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Transgendered (No, I Didn’t Make That Up)

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.

About michellelianna

I'm a transgender woman now in the maintenance stages of transition having all the electrolysis and surgery one can reasonably be expected to undertake. While busy exploring my new world, I took to blogging about it with dubiously popular results. I don't have quite as much to say as I used to, but I'm not quite done yet either.

10 responses »

  1. Hey Michelliana,

    The main thing I took from your post is that you ought to be entitled to use whatever words you want to describe who you are and what your experience is, including just plain ‘woman’ – A fine label that has been working for centuries. I know people who use ‘transgendered’ all the time. I’m sure it’s even in the dictionary. Don’t let the uptight control freaks get you down just because it make them feel powerful to get nit picky and define your reality and behaviour. The queer community pulls these kinds of power trips on people all the time. My take is that they didn’t get to do it in high school, so they’re doing it now when they should know better.

    I do the same thing (avoid using pronouns) when presented with choices that I know I’m not going to be able to keep clear in my head (I can barely remember people’s names when I’ve just met them, let alone alternate pronoun set preferences).

    I’m not sure I get why it’s necessary or helpful in a broader sense. Perhaps this is one place that you can be the cultural interpreter for me and explain why someone would need to everyone to use ‘zir’ or similar to refer to themselves. Do they really not have a gender attached to their internal sense of self or are they just doing it for political reasons?

    I like reading your blog,

    • I just started attending a TG support group recently and it is so refreshing not to have to worry about pronouns and labels and just be ourselves. We had a new man last evening who is the brother of a sister and the one he calls his “new sister” and who see-sawed through referring to her, then him, then back again and while my mind wanted to be confused, I was able to just let it go. I am really attached to the notion that my gender is female, but I don’t have to let my attachment be the source of getting into another’s face about theirs, for whatever reason.

  2. LOL! I hate purists getting in my face about whether its a word or not because what you’re talking about is jargon anyway and jargon, as you know, when used enough will find itself into the OED sooner than later, which is why they don’t publish a printed version anymore.

  3. I used “trangendered” in the past as well and someone lobbed a jello-shot at me for doing so. However, I think linguistically (and not over linguine I might add) the whole idea is that you ‘used to be transgender, you moves ‘past it’ to ‘affirmation of the mind and body being whole and the same’. OK, I *think* that’s it. Maybe not…

    However some terms get really confusing like genderqueer and pansexual, both of which, as I have read more, I come to identify with. But then again you can read Webster’s definitions and not agree, then you read the Oxford and parts you DO agree with and you have no idea now. If you mix apples and oranges, you end up with fruit salad.

    I know about floundering with words and pronouns. It’s human nature. Just smile, look pretty and nod politely every once in a while! 🙂

  4. Transgenderingly yours,


  5. Senses my Newbie days I have learned there is a lot of things that was told me that is just not important and have very truth too. There really isn’t anything wrong with Transgendered all though spell check dose jump out there on it, maybe it was set up by someone who is Transgender, I used to think it was not a real word. There was a debate about this on a another site that I belong to, wow people can get fired up over this, I think it’s just another way some girls express themselves. There’s nothing wrong with it, after all, I see myself a Transsexual and that gets some people worked up too. I can’t keep up with all the labels people use to describe themselves, I spend time hoping I don’t upset others with my ignorance:)

  6. I’ve seen the word used in different places. I have seen the “gayed” argument too.
    Personally it doesn’t bother me, but I guess some people have thinner skins.
    In the end it doesn’t really matter does it? After all, you are still you no matter what descriptive someone uses.



  7. Hi Michelle,

    Now I’m confused. Is it a word or isn’t it.

    I had shifted into the camp of seeing it like “irregardless” a word that the less literate add extra prefixes or suffixes where they don’t belong.

    Maybe the real issue here is the obsession with words, labels and terms.

    I think I have a solution. When people want to know about me, I’m going to start with ” Hi. I’m Becky.” and go from there.


  8. I’ve used the word to indicate a thing that other people do to us; when they try to read our gender and come up with “uh, some kind of trans freak”, they’ve transgendered us – gendered us as trans.


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