What’s the Best Way to Refer to Everyone Who Isn’t Cis?
The Radical Copyeditor has thoughts about this:
The short answer was a big fat nope, but a longer answer feels worthwhile, because the question of how to best refer to everyone whose identities don’t conform to mainstream gender expectations/norms is a super challenging and multilayered topic. Language around gender is quickly evolving, so knowing which terms are most current and ensuring basic understanding across lines of difference is a real challenge.
Lots of terms have been used over the years, including _gender deviant, gender variant, gender expansive, gender creative, gender diverse, trans*, trans+, trans and gender nonconforming, GQNBT, marginalized genders, gender minorities, _and trans/non-binary. At the end of the day, none of them are completely clear on their own or work in every context, and all of them have problems or limits.
Worth reading for the history of the various terms that have been used to describe non-cisgender folks. Overall, ‘trans’ is the most used term today, but there are problems with that. This one in particular resonates with me:
Dominant culture will always, always, take words coined by people on the oppressed margins and twist them to suit the worldview of people in the privileged center. When transgender first started being used within trans communities as distinct from transsexual, instead of taking the time to understand the nuances of this distinction and the ways in which the word _trans _is designed to break down gendered boxes and compost them, purveyors of dominant culture (such as mainstream media) eagerly maintained these boxes by painting _transgender _as simply the new term for transsexual and presenting all trans people as binary-identified trans women and men. Trans, therefore, has become synonymous in many people’s minds with the mainstream-peddled narrative of what it means to be trans, meaning (to them) anyone who isn’t Caitlyn Jenner isn’t trans. (Ugh.)
Words have power. Use them wisely, and for good.