Solution to ‘Tranny’ Debate: Stop Using the Word

From South Florida Gay News:

John Becker
June 5, 2014

These days, one of the easiest and quickest ways to anger a room full of queers is to bring up the subject of legendary drag queen and television star RuPaul Charles.

RuPaul first came under fire earlier this year for using the word “she-male” in a challenge on his Logo TV show, “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” called “Female or She-Male.” In it, contestants were shown photographs and had to guess whether the subject was born biologically female or previously appeared on the show. Many transgender advocates objected, pointing out that “she-male” is a term that is frequently used to degrade and demean trans people. They also took issue with a recurring segment titled “You’ve Got She-Mail” for the same reason.

In response, Logo apologized, pulled the episode that contained the challenge, and removed the “You’ve Got She-Mail” segment.

But RuPaul himself didn’t apologize. Instead he doubled down, vigorously defending his use of another problematic word, “tranny.” In an interview with Marc Maron, RuPaul said:

“Does the word ‘tranny’ bother me? No. I love the word ‘tranny.’ … It’s not the transsexual community who’s saying that. These are fringe people who are looking for storylines to strengthen their identity as victims. That is what we are dealing with. It’s not the trans community. ‘Cause most people who are trans have been through hell and high water… But some people haven’t and they’ve used their victimhood to create a situation where, ‘No! You look at me! I want you to see me the way you’re supposed to see me!’ 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 fucking hard-ass road…

“I dance to the beat of a different drummer. I believe everybody — you can be whatever the hell you wanna be, I ain’t stopping you. But don’t you dare tell me what I can do or what I can’t — say or can’t do. It’s just words, like, ‘Yeah, you hurt me!’ Bitch, you need to get stronger. If you’re upset by something I said you have bigger problems than you think.”

In the controversy over RuPaul and language, especially as regards to the word “tranny,” the arguments essentially boil down to this: on one side you have many members of the trans community and their allies, who find the term highly offensive and abusive, especially because it’s frequently used in violent attacks on trans people.

On the other side is the drag community, which has a long history of satire and word reclamation, largely rejects the idea that the term “tranny” is inherently offensive, and bristles at what they perceive as language policing. Drag culture also has a long and important history within the gay community, which leads many gay men — and also many older trans women, who grew up in a world where drag culture was often one of their only safe spaces — to vociferously defend it.

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Mansplaining, explained: ‘Just ask an expert. Who is not a lady’

From The Guardian UK:

Author Rebecca Solnit admits that even penning a book titled ‘Men Explain Things to Me’ doesn’t stop some men, Friday 6 June 2014

Rebecca Solnit is a prolific author (she’s working now on her sixteenth and seventeenth books), historian, activist and a contributing editor to Harper’s. Her most recent book, Men Explain Things to Me, is a collection of Solnit’s essays, including the title piece that launched a million memes. Solnit, on the road in Seattle, took some time to explain “mansplaining”, writing and how the post-Isla Vista misogyny conversation is a little like climate denialism.

JESSICA VALENTI: How do you feel about being considered the creator of the concept of “mansplaining”? Your now-famous essay – which really gave women language to talk about the condescending interactions they’ve had with men – certainly gave birth to the term, but you write in the book that you didn’t actually make up the word.

REBECCA SOLNIT: A really smart young woman changed my mind about it. I used to be ambivalent, worrying primarily about typecasting men with the term. (I have spent most of my life tiptoeing around the delicate sensibilities of men, though of course the book Men Explain Things to Me is what happens when I set that exhausting, doomed project aside.) Then in March a PhD candidate said to me, No, you need to look at how much we needed this word, how this word let us describe an experience every woman has but we didn’t have language for.

And that’s something I’m really interested in: naming experience and how what has no name cannot be acknowledged or shared. Words are power. So if this word allowed us to talk about something that goes on all the time, then I’m really glad it exists and slightly amazed that not only have I contributed about a million published words to the conversation but maybe, indirectly, one new word.

Do men still explain things to you?

Do they ever! Social media are to mansplainers what dogs are to fleas, and this recent feminist conversation has brought them out in droves. I mean, guys explain ridiculous things to me like that the Louisiana Purchase gave the United States a Pacific Coast. But more than anything since I wrote Men Explain Things to Me, they’ve explained women’s experience to me and other women. With this explosive new conversation since the Isla Vista murders, there’s been a dramatic uptick in guys mansplaining feminism and women’s experience or just denying that we need feminism and we actually had those experiences.

If there were awards to be handed out, one might go to the man who told me and a woman friend that 1) women actually like all those catcalls 2) as a man who’s spent time in men’s-only locker rooms, he knows men don’t actually speak to women that way. So we like street harassment, but that doesn’t actually exist, because we’re just crazy that way, us subjective, imaginative, unreliable ladies. Just ask an expert. Who is not a lady.

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