Words Mean Things: You’ve Been Transgendered!

May 24, 2007 ·

When I hear “This is my friend _____ , she’s transgendered”, I cringe. It may seem innocuous, but using the word “transgendered” indicates that being transgender is something you have done to you. Imagine someone saying “this is my friend Andy, he’s gayed” or “this is my best friend Betty,  she’s lesbianed.” Like being gay and lesbian, being transgender isn’t something that you have done to you, it’s part of who you are. I’m proud to be of Irish, Scot, German, and native American descent. But I’d never say I’m “Irished and Proud.”

But don’t feel bad, even folks at the National Center for Trangender Equality have made the same mistake:

trangendered.jpg

If you make the mistake it’s not too big of a deal, but please try and remember to say transgender? There’s a rumor that if you say “transgendered” too many times, the transgender fairy will visit you in the night and transgender you! It’s just a rumor, but better safe than sorry. 😉

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  1. Buki,

    Slight oversimplification but I agree with you. Words have the meanings you assign to them but they also have separate meanings that are culturally influenced and understood. The meaning of words, culturally, is different from the personal meaning of words. An Important distinction in my mind.

  2. Buki,

    Slight oversimplification but I agree with you. Words have the meanings you assign to them but they also have separate meanings that are culturally influenced and understood. The meaning of words, culturally, is different from the personal meaning of words. An Important distinction in my mind.

  3. I’m sort of lukewarm with “transgendered,” personally my pet peeve is “transgenders.” I think it’s because I have seen it too many times on hate literature. Bugs me almost as much as “she/male.”

  4. I’m sort of lukewarm with “transgendered,” personally my pet peeve is “transgenders.” I think it’s because I have seen it too many times on hate literature. Bugs me almost as much as “she/male.”

  5. I call myself transgendered because I see it as an adjective in the same sense bearded is an adjective.
    I also sometimes see being trans* as a verb; a verb that nature/the gods did to me before I was conceived and/or in utero.

    Generally I prefer trans*, as it can include most trans* identities. Trans*man for instance, includes: transman, trans man, transsexual man, transgender man, transgendered man, and probably many others.
    And I think asterisks look cool. ^.^;;

  6. I call myself transgendered because I see it as an adjective in the same sense bearded is an adjective.
    I also sometimes see being trans* as a verb; a verb that nature/the gods did to me before I was conceived and/or in utero.

    Generally I prefer trans*, as it can include most trans* identities. Trans*man for instance, includes: transman, trans man, transsexual man, transgender man, transgendered man, and probably many others.
    And I think asterisks look cool. ^.^;;

  7. […] an example of the media depicting a transgender person (not “transgendered”, for marti’s sake) in a “not totally negative” way. i also agree with many of her views, though not […]

  8. My concern isn’t what others call themselves. If African Americans want to call themselves “niggas” or gay men want to call each other “faggots”, it doesn’t harm me. But when I see other people pathologize us, and we do it to ourselves, I think we get what we deserve.

  9. My concern isn’t what others call themselves. If African Americans want to call themselves “niggas” or gay men want to call each other “faggots”, it doesn’t harm me. But when I see other people pathologize us, and we do it to ourselves, I think we get what we deserve.

  10. I have to side with the people who just think it makes more grammatical sense. I use transgendered. I’ve tried to stop, but my mind just balks at it. It .is. valid to say someone is ‘male gendered’ or ‘female gendered’, albeit generally considered redundant. So to me, ‘transgendered’ is just… Right. That said, I will often say transsexual or just trans, too.

    I think in a world where there are still people who call us she-males, dick-boys, futanari, etc, we have much bigger targets than the ‘ed’ suffix. Comparing it to the N word isn’t appropriate. Calling me a she-male is /much/ closer to that mark.

  11. I have to side with the people who just think it makes more grammatical sense. I use transgendered. I’ve tried to stop, but my mind just balks at it. It .is. valid to say someone is ‘male gendered’ or ‘female gendered’, albeit generally considered redundant. So to me, ‘transgendered’ is just… Right. That said, I will often say transsexual or just trans, too.

    I think in a world where there are still people who call us she-males, dick-boys, futanari, etc, we have much bigger targets than the ‘ed’ suffix. Comparing it to the N word isn’t appropriate. Calling me a she-male is /much/ closer to that mark.

  12. “Do I have to click my heals three times too because I’ve been sitting here waiting for the transgender fairy to come…GOD, I hope she’s hot.”

    Ethan’s not the only one … 😉

  13. “Do I have to click my heals three times too because I’ve been sitting here waiting for the transgender fairy to come…GOD, I hope she’s hot.”

    Ethan’s not the only one … 😉

  14. I don’t use the word “transgendered” to refer to anyone who doesn’t want to be referred to that way, of course, but I just don’t have the same issue with it. I don’t hear it as saying something was done to me…it just sounds like an adjective to me, like it describes me. Whereas, “transgender” sounds like a noun to me, like it defines me in some way. For me, both “transgendered” and “transgender” feel like they are true. I sometimes lean toward “transgendered” because I dislike being called “a transgender” more than I dislike the objectionable connotation in question of “transgendered” as something being done to me.

    Also, I’ve never really noticed a distinction between the class backgrounds of people who use “transgender” or “transgendered”. I sometimes notice that people who don’t know any trans people or who are “new” to trans issues will be more likely to use “transgendered” simply because so many trans people have the same objection to “transgendered” as you do, so someone who hasn’t met them wouldn’t know that and wouldn’t have been told not to use it.

  15. I don’t use the word “transgendered” to refer to anyone who doesn’t want to be referred to that way, of course, but I just don’t have the same issue with it. I don’t hear it as saying something was done to me…it just sounds like an adjective to me, like it describes me. Whereas, “transgender” sounds like a noun to me, like it defines me in some way. For me, both “transgendered” and “transgender” feel like they are true. I sometimes lean toward “transgendered” because I dislike being called “a transgender” more than I dislike the objectionable connotation in question of “transgendered” as something being done to me.

    Also, I’ve never really noticed a distinction between the class backgrounds of people who use “transgender” or “transgendered”. I sometimes notice that people who don’t know any trans people or who are “new” to trans issues will be more likely to use “transgendered” simply because so many trans people have the same objection to “transgendered” as you do, so someone who hasn’t met them wouldn’t know that and wouldn’t have been told not to use it.

  16. agreed on all points, kate.
    (though i do keep hearing “queer” verbed these days.)

    i don’t really have any strong feelings on the subject. my principal objection is to the assertion that one should have such feelings, that they should be of a singular kind, and that the nuances of both class and identity described by the various uses of these terms ought to be erased by political dictat and purpose, justified after the fact by arguable syntactical concerns.

  17. agreed on all points, kate.
    (though i do keep hearing “queer” verbed these days.)

    i don’t really have any strong feelings on the subject. my principal objection is to the assertion that one should have such feelings, that they should be of a singular kind, and that the nuances of both class and identity described by the various uses of these terms ought to be erased by political dictat and purpose, justified after the fact by arguable syntactical concerns.

  18. “3) a problem arises in that the term is too easily reduced to the sole nominative indicator.”
    Okay, I’ll grant you that. However, that’s largely because the media chooses not to understand transpeople. There’s a long history of society referring to minority groups in a (usually negative) way different than how that group refers to itself. I’m inclined adopt terminology that I feel is most appropriate, not simply on the basis of what makes it hard to turn into a epithet.

    I don’t know about other people, but my objection is specifically with the suffix -ed. Perhaps the reason it doesn’t sound odd to some transpeople is that they’re used to hearing it. Other suffixes may seem sillier, but they don’t have pathologies associated with them. More to the point, the words gay and queer don’t have the suffixes at all. They are their own words, normally used as adjectives.

  19. “3) a problem arises in that the term is too easily reduced to the sole nominative indicator.”
    Okay, I’ll grant you that. However, that’s largely because the media chooses not to understand transpeople. There’s a long history of society referring to minority groups in a (usually negative) way different than how that group refers to itself. I’m inclined adopt terminology that I feel is most appropriate, not simply on the basis of what makes it hard to turn into a epithet.

    I don’t know about other people, but my objection is specifically with the suffix -ed. Perhaps the reason it doesn’t sound odd to some transpeople is that they’re used to hearing it. Other suffixes may seem sillier, but they don’t have pathologies associated with them. More to the point, the words gay and queer don’t have the suffixes at all. They are their own words, normally used as adjectives.

  20. 1) i know that many transpeople would object to the equivalence of their transness with an ethnic identity.

    2) the examples you give all have descriptor suffixes. equivalents for the term under discussion might be “transgenderish” or “transgenderian”… or, less cumbersome: “transgendered”.

    3) a problem arises in that the term is too easily reduced to the sole nominative indicator. “transgender person” becomes simply “transgender.” i agree with the comment above that this is mostly a class distinction, but i am not comfortable being “a transgender.” i think that is unnecessarily reductionist. “transgendered” is not so easily collapsed in meaning, given normal usages.

  21. 1) i know that many transpeople would object to the equivalence of their transness with an ethnic identity.

    2) the examples you give all have descriptor suffixes. equivalents for the term under discussion might be “transgenderish” or “transgenderian”… or, less cumbersome: “transgendered”.

    3) a problem arises in that the term is too easily reduced to the sole nominative indicator. “transgender person” becomes simply “transgender.” i agree with the comment above that this is mostly a class distinction, but i am not comfortable being “a transgender.” i think that is unnecessarily reductionist. “transgendered” is not so easily collapsed in meaning, given normal usages.

  22. “I am sure inner-city folk cringe as much about our usage as we do about theirs. As long as you understand it is how the other group says things, there is no problem though.”

    Well, some African American’s use the N word as an identifier. It doesn’t make it positive or helpful as a race of people. If we expect others to stop treating us as though we are inflicted with leprosy, we need to stop pathologizing our verbiage.

    “To me, it would sound equally as correct to me if someone said ‘I am a transgendered American’.”

    But pull another group into that context. I am a “gayed American” or I am an “Irished American”…it sounds foolish and makes it sound as if being Irish is a pathology.

    “refried beans are understood, not only as beans which have been refried, but as a kind of beans, different from other beans.”

    That is incorrect. That would be the equivalent of saying that Steak au poivre is a kind of steak. Refried beans is dish that is made from black or pinto beans.

  23. “I am sure inner-city folk cringe as much about our usage as we do about theirs. As long as you understand it is how the other group says things, there is no problem though.”

    Well, some African American’s use the N word as an identifier. It doesn’t make it positive or helpful as a race of people. If we expect others to stop treating us as though we are inflicted with leprosy, we need to stop pathologizing our verbiage.

    “To me, it would sound equally as correct to me if someone said ‘I am a transgendered American’.”

    But pull another group into that context. I am a “gayed American” or I am an “Irished American”…it sounds foolish and makes it sound as if being Irish is a pathology.

    “refried beans are understood, not only as beans which have been refried, but as a kind of beans, different from other beans.”

    That is incorrect. That would be the equivalent of saying that Steak au poivre is a kind of steak. Refried beans is dish that is made from black or pinto beans.

  24. Sorry… I cringed when I read “were just normal folks just like everyone else”…

    Transgender people ARE different from cisgender people, in that we’re transgender. By normal folks, I meant that we’re PEOPLE, as are cisgender folks. I didn’t mean to deride (or value) transgression per se. 🙂

  25. Sorry… I cringed when I read “were just normal folks just like everyone else”…

    Transgender people ARE different from cisgender people, in that we’re transgender. By normal folks, I meant that we’re PEOPLE, as are cisgender folks. I didn’t mean to deride (or value) transgression per se. 🙂

  26. As for the refried beans, they were originally regular ol’ beans (usually pinto beans, I believe). So I think this illustrates Marti’s original point: cisgender people aren’t “normal” people, and transgender people aren’t “regular” people who were somehow turned (i.e. corrupted) into trannies. While I do agree that there are more important things we can talk about, the language thing is important– we’re just regular folks like everyone else, and our inclinations are not a symptom of something society has done to us.

    That said, I’m with cigfran– when I do need a modifier, I tend to prefer trans (or, sigh, transsexual, if it saves me a lengthy discussion of how I identify). But it’s just that– I’m primarily a woman, person, American (sigh) or whatever.

    I ain’t no transgender.

  27. As for the refried beans, they were originally regular ol’ beans (usually pinto beans, I believe). So I think this illustrates Marti’s original point: cisgender people aren’t “normal” people, and transgender people aren’t “regular” people who were somehow turned (i.e. corrupted) into trannies. While I do agree that there are more important things we can talk about, the language thing is important– we’re just regular folks like everyone else, and our inclinations are not a symptom of something society has done to us.

    That said, I’m with cigfran– when I do need a modifier, I tend to prefer trans (or, sigh, transsexual, if it saves me a lengthy discussion of how I identify). But it’s just that– I’m primarily a woman, person, American (sigh) or whatever.

    I ain’t no transgender.

  28. I think Kara summed it up best. It seems to be a
    class issue. Street girls say ‘i am transgender’.
    Middle class people say ‘i am transgendered or transexual’.

    Of the 2 i’ll go with the street girls. The issue
    is not a matter of grammer but of class.

  29. I think Kara summed it up best. It seems to be a
    class issue. Street girls say ‘i am transgender’.
    Middle class people say ‘i am transgendered or transexual’.

    Of the 2 i’ll go with the street girls. The issue
    is not a matter of grammer but of class.

  30. all of which is actually beside the point anyway.

    there are people for whom “transgender” (no matter how you choose to put it) is not an identity, but merely a conditional state. they see themselves primarily as men or women, and being transgendered is entirely contingent on being in transition.

  31. all of which is actually beside the point anyway.

    there are people for whom “transgender” (no matter how you choose to put it) is not an identity, but merely a conditional state. they see themselves primarily as men or women, and being transgendered is entirely contingent on being in transition.

  32. refried beans are understood, not only as beans which have been refried, but as a kind of beans, different from other beans. i’ve never heard anyone say “refry beans” with reference to them.

    -ed can be a descriptor of kind, especially in absence of other appropriate suffixes like -an. consider, for instance “transgenderian american.”

    kara’s observations mirror my own because we inhabit similar cultural spaces. i was brought into the trans culture hearing “transgendered” as the correct term, and it took some getting used to, when i started hearing transpeople of color in this town refer to themselves as “transgenders.” i had never thought of “transgender” as a specific noun.

    personally, i think it’s a false controversy, and is partly why i also tend to simply prefer “trans.”

  33. refried beans are understood, not only as beans which have been refried, but as a kind of beans, different from other beans. i’ve never heard anyone say “refry beans” with reference to them.

    -ed can be a descriptor of kind, especially in absence of other appropriate suffixes like -an. consider, for instance “transgenderian american.”

    kara’s observations mirror my own because we inhabit similar cultural spaces. i was brought into the trans culture hearing “transgendered” as the correct term, and it took some getting used to, when i started hearing transpeople of color in this town refer to themselves as “transgenders.” i had never thought of “transgender” as a specific noun.

    personally, i think it’s a false controversy, and is partly why i also tend to simply prefer “trans.”

  34. Yes, in the case of “I am a transgender American” (although I would hear it as a dash after ‘transgender’) then ‘transgender’ is being used as an adjective. I rarely hear it that way though in this area.

    To me, it would sound equally as correct to me if someone said “I am a transgendered American”. I agree that the use (or non-use) of the ‘ed’ suffix makes it a non-standard word, but the entire english language is more of a patchwork than something that makes sense.

    Even our spelling is enough to give linguists nightmares. 🙂

  35. Yes, in the case of “I am a transgender American” (although I would hear it as a dash after ‘transgender’) then ‘transgender’ is being used as an adjective. I rarely hear it that way though in this area.

    To me, it would sound equally as correct to me if someone said “I am a transgendered American”. I agree that the use (or non-use) of the ‘ed’ suffix makes it a non-standard word, but the entire english language is more of a patchwork than something that makes sense.

    Even our spelling is enough to give linguists nightmares. 🙂

  36. What about them? Above I’ve stated more than one “identity” of my own. If you say “I am a transgender American,” transgender is a modifier of American. In the modern American vernacular, words that end in -ed typically are seen as a past action. If I’m misunderstanding you, please provide examples.

  37. What about them? Above I’ve stated more than one “identity” of my own. If you say “I am a transgender American,” transgender is a modifier of American. In the modern American vernacular, words that end in -ed typically are seen as a past action. If I’m misunderstanding you, please provide examples.

  38. Well, word usage does change from one area of the country to another. Or even different cultures in the same area.

    Within DC middle-class culture it is common usage to say ‘so-and-so is transgendered’ (or ‘so-and-so is a transgendered person’) but within DC inner-city culture the usage is ‘so-and-so is a transgender’. I prefer to use ‘so-and-so is a trans-woman(or trans-man)’.

    I am sure inner-city folk cringe as much about our usage as we do about theirs. As long as you understand it is how the other group says things, there is no problem though.

  39. Well, word usage does change from one area of the country to another. Or even different cultures in the same area.

    Within DC middle-class culture it is common usage to say ‘so-and-so is transgendered’ (or ‘so-and-so is a transgendered person’) but within DC inner-city culture the usage is ‘so-and-so is a transgender’. I prefer to use ‘so-and-so is a trans-woman(or trans-man)’.

    I am sure inner-city folk cringe as much about our usage as we do about theirs. As long as you understand it is how the other group says things, there is no problem though.

  40. and what about those many people for whom “trans” is not an unary identity but a modifier?

  41. and what about those many people for whom “trans” is not an unary identity but a modifier?