FIGHTIN' WORDS

Surprise, Suprise: RuPaul Loves The Word “Tranny”

RuPaulIn our culture one person can write a letter to the network and they shut something down. It’s unfortunate. But I love the word ‘tranny.’

…You have to go to the intent of the person saying it. Lance Bass, his intent would never be to be derogatory. Never. So, you know, that’s really ridiculous. And I hate the fact that he’s apologized. I wish he would have said, ‘F-you, you tranny jerk!’

In the ACT UP age, we called ourselves queers because we earned the right—we took the word back. But in reality, once you go even deeper, you know, you have to come from intent. And black folks call themselves the n-word all the time. It’s because the intent is coming from a place of love.

If the intent is coming from a place of hatred, that’s different. But you can’t legislate intent. There’s no way to do it. So, the truth is, you have to fix that individually on a one-by-one basis. If somebody calls you a green martian, would you be offended by it? No, you wouldn’t be. Why? Because you know you’re not a green martian.

But if you’re offended by someone calling you a ‘tranny'” it’s only because you believe you are a tranny! [laughs] The solution is: Change your mind about yourself being a ‘tranny.’

Drag Race host RuPaul, discussing the use of the controversial term, on Michelangelo Signorile’s Sirius FM show, OutQ.

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45 Comments

  • timncguy

    Queerty, you’re way behind on this story. It’s from last week.

  • ron

    I’ll wade into this, even though it may be an old story…..Does the word refer to a transvestite, a transsexual, or both? How about drag queens? Just asking because I don’t know any of the above.

  • Jackie

    She’s rite I can think of better things to fight about like jobs.

  • SebX

    I absolutely agree with Ru here. If I’m called a faggot on the street I always reply: “It takes one to know one!”, or “That’s so 1980, honey. get up to date.”
    Or if they yell “You big queen!” I say “I’m a princess, bitch! Mom is still alive :)”
    Just own the word, and it takes ALL the power from those who try to hurt you with it. The look on their faces is priceless :)

  • Cam

    1. So then Ru Paul feels the same way about the use of racial slurs?

    2. Ru Paul is not Transgendered, he is a man who dresses like a woman as a job, so I’m not really sure why Ru Paul is being interviewed about his opinion on this.

  • christopher di spirito

    Well isn’t this ironic?

    The most famous and successful drag queen in America (after Cher, of course) is down with the word “tranny”? Hmmm, so maybe all the “PC”-types who use Queerty’s pages to express their utter outrage over the word actually have their collective heads up their asses?

  • Matt Cornell

    @christopher

    Speaking as one of those PC types, it’s not drag queens who find the word offensive. It’s trans people. Ru Paul should shut his mouth.

  • Cam

    @christopher di spirito:

    Drag Queen’s are not Transgendered. It would be like saying that somebody who was Mexican was ok with the use of the “N-word” so therefore it was ok to say it.

  • Isaac C

    @Cam: Agreed. I would guess, however, that Ru would not want racial terms used. Double-standards, and all that.

  • Patricia M.

    @Matt Cornell: @Cam: Yes, exactly.

    Or even more to the point, it’s like asking someone who does blackface minstrel shows if they’re OK with the N-word. (Not that I’m comparing drag with blackface, although some trans* people do.)

    Or — it’s like asking someone who’s straight, but who has played a gay character on TV, if they’re okay with the word “f-ggot.” I’m not sure why Ru Paul insists on putting his Size 13 pumps into his mouth on this issue over and over again.

  • Halston

    @Matt Cornell: And what do you say to all the transsexuals who use the word? My friend who is like a sister to me uses the word and so do her transsexual girlfriends.

  • Halston

    @Matt Cornell: And I forgot to say that none of them blinks an eye when it is used by a gay person or gets offended. She’s more offended when someone calls her a drag queen. So I’m just saying I think it is the intent and who it comes from.

  • Halston

    @Isaac C: I really don’t know about that as I have stated and so did Ru in the article above “…And black folks call themselves the n-word all the time. It’s because the intent is coming from a place of love.” No, I would not be offended if another Black person used the “N” word about me or around me and nor would I be offended if a Hispanic person (because I am both) used the word “S” word about me or around me. I think it all depends on who it is coming from and how they are using it. I have friends that call each other faggot, queen, and girl all the time in jest. If it were coming from a straight person-yeah eyebrows would be raised. However, I also have friends who do not like to be referred to as “girl” and I would respectfully never call them that because they take offense to it. I would also like to point out who is anyone to say that Ru does not see himself as a tranny (transvestite). My point is that it is all realtive and you have to respect varying views about it. Some in the gay/transsexual community find it offesive and some in the gay/transsexual community don’t.

  • jason

    The problem with Ru Paul’s argument is that the line between intent and meaning is blurred very easily. Ru Paul’s argument is essentially one of relative morality rather than absolute morality. It’s based on having to judge each and every gay-related utterance on the basis of whether it came from a place of love or a place of hate depending on the person who said it and what his motives are. It requires discernment.

    It’s very complicated and does not help you if a basher is coming at you with a 4 x 4 while calling you a fag. I don’t have time to discern, honey.

  • Halston

    @jason: With all due respect Jason I think your example is extreme. Someone with a 4×4 could be calling you a dickface or douchebag (and even a gay person can come at you with a 4×4 and call you a faggot-haven’t seen it with a 4×4, but I have seen plenty of gay guys getting called faggot while another gay guys fist is making contact with his face during fights at bars) …I think in that case it really wouldn’t matter. I’m sure you are quite more than intelligent enough to know the difference between Lance bass using the word tranny and someone like say Rush Libaugh using it and the intent behind it.

  • jason

    Halston,

    Perhaps in some cases you can tell the difference. But why bother having to think about it?

    I prefer the world of absolute morality where right is right and wrong is wrong. That way, I don’t have to think about someone’s intent when they’re uttering faggot in my direction.

  • lohen

    be he drag queen or tranny the point is the same; it’s still all about intent.

    just shut up and own the word.

  • Price Waterhouse

    isn’t it strange that almost all stories about gay celebrities, politicians or people in the news in Queerty are negative? In fact, I would describe the anti-gay/pro-trans attitude of this publication as downright disturbing.

  • jason

    Besides, what has Ru Paul ever done for gay rights? Wearing a bra doesn’t qualify.

  • Halston

    @jason: Well, Jason I really don’t think you have to think about it that hard to tell the difference like its an algebra problem._I think you know what the intent is as soon as it comes out of someone’s mouth. And, I for one as a gay man don’t like to use “right is right and wrong is wrong”, because I’ve heard that enough in my life regarding my sexuality and I know that there are shades of gray in life. If you don’t like the word-you don’t like the word then fine. But, you can’t (Not saying you did)fault others for not minding it at all and I for one am against political correctnes, because I know people do not follow their own rules all the time. And, I hate the thought police. But, I respect your opinion not everyone is going to agree and there may be somethings that are offensive to me that would not bother you at all.

  • Tim

    It’s your responsitrannity- don’t forget who you are…

  • JayKay

    @Price Waterhouse:

    That’s liberalism for you. Gays are just evil privileged oppressors.

  • Dov

    If you don’t find a word offensive, that’s certainly your right but it does NOT give you the right to insist that nobody else is allowed to find that same word offensive. It could be argued that, as a drag queen who has gone out of his way to make it very clear that he is NOT a transsexual, RuPaul isn’t a member of the transgender community and, therefore, shouldn’t be taken as an authority on what should be offensive to the transgender community. Even if he were a member of the transgender community, he is just one person and he has most definitely not been elected to the position of President of All Transgender People. No matter how popular or well-known RuPaul is, he does not have the authority to demand that all transgender people agree with his view and stop being offended by the word “tranny”.

  • bruce

    Dov,

    Very good point. Isn’t it funny how there’s this correctness that we’re expected to follow on the authority of someone who isn’t even a transexual – ie Ru Paul.

  • Lefty

    It’s a good message, though, I think. I’m not trans, so I can’t speak from authority nor would I dream of telling anyone what they can or can’t be offended by – but I think RuPaul’s basic message is one of personal empowerment – it’s like the Eleanor Roosevelt quote: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” – by telling someone what they can or can’t say because you find it offensive, you are in effect giving power to them – that’s why I think the point about the reappropriation of words like “queer” is important; by reclaiming the word for ourselves we devest it of all power over us when used by anyone but ourselves. Our self-worth depends on ourselves not on what someone else says to or about us or what anyone else is allowed to say to or about us, I think. Having said all that, it’s not easy when you’ve been trampled on your whole life by society – some words and attitudes do hurt and it’s difficult to brush that off. I don’t know…

  • R.A.

    While I don’t agree with RuPaul, I would say using trans-feminist jargon will ultimately prove far more destructive to gays, lesbians,and the transgendered community than this single word.

  • bruce

    There is no such thing as “re-claiming words”. Words are not private property. Anybody can use them any way they see fit. This trendy gay notion of “re-claiming words” is thus pure garbage.

  • Lefty

    @bruce: It’s a “trend” that goes back a long way, to be fair. But surely your point that “Anybody can use them any way they see fit” is what RuPaul is saying – it’s not the words themselves but the intention behind them that matters and, more importantly, the extent to which we give others power over us when they use them?

  • bruce

    Lefty,

    Intentions are not easily read.

    In any case, don’t you think that words like “fag” and “tranny” coarsen our culture? They are coarse words. Whatever happened to politness in American society?

  • Trent

    @Price Waterhouse:
    This article is not negative; the comments are.

    Again this is a conversation about what words are PC. It doesn’t really matter in the end.

    Also; @jason:

    I think a guy coming at you in a 4×4 yelling faggot; is different than my friend calling me a faggot in gay bar. If you need time to stop and think about that, you need to get your head examined.

  • pedro

    First, why can’t “TYRANNY” be short for transvestite…Why do trans people get to earn the word…Secondly, I have no problem not using it infront of those who might be offended…Thirdly, trans people are not our friends…you should go to some of their blogs and read the vicious homophobic reaction to Ru’s comment…

  • Cam

    @pedro: said…

    “First, why can’t “TYRANNY” be short for transvestite…Why do trans people get to earn the word…Secondly, I have no problem not using it infront of those who might be offended…”
    _____________________

    Just curious Pedro, so by your logic, if somebody in front of you was using the word “Spic” to describe you, that would be ok because you have no right to “Own” the word?

  • Daez

    @jason: Except that there is no such world. Black is never black and white is never white. Some of us prefer to live in the real world.

  • pedro

    @Cam: The word “tranny” has a neutral history, where it has been used within the dragqueen community not to hurl hateful words at anyone, but as a way to describe men who put on dresses…There are also transsexuals who use the word “tranny” to describe themselves. The fact that some hateful people use the word today, does not negate that history. “Spic” however, has no such history, it was never used by any group as a neutral word, it was always used to denigrate people of Latino heritage. The two words are not comparable. I recently saw a documentary about a group of British transsexuals, who would put their hands together and yell the word “Tranny”!! As a way to motivate themselves…I guess they haven’t gotten the memo across the pond…History and context matter, my boyfriend is black and he hates the word “nigger” because again, it was never used historically as a neutral word, it has a very long and ugly history. I would never use that word, nor would he, however I am not offended when other blacks use it, because of the context in which they are using it…Not to attack or denigrate, but simply as an identifier…that is their right…though I share my boyfriend’s view on that particular word…

  • ewe

    She should stop speaking for everyone else when rationalizing his prejudice. RuPaul is not transgendered person. He is a DRAG QUEEN for money.

  • Lucifer

    Trannies with knives

  • Fitz

    @ewe: RuPaul is not a Transgendered person, and the word Tranny doesn’t refer to transgendered people.
    Stop colonizing gay men’s culture.

  • Isaac C

    @ewe: He is above all else an entertainer. He was never a strong GLBT rights advocate. He’s actually been very insensitive toward the GLBT community.

  • Lefty

    @bruce: I agree. But I think it’s more a kind of aggression rather than impoliteness that permeates much of our culture atm. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing…

  • Indi X Edwards Roughsedge

    well I’m trans* and personally I don’t like it, but what seems to be worse is people think its ok to tell me what should or shouldn’t offend me. “Tranny/Trannie for us is a hate word just like the N or the J or the F. When I hear it, it brings visions of the words I heard as my body was bashed and kicked by transphobes in the street. So I guess I don’t know if that counts but I would hope the Queersphere is hearing us.

  • mackenzie

    So as a white person I guess this means I am allowed to call him a n*gger, am I right? Oh, wait you’re offended? See how this works RuPaul? You’re gay, not an actual transgendered person, thus you don’t get to throw around and call whoever you want, a tranny. Get it? Good.

  • Faggot

    @ron: trans is an umbrella term for trans anything. The transsexuals, though, have hijacked the word for their own now, though.

  • BROOKECERDA

    SORRY TO BREAK YOUR HEARTS GAYS,BUT BIANCA DEL RIO DOESN’T EXIST.ITS A CHARACTER JUST LIKE BOZO OR RUPAUL, BUT CARMEN, JANET , LAVERNE & MYSELF ARE WOMEN.
    AND IF ANY OF YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF A MAN, YOU WOULD KNOW HOW TO TREAT A WOMAN .
    THERE ARE NO DEGREES OF WOMANHOOD.
    WOMEN ARE WOMEN, TRANSGENDER OR CISGENDER.
    YOU BEING GAY DOES NOT GIVE YOU A PASS BE VULGAR WITH US.
    I DONT CARE HOW FEM YOU LOOK.
    BODIES ARE NOT GENDER.
    RESPECT ALL WOMEN !!
    STOP MAKING AN ASS OF YOUR TRANSPHOBIC SELVES .

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