"Tranny," "sissy," "sex change," and "she-male" are self-identifying slang words used by gender-nonconforming people -- mostly performers, artists, sex workers, and others considered to be living on the fringe of our queer community. Although we use these words playfully to relate, empower, and communicate, these words, like the word "gay," are sometimes used to disrespect us.
When I first transitioned, I proudly identified as a "tranny" until people within the trans community told me the word was offensive to them. I complied but quickly realized that while striving to be accepted by the hetero-dominated world, the upper echelons of the trans community were trying to sweep the fringe under the rug by censoring the language with which they identify. In addition to banishing "tranny," "sissy," "sex change," and "she-male" as slander, they insisted that the users of these words were the oppressors, making themselves the victims -- a well-worn tool of manipulation and control.
As an artist, I love language, and I cherish free speech. RuPaul has been the number-one defender of these, and at the same time he continues to support every shade of queerness within our community, no matter the class. Drag is punk and should never be subjected to politically correct ideals. The moment it stops provoking is the moment it fails as an art form. Trans people are forever indebted to drag for the mainstream explosion of gender as we see it today.
Psychologists have long recognized the importance of play in childhood development of identity, and as people who have had the formation of queer identities delayed by social suppression, we need to remember the importance of play in our adult lives. The current class war within our community and its overpolicing of language threatens the core of our creative abundance. Are we really willing to sacrifice the heartbeat of our queer identities in order to calm the hissing ego of fanaticism?
Perhaps we might be better off acknowledging that controlling the people around us only gives us the illusion of control, a fleeting distraction from the core of our empowerment: the realization that we are only victims if we allow ourselves to be. Yes, we all have wounds, but let's stop projecting them onto our allies.
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