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©2001, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Denny, Dallas. (2001, Summer). A word from the editor: Nons. Transgender Tapestry, 94, p. 6.






A Word from the Editor



Last fall I had the good fortune of dining in the company of Dr. Sandra Cole, Paisley Currah, Jamison Green, Michelle Kämmerer, Shannon Minter, Janis Walworth, Liz Seaton, and someone from the Human Rights Campaign who sat at the other end of the table and whose name I didn’t catch, but who picked up the entire tab, for which I would like to thank him and HRC very much.

It was one of those leisurely affairs at which there are myriad conversations, but one in particular gave me pause: Jamison spoke about the importance of defining others in relation to us, rather than defining us in relation to others. It took me back through the years.

In 1992, at the for-postop-MTF’s-only Second New Woman Conference, in the company of, among others, Anne Ogborn, Sister Mary Elizabeth, Merissa Sherill Lynn, Rena Swifthawk, Rachel Pollack, Janis Walworth, Wendi Kaiser, and Angela Wensley, we engaged in considerable discussion of terminology. Although I assigned no particular import to it when I opened my mouth, it has been said in print, I believe by Rachel or maybe Anne, that I suggested we use the term nontranssexual to refer to those who are, well, not transsexual.

Think about the term: nontranssexual. It says everything, doesn’t it? There are transsexuals, and then there are those who aren’t transsexual. The center, the norm, is the transsexual, and everyone else is not transsexual. It works for all of us: crossdressers and non-crossdressers, transgenderists and non-transgenderists, lesbians and non-lesbians, intersex and non-intersexed.

In this community, we have historically defined ourselves in relation to others. Terms like GG abound. Genetic girl. What, we transfolk have no chromosomes? We’re not genetic? New other-centered terms are constantly arising; a recent issue of the women’s magazine Sojourner gave “factory direct” as a term for nontrans people. Even our most commonly used labels, like crossdresser and transsexual, imply we wear the clothing of the other sex or cross the sexes, while “normal” people of course don’t to those things.

When the center changes, those on the periphery of the new center become the suspect ones. I’ve heard transpeople speaking derisively about “nons” in the same way Georgia bubbas talk about queers and yankees. It’s certainly not appropriate to poke fun at others, but the use of the word non is a sign we’ve begun to define others in terms of ourselves.