Elsewhere in this blog, I have employed two words in trying to understand how transsexual identity shifts (and more generally, how any substantial identity shift occurs). I grasped on “authentic” and “legitimate” as two components involved in such changes, and suggested that authenticity comes from self-making (and its greek roots convey that meaning) and that legitimacy is largely a function of requesting membership from others (its roots appealing to laws and norms).

After I finished those two pieces, I began thinking of another term, “valid,” which I would like to flesh out here because I think its meaning contains a little bit of both “authentic” and “legitimate,” and might serve as a bridge between the two concepts.

First, the verb form “validate” conveys a lot of the meaning of legitimate with its appeal to “official,” “legal,” and “sanction,” as well as the expected (and tautological) sense of “to make valid.”

–verb (used with object), -dat·ed, -dat·ing.
1. to make valid; substantiate; confirm: Time validated our suspicions.
2. to give legal force to; legalize.
3. to give official sanction, confirmation, or approval to, as elected officials, election procedures, documents, etc.: to validate a passport.
[Origin: 1640–50; < ML validātus (ptp. of validāre to make valid), equiv. to valid- (see valid) + -ātus -ate1]

However, when we look at the word “valid” itself, we see some interesting, non-legal senses of the word. To be valid obviously still implies a system of rules, logic, or conventions–because soundness or justness make sense only in the context of a larger set of rules and conventions, even though we might like to think of their universal appeal. However, these synonyms appeal much less to the law than “legitimate” does, and do suggest a kind of integrity on the thing that is valid itself (i.e. “force,” “weight,” “well-founded.”

1. sound; just; well-founded: a valid reason.
2. producing the desired result; effective: a valid antidote for gloom.
3. having force, weight, or cogency; authoritative.
4. legally sound, effective, or binding; having legal force: a valid contract.

Historical use of “valid”
1571, “having force in law, legally binding,” from M.Fr. valide, from L. validus “strong, effective,” from valere “be strong” (see valiant). The meaning “supported by facts or authority” is first recorded 1648. Validate (v.) is recorded from 1648.

And here is where “valid” demonstrates that sense of internal integrity, isn’t it? The deep etymological roots of “valid” are “valere,” or “to be strong.” And being strong implies not only strength against an enemy (and metaphorically, against arguments) but also inherent strength (physical and character). I have done work on understanding the nature of “value,” and these words both have that common root, valare.

During a big transition, you initially do not feel like a valid member of your target identity, both in the sense of being forceful, legal, sound, and also in that other sense of lacking strength and value. As you approach a feeling of validity, you acquire value, strength, utility, valiance, and valor (all deriving from valare).

Let me offer this valediction, then: as a human being, you have value and validity by virtue of your humanity, love, caring, intelligence, background, education, and upbringing. Even though you may not feel valid as your target identity during a massive transition, you should continue to celebrate the strengthening of your internal integrity (authenticity) as you move in what you know is the right direction. External validity may follow (legitimacy) for the very reason that people who are true to themselves.

See also “Authority