Policing language and appropriating, or in some cases misappropriating, terms can often fall into a grey area as they can be deemed despicable by one and a badge of honor by another.
In recent weeks the discussion of language policing has been a topic of debate. Drag queen extraordinaire RuPaul’s usage of the words “tranny” and “she-male” in his hit television series “RuPaul’s Drag Race” has caused many in the transgender community to advocate for the censoring of the terms as they are said by non-transgender people.
While transgender advocates such as Parker Marie Molloy and Carmen Carrera have condemned “RuPaul’s Drag Race” for its usage of the terms, they fail to realize their nuanced usage. Drag Queens, who fall under the transvestite umbrella of the transgender community, are no strangers to the words “tranny” or “she-male,” as they have been slurs used against them since before transsexualism was a known phenomenon. I find it a bit presumptuous to condemn these people who transcend gender for the usage of the term when they have a right to use it just as much, if not more so, than actual transsexual women and men.
Also, while people have a right to be offended by others, they do not have the right to demand others to be offended as well. If transgender, transsexual or transvestite people want to use the terms as an act of endearment among one another, which is the way they used it on “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” then that’s their prerogative. If others in those communities are offended by it and find it problematic, that, too, is their prerogative.
The choice of appeasing demands is up to the individual, not the faux-monolithic collective. In this polarizing debate, coined the “tranny debate,” cisgender people, or people who identify as the gender they were assigned at birth, have no bearing. Seeing cisgender gay men trying to tell these transgender, transsexual and transvestite people what language can and cannot be used reeks of privilege and ignorance. They are not a part of these communities. Therefore their opinions regarding the nuances of these communities hold little to no weight. These terms have no impact on their life or their identity.
Essentially, if someone declares a word to be problematic and an affront to them, the logical thing to do is to at least adjust the language used in their presence. Everything comes down to respect, sensitivity and empathizing with one another.
The polarizing aspects of the “tranny debate” will continue to be a topic of discussion in the transgender community and the greater LGBTQIA community-at-large. Policing language can only go so far. Drag queens and others within the transgender community will continue to use these terms as they have reclaimed them. Conversely, others within the community will continue to advocate for the dissolution of these words altogether. There is no right or wrong, as I always say—there is nuance to everything.