Not that this is a unique problem to People, but this article is a perfect example of a pernicious issue in the way trans* people are discussed in the media or even by the people around us.
What’s so bad? You might be asking that. I mean look, they used the right pronouns, the right names, etc. Whatever could they have done wrong, cake and pats on the back all ’round, yes?
Well … no.
Oh, bugger, they’ve edited it already! Well, in that instance congratulations! But as it’s important we’ll continue as if they hadn’t for rhetorical sake.
The original text had been: “[…]Stephen was born a girl[…]”
Now, some people might not realise what’s wrong with that. Well, that’s where we get to the importance of connotation, of perception, of what language does on a more psychological level.
In short, let’s discuss why we must choose our words wisely. I’m in favour of accuracy in language. Not the “concrete” imagery of some literature and “creative writing” courses that say you should never say ‘azure’ just say ‘blue’, no … that’s muddying the language. I’m not talking about some aspects of the political correctness movement that wants to reword the language in idiotic ways that sound good to social justice ronins, but pisses off the groups that are being crusaded for who might prefer the “un-PC” term/phrase. I’m talking about logical language analysis here.
Let’s look at that statement. “Stephen was born a girl” or “Jaye was born a boy”. First and foremost, it’s simply wrong and inaccurate. He was not born a girl, if he were he would be a girl. I was not born a boy, if I were I would be a boy. He was assigned female at birth, and I was assigned male at birth. Semantics? No, very much not so.
The former states the inaccuracy as if it were a given fact. It implies that we used to be X and have elected to become Y. We have not. It implies terrible things about trans* people that are a lot of the ignorance that lurks behind the bigotry and rejection we face.
The latter, on the other hand, that accepts and acknowledges us. Not our “preferred” gender, not our “preferred” pronouns, not our “identified as” or anything of the sort. It says that the doctors and parents made an assumption, regardless how statistically likely to be correct, based on the anatomy they found between our legs and that that assumption was mistaken. No one is to blame, really, besides an arbitrary methodology, or an antiquated ID system that bothers with such idiot details before the child is old enough to answer if asked which they are, etc. Not any person‘s mistake, and not anything wrong with the trans* individual, just a reason why such assumptions are no better than any other assumption.
Some people have never heard of transgender, transsexual, trans[whatever]. If the first time they do they see it as “Mary was born a boy, but when she was 16 …” or, worse, “Mary was born a boy, but when he was 16 …” they store the word as a choice. They see it as “Mary was born to Catholic parents, but when she was 16 she converted to Buddhism …”. But, if the first time they hear/read about a trans* person it is seen as exactly what it is they come away with Understanding.
Please don’t take this away just related to talking about trans* issues, not just for even LGBTQ+ issues. Please take away from it that while, yes, I do think the political correctness movement and social justice movements, feminism, LGBTQIA+etc activism, and so on do go too far sometimes and more importantly that some people go too far … occasional extremists and periodic extremism does not change that we really ought to consider our language and our word choice. “Sticks and stones …” et al is well and good, but sometimes the harm isn’t to the person as an individual; the harm in your words can be harm on a larger scale that impacts the person by dint of being part of the demographic you just hurt in broad terms.
So … let’s be careful what we say so as to say what we mean. Lazy language, at best, makes us look foolish, at worst you may hurt a lot of people in ways you may have never imagined.
- 2014: The Year Feminists And Social Justice Warriors Lost The Plot (ingeniouspress.com)
- The New Modern Holiday Carol (chrisdevoss.wordpress.com)
- Fox News’ Obsession With ‘Political Correctness’ Causing Terrorist Attacks (crooksandliars.com)
- Radical Islam: It’s Too Late for Europe (grumpyelder.com)
- Michael Valle on Marxism-Leninism (maverickphilosopher.typepad.com)