In our Winter Mailout this year, we wrote to our supporters and shared a client story that particularly moved us this winter. Alex, a transgender youth, came to Head & Hands after attempting suicide three times.
As someone with a non-conforming gender identity and a member of a racial minority group, Alex had been stigmatized and shamed at the hospital after each suicide attempt and was denied access to additional mental health support. They eventually dropped out of school. Their concerned family could not afford private counselling and was unable to access the CLSC, so they turned to Head & Hands. Rhonda provided counselling for not only Alex but for their entire family. Today, Alex* is no longer suicidal, and their family has regained a sense of stability.
You may have noticed that in the original letter, we referred to Alex as “transgendered,” which we later realized is a problematic term. Today on the blog, we want to apologize for our mistake and remind ourselves and our community of the importance and power of words. We also want to share with you why we were wrong and create a learning opportunity for ourselves and others!
Different words have different connotations and histories. Words can be used to fight prejudice, but sadly they are also all too effective in reinforcing oppression. At Head & Hands, we recognize the power of using words as tools for social justice.
The word “transgendered” is problematic and the preferred term is “transgender.” Wondering why? The GLADD style guide puts it best:
“The adjective transgender should never have an extraneous “-ed” tacked onto the end. An “-ed” suffix adds unnecessary length to the word and can cause tense confusion and grammatical errors. It also brings transgender into alignment with lesbian, gay, and bisexual. You would not say that Elton John is “gayed” or Ellen DeGeneres is “lesbianed,” therefore you would not say Chaz Bono is “transgendered.”
If you’d like some more resources about the language to use when talking about LGBT*Q communities, we’ve got two for you: this style guide put out by the Association of LGB&T* journalists with suggestions about language to use when producing media about LGB&T* communities, and the GLAAD style guide.