Tobi Hill-Meyer

Let's Talk about "Tranny" - Media Criticisms

Filed By Tobi Hill-Meyer | December 22, 2010 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Glee, Ticked Off Trannies With Knives

This is part two in a three part series. You may want to read ticked-off-trannies-with-knives-poster.jpgpart one first, which details the meanings and associations of the term "tranny" when used as a slur. Understanding those meanings provides useful background for understanding the implications of the term in other contexts.

The thing about free speech is that people are free to say hurtful and offensive things, but everyone else is free to point out that it's not okay and encourage people not to support it. In most cases, that's what we're talking about when people complain about censorship. But let's be clear about something: it's not just about the word people are complaining about, but what's behind it.

The reality is that even though that one word is what tends to be focused on, in every case of protest, we're talking about something much deeper going on. When the term is casually and irresponsibly thrown about that can certainly be offensive, but the real issue is that it is often an indicator of wider transphobia and misogyny.

Recent Media

When people complained about the term being uncritically used on Glee, the real issue is a pattern of insensitive and disrespectful treatment of trans people from a show that uses its reputation as gay friendly to deflect or ignore those criticisms. Glee is a show that has been celebrated for its empowering representations of resisting homophobia and its harsh criticism of anti-gay slurs.

It's understandable that the trans community is upset at the uncritical praise and celebration from the LGb(t) community for the show when there are zero trans characters, issues of gender variance aren't handled particularly well, and the only representation of trans issues is the use of our lives as insults that are simply accepted and unchallenged by a group of characters who would immediately speak out against similar treatment of gays or lesbians.

As an even better example, look at the now infamously protested Ticked Off Trannies With Knives. Critics complained that the film capitalized on anti-trans violence, using examples of real life victims of anti-trans killings to build support for the gore full B horror revenge flick. The trans community and family members of those victims declared the marketing tactic insensitive and irresponsible. The trailer depicted a very narrow representation of trans women that conforms to the "tranny" role (as described in part one), where rape and violence against trans women is made to be humorous. And most damning, the director's response to the criticism displayed further ignorance, insensitivity, and an unwillingness to engage with the trans community.

In both cases, defenders of the film and TV show quickly moved to argue the right to use the term "tranny," held discussions on whether or not cis people should be allowed to use the term and whether or not the intention was to offend. Doing so, however, completely ignores the pattern of trans-negative representations that are the real offense. I guarantee you that if Susan Stryker's groundbreaking documentary about trans activism and resistance to oppression in the 1960s had been titled "Screaming Trannies" rather than "Screaming Queens," there would not be this same kind of response. Chances are, given the clear context to it, no one would bat an eye.

So if you really want to focus on community boycott, media criticism, and protest as a form of censorship, by all means we can have that conversation - so long as you understand it's about boycotting, criticizing, and protesting transphobia and not just the utterance of a single word.

Cultural Competency

Let me be very clear here, as this was the number one misunderstanding about my last article on the topic, I am not going to tell you not to use the word tranny. I'm making no demands on you, I'm not the word police, and I'm not going to shout you down or anything else. What I am going to do is tell those of you who are not trans women that it's probably going to be better if you don't use the term. Not just better for other people, but better for you.

Regardless of whether or not you think people should be offended, the fact is the term has some very trans misogynistic associations and can easily trigger those who have been the target of that kind of trans misogyny.

If you are using the term over other people's objections, then be prepared for the consequences. People may think you are ignorant or insensitive to the oppression of trans women. They may more closely examine your behavior for transphobia and/or misogyny. They may find it. They might not want to be exposed to your irresponsible use of term (or other transphobia and/or misogyny) and decide to avoid your events, your writing, or your film. They might tell their friends. So if you want to cultivate an audience that includes trans women and those who care about them, or even just a reputation as trans friendly, keep that in mind.

Don't get me wrong, I've seen plenty of cases where I've appreciated how the term was used. Where people who are culturally competent on trans women's issues and often avoid the term but use it in contexts that are demonstrably conscious of and sensitive to the issues. It can be a difficult thing to do and involves knowing your own history with the term, that of those around you, the associated images of the term, and fitting all of that into the context.

How do you know if you're doing it right? Chances are good that if you are no one will complain. If someone tells you they aren't comfortable with how you are using the term, the best thing to do is apologize and then share your reasoning for using it in that context. If they aren't buying your explanation, you might want to reconsider it yourself.

Ultimately, this is the same advice for using other derogatory slurs when creating media, especially when the creators don't belong to that marginalized group. I've seen some arguments about using "tranny" where I have seriously doubted several points would have been made if we were talking about racial slurs, anti-Semitic slurs, ableistic slurs, sexist slurs, and so on. And that's something to keep in mind.

In the upcoming final part of this series, I'll discuss how the context of who's speaking makes a difference as well as the different kinds of things someone might say.

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Kate Bornstein wrote:
"Last night, I wrote a blog in which I apologized for using the word tranny. I said I'd try my best not to use it in public any more. Well, I did try my best and it made me feel miserable. I cried myself to sleep, and I woke up crying. I woke up feeling weaker than I've felt in a long time.

I like the word tranny. It makes me feel strong and happy when I do use the word tranny. I like other people who use the word tranny affectionately with one another. I don't want to stop using the word. Of course I don't want to be mean to people who are hurt by the word, but the fact is I have never used the word tranny with the intention of being mean to people."

The thing is... if you continue to use a term while understanding how it triggers many people in a community, use it unapologetically and even with entitlement, then you are intending to be mean to people. If you can't go 7 hours without saying the word, then you're not trying to respect others. If you refer to serious subjects among the trans community like employment, suicide, homelessness, violence and discrimination and feel the need to refer to trans women as trannies, then you're disregarding the seriousness of those issues and I don't care about your intention.

Aww, she cried herself to sleep because she couldn't use a derogatory word? Poor girl. Almost makes me forget the nights I cried myself to sleep after being called a "tranny" by violent transphobes and threatened with death. But not quite.

It amazes me that, with all there is to be concerned about, this one word gets so much attention. I've been waiting all day long for an animated response to Lynn Miller's question about Mrs. Shufflewick to Gloria Brame's post. What does it mean to be "trans"? Who does "trans" exclude? Is it right for people to include those who don't want to be included? Why are the terms "man" and "woman" never discussed? Why don't non-"trans" or "cis" (sorry, I think scare quotes are in order) men and women who write here ever really get involved in discussions about what it means to be a man or a women in relation to what it means to reach that point medically? If someone is a transman or transwoman, how many roads must a transman or transwoman walk before you can call him or her a man or a woman? Is the answer blowin' in the wind or what?

I think the argument about the expression "tranny" is a distraction. The question of terminology - vague terminology - is very much in the way of people moving along. I don't want to discuss personalities. I want to discuss concepts. There seems to be a tacit understanding among the commentators here that there are men and women and a third gender known as transgender. It is a much more serious problem than name calling. Among intersex people I know, it is a pitfall taken very seriously. The example used most often is the plight of the Hijra in India. Why is this issue avoided? Why are people silenced when these questions are raised? It has been pointed out that the word "transgender" is problematic because of the exclusion that is implied by its broad inclusiveness.

I think those questions should be brought out in the open. I think things should be clearly defined so people can decide for themselves whether they agree or disagree to be able to decide to move on rather than support those who it is felt are working against their interests. Like the question about Mrs. Shufflewick, the answer always seems to be blowin' in the wind. What about Geraldine? What about Jonathan Winters?

Oh, and in my mind, Gloria Blame is one of the ppl who smugly gets everything about trans ppl wrong. If she isn't willing to learn about trans ppl and issues, I wish she would just shut up about them (every time I see her picture or byline, I think of the picture with the men playing dress up in women's clothes and in her 'playful' tagline called them trans men...they really weren't trans *anything*, and if they were, they would have been trans *women*).

The reason I never bother to challenge her is that she strikes me as someone who is pretty impressed with herself and pretty clueless. I just grit my teeth and ignore her...

Hi Carol,

I very much like Gloria Brame's posts but I often have questions such as the one asked by Lynn Miller. I often experience those kinds of frustrations with people I like very much.

Also, these kind of questions are complicated. How does one know how Rex Jameson felt? It was illegal to publicly wear clothing that wouldn't identify someone who would match their legal identity at one time. I think the person asking these questions in the comments section was trying to get at that. But, beyond this person's specific situation there are underlying questions raised in relation to people who reject a sex/gender assignment and choose to live in the opposite sex/gender and have many good reasons to believe they are more the sex/gender opposite to the one they are assigned. I think the word "more" is an important one also.

Sierra Bellum | December 23, 2010 3:13 AM

"There seems to be a tacit understanding among the commentators here that there are men and women and a third gender known as transgender."

"I think the word "more" is an important one also."

"you come to realize that everyone's queer"


Thanks for adding this.

One of the reasons I enjoy reading the posts here is because of the variety of contributors and commentators. But I think you're right. I think I would enjoy seeing these people more explicitly discuss some of the questions you are posing. There are a number of physiological ways that people can be separated into male and female, and they surprisingly often disagree. And then there are the cultural ways of separating that get even more confusing. And then there are what appears to be a growing proportion of people who either want to alternate as they feel, or consistently want to display aspects of both/neither. And then there is the common observation that in reality, at least on a cultural/behavioral level, in actuality everyone displays behaviors from both each label. Previously, there was some continuing discussion (in regards to ENDA) here about all LGB behavior being non-normative for gender which I thought (or at least hoped) was productive. To me it doesn't seem like it takes too much observation before the whole house of cards begins to fall.

Now that you mention it, I would like to see more of the type of discussions to which you are refering, but I don't think this post took anything away from that possiblity. I enjoyed this post from Tobi. I thought it was very thoughtful, constructive, and on some level necessary. That's not intended to be argumentative because I obviously thought your comments contributed as well.

Ah, Southern politeness. No wonder others find it confusing and annoying.

I think there was some point where I began to think of gender as something like a buffet with everyone simply picking what they want off it, and somehow, despite my daily interactions, forgot that others don't necessarily feel the same. Especially in communities like this.

Edith, thank you for referencing my comment regarding Rex Jameson/Mrs. Shufflewick. Yes, I was hoping to be tread delicately as to Jameson's sexual/gender identity. My impression is that, even today, some individuals wrestle as to whether they are gay/lesbian or if they are trans, and much of their decision has to do with social acceptance and comfort.

Surely this dilemma would have been harder 40 years ago, when being openly gay was only just becoming acceptable. It seems Jameson's alcoholism and erratic behavior in daily life echoed the Mrs. Shufflewick character. Was this character an emotional outlet? My impression is that Jameson was simply trying to hold his life together during the last 20 years of life and any kind of bold statements or additional risks were simply too much. So I am hesitant to say that Jameson was not trans, although I tend to think that he wasn't.

But in that comment I also wanted to raise the question as to whether drag performers or female/male impersonators are part of the transgender umbrella. I think Gloria may group them together and I have heard competing viewpoints as to whether it is right to do so. But perhaps that would be best addressed in a separate article?

As for the word "tranny," it seems a risky term to use. Perhaps it is best reserved for personal description of oneself, or for description of someone who has already applied it to themselves? Maybe it is a bit similar to the word "queer." It has many pejorative associations, and although some individuals have adopted it, the use of the word by outsiders or strangers can be (intentionally or unintentionally) offensive.

Ill-informed comments like this are the reason these articles are necessary.

I know this isn't a very positive attitude, but I feel that most of the ppl you are discussing do this out of a sense of superiority, not ignorance; what ignorance they might have is willful ignorance in that they don't want to change their opinions.

I know this isn't a very positive attitude, but I feel that most of the ppl you are discussing do this out of a sense of superiority, not ignorance; what ignorance they might have is willful ignorance in that they don't want to change their opinions.

Not only is this not positive, it is absolutely a deliberate disrailing to make sure an entirely different point of view is NOT heard. This and the "transier than thou" garbage. The majority of women born with the neurological intersexed pre-natal birth condition of transsexuality (and see how wordy I have to be just to set the parameters) view themselves as women, period. Once they correct their bodies they are also female, period. The majority I have discussed this with over the years are not opposed to those who ID as transgender but are clear we are not, we are cured once we fix the problem. Transier than thou and elitist accusations are simply an out and out denial that we are women and this is why we fight you so hard on being dragged back to a third gender space that we might be perfectly comfortable acknowledging for you but absolutely reject for ourselves.

We are not you, you don't get to colonize or appropriate our lives. We aren't in denial of our medical history. WE ARE DIFFERENT and different means "not the same" and not better.......just different.

I have reached the point after many many years of active trans civil rights lobbying the Congress and two state legislatures, after setting up the ONLY known LGBt Katrina relief effort, after putting all my resources left after I was disabled on the job towards providing a living space for newly transitioned women to bootstrap themselves, that I am about ready to actively oppose "trans" rights because they come at the cost of my own, my own right to my own womanhood and done with out and out terrorist tactics. This neverending lack of any respect for our womanhood has made you the enemy. It has erased ANY possibility of working for common cause. It is an absolute expression of gynophobia in the form of neo-gynophobia. It is mysogynist in the extreme.

Someone asked here when women of history get to just be women. We are, the DSM V revision will make it official finally. You have a 100% female identity, you live a 100% female life and you correct to a 100% female body, you are cured. Trans civil rights are now dead. The recent example of whining trans activists throwing a wet blanket over the DADT victory, a pure LGB issue with no trans content, will be the last straw for much of the LGB civil rights organizations. The utterly dis-respectfulness of the womanhood and manhood of post corrected people born transsexed is finally being noted by others for what it actually is.

I started out as one of your most dedicated advocates, now I see you as the enemy. Own it because you did it.

"The recent example of whining trans activists throwing a wet blanket over the DADT victory..."

Many trans people's issue with the DADT victory was how it was framed as an "LGBT victory". It wasn't, and the number of LGB people who think the movement is done on this front because they got theirs.

As far as "The utterly dis-respectfulness of the womanhood and manhood of post corrected people born transsexed is finally being noted by others for what it actually is."

The only dis-respecting of people's womanhood or manhood seem to be coming from you and some other post-corrected folks. I have no identity beyond woman, using "trans" as a signifier for a specific aspect of my life (like "white" or "brunette" or "tallish" or "straight") when that aspect is important or useful.

If you have moved on, then you moved on. Nobody is holding you back intentionally. However, from what I have seen, the issue is women and men who can't/won't/don't want to have GRS who also occupy an unqualified status as man or women. The level of vitriol and venom leveled from some post-corrected quarters reminds me of the constant need to set up pecking orders in the "gender groups" I had to sit through 10 years ago.

"I have no identity beyond woman, using "trans" as a signifier for a specific aspect of my life (like "white" or "brunette" or "tallish" or "straight") when that aspect is important or useful."


This is how I see it, too. I am 'trans' like I am 'old' or 'blue-eyed'. It isn't how I walk around thinking of myself or important to my overall identity.

It's just something that I have to deal with as a limitation in my life, like having born with a cancer or something. I got it taken care of the best I could, and I have to guard against lingering bad effects my whole life, but it isn't the defining thing about me (at least to me...for ppl who know my history it usually is ~).


um, I wasn't even thinking of you or the other "women born with the neurological intersexed pre-natal birth condition of transsexuality (who) view themselves as women, period. Once they correct their bodies they are also female, period."

I was referring to the 'gay ppl who identify with the sex they were assigned at birth and raised as'. Such as: The dismissive GLB ppl like the guy who directed 'Ticked Off Trannies' and the the ppl who run 'Glee' and the many, many 'gay ppl who identify with the sex they were assigned at birth and raised as' who are apologists for that show. The 'women-born-women' separatists who don't seem to accept *anyone* who wasn't born clearly anatomically female (they also don't even seem to accept 'WBWs who have had sex with men or ever played with a sex toy'). And of course the pervasive soft social discrimination against ppl who were *not* born as the sex they currently are.

RB, you may no longer be in the gender identity disorder(or whatever they are going to call it now)section of the DSM, but you sure seem to fall in a lot of other places. I can't change what happened to you, and I can't do anything about ppl actively denying your seems though that not everyone who uses the term 'transgender' is looking to do that.

I came into this a lot later than you did, so I guess I missed all the turf battles, which often start with an attack on those who are already established, or the coopting of what you are about by militant ppl calling themselves 'transgender' and trying to destroy what pioneers like you had created. So I don't have the reaction to 'transgender' that you do, and I see it as a good umbrella, like I see 'gay' as one.

As with any umbrella term, though, there are very different communities. I have no desire whatsoever to beat your community into submission or anything like that. Really, if anything, I can relate to how you feel about *your* path much more than I can those who choose to not have SRS and who are really into 'being trans'. The difference is that I don't feel that the existence of these other ppl invalidates who I am, it just isn't how I am. I do understand that you have a history of ppl like that saying that you are just like them, but I don't see that so much myself.

I am pretty sure that you won't like what I mean by being trans/using transgender as an umbrella term, but here goes:

When I say someone is transgender, I mean that they do not identify with the sex they were assigned at birth, and in general are doing something about it.

That's it. What they are doing about it is up to them. It may be very, very different from what *I* have done/am doing, or it can be the same. The issue I have is when someone in this category tries to deny what someone else is doing, or to define them in a way other than they define themselves.

I see you as a women, period. Always have. However, you yourself (I think?) say you are a 'woman of history', and to me that makes you trans *when we are discussing trans issues*! Only then. In general discussions/everyday life, I don't want to be seen as a 'woman with an asterik' either. I really don't want to be trans. It's just the way it is; I was born as a different sex than I am now.

You prolly still see me as evil, I can't help that. I am willing to listen and try to understand your position better, but I don't think anything I say will make you a happier person with peace in her life. I wish I could.

Carol :)

What a load of crap!

What makes you think I am unhappy or have no peace? You know almost nothing about me, what my life is like or how I live it. This is the third time you've pull this shit on me. It is nothing less than an open attempt to dismiss me as "angry" and irrational in the typical patriarchal fashion so typical of trans identified people.

And if you insist on using "transgender" in a fashion that includes me and other women like me, you are the enemy, you are what I fight against, you are an agent of the patriarchy.

"What makes you think I am unhappy or have no peace?"

Because you come across as such an angry and bitter person, who picks fights even when she isn't the subject of a comment?

"dismiss me as 'angry' and irrational"

I don't mean to dismiss you. Though I know this will only piss you off more, I feel sorry for you, because you seem so angry and unhappy. But you're right, I don't know you other than in this context, so perhaps other than when you read things here you are happy and content. I hope so! :)

Honestly, I guess I am done trying with you this time around. I am not stomping away mad, but I have had a lot of experience with ppl who interact like you are, including my father and my sister, and I know anything I say will only make things worse. So I won't be responding to anything else you have to say.

I hope you a good holiday!

Carol :)

"What makes you think I am unhappy or have no peace?"
Because you come across as such an angry and bitter person, who picks fights even when she isn't the subject of a comment?"

Yuh THINK!? :->

Not to mention trying to derail virtually every trans-related thread on this site. If I were a cat, I wouldn't want to be kissed by you.

While I agree the person you're commenting to is a troublemaker, saying you feel sorry for someone for being angry and bitter is patronizing and insulting. Many trans people ARE bitter and angry, and they have every right to be. This world treats us like shit. Bitterness and anger have nothing to do with having a valid point—it's called a tone argument, and it's extremely flawed.

That is a separate issue from Radical Bitch's trolling and trans hierarchies. If you're going to critique, try to be accurate with your shots, otherwise others will get caught in the crossfire.

Max Vincent | January 2, 2011 11:16 PM

"What makes you think I am unhappy or have no peace?"
Because this is how you come across when responding to any question posed to you in any post of yours I have read; and I have read them all, giving you the benefit of the doubt.

"Deconstruct your own gender to your heart's content, deconstruct mine and I will fight you and all you stand for to the death."
All you want to do is fight on here; there is no being logical with you. "I will fight you and all you stand for to the death"...geez, just what anyone on here wants to read when trying to get something like terminology worked out on here. I don't know why or what has made you so very angry, but perhaps you might want to realize that you are not alone in this world. It isn't perfect, you don't own it, and you don't run it. I want to give this space a try, but if you are a main contributor, perhaps I'll go elsewhere. I don't like your ugliness and negativity.

ScarUponTheSky | December 22, 2010 9:06 PM

Why don't non-"trans" or "cis" (sorry, I think scare quotes are in order) men and women who write here ever really get involved in discussions about what it means to be a man or a women in relation to what it means to reach that point medically? If someone is a transman or transwoman, how many roads must a transman or transwoman walk before you can call him or her a man or a woman? Is the answer blowin' in the wind or what?

I don't write on here but I felt that I must speak my piece that there are people, including myself, that are prying apart these words of "man" or "woman" and "male" or "female" in terms of their meanings and how one may or may not fit into a category. (For record, others would see me specifically as a FTM but I identify as transqueer.) Largely, this (being the people who are trying to discuss these words) community consists of genderqueer, gender neutral, genderless, non-binary identified individuals. However, largely get completely left out of the discussions to begin with. Simply put, I wanted to share knowledge that such people exist, it's just our voices aren't being heard as loudly yet.


In regards to this article, I can't help but point out that you are, Tobi, focusing only on transwomen. Transmen are victim to anti-transviolence, transphobia, and the use of the "6 letter T-word" just as much as transwomen, I would argue. And I've often come across the reasoning being of a similar mysognistic and hegemonic vein.

Personally, I don't think any hugely derogatory word, like the one being discussed, the "3 letter F-word," "The N-word," etc should be used unless in written words discussing such language such as anti-racist literature, anti-homophobic/transphobic literature. and if it has to be used then only people in that community should be the ones using it.

"In regards to this article, I can't help but point out that you are, Tobi, focusing only on transwomen. Transmen are victim to anti-transviolence, transphobia, and the use of the "6 letter T-word" just as much as transwomen, I would argue."

Yeah, since the TDoR has almost as many trans women as trans men on the list. Because the media is full of cis men being called "tranny" while "presenting male" in an attempt to shame their masculinity. How dare trans women point out how a word with a particular context affects us and pick apart the layers underneath the word, its use, and meaning.

For the record, I'm a binary ID trans woman. My gender is no more or less radical than any other person's. My status as a trans woman does not make me less politically savvy or able to process complicated social or political concepts. Being GQ or fluid does not make one more or less able or likely to be "busting apart the binary". Just thought I'd get that out of the way since I end up having to say this every.single.time I have a discussion about this with a FAAB GQ individual.

I'm totally behind you on this. If anybody gets erased from these discussions, it's trans women, who are systematically rejected from "women and trans" events and "queer/trans" communities.

Once again........
Deconstruct your own gender to your heart's content, deconstruct mine and I will fight you and all you stand for to the death.

Your extreme egotism that leaves no room for any viewpoint but your own has a limited effect on non trans people but is and has been utterly destructive to the hard won understanding of the nature of transsexuality we had a mere 12 or so years ago. It is pure evil in my viewpoint.

Prior to this "right" to define those who corrected their physical problems and fully transitioned to actual women and men against their expressed wishes as "trans", even the fanatics of the religious right of the major religions of the book recognized our womanhood and manhood......"gender theory" and this gender deconstructionist garbage and the forced inclusion changed this. You did this. You took away our recognition of our sex/gender to hold it hostage. Pure fu*$ing evil.

The point that everyone always misses about your argument with "transgender" (on purpose probably), is that any "movement" that dictates who people are against their will is not about social justice. It's pure power politics exercised over the lives of people whether they like it or not. And it's done not for the benefit of the people, but for the benefit of those who are exercising that power. Nobody ever asks why, they just think what they are told to think because to disagree would bring the anger of the mob down on their head.

At this late date it's hard to believe that people aren't at least questioning the wisdom of some of this stuff. There are arguments about tranny, and it never seems to get past this sort of thing. I guess if there is no alternative, people feel trapped, waiting for the next great thing to come along and save them.

When are people going to be allowed to decide if they want to be part of the GLBT or not? We are still at the point where those who have nothing to do with GLB or TG are being told who and what they are, and what their politics will be. This has to stop.

"Transmen are victim to anti-transviolence, transphobia, and the use of the "6 letter T-word" just as much as transwomen, I would argue."

I would be interested in hearing your argument expressed with some succinct examples from media and crime stats, especially as it relates to violence and slurs since that's not my experience or observation in the least. But it might be outside what this thread is about?

Is there a trans site somewhere with message boards, so that ppl can open discussions on things that interest them, rather than waiting for some sanctioned blogger to post something? It would be nice if we could take some of these discussion outside the comments thread...

I know a lot of what I post here is OT, but a comment brings something up that I want to discuss, and I don't know of any other way to do it, other than to perhaps start an email exchange...and at your site, for example, I can't even find a way to send you a message unless I interrupted one of your comment threads...

2nd part is great also! well written! Thank You!

Tobi - thank you for this. I've tried to explain that the issue is less about a word and more about a history and a context. The explanation is so often met with blank stares or dismissive comments that I've been wondering if I was the only person who saw things this way.

(For record, others would see me specifically as a FTM but I identify as transqueer.)

I learned a long time ago if you reach a point where you have enough perspective to see things clearly, you come to realize that everyone's queer and that the queerest ones are the ones who can't see it. It becomes a problem when they start separating you out.

Sierra Bellum | December 23, 2010 2:36 AM

Ahhh, had to make yet another new account to post. Oh, the inconveniece of a bad memory.

I have tried to educate myself on LGBT [or in deference to Tobi: LGb(t)] history, globally where possible. But I have never seen the groundbreaking film Screaming Queens. If I am recalling correctly, I had vaguely heard about it, but the context made me think it was kind of an exploitative film about gay men.

I googled hoping to find a viewable copy and found 3 short pieces that I think are from the same film entitled Screaming Queens: Riot at Compton's Cafeteria. Just to confirm, is this in fact the same film? And as I am on a tight budget, does anyone know where I might cheaply, or preferably freely, view this? Thanks in advance for any answers provided.

Additionally, has anyone explicitly examined modern LGBT history in terms of which events might more properly be referred to as trans than gay/lesbian? I'm thinking about a scholarly work here. Or as another example, I have encountered several references to gay men and lesbians blaming "men in dresses" for ruining particular public actions, and I have often wondered how many of these comments referred to trans people versus cis people attempting to make an artistic statement (as apparently some groups did). Though it seems important for full understanding, it's often hard to tell the difference from quoted historical comments, and current authors often don't explicitly distinguish. Off-hand the only time I actually recall was when lesbian feminists were being criticized for transphobia during early post-Stonewall rallies, but even the same author didn't address this for more male-dominated events of the same time period.

Most of us at least occasionally say mean, hurtful, or even oppressive things if we really examine our behaviors. And I think it becomes common for people in any kind of labeled minority to spend a lot of time trying to decipher what people intend when they hear something inane, if for no other reason than not to have to spend that much time upset. At the same time, many feel (almost) a duty to try to push the boundaries ever closer to where their lived-experience and education has taught them the boundaries should be.

But most people don't feel like they have the time or opportunities to learn about issues that they don't feel have immediate impact upon their lives. Or, at least, that's the way it seems when I observe or talk to people. I think most adults still have that childhood feeling of wanting to be seen as a generally good kid, but they are constantly getting mixed messages on how one does that. Not only do taboos get buried deeply even in the minds of well-meaning people, well-meaning people often don't have experience with certain vocabulary or concepts. And yet I, at least, get disturbed when people who aren't purposefully causing trouble get barred from the conversation. This is one of the reasons I like Bilerico.

There seems to be this uncomfortable balance that occurs in civil rights awareness discussions where the less informed who are trying to (or might) engage worry about the minefield of terminology and issues they are likely to encounter, and those who are well-informed find it frustrating to have to constantly rehash an "Intro to Civil Rights Issue X" lecture series for each new group of people they encounter. Especially for those they believe should be informed. It seems like I often hear people in situations where they are being told they erred saying things that amount to, "But I was trying to be good." Thought inside a group can develop faster than those outside can keep up with it. In my personal opinion it seems like some people occasionally commit strategic errors by attacking too hard [I have done this myself I believe.] and, on the less-informed side, others fail by giving up too soon. I also believe I have committed this second error.

And now my question: has anyone ever found an "easy" way to balance these sides, other than a sometimes irritating or even painful process over time for both? Because off-hand none is occuring to me.

And I apologize for taking some time to say what I expect many feel is already explicit.

I don't think anyone will ever find and easy non-messy, and short way to find balance here or any where else. Life has too many variables, too many what ifs to be easily explained and summarised. The good ole logic's razor is seldom true.

Yes, that is the film. It available on amazon, either for purchase or for streaming as a cheaper alternative.

Thanks for this excellent series, Tobi. I particularly liked your point about how discussion of Ticked Off Trannies was sometimes narrowed down to a discussion of the term "tranny," despite the fact that the film raised so many other issues around genre, spectatorship, violence, and misogyny.

I agree. I think it's too easy to get distracted by one word instead of using it as a gateway to a larger discussion. We've seen it plenty elsewhere, not just with "tranny." Like with Dr. Laura's "nigger" rant, which was racist no matter whether she used that word or not, but people talking about it just focused on that word. Why weren't people asking why she used it? It would have only required them to think about the other words she was using.

(probably a derail, but edith is my new intellectual hero....)

"new intellectual hero....)"

Makes me wonder if the expression "heroine" has gone out of vogue, Javier.

I've been wondering how badly I derailed Tobi's post, though. I remember Angie Zapata's murder being the focus of the outrage toward Luna. I don't want to speculate on how Angie saw her situation. The pictures of her that I saw were of a very attractive young woman. I understand how the expression trans fits her situation the same as I see how it does mine. Then there is the excuse her transness provided for her boyfriend's misogyny. I understand about the intersection of misogyny, homophobia and transphobia. I just think if circumstances allowed, she would have wanted many of things women her age were able to take for granted. If she wanted a gay relationship, I'm sure it wouldn't have been without its problems but I think it would have involved a lot less risk.

I wasn't familiar with the way the Mercado murder played into this film. I just read about that. I think the third sex problem is a serious one, though. People talk about lack of opportunities for trans people, how trans people are drawn to sex work because of the lack of opportunities and acceptance. I think a lot of people have trouble assimilating well. I don't think it should be a burden for anyone to carry around. Why shouldn't someone who was as attractive as Angie Zapata be able to take advantage of her assets the way many other women do? There is, of course, the penis issue and it doesn't matter if it's the ghost of penis past or penis present.

I'm starting to drift now. I read this on Zoe Brain's site today,
Transsexualism and the Binary Divide:
Determining Sex Using Objective
Mathew Staver
Liberty University School of Law

Good read. I was really impressed by the way they used the expression "removal of penis" to describe vaginoplasty the same way the people at the NCTE did in National Transgender
Discrimination Survey. You know what I'm sayin'? There is way too much to get into, there, right now, I'm afraid.

"Transmen are victim to anti-transviolence, transphobia, and the use of the "6 letter T-word" just as much as transwomen, I would argue."
And you would be wrong.

We are not subject to anti-trans violence in numbers even remotely approaching trans women's. The transphobia we encounter is real, but of very different character - usually more dismissive and patronizing than dangerous and hostile. And "tranny" is not our word, hardly ever used against us (and then only by extension from its MTF meaning), and completely inappropriate for us to colonize.

you could post whole opinions/discusssions at

um,intended as a compliment.
gender neutral-
(as in "server actor hero worker student",etc...

Thanks for the reassurance, Javier. I'm not among the least insecure.

"(as in "server actor hero worker student",etc..."

Good, rather have it that way.

This whole TOTWK thing has been driving me nuts. It generated 230 comments on just one post to Pam's House Blend. I also found this when I was looking for more information on Jorge Mercado and Angie Zapata:

"Ticked off Trans Guy With Hives"

I thought this comment from Matt was funny:

« It Gets Better Because YOU Get BetterAsk Matt Thursday: What Are You Looking For in a Partner? »
Ticked-Off Trans Guy with Hives
October 25, 2010 by Matt Kailey
"When I get really stressed or upset, my skin breaks out. But my recent irritations have been small and haven’t resulted in a full-blown eruption – more like a minor rash."

Some of the more trivial annoyances in the last couple of weeks have been:

"5. A non-trans woman told me that she knows three people who are “transgendering.” "


I wanted to tell Paige Schilt how much I sympathize with what she went through at the eye doctor's office. I am annoyed by people who call me Mrs. P_________ on the telephone, who rudely assume I must be married. I am. My partner's name is Jamie. That leads to, "Well can we get more information about your husband?" - or something similar. She's 5'-3" 105 lbs.

I usually don't try to explain things to people who can't even figure out that Jessica Lange is called an actor by most people, now, and don't understand most women today want to be treated no differently than men when it comes to the way a suffix would reveal their marital status. Of course, it is usually inevitable that I let on that my spouse is a woman. But, the question I have to ask myself is how much that counts in my situation?

It's the "trans" thing. It's always hanging over your head. It seems like a warning. It seems to have been put there as a warning - something that tells you you should be careful about being presumptuous about saying how much you have in common with someone else. Regardless, I love it when I am out and no one thinks about me being "trans" and open up to me and allow me to relax and be myself. I always wonder what it would be like if I could move far away and start over. I don't blame anyone who lives without revealing their past but I, also, think about Lady Quan Yin. The thing is, nobody ever called her trans, at least, not until recently.

Oh, I forgot. This thread was about the expression "tranny" Oh, well. I have heard trans people insist over and over that Israel Luna has no right imposing that expression on trans people because he is not one of them. So, I suppose the fact that some trans people who have had the same operations other people have had causes the fact that they dismiss people who object to having certain descriptions imposed on them by the people who have the same operations is cause for that fact to lose its irony because, unlike Luna, they are like the people they are imposing descriptions on?

I don't know. I don't want to be a "hero". I think it's the last thing I want to be. It's kind of like being a "buddy". No thanks. These threads seem like team sports, at times. Some of the teams are badly outnumbered. I don't want to be on any one of them. I wonder, however, how much desirable personality traits have anything to do with how correct someone might be on a contentious subject.

(Carol:fyi also-
the email. Toni's trancentric group website....)

Excellent articles Tobi, I wish I could write like you.

Being a older trans woman. I used to use the "T" word publicly occasionally in posts, usually when at times when we were extremely frustrated and oppressed.

The last time I did was when we protested at the Houston HRC black tie and were kept in close check by 30 foot cops and every horse mounted cop that city had to offer. Yeah, that is a 'context' when I used to think 'tranny' might be considered appropriate.

Now as we are gaining respectability and becoming integrated within the worlds cisgender society the "T" word has fell out of favor with the majority of trans people. The word now holds almost purely negative connotations and has become the domain of hateful gay people who pommel us with it as a rock hurled from sling.

That angers me because I used to use it as a form of endearment when wishing to cross the distance between gender perceptions.

Sometimes I feel at a lose because of all the seemingly wasted time responding to the bitterness of misogynistic gay and lesbians. We could have bettered ourselves by focusing our energy to our betterment instead of in our defense.

But in reality, we could not do otherwise and the high road we took on our trails less traveled has been noticed by respectful intelligent people everywhere.

Even as these gay transphobes falsely claim our protests only served to promote their hatefulness we are in fact standing tall and defining ourselves proudly, owning our identity and destiny.

The latest tripe from the Dallas Voice~

planetransgender: Tammye "trannye" Na$h, Editor Dallas Voice Hates on Transsexuals, ad nauseum.

Thanks for your great series Tobi. I will link these on planetransgender and post around the web.