Lance Bass | RuPaul | Transgender

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.

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Comments

  1. 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.

    Posted by: Lexxvssl | Jan 14, 2012 6:30:20 PM


  2. 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.

    Posted by: Mike | Jan 14, 2012 6:34:21 PM


  3. 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.

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Jan 14, 2012 6:54:16 PM


  4. 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!

    Posted by: JP | Jan 14, 2012 7:07:49 PM


  5. 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.

    Posted by: Ty Nolan | Jan 14, 2012 7:50:45 PM


  6. 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.

    Posted by: Dana Chilton | Jan 14, 2012 9:06:54 PM


  7. Love RuPaul but I prefer the Portuguese "travesti". Pronounced "trah-vesh-tee". Try to make me apologize for that.

    Posted by: Mark | Jan 14, 2012 9:30:01 PM


  8. So "Trans" is ok but "Tranny" is not? Are 39-year old grandmothers offended by "Granny"? (or Gran?) How about "Transgee" for Transgender (3 syllables, a burden).

    Posted by: Manny Espinola | Jan 14, 2012 9:38:35 PM


  9. 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.)

    Posted by: Drift2 | Jan 14, 2012 9:53:19 PM


  10. 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?

    Posted by: HERMES | Jan 15, 2012 12:05:43 AM


  11. We're all trannies

    Posted by: dunstan | Jan 15, 2012 12:24:13 AM


  12. 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.

    Posted by: jay_max | Jan 15, 2012 1:09:41 AM


  13. Does this mean I can now call Rupaul the N-word?

    Posted by: Amber Thompson | Jan 15, 2012 10:52:26 AM


  14. 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.

    Posted by: kelli Busey | Jan 15, 2012 11:35:10 AM


  15. 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.

    Posted by: Drift2 | Jan 15, 2012 12:14:56 PM


  16. 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.

    Posted by: Maggie | Jan 15, 2012 1:13:23 PM


  17. 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.

    Posted by: Maggie | Jan 15, 2012 1:20:41 PM


  18. What's wrong with "dragalicious?"

    Posted by: CarlottaVonFunkenhowzer | Jan 15, 2012 2:31:03 PM


  19. 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.

    Posted by: Wheezy | Jan 15, 2012 3:21:14 PM


  20. Ru Paul isn't trans and really has no right to say this.

    Posted by: BenB | Jan 15, 2012 3:26:42 PM


  21. RuPaul is right

    Posted by: jaragon | Jan 15, 2012 6:32:29 PM


  22. 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.

    Posted by: Yall | Jan 15, 2012 7:24:55 PM


  23. 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!

    Posted by: Sheila | Jan 15, 2012 9:39:26 PM


  24. 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.

    Posted by: Drift2 | Jan 15, 2012 9:45:16 PM


  25. 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.

    Posted by: Kenneth | Jan 15, 2012 10:05:30 PM


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