Amid the continued public flap about Ru-Paul’s use of the word “tranny”, Heklina Heklina — the organizer of San Francisco’s “Trannyshack” party — publicly announced that she would drop the word “tranny” from her party and re-brand it with a new name by 2015.
In a public Facebook post, Heklina said, “Whether I like it or not the very name of my legendary nightclub has become political.” She then explained why she originally chose the name and what compelled her to change it:
First, a little history about the name Trannyshack, and the club itself. When I started the club (waaaaaay back in 1996) the word “tranny” did not have the charged weight to it that it has today. Simply put, it was not (arguably) considered a slur word, and not even thought of on the same level as the words “dyke” or “faggot” (two words which, maybe ironically, have somehow become less charged and have been “reclaimed” to a certain degree-for instance, leading the Pride Parade in San Francisco every year are the Dykes On Bikes. I can’t imagine in this day, a contingent called Trannies On Bikes). There are people who might argue this, but I’m sorry it just was not a word thought of as a slur on the same level as today. It was just not. I considered the name transgressive, and cutting edge…
Every walk of life came to, and performed at, Trannyshack. Gay men, lesbians, drag kings, drag kings, M to F’s, F to M’s, Faux Queens, and yes, even straight people. It won every award for Best Drag show in SF every year, and is generally thought to have redefined drag on the West Coast. It didn’t matter (and still does not) what gender you were, or what you had between your legs, if you were a great performer you were welcome on the Trannyshack stage. It grew to mean a great deal to a great many people…
However. Increasingly, and in the past year especially, it’s become clear to me the meaning the word tranny has taken on. I’ve tried to avoid the issue because I’ve spent almost 20 years branding and promoting my club. But more and more, I am asked on the street, in interviews, and online about my thoughts on the word, and the name of my club. I’ve given the answer “Oh, my club is different, it means so much to so many people, it’s this it’s that, etc.”, but it’s been nagging at me.
I started to talk to people close to me about the need for a rebrand. What really was the clincher for me was a post I saw on Facebook by a performer at my club . I wasn’t tagged in the post, but came across it anyway. He said how excited he was to be performing at my club but, out of embarrassment, he couldn’t type the name of it, and something along the lines of “you all know where it is”. Ouch, OK. Time for a rebrand.
I am in the business of (hopefully) entertaining people. It’s never been my intention to hurt people. I am not another Shirley Q. Liquor, wanting to offend just for sake of it. Also, on a purely business level, I don’t want to be viewed as archaic, out of step with the times, like an ostrich with my head in the sand.
She added, "As I see it, there’s two ways we can deal with this. We can see this as progress and a step forward, or we can engage in fighting and divisiveness. Whichever one you choose I am going for progress, and away from hurt and anger."
Until the 2015 rollout, Heklina has decided to use “T-Shack” as a temporary name while she researches a better one. She then refused to engage the matter further via Facebook, but invited people to talk with her about the old and new names face-to-face.