Why I am uncomfortable with the phrase “trans woman” or “trans man”
I was taught that individuals who go through the process of changing their gender, do so because they never felt comfortable identifying with their first one. So I don’t feel comfortable with the phrase “trans woman/man” because…
Hi. So, I totally see where you are coming from and I think that there’s no reason that personally you should feel the need to put trans in front of woman. Your identity does not need the signifier attached. You are a woman. End of that sentence. Totally.
Here’s though why personally I define myself as being a trans woman, as being trans, and don’t feel uncomfortable with that adjective. And sorry, this ended up being way longer than I expected! :-)
First: The term is neutral. This is why the term cisgender, and the description of cis people is important. Trans means across, cis means on the same side as. We need terms like these in order to effectively speak and write about our histories, and to avoid language that makes one side out to be normal and the other to be abnormal/odd/weird. The terms allow us to be more clear. Just like explaining that someone is tall or short, black or white, gay or straight (and not always a choice between just two options either!). Basically these two neutral terms just describe a little bit of personal history and give context.
Second: People will label me one way or the other. We all look for labels and categories for people. Humans are creatures that think and even store memory according to these categorizations. They don’t always make sense, but they exist. So if I will be labeled, I would rather control the process. If people will add something in front of woman, which they will, then this is the word I want them to use. This hopefully works on their categorizing and affects their thinking so that they aren’t groping around and putting one of the totally not neutral terms on me.
Third: It is political. Not in a voting, government sense, but in an active choice type of meaning. I am also just a woman. End of sentence. And hopefully I get to a place where in all the mundane stuff in life that can be enough. But in certain forums, it’s really important to me to lay out my history and speak from my truth. Just like race, gender, sexuality, ability, these are all neutral descriptors—objective facts about our existence—but carry real meaning and weight out in the world. I don’t want to deny that meaning. I feel that if I turn my back on this meaning making process then others will be doing all the work and I will be at the mercy of the fates. For the same reasons that I take hormones, to be in control of my existence and assert my reality, I use the term trans woman.
Now, maybe some of this applies to you. Maybe you feel like I’m kind of rambling too long about this. Either way I want to say again: You are a woman, and no one else gets a say in that. You get to choose how you define that, and what that means. No one else.
I don’t know what you have or haven’t read, so I’ll just make one big reading recommendation. If you want to read some stuff on stuff, Julia Serano is a really great writer who is a million times better at putting to words all this stuff. There are also a ton of other folks out there writing about it or making videos, though I don’t have a good one at hand to link to, but I’m sure I could hunt something up if you want it.
Thanks for listening,
Thank you for responding! I really didn’t think anyone would. I will definitely check out the book. Before I saw this, I was also thinking about gender neutral terms and their affect on language and the written word. I’m also curious on visual processing of gender neutrality in literature. If you have any suggestions for books that touch on that topic at all I would be very interested!