Tuesday, June 7, 2011


In the 1830s and 40s Ralph Waldo Emerson urged poets and other creative types to reshape stale language; to enliven it, make it your own. And so I am following that transcendental mandate when I refuse to be injured by mere words.
Not long ago I might be angered or frustrated or hurt by someone using the wrong pronoun, and certainly by the use of seemingly crude, crass and cruel terms like "she-male" or "he-she" or "it" or even "tranny".
But no longer. I have reclaimed these words and phrases, on my terms. Just as I refuse to allow religion to steal my words "spirituality" and "faith", I also will not succumb to the emotional damage intended (or perhaps even unintended) by the flingers of such phrases that attempt to demean me and the sacred transgender journey. Such words and phrases are not sticks and stones, and they can only hurt me if I allow them to. I will not.
But I'm not putting my fingers in my ears and singing, "La-La-La, I can't hear you." I hear them loud and clear. And as I take these terms and carefully parse them, I see that some of them are based on truth, and others pure nonsense. I then feel free to take anything valuable from the former, while completely discarding the latter.

"She-male"? "He-she"? What does that mean? Let's parse the terms. Yes, I am a blend of masculine and feminine energy and perception. That is part of what makes me unique, special, unusual, interesting, non-conformist, magical. I am two-spirited (at least), whereas most people are only one. There may be advantages to being able to perceive the world through a single lens, but I believe that I am blessed to be able to see reality through two lenses, those of male and female.
"It"? Really, someone called me an "it"! OK. So they are saying that I am indefinable, beyond their capacity to comprehend or imagine; I am an aspect of reality that has rendered them infantile in their command of language. They are befuddled in my strange and mystic presence. Cool. I like it. As an "it" I go beyond the human realm to become one with the Universe. Very transcendental, indeed.
Now "tranny" is a special case. How can any one of us get upset being called that word? We invented it. It's just the diminutive/affectionate version of "transgender" or "transsexual" as Johnny is to John or Patty is to Patricia. Diminutives are usually forms of affection. And that's the way we should perceive it. Doesn't matter who flings it at us. It's our word. We will define it.
"Tranny" is not like the "N" word, which was invented as an oppressive, bigoted, hurtful, perjorative slang for those of what used to be called the Negroid race. You will notice, however, that black Americans have reclaimed and reshaped it, too. Even this rather odious word has become a term of affection within that culture. I'm not entirely sure that this is the best word to rescue from growing disuse within general American culture, but it's their call, their word, not mine.
"Queer" and "dyke" are yet other words now embraced by the very people whom these terms were originally meant to insult. There are many others.
So you see, words are just words. They are puffs of air from someone's mouth. Like bubbles they emanate from their source and float to us. We can capture them in the palm of our hand, examine them to determine if they have any truth or value at all, and discard them if they do not. They are not bubbles, not bullets. They have no inherent power... only the power that we give over to them. Yes, words can carry powerful meanings, but those meanings are up to us to define. If a word or phrase carries truth, then we should respect it. If it is off-base and only meant to hurt, we should just reach out and pop the bubble, never allowing it to affect us. Each of us has the right to carefully parse words and determine for our own self how we will interpret them and react to them, and there is no rule that says we have to go along with the meanings or intentions of the speaker.
In so doing, we set ourselves free from the tyranny of language. Mere words now have a very hard time hurting us. We take the power of words and claim it for ourself. Rather than having to take whatever it is they may be giving, we take it as we like it.
And I rather like that!

Annie R.

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