Historic Drag Party Trannyshack Pressured To Change Name To Something “Not Offensive”


San Francisco’s infamous traveling drag show “Trannyshack” will be changing its name and re-branding without the word “tranny” this summer, following the constant discussion about the word’s alleged offensive connotation and mounting pressure from trans activists.

The San Francisco drag queen who created Trannyshack in 1996 and continued running it up and down the West Coast for the last 18 years, Heklina, announced the decision in a Facebook post earlier this week. She notes that when the show was created, the word “tranny” had an entirely different meaning when used among gay males and was never intended to cause harm or offend.

The news comes just four weeks after Logo TV came under fire for casually using the term “she-male” during a competition and referring to messages from RuPaul as “she-mail.” The word, deemed to be unacceptable by some trans activists, was removed from archived episodes and will no longer appear on the show.

In her Facebook post, Heklina says she’s frequently being drilled on her use of the word in the “Trannyshack” title. “I generally loathe to be political,” she writes, “but whether I like it or not the very name of my legendary nightclub has become political.”

She continued:

When I started the club (waaaaaay back in 1996) the word “tranny” did not have the charged weight to it that it has today. Simply put, it was not (arguably) considered a slur word, and not even thought of on the same level as the words “dyke” or “faggot” (two words which, maybe ironically, have somehow become less charged and have been “reclaimed” to a certain degree-for instance, leading the Pride Parade in San Francisco every year are the Dykes On Bikes. I can’t imagine in this day, a contingent called Trannies On Bikes). There are people who might argue this, but I’m sorry it just was not a word thought of as a slur on the same level as today. It was just not. I considered the name transgressive, and cutting edge.

However. Increasingly, and in the past year especially, it’s become clear to me the meaning the word tranny has taken on. I’ve tried to avoid the issue because I’ve spent almost 20 years branding and promoting my club. But more and more, I am asked on the street, in interviews, and online about my thoughts on the word, and the name of my club.

As expected, many people familiar and loyal to the Trannyshack brand were up in arms, and I received several messages along the lines of “You caved in to pressure” and “You sold out” (? Not sure what that one means). OK. I can deal with this.

But, I was taken aback by the response from many in the trans community. It seems I cannot win with some people. They are not happy when I call it Trannyshack, and they are not happy when I try to rebrand (granted, there were some aspects of the roll-out for the Seattle event that were a bit clunky, but still). This to me does not seem right.

Heklina goes on to say the soft re-branding will test the title “T-Shack,” though the name is subject to change. Apparently some activists are still displeased with the use of the phrase “formerly Trannyshack” on some promotional fliers, but Heklina says it’s “unrealistic to expect everyone to stop using the name Trannyshack right away when they discuss it online, or even in person… It will take time.”

Heklina’s first “T-Shack” performance is heading to Seattle this June. Check out the event invitation on Facebook for more info.

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  • BitterOldQueen

    Oh well good, I’m glad this grave injustice is being corrected. Because it’s very very important that we attack our own community and shame our supporters and wag the finger of disapproval at drag queens (because god knows drag queens never did anything to move the community forward, oh, except for, like, Stonewall). And while you’re at it, Easily-Offended Persons, there’s a whole series of really terrible Michael Bay movies waiting to be re-titled so as not to cause you to swoon in horror.

  • tricky ricky

    is it really drag queens and girls with penises fault if they had use of the words first? these trans activists need to remove themselves from the gay, lesbian, & bisexual movement. they are not and never have been like us. they just hitched their wagon to ours. they need to just go off and do their own thing. the term tranny means a man who dresses as a woman. its usage is far older than anything to do with an actual change your sex transsexual. she male is probably as old. as far as I’m concerned the transsexuals can go off and have their operations, live their lives, and leave us gay people alone.

  • tricky ricky

    @BitterOldQueen: transsexuals are not and never really have been part of the gay community. they just tacked themselves on. they and their cause is a whole ‘nother ball of wax that has nothing to do with any of us.

  • Miss Understood

    I’m no fan of this word policing movement but the anti-trans comments that show up on this blog are horrifying.

    Most anti-gay abuse, harassment, and discrimination stems from non-gender conforming behavior. Did they call you gay when you were 10 because they knew you were gay? No, it was because of the way you talked, walked, carried your bag, sat in your seat, laughed, or sang. Transgender people may not all be gay, but gay people certainly exhibit, in varying amounts, gender non-conforming behavior. That makes you just a little bit transgender. And even if you’re a butch truck-driving gay male sports fan, you still suck dick… which is not something boys are supposed to do.

    This culture needs to make room for non-conforming behavior. Some of this behavior has to do with sexual practices, some has to do with mannerisms. It overlaps all over the place.

  • skcord

    @Miss Understood: That is a really cool, well thought out way to look at this situation. I admit I have sometimes felt the same as the commenters above you but you may have just changed my eye on this issue…

  • andy_d

    I said it in the RPDR story and I’ll say it again here. Politically Correct equals Passively Aggressive. It always has.

  • Wilberforce

    It’s sad that the trans community is now issuing orders to drag culture. The gay world has been totally whipped by their victim card, so they’ll be no help to the drag queens. That’s why Heklina caved so quickly.

    I would have welcomed the trans community.

    But after they defeated enda, a horrible betrayal, and after all the verbal abuse they’ve dished us in the last few years, I’ve had enough of them.

  • jayj150

    @Miss Understood: That’s precisely the difference between gay/lesbians and transfolks. Whereas gays and lesbians accept themselves for who they are, and don’t let stereotypical gender norms define them, change them or make them ‘women'(or men), transpeople change everything about themselves to match those expectations. Why should drag queens, REAL gay, gender-non conforming men, be bullied into what they can or cannot say as to not offend “straight women” like Mock and Carrera?. Whereas Drag performance is the most iconic, influential and courageous form of of gender-non-conforming expression, transgenderism is the ultimate form of gender conformism.

  • Teeth

    HILARIOUS! You won’t see my comment because the queerty filter blocked it, for mentioning the bar that this piece is about. TALK ABOUT WORD POLICE. hahahahaha

  • lykeitiz

    @Teeth: I too was censored by the Queerty Reich. Not for being offensive, just for disagreeing with the author. In fact, this most likely won’t be printed.

  • Miss Understood

    The comment filter is crazy! Queery AND Huffington Post are borth doing this. How can we discuss and debate these words if we can’t even say them in the discussion. If you insist on this absurd filter I wish you would at least address it. BTW many people are offended by the word “queer” Queerty.

  • Teeth

    I’ve become offended by the use of “the”, and I am demanding that it be censored out. As a self-identified victim, I find that when you people use “the” it hurts my feelings. Please stop saying it. I’m sure we all have wonderful conversations by using queerty’s model of censorship.

  • DickieJohnson

    Word Police, can I still say “C*cks*cker”, or has that become “Fellator”? All this kinda sh*t (oops, feces), is like the Speech Mafia, and I’m getting really tired of it.

  • gskorich

    can we remove transgender from LGBT and get it over with?

  • DarkZephyr

    OK I am a BIG supporter of my Trans* brothers and sisters but THIS is too far! The “T word” when applied to drag queens means TRANSVESTITE. She should NOT have to change the name of her drag show!! It has nothing to do with Transgendered people!

  • Teeth

    I’m trying to keep it in my head and heart that this issue does not come from my brothers and sisters either— just from a handful of Master-class victims who happen to be Trans.

  • Arnold

    I totally agree with Tricky Ricky on this issue. Surgically changing ones sex to fit who you really are inside means that you’re not really homosexual. You’re straight and you need to go peacefully into straight clubs and the like and stop dictating what we do/say in the gay community. You’re straight. Go be straight. Do whatever straight people do.

  • Teeth

    @Arnold: I think that are doing what straight people do; attacking gay men and gay culture.

  • Thedrdonna

    @Arnold: Except that 2/3 of trans people are LGB *after* they transition. The commenters here who claim that trans people are conforming to gender stereotypes have about as much knowledge of trans people as the folks who watch Jerry Springer.

  • Arnold

    @Thedrdonna: WHATEVER! If that’s the case, clearly they need to figure themselves out BEFORE wagging fingers at OUR community about ANYTHING.

  • Arnold

    @Teeth: Good point. All the more reason for them to move on and leave us alone.

  • MrEguy

    How about TransmissionShack? Is it a 5 speed or an automatic?

  • Thedrdonna

    @Arnold: So, you’re saying that trans people should figure out which stereotypes they want to affirm? Most trans people aren’t confused about their gender or sexuality, that’s another trope of the bigots who are (primarily) on the far right. Sort of like claiming that gay folks are “confused” about their sexuality.

  • derp

    I guess it’s easy for gays who never really suffered or fought for anything to b*tch and moan about the trans community fighting for their own equality and acceptance the same way many of us gays been doing for years.

    It’s just sad that the gay community of all, can’t recognize where the trans community is in their fight (that is, with a much further way to go) and that they are merely following our example.

    But don’t mind me, you fellas continue b*tching about the “trans mafia” cuz they’re soooo pushy.

  • Nowuvedoneit

    @Thedrdonna: if I may ask, aren’t transgendered people trying to become “cis” gendered people? Why are there trans activists pushing the term cis when being trans is the result of your body not matching your mind. Once you transition you’ve become what you should’ve been? I believe you are a woman when you say you are a woman or man, but these tumblr and twitter activists are making it hard to believe in acceptance. They want to police everyone’s thoughts and actions.

  • Thedrdonna

    @Nowuvedoneit: Some trans folks identify within the binary. Some don’t, other identities include: genderqueer, genderf*ck, two spirit, third gender, bigender, agender, androgyne, the list goes on. My point is that to slap trans people for “reinforcing the gender binary” (which many trans people don’t do) and then slap trans people for being “gender confused” is pretty hypocritical. People on tumblr and twitter are mostly armchair activists and teenagers, both of whom can be safely ignored. That said, only bigots try to paint a whole community with the actions of a few troublemakers. I don’t care who uses what word, but the world is changing and as time goes on people who insist on using outdated or insulting terminology are going to be recognized for the fossils they are.

  • Nowuvedoneit

    @Thedrdonna: thank you for your reply. My thing is it isn’t troublemakers are bigots making broad generalizations about a community. It is the loud vocal minority that gets people attention. Those other ones you mentioned seem more like people who don’t as you say buy into gender binary but they kinda do because what are they when a woman doesn’t feel like being “girly” today but “manly”? If their is no gender but societal constructed ones what’s the point of having to identify as anything you be yourself and that’s that,but to try getting special status for how people have been for ages is silly. There have been effeminate men and butch women since forever and those who don’t give a f*ck on how they are perceived. They don’t ask for a special title and status they just are and more power to them.

  • Thedrdonna

    @Nowuvedoneit: There’s a lot to go towards the idea that gender is “mostly” societally constructed. Many of the people who are outside the gender binary have a fixed identity, although some are genderfluid. I think when it comes to things like bathrooms they generally use the one where they feel like they’re least likely to be assaulted, which is why protections regarding facilities are really a pretty big deal in the trans community. I think that there’s a lot to fight for in terms of making space for men to be femme and women to be butch without society in general treating them like crap as a result, but when it comes to people who actually transition things go a step further; it’s not about chafing within societally-assigned gender roles, it’s about being uncomfortable with one’s sex. There’s a mismatch between mind and body, and the medical community has found that the only way to alleviate that is to allow people who suffer from severe gender dysphoria to transition.

  • Nowuvedoneit

    @Thedrdonna: I want to thank you for responding. It’s nice to be able to have an actual discussion. I agree there is still a lot of changing minds on who should or shouldn’t be femme or butch. I also think making up more labels is hurting those who don’t fit in as youth. The gay rights movement has veered off course on seeking acceptance and more into some over reaching thought police. People have differing view points and that’s okay as long as you can accept it and move on. I don’t need to have everyone be okay with me being a c*cks*cker just let me and the others be.

  • Arnold

    @Thedrdonna: That’s not what I’m saying at all. You’re what kids used to call a “spoon” back in the day. You just trying to mix things up. Well, it’s not working. Based on most of the comments, and what I have seen over the past 50 years on planet earth, this is a none topic meant to do nothing but waste our time.

  • Thedrdonna

    @Arnold: “Clearly they need to figure themselves out.” That sounds an awful lot like you’re implying that trans folks don’t know what they’re doing, or that trans folks are confused. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

    I will also say that, generally speaking, “the majority thinks this” and “my observations back in the olden days” are usually justifications used by those fighting against LGBT rights. I’m surprised to see someone using them on this site, to justify using what a lot of folks in the trans community consider hurtful speech.

  • ingyaom


    The T must go… it’s about gender not sexuality. LG&B don’t have body dysmorphia. That’s a different issue and I don’t see why it was ever linked to same-sex attraction.

  • Qjersey

    @ingyaom: The B can go to. The B’s that involve themselves with the lesbian and gay communities live a “mostly gay” life anyway. The truly bi folks I know…never go near gay bars or gay pride parades, etc, except when they want some same sex action.

  • DarkZephyr

    @Thedrdonna: You know that I respect you a LOT. You ROCK. But I don’t thik its fair to call terminology that drag queens *still* cherish and *still* actively use “outdated”. You can’t make something outdated by calling it outdated. I am fully supportive of the war against the “S” word. and I do not personally use the “T” word outside of discussions about it, out of respect for my trans* brothers and sisters, but I will admit that I am really starting to be over the fight over the “T” word. Especially due to things like what the above article is talking about.

  • Jezzerat

    @derp: Gays have “never really suffered or fought for anything”? Are you HIGH?





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