Some thoughts on language

Some thoughts on language:

Common =/= normal

But also,

Normal =/= natural

And more importantly, 

Common =/= normal =/= natural =/= good =/= bad

People get hung up on words. Everyone has some part of themselves that’s not normal. Being normal shouldn’t be your goal in life. The Transgender phenomenon is not normal. It is though, entirely natural and expected in a population of sufficient size. It’s normal to find “some” people who are transgender in a population. It is not a “normal” human experience. 

I think it’s important to realize that fact for people who encounter it whether in themselves or in others. It’s about relatability. If you tell people you’re sick, they want to know “with what?” If you say it’s a cold then they have at least a vague idea of what you’re suffering from. If you say you experience gender dysphoria, then you’re dealing with something so far off the map that assuming you know anything about what someone means when they say that would be a mistake. The very next thing you say should amount to “tell me about that.” It is not a normal experience for a human being.

When you wake up feeling like death enough mornings in a row, usually over years, when you feel like your life even just life in general is a bland colorless experience, you may eventually begin to conclude is that other people don’t seem to have these issues. This is not a normal experience. This is not normal, and you may require help. This help may even require you to supplement with cross-sex hormones because your body needs them and can’t make them by itself. This is not a normal human experience. Calling it normal can keep people in pain for years, decades longer than they need to be, convinced (gaslighted into believing) that this is how their bodies and minds were meant to operate.

It is however, natural. Biology is messy and we see things crop up in human biology all the time that deviate in some way from the “norm.” Calling it normal seems to me a backlash against the prevalence of bigotry (which usually, actually and wrongly calls it “unnatural”).

There are others things like left-handedness is not a normal human experience, and they too have suffered in some cultures at the hands of people who decided they needed to go against their biology. In our culture now though, we all pretty much agree to just let left handed people be left handed. Any other treatment is ineffective and needlessly cruel.


I like “cis” because it’s a quick easy and clean way to differentiate between trans people without resorting to AMAB/AFAB, DMAB/DFAB, CAMAB/CAFAB, “biological,” “genetic,” and the whole host of other words people have tried, all of which are problematic on some level. (And yes, OK “normal people,” is one of them and in this context “normal” is also problematic. Are you happy now?) 

I think the problem is really more in the derision of “ab-normal” than the exclusion from “normal.” I can’t wait until we all finally grow up and realize that “ab-normality” isn’t a bad thing.


Our words are all wrong anyway. Words shift and change, go in and out of use and only exist to give adolescents and bigoted ideologues something compelling to argue about. Words don’t matter. The “true” meanings of words don’t matter. The only thing that matters are the ideas they represent to you as you use them to communicate, and the ideas they represent to the audience who receives them. If you disagree with someone, the degree to which this disagreement causes you to foam at the mouth is directly proportional to the importance for you to stop, take a breath and then simply ask, “what did you mean by that?”

We have cisgender and transgender. The Trans Alps were the far side of the Alps from Rome. The Cis Alps were the Roman side. Rome is the center of the world here. Therefore when we say Transgender, we mean we are on the other side of our gender… but wait? I thought gender was in our minds, and of our minds are us essentially, shouldn’t it be Transsex, because Transgender gives the body primacy? Yes, it probably should be and if Transexual wasn’t already a word with a specific meaning in our language then yes that would be correct. And transexual anyway is using a different meaning for that prefix trans- which doesn’t even correspond to being the opposite of cis-.

A transex person should refer someone who exists on the other side from their sex. It’s weird to think of someone existing on the other side of their gender, it would imply you’ve been separated from your own mind. It gives primacy to the body, which is exactly what the discussion of these words is usually meant to avoid. 

The there’s also the reason we have either of those words, sex and gender. Gender coming into use as an opposition to Sex because of the erotic connotations of the latter, not as a way to differentiate between body and mind as we use it now. Use it now solely for the purpose of having a discussion of the transgender phenomenon. Gender is still available to use in place of sex on almost every other context. Though the culture seems to be shifting in that direction now, it was not wrong before. (Also side note, I say “phenomenon” because I can’t stand the word “transgenderism.” Even though that’s more expedient it makes it sound like an ideology to me, which it is not.)

It doesn’t really matter in the end. These words exist for reasons that have to do with a combination of their etymology and their cultural currency. We have transgender because transexual was already in use, and in use exclusively for people who had transitioned and were living as the opposite sex. Transgender came into being and is now used to expand the discussion to include people who have not transitioned. Then came “trans*” or “trans umbrella” to include people who swam in that pond but weren’t explicitly either of those terms. If you ask tumblr, some of the kids are trying to redefine transexual to mean someone exclusively attracted to trans people… so… good luck with that, I guess? I’m curious to see how the language will change (and it will) as we move forward with these concepts culturally and more people have access to community and care, as the whole thing becomes more normalized. (There’s that word again.)


The reason that this graphic was made in the first place is a kind of pushback from people who had never been called that word before, never heard of it, and mostly encountered it with other terms attached. Words like “scum” as in “cis-scum,” and “die” as in, “die cis-scum.” Its become another derogatory way to separate out-group from in-group. There’s also the fact that some people don’t want to acknowledge the whole concept for ideological reasons and by accepting “cis” you’re accepting “trans.” Then there’s also the people that by defining trans, and by defining cis, on some level you’re also defining gender itself which means you’re defining someone’s mind and therefore their personhood and how dare you. 

That last one… is a problem when navigating this conversation. It puts undue stress on a person to define themselves without defining others when there’s a legitimate medical issue underlying the whole thing that really needs to be addressed. You wouldn’t require any other condition to justify what it “feels like” to have a broken arm, you would just treat the broken arm and not worry about the fact that yours is perfectly intact. I think there are ways to discuss the issue perfectly well without resorting to defining for people what it means to be a man or a woman and then how it “feels” to be one and hoping for the best. I can only hope we eventually get to the point where people calm down enough about their anxieties over the meaning of their own genders and we can move the conversation forward as a culture and as a society.


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