Verb Hunting for Genderqueers

I’ve gotten some great feedback from people on my post discussing the idea of ‘transition’ — or something verby — to describe the process genderqueers go through to become themselves.  I’ve seen transition for transsexuals described as a process to gain wholeness, to align their physical bodies more closely with their gender identities.

There’s a lot mixing and boiling and mashing together in my head about gender and identity lately, even more than usual, if you can believe that, but I want to focus just on terminology for this post.  If this were a workshop and we could all sit around and talk about this, maybe with a whiteboard, we might start by putting some words and definitions up to get us thinking and discussing.

Transition: n, movement, passage, or change from one position, state,stage, subject, concept, etc., to another.  v, to make a transition.

That’s what the dictionary says, anyway.  Nothing there keeping us from adopting that word if we want.  We have other resources to look to as well.  Matt Kailey’s vocab list, Trans-lations, has a definition for ‘transition’ that’s a bit more on target:

Transition refers to a process that includes changing or correcting the body or physical sex to match the gender identity through hormones and/or surgery, name change, legal paperwork changes, social adjustment, and other changes and adjustments necessary to live in the gender that matches the identity.

OK, that would still technically work for me and some of you, besides.  So we could use the word transition and be correct.  We’d also probably be misunderstood, since most of the people who have any awareness about transgender people and transitioning would assume you were moving from one gender position to another.  So I propose we take a look at some other words, words that might further our ability to communicate clearly rather than cause us to spend a lot of time explaining what we don’t mean.

Integrate, Integration: v, to bring together or incorporate (parts) into a whole;   to make up, combine, or complete to produce a whole or a larger unit, as parts do; to unite or combine. n, an act or instance of combining into an integral whole.

Transform, Transformation: v, to change in form, appearance, or structure; metamorphose; to change in condition, nature, or character; convert. From Math:  to change the form of (a figure, expression, etc.) without in general changing the value. n, the act or process of transforming.

Align, Alignment: v, to arrange in a straight line; adjust according to a line; to bring into a line or alignment; to bring into cooperation or agreement with a particular group, party, cause, etc. n, the proper adjustment of the components of an electronic circuit, machine, etc., for coordinated functioning; a state of agreement or cooperation among persons, groups,nations, etc., with a common cause or viewpoint.

I’m really leaning toward ‘integration’ at the moment.  MN spoke up for this in comments and I think it might fit what Z was thinking better, too.  We shall see, hopefully they will comment again.  I also love the geekiness of integration, that appeals to me.  The next term, ‘transform’ could also be useful, it has the ‘trans’ prefix that links it to transition, transgender, etc.  It also speaks to changing form and appearance.  I threw the mathematical definition in because I like the idea that we don’t change in value as we transform.  ‘Align’ and ‘alignment’ have some promise, though I don’t think we’re going to get arranged in a straight line.  The idea of bringing my various parts and identities into cooperation, of coordinating their function with a common cause is appealing.

In that funny way life has of bringing you things when you ask for them out loud, Maddux of Neutrois Nonsense left a comment on my last post and pointed out that they have created and is leading a Non-Binary Transition Workshop at some gender focused conferences this year (Maddux, is Gender Odyssey on that list?).  Speaking of which, Gender Odyssey is coming in August and I’ll be going for the first time.  I’m so looking forward to that.

OK, so what do you all think about these options?  Do any speak to you?  If so, why?  Have you thought of other terms we can use to talk about non-binary moving-toward-wholeness?  Looking forward to hearing from you.

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6 Responses to Verb Hunting for Genderqueers

  1. Jonathan says:

    OK, so what do you all think about these options? Do any speak to you? If so, why?

    Integration certainly does. Though in my case it’s about bringing together differing gendered elements and integrating them as a whole within a male, rather than non-binary, identity.

    Clearly, integration is a very useful term and concept. I like that it can be used by many of us, coming from our different perspectives. If the result is something more whole, something more representative of who *you* are, than I think we’ve found a useful term in describing a process many of us are going through, even if the features of our various paths are different – K

  2. Rose Fox says:

    As suggested on Twitter (where I’m @rosefox), I think for me it’s been more like emulsifying. A dash of this, a pinch of that, always trying new combinations and ingredients, and pouring energy into it because the only way to make it really come out smooth and perfect is to whisk like mad. Finally you get a finished product that’s startlingly unlike anything that went into it–a miracle of chemistry whose perfection hides all the hours of trial and error and exhausting effort. (Not that any recipe is ever really perfected.)

    As for something that starts with trans*, I agree that “transforming” has a lot going for it. I also like to think of trans* as including transcendence and transgression.

    I will probably never use emulsifying, but I love how you’ve described it here. And, frankly, the whisking action would explain some of the internal churning I sometimes feel — K

  3. MN says:

    Wow, so glad to be in conversation about this. There is so much to be said for all of the verb choices above. I like your thought, Rose Fox, about including the “trans” prefix and referring to the ideas of transcendence and transgression …

    I think that after all is said and done, though, I am finding the language of “gender integration” to work really, really well for me on a personal level. I think that I get nervous about the idea of “transforming” because it suggests so much discontinuity with who I have been. I feel like it insists that I say that expressing/relating to my gender differently than I did in the past makes me a fundamentally different person. I find that I want language that reflects the continuity as well as the changes.

    Do other people share that concern? How do you balance the ideas of newness/change with continuity/history? If you find that they are in tension, how do you verbalize that tension?

  4. maddox says:

    Wow, what an excellent lens to see this through.

    Curiously enough for me ‘integration’ was the least resounding of all, though it appears to be the most popular. It just makes me think of finding separate pieces and gluing them together, as if they were somehow dispersed, or apart, or broken even.

    For me, alignment works best. It’s exactly the word I thought of yesterday to describe my gender. I feel the parts of me were always there, just not in the right place. It also makes me think of spine alignment, or the feeling you get when you crack your back – before, the discs are all under pressure and slightly out of place, and after a brief ‘crack’ and some sharp pain, comes immediate relief, and everything is smooth and in line with each other.

    Still, I think I much prefer transition, because of trans – transition, transitivity, transgender, transgress, transcend. It marks the passage of time, which is essential to transition.

    (And yes, I’ll be at Gender Odyssey too!)

    First: super excited at the prospect of meeting you at G.O. That would be very awesome. In my field testing (asking friends what they think), integration and alignment have gotten very positive responses. I am leaning toward integration, using alignment as another way to explain my process. I do like a lot of the words starting with ‘trans’ so I’m not dropping it completely, I just think in terms of communicating clearly and concisely, integration and alignment work for me. As I said to my GQ friend last night, each of us has a different way of seeing our internal/external gender mapping, and each of us will likely have a somewhat different take on how to communicate that. Those means of expression and ways of identifying will likely overlap with others, but an exact match may be illusive. That’s fine with me, we’re all GQ/non-conforming snowflakes in my mind – K

  5. Roxy says:

    My favorite is integration, but as a math instructor, I have a slightly different feel for the word. Integration is a concept in Calculus wherein you add together all the pieces to get the area of an object. As the edges of the object become more complex, integrating, or calculating the area, gets more complex as well. I think pretty much everyone who reads this blog can associate with having complex edges, and that integration – the process of adding yourself together – can take a long time.

    I also like the idea of alignment, because it conjures up images of magnetic fields. The idea that there are invisible, sometimes nearly imperceptible, guides that we’re each trying to align with resonates deeply with me. Gender has never been something easy for me – it’s always been a process of trying things out and seeing what feels right. I can feel the pull, but I can’t always see where it will lead me.

    And, as long as I’m flying that inner geek flag high and proud, I should probably mention that I’ve always felt a slight discomfort with terms that start with “trans.” I love the image that a person could span across many genders, but I’m not comfortable with the aspect of trans that suggests that you have to go anywhere or change anything to be true to yourself. Integration and alignment allow for movement without change, which appeals to me. I know the external is very important, but I know there are a lot of us in the world who aren’t seeking to change our external shell, despite the fact that it doesn’t do a good job at advertising the wealth that exists inside.

    However, having looked it up again, I notice an additional meaning: “To go beyond.” That meaning definitely sings. 🙂

    I really love this, partially because I love you but mostly because I love mathy analogies and correlations. “I think pretty much everyone who reads this blog can associate with having complex edges, and that integration – the process of adding yourself together – can take a long time. ” Yes, yes, yes. I’m still trying to find all the pieces and edges, and I think that’s a process that could take my whole life.

    I also like your take on alignment. Had a conversation with my BBB companion last night. She is also a mathematician and immediately grokked your take on integration, but also liked alignment. The idea of some guidelines, something built in that helps us line up with our best path is very appealing. That feeling of tweaking and adjusting and feeling the pull of the ‘right spot’ is very familiar. We know it when we are there and when we’re not there, it pulls at us, whispering sweet come-ons and if we don’t listen, screaming at us in the form of dis-ease.

    ‘Trans’ is at once appealing and difficult for me. Trans-itioning, changing your position, is not a complete match for what I feel I’m doing in coming to a healthy balance point with regard to gender. There isn’t a well defined and mapped out trans-it for what I’m doing. There are similarities between what I’ve done to align my external and internal and what other’s do during transition, but it’s not really the same process so that word is problematic. But if I think of ‘trans’ as being not cis, it works to some degree. And I agree that ‘going beyond’ is a meaning I can definitely relate to and that works for me as well.

    Thank you for joining the conversation. You have great insights and a wonderful way of expressing your own experiences with gender and identity, I always learn a lot from you. Thank you, love – K

  6. Master Wolf says:

    So I have had an item on my to-do list reminding me to check your blog since we exchanged posts on FB on this issue back in May…shakes head… Good stuff here.

    As for me, I prefer Transcend to describe myself. About 10 years ago I read a book called Transcending the Levels of Consciousness and it resonated with me and my most recent bout of gender contemplation. The dictionary definition of it seems so appropriate for me because it is purely about going beyond limits – limits that are immediately placed on us the moment we come out of the womb, (or are dropped off by the mothership), and someone takes a peek at what is between our legs.

    transitive verb
    a : to rise above or go beyond the limits of b : to triumph over the negative or restrictive aspects of : overcome c : to be prior to, beyond, and above (the universe or material existence)
    : to outstrip or outdo in some attribute, quality, or power
    intransitive verb
    : to rise above or extend notably beyond ordinary limits

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