On adjectives

25 12 2010

For the first time ever, after I started my transition, I had to get used to changing the way I used adjectives in reference to myself when speaking French. Unlike English, French adjectives are gendered according to the gender of the noun or person that they describe. So, for example, the “green” in “green apple” is different from the “green” in “green curtain.” Pomme, or apple, is a feminine noun so a green apple is une pomme verte. Rideau, or curtain, is a masculine noun so a green curtain is un rideau vert.

It follows then that a feminine identified person would refer to themselves, when expressing fullness or certainty, for example, with a feminine adjective, as I had done all my life up until transition when saying Je suis pleine or Je suis certaine. Suddenly, as with the signature issue, I would catch myself about to use an adjective with a feminine ending rather than with a masculine ending. It took a while for things like Je suis plein and Je suis certain to come naturally. But eventually they did. As did referring to myself as my mom’s son rather than daughter and my siblings’ brother rather than sister.

Things wind up working out eventually.

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10 responses

25 12 2010
genderkid

Yet another post I fully identify with! Although, for me, feminine endings felt really out of place — just like female pronouns and names (did you feel that too? I couldn’t really tell, from the post, if you didn’t mind feminine endings, or if you were just used to them).

Masculine endings felt odd, too, at first, because I’d never used them and I wasn’t confident enough to say to the world “I’m male and I don’t care if you think that’s silly!” (well, that’s what I *felt* I was saying, just by ending with an O instead of with an A!)

So –just like with my signature– I developed a way of speaking where I never pointed out my gender myself. Sometimes it’s easy to avoid adjectives (“me cansé” –I got tired– instead of “estoy cansado/a”, I am tired) but sometimes you have to do the biggest circumlocutions.

Eventually I did move towards masculine endings, but now I’m avoiding them again because I don’t like gendering myself explicitly as male (even though I do present as male!)

25 12 2010
Jacky V.

Hmmm . . . nah, they didn’t really bother me, the feminine endings that is. They only started to bother me when I was in male drag, or when I had decided to transition but hadn’t told everyone everywhere yet. That in between space of time when I was out in some places but not others.

Interesting that you now avoid gendering yourself. I’m ambivalent about it myself. I really don’t want to have male privilege so I do still want to hold on to ways of making it known as much as possible that I am a TRANS guy, not just any guy, and that I am gender fluid. But I have to deal with a society that doesn’t get that and the male box is closer to what I am than the female box. Just a bit, but still… So it’s always a mental conundrum.

28 12 2010
Keith Spillett

Fascinating! I imagine there are millions of little things like this to have to get used to.

28 12 2010
Jacky V.

Yup! Lots of little things that they don’t talk about in all the “how to” manuals ; )

4 01 2011
Faggot Boi

Thanks for writing about this. I teach French, and one of the major motivations for outing myself as trans on the job (when I was still being perceived as female) was that I could not stomach the idea of having to gender myself as female with every adjective. I’m so glad I made this decision. That leaves me in an odd position now, though, because when I speak Spanish with my family, who don’t know about my transition, I am forced to use feminine endings on my adjectives. I’m used to doing it, so it isn’t hard, but it does feel uncomfortable and like a lie.

4 01 2011
Jacky V.

Ouch, yes I can imagine how that would be a mind fuck, having to use feminine endings in a specific context like that. Are you planning on telling your family eventually?

4 01 2011
Faggot Boi

One day, somewhat soon. We’ll see how that goes!

4 01 2011
Jacky V.

Good luck!

10 03 2011
maddox

Quite the opposite of you, I am painfully aware of every single adjectival ending when speaking in Spanish (my native language). But I’m as of yet ambivalent towards transitioning socially.

My makeshift solution has been to botch the endings of words, purposefully making my voice drop at the end and muttering a jumbled combination of neither…. (it works if I stare into space and pretend I was distracted by something, giving me some excuse for not uttering the word in its entirety, but after a while it looks weird).

I have become very good at not gendering people, or myself, in English, but not as successful in Spanish.

16 03 2011
Jacky V.

Hey Maddox – I can see how botching the end of words would have limited efficiency in a long conversation : ) But I can understand the urge.

Our languages (French and Spanish) make it quite challenging to communicate ourselves, don’t they.

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