Language

(This post is going around.  Since I pretty much like the post, I’m making my own post rather than introducing this in the responses there, but I do want to link to it for context.)

A really cool and classy trans lady I corresponded with for a while on a different social site used words like “transsexual” and “transgendered.”  She spoke of herself as being born in the wrong body, and she spoke of herself as being biologically male, MTF.

She was in her late 60s.

I did not correct her.  I would not in a hundred years have dared.  

Given the social climate and hostility she had endured, I was fortunate to be speaking to her at all.

I have occasionally seen younger people criticizing older people quite harshly for that sort of thing.  That hurts.

The use of language changes, my friends.

It is so, so very important to help people outside the community understand what language is most appropriate, and it’s important to discuss this stuff within the community so that we can reach some kind of consensus (however messy) moving forward.

It is also very, very important to respect the elders among us, and to understand that their experiences and the wisdom they have to share with us are of tremendous importance and incalculable value.  And the language they use?  Is part of their history, and our history, and respecting that fact in all its complexity is part of respecting them . . . and respecting ourselves as a community.

Language is so important, but in thirty years I guarantee you some of the language we defend so vigorously now will be woefully outdated, and many of us will still be clinging to it, much to the consternation of the younger generation.  

I’m not saying it isn’t important to strive to create the most respectful, helpful language possible, and educate others when it is right to do so.  It is vitally necessary that we do so.  But we have to remember that this is a process that, thank heavens, never, ever ends.

Language cannot, and should not, stop evolving.  Look at us.  Look at all of us.  So beautiful, so many.  We are a dynamic community, a vivid community, full of art and history and passion and pathos and great, great power.  Something so lively is always surrounded by change.  That is so beautiful, and should be welcomed going forward … and it should be respected looking back.

There are words not yet invented that will apply to those not yet born.  Those people should be respected when they join us.  And the words we use now, they are good for now, and we should be respected.  And our elders should be respected.  Letting language take that from us is a horrifying prospect.

So.  Let us not forget that language is primarily meant to be what helps bind us together.  Let us remember not to let it set us apart, to squeeze us like a fist.

Please remember your history when discussing language.  You will eventually be part of our history.  You already are.  Please.  Go with open hands.