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"Male" Bits? Actually, Yes!


I recently came across a comment thread between two non-binary individuals. One of them referred to their lower genitals as "male bits" so as to avoid using terms that could be deemed vulgar. The other retorted that the word "male" was, and I quote, "offensive."

Excuse me, what?

This confusion was also held by the one who called them "male bits" and didn't see it as a problem. But we wouldn't be here if they were the prevailing opinion with the democracy known as "likes," would we? Or if it was only about the offensiveness of such a common word — after all, this was doubled down by claiming that the use of the word "male" was contributing to non-binary erasure.

Now THAT'S offensive.

First, a little dive into what the difference between cisgendered, non-binary, and transgender is. The author of this article is bisexual, non-binary, bigendered, and AMAB transgender Cisgendered means someone whose gender matches what was assigned at birth. Most of the population falls into this category. Non-binary is a gender identity that is neither wholly male nor wholly female. And transgender, well, I have a whole article on what transgender means. Transgender individuals usually describe themselves as MTF (or Male To Female) or FTM (or Female To Male), though transfemme and transmasc (short for feminine and masculine respectively) are seeing increased use, particularly with individuals who are both transgender and non-binary. This is the first problem with removing "male" and "female" from your vocabulary -- doing so inherently erases a critical part of binary transgender identity.

Simply put, without the ability to define binaries in a tangible way, we've erased the hard lines in the sand that so many transgender individuals rely on for a sense of identity. Perhaps more importantly, we've erased cisgender identity entirely. Effectively, finding "male" as globally offensive is actively erasing cisgendered and transgender individuals. It stands to reason, then, that we are specifically talking about whether or not "male" and "female" are offensive solely in regards to the gender identification of human anatomy. To this end, I am intentionally excluding conversation about intersex individuals and the offensiveness (or lack thereof) describing related anatomy — to include such would be disingenuous given the original comment thread focused solely on two non-intersex individuals who identified as non-binary.

Perhaps a somewhat obvious question to any transgender individual, then, is: if binary genitals are neither male nor female, what are they? After all, we use terms like "male to female" or "female to male" for a reason: we are changing our bodies to go from male to female, and this is done both with hormones and with corrective surgeries. We do not use those terms to suggest that we are changing our identities, merely the parts that we have. Binary transgender individuals use "trans woman" or "trans man" to state their gender identities. Is the removal of "male" and "female" descriptors from genitalia productive? Or does it — as seems plainly obvious — remove credence of the source of both gender dysphoria and gender euphoria? Regardless of your answer, it would be unwise to forget the bedrock of any "transgender 101" lesson plan: sex vs. gender.

Simply put, sex is biology, and is typically defined as "male" and "female" based on sex characteristics, though an intersection of these is called "intersex". These include things like genitals, facial hair (or lack thereof), and chromosomes, among others. Gender on the other hand is entirely irrelevant to sex. It is here that the answer lies. Calling genitals "male" or "female" isn't a conversation relevant to non-binary gender identity, it's a conversation about sex characteristics. So no, calling a penis a "male bit" isn't offensive — it's factually accurate.