Transgender Woman or Transgender Man?

                Trans is a latin preposition governing the accusative case. It means across. For example: trans terras means “across the earth”; trans agros means “across the fields / country.”  More or less the modern use of trans is still governed by its latin usage. Another example would be the Latin word vestis. Vestis means “clothe.”  Vestire is a verb meaning “to clothe.” I think for many of us (at least my age group) we have heard one time or another, our lolas saying, “Mag-bestida ka na at magsisimba na tayo.” Yes, totally old school but it’s still cool to hear. Anyway bestida has its origin from Latin which we have come to use (or appropriated) via the Spaniards. So by now you know basically what transvestite means. Although it refers to a person, it does so by referring to the person’s manner of clothing. So, a transvestite is a person who dresses “across” his gender; a male dressing like female and vice versa.

Correct me if I am wrong. The locus of my problem is the usual reference to Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude as a transgender woman. The base gender of “Jennifer” is male. He was born male and raised male by his family. He is named (perhaps baptized and civilly registered) Jeffrey, a male name. His sexual organ is undeniably male. Now the word trans, if it has to have meaning at all, recognizes a point of departure. To use transgender is also to recognize a base gender. The base gender of “Jennifer” Laude is male. So we have to naturally recognize that the male gender is the starting point so that we can cross over to the other side, to the female gender. So we have to recognize that Laude is male first. Laude was aware of it as well. This process of crossing over, I think, was not alien to Laude. He knew his initial “gender designation” (whatever that is), and he wanted to cross-over the female side. After all he knew he was gay and consciously hid it from Pemberton – as revealed by police investigations. The word transgender carries the notion of an incomplete process. One is not completely woman. One is not completely man. There is always the movement of going across. Because a transgender will always have to recognize that he is initially a male or a female but always wanting to be recognized otherwise.

Now, given the case how do we understand a transgender? Roughly, if I may put it, he / she is a person who upon reaching the age of decision thought it best to go “across” his (or her) own gender toward the “opposite” gender. Thus, a transgender man is a man who “wants” to be recognized as a woman. Likewise, a transgender woman is a woman who wants to become a man. This makes Jeffrey Laude (may he rest in peace) a transgender man.


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Filed under culture, politics, word

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