Last week one of our blogavists who I admire and respect brought to our attention the ongoing debate about the usage of the word tranny most recently sparked by some headlines in a Dallas Newspaper, and a movie produced and promoted by a gay man called "Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives."

Some members of our community have expressed that the word tranny is extremely offensive to them, and should be banned entirely. As debate ensued, we lost a valued voice here on QueerToday.com because for her the word was just too offensive to be put up for discussion.

I feel sad that someone who participated in QueerToday.com would feel they need to leave because I have been involved in a discussion in a way that felt oppressive to them.

At the same time, I cannot avoid the fact that banning the word tranny entirely from our web community would also erase the identities of many transgender queer activists here who self-identify as tranny and are working to reclaim that word on their blogs, radio shows, and among their friends.

As one friend put it "There is a time and a place when a specific word, baggage included, needs to be used--if only to clarify the substance of a discussion. I think it's crucial for activists (as we all are) to recognize their own privileges as they embrace the struggles of others, and for the vast majority, this means using the word "tranny" only rarely and in an intellectual context"

I have taken note that many of the folks reclaiming the word tranny are trans men even though the word is quite often used as a derogatory term towards trans women. One blogger wrote that those reclaiming the word are doing so from a place of male privilege, which made me think about even more complexities of this issue. My roommate responded to this notion by explaining that not only does he carry a huge pink purse, but in referring to himself as a tranny he outs himself as transgender - hardly the typical person with male privilege!

In my own life I have come to reclaim many words. The one most meaningful to me is sissy. I have it tattooed on my left arm. For me taking back that word and writing it on my body so that anytime someone calls me a fag or sissy I can show them and say "yup!" was very powerful. That said, I still cringe when I hear gay guys call each other fags and faggot - but I don't say anything because it is their word to use. Is there a comparison to be made with the word tranny? That's not for me to say, as I am genderqueer and do not identify transgender.

Ultimately, I believe we need to keep open (and respectful!) the conversation about the impacts of using this word, the reclaiming of all words, and the evolution of the language we use.

I would love your input.

Views: 475

Tags: transgender

Comment by Jake on February 3, 2009 at 3:24pm
it saddens me that queertoday has lost a valuable member over the word tranny. i have to say that as a trans person, i fully and absolutely embrace the word. i LOVE LOVE LOVE the word. i identify myself to the world openly as a tranny, which, in my opinion, takes away the power of the word to be used as an insult. if someone were to call me a tranny as an insult, it's just not going to insult me. in fact, i would probably reply with "you're damn right i'm a tranny" and be just as proud as i had been the moment before the insult.

i seem to remember a time when using the word queer was a no-no. when i started using the word and identifying with it, it was still a no-no. to me it's all about reclaiming these words for ourselves. i'm happy to be an out queer tranny, and those words can never hurt me. they are my armor.
Comment by WorldHarmony on February 3, 2009 at 5:36pm
I don't like it when anti-LGBT ignoramuses use vernacular terms like "queer" or "tranny" in a hateful way, but those same terms can have a different meaning when used by an "insider." It really depends on who is using the term, and how they are using it.

Any time that I am an outsider to a group, I try not to use terms that people within the group find offensive or use themselves in an offensive way. However, when I am an "insider," I feel I have the right to use certain terms that I identify with, as long as I use them in a positive way. If a word has negative connotations within the community, I won't use it.

It's too bad that QueerToday lost a member over this word, but don't your writers read the About QueerToday page where it says your site "Expands community dialogue..."? We can't run away when we hear words we don't like. We build understanding through dialogue. We don't have to agree, but we should try to learn.
Comment by James Owen Limbach on February 3, 2009 at 9:26pm
I hate the word "tranny" when it's shouted out of a car window at my good transwoman friend as we walk through the mission. I love the word "tranny" when my friends include it in songs made up on the spot while they dance in a goofy way. I myself think of me as a tranny. I think transmen use the word more because they don't fit the stereotype that people think of when they use the word. Being a transman and telling the world you're a tranny means opening people's minds to the diversity of people who are, technically, transsexual or transgender. It tends to shock people, which usually causes them to think.
Comment by Rebecca Juro on February 4, 2009 at 1:48pm
As a blogger as well as a transwoman, I've wrestled with this issue, and I've come to some conclusions, at least for myself.

The way I see "tranny" is in much the same way as most African-Americans perceive the N-word. That is, it's acceptable for one African-American to refer to another with that word (we hear it that way in entertainment media all the time), but non-AA's don't have that right, the reason being that non-AA's are responsible for the hateful underpinnings of the word in the first place.

When I choose to use the term "tranny" in my writing or on my radio show, I am doing so as a member of the minority group which has historically been negatively impacted by its use by non-transpeople, therefore I can credibly use the term to define myself and others like me in the spirit of reclaiming it.

Non-transpeople cannot credibly reclaim "tranny" because the word was never theirs to begin with. It has never been used against them in a demeaning or insulting way, therefore they have no right of ownership of the word, or of the negative feelings and attitudes the word has historically engendered by its use.

One thing I have noticed in my own personal interactions is that many non-transfolks aren't really aware of the truly negative baggage of "tranny" in the same way most people regardless of race are of the N-word. Many of the non-transpeople I've challenged for using it were befuddled by my reaction, believing it to be a kind of cutsie diminutive nickname or just popular cultural shorthand in the same way as "gay" is commonly used in place of "homosexual". I've found this to be equally true among LGB's and straights alike.

Clearly, more education is needed. We don't have popular media figures to define this kind of usage for those outside our own community in the same way as African-Americans do with the N-word, so we are tasked with doing it ourselves, and that's going to take a while.

That said, I also believe that community mediamakers, and LGBT community mediamakers in particular, have a responsibility to understand and respect these kinds of cultural usage rules if they wish to be seen as credible and in tune with the community they speak to. It's not only good form, but to do otherwise is to exemplify a level of ignorance that cannot help but damage one's credibility, certainly within the community, and likely with the well-informed outside of it as well.

Personally, I believe that's probably the best way to make the case against the improper use of loaded words like "tranny". We shouldn't automatically challenge from the perspective that the improper usage is evidence of bigotry, but rather evidence of ignorance. In these kinds of cases, an accusation of bigotry will often be debatable, but to define a mediamaker, and particularly an opinionated one, as ignorant and out of step for the same reason will not only be far more difficult to defend against, but also a far more effective response to someone who values their credibility as much as writers and pundits usually do.

Becky Juro
Comment by eliz on February 5, 2009 at 9:38am
i read a couple of posts that really respond to this well:
here and here/here (it's a 2 part post), for example.
my feeling on it is that like any other word to reclaim, it can be reclaimed only by the people who it has been used as a slur against. insider/outsider language, you know? it is not used against me. so as a word, i will use it for people who identify that way and request it--but even then, i'll be careful, because words spread. i am a member of the queer community, but as a non-trans person that still doesn't make tranny my word. that just feels like the crux of it to me.
Comment by Mark Daniel Snyder on February 5, 2009 at 1:05pm
totes agree and thanks for the links!
Comment by JKC on February 7, 2009 at 6:13pm
At first I thought "So what"? But then I began to think about it and the more I thought about it yes, I do agree it is an offensive term. If someone doesn't want to say the whole word transsexual, they could just say "trans". Serves the same purpose and isn't(to me anyway)at all offensive.

Comment

You need to be a member of QueerToday.com to add comments!

Join QueerToday.com

follow

Advertisers



Badge

Loading…

© 2014   Created by QueerToday.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service