Here are two amazing pieces written as a response to the recent uproar about the use of the term “tranny” but also due to the one caused by a series of articles about Leto playing Rayon and the potrayal of trans women in mainstream media.
The first, by Jen Richards, takes an intersectional, intergenerational approach to looking at the conflict that happened between Parker Molloy (whose work I admire) and Calpernia Addams (whose work I have admired for a long time), and about whom Jen Richards writes:
Her story is not an unusual one for trans women, particularly those of us who came of age before the dominance of social media. The clubs I first went to were gay ones, and the lines between fag, queen, tranny and crossdresser were not always apparent, certainly not to anyone on the outside. In those contexts, differences within the group mattered less than the shared safe space.
For Addams and her followers, Molloy’s criticisms of Jared Leto and RuPaul, her fixation on language and general focus on victimhood, is emblematic of a view of trans women that is, if not inaccessible, at least not understandable. Many of these trans women have carved out unique paths through transition, often outside of a community context, and some young straight trans women may not have ever identified as gay men. Others bend gender and sexuality in ways that exist comfortably outside of the binary and heteronormative view that Addams represents.
The second article, by Cristan Williams on TransAdvocate, does a linguistic, historical review of the usage of the term “tranny” that is just – GREAT. It reviews various appearances of the word from 1985 onward, with sources such as Law & Order, a review of Hedwig, to the use by the “Tranny Roadshow” in 2005. It closes with the following questions:
- What impact does an obviously very popular context of framing the trans experience (tranny) have on social justice movements?
- When the majority clearly associates “tranny” with the sex industry while the gay and drag community associates the term with performance and partying, will this affect the ability of the GLBT community to communicate well?
I would ask one more: is it possible for us within the trans community to use this term but simultaneously object to its usage in a mainstream context? It was always “insider” language for me – never a term I used outside of trans contexts – and a term I have since stopped using altogether, precisely because I am not trans.