i dream of being possible

some basic trans terminology

I hadn’t really intended to posts like this on my blog, but I’m seeing it enough that I feel that one more internet resource discussing it probably won’t hurt. I’ll try to be brief.

‘Transgender’ is an adjective. Thus, it should always modify a noun. ‘Transgender people’. ‘Transgender woman’ – but in a case like this, the ‘transgender’ is also not necessary unless you are specifically speaking about referring to trans women1. If you are just speaking about women generally, you do not need to say ‘women and transgender women’ or, worse, ‘women and transgender people/women/etc.’

As is oft repeated, trans women are women.2

Just are, for example, Asian women. Sometimes one might need to speak about the subset of women who are Asian, thus making it sensible to specify your referrent with an adjective, ‘transgender’ functions no differently.

This does mean, though, that verbal constructions like ‘transgendered,’ as in the Code4Lib diversity scholarship requirements:

To qualify for a scholarship, an applicant must be interested in actively contributing to the mission and goals of the Code4Lib Conference.

  • Four scholarships will be awarded to any woman or transgendered person.

Are incorrect. One does not ‘transgender’ and, thus, it becomes impossible to be ‘transgendered.’ It makes a requirement like the above confusing and, potentially impossible to meet. How does one become ‘transgendered’? Must you transgender for two years, after which you get a special certificate formally designating you transgendered?

Oops. I’m getting a little snarky… something I tend not to like. Anyway.

Recently I also saw ‘transgenderism’ (now removed) in the VPL’s rather weak defense of a transmisogynist. A kind woman mentioned that this is likely meant to refer to the transgender movement…

Which, okay, I suppose. And there are trans people who use it, if for a slightly different reason. However, it isn’t common in the community and, well, it is pretty unclear what is actually meant by ‘transgenderism.’ Since, if it is referring to a movement, rather than people’s genders, is there such a movement? And, as linked, you’ll note that Teich uses ‘transgenderism’ within the context of the pathologizing of transgender people. This is really the most coherent way to understand ‘transgenderism’ as disease, medical condition. Which really isn’t the way to go about it, since the medical community has been atrocious to us (and continues to be).

For those on twitter, you can perhaps learn more and experience a diverse array of people/perspectives by checking out the #girlslikeus tag. It was started by Janet Mock as a way for trans women to speak about ourselves and create some shared space. Um, I definitely do not recommend reading Teich’s “Transgender 101” book because it is terrible and filled with outdated ideas, despite being published in 2012. One of the better trans 101s is Asher Bauer’s ‘Not Your Mom’s Trans 101’. For those willing to complicate their 101 view, there is also Decolonizing Trans/gender 101.

  1. I use ‘trans’ and ‘transgender’ pretty interchangeably. Most people do. Although some can get picky about it and it is always best to refer to people with the words they prefer (inclusive of pronouns). 

  2. If you are one of the people who does not think that this is a true statement… this is a different discussion and one I’m unwilling to have with anyone. Ever.