The Trouble With “Trans”

When language and identity collide.

Steve QJ
5 min readAug 26, 2022
Photo by Susn Dybvik

Sometimes you need to be precise.

You don’t want coffee, you want a half-double-de-caffeinated-half-caff with a twist of lemon. That’s not blue paint, it’s “Skylight” or “Aegean teal” or maybe “Narragansett green.” You’re not drinking wine, you’re drinking a 2008 Royal Tokaji Essencia from the Carpathian foothills of northeast Hungary.

Every day, in almost every way, we’re getting better at making these kinds of distinctions. But there’s one notable exception.

Whenever the word “trans” comes up, it’s as if we’re afraid to acknowledge any nuance. Depending on who you ask, the entire trans community is either poor misgendered souls who “just want to pee,” or dangerous predators intent on sneaking into women’s bathrooms.

But what if both of these stances are simplistic?

What if, for better and for worse, trans people aren’t a monolith? What if bathrooms and prisons and rape crisis centres should have different criteria for inclusion? What if we should spend less time asking “what is a woman? and more time figuring out what we mean by “trans woman.”

Or better yet, what we mean by “trans.”

Nowadays, most of us use “trans” as a synonym for “transgender.” But the latter…



Steve QJ

Race. Politics. Culture. Sometimes other things. Almost always polite. Find more at