Review: Trans Talk

Image courtesy of Lal Zimman / Trans Talk; used by permission.

Trans Talk is a Medium Publication created by Lal Zimman, a sociocultural linguist at the University of California at Santa Barbara, and a trans man (he/him/his). Dr. Zimman’s intention is that Trans Talk will grow to include a variety of contributors, but we arrive on the scene at its birth, and get to read Dr. Zimman’s initial five introductory pieces.

If you’re interested in the language used by and on trans people and their experience, Trans Talk deserves your attention.

Allowing him to speak for himself, here are a few quotes from Dr. Zimman’s first article, Language matters: An introduction to trans-inclusive language, the introduction to the Trans Talk publication:

‘Language is a central tool for showing support to trans people, and given that the amount of support trans people receive predicts their suicide risk and other measures of success and well-being, language can be a matter of life and death.’

‘There are many ways everyday language can erase, belittle, or delegitimize trans people by suggesting that their identities are less natural, normal, or real than those of cisgender women or men…’

‘…trans people know that you can’t identify someone’s gender identity just by looking; you have to ask.’

and my favourite —

‘…speech IS action.’

In his second piece, Dr. Zimman discusses historical changes in pronoun use in English, focussing initially on the loss of the thee/thou form, and segueing into the more recent abandonment of ‘he’ as the singular generic, currently in-process of being replaced by the singular ‘they’, with the obvious implications to non-cis and non-binary gender.

Queensland Courier-Mail

At this writing, three subsequent articles directly address the use of English pronouns with respect to transgender issues and people, with good background, explanation, and how-to advice. Changes the language is currently undergoing are demystified, and potential handwringing is soothed.

Articles are accompanied by well-chosen tables and illustrations. One that particularity moved me is at left.

The essays contained in Trans Talk are well thought-out, well written, accessible, and solid in their scholarship. My only editorial critique is that they could benefit from copy editing, as the (very few, and minor) errors nevertheless slightly undermine the authority of the work.

Hopefully there will be future articles, by Dr. Zimman and others, taking us further afield into (trans) gendered English.

It is worth mentioning that I myself am uncomfortable with some of the well-considered practices Dr. Zimman promotes. Which is interesting to me, and informs my recommendation:

In three words, read Trans Talk.