Storify: Why I Don't Call Myself a Trans Woman

Storify is shutting down in May and has informed users that we have to migrate our content elsewhere if we wish to save it. This is one of my old threads. 

The context of this thread stems from trans people who were assigned female at birth using the term "trans woman" for themselves. I do not, and here is why.

A thread on why I don't call myself a trans woman, as a trans person who is sometimes a woman. This is an I-statement thread for a reason, because someone asked me about this in DMs. I'm not telling anyone else what to do.

First: Let's talk about how *I* define transness. To me, being trans means being a gender other than the one assigned to me at birth. I was assigned female at birth (AFAB) but it wouldn't be incorrect to say I was assigned "woman" at birth.

My gender is complicated, but I use the terms "genderqueer", "genderfluid", and "demigirl" most often. The "woman" designation I was assigned at birth is wrong. To me, that makes me trans. ("Trans" = other side; "cis" = same side.)

However, my gender is fluid. I'm sometimes a woman (maybe 1 or 2 times a year). Doesn't that make me "trans" + "woman", in a strict sense? Early on in my coming out process, I asked myself that. Then I decided I wasn't the right person for me to ask. I was trans, undeniably, and an expert on my own experiences. I was NOT an expert in community terms and what they mean.

I went to trans women and asked "will I cause you harm if I call myself a trans woman"? Not everyone had the same answer! But enough people said "yes, um, please don't do that?" Terms have connotations and meanings as well as definitions, and the connotation for "trans woman" is "assigned male at birth" even if that's not part of the "trans" + "woman" construction.

Language is hard. The ultimate goal of language is to communicate. So even though I'm trans and sometimes a woman, I don't use that community term out of respect to people more marginalized to me, because "trans woman" means--to most people--someone who was assigned male at birth. I am trans and I am very rarely a woman, but I was never assigned male at birth.

Related: Even though I'm nonbinary and I could abbreviate as "NB", I don't use it out of respect to Black women who coined that term for "non-Black". I use "enby" (a word we coined to not steal Black women's labor) and "genderfluid" or "demigirl". Does "enby demigirl" make some people dismiss me as twee? Probably. Does it mean I'm not hurting Black women and trans women? Yes. Are terms and labels easy and clean and everyone agrees on them? NO.

Community terms will never be 100% harmless. Community terms will NEVER be 100% agreed-upon. I've mentioned this before, but "crip" is a triggery slur for me. The disabled community uses it to organize, so I deal. Would I prefer we pick a different term? Yes. Do I do the work to normalize other terms? Yes. Is everyone who uses the word wrong? NO.

But. Back to the topic of AFAB people using "trans women" as a self-label, I will say: it was not hard for me to ask. Why is it too hard for other AFAB people to ask trans women, to make room for their voices? That is all I have to say on that topic.


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