Transgender Language: Tensions with and Responses to Gendered English

Jace Harr

The Violet Fairy Book, from the famous series collected by Andrew Lang, gives us a tale in which a princess rescues another princess, they fall in love, and upon their elopement, are cursed by a hermit who turns the rescuer into a man. The ex-princess is delighted at this change, and lives the rest of his life happily with his bride. With just a phrase, intended by the speaker as a hex, the ex-princess found his true self by accident and discovered the way he wanted to live.

To many transgender people who live in the world outside of fairy tales, language is the only means they have of manifesting themselves. It becomes a tool to birth a reality that is in congruence with their own beliefs about themselves. The almost-magical power of choosing their own name (reminiscent of some rites of passage) and proclaiming preference with a certain set…

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