Background: There’s been a firestorm around the word “tranny,” which has been extended to “she-male,” and even to “gender outlaw.” I thought I’d covered all the bases on my stand on tranny five years ago, in this blog post:
But no, the controversy continues. I’ve been in treatment with chemotherapy and radiation therapy, both of which tend to dull the mind. By last night, I’d recovered enough of my mind to realize that there’s been no definition of tranny to fight over, so I thought I’d come up with one that I could fit into 140 characters. Here’s what I came up with and tweeted:
“How I define #tranny: ANYONE who messes around w gender w little or no care as to how tht might effect their standing in mainstream culture.”
To my way of thinking, a proper and productive response to a proffered definition is to agree with it, disagree and refine it, or disprove it. The majority of responses to my tweet were all about how the word tranny has effected people’s lives. One person, however, managed to refute my definition by saying:
“I fuck with gender. I am not a t*****.”
For this person, I’m clarifying my definition. What I didn’t spell out is that I understand “tranny” to be a radical, sex-positive gender identity. Tranny is to trans person as fag is to gay man and dyke is to lesbian. More to the point of agreeing or disagreeing with tranny as a gender identity for oneself: I’ve been saying since I wrote the book, Gender Outlaw 20 years ago, that the only person who can name our gender identities is ourselves. In my own life, I’ve rejected the gender identities of both man and woman—despite the fact that I managed to live up to many cultural definitions of both those identities. I pass as a woman, I’m called she by strangers. AND I reject the gender identity of woman. Accordingly, if someone fits my definition of tranny and rejects that identity, then I respect their rejection of the identity.
Now, since I’ve opened this wound, I’ve decided to address some of the main objections to the use of the word, tranny. In no particular order, these objections are:
— Reclaiming a Hate Word Doesn't Work
Tranny is not a reclamation. Tranny has been our word for nearly half a century. Some trannies in Sydney, Australia came up with the term as an umbrella term to unite with love and as family the disparate communities transsexuals and drag queens. This makes it unlike words like nigger and slut. These, and other words invented by haters, have been reclaimed and are being reclaimed with great difficulty.
— Using the Word Tranny Promotes Transphobic Violence
Policing words out of existence will not stop transphobic violence. At best, it might change the words used during that violence.
— When Kate Bornstein calls themself a tranny,
it encourages and gives others the right to call all trans women trannies.
No, it doesn’t. Transphobes don’t look to me for permission or encouragement for anything. They may, and certainly have, used my words out of context to support their views. TO BE CLEAR: Nothing I've said here or anywhere else should be taken as permission to call another person tranny until you know that's a word they use for their own identity—some people find the word extremely hurtful. So, please err on the side of caution and compassion.
— FTMs are not allowed to use the word for themselves.
FTMs are certainly included in my definition if they want to be.
— Tranny associates me with pornography & sex workers.
Association with sex and sex workers is often a means of denigrating people. Classist sex negativity is no reason for me to cease celebrating my sex positive identity.
— Why all this fuss, just to protect an edgy word?
It’s more than an edgy word. Tranny is a valid, vibrant, and vital identity. Protecting that identity is what I’m making the fuss about.
In closing: that people are offended by what I call myself is simply not my problem. Transphobia is our communal problem, and I have stood and will stand shoulder to shoulder with anyone who’s fighting that hatred.
OK, done now. I’m going to get back to healing my body.
Auntie loves you. Have good sex and fun with gender. Kiss Kiss.