This site is the most comprehensive on the web devoted to trans history and biography. Well over 1200 persons worthy of note, both famous and obscure, are discussed in detail, and many more are mentioned in passing - especially in the year-end summaries (see links in right sidebar.)

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12 October 2016

Transgender Lexicons: Raven Usher

This is the first of a series on lexicons.
  •  Raven Usher. North American Lexicon of Transgender Terms. GLB Publishers 2006.
Raven Usher (1982 – ) is a writer and transgender activist in Boise, Idaho. She was editor of Diversity magazine. She has a wife and three children. She explains: “I put this together during the time I was flexing my activist muscles”.

Why “North American”?

Presumably to avoid getting into European and Asian terminology, although there are entries for “Katoey” (“trans-variant people as the third sex. Originated in Thailand”) and “Ladyboy” (“Very young male to female pre-op TS. Term originated in Thailand”).

But on the other hand terms that reflect North America are missing. There are no Mexican terms such as “Muxhes”, “transformista”, “maricón” or “Los 41”. Likewise there are no terms from Quebec such as “travelo” or “travestie”, nor any from the New York Ball scene such as “realness” or “throwing shade”.

There is only one aboriginal term, the Lakota term “winkte”, but she does not tell us that it is Lakota. There are entries for “two-spirit” and ‘berdache’, but Usher does not seem to know that following the First Nation/American Native convention in Winnipeg in 1990, “two-spirit” replaced ‘berdache’ because it was offensive. She actually claims that ‘berdache’ is “Originally a Native American term”, when it fact it is derived from a Persian word for a boy-prostitute that was imposed by Europeans ignorant of the two-spirit traditions.

Words that have since gone out of fashion

None of the definitions acknowledge that word usages change over time, and this is most apparent in “tranny” which Usher simply defines as: “abbreviation – ‘transgender’ See also: t-gurl”. Of course the term had not yet been demonized in 2006, but should not the definition stress that even more than transgender, “tranny” is a bringing together of transsexual, transvestite and drag. The variant form “transy” is not mentioned at all, and the now fashionable variant “trans” is not said to be a variant of ‘tranny’. In fact ‘trans’ is defined as “abbreviation - A gender variant person”. Is this different, if so, how?

Usher also uses 'transgendered', but then most of us did back in 2006.

Sexual orientation

Usher has an entry for “sexual orientation”: “The sex a person is sexually attracted to. Sexual orientation is not a factor in determining transgenderism.” There are also entries for “heterosexual”, “homosexual”, “bi-sexual”, “straight”,  "gay", “fag”, “asexual”. Some might say that these are not needed if they are not a factor. However most importantly e.g “heterosexual” is defined as “a person who is sexually attracted only to people of the opposite sex”.

But we are dealing with trans persons - which sex is opposite?  An apparent gay man will usually become a heterosexual woman after transition. So is Usher doing as Blanchard and others do (to great annoyance) and defining sexual orientation with respect to birth gender whether it is changed or not. This issue is ignored, and the words “androphilic” and “gynephilic” that many of us use to get around the problem are not in the lexicon at all.

Cis and drag

The various ‘cis’ terms, although they have been around since the 1990s, are not included, and “genetic boy”, “genetic girl” are used despite the objections that have been raised against them. Usher is emphatic that drag queens and drag kings are not transgender, but offers no other term for the many trans women and a few trans men who went though drag performance and later completed a full transition.

Femmophile and fetish

There is an entry for “femmophile”: “A heterosexual male with a strong love of the feminine but may or may not be transgendered. See also: trans-variant”. Is this Virginia Prince’s ‘femmiphilic”? Why the spelling change? Of Prince’s jargon terms only “second self” is in the lexicon, but not ‘male woman’, ‘dual personality’ ‘girl within’, ‘whole girl fetishist”. So why a slight variation on one Princian term?   Or to take a different approach, if the term is not Princian, why are gay transvestites not allowed to be femmophilic.

There is also no mention at all of autogynephila. The closest approach is fetish: “aka ‘sexual fetish’ A person who wears particular pieces of clothing of the a gender other than their own for sexual gratification. Fetishes are not transgendered”.


The only non-binary pronouns given are ze/hir. For some reason Usher refers to ze/hir as "Spivakian" without explaining what that is. I had to look it up: however Spivak’s proposed pronouns are e/eir.  Ze/hir is more associated with Leslie Feinberg.


The final entry in the lexicon is: “50% rule: Statistic that states, '50% of all transsexuals will die by their early thirties. A small number die from violence, disease or other common causes. Most commit suicide.' ” No citation is given for this claim. Even if it were true, it would be necessary to explain that those who commit suicide do so because of transphobia. This entry like this without citation and explanation should not be in a lexicon.

There is an ideology in this lexicon.  That is not necessarily a bad thing, but it should be admitted in an introductory essay.

The lexicon is available on Kindle for less than $1.

 The Inland Revenue Service Library has acquired a printed copy.  I wonder what they make of it?
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