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Adjectival agreement - Transgender texts
Thread poster: SamuelDJones

SamuelDJones  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:21
Member (2016)
French to English
+ ...
Apr 9, 2016

Hi all,

Following a discussion with a colleague yesterday, we approached the topic of translating a document whereby part of the text would include a section, in the first person, from the point of view of someone who is transgender. The text is to be translated from English into Spanish and the question for me would be how to choose the gender (i.e. masculine or feminine) of an adjective.

For example, in the following sentence, the subject in question is a woman identifying herself as a man.

English:

I am tired of everyone looking at me.

Spanish:

Estoy harta (or harto?) de que todo el mundo me mire.

How would you go about translating the above sentence? Would you stick with the feminine ending '-a' or change it to the masculine '-o'?

Thanks in advance for any feedback,

Sam


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KirstenL
Norway
Spanish to Danish
+ ...
If the person identifies himself as a man Apr 9, 2016

it would be quite logic that he himself refers to himself as a man, and I think others should do the same. So "harto" would be natural in this case, I think.

[Edited at 2016-04-09 16:49 GMT]


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Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:21
Member (2006)
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
Adapt gender Apr 9, 2016

SamuelDJones wrote:

Hi all,

Following a discussion with a colleague yesterday, we approached the topic of translating a document whereby part of the text would include a section, in the first person, from the point of view of someone who is transgender. The text is to be translated from English into Spanish and the question for me would be how to choose the gender (i.e. masculine or feminine) of an adjective.

For example, in the following sentence, the subject in question is a woman identifying herself as a man.

English:

I am tired of everyone looking at me.

Spanish:

Estoy harta (or harto?) de que todo el mundo me mire.

How would you go about translating the above sentence? Would you stick with the feminine ending '-a' or change it to the masculine '-o'?

Thanks in advance for any feedback,

Sam


A transgender changed his/her gender. He/she is now a woman/men, and should be spoken to as such.


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Ulrike Hoffmeister  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:21
Member (2015)
English to German
+ ...
Transgender versus transsexual Apr 9, 2016

Ulrike [/quote]
Transgender persons do not identify with the sex they are belonging to by birth, i.e. such a woman does not feel like a woman but like a man, such a man doesn't feel like man but like a woman.
If it is not possible for such a transgender person to live with her biological sex, because she/he feels like living in a wrong (physical) body, she/he wants perhaps to change her sex by hormons and operations. Such a person is called transsexual: transman (a woman who became a man) or transwoman (a man who became a woman).
Therefore transsexuals are transgenders, but transgenders must not become transsexuals.

Therefore in the mentioned case, when a woman does not identify with her biological sex, but still is female, in this case I would use "the feminine ending '-a' " - as long as a third sex doesn't exist in real life and in language. [/quote]



Robert Rietvelt wrote:

SamuelDJones wrote:

Hi all,

Following a discussion with a colleague yesterday, we approached the topic of translating a document whereby part of the text would include a section, in the first person, from the point of view of someone who is transgender. The text is to be translated from English into Spanish and the question for me would be how to choose the gender (i.e. masculine or feminine) of an adjective.

For example, in the following sentence, the subject in question is a woman identifying herself as a man.

English:

I am tired of everyone looking at me.

Spanish:

Estoy harta (or harto?) de que todo el mundo me mire.

How would you go about translating the above sentence? Would you stick with the feminine ending '-a' or change it to the masculine '-o'?

Thanks in advance for any feedback,

Sam


A transgender changed his/her gender. He/she is now a woman/men, and should be spoken to as such.


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 21:51
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
Unchartered territory Apr 9, 2016

This is completely unchartered territory. Languages have still not got around to treating the masculine and feminine genders at parity - most default to the masculine gender. So it is a far cry expecting languages to be supple enough to address transgender issues.

I would suggest that you discuss with your client and decide on a system for yourself or for the project you are translating and stick to it. You will probably be the first one to have faced and tackled this issue, and so you will have to cut your own path.

For example, in your example, you can decide to use the original gender in all such cases, so your women who now considers herself as a man would be addressed as a she.

[Edited at 2016-04-09 15:19 GMT]


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Robin Levey
Chile
Local time: 13:21
Spanish to English
+ ...
Social inclusion Apr 9, 2016

Many media organisations (the press, radio, TV, etc.) have issued guidelines on the use of pronouns when referring to people who do not identify naturally with their biological sex.
At least in those countries where such people are not outlawed, the general rule is that pronouns should match the gender of the person as she or he perceives him or herself. As a gesture of social inclusion, the text should be aligned with the person’s own feeling of ‘self’. In languages such as Spanish, this principle extends to adjectival endings, and other gender-related grammatical features.

There’s a lot of useful info about this issue here: http://www.glaad.org/reference/transgender


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Susana E. Cano Méndez  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:21
Member
French to Spanish
+ ...
Legal Apr 9, 2016

As a sworn translator, I would adopt the legal gender in the civil registry, if the translation is to be produced before the administration.

Otherwise, I would ask the person.

Greetings.


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Robin Levey
Chile
Local time: 13:21
Spanish to English
+ ...
Ill-informed Apr 9, 2016

Balasubramaniam L. wrote:

This is completely unchartered territory.


In tolerant western countries there are numerous organisations that have charted this territory in considerable detail – and they began that task several decades ago. In my previous post I referred to guidelines issued by media organisations (the webref to glaad.org quotes the guidelines of Associated Press and the New York Times – there are others, if you care to look for them).

Way back in 1998, the popular British soap opera “Coronation Street” began a story-line involving a transsexual person (MTF), known as Hayley Cropper (played by Julie Hesmondhalgh). It is said that that story – which ran for 16 years – was influential in changing British attitudes – and legislation – towards transgender and transsexual people. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hayley_Cropper
What's certain is that the story line triggered much debate, not only among the viewing public but also amongst professionals in many diverse fields: entertainment, law, health, social affairs, employment, etc. All that was part of the "charting" process, which continues to the present (and, from some of what I’ve read here, is destined to continue for a long time into the future).

The British Army has a tolerant policy and guidelines on the incorporation of transgender people and transsexuals as uniformed soldiers. I’m prepared to bet the Army checked its charts before letting any transgender person sign up, or come out, as a squaddie or win promotion to officer rank - less still run seminars on the subject for other service personnel. Legislators in many countries have drafted laws on the subject, as part and parcel of the wider fight against discrimination in the workplace. The question of proper verbal and written communication with folk from all across the gender spectrum is very much a part of business management training in many gender-tolerant western countries, and is a ‘must know’ topic for human resources managers.

Balasubramaniam L. wrote:

So it is a far cry expecting languages to be supple enough to address transgender issues.


Ulrike Hoffmeister wrote:
... when a woman does not identify with her biological sex, but still is female, in this case I would use the feminine ending '-a' - as long as a third sex doesn't exist in real life and in language. as long as a third sex doesn't exist in real life and in language


Wrong again. Any language that can adequately cope with the classic “boy meets girl” relationships of Willy Shakespeare can cope just as easily with transgender people. A transgender person is never, at any one moment in time, anything other than “male” or “female”. There’s no need for extra suppleness in the language, less still a need to invent a “third sex”. As for a perceived need to know the precise medical history of the person in order to determine whether it is grammatically and socially correct to use the masculine or feminine adjective ending, that would be an obvious and utterly unacceptable intrusion into the person’s private life, tantamount to discrimination of the worst kind

It’s not without reason that we language professionals talk about the gender of pronouns and adjectives, not their sex. Gender is determined first and foremost by a person’s soul and personality, not (if you’ll pardon the expression) by their internal plumbing or their fashion preferences.

All that’s required is for authors and translators to respect one simple rule: unless the context specifically indicates otherwise, the text refers to a human person, not to a body. If that human being says she’s a woman, so be it. And if her boyfriend says he’s a man, so be it. It's their choice, not ours.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:21
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Uncharted Apr 10, 2016

Balasubramaniam L. wrote:

This is completely unchartered territory.


Sorry, but I can't let it go. It's "uncharted".


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SamuelDJones  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:21
Member (2016)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Person's own identity should determine context Apr 10, 2016

Thanks for your input, folks!
It's an interesting question from a linguistic and social perspective and I would be inclined to agree that if a person sees themselves as a man/woman, then that should determine the context of the translation regardless of their anatomy.

On this subject in general, thanks Robin for the link below, there's some good terminology on there.

Robin Levey wrote:

There’s a lot of useful info about this issue here: http://www.glaad.org/reference/transgender


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 21:51
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
Suppose I meant unchartered? Apr 11, 2016

Tom in London wrote:

Balasubramaniam L. wrote:

This is completely unchartered territory.


Sorry, but I can't let it go. It's "uncharted".


Meaning is determined as much by what the author has in mind as by custom. Though uncharted might seem the right word here, English also has the word unchartered, which means, lawless, unregulated, irregular, which also fits this context.

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/unchartered

Unchartered is particularly appropriate in this context as there are no written grammar rules on how to deal with this situation. Grammar recognizes only two genders which are not considered to be variable that is the gender of a thing does not change. So transgenders in which the gender changes, is unrecognized by grammar, that is, no charter exists in grammar to deal with this situation.

So, I fear, you will have to let it go.

It is indeed curious that even seasoned translators like you make such an elementary error of judgement and understimate the immense variability and potential of our languages and choose to remain lakir ka faqir (a Hindi idiom meaning rule-bound fanatic).

[Edited at 2016-04-11 12:19 GMT]


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 21:51
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
The matter is much more complicated Apr 11, 2016

Robin Levey wrote:
All that’s required is for authors and translators to respect one simple rule: unless the context specifically indicates otherwise, the text refers to a human person, not to a body. If that human being says she’s a woman, so be it. And if her boyfriend says he’s a man, so be it. It's their choice, not ours.


Many thanks for the useful link which I have book-marked for future reference.

The matter however is much more complicated than what you assume, and it is still unchartered (or uncharted) territory.

Gender/sex is not only determined by what the concerened person perceives, but also by how the society perceives of that person. If the person has opted for a new gender mid-way in his life, society would already have a certain perception concerining his/her gender, which would be in conflict with his newly acquired gender. This would be even more an issue if the person is a celebrity and is much in news, which would mean that an even wider society would be aware of his previous gender.

Also, no matter what the perception a person has about his gender, if society has labelled him with certain gender tags like name, relation (father, mother, son, etc.), etc. it would be considerably difficult to live down these tags. It would also pose a legal and grammatical issue.

For example, if a person identified by society as John, now considers himself a woman, but has not yet manged to get his name legally changed to a feminine name, would be constrained to use John for himself (or herself?), in which case sentences like,

John is a teacher, she teaches Mathematics to high school students. She is the son of the famous mathematican xxx.

would sound very wrong, unless you add explatnatory devices to the sentence:

John is a teacher, she (John is a transgender) teaches Mathematics to high school students. She is the son (????) of the famous mathematican xxx.

Would you say "She is the daughter of xxx?" And would it be correct? Because xxx might still perceive him to be his son

This is what I meant when I said this is unchartered/uncharted territory.

[Edited at 2016-04-11 11:57 GMT]


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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:21
Hebrew to English
Relatively unchartered territory Apr 11, 2016

Tom in London wrote:

Balasubramaniam L. wrote:

This is completely unchartered territory.


Sorry, but I can't let it go. It's "uncharted".


Bala, you might have wanted to find a link that doesn't undermine your own argument:

Usage: Care should be taken not to use unchartered where uncharted is meant: uncharted (not unchartered) territory (Free dictionary dot com)

You could have used Language Log's discussion of it (Relatively unchartered territory: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=4564 ), who disagree with it on the whole, but stop short of condemning it outright.

[Edited at 2016-04-11 13:49 GMT]


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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:21
Hebrew to English
Playing devil's advocate Apr 11, 2016

Robin Levey wrote:
A transgender person is never, at any one moment in time, anything other than “male” or “female”. There’s no need for extra suppleness in the language, less still a need to invent a “third sex”.


Robin, I broadly agree with you, but I know many a social justice warrior (SJW) who would disagree with this statement. They would throw words like "genderqueer", "gender fluid", "gender non-conforming", and "non-binary" at you.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:21
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
A bit of help from grammar Apr 11, 2016

Just to cover the example you give, it would be as simple as removing gender information from the sentence. You can easily rephrase "Estoy harto..." with "Me he hartado..." or "No soporto más que...".

To me, the most sensible way to approach this is the same approach as any other gender-related text if your goal is to get rid of the issue: reword with a different grammar, which is possible in a high number of cases.


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Adjectival agreement - Transgender texts

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