Trans: language and defintions

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Trans: language and definitions

Transgender or trans can describe many different identities. More recently people use Trans* (‘trans-star’) and TGNC (trans and gender non-conforming).

Trans can include many people: some same they are MtF (male to female) or FtM (female to male), and/or transsexual (who often have surgery to change their gender), and/or as crossdressers, drag kings and queens. Younger trans people often say they are trans guys/boys or trans girls.

People who say they are genderqueer often do not want to say they are one of two genders. The difference between different trans people is how they see themselves.

Intersex is for people whose physical sex is not what we expect of male and female bodies. Some intersex people say they are trans, others do not.

Cisgender refers to people who feel they are the same gender as their sex. (Latin ‘cis’ = same side; ‘trans’ = opposite side).

From: Laura Erickson-Schroth (ed), Trans Bodies, Trans Selves, Oxford University Press, 2014.

Setting language free

In English, we use he or she instead of repeating someone’s name. But not all languages do this. Chinese, Finnish, Hungarian, Turkish, Farsi, Yoruba, Malay, Tagalog and Basque and others do not have these gender pronouns.

In English there are some new pronouns with no gender eg. zhe or ze (pronounced ‘zee’) to replace s/he, or hir (pronounced ‘here’) for him/her. Some people use the titles Mx (‘mix’) or Misc (‘misk’) or Mre (pronounced ‘mystery’) instead of Mr/Ms. Or people can say they or them for one person, not just for the plural. The official dictionary of Swedish has a new pronoun with no gender: hen. Also, Germany is losing some of its gender in language.

The words used to describe trans people have changed. People now think the words ‘tranny’ and ‘transvestite’ are negative terms. It is more respectful to say trans or transgender person (but not ‘a transgender’), crossdresser and/or drag king/queen. ‘Hermaphrodite’ is another old negative term for intersex people.

From: Wikipedia, The Guardian, The Guardian, Laura Erickson Schroth (ed), Trans Bodies, Trans Selves, Oxford University Press, 2014.