: to change the form or character of : transform
: to undergo transformation; especially : to undergo transformation from an image of one object into that of another especially by means of computer-generated animation
Language is continuously changing, what one word means not can be totally diffident from ten years ago or even a year ago. This is also true for words in sub-cultures, in my cultural competency workshops I have a slide that I use before I give definitions…
- Every culture has their own language
- Definitions evolve
- Words can have different means to different people
Some of the more common definitions (At least for today) are…
- Some people are very passionate about labels
Which brings me to today’s article,
I Was Recently Informed I'm Not a TranssexualThis happened to me by a co-presenter.
Our vernacular is evolving — especially when it comes to discussing LGBTQ lives — but not fast enough for some impatient folks.
By Riki Wilchins
June 7, 2017
I was giving my Gender 101 presentation to an important corporate client in the Bay Area recently when I got to terms and definitions. It was then I learned I am no longer a transsexual. I tried to define the difference between “transgender” and “transsexual” but was stopped by three young people — two of whom identified themselves as nonbinary — who took strong exception to the word “transsexual.”
“We don’t use that anymore,” they said. This was backed up a young cisgender man, a UCLA queer studies major, who declared that the term was objectionable because it “medicalizes” trans people and inappropriately ties recognition of someone’s genital status — which is private — to their gender identity. So it was not only archaic but offensive.
I used this definition,
Gender Identity: Is the gender that a person identifies (maybe the gender that was assigned at birth or the self-identified gender)And he wanted…
Gender / Gender Identity: A socially constructed system of classification that ascribes qualities of masculinity and femininity to people. (What you feel in your heart and mind)I said okay we will use your definition because I wasn’t going to argue over it because both answers are correct. I think mine is easier to teach to a group than a sociological definition.
It dawned on me that these three individuals probably read me as another privileged straight white cisgender male who was offensively referring to someone’s genital status. My co-facilitator took me aside and told me that our training was toast. There was enough bad blood and moral indignation hovering over the meeting to make it impossible for us to continue. But I wasn’t so sure. I always assume my transgenderness is apparent, though in this room I was obviously wrong. I needed to come out.Which brings me to my presentation again, on my slide on Microagressions on words not to use…
So I explained that — ahem — I started my own transition in 1976 and that “transsexual” was indeed the term of art. We used it. Those around us used it. The book many of us read was titled The Transsexual Phenomenon. I cofounded a nationwide protest group called Transexual Menace. (No mistake, one s [sic] by intention.) And oh, yes, I had my own surgery before any of you were born.
So in addition to no longer being a transsexual, I also realized I am no longer a “tranny.” Yet, in spite of being regularly corrected when I use the term, I have a stubborn affection for it; same as “queer,” another word I like — one that LGBTQ people have fought hard for and successfully reclaimed from the pejorative it was.
In any case, for me, the word “tranny” remains important, a word I’ve long paid dues to own. And I use it very intentionally. I accept that, to many people, it is archaic, diminishing, and offensive. I’m sorry, but I think it important to remind people, that despite being diminished and despised, we have come through. Let us realize political correctness in all our disparate selves, in all our disparate ways.
Tranny (maybe used within the community)There are many cultures where it is okay to use a word inside the community and not members outside the community and it is important for those not in the community to understand the difference.
As Riki said it is one thing to criticize when a person outside the community using the word but it is entirely different to criticize someone inside the community because you are denying them their identity.
You might also want to read my post last month “Talk A Walk On The Wide Side!” about a group up in Canada who thinks that the song is transphobic.
For those who were wondering about my medical leave I had the flu with complications which is now taking it natural course.