Teen Wolf: How do we talk about bodies without being cissexist?
Something i’ve been pondering lately. Saying ‘people with vaginas’ or ‘people with penises’ is definitely an improvement over female/male bodied, but i still see it as cissexist. Talking like that conforms to cissexist ideas of what a penis or vagina looks like. A body part that someone might call their ‘penis’ might be someone else’s ‘clit’ (or vice versa), so what exactly are you referring to when you say ‘people with penises’? You’re saying that the language or way somebody views their body is not legitimate or real. Like, i will respect the language that you as an individual use, but failing to recognize that our entire pre-conceived notions about what a vagina or penis look like are socially constructed and cissexist.
I also want to talk about how i feel really dysphoric and triggered when i see medical diagrams or any kind of diagram presented as being the ‘correct’ terminology. For example: There will be a picture of genitals that look similar to mine, and they will be labeled with words like ‘vagina’ ‘clitoris’ ‘labia’ etc etc, and if they’re trying to be trans inclusive they might throw in ‘keep in mind that some people prefer different words for their body parts’.
To me, that just sounds like “Oh, i know you prefer that body part be called a ‘dick’ or ‘penis’, but the actual medical term is ‘clitoris’.” And i’m just like NO. Because it’s not just about language!! It’s about the way we conceptualize our bodies! I literally do not have a clit. It’s not me being in denial or you nicely using the language i ‘prefer’, it’s my actual physical embodiment. When you say “This is what a clitoris looks like” and then show a picture of genitals that look like mine, you are misgendering my body. I happen to identify my body parts as being a vagina, but i could have EXACTLY the same genitals that i have now and not at all identify with having a vagina or use different language. Again, that would not mean i’m in denial, all it would mean is that i don’t have a vagina, maybe i have a ‘fronthole’ or something else.
I guess i’m just at a total loss for exactly how to talk about people’s bodies without conforming to cissexist body standards. Like, how the hell do you teach sex ed without using cissexist language? I honestly do not know. Anybody have any thoughts?
Most humans have the same set of homologous anatomical structures, which are altered (and, in some cases, atrophied) by sex-relevant hormones. So, for instance, what are classically divided into ‘labia’ and ‘scrota’ are, in reality, allomorphs of a single embryonic structure. Likewise, what science has divided into ‘penis’ and ‘clitoris’ are allomorphs of the structure called the phallus (a word which is, unfortunately, usually gendered male in practice). If we used terms that referred to the anatomical homologs and described them, if absolutely necessary, in terms of their correspondence to development patterns associated with sex-relevant hormones, does this resolve some of the problem? ‘Penis’ and ‘clitoris’ and ‘vagina’ and other such self-chosen descriptors then become subsets of the medical, ‘correct’ terms, such that the self-chosen descriptor and the medical term can both be accurate without either definition impinging on the other.