Friday, February 22, 2013

Tranny, Nigger, and Faggot

It comes as no secret that the term 'tranny' doesn't sit well with me, having a transgender partner and all.  Usually the comparison I make to try and get people to understand is that it's like using 'nigger' to refer to a black person or 'faggot' to refer to a gay person.  Especially since it has been an acceptable part of our vernacular for years, much like the other two terms were at one time (and in places, still are).  For this reason a lot of people don't consider it to be a slur, and considering the history of the other two, that's perfectly understandable.



Considering the strides that black and LGBT people have made (that are by no means complete) and the disadvantages that transgender people face, I often wonder if 'tranny' is the worst of the three.  I'm sure some will point out that since there are so few transgender individuals, that people shouldn't have to censor themselves from using it because they usually won't offend anyone around them.

To me, that's a part of what makes it so disappointing, that this demographic is small and relatively powerless.  Especially since transgender individuals are disproportionately likely to be victims of bias-motivated violence.  Trans women stand a 1 in 12 chance of being murdered, 1 in 8 for trans women of color.  That's worse than the infant mortality rate of any country.  Transgender women of color are almost as likely to be murdered as they are to die of cancer.

That having been said, as a writer, I am perhaps more annoyed by political correctness than anyone.  Words have exactly as much power as people want to give them.  That's why the Pope is famous and Homeless Joe on the street corner isn't even though they might be saying the exact same things.  And I don't very much like the idea of there being a list of words I am not allowed to say regardless of my orientation or my ethnicity, or anyone else's.

That you can use these words with and without hate only muddies the waters.  For every person that uses the words 'tranny,' 'faggot,' or 'nigger' as an epithet, there is probably someone who uses one or more of them as terms of endearment or someone that doesn't mean anything at all.

My inclination, as a writer, is to not hide from these terms or give them (or their users) any more power than they deserve.  But at the same time I have to understand that these words have historically been used to project negativity on the group they are describing for those immutable characteristics, and that using them automatically paints me as someone who has a fundamental issue with those groups.

It's not political correctness, it's being mindful of the lives and experiences of those around us.  Maybe some day we'll get to a point where tolerance is the assumed default for every person, but we're not there yet.

1 comment:

  1. Alexander,

    With respect to the slur 'tranny,' perhaps I can explain why those of us who are trans often react so strongly when we are described using that word. That word quite literally reduces the sum of one's humanity to a one-dimensional stereotype - a mockery of mincing femininity (notwithstanding I identify as a butch lesbian). It in no way describes the complexity of the lived experience of being trans in a cis-gendered world. In fact, it thoroughly denigrates that experience and casts us as less than women and in fact less than human in the eyes of many. Because it is almost always used to describe trans women and rarely trans men, one must regard it's use as essentially misogynist. If you need additional explanation I would direct you to author Julia Serano and her fine book on the subject - Whipping Girl. To be quite blunt ... use of that word directed at me or used as a slur in my presence and I can assure you there is no measure as to how fast and how hard I'll bring this fight to you. I am finished with anything resembling forbearance. Think of it as a magic word ... one that will get your ass kicked.

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