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Determining the impact of community terminology

Commentary: Trans Progressive


In the past week, respected drag performer Lady Bunny weighed in on a topic that seems to still be ongoing in social media. It’s terminology still; it’s over their perception that trans women are trying to ban use of terms such as “tranny” and “shemale.”

“Tranny is an abbreviation for transvestite and transsexual, so I’m free to use it since I fall within that category,” stated Lady Bunny in an interview with Mickey Boardman of papermag.com. “Much as blacks can use the N-word. I know tranny from London, where they abbreviate everything – breakfast is brekkie, biscuit is biccie. Tranny is used affectionately on the club scene … I can understand how the word “shemale” in RuPaul’s ‘Female or Shemale’ game could be more offensive, because shemale is mainly a porn term which stresses the male parts. But Ru’s use of shemail [as a play on mail or email] is fine. I’ve used ‘shemail’ on my own site as my contact info for over a decade. It’s a silly play on words to indicate that since I’m a drag queen, my e-communications are going to be more feminine. In no way is it derogatory to trans women. I think there are a few militant trans women who have started this mudslinging and I’m sorry that Ru backed down.”

I wish it were so easy and simple.

In April of 2010, I was called “it” and “shim” by a federal marshal when I went to jail for the repeal of DADT. (“Shim,” for the uninitiated, is a term with literally the same connotation as “shemale.”) A park ranger during that same trip to jail referred to me as a “female impersonator” – that’s what the Park Service instructions and forms referred to trans women as. I know what it’s like to be demeaned by law enforcement officials.

I’m not a trans woman of color, but I do understand that there is at least sometimes a racial component tied into the use of the term “tranny” – I’ve experienced it personally. When I blogged at Pam’s House Blend, I was called the “house tranny” on more than one occasion by people who didn’t agree with my points of view. That rattled me.

In 2009 I sat, in a Greeley, Colo. courtroom, through the Angie Zapata hate crime murder trial. Though I don’t recall Angie being referred to as “tranny” or “shemale” during the proceedings, I do remember listening to recorded jailhouse calls between the man who was later convicted of her bias crime murder – Allen Ray Andrade – and his girlfriend referring to Angie as “it” and “that thing.”

I personally had been called “that thing” by my next door neighbor in 2008, and hearing those terms in the courtroom, well, I silently wept in the gallery of that courtroom seconds after I heard “that thing,” and in a flash I had a deep understanding of how hate speech can trigger people who belong to minority populations.

My personal experience tells me how hate speech and hate terms can escalate to, or be a part of, hate action. There is a broader family of related terms and phrases that also play into this discussion that we’re not discussing.

I can’t speak for all trans people, but there are trans women like me that have very real world reasons why we find the use of some antitrans terms and phrases to be upsetting and/or triggering.

What I don’t understand about some drag performers is the lack of empathy for those whose life experiences tell them “tranny” and “shemale” are painful pejoratives. What’s painful to me about this whole discussion is that I see so much opinion put forward by people in the LGBT community who aren’t the people who these terms impact most in their daily lives.

Short URL: http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=48279

Posted by on Jun 5, 2014. Filed under Bottom Highlights, 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 “Determining the impact of community terminology”

  1. The Tee-Gees trying to control speech, this is good to see.
    For one thing you are showing the rest of the world just how whacked you are.
    In case you didn’t know in the real world the trend is to buck such attempts to carrell free speech. Are you going to say that someone is a bigot for saying their car is in the shop because it has a bad tranny? Are you going to call someone on the street a bigot for asking if they can bum a fag from you?
    I would like to see you try.

    There are a lot of us who are getting sick and tired of this crap authoritarianism, you people trying to run our lives. What about that jerk who calls females fish what’s wrong you can’t address a double standard?
    What about the gays and lesbians that call heterosexual men and women breeding stock?

    Oh wait you people get to control the language, those words are okay, Oh I am sorry I forgot.

    Take your speech policing and stick it where the sun doesn’t shine.

    I will use whatever the fuck words I please, and I am not alone.


  2. I find it humorous that the umbrella crowd gets upset over language used by someone THEY brought under their stupid umbrella concept. The tee-gee’s appropriated the transsexual narrative and now want to patrol the language used by drag queens.

    But, since drag queens fit under the umbrella, what it really becomes is a power play by one group of males who want to silence others…apparently in the attempt to show that all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others. Orwell would be proud of what the umbrella crowd has become…

    • More of the male abduction and rape culture they love so much.


    • A Woman, Period

      Yes, there is a certain irony in the gender fascists, who insist that transsexuals MUST accept the label of “transgender,” whether they like it or not, suddenly getting bent out of shape over the use of terms like “tranny” and “shemale.” Both terms, in the past, were considered quite acceptable. I remember back at the time of the first Trans March in San Francisco, many referring to it as the “Tranny March.” And the term “shemale” was featured in the documentary “What Sex Am I?” where it was specified as the chosen term by transvestite prostitutes. They specifically identified as such.

  3. The hateful comments in this section shows the world the real problems trans women face. Thanks for stopping by.

    • We are not the ones trying to force censorship on others.
      You People are.

      So if you find our language so hateful what about the language used by LGBT Groups against straight people?

      Is that ok in your mind?


    • If you really believe the comments (all six of them at the time of this post, including my original comment) were “hurtful,” then it simply underscores the PC oversensitivity with which the tee-gee’s have taken their worship of their insipid umbrella concept.

      You have to remember that the umbrella expressly includes people like drag queens and the cross-dressers, both groups who routinely identify as males who like to play dress-up and have absolutely no desire to integrate into the community at large as a facsimile of female. They still have every right to identify by the language of their choosing, which often includes tranny and she-male. The appropriators of the umbrella brigade do not get to police their language.

      The sooner the tee-gee brigade recognizes that their ‘community’ notion is just as fractured as the moderate/conservative/uber-Richt factions within the GOP, the better the umbrella occupants will be…

    • A Woman, Period

      Disagreement does not equate to hatred. Of course, when one is trying to control speech, false accusations of hatred are a powerful weapon.

  4. I been following Autumn’s column and clearly whatever her tactic is, it’s not working. The T word isa still being spoken and there are more and more people coming out in support of syaing the T word. Some of Ms Sandeen’s columns, it appears that she’s trying to make these people look bad because they say the T word. Ms Sandeen has never mentioned or even talked about people who themselves are transgender and find nothing wrong in using the T-word. for instance, TS Madison, a Transgender singer and adult film star (Madison Hinton on Facebook) has said she doesnt find anything wrong with it. and Candis Cayne the famed tg actress told the Huff post recently she doesnt see anything wrong, and that no one will tell her any different. If youwant to go local, local entertainer jasmine Masters said its not what they call you, its what you answer to..

    • A Woman, Period

      It is part of a bigger effort to control language to avoid any real discussion of the issues involved. There are a lot of things that transgender extremists wish to slip past society without any real scrutiny.

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