Italiano (Italian) Español (Spanish) English Français (French)



Culture - Antonia Monopoli

“The person who is unaware of his or her double nature functions only as half a person”

Hello everybody. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Antonia and I am a transsexual woman.

Before going into the main points about this issue, it is important to consider the context in which we find ourselves in the 21st century...

We find ourselves in an historic moment in which the forms of communication between human beings are being increasingly transformed and reduced in purely economic terms and between individuals. The prevailing concept of communication is based on illusory presuppositions such as money, profit, image, etc. If we add to this the speed at which all this is happening, then we find ourselves as forming part of a system that is always creating more situations of violence and anxiety, and this is in direct contrast with the development of a new human civilisation that is planned for the future. The cultural factors seem to have been transformed into tools used by the forms of power to exert their control by insinuating and exceeding the limits of what is physiologically and profoundly progressive in the vital cycle of modern civilisations. Today we observe, among the most used aspects of this type of system, the use of sexuality in a deviated and deformed sense that has distorted its natural path using violent methods and forced castration, and thereby reducing the possibilities to develop new forms of relationship and communication that are today still subjected to prejudices dictated by the social milieu.

In order to effect change to take a progressive step forward in the growth of a new human civilisation, it is necessary to examine the absolute truths of this milieu and all its codes, its value scales and its presuppositions that have formed up until now.

So what should be sex’s role in a new civilisation?

We believe that sex is a specific form of human communication that is related to emotions and feelings. The argument is a cultural one: in fact, all cultures favour one form of sexual communication and repress the others. Each of us has his or her affinities and the attempt to make a moral of psychological problem out of these goes back to the beliefs and social values imposed and not our aspirations. This explains why an argument that is so important in terms of human development has generated forms of real-life tension that are both contradictory and difficult to deal with, but above all are remote to ourselves. Some of today’s most representative themes relating to sexuality (which, despite strong cultural censorship is characterised by progressive development) are: masculine and feminine “roles” and changes in these, “sexual orientation” and “gender identity”, the notion of normality, the woman who asserts herself and her autonomy, etc.

As a result, the civilisation of the future will not be able to develop if it does not re-establish a cultural balance in relation to sexuality, which for years has been subject to censorship, insults and castrations to the point of completely denaturalising its genuine physiological, and therefore vital, role.

But let’s concentrate on today’s title... masculine, feminine and transgender...

What I would like to say in this symposiun has been inspired by the “Manifestiesto Pangender” by Crisalidas Pangender and edited by Mirella Izzo.

Let’s start with the etymology of this word...PANGENDER...What is the definition of “pangender”?

The word “pangender” isn’t a total neologism as it has been used in other countries. There are several definitions in the North American version of Wikipedia, for example.

In theory, we could also have used the term “transgender identity” or “transidentity of gender”, but the latter term would not have been well understood while “transgender identity” had the sense of identification with a specific condition. The international version of Wikipedia defines the word “pangender” in two different ways.

The first (in relation to a specific individual situation) refers to people who feel that they belong to both sexes (masculine + feminine) in whole or in part (i.e. a point between the two extremes: man and woman). But there are other better known terms that are used to describe these conditions, e.g. Two Spirits, as espoused by the ancient Lakota tradition, and most recently the term genderqueer. Using the term pangender in the latter sense would therefore seem to us to be redundant and useless.

The second meaning given by Wikipedia defines a general condition. In this case, pangender means “all”(pan) the genders. It is no coincidence that Wikipedia has a link to the site of the Radical Faeries that, in the final analysis, defines “pangender” as follows: all the sexes, the genders and the (sexual) orientations.

What is the difference between our vision and that of the Radical Faeries?

To understand things better, I think it would be useful to explain the differences between a few terms that we are going to use a lot in this presentation: sex, gender, gender identity, gender role, gender stereotype and sexual orientation. Let’s examine these one by one.

Let’s start with maybe the most “well known” term, namely sex: Sex is divided into “masculine”, “feminine” and “inter-sexual” (even if the latter is becoming increasingly rare and has been banished from registry office legislation). Sex is essentially considered on the basis of a combination of “x” and “y” chromosomes in our karyotype (part of the genome). As we know, an “xx” combination normally produces a biological female, while an “xy” combination produces a biological male. Other possible combinations from the genetic map of the human genome (for example “xxy”) or from another source (with an “xy” or “xx” genetic profile) produce various states of intersexuality, which, in short, give rise to mixed sexual features in between the two “main sexes”.

The chromosomes are thus responsible - with a few intersexual exceptions – for the differences between the external characteristics of a male or female person, for the primary sexual characteristics (gonads differentiated into testicles or ovaries) as well as for other physical, metabolic and hormonal characteristics, and predispositions of character.

The psychological aspect of belonging to one of the two sexes is not always related to the genetic profile as there are other physical and hormonal dynamics that intervene and shape it.

It is for this reason that sex is principally differentiated by physical and hormonal modifications and, specifically, by the procreative aspect. There are also differences in attitude that are psychological in nature and resulting from the different activities of male and female hormones. If the sex defines the physical dimorphism, this is only reflected in a small percentage in the psychological sex. It is the reason why, today, we tend to speak more of “gender”, and it is also the reason why mentioning a person’s sex as an item on official registers is open to debate for having nothing to do with reproduction.

So now let us look at gender: Gender is the sum and the synthesis of a person’s physical and psychological sex. According to one section of the feminist movement, gender also suffers from cultural influences, as what it means to be a man or a woman can be different and change depending on the epoch and the culture. For this school of thought, gender, even if sees “psychological sex” as more important than “sum resulting from the genetic map”, tends to separate the “masculine” and “feminine” genders into two. However for the transgender movement and another section of the feminist movement, gender represents the “identity continuum” where, in the opposing extremes, we find those people that we call identity man and identity woman. It is precisely for this reason that the influence of cultural factors is not considered as being significant when defining a person’s gender (1). That does not mean ignoring their influence but, in order to avoid confusion between “identity” and “cultural” aspects, gender is defined using the term “gender role”.

So if gender is in fact a “continuum”, the individual positioning within a person is defined using the term “gender identity”.

But what is gender identity? Gender identity is the correspondence, or non-correspondence, between sex and gender. It thus represents each person as a point on the continuum mentioned above without taking biological sex into account. In practice, however, we generally take “gender identity” to mean the complete disassociation between the sex and gender of people called transsexual or transgender and other synonyms.

This restrictive definition is very widespread and is substantially different to the pangender vision. Gender identity refers to the individual and “self-referred” identity (one feels like a woman in a man’s body or like a woman in a man’s body or one feel likes a man and one is sexually masculine or one feels like a woman and is genetically feminine, etc.). And as I have mentioned above, this term is used almost exclusively to describe a “transsexual” person. In turn, the condition of being transsexual (total differentiation or concordance between sex and gender) is officially considered as a psychological problem coming under the term gender dysphoria gender identity trouble (DSM IV), which are diagnostically equivalent.

In reality, gender identity should cover each position in the abovementioned continuum (including the cultural extremes of “man” and “woman”) and that is valid for everyone. It is a truth that the transgender movement (2) has been proclaiming for more than 20 years but which we have taken into consideration only recently as a result of continuous scientific proof that concords with the theory, in particular in “neurosciences” and in psycho-neuro immunology.

The definition of “feeling” more female than male cannot take gender role into account.

So now we come to gender role: Gender role is, for us, something that, in a given society and time, is defined by expressions such as “business men” or “a female thing” in terms of activities, behaviour or forms of expression and clothing, etc. Gender role is, as a result, the only factor that can change radically, according to the historical, anthropological and ethnological context in which the person lives. Gender role is sometimes boosted by what is felt in relation to a few predispositions that result from sexual hormonal activity; for example, giving “heavy” work to men is the result of the greater concentration of muscle and a higher “pain threshold” due to testosterone. In the same way, women are given more work that requires medium strength but requiring more care and greater patience as a result of a greater resistance to activity and greater capacity to bear pain (although the threshold is lower), which is due to estradiol. These predispositions are sometimes relative. In reality, there are women that have much more muscle than certain men and there are men that have a greater resistance to pain than certain women. As a result of this cultural but also objective relativity, “gender role” has often been debated. The most recent and most appropriate historical example is the current dominant chauvinist power in all human societies at all times as a result of the relatively greater masculine strength and aggression. Since the twentieth century, where these two characteristics have lost out in significance to others (e.g. to the resistance to work, intelligence, intuition), this millennial power has, for the first time, been called into question – in terms of “mass”- by feminism.

However, if gender roles are “boosted” by a few relative predispositions, what forms gender stereotypes is completely different.

On the other hand, the notion of sexual orientation is different: although we have moved forward in terms of gender and gender identity, sexual orientation has remained “deaf” to change. Genders change but not the duality of sexual orientation: “heterosexual” and “homosexual” (to which is added bisexuality which represents a third pole but more the sum (partial, predominant and homogenous) of the “hetero” and “homo” orientations).

Any other variation (always in reference to consenting adult sex) is considered a paraphilia, a sanitised term to mean perversions. In our view, sexual orientation should be considered as out-dated, at least in the current climate, following the emergence of gender studies that no longer isolate the man/woman polarity exclusively but rather a series of intermediary individual sexual positionings (which we defined above as gender identity). If transgenders and genderqueers exist and are, like everyone else, people who are sexual and have emotional capacities, it is clear that a man or women who starts to prefer the transgender and/or genderqueer should not be identified by the sexual orientations accepted today. There are more nuances to the duality of heterosexual and homosexual. A masculine lesbian (who is defined as “butch”) who desires exclusively extremely feminine women (who are defined as “lipstick”) does not have – on the basis of what we have just said and supported – an identical “orientation” as that of another masculine woman who exclusively falls in love with women who are equally masculine. In the duality of the sexes, all the nuances disappear and everything is forcibly included in two sexual orientations linked to genetic sex. Sexual orientation has more or less remained impenetrable to the novelties brought by the feminist and transgender movement, even if the gay and lesbian associations are also defined as forming part of a gender movement (TLGB, where the T stands for transgender).

The overwhelming majority of people, including homosexuals, think that a man who falls in love with, or has a sexual desire for, a transgender is a “repressed homosexual” or a “heterosexual looking for something exotic”, according to the cultural education of the observer. The existence of men who, even if they prefer transgenders and are never part of a couple with another man (but more with a women), is clear to those who understand the objective reality of interpersonal relations between transgenders and men (or women). Let’s give a few current examples: Women who desire an MTF transgender (3) or genderqueers, are they heterosexual or lesbian? And what if they desire a FTM transgender (4)?  And a butch lesbian who is looking for lipsticks, is she similar to a woman who is looking for a butch? What is the sexual orientation of a virile male who wants an effeminate man or desires his opposite number? In fact, there are people desire exclusively MTF transgenders. And so what is the sexual orientation of all these people? How is it possible to fit them into the dual homo/hetero vision unless you force them into it? We can therefore affirm on the basis of everything that has just been said that sexual orientations are in reality similar to people’s gender identities and, if one wishes it, we can name each one of these.

We have presented all these definitions in order to understand the nature of someone who is pangender. The restrictive interpretations given for the terms gender (masculine or feminine), gender identity (uniquely for transgenders) and sexual orientation (solely hetero or homo) do not reflect the reality of personal identities in the area of gender and of people’s orientation.

In any case, there are rare cases of the capacity to identify with other realities within the Trans Gay Lesbian Bisexual Queer movement and with other realities that, in general, are related to individuals or small associations that find their raison d'être from a transgender perspective, including unconsciously.

Paradoxically, the more we refuse to see and to define the almost limitless identity possibilities and the relatively diverse and multiple sexual orientations, the more difficult it is to recognise a real common denominator among people which makes them feel fully legitimised to be and to be part of a highly diverse reality.

The more we accept the multiple genders and sexual orientations, the more people’s awareness fuses  (including in the “hetero” world, which is barely affected by the L+G+B+T movement, except in terms of external solidarity). The term pangender starts to take on a new meaning and a new consistency.

In the pangender vision, the “names” given to the differences overall help to define, but not to separate, precisely because pangender sees in these differences solely awareness without any qualitative, ethical value or any classification in terms of better or worse. In addition, it sees the common denominator that embraces all the gender identities and all the sexual orientations.

Genders and orientations multiply because everyone finds their place freely, and possibly also their definition, in the logic of a multiple continuum. It is the joint sense of belonging in terms of everyone recognising the differences rather than the number of the different conditions that is important here.

Some of you may ask: Why pangender (all the genders) and not pansexuel (all the sexes)? We say that is it precisely gender that gives rise to sexual orientation, which we prefer to define as emotional and sexual orientation. If you don’t know who you are in the first place, how can you define what you like? It is not by coincidence that all this happens to transsexual/transgender people before starting the change, before living – sometimes for many long years – without any kind of sexual and emotional relationship. I would like to cite here Davide Tolu, a transgender intellectual, writer and director who, in one conference, said that if one doesn’t feel that one has a body (identity), it is difficult to think of having “relations” with another body. If one does not accept one’s own body, how can there be any sexual relationship? The world “relationship” refers to the interaction of two elements (or more).

So for us, pangender is the most fertile area in which to find an common denominator in terms of identity that is truly open to every man and woman.

In terms of pangender consciousness, the difference between a person born a man who then becomes a woman and the man who has gender roles normally attributed to the female sex (e.g. doing crochet) is essentially quantitative. These are different positions on the SAME IDENTITY SCALE, sometimes exclusively relating to gender role. Based on what we are putting forward here, we can think about the reactions that would be produced with an imaginary hidden camera where one first sees the people’s reactions when faced with a man in a suit and tie, on a bus, doing crochet, and then the reactions of people when faced with a transgender with visible masculine features. What changes in people’s reactions – and we have all had experiences similar to these – is the level of stigmatisation, of mockery, of discrimination, and not the quality.

We do not believe that, before an employment interview, a man doing crochet in the waiting room will have more chances of getting the job than a very feminine transgender. It is the polarisation of the binary forms of sex and role that determine stigmatisation.

Finally, and I will finish here, the aim of pangender is to promote freedom of expression for all gender identities and for all “tastes” that differentiate the gender stereotypes in relation to sexual affiliations and emotional and sexual orientations (among consenting adults). This implies that people, based on their own identity positioning, consider forming part of a more suitable identity design in line with the freedom of individual expression. It is not about being transgender, gay, lesbian, bisexual, heterosexual, man, woman, etc. but about a consciousness integrated into the interior of a complexity that is greater than the one that currently prevails and which does not discriminate between legal and illegal identities or attach more or less rights to benefit from it.

1 “Gender” is the English word for the French word “genre” and it is used more in Anglo-Saxon countries than “genre” in the sense of “genre sexuel” which in French is equivalent to the word “sex”.
2 Refers to the International Transgender Movement in Italy; it is only in recent years that we have been talking about “transgender” in terms of the original medical term “transsexual”.
3 MTF = male to female
4 FTM = female to male

Previous page: Rapports Attigliano  Next page: