Tobi Hill-Meyer

Is 'Tranny' Offensive?

Filed By Tobi Hill-Meyer | September 09, 2008 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: porn industry, reclaiming language, sexual autonomy, tranny, transmisogyny, transphobia

I'm happy to be a part of the Bilerico team now, and I thought I'd start off by reposting something I wrote in my own blog a couple weeks ago. It was inspired by a reoccurring conversation I've seen on several blogs, including this one, so it seemed fitting.

It always goes like this. A cis (non-trans) person tosses out the word 'tranny' in a comment. Then a trans person calls them out on it and tells them its a word that they shouldn't be using. Argument ensues over who's allowed to use what language, invariably, we hear "but my trans friends are okay with me using it." And usually the issue ends unresolved -- in my opinion, because no one discusses the history of the term or why it can have such a powerful negative impact.

It might appear to be a benign act of adding a "y" on the end to make the term more informal and cutesy (notice a similar transformation when changing "cute" to "cutesy"). From this perspective, why would it matter? No one will tell you "fag" or "faggot" are okay but "faggy" and "fagotry" aren't. However, there is a whole historical context to the term that isn't all that widely known, but is a huge part about what makes the term less appealing.

The term itself was first popularized within the porn industry. And while I'll be the last one to denigrate sexuality and pornography, the fact is that "tranny porn" is about as representative of trans people's sexuality as "girl-on-girl porn" is representative of lesbian sexuality. The usual context that it has been used in porn is to highlight how trans women are not really women, while also painting us as more exotic and sexually available.

So when the term became linked to the porn industry and popularized, it became a useful way to get a sense of someone's background with the community. If a cisgender person used the term "tranny" it probably meant that they got most of their knowledge of (or at least intro to) the trans community from the porn and sex industries, and perhaps didn't have your best interests at heart. This is also probably related to the creation of the term "tranny-chaser" as a way for the trans community to identify people who might take advantage of a trans person's relative vulnerability or see trans people only as a sexual commodity.

This use of language has stuck. For example, 6 out of the top 10 google results for the term "tranny" are porn sites. And five years ago I imagine it was probably 9 or 10. Compare that to a google search for "transgender" which gives you 10 out of 10 resource and support sites. Also, searching for terms like "tranny activist" and "tranny politics" results in only a few hits -- 194 and 157 respectively. Yet searching for the term "tranny sex" provides 1,470,000 hits -- that's a 10,000 fold increase.

Even now, after many people are reclaiming the term, the vast majority of its use is about sexualizing and objectifying trans people. It's true the term is being reclaimed, but instead of comparing it to how terms like "queer," "dyke," and "fag" are used today, I think it's more appropriate to compare it to the use of the term "faggot" about a decade ago, or "queer" almost two decades ago.

The issue of reclaiming the term is further complicated, though. You see, while I have been discussing the impact the term has had on trans people, the reality is that it is trans women who have most directly targeted by it. Trans men have been comparably invisible is the sex and porn industries, and the trans men porn that exists today is almost exclusively produced by trans men. Yet a significant portion, arguably a majority, of the effort to reclaim the term has been made by trans men. Usually by trans men who are not familiar with the negative history of the term, let alone having been subjected to its sting themselves.

It is difficult to know what to think about that gender breakdown. When I run into a group of trans men who frequently use the term, I am not sure whether to thank them for creating community use of a new and positive meaning behind the term, or to criticize them for their insensitivity and lack of awareness of how the term might hold a lot of trauma for those of us who have been the direct targets of its use.

Regardless, it is true that I also try to reclaim the term myself. But as with all reclaimed terms, context is the key. I recently had to educate a colleague of mine as to how his saying "I met a really hot tranny last weekend" was not a very appropriate place to use the term, even if it was a positive attribute he was commenting on (for the record, I would have been a lot more comfortable with "I met a trans woman last weekend, she was really hot").

Personally, I'm not comfortable using the term to refer to anyone but myself or friends who have similarly used it. And if I wasn't trans, I wouldn't want to use it at all. I might use it to draw upon its history, such as if I were to call myself "Another tranny rebelling against patriarchy," or to underscore someone else's transphobia as in "You just don't care what the dirty tranny thinks, do you?" And I suppose in certain contexts when I want to draw upon its history I might use it to refer to trans people in general, such as "Trannies unite!" or "I wish there were more trannies here." But that's a relatively rare circumstance. I generally appreciate use of the term that links it to trans women's sexual autonomy and trans-positivity -- the exact opposite of its derogatory use.

I'm not going to lay down any rules for how you might use it though, especially if you've been the target of its derogatory use yourself. All I ask is that you think about how you use it. And be able to explain yourself if someone wants to question you about it.

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Until I was told about this by our trans readers, I constantly used "tranny" - I did it recently, in fact! I always considered it more like the difference between "queer" and "queen." It was the diminutive, cute way to say it.

Oddly enough, I always think "she-male" for porn instead of tranny.

But I promise not to use it anymore on the blog. No problem. Thanks for pointing out why it's offensive; I appreciate it.


Yeah, the "s" word, as my friends tend to call it, is pretty common in porn as well. I do know one person who is reclaiming it, but it certainly carries a lot more weight than "tranny."

I generally think that reclaiming is good, but it's a balancing act getting the process started. I'm glad to get everyone thinking.

I don't consider "queen" a diminutive of "queer". I'm pretty queer, but I wouldn't ever refer to myself as a "queen". Not that there's anything wrong with that. ;)

"Tranny" sounds a little jarring to me, but most of the transgender people I know are what Eddie Izzard might call "executive" transgender. Maybe the fact that I don't hear people use the term for themselves has made me cautious about it?

Thanks for the article!

This trannie (I use "ie") is okay with using "trannie" when I am making a slang reference to the trannie community. As I informed Bil on one earlier post (I can't find it) using "trannie" within the community is highly more accepted then from someone outside of the community. The best rule of thumb, "If you're not trans, then don't use the word."

Wolfgang E. B. | September 9, 2008 11:31 PM

I agree, Monica--Same rule as the N word or the F word.

The first time I heard t----y (not surprisingly in an FTM group), I found it mildly offensive. It just sounds cheap to me. So, I don't use it myself. I feel like that's the best way to discourage non-trans people from using it anyway. "Do as I say, not as I do" just confuses people.

I missed this comment and some of my disagreement earlier would've been different if I hadn't.

Personally I see Tranny as being the same as she-male and as derogatory.I look at it this way if I don't like the terms why would I wish to call myself that or allow someone to call me it even another T person.If you try to reclaim a term a new term is invented to replace the old one so why bother.

I agree that it's not worth reclaiming words for the purpose of reclaiming. I mean, we already have so many to describe trans folk, I don't need another one unless there's a point to it.

That's why I rarely use the word. But I do find it's useful to use when I'm trying to underscore or reference the transphobic world we live in. As a writer and performer, I know how words like that can add some punch to the emotional impact of what I'm saying. And that's the context in which I find myself using it most often.

I do some writing myself (TS Fiction and not the wee I'm a girl kind)when I have time plus I enjoy bilerico and some activism.I've never found the need to use those words in any of my work.The only time I've ever been in a situation where those words are discussed is the negative effects they have on TS women.While I may choose never to use those words in my writing I won't fault someone else for using them to show their negative effect on our community.

This is what I usually do - I don't really try to reclaim, but I sometimes use it in this way.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | September 9, 2008 8:49 PM

Thanks for the excellent post, Tobi, and welcome to Bilerico!!!

[FtM]insensitivity and lack of awareness of how the term might hold a lot of trauma for those of us who have been the direct targets of its use.

You're the first MtF to tell me this. In the past, I myself have been very comfortable with the term, “tranny,” but it’s true—the porn industry doesn’t target people like me. And I’ve always found the way it targets MtF’s to be off-putting and very disturbing.

I apologize for my insensitivity and will drop the word from my lexicon in the future.

Yeah, I came out in a group of trans guys who would use the term. So of course, I followed suite and did the same. It wasn't until I found trans women's community that I realized the impact of it myself.

I remember, after being more aware of the history and actually understood how it can be hurtful, I was at a mixed gender group of trans people. A trans guy was saying something, I don't even remember what, and peppering his language with "tranny." I looked around and half the women cringed when he said it. He was completely unaware of the responses around him -- as I would have been a year earlier.

I'm not going to say he doesn't have a right to use the word, but at the very least he should be aware of how it's impacting the folks around him. That's a big part of what inspired this piece.

Melanie Davis | September 9, 2008 9:31 PM

This might be a function of my family background and geographic predicament, but I've found that the vast majority of people who use the term "tranny" are gay men. Lesbians are, for the most part, more sensitive about the terms they use for us, and straight men and women wonder how much the mechanic is going to charge to fix it.

Personally, I understand it's history and I bristle every time I hear the word, but context is everything. I've even toyed with the idea of using it in an ad for an automotive self-help service I perform. I have yet to encounter someone who uses the term out of anything but sincere ignorance or jest, and always from within the LGBTIQQA... community. Once corrected, they usually don't make a repeat performance of it.

Thanks for the informative post, and welcome! I look forward to reading more from you. And if you're ever low on butch-points, having tranny troubles or need a lube-job but aren't sure how, and you find yourself in Central Indiana, call on me. I'll show you how to handle it all by yourself with confidence because most times it just isn't worth the trouble of getting reamed by a stranger.

Ah yes, the transmission jokes. There's a local "tranny-man" transmission shop just an hour away from where I live. A friend of mine went to go get his picture taken by it.

Another friend (context: dating a trans woman) had problems with his car
Mechanic: Ah, the problem here is your tranny.
Friend (confused): Uh, no. She's just fine.

And your definitely right, when I get reamed I much rather it be someone I know.

As an FTM, I am among those who use the term lightheartedly, among friends. I can see where it would have a much stronger negative connotation among transwomen, akin to "she-male." But its use isn't unknown among the transwomen I know, nor--among our little group--is its use anything but a joyous signifier that we all belong in the group. In my mind it's like my use of "queer" to identify myself: my option. I wouldn't let anyone tell me how to identify myself, but I accord them the same courtesy: I don't call them names they don't like. Basic courtesy.

I have experienced that trans women seem to be far more sensitive about a lot more things then trans men. It's almost as if some also had their funny bone removed during SRS, or the hormones dissolved it.

I have a perfectly good sense of humor, tyvm.

Allow me to demonstrate:

knock knock...


Monica, I respect you a lot and pay extra attention when I see your name. I respect the activist work you've done, and I want that to be clear when I say:

I think this is an extremely unfair - and, bluntly, sexist - characterization of trans women, Monica.

I realize you might take that as evidence that I lack a sense of humor, but I don't think my sense of humor should be on trial, as a woman of any kind. I think it's even possible to criticize what women - any kind of women - do or say without needing to resort to the "humorless bitch" feminazi stereotyping that's used to shut women up for having opinions a bit too loudly.

I certainly have no sense of humor about all of the trans misogynist jerks in the past few weeks who insisted on calling me (and more than me, Dyssonance, Zoe Brain, Maryanne Arnow who were there far longer than I was) "tranny" over and over again because it was easier than explaining why it was necessary for CRG to lie about what the Montgomery County transgender protections law said and would allow to happen to get their signatures for the "NotMyShowers" campaign.

It's hard to find that funny.

I apologize if I offended you. You have to understand, I have been involved in one way or another with this community since 1974. I have seen a lot. If you notice in this sentence: "It's almost as if some also had their funny bone removed during SRS, or the hormones dissolved it," the key word is "some."

So, based on that word and that word alone, I was not characterizing ALL trans women. We are a diverse group, after all. dyssonance attempt was a prime example of the level of humor some will go to, low as it was. (giggle) I have seen her do much better, however.

I have found having a sense of humor as one of the primary atttributes to the best trans activists in the world, many who post here. This situation in life has so many funny things about it and I am sadden when some of our people can't find humor anywhere. Society is to be blamed for that. Having a sence of humor allows the activist to "take a lickin' and keep on tickin." Okay, so that just maybe in the area of TMI.

Hell, I even did a stand-up routine at the SCC talent show one time. I wasn't bad for a first-timer.

You also said that trans women seem to be a lot more sensitive about things than trans men, which is what I was primarily reacting to - and also, I think trans women have quite a few things to be sensitive about that don't necessarily apply to trans men (and I unfairly snapped at Thaniel on another discussion about several of those things).

Hope that clarifies.

Also, I started transition 21 years ago, and been a part of the community off and on since then. I've seen people come and go who were clearly deadly serious, and many I think carried a lot of internalized transphobia as baggage, and seemed insistent that others help them carry it. And we're probably talking about many of the same people.

BTW, remember Laura Blake and her "You're all being tricked into mutilating your crotches?" screeds?

And just after I read your post, I see the following in my Google Reader Blog Search, and it reminds me of why I hate this word:

TRANNY TROUBLE tricked by a transsexual from Google Blog Search: transsexual by admin
That’s what we hear everytime a guy gets tricked by a hot transsexual into thinking that they are a girl. But don’t worry because our fearless guys get so turned on that they end up going through … ...

Thanks for this history and explanation. It's a word I've always been uncomfortable using, because it was clearly used most widely in a derogatory manner, but knowing precisely where it came from makes it a lot easier to explain to others why I'm uncomfortable with their use of it.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | September 10, 2008 7:56 AM

Should we not meditate on the value of actions rather than the ignorance of words?

Back in the not so gentle days of pre 1955 Dallas Texas a dear older friend of mine was on the local TV news team. Through an action of shoplifting a young "woman" was arrested (who had been traveling through Dallas from New York to San Francisco on Greyhound) and taken to the Dallas lockup. When the matron supervising the undressing let out a scream that curdled milk in the next Texas county the other side of the lockup got involved and so did my friend.

He recounted the adventure as one of one leering cop after another saying: "we got a She Boy." Using his influence he got her out on bail and she gave an interview used on the Dallas news. He also got her on a bus with charges dropped dressed as she had been. She was spared what would have certainly been a horrible experience in lockup where they would not have known what do do with her in any case.

In my youthful zeal (I was 21 and in grad school at IU) and sense of justice I attacked his motives when he told me this. I asked him if he was helping her because she was a transsexual or because she was a sensational story he could exploit.

He answered me absolutely correctly: "She was a kid I could get out of town who would have suffered horribly if I hadn't." He was proud of what he had done and the compromises he had made to do it.

And yes, he had to use the words "she boy" in his interview in the mid 1950's. He was a Gay man himself, but the positive value of the action meant more to him than just words.

Deeds, not just words, are everything.

Thanks Jim B

Hi Robert. Is there a reason why you put the word woman in quotes?

There are words that are disrespectful, if not hurtful, and it's good that we are discussing them. I agree that it depends to some degree on who is saying them, but I still would prefer that words like, "fag," "dyke," "trannie," not be used because they are derogatory. When we use them, others not in our community believe it's okay to do so. It's not okay because they objectify us, and turn us into "things" rather than sensitive human beings. The "person" who murdered the gender variant individual in Colorado recently referred to killing "it." That kind of thinking needs to end.

I think Shakay has put a finger on something that is all too real: words do matter.

That particular word, like "c**t" and "n*g**r" are simply used, for the most part to separate a group of people out and in some ways deny their humanity.

The stroy above about the woman in Dallas in the mid-fifties being a case in point and the sex/pron industries being a huge nother one.

To objectify a person with a word is to drain their human similarity with me out of them. Then I become justified in whatever treatment I wish to give them.

There is a reason why we use slurs in any language: because, as bloggers can attest, words are powerful. In an environment of words I think we should all carefully consider what we do when we use nasty slangs.

I do not find that particular word to be more acceptable if used by trans-people than when its used by cis-people.

"Reclaiming" may seem an important enterprise to some, but reclaiming our sense that other human beings are like ourselves seems to me to be much more important.

Is there a problem with using "man" or "woman" for a transsexual that I am simply unaware of?

As a cis person who has used the t-word, I have to say, I was not introduced to the term through pornography. I was introduced to the term by trans friends who used the term to describe themselves (both MTF and FTM) - mostly radical trans people who do believe in reclaiming the term, because the fewer negative words you leave them with the fewer they can throw at you...

I also began using the term outside of this group of trans people, and was called out by someone for being derogatory - even though they knew it was not intentional on my part. However, I felt the need to apologize and to watch my usage of the term. Not a week later, I heard Bill O'Reilly use the t-word and suddenly I was aware of exactly why it is okay in some contexts and not in others. But having people like O'Reilly use the term is also a good reason to reclaim it - in much the same way that "crip" is being reclaimed by some in the disabled community and in the way "queer" has been reclaimed by some in the LGBTQ community.

The conclusion I've come to (and I realize how entitled this must sound right now, but it's a conclusion about how to use language in my personal and professional lives) is that context is key when using any term to describe a stigmatized and oppressed community. Witness the title of my personal blog: "Trailer Park Queer". It's a reclamation of and a decision to be proud of being from a trailer park, and to show that pride by claiming it and owning it.

The one thing we all have to be willing to do when we're forging new language paths for a community and for individuals is to own up when we make mistakes, as well - and to learn from them.

Thank you for giving this discussion some room to breathe...


Yeah, I think being able to predict someone's perspective based on their use of the word is becoming less and less accurate. I was speaking mostly historically (sheesh things move fast in the trans world, I'm meaning 10-20 years ago). Even then, it's just a pattern.

But even today, I've run into folks who toss about "tranny" nonchalantly, who I later discovered did indeed get their trans 101 from porn. The colleague I reference in the post appears to have -- and to top it off he slipped up on my pronoun. So that pattern still exists in some places. I just try to avoid those places when I can.

I think that some people are analyzing this to death. Words only have power to manipulate your emotions if you let them. As an example, there are some deranged people in society, like the Religious Wrong and their minions, who get their rocks off calling me "Mr. Helms." So what? I just consider the source. (I also laugh because I changed my last name as well, so by using "Helms," they inadvertantly acknoweledge my right to be who I am.)

"Trannie/Tranny" is such a weak word to get so beligerant about when people use it, especially our allies. "Transvestite and She-Male" are stronger, but here again, why let them bother you? We know that in this day and age, the only people who use those words are the jackasses who hate us anyway. They even think that "Crossdresser" is a slur. Shows how much they don't know about us.

And, the other thing to consider is that these words are only an English language phenomenon. They either don't translate well in other languages or don't exist. I'm sure there are trans slurs in other languages, and I hope those who can speak a language other than English would enlighten us with those. I do know that in Spanish, their version of "transvestite" is not considered a slur at all. Am I correct?

As others have noted, intent counts for a lot, as does who's saying it. To quote from my post where I took Christian Siriano for using "hot tranny mess" as his catch phrase:

"Use of the word "tranny" [in itself] is treading on insensitive ground. Yes, some of us trans people do use the word "tranny." But there's a difference when a term that's often been an epithet gets reclaimed by members of the stigmatized group as a way of saying "yeah I am a [insert derogatory term here], wanna make something of it" -- and quite another when someone outside that group decides to fling it around carelessly.

I realize you probably don't mean it as a slur -- which is why I haven't given you my "hot tranniest look" (yet...). But the thing is, usually when most of us trans people hear the term "tranny" it's said by someone taunting us, threatening to beat us up, or even kill us"

In short, it's a bit like the F-word or N-word: if you're not a member of the group that a term refers to,* then it's probably not wise to use those words because you're not attuned to when it may or may not be seen as insensitive or provocative.

* Though I define "insiders" rather broadly to include SOFFAs (Significant Other, Friend, Family, or Ally) as well.

Well, Monica yes, it is a slur. Depends on context.


I will take all the terms which are applicable to me.

Let them hurl mud. Let the mistakes be made.

I find tranny to be useful in many ways. When someone calls me a fag, I let them know they could at least have the intelligence to use the right insult.

I refer to myself as a tranny on occasion -- and in the street slang here, among the transpopulation, its generally used among friends.

Never among those who are not. They use Queen. I sorta find that one annoying as everyone should realize I am a Goddess.

The one that gets me riled is It.

The day we erase the use of it as a way of referring to us, I'll give a damn about tranny.

I don't think there's necessarily a hierarchy where in order to care about a word that hurts me so much, I have to not care about a word that maybe hurts me that much more.

I do hate that people use "it," but tranny is used for exactly the same purpose, as many used on that Montgomery County thread on Topix I referenced above. When I read the comments in the various Transgender threads on Topix, I see a lot of people whipping out the "tranny" word to other, dehumanize, and degender us.

And being able to slough off the slurs doesn't mean that the slurs are okay.

Lisa and dyssonance,
I noticed that the actual word "trannie" doesn't really bother as much as who is using it and in what content. This is where I've been going with this.

It goes back to George Carlin's Seven Words. I saw him in concert one time and he ratteled off a couple hundered words to add to the seven. Many, by themselves, have no value. They only get their strength in how they are used in a sentence. His best example is this, "You can prick your finger, but you can't finger your prick. This is why I don't worry about the word trannie. Who is using it and how they use it can concern me, but even then, it isn't the word, it is them.

Okay, this was bothering me on Topix specifically (where Topix blocks you from posting some words and not others):

This isn't me trying to play oppression olympics, but making a point about language:

In American society, using some racist terms, using some homophobic terms, using some sexist terms, is pretty much guaranteed to earn condemnation, or at least such uses are censored. In the media, online forums, whatever. If censoring happens at all (outside sites dedicated to racism, sexism, and/or homophobia), you'll find a large number of words are unacceptable.

Slurs against trans people (or for that matter, against people with disabilities) are practically never included in those lists.

This, plus the way people talk about trans people, give me the impression that people see anti-trans language and actions are more acceptable than other forms of bigotry*. The consequences of this attitude include trans lives being seen as disposable.

And while I agree that it is the people using the word who are a problem, that makes the word - for me - a problem as well. I'm pretty much only okay with other trans people using it, ever.

* What this does mean is that they try to be more covert or subtle with the other forms, not that they tend to be any less bigoted.

Also, as a survivor of emotional domestic abuse, I find that word choice has does have meaning and power to harm.

Sorry to hear this Lisa.

But, this trannie will continue using the word when appropiate.

I didn't mean trans people, and I didn't realize you meant trans people. I was talking about the people who use the word, the fact they use the word, and the fact that this is seen as largely okay in society. Sorry for unclarity or misunderstanding.

I talk about being an uppity tranny all the time.

Topix is a world unto itself, and yes, those f-wits there are all manner of amazing in how low they can go.

I've been involved there too long not to descend. The conflict there is amazing, and it triggers all manner of adrenaline -- it can indeed become very addictive, as I found out myself.

Hanging in there either you will crumble or you will become hardened. At this point, there's *nothing* anyone can say there that will get under my skin, as pretty much everything has been said over and over and over again.

Don't let all the raw hate infect you, though. All that anger and rage can surge out, and burn a hole in you, all that hate is poisonous and can twist you.

Its an incredible training ground in dealing with racism, sexism, and other derivatives of bigotry. In one month you can learn incredible amounts about how to address people -- both in good ways and bad ways.

There, tranny is used by the good as well as the bad (and even by the ugly). Its one place where we can see it used in all manner of contexts.

I'm not always nice, and I'll punch below the belt as quick as I will above.

I'll stop using tranny there for a while, though. Just to see...

I think this discussion is getting a little out of hand and a little rediculous. Some people giving one stupid little word so much power over them and worrying about the most miniscule issue when we are surrounded by all kinds of MUCH BIGGER ISSUES facing us.

I don't find words offensive. What really offends me is an election where the most hateful people in politics could have power over our very existance and the dimwits in this country are praising McOld and Caribou Barbie because off it.

I'm offended that the largest LGB(t) organization in this country keeps saying they support us when they not only throw us under the bus, but drives over us over and over and over again.

I'm offended that the deaths of Lawrence King, Matthew Shepard and Precious Armine don't mean shit to the people we voted on to protect us.

I'm offended that many of my friends are or have been out of work most of their trans life.

I'm offinded that the religious nutjobs want to take away marriage equality in California and make LGBT people second class citizens in places like Arizona and Florida.

I'm offended that my 100% HRC CEI company decided that they know better then my doctors on what is medically necessary and what isn't because I'm trans.

I'm offended that thousands of transgender veterans are getting treated like shit by the very country they gave their devoted service to.

I'm also offended that the Democratic Party didn't have the balls to mention LGBT people in the platform, either by name or acronoyn.

There is a lot of things in this world that offends me, but words can't even come close. It is so idiotic to consentrate on one tiny pixel instead of the entire big HD picture. If worrying about the used of "trannie" is all the problems you have in your life, then hell, I want to be you.

There is a lot of things in this world that offends me, but words can't even come close. It is so idiotic to consentrate on one tiny pixel instead of the entire big HD picture. If worrying about the used of "trannie" is all the problems you have in your life, then hell, I want to be you.

Er, what? Where did you get an idea like that?

It was a general comment, not directed at anyone in particular.

Yeah, I was just wondering, generally, where that idea came from?

Is anyone really saying this is The Issue Of Our Time?

Monica, I get some of your point, but a lot of "allowing words power-over" is exactly the point of anyone's use of blog space, Tobi's, yours, mine, Bil's.

If words were not hurtful and generally used in the case of slurs as some sort of dismissal: I mean really "The Religious Wrong"!! We'd decline to use them at all.

Ya wanna use "trannie" "tranny" "she-make" go right ahead and be my guest. You are just absolutely right: what does it matter at all. We may as well just break out every insulting and slur-term ever used and use them consistently to ignore the actual arguments people make and feelings they have altogether.

Afterall, the offense at any slur is simply allowing others "power-over" me and it's my fault that words can hurt me sometimes.

I'm guessing your last sentence was meant to be sarcastic. However, it has a great deal of truth in it.

(The rest of this is not directed at you or anyone else, Nichole. Seems I have to say that now.)

Maybe, in all of this, I'm being a bit antagonistic for a reason. I'm bucking the trans trend by throwing the word back at my brothers and sisters to make them think, to get them angry, to make a point. Some of you may not appreciate the point, but I'm making it none the less.

If those who really hate us start calling us "trannie, transvestite, she-male," what will your response to them be? Will you get angry? Will you yell at them, will your blood boil? Think of what they get when you blow up at them? They get the pleasure of seeing you pissed off and they can go back to their friends and say, "I just made that stupid trannie mad!" Who had the power over the other person in that exchange?

Some of you will probably say, "It is a good opportunity to educate them." Bulls---! There is no educating the people who hate because of religious reason. It will never happen. You use that educational opportunity on those who are our friends but may not know better. Even I would do that, because there is no attempt on either side to take power over another person. Don't confuse the two situations.

I'm all for asking non-trans people to refrain from using it, and I do that all of the time, because I know my brothers and sisters are offended by it, especially from non-trans people. But, I will reclaim it so it has no power over me. I suggest we all reclaim it.

So, my response to the hate monger trying to use words as a weapon over me . . . after I laugh at them? "I have no need to waste my time on those who hate for no reason. There are other powers above you and I who will educate you when the time comes. See ya."

The only time I let someone have power over me is making love, and then we take turns.

If those who really hate us start calling us "trannie, transvestite, she-male," what will your response to them be? Will you get angry? Will you yell at them, will your blood boil? Think of what they get when you blow up at them? They get the pleasure of seeing you pissed off and they can go back to their friends and say, "I just made that stupid trannie mad!" Who had the power over the other person in that exchange?

Actually, I usually just tell them that their tone is wrong and if they were a little nicer, I'd care what they were saying. Sometimes I also add that I think they're just looking for a reason to be offended.

This actually worked once. Weird how using oppressive language against oppressors can function.

Good! You hit upon what works for you. Keep doing it.

Well, it's only worked once. Usually it's just sarcasm.

Stuff I've been doing on my blog has been better, usually. It's changed more minds.

Could you send me or post a link to your blog? Mine is at:

Mind you, two minds is "more" for this definition. :) This is my blog.

I made a comment on the "About Lisa" entry.

Not at all, Lisa. Sarcasm and cynicism are the purview of David Letterman, not me.

All I would maintain is that words, what they are, how they are used is important. Otherwise we are all wasting a helluva lot of time.

Although when it comes to "words that hurt" it does seem to be a rather common human reaction and may last longer than the time you'd be willing to give a Dominionist.

That was Monica you replied to. :)

Thank you for that link, btw.

Just maybe, my cerebral cortex hasn't established any social pain associated with the word "Trannie." So, I have no negative association to draw upon. Does this mean I'm wrong? Am I defective because of it, or just different?

Oh, there is no BDS&M in my life, or bedroom. I was referring to sharing the moments of who is in charge. It means I'm neither Top or Bottom, but can switch when necessary. It's a lot more fun that way. TMI? Oh well.


So are Nigger, Faggot, Wetback, Sheenie, Yid, Jungle-Bunny, Coon, Jigaboo etc etc

Yeah, and in the Navy, we had "Squid, Bubblehead, Airdale, Mess Crank, Nuc, Forward Puke," all of which provoked anger. In the 70s, I was called a Honkie. Here in Georgia, we have Rednecks. Thanks to Jeff Foxworthy, they haven't had much of a problem reclaiming that word, as well as White Trash and Cracker. The English language is full of these words. How they are used are up to the user. How they are taken is up to the individual.

Monica (sorry, Lisa) You have continued a conversation for what 21 comments that you say don't affect you in the least.

That seems a lot of vigor & perseverance in an argument that has no personal effect on you.

If you hadn't have said "no," I's suspect your cerebral cortex is intent on and tied to something, if not the word "trannie."

Melanie Davis | September 11, 2008 2:06 AM

Sorry if I missed it in the voluminous comments, but I forgot to add that the one I hear as a real slur by a few people who were also "corrected" is: he/she/it or he/sheeit (the latter said with a typical southern drawled version of the word "sh*t"). What hurt worst was the guffaw (do people still guffaw?) that followed even though the people I heard saying it were either alone or talking to me.

I could have performed unlicensed orchies then. That's been a couple of years ago now, but it still makes my blood boil.

Thanks for providing some history for this word. I had no real idea where it cam from; I just thought it was a cute word made from "trans."

And welcome aboard!

"(for the record, I would have been a lot more comfortable with "I met a trans woman last weekend, she was really hot")."

Myself I'd rather hear someone say, I met this real hot woman last weekend, oh by the way she happens to have a transexual, or trans history.

The inference being that she is a woman above all else.
That her medical issues don't detract from that.

I've never understood the desire of some to fling around the term tranny or trannie.

Myself not being a part of a car, I see no reason to reclaim the term.

Odd you know until I saw it in print here I had not really thought about the fact that it is true that I mostly see men who are trans using the term tranny. Yes I do know a number of women who use it but by far it seems to be a term the guys like, for some reason, more then the women.

"If those who really hate us start calling us "trannie, transvestite, she-male," what will your response to them be? Will you get angry? Will you yell at them, will your blood boil? Think of what they get when you blow up at them?"

No I tend to ignore ignorant people just as I had to learn to do so growing up because of the colour of my skin.
Sometimes I'll even laugh out loud or shake my head in disbelief and sadness for them.

I don't feel the need to join in with them though I guess I could but then it would only confirms in their mind what they thought.

Sheesh... Call me lazy, but if I had to write out "transgender" or "trans woman" all the time, my finger's would drop off...

Yes, the porn industry uses it - but I SERIOUSLY doubt that they were the first. And I think it's just as valid as a "cutesy' term, too. Depends on the intent - and that's about a hellava lot more than a few syllables falling out of somebody's mouth. But more importantly...

My big concern over this type of "education" with terminology is the adverse effect it can have on those we claim to be defending. For example, while I personally cringe when I hear the word "she-male," there are lots of women who identify as such and find it to be empowering. ("She-male," btw, originated as another word for "cisgender woman" in late 19th Century literature, and later was used to describe masculine lesbians around the 1960s long before the porn industry picked it up.) The same goes for "tranny," "dyke," "fag," "queer," etc. If I ask someone to stop using it because it's personally offensive, imo, I'm also conveying that they're "wrong" or offensive as well - and risk doing injury to their identity. And I've witnessed this occur with "tranny" at a teen trans support group, resulting in the saddest way imaginable.

So I take the approach that if you find a word offensive, don't use it. But don't tell others that they can't. And if you're with people who find it offensive, refrain from using it to refer to them. Just be sensitive to the feelings of the person you're talking to and don't drag all your associated baggage into the dialog with the same intensity of a fundamental Christian going off on a non-believer.

Personal expression is, well, personal. It's also fluid and can change in every sort of direction over time. Call yourself a "tangerine" for all I care. Just be proud of who you are.

Yeah, that's why I don't ask people not to use the term, just to use it consciously. Also, I've got no reason to think the porn industry was the first to use the term, just seems to me it was the first place to really popularize the word and is still one of the places where the term is most frequently used.

When it's used more consciously, I really appreciate watching people reclaim it. Your videos (which I absolutely love and show all my friends) are a perfect example of that. Similarly, watching one friend reclaiming the term shemale has been really empowering for me just to be around. My attempt at education is to address the folks -- especially cis folks -- who are using the term without being aware of how it can be hurtful. Or maybe someone told them that it's derogatory but they don't really have any reason to believe that it is.

Wow! Groovy, Tobi - you made me blush. ;-)

Use of the word tranny among fellow transpeople doesn't bother me, I see it as reclaiming words that have been used against us. I first heard tranny used by my drag mother in the early 90s. I rarely use the word myself, when I do it's often directed at myself in humor. I would never call someone else tranny who wasn't comfortable with it.

I'm still getting used to identifying as queer, even though our community has reclaimed that word for a while. I'm not comfortable saying it aloud outside of our community. I think that might be an age thing. I guess the many times I was called that as a kid really hurt and I still carry that baggage.

As a Jew, I never use the word "kike", however I've been in conversations with other Jews who called themselves and each other "Yid", and that didn't bother me. This is a great thread, I'm finding it interesting which of these words bother me and which don't.

Rosie Schneider | September 14, 2008 10:52 AM

It's not the word. It is the intent behind the word and all this politically correct self-censoring bullshit is a sign of a lack of group oriented self-esteem. I love to tweak people by claiming that transexuals are the 'new niggers'. Politically correct censored thought is an impediment to intellectual progress. Remember, in the words of the iconic George Carlin, Shoot is just shit with two o's. The word is not the thing, but a desription of the thing. I know what I am: Proud to be Tranny!

P.S. If I am correct, this will probably be censored.

Ah, polotical correctness.

And what is with people lately talking as if everyone's arguing the most extreme possible version of a position? Are they even reading the discussions or just making an assumption based on the first paragraph in the first post?

Have you read this comment by the OP by any chance?

Rosie Schneider | September 15, 2008 7:25 PM

Lisa, your comments seemed directed at someone but I couldn't figure out to whom .

I'm kinda new to this forum. Could you tell me who the O P is? Thanks, Rosie

Why don't we just skip the convoluted reasoning and admit that "reclaimed" slurs are still offensive?

I find there are still various influences that might make something more or less offensive and that's worth discussing. It's significant to point out, for example, that when a slur is used by someone who is not the direct target of the slur it's a different situation than when someone who's been the target of it uses it.

While I am all for the good sense to avoid using hateful language mostly because I am all for having the good sense to avoid hate in the first place, I am less sympathetic to folks who react to a word that is used in a non-hateful context just because someone finds it personally offensive. That is just as ignorant and judgmental and lacking in thought to react that way as is it to use the word for the actual purpose of offending. You can't eliminate every word someone might potentially be upset by because 1) it negates the whole free speech thing, and 2) there would be no words left to use to construct a usable sentence.

Add to that the primary complaint here is primarily that the word has a historical association with porn, to which people take umbrage mostly because of the inaccurate reflection of typical transvestite relationships similar to the way girl on girl porn isn't representative of actual real-life lesbians? Are you kidding me? This nearly made me laugh out loud. In case no one has realized this, the porn industry hasn't done a real bang up job (no pun intended) of representing typical STRAIGHT sexuality - or at least healthy sexuality anyway. This is hardly worth anyone getting their panties in a bunch over, no matter which gender is wearing them.

Let's be reasonable; if we must take offense at something then at least take offense that offense is intended at all, not over a word that people aren't likely to understand as sensitive for the most part if they are not part of a particular social circle. I think this is a case where ignorance can be forgiven and overlooked in the interest of getting along.

And just for the record: Foxworthy didn't reclaim anything. FWIW none of the attempts at denigrating white people have had the same impact as the racial slurs against other groups mostly because there isn't a history of oppression (of whites) behind them which otherwise would be part of the power in them to hurt. Let's face it, when was the last time anyone reacted strongly to being called a "redneck", "cracker", or even a "honky"? It is more likely to make the name-caller look silly than to offend the target.

people take umbrage mostly because of the inaccurate reflection of typical transvestite relationships similar to the way girl on girl porn isn't representative of actual real-life lesbians

You have nfi what you're talking about and just want to concern troll about freedom of speech, right?

voxleo, from your description of the concern, it's clear that you don't understand where people are coming from. And since you reference the "impact of racial slurs" and their "history of oppression" it makes me wonder, do you believe that there is no history of oppression of trans people? Do you believe that there is no history of the term tranny being used oppressively? Or do you equally feel that racial slurs should be tolerated the same way you advocate this slur should be.

There's many notions you bring up that I'd like to correct you on, but let me limit myself to one more. You ask us to make the distinction between uses where offense is intended or uses where it is not. I'd like to ask you to make the distinction between uses where it is offensive (regardless of intent) and uses where it is not. Intent doesn't magically make the harm go away. If I drop a bucket of bricks on a friends toe, it's still going to hurt even if I didn't intend to cause harm. And I can differentiate between those who hurt me and my community out of hate and those who do so out of ignorance, but the latter is not on equal footing with those who do not hurt us.

If there are any slurs which you take offense at, and it sounds like there are, then I invite you to imagine if there might be any circumstances where someone uses that term out of an ignorance of how hurtful it is. If you're really being honest I think you'd still bristle at such an instance -- perhaps not the same way as if it were yelled hatefully, but certainly more than if they had used a term that is not a slur.

Joseph Denby | October 30, 2010 7:25 PM


Thank you for this article I read it with great interest.

I am a partisan of Human rights but I focus most of my attention to LGBT rights and mostly trans rights in the UK. As far as the question of whether the term "tranny" is offensive, I personally find it to be so.

To Clarify I am a Cis person with a very close trans friend whom I would always describe as simply "themself" (for proprity please forgive me if I do not name them here). In my experience people generally never fall into a term bracket and such usages are useless. perhaps one could follow the argument and say then that umbrella utterances like this are offensive by nature (nature giggle giggle).

Of course what ever people are happy with is fine but I will never make an assumption that a person or group like to be refered to in a certain or general way without taking the time and (really not very much) effort to engage and get to know them.

Getting to know people is fun and enjoyable. There is far to much diversity out there to use defunct terms to put people in a box, so I just try and stay away from all of them.

Thanks again for your blog post, I do so very much enjoy getting the site updates in the morning which I check out over my hot morning coffee. Please keep up the good work.


I am a straight guy, but I am posting my opinion for shits a giggles. If someone is using the word 'tranny' with out negative conotations, then it is best not to tell them the backstory of the word. In their mind the word tranny has already been reclaimed. If that is optimal, then why change it?


It generally is not optimal to have certain people ignorantly tossing slurs about without being conscious of how others might react to them. You can see this on certain TV shows where they play out the joke of an older white man who complains "why can't I call them colored people, they call themselves of color all the time?" Or in some cases it's played out with the character defending their interpretation of actual slurs as not really offensive.

Think of the slurs most offensive in your mind. How would you respond to someone innocently repeating them under the misunderstanding that they are benign descriptors? Even if you weren't especially offended, you would likely think the person ignorant or outright stupid.