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Friday, December 2, 2011

The Transgression of Neil Patrick Harris

Posted by on Fri, Dec 2, 2011 at 7:35 AM

Some of the idiots running around accusing me of being transphobic pointed to my use of the word "tranny" in this blog post as evidence of my transphobia.

It didn't matter that I was quoting a dishonest blogger who falsely accused me of using the word (a blogger who used the word herself), that I denied using the word (because I hadn't used the word), and then stated that I had made an effort to stop using the word after the memo went out about it. My use of the word "tranny" in a blog post about how I didn't use the word and try not to use the word? Just a sneaky way of using the word! (Example of this strain of logic here: "And yet by trying not to say the word 'tranny' anymore, he says it over and over in that post...") SO! Hate speech! Proof of transphobia! Because the word "tranny" is so toxic, so hateful, and so harmful to the trans community that it can't be used in any context, at any time, by anyone, ever! (The dishonest blogger who used the word when she stuffed it in my mouth? She gets a pass because, um, it's okay to use the word so long as you're lying about someone else using the word?)

Using the logic—if I may call it that—of the dishonest blogger, GBers, and furious commenters... the person who wrote this blog post going after Neil Patrick Harris for his use the word "tranny" on television is a transphobic bigot. The blogger uses the word four times, after all, and remember: context doesn't matter. So it's irrelevant that the blogger has an entirely legit point about why NPH's use of the word is troubling—NPH thoughtlessly invoked the spectre of trans women as sexual predators—because the word can't be used in any context, at any time, by anyone, ever, anyone who uses the word is a bigot, and the blogger uses it over and over and over in that post! So the blogger is a bigot. (When you're ready to apologize, Neil, the cissies at GLAAD are ready to help you play Grovel Madlibs. You too, blogger!)

 

Comments (150) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Cato the Younger Younger 1
Do these rules apply to the use of "n*gger" as well? I'm really confused about being PC anymore.
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on December 2, 2011 at 7:45 AM · Report this
2
Seems to me the movement for equality in America is getting bogged down more and more by controlling the way people speak. Surely efforts are better focussed towards actual threats, rather than becoming thought police for a new millennium.

Posted by danboy76 on December 2, 2011 at 7:45 AM · Report this
Fifty-Two-Eighty 3
That does it. Nobody's allowed to use any words any more. We all have to go back to grunting.
Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty http://www.nra.org on December 2, 2011 at 7:53 AM · Report this
Renton Mike 4
@3 Nope. That might offend neanderthals.
Posted by Renton Mike on December 2, 2011 at 8:01 AM · Report this
gttim 5
These folks are getting as annoying as grammar nazis.
Posted by gttim on December 2, 2011 at 8:05 AM · Report this
6
@4 I think the PC term now is "Neandertal". Not sure why they lost the "h".
Posted by WestSeven on December 2, 2011 at 8:07 AM · Report this
BEG 7
What I don't understand is where folks who self describe as trannies fit in...
Posted by BEG http://twitter.com/#!/browneyedgirl65 on December 2, 2011 at 8:10 AM · Report this
8
Honestly though, who really pays much attention to the people who are that over-the-top hysterical? They're great fun for mockery, but really they are little more than side-shows.

I think you can take a cue from the N*ggerhead fiasco. I saw several frightened liberal reporters ask several patient black reporters/professors/pundits how you go about reporting such a story when the word was central to the story. There seemed to be a consensus that saying the word "nigger" when you are reporting on a story about racism that lacks any coherence without the word is perfectly admisable. Most African Americans, and most transgendered folks (and most transgendered African Americans) are not fucking idiots and can differentiate between a word being used to hurt or as a tasteless joke and a word being used to address the very issues brought up by the word itself.
Posted by Lynx on December 2, 2011 at 8:12 AM · Report this
9
@6 No, it's still Neaderthal. Named for the Neander valley where the first identified remains were discovered. Valley = thal, pronounced "tal" in German.
Posted by moosefan on December 2, 2011 at 8:18 AM · Report this
mikethehammer 10
Fron a realistic & practical standpoint I really think the only logical way to move forward is to de-stigmatize these words (all of them - c*nt, n*gger, etc.) Until we do so it's just going to give straight, white males this completely ridiculous "power" (for lack of a better word) that we've done absolutely nothing to deserve.
Posted by mikethehammer on December 2, 2011 at 8:23 AM · Report this
11
I was busy wondering when transvestites became such a political force?! different meaning this side of the pond..
Posted by UK girlie on December 2, 2011 at 8:25 AM · Report this
Fifty-Two-Eighty 12
I'm not sure which spelling is politically correct lately; I've been seeing an awful lot of "Neandertal" in scientific publications lately.

Either way, you can't use that word no matter how you spell it. Just call them "Republicans."
Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty http://www.nra.org on December 2, 2011 at 8:25 AM · Report this
13
Too soon @4. Neanderthals have only been extinct for arguably 30, 000 years. Bad form.
Posted by sall on December 2, 2011 at 8:25 AM · Report this
14
I stand corrected by Fifty-Two-Eighty.
Posted by sall on December 2, 2011 at 8:27 AM · Report this
Allyn 15
@8 - "Honestly though, who really pays much attention to the people who are that over-the-top hysterical? "

People who watch Fox "News"?
Posted by Allyn on December 2, 2011 at 8:31 AM · Report this
16
Both Neanderthal and Neandertal are correct. It got changed somewhere along the way to better reflect the original German pronunciation (pronounced "tal" and not "thal") but the old way is still correct.
Sorry everyone, I'm an insufferable palaeolithic archaeologist...had to get involved.
Posted by australokrista on December 2, 2011 at 8:32 AM · Report this
LogopolisMike 17
I'm not going to slam on people who are offended by this word because talking about the PC police is an idiotic fallacy whether it be done by Tea Partiers or supporters of gay Doogies.

But this particular word has come up so many times lately that I'm sure someone must have made this point, but I don't think it can be made enough to people in responding to trans issues and 'tranny' in general.

Dear Folks:

You know how sometimes people give old people a slight pass when they say something ignorantly racist or homophobic because they were from a different time. You might (and shouldn't) let it totally slide but use it as as teaching moment to say 'that's not acceptable (anymore) and here's why'

People really, really, really, really need to do this was 'tranny.' When I was growing up and coming out/into the gay community, 'tranny' was used by everyone -- gay people, gay publications, and many non-self-hating, fabulous trans people themselves. It may have always been offensive to some, but it wasn't to all, and this wasn't that many years ago. Though people should maybe be more educated, it's not the type of thing that often comes up for a lot of people, even your fellow GLBs. Not everybody is as engaged with this issue as those who know. So when it does come up, instead of treating people who are would obviously be on your sides as equal to the bigots who would gladly strip you of even the limited rights you currently have, you need to engage them. Unless you want to just be another asshole who can claim moral superiority rather than just winning an argument. But then, again, your difference in terms of attempting to make political and social change between you and the Tea Party becomes harder and harder to grasp. Nobody's asking you to back down -- just to realize with quick (though not quick enough) social change comes a responsibility to guide everybody else along.
More...
Posted by LogopolisMike http://logopolis.typepad.com on December 2, 2011 at 8:35 AM · Report this
18
(Trigger warning for patriarchy, rape culture, transphobia) Coming from my own personal narrative, which I recognize has inherent in it a certain amount of cis privilege that, to me, is articulated through what society views me and being able to work comfortably within my gendered role without facing acute oppression or internalized trauma regarding my physical and more nebulous, spiritual identity, and taking in to account the invisible narratives that have been destroyed by a binary that pervades all of human history, erasing queer, femme, butch, gay, bi, BDSM, kink, bent, genderqueer, genderfuck, and otherkin peoples within a colonial and paternalist system in which power is directly related to one's role in a society and from which each person should be free to liberate, I would posit that this argument is complete bullshit and I fucking hate these circle-jerk blogs.
Posted by RadQueerCisHeteroGuy on December 2, 2011 at 8:38 AM · Report this
Dingo 19
What a weirdly defensive post.
Posted by Dingo on December 2, 2011 at 8:38 AM · Report this
20
@7 is spot on. I will continue to call my tranny friends trannies, because that's their preferred term. Well, that or "Dan," "Sylvia," etc.
Posted by BABH on December 2, 2011 at 8:40 AM · Report this
21
@12, I'm not sure it's a PC argument so much as it's a linguistic argument. When Neaderthals were discovered the Germans were using "thal" for valley. Since 1901 they've been using "tal". So, technically, both spellings are correct. The scientific spelling is maintained as Neaderthal, even in Germany.

I take issue with your degradation of Neaderthals. We are unsure of their median level of intelligence. Also, Neaderthals interbreed with homo sapians so a lot us - dems and repubs - are Neaderthals. I like to believe that full Neaderthals would be unhappy to be lumped in with the the fear-mongering, morally bankrupt, hypocritical, power-hungry homo sapians sapians who represent the Republican Party these days.
Posted by moosefan on December 2, 2011 at 8:41 AM · Report this
seandr 22
Political correctness may have started as a means of protecting minorities from offensive speech, but it is increasingly used as a weapon to smear people you don't like.

Why some trannies don't like Dan is anyone's guess.
Posted by seandr on December 2, 2011 at 8:43 AM · Report this
23
@17: Great response.

My personal favorite line: "Our lives are not a joke."

Yes, yes they are. All lives are a joke. It's not my fault you haven't seen the punchline yet. You're just pissy NPH is funnier in his worst moment than you are at your best.
Posted by NateMan on December 2, 2011 at 8:45 AM · Report this
24
@16, I gotta say I love that half this thread is now devoted to a discussion of Neaderthal vs. Neadertal. My inner nerd (and my outer nerd, okay just my whole self) is totally geeking out.
Posted by moosefan on December 2, 2011 at 8:45 AM · Report this
seandr 25
@21: Neaderthals interbreed with homo sapians

We don't know if that's true or not, it's an open question.
Posted by seandr on December 2, 2011 at 8:45 AM · Report this
26
don't all of you morons have something better to do than argue if dan savage - world acclaimed promoter of poop jokes and writer for MTV - is sexually phobic in any way?

i don't even read his shitty posts and i know that is an extremely stupid accusation.
Posted by Swearengen on December 2, 2011 at 8:47 AM · Report this
27
@25: There's been recent genetic evidence out of Leipzig that strongly suggests that we did, in fact, interbreed at one point with Neanderthals.
They found that all non-African populations share 1-4% of their genes with Neanderthals. The researchers are hypothesizing that it only really happened during one period of time, most likely in the Middle East east, and then never happened again.
Posted by australokrista on December 2, 2011 at 8:53 AM · Report this
28
@26: Hehehe, I'm pretty excited about it too...I was about to start talking about the FoxP2 gene and how it relates to Neanderthal speech and then decided that probably nobody cares and restrained myself.
Posted by australokrista on December 2, 2011 at 8:57 AM · Report this
BEG 29
@25 DNA analysis is pretty conclusive.
Posted by BEG http://twitter.com/#!/browneyedgirl65 on December 2, 2011 at 9:00 AM · Report this
31
@28, I can't speak for anyone else but I totally care.
Posted by moosefan on December 2, 2011 at 9:06 AM · Report this
32
Dan. Stop.

Someday I will go through all of your columns and list all the parts where you have said things that could have been read as a little transphobic, a little misogynist, a little biphobic. I am not going to do that now, because it's 2AM where I am and I'm tired and have homework to do in the morning. But someday.

I - and probably a lot of other people - would be willing to wipe that slate clean if you were willing to admit that you've said some things you maybe shouldn't've. That's okay. That's allowed. We all do it.

But this hysterical over-the-top defensiveness is making you look as bad as the people you're trying to ridicule. Either accept the criticism or let. It. Go.
Posted by Rei on December 2, 2011 at 9:10 AM · Report this
33
@18 FTW This cisgendered binary male loves you, but in a non-oppressive patriarcy kind of way.
Posted by drawn_a_blank on December 2, 2011 at 9:11 AM · Report this
34
@30, one of the main authors of that study came to my halloween party. He is a dancing fiend.
Posted by australokrista on December 2, 2011 at 9:12 AM · Report this
Puty 35
Dan is really, really good at flushing out immaturity, irrational and egomaniacal self-righteousness and mild mental illness. He takes it beyond troll-baiting and into the realm of comic bookesque superpower. I bet he feels really blessed to have such influence.

I like the 5280/Renton Mike comedy team up there.

Back to your cavemen!
Posted by Puty on December 2, 2011 at 9:19 AM · Report this
36
@27 ".. it only really happened during one period of time, most likely in the Middle East, and then never happened again".

That's Mrs Homosapien's story and she's sticking to it.
Posted by Rubbish_Transcriber on December 2, 2011 at 9:19 AM · Report this
seandr 37
@29, @30: Not even the scientists who did the DNA analyses you are referring to would describe the results as "conclusive" on this issue. "Suggestive", maybe, but by no means "conclusive".

@34: And his costume was?
Posted by seandr on December 2, 2011 at 9:22 AM · Report this
38
Danny we are worried about you.

When you get the ButtSore it seems to heal very slowly.

Perhaps you need to take a multivitamin.

We realize a very very heavy glass jar almost hit you right in your fucking face, butt damn, your catlike reflexes saved you so surely you can move on now?
Posted by Desitin on December 2, 2011 at 9:25 AM · Report this
39
This idiocy is not even about whether "tranny" is okay. It's about a failure to grasp the simple distinction between "use" and "mention" of a word. You're in good company, Dan. Check this out:
http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=…
Posted by Margaret L. on December 2, 2011 at 9:30 AM · Report this
40
@37, he dressed up in a fake-blood spattered white jumpsuit, wore plastic face-guard mask, and carried a fake knife. I don't even know what you call masks like that.
I was super impressed, considering he's German and I didn't expect any of the Germans to take the costume thing seriously.
Posted by australokrista on December 2, 2011 at 9:30 AM · Report this
Hawke 41
wonders how many times Dan is supposed to say he's sorry for using words that get so many panties in a bunch EVERY SINGLE TIME without regard to context.

I figured it was Neandertal because they're tall. Like Ted Danson.
Posted by Hawke http://facebook.com/thehawke on December 2, 2011 at 9:37 AM · Report this
geoz 42
I believe "PC" now just means "words or expressions of belief that I (the speaker) don't like." It is quickly obsolete because it has come to mean so many relative words. I use "considerate" now in lieu of PC.

I have to say that people who use "PC" in a derogatory sense are also people with whom I don't find much in common.

I also find language anger to be really over-rated. Let's all speak a langauge we don't know, so we can focus on better behavior instead of better language.
Posted by geoz on December 2, 2011 at 9:38 AM · Report this
43
@9, yes, but German for 'valley' is Tal, not Thal (the latter was the 19th-centurish spelling, but in one of those early spontaneous spelling reforms Thal became Tal). So "the Valley of the Neander" is today Neandertal. Which would explain the spelling change.
Posted by ankylosaur on December 2, 2011 at 9:39 AM · Report this
44
TRANNY
Posted by Mr. J on December 2, 2011 at 9:46 AM · Report this
45
@27(australokrista), I've been recently to Leipzig (the Max-Planck-Institut, I suppose you mean; or do you mean the university?) and indeed the idea that there was interbreeding between sapiens and neanderthalensis has a lot going for it and many defenders. I saw a few dissenting voices though.

Anyway, since Neandert(h)als are clearly much closer to Cro-Magnons than earlier SF movies would lead us to believe (I wonder if they would look more deviant among us than any specific geographic groups of sapiens, like Papua New Guinea highlanders or Australian aboriginals; probably not), the interbreeding hypothesis is certainly not offensive. If I happen to have Neandert(h)al genes in my genome, I'll be proud of it.
Posted by ankylosaur on December 2, 2011 at 9:47 AM · Report this
46
@australokrista, I'd be interested in the FoxP2 gene and Neandert(h)al speech. Care to elaborate?
Posted by ankylosaur on December 2, 2011 at 9:55 AM · Report this
47
http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/Savag…
Posted by "Bad Tranny," Jan. 9, 2003 on December 2, 2011 at 10:03 AM · Report this
48
On the topic of "tranny", I've discussed my opinion in other comment threads... here's a little summary:

(a) words are not offensive per se, it's their use that makes them offensive

(b) words are not 'guilty' of being offensive; people are guilty of offending others with words; mistaking the word for the real culprit (the bigot) is like believing the whip is more important than the whip master.

These facts notwithstanding, one often finds activists actively fighting against words, regardless of context or intention, commtiting the mistake described in (b). This has several bad consequences:

[i] fighting against words is a waste of time and resources: if the underlying cause of the offensive behavior (bigotry, hatred, social structures and stereotypes, the hearts and minds of the population) isn't changed, any offensive words eliminated by activism will soon be replaced by new offensive words used for the same purpose as the old ones.

[ii] fighting against words rather than contexts and 'what is said', sometimes leads to activists fighting against anyone who uses the word, including those who actually agree with the activsts' cause and support it, thus creating 'friendly fire' that harms rather than helps the cause.

[iii] the general fight-the-word climate creates a grammar-police-state situation with a new hierarchy
in which those 'in the know' try to control the others (the plebs) by denying them legitimate access to labels they identify with ('you're not a true X / Y / Z!'), in sad imitation of the very oppressive principle they wished to combat ('patriarchy', racism, cultural conformity/stereotypes, etc.).
Posted by ankylosaur on December 2, 2011 at 10:10 AM · Report this
49
@32 FTW
Posted by uhh... on December 2, 2011 at 10:17 AM · Report this
TLjr 50
I don't read Dan either. Or any of the comments. Hell, I don't even read my own stuff.

So there.
Posted by TLjr on December 2, 2011 at 10:23 AM · Report this
blip 51
This post made my brain bleed. What the fuck are you going on about?
Posted by blip on December 2, 2011 at 10:31 AM · Report this
John Horstman 52
There's a meme that trans women are predators? This is the first time I've ever heard that suggested, anywhere (including the many narratives in which trans persons have related their experiences with transphobia and discrimination; the Buffalo Bill thing thing is a result of people being idiots, as in both the book and movie Lecter points out that BB isn't actually transsexual, according to the psychological model of transsexualism).

Also, I assert that claiming privilege from any negative depictions of trans people at all is itself transphobic. The problem isn't that trans people are sometimes depicted as bad people, because there are plenty of trans people who are assholes(probably including a murderer or two). The problem is that/if trans people are ONLY depicted as bad people, and/or if hateful bigots latch on to any negative images and claim that they are representative. Are some trans women predators? Yes, of course, just like some trans men are predators, and cis men, and cis women, and intersexed persons, and any other newer or older classification or term as which you (any of you out there in Internet land) prefer to identify/be identified. Claiming privilege from any negative depictions is insisting that trans people be treated differently than everyone else, which is exactly the problem in the first place. Trans people (I'm curious, once "trans" has been used in marginalizing or offensive contexts enough that a critical mass of people find the term itself always offensive, what are we going to do? Go with something like "person-of-trans"?) shouldn't be treated any worse than anyone else, nor should they be treated any better.

As for the bathroom thing, that's not a claim that trans women are predators, that's a claim that straight cis men are predators and are going to use equality guarantees for trans people as a pretext to assault women in bathrooms (don't try to follow the lack of logic in insisting that assault somehow won't still be assault and won't still be illegal if we stop caring about the genitals/hormone levels/genes of people using a particular collection of toilet stalls) which is deployed in order to continue trans oppression. It should be read as deeply insulting to both trans women (as it suggests that they don't really exist or at least that a significant portion of the people identifying as trans women aren't really transgendered and that the fact that some assholes assault people means we should oppress a particular group) AND cis men (as it suggests that allowing them to be near women who are urinating or defecating will somehow motivate them to assault those women).

Was NPH's comment tasteless/in bad form/offensive to many (and legitimately so)? Sure. Because of the context. You (linked blogger) have every right to ask people around you to not call YOU "tranny" nor use "tranny" around you (though that's possibly terribly marginalizing for people who self-identify as "trannies"; people also have the right to ignore you, though that may well be an indication that they're bigoted assholes) and to advocate for the removal of the word from our shared vocabulary (by trying to convince people that it's experienced as hurtful by enough people to merit that removal), but you have no right whatsoever to dictate the universal use and meaning of words, or to proscribe words from general use because you personally find them offensive. Also, cite us specific examples of Dan being transphobic if you're making that claim, not examples of other people making that claim without evidence.

@32: Dan frequently apologizes for stupid things he's said. The thing is that they're NOT willing to wipe the slate clean, and this particular kerfuffle is about something that someone completely made up. Don't deny Dan his anger at being dishonestly attacked and smeared; it's not okay just because the people doing it have also been dishonestly attacked and smeared at various points in their lives.
More...
Posted by John Horstman on December 2, 2011 at 10:32 AM · Report this
geoz 53
@48... That was much better at saying what I was attempting to say. Thanks.
Posted by geoz on December 2, 2011 at 10:39 AM · Report this
Fnarf 54
I can't believe Dan is getting all this abuse for "tranny" while the real crime -- "cissy" for "sissy" -- is being completely ignored. Seriously, I'm calling the Spelling Directorate of the UN on this.
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on December 2, 2011 at 10:41 AM · Report this
bigg 55
I couldn't give a flying fig about NPH or his (mis)use of the word tranny, but I would be absolutely fascinated to hear about Neanderthal speech from Australokrista. Pretty, pretty please?
Posted by bigg http://biggblah.blogspot.com/ on December 2, 2011 at 10:44 AM · Report this
reverend dr dj riz 56
..you know.. i don't like hearing the word 'nigger' ..- i heard a white gay man call a bunch of other gay men 'niggers' outside of rebar a couple of weeks ago and it stung. like hell i even felt like crying . then i got in a cab and heard the driver , another white man use it .yeah.. i know..right ?.. i was too hurt to give a 'teachable moment' any air.. because , like, who am i, dr fucking phil ? .and yes i've used it countless times in various ways throughout my life to various effect. so i decided to change my feelings about it
( people forget that they can change their feelings ) because.. well this is all too fucking ridiculous.. ..
... for words...
Posted by reverend dr dj riz on December 2, 2011 at 10:46 AM · Report this
57
@54 (Fnarf), please go and defend all us cissy boys! We need all the help we can get.

@52 (Mr Horstman), I agree with pretty much everything you've said there, and you've said it very eloquently.

One problem with activisms of all kinds is how easily they start using themselves stereotypes and offensive words (some they create themselves) to attack their enemies. There is of course a motivation for this -- they were themselves attacked and suffered thoughout their lives. It is sad, though, to see it happen, just as it is sad to see another round of war starting in the Balkans because of events that happened there more than five hundred years ago.
Posted by ankylosaur on December 2, 2011 at 10:51 AM · Report this
Fred Casely 58
@26: So either you consider this one to be an unshitty post, or you make a habit of jumping right into the comments without rea...

Sorry, just noticed my bin of Purina Troll Chow is empty.
Posted by Fred Casely on December 2, 2011 at 10:51 AM · Report this
scary tyler moore 59
the MTFs i've met have been, with one exception, fabulous people. the FTMs, not so much. too defensive and thin-skinned.
Posted by scary tyler moore http://pushymcshove.blogspot.com/ on December 2, 2011 at 10:52 AM · Report this
60
So a pregnant cis-gendered Neanderthal, a FTM lawyer, and an Orthodox rabbi from Canada who overuses his free health care walk into Trannyshack.
They watch Suppositori Spelling's performance and clap politely,
Posted by beccoid on December 2, 2011 at 11:04 AM · Report this
dirac 61
Thanks for taking Silence of the Lambs seriously--I still laugh through the whole thing and it's subsequent pathetic attempts at coherent follow-ups.
Posted by dirac on December 2, 2011 at 11:16 AM · Report this
62
I've got a trip planned to the Neandert*al Museum in Dusseldorf for this spring. I should be prepared to comment authoritatively upon my return about all this stuff.
Posted by Pablo Picasso on December 2, 2011 at 11:21 AM · Report this
63
@43, yup. I addressed the language shift in my comment @21. Language is ever shifting and I realized I hadn't mentioned the spelling change/shift that happened at the beginning of the 20th Century.

@australokrista I'd also like to reiterate my plea to hear about the FoxP2 gene. I know I could look it up but I'm enjoying the discussion here.

@seandr, are you just terrified to have to admit that your ancestors interbreed with some nonhumans? Does that do in your world view so much that you feel the need to plug your ears and reject the scientific evidence? Lots of things aren't 100% conclusive but we accept them as true because the chance that we got it wrong is so damn small.
Posted by moosefan on December 2, 2011 at 11:25 AM · Report this
I Hate Screen Names 64
O dear gawd, this "tranny" nonsense is moronic.

You know how the GOP became a pack of illiterate, Bible-thumping Luddites? Because the far, far, far right Republicans-- the ones who are so off the charts reactionary that they've ventured into fascist territory-- started ejecting sensible conservatives. So much so that the phrase "sensible conservative" has become an oxymoron. Now all that's left of the GOP is the complete imbeciles who somehow simultaneously drink the evangelical and objectivist Kool-aid, thereby believing that praising Jesus and cutting taxes will solve every problem in the world, ever.

The folks trying to paint Dan as "transphobic" are the left's version of the wackos who destroyed the GOP. They want to eject people who agree that transexuals are entitled to full marriage rights, dignity, and equal protection under the law-- views that are sadly NOT yet mainstream, by the way-- but who aren't such sensitive babies that the word "tranny" sends them into convulsive fits.

Shut the fuck up, assholes. Learn who your fucking allies are.
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on December 2, 2011 at 11:26 AM · Report this
bedipped 65
@Pablo Picasso
This comment thread will still be unraveling then, what with all the 1% Neanderthal trolls and their poo-flinging.
Posted by bedipped on December 2, 2011 at 11:28 AM · Report this
66
as for Tal vs. Thal - as ankylosaur @43 rightly points out, Tal is the modern German. In many cases, though, the old fashioned spelling remains for locations. And here's where it gets really crazy: The nearby city is called "Neanderthal", whereas the actual place (and the state park) is called "Neandertal". You can see them next to each other on a map here: http://g.co/maps/mscj8
Posted by adam.smith on December 2, 2011 at 11:36 AM · Report this
dirac 67
@64 Hey, I'm a left crazy and I think those trannies are being fags, so shut the fuck up asshole.
Posted by dirac on December 2, 2011 at 11:37 AM · Report this
Chefgirl 68
I just mainlined all four parts of the UK Channel Four docu, "My Transsexual Summer" in which the seven participants, each in a different stage of transitioning, dubbed themselves "the Magic Tranny Seven". I guess no one told them that was self-hating and wrong?
Posted by Chefgirl on December 2, 2011 at 11:50 AM · Report this
dirac 69
@68 Well, they're victims of cis-paternalism.
Posted by dirac on December 2, 2011 at 11:54 AM · Report this
Dingo 70
#68: regional variations in English isn't a particularly strong argument. "Homosexual" has a much less negative connotation in the UK than in the US as well, but that doesn't mean anything either.
Posted by Dingo on December 2, 2011 at 12:12 PM · Report this
DAVIDinKENAI 71
@27: I've seen summaries of that genetic research too, and yes, it is suggsetive that non-African Homo Sapiens have a few percent Neandertal DNA.

So we're all either one N-word or another.
Posted by DAVIDinKENAI on December 2, 2011 at 12:26 PM · Report this
72
Wow! I had no idea I was going to be so popular! Sorry to keep you guys hanging. Sooooo.
Let me start out first by saying that I am not a geneticist, I am an archaeologist. I can't get into the nitty-gritty, but I can summarize research for you. I am not a professor, just a lowly grad student. With that said...

FOXP2 Gene
This is a gene that has been linked to speech in modern humans. If people are born with a damaged FOXP2 gene, they have horrible speech problems. Turns out though, that Neanderthals also had this gene. While we can't conclusively say that Neanderthals possessed speech as we know it, they at least had some genes that are related to modern day speech capabilities.

Genes also tell us that they had a red hair gene. Probably irrelevant, but still kinda cool.

@45: I was talking about the Max Planck institute. When I talked about the study I am mostly referring to the presentations an acquaintance of mine has presented. He is one of the authors of the study who moved to my university (Tuebingen) to be a junior professor after he helped finish that study.
Posted by australokrista on December 2, 2011 at 12:26 PM · Report this
73
@36: I am going to be laughing all day at that.

Like I said, I am an archaeologist, so if you guys wanna get into Neanderthal vs. Human material culture I can tell you guys waaaay more about that.

Posted by australokrista on December 2, 2011 at 12:28 PM · Report this
I Hate Screen Names 74
@72: Just skimming here but... is it possible that breeding with Neanderthals gave the Homo Sapiens in Europe-- who were originally from Africa-- pale skin and light hair? Because that would be hi-lar-ious.
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on December 2, 2011 at 1:03 PM · Report this
brandon 75
Can't we make Tranny like Faggot, where anyone can say it and no one really cares anymore because we know no one is homophobic?
Posted by brandon on December 2, 2011 at 1:13 PM · Report this
Roma 76
Here's a photo of Cro-Magnon Man
Posted by Roma on December 2, 2011 at 1:19 PM · Report this
Corylea 77
Neil Patrick Harris' transgression is that he's too adorable to be real. :-)

I'd love to see him as Felix in a remake of The Odd Couple; I think he'd be hilarious.
Posted by Corylea http://corylea.com/ on December 2, 2011 at 1:35 PM · Report this
78
@74: I think Europeans would have evolved it on their own anyway, but yes, I imagine that Homo sapiens were brown skinned at that point and Neanderthals were definitely white. It IS really funny.
Posted by australokrista on December 2, 2011 at 1:41 PM · Report this
79
Why are you people so exercised about transmissions? Fucking weirdos.
Posted by Ivan on December 2, 2011 at 1:45 PM · Report this
80
I'm a cisgendered (not trans) gay person. I'll say this.

The word "tr*nny" is about transgender people, not us. It's a name referring to them. It's a miniscule part of my life, but a big part of theirs. And generally, transgender people don't like the word.

Many people have continued to use "tr*nny" regardless, either maliciously, or at least dismissively of the community's desire to not be called that.

Others say they are using it in a more nuanced and careful way.

So lets use this metaphor: you might let your buddies call you a nickname, which is a little demeaning but meant affectionately. But if for whatever reason you become less sure who's your buddy and who's not, you just might decide you want to be rid of the nickname altogether.

Currently there is a huge lack of trust between many trans people and the rest of the world. There are obvious reasons for that. Some are specific to the use of the word "tr*nny." There are complicated nuances to it's use, but a lot of people who want to use the word also don't want to take the time to really understand those nuances. So, rather than spend a lot of energy trying to elaborate for people who aren't listening, they just want to make it simple: we're done. We consider the word negative from now on.

I consider it a simple show of respect to comply. I don't care whether they're being "reasonable" or not. It's not my job to judge every single person on every single little issue. (However, I do think I hear where they are coming from.)

It is SO EASY to just not use the word anymore. I'm gonna go ahead and comply out of respect.
Posted by Pizzuti on December 2, 2011 at 1:57 PM · Report this
81
I'm a cisgendered (not trans) gay person. I'll say this.

The word "tr*nny" is about transgender people, not us. It's a name referring to them. It's a miniscule part of my life, but a big part of theirs. And generally, transgender people don't like the word.

Many people have continued to use "tr*nny" regardless, either maliciously, or at least dismissively of the community's desire to not be called that.

Others say they are using it in a more nuanced and careful way.

So lets use this metaphor: you might let your buddies call you a nickname, which is a little demeaning but meant affectionately. But if for whatever reason you become less sure who's your buddy and who's not, you just might decide you want to be rid of the nickname altogether.

Currently there is a huge lack of trust between many trans people and the rest of the world. There are obvious reasons for that. Some are specific to the use of the word "tr*nny." There are complicated nuances to it's use, but a lot of people who want to use the word also don't want to take the time to really understand those nuances. So, rather than spend a lot of energy trying to elaborate for people who aren't listening, they just want to make it simple: we're done. We consider the word negative from now on.

I consider it a simple show of respect to comply. I don't care whether they're being "reasonable" or not. It's not my job to judge every single person on every single little issue. (However, I do think I hear where they are coming from.)

It is SO EASY to just not use the word anymore. I'm gonna go ahead and comply out of respect.
Posted by Pizzuti on December 2, 2011 at 2:01 PM · Report this
porkfish66 82
THOG MAD!!!!!!!!

You no say neanderthal or neandertal!! Both bad as call Thog "Cave man!!" Call Thog "Human of alternate evolutionary origin" or no call Thog nothing at all. You bad people. Make Thog cry.
Posted by porkfish66 on December 2, 2011 at 2:02 PM · Report this
83
@81: I'm with you.
Posted by Dan Savage on December 2, 2011 at 2:21 PM · Report this
balderdash 84
So what I'm getting from this discussion is that the one thing it is definitely NOT okay to ever say is "neandertranny."

The preferred term is "Netranderthal," right?
Posted by balderdash http://introverse.blogspot.com on December 2, 2011 at 2:31 PM · Report this
jjm84 85
52 80 and Rainier Valley Michael deserve the blame for all of this.
Posted by jjm84 on December 2, 2011 at 2:45 PM · Report this
Fifty-Two-Eighty 86
Thank you very much. My pleasure.
Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty http://www.nra.org on December 2, 2011 at 2:50 PM · Report this
bedipped 87
@84
That would enact Against-The-Marriage-Principles-of-Godwin's Law
Posted by bedipped on December 2, 2011 at 2:59 PM · Report this
bedipped 88
@84, more modernly Netrantertal
Posted by bedipped on December 2, 2011 at 3:00 PM · Report this
I Hate Screen Names 89
@80/81: I agree, with one caveat: the door swings both ways.

If some/most members of the transsexual community have decided they find "tranny" offensive for whatever reason, then its reasonable for people outside that community to stop using that term. Similarly, if some/most members of the non-transsexual community have decided they find "cisgendered" to be fucking ridiculous, then it is reasonable for people outside that community to stop using that term.
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on December 2, 2011 at 3:33 PM · Report this
Baby Blue 90
I had no idea "tranny" was considered offensive now. How very annoying. I guess I should be grateful to have learned of this before inadvertently offending my friends.
Posted by Baby Blue on December 2, 2011 at 3:33 PM · Report this
91
So, I'm gonna go hang out with my tranny friends tomorrow night at a drag show. It will be transtastic!
Posted by xLimpwristx on December 2, 2011 at 3:35 PM · Report this
92
I'm sure this is offensive to some of our ancestors somewhere, somehow:

http://dresdencodak.com/2009/09/22/cavem…
Posted by Chase on December 2, 2011 at 3:53 PM · Report this
93
"So we're all either one N-word or another." AHAHAHAHAHahahaha...okay, @71, that really did make me laugh out loud.

@81 - gosh, you explain that so simply and eloquently. If I was a politician, I would hire you to be my head speechwriter immediately :)
Posted by sweettreehugger on December 2, 2011 at 4:31 PM · Report this
94
@89, because the "non-transsexual community" has faced such oppression for their status, that we definitely want to make sure we don't hurt their little feelings by using a word that names, and thus annoys them.

No one who uses "cisgendered" does so out of hatred or disgust, but in search of clarity and a word that doesn't make transgendered people into the marked case. Don't use if it you don't like it, but it doesn't become an insult just because you say it is.
Posted by EricaP on December 2, 2011 at 5:14 PM · Report this
95
"My use of the word "tranny" in a blog post about how I didn't use the word and try not to use the word? Just a sneaky way of using the word! (Example of this strain of logic here: "And yet by trying not to say the word 'tranny' anymore, he says it over and over in that post...") SO! Hate speech! Proof of transphobia!"

Dan, *I* am the one on JMG who said that comment. Try fully quoting me in context next time. When the hell did I ever say you were a full-blown transphobe from hell? I have been a fan of your for years and know full well that you say some things about us that make me cringe. And I am allowed to give my opinion that your response was not very apologetic nor did it sound like you were being sincere. Stop playing the victim. Once again, if you want to prove you aren't a phobe, stop doing things that make people assume you are - like obsessing over my post or your critics or telling us over and over again about just how much you love the transpeople and give them money. I know you aren't a transphobe - I've even written to you before and you were nice - short and snippy - but nice. But it doesn't excuse the various times you've said or done things that I don't think you would say or do in regards to everyone else. And there are people who will use that as arsenal against you even if it's not your intention to be as crude as you some times sound. That's all.
Posted by dakoneko on December 2, 2011 at 5:49 PM · Report this
96
It's not only on this issue that people can start disappearing up their own assholes - http://www.pediastaff.com/blog/worth-rep…

I believe that everyone deserves to be treated with respect. I believe that everyone deserves full civil rights. Having someone like me afraid to open my mouth because I'll get something wrong does not, I think, advance the cause of respect and civil rights for all.
Posted by agony on December 2, 2011 at 9:32 PM · Report this
balderdash 97
@95, what you call "obsessing" might seem fixated, but have you ever been stabbed in the back by people you've gone to bat for? It SUCKS. It takes a while for the sting to fade. For somebody like Dan to be called a transphobe probably hurt like a motherfucker, even through the thick skin one has to develop to be a public figure.

I think the whole point of this "Dan is transphobic" debacle is that the only people who can't see that he's 100% on the side of the trans community are the fucking trans community.
Posted by balderdash http://introverse.blogspot.com on December 2, 2011 at 9:41 PM · Report this
98
Only a Ginger can call another Ginger Ginger.
Posted by PhillyLiberal on December 2, 2011 at 11:53 PM · Report this
99
@81, Thanks for the input! I have a problem, however, with the argument you try to make; here it is.

Your basic reason for preferring to simply avoid the word "tranny" altogether (or any offensive word for that matter) was that, once you couldn't see who is your friend or who isn't anymore, you can't see who is using it affectionately or who is using it to hurt.

My problem with this is: this is true for any word that can be applied to a person.

I'm Brazilian. I've been called "Brazilian" in a clearly offensive way, or sometimes not offensively but still condescendingly ('you're not one of us', 'you're a Brazilian, you wouldn't know about that'). Would it be better for me if people simply stopped using the word? No. It wouldn't.

I've been called "good" words obviously meant ironically, or even as threats ('Yes, my "friend", come here. We "love" you. We just want to "talk". Heh heh heh...'). Would it be better if these words were eliminated? No. It wouldn't?

Why?

Because it's the people. It's always the people.

The sad truth is that you never can know who your 'real friends' are or aren't, who 'really means it' when they call you anything -- even 'friend' -- affectionately or not. And even when you think you know who you can trust and who you can't -- you may still be wrong, you may still be betrayed. Being hurt by others, especially others you didn't expect to hurt you, has always existed as a human experience, and probably will always exist -- no matter how many words are erased from our vocabulary.

Because the cause of the experience you so eloquently describe is not the words, but the people behind the words, and their intentions. If the word 'tranny' (or 'faggot', or 'nigger', or...) were to entirely disappear, they would still do the same thing with other words.

How long do you think it will take "trans" to also become tainted with offensive meanings? (I see this happening with 'African American' as we speak). Just enough cases of people meaning something offensive when they say "trans", and the work is done.

People who are discriminated, victimized by stereotypes are understandably sensitive to the superficial facts associated with their suffering -- they mistake the whip for whip master, because -- understandably -- whenever they see a whip their memory recalls whip masters and how much they made them suffer with their whips.

But still, the truth is that the whip masters are guilty, not the whips. If you take away their whips, they'll find other instruments of torture to persecute those they don't like -- in the case of words, this is so easy to do it's almost ridiculous. If you allow me to use a popular Brazilian expression, it's like trying to block the sun with a sieve.

So, @81: I understand where you're coming from. Hell, when I'm talking to people who I think may be offended by a word (say 'tranny'), I avoid it myself because I don't want to bring back their bad memories.

But truth is truth. And the truth is, the word is not guilty of abuse; it's the word users who used the word to hurt that are guilty. And that is not going to change in the slightest if the word disappears. Bigots will simply use other words -- other whips -- and nothing at all will change in the life of trans people.

Which is why I say: don't fight the words; fight the bigots. The words can have other uses, and are ultimately immaterial: as long as the bigots continue to express bigotry, they'll always find new words to harass people.
More...
Posted by ankylosaur on December 3, 2011 at 2:50 AM · Report this
100
@95, I don't think Dan is "playing the victim": he was a victim, in the glitterbombing case, and is reacting like all victims do, by defending himself, and possibly exaggerating the case of his total innocence ('I never did anything to deserve that!'). It's the same syndrome that also makes victims often see the world in black and white (either you're with us, or you're against us!).

You're pointing out that he did make remarks that 'made you crige' (I assume this means false remarks) about trans people. And yes, it would be better if he did mention that, and also mentioned that his thoughts have evolved, and that he now realizes those false statements are, well, false. (Dan claims to have done that. This should be an empirical question, no?)

You are allowed to think Dan's response was not sufficiently apologetic. Hell, you may even be right (depending on what false comments Dan actually made about trans people.) But don't also forget the context: Dan's response came in the aftermath of having been victimized (yes, victimized!) by an attack that, in that moment, he did not deserve. If you are willing to allow victims some leeway because of their status, then I suppose you can say the same about Dan, in this specific case -- without having to give up or compromise your opinions about any false statements about trans people Dan may have made in the past.
Posted by ankylosaur on December 3, 2011 at 3:00 AM · Report this
101
@89, I was going to say pretty much what EricaP said (@94), but she already did it. So I'll add only one thing.

Any label can be used by someone to offend others. I'm sure there must be someone somewhere (or many someones in many somewheres) using the word "cis" or "cisgendered" in an offensive way.

This doesn't mean that a word to describe the group of people who aren't trans isn't useful or necessary, especially in the context of talking about trans issues.

Don't make the mistake of confusing assholes with words. Assholes want to offend, words are just tools with many uses. 'Cis' is a useful tool in certain contexts. If some people use it to offend, it's their problem, not the problem of the word 'cis', which is in itself simply... useful.
Posted by ankylosaur on December 3, 2011 at 3:05 AM · Report this
102
@72, this is I suppose evidence in favor of Neandert(h)al speech. Do you happen to know anything that confirms this hypothesis? As a historical-comparative linguist, I would find it fascinating if human speech also contained elements that came from Neandert(h)al speech. (Not that the historical-comparative method would be able to identify them after such a long time, but still I for once would be delighted if our language contained non-human elements -- even if by 'non-human' we mean from Neandert(h)als, who are after all also sapiens, only not sapiens sapiens.)
Posted by ankylosaur on December 3, 2011 at 3:13 AM · Report this
103
JEHOVAH! JEHOVAH!
Posted by DawginExile on December 3, 2011 at 5:54 AM · Report this
tomsj 104
Yawn....
Posted by tomsj on December 3, 2011 at 7:06 AM · Report this
105
Not enough Neanderthal posts. About halfway through I found myself skimming past the transexual ones to find the actually interesting stuff!
Posted by Gamebird on December 3, 2011 at 7:59 AM · Report this
106
I just feel bad for my co-worker Tran Yee, we have to go through awareness training every time someone calls him by his name.
Posted by econoline on December 3, 2011 at 10:08 AM · Report this
107
Cum on people-

give Our Little Danny a break.

His attitudes towards trannies has 'evolved'.

Why, he's the fucking faggot Mitt Romney!
Posted by you say you want an E-VO-LU-SHUN.... on December 3, 2011 at 10:37 AM · Report this
DAVIDinKENAI 108
@72, 74, 102: I summarized the age-appropriate parts of this thread to my 11-year old about the Europeans and Asians having 1-4% Neanderthal DNA whereas Africans don't. He immediately responded:

"So Africans are 100% modern human but the slave owners who argued their slaves were less human - really the owners were less human than their slaves."
Posted by DAVIDinKENAI on December 3, 2011 at 11:08 AM · Report this
109
Trust a kid to get to the heart of the matter.
Posted by agony on December 3, 2011 at 11:43 AM · Report this
110
Mr Ank @99 -

In general I agree with most of your post, and wish I could agree more.

[So, @81: I understand where you're coming from. Hell, when I'm talking to people who I think may be offended by a word (say 'tranny'), I avoid it myself because I don't want to bring back their bad memories.]

I don't know if you intended so, but your use of the H-word suggests to me that feel considerably imposed upon when you don't use a word because you think it may offend your hearer. It gives me discomforting mental images of you using words about people behind their backs that you don't use to their faces.

It's tricky, because there is rarely uniform conformity among groups, so that Person 1 of a group could ask to be referred to as "Y and please not X, which offends me," while Person 2 could insist on X and not Y. But I'm sure you can picture the sort of thing I mean.

A lot of ending or at least opposing various prejudice-based -isms consists of how those who are in the whip-master group, to use your example, conduct themselves when there aren't any whippees around. Simply not brandishing the whip while in the presence of a whippee, while good, is not enough to end Whip Culture.

As a sort of side line, there's always the synonym question. Why use an ambiguous word when there are clearly more positive synonyms available? Or, working backwards, you have offered passionate and persuasive defences of particular words which you want to hear restored to polite discourse. But how far would you extend such defences? Were you ever to meet my brother, I suspect that he would describe me with a variety of adjectives that you might find too richly prejudiced for your blood. And that's fine with me. He can use whatever words he chooses, and I simply don't associate with him. But I'd prefer that his vocabularly not become common, and I don't see any particular loss to society that it doesn't.
More...
Posted by vennominon on December 3, 2011 at 12:15 PM · Report this
111
Hi Mr Ven! You say some very interesting things in your post -- thanks! Here are my reactions.

I don't know if you intended so, but your use of the H-word suggests to me that feel considerably imposed upon when you don't use a word because you think it may offend your hearer.


No, I didn't -- my intention was to add emotion to my claim, as if saying "I feel emotionally involved! I'm not just a word-repeating or word-avoiding machine, I actually have feelings that are affected by the situation". If that, or something similar, is not what was transmitted, then it was my mistake. Perhaps I don't understand the meaning of "the H-word" as a sentence-initial expletive as thoroughly as I thought I did.

It gives me discomforting mental images of you using words about people behind their backs that you don't use to their faces.


I would never do that either. I usually tend to choose a word I consider fair and stick to it 'behind their backs'; in all cases I remember that was also the word most often considered non-offensive by the people in question (i.e., I'd use "trans," not "tranny"; unless I were speaking to trans people who preferred the word "tranny", something that actually happened to me once).

My point with words is simply that I don't assume someone who says "tranny" is either trying to offend, or has transphobic feelings, or is even helping to perpetuate anti-transgendered stereotypes. S/He may be doing something completely different -- and even succeeding at that (see Louie C.K. with "faggot") -- despite not using the socially accepted word du jour.

It's tricky, because there is rarely uniform conformity among groups, so that Person 1 of a group could ask to be referred to as "Y and please not X, which offends me," while Person 2 could insist on X and not Y.

Indeed it can be tricky -- as I said above, I've already been in a situation in which someone wanted me to refer to her as "tranny," even though at that time I already knew the word du jour was "trans". (It may help that this happened in the Netherlands, so, even though we were speaking English, maybe the trans woman in question -- who was from Belgium -- didn't react to these words the same way an American would.)

A lot of ending or at least opposing various prejudice-based -isms consists of how those who are in the whip-master group, to use your example, conduct themselves when there aren't any whippees around. Simply not brandishing the whip while in the presence of a whippee, while good, is not enough to end Whip Culture.


I fully and without reservations agree with that, Mr Ven. Personally, when there are no whippees aroud, I simply say what I think; so, if the topic of trans people is brought up, I tell my interlocutors I don't see any fundamental difference between them and other people. I try to argue against stereotypes ('they've got some psychological problem or trauma!') or against poorly understood ideas ('no, the word "cis" doesn't imply prejudice against "normal" people').

My point about the word usage thing is simply that I don't prejudge a person's opinions simply based on his/her use of some word that is now not considered adequate. I wait and listen further before coming to a conclusion about what this person really thinks.

As a sort of side line, there's always the synonym question. Why use an ambiguous word when there are clearly more positive synonyms available?


For the same reason that any word is selected, instead of any of its potential synonyms: because maybe the context in question makes it better than the alternatives. Or maybe there's some message that this word conveys better in this context.

Or, working backwards, you have offered passionate and persuasive defences of particular words which you want to hear restored to polite discourse. But how far would you extend such defences?


In principle, I try not to be prejudiced against words, only against their use as weapons to harm or offend. I don't think there's a single word in the English language (or any other) that 'deserves' to disappear, even though there are some that have been mostly used only to hurt others. I just try to separate this use from the word itself, and point my finger not at the word, but at the person who uses it, when I want to indicate the culprit.

Were you ever to meet my brother, I suspect that he would describe me with a variety of adjectives that you might find too richly prejudiced for your blood. And that's fine with me. He can use whatever words he chooses, and I simply don't associate with him.


I suspect I would simply disagree with whatever message he'd try to convey with these words, Mr Ven, and I'd tell him so as clearly as I can. If he were as vehement as you suggest, I'd probably not want to talk with him further. Because, to me, he is the one who would deserve the blame, not the words he chooses.

But I'd prefer that his vocabularly not become common, and I don't see any particular loss to society that it doesn't.


What I wouldn't want is for his intentions to become common -- I certainly would hate it if more and more people shared the same opinions / vehemence of your brother, no matter what words they used (I'm sure they'd always find some way of being thoroughly offensive, no matter how many words were removed from their vocabulary).

Is there a loss to society if an offensive word is lost? I don't know. Would there be a big loss to society if a word like "chair" or "table" or "onion" were lost and replaced with something else? Maybe yes, maybe no. As a dictionary writer myself, however, I tend to feel sentimental about words, even the less appealing ones. I tend to think there is a little bit of loss whenever a word goes out of usage, no matter how modest, insignificant, or usually unnoticeable the word is.

I try to think of it like this: when I look at offensive words in other languages, or in older versions of a language (Old English, Latin), they always seem amusing to me, and it's difficult to associate with them the emotional charge they were probably used to convey in their original contexts. And sometimes, yes, I do feel sorry that they've passed away.

No matter how I personally feel about words, though, it is a fact of life that they can (and do) disappear from usage. I can't change this, just as I can't change any of the basic facts of life.
More...
Posted by ankylosaur on December 3, 2011 at 1:53 PM · Report this
112
So tranny is the new cunt?

Way to give the word power, GLAAD.

My vote: We all start calling our friends 'trannay' just like we called them 'niggah' for a while. That way we can put it in some rap songs and get over ourselves.

Oh, and GLAAD? Hands off my 'faggot.' I rather like the word, and me and my whole faggot posse aren't stopping.
Posted by Babydaddy on December 3, 2011 at 1:57 PM · Report this
113
Can't we all just get along?
Posted by eric1972sea on December 3, 2011 at 2:44 PM · Report this
114
Thoughts on whether Dan Savage is transphobic from a trans woman:
http://thetranslife.com/?p=446
Posted by The Trans Life on December 3, 2011 at 3:15 PM · Report this
115
@102: The problem is that we can basically never really know if Neanderthals had speech as we know it. At this point there is no more genetic evidence. All we can say is that Neanderthals and modern humans share a certain gene--the FOXP2 gene--and that modern humans that have a damaged version of this gene don't talk right. It makes it possible that Neanderthals had speech, but we certainly can't prove it.
Same goes with the possible linguistic influence that Neanderthals might ever have had on humans--it might be there, but I doubt we will ever know.
What is interesting is that modern humans in Africa began making symbolic artifact such as beads and engraved pieces of ochre tens of thousands of years before Neanderthals died out (Blombos Cave, Diepkloof Rock Shelter). There is only a little (and quite problematic) evidence that Neanderthals ever made such things. This does suggest to me that they did not have quite the same cognitive capacity as humans do.
Posted by australokrista on December 3, 2011 at 3:28 PM · Report this
slomopomo 116
Anybody in the genus Homo is a human, by definition. You people are subspeciesist.
Posted by slomopomo on December 3, 2011 at 4:39 PM · Report this
slomopomo 117
"There is only a little (and quite problematic) evidence that Neanderthals ever made such things. This does suggest to me that they did not have quite the same cognitive capacity as humans do."

Maybe. Maybe it suggests glaciers can make finding your stuff later a real bitch.
Posted by slomopomo on December 3, 2011 at 4:42 PM · Report this
118
I'm a biological anthropologist, although, not a specialist in genetics. I've talked to my friends about the recent publications coming out of Max Planck. One of the problems with the 1-4 % of which we are supposed to be Neanderthal is that this is also exactly the error bar on the finding (or so I've been told). So we are 1-4% (+/- 1-4%) neanderthal, which might mean we are 0% neanderthal.

It's also problematic that few other places do exactly the type of research Max Planck can do - grinding up neanderthal fossils to extract the DNA.

Lastly, it just also true that people are wary of this finding because this debate has gone back and forth for YEARS. It's not new. So I think people are waiting for more replications.

It's almost unfortunate that this finding created such a public splash, because if the finding changes again, it's just going to make scientists look stupid. The public doesn't often understand how facts are established over many studies, not a single study.
Posted by flounder28 on December 3, 2011 at 5:02 PM · Report this
119
I'm a biological anthropologist, although, not a specialist in genetics. I've talked to my friends about the recent publications coming out of Max Planck. One of the problems with the 1-4 % of which we are supposed to be Neanderthal is that this is also exactly the error bar on the finding (or so I've been told). So we are 1-4% (+/- 1-4%) neanderthal, which might mean we are 0% neanderthal.

It's also problematic that few other places do exactly the type of research Max Planck can do - grinding up neanderthal fossils to extract the DNA.

Lastly, it just also true that people are wary of this finding because this debate has gone back and forth for YEARS. It's not new. So I think people are waiting for more replications.

It's almost unfortunate that this finding created such a public splash, because if the finding changes again, it's just going to make scientists look stupid. The public doesn't often understand how facts are established over many studies, not a single study.
Posted by flounder28 on December 3, 2011 at 5:04 PM · Report this
120
Hey Dan,

I understand the need to get defensive. It's hard to own up to these mistakes because we're all so socially trained into these mistakes, and expressing that you don't mean to be offensive can sometimes seem unconvincing. So it's easier to try and pass it off as not being a "big deal" - because you're right, in the world of white heterosexual cisgender normalcy it's not. But I think what a lot of us in the queer/trans community are trying to bring your attention to is precisely that you stand for a group of people who dont fit into that category. A lot of people see you as a head figure of the LGBT community, and likewise a lot of people think it's therefore important for you to represent us as accurately as you can. And no one's perfect! I'm one of the people who have noticed that you do sound transphobic, and I'll admit that I have also said some things that can be interpreted similarly. But I correct myself when I catch myself, and even more importantly I try my best to apologize as genuinely as I can when someone else points out my mistakes. And sometimes it's hard when they attack me so vigorously! I get it! But no one can continue to attack you if you just admit and repeat that you're still learning - everyone is still learning - to try and be more inclusive and representative.

So yes - it seems like we're making a big fuss over "nothing". But I think you should consider that a lot of people dont like the word "faggot" even when used in order to reclaim it, and often even positive use of the word can be interpreted by another person as a way to justify viewing someone negatively. And the way we talk about people is an indicator of how to treat them. "Tranny", though obviously not the same because I would never collapse oppressions as being the same, can be thought of similarly for example purposes.

I hope you try and understand where I'm coming from - as I am trying with you.
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Posted by ceb on December 3, 2011 at 5:10 PM · Report this
121
@115(australokrista), it is interesting that African H. sapiens was doing things that the European Neandert(h)als weren't, but I'm not sure this proves a difference in cognitive capacity. The difference between the two populations could have been cultural. After all, even if we limit ourselves to our own subspecies, there are incredible differences in material culture (things that archaeologists of the future could actually find) between, say, Papua New Guinea highlanders and the Minoans in Crete, yet there is no significant cognitive difference between these two groups.

The physical differences between Neandert(h)als and Cro-Magnons seem so small (the same cranial capacity, if not a bit more for Neandert(h)als, who apparently also had Broca's and Wernicke's areas, if I'm not mistaken), I have this strong feeling in my bones that the Neandert(h)als could speak, that they had articulated language. Of course I have no evidence of that; I'm just really curious about what you guys in archaeology will come up with next. :-)

@119 (flounder28), how right you are! Especially with sexual studies, or studies about presumed differences between the sexes/genders, the mainstream media so often runs wild with the results of some study as evidence that 'science has demonstrated' X or Y, when in fact things go much more slowly... it takes more than one study for the scientific community to reach consensus (see how long it took Einstein's Relativity theory to become generally accepted).

This overenthusiastic reaction does lead to people thinking scientists are fools. It would be much better if the mainstream media (especially pop science publications) would give a better reflection of scientific debate in general.
Posted by ankylosaur on December 3, 2011 at 6:18 PM · Report this
122
@114(The Trans Life), a quite interesting blog post, a pleasure to read. It is indeed true that Dan made comments that were not always sufficiently careful in avoiding potential offenses; but it is also true that this has always been Dan Savage's style when dealing with all kinds of issues.

In the very 2003 column you linked, for instance: after HAS's letter and Dan's answer with the words and expressions that you didn't like, there is also a letter from SUB, a submissive in search of a dominatrix; Dan's answer ends with the sentence "You might have to repeat this process with two or three women before you meet one who is either willing or aching to abuse you." I'm sure real abuse victims would also feel revulsion at the thought that Dan Savage might be implying support for abusers, or that being abusive should be acceptable behavior. No -- he's referring to the BDSM relationship partner SUB is looking for as someone who would abuse him as a joke, because he knows/expects SUB (and also his readers) to smile or laugh at this use of the word.

Dan loves to do that -- use words and expressions that are more exaggerated than what is necessary for comic effect. Frankly speaking, I don't think there is any group, including straight people, who couldn't find in Dan's writing something that suggests fear/hatred of their group if they read it literally, out of context, without taking Dan's intention into account. It's his style, and usually it works quite well. As he himself said a few times, he's no Ann Landers.

In fact, if you really wanted to find a sexual minority that Dan hasn't really been very supportive of, I'd have to say scat fetishists -- this column contains a letter (from CSE) to which Dan answers in terms that sound to me quite demeaning to scat fetishists ("[...]But the internet was invented expressly to remove guys like your boyfriend [who has a scat fetish] from the dating pool[...]" "A thing for shit or animals or seitan? Unfuckingreasonable"); much more so than the ones you pointed out with respect to transgender people. There are worse comments in older columns.

I suppose it will take a long time before scat fetishists can have sufficient self-confidence and support to be able to seriously glitterbomb Dan. And even if some day they do get that much support, they would be wrong to do so; because, behind all the icky feeling that Dan expressed when he mentioned scat fetishists, I sincerely think he does not believe scat fetishists to be less human, or less deserving of finding love, than other humans, kinky or not. (Am I right, Dan?)

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Posted by ankylosaur on December 3, 2011 at 6:45 PM · Report this
123
Mr Ank - Part of the difficulty here is that, even for the sake of clarity, there are some words that I just refuse to type. I accept full blame for that, and can only crave your indulgence in any ambiguities that arise.

I was thinking of a concept of a sort of Offence Scale, as it were. My brother, for instance, would never use the F word you want to hear more often (and by extension you want me to hear more often, and I don't like hearing it, whatever the context, because I can always provide a more suitable synonym, at least to my own satisfaction) because it's much too tame for him.

Here we have another problem. I was about to give you a clue as to a partcular word, but then it occurred to me that I'd be placing myself at the mercy of people here who could immediately begin using the word deliberately until the hostility of the intent (see, I'm not blaming the word itself) made me run away in tears never to return (actually, there probably wouldn't be any tears, but I am not too proud to admit that I could be bullied into leaving; I just hope I don't live to regret such an admission).

Will you trust me that his vocabulary consists of words that are ALWAYS used in an offensive context? I suppose theoretically two people with severely twisted senses of humour might incorporate them into a weird vocabulary of intimacy, but these are definitely not words used in polite society, and those who use them prefer that because they mean to offend and want their offensive intent to be beyond doubt. And I'm fine with that. I have no particular desire to see words disappear. I've pointed out the advantage to me in their not doing so before.

Unfortunately, I fear we always arrive at our stumbling block, which is that, as noble as your ideas are, they all seem to require that the Oppressed do the heavy lifting. The F word is not going to be redeemed and popularized because bigots are miraculously going to recognize that the word has been turned against them and run from the room in tears; if it happens, it will be because a weary consensus will emerge among the usual targets that, because so many people want to be able to indulge that vestige of prejudice while deeming it innocent that we have to put up with it for the capital it provides and learn to live with the occasional stomach cramps. Mark my words, whether it's how you intend it or not, we'll bear the brunt on that one. But I can at least be sufficiently sporting to wish you luck.

As for the H-word, you might not be wrong there. I have just always heard it with some inference of hardship, such as, "H, it snowed so heavily my half hour commute took three hours," or, "H, I forgot my term paper is due tomorrow and it will take me until at least 4:00 a.m. to finish it." I suppose that makes sense; if one believes in such a destination for an afterlife, one might reasonably expect to experience considerable hardships there. But I'm glad the point has been clarified.
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Posted by vennominon on December 3, 2011 at 8:37 PM · Report this
DAVIDinKENAI 124
@117 ("Maybe it suggests glaciers can make finding your stuff later a real bitch.") How true. And nicely put.

MAYBE, everything of technological significance was invented in that last 15,000 years (agriculture, Clovis points, the arch, the split-level ranch, and the iPhone). Or maybe the record keeps getting reset every glacial cycle. I'll grant that we'd know if there'd ever been 7 billion people on the planet. But very significant developments could have happened in a northern lattitude and been wiped away.
Posted by DAVIDinKENAI on December 3, 2011 at 11:03 PM · Report this
125
@117,124: Glaciers don't actually affect out thinking in the way you'd think it would. Most of our sites are cave sites, and glaciers did not destroy those. During the last glacial maximum from about 26-13,000 years ago, large parts of Germany were covered by a glacier. We don't find artifacts from this time period because glaciers=no plants=no animals=no food. At the same time, most of our much, much older sites are cave sites and remained completely unaffected by the glacier. This means we can probably rule out bias by glacier.

@121: I came into this field wanting, really wanting Neanderthals to have been "behaviorally modern" as we phrase it. I've long had to face the fact that the evidence really stacks up against it.
Your point about culture is good as it relates to Homo sapiens, but it doesn't really work for Neanderthals. Yes, our human cultures are vastly different, but we all share basic things like art, music, symbolic artifacts, abstract thinking. We find these things in great quantity in human sites, but never (with the exception of one questionable and probably mixed site) at Neanderthal sites.
We also know by looking at their raw material that they used raw material from more local sources than did humans, meaning that humans either traveled a lot more, or traded a lot more than Neanderthals did.
Basically, we have thousands of thousands of Neanderthal sites and only one very questionable site provides any evidence for human-like abstract thinking.

@118: You're absolutely right. This has been waging for decades. I almost wish I hadn't brought it up because now here I am arguing that Neanderthals and humans WERE fundamentally different and now nobody's going to believe me because of that genetics study.

I really wish I had a couple hours to discuss things with you because this topic is a vaaast one. It's hard to summarize in a few short paragraphs, and I know it's not satisfying. I simply can't explain all the details in the threads of a Dan Savage forum.
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Posted by australokrista on December 4, 2011 at 12:32 AM · Report this
126
@ 97. And I'm sure you can't comprehend that the trans community was attacked by our own first? If Dan is such an ally, why continuously put himself in positions where people can attack him back? You know what it feels like to be me? - to be trans and to think of how great Dan Savage is and then in the next second he's gone and fucked up again (because isn't it oh so hard not to be offensive?) and suddenly every non-transperson from here to China starts attacking transpeople all over just because we have the nerve to say, "Hey Dan, maybe you shouldn't say that. Why not just apologize if you care about us so much?" You can't focus on the aftermath without being honest about the start of the situation. No one would or COULD attack Dan Savage or accuse him of anything if he let the shit that comes out of his mouth come out of his mouth. If someone had written 'nigger' on that card he was reading, don't you think he would have skipped over or edited that for respect of black people? Why is it hard to do the same for us? If it had been a bigoted straight person hated by the community who had the same track record of questionable and anti-gay comments, for example, they would have faced even more criticism, but it would not matter nearly as much, because you expect that kind of thing from people who hate you. It is a stab in the back when people on your side treat you like you're less than. Now do you see why transpeople get so "uppity" when the trash talk is coming from the people who are supposed to support us and be on our side?
Posted by dakoneko on December 4, 2011 at 12:42 AM · Report this
Tetchy Brit 127
@126 So in other words, blame the victim. Lovely.
Posted by Tetchy Brit on December 4, 2011 at 2:17 AM · Report this
128
@126, quite the contrary, speaking at least for myself, I can comprehend it quite well. It's as you said in your post: the point is that it's the great Dan Savage, as in saying: once a person becomes (relatively) famous, s/he no longer has the right to defend himself, or to claim a changed opinion from the past, or even to use exaggerated terms in for comic effect, because some people somewhere will fail to look at the message -- what is said -- and will be offended by how the message was worded (the boyishly, pseudo-rebellious exaggerated style) and from that derive claims of intrinsic evil ('he is transphobic! yes, he truly is!')

If only, dakoneko, what had happened was that someone said "Hey Dan, maybe you shouldn't say that. Why not just apologize if you care about us so much?" ! Dan tends to react well to that (see the of trans people who wrote in his defense, or who thanked him for his advice). But let's be frank here: what happened was much more than that. Or am I wrong?

And let's be clear: I understand that someone who suffered all his/her life because of prejudice against who s/he feels s/he really is has, well, suffered, and because the suffering is unfair and undeserved this leads to a lot of hard feelings, including, well, anger. This is normal human behavior, perfectly understandable; as it is also the resulting sensitivity, which leads to accusing people like Dan Savage, who aren't really transphobic, of transphobia. Because great offenses were indeed, and often are still, hurled at trans people, it is understandable that they would feel about Dan Savage's style or past opinions as if they were equivalent to said great offenses.

But again frankly: if you listen to Dan and what he says rather than his choice of words, and you still come to the conclusion that he is transphobic and is trying to (or doesn't care if he) hurt(s) trans people deeply, as you imply in your message... That his use of 'tranny' was deliberately chosen (or at least was indifferent) to hurt, to victimize, to offend trans people... If you sincerely think so, then you haven't really paid attention to what he said, in that one particular occasion, and perhaps in many others.

And that, sir, is a pity. Because you still think of Dan Savage as someone who 'lets shit get out of his mouth' in order (I presume) to offend you, instead of someone who is sincerely defending your group, and even your personal human rights, in many places were people say much, much worse things about your group than Dan Savage ever did -- and, unlike him, they actually mean what they say; no boyish style for comic effect here, just plain old bigotry.

If you really can't tell the difference... If you really think that "Dan Fucking Savage" is the enemy, or part of the problem... then you've really been traumatized by your suffering to the extent that you're now attacking people who are, indeed, on your side. Which, you know, does happen with victims of trauma.

And that, sir, is, again, a pity.

It's not going to help stop the unfair and cruel suffering that you're talking about. Much the opposite: it will allow the bigots to point at you guys and say, "see? these people are really perverse. They don't even like each other."
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Posted by ankylosaur on December 4, 2011 at 3:40 AM · Report this
129
@126, please feel free to mention and criticize anything Dan said in the past that you find offensive. I'm not trying to silence you, or to deny you the right to disagree with Mr Savage.

But also don't jump to conclusions, and be ready for discussing other possible interpretations of the stuff that offended you. Because it may well be that Dan's intention was not to offend, but something else. (Which doesn't necessarily mean he shouldn't apologize for it. But it doesn't necessarly mean he should either. It's always case-by-case.)

It's not about defensiveness. It's about "friendly fire" and realizing that there are people out there trying to help you reach full human rights despite their choice of words in the past.

You say, for instance, that Dan wouldn't have read "nigger" out loud if it had been present in the card. You know -- he might have. Looking at stuff he did in the past, I wouldn't put that beyond him. But to me, the big question is: if he had, would you claim this is evidence that Dan is a racist? Even if his saying "nigger" happened in a context in which he strongly criticizes this word and its user?

And besides, compare the number of people who actually know the level of offensiveness of "nigger" to those who actually know the level of offensiveness of "tranny". Don't you see a difference there -- explainable, given that the former has been considered strongly offensive and stigmatized for much longer than the latter? And given that there are still transgender people (I know at least one) who like the term and ask cisgendered people to refer to them with it?

So, in all honesty and sincerity, and with an open heart, a desire for dialogue, and a real curiosity about your answer -- do you really think you're being fair in your interpretation of Dan's reaction in this particular case?

Or, to put it differently: if you think that Dan Savage should apologize for "shit that came out of his mouth in the past" -- and I'm sure there are things he should apologize for... Don't you think the glitterbombers should apologize to him for what they did, and for exactly the same reason? Namely, for being wrong?
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Posted by ankylosaur on December 4, 2011 at 3:55 AM · Report this
130
Mr Ven, first of all let me say that I would never want to do anything that made your presence here, or anywhere else for that matter, uncomfortable or difficult in any way.

I understand that certain words are difficult to type or say. With me, these words are in my native language, Portuguese. They sound 'ugly' and 'depressing' to me because, since childhood, I've so often seen and heard them being hurled at people to harm and hurt that it is difficult to separate them from this personal history. Even today I would never use them if my mother were present, and avoid them in polite company (in certain circles in the past, my deliberate avoidance of such words was even one of the reason why some people thought I was gay). Even today I probably would blush and not really be able to type them here, even if I were 100% sure that nobody here would even understand what they meant, and perhaps even find them cute in the way words from Romance languages often sound cute.

When I was in highschool, I was clearly a 'nerd'; and I wanted so much to be totally different from the typical jocks around me that I refused to behave in any way that reminded me of them, including their use of Brazilian Portuguese profanity and ethnic/sexual slur. (Imagine an entire highschool full of guys just like your brother...) To this very day, these words still sting, even when they're not directed at me; and it would take me strong conscious effort to avoid the feeling of self-betrayal were I ever to try to use these words.

This is all to say that I not unly understand what you're saying and where you're coming from, Mr Ven; but to say that I've also been there. I'm mostly still there, in many ways.

What has happened me move a little beyond this mindset was (again!) learning foreign languages. When exposed to profanity in other languages, I simply could not feel the strong emotional charge in the same way that I could in my own language; the words in question invariably sounded euphemistic to me (because the 'really bad meanings' were always and only in Brazilian Portuguese, so these words in English or French or German or Russian could only feel euphemistic). Which led me to think that perhaps my own perception of their Brazilian Portuguese counterparts as non-euphemistic and 'inherently bad' might not be shared by a foreigner who learned said words from a dictionary. Which led me to think that maybe it wasn't the words' fault, but their users', and the bigotry they wanted to express.

The F-word, as you mention, has a Brazilian Portuguese counterpart that also starts with F (call it the BP F-word), and which it would be almost physically painful for me to say out loud, or even type in here. (To those who know Spanish, replace the "j" with an "f" and you'll get it.). But the English F-word, to me, just sounds like an old, Germanic word, part of the basic reconstructible vocabulary (with a long story in the English language) and therefore one little piece of the evidence that allows us to assume the existence of the Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family. Knowing that, I can look at the BP F-word and tell myself, isn't that also true for it? And indeed it is.

I'm still not quite OK with the BP F-word, but I'm working on that. :-)

You wrote:
Unfortunately, I fear we always arrive at our stumbling block, which is that, as noble as your ideas are, they all seem to require that the Oppressed do the heavy lifting. The F word is not going to be redeemed and popularized because bigots are miraculously going to recognize that the word has been turned against them and run from the room in tears; if it happens, it will be because a weary consensus will emerge among the usual targets that, because so many people want to be able to indulge that vestige of prejudice while deeming it innocent that we have to put up with it for the capital it provides and learn to live with the occasional stomach cramps. Mark my words, whether it's how you intend it or not, we'll bear the brunt on that one. But I can at least be sufficiently sporting to wish you luck.


This is an interesting thought, Mr Ven, and here's why I ultimately disagree with it. This claim apparently assumes that my accepting certain words as 'not guilty' (whips, not whip masters) -- words like the English or the BP F-word -- means that I cannot strongly criticize those who use it to harm others. I can, Mr Ven, and I do. Anyone who uses any words, including the F-word, to harm others, is thereby utterly criticizable, and in the harshest terms. I most assuredly don't ask the Oppressed to do the heavy lifting: I think I'm actually doing the opposite: I'm asking the whip-masters to realize that what they have in their hands, a whip, is so often used to hurt and harm people who don't deserve it that they should really think carefully about what they're doing when they carry it around. If you do like your whip because you can use it to scratch your back, or because you're a proud BDSMer who is OK with showcasing your lifestyle, or even because you want to defend yourself against other whip-masters, then please do, but do refrain from using it to whip unconsenting, innocent others, and please take into account the fact that many people have honest and good reasons not to like the sight of whips. So, Oppresive Majority, get a clue and be damn careful! There are human beings out there. (And it's OK to apologize for past whippings too, and even to apologize for, and show you don't support, any present-day whip-masters still wielding their whips against the Oppressed.)

I think I actually ask a lot of them.

And what do I ask from the Oppressed? I don't ask that they accept whippings, casual or otherwise, or that they actively redeem whips with their own personal efforts. No -- I merely ask that they don't jump to the conclusion that any whip-carrying person they happen to run into is necessarily carrying this whip as an implicit threat against them. I merely ask that they don't think they need to retaliate (by, e.g., glitterbombing) anyone who shows he actually may have a whip somewhere on his body, without first finding out why this whip was there.

If they find out the whip was there as a threat, or even to be actively used to harm the Oppressed -- i.e., if there really is bigotry there -- then by all means do chastise the whip owner! But if it doesn't... then don't. And if you mistakenly chastise a whip owner who actually was going to criticize whips and whip masters... then please do say you're sorry.

Do you think I'm asking too much?
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Posted by ankylosaur on December 4, 2011 at 4:42 AM · Report this
131
il parait que chez les gays on dit "deux pédé, une back room. Deux trans, une dispute"
Posted by JTho on December 4, 2011 at 7:06 AM · Report this
132
Something that seems to also have been lost in this discussion is the awareness that Dan Savage is, professionally, an asshole. Part of his schtick is being offensive - how do you think all those people who write in tearfully about their problems with their dearly beloved feel, when told that DB is a motherfucker who should be dumped? Treating trans folk with a delicate and careful regard while cheerfully dumping all over everyone else would, in a way, be an insult to trans folk - an indication that they are special snowflakes who can't stand to be treated equally. Individual humans in pain are treated with compassion by Savage, but most everyone else is possibly in for a little offense.
Posted by agony on December 4, 2011 at 9:17 AM · Report this
133
@132, I agree. That was part of what I wanted to say.

People have to decide whether or not they like Dan Savage's "compassion-with-a-sharp-blade" style. His abbreviations -- DTMFA, CPOS, etc. -- often include rather offensive words, and intentionally so. Some people may think that this is in itself bad, and that a more sensitive approach is necessary when people come to him with problems they're struggling with. And the case can be argued. Maybe some people really shouldn't ask Dan for advice, because his style would hurt them, even if the advice given was right and could help them. Personally, however, I find Dan's no-bullshit style quite refreshing; but I can understand if someone else disagrees.

(Though I must say that I've been noticing a growing tendency in Dan's answer to avoid the "tough love" approach and write more emotionally appropriate answers. Maybe age, or a happy relationship, or watching his son grow up, is affecting him? Or maybe he's reacting more and more to criticism of his style -- remember 'leotard'?)
Posted by ankylosaur on December 4, 2011 at 9:32 AM · Report this
134
@131, ça, c'est pas gentil. La plupart des trans est très raisonnable. Tu répètes des stéréotypes, c'est tout.
Posted by ankylosaur on December 4, 2011 at 10:38 AM · Report this
135
When did the transexual community get so square? And when did "tranny" become the anathema word for the Transgenderedly Correct? I'm going to get my Ouiji Board and see if I can call up Divine for some guidance...
Posted by MarkLuskin on December 4, 2011 at 3:55 PM · Report this
136
Mr Ank - Well, you wouldn't bully me, but this is not a private conversation. We just talk so much that it feels like one. I actually had a very good clue all typed out and then realized I'd be handing my detractors the key to getting rid of me.

I might go so far as to say that, in theory, you could well be right, and you're certainly entitled to expend your psychic capital in that direction if you choose. It is in various respects a noble enterprise, but I shan't give you a subscription towards it, or, at most, emulating Mrs Woolf in Three Guineas, I might give you the guinea you request, but without joining your society.

But now, back to the whip. The problem with your framing is that the Oppressed never SEE the whip. It is just that, whenever a whip is cracked, chances are that, advertently or otherwise, one of the Oppressed gets stung. It's those who crack whips to kill flies or just as an accompaniment to a spot of flamenco dancing (where did THAT come from? please don't ask *me*, as I have no clue whatsoever) or something who then get extremely huffy about it. It just so happens I have a true example from a few months ago.

I was at the time fairly well acquainted with A, who devised a piece of art depicting a number of characters associated with people from his circle of friends and acquaintances, many or most of whom adopt those characters for role playing. In this piece of art, A included the F word (with a suffix attached), as dialogue for the alter ego of S, one of his closest friends.

The exchange was marred by the fact that this was in the post-hurricane period during which I had no home internet for over two weeks, so that I was coping as best I could from the public library. I sent a bit of a neutral inquiry, and received the classic, "But-I-didn't-mean-it-THAT-way!" defence, which even went so far as to quote the Urban Dictionary, of all things. Snarky.

What A had forgotten (and I'll grant him the benefit of the doubt) was that S is notoriously heterocentric. It had previously been established that A was aware of heterocentrism, and had worked to correct signs of it in himself.

I fear that I did send a not overly charitable (but it was thorough) explanation to A detailing exactly how S's well-established heterocentrism, which anyone who knew him would have encountered, carried considerable influence on how use of The Word would be interpreted. And A countered by altering The Word to a nonexistant word that rhymed, making it quite clear that he was in full support of the spirit of the original word. Fair enough - but now A and I are civil rather than friendly.

My point is that, if the intent of a whip-cracker completely and entirely excludes any pleasure in the collateral sting inflicted on a member of the Oppressed, why not use a water pistol or a flyswatter or a tambourine instead? I can accept that you like whips and want them all over society, and can go so far as to accept that not every sting from a whip was inflicted deliberately, but that does not mean that I will dispute the claim anyone stung might make that the sting is just as great, regardless of intent.

I think that, if detente is to be achieved, the whip-crackers will have to take, "You stung me!" seriously before anyone apologizes for saying, "You stung me ON PURPOSE!"

I have given your admired comedian considerable thought since the original thread, and have concluded that, while he is (depressingly) better than most, he's a little too skewed towards getting bigots to like him and not enough towards making sure that they get it (and my brother would NOT get the point of his routine) to meet my personal standard for being one of the Good Guys. This does not mean I'll glitter bomb him. To use a Sparkism, he'll still be welcome at the Wider Infinity, but he'll probably never be invited to join the Interiour Spiral. But you and Mr Savage are welcome to a differing opinion; I don't think it's anything big enough to merit disputation.

To use a different Sparkism, the narrator of Loitering with Intent, an author whose first novel was the focus of most of the plot, states towards the end of the narration (set some decades after the action described) something to the effect of hating to think of anyone mean or nasty reading her books. I think that that sort of sentiment has worked its way into my Good Guy standard. But at least an advantage of knowing one has a high standard is that one may be more vigilant about maintaining scrupulous treatment.
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Posted by vennominon on December 4, 2011 at 8:17 PM · Report this
137
Mr Ven, let me first of all say it is a pleasure to have a conversation with you, even if I fail to convince you. You are clearly very interested in justice and fairness, and you clearly think deeply about your own opinions and about the opinions or others. I will even subscribe to Lakoff and Johnson's metaphor of argument-as-dance (rather than the usual argument-as-war) and say that, regardless of who convinces whom (and even of whether any convincing takes place), your comments tend to enrich me and make me think in new directions I hadn't yet explored. And what more can one wish from a conversation?

The problem with your framing is that the Oppressed never SEE the whip. It is just that, whenever a whip is cracked, chances are that, advertently or otherwise, one of the Oppressed gets stung. [...] I think that, if détente is to be achieved, the whip-crackers will have to take, "You stung me!" seriously before anyone apologizes for saying, "You stung me ON PURPOSE!"


This is perhaps the crux of the entire argument, isn't it?

It seems what you are describing is the fact that (a) some people wield their whips carelessly and sting people without giving a second thought to this fact. This is true, and when it happens people's attention should be called to it.

Whereas I am worried about the fact that (b) some of the Oppressed may have been stung by whips so often in the course of their Oppressing, that they may now react to the sound of a whip cracking -- say, as an accompaniment to a spot of flamenco dancing (my wife loves flamenco, by the way) -- as if it had actually hit them, intentionally or not. When in fact it didn't.

Because, as far as I can see, it is not the case that the mere sound of whips stings physically in the way that a whiplash would -- it's our memory of having been whipped that 'stings' metaphorically.

If therefore a worthy member of the Oppressed went to this particular whip owner and chastised him/her for using his whip to accompany flamenco dancing as if it had been used on the skin of actual, s/he would be deserving of respect (and should be accommodated if possible); but I believe s/he would be wrong. And even more so if s/he assumed that the whip owner was a closet slave driver who actually enjoyed the use of a whip on a non-consenting person's skin, and verbally accused him/her of such closeted feelings. Or even felt so sure about the existence of said closeted feelings / evil intentions as to glitterbomb him/her because of them. (Call that 'jumping to conclusions' or 'potential friendly fire' if you will.)

Now, this is not to deny that (a) occurs and should be fought against. In fact, I'll go even further and say there is a third evil situation -- call it (c) --, in which a person who actually does enjoy whipping the Oppressed will co-opt the kind of discourse I am using here in order to protect him/herself, so that s/he can go on merrily abusing people under the pretexts that 'this is not what I really mean' and 'I'm not really using the word in this sense' and 'I'm not a bigot, I actually like the Oppressed' (while secretly sporting an evil smile at how easy it is to fool the Naive Progressives).

It seems a very mild version of (c) is what you thought might perhaps have been going on in A's mind when you respectfully called his/her attention to the use of the F-word-cum-suffix in the text for your friend S's role. And you may be right. Not knowing either A or S, and not having gone through the incident myself, I can only trust your judgment and support your downgrading your relationship status to A from friendly to civil. (Though A's attempts at freeing him/herself from his/her own heterocentrism give me some pause. Do you think s/he was not sincere in these attempts, as would a person in situation (c)?)

I think a détente becomes more possible and more likely if both the Oppressed and the Oppressors admit that they are people. The Oppressors must stop, well, victimizing the Oppressed; they must become conscious of the ways in which they do that, by acknowledging the full humanity of the Oppressed with all consequences of this fact, i.e., their inherent right to be respected, to not be taken for granted. And the Oppressed must also accept that the Oppressors are, well, human beings, despite all the evil deeds of (members of) the group to whom they belong. If the specter of past oppression will forever hang above the (erstwhile) Oppressors like the ghost of Hamlet's father, then how could the Oppressed ever learn to finally deal with the Oppressors as human beings, despite all the whiplashes of the past?

A détente always means work for both sides. Both sides have to 'share a dream' and believe that the result is worth it. Or else, it wouldn't be a détente, but merely a truce, while waiting for the beginning of the next round of hostilities. The situation is of course unfavorable to the Oppressed from the start, in that they have no means of ever forcing the Oppressors to do their part of the work. One does have to depend on those mythical beings, honest people of good will, on both sides of the divide -- but more importantly, more necessarily, on the Oppressor side -- to actively talk to the others on their side about what a détente is and the need for one. More Dr Kings, fewer Malcom X's. More Mahatma Gandhis (especially with Gandhi's moral authority -- he managed to get radicals to turn in their hidden weapons by simply telling them to do it and then fasting until they did), fewer Che Guevaras.

Because ultimately the hearts and minds of both sides have to be changed -- the Oppressors have to accept and understand what it means to accept the Oppressed's full humanity; and the Oppressed have to heal from their trauma and victimization, so that one day they might behold the Oppressors without the concomittant memory of whiplashes, but as people, i.e., something more complex that stereotypical whip-crackers. I am sure that this feels unfair to the Oppressed; after all, it's not their fault at all that they were oppressed, and now have to heal. Their need to heal is externally imposed, it didn't have to exist, it is unfair in a deeply true sense. It is, nonetheless, a need; victims who never heal (and, again to the shame of the Oppressors, there are such victims) do not regain full control of their own lives, do not regain their full humanity, even after oppression is completely gone.

On Louie C.K., you wrote:
I have given your admired comedian considerable thought since the original thread, and have concluded that, while he is (depressingly) better than most, he's a little too skewed towards getting bigots to like him and not enough towards making sure that they get it (and my brother would NOT get the point of his routine) to meet my personal standard for being one of the Good Guys.


You may be right about your brother -- again, I don't know him. But I honestly find it hard to imagine that even a run-of-the-mill Mr Average Citizen would not see an incongruity with that particular routine, in which Louie used the word 'faggot' -- stereotypically associated with homosexuals -- to describe someone who was unwilling to do one of the most stereotypically gay things in the mainstream culture, namely, to give another man a blowjob. As if he were saying that being a faggot is the opposite of being gay. As if he were calling the Pope a Protestant, or Muhammad an atheist, or Jesus a woman. How could Mr Average not notice that? I'll grant you that he might not draw the same conclusion as I would (namely, that there is something wrong with the way the word 'faggot' is usually used; that it's stupid to offend a man merely because he enjoys giving other men blowjobs) -- but I ask you, what conclusion would your brother draw from that? (Maybe he's the kind of person who doesn't think at all, of course; he may simply laugh the superficial, Homer Simpson kind of laugh. But then I'm sure he doesn't notice other deep meanings in art in general. Maybe he would be more on Alec's than on Angel's side in Tess of the d'Ubbervilles, and completely miss the point of Tess' personal journey and martyrdom. Maybe he would think that Julien Sorel and Mme de Rênal in The Red and the Black were just stupid people who couldn't keep their affair secret. Maybe he would think that the sex references and scenes were the only interesting parts of Lady Chatterley's Lover and Women in Love. But he wouldn't be right. The deeper meaning of a work of art does not disappear if someone fails to notice or misinterprets it.)

As another commenter here ("ravished") once said, Louie C.K. makes us uncomfortable: he mixes self- and alter-abusive routines, often with the most taboo words one can think of, but often also with an unexpected second layer meaning that keeps us squirming in our chairs, not knowing what to make of what we've just heard, and with the uncomfortable feeling that there's something else going on and that we have to think twice about what we've just heard or else we'll miss something important -- he's no David Chappelle, who apparently only wants to shock. That is especially the case in his TV series Louie (I'm particularly thinking of the episode in which Louie C.K. played a defender of masturbation in a TV talk show, opposed to a Christian young woman who defended virgnity until marriage. At the beginning you think you know where he's going with it; then he completely surprises you by not going there, by doing something else instead, including an ending that is obviously quite vulgar... and yet deeply mirrors the sadness in the human condition; one cannot but stop and think again about what one has just seen. 'There's a point here somewhere, I can feel it! But... what is it? What am I missing?...' I also got a strong feeling from the episode in which he meets a fellow stand-up comedian, an old friend, who came to tell Louie he had been so unsuccessful in his so-called career (unlike Louie, who had been moderately successful) that he had now decided to commit suicide. The dialogue between him and Louie is... disturbing. ('Do you mean to tell me that there is anything in my F-word-ing life that is worth anything, that should make me want to stay?' Longish pause. 'No. I don't.') The laughs it causes are nervous, if at all. One blinks and says, is this supposed to be comedy?
More...
Posted by ankylosaur on December 5, 2011 at 6:44 AM · Report this
sissoucat 138
@131 "pédé" is quite offensive in French, since it assimilates gay men with pedophiles. Please consider using "homo", as all my gay friends describe themselves. Yeah, I know, some people self-identify with demeaning slurs, and it's their business not to respect themselves, but this is totally offensive.

@134 ankylosaur : while "la plupart" is technically a singular, in common speaking and writing, the following verb can and usually will be plural. "La majorité" follows the same rules. I thought you'd like to know that, since you seem pretty interested in grammar topics...
Posted by sissoucat on December 5, 2011 at 6:52 AM · Report this
139
@138, indeed I do. I like the singular -- call that my Cartesian mind -- and since my Grammaire Hachette and my Petit Robert do allow me to use it, I tend to do so, though I gladly acknowledge that you're right in pointing out the plural is much more frequent and at least equally if not more acceptable. Ah ! Puissé-je toujours plaire aux dieux de la grammaire !...
Posted by ankylosaur on December 5, 2011 at 7:02 AM · Report this
140
I'm surprised no one has yet mentioned Jean Auel and the Clan of the Cave Bear:

http://tekmessa.wordpress.com/2010/01/01…
Posted by Tekmessa on December 5, 2011 at 10:19 AM · Report this
141
I will pick the side of NPH and Dan Savage over any twit on the planet. It is a damn shame that some ignorant twat (and I use that word because I do not care what gender someone was born as, this individual is a stupid twat) whines on some blog.

Fuck the blogger, odds are they are a member of the Westboro trying to troll humans.
Posted by Kylere on December 5, 2011 at 11:07 AM · Report this
142
I hate to break up the "what-words-can-I-use-after-all-this-PC" pity party, but for Christ's sake. Granted the stuff they're jumping on Savage about is stupid, WHAT is so hard about not using words that you KNOW are going to offend someone? It's like people pretend ignorance so they can enjoy the forbidden thrill of saying "nigger" and "faggot" out loud, like a five-year-old who just learned a swear word. And for the record, PC isn't just something "oversensitive" minorities are guilty off--you don't believe me, try making a joke about blastocysts getting the right to vote around a bunch of right-to-lifers or about underwear around a bunch of LDSs.
Posted by maddogm13 on December 5, 2011 at 2:02 PM · Report this
143
"WHAT is so hard about not using words that you KNOW are going to offend someone?"


Because inevitably we then have a social vocabulary dictated by those most ready to take offense (read: Politically motivated) and language governed by hidden agendas. Eventually you end up with the Taliban. Well intended or not.

I agree that deliberately set out to insult a class of people is not nice. But here you are claiming this class of people in this case shouldn't be offended. Right?

The problem with putting all the language veto power in the hands of the offended is that you couldn't claim what you just claimed. You have no right to tell those people have no right to be "jumping" on Savage.

Sorry. Stick and stones is a good first policy. And we should hesitate move away from it.

Posted by tkc on December 5, 2011 at 2:12 PM · Report this
144
@142, the point, I think, is that these words can, in some cases and contexts, be the best words for the purpose at hand (the obvious example being to condemn them; others being to reclaim said words, or to use them as a means to call attention to the unfairness in their use, or even to subvert them against the intentions of the bigots who love to use them -- as Dan used to do when he asked people to start their letters to him with "Hey Faggot!".).

I don't like using these words, maddogm, and I try to avoid them as carefully as I can. I don't like offending people. But you realize that some of them have been declared offensive only recently ('tranny' being a good example), and there still are people around who sincerely don't know this, as well as transgender people who still like to use it and prefer to be addressed with it.

Besides, the PC-Lexical police may exaggerate into unfairly blaming people who are actually on their side when it does not take into account what was being said and the context in which it was being said (as in the Dan Savage glitter incident). This friendly fire is detrimental to the cause and should be avoided.

Note that none of this says I, or you, or anyone, has to use these words. Avoiding them so as not to offend others is perfectly cool. Just don't jump to conclusions about those who are less strict about avoiding them than you are. They may have a good reason for that. They are not always the enemy.
Posted by ankylosaur on December 5, 2011 at 4:22 PM · Report this
aureolaborealis 145
More cowbell!
Posted by aureolaborealis on December 5, 2011 at 4:51 PM · Report this
146
Mr Ank - I can relate that A had taken instruction quite well to that point; he had corrected a racist remark of his when T had pointed out it was racist, and he'd followed my explanation of heterocentricity a month previously and had seemed to get a fair amount of it.

I knew there was a reason I kept flamenco dancing in. My regards to your wife. I am often convinced I could have trained as a psychic, and, were it not for Lord Arthur Savile's Crime, I might well have done.

As far as my brother is concerned, I think you overlook the Pavlovian effect of the F-word. Think of someone who would take Beavis as a role model (which is appropriate, as you are reminding me in this thread of Daria) and therefore, on hearing one of his trigger words, would laugh uproariously without hearing any other part of the joke.

Let me assure you that in general I have very low expectations of comedians. They must, after all, in the main pursue dollars, and far be it from me to require someone to limit his/her potential base, especially by cutting off what could well be the largest and most easily pleased group. Not everyone is going to enjoy Sir Thomas Bertram telling his wife that she will find speculation much more amusing than whist. I'll leave it at better than most and go no farther, as I have a lack of psychic energy to expend in a reassessment.

As to what work needs to be done about the whips, I'm going to guess (and right now I'm really much more in Oracle mode than in Logical mode) that a lot will settle itself once your whips become as blunt as ours. It's interesting living in such a time of flux. Our whips have always been blunt, and we can't really disarm on equal terms when they are virtually the only weapon we have. Yours are losing their collective sting little by little, as much of the sting of those whips is the reminder the whips present that there is an impressive battery of force on the side of the Oppressors. I hate to settle on particulars as to who does what at such a time.

But, as always, it is a great pleasure.
More...
Posted by vennominon on December 5, 2011 at 6:44 PM · Report this
sissoucat 147
@139 :-)
Posted by sissoucat on December 6, 2011 at 6:59 AM · Report this
148
ankylosaur, I believe the "F-word" in question in this conversation is "faggot," not "fuck."
Posted by BlackRose on December 10, 2011 at 9:09 PM · Report this
149
Also, re #137, Dave Chappelle does indeed have another layer to his work. He's stated that one of the reasons he stopped doing Chappelle's Show was because of all the white frat boys who didn't get the uncomfortable second layer you describe.
Posted by BlackRose on December 10, 2011 at 9:15 PM · Report this
150
@52

Dan doesn't ever actually apologize for the screwed up things he says.

He tries to skirt around them with tongue in cheek sarcastic non apologies that say "sorry I offended you" without actually acknowledging what was offensive and harmful about what he said.
Posted by shaed on December 14, 2011 at 12:37 PM · Report this

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