Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Tranny

    Tranny. It's a word you won't often have seen me use here but something I read this morning was the straw that broke this particular camel's back.
    Helen Boyd should I think know better than to compare the use of 'tranny' with the use of the N-word.
    I am observing a divergence of language between US English and UK English on the subject of 'tranny'. In both cultures it has the same meaning and broadly similar usage. It's an insult from outsiders - though be serious, it's a pretty mild one! - and we prefer that non-trans people don't use it towards us, though it's widely used within the community. Its etymology is not offensive, it is simply a contraction of 'transvestite'.
    The divergence I am observing between the two dialects stems from the way the 'problem' is being approached differs on each side of the Atlantic. A word that is being busily reappropriated here seems from my linguistic point of observation to be in the process of being turned into a hate word by trans activists on the other side of the pond. I find that to be a particularly unfortunate direction because it simply creates an ever more potent weapon for those who would find such a hate word to be of use against us. Censoring vocabulary is an ineffective weapon against prejudice.
    Back to the N-word use that prompted this piece. Maybe it takes a white Brit to point this out to a white American but I think anyone making such a point would be well advised to study a bit of American history and in particular the history surrounding both words before making such a comparison. There is simply no parallel between the two experiences.
   Perhaps reading Huckleberry Finn would be a good place to start. If being reminded of the reality isn't a mite uncomfortable, that is.

6 comments:

  1. Great point, Jenny. Nicely said.

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  2. Nice point but it is one thing to educate people, another to persuade them! It is difficult to decide what to do about such things. If ignored, the use of the term could possibly fizzle out (not likely) and if objections raised, might fan the flame! Either way it's a no-win situation methinks.

    Shirley Anne xxx

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  3. I will not attempt the compare the terms. I will, however, suggest that the intensity and amount of anger, or disgust for the word, 'tranny' will determine the degree of its intended use.
    If the response of the person to whom it's directed is intense and dramatic than we empower the person who flung the word. Our response encourages them to continue to use the word negatively.

    But we have a choice, don't we? Do not give credence to the word and it might just fade away.

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  4. Lisa in Raleigh20 July 2011 at 15:01

    "But we have a choice, don't we? Do not give credence to the word and it might just fade away."

    Great comment and this is a major reason the N word is still so alive. The community that is effected by it has made it acceptable to use within the group, but no by those outside.

    I whole heartly agree with Jenny's post, there is little comparison between the words except for how the community they refer too defines its use.

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  5. I don't think the two are comparable in that way or up against any other racial slur.
    The likelihood of offence taken from tranny depends on its tone and context perhaps stronger comparisons could be made against other formally entirely abusive lgbt words which have been reclaimed over the years by sections of the communities.

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  6. Thanks all, and sorry it's taken me a while to reply.

    It was the history aspect that spurred me to write this. I guess it's the feeling of almost co-opting the oppression of another group to justify a bit of outrage.

    I have an acquaintance who will not suffer the T-word to be uttered in her presence. Sadly for her, though she's full-time she dresses like a ...er... tranny, so that and her continued harping on about the word means that it's the one most often said about her behind her back. Which is a shame, I think she'd have a much easier time if she just let it pass.

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