i dream of being possible

why i don't like this glossary of gender

this is a response to this ask on why i don”t like this glossary of gender. posted here for archival reasons.

  1. Dictionaries/glossaries/etc. as devices for hegemony.

Like, yes, obviously i know the history of (english) dictionaries and the need to standardize spelling (which, tbh, i think is really the best and most neutral function of dictionaries). 

dictionaries are static documents (yes, they are periodically revised but that isn’t the point here). 

the act of defining by those with privilege really just serves to assert hegemonic control over discourse. it sets a biased standard for the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ definition or use of words. 

and there is no such thing as a ~neutral~ definition. like. at all. every definition – as with all written, fixed documents – is inextricably embedded within the historical, social, and political context it was created within. 

  1. Tokenism

the op of the list gives no indication as to their race. all of which tells me that they are likely white. they also describe themselves as a feminist. which tells me that they are likely dfab.

(no, i’m not implying that no trans women are feminists… but the feminism i’ve seen claimed/marked by trans women usually tends to indicate our complicated relationship with feminism – ie, by calling themselves a ‘trans feminist’ or something similar)

even if neither white nor dfab, the list includes a few non-anglo/non-white terms (like hijra). This? Sheer tokenism in list largely populated by white-centric anglo words for gender. 

Made worse by the fact that the person writes that they didn’t include any slurs. Which is funny ‘cause I’ve seen more than one South Asian person assert that ~hijra~ is derogatory.

(i’m unclear whether or not it is a full blown slur but it is, at a minimum, often considered derogatory within the community it is used. but i can’t say more than this because i do not belong to the community and i’m largely basing my opinion from what people have told me)

but this is also my point: culturally embedded terms like bakla (to switch to something i can speak to) are not necessarily words that anyone outside of the culture ought to be attempting to ~define~ / ~translate~ because, esp. if white, this is simply an act of colonialism. even on a list that attempts to address the ways that colonialism and white supremacy have harmed the world. 

  1. assumed universality. 

This list contains very little in the way of acknowledging the context in which it has been created. even the anglo words in the list are often contested and changeable depending on geography, and most importantly, race. 

this is why i call it an exercise in hegemony. because it doesn’t account for the kinds of variations that ought not to be erased for the sake of homogeniety. 

gender is complex. our realities are complexed. they are also changing, evolving, and never static. 

our experiences also, are not universal. nor should they be assumed to be. lists like this end up being used against marginalized people who lack the education or access to these concepts. 

  1. audience

who is this list *for*? no, really.

if it is for trans people, i don’t see where op gets off trying to assert authority over the langauge we use amongst ourselves. i’ll use what words are right for me and those words will mean what i want them to. 

one of the glorious magics trans women have is the ability to name ourselves. i will not give this up for the sake of ‘coherence’ or ‘community.’

if it is for cis people… well. who cares if they know or understand what our words mean? or who we are? 

this kind of understanding is unneccessary and irrelevant to what is necessary: that they respect and honour us regardless of whether or not they understand. that they stop oppressing us and hindering our freedom. 

they do not need to know the difference between agender and neutrois for this to occur. 


this might be more than you were expecting. 

But four points on why i don’t like it.</p>