Family

Pronouns and Prefixes

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Thumbing Nose

It would be easier to learn a complete new language than it is to learn to refer someone by a different pronoun. Calling Jamie “he” is turning out to be far more difficult than I would ever have thought possible.

It’s not that I object to the idea, but the word just won’t come out of my mouth. I still occasionally refer to him by his former name, and then I have to correct myself. Sometimes other people correct me. Even typing the word “him” in this paragraph required a kind of mental gymnastics for me.  I am willing to learn, to understand, and to change, but dammit this is hard!

I have gone to various websites in an attempt to seek out some practical or moral support in this, and I have also tried to find an actual support group for people like me, but they don’t seem to exist. I found a local PFLAG group, but they didn’t reply to my email. There are several websites for people who are transitioning from one gender to another, but next to nothing for their family and friends. When we are mentioned on those sites it is often with derision as though we are assumed to be negative, obstructionist, and nasty. One site even mocks us by laughing at the questions we ask. That made me quite indignant, but the charming author of that post has since smoothed my ruffled feathers.

What inspired this blog post was the realization that within the trans* community, there are some who would refer to me as ciswoman. In case you hadn’t noticed, there are a couple of prefix-tual weird things in that sentence. The first is the asterisk after “trans.” I assume that it stands in place of “-gender”, or “-sexual.”  I doubt they want it to refer to “-gression” or “-portation.”

That’s all well and good, but the “cis-“ thing really got my goat. It seems to be a thumbing of the nose at those of us who are not trans-anything. If they must have a prefix, so must we. So there!

In Latin cis- is the antonym of trans-, but it seems totally unnecessary to me to create the words cisgender or cissexual for people whose identity matches their bodies. Sorry, but I just don’t get it. If anything, it only serves to annoy. This is not the way to make allies, folks. It does, however, make me wonder how the cistern was named.

10 replies »

  1. I’ve found that it’s difficult to even remember to call friends by their new name when they just change that… not their sex… After over 30 years, I still think of her with her prior name… but call her by the name she chose… So I can understand how difficult it could be when it’s your child and even the pronouns must change!! good luck.. give yourself a break and time!!
    sounds like you might be the person to start that “group” for sharing!??

  2. I don’t know if this will be useful/welcome information for you, but it’s kind of like with acoustic guitars. For a long time, acoustic guitars were just called guitars. Then electric guitars came along and it became grammatically awkward to specify if you were talking about not-electric guitars. So people started calling them acoustic. It’s the same with if you’re talking about not-trans people. It’s useful in contexts like: “I’ve only dated cismen before” or “The study was about ciswomen and birth control” for example. I promise it’s not meant to be insulting (at least not the way I use it).

  3. I don’t like the prefix “cis” and feel it is unnecessary myself. Being transgender is different enough without having to point out the difference twice. If I were more political I might have another opinion on its use.

    I want people to use the correct name and pronouns for me; if they can get it right most of the time, then I’m happy. To add even more words to the vocabulary will just put more distance between me and the people I’m taking on the journey with me. I feel like my own life and this process are difficult enough without adding tension over political usage of terms.

    I’m also old enough to remember when being transgender was kept secret for fear of being locked up in a mental institution. I applaud younger people who are out and open and fighting for their rights, but they are operating in a completely different social environment where they can afford to make everything a statement about identity. I just want to blend in and not draw attention to myself.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, transparentguy. While I understand the importance of fighting for one’s rights, I think it is very important to pick one’s battles carefully. Your post about your identification issues with the utility company is an example of a worthy battle, in my view.

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