Transman, FTM, tranny… do names matter?

(I don’t know how interesting this post will be to anyone who isn’t transsexual..)

Some of us call ourselves transmen. Others prefer to insert a space and make it trans men. And yet another group prefer the older FTM or its variants such as F2M. Then there’s what we might call the ‘hard core’ who insist on MTM, because after all they’ve always been men at least in their own minds, or even just men, unqualified by anything suggesting change or ambiguity. Oh, and let us not forget those who identify as genderqueer.

Does it matter? If one person is happy to be referred to as a transsexual while another demands that they’re identified as a transsexual person, because “i’m a human being who happens to be transsexual, not a transsexual who happens to be human”, is that an issue? My answer would be no, it isn’t – as long as you don’t try to force your own terminology down the throats of others. And in case you’re not sure what i have in mind by ‘force’ here are a few examples: guilt tripping, PC policing, and my pet hate, just because i love language, citing pseudo-grammatical claptrap about not using ‘adjectives’ as ‘nouns’.

There are far too many passive-aggressive (and quite a few just plain aggressive) people in our trans communities, far too many people who object to anybody other than themselves deciding what they can and can’t be called, yet who feel free to make the decision for others. So i find myself reading things like “the use of the word transsexual as a noun is offensive to trans people”. Really? Odd. I’m a transsexual and it doesn’t offend me. Don’t remember anyone ever asking me about it either.

The real reason this sort of thing annoys me though is that i do think there are names which are unacceptable. The word tranny for instance might possibly have some value as an in-word (although i’m yet to come across it being used in that way) but there’s no doubt that in any other context it’s the equivalent of calling a trans person (actually, usually a trans woman) a nigger. Yes, that horrible.

By obsessing about trivia – should we or should we not put a space in transman – we reduce the power of our criticisms of names that actually are insulting. We also end up fighting battles with our allies when we should we concentrating on the war against intolerance. It’s not over yet.

4 thoughts on “Transman, FTM, tranny… do names matter?

  1. Really good post. I totally agree with you that we all need to be comfortable with whatever terminology feels right for us. And we should label people based on their comfort, not our own assumptions or whatever. Some friends want to be described as transmen and some just as guys and I respect that.

    I would like to point out though that I find a lot of goodness in identifying as a tranny. I never identify others that way and am always careful how I use this o-so triggering word but it feels so good to me. I feel like these sorts of words are the types that we can use for ourselves but never for others, unless others want it. For instance, I know my bf likes the term tranny so calling us a tranny couple would not be wrong. In fact, it would probably be one of the best ways to label it. But I would never do so if he were not comfy.

    • Thanks for your comment. I think it’s just about respect and tolerance. Like you, i try not to deliberately push any buttons for people. But on the other hand, if i feel my freedom of speech is being seriously curtailed it angers me. It also angers me when i feel other people are trying to coerce me into accepting their issues with terminology. But the big thing – the thing that motivated me to write the post – is that so much of the vitriol that flies round on this issue seems to be directed to non-trans people who are actually sticking up for trans people. For example i saw a post which attacked a woman trying to drum up support for some kind of event aimed at highlighting how badly trans people are often treated. Just because this woman made ‘mistakes’ like writing ‘transwoman’ instead of ‘trans woman’ she was supposedly ‘othering’ trans women, i.e. insulting/excluding them! I felt so ashamed. It’s like… why did she even bother. It’s not like she has to. The discrimination is presumably not affecting her personally.

  2. Oh, and btw, thank you for your interesting info about how you use the term ‘tranny’. Just shows, you can never say never. But i still hold that when it’s used to refer to trans women by people from outside the community the term is almost invariably an insult. Usually with the implication that the trans woman is little more than a drag act with a hormone prescription.

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