Wednesday, January 9, 2008

January 9, 2008 - Transexual* (for Transsexual)

With 29 occurrences in OhioLINK, today's word has a bit of an identity crisis, since not everyone considers it to be a typo at all. According to Wikipedia: "Some individuals may prefer to spell transsexual with only one s, thus writing transexual. They will typically assert that they are attempting to divorce the word from the realm of psychiatry and medicine and place it in the realm of identity." Although, frankly, this makes no sense to me. How does spelling it with one s make it less of a medical matter and more of an identity issue? It only seems to make it less semantically correct, since trans- is an established prefix and "tran-" isn't. At any rate, this is clearly one case in which you must consult your primary source. Whether or not you then choose to regard it as a "sic-ness" may be left to your own discretion.

(Portrait of a young Gore Vidal, author of the 1968 novel Myra Breckinridge, by Harlem Renaissance photographer Carl Van Vechten, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid


hazumu said...

Disclosure: I'm transgendered.

The two-ess 'Transsexual' carries with it a heavy negative connotation which those bent on a religious-based moral purity are adept at using to create hysteria, fear and loathing against those who are transgendered.

Basically, a portion of the population is overly sensitive to certain language, and the word -sexual in Transsexual can trigger near reflexive revulsion in those individuals. The researcher/writer Steven pinker has documented this aspect of humans (with footnotes and bibliography)in several of his recent books, most notably "The Stuff Of Thought" Chapter seven , which is about blasphemous language and the physical effect it can have on people.

So I can understand some wanting to drop on 's'. But I personally prefer 'transgender' as, though it is less accurate, right now it has not acquired the negative connotations that 'Transsexual' has.

Trent Eady said...

"Transsexual" was a term doctors invented for folks. By changing the spelling, transexuals are reclaiming the word for themselves, following the line of thinking that a group should be in control of its own name, rather than having the name dictated on high by a medical or legal authority.