RuPaul Likes The Word ‘Tranny’

Picture 32RuPaul is done with political correctness. In an interview with Michelangelo Signorile doomed to get a lot of ugly blowback — and which was recapitulated by Signorile at at HuffPo — she rails against the tranny taboo …

On Lance Bass's apology for using the word "tranny" Rupaul says: "It's ridiculous! It's ridiculous!… I love the word "tranny"…And I hate the fact that he's apologized. I wish he would have said, 'F-you, you tranny jerk!'"

… and against criticism of ABC's defunct Work It

… Of the ABC sitcom, "Work It," in which two straight men dress in drag in order to get jobs and which has been criticized by gay and transgender activists for mocking transgender women, RuPaul implores the activists: "Don't take life so seriously… We live in a culture where everyone is offended by everything."

… while stumping for the new season of her show, RuPaul's Drag Race, which she says is "influenced by the Gaga-esqe movement of today." And she's not just saying that. Signorile posted a slideshow of this season's contestants, and every single one of them looks like a permutation of Gaga.

Comments

  1. BABH says

    I used to get upset when my friends called me “gay,” so one day I let them know that I prefer the term “cock-chasing butt monkey.” It really offends me that they still call me “gay.”

  2. KiltBear says

    Out here in SF, one of the more popular late night live shows was called Trannyshack. I’m surprised it’s not PC. Then again, I’m not surprised its not PC.

    As my daddy (biological) used to say, “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.”

    Or as Joe Jackson sang: “don’t call me a faggot
    not unless you are a friend”

  3. AdamA says

    Yep.

    “Work It” was more exhausting and redundant than offensive. By itself, a man wearing a dress isn’t a premise. “Tootsie” made it interesting by talking about how little a man considers the difficulties of being a woman in a sexist world. “Work It” just had a lot of Venus/Mars jokes from a million years ago.

    As for “tranny” (and Ru’s “She-Mail” segment on her show), I’ve got to agree that the word doesn’t merit a permanent shelving. It references transvestites and drag queens every bit as much as transgender folks, and no one group owns it. (I know there’s TV/TG/drag overlap out there in the world, and that’s great.)

  4. Jack says

    If someone tells me calling them something or other hurts their feelings, I respect that. The group of people finding “t—–” offensive is large enough for me to not use it (if I ever did). Doing differently would be rude. I know plenty of words I don’t want people calling me. Saying I shouldn’t be “so sensitive” and calling me them anyway is uncivilized.

  5. says

    RuPaul is an opportunist and a tool of the oppressor, with her tired-ass drag diva stereotypes. Thank God we have an increasingly activist Transsexual population that takes crass exploitation seriously. Their high degree of consciousness puts the so-called “Gay community” to shame.

  6. johnny says

    There is probably a huge difference in what you think of this word based on where you come from. If you’re in drag entertainment, it’s one opinion, if your actually transitioning into another sex, it’s another. And I can see both points.

  7. says

    for those who don’t know, “Stuffed Animal” believes that Jews go to hell when they die.

    take from that what you will. “tools of the oppressor”? “crass exploitation”?

    right. said the Jesus freak. 😉

  8. Chris says

    RuPaul a “tool of the oppressor”? You mean like ex-gay therapists, the prison system, bond rating agencies, immigration officials, NDAA, and drone strikes? Boy, it makes me look at Drag Race in a whole new light.

    To be honest, I still don’t quite get the substance of the controversy, but I suspect that the “tranny” debate is a lot of misplaced energy. There are a lot of allies out there who respect trans folks, support them in their daily lives and politically, and have used or do use the word “tranny”. So be patient, at least with your allies. If you’re willing to thumb your nose at RuPaul, you’re settling sail on one tiny ship…

  9. says

    there are also trans people who use the term tranny. i’m a gay male. i don’t use it because, clearly, it’s not my word to use. if using it has negative consquences, they’re negative consequences that won’t actually affect ME, so i refrain from potentially contributing to someone ELSE’s troubles.

    but i also self-identify as Queer and lord knows some insecure ninnies have a problem with that. which is odd. i don’t label them, queer, i don’t identify them with the term – i SELF-identify.

    not all trans people feel the same way about being trans just as not all gay people feel the same way about being gay.

    werk.

  10. DLRnATL says

    Just out of curiosity (and this may have been addressed by other threads), how do those saying that they have a right to say it feel about the use of “gay,” as in “that’s so gay”? I feel that the anger over “tranny” is similar to the anger over the pejorative use of “gay.”

  11. says

    to join DLRNATL….i’m just wondering why a bunch of non-trans people are telling trans people how they should feel about a word that, to most minds, is a reference to trans people.

    seriously. a group of gay men telling trans men and women how to feel? fail.

    that’s why i don’t use the word. not my word to use. and you know, i don’t feel like my life is “missing something” because i’m not walking around saying “tranny”

  12. zydrate says

    @DLRNATL

    Except that it’s not the same thing at all. “Tranny” itself is not offensive. Could it be used offensively? Yes, so could almost any other word–that’s so white. that’s so black. that’s so Jewish. Are these “words” offensive or is context required to determine whether the statements as a whole are offensive? I promise you, the latter is the case.

    Honestly, people need to get over being all up in arms over the use of the word tranny. It’s not offensive unless it’s meant to be offensive, and if it’s meant to be offensive, you should be angry at the sentiment, not the word. Honestly, this is why it’s becoming harder and harder to take the transgendered community seriously, they are becoming the PETA of the equal rights movement.

    And for the record, I have many down to earth, intelligent transgendered friends who have no issues with the use of the word tranny as long as it’s not meant to be insulting.

  13. Stephen says

    I love RuPaul. Anyone ever notice that the only ones who get insulted by slang like tranny are ones who aren’t actually transvestite or transgender? Its the activists who are out there “fighting” for the people who are supposed to be insulted, and yet the people who SHOULD be insulted really aren’t. And ladies and gents, and those of you who have yet to make up your mind (little Kinky Boots humour there), that is political correctness. People assuming what should be insulting to certain groups they don’t really know much about.

  14. Jerry says

    I agree, Stephen. My TS friends use the word. A word cannot “belong” to a group, I’m sorry. Black people shouldn’t say “n—-r” if they don’t want other people saying it either.

  15. says

    I dunno … let me say this: I have a good friend, Chinese/male, and he owns a restaurant with his wife. My husband and I will go there for dinner (tho not so much any more). My friend’s wife repeatedly refers to me as my husband’s girlfriend and tells others that I am my husband’s girlfriend. “Where’s your girlfriend? … Are you here with your girlfriend? This is Greg’s girlfriend..” she will say when introducing me to others. She knows we are gay and a married same-sex couple. I correct her and she laughs it off. When I tell my friend that I am insulted he asks why and I say it is rude, degrading and discriminatory. “Oh, she thinks she is being funny…”

  16. Lexxvssl says

    I agree with RuPaul. You don’t forbid a word to weaken it. Forbidding it actually empowers the word, and, what is worse, it gives it another meaning it hasn’t before. So that’s why many trans people and gay people alike are surprised that some “activist” –crazy nuts- decided –after their own entitled reasoning- that the word TRANNY was officially in the black list instead of dissecting the intentions behind the person who happened to use it.

  17. Mike says

    When you’re right, you’re right. And Ru is right. Why do the transgendered think “tranny” refers exclusively to them, anyway? My drag queen friends always used it about themselves. It was never used in reference to the transgendered. Mostly because nobody knew any or thought about them much if they did. And I have heard the transgendered use it in reference to themselves so, what? YOU can use it but nobody else can? That is idiotic. It really is all about context.

  18. says

    Hey, Jerry – do you as a white man think you’re in any position to tell black people how they can or cannot use a word that refers to them? Seriously?

    i dont get people with your mentality. it’s not a different set of rules, it’s a DIFFERENT SET OF CIRCUMSTANCES.

  19. JP says

    The bottom line is the word itself is not offensive, it depends on the context. I can see why it is offensive to transgendered people, but it seems to be ok to use it about drag queens. context matters!

  20. says

    I’m American Indian–one of our historic jokes is we’re relieved Columbus wasn’t looking for Turkey. We have a really long history of knowing what it’s like to be labeled by those outside of our community. What I teach my university students–telling me what I’m supposed to be called is colonialism. My telling you what to call me is about empowerment. As a psychologist and sex researcher–a transvestite (and the majority identify as straight) is not the same as a transgendered person. I don’t feel a transvestite has the authority to speak on behalf of transgendered people, just as a person of color, I don’t feel I have the authority to speak on behalf of African-Americans or Korean-Americans.

  21. Dana Chilton says

    Does anyone remember Bosom Buddies? That show way back in the 80s did a lot to change minds about gender roles and even homosexuality. “Workit” just sucked as a show but GLADD’s admonishment was against any show that had heterosexual men dressed as women. The transgender community experiences a lot of bigotry and we must do everything to help stop it and make our society safe for everyone. I’m not convinced that GLADDs approach is the right one. the ACLU says that the answer to hate speech is more speech. We give power to words and by making an incredible issue out of the word we possibly make things worse. Anyone see “Ticked off Trannies with Knives”? The creators were forced to censor themselves by GLADD even though it’s one of the most trans-friendly movies ever made.

  22. Drift2 says

    Having wrestled with varsity cultural & gender studies, I’m all burnt out. Many in academia are powerless to bring about the changes of their dreams, so they try to exert power where they can. Telling others who has or hasn’t the authority to use which word is like telling the bank which charges are unfair and should be cancelled – powerless blustering. Real intellectuals don’t go around cordoning off words, they offer truly critical interventions into the way we understand the world, and they build intellectual bridges across identities. (P.S. my race credential is that I’m not white so I get to voice my critique haha.)

  23. HERMES says

    Hmmm, I’m wondering how much a particular quirk of language might also be in operation here.

    What I want to point out is a linguistic quirk in English, and a number of other languages, in which the diminutive form of a name is used both as a term of affection and as a pejorative. So THE SAME WORD can show affection or contempt, depending on how it’s used. For instance, Barack Obama once called himself Barry, but now when a writer uses that name, they invariably mean it in the pejorative sense. Same with calling Tom Cruise “Tommy.”

    We do this all the time, often without asking permission. John becomes Johnny and Emmanuel becomes Manny. Right? How about Aussie for Australian, anyone have a problem with that?

    I think a person should get to say what they want to be called when it’s his or her own name, and those who don’t respect that are rightly called insensitive or even abusive. At the very least, it can be really annoying when you’ve made it clear that your name is Andrew or David and someone insists on calling you ‘Andy’ or ‘Davey’. Seems to me that groups should get to choose too, but that’s not easy without some official body that can legitimately speak for transgender people. And another for drag performers.

    Anyway, my point is not whether this is right or wrong, just that our language is a bit of a setup if we forget that a term of affection is also a weapon in the wrong hands, or a way to disrespect someone if they have asked you to stop using that term. I suspect we need to just get over it, because this double use isn’t going away.

    And, I suspect most of us well-meaning folk remember the term of affection function and forget the derogatory meaning. And others of us might be making the mistake of thinking that one person’s “I don’t mind if you call me tranny” means every TG person will now welcome you with open arms because you know their secret pet name.

    My question is: could it be that many of us resist giving up words like “tranny” because our conditioning is telling us that saying “tranny” shows clearly we are not haters but rather the opposite?

    “And besides, I heard that drag queen calling herself “tranny” so it must be okay, right?”

    I’m not a fan of invoking the Word Police, and I do think that it’s up to transgender people to decide how they want to be called, but in defense of people who like the word “tranny”, it might be that we’ve been programmed to like words like this, and to overlook their shadow sides.

    what do you think? Is any of this relevant or helpful?

  24. jay_max says

    Tranny has always referred to drag queens (transvestites). RuPaul is correct in her reaction to this.

    I’m sorry, but the transgendered community does not have the right nor authority co-opt a word that doesn’t even refer to them, and then attempt to ban it.

  25. says

    AMEN Stuffed Animal!

    “RuPaul is an opportunist and a tool of the oppressor, with her tired-ass drag diva stereotypes. Thank God we have an increasingly activist Transsexual population that takes crass exploitation seriously. Their high degree of consciousness puts the so-called “Gay community” to shame.”

    Posted by: Stuffed Animal | Jan 14, 2012 4:04:38 PM

    And that’s from a gay man with moral chartachter. Thank you Stuffed Animal!

    So this gay man dressing in womens clothes is trying to garner publicity by angering the whole trans community, again??

    Not anymore guy, we aren’t buying it. Look around you guy. We are no longer easy targets for religious neocons or ‘allied’opentinistic oppressors withing the GL community.

  26. Drift2 says

    Hermes: your thoughts on the double-edged diminutive is much appreciated.

    Many gay men on the web do display the exact kind of ignorance and arrogance that “trans activists” accuse them of: “I get to call you tranny, I’ve always used the word, no one is allowed to tell me not to.” I cringe at reading many of these comments. But I suspect many more gay men are quietly thinking, “ok fine, I won’t use the word if a significant portion of the trans community is angry about it, but c’mmon, that bileful language policing is such a turn off.”

    RuPaul et al are a vital part of “gay culture” – they preserve the fine line between cheek and transgression that was, and can still be, such a vital survival strategy for gay men. This sensibility is what’s offended by the unimaginative language policing, I think.

  27. Maggie says

    RuPaul isn’t trans, so of course he won’t have a problem with it, and his opinion isn’t as important as someone who *is* trans and offended. It hurts you not one whit to abstain from using a word you know offends people, even if you have “trans friends who are cool with it.” Say it around them, don’t throw it around in general discourse.

    The only way not saying it might hurt you is if you think it’s a horrible attack on your awesome privilege to have to be considerate of others’ feelings.

  28. Maggie says

    And for the record, yes, “tranny,” itself, is offensive because it’s most often used in reference to porn. “tranny she-male porn,” blah blah. It’s a term that is othering, objectifying and demeaning. You are not a sex object or, indeed, necessarily even interested in sex at all just because you are trans.

    And as for the argument that “Oh, it’s not the words, it’s the intent,” isn’t it interesting how you choose to support the line of thinking that allows you to change not at all, that puts the entire responsibility on the person you offended?

    As I said, it does not hurt you at all, in any way, to not use the word tranny. Unless you’re the kind of person who throws a fit because they enjoy lording privilege over a smaller group that has less than them.

  29. Wheezy says

    Calling someone a tranny is like calling them a “changie” or an “accross-y”. It’s like an insult a kindergardner would invent. Childish and dumb. Instead of calling a FTM or MTF a “tranny”, lets just call them people. If they have declared themselves male then we should just treat them like any other guy. If they have declared themselves to be female, then let’s just call them her or she. We don’t need to distinguish them from biological females and males.

  30. Yall says

    Rupaul has known drags queens, transvestites and transsexual persons galore, so he has the utmost authority to use the word as he very well know when it is used and to whom and in what context. So he knows it’s not the word but the circumstance.
    Get over people, the word TRANNY is here to stay, and no hysterical reaction will change that fact just because there is no law establishing a univocal meaning. Forbidding the word out of the whim of some will only make it stronger.

  31. Sheila says

    So, does this mean it’s ok for me to call black people “n*****” and gay men “f*****”?

    Frankly I find it offensive that a gay man who simply performs in drag feels he has the right to speak for the transgender community. What’s next, actors who play doctor roles speaking for the AMA? Or even better, straight men who’ve played gay roles speaking for gay men in generals, saying “f*****” is ok! Yeah, I’d love that!

  32. Drift2 says

    I’m also reading the JMG commentariat for discussion on whether RuPaul is trans or not.

    So on the one hand the “trans activists” are lecturing teh gayz that only trans ppl have the right to define who they are, that no one else has the authority. On the other hand *they* declare who is and is not trans, selectively insisting that *only* so-and-so can be trans, and The Word has *only* been used for oppression. Conveniently ignoring the wider ambiguities in tone and terms of reference for The Word.

    At least there are sane individual trans voices – and isn’t this about recognising diversity?? When you highlight that the word is often specifically associated with violent assault, i hear you, and I want to do right by you and not use the word. Exclusionary humourless bileful ignorant “trans activists” riding roughshod over what RuPaul said and his/her history and what s/he means to the community? Not so convincing.

  33. Kenneth says

    In my opinion, words only have power if you allow them to. The “n word,” queer, faggot, tranny…have all been used at one time or another to denigrate groups of people. These groups have almost always “reclaimed” the words to render them powerless. The problem is, they still give them power. If I call myself queer or faggot, which I do with great frequency, yet bristle if a straight person does, then I have not achieved the goal of dis-empowering these words. Having said this, I do believe we have a responsibility to police ourselves when speaking. I have a mouth that would make a pirate blush, I love the words f@#k, c@#t, s*#t…and I use them with great abandon, in the right settings. I try to take into account who is within earshot. Just because I don’t find them offensive, doesn’t mean a mother and her three young children will feel the same, or a clutch of little old ladies having tea, or even someone my own age.

  34. says

    The way I see it, it’s a perfectly fine word to use to refer to drag queens / some transvestites. It’s an offensive word to use in reference to a transsexual.

    The problem is when someone uses the word, in what I would usually otherwise consider an ok context, outside the community, where it occurs in front of an audience that doesn’t know the difference.

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