Gender modality

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Gender modality refers to the correspondence (or lack thereof) between one's assigned gender at birth and ones actual gender and/or gender presentation. The two primary, and most well known gender modalities are cisgender and transgender. However, those are not the only possible relations for one to have. Gender modality is an open-ended category which welcomes the elaboration of further terms.

History[edit | edit source]

Gender modality was a term created by Florence Ashley, a transfeminine jurist and bioethicist, some time around February 28, 2019.[1] The term was coined because Ashley noted that the notion of ‘gender identity’ as used in law, perpetuates the idea that ‘gender identity’ is something only used by trans people (whereas cis people would just have 'gender'). Ashley traces this misuse of the term gender identity to fact that a conceptual category such as gender modality was not available when policymakers attempt to speak of discrimination against trans people by virtue of being not cis.

The benefits of using gender modality as a concept include:

  1. Moves away from the othering nature of using the term "gender identity" when trans people are the sole intended subjects, which normalizes terminology that describes non-LGBTQ+ and LGBTQ+ people as equals.
  2. Enhances our vocabulary when discussing the various aspects of gender (e.g. gender assigned at birth, gender identity, gender expression, and now gender modality).
  3. Resolves controversies surrounding appropriate terminology when referring to the fact of being trans, with terms such as “transsexuality”, “transgenderism”.
  4. Opens the door to gender modalities outside of a cis/trans binary, by enabling us to talk about ones “gender modality” instead of one “being cis or trans” (in the same way that “sexual/romantic orientation” gives us conceptual tools to avoid reproducing a “straight/gay” binary).

Ashley advocates for the usage of gender modality in the WPATH Standards of Care version 8 and has wrote several essays on the topic of gender modality.[2]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Ashley, Florence (2019-04-08). "Gender modality: Proposal for new terminology". Medium. Retrieved 2020-12-24.
  2. Ashley, Florence. (2021). ‘Trans’ is my gender modality: a modest terminological proposal. In Laura Erickson-Schroth (Eds.), Trans Bodies, Trans Selves, 2nd ed., Oxford University Press (forthcoming in 2021). https://www.florenceashley.com/uploads/1/2/4/4/124439164/florence_ashley_trans_is_my_gender_modality.pdf Accessed 2020-12-27.