Disclaimer: I usually avoid using slurs of any kind, but for the sake of getting this point across, I'm abandoning that for this blog post. Please do not take offense.
There's a conversation happening right now that's long overdue. With growing tensions between the LGB and T components of our community, we are doing little to bridge the gap -- quite the opposite in fact. Instead of binding together to respect one another's viewpoints and have a meaningful discussion about language in our culture, we're jumping on the defense every chance we get -- further hurting the historic bond we have. It has to stop.
Gay men: Telling trans people to stop being so touchy and sensitive over language is wrong. For too long they've stood in the dark supporting you for your fight for marriage equality and protections under the law, while you make little attempt to understand their struggles. Why are you jumping to assume this is a new sensitivity or cry for attention? Why aren't you attempting to understand that MAYBE the trans community finally feels like it has enough clout in our society to speak up for themselves? Why are we trying to stifle that and treat them as if their opinions and feelings don't matter? Was there ever a time you walked by a group of straight dudes in high school, calling one another faggots and a little piece of you died inside? It doesn't matter to you that those guys take pleasure in using the word because to you -- it sucks. THAT's what it feels like to trans men and women when you throw around "tranny," like Rhianna's new single. You may use it as a term of endearment, but to others it hurts. And rather than get defensive over using it, maybe we should start exhibiting some compassion and understand how others are affected. Maybe you weren't negatively affected by the word "faggot." I'm happy for you, but there are people who have, so maybe take a moment to understand someone else's experience.
Non-trans drag queens: You are not trans. You don't get to throw around hateful terms, either, even if you feel you're reclaiming the word. It's not yours to reclaim. There are women who get beaten by their boyfriends or random strangers, left for dead, where tranny is the last word they hear. It's not a word that represents frivolity and flamboyance or whatever you want it to mean. It's not a joke, and trans people aren't a spectacle. When someone tells you they're offended by your language, instead of jumping to defend your free speech, take a moment to educate yourself on why it means so much to this person that you change your behavior. It's time we start considering each other's stories before assuming our own experiences trump those of others. RuPaul is a poor representative of this ideal. It's one thing to take pride in a term that may hurt other people, but it's another to blatantly fight the understanding of and compassion for those who are negatively affected by it.
Trans people: Please understand that there are cisgender gay men who are on your side, and please continue to have this dialogue. I understand you're frustrated, hurt, annoyed, angry, etc. on how you've been treated, and for me to ask patience of you is probably insensitive, but I do ask that you help us be better allies by calmly and eloquently continuing to call us out. Continue to let us know when our words, behaviors and micro-aggressions get to you, but please forgive those of us who make mistakes unknowingly as we work to change our language and understandings to reflect yours. Please don't assume all gay men are ignorant fools, and please -- no more rebuttals beginning with: "Easy for you, cisgender white men of privilege to say..." it doesn't promote healthy discussions either. Being an ally is a constant process of empathy and understanding, and trust me, we will make mistakes -- but it doesn't make us bad people.
We have made tremendous strides as a community together. We often think of the Stonewall riots as a momentous time in gay activism, and in many ways it was, but we can't forget that it was a collaborative effort led by LGBT people across the board. People like Sylvia Rivera -- a trans bisexual woman, helped make this happen. In our alienation of our taboo lifestyles, we bound together and created a movement. What happened? At what point did we stop considering the contributions and experiences of others outside of our own? When did arrogance and defensiveness take over our inclination for empathy?
Finding middle ground in a community as diverse, artistic, and expressionistic as ours is tough. BUT what we CAN do is respect one another and educate ourselves on how words affect us. It's high time compassion and authenticity and an attempt to understand one another be our goals in this fight for equality. Who knows? Maybe it could be the beginnings of a real revolution.