Content Warning for talk of body parts and use of clinical terms for body parts, some gender slur usage
Do you find yourself stuck using slurs or problematic terms like c*ntboy and d*ckgirl, h*rm, or improperly using intersex to describe characters in your art? Do you find yourself trans and/or intersex and not having any better language for your awesome but pretty specific body, or those of your characters?
Same here, and I hate it! To fix this problem, I recently coined what I think is a new term.
EDIT 7/24/2015* - After several people pointed out issues with "demi" as a prefix, I have instead moved to "alter." I feel this is more direct, which will benefit the term, as well as freeing up "demi" to refer to sexual orientations and occasionally gender labels only. User FaroreNightclaw has also propositioned "phantasex" for bodies that cannot occur in the real world, [as well as several other terms] for more specific meanings and usages, but my goal with this term was to be not only direct, but sufficiently vague, so this journal will highlight "altersex" as the term. Please use what you think works best for your situation!
"Altersex" is a catch-all term consisting of alter, meant here as "different" or "another possibility," and sex, referring to physiological primary and secondary sex characteristics. Alterssx is meant to be used largely, but not exclusively, for fictional characters, describing body plans that are a mix of things, rather than the usually-found configurations.
Here, a body plan is just what type of parts you have or don't have. A penis, testicles, a vulva, a clitoris, developed breasts, etc.
Wait, but is it...?
Before I say any more of what it is, I want to say what it is not.
Altersex is a category-type term for all "non-standard" body plans, including those that are fantastical or imagined, and/or not physiologically possible in life. A large part of why I've created this term is to provide language for fictional characters that we, as artists and storytellers, create, that is direct and effective for describing them. It is not my intention for this word to be used explicitly for our real-world bodies, but due to the multitude of possible experiences and situations, especially concerning trans people with characters that are direct avatars for them, as well as otherkin or fluid-type identities, I don't readily rule it out, either.
Altersex does not refer to any specific body plan (or plans) the way terms like intersex or hermaphrodite do. Instead, it marks a person immediately as having a non-standard body plan, and then invites that person to specify what that means for themselves - similar to how one can say they're transgender and then later specify being gender-queer or gender-fluid - all without using any slurs.
How do I use it?
Grammatically, it is an adjective, not a noun. A character simply is altersex, they are not an altersex (noun), and are not altersexed (strange past-tense verb). Being altersex covers setups like having breasts as well as a penis with testicles, or a penis in place of a clitoris on a vulva, having a vulva without having breasts, or (regardless of breasts) having a penis with testicles as well as a vulva. The latter means it can also act as an alternative for h*rm.
Okay, but why?
Terms like c*ntboy and sh*male or d*ckgirl are often used to objectify and sexualize trans people based on body plans they often have. Intersex is a general term covering a variety medical conditions where people are born with non-standard reproductive or sexual anatomy. Hermaphrodite refers to bodies with two or more sets of reproductive or sexual anatomy, and was intended to be used for some species of plant and animal, but is recently being used along with intersex for both humans (as in the previous sentence) and plants and animals, depending on the specific anatomical setup. However, these days hermaphrodite is still used in an objectifying way towards people and harmfully thrown about, and many people do not advocate its use.
Using any of these terms or ones like them for people and their bodies, without their consent, is incredibly harmful and leads to trivialization of people's experiences. Because these terms are widely accepted as fetish terms, using them, even when you do have permission from the other person (or if you are describing yourself), can vary from dangerous, to uncomfortable, to just crass and ill-suited to your conversation.
My goal here is not only to provide a plain word that can cover a larger area when talking about people or characters and their bodies, but to do so in a way that avoids slurs, does not involve the person's gender, and also does not contain gendered language. I think everyone should be able to draw cool characters with cool bodies and describe them effectively, without harming others unnecessarily. I think trans people should be able to own their amazing bodies without feeling forced to use words they are uncomfortable with!
Another reason I made this term is to drive a much needed wedge between non-standard body plans and transgender characters. Sometimes a character really isn't a trans guy, they're just themselves - there was no transition for them, and they have always had this gender ID, they just have a different and/or fantastical body that we're trying to describe. I've seen it suggested to tag art "transgender" if a character in it has a non-standard body plan, but, IMO, doing this sometimes unnecessarily conflates certain bodies with transness (or certain types of transness). That's a whole new mess that none of us need.
To be clear, this is not meant to all-out replace the problematic terms I mentioned! If you're trans and using those terms for yourself, because you happen to like them, or to reclaim them, and you don't even want an alternative, that's okay! This is meant to expand the amount of language for gender and bodies, and to invite introspection on those topics among people they relate to and impact, and nothing else.
Namiin and I have adopted altersex fully into our language to describe all the characters we have with different bodies, or to describe how we do, used to, or want to see our own bodies, and we both really, really enjoy it. It's eliminated pretty much all terms we don't want to use to describe these things, which leads to us being happier and healthier in expressing ourselves!
So far, my only issues with it are
how similar it is to existing terms like demisexual (or sensual, or romantic) now less of an issue after changing to "altersex"! Additionally, it bothers me how the complex nature of this entire topic makes it a lot less accessible to those learning English for the first time or who simply struggle with it (I know I do sometimes), or those who are new to this topic and suddenly being swamped with terms they don't know how or when to use.
I have been wanting to make this journal for a while, honestly. I'm really excited to share something that may help others as much as it's helped Namiin and I!
What do you all think of this? Do you think there is something I could improve about how I'm using it? Do you think this is problematic for a reason I haven't addressed or maybe do not know? I 100% invite discussion on this whole thing. I don't consider myself to have found the holy grail of language by any means, I just think this is considerably better than anything else I've heard or had suggested.
Overly rude, transphobic, or cissexist comments may be hidden. If you're confused by all of this, that's okay, and I encourage you to do some research or try to ask questions, but I also want this journal to remain safe for myself and others to read through and participate in, without harassment or unnecessary harm coming to anyone, intentional or not.
23 July 2015 at 19:04:01 MDT