Comment: What the trans community could learn about labels from the Piers Morgan controversy

Zoe Kirk-Robinson February 14, 2014
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Writing for PinkNews, the vice chair of LGBTory, Zoe Kirk-Robinson, suggests that the trans community could learn from a recent controversy around Piers Morgan, to use correct labels, and educate others to do the same.

The recent furore over Piers Morgan’s attitude toward a trans woman guest on his show may be well justified but it also highlights a problem that trans people have faced for decades. The media focuses on our pasts, talking about how we “used to be” men and women, but have now changed.

We continue to argue that this is the wrong way to look at us but the language we use, and the language the medical profession uses, to describe us is doing us no favours. The terms male-to-female and female-to-male, terms used to describe our transition process but which we have all used to label ourselves for so long, reinforces the idea of “used to be a (wo)man”.

If we want the media to change its way of thinking, it’s time to put these labels aside once and for all. We have had the “trans man” and “trans woman” labels for a long time now. It’s time we used these in place of “female-to-male” and “male-to-female” respectively. Let’s stop reinforcing the “used to be” idea that we all hate to much.

In the short term this may cause some problems with a few naysayers. There will always be the kind of person who calls a trans woman a “trans man”. Some will do it because they don’t understand, and some because they want to hurt us. Let’s not focus on these people and use them as a reason to hold us back. We can educate the ones who don’t understand and those who just want to hurt us will do that whatever we call ourselves.

Dropping the problematic labels will also help us move on from the idea that you’re not trans unless and until you begin or, as some would have it (incorrectly, I might add), complete the transition process. The media loves to reinforce society’s idea that a trans person is still their birth sex until they undergo sex reassignment surgery but the trans community has fought this idea for a long time. A trans person is the sex they identify with from the time they identify with it.

Using the outdated labels undermines this. They reinforce the notion that we start out as one thing and become another. We are campaigning for recognition using tools that undermine our own arguments! Let’s stop that once and for all. It’s time to move on to the better labels we’ve already got, ready and waiting.

Zoe Kirk-Robinson is LGBTory’s Vice Chairman for Policy & Campaigning, and also the Director of T-Vox, the largest trans & intersex free advice & information site.

As with all Comment, this does not necessarily reflect the views of

More: gender reassignment, label, labels, Opinion, piers morgan, Trans, Transgender, transition, zoe kirk-robinson

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