A Brief Guide: Learning the Language of Gender Diversity

If every generation has a revolutionary time for advancing awareness, respect, and sensitivity for a demographic or struggle, the 2010s belong to transgender people and the strides they’re making.

If every generation has a revolutionary time for advancing awareness, respect, and sensitivity for a demographic or struggle, the 2010s belong to transgender people and the strides they’re making.

In fact, this April, our very own province passed legislation that changed the law so that locals no longer need to have a transition surgery in order to have their gender changed on a birth certificate or marriage certificate.

It’s been brought to The Overcast’s attention that the transgender movement feels so sudden and new for “aging folks,” that there’s fear and caution in avoiding sounding accidentally ignorant or insensitive in talking about gender, in times when gender is more fluid than ever.

For example, in a recent press release, Service NL Minister Joyce stated, with sincere enthusiasm, “This is a positive development that respects the rights of transgendered individuals.” Little did he know he meant transgender, not transgenderED (see below). Below is a brief guide to the language of discussing gender diversity.

CIS and Trans?
If you’re CIS or Cisgender person, you entirely identify with the gender you were assigned at birth, regardless of your sexual orientation as straight, gay, bisexual, etc. Whereas if you’re trans, you do not identify with the gender you were assigned at birth, regardless of your sexual orientation as straight, gay, bisexual, etc.

What is Cisnormativity?
Cisnormativity refers to the assumption that all individuals are CIS, and their minds and bodies are in agreement on their gender. A doctor who tells their community, “All men should have regular prostate exams after 35,” has made a cisnormative statement: A trans man doesn’t have a prostate. These statements aren’t often intended to be trans-ignorant or offensive, but they do isolate, ignore, or alienate the trans community, and invalidate their existence.

Transgender is an Adjective
You do not say “Kay is transgendered.” The word is to be used as an adjective; as a brief grammatical reminder, an adjective is a descriptive word before a noun like “YELLOW flower” to describe the flower as yellow. So, you would say “Jaimie is a TRANS woman,” not Jaimie is a trans. Calling someone “a trans” is like calling someone “a gay.”

Non-Binary Versus Trans?
Gender identity isn’t as binary as male-identifying or female-identifying, enter: non-binary. Where a transgender person identifies as a male or as a female, regardless of assigned gender at birth, a non-binary person does not explicitly identify as a man or woman. A non-binary individual can be intersex, or can have been female or male at birth. The standard pronouns here are neutral, like sibling (not brother or sister), spouse, they. MX. is interchangeable with MR. Or MRS. for non-binary individuals. Non-binary is an umbrella term for gender identities too numerous to list here.

Surgery Isn’t Everything
Firstly, sex change is not the right terminology, transition is, and every transgender individual differs in their desire to transition or not, and to what degree. Some FTM transgender people will opt for top surgery only, a double mastectomy, others will want to do less or more.

Two Quick Misconceptions
Sexual orientation has nothing to do with gender identity. A trans person’s sexuality is as unique as a CIS person’s. Also, cross-dressing has nothing to do with gender identity, and drag is more about performance art than anything.

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