I’m sure most in the LGBT community have heard something recently regarding the controversy over the use of some terms used on RuPaul’s Drag Race which is aired on the Logo Network and more specifically the use of the word tranny.
RuPaul argues, “It’s not the word itself, but the intention behind the word.” This is the same argument when people use the word “retard” or other offensive slang. The problem with intent is often people don’t know the intent of the person using that term so regardless of the intent a meaning is automatically rendered to be negative. These kinds of words including “tranny” are meant to dehumanize and while they might not be intended to dehumanize it’s still implied.
During my time performing in drag I often heard others use the word “tranny” and it always made me feel uncomfortable especially because it wasn’t performers who were themselves transgender. Just because a community has used a term for many years it doesn’t make it right.
The issue I have with RuPaul taking such a strong stance on the subject is that he’s not transgender. So how can he speak on term that’s considered derogatory to the transgender community? RuPaul went as far as saying this, “The absurdity! It’s as if Jay Z got offended by Kanye using the word “Nigga”” Just because you perform in drag doesn’t mean you understand what it’s like to be transgender.
I have often found that within the LGBT community there is a lot of discrimination against those who are Transgender. I can remember working at a gay bar and hearing others make fun of the transgender customers, many of them staff members.
Those like RuPaul who are so adamant in their right to use the word “tranny” are the same types of straight people who defend their right to use words like nelly, gay boy and so many other negative slangs.
Recently Bianca Del Rio has came out defending RuPaul and pretty much told Carmen Carrera to shut up, that if it wasn’t for RuPaul she wouldn’t be in the spotlight. These are the same kinds of comments that bigots use when voicing their feelings about people who stand up for equality! While I don’t know Carmen Carrera’s motivation for taking a stand I do believe it’s a stand that needs to be made. I’m not just talking about using that word but awareness in whole. Transgender individuals face discrimination on a frequent, if not daily, basis and often times are murdered for being transgender.
To give you an idea of what the transgender community has to endure, in one study it was found that “A staggering 41% of respondents reported attempting suicide compared to 1.6% of the general population, with rates rising for those who lost a job due to bias (55%), were harassed/bullied in school (51%), had low household income, or were the victim of physical assault (61%) or sexual assault (64%).”
It’s this attitude that someone should shut up and take the abuse. That because RuPaul gave such a break to someone like Carmen they should be grateful and not say a word. It reminds me of the same type of behavior from families when you have one person speak up about abuse. The good part about fame is the platform to make a difference and whether or not Carmen is authentic her motives it’s still bringing awareness to the spotlight.
In another interview RuPaul said “it is not the transsexual community. These are fringe people who are looking for story lines to strengthen their identity as victims. That is what we’re dealing with. It’s not the trans community, because most people who are trans have been through hell and high water and they know — they’ve looked behind the curtain at Oz and went, ‘Oh, this is all a f**king joke. But, some people haven’t… You know, if your idea of happiness has to do with someone else changing what they say, what they do, you are in for a f**king hard-ass road.”
The sad reality is not everyone can get to the point where RuPaul has where he doesn’t let anyone effect who he is. Some people don’t have that luxury and pay the price by killing themselves. The hard knock life philosophy doesn’t work for everyone. Especially if someone lives a life surrounded by those who constantly tear them down. Whether RuPaul want’s to admit it, it’s openly known that many find terms like “tranny” offensive.
For those who have been victims of bullying and/or verbal abuse know the impact words can have. Words are like stones as if you throw enough they will eventually pile up to the point where all you can see are those heavy, dark stones that are almost impossible to move. So my question is this if you know a word you use can offend a certain group of people why would you want to use (and defend) that word, especially in a public forum.
Knowing what transgender individuals go through on a daily basis why would anyone want to cause any more harm, whether it was intentional or not. We can’t expect respect and sensitivity from others if we can’t give it back, especially to others within our community. We can continue to argue until we’re blue in the face or we can do something with this energy and do some good in the process.
Let’s be honest RuPaul is in the business of drag as career. I’ve never quite bought into RuPaul’s “If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” philosophy. Which there is truth to it but there’s the other side to it as well. You can’t go at life as a hard ass all the time and that’s the attitude RuPaul has. This is my way or the highway mentality doesn’t help those struggling with their own identity. When someone is contemplating suicide are you going to tell them to get over it.
The other side of the whole loving yourself bit is returning that love to the rest of the world. I don’t hear any love or support coming from RuPaul when it comes to this subject. RuPaul has also said that he’s been a “tranny” for 32 years and is proud of it, and concluding that “tranny” never meant transexual. The same can be said with the word gay. Gay hasn’t always been heavily associated with gay people. Others use the same argument now when they use the word gay negatively. It’s all a big slippery slide. I don’t buy RuPaul’s argument. How could it not be associated with Transgender when you are basically adding a “y” to the end of it???
Let’s take this opportunity to educate others. Promote love, understanding and sensitivity to all. Many use that word not knowing the implications it has the transgender community. Replace those terms with respect. That’s all that anybody wants. In the end, is your behavior and words going to lift someone up or tear them down?