Thursday, February 5, 2009

Question For Friday (Reader Responses) - the "Tranny" Mess - Post 1/3

What's wrong with the word "tranny?"
Part 1/3
Unlike the two questions for Friday in the past, we've had some really long, in depth, and thought provoking responses from a variety of people. I'm going to actually have to separate them out into three different blogs -- Reader Responses (1/3), My Response (2/3), and Guest Response (3/3).

I think the award for most creative response this time around goes to a first time commentator on this blog, Brent Billock of

There is absolutely nothing wrong with referring to your car's transmission by it's shortened and endearing nickname.

It will also earn you the respect of your mechanic, as he'll think you are comfortable with the inner workings of the drivetrain and he'll be less likely to attempt to overcharge you.

Sorry, I couldn't resist the little joke.

But the most interesting response comes from us by Facebook, where Trevor Hoppe (honestly I am always surprised when Trevor references me -- he's SO COOL :-) -- JK) and BadEvan (the celebrity, no less!) went back and forth for a bit on it in my comments section:

TH: Well just like "gay" has become used in pop culture to describe something lame or stupid, "tranny" has popped up (thanks to Christian on PR) as a way to say messy / ugly / sloppy. But that doesn't stop my transgender friends from using it to describe themselves / their friends / others. So as Daniel says, context is crucial.

BE: I don't see a problem with it. I, as a big MO, use the term Faggot all the time. Words only have negative powers if you let them.

I think it's just a bunch of PC BS. I know many transgender folks who use the term. I think the real issue is the tone you use. If you say faggot or tranny but mean freak or disgusting evil sodomite...then well You're a douche bag... and who cares what you say/think?

BE: Really people use tranny to mean sloppy/messy and ugly? I've never heard that anywhere... I would probably have to get in some ones face if I heard them say something like that in that manner...

TH: See Christian Siriano on Project Runway. After he coined "Hot Tranny Mess," that phrase was everywhere (talk shows, magazines, blogs, etc). The tranny in that phrase is key -- it points to a gendered failure.

BE: I've heard the phrase "hot tranny mess" used before... but it's been in ref to a Transgender person who looks like their affirmed sexuality, but has many many issues that are very apparent when you meet.

I don't like the phrase...but I don't think it was/is used to describe trans people as ugly/messy/or sloppy. I think that's how some people may want to spin it.

It to me is the same as saying "he's a flaming fag"...while I don't like it... it's a way for people to say... "he's a very effeminate homosexual male who embodies many of the homosexual stereotypes that society has noticed or relegated to gay men."

TH: Errr... it wasn't used to describe trans people at all. In pop culture, it's typically used to describe women who are messy / sloppy / etc.

BE: Ok...well that's just fraking wrong! I would have to cut a MoFo for saying something like that in ear shot of me.

Then we have the one-line answers:

  • From Dan D., via Facebook: It all has to do with the content in how it is used, but to use a general term to descripe a transgendered person it is so wrong, just llike the "N" word should not be used to descripe African-Americans, "Faggot" for gays, so on and so forth.
  • From Brian R., via Facebook: It usually follows "hot" and precedes "mess"
  • From @dumbwhore, via Twitter: honestly, that standard has always seemed like a pain when required by other demographics. "How do you self-id?" is dry/that said, I don't think I'd call someone tranny to their face. so some part of my brain must consider it derogatory. :(
  • From Miss Chanak, via the blog: I have a gay nephew, Aaron - he calls me Aunt Tranny, and my sis, his Mom - Tran. Have we done something wrong?

And then we have an amazing set of responses on this blog from people who had some great things to say about the subject.

From JereKeys:

There is nothing inherently wrong with the word. Just as there is nothing inherently wrong with the words "nigger" "faggot" "cunt" "kike" "jap" "wetback" or "retard."

Members of the groups for whom these words are directed, however, associate them with oppression (sometimes even violence) and hate. Because of the negative associations, people to whom these words are directed have asked that those of us who do not belong to the group stop using them. Our willingness to consider the feelings of those oppressed groups ultimately says more about us than anything else.

"But when I say @$%&#!, I don't mean it offensively, everyone knows that!" No. They don't. All they know is that you don't appear to be terribly educated on the history of oppression and abuse from people who use that word with genuine hate in their heart.

It doesn't hurt me to remove words like "tranny" and "retard" and "nigger" from my language. I'm not harmed in any way. I don't understand why common courtesy and empathy result in so many anguished cries of "Aarrgh, you're limiting my free speech!! Stop being so sensitive!! Damned political correctness is killing me!! It's kiiiiillllllliiiiinnnnnngggggg mmmmeeeeeeeeeeee!"
From the editor of the F6 blog, who commentates occasionally on this blog:
My frustration comes into play when you have 20 descriptors for five groups of people, depending on what stage, identity, social role, etc. they are in at the moment. There is no one consistent that even applies to one individual member of the TransGendered and or InterSexed Community.

This is why the press and even OUR COMMUNITY's entertainment "elite (such as Johnny McGovern & Co.)" still refer to them as "a hot trannie mess". The Bible just called them all Eunuchs when translated into English.

There is no one label that applies even tranny is a misnomer when you are dealing with straight bois wearing dresses as a prank or to show support for their gay friends, (like being a "bridesmaid" in a gay wedding, and yes we wore dresses) in that case cross dresser doesnt even apply, nor should it.

As someone who prides himself in being crass or lewd in my commentary, and at the same time socially and politically astute, I freely use the word fag, queer, and tranny at will, because sometimes this boi just aint happy or gay about something. But that is because I am a ghetto redneck queen with some pretty large balls so my testosterone levels are still up there with the jocks and frat bois ...having a moment....

This is an issue that will not be settled overnight or without a lot of heartache either way but it is a conversation that OUR COMMUNITY needs to keep having across the board not just on the T/I issues but also race and relationships etc.
From dear dear friend Jeffery (who tweets at @Jeff_Dalton):
Before this week I never gave much thought to the word “tranny.” I know I am showing my small town ignorance, but the images I had to go on were poorly put together drag queens, guys putting on a dress for Halloween, or Dr. Frank-N-Furter. I just didn’t associate the word with the trans-community. I even looked up the word tranny on the web to see what definition was out there. If you Google the word you get a big list of porn sites. The word isn’t even listed any on Webster listed the word with the definition “an assembly of parts including the speed-changing gears.” I know for a fact that isn’t the topic at hand.

This week I have had the opportunity to read post from trans-bloggers and watch youtube videos on the topic. From what little I’ve gathered even the trans-community isn’t agreed on if the word is wrong or not. Hell, I don’t even know if, as a gay man, is it alright to use the phrase “trans.” I believe as several other posters have stated it is a matter of context. Any time a word such as tranny or faggot is used in a hateful manner it’s just wrong. But even when used with love or in a joking manner those words have a slimy feel to them. Of course, this doesn’t mean I won’t ever use those words again just that I may put a little forethought into it.
And, finally, from David W. who, btw, I met in college and whose gender expression was always a question I had for him. But that's neither here nor there. In short: totally had a crush on him, and then, once I read his writing, was head over heels with him. Duh. This is his response:
As an independent entity outside the moral community in this instance, that is to say I have no value in matters pertaining to LGBT issues, perhaps my musings are not worthy of print. However, I find myself inexplicably drawn to the plight of others and the question at hand poses an interesting view of the status quo.

No one has ever called me a tranny. The single most offensive word anyone could call me would be "amateur". My blood pressure would rise, my eyes would fill with rage, and I would most certainly lash out with ill will. I would feel personally attacked. The fundamental of personal defense that I prescribe to reads "He who attacks others without cause deserves no consideration."

If words like "tranny", "fag", "queer", "homo", or "fruit" elicit such a response in a person, then question is no longer "what is wrong with the word tranny?", but rather, "what is wrong with the person from which the word originates?" The words are merely the vehicle of the speaker's intent. The speaker has initiated a personal attack with the aim to degrade the target. The target is now a victim.

To dismiss the intrinsic worth of a person is blatantly unethical, but maybe I'm going overboard. However, the status quo seems to dictate that lesbians are chic, but that men who dress in female clothing are somehow doing something wrong? Assaulting American values?

Gents, do what you want to do. You are still men, and how you dress should not be read as an invitation to deprive you of your dignity or your right to pursue your interests. You have done nothing wrong, you are equal to all other men.

WHEW! That was a lot of responses! This is a really long post! In the future, I will most definitely, definitely keep my questions simple and easy and light hearted. No, seriously, I appreciate all the indepth and intelligent responses you guys have posted. I think it does say something, though, that all of the above responses come from white guys.


And, for the most part, white gay guys. That's probably just my readership base, though.

I think, for now, I'm going to take a little break while I consider everything said and written, and so I can get some work done, and then I'll come back to my thoughts later tonight.


Jere Keys said...

Who are you calling white? It's Melanin-Deficient-Pasty-Ass-American.

Anonymous said...

but there's a double stigma for blacks though. they should never be gay in America, but they can fuck guys. and to spend time blogging would gain them zero kudos in most of their cliques.

I'm not good at explaining why other minorities aren't represented. Sorry, just too high to think that through now.

on a complete side note: I think it's awesome that you quoted me out of twitter. I had @LinkedInExpert ask me if they could use an @ comment the other day and I felt like telling her, "umm, freedom of press? I said this in a public forum for everyone to see, of course you can quote me."

Michael Chanak Jr said...

Now, I forwarded on the whole discussion about "tranny" to my sis, Sue. So, now she's reading

Oh're acquiring a NE Ohio audience.

How grand.

Autumn Sandeen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Autumn Sandeen said...

(My apology for the delete. I left out the actual Pam's House Blend link the first time I posted this. D'oh!)

I wrote about this term over at Pam's House Blend. My problem with the term tranny is that it isn't used with the nuance it needs to be used. I compared the use of the term with the term queer. Key excerpts:

I believe the nuance her is that most people (but not all) who identify as queer would consider themselves as belonging to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, but not everyone who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender would say they belong to the queer community. In other words, for the most part the nuance of using the term queer is that queer functionally is a subset of the LGBT community -- which is why many people add a Q to LGBT -- but that LGBT isn't a subset of Q. With this in mind (in my opinion), legacy and new LGBT media should reflect in it's coverage that the term queer community isn't interchangeable with term LGBT community.


My comment is that their are nuances to using the term tranny, much as there are nuances to using the term queer. And, my problem isn't that some LGBT media and reporters use the term tranny, but that they don't comprehend the nuances of when -- and how -- to use the term.

And here's the nuance -- people who identify as a tranny (for the most part) identify as transgender, but not everyone who identifies as transgender identifies as a tranny. Those who identify as trannies are a subset of broader transgender community; the terms tranny and transgender aren't interchangeable terms.

And, just as it is with the term queer being considered a defamatory epithet to many LGBT people, to a good number of those who identify as transgender -- but not as trannies -- consider the term tranny to be defamatory epithet.

I don't like the term for myself; I don't want to be called a tranny. That's probably because the term has been used against me as an defamatory epithet.

If others are comfortable embracing the term tranny for themselves, then that's fine with me -- Just don't embrace the term tranny for me on my behalf, or call any transgender group I associate with a tranny group.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I don't think its wise for us to use derogatory names like that. These are words that were and still are used in a hateful manner towards us. So, why keep it going? By saying these words and using it in our own community only sends the message that WE think its okay to call us that because we call each other these words. I don't see the point. I mean, come on! If we are ever included in the hate crime laws, whats one way they determine that? WORDS. Words that are used during violent acts against US. So, I say think before you use those words. Is that the message you want to continue to spread?