Tranny Edition!

What’s In A Word?

We all know GLAAD‘s not down with defamation, but does their zealousness hinder individuality? Yes, say’s Out‘s Josh Kilmer-Purcell. In a piece entitled “Standing Up For Tranny, the journo takes on GLAAD’s taking on of the word “tranny”.

In the days leading up to “transgendered” Alexis Arquette‘s documentary, Alexis Arquette: She’s My Brother, the gay watchdogs sent out a media release insisting the media refer to Arquette as transgender, not a tranny, chick with a dick or any of those other “defamatory” tags.

According to the press release, transgender’s defined as “an umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth.” Kilmer-Purcell, however, ain’t having it.

He writes:

As one who prefers to sing in the rain rather than cower under umbrella terms, I’m gonna stand up for all the gender fuckers I count among my friends.

The obvious problem with GLAAD’s assignment of one term for such a wide range of gender expression is that, well, there’s a wide range of gender expression. If, as according to GLAAD, transgender persons were misassigned their gender by their parents and doctors when they were born, why would GLAAD presume the right to assign them all a new one?

Kilmer-Purcell’s definitely got a point here. GLAAD may think they have people’s best interest in mind, but their inclusive efforts tend toward the exclusive.

Related: What’s in A Word?
What’s In A Word? (The Sequel)

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  • Mr. B

    Kilmer-Purcell makes a good point. Yes, there are trans people who proudly brandish that term, but the same is true for other words, such as that one that got Isaiah Washington in so much trouble.

    Whenever I hear “tranny” being used by someone who isn’t trans (the majority of people I hear using it, btw), it’s usually either pornographic, disparaging, or “well-intentioned” in a glib sort of way. You know, like “Ladies, gentlemen, and trannies” or something like that. And that’s annoying. Like Kilmer-Purcell says, differentiating someone as a “tranny” is like forcing them into a third gender box–“O HAI, it may just be a medical condition to you but we think your incongruous genitals and experience having lived as both a woman and a man mean that it’s okay for us to pigeonhole you as separate from us. KTHXBI!” Most trans people I know aren’t ashamed of being transgendered, but they’d rather their medical history be kept out of how people address them. Even if the intentions behind the stupid term aren’t malicious.

  • hisurfer

    I can never keep my terms rights. I always thought tranny was used more for drag queens at the disco, or the hookers in chinatown, rather than someone who transitioned from M or F to F or M. As in, tranny=camp, as opposed to people living their lives.

    Did anyone ever figure out if Alexis really transitioned? I know there’d been questions, and last I remember there was defensiveness but no answers from Ms. Arquette. Maybe this changed.

  • Mr. B

    Yeah, that’s where the problem lies, Hisurfer. People hear drag queens calling themselves “trannies,” so they assume the word is appropriate for anybody MTF or FTM. They don’t seem to get that there are more people under the transgender umbrella than just female and male impersonators.

    Alexis Arquette lives full time as a woman and uses female pronouns, so she has “really transitioned.” If you’re asking instead about whether or not she had genital surgery, that’s not the same thing. And not really our business unless Alexis decides to share it. :)

  • drjillygirl

    Logically, Kilmer-Purcell’s argument does not compute. Sorry to be such a drag, but GLAAD’s suggestion to the media that “tranny” has a derogatory connotation does not mean that GLAAD has “assigned them all a new [gender].” Rather, it means that GLAAD is explaining generally accepted usage.

    I’m glad Kilmer-Purcell is standing up for his gender-fucker friends, and I defend their right to reclaim “tranny” as an empowering epithet if they like, but that doesn’t justify allowing non-trans people, and particularly media outlets, to label me a “tranny.” The n-word analogy is so obvious, I’ll just allude to it. His logic is like saying that some women identify with the epithet “cunt” as an empowering term, so it’s okay for a newspaper to call Oprah Winfrey or Nancy Pelosi a cunt.

    Dr. Jillian T. Weiss
    Assistant Professor of Law and Society
    Ramapo College

  • briannaaustin

    I think the argument is weak. The mainstream knows little about the trans community and the medua just says what they hear. I think Gladd was correct in requesting they not refer to all as trannies.

    As for Miss Arquettte, for the poster who was inquiring, I have my doubts. Read Did She or Didn’t He?'t-He?

  • bloomsburyboy

    I think some people are missing the point. GLAAD’s statements are to the MEDIA, who need to be especially careful and use a particular style in all their writing.

    For example, most newspapers use AP (Associated Press) style. This includes some things that people who never worked at a newspaper would find odd, such as using different abbreviations for states and using the term “black” not African American.

    This isn’t to say GLAAD is saying people can’t refer to themselves or their friends as words like tranny without going to hell. It’s just advising newspaper editors with less-than-adequate knowledge of the topic of something they can do to offend fewer people and be more correct.

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