First of all, I am a total geek. I really like astronomy and astrophysics. More importantly, I like to look into roots of words, especially words that I use to identify myself. One of the more common and important words for my identification, for explaining my identification, is the prefix (and for me, a stand-alone word) trans. Also, this entry was inspired by tonight’s KinkOnTap discussion.
Trans- Across; on the other side; beyond. (prefix)
Now I’m going to go through these a bit out of order, but each one has a place in the word trans with how I use it. So, as a brief outline, “on the other side” to “across” and ending with “beyond.”
Trans, as it is commonly used with as the words transgender or transsexual, is some kind of “on the other side.” There is a binary opposition created, male and female, and the commonly understood concept of transgender/sexual means that a person’s body is one on side, and their gender is on the other side. This version is a problem with a solution, align the body to the mind. The binary opposition implied in this meaning has had many people I know/have known very up in arms, refusing “trans” as a self-identity, because they did not agree with the binary implied within it.
Another common interpretation of the word/prefix trans is the definition of “across.” This version could imply a binary, from one location to another, but it is less about a binary than about a journey. For me, this makes some sense, especially for those individuals who chose transition, and are in that process. I am moving, I am journeying, experiencing puberty, and investigating other methods of altering my physical body. I am moving across conventional notions of gender, and I am doing it fabulously.
Yet, one of the linguistically more common uses of the prefix trans happens to be my favorite definition and use of it as a word. Trans meaning “beyond.” An example of this version is the word translunar, meaning beyond the orbit of the moon. (Yes, I like astronomical photos and analogies.)
If we are looking at the word trans as meaning beyond, that opens up a whole new set of possibilities. Transgender means beyond gender, which to me is a fabulous statement of my own identity. It can become a word that no longer implies an inherent dualism of moving from point A to point B, of the division between point A and B, but rather with beyond it can incorporate nondual ideas concurrent with the already present dualistic interpretation. It can actually be a word that encompasses the varied parts of this community.
But looking at the word trans by itself, and applying the definition of “beyond” to it leaves a very good question open. Beyond what? It is an open ended question; beyond convention, beyond gender, beyond assumption, beyond definition, my definition becomes a journey to move beyond. I love this, the idea of constant improvement, striving for something better, that is the most intrinsic part of my own self. So, yes. I love the word trans. I identify with the word trans, because I have never found another word quite as adept at challenging myself to forever grow, strive, improve, and generally work on myself as a human being.
Beyond what? My answer is this: Beyond the status quo. Beyond now, beyond current, beyond stagnation, beyond labels, beyond words, beyond failure, beyond intolerance, beyond money, beyond authority, beyond limitation, beyond breaks, beyond insecurity…
It isn’t a word with a final destination to me. I don’t want a destination, I’ll stick with the journey.
Even if it is my definition, that does not mean it is anyone else’s. Once, I got very angry at a person for whole heartedly rejecting the word “transgender” on the grounds that it was too binary, and therefore offensive to hirself… but ze used that argument not just to say do not use the term transgender for hir, but for anyone. That made me very angry. I am happy to use the language people prefer in identifying theirselves. I am not okay with someone potentially preventing other people from using personally identifying language because that one person would take offense. Identify how you will, but do not use your identity to police how other people identify.
Using one’s own identity to police how other people identify… why does that sound familiar? Oh wait, because it happens all the time. People use their own identity and the privilege it affords them to declare what is and is not acceptable from others. I expect this, after years of being told how offensive I am, how incorrect, how wrong my processes, interests, and gender are I have grown to expect policing. But identity policing, gender policing in fact, from someone withing a supposedly radical gender community? It shocked me. Hopefully, it shocked me awake to the realization that the self label of radical or open minded mean nothing next to the reality of imposition of privilege and policing. I felt betrayed, but I learned.
So I should add another word onto that list of “Beyond what?” Beyond policing.