Many analytic philosophers have written about sex and gender. An early collection that might be a good place to start is "A Mind of One's Own: Feminist Essays on Reason and Objectivity" edited by Louise Antony and Charlotte Witt (1993). A more recent collection, a product of the Society for Analytical Feminism, is "Out from the Shadows: Analytical Feminist Contributions to Traditional Philosophy" edited by Sharon Crasnow and Anita Superson (2012). The website of the Society for Analytical Feminism is at https://sites.google.com/site/analyticalfeminism/home and has many useful resources.
It is a matter of fairness. If women are put off philosophy, and do not on the whole flourish in the profession, then it is unfair if they are able and interested and unsuccessful. The same goes for education as a whole. There is no reason why we should expect the various disciplines to be equally shared despite gender, class, ethnicity and so on, since in the past this has not been the case. Yet if some people are unable to reach their potential solely because of cultural influences stemming from the past, then this is clearly morally questionable.
Love is not confined to opposite sex attraction, and in spite of what some people will tell you, there is nothing wrong with that. The reasons people give for saying that it is wrong just don't hold water.
We could go over some of those reasons, but there's so little to them that it's not really a productive exercise. Some people are especially bothered by religious objections, but it's worth noticing that more and more religious bodies are changing. Just days ago, for example, the Episcopal Church voted to institute ceremonies blessing life-long same-sex commitments.
For many of us, what's really convincing is what we see. I have far too many friends and loved ones in healthy, sustaining same-sex relationships to find anything convincing in the objections you sometimes hear.
I don't know whether your friend feels the same way. If she does, good for both of you! If not, don't be discouraged. There are others who have the kinds of feelings you have and the days when people feel they need to.be ashamed of same-sex affection are rapidly receding. That is a very good thing.
We are all fallible. Even experts. Especially about matters as value-laden as questions of "normality" of types of human beings. If you disagree with Amaury de Riencourt, and give reasons for your disagreement, then the fact that you have no credentials would not matter. Your reasons should be evaluated on their own terms.
This particular claim about gender and normality is difficult to agree or disagree with because it is so vague. You think the statement implies that to be male is to be "abnormal"; but it may only mean that to be male is to be a variant (non-standard form). (I don't know the work of Amaury de Riencourt, so I do not know what is meant, and whether it is a biological, sociological, political etc claim.)
Since I answered the original question, I will try also to answer this one.
We need to reconsider the phrase "social construction and nothing more", or at least to what you take to be the implications of such a description, that somehow what is socially constructed isn't real. One would need a lot of argument to establish that conclusion. Prima facie, socially constituted facts are no less real than biological or anatomical facts; they are just different. Consider, e.g., facts about political and legal authority. Surely these are socially constituted, but I would not suggest you tell a military tribunal that you can't be guilty of disobeying an order from a superior because social facts are unreal. That should answer question (1), I hope.
Similarly, socially constituted facts matter to people every bit as much (and in some cases more) than biological facts. As I pointed out in response to the previous question, the mere fact that gender is a social (not merely anatomical) matter does not imply that people do not experience it as a fundamental part of their identity. Indeed, since humans are "social animals", there is nothing at all surprising about this. How we relate to ourselves is bound up very much with how we relate to the world around us, and that includes the social world. And that, I hope, answers question (2): Whether gender is a social construction just doesn't bear upon the question whether one's gender identity can or should be important to one's sense of self. Indeed, since it is just obvious that gender identity is important to people's sense of self, it's not clear what's left to discuss here.
So, people do have genders, and they can have them even if gender does not "exist in [the] fundamental sense", meaning, I take it: even if gender is not a biological notion. People can have jobs, and friends, and husbands and wives, and stand in relations of authority to one another, too, even though these do not "exist in [the] fundamental sense" either. One ought not get carried away with the language here, even if one does think there is something to be made of this "fundamental sense" language (as I am not entirely sure there is).
I'd love to be able to point you towards more to read, as I do think these are fascinating issues. Unfortunately, I'm no expert. But you might start with the article on Feminist Metaphysics over at the Stanford Encyclopedia. The soon to be out book The Metaphysics of Gender, by Charlotte Witt, will be technical, but it might be something to which you would be sympathetic.
While I agree with Oliver's judgements, I also think many people are genuinely puzzled about how someone could feel as if they had the wrong sort of body, so let me try to say a few things that might help to clarify it. I should say, however, that I am no expert on these issues, and so I'm sure to get some of the established terminology wrong.
Let's start with a different sort of example. I am of Irish descent. But I do not think of myself as Irish-American. From my point of view, the fact that many of my ancestors lived in Ireland is just that: a fact about my family's past. For other people, however, being of Irish descent is very important to their sense of who they are. They value Irish traditions and customs, participate in Irish celebrations, and so forth. It is, as we say, part of their identity to be Irish-American. And so, if someone tells a rude joke about "the Irish", I wouldn't really take it personally; I'd just dismiss that person as a jerk. Someone who identifies as Irish-American would, on the contrary, rightly feel as if they had been insulted.
Lesson: The "external" facts about one's family are very different from the "internal" facts about one's identity. Ethnicity is not the same as ancestry.
Similar things can be said about gender, though here it gets even more complicated, because there are at least three different things "male" and "female" can mean. First, and most obviously, one might have in mind what we could call "anatomical sex". This is a matter of what sort of external genitalia one has: A penis or a vagina. A closely related but still different notion is what we might call "genetic sex". This is a matter of what kinds of chromosomes one has: XX or XY. But neither the anatomical nor the biological notion is what people have in mind when they speak (in contexts like this one) about gender. That notion of gender is social in character. It has to do not with genetics or anatomy but with social roles and expectations. It is, as people say, socially constructed.
None of these notions is as "clean" as people usually think. It just isn't as simple as XX vs XY; there are intermediate and other states. Anatomically, there are various sorts of hermaphrodites and other combinations, and if we include secondary sex characteristics (breast development, facial hair, etc), things get even more confusing. One should also realize that genetic sex and anatomical sex can come apart, even at birth. Some people who are XY are born anatomically female, due to issues connected to the expression of the so-called SRY protein during fetal development. (This already makes it a very interesting question what it's supposed to mean that marriage must be between "one man and one woman".) As far as social gender is concerned, most people, it is true, strongly identify with the social gender that goes with their anatomy. But some people (the androgynous) don't strongly identify with any gender. (Perhaps you do not, since you say you have "no interest in the notion of 'femininity'".) Other people find themselves identifying with aspects of each gender, either moving between them in different situations (the bi-gendered) or stably experiencing themselves as partly male and partly female (the ambi-gendered).
But what does it mean to "feel female" or "feel male"? Well, the first thing to say is that, when someone who is anatomically female speaks about "feeling male", it is (usually) the social notion that is in play. What they mean is that, as a matter of their own self conception, they identify as male, not as female. OK, so what does that mean? Since the notion of gender in play here is social, we might think, in the first instance, that "feeling male" has something to do with how the person wants to be perceived and treated socially. As we all know, people who "present" socially as male are treated very differently from people who "present" as female. Men and women are expected to like different things, and to do different things, and so forth. So it is easy to understand how someone might feel a kind of "disconnect" between the social role they are assigned, in virtue of presenting as female, and how they feel inside, that is, how they feel they ought to be treated.
Now, the really crucial point is that this can perfectly well be a matter of how one feels, and not just a matter of what one thinks. Although gender is a social notion, it is one that we all internalize through the process of socialization. It isn't at all a matter of what one thinks about gender: whether you think women like hairdos and high heels, to use your example. How we interact with other people is affected simply by our knowing of such stereotypes, even if we reject them, and psychologists and sociologists have gotten very, very good over the last few decades at designing experiments to prove this point.
Here's an example. Suppose you take some kids and ask them to do a moderately difficult math test. Half of them you ask just to put their name at the top; half you ask to put their name and gender. Then the girls in the second group will do worse than the girls in the first group! It doesn't matter if they really think that girls are no good at math. It's enough if they know of the stereotype, and then you remind them that they're girls. What's really amazing is that, if the test is really easy, then the girls in the second group will do better than the girls in the first group. It's as if they're thinking: We'll show them who's bad at math!!
Lesson: Conceptions of masculinity and femininity, and the associated stereotypes, are so deeply ingrained in our brains that, whether we agree with them or not, they shape almost all of our social interactions. (That is not much of a surprise, if you think about it in evolutionary terms.) Now, I'm sure all of us feel, at times, as if society assumes things about us, in virtue of our gender, that don't fit who we are. But can one imagine what it would be like to feel as if society almost always assumed things about us that didn't fit? It would be similar to what would happen if everyone assumed that, since I have red hair and freckles, I must be interested in how the Irish rugby team is doing this year, or that I must love Guinness and soda bread and get real excited about St Patricks Day. (OK, I do love Guinness!) But, of course, compared to how one's gender determines one's life, that would be but a minor annoyance. Surely being treated, as a matter of course, as if you were someone you were not would be very difficult and very painful. (And yes, this does extend to racial stereotyping, too.)
If all of that makes sense, then maybe we can also understand, at least a bit, why someone might want to change their body to conform to the gender with which they identify. It isn't, in the first instance, as if they feel they have the wrong body. In the first instance, it's a matter of their self-identity: who they feel they are and how they relate to others socially. But, although anatomical sex and gender are two different things, matters concerned with the body are about as central to how our society understands gender as anything could be. So, as part of feeling as if one is really male, not female, one might well also feel as if one had the wrong kind of body. In fact, not all trans-gendered people do feel that way, though many do.
So, well, I hope that helps.
The questions that you are asking are terrific! They can also be taken further. E.g. is it necessary for you to assume that there are strictly two biological sexes? (I don't think so). Or e.g. What is wrong (if anything) with sexualization of a group? What is wrong with sexualization of a subordinate group? It is not difficult to turn up inconsistencies in what society considers to be socially normative.
You are a good guide here since you are undergoing the changes. Presumably you have initiated this process because you feel that you are really not the gender you started off as, and so your notion of personal identity was quite complex even before the process got underway. Clearly we change all the time, and sometimes so radically we come to believe that we are quite different from how we were in the past. You are in the interesting position of perhaps feeling that you are finally approaching becoming the sort of person you "really" were all the time, and you are thus in the best position to report on how your feelings make up this changing self-perception. Self-identity is clearly far from a simple notion and nothing evidences that so much as your course of action.
Seems to me your question poses what is known as a false alternative. I see no reason why a parent cannot help to inform a child about gender norms, so the child can understand these norms, while still making clear that such norms are really not necessary, not appropriate, and stifling. Don't we try (well, those of us who are decent folks, anyway!) to do the same with racism and other forms of prejudice?
Certainly. The fact that women have children does not mean that they are obliged to be the main carers for those children once they are born, nor does it mean that while pregnant they are in any way incapacitated. If childcare were to be shared equally, or adequately organized by the state or community, the fact that women have children would be no hindrance to any of their other putative activities.