Cis-gender and “Tranny” The Language Problem

A couple of weeks ago a Canadian sister, who is a regularly published “Trans”-columnist made the mistake of posting a comment to Facebook about feeling depressed about being transgender and wishing she had been born cis-gender instead. I think she used the word “normal”.  Use of the word normal of course is strictly forbidden when contrasted to being born trans.

Someone from the thought police immediately jumped down her throat.  How dare she ever wish that she were cis-gender or wish for an ordinary life as a heterosexual woman, who was AFAB.  How dare she suggest she would like to assimilate.

I think Transgender Inc has painted itself into a corner regarding its use and abuse of language.  It has also become a victim of  insisting that “The Transgender Umbrella includes everyone who is not “cis-gender.”

“Everyone who is not cis-gender” precludes qualifiers such as “except drag queens.”  But if you exclude drag queens because they do not live full time how can you possibly include heterosexual transvestites without being justifiably considered homophobic?

Homophobia has been a problem for the transgender movement. Recently a friend, Cristan Williams stuck her foot in her mouth with the very homophobic piece in Trans-Advocate titled: Faggot Ru Paul: trannys need to “get stronger”

The Transgender Movement from its earliest days at Casa Susanna and Tri-Ess always had issues with perceived homophobia. Prior to the 1990s and the Second Wave Transgender Movement the transsexual and transgender movements operated in a separate but parallel universe to the gay and lesbian movements.

Justifiably so.  Heterosexual women who were transsexual did not wish to be considered gay men.  For that matter they didn’t want to be associated with drag queens either.  The process of changing sex created an unbridgeable chasm socially and with regards to identity. However, once we insisted on inserting a “T” in the same movement as the G/L folks we should have learned to watch our mouths when it comes to making homophobic statements.

Prior to the 1990s and the rise of Transgender Inc, post-transsexual women generally left the ghetto and assimilated into the larger world as heterosexual or lesbian women.  After SRS one no longer really fit in the world of pre-ops unless one was a helping professional.

As soon as I was over and done with SRS, including the revisions, I was pretty much over and done with the “Trans-Community” and I was one of the pioneers having spent 18 months working with the counseling center.  I dropped in repeatedly over the years, sometimes out of loneliness and sometimes out of some sort of feeling of duty.

Mostly I saw two sets of people.  Those who would struggle with their transition but be okay in the long run and those who were on scary kamikaze trajectories.  It didn’t require much in the way of prescience to see that life was going to be short and tragic for members of the latter group.

This is why most TS/TG folks I am friends with are people who will manage no matter how hard their individual struggles are.

Most of them are more or less assimilationist, the same way I am.  Even the trans-activists.  And assimilationist covers a wide territory contrary to what some folks might have you think. When I read Riki Wilchin’s recent writings I feel sad, her gender outlaw path has meant she bangs her head against a lot more prejudice than those of us who just blend in do.

It is a problem when people in the TRANSGENDER COMMUNITY treat the act of assimilating as an act of treason and accuse those who follow that path of betraying “the community” and of being separatists.

Then you have the “gender-queers” and academics who revel in their “gender transgression”, because being gender outlaws makes them special and brings excitement into their otherwise mundane and boring iLives.  (iLives: Virtual lives lived on Twitter and other forms of social media.  Generally spent in over priced hipster ghettos.)

This brings us to “Tranny” and the attempts to ban the “T-word”.

People in the gender queer world, performers and professional gender outlaws seem to be the one’s defending the word.  Others like myself just plain loathe language policing and political correctness.

While most of the people opposed to others using the word “tranny” would deny it, they tend to be assimilationists.  The problem is being an assimilationist has been made into a bad thing.

Cis-gender is used as a means of erecting a wall between TS/TG people and non-TS/TG people.  It is almost a forced grouping with those who live kamikaze lives and wind up on the Day of Remembrance list that gets read every year.

In actuality the lives of those who assimilate have next to nothing in common with those who do street sex work and live the lives of gender outlaws.

Whether one uses the word “Tranny” or not has a great deal to do with class.  Those of the lumpen prole street sex worker class use the word, those who are working or middle class assimilationists cringe.

I understand how getting rid of slurs would have a positive effect on people who are assimilationist. Not using derogatory terms helps break down the us vs. them barriers.

Getting rid of “cis-gender”, an ugly term at best, would also help.

You have people wanting to serve in the military, professional as well as ordinary trans-folks in service jobs saying we are virtually identical to non-trans-folks.   Why are we being treated differently?

Cis-gender like “Tranny” is a way of permanently othering us, a way keeping us all in the same ghetto as those who choose to live kamikaze lives.

I’m an old hippie lady now. I celebrate my age and my surviving.  With age has come certain wisdom. If I had stayed in the community I would probably be dead like the others I knew who stayed in the ghetto.  I also realize that I don’t have very much in common with the lesbian and gay communities.  I am nearly as alienated from them as from the trans-community.

This brings us to “Tranny” and other ghetto terms. I’m not part of the community that uses those terms.  I’m an educated old white woman getting all judgmental about what sort of argot people in a completely different culture use. When I take on that role I feel weird, like I’m telling a bunch of hip-hop kids they dress and talk funny.

We can talk about intersectionality all we want but I sometime wonder if the people most affected by intersectionality even know the term.

I want to make it very clear I am not condemning those who assimilate because that is what I too have done and think it is a perfectly honorable thing to do.  As marriage equality rapidly becomes a reality it appears as though most of our gay brothers and lesbian sisters are a lot less queer than the media would have us believe and are a lot more like their straight friends and neighbors.

Is it really the role of the assimilated to police the language of the outlaw subcultures?

That is the real issue, the one that demolishes the paradigm of “Transgender as Umbrella.”

On a parting note: In the documentary “Paris is Burning”  Venus Xtravaganza, who was later murdered speaks longingly of being a wife and having a small middle class house far from the madness of the trans-ghetto.  For the record many of the sisters I knew who led kamikaze lives and died young also expressed similar desires.

The desire to assimilate seems pretty common, too common for people to be condemned for following that course.  The issue for those who assimilate is a matter of holding onto some kindness and not acting like a judgmental asshole and condemning those who don’t or can’t assimilate.