As LGBTQ+ issues are talked about more often and in more mainstream spaces, the way people discuss the issues has changed. Many straight, cisgender people are learning what words to use, and what words to not use. One of the words that gets pointed out as a “no-no” is “transgendered,” though many of the explanations don’t say much other than “don’t use it.” But what’s missing is the context for why that term should not be used, so here is some context and food for thought.
I was told that I should say “transgender” and not “transgendered.” But when I asked my friend why, she didn’t have an answer. She just said, “Don’t say ‘transgendered.’ Say ‘transgender.'”
At the end of 2014, Katy Steinmetz wrote a piece for TIME called “Why It’s Best to Avoid the Word ‘Transgendered.'” In it, Steinmetz wrote:
When I recently asked San Francisco-based attorney Christina DiEdoardo, a transgender woman, how many out of 10 trans people she knows would say they dislike the word transgendered, she quickly answered: “11.”
“The consensus now seems to be that transgender is better stylistically and grammatically,” DiEdoardo says. “In the same sense, I’m an Italian-American, not an Italianed-American.” The most common objection to the word, says Serano, is that the “ed” makes it sound like “something has been done to us,” as if they weren’t the same person all along. DiEdoardo illustrates this point, hilariously, with a faux voiceover: “One day John Jones was leading a normal, middle-class American life when suddenly he was zapped with a transgender ray!”
Moving away from the “ed”—which sounds like a past-tense, completed verb that marks a distinct time before and a time after— helps move away from some common misconceptions about what it means to be transgender.
One is that being transgender might be a choice that involves a person simply deciding to be that way or a result of something that happened to them, like sexual abuse. The majority of trans people I’ve spoken to have said they knew they had feelings of identifying as a boy (when assigned female) or girl (when assigned male) as far back as they can remember—even if they didn’t have the vocabulary or understanding to articulate what was going on—and even if they tried to change or stifle those feelings for half their lives. Imagine how it would sound if one described people as “gayed” or “femaled,” as if there was a point when that wasn’t the case.
OK, I think I get it. Yeah, “gayed” or “femaled” would sound weird, wouldn’t it?
The GLAAD Media Reference Guide made similar points:
The adjective transgender should never have an extraneous “-ed” tacked onto the end. An “-ed” suffix adds unnecessary length to the word and can cause tense confusion and grammatical errors. It also brings transgender into alignment with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer. You would not say that Elton John is “gayed” or Ellen DeGeneres is “lesbianed,” therefore you would not say Chaz Bono is “transgendered.”
“Lesbianed” sounds even worse.
Joanne Herman made a similar point in a piece for Huffington Post:
Readers of my age and older will remember a sad time when this country labeled African-Americans as “colored people.” One problem with this label was that it implied something happened to make the person “of color,” which denied the person’s dignity of being born that way. Today, we are somewhat more enlightened and say “people of color” instead.
Saeed Jones put it another way: “‘Transgendered’ is the linguistic equivalent of describing someone as ‘blacked.'”
Whoa, that one sounds the worst of all. No one should say “blacked.”
And no one who is black would refer to themselves that way, which dovetails with another point Herman made:
I have found that whenever “transgendered” is being used, it is usually by a person who is not transgender, or by an organization wanting to be inclusive of transgender people, but not yet having a transgender person involved.
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