Friday, 2 July 2010

Transwhatnow?

    Guilty as charged. Yes, I use the word "transgendered" with respect to myself. And this it seems is Not The Done Thing in these here parts. Damn.
    Still, it's always healthy to be challenged, and the post linked above goes beyond language pedantry or even the dreaded PC with the last question.

" Is this an activity for you, or is it part of your core identity?"

    To which I have to answer: it's neither, instead it's simply descriptive. "Cross-dressing" is an activity I partake of from time to time. Here I have the luxury of presenting as female through my keyboard and believe me I'm a lot better at it here than in the real world, so my physical identity most of the time, whether I like it or not, is "Bloke". Yes, definitely bloke, it's an Estuary English thing. And my gender identity, nestling as it does somewhere between my ears and not between my legs, is "Female".
    "I'm a bloke who's got a female brain and cross-dresses occasionally". might be accurate, but it's a bit of a mouthful and let's face it, it's going to raise more questions than it answers in the minds of the unfortunates to whom I deliver it here in the land of the pantomime dame.
    Hence a descriptive word is required. "Transsexual" is medically accurate but still confusing. Thanks to our wonderful tabloid press it has slightly alarming associations in the minds of the Great British Public so I avoid it when talking to someone who isn't clued-up on the subject.
    "Transgender" by comparison is nicely descriptive to anyone with the intelligence to deconstruct a compound word, but without any alarming tabloid overtones. And since it has to convey something of "You thought I was this but now you know I'm that", adding the "ed" suffix doesn't deny my dignity of being born any way but tells them something they knew about me has changed. "I am transgendered", simply descriptive.

    Now, I'm an insomniac, so I'm knackered. Not knacker. I'm reminded of a personal piece of engineering language pedantry, don't get me on the subject of people who confuse accuracy and precision.

7 comments:

  1. Ah, language!

    As a teenager one of the things friends and I used to love doing was inventing new words, almost like creating code for ourselves. Every now and then a word we had coined would come back around from another direction and what a rush that was, to hear a term you had created used (even somewhat improperly) by others.

    They are just words, and even though some of us get just a little hung up on precision, well, you might actually know what we mean, ya know, like, you know???
    And if you don't know what we mean, then you can ask us, and what fun to go into detail about how we really feel and think, then have you tell us what the 'proper' word is in that case. Whew!
    Uh oh, I think I hear a lecture approaching!

    :P

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  2. When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'

    ...when my copy of Fowler's Modern English Usage was published, 'gender' had a specific use as 'a grammatical term only'. It's been funny watching the squeaks of annoyance that followed Roz Kaveney's squib on terms over at the Guardian, but I can't raise any interest in getting involved. I suspect that the terms I use for trans stuff may have changed or evolved by next year or next decade, and this is probably how things should be. Words are useful tools, but they shouldn't get ideas above their station :-)

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  3. Looks like we shall never have an agreed language and what we have is like mercury, hard to grab hold of and then it might be poisonous! Use that word with s** in it and peoples minds whirl. I'm with you in preferring transgendered as a more universally acceptable alternative.

    I have managed to come out to all I know without using any T words since to the general public they are all meaningless.

    Caroline xxx

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  4. A large part of what I do for a living involves dealing with words. From a technical standpoint, I'm an engineer who's fallen among lexicographers at times. So maybe their use interests me more than it should. Don't worry, I won't get too exercised about it.

    In another sphere I witnessed a hotly debated issue: is fermented apple juice Cider or Cyder? The wrong choice will see you demoted from Dabinett to Golden Delicious in no time!

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  5. Yeah, I do do unfocused really well

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