Of late I've felt obliged to write posts, but at the same time, the stuff I want to write is not something I can write at this time without it triggering some kind of related hook into some recent event that I'd rather at this point just move on from because I dislike trying to talk to people who won't answer simple questions about their positions.
Today I'm going to talk about slurs. No, not just trans ones, but all manner of slurs. Because while I labored under the false impression that people were aware that they used them often, I was pretty good with it. However, the stories over the weekend and the last 15 days or so have made it apparent that people don't understand the idea of slurs, or don't care.
I can't make people care, but I can at least provide some understanding.
So let's get started with one of the nastiest slurs out there.
While absolutely not a universal, faggot is something that cis women generally don't hear. Yes, some cis women do hear it, and some cis women hear it an awful lot. Faggot is reserved mostly for men and trans women. Trans men do hear it, as do various trans persons who might be something other than binary identified.
An interesting thing about faggot is that it can be used as a term of endearment. But primarily by people who have heard it a signifcant portion their lives and directed at people who are familiar with it being hurled at them a significant portion of their lives. When someone outside that particular group uses it, it is a slur.
This has precedent. Nigger is another slur -- one I'm personally well acquainted with, and to a degree that I'm more familiar with even though I as well as have heard the term faggot. Nigger is used at times among some people of African descent, predominantly male, to connote a slight bit of affection.
I will note that most Black folks really do find it annoying even when other Black folks use it. It triggers issues of class warfare to some extent, as well, due in part to the representation of people doing that in the mainstream media.
In short, Black people can use Nigger with other black people in limited contextual circumstances while anyone else doing it is racist.
And here's the kicker: they are racist.
It's common among any group of people who are subjected to slurs. Since I'm already being harsh enough with the ones applied to me, I'll skip the one's that are used for other ethnic groups.
Just like gay folks can use the term Faggot among themselves in certain contexts with certain people and in certain contexts, someone else who uses it is homophobic or heterosexist (a term that needs wider use).
Fag is a shortened form of it. With the same restrictions. Unless talking about a cigarette. In the UK.
Another slur like that is "tranny" -- inclusive of the variant spellings of it like Trannie. Unless talking about a transmission, it's flat out wrong. And people using it are, indeed, transphobic (or heterosexist).
Now some might say that Tranny is not a slur. Indeed, if one notes my rather large online bibliography, I can be noted as having used it to describe myself, and that I'm aware that trans people can and do use it as a term in the same way that others use the term faggot or nigger.
It is, as well, fairly interchangeable with the others, and still carries the same meaning. My favorite example is the inevitable "angry" part. An Uppity Nigger, an in your face Faggot, an Angry Tranny. All of them ways of saying that someone is refusing to know their place in the social heirarchy -- that they are not following the rules.
And used also as evidence of how the person saying those things is supposedly "above all that."
Well, no one is above all that. Anyone who uses those terms to refer to anyone other than themselves is metaphorical toilet paper -- a sort of metaphorical headgear for the hind end of an equine animal.
There are other slurs as well, and these are also common in the LGBT+ community. "Crazy." "Wingnut." "Lunatic." "Nutter." And all the various aspects of calling someone who may or may not have a mental illness something that indicates they are insane.
Which is interesting for me to note, given that I use a particular e-nym not often noted in LGBT+ circles (by design).
Some other slurs: breeder, crotchfruit.
Even more: Cunt, sissy, pansy, wimp, wuss, bitch.
One thing that these particular slurs have in common is that all of them seek to do the same thing: erase respect and equivalence.
Now, I'm separating these particular slurs from the more profane ones. And there's a reason for that.
All of these slurs seek to make some aspect of the person's inherent nature a negative. Cunt and bitch deal with women, predominantly -- and when used by men to say "they are like a woman," which is, in the end, using women's lives as an insult -- even in jest and "just for fun, not really meant." Such excuses work in some contexts -- narrow ones that apply almost always in person, and among a small group of people who know each other fairly well.
You take these same slurs and you put them in a broader context -- say, online -- and you get a whole different meaning because the context has changed.
That context is what allows the words to be used that way.
It is not acceptable for a straight trans person to go around calling gay folks faggots to most of the gay community (inclusive of trans people who are gay and gay people who are trans). It is not acceptable for a cis person to go around calling trans folks trannies. They can call them trans, or transgender, or transsexual, or crossdresser, or whatever other term is there for the kind of trans person the individual is. But tranny is not a specific kind of trans person, it is used against all of them.
Doing that is the same as a white person going around calling Black people niggers.
Calling someone an angry tranny is no different than calling someone an uppity nigger. It is essentially saying they are "shoving it down your throat," much like straight people sometimes say about gay and bi people.
It isn't dong that, It is standing up to say that these things are not acceptable. It is not acceptable to say "That's so gay" in general discourse. It is not acceptable to say "hot tranny mess" in general discourse -- or, to use the old turn of phrase, to do those things "in mixed company."
Because it doesn't get more mixed company than the internet.
The purpose of using a slur can vary. Sometimes people might use a slur and say they are "reclaiming it." Which is actually fine -- if they are the one affected by the slur and they are doing it for themselves.
My running around and trying to reclaim the slur faggot would be pretty freaking asinine of me to start, extremely insensitive, and very rude.
The same applies to Nigger, and to Tranny. A white person "reclaiming" the term Nigger is going to piss off black people. A cis person reclaiming the term Tranny is going to piss off trans people.
This is because slurs, used outside of the very limited context where it is socially acceptable to a limited number of people in a specific time and place, are always there to hurt someone. It doesn't matter if the intention is there or not -- they are hurtful words (and recent studies have even shown that words with significant meaning such as a slur trigger the pain response in the brain, so they literally hurt).
So using those terms -- even in a neutral situation as I've done here for this column -- is always painful. You cannot step around it, you cannot ignore that, and doing so simply means that you are being more of an jerk than if you were to do so while still acknowledging it, as I am here.
We use slurs when we are angry, for the most part -- so they are emotionally charged terms, filled with all the power that emotion conveys. It is nearly impossible to discuss slurs without feeling their impact and they always raise strong feelings in one.
I would be lying if I didn't say that since I've been personally called all the slurs I'm citing thus far, I am experiencing no small amount of emotional pain in writing this, but I'm trying very hard not to be too affected by it --
I really do try pretty hard to avoid a lot of slurs. I'm working on being less inclined to use slurs relating to mental illness. I'm not so hot at the ones relating to intelligence, but I am, in fact, prejudiced there and need to work on that more. It's a hugely challenging issue for me (to the point that I didn't like Forrest Gump because of it).
In the process, I'm doing different ones. Profanity laced expletive pejoratives with a strong metaphorical component.
Even they are problematic, though, for they generally work in a manner that is dehumanizing.
Which is something for another time.