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Poppy Z. Brite's gender

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Dec 1, 2010, 1:10pm Top

There is a discussion of Poppy Z. Brite's gender here http://www.librarything.com/topic/103592

I would say if we've been changing it back and forth it's contested and should be in the "contested" designation.

Dec 1, 2010, 1:41pm Top

I would always, always err on the side of caution here; if someone sets a gender to "Other" there's usually a very good reason for that, and anyone changing it to Male or Female had damn well better know exactly what they're doing. (In the other thread, someone posted a link to an essay where Brite explicitly denies identifying as female but doesn't feel "entitled" to identify as male. That's pretty ironclad, and I don't think it needs any further debate.)

Dec 1, 2010, 1:46pm Top

I think "contested" would apply from a scholarly perspective, not a personal preference angle. There are writers, particularly pseudonymous authors, whose gender really is unknown. But if Poppy was born female and has not had a gender change operation, she should be listed as female.

Edited: Dec 1, 2010, 2:45pm Top

2wonderY, I would point out that Poppy is, afaik, working toward transition, except that everything else in your comment is also so wrong, that particular correction isn't even relevant.

Trying to say you can define a person's gender for them based on what's in their pants is very wrong, and it's very insulting and painful to people for whom that doesn't work, not to mention that thinking that hard about a stranger's genitalia is just in bad taste.

I think Poppy is actually ID'ing as FTM (according to the docbrite lj: http://docbrite.livejournal.com/tag/ftm), so if we're insisting on one or the other, it should really be male.

That said, Poppy's gender seems to be somewhat ambiguous even to Poppy. A lot of trans people go through a period of trying different identities out,taking steps forward and back, saying they don't have the right to transition, before they figure out who they need to be. I would say that with any author where you have to dig deeply into personal statements, blogs, etc. in order to figure out a gender, or have an entire thread arguing about it, that it's frankly none of our business, and the option should be set to other/contested/unknown until and unless the author makes an unqualified public statement on the matter.

EDIT: Having caught up a bit more on the LJ, Poppy is pretty clearly out as an ftm man now ( http://docbrite.livejournal.com/736964.html ), and therefore his author page ought to read "male."

The above about ambiguity and being none of our business still applies to other authors in similar situations, though.

Dec 1, 2010, 2:40pm Top


But if Poppy was born female and has not had a gender change operation, she should be listed as female.


People's chosen gender identity must not be dependent on their financial situation, or required to fit into either "male" or "female"; that's why we have the Other box. (Transgendered people who identify as male or female are identified here as male or female; that's not the issue. There is not a genitalia check to make sure they've ponied up for the surgery.) I have several friends who do not identify as either male or female, and several books by authors who likewise have a more complex gender identification.

The transgender day of remembrance was just a couple weeks ago. Binary gender and rigorous rules about who gets to determine gender get people killed. Pseudo-academic posturing about narrow definitions and surgery aren't on par with beating people up, but they sure as hell aren't helping matters.

Dec 1, 2010, 4:04pm Top

I beg your pardons. I thought CK tries to establish objective fact, but I do see that "Other" can be used "for individuals who identify as other than male or female."

I spoke out of turn.

I had no idea that so many people could feel so confused about their identities.

Please don't read so much more into what I actually wrote.

Edited: Dec 1, 2010, 4:30pm Top


They aren't confused. They know perfectly well who they are; it just isn't male or female. CK does, in fact, attempt to reflect this objective fact.

Dec 1, 2010, 4:44pm Top

6 and 7:

Actually we had a debate of this sort when the gender thing was introduced into CK, when Tim only had male/female/not applicable. As I remember, it took folks quite a while to convince even Tim that genitalia does not trump personal preference (even if it's a moving personal preference). Which I why I thought Tim added the word "contestedl" Even if a person personally only subscribes to legal or medical definitions of gender, if their opinion was contested, it should be in the other category.

I might not be remembering this correctly.

Whatever gets decided about Brite, we should probably add some notice as there will be other people who know Brite under previous self-identifications.

Dec 1, 2010, 4:55pm Top


I remember that debate very well. I was one of the people hopping up and down screaming with rage about the gender binary. (He didn't even have not applicable. It was male/female, that was it, and once it was set you couldn't blank it.) It wasn't so much that Tim was all that invested in the binary, he just didn't care much about changing it.

Edited: Dec 1, 2010, 6:37pm Top

8: if this is the thread you're referring to: http://www.librarything.com/talktopic.php?topic=21657 it doesn't discuss 'contested' much at all. Edit: or did you mean this later one: http://www.librarything.com/topic/57230#1069288 - it didn't really come to a consensus on the issue, but there were people arguing strongly against that.

I think that using "contested" for someone who has clearly stated what gender they are, just because there are other people who don't think they should have a right to self-identify, is pretty horrid, myself. It should be reserved for people where we really *don't* know which one they would choose for themself.

I agree about the notice, though, if only to keep people from trying to 'fix' it.

6: Unfortunately, there are certain things that get said *every time* this kind of discussion happens, and they are often use by people who are trying deliberately to hurt and suppress and erase trans and genderqueer people. People who have to deal with that every day (and I don't even have to deal with it personally, just see my friends get angry/tired/depressed/suicidal over it) develop kneejerk defensive reactions, and you hit a sore spot square on - whether you know all the context or not, it still hurts.

Some people are confused, or questioning, or still figuring things out; some people don't think of their gender as a static, unchanging thing. There are also people who know very well, objectively, what their gender is, and know that is has nothing to do, objectively, with the shape of their genitals.

I hope you take this chance to look at some of the context you were missing! Here's a good recent overview for people who want to start thinking about gender in a different way:Not Your Mom's Trans 101.

Dec 1, 2010, 6:18pm Top

Years ago I worked on a medical database where the gender options were:

The last two were explained as "haven't looked" and "looked but couldn't tell", which implied a rather physical approach. I rather like the differentiation of "Other" and "Unknown".

Dec 1, 2010, 6:26pm Top

Why not switch it to sex, having the options "male, female, intersex," and leave gender out of it?

Dec 1, 2010, 6:35pm Top

Because sex really has no business being on the CK, unless we're also going to enter hair color, height, skin color, &c. I can understand its use in disambiguation of authors, but there's so much other data to help with that, and gender is ultimately more descriptive of the person than sex is, because it's an identity.

Dec 1, 2010, 6:36pm Top

Because that would require having a genital exam and medical history for everyone, Phocion, which would be deeply inappropriate, as this isn't a medical database, and also impossible, as many of them are dead and rotted.

Dec 1, 2010, 6:39pm Top

My mistake. Carry on a more non-inappropriate and easier to identify topic concerning something that should really be only the business of the individual.

Dec 1, 2010, 7:17pm Top

It is very much the business of an individual to state what gender they believe they are and not have other people impose it on them.

Dec 1, 2010, 8:01pm Top

Gender of the writer is an interesting statistic, I like seeing if my collection is balanced in that respect. but here is an inexhaustive list of ways people can identify this - but anything other than male of femlae is going to be a small fraction of the ~5% that don't identify that way. The numbers don't add up to have 100 different options to use and have only 2 of tem used more than a hanful of times. the best thing would be a M/F and free text other box for a short explanation.

Poppy clearly can't be classified as either because while he is male now she was previously female so it doesn't compute to have her female output under male or vice versa and separating female output from male output goes against the grain - and especially when there was a time where she was both/neither. In fact it's good to have the stats for how many writers are transgender, it tells us something (not sure what but something)

Dec 1, 2010, 8:58pm Top

10: Thanks. My mistake.

I forgot we can keyword search now. Very helpful feature.

17: I don't know what Brite would say, but I think Patrick Califia would argue that he was always writing as a man, even when he was a lesbian. (Though he's been mellowing lately and I haven't read his latest stuff.)

There are trans authors who transitioned long ago and quietly so that now no one knows that their gender is different from their birth sex. While I agree that it's interesting to know, it would also be outing them to record it on CK here.

I've come over to the side that people are what they say they are. Which would leave contested for people who didn't speak for themselves, are dead, and scholars don't agree.

Dec 1, 2010, 9:44pm Top

> 17

she {Brite} was previously female so it doesn't compute to have her female output under male or vice versa

It is interesting to note that books written as "James Morris" prior to her gender reassignment surgery have been republished under the name "Jan Morris": http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sultan-Oman-Jan-Morris/dp/1900209071 (2002 edition of a book written in 1957).

Dec 1, 2010, 10:17pm Top

> 19 It varies by person - Alexander James Adams the folksinger, for example, seems to treat Heather Alexander as a separate artist whose legacy he manages. (Of course, it's different for a singer, since Heather and Alexander have quite different voices, and have even recorded duets.)

I don't know what the answer is for people who did once strongly identify as one gender and now strongly identify as another, except to take it on a case-by-case basis and go with what they do.

But I don't think Poppy ever really identified as cis female in any real way, and certainly never wrote as one, so saying "she was previously female" is a bit facile. And also wrong.

Dec 2, 2010, 12:28am Top

people are what they say they are. Which would leave contested for people who didn't speak for themselves, are dead, and scholars don't agree.

Dec 2, 2010, 9:20am Top

Sex = biological fact
Gender = a set of predefined behavioral characteristics

Although this book is primarily about race I highly recommend it. Passing for Who You Really Are

Jul 29, 2011, 9:50pm Top

Come on people, you are what you say you are?

So that leaves my gender, race, eye color, hair color, height, weight, spieces, nationality all up to what I say?

So if Stephen King decides he is a 10ft tall Bolivian female goat thats what should be placed in his bio?

No matter how much surgery, gene treatments, and cosmetic work King would not be a goat. The same goes for a male or female who transitions to the other gender.

Facts are facts not what we chose them to be.

Edited: Jul 30, 2011, 12:21am Top

Welcome to LibraryThing. Is that all you joined for, to show your ignorance?

gender is whatever you identify as,
race is Homo sapiens sapiens,
eye colour is variable naturally by maturation, due to an accident or disease, or even by using contact lenses,
hair colour changes with age, exposure to sunlight or use of hair dye,
height changes with age,
weight changes with age, diet and exercise,
spieces (sic, probably species), see race, and finally,
nationality is usually set by birthplace and nationality of your parents but can be fairly easily changed.

So you see, all is mutable and most of the characteristics you mention are indeed whatever you wish them to be.

Edited for punctuation and clarity.

Jul 30, 2011, 5:59am Top

Aug 2, 2011, 11:04am Top


Please go be transphobic somewhere else. Just because it's allowed here by the TOS doesn't mean it's welcome.

Edited: Aug 2, 2011, 11:36am Top

I'll split the difference on this as a matter of site policy. There are such a thing as facts. Factual fields are not open to either change or aspirational redefinition. An author's birthplace is a fact, even if it is obscured. The author record for Kim Jong-Il (1), for example, should list his birthplace as Vyatskoye in the USSR, even though Kim and North Korean propaganda subsequently decided he was born on a sacred mountain in Korea. If there were a "birth sex" field in LibraryThing that field would not be open to redefinition either.

But "gender" has come to signify the social side of sex, how someone identifies, behaves and is perceived. As such it is something less than a fact, and is changeable. Clearly the social side is what's important here. The particular chomosomes involved don't have any importance for an author's work; we're not setting up authorial gene bank. By contrast how how an author and their fans see the author is important. For some authors it's quite important indeed. While both sex and gender might be interesting to some, I think gender is more likely to be interesting to more users and it is the only field we have.

There are going to be some impossible situations. We designed the field to have one value and not be time-sensitive. So we can't fully deal with Alexander James Adams and Heather Alexander. When in doubt, therefore, the field should be filled in with what the author would say it is now, or died saying it was. Complications can be addressed in the bio field.

1. Currently has no data, presumably because he didn't write that much. Anyone want to help out?

Aug 2, 2011, 11:35am Top

Oh, that was me, Tim. I'm testing a feature.


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