Image: Red Apple (Creative Commons)There is a fruit called apple. As a term, apple has dictionary meaning, to include:

  1. the usually round, red or yellow, edible fruit of a small tree, Malus sylvestris, of the rose family.
  2. the tree, cultivated in most temperate regions.
  3. the fruit of any of certain other species of tree of the same genus.
  4. any of these trees.
  5. any of various other similar fruits, or fruitlike products or plants, as the custard apple, love apple, May apple, or oak apple.

There are there are few kinds and dozens of types of apples. In a broad sense, there are red apples, yellow apples, green apples, and apples that are multicolored. In a more micro sense, there’s specific types of apples you’ve likely heard of (e.g. Pippin, Red Delicious, Fuji, and Granny Smith apples), and specific types of apples that unless you’re a real connoisseur of apples, you’ve likely never heard of (e.g. Pixie Crunch, Belle de Boskoop, Queen Cox, and Thome Empire apples).

But we have an overarching term for that red or yellow, edible fruit of a small tree, Malus sylvestris, of the rose family, and that term is apple.

But what if we didn’t have an overarching term for apple? What if we considered each type of a completely unique type of fruit that had nothing to do with the other kinds and types of apples?

Welcome to the world of people who don’t conform to western societal sex and gender norms, exclusive of non-heterosexual sexual orientation, we don’t have an overarching term equivalent to the term apple.

Oh, we have the term transgender that is meant to encompass a broad spectrum of identities under an umbrella term, but the reality is that just as every lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) identified person doesn’t identify as a member of LGBT community — for a myriad of reasons — not everyone who could fall under the umbrella term transgender identifies as transgender — also for a myriad of reasons.

We have genderqueer people; we have crossdressers; we have drag performers, and we have intersex people — many embrace the term transgender for themselves, but many do not. We can’t sort apples as red apples, yellow apples, green apples, and apples that are multicolored if they’re we can’t call these fruits of various colors apples.

Heck, even transsexual is an umbrella term that not everyone who could fall under the term embraces. There are people who see themselves as pre-operative transsexuals, non-operative transsexuals, post-operative transsexuals, women of operative history, ‘true’ transsexuals, etc., as well as women who identify with the term “Harry Benjamin Syndrome” — many who could fall under the term transsexual embraces the term transsexual for themselves, and many do not.

We have a variety of pippin apples: Newtown Pippin, Beverley Pippin, Cox’s Orange Pippin, and Galloway Pippin for example. But, imagine if we not only couldn’t sort these apples as red apples, yellow apples, green apples, and apples that are multicolored, but we couldn’t even sort these particular apples as pippins. This is what we have for categorizing people into subgroups who don’t conform to western societal sex and gender norms regarding what sex they were assigned at birth and the gender identity to which they know themselves to be.

Now imagine trying to collect data on apples without the overarching term apple. Heck, imagine trying to collect data on apples without terms like red, yellow, green, and pippin being useful.

What it comes down to is that for those who don’t conform to western societal sex and gender norms, exclusive of non-heterosexual sexual orientation, we don’t have a word for apple.

And even if we did have a word for apple, the apples would reject the term out of hand.