They say gender is between your ears, and sex is between your legs.

But your gender is not all in your head. It is interactive. It exists within you and outside of you, around you, in the world. After all, if gender could exist comfortably purely as self-knowledge, why would anybody need to transition?

Gender can be felt throughout your entire body. In fact it probably reaches out beyond the boundaries of your body into your wardrobe and the clutter in your room. You leave bits and pieces of your gender everywhere as you move through the world.

And sex is not between the legs. It is never in just one place. It is genitals, it is chromosomes, it is hormones, it is body hair, it is the fucking pitch of your voice. They always tell us that it’s one thing, but then as soon as we get close, they move it.

Talk to a cis person about sex and notice that they’ll almost always define your sex in terms of what you don’t have. That surgery you didn’t get, or the fact that you needed that surgery in the first place. The stubble you forgot to shave, or the beard that you can’t grow yet. What your voice sounds like now, or the fact that it used to sound like something else. Chromosomes you haven’t had tested. Structures in your brain that you will never get a look at.

Sex, in other words, is a moving goal post. It is everywhere and nowhere. It is not between your legs. If it is anywhere in your body then it’s that spot in the middle of your back which you can’t quite reach to scratch. They will always try to put it wherever you cannot get it, and no place else.

About Asher

Asher Bauer is fast becoming a fixture in the San Francisco kink community, and intends to stay that way. He has worked as a Queer Educator at LYRIC (Lavender Youth Recreation And Information Center), and since has taken his talents as an educator to a wider variety of audiences, teaching on subjects ranging from safer sex to BDSM to trans and queer identities. He is also one of the hosts and originators of Transmission, the new trans-centric party at the San Francisco Citadel, and Invasion, the Citadel's all-genders queer party. View all posts by Asher

3 Responses to “They say gender is between your ears, and sex is between your legs.”

  • southcarolinaboy

    This is what bothers me a lot about the “sex and gender aren’t the same thing!” thing…..yes, for some people, they are separate. But usually when someone invokes this, they are getting ready to say that sex is what your body is, and the way other people define it, and there’s nothing you can do about it. But while gender is in your head, and it is what you decide it is, it might or might not “match up” with that sex you can’t do anything about. In my case, my gender determines the sex of my body. I am not sure my sex and my gender are synonymous, but they might as well be. My gender is in my body, and my sex is in my mind, too….

    Everything you said here, and everything you said in Not Your Mom’s Trans 101…..pretty much.

  • Carol

    Asher, first of all, let me say that I really enjoy reading your thoughts. You’ve got an interesting outlook on things, and it’s wonderful to see the gains that trans people have achieved in my lifetime, largely due to those who are brave enough to let their voices be heard, so it’s great to hear voices like yours speaking out, something that was essentially unheard of when I was your age.

    I’m 60 years old and someone who has had a sense of being in the wrong body since I was a tiny child. I’ve seen the gender community grow from nothing to what it is today, and I have a slightly different view of things in regard to this subject.

    That saying you’re talking about was originally a dumbed-down attempt to explain the difference between gender and sex for the cisgendered masses who generally never think about stuff like that.

    And I feel that it’s basically accurate. All the gender stuff you mention does indeed come from what we experience between our ears, and the sex part does essentially refer to what we have between our legs. By changing what we have between our legs, we can legally change sex in most parts of this country.

    Gender drives us to alter our bodies and lives to make our physical sex conform to our gender. Those changes are driven by what we have between our ears, so I would argue that gender does indeed reside between our ears.

    That’s my opinion anyway. :-)


    • Asher

      Carol, I am aware of the origin of the phrase. The fact is that I don’t think these dumbed down axioms have any utility anymore and that it is really bad when trans people internalize them. Which is why I am critiquing them.

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