On Ru Paul and the word “tranny”.

On Ru Paul and the word “tranny”.

I think there’s only one person Ive known personally who should be commenting on the acceptability of the word “tranny”, and it’s none of you fake-ass First Amendment crusaders posting “tranny” on Facebook these last few days. Im a little peeved, but dont take it personal.

Groups–and I mean outgroups of racial, ethnic, sexual minorities and even women–are allowed to use words the rest of us cant touch. Black folks might use the word “nigga”, but that doesnt give anyone else license to do the same. I dont know how many Filipinos, Asians, hip- hop listening Latinos and snapbacked-white folks think its okay for them to use it (“well its not nigger with -er so its different”), but the number is too high. If you are not Black, it is not for you to decide the appropriateness of your use of the word. All else is bullshit.

On another side, you have the unwillingness of people to let a group police its own use of language, and instead hold that if a word is or may be offensive in some context, we shouldnt use that word at all. This is what is behind the attempts to ban the words “nigger” and “nigga” in the NFL, in music, etc. Whats at the heart of this is to undo the humanity from a group by targeting their language–they arent responsible enough to use words properly, so we must teach them? No, thats not how it works. It’s up to the outgroup to decide its language for itself–fuck you to criticize otherwise and try to decide what words they can and cant use.

And this is whats going on here. It’s not up to non-trans folks to decide the acceptability of using “tranny”. This isnt our fight or debate–this is only our teaching moment. I dont care how many drag queens you know, how many trans people you are friends with, how many seasons of Drag Race youve watched and rewatched. This is not for you to decide, and not for you to pick sides. To put another way: a family is having a discussion, and if youre not family, you need to sit down and STFU because your opinion does not matter unless it is asked for.

And that takes me to a broader point about this: why is Ru taking her argument to non-trans fans of hers in order to make a point? If she wants to use the word among trans folks, or have this discussion with them, so be it. But whenever did someone defend the use of the word “nigga” in rap music and say to the lighter skinned people in society, “White People, you get me, right?” What a strange way to defend the language of an outgroup to people not in that group, and to seek support from those not in the outgroup for what is clearly a family matter. That makes no sense.

As for the “history lesson”: meh. The word “tranny” may have evolved one way, but etymology doesnt provide context. Here’s an example: the word sinister. It comes from the Latin word for “left-handed”. But how does that tell you anything? It doesnt. The word sinister has a negative definition and connotation because the Latin speakers saw something scary and suspicious about those few people who were born differently, thats why sinister is now a bad word. A definition became a connotation. “Tranny” is a slur by people who arent of the group of trans people. Whatever its origins, the current context of the word matters more than its history–such is language.

And that’s that. She’s using the word almost as an advertisement for her show to people not of the drag or trans community. Shes seeking the support of people not of the drag and trans community. But if we are not of the drag and trans communities, this has nothing to do with us. Our opinions do not count for shit on this matter and in this debate. Just because you are a gay man doesnt mean you have a vote and a say in the matters of all minority and oppressed groups. So for all of you folks sharing her tweets, her comments, expressing support for Ru on Facebook and social media: have a seat because this isnt about you.

Chief Esparza

Chief is a Southern California native with roots back the Spanish conquests of the 1780s now residing in the San Francisco Bay. A Political Science grad from UC Santa Barbara, he has a passion for writing and politics. He alternates between conservative and liberal policies depending on the issue-- he strives for consistency and pragmatism to determine his political beliefs. Despite the opinionated bite and the oft-described intimidating demeanor, Chief is just a teddy bear (they need hugs to live).

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