It’s time to clear up the meaning of words and the problems with the
“incorrect” use of those words
As a writer, I have often written stories for my children and
grandchildren, and didn’t withhold using words that they might never
have heard before if the story called for using those words. But in so
doing, I would also include a glossary to explain the meaning of those
words so it would increase their word knowledge while helping them to
understand the meaning of the story.
In today’s world, there are many new meanings for words we thought
were self-explanatory: words like mother, father, woman, man, etc. But
also in today’s world, there are words that are used with connotations
that take old words to new levels. Maybe things happened too fast for
many of us.
Perhaps we can start with the old fashioned meanings for the words I
—Mother: a woman in relation to her child or children. When a woman
gives birth to a child, she automatically becomes a biological mother
whether she wants to be one or not. She can keep the child and raise
it as the child’s mother or give it up for adoption or make some other
arrangements. But she will still be the child’s biological mother.
—Woman: an adult female human being
—Father: a man in relation to his child or children.
—Man: an adult male human being.
Defining male or female:
When a human baby is born appearing to have female genitala, the
doctor who delivered the baby puts “female” on the birth certificate.
And unless something happens to make the doctor believe he/she made a
mistake, that little child stays female.
And when a human baby is born having what definitely appears to be
male genitalia, the doctor delivering the baby puts “male” on the
birth certificate. And unless something happens to make the doctor
believe he/she made a mistake, that little child stays male.
And usually, in each case where a woman gets pregnant (there are
exceptions), she got pregnant in the usual way — by a man. That man —
whether he wants to admit it or not, whether he wants to actually take
on the role of the father, or not, is the biological father.
So that pretty much brings us up to date on the usual definitions for
mother, woman, father, and man. Then along came something that already
existed, but was very little known. Something we called
transgenderism. It might sound a bit strange, but all it means is that
there has been a change in the gender of the male or female human
beings. Whether the change came about on its own, or was “suggested”
into existence by someone in the child’s life (a teacher, a counselor,
a doctor or someone else), the person (and in this case, the child)
got to feeling that he or she might be in the wrong gender and might
need to get it changed to the correct gender.
Back in the day, the most well known case of a man who changed his
gender to that of a woman because he felt it had to be was Christine
Jorgensen. He was born on May 30, 1926 and she died on May 3, 1989.
She was the first person to become widely known in the United States
for having sex reassignment surgery.
Before her sex reassignment surgery, however, he had been drafted into
the U.S. Army at the age of 19, during World War II. He first
discovered there was such a thing as sex reassignment surgery after
being discharged from the Army and realized that he might be a
candidate for such a thing, since he had never developed a true
masculine side of himself either in looks, build, or feelings. The
rest is history.
The good news for Christine was that she had a career as a successful
actress, singer, recording artist, and author. The not so good thing
for Christine was that very few people accepted her sex reassignment
surgery and she was not even allowed to get a marriage license to
marry her fiancé. So while she had her share of fame and possibly
fortune due to her unique situation, she also had her share of pain
But since Christine has come and gone, so much has happened in the
world. We now have many more words to learn and understand because the
world has changed.
We may not like having to upgrade our language, or even believe in all
those new genders, but those who have been suffering with feeling that
they are trapped living in the wrong gender appreciate living in a
world were now they can change to the correct gender, or at least
consider the change.
Yes, it is true that many children seem to think that is the case with
them yet rather than allowing themselves to grow into their specific
gender as they age a little bit more they might rush into the sex
reasignment surgery and severely regret it as they age.
Sometimes the surgery can be reversed, yet never to the way things
used to be. But it should never be jumped into while the child is too
young to fully understand the consequences. In this country we allow
children to make decisions for themselves when they turn 18. They may
still be too young, but it sure beats their making the decision on
such important things when they are only 12 or 13. We have often heard
from those who made the transition and have regretted it and wished to
share their stories with the world.
Some of the other words that we may need to learn and understand are:
—Transgender: changing from one gender to another by using surgery
—Gender neutral: used for language purposes; not referring to one
gender or another
—Non-binary: when it specifically comes to gender, nonbinary is a word
that helps give voice to a diverse range of gender identities. Can
also be identified as genderqueer
—Agender: Agender is defined as not having a gender. Some agender
people describe it as having a “lack of gender,” while others describe
themselves as being gender neutral.
—Pangender: relating to a person whose gender identity is not limited
to one gender and who may feel like a member of all genders at the
Then there is the issue of pronouns, but we can always plead ignorance
(because we often are ignorant) and ask the person to please tell us
what pronoun they would prefer. We—as a people—cannot know everything,
and if we make a mistake sometime we can simply apologize for our
ignorance and ask for a lesson in how to say it right the next time.
And don’t forget: some married women are not wives, and all married
men are not husbands, but they are related to their person of choice
by the word they choose to use.
Accept them all as people, as individual persons with feelings and
needs, and remember, they are all God’s children the same as you are.
Welcome to the new world of change; yet we need to focus on the things
that never change: things like brotherhood (which includes sisterhood,
of course), friendship, love, kindness, and all the usual things we
like and want in any person we meet. And we need to give back to
others the things we want from them.
No matter who we are, the golden rule is always in vogue and always will be!
* * * * *
Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She
writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email
her at email@example.com.
It’s time to clear up the meaning of words and the problems with the