Let’s Talk About Transgender Terminology

One thing that a lot of people tend to have a hard time understanding after becoming an ally to the transgender community is how to refer to us. When I say this I’m not talking about our pronouns either. What I mean is, the terms you may have heard in a movie you recently watched, or the misconception between trans people and porn actors. One of my biggest pet peeves as a transgender woman is when someone portrays me in the wrong light.

For so long offensive terms used to describe transgender people have been used in the media and has created a vast misunderstanding of what is ok and what isn’t. Though some transgender people may be all right being portrayed with the use of these terms, the majority of us cringe when we hear them. The most offensive of these terms that is consistently used in movies and other formats of media is “tranny”. Just to be clear this term is most often used in the porn industry along with other expressions such as “shemale” “ladyboy” and “transvestite”. To most of us trans individuals, especially trans women, these are considered extremely offensive.

Screen Shot 2015-07-25 at 7.28.07 AMMost people have realized this fact about these terms. That is, except for the use of the word “tranny”. I hear this expression far too often in movies and tv shows and honestly it’s sickening. Even more disheartening are the people who defend its use when I bring up the fact that it’s so offensive to us. Claiming that I need to just chill out because I can never change the media. This is very upsetting. I can’t just be silent as our image is being slurred and shown to millions of people who already struggle to understand us.

Another aspect of our terminology that is often misunderstood is turning the transgender adjective into something else. When talking about us I hear many people use “transgendered” or “transgenders”. These are both improper ways to describe us. Transgender cannot be used as a verb which is what you are basically saying when you say someone is transgendered. I didn’t wake up one day and decide I am going to “transgender myself”. Before making this mistake yourself consider this and try to use the proper terminology when talking about us. The best way to refer to us in these scenarios would be to call us something like “transgender people” or “transgender individuals”. It is also completely ok to shorten it by using “trans” instead of “transgender”. Some trans people also prefer the use of “transsexual” when describing who they are. I personally do not like the word and still feel as though it has been tainted by the porn industry as well. If someone prefers this they will more than likely make you aware of it.

Screen Shot 2015-07-25 at 7.30.47 AMThis was a topic that I feel very strongly about and I know it will be useful to a lot of folks out there who just simply didn’t realize what all of this meant. The only way to educate is to put this stuff out there for all to see. So remember everyone, you’re safest bet to not offend someone who is trans is to simply call them transgender. Whether someone corrects you or not, any misuse of these other terms may cause pain to someone and you might not even be aware of it.

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