This weekend, we will kick off our Sunday Symposium series for A KID LIKE JAKE, playing now through March 15th at The Greenhouse Theatre Center. Each week, we will tackle a different subject related to the themes of the show. Our first discussion will focus on contemporary social challenges around sexual and gender diversity and how the next generation is working to progress acceptance and awareness around sexuality, gender non-conformity, and language used to express gender.
We are thrilled to have as a guest contributor to our blog (and panelist for this exciting discussion) Bea Cordelia, queer and trans slam poet, blogger, activist, playwright, performer, scholar, researcher, and general gender warrior. Below us a selection of definitions relating to gender researched and compiled by Bea for her blog trans*posing pearls. For the complete list of definitions and to read more of her posts, visit her blog.
DISCLAIMER from Bea: “The following encyclopedia is written with the help of trustworthy trans resources on the Internet as well as two savvy trans friends of mine: Tristan Powell and Darien Wendell. I write this encyclopedia of trans terms as a transgender individual who dedicates herself to trans advocacy and studies these issues extensively. That said, and as will become apparent, this collection is largely refracted through my personal experiences and I do not wish to universalize my specific experience, nor speak as an absolute authority on themes and identities that I do not own. I welcome suggestions for edits in the comment section.”
Agender (adj.): Not experiencing any gender (not to be conflated with asexual, for gender and sexuality stand independently of each other).
Androgynous (adj.): [Delightfully] ambiguous in terms of gender.
Bigender (adj.): Experiencing two genders (hint: there are infinite). Bigender people might present with different genders from one day to the next. It would be a good idea to ask a bigender friend what pronouns they prefer at any given point in time—see pronouns and self-identify below.
Binary (n.): A system consisting of two parts. (How our society would have us over-simplistically understand gender and sex.)
Cisgender (adj.): Identifying with the gender one was assigned at birth. (e.g. If your birth certificate says female, and you self-identify as a girl or woman and use the pronouns she/her/hers, it is likely that you are a cisgender person.)
Drag (n.): A cultural practice and form of entertainment in which performers dress, dance, and lip-synch as another gender. Drag is entirely different from trans identities and people, traditionally playing with highly stereotyped forms of dress and movement. This does NOT mean that trans people cannot make for excellent performers in their own right.
Gender (n.): A social identity and form of presentation and behavior—man and woman are the two most frequent—highly correlated with the biological determinations we call sex, although the correlation renders certain people invisible—see invisibilization below. NOTE: male and female are sexual categories, referring to biology; man and woman are gender categories, referring to society.
Genderfluid (adj.): Fluctuating between genders.
Genderqueer (adj.): [from it’s pronounced METROsexual] “(1) A blanket term used to describe people whose gender falls outside of the gender binary; (2) a person who identifies as both a man and a woman, or as neither a man nor a woman; often used in exchange with ‘transgender.’”
Gender Non-Conforming (GNC) (adj.): Describes people who do display non-normative gender presentations. GNC people might use alternative pronouns, dress androgynously, or embrace a more queer aesthetic.
Intersex (adj.): Possessing indeterminate reproductive organs and/or genetics at birth. There are many corporeal configurations that fall under the category of intersex, but the identity as a whole destabilizes the idea that sex is only limited to male and female. Since most intersex people are raised as one of the two hegemonic genders, many later discover that they feel more comfortable under a different gender, and experience a social shift akin to that that trans people also experience. Additionally, the trans and intersex movements share political goals, like either having more sex categories on legal documentation or abolishing those categories altogether. See ze/hir/hirs below.
Invisibilization (n.): The cultural process by which populations of people are systematically overlooked. This happens to trans people all the time, as well as other minorities. If you doubt the truth of this statement, name ten transgender celebrities off the top of your head.
Normative (and non-normative) (adj.): What you should call things that society deems “normal” so as not to imply that non-normative people, identities, behaviors, etc. are somehow “alien,” or, to quote Butler again, “abject.” See queer below.
Other (n.): That which is else.
Other (v.): To make someone or something Other, to demarcate them or it as different from the norm.
Pangender (adj.): Experiencing many genders.
Privilege (n.): The sum of increased opportunities, rights, advantages, and immunities that any given person might enjoy over another. White people have more privilege than black people because they do not have to worry so much about the ways they are perceived. Cis people have more privilege than trans people because our society mostly structures itself in favor of a two-sex, two-gender system where delineations between sides are clearly and violently marked. Everyone has some kind of privilege. Check yours.
Pronouns (n.): The gendered shortcut-words by which people refer to themselves in language. Most people use either she/her/hers or he/him/his, but many trans people use many different pronouns that more accurately capture them in language. See self-identify, they/them/theirs and ze/hir/hirs below.
Queer (adj.): Anything and everything non-heteronormative. It can be used to describe gender expressions, such as in the gender identity genderqueer, as well as non-normative sexual identities. It has more recently transformed from a slur to a site of theory and political activism. Wonderfully nonspecific, it resists easy delineation between differences.
Self-identify (v.): To determine one’s own identity on one’s own terms. Why it is necessary to ask someone for the pronouns and other identifying language they use. Generally imperative.
They/them/theirs (pn.): Either a plural pronoun set or a singular, gender-neutral pronoun set. If you do not know a person’s preferred pronouns and cannot immediately ask them, it’s a good idea to start with they/them/theirs so as not to presume.
Trans (adj.): Describes anyone on the very diverse transgender spectrum, also sometimes called the transgender umbrella. You may also see “trans*” in reference to all trans people, although I do not include the asterisk here because many gender non-conforming people decried its addition, as if they were not included beneath the trans umbrella before the asterisk. Indeed, some people circulate the unfortunate rhetoric of being “trans enough,” as if it were only by physically transitioning that one truly proves their trans identity. Turns out, all trans people and all their trans bodies are just as trans as all the other trans people and all their trans bodies. Trans!
Transgender (adj.): NOT identifying with the gender and/or sex one was assigned at birth. NOTE: NOT A NOUN. WE ARE NOT REDUCIBLE TO OUR GENDER. Some people mistakenly speak about “transgender” as if it were an entity in and of itself. NOTE: NOT “TRANSGENDERED.” Ask yourself: do you have many “gayed” friends? Many “Latinoed” friends? No. We are transgender. Period.
Transition (v.): To journey from a birth-assigned gender and/or sex to the correct one(s). Typically used in reference for a series of medical procedures that can include any combination of surgeries, hormone usage, and more. Can also be used for non-medical physical transitions, such as maintaining body hair in a new way (i.e. shaving or not, growing it out or cutting it), or the social transition of using a different name, different pronouns, dressing differently, etc. Just like how you shouldn’t ask about someone’s genitalia, you shouldn’t ask about someone’s transition. It is a personal, physical/mental/emotional/psychological health concern of their own and not yours. They will tell you about it if they so choose.
Transphobia (n.): Fear of transgender people and the truth we carry. Often manifests itself in violence.
Transsexual (adj.): NOT identifying with the sex one was assigned at birth. Transsexual people usually physically transition. Generally speaking, transsexual is to transgender as square is to rectangle.
Trigender (adj.): Experiencing three genders.
Ze/hir/hirs (pn.): A gender-neutral pronoun set instead of the perhaps more common they/them/theirs.
A Chicago-born writer, performer, and researcher, Bea Cordelia Sullivan-Knoff uses her playwriting, slam poetry, blogging, and academia for transgender activism and other forms of social change. Five of her plays have been produced to date and a handful of her poems published. Most recently, she was (1) one of the winners of the Goodman Theatre’s New Play Bake Off with a modern feminist reinterpretation of the Medusa myth, (2) featured as Judy Shepard and other characters in the Virginia Wirtz Center for Performing Arts production of The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later, (3) the runner-up of the Louder Than A Bomb University Slam with poems about kissing and street harassment, and (4) published on Ms. Fit, an online feminist magazine, with a personal essay about navigating body image as a transgender lady. In a strange turn of events, she was once a guest writer for an episode of All My Children. She has performed at Salonathon, The Encyclopedia Show, the Jane Addams Hull House, the 25th Anniversary of Slam Concert, and other various events and venues throughout Chicagoland. Check out her latest (including an upcoming autobiographical one-lady show) at transposingpearls.blogspot.com, facebook.com/bea.cordelia1, or @TheHuntyDropper.Read more