written by Adrian

Another 5 years pass in the life of 'Transgender'


This is post for those who might share my interest in words and the evolution of the English language.

It seems strange that just 5 years ago we were discussing the death (or otherwise) of the 'Transgender' umbrella.

Now barely a day goes by without someone in the media using the term transgender as an elegant alternative to cross dresser/transsexual/gender queer/ or any one of the myriad sub-categories we have created and associate with so territorially.

Transgender is the collective description of choice like it of not, and we aren't going to stop the transgender media bandwagon and change its wheels any time soon. So perhaps it is appropriate to reflect on its use (or misuse) and ensure it doesn't die of abuse. Because abuse is out there - and some of it seems to come from us!

Collectively we are transgender, just as others are gay, lesbian, heterosexual.
So my guiding thought is that gramatically transgender is destined to evolve to be like gay or perhaps lesbian.

This evolution is not currently supported by the dictionary.
The Google definition of gay identifies it as a noun and adjective::

noun: gay;
a homosexual, especially a man.

adjective: gay
(of a person, especially a man) homosexual..

But currently transgender is only described as an adjective.

adjective: transgender; adjective: transgendered

denoting or relating to a person whose self-identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender.

I'm guessing no one has an issue any more with transgender the adjective. We are all transgender - that is why we are here!

But what about transgendered' - are we all transgendered? Other than being gramatically incorrect (you can only add -ed to verbs - we don't talk about Elton John being gayed) it implies that transgender is something you can do to someone - so they become transgendered.

Most transgender people I know have felt a gender incongruity for as long as they remember, and evolving science says we were probably born feeling like this. The only thing that changed along the way has been our awareness that there are others like us. We didn’t “decide” to be transgender - and so there is no transgendering process that can be applied to us.

The GLAAD transgender media reference guide www.glaad.org/reference/transgender classifies transgendered as problematic; recommending that transgender be used instead. I went through the forums editing many uses of transgendered and replacing them with transgender - and guess what, it didn't make any difference to the meaning!

Although it hasn't made its way into the dictionary we know terminology does evolve in everyday usage. So can we use transgender as a noun?

In the singular I think the answer is no. Why would we say "I am a transgender" when you don't hear people say "I'm a gay". It is more common to hear "I'm gay" or "He is a gay man". So let's follow suit with "I am a transgender woman" or "I'm transgender" and give "Being a transgender" a miss.

Things are less clear cut however with the plural noun, transgenders. The GLAAD media guide recommends saying ‘The parade included many transgender people' rather than 'The parade included many transgenders' - which seems sound advice.

But we freely talk about 'same-sex marriage as a right for gays', and 'the bigotry shown towards gays and lesbians'. So perhaps there is a strong case to also talk about transgenders in the same way, saying 'He urged transgenders to make their voices heard'. This use of a plural noun is also borne out by recent posts in our forums:

Transgenders fare better in India where homosexuality is still illegal
Eddie Redmayne ..... seemed to empathise closely with transgenders and the transgender cause
an article in the NY Times about transgenders who transition late in life

In summary transgender is a widely adopted way of describing the gender diverse - it is here to stay!

We are all transgender and fight for the rights of other transgenders.
And although I'm transgender, I'm not a transgender, nor am I transgendered.

Let's see what the next 5 years brings to the lifecycle of the word transgender.


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