Wednesday night, we went over Chapter 3 of OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation in my OtherWise Self-Defense course. One of the most common questions I get in readings is about the non-English terms that I list in this section. People want to learn more.
In considering this topic, it is important to be clear that terms from other cultures and languages are almost never an equivalent to “transgender” or other modern terms that are based in a Western worldview. Each term is embedded in a cultural context that has its own assumptions about gender and sexuality–and which may have been influenced in various ways by violent colonization. Sometimes these terms may be considered pejorative in the modern world, even if they were honored identities historically.
I want to be clear that I am not an expert on gender diversity around the world. It’s important that we not over-generalize about things we are not intimately familiar with.
In addition, under no circumstances should those of us grounded in Western world views take on these terms for ourselves without a deep knowledge of and long relationship with the culture and language they come from. They are not trendy costumes to be tried out, even if your internal sense or feeling or intention is one of respect and reverence.
I recently found this blog post at the Digital Transgender Archive listing a variety of terms, which is a great summary location to launch further research. Watch for additional upcoming blog entries with more specific resources about particular identities.
As always, my point in bringing up these other kinds of gender identities is to emphasize how much diversity has been suppressed by colonization–and how inaccurate and reductive the “two and only two” gender ideology is. Indigenous peoples around the world have fought back against colonization and invested endless labor in bringing back terms and traditions that colonizers had tried to erase or demonize.
Those of us grounded in European, Christian, and/or Western culture also have work to do in terms of reclaiming our roots and honoring our ancestors. It can be tempting to ride the coattails of others who have done this work in their own cultural context, but decolonization is not a project for the lazy. We must do our own work if we are to be in authentic solidarity with others.
Compiled by Mx. Chris Paige on October 9, 2019.
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