December 13th, 2002


Semantics, Linguistics, and all that good stuff

I have a question for the linguists, theorists, and other folks who feel cerebral...

Let me first issue this disclaimer: I majored in military history, and have recently gone back to school for nursing. I have an excellent grounding in history, war, warfare, and human anatomy... but my education has been pretty light on the theory. For example, amazingly enough, I've never taken a college class that discussed post-modernism, never written a paper using the word "post modern", nor ever discussed Judith Butler in class (although I had skimmed her in my free time). Lest you think my academic experiences were dull, I did get to read and seminar on exciting works of literature such as "The Social History of the Machine Gun," and I can clinically discuss many different varieties of mucous and strange discharges, without flinching.

Lengthy biographical disclaimers aside...

What is with the trend or phenomena of folks claiming identities that are technically impossible? Identities like "male lesbian" or "male crossdressing intersexed transgendered biologically female drag queen eunuch" and so forth.

Frankly, it blows my mind. I'm sure this is primarily due to my education and training, which did tend to emphasize black and white answers, rather than shades of grey. Hell, if someone tells me they think they might be pregnant, or they have Addison's disease, I'm not supposed to ask them what means to them and what pronouns should I use!

Enlighten me, academics.

Is there some brainy academic theory that explains this, or what? Where does it all begin?