The Angel's Dictionary

by Raphael Carter

This is a defunct site archived at PracticalAndrogyny.com due to its historical value. This archive is kept as a faster mirror of the archive.org Wayback Machine. All copyright remains with the author. The original may be found at http://web.archive.org/web/19990427014012/www.chaparraltree.com/raq/angels.shtml

Androgyne
n. 1. A person whose biological sex is not readily apparent, whether owing to chance or choice (see 'genderfuck'). 2. A person who is intermediate between the two traditional genders. 3. A person who rejects gender roles entirely.

'Intersexual' and 'hermaphrodite' refer to people intermediate in sex, 'androgyne' to people intermediate in gender.

Arenotelicon
A creature that alternates between male and female. This word is so obscure it is not even in the O.E.D.; as far as I know it occurs only in the Physiologus, an anonymous book of the early Renaissance. The Physiologus uses it to describe hyenas, which were commonly believed to change their sex every year; it would apply equally well to Ursula LeGuin's Gethenians.

Epicene
adj. and n. 1. (of words) indicating either sex with only one grammatical form; 2. partaking of the characteristics of both sexes; 3. common to both sexes; worn or inhabited by both sexes.

This word has taken on a variety figurative meanings over the centuries (Ben Jonson used it to mean something like 'effeminate'); still, more than any other word I know of, it emphasizes what is common to both sexes. Its Greek root means 'common,' and it shows up in descriptions of garments that either sex can wear, or places both sexes dwell ('Epicene...Convents, wherein Monks and Nuns lived together.' -- Fuller, c.1661). It is probably preferable to 'androgyne' for the meaning ANDROGYNE 3 (see above).

The compiler of this Dictionary thinks of zirself less as a combination of male and female, than as the greatest common denominator of male and female; hence zie rather likes this term to describe zirself. Alas, it will probably never catch on. See the section Not This, Not That: A Meditation on Labels.

Gender
n. Sex is a set of biological differences between people; gender is a set of social statuses built on the backs of those differences. That, at least, is the brief definition; see What is Gender for a longer one.

Some people, however, use gender to mean sex. This inconsistency in usage can lead to great confusion. One day I plan to compile a summary of harmful interactions between meanings; but not yet.

Gender Dysphoria
n. The state of discontentment with one's biological sex or sex-of-rearing. Not all transgendered people are gender dysphoric. (Some could only be described as gender euphoric.)

Genderfuck
n. (also v.): 1. Deliberately sending mixed messages about one's sex, usually through dress (e.g., wearing a skirt and a beard).

The compiler of this Dictionary likes the thing well enough, but finds the term too violent. Perhaps 'gender play.'

Gender Outlaw
(Kate Bornstein) A person who defies traditional gender roles.

Gender Refusenik
Proposed by the compiler of this Dictionary as a term for people denied SRS (q.v.), whether due to lack of funds or psychological paternalism. All gender refuseniks are non-ops (see 'transsexual'), but not all non-ops are refuseniks. Also 'gender otkaznik' for the Slav-savvy.

Gynandroid
n. 1. A synonym for androgyne; now little used, but it's in the OED. 2. Brent Spiner's child by Whoopi Goldberg.

Hermaphrodite
n. 1. (medical) A person biologically intermediate between male and female. 1a. (sometimes 'true hermaphrodite') a person with both ovarian and testicular tissue, i.e. a person with ambiguous gonads; 1b. (also 'pseudohermaphrodite') a person with two ovaries or two testes, but ambiguous genitals. The term 'intersexual' is now preferred for senses 1a and 1b. 2. (biological) an animal or plant having both male and female reproductive organs. 3. (mythological; rarely used in this sense) A boy with breasts (Hermaprhoditus is so depicted in Greek art). 4. (probably obsolete, though not so listed in Webster's Collegiate) Something that is a combination of diverse elements.

Many people think the term 'hermaphrodite' applies only to a person with both a penis and vagina. This mistaken idea comes from a variety of disreputable sources, but chiefly, I think, from pornographic movies, which sometimes feature 'hermaphrodites' made the same way as the unicorn in Blade Runner.

Using the porn-movie definition of hermaphrodite in correspondence with the compiler of this Dictionary may be taken as prima facie evidence that you are short of clues.

Hermaphroditus
n. 1. A youth in Greek myth, the son of Hermes and Aphrodite, who was joined in one body with the nymph Salmacis while bathing. The best-known telling of this story is in Ovid's Metamorphoses.

Homovestite
A person who obsessively, compulsively and neurotically wears the clothing of zir own sex.

Intersexual
n. (the adj. form is usually 'intersexed.') 1. (obsolete) homosexual. (The switch only makes sense, since 'bisexual' used to mean 'hermaphrodite.') 2. A person biologically intermediate between male and female.

The 'true intersexed' condition, where both ovarian and testicular tissue are present in either the same gonad or in opposite gonads, accounts for fewer than 5 percent of all cases of ambiguous genitals. . . . Although most cases of ambiguous genitals do not represent true intersex, in keeping with the contemporary literature, I will refer to all such cases as intersexed.

Kessler, 'The Medical Construction of Gender,' Signs(1990:5)

Intersexed children are routinely given surgery to make their genitalia unambiguous; such surgery is most often medically unnecessary, and can cripple sexual response. See the Intersex Society of North America Webpage, Morgan Holmes's essay Queer Cut Bodies.

Necker Cube
n. 1. An optical illusion in the shape of a cube. May take either of two forms:
CUBE1 . . . CUBE2
Proposed by the author as a symbol of androgyny, because it is either concave or convex depending on how you look at it. I prefer this to the mars-plus-venus sign, which depends upon a juxtaposition of stereotpyes (sword and shield for male, looking-glass for female), and which, furthermore, combines the signs for the two most irritating gods in the Roman pantheon. If we must depend on Greek mythology, I would prefer to take a cue from Janus and use some variation of the two-faces motif on the cover of some editions of The Left Hand of Darkness. The Necker cube, however, is simpler, and suggests ambiguity in more than mere gender. Who wants to design the lapel pin?

Pre-operative Transsexual
See 'transsexual.'

Radar
v. Used by the author to describe the stuttering of pronouns or honorifics owing to gender confusion. Named for Radar O'Reilly's invariable "sir, ma'am, sir" when addressing Major Hoolihan. Also suggests the scanning motion of the eyes that often accompanies the stutter.

Salmacian
n. 1. Suggested by the author as a term for male-to-intersex and female-to-intersex transsexuals; see Hermaphroditus.

Scrat
The only non-latinate term for 'hermaphrodite' in our language, so far as I know. Its pedigree goes back clear to Old English.
Hermafroditus, waepenwifestre, uel scratta, uel baeddel.

--AElfric, c.1000

(Waepenwifestre and baeddel have meanings similar to scrat, but seem not to have made it into Modern English in any recognizable form.)

Somtyme one of mankynde is both man & woman & suche..in englyssh is called a scrette.

--Caxton, Trevisa's Higden (1482)

The origins of the word 'scrat' are murky, but they seem to be somehow bound up with the Old Norse skratte, meaning wizard, goblin, monster. 'Old Scratch,' a nickname for the devil, is an alteration of 'scrat.' In keeping with this derivation, modern doctors who 'assign' intersexed children seem to regard themselves as building a sex from scratch. Etymology, alas, is destiny.

sex
n. 1. A classification based on reproductive biology. Most people think of sex as wholly bipolar, with male and female as the only possibilities; more precisely, it is a continuum with most individuals concentrated near the poles.

Sie, hir
pron. Gender-free pronouns, used chiefly on the Internet. See the Gender-Free Pronouns FAQ

SRS
n. Sex Reassignment Surgery. This is the generally preferred term for what is colloquially referred to as a 'sex change operation.' The compiler of this Dictionary, however, has a sneaking admiration for Kate Bornstein's phrase 'genital conversion surgery.'

Tiresias
n. In Greek mythology, a blind seer of Thebes who is changed into a woman for several years, then changed back to a man. In one story, Zeus and Hera ask Tiresias to settle a wager as to whether men or women get more pleasure from sex. This myth predates Geraldo by some two thousand years.

Transgendered
Transgendered was a term put into general usage by Virginia Price. It originally meant a pre-operative transsexual who has no desire to have the SRS. It later became a catchword for Transvestites, transsexuals, female and male impersonators, drag queens/kings, Intersexuals, gender dysphorics, and those that do not fit any gender label.

alt.transgendered FAQ

Transsexual
What is a Pre/post/non-op transsexual?
These are all transsexuals in various stages of the procedure. A pre-op transsexual is someone who has begun the procedure to reassign the sex, but has not had the surgery. This covers people who have just begun the procedure to those who are very close to the actual surgery.
A post operative transsexual is someone who has had the actual genital surgery done. It is very difficult to tell a m-f post op transsexual from a genetic female. Up to very recently, female-male transsexuals had no effective surgical technique to create a penis. There are penile implants and grafts, but these are often easy to spot.
'Non-op' transsexual is a word that is floating around. Originally from a computer language, it means a person who has had all the hormonal/surgical treatments, except the genital surgery, and who either has no desire to proceed with the surgery, or who cannot proceed due to financial constraints. GIDAANT is another term for this (Gender Identity Disorder, adolescent or Adult onset, Non transsexual).

alt.transgendered FAQ

In a particularly Biercean moment, the compiler of the this Dictionary was heard to suggest that GIDAANTs are infinitely preferable to termagants, owing to the latters' habit of becoming longtermagants.

Zie, zir
Another set of non-gendered pronouns used chiefly on the Internet. See the Gender-Free Pronouns FAQ. These fit more smoothly into sentences if you pronounce them with a tz sound instead of plain z.


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Last modified: 14 July 1996

Copyright 1994-1999 Raphael Carter


Archived at PracticalAndrogyny.com, original available at http://web.archive.org/web/19990427014012/www.chaparraltree.com/raq/angels.shtml