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.”
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.