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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Justin Bond On RuPaul, Trannyshack, and the Word Police

Posted by on Wed, May 28, 2014 at 2:04 PM

Justin Bond writing on Facebook this weekend:

I'm writing this because I want to be very clear on where I come down on the recent controversies around the language issues with regards to our trans-narratives. I've been an advocate for finding new, inclusive, thoughtful and evolved language for those of us in the trans and gender non-conforming communities for some time now. Therefore I feel personally compelled to weigh in on these latest dramas that are really annoying the shit out of me. In my opinion there is ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with Heklina changing the name of Trannyshack in an effort to "rebrand" her legendarily inclusive, irreverent celebration of Queer fabulousness. But keep in mind that the reason she has "evolved" is because she's been forced to due to harassment from a group of people who have decided that instead of learning from our queer history of re-appropriating, owning, and disempowering words that ACCURATELY DESCRIBE WHO AND WHAT WE ARE—instead of taking those words that are sometimes used to hurt us by those who WILL HATE US NO MATTER WHAT and making them a part of what makes us wonderful, a small group of vocal "queers" has decided it's better pursue a shame-based agenda.

Therefore, it seems, Heklina has decided it's easier to "rebrand" her party to avoid any more grief. That's her decision and I applaud her for doing what she feels she needs to do. It still makes me sad. I also think there was nothing wrong with the whimsical "Female or Shemale" game played on RuPaul's Drag Race—especially because the contestants couldn't even tell the difference. Hello! That's revolutionary!!! Not to mention the amazing talent displayed later in the episode by the transgender artists on the show which has now been pulled from the air. So. In lieu of standing up to the haters who seek to diminish us and our accomplishments and standing UNITED IN PRIDE IN OUR DIVERSITY these thoughtless "word police" instead go on the attack and achieve easy victories by harassing, silencing and shaming members of their own community and the allies who are thoughtful and sensitive enough to the reasons and feelings behind their anger that they are willing to listen and—as usual, blame themselves and make the changes because it's just EASIER to "evolve" back into silent, bullied shame.

Bond's impassioned post continues here. And for what it's worth: Bond identifies as an "Androgenius Shemale" on Twitter. Bond tweeted out this video today...

"I don't know what gender this @Wicholas person is," said Bond, "but they sure are smart!" The RuPaul tweet @Wicholas mentions...


Comments (35) RSS

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seandr 1
Oh, good, progress.
Posted by seandr on May 28, 2014 at 2:16 PM · Report this
deadrose 2
I've always been irritated by the Social Justice crowd deciding to find something offensive on my behalf when it doesn't bother me at all. Nice to know I'm not alone in this.
Posted by deadrose on May 28, 2014 at 2:20 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 3
It's been my impression that trans advocates who are the most preoccupied with assimilating get the most bent out of shape about the words "tranny" and "shemale". They won't take ownership of those words and turn those words against the haters because they don't want to be identified that way at all, period. They want to be identified as men or women, no exceptions, no caveats, no asterisks.

I suspect that it will soon be a mainstream idea in the trans community that simply the term "trans" ought to be verboten. That there ought to be no delineations between trans and cis whatsoever.
Posted by keshmeshi on May 28, 2014 at 2:36 PM · Report this
Helix 4
@2 My favorite is white people explaining to non-white people why a thing is TOTALLY RACIST. Like. What?
Posted by Helix on May 28, 2014 at 2:49 PM · Report this
Fortunate 5
I think RuPaul's tweet is right on the money. When I was young the term Tranny almost always referred to Transvestite, not transgender. When I hear the word to my mind it applies to RuPaul more than the people hating on her.

Personally I can't stand the term "Queer". I really can't. And I hate the fact that there are actually courses in "Queer" studies at universities. To me it is a derogatory slang term.

But I understand why people use it and how some gay people are trying to reclaim the term, so I just fucking deal with it. I don't personally like it, but I deal. Even though I cringe every time I hear someone use that word I would feel like nothing but a big ass if I attacked them for it and am content with not using it myself and asking others not to use it in reference to me personally.
Posted by Fortunate on May 28, 2014 at 3:04 PM · Report this
delirian 6
TL;DR on the disjointed rant: People can rebrand words, thus those words can't be offensive (and it is your fault if you are offended). The people who 'harassed' Trannyshack never learned history (people who are offended aren't the victims, they're the aggressors). A drag queen calling people shemales isn't just okay, it is revolutionary! And the "word police" don't have any valid point whatsoever to discuss that I'm willing to acknowledge. None. At. All.
Posted by delirian on May 28, 2014 at 3:06 PM · Report this
delirian 7
Remember kids, if you are offended or uncomfortable by these words, you are now a bully. Stop being so sensitive! Don't you know that you're hurting people?
Posted by delirian on May 28, 2014 at 3:14 PM · Report this
Ophian 8
@4, when a black guy asked me--in all seriousness--if it was true that Asian women's pussies were sideways, I corrected his misconception, and then pointed out the racism.

Your post suggested to me that, as a melanin-challenged American, I should have recused myself, which seems to me a little bit, uh, racist.
Posted by Ophian on May 28, 2014 at 3:19 PM · Report this
rob! 9
I've been thinking today about the all-too-gradual de-stigmatization of sex work and sex workers, mainly because of Maya Angelou and her highly successful life. (This seems to me at least partly related to LGBT history and its parallel struggles for openness and identity.) She may be the first former sex worker to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, but how do we really know, and why should it matter?

She is certainly not the only Medal of Freedom recipient to have had sex. The only difference with sex work is receiving money for one's efforts in the workplace, an exchange that is otherwise enshrined in What We Should All Strive For.

I often think of a woman who showed up on my college campus one semester. Word got out (maybe she overshared, maybe one of the frat boys recognized her) that she had been a prostitute. She was relentlessly mocked and bullied from that point onward, and I still remember her running from the dining hall one day in tears, never to be seen on campus again. She had tried so hard, living on campus in a dorm room and everything. I hope I'm wrong, but my guess is that it did not get better for her for a very long time, if ever. I realized then that college was in some ways only a continuation of high school, and life beyond would likewise not be without pitfalls.

What a difference someone like Maya Angelou could have made for her. That was real strife, compared to heated comment threads and Twitter fights over nomenclature.
Posted by rob! on May 28, 2014 at 3:24 PM · Report this
raku 10
There's such a strange dichotomy between gay culture and queer culture. We don't talk to each other, share identities, occupy the same spaces, or even use the same vocabulary. Or when we do, like the word "queer", it means entirely different things. I've been completely baffled when I use the word "queer" and someone takes it to mean gay men. I don't know any queers who identify in any way as "tranny", "transsexual", or "drag king/queen", for example, and don't really understand those that do. We don't have the same cultural history -- gay male bar culture vs. feminist space culture.

We should absolutely understand and accept each other. But one of the groups obviously has more political and cultural power than the other -- you probably see entire TV series about gay culture more often than a single person who's part of queer culture in mainstream media. It's the responsibility of the group with more power to listen to and not hurt people in the less powerful group, if they don't want to be called out on it and lose cultural legitimacy.
Posted by raku on May 28, 2014 at 3:30 PM · Report this
blip 11
@6/7, Justin Bond is transgender and is speaking on behalf of many in the trans* community who deliberately reclaimed "tranny" as an act of empowerment. Personally I don't think anyone who is not transgender should use the word, but I agree with Mx. Bond that no one within the trans* community should be given the authority to tell others how to speak about themselves.
Posted by blip on May 28, 2014 at 3:42 PM · Report this
I'll preface this by saying that I'm a trans person, I love RuPaul, and I am totally fine with people using the word tranny as long as it's not meant as an insult. But I also respect the fact that not everyone feels this way--especially the trans women for whom the slur represents a shitload of societal hate.

I don't buy the argument that "tranny" is short for transvestite. "Tranny" was thrown at any type of crossdresser because their harassers didn't know the difference between transgender people and crossdressers. "Tranny hookers" and "tranny porn" have always referred to transsexual women, not drag queens or crossdressers. The fact is, cisgender gay men have been re-claiming "tranny" a slur that was thrown at them for decades, and that's legitimate. But it's also important to recognize that it is a term that specifically is meant to denigrate transsexual women, and respecting their feelings is probably the decent thing to do here.

I would say the vitriolic reaction from the gay community (note that I'm not talking about the reasonable reactions to this) is analogous to people with learning disabilities being bullied with the term "retard", reclaiming the term amongst themselves, and then throwing a tantrum about free speech when people with developmental delays ask them not to use the word. How is that acceptable?
Posted by PsychoLinguist on May 28, 2014 at 3:45 PM · Report this
delirian 13
I would say the vitriolic reaction from the gay community (note that I'm not talking about the reasonable reactions to this) is analogous to people with learning disabilities being bullied with the term "retard", reclaiming the term amongst themselves, and then throwing a tantrum about free speech when people with developmental delays ask them not to use the word. How is that acceptable?
We've had the exact same debate on Slog, with sadly the same results. In the latter case it was with a former Stranger journalist.
Posted by delirian on May 28, 2014 at 3:58 PM · Report this
Dirtclustit 14
if you weren't such an asshole Dan, you'd be semi-witty
Posted by Dirtclustit on May 28, 2014 at 4:45 PM · Report this
@12 Well said!
Posted by Just The Same on May 28, 2014 at 4:54 PM · Report this
This is why I do not identify with the queer community. I know that there are many aspects and that there really isn't a community as such, but many splinters that vaguely come under the heading of queer - or whatever the hell we are now, some sort of long acronym which is growing ever day.

I am gay, my partner is gay, we have exactly two gay friends. Everyone else is hetero (or closet bi, or whatever). We really do not identify which is a problem, because we don't really fit in with the suburban heteros either. Luckily we have each other.

I have walked the minefield when I did volunteer phone counselling work. It was really off-putting to try and remember not to say something that might offend. I have counselled quite a few trans people and I am here to tell you that in the main they are just people. The ones that I spoke to often identified themselves as trannies. Some were trans, some were transvestites, some were cocks in frocks and many shades in between. I actually can't think of one call where I didn't go away smiling, because despite their very real problems, they seemed to have an off-beat sense of humour and be self-deprecating in a very endearing way. Often we would speak about their problems and then go on to have a great chat about various things. I miss that.

I still think that trans people face the biggest discrimination. They are a very small minority within an minority. I just do not get why there are militants out there who are making things worse with this semantic vitriol.
Posted by JJinAus on May 28, 2014 at 5:06 PM · Report this
Fred Casely 17
@11: I have never heard a cogent argument for trans* being more inclusive than trans. Who is marginalized when the asterisk/wildcard isn't used? What good is a term if it can only be used in written language?
Posted by Fred Casely on May 28, 2014 at 6:12 PM · Report this
@13: I can't say that I'm surprised, unfortunately.

@15: Thank you!

@17: Just gonna chime in to say that I agree--I think the asterisk is superfluous. "Transgender" is already an umbrella term that includes non-binary people, and that is what "trans" is short for.
Posted by PsychoLinguist on May 28, 2014 at 6:48 PM · Report this
blip 19
@17, My understanding is that it's shorthand for 'trans* (*or however you choose to identify yourself).' Once you step outside the male/female binary there are a virtually limitless number of gender identities, and while 'trans' may be adequate to convey a general concept it may not capture an individual's specific identity.

But honestly I have no fucking clue. I'm just trying to be mindful and typing an asterisk is easy enough to do.
Posted by blip on May 28, 2014 at 8:48 PM · Report this
A gay man claiming that He can say "tranny" and not propagate transphobia is like Alec Baldwin saying he can say "faggot" and not propagate homophobia.
Posted by j2patter on May 28, 2014 at 11:05 PM · Report this
sissoucat 22
@8 Hey Ophian ! Do you have any news from lolorhone ? I'm worried.
Posted by sissoucat on May 29, 2014 at 3:01 AM · Report this
Ophian 23
sissou @22, I haven't heard anything. I miss him.
Posted by Ophian on May 29, 2014 at 3:32 AM · Report this
Well yeah, it's easier to harass your friends and allies who care about you than engage with people who actually dislike you.

Not a value judgment, just an unfortunate fact.
Posted by kindsight on May 29, 2014 at 6:41 AM · Report this
@24 With friends like RuPaul, who needs enemies? Seriously though, if supposed allies can't even treat us with compassion and respect, how can we expect to change the minds of people who legitimately hate us?
Posted by Just The Same on May 29, 2014 at 7:45 AM · Report this
ThomZ0rz 26
@25 Just because RuPaul won't do everything one part of the trans* community tells her to do, doesn't mean that she has no compassion or respect for the entire community.

I don't think it's fair or realistic to expect to be able to dictate language for other people who are a part of your community. I choose not to use the term tranny because I know it hurts some people, and I'd rather avoid it. On the other hand, I didn't use the term for decades to describe myself and my friends, only to be told that I'm a bigot and an enemy for ever having said it.
Posted by ThomZ0rz on May 29, 2014 at 8:50 AM · Report this
@26 Times change and people need to change with it. Noone is saying RuPaul is a bigot for having used that word in the past, but because she continues to use it without remorse. You said it yourself, you don't use that word because it hurts people (it's true and I have the scars to prove it). RuPaul has made it clear she does not give a fuck who she hurts, and that is not compassion nor respect.
Posted by Just The Same on May 29, 2014 at 9:38 AM · Report this
#3, from your lips to God's ears. Than maybe that dreadful "cis" bullshit will disappear.
Posted by jade on May 29, 2014 at 1:57 PM · Report this
#28. Then, goddamn it, THEN.
Posted by jade on May 29, 2014 at 2:14 PM · Report this
@28, I can't understand the hatred of the word "cis." It exists for exactly the same reason as "straight" does.
Posted by Just The Same on May 29, 2014 at 2:32 PM · Report this
delirian 31
@28: I hated 'cis' at first too, but it grew on me. The key thing with usage is to verify the other person knows what you are talking about. Otherwise they will end up pissed off that you are using jargon they don't understand. It is a very useful word as long as everybody knows what you are talking about. The times that I still get pissed off about it are when people use the word outside of LGBT forums assuming that others will understand what they are talking about (just explain that 'cis' means non-trans before you start laying into a complex argument).
Posted by delirian on May 29, 2014 at 5:43 PM · Report this
lolorhone 32
sissoucat @21 and Ophian @22: Hey, friends. I didn't mean to worry you. I'm not sure if I've ever gotten into this with you guys, but I moved back to LA three years ago to take care of my family (my brother has neurofibromatosis II [a condition where one develops benign tumors along one's central nervous system] and my mother, a two-time breast cancer [plus a years-long breast reconstruction nightmare] survivor, was no longer able to care for him by herself). They're both doing fine, but my brother recently restarted his physical therapy (insurance bullshit had interrupted it before) and so my usual schedule of cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, driving both of them to doctor's appointments et cetera et cetera has gotten even busier. Basically, I've just been tired as hell and prone to zoning out in front of the TV at the end of the day, but I miss you both terribly and I apologize for ghosting on you. I'll make an effort to check in more.

Shout out to Auntie Griz, Mr. Ven, nocutename and Pridge!

sissoucat: I was watching Treme the other day, instantly thought of you, and smiled.

Ophian: I dreamed I ran into you in a bar in Austin last week. Great conversation. Yep, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Posted by lolorhone on May 31, 2014 at 3:34 AM · Report this
Ophian 33
It's good to hear you are whole, if tired. And hey, any time you're in Austin...
Posted by Ophian on May 31, 2014 at 12:16 PM · Report this
Mr Rhone - Good luck in all your beneficent efforts.

Posted by vennominon on May 31, 2014 at 12:29 PM · Report this
nocutename 35
lolorhone: I'm relieved to hear that you're alright. I've been concerned. I hope you get some help and that your family's health improves.
Posted by nocutename on May 31, 2014 at 6:18 PM · Report this
lolorhone 36
@33-@35: Thanks for all the well wishes, you crazy kids.
Posted by lolorhone on May 31, 2014 at 7:09 PM · Report this

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