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Old 10th January 2019, 07:02 PM   #1
Robin
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What does "gender" mean?

Recently I have been trying to find out what "gender" means as used in the context of "gender dysphoria", "gender identity", "gender studies" etc.

One would think that, given there is a large section of academia devoted to the subject that there would be a fairly firm definition, but I can't find it.

I am not trying to prosecute any kind of anti-transgender conversation, I have had a few friends who were transgender and I have always accepted a trans-woman as a woman and a trans-man as a man, even though I have no idea what that even means.

But when questions come up as what gender *I* identify as, then I can't answer it as I have literally no idea as to what the word refers to.

I do not "feel" like a man or a woman because I have no idea what a man or a woman is supposed to feel like.

And I am not, as some people have suggested, agender, because in order to be agender I would have to have at least some idea what "gender" is supposed to be. It would be like saying someone is "A-shrdlu" - you would at least have to know what "shrdlu" is to know t hat you are not "shrdlu".

And, yes, I have googled it, quite comprehensively, but everyone seems to squib on what "gender" is actually supposed to be.

Anyone have any ideas?
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Old 10th January 2019, 07:27 PM   #2
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In the context of this messageboard, it means a very long argument.
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Old 10th January 2019, 07:44 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by TragicMonkey View Post
In the context of this messageboard, it means a very long and pointless argument.
FTFY
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Old 10th January 2019, 07:48 PM   #4
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If you woke up in a body that seemed like yours, but had all the characteristics of the opposite sex, would you be fine with that, or would you be uncomfortable and confused? That's an extremely simple, basic way of explaining the difference.

The big difference is that for most transgender people, they realize it in childhood, or later when they first learn about the concept. Meanwhile, they just feel wrong and alien in their bodies, especially when puberty arrives with all the bodily changes and hormonal baggage.

Going back to the original question I asked, if the thought of waking up the opposite sex is uncomfortable or frightening, you can be pretty sure you're cisgender: your mental image of yourself agrees with your physical image.

If the thought makes you feel happy and relieved, you may be transgender, your image of yourself disagrees with your physical image.

If it wouldn't really matter to you which sex you presented as, you're somewhere in the infinite spectrum of genderqueer, and if the thought of having sexual characteristics of any kind bothers you, you may be agender or asexual.

It's a roundabout way of defining the terms, but it's the simplest way I can think of to explain it quickly.

PS: If the thought of waking up the opposite sex turns you on sexually, that's a whole different axis, ranging from transvestitism to horny heterosexual (and presumably cisgender) male.
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Old 10th January 2019, 07:58 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by deadrose View Post
If you woke up in a body that seemed like yours, but had all the characteristics of the opposite sex, would you be fine with that, or would you be uncomfortable and confused?
Anyone would be confused if their body had changed over night, I would be saying "how on earth did my body change overnight?"

It would be the same as if I have woken up and found my eyes had turned from blue to brown, or that my earlobes had become detached.
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Old 10th January 2019, 08:00 PM   #6
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And none of that answers the question - what does "gender" mean?
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Old 10th January 2019, 08:05 PM   #7
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never mind
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Cracking eggs and shooting children in the head is the exact same thing.

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Old 10th January 2019, 08:08 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
But when questions come up as what gender *I* identify as, then I can't answer it as I have literally no idea as to what the word refers to.

I do not "feel" like a man or a woman because I have no idea what a man or a woman is supposed to feel like.
Are you a man, or a woman?
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Old 10th January 2019, 08:12 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
And none of that answers the question - what does "gender" mean?
It means go and do a search and read the umpteen dozen threads on this topic, read all the papers quoted and if you still have issues, understand that any thread on this will devolve into a those that are stuck in the "gender is a binary system" and denying that gender is able to be anything else vs those that as for the more progressive and psychology based "gender is a spectrum", who end up just get frustrated by the first group.
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Old 10th January 2019, 08:13 PM   #10
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I don't see it as pointless.

Either someone can say "Gender means ..." and provide a definition. That way I will know what I wanted to know.

Otherwise no-one will be able to provide that definition and then I will know that no-one here is any more the wiser than me about what it means.
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Old 10th January 2019, 08:14 PM   #11
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What does "gender" mean?

Gender (Oxford Dictionary). Question answered, problem solved!
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Old 10th January 2019, 08:17 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by PhantomWolf View Post
It means go and do a search and read the umpteen dozen threads on this topic, read all the papers quoted and if you still have issues, understand that any thread on this will devolve into a those that are stuck in the "gender is a binary system" and denying that gender is able to be anything else vs those that as for the more progressive and psychology based "gender is a spectrum", who end up just get frustrated by the first group.
I have done a lot of searches and asked a lot of people and I am still none the wiser. None of them begin with a definition of "gender", they all start assuming that you already know what it means.

Note that before I can get involved in any discussion about whether "gender" is binary or a spectrum, I have to know what gender is in the first place.

Otherwise I am trying to parse arguments about whether mobluxu and frpamy are binary or if there is a spectrum from mobluxu to frpamy.
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Old 10th January 2019, 08:20 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by dann View Post
Gender (Oxford Dictionary). Question answered, problem solved!
Sure. Whenever people use a word they always mean by it what the first dictionary definition you come across says.
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Old 10th January 2019, 08:22 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
Are you a man, or a woman?
That seems to depend.

If having a vagina does not necessarily make you a woman and having a penis does not necessarily make you a man then I have literally no way of answering that question.

I would first have to know how you are defining "man" and "woman".
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Old 10th January 2019, 08:26 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
That seems to depend.

If having a vagina does not necessarily make you a woman and having a penis does not necessarily make you a man then I have literally no way of answering that question.

I would first have to know how you are defining "man" and "woman".
You're overthinking this. It's just as simple a question as it appears. Are you a man, or are you a woman?
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Old 10th January 2019, 08:29 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
Sure. Whenever people use a word they always mean by it what the first dictionary definition you come across says.
Kind of expanding in the dictionary (more putting the first meaning all together) I'd suggest that the term itself means something like this...

A set of behaviours and norms that when considered with reference to psychological, social, and cultural differences, tend to place a person on a spectrum between the ideal Male and ideal Female, regardless of their biology.

Probably doesn't help you a lot though.
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Old 10th January 2019, 08:30 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
You're overthinking this. It's just as simple a question as it appears. Are you a man, or are you a woman?
I can't see how I am overthinking it.

Again, I have been told that having a vagina does not necessarily make someone a woman and having a penis does not necessarily make someone a man.

So I cannot use that criterion, right?

So what criterion do you suggest I use?
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Old 10th January 2019, 08:30 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
You're overthinking this. It's just as simple a question as it appears. Are you a man, or are you a woman?
You're assuming that it's a simple question. What happens if the person you're speaking to is intersexed?
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Old 10th January 2019, 08:32 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
I can't see how I am overthinking it.

Again, I have been told that having a vagina does not necessarily make someone a woman and having a penis does not necessarily make someone a man.

So I cannot use that criterion, right?

So what criterion do you suggest I use?
I don't suggest you use any criterion. I want you to tell me whether you're a man or a woman.

If you would prefer not to answer that's perfectly fine. Just say so and I'll stop asking. But it really is a very very simple question. I, for example, am a man. I know this. I have been a man all my life. What about you?
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Old 10th January 2019, 08:33 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by PhantomWolf View Post
You're assuming that it's a simple question. What happens if the person you're speaking to is intersexed?
"Neither" is a perfectly valid answer to the question, as is "both". As is "sometimes one, sometimes the other".
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Old 10th January 2019, 08:35 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by PhantomWolf View Post
Kind of expanding in the dictionary (more putting the first meaning all together) I'd suggest that the term itself means something like this...

A set of behaviours and norms that when considered with reference to psychological, social, and cultural differences, tend to place a person on a spectrum between the ideal Male and ideal Female, regardless of their biology.

Probably doesn't help you a lot though.
No, because it gives no idea of what those psychological, social or cultural differences are supposed to be.

Well put it this way. How would I answer arthwollipot's question, if I cannot use the criterion of having male/female biological characteristics.

I am not looking for a detailed answer, just a general one - to give me an idea of the ballpark.
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Old 10th January 2019, 08:36 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
"Neither" is a perfectly valid answer to the question, as is "both". As is "sometimes one, sometimes the other".
Exactly, and at this point the answer is no longer simple...
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Old 10th January 2019, 08:36 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
I have been a man all my life.
My congratulations --and sympathies-- to your mother, for an incredible birthing process! I myself am a man now, but I started out as a boy. Quite a small one, really. Also cute!
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Old 10th January 2019, 08:37 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
"Neither" is a perfectly valid answer to the question, as is "both". As is "sometimes one, sometimes the other".
It may well be a valid answer, but I cannot determine that either until I find out what the criterion is supposed to be.

I may well a woman or a man or neither, but how would I know if I don't know how the terms are being defined.

Just give me a little hint about the criterion I could use. Or an example.
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Old 10th January 2019, 08:38 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
If you would prefer not to answer that's perfectly fine. Just say so and I'll stop asking.
I would prefer to answer, otherwise I wouldn't have started the thread.

Just give me a hint about how you are defining those terms.
Quote:
But it really is a very very simple question. I, for example, am a man. I know this. I have been a man all my life. What about you?
On what basis did you decide that you are a man?
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Old 10th January 2019, 08:39 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
No, because it gives no idea of what those psychological, social or cultural differences are supposed to be.

Well put it this way. How would I answer arthwollipot's question, if I cannot use the criterion of having male/female biological characteristics.

I am not looking for a detailed answer, just a general one - to give me an idea of the ballpark.
Well your issue there is that you are doing exactly what both my own and the dictionary definitions said not too, you are trying to apply biological references to something that explicitly removes biological references.

If your issue is in not understanding the psychological, social or cultural differences, then the onus would be on learning how genders differ based on psychological, social or cultural norms.
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Old 10th January 2019, 08:43 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
Well put it this way. How would I answer arthwollipot's question, if I cannot use the criterion of having male/female biological characteristics.
Okay, I can see this line of discussion is failing to work.

What I've been trying to get at is that you know whether you are a man or a woman. If all your life you have felt like you are a woman, then you are a woman, and that is what being a woman is supposed to feel like. If you feel like you are a woman, then there's no need to overcomplicate the question. If you say you're a woman, then you're a woman. This is true regardless of whether you have a penis or a vagina.

If, on the other hand, you are genuinely conflicted about whether you feel like you are a man or a woman, then you may be one of a minority of gender nonbinary or genderfluid people, and then you can start getting complicated.

But a majority of people do not fit into these categories, and for us the question is simple. I am a man. I am not a woman. I do not feel like a woman. I have never felt like I am a woman.

Try this. Say "I am a woman". If that feels right, then you are probably a woman. Say "I am a man". If that feels wrong, then you are probably a woman. The complement works as well. If you get an ambiguous reaction to these statements, then you may not be clearly one or the other.

So here's a different question. How do you feel when you say to the mirror, "I am a woman."?
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Old 10th January 2019, 08:44 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by PhantomWolf View Post
Well your issue there is that you are doing exactly what both my own and the dictionary definitions said not too, you are trying to apply biological references to something that explicitly removes biological references.
No, I am very explicitly not doing that.

I am asking over and over again about the non-biological criteria for gender and no-one is even able to give me the slightest hint of what these are supposed to be.

Is it a big secret or something?
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Old 10th January 2019, 08:45 PM   #29
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Try this. Make yourself a list of non-biological traits that you would associate more with girls and women (i.e feminine traits), and then a list of traits that you would associate more with boys and men (i.e. masculine).

That will give you a very rough template of psychological, social, and cultural norms.

If you want to get an idea where you fall, score yourself on those traits and see where you fall on the spectrum.
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Old 10th January 2019, 08:48 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
I would prefer to answer, otherwise I wouldn't have started the thread.

Just give me a hint about how you are defining those terms.

On what basis did you decide that you are a man?
I've always known. There has never been any question. It wasn't a decision I had to make.
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Old 10th January 2019, 08:48 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
Try this. Say "I am a woman". If that feels right, then you are probably a woman. Say "I am a man". If that feels wrong, then you are probably a woman. The complement works as well. If you get an ambiguous reaction to these statements, then you may not be clearly one or the other.
It doesn't feel right or wrong. It feels like "What does the question even mean?".

If you stand in front of the mirror and ask say "I am a morbloxu" how does that feel?
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Old 10th January 2019, 08:50 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
I've always known. There has never been any question. It wasn't a decision I had to make.
Can you see how that sound evasive to me?

How are you defining the thing that you have always known you are?
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Old 10th January 2019, 08:50 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
It doesn't feel right or wrong. It feels like "What does the question even mean?".

If you stand in front of the mirror and ask say "I am a morbloxu" how does that feel?
Then it's possible that you may indeed be genderfluid or gender nonbinary. That's great! You've learned something about yourself.
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Old 10th January 2019, 08:51 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by PhantomWolf View Post
Try this. Make yourself a list of non-biological traits that you would associate more with girls and women (i.e feminine traits), and then a list of traits that you would associate more with boys and men (i.e. masculine).

That will give you a very rough template of psychological, social, and cultural norms.

If you want to get an idea where you fall, score yourself on those traits and see where you fall on the spectrum.
Why don't you start?
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Old 10th January 2019, 08:53 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
Then it's possible that you may indeed be genderfluid or gender nonbinary. That's great! You've learned something about yourself.
I haven't learned anything until someone can give me even the slightest hint about the criterion they are using.

How would I know if I was genderfluid or gender nonbinary if no-one has the slightest idea of what "gender" means?
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Old 10th January 2019, 08:55 PM   #36
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For all I know I might be completely gender binary. What are the criteria for that?
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Old 10th January 2019, 08:58 PM   #37
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
Can you see how that sound evasive to me?

How are you defining the thing that you have always known you are?
The fact that you can't immediately get on board with what I'm saying lends weight to the idea that you may be gender nonbinary. And that also explains why you couldn't answer the question that I proposed was simple. But in the end, only you can say whether you are or not. It's perfectly okay to "try it on" for a while and see if you are comfortable with it. "Robin" is already a nicely nonbinary name, so one next step is to think about what pronouns you would like to be referred to by.
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Old 10th January 2019, 09:02 PM   #38
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
The fact that you can't immediately get on board with what I'm saying lends weight to the idea that you may be gender nonbinary. And that also explains why you couldn't answer the question that I proposed was simple. But in the end, only you can say whether you are or not. It's perfectly okay to "try it on" for a while and see if you are comfortable with it. "Robin" is already a nicely nonbinary name, so one next step is to think about what pronouns you would like to be referred to by.
I will answer to "hi!" or to any loud cry.

Maybe you should consider the fact that you are having such difficulty putting this concept into words might indicate that you don't understand it any more than I do.
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Old 10th January 2019, 09:02 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
For all I know I might be completely gender binary. What are the criteria for that?
If you are completely gender binary, like me, then you will be certain what your gender is. If you are not certain - and I'm talking on a visceral level, not in a purely intellectual way. "Criteria" and "definitions" are part of an intellectual discussion of gender, they aren't important to how you feel about yourself.

This is one of the major issues that nonbinary people have experienced - the fact that clearly binary people like me can't understand what it's like to be nonbinary, or to be unsure about their gender, leading to people being forced into a gender identity that may not work for them. The flip side is also of course true - nonbinary people can't grasp what it's like to be certain about one's gender.

If you are truly binary, then you will be certain. If you are not certain, then you may not be truly binary.
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Old 10th January 2019, 09:06 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
I will answer to "hi!" or to any loud cry.
Okay, how about this:

"Robin is wondering whether she might be gender nonbinary."
"Robin is wondering whether he might be gender nonbinary."
"Robin is wondering whether they might be gender nonbinary."

Which of those three feels best to you? Which sounds more correct?

Originally Posted by Robin View Post
Maybe you should consider the fact that you are having such difficulty putting this concept into words might indicate that you don't understand it any more than I do.
You're right - I don't understand what it's like to be gender nonbinary. I'm very binary - very much a man. I don't need "criteria" or "definitions" to tell me that I'm a man. I know it. I feel it. From what you're saying, you don't know as firmly and clearly as I do, which is why you're asking the question.
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