Twirling the transgender umbrella

noumbrella.jpgMercedes Allen recently posted an interesting essay on The Bilerico Project blog entitled: “The Death of the ‘Transgender’ Umbrella.” In this post, Allen outlines a brief history of words used to describe and categorize gender-variant individuals as well as the ongoing controversy concerning the term “transgender”. Allen speaks as a representative of self only yet provides an insightful exploration of how the words we use to categorize individuals are by nature both inclusive and exclusive as well as open to interpretation. In the end Allen chooses to contemplatively twirl the umbrella over the shoulder rather than hold it overhead or toss it to the ground. Allen concedes that “I don’t really care what the term is, just as long as there is some point where varying trans communities can meet on any shared issues, and shared healing during shared tragedies.” Instead of taking sides in the ongoing debate Allen prefers an alliance-based approach. Allen cautions us “to stop making assumptions about everyone else and start listening to how they define who they are, what they need and what their life experiences mean. Which means to stop assuming that everyone who isn’t exactly like us should be dismissed as ‘not real.’ And means to stop assuming that third-sex or third-gender identification is any less valid than binary identification or that accommodation of both is irreconcilable.” Allen’s essay is an excellent reminder that we should be cautious with the words we use to describe others. When in doubt it never hurts to simply ask. (Note: In my attempt to be respectful of Allen’s pronoun preferences — of which I am unaware — I have intentionally omitted them.)

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