San Francisco’s infamous traveling drag show “Trannyshack” will be changing its name and re-branding without the word “tranny” this summer, following the constant discussion about the word’s alleged offensive connotation and mounting pressure from trans activists. The San Francisco drag queen who created Trannyshack in 1996 and continued running it up and down the West Coast for the last 18 years, Heklina, announced the decision in a Facebook post earlier this week. She notes that when the show was created, the word “tranny” had an entirely different meaning when used among gay males and was never intended to cause harm or offend.
The new name? T-Shack. The change isn't good enough for some—naturally—and Heklina is getting grief for the new name and grief for the fact that "Trannyshack" is appearing on the posters—temporarily—for the rebranded club night. From Heklina's Facebook post:
OK, a rebrand. How to go about it? Time to test the waters. But, where to start? When Brian asked me to bring Trannyshack to Seattle for Pride, I thought this was a good place to start. I suggested the name T-Shack. Let’s see how this works, I thought. As expected, many people familiar and loyal to the Trannyshack brand were up in arms, and I received several messages along the lines of “You caved in to pressure” and “You sold out” (? Not sure what that one means). OK. I can deal with this. But, I was taken aback by the response from many in the trans community. It seems I cannot win with some people. They are not happy when I call it Trannyshack, and they are not happy when I try to rebrand (granted, there were some aspects of the roll-out for the Seattle event that were a bit clunky, but still). This to me does not seem right.
Just to clear a couple of things up. The event on Friday June 27 is not “Trannyshack presents T-Shack” as some people have said (and I would invite anyone to show me where it says this on any of the materials). It plainly says who is actually presenting it. The word Trannyshack appears on the materials to let those familiar with the brand know what the event is. [Until] the full rebrand happens this kind of wording will be necessary initially (i.e. “AKA Trannyshack”, then “Formerly known as Trannyshack”) until we can phase it out completely. It’s also unrealistic to expect everyone to stop using the name Trannyshack right away when they discuss it online, or even in person. As preciously mentioned , I’ve relentlessly promoted the brand for almost 20 years, so it’s ingrained in people’s consciousness. It will take time.
I saw this one coming. I wrote and directed Miracle! for Intiman's 2012 theater festival—a retelling of the Hellen Keller story set in a drag bar—and when Annie Sullivan decided to start doing drag (the better to relate to Helen Stellar, her deaf/blind/drag-performer student) the owner of the bar, Crystal Pane, decided that Annie's drag name should be "Tranny Sullivan." This lead to a brainstorming session with a group of busted but somewhat more enlightened queens:
CRYSTAL: You’ll need a drag name. Let me see. Annie Sullivan… Annie Sullivan… “Tranny Sullivan!”
ANNIE: That’s offensive!
CRYSTAL: Look, Ms. Sullivan, drag names are either offensive and they’re funny or they’re offensively funny or they’re funnily offensive. If you don't like Tranny Sullivan, which I think is pretty damn good, come up with something better. (Crystal leaves.)A few moments later, backstage, in the dressing room. Gloria, Bailey, and Sissy get into makeup. Annie, looking miserable, asks for help.
GLORIA: She wanted to call you Tranny Sullivan?
BAILEY: No, no, no. We don’t use that word anymore.
SISSY: The oldest drag show in San Francisco had to change its name. It was “Tranny Shack” for twenty years. Now it’s Alternative Gender Expression Yurt or something.
ANNIE: Look, fellas—
QUEENS: Excuse me? Fellas? What?
ANNIE: Look, ladies, I have trans friends in this city—I can’t go on stage with that name. Help me come up with something better! Less offensive but still, you know, offensive. Offensive enough.
GLORIA: A drag name for a real girl… offensive, but not too offensive.
SISSY: This is so wrong.
BAILEY: What this is, this is groundbreaking, is what this is.
GLORIA: Anita Johnson.
SISSY: Iva Hymen.
BAILEY: Hillary Muff.
GLORIA: Honey Potter.
SISSY: Tammi Tickleclitz.
BAILEY: Camilla Toe.
GLORIA: Rosemary’s Scabies.
SISSY: Rita Mylips.
BAILEY: Whoopsey Wronghole.
GLORIA: Jacquelyn Off.
BAILEY: Sloppy Cunt. (Gloria slaps Bailey.)
SISSY: Cuntaleeza Rice.
GLORIA: Barbara Bush.
SISSY: Laci Peterson—what? Too soon?
Crystal sweeps into the dressing room.
GLORIA: Wait, wait—I’ve got it. Miss Kitty Bukkake!
ANNIE: Kitty Bukkake—that’s actually kinda pretty.
SISSY: Ooh, Japanese!
CRYSTAL: Kitty Bukkake! Works for me!