Take a moment if you can, and imagine that your world was just green and blue. Push your mind further still, and imagine that every person was either green or blue – not shades of green and shades of blue, but just a singular green or a singular blue.
Now imagine that you could see a colour outside of this green or this blue – maybe something in between, or something new altogether. What if you saw yourself as a different colour, or you saw the people around you in different colours?
But “most people” only see the singular green and the singular blue. There is no word to express or describe the colour you see. The people around you are confused because they don’t see what you see. No one has ever been told that other colours are possible, but you’re sure that you’ve found a third colour.
Perhaps after much insistence, coaxing and reasoning from others, you start doubting yourself. Maybe after being dismissed and bullied, you start thinking it’s better to pretend you don’t see different colours.
Perhaps, however, you have support and you find courage, and you stand strong. Maybe you decide that if there’s no name for this new colour, then you will make one.
Perhaps you do make a name for this new colour, and you describe to others what it’s like. Maybe you discover that there are other people in your world that can see this colour too, and you help them realise that their experience is valid.
Perhaps these other people don’t see your colour, but they see another entirely different colour. Maybe your courage will help them find words for their own colour.
I created the above analogy after having had separate discussions with different people about LGBT+ terminology and gender terminology. It seems like a fair number of people are confused or daunted by the abundance of terms and names for everything because it gives the impression that people are just making up words to describe or label every nuance they can come up with.
This is an understandable perspective, but something about it just didn’t sit right with me. I couldn’t quite pinpoint the cause of my discomfort until I thought of this green/blue analogy.
I am no expert on the topic, and I don’t know all of these terms (and of the ones I do know, I don’t necessarily understand them properly), but if someone genuinely feels a certain way about themselves, I think they should be able to make a name for it (although preferably one that is logical in an etymological sense because I still care about words making sense – it makes it easier to remember too).
Anyway, I do agree that it is quite unrealistic to expect people to somehow know all of these new words, but have you ever met someone from a town you’ve never heard of, and told them that the name of their town is superfluous detail? Would you question the existence of a town with an unfamiliar name if you’ve never studied geography?
Side note: There’s no particular reason why I chose the colours green and blue. They were just the first two colours my brain picked (possibly because of the sky and grass).