Which Pejoratives Do We Put To A Vote? Apparenlty Antitransgender Ones

Posted on 05 Nov 2010 at 8:44pm

For those of us who don’t watch Glee or The Jersey Shore much, we might have missed the use of the pejorative tranny (which will henceforth be referred to as tra**y in the rest of the piece) being used in both shows.

GLAAD reported about Glee‘s use of the pejorative tra**y in their glaadBLOG piece Glee Episode Hits The Wrong Note. They noted:

The show’s inclusion of the word “tra**y” was made all the more confusing by the decision to change the word “transsexual” to “sensational” in the song “Sweet Transvestite.” As many commentators have pointed out, it seems strange that Fox would want the word “transsexual” cut from a well known song, but find “tra**y” acceptable.

This inclusion of this slur is particularly alarming given last season’s powerful episode in which Kurt’s father chastised Finn for using the word “f*g.” That episode sent a powerful message to the show’s young fan base that words have power and they can hurt.

Image: Jersey Shore Cast; Link: glaadBLOG's 'MTV Apologizes for Transphobic Jersey Shore Reunion Segment'Jersey Shore was a far worse example of transphobia, in that it was real people making bigoted, derogatory comments about trans people while using the pejorative tra**y. From glaadBLOG‘s MTV Airs Disturbing Transphobic Jersey Shore Reunion Special:

MTV’s hit reality show Jersey Shore featured one of the most blatant examples of transphobia seen on television during its Reunion Special Thursday night.

The offending incident began with a montage of clips from a previous episode, in which Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino is shown flirting with an unidentified club patron, followed by his castmates repeatedly claiming the person was “a tra**y,” and that “if you have to think about it, it’s a tra**y. Stay away.”

However the instance was made much worse by both the show’s host and producers, who intercut with shots of cast member Ronnie Ortiz-Magro wearing a dress and MTV’s own footage of a large man in a bikini and a Halloween mask in an attempt to add more “humorous” context. Host Julissa Bermudez started off the interview segment by making fun of Ronnie for wearing a dress, and asking Mike Sorrentino, “Who was that tra**y?! What was up with that?!”

The segment can be seen here and the full episode is here. WARNING: This video is extremely offensive.

MTV has since apologized; the glaadBLOG reported on the apology in their piece MTV Apologizes for Transphobic Jersey Shore Reunion Segment. Text of the MTV apology:

We appreciate GLAAD voicing concern about the “Jersey Shore” reunion special. The segment in question was certainly not meant to be insensitive, but in retrospect we realize that it was offensive to some viewers.  We sincerely apologize.

GLAAD‘s comments on both shows was in alignment with it’s mission statement, which states:

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) amplifies the voice of the LGBT community by empowering real people to share their stories, holding the media accountable for the words and images they present, and helping grassroots organizations communicate effectively. By ensuring that the stories of LGBT people are heard through the media, GLAAD promotes understanding, increases acceptance, and advances equality.

For me, another disturbing part of this story has been how some media outlets have turned GLAAD‘s efforts over the use of the word tra**y into a question to the public — Is tra**y really a derogatory word? Three examples of this tact are found in Entertainment Week, PopWatch‘s GLAAD vs. ‘Glee’: Is ‘tra**y’ a bad word?; Inside Blip‘s Did ‘Glee’ Cross The Line With ‘Tra**y’?; Gay rights group up in arms, but is this much ado about nothing?, and SodaHead‘s Was ‘Jersey Shore’ Wrong to Use the Word ‘Tra**y’?

SodaHead Poll: Was 'Jersey Shore' Wrong to Use the Word 'Tranny'? (screenshot November 5, 2010, 12:30 PDT)SodaHead actually has a poll up on their question, which was posed by someone in their staff. The three answers are 1.) No, there was nothing wrong with it; 2.) Yes, that was offensive; and 3.) Undecided. As of 12:30 PM PDT, seventy-five SodaHead voters thought there is nothing wrong with using the term tra**y, while thirty-nine voters thought the term is offensive — twenty-five voters were undecided.

Media outlets wouldn’t be asking if the n-word is offensive to African-Americans; we wouldn’t be asking if the b-word or the c-word is offensive to women; we wouldn’t be asking if the-other-f-word is offensive to gays. Somehow though, Entertainment Weekly, Inside Blip, and SodaHead believe phrasing a headline to ask if a antitransgender term is really offensive when used in television shows is acceptable behavior on their parts. And bisarrely, Inside Blip indicates in the text of their article that it’s not the responsibility of Glee to point out that the term tra**y is seen by many trans people as offensive — That somehow this is appropriate commentary in a climate where anti-LGBT school bulling has become a national issue.

Entertainment Weekly‘s Darren Franich appears to speak from cluelessness regarding trans community in his comment, where he stated:

[C]an we meet in the middle somewhere? Do you think that “tra**y” is a bad word? More to the point, do you think that Glee’s use of the word was offensive?

I’m sure I’m not the only trans person who believes “No, we can’t meet in the middle; yes, tra**y is a bad word; yes, Glee‘s use of the word was offensive.” Did he even reach out to meet with transgender activists before writing that statement of his? Somehow, I doubt it.

I am aware that there are drag performers that use the term tra**y to refer to themselves, and I am aware that there are transgender-identified people who use the term tra**y to refer to themselves, often working to reclaim the word just as many in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community work to reclaim the word queer. But just because some African-Americans use others in their community by the n-word, and just because many women refer to themselves by the b-word…Well, that doesn’t mean white Americans should use the n-word to refer to African-Americans, and doesn’t mean that men should be referring to women by the b-word. Pejoratives such as the n-word, the b-word, and the-other-f-word are used to dehumanize people; so is the word tra**y.

And, there is doubt that as the term tra**y as used on Glee and The Jersey Shore, was meant as a derogatory, dehumanizing term — which is why the GLAAD Media Reference Guide refers to the term tra**y (along with a few other terms) this way…

Defamatory: “she-male,” “he-she,” “it,” “trannie,” “tranny,” “shim,” “gender-bender

These words only serve to dehumanize transgender people and should not be used.

It’s bad enough that tra**y was used as a dehumanizing term in these two television shows, but having a few websites put that term up for a vote — a vote as to whether or not the term is a pejorative and/or offensive — is just incredibly insensitive to trans community, and indicates that these websites feel they should be able to dictate to trans community which words are antitransgender pejoratives and which terms are not. Because, of course, trans people are too ignorant and too stupid to recognize for themselves what terms are used as antitransgender pejoratives.

[Below the fold: Responding to the usual derailments of posts on antitransgender pejoratives -- especially tra**y -- before the derailing begins.]
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For those who wish to put up some standard arguments as to why my writing on this subject seems to be unnecessary, let me pre-give some Derailing For Dummies answers for you to consider before posting a comment. Trans people are used to these arguments when we bring up our issues — even within the broader LGBT community.

You’re Being Overemotional:

It is very likely that the whole reason the Marginalized Trans Person™ in question is debating with you is because they’ve made a conscious decision to speak out about these issues, despite the pain and heartache it can often cause them.

Therefore, the “you’re being hostile” bomb can often lead to an increase of anger and/or hurt. Sometimes it just leads to greater emphasis and exasperation in the argument.

It really doesn’t matter, because you can still use it against trans people by accusing them of being overemotional.

You may wish to use the word “hysterical” or “mentally disordered” instead of overemotional. “Hysterical” or “mentally disordered” are words laden with negative connotations, so these terms can be particularly effective. Using these in discussions with trans women is often effective, as the opinions and feelings of trans women have historically been denied as mere “hysteria” or as an outgrowth of “Gender Identity Disorder.” A great one to use with trans women as well is to ask them if they’re taking estrogen — yes, it’s an oldie, but it’s a classic.

Implying people have mental health issues is a great way to dismiss their concerns; it’s also insensitive to people with actual mental health issues — such as depression, bipolar conditions, or schizophrenia.

After all, proper “intellectual” discussions always involve detachment and rationality. What is “rationality”? It’s a way of approaching emotional matters devoid of sentiment, particularly prized by Privileged People® as it enables a continuing inequity of power that favors them. After all, if Privileged People® aren’t emotionally attached to this topic of antitransgender pejoratives by way of Lived Experience©, it is easier for them to be “rational” on the subject

You’re Just Oversensitive:

This is very similar to You’re Being Overemotional, but this one has a slightly different nuance. What you’re implying is that Marginalized Trans People™ are looking for offence where none exists.

Here, you can disown any of your own responsibility in minimizing or dehumanize trans people — and minimizing and dehumanizing any marginalized people and de is absolutely the crux of any derailment. So no matter what, none of this is your fault — nothing you or anyone else has said that was hurtful, offensive, bigoted or discriminatory.

No one apparently is really to blame here except Marginalized Trans People™, because anything that was said was said in innocence.

After all, what reason have you ever had to examine your ingrained prejudices? Why should you start now?

This is a means of telling Marginalized Trans People™ that you believe the responsibility is all theirs – if they weren’t looking so hard for offence, everything would be a lot more pleasant…

But just for you — not Marginalized Trans People™.

You Just Enjoy Being Offended:

This is closely related to the above point. A privileged Person&reg: may make sure the Marginalized Trans Person™ knows that people more privileged than Marginalized Trans People™ consider trans issues to be completely trivial. It’s insensitive in the extreme – it also exemplifies a lack of awareness and empathy.

By demonstrating you have absolutely no concept of what a particular issue or point may mean to them both within their conversation with you and beyond it, you get to show off just how cocooned and protected in your Privilege® you really are. Remember how maddening this is for a Marginalized Trans Person™ — it’s a Privilege® that they don’t share and may never know. So, to witness privilege being so blithely owned and used to diminish their experience, a Marginalized Trans Person™ may just get angry.

You may even be obnoxious and hurtful enough to Marginalized Trans People™ them outright that they enjoy facing discrimination and prejudice. Enjoy it so much, in fact, that they “look” for reasons to be hurt and offended.

This is almost breathtakingly perfect as a derailment tactic, as it lacks any sort of conceivable class and humility — it goes straight to smug viciousness. The very idea that anyone enjoys being hurt and discriminated against as a daily practice is so preposterous it could only be believed by a Privileged Person® who’s never hasn’t experienced to the level of Marginalized Trans People™, and have no idea what it’s like to have one’s humanity diminished every day of their lives.

The fact is, many Marginalized Trans People™ go out of their way to avoid these sorts of debates and confrontations because it’s such a painful and unenjoyable experience. Those you are encountering in this circumstance have likely made a conscious choice to confront bigotry and prejudice, even knowing it will often go badly for them.

For you to spit in the face of their choice in putting themselves on the line by suggesting it’s all fun and games for them just adds a particularly piquant insult to injury.

Don’t You Have More Important Issues To Think About?:

As with the best of all these techniques, this step operates on several levels. First of all, it communicates to Marginalized Trans People™ that you think the entire debate is trivial and below consideration, indicating you entirely disregard their feelings and emotions.

Secondly, you disown responsibility for your part in the debate and anything that you’ve said that may have been discriminatory or offensive.

Finally, you reinforce your Privilege® by suggesting that it is Privileged People’s® job to set the agenda for the Marginalized Group™. After all, how could Marginalized Trans People™ possibly know what issues they should prioritize for themselves as Marginalized Trans People™ are far too inferior and stupid to figure it out for themselves

With your objective, rational Privileged® perspective, on the other hand, you know exactly what is most important, and it is definitely not confronting people who display bigotry and ignorance towards Marginalized Trans People™.

You’re Taking Things Too Personally:

Similar to You’re Being Overemotional, but with particular uses of its own.

When you say “you’re taking things too personally,” you demonstrate your ignorance that these issues ARE personal for Marginalized Trans People™.

That’s highly insulting and usually will rub Marginalized Trans People™ the wrong way. That you’re already refusing to consider their reality is giving them a pretty good indication of how the conversation is going to digress, yet the natural human need for understanding will probably compel them to try and reason with you, or at least to point you in the direction of some educational resources that will help you gain insight into their experiences. This can enable you to make a demand for them to personally educate you instead taking responsibility to educate yourself.

By denying the conversation is personal for them, you also reveal your own detachment: there’s really nothing at stake for you in getting into this argument, you’re possibly having this conversation specifically because Marginalized Trans People’s ™ issues really seem pretty unimportant to you. Marginalized Trans People™ will be all too aware of this too, and it will begin to work on their emotions.

Your Experience Is Not Representative Of Everyone:

Straw man arguments may be used to any successful derailing of Marginalized Trans People™. You can discount the Marginalized Person’s™ experience at every available opportunity. Apart from being simply outright hurtful and demeaning, straw man arguments also forces Marginalized Trans People™ into a constant position of defense.

If a Marginalized Trans Person™ gives you a personal testament, you can immediately assume they are speaking on behalf of their entire group of people and be very quick to point out that it’s wrong for them to do so.

It’s a diversionary tactic, designed to get Marginalized Trans People™ to deny your accusation — and then Marginalized Trans People™ don’t continue to arguing their main points.

Privileged People® have routinely lumped them all together as one great big monolithic group who all look the same, act the same, think the same, speak the same, dress the same, eat the same, feel the same — you get the idea. And, of course, all of those monolithic behaviors are “other” than those of the Privileged®. Othering is a process that permits Privileged People® to consider the Marginalized Trans People™ as less than human, thereby justifying discriminative and stigmatizing behaviors against them. So naturally, it is imperative to a Marginalized Trans Person™ to make it understood their group of people are as diverse in expression and experience as Privileged People®.

So, there is a truth to stating that a issue that is very important to many Marginalized People™ is not important to all Marginalized Trans People™ — stating Marginalized Trans People™ are not all the same. In other words, after Marginalized Trans People™ have all been regularly lumped together, you can break the pattern of lumping them all together for a short period of time, and isolate out a single Marginalized Trans Person™ as not being representative of the whole. Heck, you can say that an individual Marginalized Trans Person™ is just representing their own opinion, but their opinion can’t possibly be the opinion of any sized group of Marginalized Trans People™. You can even play on this concern by implying that you think a Marginalized Trans Person™ is homogenizing all trans people.

It also works to suggest to them that their experience is worthless because it doesn’t align with everyone’s — particularly the views of those that you’ve decided to favor. That is, the trans experiences you’ve heard of that — in your mind — back up your prejudices. This is belittling and offensive in the extreme as you are essentially denying Marginalized Trans People’s™ realities. Marginalized Trans People™’ personal experiences are important to them, so it’s likely they will, whilst getting increasingly hurt and upset, continue to try and defend and “prove” that their experiences are real, and that they belong to a community with commonalities.

Unless You Can Prove Your Experience Is Widespread I Won’t Believe It:

If you can establish that trans experience is not a monolith, and just because people come from the same Marginalized Trans Community™ does not mean they will all have exactly the same thoughts, feelings and experiences.

Yet with Unless You Can Prove Your Experience Is Widespread I Won’t Believe It, you can make it an essential proviso of your agreement that they have to PROVE what they’re claiming is definitively representative of a majority of their group of people.

If at this point you have a Marginalized Trans Person™ so upset and frustrated that they are not carefully articulating their points, you can distort what a Marginalized Trans Person™ means so that if you see an opening where you they’re speaking “on behalf” of all people from their group, you can go right back up to the prior point, Your Experience Is Not Representative of Everyone, and start all over again. You can repeat these two over and over again — it can increase the feelings of anger and frustration of a Marginalized Trans Person™, and then you can throw You’re Taking Things Too Personally or You’re Getting Hostile at them in the process of arguing in a circle.

Well I Know Another Person From Your Group Who Disagrees:

f, for example, the Marginalized Trans Person™ is making sense and you’re beginning to get the unpleasant feeling that you might be wrong about something, just whip up your trans friend and vehemently express how they completely and stridently support your opinions on these issues.

You must discount in your own mind though you that your friend may have internalized transphobia, or how your friend may have been adversely affected by discrimination wielded by the Privileged® that you’re unaware of. And, as established above, it is imperative that you discount the diversity of experience whilst seeming to support it.

After all, your trans friend is proof that there are different opinions amongst this Marginalized Group™ but the fact they agree with you means you don’t have to in the least give credence to ideas alternative to your own, and certainly not from the Marginalized Trans Person™ in question.

Plus it gives you that handy progressive veneer — see, all their accusations of transphobia are totally groundless because you have a friend who is a representative from that group — which shows that you are open-minded.

You Have An Agenda:

This implies that the Marginalized Trans Person™ could never be speaking from a position of integrity, or with pure intent, because they have “an agenda.”

Popular for use in discussions about homosexuality or transsexuality. For example, there’s the “The Homosexual Agenda&;reg;” — the claim that lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender people’s fight to be recognized is simply a desire to “recruit” people into the “Gay Lifestyle”/”Transgender Lifestyle” and turn them “against” the “wholesomeness” of heterosexuality.

And you can separate the “The Transgender Agenda&;reg;” from “The Homosexual Agenda&;reg;,” or “The Gay Agenda&;reg;” — or even your own personal agenda.

In this way you get to both undermine the Marginalized Trans Person™ as a human being and further subject them to discrimination through your refusal to take them seriously. After all, if you characterize the Marginalized Trans Community’s™ struggle for acceptance and equal rights as acts worthy of a comic book supervillain, and not part of the real Gay Civil Rights Movement&;reg;, you further dehumanize and demoralize trans people. Hey, it can strengthen your position.

Ultimately, you can simply dismiss out of turn any and all of Marginalized Trans People’s™ points, no matter how valid, because you can just proclaim that they “have an agenda.”

A In B Situation Is Not Equivalent To X In Y Situation:

The Marginalized Trans Person™ may attempt to be patient and reasonable by using analogy. If you are yourself a member of a Marginalized Community™ exercising privilege over the group you’re arguing with, the Marginalized Trans Person™ may use an example of discrimination towards your community and how there are parallels in discrimination towards theirs. This will be to try and appeal to your basic humanity and provide you with an experience you can relate to, hoping you will use that relation to apply compassion.

By simply becoming indignant, emphasizing that your marginalized group’s experience is absolutely and one-hundred per cent unique, and that there are no similarities whatsoever between the two situations. Be sure to be very derisive of their trans experience, thereby indicating you believe it’s unworthy of consideration. Behaving insulted will indicate their issues are so worthless that it’s deeply offensive your own would be compared to them.

Of course, the Marginalized Trans Person™ was not trying to equate the two, simply trying to provide grounds for commonality. It’s very important not to give an inch, however, so feign utter ignorance of this at all costs.

Who Wins Gold in the Oppression Olympics?:

Following on from this, if you are a member of another marginalized group, you can also exploit it to indicate to the Marginalized Trans Person™ how absolutely disdainful you are of his, hers, or hirs concerns and issues by making out that yours are far more important and imperative.

You can even suggest that your issues are more valuable than theirs, implying a hierarchy of oppression in which you always win.

You see, as a marginalized person yourself, it will be all the more infuriating to the Marginalized Trans Person™ that you’re exercising the exact same prejudices and discrimination that Privileged People® exercise against you. The Marginalized Trans Person™ will be tearing their hair out at your obliviousness and lack of perception.

You Have A False Consciousness:

In conversation, there are few things as degrading, enraging and hurtful than to tell someone their experiences are false, or that their perception of them is — You just tell transgender people that transgender identity is a false identity.

The idea behind this one is usually that oppressed people are simply too oppressed to know they’re oppressed, and therefore people who are more privileged than those Marginalized Trans People™ have to share their wisdom and insight with them.

You Have No Sense Of Humor:

This is where the Privileged Person® tells the Marginalized Trans Person™ how they’re taking him, her, or hirself too seriously, what was said was only meant as a joke, or that he, she, or ze just has no sense of humor.

Y’know, because what was said was really, really funny, and the Marginalized Trans Person™ should just recognize the humor of the situation for what it is — there was no offense intended.

So, have at it in the discussion thread; but just be aware trans people are used to being derailed regarding their issues, and the means of derailment are pretty well known and observed.

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