Parker Marie Molloy would like to remind the guys that throwing around the word “tranny” is right up there with throwing around the word _____.
Dear gay dudes:
James Nichols at Huffington Post has been posting a series on drag culture/Brooklyn nightlife to the “Gay Voices” page over there. As someone who frequently writes for HP GV, I tend to read what else is going on over there. In his latest installment, Nichols interviewed a drag queen by the name of — *sigh* — “Amber Alert“. As certain as the sun will rise, an interview with a drag queen will invoke one of the more hateful trans-specific slurs: “tranny.” This interview proved to be no exception.
“I felt immediately at home there among the irreverent trannies,” the drag queen told Nichols. *sigh*
I’ve found that one of the more common misperceptions people have about transgender people is that we’re the same thing as drag queens. Friends of mine have had people ask what their “stage name” is, and people have been surprised at my somewhat mainstream and conservative appearance.
As I’ve written about in the past, a quick way to see why “tranny” is a slur is to perform a few quick Google Image searches. First, search “transgender woman.” Next, search “tranny.” Notice the difference? Yeah, that’s why I’m not thrilled when someone calls a trans woman, a “tranny.” Nor am I thrilled that this term, which has been thrown at me on several occasions, is legitimized in the public eye through use by drag queens and gay cisgender men (which most drag queens are).
Gay dude/Project Runway Winner/designer of shoes for Payless (when I think “super fashionable,” I think “Payless”) Cristian Siriano even decided to fold this hateful term into his catchphrase: “hot tranny mess.” Now, there are certainly a few questions that arise out of this, one being, “why does a fashion designer need a catchphrase?” and the other, “what gives him the right to appropriate that term?”
Oh, it’s just a joke! But, wait, why is it a joke? What makes it funny? Are “trannies” just inherently hilarious as a concept? Here’s a fun fact that might take some air out of the sails of the “pro-saying-tranny” crowd: during the airing of 4th season of Project Runway (the season Siriano appeared on), 3 trans women were brutally murdered in the United States! Haha! Siriano is just so sassy and hilarious!
Neil Patrick Harris got himself in a little hot water a while back for saying “tranny” on TV (and this isn’t even counting the dozen or so times him and his How I Met Your Mother co-stars have said it on their show). Same goes for Lance Bass. At least these two apologized after they realized that saying this in public wasn’t exactly in their best interests (they can go back to saying it in private, I suppose). RuPaul, king of the transphobes, throws that word around like it’s going out of style (which is something I wish would actually happen).
But it’s okay, folks, because they’re gay dudes, and therefore, they’re untouchable by the LGB-centric media.
A common argument in favor of using “tranny” is to say, “but that word is just part of drag culture!” Here’s my rebuttal: I don’t care. “Drag culture” or not, that’s not a word that’s appropriate to throw around. It’s a hateful slur that is often the last thing trans women hear before being beaten or murdered. Just as it wouldn’t be acceptable for me to go around using the word “f*ggot,” as I’m not a gay man, it’s inappropriate for gay men and male-identified drag queens to use “tranny.”
Ryan Murphy, creator of Glee, is seen as someone who can do no wrong. You may ask what problem I could possibly have with him, right? Take, for example, this scene in another one of his shows (Nip/Tuck) where a character violently beats a trans woman without any real repercussions (TW: transmisogynistic violence).
Even on Glee, when he supposedly made an effort to be less awful to trans folks, then had characters throwing around “tranny” at random. Unlike the times where someone used a homophobic slur on the show and were immediately called out by another character, the insults against the trans character were often left without resolution. On top of all that, a cisgender boy was hired to play the role of a transgender girl. Really, Murphy? Finally, the various plot lines that made my skin crawl: the trans character takes birth control pills as hormone replacement therapy (this is SUPER DANGEROUS, do not do this), and recently, one of the plot lines had the trans character fighting for the right to use the bathroom only to eventually be given the “separate, but equal” treatment and given access to a private bathroom that was neither the boys or the girls’ rooms (this was treated as a victory, which, just, it shouldn’t).
Also on Huffington Post, Joe Hutcheson wrote about his “evolution” to accept the calling of male-identified people “she,” “her” and “girl.” That’s cute and all, but some folks actually care about pronouns. If someone is going to call me “she,” “her,” or “girl,” I want it to be because someone, you know, sees me as a woman, not because they’re just so super sassy that they say, “pronouns and identification be damned, I’m calling you girl because, um, something about being ‘fierce.’”
Do whatever you want, gay dudes, just stop doing things that harm trans people in the process. Can you manage that? It’s bad enough that while trans people still struggle to use the restroom without legal repercussions, we’re expected to sit quietly as marriage rights take the bulk of money donated to GLb…..(t) organizations. We shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not you’re going to stab us in the back with words, too.
In conclusion, don’t say, “tranny.” Just, don’t. It doesn’t matter if you do drag or if it’s not “meant as a slur,” if you are a cisgender gay man, that is not your word to use.
Follow Parker Marie Molloy on Twitter! www.twitter.com/MissParkerMarie @missparkermarie
—Photo Steven A Johnson/Flickr