I thought I was done with my whole schtick about transgender language and then another thing rose up from the watery depths and made me feel foolish and ignorant. Instead of being a good little girl and blushing and issuing deep apologies, I did my usual thing and asked, “wait, isn’t it possible I was the right one in all of this?” In fact, I usually assume I am anyway, so what gave me pause? The word of the day of course is ‘transgendered’; real word or bumpkinesqe pidgin English that paints a picture of me stoking up a coal fired still in the heart of Appalachia?
When I was a trans newbie, I stepped in it all the time. I was still often marking myself as one of the mouth breathers by throwing around taboo relics like ‘transvestite’, ‘hermaphrodite’, and ‘she-male’. OK, not the last one. Never the last one. All the while I was trying to relegate ‘transsexual’ to the dust bin of Webster’s ‘once-acceptable-but-now-naughty’ words to little avail. It’s OK, I’m still working at it. Since I’ve advanced a few levels, I kind of got it, but still super vague on a number of things. I mentioned before I’m clueless with the whole third gender pronouns. Last Spectrum meeting there was someone who I think preferred ‘zim’ or ‘zir’, and I made every effort not to engage because I knew I was going to fuck that up royally. I’m also still pretty shaky when it comes to gender queer. Oh, I validate it, but I put my stamp on there after only skimming the manifesto, and only then after a 2 hour night’s sleep. I totally support them, whatever that is exactly. I realize I sound like a real piece of work here, but please listen, I apparently don’t even have my own stuff set just yet.
Right here in my own blog, or maybe the repost in PinkEssense, someone make it a point to state that my use of ‘transgendered’ to describe myself was soundly incorrect. “After all, you wouldn’t describe someone homosexual as being ‘gayed’, would you?” They had me, I would never. I really felt like a giant boob, issued apology and explained myself as someone who makes up words all the time. That is true, I do, and it’s a cold snap in Death Valley when someone actually notices and corrects me. It’s naary when they do, but I try to hold my ground. In any case, I made the unusual call that they knew, and I must certainly be wrong. I stopped using it for months, gloating in my keen understanding of the educated trans persons razor sharp patois.
You know of course that since then I have seen other people use it over and over again. At first I nodded to myself sagely for being in the know. “Ah, there went I before becoming the very flower of articulation. Poor, poor ladies, for they know not what they say.” Just recently then I was tooling around on Jenny Boylan’s website because as a trans writer, she’s kind of a heroine to me. Dammit, right there, on her own site, presumably in her own words in the ‘About Jenny’ section, “Transgendered author, Jennifer Finney Boylan...” Yet again, I felt like a giant boob. All those people I was raising my eyebrow at were right, and here was I, the smirking fool with an eyebrow raised that hadn’t even been plucked properly in a few weeks. Really have to keep up on that. If Jenny said it, then it has to be a real thing. And even it wasn’t before, I think we can allow her the right to coin words and have them accepted. If I can get away with it, she sure can.
When I stopped and thought a little more, it all made sense in a way, at least in my own mind. Just because ‘gayed’ isn’t a word doesn’t invalidate ‘transgendered’ as being one. They are two different things and two very different words. If you look at the transgender condition, the most common theme is that adopting it as a self description usually follows some kind of grand revelation we were keeping from ourselves. Yes, we were born transgender and always were, but didn’t own it until sometime later. At that point we became transgendered; transitioned from the self identification of our outward birth gender to our true gender. If I were a peasant girl, unaware of being next in line for the throne, then finally coroneted, I would say I was queened since I wasn’t aware before. OK, I looked that up and apparently that word has some other implications, but you know what I mean I hope. Anyway, in my mind I would describe myself as being transgender, or a transgendered person. OK, I’m good now.