plz, define your terms

I’m suddenly incredibly confused about the use of the prefix “trans” in “transgender”. Is it supposed to be short for “transitioning”, or like “trans-” as in the opposite of “cis-“?

Before I go on, I just want to say that I try to respect each and everyone’s way of identifying..even if I disagree with it or even if it doesn’t logically make any sense (I may write articles about why it doesn’t make any sense, but I try to be respectful when doing this). This extends all the way to otherkin and other “non-format” movements, i.e. if someone wants to gender-identify as a cat (or an alien, or a vampire), that’s totally fine by me and for the most part I won’t even go into the fact that “cat” is actually a different species that has genders of its own.. y’know? If you’re really demanding the right to identify your gender as “cat” then have at it *shrug* you’re a cat.

And before anyone starts hating on me for criticizing my fellow oppressed minorities or accusing me of being transphobic, let me just restate my main point in writing this: I don’t care what you do with your life or what you think you are. All of that is totally fine with me. All I’m asking is that if you’re going to pick a label by which to identify yourself, please think it through and choose a word that doesn’t mean the exact opposite of what you’re trying to say (or worse, is so ambiguous that it doesn’t really mean anything at all).

The terms “cis-” and “trans-” come from Latin origins meaning “on the same side of” and “on the other side of”, respectively.

In classical texts, the most common example of this is in respect to rivers. For example, the words “Transjordan” and “Cisjordan” exist in English to this day. If something was in Transjordan, that meant that it was across the river from the point of reference of the speaker (and likewise if it was in Cisjordan that meant it was on the same side of the river).

So it’s easy enough to see where the terms “transgender” and “cisgender” come from (at least, in the binary paradigm anyway .. which I don’t subscribe to, but I’m trying to figure out where people are coming from nonetheless). If a person is “transgender”, that means they are on the opposite side of the imaginary and poorly-defined line that separates the “two genders” as the one they were born on. If they are “cisgender” it means that they are on the same side as when they were born.

But where I see a problem developing with people who’re using this metric is that a growing number of people are using the prefix “trans-” to mean “transitioning”. As in, the process of transitioning from one gender to another.

Just to get really technical about things, the process of moving from one place to another does not say anything about where you are, all it says is where you were and where you’re going.  It references your state of being, not your location.  If you are moving from Chicago to San Francisco and are currently driving down I-80 through Nebraska and someone asked you “where are you right now?”, neither ‘Chicago’ nor ‘San Francisco’ would be accurate answers to that question.

Or, let’s go back to the river metaphor. If trans- is on the opposite side of the river, and cis- is on the same side of the river, and you are on a bridge or a boat going from one side to the other, neither “cis” nor “trans” accurately identifies where you are.

And yet, I meet more and more people every day who are saying exactly this.

This issue is becoming incredibly complex and convoluted, especially due to the fact that some people are “binary” (e.g. they think there are only 2 genders: male and female) and other people are “non-binary” (e.g. they think there are many genders or perhaps don’t even believe in gender).

Further complicating the issue is that some transgendered people are binary and others are not. Some people think that “MtF” and “FtM” count as genders and some don’t.

I know a lot of people who identify as “transgender”, but very few of these people have gotten SRS, or are saving up for it, or even want to get SRS. Many of them don’t even take hormones, but are still demanding the right to say that they are the opposite gender of what they were born as.

Among the people I consider my friends and acquaintances, I know at least one person who identifies their gender as transwoman, transman, genderqueer, genderfluid, agendered (or genderless), polygendered, intersexed, hermaphrodite, two-spirit, N/A (non-applicable), androgyne, cross-dresser and many other terms .. and almost all of these people have come to start using the umbrella term “on the trans spectrum”.

Or simply “trans” for short.

In common usage, the term “trans” has come to mean “anything other than identifying as the rigidly prescribed binary gender role you were given at birth”, which ends up meaning at least 60 different things drawing from multiple different paradigms, many of which are mutually exclusive and conflict with one another.

It doesn’t really work out very well to have a label that simply means “non-standard” or “anything other than the mainstream”. It’s like “Alternative Rock”, or saying that you are “counter-culture”. Like, okay, that’s great, you’ve just defined yourself as a negative. All you’ve done is told me what you are not, you haven’t done anything to tell me what you are.

We invent words and labels to facilitate communication and make the sharing of ideas and information simpler and easier. When you start using a word that creates mass confusion and requires more words to explain what you meant than it would have taken to just explain what you meant in the first place, you’ve failed at languaging properly. When you create a word with a multitude of different meanings that conflict with one another, it loses all of its power if you do not provide the proper context.

So what we have going on in society right now is a bunch of different people, identifying as dozens of different genders, some of whom are binary and some non-binary, all referring to themselves as “trans”.

Which would be totally fine, except for that pesky little nagging fact that “transitioning” does not mean “having already transitioned”.

It’s a matter of wanting to eat your cake and have it too.

The terms “transitioning” and “having transitioned” are mutually exclusive. By definition, you can’t be both at the same time.

I hate to be the one to rain on somebody’s pride parade, but if you’re going to insist that your gender is “transitioning” and then talk about “cispeople” as if they are the opposite of what you are, it shows that you don’t know what the buzzwords you’re using actually mean. Sorry folks.


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