I knew from an early age that this Adam and Eve thing isn’t really working for me. I mean, what about all the kinds of people in between?
Andrea Gibson
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Nov 08

The Many Stylish Ways to Wear a Scarf

It’s that wonderful time of year when you get to bring the boots out of the closet and start to anticipate the time for cozy scarves and sweaters so in this About section we will explore the many stylish ways to wear a scarf

wearing scarf in the fall

Fall is the most popular time to wear scarves and there is no doubt that this fun accessory can change the look of an outfit in one second, not to mention that they will help to keep you warm during these chillier months.

Scarves have become a wardrobe essential and I like them because they are easy on the pocketbook. Yes, you can splurge on a Hermes scarf or real Pashmina, but the bulk of these accessories can be found for under $30.

Because we are always looking for different ways to wear a scarf, I’ve put together a fun style guide for you! So check out 27 Stylish Ways to Wear a Scarf below, which provides a variety of ways on how to wear scarves and outfits that pair well with a scarf.

This scarf outfit guide doesn’t just cover fall outfits, but also includes a few ways to wear a lightweight scarf in the summer and spring to add color and texture to an outfit. Use this scarf guide as an inspiration to incorporate scarves into your outfits year round, not just when the leaves start to turn color.

If you love scarves as much as I do, I know you’ll love this guide! Continue scrolling to read a ton of style tips and advice when it comes to wearing scarves!

TYPES OF SCARVES

Scarves come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials. They can have embellishments or fringe and there are different ways to wear each type of scarf, depending on size and your personal style.

Rectangular Scarves

rectangular scarf

Rectangular scarves, also known as oblong scarves, are probably the most popular scarf to wear these days. These long scarves can be worn loose, looped, or knotted in multiple ways. There are so many ways to wear a scarf like this, spring, summer, fall or winter. Materials range from lightweight cotton to silk to wool, and a variety of blended materials. You can find them in solids, florals, prints, stripes and plaids. They also come in knitted versions, from lacy to chunky.

Square Scarves

square scarf

Square scarves are less common these days and come in a variety of sizes from 16 to 60 inches. Smaller square scarves are called a neckerchief. These always remind me of flight attendants, with their jaunty colors tied around their neck, seemingly worn for no particular reason. There is also the bandanna, a more informal type of small square scarf that is used for practical purposes during physical activity, like hiking. Both of these can also serve as a headscarf. Larger squares, like your classic Hermes, can be tied and worn in a variety of styles. Materials range from lightweight cotton to silk to wool, and a variety of blended materials. You can find them in solids, florals, prints, stripes and plaids.

Infinity or Loop Scarves

loop scarf

Infinity or loop scarves are relatively new on the scene and have gained popularity over the last few years for their ease of use. They are what I call “throw and go” scarves. You throw them on, loop them once, and go. Easy peasy. These come in some really nice lightweight summer florals madras check, or stripes for summer, and heavier cotton, silk, and wool blends for winter in a variety of plaids, prints, and solids. Like their rectangular counterparts, they can also come in knitted versions, from lacy to chunky.

Pashmina Scarves

Pashmina scarvf

True Pashmina scarves are made from the wool of the Kashmir Pashmina goat. These goats, found in the Himalayas, provide a fine wool that is woven into beautiful and soft scarves that are very costly, but can keep you very warm. Most of what you will find in the stores is a knock-off made of a more typical cashmere, a silk/pashmina blend, or even cotton. Originally, Pashminas were large rectangular scarves that could envelop the head, neck and shoulders for modesty, warmth, or against the elements. Today, you can find them in medium or large squares or long rectangles. Many have a fringe element.

My Personal Experience

I have not often worn scarves, largely due to the climate where I live, but that may change now. I created a new outfit that I loved with a mint green draped top and a black flippy hemline skirt but it lacked pizzaz, so a scarf to the rescue. It was a small scarf, like those worn by flight attendants of the past and I had to practice tying it several ways (I’m a little clumsy in tying scarves). In the past, I never felt comfortable with the right way to tie a scarf, or if it looked good with the rest of the outfit, but let me say here and now, that once you get in the habit of wearing scarves, then you realize what all of the hoopla is about.

flight attendant vs Tasi with a neck scarf

Ways to Tie a Scarf

If you need idea or help on different ways to tie a scarf check out the video below! I found this video while doing some research on different ways to tie a scarf, it’s from Nordstrom! Make sure you hit play because it’s a great video and super simple ideas that you can replicate.

5 Expert Fashion Tips for Scarves

These tips from 60 and Me work for girls of all ages.

If scarves are one of those clothing items you can’t live without or they’re something you haven’t figured out, you’ll enjoy this video with Melanie Payge a Milan fashion expert. Go to the 60 and Me link above to view the video.

When Bigger Is Not Always Better

Many of us have been guilty at one time or another of hiding our beautiful faces behind an oversized scarf. It’s one thing to do this because you’re bitterly cold and wearing it for practical intentions, but, any other reason is no reason at all!

Large scarves are unattractive as they completely overwhelm your face by swallowing up your neckline and also make your head look smaller. You’re practically lost under a scarf! If you love the color or pattern of the scarf, Melanie recommends repurposing oversized scarves as sarongs for the beach or pool.

When to Spring Clean Your Collection

Scarves are easy gifts to give, and there is a good reason for this – they can be quite impersonal. We have a tendency to hang on to presents from those we care about, as we feel we shouldn’t throw them out.

If you have not worn a scarf for a long time, it’s probably best to get rid of it, as you’re unlikely to use it. You probably don’t really like it or know it doesn’t suit you so rip off the bandage and move on! Giving good quality items to charity means it will at least get some use from someone who really needs it, and is more environmentally friendly than it ending up in landfill.

When Fashion For Older Women Means Less Is More

Many of us assume we need to do something to make our accessories stand out. For fashion for older women, accessories should complement your outfit rather than detract from it.

Melanie demonstrates how the same scarf looks completely different on Margaret when it is left untied (you really should watch this!). Small changes such as draping a scarf to cover a low-cut top, rather than tying it around the neck, can make all the difference

It’s important to be careful to not create too many contrasts by mixing two patterns together between your clothing and scarf, as it looks too busy. Melanie recommends using a patterned scarf with plain jackets or dresses, and a single color scarf when wearing patterned clothing.

Ditch The Pitch!

Salespeople love selling scarves because they are an easy upsell in clothing stores. Don’t buy into the sales pitch – scarves can easily accumulate over time and clutter your closet before you realize!

When shopping, don’t get caught out being recommended items you don’t need. Always buy with purpose – buy a scarf with a particular outfit in mind. This is because we often get talked into pieces being handy for one purpose or another, but when we go to use them find they do not look good with anything!

Trends vs. Fashion After 60

Fads and trends are not the same things as fashion, which should always be about using clothing and accessories to enhance our best features. Tying scarves at the neck was a fad and are not fashionable as it can draw attention away from our beautiful facial features.

Melanie likens wearing overly large scarves to wearing evening makeup in the daytime – it doesn’t look right as it is overdone for what you are wearing. We wear subtle makeup during the day because it flatters and enhances our beauty. In the same vein, we should not accessorize with anything that makes us look like we are hiding something!

27 Stylish Ways to Wear a Scarf

Now it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty on ways to wear a scarf. While there are endless possibilities, I’ve detailed out 27 different ways to wear a scarf, along with some suggestions for outfits with scarves. So let this guide get you started on your scarf-wearing jour

  1. Wear a Scarf with a Belt

wear a scarf with a belt

If you’re looking to wear a scarf in an attention-grabbing way, don’t wrap it around your neck. Instead, wear a neutral or monochromatic outfit, and let the scarf be the star of the show. This is how to wear a scarf in a non-typical way. Let the scarf fall in front of your outfit and pair it with a skinny belt. This way to wear a scarf can only be done with a larger scarf, typically rectangular or square. You want the scarf to end mid-thigh to just above your knee and be large enough to make a statement. In this cute fall outfit, I went with a black-and-white look and added a gray plaid scarf to complete the look. For summer, a pretty floral or pattern would work just as well.

  1. Wear a Scarf with a Jacket

Wear a Scarf with a Jacket

Putting together a chic city outfit is always fun. To soften it up, add a slightly oversized knit scarf. Pair your favorite black leather moto jacket with a scarf in the same color family to keep the cool vibe. In this fall outfit, I wore a gray knit scarf with a moto jacket, skinny jeans and leopard print heels. I also made sure I matched the color of the scarf with a clothing piece in my outfit; in this case, it was the long-sleeve shirt under the moto jacket. This scarf outfit is not only chic, it will keep you warm on those chilly days.

  1. Wear a white scarf outfit

Wear a white scarf outfit

At a time when everyone is wearing fall seasonal colors, stand out by wearing black and white. In this fall outfit, I used the scarf as my starting point. I wanted to create a stylish outfit that made this scarf shine. I started with black on the bottom—leggings and heels, and wore a stark white on top, starting with a blazer and topping that off with a matching white scarf. (If you’re going to try this, make sure the whites match!) You could achieve the same type of look with a pair of black skinny jeans and boots and a white button-down menswear shirt with the white scarf.

  1. Wear a scarf with a sweater

Wear a scarf with a sweater

Have you ever put together an outfit and thought something is missing? Well, try adding a scarf! Plaid is the perfect print for a scarf, with the checks coming in a variety of colors, making them easy to pair with multiple outfits. In this stylish fall outfit—which I wore for a Thanksgiving family dinner—I paired dark-wash jeans with riding boots, a mustard sweater, and an infinity gray plaid scarf. I made sure the gray matched something else in the outfit, so the gray cuffs on the sweater are the coordinating touch.

  1. Wear a jersey scarf with a Blazer

Wear a jersey scarf with a Blazer

If subtle is your signature look, go for a smaller scarf in a dark color that will blend into the entire outfit. Jersey is a knit fabric that is soft and has a bit of give or stretch to it. It’s comfortable to wear and can easily be manipulated with ties and knots. Because you can find them in a variety of solids, patterns, prints and plaid, they are easy to use to complete an outfit. In this instance, you’ll want to use a dark solid jersey scarf, like I did in this outfit I wore while sightseeing in Florence. I wanted to look dressy but still be comfortable. To add dimension to this outfit, I completed the outfit with a black jersey infinity scarf. (Note: You can also use a rectangular scarf that you look and knot in the back.)

  1. How to wear a scarf with a peacoat

How to wear a scarf with a peacoat

You can wear a scarf for its original purpose, to keep you warm. In fact, I highly recommend you wear them on every cold day! I wore this stylish winter outfit while in Venice where it was absolutely freezing. I wrapped this warm plaid scarf around my neck twice to keep me warm. This gray plaid scarf is the lighter item in my outfit, as I wanted to add some dimension to this look. Keep this in mind when putting together your outfit. If you are wearing solids, add some print or pattern or even a texture. If your outfit already has a pattern or print to it, keep your scarf to a solid color, with or without a texture.

  1. How to wear a scarf in the spring

How to wear a scarf in the spring

As you can see so far, there are a lot of ways to wear a scarf during the colder months—with more ideas to come! But I want you to know that scarves are a year-round accessory. Even though they are more popular in the fall and winter, you can incorporate them into your summer and spring outfits. Go with lightweight materials and pastels or summer bright colors. They are perfect for the early morning chill and can be shed later in the day if it gets too warm. In this casual spring outfit, I wore a lightweight burgundy-and-pink scarf with a fun pattern. Perfect paired with jeans, t-shirt, and a boyfriend sweater, but it could also work with shorts or a skirt and a tee or tank.

  1. Wear a Cozy Scarf to the snow

Wear a Cozy Scarf to the snow

There is no better time to wear a warm and cozy scarf than in the snow. Not only is it fashionable, it will help to keep the snowflake flurries from entering the neck of your sweater or jacket. This is one of my favorite snow outfits. When I picture snow, I picture Fair Isle leggings and cozy scarves. To create a cute snow outfit, I paired a large white cozy scarf with blue knit cardigan, Fair Isle leggings, and fur snow boots! When wearing a scarf to the snow, before all else, make sure it can serve its purpose and keep you warm! And because it will get wet from the snow, make sure it is made of a material that will dry more quickly, like a cotton or wool blend.

  1. Wear a scarf when traveling

Wear a scarf when traveling

If you’re traveling and it’s not quite hot and not quite cold, a scarf is a great accessory to wear for unpredictable weather. Plaid is a classic pattern and you can buy one in neutral colors (black, gray, brown, beige, navy or white) so that it can be worn with almost any outfit. While sightseeing in Rome it wasn’t cold enough for a coat, so I wore a plaid scarf with a heavy cable-knot sweater. When it got cold, I unwrapped it from my neck, extended it and wrapped it around my shoulders. When it started to rain, I was able to use the scarf to cover my hair. A scarf can be very versatile, and a handy item to have when traveling. (Think: lap blanket or folded up to make a pillow!)

  1. How to Wear a Summer Scarf

How to Wear a Summer Scarf

Lightweight skinny scarves are great for the summer! If you’re looking for a way to wear a scarf in the summer, go bright! A light summer scarf is perfect for adding an extra bit of color to a summer outfit without adding any bulk. In this summer outfit, the entire outfit was white and blue so to add some contrast I wore a bright yellow scarf. Instead of wrapping it around my neck I simply tied it half way down and let it hang.

  1. How to Wear a Scarf to Work

How to Wear a Scarf to Work

Wearing a scarf to the office can be a little tricky. You don’t want to create an outfit around a scarf, because once you enter a warm office, it will come right off. So think of the scarf as a fun touch or added accessory to your work attire. In this fall work outfit, I paired my burgundy trousers with brown ankle boots, a gray sweater and matching gray plaid scarf. The scarf is not an essential piece of the outfit and can be removed at any time. (And notice how much wear I am getting out of that one plaid scarf!)

  1. Wear a Scarf with a Blazer

Wear a Scarf with a Blazer

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there is a theme with my scarf outfits. I usually like to match the scarf color to something I’m wearing in the outfit. This dressy scarf outfit is another perfect example. This outfit works so well because of the contrasting fabrics and colors. The light silk blouse contrasts with the heavy blazer. The bright blazer and heels contrast with the black pants. It’s all about balance and coordination. The bright scarf enhances the colors of the blouse, plus it made me so happy to wear it!

  1. How to wear a Plaid Scarf

How to wear a Plaid Scarf

If you want to have an outfit that screams the holidays without having to wear Christmas sweaters, a red plaid scarf is a perfect way to wear holiday colors in a chic way. In this outfit, I paired a red plaid scarf with red hat, forest green cross-body purse, and a white sweater. It’s a fun outfit that works great during the holiday season, whether you are going shopping or to visit family. And there are different ways to wear a scarf like this, from the simple way I let it hang, to a double loop and tied in the back, or a stylish French knot.

  1. Wear a White Scarf to the Office

Wear a White Scarf to the Office

As in the scarf outfit #3 above, I used this white scarf to create another black-and-white outfit, this time for the office. This scarf outfit started with a simple dress, but this time I added some print with the heels. (Yes, you can wear a scarf with a dress!) As I mentioned before, black-and-white outfits really stand out in the fall and it’s a stylish way to make an impression at work. Try a simple black pencil skirt paired with a silk blouse or button-down with the scarf; both will work equally well.

  1. Wear a blue scarf to complete your fall outfit

Wear a blue scarf to complete your fall outfit

If you’re working on a color theme, a scarf is a great way to add to some color coordinating fun. Black and blue are two common wardrobe colors, with the blue being primarily denim. In this black-and-blue outfit, I wore a blue scarf to add another blue hue to the outfit and to add some fullness. Since the outfit is very sleek up and down, the scarf also created dimension. You might also try the reverse by wearing black jeans and a denim jacket for a slightly different black-and-blue look.

  1. Wear a Summer Scarf to Create Outfit Contrast

Wear a Summer Scarf to Create Outfit Contrast

In this all-white summer outfit I added an olive green patterned scarf to make it even more stylish. If you notice in this outfit, I kept the accessories neutral: matching tan heels and handbag with an earth-tone scarf. This sleek white outfit creates the perfect palette to build on accessories.

  1. Put together a black and gray scarf outfit

Put together a black and gray scarf outfit

Sometimes you’re not looking for any special way to wear a scarf. You just need a scarf to do its job and keep you warm. But you can make a warm and stylish scarf outfit! In this outfit that I wore while traveling in Italy, I added a lightweight wool plaid scarf before walking out the door, as it was raining. The scarf lightened up the heaviness of the primarily black outfit, and coordinated well with the blue top. Perfect for sightseeing, and I stayed warm the whole time.

  1. Wear a scarf for a pop of color

Wear a scarf for a pop of color

What is the perfect way to complete a California winter outfit? Add a scarf! In this simple, casual winter outfit I added a burgundy scarf to add a little bit of color to this otherwise classic outfit. Long coat, distressed denim, stripes and a scarf is a simple outfit formula to try.

  1. Tie a Scarf to your purse

Tie a Scarf to your purse

There are so many ways to wear a scarf on your body, but did you ever think about adding a pop of color to your handbag? Such a simple idea, but it can add so much to an outfit, whether casual or for work. If you’re going to do this, make sure the scarf is of a light fabric and not too large, so that it doesn’t add weight to your handbag. You also want it to match some element of your outfit.

  1. Wear Your scarf around your blazer

Wear Your scarf around your blazer

This is good example of another way to wear a scarf to the office. Instead of wearing the scarf around your neck or on the inside of the jacket, drape it around the jacket collar and lapels. It has a very menswear inspired feel to it. Just make sure the scarf matches the colors of your outfit. (And it doesn’t have to be a solid. A small print, stripe or plaid will also work here.)

  1. Wear a gold silk scarf during the holidays

Wear a gold silk scarf during the holidays

If you need to wear a scarf during the holidays, I would suggest a gold one. A gold scarf is a fun way to play with the holiday theme without actually screaming, “I’m wearing a holiday outfit.” In this winter look—keep in mind I live in California—I wore glitter loafers, bright colored pants, and gold scarf with a neutral black blazer.

  1. Camouflage your scarf into the outfit

Camouflage your scarf into the outfit

Here’s another subtle way to wear a scarf. You don’t always have to use the scarf to add dimension, contrast, or color to an outfit. Sometimes a scarf can just serve as a supporting accessory. In this riding boot outfit, I wore a black jersey scarf that blended in with the jacket and wore a silk blouse that was the center of the outfit.

  1. Wear a polka dot scarf in the summer

Wear a polka dot scarf in the summer

To keep an outfit from looking a little too plain don a fun patterned scarf to add some interest. In this outfit, instead of stopping at shorts and a shirt, I added a polka dot scarf for fun. You can try a floral, stripe, or even a nautical theme if you are headed to the lake or ocean.

  1. Wear a Purple Scarf in the Fall

Wear a Purple Scarf in the Fall

Nothing screams fall to me more than scarves and pumpkin. (Including pumpkin pie.) If you need inspiration for a cute pumpkin patch outfit, look no further! With the subdued colors of this outfit, I wore a royal blue scarf and seasonal hat to have some fun with the look! Boots, dark-wash jeans, sweater, scarf, and hat make up a cute fall outfit for some holiday activities.

  1. Wear a Polka Dot scarf with a striped Shirt

 

Wear a Polka Dot scarf with a striped Shirt

Want to wear two patterns at once and not go overboard? Why not wear a classic striped tee and add a polka dot scarf? This outfit is meant to be bright, fun, and an excellent combination. Wear polka dot and stripes for a stylish summer outfit. Just remember, if your stripes are wide, go with smaller polka dots, and if your stripes are narrow, go with a larger version, like I have here.

  1. Wear a plaid scarf with riding boots

Wear a Polka Dot scarf with a striped Shirt

Who said plaid had to be boring? While I do own some very neutral plaids, I do like a pop of color in a plaid…like red, purple, or yellow. Here I wore a red plaid scarf with riding boots, the perfect combination for November and December. The neutral pants and sweater helped that red plaid stand out and be the center of attention. Whether you’re wearing this combination to college or lunch with friends, it’ll no doubt create a stylish look.

  1. Wear a scarf with a cape

Wear a scarf with a cape

Capes are fun pieces on their own, but you can turn it up a notch by adding a scarf. Wrap a scarf around your neck and tuck it into your cape. Make sure it’s not completely hidden, as you want it to be peaking out for some fun added color and texture.

 

Crossdressers with scarf outfits

Crossdressers with scarf outfits

I hope this scarf guide has helped illuminate you to the different types of scarves available, the different ways you can wear a scarf, and scarf outfits that are easy to create. My guess is you’ll be heading to the store to add to your scarf collection now that fall has arrived.

Pin your favorite images and go back to them when you need some inspiration! Share this post with a friend who loves scarves or is looking for ways to wear a scarf

Here are even more ways to wear a scarf from our Pinterest page Scarves-How to Wear Them

And be sure to read about all our other clothing items in our All About section

Oct 10

Skirting Gender: Life and Lessons of a Crossdresser

Skirting Gender life and lessons of a crossdresserWith over 50 Crossdressing Tips for Beginners in the  Sister House Library and another 20 videos on relationship issues faced by crossdressers in All About Crossdressing, also in the Library, Vera Wylde is indeed an icon in the crossdressing community. So her first book, Skirting Gender: Life and Lessons of a Crossdresser, on Amazon, was indeed a welcome addition to my personal library and should be to yours too.

This is not just the typical crossdresser autobiograpghy, but an insight into the real world of crossdressers, the lives we live, the challenges we face and with some real answers on where we fit into the greater transgender spectrum.

The book is in three parts. The first section covers her personal experiences from growing up to her ventures into the world of drag and eventually as a performer in Burlesque (which is not the same a drag). Vera tends towards the fetishistic, with her reference to Jessica Rabbit as  weaponized sensuality, which perhaps influenced her future choices. But Vera has been able to balance her needs to look pretty with her overall life and achieve that essential balance between the two.

The second section is the how to’s of our world, most of which you can see through the links above. Her views are ever practical whether talking about makeup, comportment, voice, cleavage, accessorizing or shopping.

However the real strength of this book is in the third section on Philosopical Aspects. She begins by talking about the stereotypes of crossdressers and the many labels used to categorize ourselves. But the essence of this section is in the Pop Cultural Traps and for the first time we realize that what we are missing in our identification needs is the lack of a popular culture touchstone. We struggle in gaining acceptance from the general public as well as the entire LGBTQ+ community as we do not wish to transition yet still have this great need to appear feminine. But as Vera says, there are no pop culture points of reference that we can point to and say, “There, I’m basically like that.”

We don’t have a Laverne Cox, a Janet Mock or a Caitlyn Jenner to point to so perhaps Vera can fill that role for us. The non-fetish, non-transitioning heterosexual crossdresser is like the over 50s invisible woman, we don’t exist in other peoples world.

And her section on STRIVING TO BE PASSABLE is priceless. The simple fact is that without the assistance of cosmetic surgery, hormone replacement therapy, or other physical interventions most of us will never be 100% passable as women (and, if we’re being completely honest, even some people who undergo all those things still aren’t).

Your best defense against not being 100% passable is acting as though you are, and I completely agree and practice the principle. I prefer to focus on whether or not I look good.  I would say being passable isn’t any measure of cross dressing success.

Then there’s THE BATHROOM DILEMMA (read more here) and the problem of Being Straight in a LGBTQ+ world. One would assume that we’re part of the grand LGBTQ+ rainbow, and I suppose that we are, but our placement there can be… contentious. There are some within this same community who have a very strong distaste for crossdressers and how we live. To be blunt about it, the most hostile people I’ve ever had to deal with have been transwomen.

Finally, Vera deals with the issues of “coming out”, the “crossdressing parent”, and issues we face “ön the job”. She admits that she is still evolving but aren’t all of us.

The book will give you much to think about. But beyond that, Vera helps us to find our place in a confused world where like in politics, there are too many opinions and not enough consensus. I give the book 5 out of 5 stars. Here’s your link to Amazon.

Sep 19

A Guide to Your Most Flattering Neckline

The neckline is one of the most overlooked parts of clothing styles that greatly affect how flattering a top or dress will be, regardless of accessories. There are dozens of different necklines that change the way your bust, neck and face areas look. Some women who have a wide neck wouldn’t want to wear something that will make the neck look thicker, nor would a woman with a small face want to create a disproportioned look from top to bottom. Since the goal is to draw the eye up to your face, that neckline you’re sporting is pretty darn important. Let’s look at what suits you

neckline silouettes

There are 5 key areas that should be considered when choosing a neckline for tops and dresses. To get started, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is my Body Shape? (Apple, Pear, Hourglass…)
  • What size is my Bust? (Small, Average, Large…)
  • What shape is my Face? (Square, Round, Oval…)
  • What kind of Neck do I have? (Long, Short, Wide…)
  • What kind of Shoulders do I have? (Wide, Round, Square…)

Once you have figured out the type of upper body you have, it will be easier to choose the most flattering necklines to make you look great!

Which Necklines Flatter My Shape?

Take a look at this quick breakdown of necklines and which shapes they are best suited for.

Asymmetrical

Trendy and stylish, an asymmetrical neckline helps draw the eyes up to the bustline and away from a heavier tummy or hip area. It also helps create the illusion of narrow shoulders. Some styles will only have one shoulder (strap of sleeve), and others will have both straps/sleeves but the neckline will be off to one side. An asymmetrical neckline generally does not affect the shape of the face, but it is not recommended for women with a short neck.

Asymmetrical neckline

Boat Neck

A boat neckline (also known as bateau) is a beautiful modern look that really shows off a slim neck and shoulders. If you have a shorter or thicker neck, this style will only make it look wider. This neckline is also a good choice for women with a larger tummy or bust because it draws the eye up to the neck. Great for pear, hourglass and rectangle body shapes.

Boat Neck neckline

Bardot Neck

The bardot neckline is similar to the boat neck, but this style will generally sit just off the shoulders. Since it’s a much more open style, women with a wider neck can easily wear this, and it looks great to accentuate smaller shoulders. This style can work well for women with a larger and smaller bust, and it draws the eye away from the hips and tummy, making it a favorite for pear shapes. Many hourglass women also love this neckline.

Bardot Neck neckline

Cowl Neck (Draped Neck)

A cowl neck drapes down to the bust and adds some shape and volume to the bustline. Women with a smaller bust and wider hips will benefit from this style. Apple, hourglass and pear body shapes will even out their bodies from top to bottom, while rectangle shapes will add shape to their bust.

Cowl Neck neckline

Crew Neck

A crew neck is round and closer up to the neck. They are the most flattering for women with a smaller bust and slender neck. This neckline works well for hourglass, pear, rectangle and some apple body shapes.

Crew Neck neckline

Crossover

The crossover neckline adds great visual interest and texture to the chest, making it a favorite for women with a smaller bust. There are two main crossover styles that work with different body details. A crossover v-neck style is great for most body shapes, but low v-neck styles look best on women with a fuller bust and work well to minimize a thicker neck. A crossover halter neckline is best suited for a smaller bust, slender neck and narrower shoulders.

Crossover neckline

Halter Neck

A halter style is a favorite for many women because it suits almost all body shapes. They are ideal for women with a larger bust or narrow shoulders and draw the eye away from large waistlines.

Halter Neck neckline

Jewel Neck

A jewel neckline is similar to a round neck, but it tends to be wider and lower, making it a great style for women with a slender neck and nicely defined collar. It is also a great style for any body shape, especially for women with a larger bust.

Jewel Neck neckline

Notch Neck

A notch neckline looks like a combination of a round and v-neck. It adds visual interest to clothing and helps draw the eyes up and away from problem areas like the tummy or hips. This is a good style for a smaller bust and for both narrow and wide necks.

Notch Neck neckline

Off Shoulder

Off the shoulder necklines are very wide and can sit anywhere from just at, or well below the shoulders. This style works well for hourglass, pear, apple and rectangle body shapes. This neckline beautifully shows off a nice collar and shoulder area, and it also flatters women with a wider neck.

Off Shoulder neckline

 

One Shoulder

Just like an asymmetrical neckline, a one-shoulder style is a trendy look that flatters women of most body shapes. They show off lovely shoulders and necks, making them a good choice for hourglass, pear and rectangle body shapes. This neckline also offers good support for a larger bust, but just make sure there is little detail to avoid making the area look larger. This will create imbalance in the body.

One Shoulder neckline

Plunging

A plunging neckline is one of the most daring and are most popular with club tops and dresses. This neckline style works best with a smaller bust and narrower shoulders, otherwise, a large bust may cause too many “wardrobe malfunctions”. This style will normally dip just below the ribs, but there are also others that drop to the navel.

Plunging neckline

Queen Anne

The Queen Anne neckline is a beautiful choice for gowns and rich blouses. It has a high stand collar at the back of the neck and then dips down into a v-neck. Since this style hugs the neck so closely, it is not recommended for anyone with a thick neck or broad shoulders, as it will give your body an imbalanced look.

Queen Anne neckline

Scoop Neck (Round Neck)

A round neckline is a common style that is found on tops, sweaters, cardigans, dresses and even some jackets. Similar to a crew or jewel neckline, it’s lovely for any body shape, because it’s an open style that shows off an attractive neck and collar area.

Scoop Neck (Round Neck) neckline

Square Neck

A square neckline falls straight down and cuts right across the bust. It’s a great style for women with a large or small bust, but since it does create a wider look to the upper body, it’s only recommended for women with narrow shoulder. Ideal for pear body shapes. This style should be avoided if you have a square face, since it will give you a harsh masculine look.

Square Neck neckline

Strapless

A strapless neckline is a great way to show off beautiful shoulders and neck. Strapless styles cut right across the bust like a square neck, so women with broad shoulders should avoid them. They also offer less support at the bust, making it a tough style to wear for women with a larger bust.

Strapless neckline

Sweetheart Neck

A sweetheart neckline is a lovely feminine look that any woman can easily wear. It’s a flattering style for women with a large or small bust, making it a great choice for any body shape. The gently curves of this v-neck variation create the illusion of curves on women with an inverted triangle or rectangle body shape and it also highlights natural curves for other body shapes like hourglass, apple and pear.

Sweetheart Neckline

Turtle Neck

A turtle neck is a very popular choice for cool weather clothing, but not everyone can wear them. It’s a high style that hugs the neck, which is generally unflattering for women with a shorter or wider neck. This is a lovely style for anyone with a slim long neck and narrower shoulders. Great for pear, rectangle and apple body shapes.

Turtle Neckline

V-neck

The v-neck is another very popular neckline that suits every woman. There are different variations of v-neck where the “v” sits higher or lower on the body, so this is the only thing that should be considered when purchasing tops. A higher v-neck is suitable for women with a smaller bust and narrower neck, the deeper v-neck is ideal for women with a larger bust and thicker neck.

V-neckline

Now that you know the necklines, here’s a short video primer on which necklaces go best with them. Also check our section on All About Necklaces.

 

 

 

Jul 16

Hacks For High Heels

Hacks for high heels or in this case tips to help your feet feel better when wearing heels goes a long way to reducing the pain of being in heels for an extended period of time.

We all have to admit that we are obsessed with high heels, not because only do they look fashionable, but they give us that extra edge to our personality. Heels give us satisfaction and confidence while we wear them and they help us look more feminine and give our legs a perfect shape.

But sometimes wearing heels can be painful. But if you know the correct way to carry them, then it wouldn’t be painful anymore. So, let’s have a look at these life-saving hacks that are given below and that will double up your love for heels.

image of foot bones in high heels

 

Know the correct size;

You need to find your correct shoe size if you want to get rid of the pain. If you wear heels that fit you perfectly, your pain will lessen drastically. But if you choose a size bigger than your foot size, you will feel uncomfortable all the time because it will get out of your legs continuously. But remember that on the other hand, if your shoes are too tight for your feet, then it will hurt them and leave ugly marks on them. So you need to choose the correct size so that you feel comfortable while walking.

Choose heels with thicker soles;

You should always choose heels with thicker souls because that will ensure that you have enough ground to land your feet on. The ground will give you ample space to your feet and you will feel comfortable walking in them. Your legs can be hurt by thin soles because they put more pressure on your feet and dirt and other external agents can get into the legs and make your feet dirty and cracked.

More coverage is better;

Shoes with a higher coverage are more comfortable and are always a better choice because more sole ensures that less pressure is put on your feet which makes the shoes more comfortable for you.

high heels with good coverage

Go for shoe inserts

Those small and soft rounded balls which can be inserted at the end of the shoes are called shoe inserts and they prevent sore in legs. If you have them in high heels they will make it smooth and comfortable for you to walk in them. If you haven’t used shoe inserts yet, give them a try! You will save yourself from the nerve-racking pain of wearing heels.

high heels inserts

Choose heels which are thicker;

This may be difficult to believe in, but sometimes the problem is the thickness of your heels, because the thinner the heels are, the more horrible your experience will be. Thicker heels will give you more comfort than thinner heels. Thick heels will give you more space and comfort while walking and that makes them painful.

Taking breaks at regular intervals is mandatory;

You need to take regular intervals to save you from the pain of wearing heels, no matter how good the quality of your heels is. You need to bring out your legs from the heeled shoes once in a while. You can take regular breaks after every 30 minutes if you suffer from severe pain because the breaks will let your feet breathe and shoo away the pain.

Stretching your feet;

Make sure to stretch your feet when you take a break and open your shoes because it acts like a little exercise for your feet by giving them ample space to relax. In that way, your feet can breathe much better and the next time you put your heels and walk in them, you will feel very comfortable.

Know your type;

Heels can be in many shapes and sizes, and the material used for making them are different, so you have to be aware of what shoe type can you carry off easily. You should wear only the shoes that you are comfortable putting on and always go for comfort rather than the appearance of the shoe. Check the main article of info on all the shoe types.

Show when the day ends;

Your feet get sore when you wear heels for the entire day, so you should switch to a comfortable pair of shoes because it will give you ample space and needed comfort after the heavy day.

Say yes to the tie-ups;

The tie-ups distribute the pain evenly and are less painful, and the benefit is that you can adjust the ties as per your preference – loose or tight.

Fix the bottoms;

If you want to get rid of the rough edge you can screw a part of the bottom of the shoe heels with scissors

Check the heel placement;

When you buy shoes, make sure to check that the heels are placed right at the center of the shoes because that will ensure proper balance and less pain to your feet and it will prevent you from tripping.

If might also want to read How To Walk in High Heels and Still be Comfortable

From the blog  Healthy and Pretty

Jul 02

Biology is Not Destiny

Biology is not destiny so seeking a scientific explanation for trans identity could do more harm than good

Before “Love is love” became the rallying cry gracing protest signs and storefronts for Pride Month, the go-to gay slogan, by way of Lady Gaga, was “Born this way.” But biology is a succinct articulation of an argument some saw as essential to acceptance: Same-gender attraction was neither a choice nor a contagion, but rather an innate aspect of identity.

This idea is not the straightforward civil rights argument its purveyors seem to believe. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have long been the victims of bad science, and President Trump’s military ban is just the latest example. The American Medical Association promptly debunked claims that trans people are unfit to serve and that gender dysphoria — the distress that arises from a perceived mismatch between a person’s natal sex and gender identity — cannot be alleviated with access to transition-related care. But more insidious invocations of medicine have continued to undermine trans rights: GOP lawmakers, for instance, cite the so-called American College of Pediatricians, an anti-LGBTQ hate group that attempts to pass itself off as the (gender-affirmative) American Academy of Pediatrics, to justify anti-trans “bathroom bills.”

In this climate, the rush to fight pseudoscience with real scientific results is understandable. A study published in Nature in January and a presentation at the European Congress of Endocrinology in May each pointed toward potential anatomical markers of transness. They sparked a flurry of articles trumpeting a definitive “born this way” narrative and anticipating brain scans that “can tell kids if they’re transgender.” But this impulse to validate marginalized identities through medicine oversimplifies the science, overestimates its role in effecting social change and willfully ignores its more sinister applications. Even if a precise biological origin for same-gender attraction or trans identity could be found, it would be far from an assurance of equality — and opponents of LGBTQ rights could just as readily construe it as a defect in need of correction.

For lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals, the appeal to science, particularly biology,  has been understandable as a defense against more obviously damaging (and incorrect) explanations. As English professor Valerie Rohy explains in her book “Lost Causes,” biological determinism emerged in part as an answer to homophobic ideas about gay men and women falling prey to seductive cultural and communal forces. It was a response to the pervasive fear that gay parents or teachers might “contaminate” children who would otherwise be straight. The same fearmongering language is being used now in articles from publications such as the National Review and the Daily Mail that invoke the debunked science of “rapid onset gender dysphoria.” According to analysis from the Conversation, this approach purports that children “are being misled into claiming a trans identity before they truly understand what that means,” having supposedly been “influenced by the internet, social media and peers.”

To a certain extent, the evidence of a biological basis for sexuality — taken by many as proof that gay people are “born this way” as opposed to being converted by outside forces — has helped to stop the rhetoric of social contagion. But playing up this biological aspect of identity also reduces gayness to an anomaly, and as the search for a specific “gay gene” or region of the brain continues, we run the risk of finding it only to pathologize it.

This debate isn’t new for trans identities like mine, either. The first “landmark” studies on brain differences among gay vs. straight individuals and cis vs. trans individuals (where “cis” refers to anyone whose gender matches their sex assigned at birth) occurred within a few years of each other. In 1991, neuroscientist Simon LeVay conducted a postmortem analysis of the brains of 19 “homosexual” men (a category that included at least one bisexual man), 16 “presumed heterosexual” men (six of whom had AIDS-related deaths) and six “presumed heterosexual” women. Finding that the interstitial nucleus of the anterior hypothalamus (INAH 3) was twice as large in the second group as in the first, LeVay presented it as evidence of a fundamental difference between the brains of gay men and those of their straight counterparts.

With its inconsistent methodology, small sample sizes, lack of gay women and failure to account for the role of HIV/AIDS — which LeVay himself acknowledged as a shortcoming, and other researchers later hypothesized may have affected INAH 3 size among the “homosexual” men, all of whom had AIDS-related deaths — LeVay’s study offered a flawed and incomplete picture of human sexuality. Nonetheless, it was sensationalized by the press and celebrated by much of the community, as was Dick Swaab’s similar 1995 study on the brains of transgender women. Swaab found that among trans women (those who were assigned male at birth), a region of the brain that he deemed “essential for sexual behavior” was, on average, more similar to that of cisgender women than that of cis men. Transgender men were not included in the study, and again, the small sample sizes and postmortem nature of the analysis muddied the results. But if Swaab’s findings held true, they also raised questions that couldn’t be answered by the brains of deceased adults: For one, was the difference a cause of transness or a consequence of it?

This conflation of correlation and causation is particularly important because behavior and the environment are known to affect brain anatomy, which changes throughout an individual’s life. Observed disparities might, as the authors of the January paper in Nature acknowledged, “reflect the distress that accompanies gender dysphoria” — that is, the lived experiences of the trans women they studied, as opposed to an inborn “transgender trait.”

The other problems that marred LeVay’s and Swaab’s work haven’t gone away since the ’90s. FMRIs are expensive, so sample sizes are often small, reducing studies’ statistical power — and, by extension, their chances of detecting a true biological effect. The brain activity observed through such scans can also be difficult to interpret. A given region of the brain can be associated with any number of behaviors, so even well-meaning neuroscientists might see an area “light up” and might emerge with an explanation that fits their expectations. Most notoriously, one puckish researcher was able to produce evidence of neural activity in a dead salmon when he used it to test a new protocol. It’s a comical but ultimately cautionary tale — and a testament to the risk real neuroscientific studies run of misreading their findings.

These problems, less pressing when the subject is a dead fish, take on outsize importance when potentially flawed research is used to validate, medicalize or deny human identities. Attempts to dispel fears by way of etiology enshrine an imperfect science as the basis for our rights. Our society already polices access to gendered spaces and transition-related care, and the notion that someone might not be “trans enough” enables individuals and institutions to disregard those who don’t meet an arbitrary standard.

The hunt for precise biological markers could radically alter people’s lives, especially if given such cultural currency — yet even trans-friendly outlets and journalists have been quick to make the jump from small-scale studies to the fantasy of brain scans that can reveal your gender. Julie Bakker, whose lecture at the European Congress of Endocrinology sparked conversations about such a diagnostic, pushes pushes back against this application of her research, though she understands the desire for an easy answer: “We work a lot with children and adolescents, and we had parents who were hoping that we could look into the brain of their son or daughter and say, ‘Okay, we can actually see that your son’s brain is not ‘male-like,’ so that’s explained.’ ” But, she told me, “it’s not going to work like that. There’s no such thing as a ‘100 percent male’ man or a ‘100 percent female’ woman — we all have some masculine or feminine traits.”

She used spatial ability — the capacity to understand and visualize objects’ relative positions, as demonstrated when, say, using a map to find your way across a city — as an example. “We know that men are overall, on average, better than women, but you can have a man who’s really terrible with this stuff, and you can have a woman who’s better than the average man.” The fact that these sex differences are neither pronounced nor wholly consistent highlights the problem of invoking such clear-cut dichotomies. Just as LeVay’s study grouped its lone bisexual subject with gay men, subsequent work has tended to ignore or miscategorize people whose gender or sexuality falls outside the more commonly understood (and perhaps methodologically neater) binary. Including such people as part of the wrong group may skew results. Eliding their very existence in the hope of arriving at a cleaner conclusion leaves them without answers of their own — and becomes even more problematic when science is treated as the best or only means of validating their identity.

Bakker, for her part, told me she had not worked with non-binary people (those who do not identify as either male or female) in part because of sample size limitations. “Whenever you do fMRI research, you need to get at least 20 individuals, and you want to get more,” she explained. And, having been questioned about their identities ad infinitum in daily life, would-be subjects from the already small pool are understandably wary of participating: “It’s not like they’re jumping up and down to go and lie in your scan.”

The enduring burden of the medicalization of trans brains and bodies may also give candidates pause about walking into a lab to be analyzed further. People who seek to transition through hormones or surgery face gatekeeping at every turn, including psychological and medical evaluations in which the accepted manifestations of manhood or womanhood can be extremely narrow. As journalist Laurie Penny noted in her book “Meat Market: Female Flesh Under Capitalism,” one British psychiatrist has been known to refuse treatment to trans women who arrive at appointments in pants instead of a skirt. Trans men like me can be interrogated or turned away if they are sexually attracted to other men, as happened in Norway. In Bakker’s native Belgium, she says, it’s exceptionally difficult for trans people to access hormone therapy, and children are often sent to psychiatrists to be “cured” of their identity.

Bakker’s 2014 study looked at this younger population, analyzing children’s responses to the smell of androstadienone — a steroid that’s known to elicit different patterns of hypothalamic activity in adult men and women. Crucially, it’s an innate physiological response rather than a learned one, so gendered socialization couldn’t impact the results; the toys the kids had played with or what the adults in their lives expected of them wouldn’t alter their reaction to such a chemo-signal. The team found that adolescents with dysphoria responded in a way that reflected their experienced gender: Trans boys reacted the way cis boys do, and vice versa for trans girls.

Bakker hopes to increase acceptance through scientific understanding — but the unfortunate reality is that biological essentialism doesn’t always help the cause. In 2016, a survey by psychologist Patrick Grzanka and his team found that, while most people who were accepting of gay men believed that sexual minorities are “born this way,” those who were not accepting shared the same belief — meaning ideas about the “naturalness” of a person’s orientation don’t always predict tolerance. “Strategic essentialism,” as Grzanka calls it, may not be as constructive as many LGBTQ activists and advocates believe.

There are darker applications to consider, too, and researchers’ good intentions can’t absolve their work of its capacity to do harm in practice. Essentialism can be used by either side — as a fix for homophobia and transphobia, or as a means of pathologizing and othering the people oppressed by those forces. Before LeVay, there was Fritz Roeder and Dieter Müller’s mid-20th-century “stereotactic hypothalamotomy,” a “psychosurgery” in which the region of the brain thought to be responsible for gay men’s sexuality was removed or destroyed by an electronic probe. As Nancy Ordover recounts in “American Eugenics: Race, Queer Anatomy, and the Science of Nationalism,” the two considered their “cure” to be a matter of “public health policy,” and the practice was endorsed at the time by the Lancet, a leading medical journal, as an ethical alternative to castration. It continued in Germany and elsewhere through the 1970s.

Given the complexities of identifying and interpreting differences — and of preventing their weaponization — we should resist the impulse to base the legitimacy of trans identities on findings that could just as easily be used for gatekeeping or parsed as a disorder. The search for the “gay gene” has been long and so far inconclusive. Crucially, lesbian, gay and bisexual acceptance has moved forward without it. As Rohy puts it, the real role of civil rights and increasing representation in the culture is about “widening the space of possibility in which [queerness] becomes visible as a livable life.” It shows us ways of moving through the world we might not have imagined or understood to be accessible. To know that trans people exist and are increasingly able to do so happily will open doors for the next generation — those who, in decades past, might never have found a word for what they felt or the support they needed to improve their quality of life.

Taking LGB rights as a precedent, it seems that legal victories like Gavin Grimm’s Supreme Court case (in which the justices sided with the transgender teenager in his fight to use the boys bathroom at school) and social change sparked by positive representation in media will help in more concrete ways. When the Chilean drama “A Fantastic Woman” won an Oscar this year, the prestige allowed Daniela Vega, its transgender star, to revive a flagging gender-identity bill in her home country, bolstering support among progressive and conservative legislators alike. Simply seeing trans people fairly depicted goes a long way toward humanizing them — far more than being able to point to a specific part of the brain ever could or should.

With gender dysphoria no longer considered a mental illness by the World Health Organization, a long-awaited demedicalization of transness is underway. Now is the time to recognize that etiology does not always lead to equality. Like sexual identity, gender emerges from a host of factors, both biological and cultural. As such, affording fundamental rights and respect to all shouldn’t — and can’t — be contingent on any one explanation.

Both good science and good advocacy dictate that we’re better off acknowledging what we don’t know about ourselves than overstating what we do. It doesn’t help the LGBTQ community to fixate on what we might learn, if only we could scan the right brains or pinpoint the right genes. Trying to locate a single biological origin can only blind us to the vibrancy and diversity of real trans lives. If we trust the volume of the frontal cortex over what a person tells us about themselves, we deny them their autonomy and their humanity. Those who really want to advance the cause should start by believing trans people when they speak up about who they are.

Alex Barasch is a freelance journalist. He covers science and culture. Follow @alexbarasch

Article originally posted in the Washington Post.

Jun 01

All About Hosiery

all about hosiery

For crossdressers, hosiery is almost an essential, but in the real world of women in the 21st century, hosiery or stockings have become a non-essential item. This section explores not only the history, manufacture, and use of stockings, but why this has come about, what are the exceptions, and can we really wear hose and still be modern and chic.

Then we look at that perennial favorite of all crossdressers, fishnet stockings. They have long held a somewhat controversial place in fashion history. Stereotyped as ‘sexy’, fishnet hosiery is often seen as provocative. I talked about fishnets at length in my 2014 article, Fishnets, Naughty or Nice in TG Forum.

However, the negative connotations of fishnet hosiery betrays its iconic place in fashion history as well as its real potential to be part of a chic or even elegant look Fishnets have become far more acceptable than in they once were, having made their way out of the shadowy darkness of clubs and burlesque shows, and into the bright light of modern urban women’s wear.

So, let’s explore some interesting ramifications about why we do or don’t or should wear hosiery

The History, Manufacture, and Wearing of Hosiery Including over 10 videos on how to wear hosiery

The Death of Hosiery or Why Legs Went Bare

Who Still Wears Pantyhose

How To Style Fishnet Hosiery

Hosiery Terms and FAQs

Jan 27

Transgender History: Trans Expression in Ancient Times

History is written by the victors so transgender history, unfortunately,  tends to mean that a lot of truth gets lost over the eons. Peaceful tribes can become demonized, portrayals of nature reverence can be twisted into “witchcraft” and a lot of the accurate documentation becomes lost over the years in intellectual pogroms, such as the burning of the library at Alexandria in Egypt by the Romans.

History was never meant to be that sort of boring “is there gonna be a test on this” sort of dry reading, but it often becomes so, because it becomes an onslaught of dates and peoples and events that we don’t recognize. It doesn’t help that with histories written by victors, many of the lives we might recognize ourselves in become obliterated from memory. Such is the case with most things transgender or homosexual, which at one time were seen to be rooted in similar human need. It was once said that there were three facets to our existence: survival, reproduction, and everything else — and to the person who made the case, “everything else” — which tended to encompass those things creative, imaginative and ingenious — could be classified as “art.” If ancient cultures bore understanding of this, then one wonders if transgender and same-sex love were seen as an art of their own… a creative exploration of love and affection.

It may sound far-fetched, but history (even if written by victors) offers little glimpses of reality at times, and many of these glimpses tend to indicate that the gender transgression and gay / lesbian / bisexual love that is often vilified today was once quite respected and at times even encouraged. As a transgender and bisexual woman, I’m not personally inclined to think of myself as better than anyone or to try to portray myself as such, but a careful look at history does provide a rewarding sense that I have something to offer, and am a being worthy of respect.

It is impossible to know the motives of the early civilizations’ approach. We can only see history in modern light and with our own experiences. Without the economic and socio-political backgrounds to some of these notations, we don’t know if transgender behaviour was any result of coersion, conspiracy or other motivations. I would like to think that much of the experience was genuine, although I’m not so naive to believe that accounts of castrated boys raised as wives of Roman or Turkish military leaders were consensual. History unfortunately sometimes can only touch the surface, not revealing the beauty and ugliness underneath.

Consequently, I can only construct a history that is dry and vague at times, and intriguing at others. I also have to rely heavily on a few selected texts at some points, as there is so little other information available on those periods of time. There may be the occasional inaccuracy but I have found that the exercise has unearthed some fascinating gems.

Dually-Gifted, Dually Respected?

What we understand as transgender (in its many different forms) has been understood quite differently at various periods of time. In the earliest ages, people who were seen to bridge the genders were quite often thought to possess wisdom that traditionally-gendered people did not, and were venerated for this. As civilizations transformed from matrilineal and communal societies into male-driven (patriarchal) societies with rigid class divisions and emphasis on property ownership, those male-driven cultures reduced the status of women… and because they were threatened by a persistent belief that those who blurred gender lines possessed some greater insight, they set out to crush gender-transgressive people most of all. Into the modern age, transfolk resurfaced, but it is a long climb back just to restore any sense of equality.

In earliest civilizations, throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Northern Africa, tribes of different types venerated what they often identified as “The Great Mother.” In nearly all of these traditions, MTF priestesses (often castrated or with some form of eunuching, which included a number of different body modifications of the time) presided, and the cultures were primarily communal systems which held women (venerated as a source of life) in high esteem. Matriarchal in nature, the cultures often espoused peace, but the realities of early civilization and tribal existence did not always allow for this.

The Great Mother

The Great Mother

Roman historian Plutarch depicts “The Great Mother” as an Intersex deity from whom the two sexes had not yet split. Trans-gendered depictions of The Great Mother and Her priestesses are found in ancient artifacts back to the earliest civilizations in Mesopotamia, Assyria, Babylonia and Akkad. Some historians portray MTF priestesses as being recognized as something sacred, while others portray them as undergoing castration in order to subvert matrilineal rule and wrest religious direction from the control of women. David F. Greenberg, however, concludes that records of trans priestesses do date back “to the late Paleolithic (if not earlier),” suggesting that the advent of transgender priestesses was not simply a later reaction to feminine leadership and veneration. In some regions, particularly the oldest European customs, it even appears that some form of gender transgression was almost considered one’s religious duty, at times (i.e. certain revelries).

Surviving Records

Displaying the earliest records of trans existence chronologically is virtually impossible, so I will sort them primarily by location.

The Middle East

In the Middle East (Cradle of Civilization), MTF (male-to-female) priestesses were known to have served Astarte, Dea Syria, Atargatis and Ashtoreth / Ishtar. Additional MTF “gallae” served Cybele, the Phrygians’ embodiment of The Great Mother. Trans expression was also present in the early genesis of the Kumbh Mela festival in Allahbad (India).

mukhannathun

mukhannathun

For centuries, Muslim tradition differentiated between MTF transsexuals who live as prostitutes or criminals, and those in whom femininity was innate and who lived blamelessly. The latter were called “mukhannathun,” and accepted within the boundaries of Islam. Mukhannathun could have relationships with either men or women, but only those who had been castrated or were exclusively attracted to men were allowed into womens’ spaces. Later, it was ordered that all mukhannathun undergo castration.

Africa

In Africa, intersexed deities and spritual beliefs in gender transformation are recorded in Akan, Ambo-

Heviosso

Heviosso

Kwanyama, Bobo, Chokwe, Dahomean (Benin), Dogon, Bambara, Etik, Handa, Humbe, Hunde, Ibo, Jukun, Kimbundu, Konso, Kunama, Lamba, Lango, Luba, Lugbara (where MTFs are called okule and FTMs are called agule), Lulua, Musho, Nat, Nuba, Ovimbundu, Rundi, Sakpota, Shona-Karonga, Venda, Vili-Kongo, and Zulu tribes. Some of this tradition survives in West Africa, as well as Brazilian and Haitian ceremonies that derive from West African religions. In Abomey, the Heviosso maintain trans traditions, in an area renowned for Amazon-like warrior women.

In seventh Century BC, King Ashurbanipal (Sardanapalus) of Assyria spent a great deal of time in womens’ clothing, something that was later used to justify overthrowing him. In Egypt, 1503 BC, Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut ascended to the throne, the second Egyptian queen to rule (the first was Queen Sobekneferu of the 12th Dynasty). Possibly learning from the disfavor shown to her predecessor, she donned male clothing and a false beard signifying kingship, and reigned until 1482 B.C. She had one daughter, Neferure, who she groomed as successor (male clothing, false beard and all), but Neferure did not live into adulthood. After her death, her second husband attempted to erase all record of her. And Nzinga ruled as King of Angola from 1624 – 1653, cross-dressed and led several successful military battles against the Portuguese.

Asia

statue-of-shiva-as-half-man-and-half-women-ardhanarishvara

statue-of-shiva-as-half-man-and-half-women

In Asia, Hijras persist even today, although their reverence is often limited to the belief that their presence at weddings is a good portent for the couple. They do tend to suffer in the modern Indian caste system, something that “eunuchs” of all types are banding together to work to improve (i.e. only recently was a Hijra able to vote, and now there have been Hijran elected officials). Historically, they have often worshipped the mother-goddess Bahuchara Mata, although some also worshipped Shiva in his half-man, half-woman persona, Ardhanarisvara.

Many early Indonesian societies had transgender figures in religious functions, including the basaja, from the island of Sulawesi (The Celebes). In ancient China, the shih-niang wore mixed-gender ceremonial clothing. In Okinawa, some shamans underwent winagu nati, a process of “becoming female.” In Korea, the mudang was a shaman or sorceress who was quite often MTF. In February 1995, archaeologist Timothy Taylor discovered evidence of transgender lives in the Iron Age graves found in southern Russia.

Fanchuan was a name given to stage crossdressing, such as male-to-female performances in Beijing opera, and female-to-male acting in Taiwanese Opera. Chui Chin, a cross-dressing Chinese revolutionary and feminist was beheaded in 1907 for organizing an uprising against the Manchu dynasty.

Europe

In Europe, MTF priestesses served Artemis, Hecate and Diana. Early traditions thrived longest in Greece, and the mythology of the day encorporated tales of cross-dressing by Achilles, Heracles, Athena and Dionysus, as well as literal and metaphorical gender changes. The blind prophet Tiresias is often mentioned as a figure who had lived many years of his life in each different gender, and was said to have possessed acute wisdom for it. The tale of an FTM character, Kaineus (Caeneus), who was viewed as a “scorner and rival of the gods” and was driven into the earth by the Centaurs, is an example of Greek mythology attempting to subvert earlier trans-oriented legends. And Cupid was a dual god/dess of love, originally portrayed as intersex. The child of Hermes and Aphrodite, one of Cupid’s variant names provided the origin for the term, “hermaphrodite.” Some time between 6th Century and 1st Century BC, in the Greek Hippocratic Corpus (collection of medical texts), physicians propose that both parents secrete male or female “bodies” and that if the father’s secretion is female (rather than male) and the mother’s is male, the result would either be a “man-woman” (effeminate male) or a “mannish” female.

In the later development of Europe, early alchemists borrowed from pre-Christian spirituality at times, and some of these mystics created the concept of the “chemical wedding,” a merger of male and female spiritual attributes to achieve perfection. Some alchemists saw this as a chemical concept that would lead to the process of transmuting lead into gold, while others touted that this was more of a personal, spiritual transformation. While much of this was later absorbed into secret societies such as the Freemasons and Rosicrucians, the belief hints at transformative and bigender-conscious reverence. Even the Bible has such “gender-wedding” imagery at times, in allusions to the “Bride of Christ” found in the Book of Revelations and some comments by later epistle writers.

Androgynae

Androgynae

The Amazons, a group of warriors often in conflict with Greeks and later mythologized, seem to have been thought of as trans, and Pliny the Younger referred to them as the Androgynae “who combine the two sexes.” They carried double-edged axes which may have been symbols of intersexuality, as were those carried by the South American tribe that inspired the naming of the Amazon River.

In the Klementi tribe of Albania, if a virgin swore before twelve witnesses that she would not marry, she was then recognized as male, carried weapons, and herded flocks.

Years later, Joan of Arc was said to have followed in the traditions of Gentiles and heathen. In France, “gens” referred to matrilineal farming communities, indicating some pre-Christian tradition that she evidently had stirred up, inspiring older values and explaining why she had become such a potent threat to the church while alive.

North America

In North America, as late as 1930 (with the Klamath in the Pacific Northwest), Two-Spirit Natives are noted among tribal communities. Originally called “berdache,” a name of largely insulting intent given by Europeans, Native culture adopted the term “Two-Spirit” as a blanket term — though in reality, nearly every tribe had at least one (often several) unique name for Two-Spirit peoples, with the names sometimes addressing different aspects of those populations. Two-Spirit actually covers the full range of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons, as well as intersex and other gender-variant people. It was often thought that Two-Spirits had two spirits inhabiting the same body, and that Two-Spirit people deserved a special kind of reverence. Jesuit priest Jacques Marquette notes that in the Illinois and Nadouessi tribes, nothing is decided without their advice.

The sensational nature of reports of Two-Spirit peoples and the hatred they contained were used to try to justify genocide, theft of land and the dismantling of Native culture and religion. In Panama, explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa threw a King and forty others of a Native tribe to be eaten by his dogs, because they crossdressed or had same-sex partners. Spaniards committed similar genocides in the Antilles and Louisiana. In those areas where Two-Spirit traditions survived, they were later driven underground or supplanted completely by missionary teachings and residential schools, both of which were bent on destroying Native culture.

muxes

Jesusa Hernandez (L) and her nephew Julio Valdiviezo Hernandez (R) are muxe, or transvestites, in the Oaxacan town of Juchitan. Here they pose in Jesusa’s home, in traditional Tejuana clothing. Muxes are very common, and accepted, in this Southern Oaxacan region. The matriarchal society is still driven by women but in flux in the machismo culture of Mexico. (photo: Ann Summa).

In Mexico, the Zapotecs developed the concept of a third gender, which they referred to as muxe, as an intermediate between male and female who played both gender roles in everyday life. It is important to note that “two-spirit” (and similar native terms) refer to gender, not sexual orientation. “Two-spirit” individuals may be heterosexual, bisexual, or homosexual. To date, muxes still exist among Zapotec people and play a crucial role within the community.

Inuit FTMs serve White Whale Woman, who was believed to have been transformed into a man or woman-man.

South America

In South America, MTF priestesses have been found among the Araucanians (southern Chile and Argentina) and Mapuche, although after oppressive Spanish contact, they were largely replaced by female preistesses. Some females in the Tupinamba tribe lived as men, hunted and went to war. In 1576, explorer Pedro de Magalhaes recorded this, and recalling the Greek legend of the Amazons, named the Amazon river for these Tupinamba. For the Yoruba (Brazil), the deity Shango is represented as all sexes.

Unclear, But Present

Although it’s doubtful that all of these traditions had a common origin, and possible that some of these are trans only by coincidence, there do seem to be a number of similar themes tying them together. Sorting through them to find specific motives and beliefs is impossible, though, because so little of the original traditions was recorded or survived the various book purges over time. It is only possible to speculate.

Alas, history is written by the victors, and the victors were largely not transgender or homosexual / bisexual persons.

Reprinted from Bilerico.Com

Jan 26

Our Social Construction of a Sex and Gender Binary: The XX & XY Lie

 

Petite Bohème social world

Image credit: Petite Bohème at www.petiteboheme.com/Cosmic-Love

I’m a transgender woman living in a social world. Like many trans people I know, I’ve spent a lot of time in my life hearing from friends, family, and strangers on the internet about how my gender is “made up”.

These detractors always circle back to the same argument regarding biology, genitals, and the existence of only two “real” genders. They will tell me that it doesn’t matter what name I use, how long my hair grows, what surgeries I get, or how long I take hormone replacement therapy, I will always be a man, in their eyes, because one doctor 27 years ago looked at my penis and decided I was a man.

This simplistic explanation of sex and gender as a permanent division between someone being either a man or woman, having a penis or a vagina, and having XX or XY chromosomes may seem like solid ground upon which we’ve built our entire modern society, but the real story of where these categories come from, and how unscientific they truly are, is newer, and much more cloudy, than you may think. Before we go down the rabbit hole, we need to cover some basics first.

Social Constructionism and You

Social constructionism is the study of how identity categories, social groups, and even things that seem like solid biological truths, are actually systems of meaning that are built, maintained, and obscured from criticism by our social systems.

Social constructionism is created and maintained by many facets of society, including our education system, class hierarchy structure, political systems, and medical complex. (More about social constructionism here)

It’s important to note that just because something is socially constructed, or in a more blunt way, that it is “made up”, doesn’t make that thing meaningless or powerless. Money only exists and has value because we all collectively decide to continue believing that it has value, however once that social construction has taken hold, it becomes “real” in some sense of the word. The fact that money is an imaginary abstraction of labor and personal wealth onto colored pieces of fabric, paper, or metal doesn’t make its impact on our lives, or our struggle to live without having enough of it, any less “real” than something tangible like a rock or a tree.

As another example, racial divisions between human beings with different skin tones and body features are socially constructed and yet, also deeply important to understanding our world. These divisions were artificially created and continue to be maintained by white-dominant societies across the world in a way that produces real, daily harm for people of color.

Even though race is “made up”, so to speak, we can’t just completely dismiss it as a concept, or live in a “colorblind” society because the enduring legacy and impact of race as a social construction impacts the lives of every person of color. It is deeply important for us all to learn about the challenges of growing up in a society informed by slavery, scientific justifications for racism, eugenics, and many other real systems of oppression that were built on the very non-real and arbitrary divisions between humans of different physical appearances. In order to truly confront the issue of racism, we must first admit that race is both a social construction by scientific racists and also a real pattern of classification that has caused tangible harm despite it being “made up”.

In a similar way, our current system of assigning babies male or female at birth is a social construction based on assumptions about biology and body development that are now outdated. However, we must still grapple with the centuries of meaning we have attributed to the penis and the vagina.

Sex and gender as a binary structure are outdated social constructs that we must reform. When a so-called “scientific” system of categorization systematically leaves out millions of transgender and intersex people, we must ask ourselves: is the problem with the people who don’t fit, or the system itself?

Boys and Girls

In most current societies, when we’re born, a doctor or midwife looks at our genitals and declares we are either “a boy” or “a girl”.

This designation gets put on a birth certificate, which then transfers to a social security card, a driver’s license, a passport, and every other possible documentation of you as a human being. Even though most people never get their chromosomes tested, we also assume this sex assignment to mean that people with penises always have XY chromosomes and people with vulvas always have XX chromosomes.

We live in a world that is deeply invested financially, socially, politically, and scientifically, in reinforcing two categories defined by penises and vaginas. The sex and gender binary informs our medical research, divides our restrooms from each other, and prescribes everything from the hobbies you can access to the style of draping cloth on your body that is appropriate.

Our binary division of genitals, loosely based on being able to give birth or not give birth, signifies a fundamental difference between what we call “men” and “women”. From the assignment of your physical sex follows the assumption of your gender identity and gender expression to match.

If your gender happens to line up with the sex you were assigned at birth, this is an experience I will refer to as being “cisgender”. Conversely, this means that anyone whose gender is not the same as their sex assigned at birth would be “transgender”.

Cisgender people may have never really thought much about the medical process of sex assignment at birth and the subsequent social process of molding the expectations of a gender identity based on that assignment.

Even though sex assignment at birth, gender identity, and gender expression are all distinct categories that can be independent from each other, when they all “line up” with the expectation, we collapse those three things into one identity. We call someone a “man” for example, by which we actually mean a male-assigned-at-birth person whose gender identity (internal sense of gender) is a man, and whose gender expression (external choices about appearance to communicate gender) is also male/masculine.

Even though no one truly lines up with every expectation of being male or female, odds are that if you fit into a cisgender experience of your body and the world, our cultural process of assigning sex at birth and then assuming a gender identity and gender expression based on that assignment has been an invisible process for you. It may even feel like a “natural” process, or the only process by which we could ever structure our society in your mind.

For cisgender people, this medical process of assigning sex at birth and assuming gender identity and expression from that assignment is like tubing down a river. Depending on where you start, you may experience calm waters carrying you forward, you may have turbulent water that’s difficult to navigate, or you might have a mixture of both, but no matter what, the momentum of the water carries you forward and helps guide your journey.

For transgender people, whose gender is different from the sex we were assigned at birth, and intersex people, whose bodies do not fit cleanly into being assigned male or female, this experience is much more like being a salmon swimming upstream against the current. Even though it’s possible to do, it’s exhausting. We’re always pushing back against the expectations of our culture, our parents, our doctors, our religious leaders (if we’re religious), and practically everyone we interact with in person and on the internet.

Some of us don’t survive the journey. Some of us run out of energy and fall behind. Some of us, if we’re non-white, poor, queer, non-binary, living with a disability, living in countries outside of the US and Europe, living without access to healthcare, or navigating life through multiple marginalized identities at once, are forced to endure push back from the unstoppable flow of dominant culture that is more intense, more relentless, and much more exhausting.

This social process of “tubing down the river”, happens because of our social construction of the gender binary. While not everything in our modern society has a binary gendered aspect to it, many more things than you might think about actually do.

The gender binary is more than social expectations that women work in the home and men work in an office, or other broad cultural assumptions about men and women. Our gendered divisions assign different smells to different genders, make sure that our underwear is shaped differently, and use social norms about grooming activities like shaving body hair, doing makeup, and enforcing drastically different dress codes all serve to support divisions between what we call men and women.

We take small variations in body structure and amplify the natural variation of those bodies to maintain the idea that men and woman are not only fundamentally different from each other, based on their biology, but also based on their social expectations as well.

More and more people are beginning to see how our current gender binary is socially constructed. Parents are beginning to push back on the idea that only certain toys are for boys or girls, clothing stores are removing their distinction between men’s and women’s clothes, and California just became the first state in the US to recognize a non-binary gender on their state records.

Even though it’s becoming more common to hear people discuss the impact of our gender binary, we still seem to struggle when we apply the same ideas to the social construction of biological sex itself.

“I Wasn’t Born In The Wrong Body, I Was Born In The Wrong World” — Alok Vaid-Menon

Even the most progressive transgender allies, the ones who understand the nuances of gender identity, can struggle with the concept of trans bodies when it comes to the social construction of physical sex characteristics.

Many cisgender allies say things to me like: “I support your transition, but you’ll never be a ‘real’ woman because you were born a boy.” Statements like this illustrate how some people can understand our society’s need to expand beyond the gender binary, while still clinging to the idea that “biological sex” is something solid, real, and based on a purely biological difference between two types of genitals and having either XX or XY chromosomes.

Not only is the gender binary a social construction, but so is the very idea of a physical sex binary at all. We know this because millions of transgender people exist as women in bodies with penises, as do men in bodies with vulvas and nonbinary people in bodies with any genitals.

Those bodies cannot be cleanly sorted into a binary sex because our brain is just as physical a part of us as any other. We experience our whole body through electric energy that runs through every nerve and up into our brain seamlessly.

There is no such thing as being trapped in the “wrong” body, it’s the only body I have, and to say it isn’t a woman’s body when there is a woman living in the body takes some serious mental gymnastics and biological psuedo-science for people to justify their transphobia and declare otherwise.

Bigots and allies alike search high and low for every possible explanation to elucidate why millions of trans people exist, other than what we keep saying over and over again.

This world seemingly refuses to listen to trans people when we say that we are simply living as our truest possible selves. We are women, men, and non-binary people in bodies that you refuse to see as ours, but rather, you can only see through your projections onto us.

Transgender women are not “trying to be women”, “living as women”, “becoming women”, “choosing to be women”, or any other euphemistic phrase that essentially says we are impersonators trying to be something we are not.

As Sophie Labelle so elegantly put it: “I’m a girl, this is my body. Girls have all kinds of bodies.”

Assigned Male in a social world

Artist credit: Sophie Labelle, Assigned Male Comics

Additionally, some bodies cannot be cleanly sorted into “male” or “female” on sex assignment, and we categorize those bodies as “intersex”.

Intersex folks may or may not also identify themselves as “transgender”, but the existence of bodies that are on a spectrum between what we clearly define as male or female speaks to a more complicated truth of “biological sex” than you might have learned in school.

Even though we often think about physical sex being determined precisely when the sperm enters the egg, the actual development of our physical bodies follows the same template for the first few months of development, including the development of budding structures that would become the ovaries, labia, clitoris, and other body parts we currently see as exclusively “female”.

For some bodies where the SRY gene is activated, these existing parts transform themselves to a new genital configuration that will begin to produce testosterone. The ovaries descend and become the testes; the labia fuse together into the scrotal sack; the urethra fuses with the clitoris and grows out to become the penis.

The anatomy we see as distinctly “male” or “female” is all grown from the same root, and in our effort to make clear distinctions between men and women, the medical system creates collateral damage through forced genital surgery on intersex infants, defining our natural human variation as a disorder, and perpetuating a transphobic medical gatekeeping process that construes our most basic medical care as “cosmetic” and “unnecessary” medical procedures we must pay for out of pocket, while trans people are also twice as likely to be unemployed, and if employed, are twice as likely to make under $25,000 a year (from: http://www.one-colorado.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/OC_Transparent_Download2mb.pdf).

Even though we claim this division between “real men” and “real women” rests on the basic difference between XX and XY chromosomes, even the clean cut science of that divide is quickly becoming more and more muddled. It is possible, for example, to have XY chromosomes and a vulva or XX chromosomes and a penis. This article from Nature Magazine in 2015 outlines this process in greater detail:

“Gene mutations affecting gonad development can result in a person with XY chromosomes developing typically female characteristics, whereas alterations in hormone signalling can cause XX individuals to develop along male lines.

For many years, scientists believed that female development was the default programme, and that male development was actively switched on by the presence of a particular gene on the Y chromosome. In 1990, researchers made headlines when they uncovered the identity of this gene, which they called SRY. Just by itself, this gene can switch the gonad from ovarian to testicular development. For example, XX individuals who carry a fragment of the Y chromosome that contains SRY develop as males.”

By the turn of the millennium, however, the idea of femaleness being a passive default option had been toppled by the discovery of genes that actively promote ovarian development and suppress the testicular programme — such as one called WNT4. XY individuals with extra copies of this gene can develop atypical genitals and gonads, and a rudimentary uterus and Fallopian tubes. In 2011, researchers showed that if another key ovarian gene, RSPO1, is not working normally, it causes XX people to develop an ovotestis — a gonad with areas of both ovarian and testicular development.

These discoveries have pointed to a complex process of sex determination, in which the identity of the gonad emerges from a contest between two opposing networks of gene activity. Changes in the activity or amounts of molecules (such as WNT4) in the networks can tip the balance towards or away from the sex seemingly spelled out by the chromosomes. “It has been, in a sense, a philosophical change in our way of looking at sex; that it’s a balance,” says Eric Vilain, a clinician and the director of the Center for Gender-Based Biology at the University of California, Los Angeles. “It’s more of a systems-biology view of the world of sex.”

Transgender people are a natural human variation of brains existing on a spectrum of identities, just like how bodies exist on a spectrum between what we designate as male and what we designate as female.

Both the gender binary and the sex binary are socially constructed. We first decided there was a difference at all in bodies on one side of the sex spectrum or the other, and then we maintain a system of strict division between physical norms, social norms, and gender expression norms that reinforce that original arbitrary division between masculine and feminine bodies.

We are led to believe that this “biological” division between men and women is tied to both the genitals, and having XX or XY chromosomes, however, most people never have their chromosomes checked. Instead, we just assume that the existence of a penis means someone has an XY chromosomal pair and the existence of a vulva means an XX chromosomal pair. But as we saw above, not only can someone be born with the “wrong” genitals for their chromosome pair, but also those with the “right pair” of chromosomes can develop traits of both genitals, including the full formation of both a penis and a vulva/vagina at the same time.

This doesn’t mean there aren’t observable differences between bodies, or that a division does exist in humans between the anatomy required to grow a child and those without the ability to do that, but it does mean that the actual biological differences between those bodies stops there. Even using birth anatomy as a binary doesn’t work, since we still see infertile cisgender women as women and infertile cisgender men as men.

Imagine a thought experiment: Due to an unfortunate accident, you were crushed above your hips by a massive object. In order to save you, the surgeon was required to remove your genitals completely. Do you stop being a man or a woman, in this scenario, just because your genitals are now gone? Of course not, because gender, the inner sense of who you are, exists independent of your genitals.

Instead of thinking about physical sex as two distinct categories with no overlap, I think it makes more sense to think of our categories of “male” and “female” as two bell curves centered around cisgender men and women. The majority of people who are born with a penis will identify as men, express themselves as masculine, and create the norm we have now, and the same for people with a vulva being women and expressing themselves as feminine.

However, there is a small chance on the edges of the bell curve that someone will be different from how they are assigned and expected to grow up. They may be a transgender woman, agender, gender fluid, or many other potential identity terms we’ve created to describe experiences outside of being cisgender. That doesn’t make the transgender or the cisgender person more or less right, just because it’s more common to be cis, it just means they are two very different experiences of being human.

Instead of seeing this natural variation within the bell curve as equally valid outcomes of the randomness inherent in human genes, we have medicalized, stigmatized, and pathologized these differences to say that less common experiences of gender are also somehow less “right” or less “natural”.

We’ve labeled these trans experiences as deviant, dangerous, and constructed them to be something wrong with the individual people, instead of an inherent flaw of our classification system.

If a so-called “scientific” classification system continues to systematically leave out millions and millions of people, we must ask ourselves: is the problem with those millions of people, or is the problem with our current classification system?

When the majority of people fit within the expectations of being cisgender men and women, we mistake something “common” for being something “normal”. In our current society, “normal” comes with all sorts of value judgements and safety systems that push us toward wanting to be seen as “normal” by others.

Additionally, having a category seen as “normal” for our gender fundamentally facilitates the creation of things outside of those expectations to be seen as “not normal”, or“other”. Our experiences precede our language to describe them. Trans and queer people who are naming terms to describe their gender are putting language to experiences of gender fluidity, non-binary gender, and other experiences outside of the historical categories of men and women.

Getting rid of those new identities, marginalizing them, mocking them, and ignoring them don’t make someone feel less like that identity, it just increases the social cost of coming out and staying out to a level where someone may feel hopeless enough to choose dying instead.

Our society constructs these transgender identities as being “abnormal”, “bizarre”, and defined by their defiance to the established norm.

Those who are hateful of trans people do all sorts of mental gymnastics to find other explanations for why trans people exist. These “explanations” are often way more complicated than the actual truth they refuse to acknowledge, that I am simply a woman who has a penis.

Instead, transphobic bigots justify taking our rights away and ostracizing us from society by saying that transgender people are sexually deviant, or that we are trying to trick people. They call our truest selves being “mentally ill”, and all sorts of other justifications for marginalizing and oppressing us without feeling guilt or shame for it. The people who truly cause harm to us are often telling a story in their own head about “saving us” from ourselves, but all they are really doing is using religious fundamentalism, TERF ideology, or other oppressive systems to attack an already endangered and marginalized group and endanger us further out of their own discomfort and fear.

Transgender People Have Always Existed

It is also important to note that even though trans identities and gender fluidity seems like something new, there is a long history of people who we would understand in our current context as “trans” throughout time and space. Many Civil War soldiers were discovered to be female assigned at birth in the US, Billy Tipton was a legendary jazz artist, who was also discovered to be female-assigned-at-birth only upon his death in 1989. There were also trans, genderqueer and gender fluid people living in a burgeoning queer movement in 1920’s and 30’s Berlin, until the Nazis came to power, destroyed the collected research of Dr. Magnus Hirshfeld, and the entire queer movement toward scientific understanding with it.

Trans women, transsexuals, and drag queens of color were also the first ones to fight back against police at Stonewall in June 1969, and also at the Compton Cafeteria Riots, in August 1966, almost 3 years before Stonewall.

Additionally, going back further than white European colonialism, there have always been communities of indigenous people who saw and respected people outside of a gender binary. While it’s impossible to paint the hundreds of indigenous groups in North America with a broad brush, many different traditions of indigenous gender and sexual fluidity are being illuminated by current tribal members, sometimes under the linguistic banner of “two spirit” people:

“Each tribe has their own specific term, but there was a need for a universal term that the general population could understand. The Navajo refer to Two Spirits as Nádleehí (one who is transformed), among the Lakota is Winkté (indicative of a male who has a compulsion to behave as a female), Niizh Manidoowag (two spirit) in Ojibwe, Hemaneh (half man, half woman) in Cheyenne, to name a few.

As the purpose of ‘Two Spirit’ is to be used as a universal term in the English language, it is not always translatable with the same meaning in Native languages. For example, in the Iroquois Cherokee language, there is no way to translate the term, but the Cherokee do have gender variance terms for ‘women who feel like men’ and vice versa.”

Many of the colonial occupiers that traveled to North America were not only confused by sex and gender categories different from their own, but they used their lack of nuclear families and existence of trans and queer people as a sign of godlessness and weakness, as the same article continues below:

“The Jesuits and French explorers told stories of Native American men who had ‘Given to sin’ and ‘Hunting Women’ with wives, and later, the British returned to England with similar accounts. [portrait artist] George Catlin said that the Two Spirit tradition among Native Americans ‘Must be extinguished before it can be more fully recorded.’ In keeping with European prejudices held against Natives, the Spanish Catholic monks destroyed most of the Aztec codices to eradicate traditional Native beliefs and history, including those that told of the Two Spirit tradition.

In 1530, the Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca wrote in his diary of seeing ‘soft’ Native Indian males in Florida tribes dressing and working as women. Just as with all other aspects of the European regard for Indians, gender variance was not tolerated. Europeans and eventually Euro-Americans demanded all people conform to their prescribed two gender roles.

The majority of historical empires and colonizing powers across the world have been based on a combination of heterosexuality and a binary sex assigned at birth, partially because if you are a colonizing power that needs new people to be born in order to constantly grow your army and occupy your new territory, then creating shame and stigmatization around any sex that is non-procreative and punishing people for stepping outside of gender norms becomes a social adaptation that allows empires to grow through the assumption that all people must be straight and wanting to have children.

We are beyond a time when these desires need to be the sole focus of a society. When people fall in love and/or have sex with genitals where a child can be born, great! And also there are many more options existing in this world to create your own children with another person, or grow your family by adopting those who don’t have one.

When we create a system of strict gender policing and threats of violence, sexual assault, homelessness, and more for crossing those boundaries, it’s hard to say the choice to stay within them is a “natural” one.

To Infinity And Beyond

Our ever-expanding scientific, social, and cultural understanding of the world is pointing more and more to the system of a gender and sex binary being unable to describe the natural human variation that has always existed in gender and sex, and which will likely always exist, no matter how many times an internet comment is written that there are only two genders, only two sexes, and only one way to see the world.

Bodies exist on a spectrum just as our brains and identities do. There is no clear distinction between a man and a woman, no matter how many non-consensual genital surgeries we perform on intersex infants. In order to make it appear that there is a stark difference between these two, we enforce clothing standards, body hair standards, makeup expectations, and genital surgeries on intersex people to make the actual differences that do exist between those body types hyper-emphasized and seemingly impossible to mix.

However, it is possible to have XY chromosomes and a vulva. It is possible to have XX chromosomes and a penis. It is possible to be born with both a penis and a womb. It’s possible to be born with both a penis and a vagina. It is, therefore impossible for us to truly create a divide between “man” and “woman” as distinct categories, especially if we plan to use chromosomes and genitals to divide them. Nature doesn’t like cleanly divided categories.

There are certainly biological differences between bodies, and some of those differences can be traced back to different body parts, some of those differences may even lead to some differences in thought, experience, and interests, however we know better than to say that such a random cluster of similarities are so important that they are more important than allowing trans and queer people to live freely and safely as we feel the most comfortable in our bodies.

I believe we should consider alternatives like remaking our sex assignment system, and all of the connected documents and expectations, to be held by a gender neutral placeholder until the person can communicate their gender and sex clearly instead of creating years, and potentially decades, of collateral damage by assigning someone incorrectly at birth. We can no longer claim that having one set of genitals puts you automatically into any one social category of gender or biological sex.

Instead of letting our genitals define our gender, the more accurate thing to do is allow our gender to define our genitals. If you’re a cisgender man with a penis, no one is saying you shouldn’t identify that way or that it’s wrong, simply that we need to have a classification system that is granular enough to include cisgender men with penises, women with penises, and non-binary people with penises, vaginas, or both as well.

Despite being born with a penis, I am not a “woman with male genitalia” or a “woman trapped in a man’s body”, both of which are ways to acknowledge the existence of transgender women without actually validating our identity as women. As I said in my previous piece, trans liberation is very simple, as long as we hold this to be true: “Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Non-binary people are whole and valid identities outside of our western colonialist sex and gender binary. Repeat this to yourself over and over. This is the root of all trans liberation.”

I am a woman, so I have a woman’s body. My penis is a woman’s penis. My voice is a woman’s deep voice. My body hair is a woman’s body hair. Sex assignment at birth based on a genital inspection is nothing more than a social construction that takes the complicated bodily experience of humans and reduces it into just two categories.

The gender binary and the physical sex binary are both made up and real at the same time, they are constructed by human beings, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important or impactful to everyone. Being a social construction means that we, as human beings, made this system and maintain this system. And if we made this system, it also means that we can remake this system to include the wide, natural variation of all human bodies and minds.

Sara is the host of the Queer Sex Ed Podcast. You can learn more about her work and listen to the show at www.queersexed.org or on any podcast app. You can also follow QSE on Facebook at www.facebook.com/QueerS3xEd and on Twitter @QSEpodcast. If this article has enriched your life, and you would like to support the continuing work of QSE to educate and create queer, intersectional spaces for conversations about sex and sexuality, please consider joining our Patreon community at www.patreon.com/QueerSexEd.

This piece pulls heavily from knowledge gained here, here, and here

Reprinted from Medium.com

Jan 10

The Psychobiology of Transsexualism and Transgenderism

Thomas Bevans book on transgenderismThis is a book review by Pat of the Psychobiology of Transsexualism and Transgenderism  by Thomas (Dana) Bevin published originally on Crossdresser.com. Pat says, “The book, published in 2015, is a survey of recent research on transgender topics. The book covers too wide a range of information to squeeze into a single post and have it make any sense, so I just want to write about my take on a couple of “why” topics that we see come up on Crossdresser.com over and over again. (1) Why do transgender people exist? (2) Why do we do what we do?

The answers to 1 & 2 according to Bevan:
(1) Gender is biological. Scientific opinion is closing in on a two-factor explanation: genetics and epigenetics
(2) Biological ‘gender preference’ drives our choice of culturally-defined gender role.

Disclaimer: I’ve galloped through the information and simplified a lot of things based on my (probably iffy) understanding of what I read. I know we have real genetics professionals who come to this site who can feel free to correct me where I went off track. Please do.

In terms of nomenclature, anywhere you see me use the term “transgenderism” you can be pretty sure he used the term TSTG (transsexual/transgender.) It’s apparently the norm in his field. Since people on this site get cranky about new acronyms, I just replaced it with a more common word. He also uses the term HT where we use HRT. He explains that HRT is Replacing hormones that have gone missing, while Hormone Therapy is a treatment used in transgenderism. I agree with his reasoning and may start to use it in my own life, but I’m not going to try to convert the transgender community single-handedly.

Why do we exist?

We see a lot of origin stories on this forum with ideas from “exposure to environmental agents” to “because my Mom dressed me in my sister’s clothes when I was young,” to “I think it happened as I got older and my testosterone dropped.” All of which get a polite “no” from the research reported in this book.

The current thinking is that children are aware of “basic gender concepts” at 18 months and understand gender stereotypes by 2 or 3 years. If they are cisgender, they have a grip on their expected gender behavior by 3. Transgender children have the same learning milestones, but if they are not accepted as transgender, they learn to conform to the gender behavior that their parents expect of them to avoid rejection. (They become role-players.) If they understand their gender situation enough to verbalize it, they may voice it between 3 and 8 years (a common narrative of TS folks and the transgender kids we’re seeing in the news these days.)

Because children’s awareness of transgenderism seems to occur around 3 or 4, there are a limited number of things that could cause it. DNA, epigenetics and early childhood interaction are the factors that get the most focus.

Early Childhood Interaction

Early childhood interaction is basically dismissed as a cause of transgenderism. Scenarios that have specifically been ruled out: Emotional relationships with parents, prenatal sex preference of the mother, parental separation, parents/siblings dressing a child in wrong-gender clothing, parental abuse and violence (though it’s noted that TG children do get abused more, it appears the abuse is because they’re TG; they don’t become TG because of the abuse.) Studies are cited for all of these situations, if your favorite explanation of why you’re transgender shows up in this list, please refer to the book for details.

Genetics

There is a lengthy section summarizing results from twins studies from around the world and the upshot seems to be that transgenderism is “heritable” (i.e. can be passed along family lines,) and biological in nature with DNA as “a” (but not “the”) causal factor. The correlation is considered “strong.”

Finger length ratio between the index and ring finger (“2D:4D ratio,”) shows a high correlation to transgenderism in both MtF and FtM individuals. This ratio was already known to have a strong basis in genetics. The ratio is higher in MtF people relative to cis-males and lower in FtM people relative to cis-females. He says this with some confidence, however, the individual studies summarized in the book seemed to have conflicting results.

Another oddity present for both MtF and FtM is tooth diameter. In a cisgender population, male tooth diameters are larger, female tooth diameters are smaller. Amongst TS people tooth diameters follow the pattern for the person’s gender, not their sex. Again, tooth diameter has previously been linked to genetics.

A favorite meme of MtF transgenderism is that MtF people tend to have more male siblings. It turns out that result didn’t hold up to scrutiny. Male siblings hold for sexual orientation, but not for transgenderism. What did hold up was MtF people seem to have more maternal Aunts than Uncles. No theories on why.

A search for DNA markers is ongoing and some appear to have been found. It’s worth noting that most study is on transsexual (TS) individuals since they are considered the “most” transgender of all the people under the umbrella, but some/few also include folks who identify as TG, though what that means is vague (given that we can’t come up with a definition among ourselves, it’s not surprising.)

Bevan notes that markers have been found near the androgen receptor gene (AR) in male-to-female transgender folks and “a hormone metabolism gene” for female-to-male transgender folks. He cautions that a full genome scan has not yet been done and there probably are other genes involved. The multiple gene scenario has precedent — eye color in humans is the result of at least five genes at work, he says (despite what you may have learned in middle-school.)

There are two very interesting things about MtF transgenderism being associated with the Androgen Receptor gene — the first is that’s where an anomaly that causes Androgen Insesitivity Syndrome is located — AIS causes an intersex condition where female external genitals develop in people with XY (male) DNA. The author notes that if AIS only effected formation of genitals, then we’d expect the people to have a gender preference of male to match their DNA but in general they don’t — they’re very happy living as female. The other interesting thing is that anomalies on that gene also are associated with “non-right-handedness” — that is, the person is not necessarily left-handed, but tends to do some things with their left hand that a right-hander would normally do with their right. That particular trait has a strong correlation to MtF transgenderism. (There used to be an oft-retold story that there was a corelation between transgenderism and being left-handed. Now it may be that there’s a stronger corelation to being non-right-handed.)

He notes that the politics of research funding skews the research to MtF transgenderism because if the anomaly is related to the anomaly that causes AIS, then researchers can get money to study AIS, classified a disease, more easily than they can find money to study transgenderism (which is no longer considered a disease. It turns out *that* battle was a double-edged sword.)

It is not known yet if the DNA anomalies are strictly inherited (germ line,) are a mutation that happens spontaneously at conception (de novo mutations,) or occur because people have multiple DNA in a single body (mosaics.) But since a number of traits that are affected cannot be affected by purely psychological issues, there is strong evidence that transgenderism has a biological/genetic component. But it seems like there is another factor in play…

Epigenetics

Epigenetics are external factors that can change DNA or may change the way DNA expresses without changing the DNA itself. Different factors have been identified for study, but none have convincing results yet.

One popular epigenetic theory (which up to now had been my favorite) about MtF transgenderism is that it might be a response to an anomolous amount of estrogen (or failure to get sufficient amount of testosterone) at week 10 of gestation when neural pathways in the brain are being formed. The idea was that if there wasn’t sufficient testosterone to enable construction of the male neural pathways, female pathways would be created “by default.” However, research doesn’t bear this out: not only does neurological formation of sex-specific structures start before gonads are mature enough to produce sufficient testosterone, but a naturally-occurring condition, Kallman’s Syndrome, results in low testosterone, which should mean males who have it should largely be transgender, but they’re not. And further research on neural development has shown that the mechanism for creating the neural pathways is actually fueled by estrogen which is converted on site to testosterone as needed. So my favorite theory is on the floor.

The presence of DNA markers for transgenderism makes it less likely that epigenetics is the sole cause. However, there still might be an epigenetic factor…

Two-factor model

It could be that you need both an epigenetic event AND the specific DNA that makes you respond to it to create a transgender outcome. This is a “two-factor” model which seems to be leading the pack as an explanation at the moment. It would mean that without the DNA, the epigenetic event would not produce a transgender result. And without the epigenetic effect, DNA alone would not produce a transgender result. You’d expect a trait that requires both things to be true at the same time to be very rare, and it is.

So, no capital-A answers, but interesting advances in knowledge.

Why do we do what we do?

So if there’s a biological reason for transgenderism, how does that work? Isn’t gender a social construct? Here it gets complex. But actually it’s another two-factor model: Societies define gender roles, or what Bevan describes as “gender behavior categories.” We understand those categories at a very young age and in evaluating those, we are drawn to the one that best fits our biological “gender preference.” The idea is, that you are most comfortable/happy when doing the activities identified with the gender behavior category most closely aligned to your gender preference. You are less happy doing the activities of a gender behavior category that is not aligned with your preference (but the activities themsevles are, in fact, genderless. Girls can play with trucks, boys can play with dolls and nothing explodes.) So when the question is “why do I feel so right when I put on women’s clothes?” The answer is that doing that has nothing to do with the cloth or how it’s sewn together and everything to do with your recognition that this is a thing appropriate to your gender preference.

Long ago, I asked in a post if people would rather wear jeans bought in the women’s section of the store than the same jeans from the men’s section. And most of the answers (as I recall) were, yes, they would prefer them from the women’s section, though few knew why. Maybe now we do.

An interesting thing is that gender behavior categories are defined by cultures. In our culture, there are two (male and female.) In other cultures there are three, four or five. Cultures have created these categories throughout history and all over the planet. Asia and Africa have cultures to this day that have more than two roles. Tribes in the Pre-Columbian New World also had them. There is evidence of European cultures that once had such categories but somehow they (the categories) got lost.

Now, this is me speculating here, this is not in the book — those cultures that recognize the need for more than two categories certainly wouldn’t have developed them if there were no folks who fit into them, which I think could explain why we have the non-binary category of transgenderism in our community today. Our preferred category doesn’t exist, and so, like on a standardized exam, some people (TS) see a clearly correct answer. Some (non-binary/stable) pick the one that is most-nearly-correct. And, some (non-binary/fluid) oscillate back-and-forth between answers.

Anyway — the point is that science is marching on and we’re discovering new information that may or may not be welcome news. I know many people who hope for a day when you can take a “trans test” and settle the issue unambiguously. And I know folks who dread that day. And, of course, if new, verifyable evidence comes along that shows we’re just a biologically sound human variation, that has big implications in law, religion and sociology. No matter how you feel about it, it’s probably good to know where things stand and where they’re trending.

Again — keep in mind — this is my opinion of Bevan’s opinion of hundreds of peer-reviewed studies. If you’re interested look up the book. You might read the book and get an entirely different take-away. In which case, please come tell us about it.

I am not a woman; I don’t want to be a woman; I don’t want to be mistaken for a woman.
I am not a man; I don’t want to be a man; I don’t want to be mistaken for a man.
I am a transgender person. And I’m still figuring out what that means.

Oct 29

The Truth of Partner’s Acceptance

The truth of a partner’s acceptance is in the numbers says Nadine in her blog, Unordinary Style. “Have I ever mentioned before that I really like numbers?

numbers show acceptance by a partner

There are all sorts of fascinating things that happen with numbers that are often overlooked.  For instance, I often go to various events where you buy raffle tickets, but them into various buckets, and then cross your fingers that your name will be called.  These events are truly very random drawings and yet, often the draws do not seem very random.  Some people tend to get their names drawn more than others.  It just happens to be the nature of apparent randomness.  Just like my phone, I will put the music on random play and frequently the same song comes up again and again.  Random?  Well yeah, but it sure doesn’t seem to be a very good random!

Anyway….. some of the numbers I have been looking at lately are the true numbers of acceptance of spouses of transgender people.  Within my research I have been looking at numbers of MtF transgender people who are not transitioning, that have told their spouse or girlfriend of their gender variance.  The common theory states that it is very rare for a genetic woman to be accepting of a gender variant male to female significant other.  My own theory is that is actually simply based upon fear and not a true reflection of reality.

Many gender variant people spend a large amount of their lives in hiding.  They fear what might happen if they are honest with those around them.  And why shouldn’t they be fearful?  They dominant narrative states that there exists an overwhelming threat to the transgender community from a large variety of sources.  From being attacked on the street, to being harassed in the bathroom, to being fired from your job, to being shunned from any sort of companionship.

But, unfortunately from what I can tell, many gender variant people are not actually willing to risk attempting these actions to discover for themselves whether the narrative will pan out that way for them or not.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I understand that bad things happen.  Bad things happen all of the times.  For no reason.  To good people.  And they shouldn’t happen.  But such is the nature of life.  It is unpredictable.

Alas, I fear I have drifted off topic yet again!  Low is me!  Okay, focus here.

The focus of my personal study has been trying to decode true numbers of reactions of the reveal of being gender variant within relationships.  My study group has been the users at crossdressers.com.  My method has been to simply comb through the various threads and categorizing people and their partner’s response to them being gender variant of some sort.  It has not always been clear but I have tried my best to determine what happened within their relationship once they told their partner.

Some early results??

Of the 458 members I have included:

363 did not leave the relationship upon the reveal
280 are at least somewhat accepting
29 are in what is called a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell situation
45 didn’t leave but are not accepting of the partner’s gender variance
23 are accepting genetic women
74 are partners who left because of the gender variance
20 left but not because of the gender variance

Okay – a proviso with these numbers, some members reported their responses from several different partners over the years, thus the numbers may not total as one might expect.  This explains why their are variations within the totals.

So some percentages huh?

84% of partners did not leave the relationship upon the reveal
74% percent of the partners are at least somewhat accepting of the gender variance, which could range from DADT to full inclusion and acceptance
68% would be considered to be openly accepting of their partner’s gender variance

These results are what I have up to this point.  I will continue to compile the numbers.  There is about 10-15 years worth of data on that website and so far I have gone back about two months only!  I don’t really know how long I will continue to do this for.  We shall see.

But so far, I would have to say that the common assertion that a partner will NOT accept a gender variant partner is completely wrong.  Apparently acceptance of a gender variant partner. is more common farthan expected   Who knew?  Well I personally had a suspicion.

Interesting.

Love you!

Love numbers!

BTW – This data was all taken from publicly accessible areas of the website.  Anyone can find this information if they so choose.

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