This post is part of the Gender Celebration Carnival. Check it out and consider joining in the next one! Be sure to also visit Ellie Lumpesse my predecessor in the carnival (and curator) and then on the 9th will be something from Curvaceous Dee.
Once long ago I wrote up a post about navigating genderqueer identities for the cis/hetero/suburban person. In my post one scenario I referred to was a person who worked in my building and was currently transitioning from male to female. I assigned the term, for ease and speed of speech/wording “MTF”. Or maybe it was an already-transitioned (if it weren’t for the feminine name plate on the cubicle you’d not have known) FTM where I worded it so that one single person took great exception to my using that label/term. They said it was offensive to all who are in some stage of transitioning from cis-female to male and that I should have used the (lesser known to me, a clueless cis-female) term “female assigned at/before birth”. To be honest I had never once heard that term and I do read blogs (and interact with on Twitter) a few people whose gender is not necessarily what meets the eye. But boy, that last line just smacks of “I’m not homophobic, one of my best friends is gay!” oye.
“Tranny” is offensive, “shemale” is offensive (is it? I mean, it’s used SO much in porn, but I personally find it offensive). I get that, I accept that. There is a huge spectrum of gender roles at work here and so many, many labels that can/should be used. What about the butch woman who is so very masculine and butch that they “pass” as male? Or the cis-male who simply likes dressing up as a woman sometimes, and has no intention of living full time as a woman or transitioning in other ways to being female? What about the transitioning woman I used to work with who was visibly male-to-female transitioning? And there really is a whole spectrum of trans, from those who pursue no medical interventions to help them appear physically as the gender they are to those who use hormones, cosmetic surgery and even sexual reassignment surgery.
Am I being offensive by even using the terms MALE and FEMALE no matter how I try to be PC and GC and sex-positive and sensitive? I’m trying to throw in the “cis” to be more accurate and such but I feel like that’s almost disingenuous. Or is it? I was born female, I was raised female, I identify as female. “F” is my gender, through and through. “F” is my sex.
Is there proper terminology? Is there something that offends no one? And in case it even matters, the person who was offended by my original post was a straight, cis-gendered female who admitted that she “in no way speaks for trans people”. Enlighten me, everybody, is “FTM/MTF” really that fucking questionable or offensive? And if one person doesn’t think so but another does, how am I to write to appease everybody? I don’t like offending people but yet there has to be a line drawn somewhere where enough is enough and can’t context and intent be taken into account? Not a single person could dare claim that in my aforementioned post I used the terms in a derogatory manner, meant to offend. I just simply did not have the exposure/knowledge to know all 16 other abbreviations and terms (and even if I did, would I have had to trot them all out with an apology to those offended by one of the 16 terms?). Why do I care? Because I do. Because, as difficult and frustrating as it might be, I don’t want to leave out anybody the few times I dare to branch out and write about a gender other than the two I’m most familiar with.
I have a lot of question marks in this post. I’m hoping that my confusion and questioning sparks dialogue and opinion and maybe some answers. I encourage discussion and comments here and if something sparks enough in you to write your own post about it please come back and tell me.