Being queer in 21st century America is like living in a vocabulary quiz. This is particularly true of those of us on the gender non-conformist side of things, because the vocab used to describe our situation is so new and fluid. I’ve encountered queer theory bloggers asserting, as if it were a commonly understood fact, that MTF and FTM are outdated and “broken” terms. This surprised the hell out of me because I didn’t get the memo and we never voted on it down at the local Hivemind Meeting. Sometime later I encountered AMAB and AFAB for the first time and when I asked what they meant I was informed in quite a snippy manner that I should refer to Google for that question. Google shrugged and said “All Mods Are Bastards?” I later found out they mean “assigned male at birth” and “assigned female at birth,” and I’m still not clear on if AMAB and AFAB are supposed to replace or compliment MTF and FTM.
And here’s the point: I don’t care one way or the other. Just in the 3 years I’ve been aware of my queerness, the vocabulary has expanded and developed and marched on. The acronym for the LGBT community has occasionally been expanded to as many as eleven (!!) letters: LGGBTTQQIAA, or some combination thereof. Recently, QUILTBAG has been half-jokingly suggested as an alternative. (Queer Undecided Intersexed Lesbian Trans* Bi Asexual Gay/Genderqueer) Probably the weirdest mutation of the vernacular that I’ve seen so far was someone who claimed to be a cisgendered person in a transsexed body, which sounds like a transexual in denial to me, but maybe there’s something I missed.
Given the constant flux and advances in theory, it seems foolish to settle on one mode of speaking as the correct one, and to set up witch hunts for anyone who fails to follow the most bleeding edge lexicon. And yet that’s exactly what I’ve seen some people do. I think this is unreasonable. Not everyone has the time, energy, or inclination to keep up with these things. More importantly, as much as it pains my English major heart to say it, a lot of this shit doesn’t fucking matter. Take for instance “trans woman” vs. “transwoman.” The current consensus, so far as such a chimerical fancy can exist, is that the first way is the preferred way. The thinking is that trans women are just another kind of woman, not an exotic new creature, and so “trans” should be applied as an adjective, not grafted on to form a new word. I happen to agree with this, and it is my preferred form of identifying what I am in text. However, if someone else wants to use transwoman, I’m probably not going to stop a conversation dead just to lecture them. And I’m certianly not going to tell them it’s offensive. Because it’s not. The fact that one of us gets murdered every three days is offensive.
So how about we all relax, be cool, and recognize that some of us talk differently than others, and that within reasonable boundaries, that’s okay? Once we’ve gotten rid of systemic discrimination, then we can waste all our energy on stupid vocabulary quizzes.