Last week's revelation that SF drag queen Heklina was changing the name of her famous Trannyshack party has set off a second whirlwind of infighting in the LGBT community second only after the first whirlwind surrounding RuPaul's decision to nix the terms "she-male" and "she-mail" on RuPaul's Drag Race a few weeks prior. Heklina has defended her decision to rebrand as one she sees as progressive, and an effort to keep from hurting people in the trans community, and not one that came from PC pressure. Since then, some prominent voices in the drag and trans community have come out in favor, and in defense, of the word "tranny," including drag-queen-turned-trans performer Justin Vivian Bond, who calls this a "ridiculous subject" and "trifling bullshit."
Mx Bond's passion on this subject can't be taken to represent the trans community as a whole, of course, but her voice on the matter is telling, particularly among those trans people who have been a part of or integrated into the performance or drag community, or just for those in the trans community who don't take offense to words when they aren't based in hate speech.
On Facebook, she writes:
In my opinion there is ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with Heklina changing the name of Trannyshack in an effort to "rebrand" her legendarily inclusive, irreverent celebration of Queer fabulousness... It still makes me sad. I also think there was nothing wrong with the whimsical "Female or Shemale" game played on RuPaul's Drag Race -especially because the contestants couldn't even tell the difference. Hello! That's revolutionary!!! Not to mention the amazing talent displayed later in the episode by the transgender artists on the show which has now been pulled from the air. So. In lieu of standing up to the haters who seek to diminish us and our accomplishments and standing UNITED IN PRIDE IN OUR DIVERSITY these thoughtless "word police" instead go on the attack and achieve easy victories by harassing, silencing and shaming members of their own community... What they fail to recognize is that by banishing the use of the word TRANNY they will not be getting rid of the transphobia of those who use it in a negative way. What it does do is steal a joyous and hard-won identity from those of us who are and have been perfectly comfortable, if not delighted to BE TRANNIES, but the fact is WE ARE NOT GOING AWAY. In case you didn't know it WE'RE TOUGH! A reality check, if people think you are a tranny it's because you are perceived as one. OWN IT! If they think that's a bad thing then THEY ARE STUPID! If you don't wish to own that word or any other word used to describe you other than "male" or "female" then I hope you are privileged enough to have been born with an appearance that will allow you to disappear into the passing world or that you or your generous, supportive family are able to afford the procedures which will make it possible for you to pass within the gender binary system you are catering your demands to. If you're capable of doing that then GO ON AND DISAPPEAR INTO THE PASSING WORLD! Otherwise quit using your big, privileged -yet ignorant- mouths to make the words used to describe who we are a shameful thing. It is not shameful to be a tranny, a she-male, or any other word used to describe a gender variant individual... These words were written in love and anger.
Lady Bunny, in a new interview with Paper magazine, also had a few words to say on the matter. She points out that among GLAAD's list of banned words these days is "gender bender," which is pretty ridiculous.
Tranny is an abbreviation for transvestite and transsexual, so I'm free to use it since I fall with that category. Much as blacks can use the N-word. I know tranny from London, where they abbreviate everything breakfast is brekkie, biscuit is biccie. Tranny is used affectionately on the club scene. Even transsexual advocates like Jayne County and Kate Bornstein have come out and said that these words aren't necessarily slurs... I think there are a few militant trans women who have started this mudslinging and I'm sorry that Ru backed down. The same people who would bash a trans [person] in a dark alley would probably also bash a drag queen or someone gay. I wish we could stick together as a community instead of in-fighting. Because the gay/trans community's real enemies aren't RuPaul or people who say tranny it's the people who would physically bash us.
And I'm sick of people thinking they can ban words because they make them feel bad. Boo hoo for you! Any time we choose a different path in life, we're going to get shit for it whether you choose to be openly gay, trans or even a straight guy with tattoos all over his face. If you don't have the balls to take shit, then choose an easy path. And for huge gay organizations like GLAAD to join in to censor Ru or anyone else confuses me. "Gender bender" is on GLAAD's list of banned words. That's what Frank-n-Furter, David Bowie and Sylvester were that's not a slur except to the most precious, uptight goody two-shoes. And no one has ever bashed a trans person and said, "Take that, you gender bender, you!" It's typical of how conservative the gay movement has become.
Also chiming in again in the last few days is RuPaul herself, talking with Marc Maron on his WTF podcast:
Does the word "tranny" bother me? No. I love the word "tranny."... This is not the transsexual community that are [objecting to this]. These are fringe people who are looking for storylines to strengthen their identity as victims... Most people who are trans have been through hell and high water, and they have looked behind the curtain at Oz and said, 'Oh, this is all a fucking joke.' But, some people haven't... [They say] 'Oh words me,' and you know, bitch, you need to get stronger... But there's nothing you can say to those people that can change that... It's a lose-lose situation. You can not win with this.
Listen to the whole segment here.