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Trans-friendly language

January 12, 2009

Several trans politics blogs have been celebrating this statement on trans rights by the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights. I just read the whole thing carefully: it’s extremely well done. I love language and its subtleties so I usually find annoying little details in texts on trans issues. Not this time. Take a look at this:

“Some people seem to have a problem with the mere existence of human beings whose outer expression of their inner gender identity is not the same as their gender determined at birth. Aggression against transgender persons cannot however be excused as resulting from ignorance or lack of education”

Yippee, he said that the contradiction is between a transperson’s gender expression/identity and the gender assigned at birth, and not between their gender and sex! Many transpeople feel fine about their sex and have no wish to change it, just like he acknowledges further on:

“To require surgery as a prerequisite to enjoy legal recognition of one’s gender identity ignores the fact that such operations are not always desired, medically possible, available, and affordable.”

Cisgender people —even some transsexual people— aren’t always aware of this. Again, thumbs up to the commissioner! I also like his definition of gender identity:

“Gender identity is understood to refer to each person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth, including the personal sense of the body (which may involve, if freely chosen, modification of bodily appearance or function by medical, surgical or other means) and other expressions of gender, including dress, speech and mannerisms.”

And,

“There is no excuse for not immediately granting this community their full and unconditional human rights. Council of Europe Member States should take all necessary concrete action to ensure that transphobia is stopped and that transgender persons are no longer discriminated against in any field.”

May it be.

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