Communities often have very strict rules for which words to use and how to use them, especially words surrounding identity. In the circles I frequent, the proper term for a person whose gender identity is different from the gender they were assigned at birth is ‘a transgender person’, with ‘transgender’ being an adjective. Most of us have probably seen the word ‘transgendered’ (a deverbal adjective) being used both by cis people out of ignorance, but also by trans people in other communities who identify with that term. I’ve seen many good arguments for why ‘transgendered’ is a “bad” word to use (try googling “why is transgendered a bad term” if you’re unsure) – with all these in mind and accepting the premise that ‘transgender’ is the proper term, I do however have an idea/suggestion for another, legitimate usage of the word ‘transgendered’.
‘Transgendered’, having a -ed verbal suffix, suggests that the person it describes is the object of some sort of process or action. The person “has been transgendered” by something. This is also a key argument for why the word is a bad term to use about transgender people – it takes away their agency and implies that their being trans is something that has happened to them, rather than just something they are.
But in a sense, being transgender IS something that has happened to us. Here I am making an important distinction between gender identity and the state of being transgender. I have a gender identity: Specifically I am nonbinary/third gender. This identity is my own, I consider it an integrated core part of who I am, I feel that it’s something internal in me rather than external (forgive the somewhat abstract and vague description – gender is weird and I don’t think any of us are quite sure what it is exactly. I’m not going to go into that here.). It did not “happen to me”, it was there all along.
My gender identity does not match the gender I was assigned by doctors, the government, and society when I was born and growing up. This latter fact – the fact that I have a specific assigned gender and that it was assigned to me by someone else – is external. My assigned gender very much did “happen to me”. Someone else put that onto me.
If I didn’t have an assigned gender, it wouldn’t make sense to say that my gender identity and assigned gender didn’t match – and it wouldn’t make sense to say I’m transgender. Really, I am only transgender because society look/looked at me and saw one gender when in reality I am another. In this way it society that is the cause of my being transgender – so in a sense I have been transgendered by society.
So why not just use ‘transgendered’ and forget about ‘transgender’? I think the two words emphasize different things. Like I’ve outlined above, ‘transgendered’ implies that something has happened to us – which may be true, but it’s not all being trans is, and it in turn can imply that being trans is bad. Which it is not. The fact that we need a word for it is bad – it’s bad that society forcibly assigns genders to newborn children when we have no idea how it will match their identity as they grow up. But the person themself is not doing something wrong or “being wrong” by having a different gender identity than their assigned gender. Using the word ‘transgender’ instead is more neutral and better allows for a discourse that emphasizes the positive aspects of gender diversity.
To sum up:
I am a transgender person – this means I have a different gender identity than the gender I was assigned at birth. This is not a problem I need fixed, it is simply a fact about me as a person, just like the fact that I have brownish-blonde hair and that I’m 174.5 cm tall.
I have been transgendered by society – this means that the label of my assigned gender has been forced onto me despite the fact that it’s not an accurate description of who I am. This IS a problem, and I would like to change society so future generations do not need to go through the same.