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How does someone know they're really a different gender than how they were born?

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Sincerely wondering about something. Maybe I shouldn't even ask, but it's a constant question in the back of my mind when I'm reading threads about transgenderism. Here it is. How can someone born male know what it even really means to be female and vice versa? How do they know that the thoughts and feelings they're having is just the exact same as a bio male/female? Is it just about the clothes, make up (or lack of it), and maybe not liking what your body has to offer as much as you like the "opposite sex"? I keep hearing that "gender" is much more complex than that. So how do we know with certainty that someone really is "a woman trapped in a man's body" or a "man trapped in a woman's body." How can trans people themselves be so sure?
 

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Sincerely wondering about something. Maybe I shouldn't even ask, but it's a constant question in the back of my mind when I'm reading threads about transgenderism. Here it is. How can someone born male know what it even really means to be female and vice versa? How do they know that the thoughts and feelings they're having is just the exact same as a bio male/female? Is it just about the clothes, make up (or lack of it), and maybe not liking what your body has to offer as much as you like the "opposite sex"? I keep hearing that "gender" is much more complex than that. So how do we know with certainty that someone really is "a woman trapped in a man's body" or a "man trapped in a woman's body." How can trans people themselves be so sure?

It's sorta like the Hindus and Indians. The towelheads with the wound towel are pull start and the ones with the dot on the forehead are push button start. Same with gender, eh?
 

ttwtt78640

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Sincerely wondering about something. Maybe I shouldn't even ask, but it's a constant question in the back of my mind when I'm reading threads about transgenderism. Here it is. How can someone born male know what it even really means to be female and vice versa? How do they know that the thoughts and feelings they're having is just the exact same as a bio male/female? Is it just about the clothes, make up (or lack of it), and maybe not liking what your body has to offer as much as you like the "opposite sex"? I keep hearing that "gender" is much more complex than that. So how do we know with certainty that someone really is "a woman trapped in a man's body" or a "man trapped in a woman's body." How can trans people themselves be so sure?

The brain gets to call the shots, the body has no ability to claim that it was born with the wrong brain.
 

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Because they FEEEEEEEEL like they are.

 

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Sincerely wondering about something. Maybe I shouldn't even ask, but it's a constant question in the back of my mind when I'm reading threads about transgenderism. Here it is. How can someone born male know what it even really means to be female and vice versa? How do they know that the thoughts and feelings they're having is just the exact same as a bio male/female? Is it just about the clothes, make up (or lack of it), and maybe not liking what your body has to offer as much as you like the "opposite sex"? I keep hearing that "gender" is much more complex than that. So how do we know with certainty that someone really is "a woman trapped in a man's body" or a "man trapped in a woman's body." How can trans people themselves be so sure?

I'm trying real hard to understand it too. My boy's really good HS friend is transitioning now, taking hormones and everything. I've known this kid (now 23) since he was in grade school and never in a million years saw this coming. Haven't seen him in probably 3 years as he went out of state to college and saw a picture of her last week on facebook. I wish her all the best but am really trying to wrap my head around this. Even got the designation on her driver's licence to female.
 

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I'm trying real hard to understand it too. My boy's really good HS friend is transitioning now, taking hormones and everything. I've known this kid (now 23) since he was in grade school and never in a million years saw this coming. Haven't seen him in probably 3 years as he went out of state to college and saw a picture of her last week on facebook. I wish her all the best but am really trying to wrap my head around this. Even got the designation on her driver's licence to female.

That's a really sensible post and probably describes many of our feelings on this matter. If you know them, you try to understand. In your case, you said you never saw it coming and that is an awesome remark because some peculiar gender behavior would seem to have manifested before the child got out of his/her teens. What did your son say about his friend's behavior and had he suspected anything?
 

Winchester

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That's a really sensible post and probably describes many of our feelings on this matter. If you know them, you try to understand. In your case, you said you never saw it coming and that is an awesome remark because some peculiar gender behavior would seem to have manifested before the child got out of his/her teens. What did your son say about his friend's behavior and had he suspected anything?

He did not suspect anything either, again my son only saw him once or twice during their college years early on as they lived in different states. That being said my son and another friend met up with their old friend a month or so ago and caught up on old times. They've totally accepted their friends decision and are still friends. They did know a year ago that she was transitioning...

This kid was over at our house all the time and ate dinner with us at least once a week during his senior year in HS (his parents went through a bad breakup and he was living alone (mom got a new boyfriend and left him the apt) and was caregiver for his younger brother a lot). But yeah no indication, he was a complete math/science geek, played video games at all hours at our house with my boys and other friends, had a girlfriend, etc. Anyway I care for this individual, and she's always welcome to stay with my wife and I when in town... but I'm struggling to understand.
 

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Sincerely wondering about something. Maybe I shouldn't even ask, but it's a constant question in the back of my mind when I'm reading threads about transgenderism. Here it is. How can someone born male know what it even really means to be female and vice versa? How do they know that the thoughts and feelings they're having is just the exact same as a bio male/female? Is it just about the clothes, make up (or lack of it), and maybe not liking what your body has to offer as much as you like the "opposite sex"? I keep hearing that "gender" is much more complex than that. So how do we know with certainty that someone really is "a woman trapped in a man's body" or a "man trapped in a woman's body." How can trans people themselves be so sure?

I would imagine it is the same for people who are gay vs straight. I just don't feel any attraction for women - and I'd imagine a gay man feels the same way - no attraction to women. A bisexual would feel a certain way towards either gender. So my understanding of transgender people, they just feel the way that our society portrays a certain sex. Maybe more feminine if they identify as a female and more masculine if they identify as a male. The person who says your brain gets to decide is spot on.
 

SmokeAndMirrors

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Sincerely wondering about something. Maybe I shouldn't even ask, but it's a constant question in the back of my mind when I'm reading threads about transgenderism. Here it is. How can someone born male know what it even really means to be female and vice versa? How do they know that the thoughts and feelings they're having is just the exact same as a bio male/female? Is it just about the clothes, make up (or lack of it), and maybe not liking what your body has to offer as much as you like the "opposite sex"? I keep hearing that "gender" is much more complex than that. So how do we know with certainty that someone really is "a woman trapped in a man's body" or a "man trapped in a woman's body." How can trans people themselves be so sure?

Well, let's tease apart a couple things here.

Gender expression versus being transgender.

Yes, these are different. We all have gender expressions -- clothes, makeup, etc. The majority of us express somewhere in the half of spectrum that aligns with our sex. Some of us -- even people who aren't necessarily non-binary or trans -- express somewhere in the gray area. Some people express opposite their sex.

This expression is about our relationship to society, and where we fit within it. That's why tomboys are still girls, and effeminate men are still men. They're saying something about how their mind interacts with the world around them. That's important -- we are social creatures, and our relation to each other is individual and deserves respect.

However, being trans is a whole different ball game.

What is it like? I don't know. I'm not trans.

But their neurology, including things like distribution of gray matter and neurological processing of hormones, function more like the opposite sex. The sexual dimorphism of various parts of our bodies develop at different times in gestation; genital differentiation, neurological differentiation, and chromosomal differentiation all happen separately.

Because of this, there are cases where one of these factors just goes down on a different path. Why is complex: it's a combination of genes, the mother's hormones, and the hard wiring in the brain that is caused by those things.

Most trans people have phantom body sensations, mimicking the body parts their brain thinks they're supposed to have. Trans people tend to have neural hormone receptors that function like the opposite sex, so that for example the brain of an MTF is under-responding to the androgens their body makes, because that's not what their brain is built to be processing. Many young trans children believe they will go through the puberty of the opposite sex -- their neurology is telling them they will. And when it doesn't, they often quickly destabilize.

None of these are likely to be true of people who are simply non-normative.

It isn't about the clothes or make-up at all. Some people who are trans are also non-conforming to their gender. You can be a trans woman tomboy. Their tomboyishness is a statement of who they are socially. Their transsexuality is a statement of how their brain functions.

How can they be sure? Well, look. I've spent a lot of time in my life learning about and working on all sort of gender issues, and because of what I spend my time doing, I've mused on that a little. What's it mean to be a woman? I mean, I'm not a normative woman, and I wasn't a normative young girl either. And yet, when I look down, everything seems fine. I haven't been "confused," by the fact that I spend a lot of time on this subject. It hasn't changed my concrete perception of myself.

How do you know you're straight? You just do.

People who are somewhere around the center of the gender expression spectrum aren't an uncommon occurrence, even in social circles that aren't very accepting of gender variance. We all knew a "tomboy" in school. Some of them stayed that way. No one cares.

A rare few of those kids become distressed as they entered puberty, and wound up with GDD because their brain is trans. Some of them get help right away; some spend decades trying to hide or deny it because they maybe didn't grow up knowing about it so they don't know what's wrong with them, or they live in a community that isn't accepting. It doesn't change who they are. They stay trans, despite the denial, or even despite not knowing there's a name for it.

Whatever trans people are feeling is definitely not what I feel. I don't know what it would feel like to have a brain that refuses to process estrogen like a woman. I don't know what it would feel like to have a phantom penis. But I just know I'm a woman, and I've never felt those things, despite being the perfect candidate for "confusion," if this was actually a learned behavior. I mean, I've known LGBT people since I was a kid, and was non-normative even earlier.

It isn't really about what trans people think, so much as it is about what their brain tells them is there.
 
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Korimyr the Rat

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I imagine it's similar to the way I know I'm a man. I feel it in my bones. The thought of being anything but a man is disconcerting to me. If I woke up tomorrow in a female body, I would know something had gone terribly wrong, and my top priority would be getting my proper male body back.
 

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Well, let's tease apart a couple things here.
This expression is about our relationship to society, and where we fit within it.

Here's what I've been wondering.

Imagine we lived in a society that didn't have such strict delineations on gender. Let's say that instead of having just two words "male" and "female", we had a variety of words to describe gender types. Manly men, men who are feminine, men who are feminine and like dressing as women, etc... Suppose we had a more fluid understanding of gender as a society. Do you suppose that in such a society, there would still be trans people?

What I mean is that I wonder if transexuality is a response to a failure of society to properly account for the natural variety in gender. In other words, if a young boy who is very feminine, identifies with other girls (and other trans boys), likes girly things, and feels very in tune with his feminine side had access to a socially acceptable term for boys who feel that way, would he still develop a desire to physically change his gender? or is his desire to physically change his gender the result of his brain realizing that his experience doesn't match the experience of other boys but rather matches the experience of girls and thus he should be a girl.
.
Obviously, I don't expect you can answer that question with certainty. But I wonder what your thoughts on it are since you seem to be knowledgeable on this issue.
 

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The brain gets to call the shots, the body has no ability to claim that it was born with the wrong brain.

I don't disagree with you. At the very least I understand enough to know that I'm not in any position to dictate what someone else who sees themselves in a way that I can't identify with myself what they should or should not do. My question has more to do with how can someone know that they really feel like a woman or a man when they've never been one in a biological sense.
 

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Here's what I've been wondering.

Imagine we lived in a society that didn't have such strict delineations on gender. Let's say that instead of having just two words "male" and "female", we had a variety of words to describe gender types. Manly men, men who are feminine, men who are feminine and like dressing as women, etc... Suppose we had a more fluid understanding of gender as a society. Do you suppose that in such a society, there would still be trans people?

What I mean is that I wonder if transexuality is a response to a failure of society to properly account for the natural variety in gender. In other words, if a young boy who is very feminine, identifies with other girls (and other trans boys), likes girly things, and feels very in tune with his feminine side had access to a socially acceptable term for boys who feel that way, would he still develop a desire to physically change his gender? or is his desire to physically change his gender the result of his brain realizing that his experience doesn't match the experience of other boys but rather matches the experience of girls and thus he should be a girl.
.
Obviously, I don't expect you can answer that question with certainty. But I wonder what your thoughts on it are since you seem to be knowledgeable on this issue.

Yes, because some societies do, in fact, already have that as part of their long-standing culture. They still have trans people. Some of these cultures, however, don't have access to things like our extremely complex trans surgeries.

You're half-right. They do seem to have a better success rate with keeping these people alive without treatment. Not as good as ours with SRS/HRT, but much better than we ever had before those treatments. Support of the community can make up for a lot, even though it seems that some of these people do continue to have some level of distress.

Is that a total replacement for HRT/SRS? Evidence points to no, in my opinion. As I said, GDD/transsexuality is pretty deeply embedded in brain structure. If there is anything non-innate that might influence the existence of transsexuality, I think it's more likely to be environment than society (since natal hormones do play a role). But might it help them just be more mentally well throughout their lives? Certainly. Having both seems like the best solution.

There might even be cases where trans people go further than they wish to in order to "pass" in our society. Not all trans people want or need all of the treatments. Many stop at HRT, because for some, it solves the distress all by itself. They don't feel they need any more than that. But they do get pressure, because they still don't "pass" with just HRT, and believe it or not, some factions of the trans community denigrate people who don't get SRS.

Things like that would reduce in such a society. I still think we'd have people who require SRS to fully solve their GDD, but might we have less if they didn't feel a need to be able to "pass" in public to avoid harassment? Maybe.

Would mental health outcomes be better for non-binary people who AREN'T trans? Oh, hell yes. Pretty much ALL of their problems stem from social stigma. Without that, they'd have just as good of an outlook at anyone else.
 
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Yes, because some societies do, in fact, already have that as part of their long-standing culture. They still have trans people.
Could you list them and provide the evidence?

Thanks.

Not as good as ours with SRS/HRT,

Standard practice when using acronyms and other abbreviations is to write out the entire long form the first time, add the acronym in parenthesis and then use the acronym from there on out. For example:
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and then just using FBI from there on out. As it is currently written, your post is impossible to decipher without advanced knowledge of this topic (which I stated up front I do not have). Could you explain, SRS, HRT, GDD, and whatever other technical terms you used?
 

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Yes, because some societies do, in fact, already have that as part of their long-standing culture. They still have trans people.[/QUOTE[
Could you list them and provide the evidence?

Thanks.

Standard practice when using acronyms and other abbreviations is to write out the entire long form the first time, add the acronym in parenthesis and then use the acronym from there on out. For example:
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and then just using FBI from there on out. As it is currently written, your post is impossible to decipher without advanced knowledge of this topic (which I stated up front I do not have). Could you explain, SRS, HRT, GDD, and whatever other technical terms you used?

Heh, sorry about that.

SRS: sexual reassignment surgery. Typically implies genital surgery, though you could lump masectomies in there too.

HRT: hormone replacement therapy.

GDD: gender dysphoric disorder. This is the name given to the conflict of sex between the body and the brain, which produces a variety of mental and neurological disturbances. This is the difference between a person who is simply non-binary (who don't have GDD) and a person who is trans.
 

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Heh, sorry about that.

SRS: sexual reassignment surgery. Typically implies genital surgery, though you could lump masectomies in there too.

HRT: hormone replacement therapy.

GDD: gender dysphoric disorder. This is the name given to the conflict of sex between the body and the brain, which produces a variety of mental and neurological disturbances. This is the difference between a person who is simply non-binary (who don't have GDD) and a person who is trans.

Thanks, what about an answer to the first question?
 

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Thanks, what about an answer to the first question?

Here's a big ole' list.

Gender-variant identities worldwide - Nonbinary.org

What's interesting about this, and suggests to me that community support, while extremely helpful, does not completely solve GDD, is that in a couple of these cultures male-to-female trans people chose to be eunuchs. In medical terms, that's basically the most primitive form of SRS.

Why that is might be explained by the fact that HRT is usually the most effective stand-alone treatment for trans people. And, well, removing your gonads does indeed stop most of your production of male hormones, and lessen the male appearance in some ways.
 

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Sincerely wondering about something. Maybe I shouldn't even ask, but it's a constant question in the back of my mind when I'm reading threads about transgenderism. Here it is. How can someone born male know what it even really means to be female and vice versa? How do they know that the thoughts and feelings they're having is just the exact same as a bio male/female? Is it just about the clothes, make up (or lack of it), and maybe not liking what your body has to offer as much as you like the "opposite sex"? I keep hearing that "gender" is much more complex than that. So how do we know with certainty that someone really is "a woman trapped in a man's body" or a "man trapped in a woman's body." How can trans people themselves be so sure?
Your gender is how you feel. Masculine or feminine. It has nothing to do with your sex organs. Apparently it can change.

How does a bisexual person feel?
 

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Here's a big ole' list.

Gender-variant identities worldwide - Nonbinary.org

What's interesting about this, and suggests to me that community support, while extremely helpful, does not completely solve GDD, is that in a couple of these cultures male-to-female trans people chose to be eunuchs. In medical terms, that's basically the most primitive form of SRS.

Why that is might be explained by the fact that HRT is usually the most effective stand-alone treatment for trans people. And, well, removing your gonads does indeed stop most of your production of male hormones, and lessen the male appearance in some ways.

That link doesn't support your claim. Let's go over it again:

crabcake said:
Imagine we lived in a society that didn't have such strict delineations on gender. Let's say that instead of having just two words "male" and "female", we had a variety of words to describe gender types.
SmokeandMirrors said:
Yes, because some societies do, in fact, already have that as part of their long-standing culture. They still have trans people.

Yet that's not what your link shows. Your link talks about societies with a "third gender", not societies without strict delineations on gender. Furthermore, the link doesn't mention the prevalence of transexuals in those societies at all.

This doesn't support your claim.
 

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That link doesn't support your claim. Let's go over it again:

Yet that's not what your link shows. Your link talks about societies with a "third gender", not societies without strict delineations on gender. Furthermore, the link doesn't mention the prevalence of transexuals in those societies at all.

This doesn't support your claim.

There's a number of cultures in there who have trans categories as well, and more than 3 genders -- up to five.

There's no such thing as a society without gender categories, that's true. But, as humans, we like to group things. There's nothing wrong with that, inherently. In reality, most things about humans are just shades of gray, and that might be annoying for the person halfway between blonde and brunette who can't figure out what strength of hair dye to use, but we have to be able to describe things broadly to have conversations.

I think what's more important is that labels are not strictly insisted on, and not taken as a complete summary of the person. They're just expedient things we use to help conversation.

As to prevalence, well, they're prevalent enough in these cultures that they've got their own names. And, some of these cultures are not as technological as we are. They don't keep a census, or have an inpatient that trans people go to.

Also, you didn't ask. And I'm not going to look up stats for 20 different cultures (especially since some of those stats might simply not exist). What's important is that they're recognized, largely accepted, and generally that does help with their mental health prognosis, even if it doesn't seem to completely eliminate GDD.
 

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There's a number of cultures in there who have trans categories as well, and more than 3 genders -- up to five.

There's no such thing as a society without gender categories, that's true. But, as humans, we like to group things. There's nothing wrong with that, inherently. In reality, most things about humans are just shades of gray, and that might be annoying for the person halfway between blonde and brunette who can't figure out what strength of hair dye to use, but we have to be able to describe things broadly to have conversations.

I think what's more important is that labels are not strictly insisted on, and not taken as a complete summary of the person. They're just expedient things we use to help conversation.

As to prevalence, well, they're prevalent enough in these cultures that they've got their own names. And, some of these cultures are not as technological as we are. They don't keep a census, or have an inpatient that trans people go to.

Also, you didn't ask. And I'm not going to look up stats for 20 different cultures (especially since some of those stats might simply not exist). What's important is that they're recognized, largely accepted, and generally that does help with their mental health prognosis, even if it doesn't seem to completely eliminate GDD.

So, you don't actually have evidence that any cultures exist which have genuinely fluid understandings of gender. Nor do you have evidence that the number of options available doesn't influence the number of transexuals.
 

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So, you don't actually have evidence that any cultures exist which have genuinely fluid understandings of gender. Nor do you have evidence that the number of options available doesn't influence the number of transexuals.

Number? No. But of course, I didn't claim anything other than that I was fairly sure trans people would most likely continue to exist. I wagered a tenative couple guesses on how things might shift around, but I certainly don't know.

My link includes many examples of societies with socially accepted trans people alongside other non-binary identities, and even a couple that seem to have been performing primitive sex reassignment. So, there's the evidence of the only thing approaching a claim that I made.

Societies with no gender categorization at all? No, of course that doesn't exist. If it doesn't doesn't exist for something as simple as hair, why would it for something as complex as gender?

Your original question to me used gender categorization too, did it not?

Categorization is not the enemy. It helps us have conversations. How will non-binary people express what they are so that people can acknowledge it without any language that addresses gender?

Using categories to limit who people are allowed to be, is what's the enemy.
 

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Categorization is not the enemy. Using categories to limit who people are allowed to be, is the enemy.

That's the very essence of what I was addressing.

The question was, is transexuality a response to bad categorization? If we lived in a society that didn't force things into such categories, would transexuals exist? or would people who today are considered transexual not feel attracted to making physical changes to their body because they feel they fit a certain category which does not require them to have a vagina (or a penis as the case may be)?

You claimed to have evidence such societies exist and there are still transexuals there. But then you weren't able to provide evidence for such societies nor show that there as many transexuals there as there are in societies with gender binary categories.
 

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That's the very essence of what I was addressing.

The question was, is transexuality a response to bad categorization? If we lived in a society that didn't force things into such categories, would transexuals exist? or would people who today are considered transexual not feel attracted to making physical changes to their body because they feel they fit a certain category which does not require them to have a vagina (or a penis as the case may be)?

You claimed to have evidence such societies exist and there are still transexuals there. But then you weren't able to provide evidence for such societies nor show that there as many transexuals there as there are in societies with gender binary categories.

Well, I assumed you were asking for societies with more flexible and numerous identities that are accepted. Turns out what you're actually asking for is both impossible and most likely would actually be rather harmful.

Non-binary people have no way of asking their community to respect their identity, if they have no language -- or, categories -- to describe their identity. "Good" categorization is just something that gives us descriptors we can use for general conversation.

Societies with more socially accepted, flexible, and numerous identities, do still have trans people. How many comparatively, I don't know. But they're only 0.6% of Americans, so we're not talking about a huge chunk of people either way.
 

CrabCake

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Well, I assumed you were asking for societies with more flexible and numerous identities that are accepted. Turns out what you're actually asking for is both impossible and most likely would actually be rather harmful.

Non-binary people have no way of asking their community to respect their identity, if they have no language -- or, categories -- to describe their identity. "Good" categorization is just something that gives us descriptors we can use for general conversation.

Societies with more socially accepted, flexible, and numerous identities, do still have trans people. How many comparatively, I don't know. But they're only 0.6% of Americans, so we're not talking about a huge chunk of people either way.

So far you've given no numbers at all, prior to this unsourced 0.6% number.

Let's see the numbers. For our binary society and for other non-binary societies. Let's also see sources, not just pulling numbers out of thin air.
 
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