Label babel fable

I’ve just found a cool new non-binary genderqueer forum to play in called Transyada. I’ve been enjoying further wrangles with terminology and identity, and I came up with a (for me) new label this morning, which I’m foisting on you: trandrogyne.

What’s the point of this? Good question. I know.

Well… there was some discussion about a couple of terms I hadn’t really come across before: transfeminine, transmasculine. The general consensus seems to be that these terms are used by trans people who don’t want to describe themselves as women/men, but also don’t want to describe themselves as trans women/trans men – but who identify in some way as more female/male respectively than not. As with any terms, google them and you’ll find (as I just did) a broad probability cloud of definitions, so I’m inevitably doing some people an injustice with this stab at a brief definition.

I’m not comfortable with these terms. Well, there’s no reason why I need to be, since it’s a matter of choice whether I use either of them myself. But there seems to me to be a built-in assumption that femininity/masculinity is inherent in femaleness/maleness. I encounter this often enough, even in the (mostly binary) trans world, to find myself more and more reluctant to want to just call myself a woman or trans woman – because there’s such a strong pull in people towards assuming that being a woman/trans woman means I want to present as feminine.

I quite like having trans in my personal label of choice, since I’m in mid-transition, and it’s a significant aspect of me. I like womandrogyne a great deal as a label, but when I came up with trandrogyne, it too has a very nice fit. The trouble is, I want a label that’s somewhere between the two (and yet still catchy as hell), because I don’t fully identify as either woman or androgyne.

Hmm, let’s see. Transwomandrogyne is pretty much the most accurate, and least catchy, label I could possibly come up with. So, no.

This is the trouble with labels. They’re small, don’t tell you enough about the product, and they either fall off too easily or are hard to get off when you want them to. I wouldn’t want the label transfeminine, because it would leave a sticky residue.

Skipping across metaphors… a label is basically a very short story. Being so short, it has to leave a lot to the imagination.

Once upon a time, there was a person who was born with a body at odds with their genderself. They didn’t fit neatly into the genderslots their world was offering as options, so nobody was sure what to call them, and they were unsure what to call themselves. They longed for a Name of Power that would reveal their true nature to all.

But the Power of Names becomes diluted, as more people hear them. This is the way of things.

Or something. So… The Trandrogyne Womandrogyne hath a ring to it, don’t you think? But its Power is mainly to make people go “huh?”

The point being, I both want and don’t want a distinct identity and a label to go with that. I want the convenience without the stultification. I want the security without the prescription/proscription. I want to know who I am, and say who I am – but I don’t want to fix who I am. I like this paradox, this dilemma, this tension-that-isn’t.

woman, androgyne?
trandrogyne, womandrogyne?
need/don’t need a line…


[the images are the twin states of “Tension Thing” by Judith Fegerl – ceramic sphere, human hair, cables, high voltage generator]


4 comments on “Label babel fable

  1. James R. Martin says:

    Viva la neologisms, I say. A strong case can be built for the virtue of such linguistic innovations on the basis of the analogousness of words (and concepts) to genes–from which insight the neologism, “meme,” was born. Some memes catch on and spread like wildfire — or dandelion seeds. Others spread neither far nor wide, but serve in other ways, meanwhile.

    If it serves us well to have our culture evolve (a biological analogy) — and it does! — we’re going to need a more nuanced vocabulary in a number of realms. Too large a chasm exists between a true “friend” and a mere “acquaintance,” for example. Who will fill in that lacunae? And how about “play” and “work” — isn’t there something in between these, in the Venn diagram sense? Yet “plork” is just too ugly a word!

    • womandrogyne says:

      It’s true – in French, for example, they’re just now creating a vocabulary for trans issues that we already have in English (up until recently, there was no real word in French for ‘gender’, as opposed to ‘sex’ in the old-fashioned male-or-female biological sense).

      I’ve googled womandrognye and trandrogyne since coming up with them myself, and found I’m the first with the former, and one of the first with the latter.

      I’m also intrigued by the meme of ‘meme’. I usually think of labels as models (well, all words are models), so I’m excited to find myself thinking of them as short stories now.

  2. James R. Martin says:

    Recently, I’ve been thinking about palimpsests as metaphors and as a “poetic image”. It occurred to me that etymological dictionaries are a kind of guide to that which has been “rubbed out” — and overwritten — in word (and concept) usage.

    My favorite example at the moment is the word “wealth,” which derives from older words which meant “well-being”. Then, along the way, came Adam Smith’s text, “The Wealth of Nations,” which scholars acknowledge as the inaugural text in “modern economics”. Smith’s “wealth” meant something closer to how the word is used nowadays — which is about the possession of material stuff.

    The famous archimedes palimpsest became a Christian prayer book. Whoever rubbed out the writings of archimedes’ parchment text probably didn’t have a clue about what was written there. The original text’s value went unrecognized and was basically buried, like an archeological artifact. Cultural forms overlay one another in strata.

    What was lost when wealth ceased to be understood as well-being and started to be understood as piles of tradable stuff, when good became goods? To ask — and live with — this question is to begin to uncover the wealth of relatedness,
    the transcendent value of belonging in community. After all, well-being is never quite private in scope and scale. One cannot pile up one’s own private hoard of such wealth. Upon careful analysis and observation, the old sense of “wealth” was shared, relational, inhering in relationship.

    Perhaps we can recover what was lost?

    Yes, the word “meme” is itself a living and evolving meme. And “wealth” is itself
    a buried treasure.

    • womandrogyne says:

      Aye, sometimes language mirrors cultural evolution – and sometimes it mirrors cultural devolution.

      What you say about wealth could also be said about prosperity – language of betterment has tended towards being about material gain.

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