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‘Shem***’ is not OK to use in any venue

Commentary: Trans Progressive

RuPaul’s DragRace anti-trans pejorative: season 6, episode 4

I’ve had a back-and-forth with Nicole Murray Ramirez at LGBT Weekly over RuPaul’s promotion of the term tra**y. We disagree on the pejorative nature of the term, but it says something that the former Tra**y Awards has changed the name of the event to the Transgender Erotic Awards.

“When we named the show the ‘Tranny Awards’ in 2007 the climate was different and the usage of the word ‘tranny’ was appropriate as a catchy title in an online porn event,” creator of the awards event Steven Grooby explained in a Cosmo magazine article. “As we aim to be inclusive of all areas of transgender erotica and are looking to broaden the appeal of the show to mainstream media, we believed it was time to re-brand the event.”

Even Jerry Springer recently announced that he’s going to stop using the term tra**y because the term has clearly become offensive.

But now RuPaul has gone clearly into antitrans pejorative use. In season 6, episode 4 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, he used, and encouraged the use of “shem***” by LGBT and straight people in how he and the drag queens on the show used the term.

RuPaul Tweets Amanda Bynes over the use of fa**ot

There is no gray area, as there is with tra**y, on the use of the term shem***. This is a vile term that trans people (outside of the porn industry) don’t use to describe themselves. There are African Americans who refer to themselves by the n-word, and there are gays who refer to themselves by fa**ot, but essentially there just aren’t any trans people outside of the porn industry who refer to themselves as shem***s.

Of course, if one refers to gays as fa**ots, RuPaul takes offense. June 2, 2013 he Tweeted at Amanda Bynes about her use of the word fa**ots in one of her Tweets. “Derogatory slurs are always an outward projection of a person’s own poisonous self-loathing @AmandaBynes,” he wrote.

So when it comes to anti-trans derogatory slurs, RuPaul must either be a hypocrite or self-loathing – there is no gray area here. His use of the term shem*** in an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race is giving lesbian, gay, bisexual and straight people permission to use a derogatory, dehumanizing slur.

Apparently, RuPaul has no idea of how the term has been used by members of the LGBT and feminist communities to deride trans people. It was back in 1979 that lesbian and feminist Janice G. Raymond used the term in her book The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male. She justified the use of the term, describing trans women with the term “male-to-constructed female” and that trans experience can be boiled down to trans women’s “artifactual femaleness.” Raymond’s use of the term isn’t the only time the term was used to deride and dehumanize trans experience and trans people, but it epitomizes it.

Trans people deserve to be heard about which terms are problematic, defamatory and derogatory. We trans people deserve better from our LGBT entertainers than what RuPaul gives us; what he gives us is use of, and functionally working to normalize the use of, one of the most vile anti-trans pejoratives that function to dehumanize trans people.

Short URL: http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=46291

Posted by on Mar 27, 2014. Filed under Trans Progressive. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

10 Comments for “‘Shem***’ is not OK to use in any venue”

  1. She-male…tranny…disgusting. As bad as nigger, kike, faggot, spic, wetback Wop. Stop using them. Now. RuPaul Andre Charles = epic fail.

    • It’s called the First Amendment, get use to it or get the Hell out of the country.


      • Offensive speech against certain masses of disenfranchised in this country has, like all speech, limits. It’s called hate speech for this very reason…because it, intentional or not, broadcasts speech known to be hateful on a mass scale merely for belonging to a certain group.

        I have a better idea. As a veteran who served her country, if you feel that freedom=right to unlimited oral flatulence, then perhaps a one-way ticket would suffice.

      • If your only justification for what’s been said is that it wasn’t illegal for someone to say, perhaps you ought to rethink your argument.

  2. The transgender community remains disproportionately targeted with violence. Continuing use of pejorative dehumanizing slurs promotes a sense that we deserve to be victimized, and is partly responsible for harassment escalating into assault or murder.

    It is reprehensible, and should not be tolerated.

    • Instead of blaming other people the transgender community should take responsibility for its own problems which they have fostered by celebrating their victimhood, instead of empowering themselves and moving out of the gay ghetto and into the mainstream.

      To simplify the above; grow up and get a life.


  3. @Anne

    No, we wouldn’t want to blame the oppressors.

    “Celebrating their victimhood”? The transgender community does not celebrate our sisters being murdered. We mourn their loss.

    Anne darling, I have a life, a very good life. But, I know many in the trans community struggle to find acceptance and opportunity. I cannot condone actions that promote such a negative image of the trans community in our society when that image prevents many from realizing their dreams (or getting a life, as you put it).

    • Seems I remember how the transgender community celebrated its victimhood over the beating and death of Gwen Araujo. Maybe you misunderstand what I mean by celebrating victimhood. The transgender community used every opportunity to throw Araugo in its collective feeling sorry for itself. Using a prop like the death of Araugo, Anytime anybody dies by other than natural means it is sad, but the transgender used Araugo as their martyr for 3 years after her murder, the San Diego transgender community was no exception, I know this because I had friends who were in that community who left it because they didn’t want to be marginalized by the actions of the community as a whole. But yet when someone in the community gets brain damaged or killed because of illegal silicone injections nobody cares. As a matter of fact a so called activist came out in defense of silicone injections (B. you bad person). Funny how that community doesn’t care for its own unless they can make political hay of the act.

      You say you have a life?
      Do you work for a non GLBTQ company?
      Did you transition before building your career?
      I did, and built my career afterword. I didn’t spend my life in the navy as this column’s author did, I transitioned then got on with my life.There are no excuses for not doing that.

      Do you attend anything other than GLBT events?
      Do you even go out in public presenting yourself as the sex you wish you were?. If you can’t answer yes to all the above questions you are living in a transgender ghetto.

      The only exception might be that you transitioned late and moved on to live a normal life in mainstream society as the sex you should have been born as.


      • As RuPaul’s Disaster Reality show proves in a grand way, having enemies within a community is nothing new. How dare you, a veteran such as I, write such an entitling and hostile rant. How dare you call memorializing a trans victim as a “celebration”. No trans person MUST ever forget that Gwen was us and we are Gwen. She and all other trans murder victims will always be remembered by me as martyrs.

        How dare you compare outright murder to botched and risky “outpatient” procedures that never contain the intent with “malice aforethought.” Taking risks is something we all do, stupid or not. Seeking to improve one’s female physique is but a manifestation of extreme gender dysphoria—manslaughter by those involved…yes, but never equivalent to hostility of the worst kind: murder.

        You are not transgender but someone in support of transphobia—clearly your main motivation here. There are many clues in your fiction above.

  4. Autumn, you have just hit a walk-off home run. Absolutely these two words are loaded with transphobia, as you say outside of LGBT circles, precisely the predominant audience of the RPDR disaster.

    I wish to add a 3rd option that goes beyond RPs hypocrisy….”loathing”. Not self-loathing….just flat out loathing. Cis-maled loathing of trans females. To him the exploitation of gender has absolutely nothing to do with a sex/gender change but everything to do with $. By promoting a well-known transphobic word publicly no less, he made the choice of $ over trans rights. He is not friend, but a now publicly declared adversary of trans equality, period.

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