Is Transgender an Umbrella term?


Continuing the discussion from Facebook tells Native Americans that their names aren’t “real”:

Then they personally aren’t.

I am saying that being a member of subset A, C or n is not always always a subset of B. However subset n doesn’t get to decide that subset A or C is not a subset of B, as has previously been suggested. Not even subset A or C gets to decide that, except when they are deciding for themselves.

If finding one person in a group who doesn’t identify as transgender means that the whole group isn’t transgender, then no-one is transgender.

What I am arguing that if the group fits the definition of transgender then the individuals in that group get to choose if they are transgender.

According to the 1980-90s London Pride definition Transgender is an umbrella term that includes Transsexual, Drag, Transvestite, genderqueer, agender…

Trans is just a contraction of transgender.

In this case people who are seeking surgery and don’t want to associate with anyone who isn’t like them. They have an annoying habit of purging groups, then disappearing after surgery (because they don’t want to associate with anyone who isn’t like them) and the group dies because of lack of members.

Hence the need for an umbrella term

includes LGBA and other non vanilla sexualities

Explicitly non gender binary, excludes people who exclusivly identifyt as male or female.

I can guarantee that in 20 years time that these terms will have been hijacked by exclusionary people. It keeps happening and just because most people are too apathetic to stop people being excluded doesnt mean we all have to be.

I am not asking for a proscriptive english language. What I am asking for is to stop redefining terms every year because some people don’t want to associate with Those People. They can either deal with it or leave.

And thats me completely burned out.


The way I interpret it, the “trans” part connotes a change from one to another. This need not be between the traditionally perceived male/female polarities, although I find that people usually assume this. Becoming the one from the other. Personally, I think people can be “trans” whatever categories they like. While I think genderfluid to an extent loses the connotation of polarity. And genderqueer makes it completely open.

So, no, I don’t think transgender is an umbrella term as I encounter it used. Whether or not some consider that it was supposed to be doesn’t concern me.

How does it keep happening? How are people being excluded?

People can label themselves however they like to, and all of the labels I have seen used here were apparently devised within the community. When people prefer to classify themselves in a way which seems more appropriate or clear then they will naturally exclude themselves from umbrella terms they don’t consider applicable. While those who strive to be exclusionary are always at a disadvantage because they make no effort to know the culture or terms and usually fail to make sense.


Strongly disagree on that. If there is even a single member of B who is not a member of A, then B is not a subset of A, period. Makes no difference what anyone chooses to identify as or who they want to exclude from their club. It’s not an opinion, it’s the basic meaning of “subset.”

Now, whether that person is “genuinely” a member of A or B or both or neither, and how exactly those sets are defined, is a different and fuzzier issue, and the one I think the topic is really about. You seem to think that being in the transgender category is entirely up to the individual involved, which IMO not only makes the word definitionally meaningless but also ripe for co-optation, since apparently no one is allowed to say you don’t qualify.


We’re still trying to find the right words and the right combination of words to describe our different experiences. Anyway, if you have an umbrella label, people tend to assume it describes the variations on a single experience, and even with an umbrella list, such as L G B, and T, people still tend to assume that.


There is virtually no way to use any of these terms without offending someone who feels that it’s not exactly right.

I doubt we’ll see any of them (aside from LBGT) go into mainstream usage until there are more accepted rules. Until people are willing to be included in some sort of simple umbrella term for everyday (even if it doesn’t exactly represent them), the average person is just going to avoid the subject rather than end up on the defensive. At this point it’s a linguistic minefield used by many to trip up, accuse, and attack people.

At my last office we hired a person who was quite androgynous in appearance, and on her first day she went around introducing herself and said “I know you’re not sure where I fit on gender, so I wanted to say please just use ‘she’ and ‘her’. So about this department, how exactly will we be working together?..” Her approach really relieved the tension in the office, which was full of people who had never worked with anyone who wasn’t clearly straight or gay or lesbian.


Look I’m not particularly interested in bickering over whats exclusionary and whats not, who’s doing what to whom etc. Or expansionary definitions of words and changes and evolution in language. But words have specific meanings, these terms refer to specific groups. There are catchalls and umbrella terms.

Noones being exclusionary by using transgender to refer to people who are transgender. They’re simple trying describe themselves, or the people around them in a kind and accurate manner. It isn’t as if Gay people decided “no you your not gay, your trans now”. Or Trans people got together and said to some one else “no you aren’t Trans, your GenderQueer now”. People who were/are gay/trans/queer/actual dinosaurs struggled to find terminology and identity to accurately differentiate themselves from stereotypes and related/similar groups they were lumped in with by default. The proliferation of terms comes from a couple of places. But its built into academic, theoretical and activist analysis of these subjects. The terminology and definitions often come from work in gender theory/studies or other fields, and are embraced or not by the people they describe. They may or may not get redefined over time by common usage, or actively changed by processes like reclamation.

The proliferation is tiring, but I find it tiring not because describing yourself as something specific and meaningful is somehow wrong or intended to exclude others, but because it often turns into an endless circular debate about words and their meanings, and the appropriateness of words, or who using words to make who cry. Rather than any examination of the substance of claims being made, or the merit of the ideas underneath. Its that whole echo chamber effect. You get enough people who are discussing just one thing in isolation and they develop their own coded language and weird behaviors. You get people deliberatly misunderstanding language that isn’t overly technical or specific (and often enough even that language that is) for the sake of pushing their own agenda or even for the sake of argument. That behavior is exclusionary. And its fairly universal. I see it in weird fandom groups, the political right, the political left, discussions of cooking. Its particularly complex and exhausting when you hit on identity politics because that subject is so fraught to begin with.

Shit I used to work at this left wing theological school. Those people’s language was so ridiculously tied to both the language of social justice activism (a thing I like) and Protestant Christianity (a thing I find interesting, even if I don’t particularly like it) that noone could understand what they were on about. And it was your fault if you didn’t get exactly what they were talking about. Not theirs for using concepts like “witness” and obscure theological schools every other sentence while trying to engage with the public at large. It was weird. Very nice people though.

So anyway I only really commented on the previous thread because I find Drag fascinating. Its basically Gay Vaudeville. And one of its more charming aspects is that it deliberately plays with, mocks, embraces, and runs around in circles with these very concepts. Often in a way drawn from the gay community’s traditions of reclamation of laguage, and re-appropriation of stereotype through humor. Which is awesome. And has given some really rad shit. Like Camp. Which weirdly can (or at least could) sort of be seen as an identity on the order of Gay, Trans etc in a way that Drag sort of can’t.

Bye. I’m kind of done with this. Have fun.


I think there is no way around the fact that people are not going to understand the full complexity of your experience unless they get to know you personally.
But in an office environment, we don’t know the full complexity of anyone’s experience…and it shouldn’t matter. In the case of my co-worker, I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to know every detail of her gender/sex situation. I was a bit curious, naturally, but it was none of my business and had no impact on our work. Others who became closer to her probably did eventually know.


THere’s a difference between being transgender, and being genderfluid.


I realised that there may be a difference between British and US use of the word.

I am using the word as defined by the people who changed London Gay and Lesbian pride to london gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender pride. It’s in London Pride 1996 magazine if you can find a copy, it also was in the Oxford Eglish Dictionary about 10 years ago. Drag was included for several reasons and no-one objected until about 15 years later. By that time it had been accepted by the UK police, ambulance, fire service and so on.

Before that the person who was most visible calling themselves transgender was Virginia Prince, who would not be considered transgender under the accepted US meaning as she explicitly did not want surgery and was happy with a male body. She would have also excuded all the people seeking surgery from using the term.

For me, I can accept Transgender as a description of my gender presentation, but not of my identity. My gender identity has remained constant for 30 years (I can’t remember much before that), but my presentation changed about 15 years ago.

So can we accept that there are two different meanings in English? I don’t want this to become an issue of cultural imperialism.



Not actually sure what that means…but I’ll take it as a thumbs down. I’ll live.


I am a women who is born with masculinized body-parts. I am a feminist who sees gender as a social construct (f*** gender!). So I am transsexual but no transgender.


I’ll admit ignorance (I’ve met very few trans people personally) before I start just so no one gets the impression that I’m trying to be prescriptive. I’m only trying to figure things out.

I get the impression that since modern society has done such a thorough job of repressing all expressions of sexuality while supporting the cultural constraint of monogamous heterosexuality as the norm, we don’t really have a shared model for understanding of gender other than as binary.

To some of us a simple continuum from hetero to homo sexual makes perfect sense under the binary model, but what happens when we find that there are people who can´t fit into it and find it too restrictive?

We seem to currently be in a place where our personal (and sometimes shifting) preferences are filtered through an artificially constrained model: Gender. And it seems to me that refusing to conform to logical categories that assume a perfect understanding of gender are an effort to expand our constrained understanding of gender and sexuality. Or at least they serve that purpose.

See, you may be right, B may not be a subset of A, but what if it were? Then that would mean that our understanding of A is not complete.

This makes sense to me, I still don’t understand gender categories but at least, I think I know why.

Edit: I just realized that this is an old thread, but somehow I missed that when it came up on my screen with new activity. :stuck_out_tongue:


Some people/communities use it as an umbrella term as well as a specific one, and some only ever use it specifically. Its use as an umbrella term is common and established enough that it shouldn’t be considered incorrect, IMHO.

Some people who might be considered specifically transgender, don’t like the term because their identities have always been the gender they are now, regardless of medical assignment or changes in gender presentation. And they’re not wrong either.

I’ve read that “trans” itself can refer to “transition” or “transcend” or “transgress”, and does not require a change of state – and that’s not wrong either.

My brother is a man who was assigned female at birth and lived for 20-some years as female before transitioning. He does not consider himself transgender or transsexual, he considers himself a man with a particular medical history.

I have a non-binary gender identity, but I present as male by default. I do consider myself trans in the umbrella sense, but much less so in the specific sense. I suppose, were I to make a change in my usual gender presentation, I would be more likely to consider myself specifically transgender. But at any rate, if you ask me “are you transgender?” I will probably answer that a more detailed answer than a simple yes or no. (I generally find myself more under the Q-for-Questioning part of LGBTQIA.)


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