Today I was going to write about the Gender Identity Development Model in my College Student Development text book but after realizing more than half my draft was about the language the chapter used and now this Chronicle article opening quote, I realized lets just talk language. So two very different contexts, one a blog, and the other a published text book used in classrooms around the country. The blog post was flat out wrong (macro) while the text book was more subtle (micro). Now let me get to why.
This was the opening text of the Chronicle post (this first paragraph was removed as of 10pm Sunday Mar 30):
When it comes to the blog there are two things happening, one is the use of the word transvestite and the word hermaphrodite. Both words are outdated, medicalized, highly offensive, and they aren’t in reference to the same community. Transvestite means a cross dresser. But where transvestite differs from crossdressing, historically it was used to reference those in the community tied to sex work, who often couldn’t access medical transition and predominately towards people of color, transwomen of color specifically. Hermaphrodite is old medical language referencing intersex conditions, the Intersex Society of North America is a great resource for more information. The second thing is that these identities and bodies are equated with meaning absolutely nothing.
So this is the book I am referencing here and you can find it here on amazon.
Evans, N., Forney, D., Guido, F., Patton, L. & Renn, K. (2010) Student development in college: Theory, research and practice (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. pp. 327-345.
As I read through the chapter, taking notes as I went along, I realized all my notes designated ‘red flags’ about how words were defined or what was missing. The chapter starts with fundamental concepts which is great but in the first sentence its says: “Sex is biological.” Period end of definition. Oh boy. The next sentence says “Gender refers to the ‘culturally shaped expression of sexual difference’”. Ok, a little better, but conflating identity and expression. Further along we get to “For whom gender identity does not align with biological sex… may identify as transgender.” (cis-gender isn’t mentioned until the following section) Ok, I thought, this is not definitional framework that I 1.) totally agree with or 2.)use in my work.
So here are how I would have gone about defining terms.
Sex – Typically thought of as a Biological binary of M or F. However, in recognizing the medicalized social construction of biology it is more accurate to name Assigned Sex. Things like chromosomes, genitalia, endocrine systems are often markers used to determine “biological” sex, but fail to recognize “unmeasurable” stuff like the phycological factors of self identity, thus Assigned – not biological.
Gender Identity – how one (self) names their gender this can include but is not limited to: cisgender, male, female, transgender, cismale, cisfemale, genderqueer, transman, transwomen, ftm, mtf, trans*(see below), Transsexual(see below), gender variant, gender fluid, gender different, gender neutral ,agender, bigender, Two Spirit, andro, boy or boi, girl or gurl, man, women or womyn. note some people use more than one to name their gender identity
*Trans with a * is used as an umbrella term and definition is specific to an individual, just like all the other words listed.
*transsexual is not a suggested term to use for someone unless they explicitly name thats what they want -means that someone has gone through/is going through medical processes to transition i.e. hormones/surgery/surgeries.- however, it is based in a clinical mentality of the need to medically transition for legitimacy of trans-ness. Also the medical model is equated with the DSM diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder (a mental health diagnosis often needed to access transition resources). In the newly revised DSM-V, it has been reframed as Gender Dysphoria Disorder.
Gender Expression – how one choices to express or ‘perform’ their gender identity: may include but is not limited to: masculine, feminine, androgynous, stud, ag, gender fluid, gender neutral, trans*.
CisGender – when one’s assigned sex matches their gender identity i.e. assigned male at birth and identifies as a man. Cisgender has its origin in the Latin-derived prefix cis-, meaning “on this side of,” which is an antonym for the Latin-derived prefix trans-, meaning “across from” or “on the other side of”. This word has largely been generated by the trans* community(ies). It is to combat the use of “normal gender” or the phrase the book uses “traditional” gender which then frames trans* as other and deviant.
A personal side note and personal pet peeve -do NOT use transgendered. Ever. Transgender is not a verb. It is something you are not something you do (though I am in favor of gender as performance). You wouldn’t say that someone is blacked or gayed or heterosexualed. By using transgendered you are inferring that it is an action, and actions are choices, being trans, like being gay for example is not simply a matter of choice.
The last term I want to elaborate on is when the book sites Bilodeau’s “genderism” which is basically the enforcement of stereotypical gender roles on campus. This is a useful ‘ism’ to describe a social system however, I would go further and name it as Cis-Sexism i.e. the social systematic demand to perform the gender roles associated with one’s assigned sex, the enforcement of a gender binary (M/F), and the invisibility of the trans* lived experience. In light of that definition, the following section based on Bem’s Sex Role Inventory and Gender Schema has to be looked at as a model of this question: do assigned men perform masculinity and do females perform femininity. And yes that question is meant to be binary with little room for “in-between” or outside the binary roles, because if you test as that you can be labeled as undifferentiated (uh what).
So what does this all mean? What would scholarly work that uses inclusive and representative language look like? Thinking about the class where we were discussing this chapter, if I had not been in the room (being the only trans identified student), how would some of these language critiques entered the conversation and how would my classmates preparation for the field have been hindered? How do we institute a sustainable practice for our Professors?
And what about the blog? I am always on the lookout for demonstration of value. What people name or don’t name, especially in regards to communities, is something lately my ears are super sensitive too. What does it say about value that this blog post was on a major publication site for our profession? I am unsure of the rules of editing and approval for the Chronicle, but still who thought that this quote was 1. appropriate or 2. relevant to the article?
These are the questions I am still pondering and reflecting on and I would love to hear your thoughts – Comment below, tweet @Bryan_Mc or email OutinHighered@gmail.com