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Trans and Genderqueer Studies Terminology, Language, and Usage Guide

By Alicia Spencer-Hall, Blake Gutt, 2019

Language matters, both in terms of what we say and how we say it. Our words can do real violence to those about whom we speak. This violence reflects the broader socio-cultural oppressions which marginalized communities face as a daily reality. Simultaneously, hateful language supports such oppressions, as a vehicle by which bigoted ideologies re-circulate and gain ever more traction in the public imagination. A considerable amount of violence has been done, and is being done, to the trans, genderqueer and intersex communities by disrespectful, othering, and offensive language. This violence is routinely perpetuated at a group level (comments about the community in general) and at an individual level (comments about specific individuals). Some wield discriminatory language knowingly, using their words as dog whistles for transphobia and queerphobia. Others, however, use disrespectful language unknowingly – due to ignorance of the offensive nature of certain terminology. Nevertheless, language is always political, and linguistic choices serve to re-inscribe, consciously or not, certain paradigms. The gender binary is a cultural construct, which is supported by normalized language which serves simultaneously to obscure alternative possibilities whilst reinforcing existing hegemonies. We provide this language guide as a resource, offering succinct suggestions as to the usage of respectful, inclusive, and non-violent terminology when talking about the trans, genderqueer and intersex communities, be that on a personal or group level.

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