In my former life as a journalist, I worked for a big corporation. And as big corporations are wont to do, this one created its own language when it didn’t know what else to do.
Where I worked, in the newsroom, this took the form of several initiatives that were rolled out like a season each year: winter, spring, summer, fall and balderdash. One year it was called “mainstreaming.” The next, “real people.” Still later, “crowd sourcing.” All these words and phrases had the same idea – to get regular people to buy into our product, we needed to include regular people in our stories. If that seems pretty straightforward (regardless of whether it’s useful or not), you’re right. Why did the name for it keep changing? Because whatever word they chose, the initiative never led to the anticipated result. Readership kept dropping, leading to layoff after layoff until yours truly was eventually sent packing, too.
I think of that experience as I read various blogs related to transgender issues. More often than not, concepts are represented by words that keep changing like moving targets, because that’s exactly what they are. And then I think, I’ve seen this before. It’s the hallmark of bullshittery.
Back when I first dipped my toes in the transgender waters, I was told that I was a “gg.” I’m not surprised if most people haven’t heard that before, because everyone now agrees it’s an odious term. It stands for “genetic girl.”
I objected to “girl.” At the age of 25, I sure as heck didn’t consider myself a girl. That’s basic Feminism 101. And it seemed rather odd to me that a group of people so hell-bent on becoming women would write me off as a child.
But apparently transgender people came to dislike it, too. I don’t think it was “girl” they objected to but “genetic.” Because these days, the transgender movement holds as a holy tenant that biology – that matter of XX or XY – really has nothing to do with being a man or woman. So by calling me a “genetic girl,” they were unwittingly admitting to the fact that biological sex matters. And we can’t have that.
So, today we have this clunky trans-/cis- prefixes. Trans is pretty obvious. And transgender supporters say “cis-“ is, too. Because “cis-“ is Latin prefix that means “on the near side of.” As in Cisalpine, because that’s an everyday word.
Not to be deterred, the trans community then says it’s actually a chemistry term. And it is! According to dictionary.com, it means, “a specialization of this denoting a geometric isomer having a pair of identical atoms or groups attached on the same side of two atoms linked by a double bond. Compare trans-“ So, yeah. That’s totally obvious.
But still, I’m told that “cis-” is a perfectly respectable and well-known prefix. Why, it’s used in such words as, er… cis-aconitic acid, and cislunar, and the aforementioned Cisalpine. All very common words. Right. Right?
And why wouldn’t I want to be saddled with such an obscure and contrived prefix? Well, I can think of one reason: I don’t need it. I’m a woman and have been a woman since I stopped being a girl. I don’t need any modifiers or fancy Latin prefixes no one outside this debate or a chemistry lab has heard of. Woman. If they get to define themselves, surely I get to define me.
Sex change/Sex Reassignment Surgery/GRS/GRS/GRS
Back in the old days, it was just a “sex change operation,” and everybody pretty much knew what that meant.
By the time I came to the table, though, it was being called “sex reassignment surgery.” Which, OK. Whatever. It’s a mouthful, but if you feel it’s more accurate OK.
That was one thing, but now I see it’s gone beyond that. “Sex reassignment surgery” has that pesky “sex” word in it, and if there’s one thing the transgender movement seems to hate, it’s sex. They don’t like to acknowledge that there may be a sexual aspect to all this (see: autogynephilia). And they certainly don’t want to make this be about sex. It’s all about gender now.
But I can’t even tell you what GRS stands for, because no one seems to agree.
Aetna Insurance, which pays for the thing sometimes, says it’s “gender reassignment surgery.” Wikipedia – which never lies, right? – says it’s “genital reassignment surgery” or “genital reconstruction surgery.” Maybe it’s like BDSM where the letters get to stand for whichever flavor you like best. Whatever. It’s a word game. I know one when I see one.
But perhaps the most annoying thing of all this is redefining what man and woman is. Because it’s not what they’re making it out to be.
A word like “woman,” which is one of the more basic words in the English language, has a pretty simple definition that goes back a couple centuries at least. It’s not hard to figure out what it means. Here, I’ll google it for you:
- the female human being ( distinguished from man ).
- a : an adult female person
b : a woman belonging to a particular category (as by birth, residence, membership, or occupation) —usually used in combination <councilwoman>
- An adult female human.
OK, but what’s a female? Back to the dictionary!
- a person bearing two X chromosomes in the cell nuclei and normally having a vagina, a uterus and ovaries, and developing at puberty a relatively rounded body and enlarged breasts, and retaining a beardless face; a girl or woman.
- an organism of the sex or sexual phase that normally produces egg cells.
- a (1) : of, relating to, or being the sex that bears young or produces eggs (2) : pistillate
b (1) : composed of members of the female sex <the female population> (2) : characteristic of girls or women <composed for female voices> <a female name>
- Belonging or referring to the sex which is generally characterized as the one associated with the larger gametes (for species which have two sexes and for which this distinction can be made), which in humans and many other species is the sex which produces eggs and which has XX chromosomes.
Lo! A pattern emerges. Women are adult females, and females is a biological descriptor for people with XX chromosomes, who produce eggs and who have other distinct sexual features.
It’s actually quite simple. “Woman” actually means something. Until you let the transgender movement get its hands on it, and then women becomes something you just declare yourself to be. Like happy. Or sad. Or Napoleon Bonaparte.
Look, I get it. Language is every bit as fluid as some people claim gender and sex are. It’s a living thing that changes over time. Sometimes the change is slow and takes place over centuries. Other times, it moves at a breathless pace, such as when new technology is introduced. But change in language is forced, like it obviously is happening here, it’s a shining beacon declaring that shenanigans are happening.
In rhetoric, there’s another way of putting it: If you can’t win them over with facts, dazzle them with bullshit.