Sign for Transgender | Response

Hello, and welcome back. Today, I wanted to take a moment and talk about a specific sign – the one for transgender. When I posted my updated Queer Signs video, someone left a comment then deleted it before I could respond. I decided I’d make a video because it’s important to me that this information is out there. I want to be clear, I’m not saying that this is wrong or bad. I just want to give another perspective on this.

The comment basically said that in NYC, people—and I think the comment said trans people specifically—sign the word trans in reverse, essentially, opening up rather than closing in.

Let’s get this out of the way: I strongly recommend you don’t use that sign.

Everyone I know, in and out of the queer community, uses the same sign for trans(gender) with a 5-handshape closing in until all five fingers are touching, in the middle of the chest. (Think the handshapes and movement for “beautiful” but signed on the chest.) There’s a reason for this.

Back in around 2003, this sign was decided on by a group of trans Deaf people and spread from there. I’ll leave a link to the source for this along with a transcript at the end of this post, since the video isn’t captioned. The point is, this sign was decided upon by the community.

Now, let’s talk about the other sign – [trans in reverse]. If I remember correctly, there was a big uproar over this sign when it first showed up. Mainly because it was a cis woman who first suggested it, who had no right or place to be discussing this sign. She was also signing it incorrectly, moving it downward while closing the hand. She said that the sign should be changed because the actual sign is a “negative” sign because it’s closing, it’s moving down. She’s not wrong on that count. Most negative signs in ASL move downward, like sad, depressed, and dark. Most positive signs move upward, like happy, thrilled, and bright.

However. Trans is signed horizontally, with no vertical movement. The meaning of this sign is your identity is on the inside, and no one can change that. I also interpret it as meaning beautiful on the inside, no matter your external appearance.

So if you still choose to use [trans in reverse], that’s your decision, but at least do so knowing this history and the actual meaning of the sign. That’s all I have for this video, and if I’m wrong about any of this, please tell me!

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TRANSCRIPT – Timecodes 3:35-5:49

Transsexual, trans, transgender are typically the same sign – trans. Let me explain a little bit about the history of that sign. The old sign is [shows sign]. It means changing sex, and for us, we don’t feel that’s appropriate. We’re not changing our sex, we’re changing our bodies to fit our identity. So… Oh, another sign – [T-G]. It looks like no good [N-G]. That doesn’t fit us obviously. We were struggling to find the right sign. So we got together at the RAD (Rainbow Alliance of the Deaf) conference in 2003. It just happened that there was a large number of trans people there. We got together and said we need to discuss a sign. One woman, a trans woman from Europe who grew up in Spain, has traveled to different places in Europe, checking out all their signs. She saw different ones – [demonstrates a couple]. I can’t remember, there were a lot of different ones. Then she said trans. We asked her what that means. It means who you are on the inside, that’s your identity. No one can change it, it’s inside of you. It doesn’t matter what the outside looks like, your identity is here (inside of you). Cherished. Regardless of surgery, hormones, whatever, or you decide not to, that doesn’t matter. That’s still your identity here (on the inside), no matter what you look like. So that’s why it’s signed trans. We tend to use that for in general, anything. So it can include trans, transgender, transsexual, and so on, all the different words. All under one sign, trans. If you want to know more information about that person, ask them directly. Everyone’s a little different, identities are a little different.

Published by Rogan Shannon

Hello there! I'm Rogan, a queer deaf guy who has a passion for leadership and advocacy. I create YouTube videos about a lot of different topics - being deaf, queer, reading, language, and whatever else interests me!

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