Saturday, July 26, 2014

Words Have Meaning

Words have meaning. I have always said that. Never has that been more true than as I contemplate the way we use words with the issue of transgenderism. (Speaking of words, is that even a word?)

We have given Kegan very little education on being transgender in our society. I am a big proponent of being honest, of being forthcoming, and being an educator. Kegan knows she is different than many girls. But she doesn't know it is, kind of a big deal. And we will keep her sheltered from that for as long as we can. (Fully recognizing the time limit on that is soon expiring.)

Kegan will sometimes say, "When I was a boy..." I gently comment, "When we thought you were a boy? You've always been a girl, we just thought you were a boy."  It is important to be clear she didn't become a girl, she is and always has been a girl. We were wrong, we made a grave error, we gave her the wrong label. She was a girl from day one, not she became a girl.

The author of Gender Born, Gender Made talks about the term "transgender" being inappropriate. The prefix "trans" means to change thoroughly. But people who are transgender are not changing anything. They are making a correction in the label name they were originally given. If I consider this for long it makes me sad. It makes me sad because words have meaning and we already mislabeled Kegan once, as a boy. When we label her transgender now we are making the same mistake again. She didn't change, she is still Kegan. She just let the world know, we the world, got it wrong. Sadly, I don't expect a more accurate label to come along, so for now we just are going with "transgender."

Recently a girl in Canada had her birth certificate updated to reflect her true gender self. I saw a tweet that announced, "11 -Year Old Canadian girl gets birth certificate changed." Someone replied (or whatever you do on twitter), "She didn't change her birth certificate, she corrected it." I thought, "Wow!"  Two words, both start with the letter "c," but it changes the meaning so drastically!

As a mom of a trans* kid I constantly find my addled brain on alert to choose my words very carefully and very wisely because I know those who don't accept the idea of a gender spectrum or the idea of people identifying as their true gender selves as reasonable human variations, will look for my errors. They will pounce on my misspoken words. But equally important, as I educate those who are accepting, as I speak as an ally, I need to ensure my words are accurate.


  1. The meanings of words change due to how they're used. Trans and transgender no longer simply mean someone who was born looking male but is female or born looking female and is male. People who identify and both genders or neither also fall under the trans umbrella.

    What I found interesting was something I read recently, where someone had done brain scans of trans adults and found their results more closely matched the brains of the gender they identified with rather than the biological sex they resembled:

    1. I had heard of this study, but it is good to see the details! Thanks! My husband also says thank you!!

  2. The prefix "trans-" doesn't actually mean "to change". It means "across" or "on the other side of". As in, someone's gender and sex being on other sides of the spectrum from each other.

    1. Hey Ashley. Thanks for commenting! I think I failed to be thorough in my writing, and your explanation is more clear. I searched "root word meanings trans" and then used only the partial definition from I was thinking along the lines of to change one's label to match one's identity, but I think it ended up being sloppy writing!

      Here is how I should have been more thorough:
      a prefix occurring in loanwords from Latin ( transcend; transfix ); on this model, used with the meanings “across,” “beyond,” “through,” “changing thoroughly,” “transverse,” in combination with elements of any origin: transisthmian; trans-Siberian; transempirical; transvalue.

      Thank you for the clarity and input!

  3. Best wishes to Kegan, and to you as a family; it sounds like she has super parents... and you can hardly blame yourself for "mislabeling" her at one point in her life, considering you would only know when she was old enough to tell you. I hope that as she grows, so do people's acceptance of TS as a whole; I am on my own journey, and the real test will come when I come out and discover whether work and family have the capacity to accept me or reject me. One would hope that as Kegan has realised so early in life her true gender that all around her, especially at school, will be educated... although in the same breath I hope that rather than what society would choose to do and put a label against her that instead she will simply enjoy life just like any other girl.


The more we educate and have open dialogue, the safer our world becomes. Please share your thoughts, be honest, be brave, be kind. I can't wait to hear what you think!