Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby



Gender is the range of characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between, masculinity and femininity. Depending on the context, these characteristics may include biological sex (i.e. the state of being male, female or intersex), sex-based social structures (including gender roles and other social roles), or gender identity.

Let’s talk about this for a minute.

First of all, when we’re talking about gender we’re not necessarily talking about sex.  And by sex we’re not talking about the act, we’re talking about the plumbing.

Indeed most of us were born with our sex determined already.  Yes, some people are born with both ovaries and testes.  But for most of us, our biology somewhere along the way, picked one before we were born.  We didn’t get to choose that, our DNA and our chromosomes did.

Do you know what else we don’t get to choose?  Our hormones.  Some males are born with more estrogen than others.  Some females are born with more testosterone than others.

Most of us fit squarely in the middle, though.  Our sexes were determined, our hormones cooperated and here we are.  Feminine and masculine.  Women and men.  Indoor plumbing and outdoor pluming.  Boobs and hairy chests.

And everything in between.

That’s just the thing, you see.  I don’t think any of us are all one or the other.

When males are children they’re dressed in blue.  Their parents offended when someone asks, “Boy or girl?”  They’re handed building blocks, toys with wheels on, cars and trucks, bulldozers and excavators, tool belts and drafting tables.

When females are children they’re kitted out in pink.  Ears are pierced to make it obvious.  Parents still equally offended when sex is questioned, “Boy or girl?”  “Can you not see the pink stroller?  The earrings?  The bow in her hair?!?”  Girls are given dolls and tea sets, kitchens and play food with pans to cook, aprons and tiny high heels.

Left to their own devices children of both sexes choose to play with any number of things from both  groups of toys.  Boys playing with dolls, girls playing with construction equipment. They don’t see gender, even if they see sex.

 When I was a wee girl I preferred playing in the dirt, building forts, climbing trees.  Being perfectly honest, I don’t remember what toys I had.  My most vivid memory of having a girl specific toy was when I begged my mother for a Barbie doll.  It was simply because my friends had them.  When she found her face down, naked in the mud, hair matted beyond recognition, she told me to never bother asking for another.  No worries.  Clearly I didn’t care about it.

I did play girl things, too, though. When we built forts we played house.  We cooked, alright.  We made food out of mud which we pretended to serve up and eat.  The boys and the girls, equally enjoyed this make believe realm.  It wouldn’t do for the girls to have all the fun of cooking.  Not with mud.  The boys needed to get in on it, too.

When we’re all grown up men get labeled as incompetent nurturers and women get labeled as incompetent business people.  Men are rational, logical beings.  Women are emotional and irrational.  Women can’t be trusted with money and finances.  They’re shopaholics.  Men can’t be trusted to “babysit” their own children.

I’ve heard there is some truth in every stereotype.


I know men – many men- who are excellent caregivers.  And women who are horrible at it. I know men who cook and clean.  And women who burn water and leave a trail of dust following behind them.

I know many women who are financially savvy with fantastic business acumen.  And men who fritter away their last dime on junk. I know women who are calm, cool, and collected, with ice water running through their veins.  And men who are emotional and *gasp* even irrational at times.

Yes, there are feminine traits and masculine traits.  I’m not sure there would be any point in denying that.  Rarely have I encountered anyone who possessed only one or the other.  The people I have encountered who do seem to be overcompensating.  For what I don’t know.  Perhaps to guard against being called a ‘Nancy-boy’ or a ‘Butch’.

 As it is the case that there are people with a myriad of physical and biological traits that fit the very broad spectrum between male and female it should come as no surprise that there are men who prefer to dress in feminine attire and women who prefer to dress in male attire.

 And why should that matter?  What shame is there in being human?

33 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby

  1. What shame is there in being human?



  2. It has been my understanding that we are rarely more than 70% male of female on a hormonal basis. I do not remember where I learned this, but it was decades ago. You are completely right in your assessment as far as I know. There is an enormous range of “masculine” and “feminine” traits and no one is completely one or the other. Why people get so hung up on it is beyond my understanding.


  3. I think it has to do with humans incessant need to categorize in a futile effort to make sense of what doesn’t always make sense. Life really doesn’t make sense.
    For me, I just expect the unexpected in everything because for me, in my humble opinion, life is unexpected and illogical.
    That’s why hyper-religiosity drives me nuts because the hyper-religious seemingly need to define and categorize is why we are in a mess in the first place. Good. Bad. Heaven. Hell. The dichotomous existence they have created that has somehow become a norm/majority thinking is why there is confusion- because the world is more than just two sides of a coin 😉 Just my additional thoughts and rant on your post-
    Well said and good points by the way 😎❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I feel too often we rely too heavily on social stereotypes/norms and erroneous eye-sight — i.e. the apropos cliche “Don’t judge a book by its cover.

    One MAJOR lesson I learned when I became a father (twice!), was life is endlessly MESSY! And it really doesn’t stop just because one is no longer a teenager! In fact, I find it even more messy and that book between those covers just gets thicker and longer! LOL 😛

    Fortunately, as neurology, embryology, endocrinology, and genetics continue to advance and be increasingly better understood, social superficial issues like gender, sex, orientations, etc, will become a thing of the past — barring a sudden fruition infestation of an Idiocracy (Luke Wilson 2006) digression by certain monistic binary groups! Yikes! 😮

    Excellent post and simple description of the subject Ruth! Bravo!


  5. Nicely written post Ruth. A psychology colleague of mine told me that there is no doubt that as children we will try to identify with gender. It may not be our own, but that it is a biological drive to do so. An interesting podcast I listened to called Invisibilia was talking about “categories” and they interviewed this guy/girl who had a problem where he would literally switch very suddenly between feeling like he was a man to feeling like he was a woman. Apparently such cases, while rare, do happen that there have been numerous people like this studied. Eventually this stopped and he simply felt like a woman and she said she was so relieved just to know what category she was. It didn’t matter to her whether she identified as male or female, but not knowing was extremely stressful.

    So I don’t think we are going to avoid our need to categorize, but I do think we could be doing a better job of not assigning so many particular attributes to one gender or another. As you point out the fact that qualities like being nurturing, or liking trucks and dirt, all these things are simply manufactured bullshit that have nothing to do with gender and only remain associated with gender because we as a society perpetuate those stereotypes. Imagine a society where we didn’t have all these expectations on gender. We wouldn’t see things as so binary. Even in terms of sexuality. I mean it’s quite likely that we aren’t just a species who likes to have sex with just men or just women. There are maybe some who do, but the rest of us might be like 80% of the time want to have sex with the other sex and 20% of the time are own. In a world where we aren’t raised to think that we have to choose, we might simply be more free to let that choice develop natural and I have feeling it would not be so binary. In the end I still feel like a lot of anti-gay and anti-transgender sentiment stems from an patriarchal culture in which being feminine is equated with weakness.

    And even if we are going to categorize the fact remains that it’s each persons individual choice of what category they want to be and is not our place to judge anybody for the choice they make.


    • Swarn. I’d really appreciate it if you could tell me what it feels like to be a man. Because I sure as hell have no definition for ‘feeling like a woman’.


      • You’re right, feeling is probably the wrong word, perhaps identifying with one or the other is the better word.


        • Semantics. You used identify as well. But why? Do you spend your day thinking about how identify yourself? FFS most of us think about how we get through tne day and make money. Not whether we are male or female or intersex or something we aren’t. Or maybe what we should be?

          Sexual identity is a bigger issue than ‘I feel like this’ though.


          • I do actually think a lot about why we think and feel the way that we do. I am curious about it. I think very little about getting through the day and making money. I was relating what I thought was an interesting story and that was pertinent to the post. For the person being interviewed thoughts about whether they were man or woman were extremely important to them. And so who am I to refute their truth, or what was important to them?


          • I’m not sure that anyone who isn’t transgender can adequately describe what that feels like.

            I like to do some traditionally masculine things; build things, use power equipment, fish, etc.

            I also like to do some traditionally feminine things; cook/bake, wear lipstick, and do art/crafty type things.

            I don’t think about whether these things make me feel like a man or a woman. I *have* made the joke that sometimes I feel like a man trapped in a woman’s body because I’m not a stereotypical woman. But I really don’t ever think about how any particular activity makes me feel other than good or bad. I feel a sense of accomplishment when I build something. I feel pretty when I wear a nice dress and lipstick. I feel powerful when I run three miles. I feel satisfied when (if is more like) I ever finish a craft or sewing project.

            I never put any thought into what gender any of those things make me feel like. But then I’ve never been conflicted about my identity. I don’t think that’s because I have a vagina, either. I think it has to do with my hormonal/biological make-up.

            I don’t think that most of us who aren’t conflicted about our identities gender-wise probably think a lot about how it feels to be a man or a woman.


          • I need to get my head round this. Maybe I can’t 🙂


          • Sometimes it can be difficult to put yourself in another’s shoes. There are quite a few things I can’t get my head round. Doesn’t mean they aren’t true, or accurate – just that I can’t relate.


      • I also never implied that I know what it feels like but was referring to the transgendered person they interviewed in the podcast. He talked more about it as just knowing he was a guy or girl at an instinctual level. For him/her it was how he/she felt. Some if it had to do with changes in posture, the way he/she interpreted and saw the world shifted. So I equated that was a feeling based on what I listened to in the interview. The podcast is here and is called The Power of Categories. Perhaps someone who has experienced being both genders is allowed to say what it feels like. I don’t know. http://www.npr.org/podcasts/510307/invisibilia


        • Swarn. Can you answer my question? How does it feel to be a man? Not a woman, not trans, just as a man.


          • Sure I could say a lot, but there would be no guarantee that other men would feel the same way, there is also no guarantee that there wouldn’t cross over from what a woman might say as well. My response would also have a lot of socialized factors, that perhaps might be different from a society that had better gender equality. I know I am a human male of my species, in terms gender, maybe the best way I can say that I know I’m a man is because of the privilege I’ve been given as a result of being raised in a patriarchal society, and partly an Indian culture which favors men over women. I’ve been treated as a man also in terms of negative stereotypes. I am very sensitive and have been told on many occasions that I shouldn’t cry because I’m a man, but people on my Indian side of the family.


  6. Interesting topic Ruth, thank you – although I have nothing meaningful to add. I just want to tell you about my today’s casual visit to a site with an article (a TED idea) on a similar subject, that you may want to read. Here is the link:


  7. I have a hard time with Transgender. I don’t mean that I am cruel toward them or rude, I just have a difficult time relating or understanding.

    You have a good article here, thanks.

    I do believe that people should be freely allowed to do as they please as long as it doesn’t infringe on the rights of others, so if I guy wants to dress like a woman and wear makeup and be called a girl, I feel like that’s okay, even if i don’t understand it – I don’t have to, after all.

    But lately it’s been in the news about South Carolina’s bathroom law. I think the law’s dumb, but that it also comes from a place of reason.

    And what i mean is that most public restrooms have private stalls, and no one walks around with their birth certificate, so really, in a public restroom with private stalls, it really doesn’t matter which room you use – but right or wrong, we do not exist in a vacuum and have social norms – considering that, i think that if the public restroom has private stalls, one should go into the facility that they look like. You look (dress/groom) like a man, go in the men’s room. Look (dress/groom) like a woman, go in the women’s restroom. No one should have to check birth certificates, and other public restroom users have an expectation to some relative sense of comfort, and in restroom, that’s being separated from the opposite sex.

    But when we’re talking about open locker rooms and shower facilities, like in Middle Schools, High Schools, colleges, YMCA’s, Gyms, work changing rooms, etc – I think it’s best to stick to segregation by plumbing. If you have a cock and / or balls, it doesn’t need to danged in front of little girls, ladies and women – and the opposite holds true too.

    Ruth, what are your thoughts on that?

    I have an opinion, but I’m not rigid or militant about it. Curious about your opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry, William, for some reason your comment got hung up in spam. I don’t check that as often as I probably should because usually what’s in there really is spam. So now I’ve rescued you.

      Like you, there are some things I’m a little bit concerned about as regards this issue. The bathroom thing is just stupid, in my opinion, because I see no way logistically to enforce it. I also think that those who are making such an issue about it are bringing it to the attention of the very people they seem to be so afraid of. Listen, if someone wants to do a perverted thing(i.e. a man dress as a woman to gain access to the women’s bathroom in order to do something sinister) then I think they’ve already thought of it and likely already done it. If a man is dress as a woman and vice-versa who is going to question it? As has been pointed out, like a million times, about various different laws, criminals aren’t particularly concerned about breaking the law. As such, indecent exposure laws, laws against pedophilia, assault, harassment, etc. already exist to protect people.

      The more gray area, in my opinion, is definitely the issues you bring up about locker rooms and shower facilities. I’m really not sure how I feel about that. Part of the issue, I think, is our puritanical views toward the anatomy. Maybe if we didn’t oversexualize the human anatomy it wouldn’t be such an issue. The biggest issue that I would raise is that of safety. It’s definitely a tough issue. How safe is a transgender woman in the male locker room? How unsafe are girls if a transgender female who hasn’t fully transitioned is in their locker room?

      What other possible alternatives might there be to either of those scenarios?

      Liked by 1 person

      • yeah, i don’t know. I don’t want my young boys around naked ladies yet, and I don’t have any daughters, but if I did, I certainly wouldn’t want them expose to wieners, whether flaccid or erect – but then you know as well as I, that growing up in the country, horse and cow dongs are hard to miss, but i guess the difference is people and not animals.

        I am tempted to say that these are not gender rooms, but restrooms where you release waster from genitals, so go with appropriate genital room. But, I do agree that this is pretty silly where there are private stalls. If a dude is dressed like a lady, then he’ll probably get more stares and flack for using the men’s room and vise versa.

        private stalls, who really cares? what harm does it really do? none.

        But our culture has associated the naked body with sex long before you or I were born, and that wont change anytime soon. I wouldn’t be opposed to a third class of shower or locker rooms for the transgender, but there are big costs there, so I doubt that’s realistic.

        But, if the transgender is concerned with who comfortable they’ll feel by going into a room with others of their casual sex, because they identify with the opposite sex, then I think they should understand the discomfort their exposed sex organs could cause to the opposite sex if they decided to venture into those facilities merely because they wish they were something different.

        Public restrooms with private stalls – do whatever.

        Public facilities with open showers and locker rooms – may be better delineated by actual sex and gender.

        That’s my best guess for now. When i finally take control of the world, I’ll be sure to make that law, by dictator decree.


        • I’m just remembering back to my days in the girls’ locker room in high school. We did have private dressing areas. The shower/dressing area was built like stalls with a curtain to dress behind. I have no idea what the boys’ locker room looked like since I never went in there.

          And maybe I’m giving too much credit to my own feelings in this but I don’t think so. When I was in high school and we did go into the locker room there were some girls who paraded around, but not many. Most of us were too busy trying to cover up what we had, or maybe more succinctly, didn’t have. I could be wrong, but I would think that a transgender person would be more likely to try not to hang their goods out for the world to see because it doesn’t match the person they want to be. For instance, don’t you think it would be difficult and somewhat embarrassing to wear dresses, make-up, and long hair and yet have plumbing contrary to that? Wouldn’t you think that they would try to cover that up? Like I said, I could be wrong, but just attempting to put myself in another person’s place. But if they’re in the locker room trying to identify with being male I just wouldn’t think that showing their genitals would be conducive to that.

          I get what you’re saying about not wanting your sons to see lady bits, but have they not every seen lady bits yet? Yes, I grew up in the country, but I also grew up with a younger brother. Don’t get me wrong, there came a time when he was modest and covered everything up, but I was ten years older than him, so I changed his diapers and knew what it all looked like. There wasn’t anything sexual there.


          • sure, good points. My high school and middle school had no private showers or locker rooms, but it is true, none of us that recall dangled our dongs for everyone to see – we usually dressed quickly and tried to remain discrete.

            The army – cock gazers for drug tests to make sure the urine flowed from your very own urethra, open showers – just no privacy at all. But again, like you said, nothing sexual.

            I don’t know.

            maybe it’s all fine, but like you, I certainly get the concerns of others when it comes to actually seeing the parts, but than I do also feel sympathy for the Transgender, even though I do struggle to fully understand their perspective.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Well, yeah, I don’t think anyone who isn’t transgender can possibly fully understand or relate to the unique problems they face, nor their own personal feelings.

            I understand parents’ discomfort with the thought, like you. But I also understand it might not be so cut and dried as delineating based on plumbing. And, while I realize that it would cost money, maybe even just some minor tweaks to the way locker rooms are currently set up might help.

            I also get the concerns of women who have been sexually assaulted being unnerved by the thought of men in women’s bathrooms and other areas like locker rooms and showers and I don’t mean to be dismissive of that, either.

            Liked by 1 person

  8. The more I think about this the stranger it is to me.

    But first I want to be very clear that I want to live in a place where all are free to live as they wish, so long as in so doing, the rights and freedoms of others’ aren’t infringed upon.

    While I also appreciate the freedom of speech, I much prefer kindness, politeness, manners, and courtesy over rudeness, bigotry or hatred. So if we touch on a touchy subject, I’m trying to use all courtesy, and do not intend any offense.

    If a person wants to dress as the opposite sex, so be it. Let them, why make issue. Let each dress as they like, as long as we adhere to common standards of decency – and by that I mean we don’t need sex organs dangling about or exposed.

    The disclaimers out of the way, we’re talking about letting men use a women’s restroom or a woman use a men’s restroom, because they feel like they are really a gender that is opposite of their actual sex.

    My first thought is, where have transgender people used the restrooms before this became a huge issue? My guess, and it’s only a guess, is that if a man was dressed as woman, he was already using the women’s restroom. He used a private stall, did his business and left. If someone dressed as woman entered a men’s restroom – that would certainly be noticed, right? If that’s been going on, just let it go on – checking birth certificates in order to gain access to a restroom is ridiculous.

    But now that it is in the spotlight, the biggest argument I have heard is that forbidding a transgender from the restroom of their choice is discrimination and that we should consider how a transgender person would feel if they were forced to use the restroom of their actual sex.

    I don’t get either of these. 1) Making everyone with a penis to piss in one particular place, and everyone with vagina to piss in another particular place doesn’t seem like discrimination, it seems like categorization based on sex, which has been done, literally, forever, and adheres to long standing understandings and expectations of modesty, etc., which is why there even exists two separate restroom facilities – based on actual sex, not gender identity 2) Okay, we all have feelings and we don’t want anyone unduly feeling out of place or whatever, but clearly, the thought of a man using a women’s restroom makes a lot of people uneasy, so are we now trying to placate a few at the expense of the many? Is this a case of where freedom begins to encroach the freedom of others?

    And one of the biggest things that is most interesting to me is that we have a person, born one sex, but who feels like they should’ve been the other. So they’re one sex, but identify as the opposite gender. One of the ways they deal with this is to dress and act according to the gender that is most associated with the opposite sex, which has seemed to spur a discussion about how gender and sex are different, while also acknowledging that gender and sex are entirely related, since the only reason a man who wants to be woman would dress like a woman is because women, not men, dress that way.

    If a woman wears pants and a t-shirt, are they no longer women? The dress doesn’t make you make or female, it’s just a costume that is most associated with a particular sex. Dressing one way doesn’t change what you are. But again, I don’t care how someone else dresses, I’m just thinking out loud.

    I don’t understand why this isn’t viewed as a problem? You’re born with a penis, but you want to cut it off and be a woman, or you’re born a woman but want a penis and remove your breasts… What I don’t understand is how this isn’t a case of being unable to accept yourself? It would be difficult, I can only imagine, to feel like you were born with the wrong body. I have disdain for these people, I just have a lot of trouble understanding.

    I’m not homosexual, but I feel like I can understand that. This, the transgender, is harder for me to get my head around.

    Again, if there’s private stalls, use whichever, neither side should make that an issue. But with open shower facilities and open locker rooms, stick with your plumbing or don’t use. Adhering to the common and long standing ideas of decency and modestly make more sense than this new train of thought that a man should be treated as woman just because he dresses like one or wishes he were one.

    In my mind, it seems as odd as Michael Phelps saying he’s a dolphin because he spends so much time in the water. He’s not a dolphin, but he should be free to spend as much time in the water as he likes.


    • What I don’t understand is how this isn’t a case of being unable to accept yourself? It would be difficult, I can only imagine, to feel like you were born with the wrong body.

      Well, I think it is a case of being unable to accept oneself. Let me elaborate: if I don’t like my nose I can have it altered, if I’m overweight I go on a diet, if I have curly hair I use a straightening iron, I don’t like the way I look so I wear make-up, etc., etc. etc. The list goes on and on. What we are all trying to do, at the end of the day, is to change the things we don’t like about ourselves in an effort to accept ourselves and to be accepted. People with body dysmorphia look in the mirror and see something completely different than others look at them and see. People believe they have flaws that others don’t see as flaws at all and obsess about them.

      Gender Dysphoria goes much farther, beyond that. It’s not just that transgender individuals wish they were the opposite sex, there is very often a legitimate medical reason for their identification.

      I can see what you’re saying about locker rooms and showers, etc. But what about a transgender person who has made the transition? I should imagine that there are a good many transgender people who pass, so no one would ever be the wiser.

      I’m not exactly sure what the answer is on this. For some people it seems cut and dried, and for others it’s very convoluted.

      Yes, it would be odd for Michael Phelps to say he really believes he is a dolphin but no one would tell him to get out of the water.

      For the record, as I said before, I’m not sure what all the answers are or how to resolve this so that everyone feels accepted and comfortable. While I’m not of the opinion that women really are in any danger from transgender individuals, the main concern seems to be perverted individuals taking advantage of the situation and claiming to be transgender just to carry out their perverted ends. My contention is that if someone is perverted they could have already done this. Making such an issue of the bathroom situation has, in my opinion, only called attention to the opportunity. But perverts were being perverted long before this ever came up.

      My point is that you would expect to see any person dressed as a woman to be using the women’s facilities. As you pointed out, transgender people have likely already been doing just that and not only in bathrooms, but locker rooms and showers. Until these states started making laws banning the use of facilities based on sex I hadn’t heard an outcry from anyone that they’d seen male genitals on anyone posing to be female in bathrooms, locker rooms, or showers.


      • well said. I think you’ve written well about the topic, but wheels in my have keep turning some on it.

        I look forward to this issue falling out of the forefront of public concern and discussion, and it looks like it may already be headed that way.

        I will say that i believe there’s a difference between wanting to lose wight or build muscle over completing changing your sex, but again, people can do what they like, as far as I’m concerned.

        Liked by 1 person

        • There’s definitely a difference. I was just pointing out that there are a lot of different ways we all try to change ourselves.

          Gender Dysphoria can be a medical condition as well as a psychological condition.


          • I dont doubt it, but if I’m being honest, I sometimes wonder if we’re not playing into disillusion in an extreme effort to be understanding – like making Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner Woman of the Year – not a woman, regardless of operation or wardrobe.

            Oh well, just thoughts. I don’t have to understand. So far, none of it has affected me, so I don’t plan on being harsh.


          • The whole Caitlyn Jenner thing was met with mixed reviews even within the transgender community. Even those who agree that Caitlyn Jenner is now a woman don’t necessarily think she’s the best choice to represent what it means to be transgender or even a woman. Someone who has used their male privilege as far is it would take them for eons just looked a bit like a publicity stunt to remain relevant to some people.

            I don’t think it’s possible to understand. Possibly empathize, but understanding is a whole ‘nother realm.

            “So far, none of it has affected me, so I don’t plan on being harsh.”

            It isn’t likely to affect you, either. Which is another interesting point. The U.S. population is 3.2 Million. Those who identify as transgender individuals make up .3% of that population. So out of 323,000,000 people there are only 97,000 transgender individuals. It is quite possible you’ll never even encounter a transgender person and even if you do, you might not know it. Which is another reason that making such an issue of this seems a bit of an overreaction on the part of those who are simply afraid of that which they don’t understand.


  9. I’ve actually encountered transgender people on a few occasions. I didn’t notice them trying assault anyone and I never noticed anyone trying to assault them.

    Whenever the opportunity for verbal or physical assault passes without that opportunity ceased upon, I feel like things went pretty well, generally.

    I feel like it’ll all be okay.

    Liked by 1 person

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