All posts for the month October, 2012

Snarks And Reclamation

Published October 28, 2012 by Sez

Disclaimer 1: In order to talk about homophobic and transphobic slurs, you kind of have to use homophobic and transphobic slurs. I’m not asterisking things out; I feel like that gives the words in question a “he who must not be named” type power.
So if reading slurs in this context is likely to upset you, now’s a good time to stop reading.

Disclaimer 2, This post is, in part, about the difficulties a trans ally can face. I know, I know. The poor, oppressed ickle cis girl. Privilege-o-rama. I’m not for a second forgetting that.

This is something I see from both ends. As a queer woman (some might say lesbian but “queer” is my preferred label if I’m wearing one) I don’t like hearing gay, queer, etc thrown around as negative slang.
As part of my job I talk to teenagers about why homophobia is bad, m’kay? One thing I talk about is how using gay to mean bad is homophobic even if you DON’T MEAN IT TO BE. Because if you know that “gay” means “same sex attraction”, that it hurts people for you to use their identity as an insult, and you STILL can’t be bothered finding a better way to express yourself, then you’re being homophobic.
At this point people often bring up reclamation – black people using the word “nigger/nigga” being a favourite example. Is it ok for white people who are part of a social group that includes black people who use “nigga” affectionately to join in with that? If so, the convoluted teenage logic goes, it’s ok for people who don’t regard themselves as homophobic to fling “gay” around like a verbal hand grenade. I can usually debunk that one in a matter of seconds, but it does raise an interesting point. As a kid said to me the other day “Say all my mates are gay, and we’re meeting at a gay pub, and I go in and say “Hello, you gayboys!”, and we ALL know it’s a big joke, I think that would be OK”
I had to agree with him. Not that it would be OK, but that, depending on the people there, it might be. But that generally, reclaiming was reserved for the people who were affected by the slurs in the first place (at which point another little smartase pointed out that I’d said that homophobia affects everyone. D’oh!)
Why this long and confusing preamble?
Tranny is why.
The word “tranny” and I have a complicated relationship.

It’s a slur. It’s used, horribly, against transgender people. It’s not ok for me to use “tranny”. Just like a white person saying “what up my niggaaas!?” I’m probably going to come off as unbelievably crass at best, nastily prejudiced at worst.

Here’s the thing, though. I would say that a slight majority of the trans people I am aware of in my not-online social and work circles sometimes choose to reclaim it. One or two of them choose “tranny” as the main word they identify as, gender wise. I also know people in the transgender community who hate the word regardless of context, who feel that there’s never a context when anyone can use it ever, regardless of what their gender identity might be. It’s been suggested to me that tranny is just too triggering to reclaim, and that the right of some not to hear the word trumps the right of others to identify themselves that way.

So I, as a cisgender person, have friends whose gender identity I fail to respect if I refuse to use “tranny” and friends whose history of oppression I fail to acknowledge if I agree to use it. It’s a weird head space to occupy.

Also, as someone who identifies as queer, I’m aware that I make some people who have had that word used against them uncomfortable.
But that’s the thing about reclaiming. It’s prickly. It hurts to pull words used in hate back and make them a source of strength. And for LGBT people, there’s the issue that all the words we use for ourselves are also used as slurs, or as pathologising diagnoses. ALL our words have to be reclaimed, and ALL our words have the potential to hurt us.
Like I said at the top of this post, I don’t believe in asterisking words out. I don’t believe in giving slurs the power that censoring lends them. I’m with (cis, white, rich, hetero male) George Carlin on this. There are no bad words. It’s context that makes them good or bad .
So I’m going to come down on the side of my trans friends who DO identify as “tranny”, and defend their right to do so even if that offends other trans people.

Which leaves me in the position of sometimes, just sometimes, saying, and defending “tranny”.
Which I have absolutely no right to do.
Ho hum.


On Transphobic Toilet Panic

Published October 26, 2012 by Sez

There’s an ongoing debate, particularly heated in the USA. It goes like this: “Should transgender women who have a penis be allowed to use ladies’ toilets?”
Let’s get one thing out of the way: my opinion on that…

Yes. Of course they should.

However, many people would disagree with me there. One such is Roseanne Barr. Ms Barr feels that affording a trans lady the basic human right to curl one out in peace, her gender identity respected, is tantamount to having a penis waved in her and other (cis) women’s faces. Seriously. That’s her position.

So let’s deal with that first.
seriously, we’re all just there to spend some quiet time getting slightly, temporarily lighter. Nobody is waving anything in anybody’s face. Least of all anybody dealing with transphobia and gender dysphoria every damn minute of her life. I mean, come ON.

But Roseanne isn’t worried about a trans woman literally waving her penis around, sticking it in the Airblade, pissing in the lady-sinks like they’re urinals. Not really.
Roseanne is worried about men coming into the ladies’ toilet with the intent to assault women.
Roseanne and those like her think of trans women as men.

Penis = man.
Man = rape risk.
Penis free zone = risk free zone.

So let’s go stage by stage here, so as not to get lost in the abyss of bullshit we’re staring into.

1) Trans women aren’t men.
2) Having a penis doesn’t make you a rapist.
3) Having a (home grown) vagina doesn’t make you unable to assault people.
4)Trans women aren’t men.

An issue Ms Barr likely hasn’t even begun to consider is that there are people who don’t identify as a gender catered for by single sex bathrooms. There are people who are only just taking their first steps toward transition. There are genderqueer people and people to whom gender is an irrelevancy. The either/or culture of public toilets, changingrooms etc. hurts all these people.
So, why not gender neutral toilets?
The reason usually given is that some cis males rape and assault women, and some women feel safer going into a female only space like a toilet if they feel threatened by some creeper. Knowing that the guy isn’t allowed to follow them in there gives them a sense if security gender neutral toilets would erode.
Here’s the thing. HE ISN’T ALLOWED TO RAPE YOU IN THE FIRST PLACE. you REALLY think a picture of a bald woman with one leg is going to stop a determined attacker? I’m sorry to tell you this, but gender segregation doesn’t tend to make for a happier, more liberated society. The safety you feel in a room with a sign that says men can’t come in is false.
Assaults happen in ladies’ toilets. you can be assaulted by a cis woman, or by a bloke who’s come in after you. Assaults on cis women by trans women? In a ladies’ toilet?
The reverse? Quite a few.
I believe the answer lies in a radical redesign of how we build toilets. It’s possible. People thought the indoor flush would never catch on, and now look.
So lets aim for all new builds having individual lockable stalls, well lit, open plan hand washing areas, open to all genders, and pre existing buildings providing at least one gender neutral toilets, and everyone growing the hell up about self defined men and women using the toilet that’s right for them.
Seriously, who is that oppressing?


Published October 26, 2012 by Sez

So, I’ve been threatening this for a while. I’m cis. This is going to be a blog about trans stuff.

If my privilege shows, tell me. I’m not out to do harm, but you never know.

If you don’t think a cis woman has any business talking about gender and trans issues at all… maybe give this blog a miss.

If you think I’ve been brainwashed by the evil transgender plot to destroy feminism, yeah, probably also the wrong blog for you.