Components of Gender
by Stephe Feldman
1)   preliminary mentions of the components of gender made on the list (directly below)
2)   The Components of Gender by Stephe Feldman (the article itself)
3)   Kate Bornstein re Gender Assignment and Gender Attribution (from My Gender Workbook, pp. 27 & 28)
4)   Hannah Miyamoto re Gender role, Gender identity, and Gender performance
5)   Riki Wilchins on gender not being just a performance (from Queer Theory, Gender Theory: An Instant Primer, p. 142)
6)   Judith Butler herself refutes gender being just a performance in Extracts from Gender as Performance: An Interview with Judith Butler
7)   two of the Components of Gender are mentioned in The Fenway Guide to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Health (p. 333)

1)  preliminary mentions of the components of gender | next || back to top

Date: Fri, 24 Nov 2006 13:14:01 -0500
Subject: Components of Gender, by Stephe Feldman

Hi All,
     Back on January 14, 2005 and February 18, 2006, I made  
reference to gender having four components.  These four 
components were the result of an article I wrote in May of 2004 
called Components of Gender.  I thought it had a possibility of 
being published, so I never posted it to the list.
     Here are the posts from Jan. 14, 2005 and Feb. 18, 2006:

|Date: Fri, 14 Jan 2005 23:41:14 -0500
|Subject: Re: [androgynes] Mental vs. Physical Androgyny
|[. . .]
|     I'm not convinced that the cultural aspects of gender are
|ultimately that important.  For me, there are four components to
|gender: identity, performance, presentation, and role -- and I
|don't find gender identity inherently dependent on cultural
|difference nor similarity, frankly.  The other three components,
|which add up to constitute gender expression, are somewhat if
|not very beholden to cultural variables, but gender identity
|exists outside, over and above culture, as far as I'm concerned.
|[. . .]


|Date: Sat, 18 Feb 2006 13:05:04 -0500
|Subject: Gender Trouble and Undoing Gender by Judith Butler
|[. . .]
|     To my mind, there are two major components of gender,
|identity and expression, neither of which are wholly exclusive,
|and the latter category of expression further breaks down into
|presentation, performance and role, with the atypical and seldom
|mentioned category of presentation referring to how one looks or
|presents oneself visually.
|[. . .]

     The following is an article I wrote in May of 2004 (and 
later tweaked in June of 2004) called Components of Gender.  I 
wrote it shortly after the article on Androgyne Online (written 
in April of 2004) which was printed in Transgender Tapestry #107 
( it's online at ).
Interestingly, I hadn't at the time yet heard of Judith Butler's 
complaint of having been misquoted regarding gender performance.

2)  The Components of Gender | previous | next || back to top

June 8, 2004


A core component of Queer Theory is that gender is performative, but if this was necessarily so, it would invalidate transsexualism from the outset. Since the treatment of gender identity disorder recognizes that the brain cannot be sufficiently changed and that the body must be altered so it aligns with the mind, it seems that at the very least identity is a factor of gender outside the sphere of performance.

In hir book, My Gender Workbook, Kate Bornstein characterizes gender's components as fourfold: gender assignment, gender role, gender identity, and gender attribution. Gender assignment is what the doctor calls you at birth, so it can be written off as a description of sex (Bornstein reserves the word sex for sex acts so as to circumvent Essentialist argumentation). Gender role is described as what culture thinks your niche should be, while gender identity is totally subjective. Gender attribution refers to how another person might interpret your gender cues.

In July of 2002, listowner Hannah Miyamoto broke gender into three categories: gender role, gender identity, and gender performance. Miyamoto aligned gender role closely with Bornstein's gender assignment, referencing the way one's expected behavior would presumably correspond with one's sex. Gender identity is described as subjective, with the qualification that both female and male feminists are transgender because of not being completely satisfied with (the status of) their gender roles. Gender performance, then, is how one portrays one's gender for others.

Androgynes are a sort of transgender people with the gender identity of both a man and a woman or neither. For them, the notion that sex is between the legs while gender is between the ears is key. Because they are neither men nor women, these non-binary gender variants are most expediently differentiated as male-born and female-born. The remaining categories are intersex, M2F (male-to-female transsexual), and F2M (female-to-male transsexual). For more on androgynes, is recommended.

From my own perspective as an androgyne, gender's makeup is comprised of gender identity, gender presentation, gender performance, and gender role. Gender identity concerns how you think, gender presentation how you look, gender performance how you act, and gender role how you contribute socially. Any of these aspects of gender can be mutually exclusive of another depending on the individual and/or circumstance. Gender presentation is like the flipside of Bornstein's gender attribution, since it hinges on how you yourself -- rather than others -- interpret your gender cues.

While gender role tends to go with gender identity, it doesn't always. For example, there are male nurses and librarians and female security guards and construction workers who arguably have a traditional gender identity. It is also entirely possible to have a gender identity and gender role that does not match up with one's gender presentation and gender performance. Just because someone feels a certain way and performs certain tasks doesn't mean they have to look or act the part.

In the broadest sense, the components of gender are divided into gender identity and gender expression. While gender presentation and gender performance clearly fall under the gender expression rubric, it is less clear where gender role fits in. Perhaps it is a matter of overt and covert traits. Some gay and lesbian people project aspects of gender presentation and gender performance that seem more in alignment with "the opposite sex," but most of these people's presentations and performances are *not* aligned with their identity. This causes much confusion, to the extent that transgender people are sometimes mistaken for gays and vice versa.

As an example of the complexities and permutations of gender, my gender identity as an androgyne is androgynous, and yet my gender presentation and gender role both alternate between masculine and feminine as the situation dictates, whereas my gender performance is almost always masculine.


Copyright 2006 Stephe Feldman

3)  Kate Bornstein | previous | next || back to top

From page 27 of Kate Bornstein's "My Gender Workbook: How to Become 
a Real Man, a Real Woman, the Real You, or Something Else Entirely":

|Components of Sex and Gender
|     These things are *really* tangled up!  Let's take this chart 
|     [a chart shown in the book itself] apart, starting with SEX.  
|     The world becomes a lot brighter when we say that sex is 
|     simply the act, that it does *not* mean the designation of 
|     category.  Taken in this light, sex has only a few aspects, 
|     mainly: how you'd like to do it, and whom (if anyone) you'd 
|     like to do it *with*.
|Naming sex as the act and only the act robs essentialist thinkers 
|of their biological imperative, which is usually based on some 
|arcane combination of genitals, chromosomes, hormones, and 
|reproductive ability.  Who says that biology has the last word in 
|determining someone's identity anyway?

From page 28 of Kate Bornstein's "My Gender Workbook: How to Become 
a Real Man, a Real Woman, the Real You, or Something Else Entirely":

|     Gender, unlike the straightforward word sex, has several 
|o Gender Assignment answers the question, "What do the authorities 
|  say I am?"  In most cultures, it's the M or F designation.  What 
|  the doctor says you are at birth, usually determined by the 
|  presence (male) or absence (female) of a penis.  Most cultures 
|  assign some permanent, immutable gender at birth.  A few 
|  cultures allow people to change their gender assignment later in 
|  life; some cultures even build in a possible switch in gender 
|  assignment.  Gender assignment is something that's done to each 
|  one of us, long before we have the ability to have any say in 
|  the matter.
|o Gender Role answers the question, "What does the culture think I 
|  should do with my life?"  It's the sum total of qualities, 
|  mannerisms, duties, and cultural expectations accorded a 
|  specific gender.
|o Gender Identity answers the question, "Am I a man or a woman or 
|  something else entirely?"  Most people don't think about this 
|  one very much.  They let gender assignment nonconsensually stand 
|  in for gender identity.  But identity is personal; it's what we 
|  feel our gender to be at any given moment.  Sure, this feeling 
|  might be influenced by biological factors that have a cultural 
|  tag sticking out of each one of them.  The feeling of being some 
|  gender might also have to do with a sexual fantasy, or a 
|  preference for some role.  There are as many good reasons for 
|  having or choosing a gendered identity as there are people.
|o Gender Attribution is what we all do when we first meet someone: 
|  we decide whether they're a man or a woman, or something 
|  indeterminable.  We attribute a gender to someone based on an 
|  intricate system of cues, varying from culture to culture.  The 
|  cues can range from physical appearance and mannerisms to 
|  context, and the use of power.

4)  Hannah Miyamoto | previous | next || back to top

From: "Hannah Miyamoto" <>
Date: Tue, 16 Jul 2002 14:39:23 -0500
Subject: Re: [Intersex-Androgynous] Re: Newcome

<<how many genders are there?  Three?>>
    "Gender" is a social construction--a set of social roles that are
assigned to individuals and said individuals are expected to fill those
roles.  In the U.S., Canada, the British Isles, Europe, Australia and New
Zealand, there are definitely only two, man/boy, woman/girl.

    In contrast, "Sex" is considered a biological fact:  Male, Female and
everyone else.  As you already know, "Intersex" is not a sex in itself,
since intersexed people vary widely in biology.  But it is definitely a
category in which to put everyone with some degree of anomaly in sex
    Gender can be broken down into at least three categories:  Gender 
role, Gender identity, Gender performance.

    Gender role is what I just talked about.  two sexes, two gender roles
for the two sexes, everybody of male sex is supposed to "act like a man,"
everyone of female sex must "be a lady."  Everyone not in one sex or the
other -- is either surgically and pharmaceutically manipulated to fit one 
of the sex or . . . thrown in the discard.

    Gender identity is what the individual believes their gender role 
should be.  A transgender person believes her or his role should be other 
than that assigned to them.  But technically speaking, any feminist woman 
or man is transgender because she or he is dissatisfied with their 
assigned gender role to some degree.  There are also people who are not 
comfortable with the role of either gender -- sometimes called 
"androgynous," although that is not what I held the word to mean when I 
started this group.

    Gender performance is the actual "performance" of an individual of 
their gender.  Like any role, there are actors, and they perform that 
role as best they can.  "All the world is a stage, and we are merely 
players."  Some people don't perform their role very well -- either 
because they don't want to, or they are physically hindered from a "good 
performance."  The former are transgendered persons, while the second 
group I consider part of the intersexed.
I commend this to your consideration.
In Sisterhood, Hannah

5)  Riki Wilchins | previous | next || back to top
Date: Fri, 24 Nov 2006 13:14:01 -0500
Subject: Components of Gender, by Stephe Feldman

[. . .]

     About a year and a half after having written that article
[i.e., Components of Gender], I read Queer Theory, Gender Theory: 
An Instant Primer, by Riki Wilchins, and was seemingly vindicated 
for my views about gender performance.

     Here are two relevant quotes from Queer Theory, Gender 
Theory: An Instant Primer:

|Date: Fri, 17 Feb 2006 11:02:25 -0500
|Subject: Gender is Performative, Not a Performance
|>Re Re: [androgynes] Useful links,
|>on Fri, 17 Feb 2006 09:32:32 +0000
|>Nosferatu das Vampir <nosferatudasvampir@...> writes:
|>[Judith Butler] proposes the quite Foucauldian notion that 
|>gender is performance.
|      According to Riki Wilchins, in Queer Theory, Gender 
|Theory: An Instant Primer (Los Angeles: Alyson Publications, 1 
|August 2004.  ISBN 1555837980), this is a misconception.  In 
|Wilchin's view, Butler says that gender is performative, not a 
|performance per se.  There is a difference.
|      From page 142 of Queer Theory, Gender Theory:
||      Butler believes that what we see as gender is
|| performatively produced.  This has been widely misinterpreted
|| as "all gender is just a performance," something she not only
|| didn't say but with which she very much disagrees.  At a time
|| when youth are increasingly aware of gender's elasticity and
|| symbolic displays, when Hilary Swank wins an Oscar for playing
|| Brandon Teena and Harvey Fierstein wins a Tony for playing
|| Hairspray's Edna Turnblad on Broadway, when college teens
|| stage drag king parties, the notion of "gender as performance"
|| is probably with us for good.
||      Performatives are the name for special kinds of speech
|| that also qualify as official social acts.  It sounds a little
|| obscure, but consider that the words "I now pronounce you
|| husband and wife" -- when uttered by the right person at the
|| right time before the right audience -- create a marriage
|| between a couple.
|Stephe Feldman, androgyne two-spirit <>
|Androgyne Online <> webmaster
|Chang Cheh movies <> webmaster

6)  Judith Butler | previous | next || back to top

     Then, three weeks later, came the ultimate corroboration, 
when I discovered an interview where Judith Butler discussed the 
fallout from her influential 1989 book, Gender Trouble: Feminism 
and the Subversion of Identity -- which is pretty much the source 
of what has come to be the theory of "gender performance" -- in
the context of her then-new (1993) book, Bodies That Matter: On 
the Discursive Limits of Sex.

|Date: Thu, 9 Mar 2006 22:30:25 -0500
|Subject: Extracts from Gender as Performance: An Interview with 
|Judith Butler
|     Here is another example of gender being performative as
|opposed to a performance:
|[From Google's cache of ,
|since this article is not currently online otherwise:]
|Extracts from Gender as Performance:
|An Interview with Judith Butler
|Interview by Peter Osborne and Lynne Segal, London, 1993.
|Full version originally published in Radical Philosophy 67
|(summer 1994).  (c) Radical Philosophy Ltd, 1994.  These 
|extracts are reprinted here with the kind permission of Radical 
|Philosophy Ltd.
|RP: A lot of people like Gender Trouble because they liked the
|idea of gender as a kind of improvisational theatre, a space
|where different identities can be more or less freely adopted 
|and explored at will.  They wanted to get on with the work of
|enacting gender, in order to undermine its dominant forms.
|However, at the beginning of Bodies That Matter you say that, of
|course, one doesn't just voluntaristically construct or
|deconstruct identities.  It's unclear to us to what extent you
|want to hold onto the possibilities opened up in Gender Trouble
|of being able to use transgressive performances such as drag to
|help decentre or destabilise gender categories, and to what
|extent you have become sceptical about this.
|Butler: The problem with drag is that I offered it as an example
|of performativity, but it has been taken up as the paradigm for
|performativity.  One ought always to be wary of one's examples.
|What's interesting is that this voluntarist interpretation, this
|desire for a kind of radical theatrical remaking of the body, is
|obviously out there in the public sphere.  There's a desire for 
|a fully phantasmatic transfiguration of the body.  But no, I 
|don't think that drag is a paradigm for the subversion of 
|gender.  I don't think that if we were all more dragged out 
|gender life would become more expansive and less restrictive.  
|There are restrictions in drag.  In fact, I argued toward the 
|end of the book that drag has its own melancholia.
|It is important to understand performativity -- which is 
|distinct from performance -- through the more limited notion of
|resignification.  I'm still thinking about subversive 
|repetition, which is a category in Gender Trouble, but in the 
|place of something like parody I would now emphasise the complex 
|ways in which resignification works in political discourse.  I 
|suspect there's going to be a less celebratory, and less 
|popular, response to my new book.  But I wanted to write against 
|my popular image.  I set out to make myself less popular, 
|because I felt that the popularisation of Gender Trouble -- even 
|though it was interesting culturally to see what it tapped into, 
|to see what was out there, longing to be tapped into -- ended up 
|being a terrible misrepresentation of what I wanted to say!
|[. . . ] It is important to distinguish performance from
|performativity: the former presumes a subject, but the latter
|contests the very notion of the subject.  The place where I try
|to clarify this is toward the beginning of my essay "Critically
|Queer", in Bodies that Matter, I begin with the Foucauldian
|premise that power works in part through discourse and it works
|in part to produce and destabilise subjects.  But then, when one
|starts to think carefully about how discourse might be said to
|produce a subject, it's clear that one's already talking about a
|certain figure or trope of production.  It is at this point that
|it's useful to turn to the notion of performativity, and
|performative speech acts in particular -- understood as those
|speech acts that bring into being that which they name.  This is
|the moment in which discourse becomes productive in a fairly
|specific way.  So what I'm trying to do is think about the
|performativity as that aspect of discourse that has the capacity
|to produce what it names.  Then I take a further step, through
|the Derridean rewriting of Austin, and suggest that this
|production actually always happens through a certain kind of
|repetition and recitation.  So if you want the ontology of this,
|I guess performativity is the vehicle through which ontological
|effects are established.  Performativity is the discursive mode
|by which ontological effects are installed.  Something like 
|[. . .]

[. . .]

Stephe Feldman, androgyne two-spirit <>
Androgyne Online <> webmaster
Chang Cheh movies <> webmaster
MySpace page for Stephe <>

7)  The Fenway Guide to LGBT Health | previous || back to top

From The Fenway Guide to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Health, 
by Harvey J. Makadon, Kenneth H. Mayer, Jennifer Potter, and Hilary 
Goldhammer, eds.:

Page 329:


Page 331:

| Chapter 12
| Introduction to Transgender Identity and Health

Page 333:

[. . .]

|      New models of sex and gender[3] are beginning to be described, 
| moving us away from the familiar two-sex (male and female), 
| two-gender (masculine and feminine) model where sex and gender 
| are dichotomous constructs, toward models that might be described 
| as "polysex" or "polygender."  These models provide a more 
| complete understanding of the diversity and complexity of sex and 
| gender, and permit greater self-expression.  The models further 
| distinguish the differences between sex (the objective 
| categorization of one's biology as male, female, or intersex), 
| sexual orientation (whom one is attracted to), gender identity (a 
| subjective sense of oneself as male, female, or other), gender 
| role (cultural expectations that one follows a set of prescribed 
| behavioral norms based on one's gender), gender presentation (how 
| one looks),[4] gender performance (how one acts),[4] gender 
| assignment (gender that is assigned at birth by a medical 
| provider,[5] usually based on appearance of the external 
| genitalia), and gender attribution (attribution of one person's 
| gender by another, based on cultural interpretation of gender 
| cues).[5]  [. . .]

Page 361:

| [1] Israel GE, Tarver DE. Transgender Care: Recommended 
|     Guidelines, Practical Information & Personal Accounts.  
|     Temple University Press; 1997.
| [2] Laqueur T. Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to 
|     Freud.  Harvard University Press; 1990.
| [3] Beemyn BG.  Trans on campus: measuring and improving the 
|     climate for transgender students.  On Campus with Women 
|     [serial online].  2005;34.  Also available at 
| [4] Feldman S.  Components of Gender.  Available at 
| [5] Bornstein K.  My Gender Workbook.  Routledge; 1998.

[. . .]

The Fenway Guide to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Health. 
     Makadon, Harvey J., Kenneth H. Mayer, Jennifer Potter, and 
     Hilary Goldhammer, eds.  Philadelphia, PA: American College of 
     Physicians, September 28, 2007.  350 pp.  ISBN 10: 1-930513-95-X
     ISBN 13: 978-1-930513-95-2
|| back to top ||

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This page first created 9/18/07. Copyright Stephe Feldman, 2004, 2007, and 2012. Last update: 2/20/12.