by Mary Griggs

I recently witnessed a respected member of the LGBTQ community hectoring a respected member of the trans community on a Facebook forum.

She had posted a link about finding a t-shirt company that markets with the slogan of “tranny grannies” to be offensive. His response was that words have no power, that only actions hurt. He demanded that she explain why this word was a problem when other people are using it.

Despite her quoting from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) statement that the term is “usually considered offensive and/or defamatory” by members of the transgender community, he continued to press her on the issue.

The dialogue reminded me of the recent issue with Suzanne Moore and the resulting internet firestorm between some members of the radical feminist community and trans folks and their allies.

I certainly don’t agree with all my enemies or my allies. There are plenty who I wouldn’t piss on if they were burning. That being said, if someone has stated that they find a particular word or phrase offensive, I try to offer them the basic courtesy of acknowledging that and dig deep into my mental thesaurus to find another way to express myself.

Doing so doesn’t damage me but it does allow for the dialogue to stay focused on the issue and not on how we’ve made each other feel.

I don’t use the T word, even though RuPaul might say he’s fine with it because I know it distresses those who are facing bias and discrimination because of their gender identity or expression.

There is a need for us to be inclusive of all those who fit under our rainbow umbrella. We should also understand that just because we’ve faced discrimination doesn’t mean we understand every form of discrimination or are immune from being discriminatory ourselves. We all have some form of privilege, and acknowledging our privilege when it comes to gender means acknowledging the unconscious ways in which we can also be transphobic.

How about this - if you are asking yourself, “Is this offensive?” assume the answer is yes, and then decide how you want to behave. Sometimes, you want to offend. Sometimes you are doing something with irony, or satire, or you might be edgy or trying to make a point.

The rest of the time, you might remember when you’ve been hurt or angered by someone else marginalizing you or your experiences and so you decide you don’t want to make anyone feel that way.

Either way, you are free to think, support, and practice all sorts of behaviors. Despite the fears of the politically incorrect there will be no thought police coming to your home or office with a warrant for your arrest.

However you decide to act, though, you better own the responses to your decision. You should be prepared to handle the pain and harm your unwillingness to recognize the basic humanity of your adversary causes. You also need to be willing to face the consequences when their friends and allies come to challenge you on your hate speech.

Transphobia has no place in our movement. We are on the same team and we should be working together. Please don’t be part of the problem we must tackle to create a society free from discrimination.

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