The Nature of Being

rethinking the facts of life

Stone Butch Blues

My last post is not going to explain how we categorize but rather talking about consequences people must face when they do not fit into one sex category. I was inspired to write about this after reading the book “Stone Butch Blues” by Leslie Feinberg.

The story takes place in the 1950th and 1960th in the US. The main character is called Jess Goldberg who is a girl but looks like a boy and runs away from home when she is 15 years old. Keep in mind that at this time homosexuals and transgender people suffered a lot social and legal discrimination and violence against them. For example, there was one law which stated that as a girl you must wear at least three female clothes otherwise the police is allowed to arrest you.

There were many passages that stayed in my mind but I will only talk about two of them which I consider suitable for this post. One of them is that Jess always tries to avoid public toilets. The reason is that because of her rather male appearance women inside the woman toilet stare at her in disbelief or even tell her to leave the toilet or that she is a freak. This is very humiliating and to avoid these encounters she tries to just use the toilet at home or in places she knows it is safe.

The second one is about Jess taking hormones. At one point in her life she decided to start taking hormones because she could not endure any more violence against her or any other humiliation and restriction of her life. She decided to take hormones and have a breasts surgery and try to ‘pass’ as a man. It was the only way she saw to survive in the world. Her hope was that her “world could open up“ (p.163). In some ways it did. She was not looked at when she went to the man’s bathroom and she was able to maintain a job for a longer period. On the other hand, she was more isolated than before. Since she was not a butch anymore she did not belong to the lesbian community but she also was not a ‘real’ man so she did not feel like she belonged to that group neither. After some time, she decided to stop taking the hormones because she felt like her whole live was a lie. After the effect of the hormones stopped Jess notices people staring at her again. “Before, strangers had raged at me for being a woman who crossed a forbidden boundary. Now they really didn’t know what my sex was, and that was unimaginable, terrifying to them” (p.244)

Jess experiences show that categorizing is very important for people in everyday life (e.g. choice of toilet). Not fitting into the categories of male or female made Jess feel like an outsider who did not belong anywhere. Which eventually forced her into taking hormones to get rid of social pressure.

If you are interested in reading the book here is link where you can download the whole story for free:


The Movements

In this post I am going to focus on the movement of a person. As my observation shows the key ‘clues’ for assumption were his voice and the fact that the sideburns were glued to his face. Nevertheless, the movement of the person also played a role.

When I saw him from the distance it did not cross my mind that he might be the person for my observation. Simply, because his clothes (as I have described in my prior post) and his movements did not catch my attention to be suitable for my observation. He was walking slow and with confident big and wide steps towards the station. His posture was upright and his shoulders were broad. All together it looked smooth but also determined. This way of moving in combination with his look had me convinced that there is a man coming. His movements did not seem any less masculine when he came closer. I do not really remember thinking all of this at the moment since at that point I did not know he is going to be the person for my observation. Yet, when I wrote down my thoughts about this encounter, I tried to remember as best as I could what I have noticed about him. However, when he picked up his phone I was pretty sure that he is be the person for my assignment. And as I described in my observation already, the fact that his voice did not fit to my first assumption, made me look differently at him. I observed him entering the tram. He was very calm and let people get out first. I entered after him. When he sat down he only occupied his own seat and his legs were not apart but very close to each other. As I know from own experiences, some men like to sit with their legs wide apart and sometimes even occupying two seats. Whereas I have not noticed this kind of sitting with women in public places so far. So, this form of sitting supported my idea that he might not be born as a man. I kept observing him and what I noticed was that as soon as he was sitting across me he had lost his confident posture. His shoulders were bent and he was kneading his fingers in his lap as if he were nervous and felt very uncomfortable.

The movements I saw first fitted my first assumption that he was a man. His big, wide, slow and confident steps alongside with a broad posture. However, the situation had changed when we sat across from each other. There were no ‘typical male’ movements anymore. I am not sure I would have noticed this “shift” as strong if I had not been irritated by his voice and sideburns before.

Doing Gender and Categorization

In my next post I’m going to explain the importance of “Doing Gender” for categorization.

In my observation the first assumption I made about the sex of the person was because of his clothes and haircut. It was the first thing I saw from the distance and it fitted my understanding of a man’s look. Very short hair, loose pants and shirt, backpack and sneakers. After I wrote my observation I wondered about this first very fast categorization. Isn’t it the same way I dress myself sometimes and wear my hair? Yes. Am I a man? No. Then I remembered a situation with a young boy who was playing on the street. I passed by and he told his friend to move aside so that I can keep walking. But he did not just tell his friend to move but said: “Move aside so that the boy can pass … or girl.” I was amused because the boy really struggled categorizing me. I never heard anyone wonder about my sex when I was still wearing long hair but as soon as I cut my hair some people started to stare or ask me if I wanted to be a man now.

The difference between me and the person I observed is that I am a woman wearing short hair and he is using the as male known characteristics to make people see him as a man and not as a woman. This shows pretty good the concept of “Doing Gender” by West and Zimmerman. Everyone has knowledge about how a man or woman should look or behave. So, if a person does not fit into this schema he or she is not considered an appropriate man or woman. For transgender people this is an important issue. Since they do not want to live with the sex they were given by birth, they must adjust to the dress code and specific behavior of the opposite sex to be accepted by others in this category. In the case of the person I observed I am pretty sure that he was assigned female by birth. By wearing his hair very short, his choice of clothes and his sideburns he uses male criteria to express himself as a man. For me, he had me first convinced that his sex is male because he served all my ideas about men. But after a while I assigned him as female born because I noticed some “irregularities” about his male appearance. Nevertheless, this is only possible because I (we) have ideas about masculinity and femininity which are reproduced by others. If a person dresses appropriate to its sex it is only appropriate because society agreed on these specific criteria.

The observation of him combined with my own experiences showed me very good how much categorization depends on the appearance of the other person and especially how people interpret it.


If you want to learn more about “Doing Gender”:

West, Candace; Zimmerman, Don H. (1987): Doing Gender. In: Gender & Society 1 (2), S. 125–151

Categorization as a puzzle?

The first thing I’m going to look deeper into is the fact that I cannot stop but think that categorization is some sort of puzzle. Every piece of information I got, made me construct or rethink a conclusion until I had an end result which made sense with my concepts of gender.

The first piece was the appearance from the distance. The hair, clothes and movements fitted in my understanding of a man. I noticed his breasts but due to his bodyweight I did not pay any attention to this piece of information. The puzzle was still complete. Especially, when I saw his sideburns which fitted perfectly my conclusion.

Coming closer I noticed the breasts were rather big for a man which made my conclusion a little uncertain but I still maintained my assumption. However, when he picked up his phone I received another piece of information about him. This time it did not fit into my assumption that he was a man since the voice was rather female to me. I took another look at him, this time knowing that he might not be a man. I saw that his sideburns, which first convinced me that he is man, were not grown naturally but glued to his face. This information made me rethink my assumption at once. Figuratively spoken, I found one piece that did not fit at all. Somewhere I had made a mistake. I had to start over. The voice is female, the sideburns are glued on to the face and all of a sudden, his breasts looked like female ones and I even noticed the sports bra he was wearing. These are all information which do not fit to a categorization as a man but as a woman.

We entered the tram and I sat across him. Now I had time to take a closer look at his face. Having these pieces of the ‘new’ puzzle I saw his face in a new light. The outlines were soft and imagining it without the sideburns it totally looked like a women’s face to me. As well as his behavior fitted to a woman. All the pieces put together, I thought that he might have been born as a woman but wants to be read as a man.

All in all, I noticed that while categorizing I sort all given information to fit into one picture. However, when I observed one crucial thing that did not fit into this picture all the ‘known’ information appeared in a different light and I was able to detect even more clues about his gender. Like with a puzzle, sometimes you just need one important piece and the adjoining ones are plainly to add.

My Observation

Here is my second post and it displays my observation:

I am walking to the station. From the opposite direction comes a man. He is wearing loose jeans and a loose blue-colored T-shirt, a pair of black sneakers and a black backpack. His brown hair is cut very short. His Hight is rather short and he appeared corpulent. He appeared confident since is walking was upright and his shoulders seemed broad.

When he came closer, I could see his sideburns. But I was irritated by his chest. From the distance, I assumed his breasts were due to his bodyweight and I did not pay much attention to it. However, when he was nearer to me I was not so sure anymore. The look on his face was friendly; he was smiling. Then he answered his phone and his voice astonished me. It was not a male voice but more likely a female one. It sounded softer and higher than I would have expected from his appearance. I took another closer look at his face and this time I saw that his sideburns were not grown naturally but glued on to his face. There were many short brown hairs next to his ears but it did not look like any of them were rooted in his skin. At once, I was pretty sure that his chest showed breasts. I even might have spotted some sort of sports-bra he is wearing.

We entered the tram and I sat across from him. Knowing his sideburns were glued, I looked at his face and it appeared more female than before. The contours seemed softer and imagining it without the sideburns and maybe a little longer hair it could totally be the face of a woman. I started to feel very uncomfortable looking at him even though he was still smiling and not paying much attention to me. Since I had discovered that his sideburns are not natural, I was nervous that he might read in my face that I knew. It might sound silly afterwards but for me it felt like I had entered a very intimate domain which I am not supposed to know about. I started focusing on the rest of his body to avoid looking him in his face. His legs were not crossed but very close to each other. He also kneaded his fingers all the time while they were resting in his lap.

We sat a few stations across from each other and I do not think he had noticed anything but I was a little relieved when my destination was reached and I had left the tram.

Autoethnography – the struggle

The class I took was named “Categorizing Sex and Sexualities in (global) context”. Our assignment was to find out how we categorize people. To do this we were supposed to do an autoethnography study on one person via observation.

I really troubled doing the observation because whenever I looked at a person to find out which sex he or she has it felt wrong to do so. I felt like I am deciding which sex this person had and I kind of felt like I am insulting this person with these thoughts. How am I supposed to know which sex this person has? I did not want to be wrong about my assumption because it felt like I am deciding for this person and that is not right. So many days I sat in the tram or in cafes to do my observation but whenever I tried to figure out why I think this person is homosexual or transgender my first thought was something like “but I don’t know, he might just like pink sparkling shirts and does not care what other people think about his clothes”. I was truly frustrated.

However, after we had discussed some of our first observations in class I became aware what the importance about this assignment is. First, you should be real honest with yourself about your thoughts and not feel embarrassed by it. As long as you are aware that some of the things you assume about this person is based on stereotypes you are one step closer to understand how and why you categorize people. Second and this one was the one which helped me the most, I kind of flipped a switch. It does not matter whether my assumptions are right. The aim is to figure out which signs made me believe this or that and why.

After realizing this I was able to make a detailed observation. I am going to present it to you in my next post. Followed by a closer look at my observation on how we categorize. The fourth post will be about “Doing Gender” and how this influenced my interpretation of the observed. The next post will look deeper into the movements and my last post will display some consequences people have to face if they do not fit into one category illustrated with examples from a novel.

The 10 most unfair inequalities between men and women athletes

  1. Do you know how much the highest paid male football player wins and the highest paid female football player?                                                                                       Cristiano Ronaldo wins 93 million euros while Alex Morgan “only” 2.8 million euros
  2. What are the minimum wages in the NBA and WNBA?                                                    In the 2015-16 season, the NBA had a minimum wage of 500,000 euros, for the 37,000 of the WNBA.
  3. How many IOC presidents have been in history?                                                           Any. The nine presidents that have existed since Demetrius Vikelas (named in 1894) to Thomas Bach (in office since 2013) have been men.
  4. Do you know the difference in income between an ATP ‘Top 100’ tennis player and his WTA counterpart?                                                                                                             An ATP ‘Top 100’ player earns an average of 150,000 euros more per year than a WTA ‘Top 100’.
  5. How much money does the male golf circuit award? And the feminine?                     In 2015, the men’s circuit allocated 322 million euros for prizes, for the 57 million female circuit.
  6.  How many of the 66 Spanish sports federations are presided over by women at the moment?                                                                                                                                Only 3:Lifeguard, Boules and Sailing
  7. How much do the national teams of women’s and men’s soccer world champions enter?                                                                                                                                Germany added 35 million euros to win the 2014 World Cup and the US ‘only’ 2 million to win the 2015.
  8. Total income: What is the difference between the athlete who enters and his female counterpart?                                                                                                                                In 2016 Cristiano Ronaldo entered 85 million euros, for the 27 of Serena Williams.
  9. What is the maximum distance in the men’s and women’s swimming events in the Olympic Games?                                                                                                                    1500 meters in the case of men and 800 in the case of women Can not swim the same distance?
  10. Spanish flag-bearers in the Olympic Games How many there have been?                       Only 2: Infanta Cristina de Borbón in Seoul 88 and Isabel Fernandez, in Athens 2004.

gender role

Defining the concept of gender (male / female) requires distinguishing it from the concept of sex, which refers to the set of biological differences between male and female; it’s natural. Gender is the trait attributed to each sex, depends on factors acquired; is cultural and is changing according to historical and social dimensions. The fundamental difference seems to be placed in an intrinsic value of the feminine and the masculine, based on deeper issues of the feminine and the masculine, based on deeper questions, although women have the possibility of accessing more and more to tasks considered specific to men, there continues to be at some point a “reserved male domain” less excluded: politics, religious, business responsibilities; spaces that could be thought of as power and decision making.

Stereotypes are based on beliefs, preconceived ideas and expectations with which to evaluate people’s behaviour. Gender stereotypes “are responsible for the differential treatment that women and men are subjected to, from the beginning of childhood, by those responsible for socialization”. It responds to different characteristics at different times, which makes it possible to assume that it is not so immutable as it is sometimes described. This is reinforced by the idea that it also functions as a factor of social control: to maintain stereotypes is to keep fixed the roles of men and women.

Analysing children’s play, this being the form of learning par excellence, and always speaking in terms of general characteristics, while girls play “to the dolls” (future role of mother), children “to the cars”; they have a greater offer of expressive and individual activities, they, of sport and group activities; they indoors or in enclosed spaces (future home) “to the house”; them on the street or in open spaces, “on the ball”. These children’s learning guides the future of the adult and it is at this stage that the representations of the “feminine” and the “masculine” are forged. The stronger and more structured these mandates, the more difficult it is to modify them.

By the table shown down and the essay before we can conclude that roles are expected and created


the essence of creation


It is just natural that women want kinds one day. It is their hormones. No matter if they would like to have children or not, at a certain critical age, the social environment is going to worry about their future. ₁ Because as a women without a family as a matter of fact you are going to end up alone and depressed. Huge regrets and a lot of cats. Of course.

But the perspective is changing completely when disabled women are considered. Suddenly the natural reproductive drive, the maternal nature is not so fundamental anymore. As they are missing important female attributes. Their gender is questions in general. The stereotype of disabled women indicates a lack of attractiveness. They learn from very early on that they will not be desired; the role of a mother and wife is beyond question. This impacts also the question of reproductive rights. It is way easier to get a late abortion or sterilization than the actual support to carry a baby. In contrast to able-bodied women, disabled girls are raised to be strong and independent- because they will not marry anyhow.

By this example we can see that the connection between gender and naturalism is a perfidy networked structure. In fact, there is no need for disabled women to get children; they will not be discriminated against if they do not. All the same for migrant women. Finally only a certain part of women are meant to be “female” and the natural explanation is simple but strong legitimations for the existing hierarchy of power.



References and further Information

Köbsell, S. (2007) Behinderung und Geschlecht – Versuch einer vorläufigen Bilanz aus Sicht der deutschen Behindertenbewegung

Höfs, M: (2007) Kritische Männerforschung und Behinderung

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