Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Definitions and Explanations

So I was planning on doing this whole dictionary-style post because I don't always use the general definition for certain words and I use some words that aren't really all that common. But...I started that post and it was boring me to tears so I downloaded the free trial to WOW...

ETA: Here is a decent list of definitions for terms often used in progressive, liberal, etc. comms (like how racism=prejudice+power).

I think this will be more of a 'constantly edited as things come up' type of definitions post instead of one long post on every word in the world.
I'm hoping this will be helpful to some folk and maybe it'll give folks something to think about.
If you have any words you want me to add, any questions about my definitions, if you disagree with something, or whatever just comment!
(ETA: I grouped these into categories as neither alphabetical nor the original order would work very well. I also added a 'slur' section.)


Trans* - An umbrella term for transgender, transsexual, transfemale, ftm-spectrum, etc. people.
I prefer to use the asterisk because there are so many possible variations on labels and identities. For instance, a person who identifies as a transman and a person who identifies as a trans man are not necessarily using the same identity. The trans man may see himself as a man who happens to have a trans* history; while the transman may identify as a transman and not just/only a man. But then again, they may not make this particular distinction or what they mean could be entirely different. Personally, I like Cedar's post on this.

Trans*ism - An umbrella term for all types of the things that make us trans*--transsexuality, transgender, bigender, genderqueer, etc.

Transsexual - Someone whose subconscious sex and assigned sex are not aligned.
While many people only include those who are post-surgery/hormones or at least those who desire surgery/hormones, I do not. Not all transsexuals have the same level of body dissonance or need the same things to cope with it.
Some people also think a person has to identify with a binary gender identity to be transsexual, I do not. So, I think it is possible to be both transsexual and genderqueer.

Genderqueer - An umbrella term for those whose gender identity falls outside or between the binary.
Also, an identity where the specifics are usually defined differently by each individual.
There are genderqueer people whose gender is Butch, genderqueer female, Androgyne, bigender, boi, etc (though not all who hold those identities also identify as genderqueer).

Transgender - I sort of have three different definitions here:
1)An umbrella term for all non-cissexual and/or gender variant and/or some crossdressing folks. 2) A political coalition of those groups.
3) An identity; the exact definition is generally unique to each person, but generally transgender folks don't define themselves as only men or women though they may define themselves mostly as men or women.

Cis* - Someone whose subconscious sex and assigned sex do not conflict; moreover, their basic gender (not gender roles, sexual/romantic orientation, etc) and the gender usually assigned to that sex also do not conflict. So someone who is assigned female/woman and identifies as female/woman is cissexual (gender/sex roles, masculinity/femininity, misogyny, sexual orientation, etc do not play any part in whether you are cis* or not).
"Identifies as" doesn't have to be active or conscious; in fact, with cis*folk it rarely is. So someone who defines themself as, "a female who rejects how females are expected to be and behave under patriarchy, and who loves her femaleness and that of other females" (for instance) is still cis*.

Cissexual - Someone who isn't transsexual.
Someone whose subconscious sex and assigned sex do not conflict. So someone who is assigned female and identifies as female is cissexual (gender/sex roles, masculinity/femininity, misogyny, sexual orientation, etc do not play any part in whether you are cissexual or not).

Cisgender - My definition of this is still in flux somewhat. Some people use this to mean anyone who isn't trans*; I think that is too simplistic. Other people use it to mean a binary gender identified person whose gender identity doesn't conflict with the gender people usually read them as (so a post-transition, man or woman identified transsexual could be cisgender as well as any cis* person); I'm not sure I like that definition.
So I'm currently defining cisgender as someone whose assigned gender doesn't conflict with their gender identity.

Note on intersection of these terms: I think it is quite possible to be cissexual and trans*; I'm specifically thinking of genderqueer people who feel no body dissonance, but I'm sure there are other possibilities. With how some people define it, some people can be both cisgender and trans*--as I noted under cisgender. And just how crossdressers' identities fit into them I do not know (I don't know much about crossdressing as an identity; I like wearing skirts every so often, but it has nothing to do with my gender or anything).

Intersex - "A general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male."
Some trans*folk consider one or more forms of trans*ism to be intersex conditions, but as this has not been proven, I do not consider trans*ism to be an intersex condition.
Some trans*folk are also intersexed and both groups sometimes share some experiences, but intersex folk generally face things that trans* folk generally don't--like finding out doctors surgically altered your infant genitals without even your parents' knowledge. See Eminism for more.

Harry Benjamin Syndrome (HBS) - One theory as to why some people are transsexual. Basically, this proposal states that transsexual/HBS people are intersexed because there are physical differences in male and female brains and that transsexual/HBS folk's brains align with the sex that they identify with and not their assigned sex. There have been a few studies done, but they have been small sample sizes and some have been contradictory or inconclusive.
Unfortunately, the most vocal supporters of this theory tend to be heterosexist and cissexist as well as vehemently anti-genderqueer, anti-crossdressing, etc. (Although not all are, as I have come to realize). Though HBS as a theory shows some promise, it will have to gain better scientific backing and lose the hateful and exclusionary taint before many will support it (and as of right now, I do not believe that any recognized/credited scientific group supports or recognizes the proposal).

"Wom*n-born-wom*n" - A cis*woman.
Some feminists, most notably those of the Michigan Women's Music Festival, often use this phrase to exclude trans* women from women's spaces. Many trans* people find its use very offensive because of this.

Queer - An umbrella term for non-straight folks (though sometimes heterosexual folks into BDSM define themselves as queer). Moreover, it's an identity for those of us that don't feel comfortable with lesbian/bi/gay; as per the pattern here, this identity is also generally defined differently for each person.
Personally, I use it to mean that while I am mostly interested in other men, I like people that fall outside the binary, women every so often, and I tend to be 'geek-sexual'. I use queer to differentiate myself from "straight acting", assimilationist, HRC-type LGB people.


Assigned sex - The sex you were assigned at birth (and generally raised as).

Biological sex - The sex you are biologically. As this depends on chromosomes, primary sex characteristics, hormone levels, neural-map (imo), and other characteristics, it can therefore be very difficult to say with any certainty.
I happen to define my biological sex as transsexual male, so it is best not to assume a person's bio sex.

Perceived sex/gender – What sex/gender others generally assume you are.

Subconscious sex - What physical sex you instinctively feel your body should be.

Gender identity - The gender you identify as. This may or may not have anything to do with masculinity/femininity or subconscious sex.

Gender expression – How you express gendered behaviour; generally how masculine/feminine you are. Although some folks include other labels, such as geek or butch or androgyne, under this heading. I happen to see my gender expression as "glam geek" or "geeky glam" (depending on how I feel right then).

Gender/sex roles – How society expects you to act and what it believes you must do based on your gender/sex.

Body dissonance – The inherent wrongness many trans* people feel when our body does not match our subconscious sex. What exactly it feels like is different for everyone—my experience is linked in the sidebar.

Transition - There are at least four different types.
Medical (any medical steps a person goes through), cosmetic (haircuts, new clothes, etc), social (coming out and living as your gender), and legal (changing documents and names).
I don't believe that any sort of transition is a requirement to identify as anything. A pre-everything trans*woman who is just coming out on an internet forum is just as much a woman as the deep stealth, post-everything HBS woman. The former woman just isn't yet recognized as a woman. Yeah, they both have different experiences--that doesn't change who they are inside; they are all women's experiences.

Harry Benjamin Standards of Care - The guidelines doctors and therapists have drawn up to treat trans*folk. There have been several variations over the years.
Old versions included physical appearance (thinly disguised "would the doctor fuck that or not?"), conforming to strict gender roles, being straight, being wealthy, etc.
In some medical journals, trans*folk who went public with their transition were described as “sociopathic” (according to Whipping Girl.
Here's the current version-now known as WPATH-SoC (thanks Jay).

Brain-sex theory (HBS is one specific brain-sex theory)– A theory of one possible cause of transsexuality where the hormone baths in the uterus cause the brain to develop a neural-map that does not match the physical attributes of the body.
A neural-map is the map your brain may or may not have (I personally doubt that this map is universal in detail and strength) of the major attributes.
Obviously, more studies need to be done before anything can be confirmed. It's also likely that different types of trans*ism have different causes.
Personally, I rather like this theory as it describes my experiences perfectly.

Misgendered - To be assumed to be the wrong gender. So when someone calls me by female pronouns, they are misgendering me.

Correctly gendered - When someone correctly sees your gender. So when someone includes me wit other men, they have correctly gendered me.

Ungendered -
"An attempt to undo a trans person’s gender by privileging incongruities and discrepancies in their gendered appearance that would normally be overlooked or dismissed if they were presumed to be cissexual." This can be done either by considering us "really" a man or a woman or by third-gendering man/woman-identified trans* folk.

Ft*-spectrum (usually seen as ftm-) - All trans* people who were assigned female at birth. This is a very general term that includes men with a trans* history, bois, female-assigned genderqueers, etc.
Some people use trans*masculine, but I find that to be offensive to non-masculine trans* guys and masculine trans* women.

Mt*-spectrum (usually seen as mtf-) - All trans* people who were male-assigned at birth. This includes women with trans* histories, male-assigned genderqueers, transwomen, etc.
Some people use trans*feminine, but like I said above, I find that to be offensive and incorrect.

Passing - To pass as a cissexual person of your gender. So when I say I pass I mean that I pass as a cissexual man/boy. Many people are starting to talk about how this word is somewhat cis*-centric, see gendered/misgendered/ungendered.

Stealth - Living as your gender without telling folks you are trans*. There are a lot of different levels and subtypes; the most drastic being 'deep stealth'--what used to be required/recommended by the Standards of Care-- cutting off all contact with everyone who knew you by your assigned sex (even parents) and moving to a new city and a new job.
While I do wish it were safe for everyone to be out and I also wish we had more role models and people to educate the masses, I do not believe that being stealth is cowardly or wrong.

Nongendered pronouns - Pronouns for when you either don't know a person's gender (or are speaking generally) or if they don't identify as a man or a woman.

Privilege - I happen to think that there are two subtypes of privilege; external and internal. External is based on how others perceive and act towards you. Internal is how you perceive yourself and how you internalize the messages sent to you.
So External Privilege is getting accepted into college because your name sounds "American". Internal Privilege is believing that you are better or prettier than people with poor people or those with wider noses.
Cedar/Hazel has some thoughts on this too.

*anyprivilegedgroup*-centric - Focusing on the privileged group and ignoring/erasing any and all oppressed groups. For instance, talking about love and relationships as if everyone is straight is heterocentric.

Cissexist - Privileging or seeing cissexual experiences and cissexuals as better than anyone else. Heterosexism is the same, just replace cissexual with heterosexual.
Or, I'll just post Julia Serano's definition:
"The belief that transsexual genders are less legitimate than, and mere imitations of, cissexual genders.

Cissexism is most typically enacted through one or more of the following processes: trans-fascimilation (viewing or portraying transsexuals as merely imitating, emulating or impersonating cissexual female or male genders), trans-exclusion (refusing to acknowledge and respect a transsexual’s identified gender, or denying them, access to spaces, organizations, or events designated for that gender), trans-objectification (when people reduce trans people to their body parts, the medical procedures they’ve undertaken, or get hung up on, disturbed by, or obsessed over supposed discrepancies that exist between a transsexual’s physical sex and identified gender), trans-mystification (when people use the relative infrequency or taboo nature of transsexuality to mystify, artificialize or to “other” transsexuals), and trans-interrogation (when people bring a transsexual’s identified gender into question by asking them to answer personal questions about their life story, their motives for transitioning, medical procedures they have undertaken, or when they obsess over what causes transsexuality - such questions reduce transsexuals to the status of objects of inquiry)."


(Some are reclaimed, some are not, and some are in the process of being reclaimed; it's best not to use these terms negatively or at all if you are not a member of that group)

Dyke – From what I can tell as an outsider, this seems to be mostly reclaimed and has a lot of positive and/or neutral meanings and is even many folks' identity. Its usually used as an identity for queer women/females (but some ftm-spectrum folks also use it).

Fag/got – Originally meant firewood, they also mean gay men. Many queer men have reclaimed them, such as myself, others see them as a slur.

Hermaphrodite – While there is some mythological history, this term was also used for intersex folks. Most intersex folk see it as a slur and a few others have reclaimed it.

Shemale – Usually used in porn for a “chick with a dick”; someone who is portrayed as a pre- or non-operative trans*woman though the actress may actually be a cis*woman with a prosthetic/strap-on.
Very few trans*women that I know have reclaimed this term.

Tranny – Somewhat reclaimed, though many trans*folk, like me, raise their hackles when cis*folk use it. It was also used primarily for trans* women, so it is incorrect for trans* guys to attempt to reclaim it (something I was guilty of).

Tranny-chaser – Someone who fetishizes and/or objectifies trans*folk. Originally, it meant cis*men who used trans*women as a way to satisfy their needs/urges for anal and/or queer sex. Now, most folks who use it realize that trans*men can be the focus of tranny-chasers and that cis*women can be tranny-chasers.
Some tranny-chasers are abusive, some will try to control the transitions of the trans*folk close to them, others are just privileged.
"Tranny-chaser" is not reclaimable as it is not referring to a marginalized group, but to a oppressive group who prey on a marginalized group; just as misogynist and killer are not reclaimable.


Daisy said...

This is fantastic! I love that I can simply say "go here" to people from now on...

Also, thanks for your big-tent definition of Genderqueer. :)

Drakyn said...

Thank you ^.^
I'm hoping this'll be helpful to folks.

I just hope people won't think I'm cheating by being vague--it's just that if i want to be fair, a lot of these newer words simply don't have a single defined meaning.
Like "boi" has two sets of meanings! The trans* meanings and the lesbian meanings (which I know nothing about so I don't feel comfortable posting boi until I get a chance to research what it means for lesbians).

Jay said...

hey drakyn.
the HBSOC are now known as the WPATH SOC.
i think that is the same 6th edition as your link.

Drakyn said...

Ok Jay, I'm just used to calling the the HBSoC.

DanaeLM said...

Your definition of genderqueer will surely not help making it understandable (or maybe it's just my not being gq that makes it so hard to explain ;) ), but it's a nice one...

The vagueness is nice - there's a good deal of vagueness and overlap in everything.

nexy said...

well done. you may want to add a definition of "hbs", since you mention it in the transition definition.

Elly said...

Thanks for the definitions. Most terms I already knew but there are some new ones for me:

- i'm a bit puzzled at "assigned sex - The sex you were assigned at birth." Is it in the case of intersex people when there was surgery at birth ?

- i find the idea of "subconscious sex" interesting, if it gives one more level between "sex" and "gender". However:

- "Cissexual - Someone whose subconscious sex and assigned and/or biological sex do not conflict. So someone who is assigned female and identifies as female is cissexual"
What about someone assigned female, who identifies as male but is happy with his "sex" ? Would he be cissexual but trans* ? I don't know if I understood the above definition correctly but I would find it a bit weird, since for me cisgender/cissexual meant "non-trans*".

Drakyn said...

I prefer to use assigned-sex instead of biological-sex in general, but it can refer to what sex intersex people were assigned and raised as.

I think I need to tweak that definition a bit, but I also mean that their gender (minus gender roles, etc) corresponds with the gender usually associated with that sex.

This language is very new and is constantly evolving, so maybe in the future I'll have to change all of these definitions, but I'll try to do the best I can for now...

GDad said...

Thanks. I'm glad I had a chance to learn some terms and learn to avoid others.

Drakyn said...

All right, its January 20th and I've just edited the definitions more.
I edited cis*/cissexual/cisgender some more to hopefully make my meaning more clear and because I've clarified some of my thoughts in the past few months.

And remember, no matter how old this post gets, y'all are welcome to comment and critique it!

gogojojo said...

Hi i really like your definitions list. i'm working on a trans101 wiki project (found here: http://trans101.wikia.com) i was wondering if it would be okay to link to your post?

Drakyn said...

Sure! And I'll have to check out your wiki project too.

Anonymous said...

thank you for this resource! - Alison