. http://www.newsweek.com/nigeria-same-sex-marriage-586746
      Another article relating to their issues:
      https://www.hrw.org/report/2016/10/20/tell-me-where-i-can-be-safe/impact-nigerias-same-sex-marriage-prohibition-act

      So Nigeria is really a country we should model ourselves after, right?

      And before you jump to your classic “biggot” “transphobic” “homophobic” etc. garbage, understand that I have an assault charge for breaking the nose of someone who was harassing my transgendered co-worker. I am for absolute freedom, and I will call someone whatever they prefer if it means that much to them. However, gender is not socially constructed. Sorry.

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      1. Hi Turnur. You seem upset that other people have different gender experiences. Becoming better educated about your prejudices and unfounded fears is the first step to letting go of this angst. To answer your muddled statements, there is no such thing as “obscure societies.” All societies are equally valid. Your narrow worldview leads you to think that your personal experience of a tiny corner of the world must be the ideal, when it clearly isn’t, as evidenced in the empirical documentation I’ve provided in this article. The majority of nations don’t practice a binary in a vacuum; first, as I’ve already chronicled, all societies have changed in how gender norms have worked over time. Second, the nations that impose a binary do so due to centuries of colonialism, where narrow gender categories and other social hierarchies were introduced to enslave minorities, strip them of their existing social structures, and to justify and maintain inequality.

        Nigeria is a beautiful nation; like many countries it has problems with same-sex acceptance. No better than say, the USA, where violence is an everyday occurance for LGBTQIA people, and where a mass-murderer specifically targeted and killed 50 people and injured a further 58 people, for nothing other than masculine violence fuelled by homophobic rage.

        I’m sad to confirm for you that you are indeed a bigot and a transphobic person, or you would not have been so incensed as to leave such a verbose comment putting your homophobia on show. Anonymous men often make up valiant scenarios that are meant to shield them from critique. Anyone who has genuine respect for, and personally supports, transgender people would not stoop to the points you make here, and they also know not to use the term “transgendered.” Nice try. 😉 I wish you all the best as you find your way out of this place. Things will improve when you better understand and work to overcome your prejudices of gender minorities.

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