‘Tranny’ Is Just as Bad as the N-Word, So Stop Saying It

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Tranny is a hateful word.

It’s often used to attack members of the trans community and is even a precursor to violence. Worse yet, it’s used casually with a general ambivalence to how derogatory it is to the transgender community. There should be a greater understanding and respect of the trans community. However, when RuPaul included the word “shemale” on an episode of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” last month, it created a heated debate over these words that has polarized the LGBT community.

Timeline

March 17, 2014 “RuPaul’s Drag Race” has the mini-challenge “Female or Shemale” in episode four, “Shade: The Rusical.”

March 18, 2014 Advocate writer Parker Marie Molloy responds to the episode with a piece about the show and hate speech.

April 2, 2014 Transgender celebrity Calpernia Addams responds to Molloy’s complaints and Molloy’s attack on Addams for coaching Jared Leto for “Dallas Buyer’s Club.”

April 4, 2014  Addams’ friend and fellow transgender activit and filmmaker Andrea James also responds to Molloy’s statements against RuPaul.

April 14, 2014 Logo TV apologizes for transphobic language and removes “You’ve Got She-Mail” from episodes of the show.

April 14, 2014 A group of transwomen write an open letter distancing themselves from Addams and James.

May 19, 2014 RuPaul weighs in on the controversy and his love for the word tranny on comedian Marc Maron’s podcast.

May 23, 2014  Logo officially “distances” itself from RuPaul over his controversial take on the word.

May 24, 2014 RuPaul responds with the tweet “Trust! @LogoTV hasn’t “distanced” itself from me, not while I’m still payin’ the f%kin’ light bill over there.”

The issue with Trannygate, and a general problem with the LGBTQ community, is the lack of diplomacy. It’s hard to navigate the politically charged waters of change when tensions are high. Everyone has a hot-button issue that is especially vexing for them. In this case, the trans community was angered by the use of the words “tranny” and “shemale.” It’s completely justified. However, declaring a journalistic fatwa against RuPaul and trying to publicly hate-shame him for using the word is like bringing a gun to knife fight. This attack only created a maelstrom of avid RuPaul fans attacking back in defense and missing the whole message. You win more flies with honey than you do with hate.

Everyone makes valid points, but they fall on deaf ears because everyone is pissed off. “Tranny” and “shemale” are hate speech and deserve the same amount of reverence we give other words. You wouldn’t see someone say the N-word on “The Apprentice” or the F-word on “Project Runway” so the T-word shouldn’t be used haphazardly on a successful reality show like “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Also, a “journalist” that tweets, “I fucking hate RuPaul” shouldn’t be given unfettered access to report news by a national LGBTQ publication like “The Advocate.” How can they be expected to be balanced? Logo’s main source of revenue and programming are RuPaul-based series. It should focus more on creating better shows and its decision to distance the brand from the LGBTQ community by going “beyond” rather than attacking their cash cow. It’s a mess that could have been resolved more easily had people used mindful and thoughtful language rather than attacking each other.

Had members of the trans community implored RuPaul, a person whose entire brand is based around love and understanding, they could have won over an ally. Attacking an advocate of the entire LGBTQ community seems ridiculous. RuPaul used his celebrity to open up a dialogue about gender and regularly educated the American public on the distinction between drag queens, transvestites and transgendered women. It’s also important to remember what the LGBTQ community looked like when RuPaul was growing up. In the doccumentary “Paris is Burning,” about gay men and transgendered women in the 1980s, there is a very thin and blurry line between trans women and drag queens. Words like “tranny” could be considered part of both of their struggles since they were used to attack them both. It’s sad that at that time everyone could unite to focus on the larger oppression rather than nitpick amongst each other.

There are no laws for PC-policing. Is it more offensive for an African-American gay man to use the word tranny on television or a white transgendered woman to use the Internet to tell an older black man what he can or can’t say? When we try to make arbitrary rules, we get into a game of political roulette. There are members of the transgendered community that use the word “faggot” to describe themselves. Should we debate if they are allowed to use the word because they haven’t been hurt by the word? Is censoring the pun “she-mail” helping the trans community or pitting their political views against gay comedic expression?

Hopefully, when all the ire dies down there can be a more diplomatic discussion on the issue. RuPaul should be able to say whatever he wants. However, as the producer and star of a wildly successful show that is a platform for the LGBTQ community and regularly includes transgendered stars, hopefully he can be respectful of how his words affect them.

Also, here’s hoping outspoken members of any community can stop attacking allies and instead focus on how to create change through inspiring, love-filled language. Can I get an amen?

Christian Cintron is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine

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