I am back after a much needed hiatus. Recharged and ready for Summer!
What have I been doing all this time? I am so glad I asked. I have been delving into a fight between The Jets and The Sharks, or The Bloods and The Crips… actually, it has been a debate over using certain words, between RuPaul, Carmen Carrera and their fans. What is the debate about? Again, glad I asked. If you saw the title of this post, I bet you could guess one of the words in just one try. For those of you who are bad at guessing, I will give you a hint, it is about the word, “Tranny” and also, the term, “She-male”. Still have no clue? Then let me beat a dead horse into the ground. I already told you, the debate is about the word, “Tranny” and the term, “She-male”.
Disclosure time, I am a fan of, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and the local drag scene. Local drag performers have been very encouraging of my transition, and sometimes beneficial by donating to my too small wardrobe. Also, while I follow her on Facebook, I have never been that impressed by Carmen Carrera’s trans advocacy.
For those of you who do not know, Carmen Carrera was a contestant on, “Drag Race” a few seasons ago, before she came out as trans and began transition. She now enjoys minor celebrity and a decent modeling career. Carrera is currently one of the most visible trans advocates out there. Her beauty gets her extra press coverage, unfortunately beauty is easy on the eyes but not a skill that is required in order to explain the subtle nuances of the trans experience to the cis world. Carmen is rapidly improving in this area, but she is clearly not a seasoned veteran spokesperson.
Also, a disclaimer, I will call RuPaul by male pronouns and Carrera by female terms. This is how they each identify so it is proper, and not meant as a slight in any way shape or form to RuPaul the character. It is confusing enough, these pronouns… but RuPaul is one of the few Drag Queens whose stage name is the same as his given name. He is RuPaul Charles, she is glamazon character, RuPaul. It is kind of like Steven Colbert, the character is not the person, now, with added pronoun confusion!
Sheesh! There is so much to discuss concerning this simple and silly topic. I have to start back when this became a big issue amongst the LGBT community and catch y’all up from then to the present day.
A couple of months ago, on an episode of, “Drag Race”, there was a mini game amongst the contestants called, “Female or She-Male”. The contestants had to look at pictures of outfits and body parts, and correctly guess if it was of a cis female or a drag performer. Hilarity ensued.
Actually, controversy and hilarity ensued. The morning after the episode aired, the trans community was up in arms. How dare, “Drag Race” compare drag queens to cis women for laughs? How dare they use the term, “She-male”? Almost a week to the day later, Logo, the cable television station that airs, “Drag Race”, relented and decided to remove the segment from future airings and from the downloadable stream on their website. Logo stated they would not support anti-trans language. RuPaul reiterated his support of transsexual people, and seemingly agreed with his station’s verdict.
Oh, they also, got rid of the weekly, “You’ve Got She-mail” segment title, where RuPaul sends a video message to the contestants explaining something about their next challenge. In this case, if you didn’t figure it out, “She-mail” is a play on words, it sounds like, “E-mail” or even the godfather of reality competition show’s, “Survivor’s” own, “Tree-Mail”. Get it? She-mail.
Finally, the, “Tranny” debate took off. The term, “Tranny” was now being deemed inappropriate by the trans community whenever it was used on, “Drag Race”, a show that frequently allows contestants to be called or call each other, “Bitch” or, “Bitches” in both complimentary or derogatory ways. It also, heavily features the terms, “Fish” or, “Fishy”. For example, “Bitches, that bitch is a fishy fish!” For those of y’all who are a little bit slow, the terms, “Fish” and, “Fishy” are in reference to the odor of a cis female’s genital area (as if these queens actually know) and means a drag performer looks convincingly feminine, instead of well, like a typical, over the top, drag queen. It can be used as a compliment or an insult, but it is usually complimentary unless one is being too fishy, because too much fish can spoil the drag. But, “Bitch” and, “Fish” are not the controversial drag terms. “She-male” and, “Tranny” are. Got it? Good. Moving on.
Where was I? Ah yes, “Tranny”. “Tranny” was deemed, “The T-Word” by many of the most vocal trans advocates, including Carmen Carrera and folks, that is when a civil war broke out between the drag queens and the transsexuals.
(Snapping is heard. Then whistles. A Leonard Bernstein overture plays. Drag queens enter.)
When you do drag
You do drag all the way,
From your first time on stage
To your final sashay.
(Enter trans folk.)
When you are trans
You’re a curious thing.
Little boy’s now a girl,
Little girl, you’ll be king.
(End Musical Interlude)
This is where I came in. I follow a bunch of trans news and advocacy communities. It is more than just a hobby, it is a way of life now. Since transition puts me in the hands of the medical community for the foreseeable future, trans news developments can and do have an important impact on me. It is good to know this stuff. On the other hand, I get to listen to the petty issues amongst the trans community, and like most any community, if things are slow, it seems like sometimes, they will just make something up to stir up drama and controversy. With that in mind, and the fact that I am a, “Drag Race” fan, I heard this debate emerge within the trans community and spoke up. I love language, and I am fascinated by its living nature. Language evolves, sometimes quite quickly. Inner cities are often on the forefront of language evolution, now, so is the Internet, FTW… lol… SMH… and not SMH, “So Much Hate”, SMH, “Shakes my head”.
Trans language is also, quite fluid and quick to evolve. And it is complex. Trans folk, who keep their ear to the ground when it comes to the trans community, can lose touch with the fact that cis people are just not keeping up with the ever evolving lingo. You kinda’ need degrees in both Latin, and political correctness.
But, wow! To be on the ground level of language coinage?! Count me in!!!
So of course, I start speaking my mind in online discussions. For the most part, I do my best to calm down the lynch mob, “Tranny is not a slur. Context folks, context. Tranny is an abbreviation. Tran is just part of a prefix.” At the same time, I do not really like the term when directed towards me or any other trans woman. Same with, “She-male”.
It is amazing to me, how sensitive the average trans person can be to words. Try joining a trans online community and see how long you last before you are reprimanded for saying the wrong thing. There are some fragile, fragile trans people and we all are expected to tiptoe around them so their feelings never get hurt, ’cause, high suicide rate and whatnot. And yes, trans folk sometimes play the trans card, even amongst themselves.
The world is not the trans online community. It is full of reality and with reality comes brutal truths. Sometimes that honesty and brutality comes in the form of hate.
The more watered down and convoluted trans language becomes, the more specific it becomes. Along with specificity, comes confusion. Even trans people can not always keep up with the rapid changes in trans lingo.
Drag, on the other hand, is steeped in tradition. Drag performers are harsh. They are the Don Rickles of the LGBT community. Drag is rooted in Vaudeville, burlesque and the difficulties of growing up different in a large city. Drag is funny, rude, crude, histrionic, flamboyant and all kinds of awesome.
One unspoken rule of Drag, which quickly follows the first two unspoken rules concerning not talking about Fight Club, is Rule #3: Do NOT tell a drag queen what to do or what to say.
When the Transgender, PC Police came with sirens blaring, the Drag community fought back. “Tranny is OUR word, bitches!”
“Tranny” is indeed, in many ways, their word. It was an abbreviation that came from within the drag community, as best as I can tell, and to many drag queens from all over the English speaking world, trans folk should not even dare try to take their precious T-word away.
Drag Queens en masse, claim, “Tranny” as their own, as do car enthusiasts who use the term as an abbreviation for both the Pontiac Trans-Am, and for a car’s transmission. “What kind of tranny ya’ll got in yer Tranny?” Car talk. Smokey chased a famous T-topped Tranny. K.I.T.T. was a younger, sleeker Tranny than the Tranny The Bandit liked to ride. Still car talk, folks.
Trans folk are getting louder and louder when it comes to the term, “Tranny”. Many insist it is a slur. I was not so sure.
This is when Carmen Carrera’s advocacy came into the spotlight. She started talking about the term, “Tranny” being a slur, as did other trans celebrities Janet Mock and Laverne Cox. Suddenly, a middle of the pack, “Drag Race” veteran was speaking out against her Mama, RuPaul!!! Drag queens and their fans alike went apeshit!
Here is a smattering of comments I saw, pretty much as written, by members of the LGBT community, about Carrera. I did rephrase them a bit in order to preserve the anonymity of the posters.
“She is a stupid, TRANNY!”
“Tranny bitch will always be a tranny bitch!”
“He is just a penis in a dress.”
“He needs to get over himself, the fucking she-male tranny.”
“That tranny better know better than to bite the hand that feeds him!”
Then RuPaul himself, ever the peacemaker, broke his silence by tweeting things like, “Trust! LogoTV hasn’t “distanced” itself from me, not while I’m still payin’ the f%kin’ light bill over there.” after Logo had distanced itself from these next two comments made by RuPaul in a recent audio interview.
“No, it is not the transsexual community. These are fringe people who are looking for story lines to strengthen their identity as victims. That is what we’re dealing with. It’s not the trans community, because most people who are trans have been through hell and high water and they know — they’ve looked behind the curtain at Oz and went, ‘Oh, this is all a f**king joke. But, some people haven’t… You know, if your idea of happiness has to do with someone else changing what they say, what they do, you are in for a f**king hard-ass road.”
“My 32-year career speaks for itself. I dance to the beat of a different drummer. I believe that everybody, you can be whatever the hell you wanna be. I ain’t stopping you. But don’t you dare tell me what I can do or say. It’s just words. Yeah, words do hurt… You know what? … You need to get stronger. You really do, because you know what, if you think, if you’re upset by something I said, you have bigger problems than you think.”
Now, the trans community goes even more apeshit than the drag community had!
“RuPaul is a transphobic bigot!”
“How would RuPaul like it if I called him a, “N” word and a, “F” word?”
“RuPaul is such a fucking faggot. I hope he is a victim of a hate crime.”
…and other gems…
Then, a funny thing happened. My opinion of the word, “Tranny” entirely changed. All it took was watching members within the LGBT community using it as a slur, directing it towards a trans woman, and seeing the piss poor response from many within the trans community in retaliation. In this case, “Tranny” was not being used as an abbreviation. It was being used as a demeaning and dehumanizing insult, pure and simple. Comments from the trans side were not any better, but hey, they were responding to a slur and that slur was being directed at them even from within the LGBT community.
Nobody has called me a tranny to my face, not in an insulting way, and I confess, I have used the word myself, often in self referential and/or self deprecating ways. But, back when I was in the closet, any time I was at work or with friends and a trans person came near, someone would elbow me and mutter something akin to, “Hey, get a load of THAT tranny.” or worse… often, much worse.
Also, let’s be honest here, some of you did not know the term, “Tranny” has its origins in the drag world, you learned it from the sex industry. Same with, “She-male”. Even when these terms are not used as slurs, they can shine people like me in the wrong kind of light. Very few transitioners enjoy being out, or being on stage like I do. Many are timid, soft spoken, introverts. Being related linguistically to performers and sex workers is not exactly how people who live the life of a trans person, rather than being a tranny for a living, like to be remembered.
Also, people DO in fact, mistake me for a drag queen often enough, even when I am looking and feeling frumpy. My wife would disagree with people calling me a queen.
A friend recently asked me what I look like in drag. He has not seen me since I started transition. I laughed, and told him I look like a man. He got the point, even though technically cross dressing as a man is being, “In drab”, not, “Drag”.
A man in a mobility scooter complimented my dress, then accused me of being a prostitute, on the night of this season’s, “Drag Race” finale. How sweet.
I had another good friend decide that now would be a great time to show me his dick. I mean, hey! I am trans, right? Must mean I am kinky. Spoiler alert, I am surprisingly Puritanical. I did let my friend down easy though, and yes, that pun was intended. 🙂
Terms like, “Tranny” and, “She-male” do complicate my life simply by confusing even my most tolerant of friends and guys on mobility scooters. They are indeed terms that can be and are frequently used as slurs, frequently enough that they should be discontinued in polite conversation.
It is unfortunate the drag and gay communities had to get involved, since it becomes a lot of infighting under the LGBT umbrella. Besides, I understand the point the drag queens and their supporters are trying to make. In many ways, I even agree. I just have problems with many of their methods of delivery. It is hard to argue the sanctity of a drag term, when even drag fans are defending its use BY using it as the very kind of slur they claim it is not.
So yeah, uh… try not to say, “Tranny”. Yes, I know it is just a word. KTHX.