Points to Ponder

I recently got this email in an online TG group to which I belong. I had to reply, and that reply follows this.

I've had an unusual, somewhat humorous experience this fall and thought I'd share it with you girls. I will not pretend to be as erudite as our sister Xxxx (she has a great mind and mine is worn out) but here goes none the less. This is about females, women, ladies, and girls.

I am still here in the southern Appalachian mountains. The backyard of my house is really woods and shares a boundary with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is "in the sticks." I grew up here and went to high school with Dolly Parton (she's a year younger than I). So, I'm a southern, mountain girl through and through. Earlier in the fall, some people whose families I've known for years had their annual hog day... this means killing and putting up hams, bacon, sausage, etc., smoking it and curing some in salt. Today I went back to pickup the bacon, hams, and sausage they had prepared for me.

I gotta tell you there were some rough looking mountain women there. One was smoking a cob pipe (ala Granny Clampet) and when others would finish their jobs (whatever they were doing) they would take up a banjo or dulcimer and play for the others. There was a log fire going and a sheet of steel where bacon was frying. [I have to tell you if they don't have bacon in Heaven, I'm not sure I want to go there.] Anyway, it got me to thinking about females, versus women, versus ladies, versus girls. All these females were women... but not the kind of women you usually see at the mall. I think none were ladies (I could be wrong) and all looked as though they'd left "girlhood" a long time ago.

Recently I had the opportunity to discuss our particular "persuasion" with a group of both pre-op and post-op TS folks. When they found out that I am a physician, they wanted to pick my brain about a variety of medical things. I told them I was pretty much by now incompetent... but they insisted. Anyway, during the course of the discussion one person opined as to how she couldn't wait to become a full fledged woman after her surgery in a few weeks. I opined that unless her surgery was going to replace that nasty little "Y" chromosome in some 3 or 4 trillion cells, she wasn't going to become a female... but rather a male (she would also still have a prostate and where I went to med school females still did not come with prostates) with female characteristics. That in turn brought on lots more discussion all very friendly and open.

So after that discussion and the visual sites of today, I am wondering if womanhood and femaleness are the same or if one can exist independently of the other? And what does being a lady have to do with either of these? I remember one day asking my wife if a dress I was going to wear was too tight and she said that "a dress should be tight enough so that people would know that you're a woman and fit loose enough so that they'd know you are a lady." So I wonder, is being a lady something we can all attain and is thus more of a comportment issue than a gender issue? Can we become women through surgery, HRT, etc. or none of these without being genetically female?

Well, you noticed in the beginning I referred to myself as being a "Southern, Mountain Girl"... and I love being that... a feisty girl... and sometimes a woman, sometimes a lady, unfortunately never a female, and all the time loving whatever it is that I am.

Points to ponder girls... er... ladies...

-- Angie    (name changed to protect the innocent)

Here is my response:

If I put in my 2 cents worth, you can all send me the change. So here are my opinions on this subject.

Being a lady (or gentleman) is a matter of behavior towards others. It has absolutely nothing to do with biology.

Being a woman is a matter of behavior in general. It also has absolutely nothing to do with biology.

Being a female is a matter of biology – and, by the way does not mean that one may only have two X chromosomes; there are other uncommon, but not totally rare, variations. It has nothing to do with behavior.

I suspect that all of us in our "persuasion" (as Angie called it) know females who are not ladies. We probably know females who are not women but may have to wrack our brains to figure out who they are. And we also know ladies who are not females.

Rest assured, Angie, being a mountain girl is not mutually exclusive with being a lady.

And, for the rest of us not so fortunate to live in so picturesque an environment, being a lady is also not mutually exclusive with being a bitch occasionally. That's a fact that I take great comfort in.


I'd like to expound upon this a little more: (Hmm. Are "expound" and "little more" redundant?)

"Lady" is an honorary title bestowed upon someone to recognize the way she acts towards, and treats, others. In general, it requires one to be a woman first (see above). The same distinction also goes for "gentleman." I know gentlemen who are females and ladies who are male. The funny thing is that I don't know that many ladies who are female, nor gentlemen who are male.

"Woman" is a title, or label, you appropriate for yourself. It does not mean the way you dress. It is the way you act because of the way you see yourself. Most of us know a gay man who acts in a feminine manner; because he still sees himself as a male, he does not use the term "woman" to describe himself (we'll ignore "girl" for the moment). We may also know males who crossdress, yet you know they are not women because their self-image is obvious.

Unfortunately, "girl" is a term used in a variety of ways, some of them derogatory, some gender-indistinct. I could probably write an entire article on those uses.