U of C students incensed that word “tranny” was used in discussion about word “tranny”

Some transgender students and allies at the University of Chicago are outraged that a word they consider a slur was used in a guest-speaker discussion about the controversy over the word itself.

At the risk of inspiring another petition, the word is “tranny,” which is longtime slang for transgender. It’s been used both positively and negatively in the past (and present).

The guest speaker was gay writer and activist Dan Savage, who is arguably America’s most effective spokesman on gay (and quite possibly trans) civil rights. Savage was one of the masterminds behind the widely-acclaimed “It Gets Better” campaign, and behind last year’s boycott of Russian vodka that put the issue of Russia’s intolerance towards its gay and trans citizens on the map.

Savage was declared public enemy #1 a few years back by a fringe coterie of vocal activists; mostly for things he allegedly said, but that when you go back to the original sources you find he didn’t actually say at all. The same activists have also attacked Savage for being an advocate of marriage equality.

I interviewed Dan Savage last year about his new book, and about his secret Mai Tai recipe.

I interviewed Dan Savage last year about his new book, and about his secret Mai Tai recipe.

The word “tranny” has been in the news of late, as some trans activists, but certainly not all, find the word offensive. It was a word that has long been used by pro-trans gays and straights alike. (I never used it, though I have younger friends who have and still do, and not with any animus — it’s the simply the word they use for trans people.)

Back to the University of Chicago. The pro-trans activists say the discussion that Savage had with moderator Ana Marie Cox about the controversy over the word “tranny” put them “in a state of distress,” made them “feel unsafe,” and that the discussion “made [a] trans student so distressed that they had to run out of the room in tears.”

The basic argument here is that the word “tranny” is “hate speech,” and that even in a discussion about the controversy surrounding the word “tranny,” the word cannot be used.

The latest and most famous brouhaha over the word revolves around drag superstar RuPaul, who has been attacked by some trans activists for using the word to describe himself, among others.  RuPaul says he considers himself “a tranny,” so he has the right to own the word and use it proudly. Some top trans activists have come to RuPaul’s defense, such as Mx Justin Vivian Bond:

In lieu of standing up to the haters who seek to diminish us and our accomplishments and standing UNITED IN PRIDE IN OUR DIVERSITY, these thoughtless “word police” instead go on the attack and achieve easy victories by harassing, silencing and shaming members of their own community and the allies who are thoughtful and sensitive enough to the reasons and feelings behind their anger that they are willing to listen and -as usual, blame themselves and make the changes because it’s just EASIER to “evolve” back into silent, bullied shame.



What they fail to recognize is that by banishing the use of the word TRANNY they will not be getting rid of the transphobia of those who use it in a negative way. What it does do is steal a joyous and hard-won identity from those of us who are and have been perfectly comfortable, if not delighted to BE TRANNIES, but the fact is WE ARE NOT GOING AWAY. In case you didn’t know it WE’RE TOUGH! A reality check, if people think you are a tranny it’s because you are perceived as one. OWN IT!

….It is not shameful to be a tranny, a she-male, or any other word used to describe a gender variant individual. It’s shameful to harass people for being comfortable with who they are and the words they choose to use to describe themselves when you aren’t. That is my opinion on this ridiculous subject.

As you can tell I’m angered by this trifling bullsh*t. We should be working on unifying our community and getting ourselves basic protections under the law. If everyone who is expending so much time and energy harassing their sisters about this word would harass their elected officials with the same amount of verve and fervor we’d be on the way to a much more trans-inclusive society.

This reminds me of the recent post I did about the new fad of having “trigger warnings” at colleges, and elsewhere.

I worry that at some point some topics are going to become so laden with minefields that our allies (not our enemies, even our allies) will simply stop discussing them all together.  And when your goal is visibility and education, creating this kind of culture, especially among friends, would seem counterproductive.

What do you think?

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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136 Responses to “U of C students incensed that word “tranny” was used in discussion about word “tranny””

  1. Sabrina Pandora says:

    I love how the ones crying out to claim the word are drag queens (who are primarily gay men) not transsexuals. They want it, they can have it… and they can stop calling transfolk by the term.

    Nice and simple. Ru Paul, the word is all yours. Now stop applying it to us, please.

  2. McNigarWapCrackaKike says:

    Liberals and the trend of “Victim Society” have bullied the public into being afraid of “words.” This is the first stage of Thought Police and Socialist Control.

  3. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    I think you’re adding apples and oranges. You’re speaking of individuals. I was speaking about groups of people. One group insists they not be called “tranny”. Not all of them feel that way, but the majority does. That same group insists on attaching the cis- prefix to another group of people despite a majority of them requesting that the prefix not be used. Isn’t that broadly agreeing? I do not believe the trans community started using cis- to hurt genetic males, but since it is clear that a majority of us are upset, they should back off the way they want people to back off from “tranny”. If they know how we feel, then it is deliberately offensive to continue to use it.

    You want to approach the whole thing the way a committee would approach it. We are never going to be able to do that. I am bothered deeply by the word f*gg*t. Someone could call me that, and say they didn’t mean to be deliberately offensive. I’m still going to be pissed off.

  4. David Church says:

    I think you have the right to ask your friends, family and other people with whom you have personal relationships to use respect your preferred pronouns and avoid using words that you truly find offensive. But it’s not reasonable or practical for a speaker on a stage to accommodate the preferred vocabulary of every individual in the audience, or for everyone in society to accommodate the individual preferences of everyone else in society. At some point, we must broadly agree on broadly acceptable words, distinguish the differences around how and when a word is being used, and accept that certain words may deeply bother us but are not being used in a deliberate attempt to offend us.

  5. ursusantro says:

    I am also a Dan Savage fan, and as such, I am puzzled that you do not recognize that “special snowflake” is a phrase that Dan has used in the past on several occasions. Google it.

  6. ursusantro says:

    I am also a Dan Savage fan. The irony of your comment is that Dan Savage himself has used the expression “special snowflakes” or some variant thereof. Google it.

  7. “What do you think?” – It is to headdesk, briskly.

    (apparently the big difference between “speech” and “discourse” is that “discourse” is both highly desirable and heavily regulated)

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  9. johnbales says:

    I suspect she knew EXACTLY what she was saying, she just didn’t expect to have someone actually confront her on it. And you’re right, the kids simply learned another derogatory word to use against other people who are either gay or ‘dumb’ (though if she’s so quick to use the word, I suspect they’ll pick up on what she really means by it withing a few years).

  10. johnbales says:

    Good history lesson here. For years after I came out, I though tranny referred to transvestites because that was the only context I heard it used around the clubs and bars where there was drag entertainment. I guess the change really hadn’t completely soaked in until the Ru Paul story hit the media (I now live in a small town and have been away from the big city/club/bar scene for a few years now).

  11. johnbales says:

    Exactly. Dan Savage is both a friend and a member of the LGBTQ community and has worked tirelessly to make life better for all of us. Every time I hear someone within the community try to denigrate him because of a word he might use, I lose respect for them and not for him. And I agree, having been ‘out’ for over 30 years, there suddenly seems to be all these new words and prefixes which I guess are supposed to be politically correct but at times they just come off as trying to find something to be upset about if you don’t use them correctly. Such as the T-word (I’m not going to write it and get have the wrath of god pour down on me!)

  12. No prob :)

  13. I can’t imagine a word more dehumanizing and offensive than calling someone “it.”

  14. Yeah, because they’re going to get a lot of support on this site! Clearly they bought all the keywords they could, not worry about context :)

  15. markkernes says:

    I work in the adult (porn) industry, and we use the term “tranny” all the time in discussing and writing about transgenders. A couple of trans people have objected to our use of the term, but most of the trans porn community seems to find it acceptable. We also often use the terms “trans,” “TS,” “TG” and “transgender.”

  16. anon says:

    I was curious, so did a little more research, and GLAAD’s media guide says that “it” should never be used. http://www.glaad.org/reference/transgender Of course, in this case, the student specifically requested to be called “it”.

  17. Joseph Styles says:

    The first time I ever heard the word “tranny,” in the 1960’s, it was used as an affectionate self-reference by a drag queen who considered herself a transvestite.

    Just when did the word “tranny” begin to be usewd as a negative reference to transexuals?

  18. SFExPat says:

    I am a Dan Savage fan. I am not a fan of people who use demeaning phrases like “special little snowflakes” and do not get that many transpeople already face “life’s real problems”. Some of which I listed in my initial comment.

  19. Jade says:

    I’m assuming you don’t mind it when lesbians or bisexuals use it then, Tranny?

  20. Jade says:

    This is true. I, too, went back and read his so-called bigoted statements about bisexuals and trans people, and it’s all bullshit.

    But people don’t have the benefit of critical thinking/reading skills anymore, so it’s easy for bullshit to spread.

  21. Jade says:

    This. The other day, someone asked–in the context of #yesallwomen–why we don’t have more support from “the majority.” “It’s 2014 and we’re still alone in this fight,” she said. I thought, why in the world would straight, white men bother after seeing what Joss Whedon, Patton Oswalt, and Macklemore had to deal with when they tried to help?

    But, of course, I kept my mouth shut.

  22. kwd says:

    Maybe we should change the acronym to LGBTS (for “straw man”)
    Savage is one of your biggest and most publicly outspoken allies, proving that as far as equality goes, the LGBT community is more than capable of producing dumbasses just like everybody else.

  23. Matt Rogers says:

    This is off-topic but as I write this, there’s an ad near the bottom of the article that reads, “Stand with me and support traditional marriage by signing my petition today. Pd political ad – Conservative Republicans of Texas.” It’s nothing short of bizarre lol

  24. Strepsi says:

    The actual solution is the one people already intuitively made: using “they” as singular.

    “Is someone at the door? Ask him to come in” is the only correct way in English, but no one uses that because we intuitively know if it’s a woman at the door the situation is weird.
    What people say is:
    “Is someone at the door? Ask them to come in”

    Since it is almost universal already, I vote for a singular “they”

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  26. anon says:

    In the article at the UChicago newspaper (my alma mater, so I’m particularly drawn to this story) here: http://chicagomaroon.com/2014/05/30/comments-at-iop-spark-controversy/ the student involved requested to be identified as “it” rather than he or she.

    So, I get that the English language is limited to these gendered pronouns, but “it” just sounds awful to my unedified ears. As in, a dean “quickly left to comfort it”, referring to the student who left in tears.

    Really? It? Can’t we come up with something better? I’d never call a person an “it”, no matter their gender.

  27. StraightGrandmother says:

    That is right John. I wish I could remember whose tweet I first saw and then went and read their blog. The person did not have a ton of followers on twitter. It was true grass roots, one small person’s idea.
    As hard as I was tweeting #NyetRussian Vofdka, and I was tweeting that hard, it wasn’t until Dan Savage tweeted it that it took off. That is very true. I just didn’t want you to credit him for having the *first idea is all*. I think it might have been somebody Scott Wollege follows and Scott re-tweeted so I went and took a look. If you want my opinion, my hunch is that Dan prolly saw Scott Wollege’s tweet and jumped on board. I’m glad he did!

  28. TheAngryFag says:

    Because engaging people requires dropping the “I’m a victim! Oh god won’t you please see I’m a victim?!?!” mentality. You might as well ask those people to saw off their legs.

  29. pappyvet says:

    The lack of maturity and reason in some people is striking

  30. doug105 says:

    I had people asking what the T is for, sure a few are trolling but not all,in any case I got wore down and largely quit bothering from all the people going on about ghetto’ing and how there was no need for such a guild haven’t played in about 3 months.

  31. FLL says:

    I think that shortening the word “transgender” to “tranny” is a typical use of English. It’s almost instinctive for English speakers to shorten words that way, so it doesn’t strike me as derogatory.

  32. I still like Frank n Furter, I dont’ care what you say. :)

  33. That’s it’s own blog post, btw ;-)

  34. “that’s cool,” that’s funny :)

  35. I love that, I didn’t mean faggot as in gay, just faggot as in dumb. Oh ok.

  36. GLBT kills the point øf others knowing what it means – I’d be curious to see a poll asking regular Americans what lgbt means.

  37. Then Dan exploded the issue. Either way, it was his writing about it that made the issue finally explode, and work.

  38. That’s always been an interesting issue I have with some of the rhetorical outrages that folks sometimes have. We’re always told that if x group thinks y is offensive, then it is. And as someone mentioned here a while back in the comments, I think back to the “scandal” in DC back in 1999 when a top aide to the mayor was fired for using the word “niggardly” in a memo. The rest of the staff was outraged at his “racism” and demanded he be fired, so he was. About a month later, after the mayor consulted a dictionary, the staffer was hired back.


    That’s an extreme example, but it’s also proves the point that just because anyone — even a majority of people — think something is offensive, doesn’t mean it is. There have been plenty of “øutrages” recently on the gay front that I’ve rolled my eyes at. I think people went overboard on something that just wasn’t that offensive. Sometimes I’ve spoken out about i t, sometimes I’ve bitten my tongue. And I’ve seen the same thing in straight-politicsland. The Internet has made it especially easy for everyone to be instantly outraged. It’s also been quite effective at reinforcing error, and convincing people on the fringe that they’re not really fringe because – hey, look! – 1000 other people online agree with me, so I must be right!

  39. keirmeister says:

    I can’t think of any time I’ve used the word “tranny” outside of a car engine – and that’s mainly because the word feels like an “inside the family” term, and I’m not part of the family.

    Words do matter; but is it possible that we are getting to the point where it’s getting kinda overdone? I just recently started seeing this “cis-” prefix showing up, and it’s starting to become ridiculous. Too much “sensitivity” often creates the opposite effect.

    However I think it’s also important to say this: Let’s be sensitive to how we address people, but let’s also calm the f*(k down. Educate…but don’t SLAM people who are actually on your side. Save that for your real enemies. You already have enough challenges without losing allies.

  40. FLL says:

    The English language often shortens words by replacing the last part of the word with “y.” There is nothing intrinsically derogatory about shortened words ending in “y”; it’s just the way English works. It’s possible that a shortened word might acquire a derogatory meaning, but that is a matter of usage, and there are plenty of people (e.g., RuPaul) who don’t consider “tranny” derogatory. The students who are complaining about the use of “tranny” during a discussion don’t have the right to speak for all English speakers. Usage in English is usually a matter of consensus, and there is still a variety of opinions out there about the connotations of the word “tranny.” I would offer this advice to the offended students at UC: Be careful before you tell the English-speaking world how to use English.

  41. emjayay says:

    Like the entire wingnut crowd.

  42. emjayay says:

    Me either. I just looked it up to find out where exactly it comes from.

  43. SFExPat says:

    Life’s real problems? Like getting raped or murdered or at least beat up a bunch?
    You can take your “special little snowflakes” and choke on ’em.
    gay transman

  44. StraightGrandmother says:

    One correction, Dan Savage did NOT originate the Vodka Boycott.

    It was FIRST on twitter I believe from a member of QueerNatiojnNewYork’s private twitter account. I’m fairly sue the person was from New York. I remember clearly the tweet and how I recognized immediatly that this was a great tactic.

    It was not Dan Savage, I can’t remember right now who sent out the first tweet, the name of the person, but I liked it and responded right away. I started Tweeting #NyetRussianVodka (which I still think was a better hashtag than #BoycottRussianVodka).
    Right about the time I started tweeting Scott Wollege was tweeting the same thing, to boycott Russian Vodka. We were actually tweeting to all the principal Gay rights Bloggers, including John Aravosis to boycott Russian Vodka. Now our campaign got a BIG PUSH when Dan wrote about the idea and tweeted it that is for sure, he gave it the star power to take off. But the original idea to boycott Russian Vodka was not from Dan Savage.

  45. Tom Chicago says:

    Once we recognize that the key notion here is respect, the word used will properly become irrelevant. It was not so long ago that the term “queer” was a vicious pejorative, and now is embraced proudly by many, though not all, of us.

  46. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    You may regard it as you wish, but there are many of us who don’t like it. It’s all about the way it is taken. There are many of us who don’t take it well. If the transexual community can decide to dislike “tranny”, we all need to respect that. There are many who don’t dislike it as you don’t dislike “cis”. Does you not minding it make it okay to call the rest of us “cis” Perhaps you can get a t-shirt made that says, “I’m Cis!” That’s one way of protesting against those of us who dislike it. Another way of showing that you think it’s wrong to dislike “cis” would be for you to call all transexuals “tranny”. That would be the same as them calling all of us “cis”.

  47. goulo says:

    John: agreed, as far as I know. To be clear, I didn’t mean to imply that Dan intentionally tries to piss people off, nor did I intend to say anything about Dan specifically. I was just responding to cole’s notion that pissing people off by saying what’s on one’s mind is – in and of itself – admirable. E.g. Fred Phelps said what was on his mind and pissed people off, but I don’t think Phelps was admirable just because he said what was on his mind and pissed people off. It really doesn’t take a lot of talent or admirable character to say what’s on one’s mind and piss people off. That’s all I was getting at.

  48. goulo says:

    Fred Phelps seemed to say what was on his mind and piss off most people…

  49. Monophylos Fortikos says:

    Oh, right, I’m supposed to regard “cis” as a mortal insult now. I can’t remember when I picked up on that and the lesson has yet to “take” you could say. Silly me, I thought it was a rather clever slangy term for “not trans” the way that “straight” came to become a slangy term for “not gay”, but instead it’s hate speech! Who knew.

  50. doug105 says:

    A couple of years ago I started playing the mmo everquest 2 and joined a rather small lgbt guild after about a year I end up posting the guild spam and trying to recruit for the guild.Somehow shortly there after I wind up with 3 people claiming to be over 18 that they didn’t know lgbt was for lesbian gay bi and trans, so a few months later after listing its as Gay/Les/Bi/Trans I am told trans isn’t that inclusive and can I please change it to just T, I shrug say fine as I don’t know that much about it but I do wonder if that kills the point of letting others know what it means.

  51. doug105 says:

    I can’t recall hearing tranny used for anything other than drag/transvestites till all this noise, but I don’t get out much.

  52. Tone says:

    The trans rights discourse is young and the movement is just beginning to gain some cohesion. Like any oppressed group that has had to fight for every scrap of dignity they’re going through a mad as hell phase. I can relate to that.

    Every rights movement experiences an angry adolescence as it gains credibility and maturity. It is often that anger that propels people to action. True outrage is almost always the seed for change.

    Trans rights will be no different. Ideas need time to evolve. If using the T word is going to stir up a hornets nest and stop the discourse cold then I am more than willing to respect the power they have given it. In time that too will evolve, perhaps in much the same way as what the gay and lesbian community went through in sorting out our words.

    I own two vehicles. My daily driver is a competent but unremarkable Black Forest coupé. The other, my pride and joy, is a 1970 Detroit convertible with a 455 V8 mated to a 4 speed tranny with a 3.9:1 rear end that can eat up a quarter mile in 13 seconds. Don’t hate me for being a gearhead.

  53. SkippyFlipjack says:

    This article should have a trigger warning. I suffer from anxiety at any use of the word “minefields”.

  54. Indigo says:

    I think I’ve heard friends who are deep into Jazz use the word “gaycat” but I don’t follow that musical genre so that’s where the far horizon of my understanding stops.

  55. cole3244 says:

    don’t bet too much.

  56. heimaey says:

    Yes. And people ask me less about coming out now, and when I knew I was gay, etc. than they used to because people know more stores, and gay people are way more visible. The trans community has a lot of questions being thrown at them because people are curious and often times don’t mean to be rude, but there’s a lot of ignorance. That said, the guy in this story sounds rude.

  57. You’d think, but you should see some of the words this thing came up with – I definitely never emailed or texted anyone that :) Hell, today it came up with dactyl – I’ve never used that word!

  58. Over a beer, you got it.

  59. Dan doesn’t do that. On the trans issue, for example, I went through every alleged crime he had committed (they were listed on one site), went back to the original source quote, and most of the alleged infractions were simply wrong, they didn’t happen. I know Dan. I’ve never seen him once say what’s on his mind willy nilly just to tick people off. I’ve never seen someone as tightly-messaged as him. He knows exactly what he’s saying, and it’s rarely what his critics allege.

  60. I think the entire discussion sounds offensive, not just the word! That’s like outing someone as gay at the bus stop. I don’t care what language you use, it’s still incredibly dumb, and insensitive, of anyone, let alone a friend. Wow. My final point, I’m not sure that this show that the word “tranny” is the problem – the problem was the entire situation.

  61. heimaey says:

    I’d be very interested to hear your take, but over a beer. It seems like you’re taking the right approach unless you really want to bring a shit storm down over yourself.

  62. REALrenovato says:

    I am putting my toe into this discussion with a little trepidation and puzzlement, and also since I am not American you may have to give me a little tolerance because the terms transgender and T**n* have different meanings here in Britain.
    If someone is making the difficult transition from one sex to the other (as opposed to gender which is the gender identity you have always identified with) or has all but completed the process, the very last thing you want to happen is for some one to announce in a loud voice of verbal incontinance ” and what sort of tranny are you then?”, whilst you are waiting in the bus stop queue, minding your own business, talking to your friend of the last five years.
    And then whilst studiously trying to ignore the rude and verbally aggressive individual you continue the discussion about your workday with your friend. They insist upon pursuing the matter of their enquirey after being politely told to “mind your own business” with the insistance that “there is no need to be rude and act all offended I only want to know what sort of tranny you are” !
    This is a true story and my friend has been transitioned for over ten years, do you think you might see why some people from the trans community would find this offensive.

  63. WilmRoget says:

    The use of ‘cis’ by some trans activists, despite complaints, has the effect of making their complaints about having labels and terms forced on them null and void. For decades, the trans community has insisted on their right to self-label, to turn around and label everyone else creates the impression that integrity and self determination was never really the issue, that it was all a power play.

  64. Facebook User says:

    Last Saturday, 3 days after same sex marriage became legal in Pennsylvania, my man of 18 years and I wed and are now husbands. On the way out of the event where we were married (17 couples were invited to marry in the Mayor’s office!) an elderly man stopped us. Observing our matching black suits and buttoniers he said to us “You guys headed to a wedding?” I told him we just left our wedding. He paused, smacked his teeth, and walked off murmering “God damn faggots.” The reaction from my husband and I? We LOL’d at him. Cause he waa absurd. Because he means nothing to us. Because we know we deserve to exist and be happy and are just aa good as anyone else.

    Trans folks bothered by “tranny” need to consider context and allow themselves to be able to consider the source and know that they deserve every thing the rest of humanity deserve. All banning language does in this case is make it very difficult to tell the difference between an ally and an enemy.

  65. WilmRoget says:

    “the word is “tranny,” which is longtime slang for transgender.”

    And transvestites – like drag queens. It was used for drag queens and linked to gay men in general(1929), before ‘transgender’ was coined (1965).

    Folks who have gender dysphoria do not own the word, and if other people who have traditionally been branded with the word seek to reclaim it for their own empowerment, people with gender dysphoria have every right to say ‘don’t use that word on us’, but not the right to say ‘don’t use that word on yourselves’.

  66. GarySFBCN says:

    I hate it when cock-sucking, fudge-packing, limp-wristed, lisping faggots use the word tranny.

    Put up or shut up.

  67. Elijah Shalis says:

    Reddit is for people that barley graduated high school. I tried using it and the posts are usually too stupid to warrant reading. In fact I think more reddit users are current high schoolers.

  68. Caleb Becker says:

    If your upset/offended by the use of the word that is the topic of the discussion, you may have some bigger issues to deal with.

  69. perljammer says:

    LOL, I guess context is everything. As a former DIY auto mechanic, the first thing I think of upon hearing the word “Tranny” is the gizmo between the clutch and the drive shaft.

  70. Janus303 says:

    The paparazzi one where he called the guy a “cocksucking fag?” That’s the only one I can find. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/11/alec-baldwin-uses-another-gay-slur.html

  71. BeccaM says:

    It was a huge eye opener to hear that phrase, “They just don’t have any frame of reference.”

    And it seemed especially to be true for older adults and small children — although in both cases these days, both those groups seem (on average) to be better informed than they were 15-20 years ago. I figure the less informed or the farther their background from my own experiences, as long as they’re open-minded and -hearted, they deserve all the slack I can spare.

    True story: Today my wife and I went to the local Toyota dealership to fill out the paperwork for buying a new truck. We checked the box marked ‘married’ and remarked the same to the nice young salesman who was working with us. His response? “That’s cool.” No long explanations needed, no funny looks, no “you can’t really be” reactions. Just totally ordinary.

    This new reality literally did not exist as recently as ten years ago.

  72. pappyvet says:

    Also not too far off topic: there is a story on Yahoo about Laverne Cox making the cover of Time.

  73. I watched the Baldwin tape, one øf them, and boy it sounded to me like he was parroting his best gay friend — meaning, it sounded like he was using language he’d heard his gay buddies use, a lot, and was simply repeating it. Which one can’t really do, but it also means you can get yourself into trouble, be an ally, and not really mean to offend.

  74. I’ve used that VERY example before, because I’ve had genuinely interested, and not mean, people ask me. And you respec the fact that they know nothing about you, and want to learn, and you explain it to them, rather than ripping off their heads, blaming them for not being more up on your issues — and you might just end up with a new ally.

  75. Janus303 says:

    There is a limit to people’s general support of gay rights giving them wide latitude on language I’d say. For example, Alec Baldwin thinks his public support of gay rights gives him a pass to hurl anti-gay epithets against people he’s mad at. He was forgiven with that excuse once, but when it happened the second and third times, fuck that guy. His intent behind using the phrase “you little queer” was not to be inclusive of gay men of short stature, but to be the most offensive thing he could call a straight guy, because despite being publicly supportive of gay rights, deep down he really and truly finds us offensive.

  76. That was a brilliant moment.

  77. Well, I have a lot of suggestions for how the trans community could improve their game, a lot (and an explanation for why these counterproductive incidents keep happening). And I likely won’t write about it.

  78. BeccaM says:

    Not exactly off-topic: There’s a story going around now about a restaurant in east Texas called “Big Earl’s”. Two gay men were there, but as they finished their meal, they were told not to come back, that they wouldn’t be served again.

    Apparently they committed the sin of not passing as straight. The kicker there, apropos the current discussion, is the waitress (reported to be ‘Big Earl’ Cheney’s daughter) was quoted as saying “We just don’t like fags.”

    Here there’s no debate as to whether she meant the word to be derogatory, insulting, and hurtful. Nor that she and her father, Big Earl, hate gay people — especially given their laser-printed sign taped to the front door, “Welcome to Big Earl’s. Where MEN act like MEN. And WOMEN act like LADIES.”


    Sadly, due to Texas law, this sort of blatant discrimination remains legal.

  79. goulo says:

    I admire him for various other things, but I don’t see any reason that merely saying what one thinks and pissing people off on both sides of a discussion is respectable or admirable in and of itself.

    I’d even bet that there are other people who say what is on their mind and piss people off whom you don’t respect or admire. :)

  80. BeccaM says:

    I’ve seen the term many times before, and quite honestly I hate it for its patronizing, derogatory tone. Even when not directed at me.

  81. BeccaM says:

    Most of the references I saw along those lines involved the slang term “gaycat” or “geycat” — sometimes shortened to gay.

  82. Sean says:

    Angry & damaged people lash out at the nearest target to hand. I remember lots of horror stories from a friend who worked in a department store. He often caught hell for the weirdest little things from enraged customers. You just knew they were channeling a lifetime’s worth of anger at someone who HAD to deal with them. I think the same thing is happening with this attack on Savage.

  83. Houndentenor says:

    I understand your frustration when people seem intent on making enemies out of me when I fully support their rights and their agenda. At the same time, something we (and that includes lots of groups to which I belong) DO need to shut up and listen. Trans people feel marginalized and ignored (except when they are being attacked). Giving them time to talk about their issues without being interrupted is not only useful for them but for the rest of us as well as we might actually learn something.

  84. Indigo says:

    Okay, you win the clever phrase award. Special little snowflakes!

  85. Indigo says:

    Even Shakespeare used it in an ambiguous sense. I read that the first use of the word “gay” in a context that is unambiguously “homosexual’ is in a London police report from the 1890s concerning the arrest of a same sex rent boy.

  86. 2patricius2 says:

    I do too. Apparently the term was around since the early Nineties, but I had never heard of it till recently.

  87. Indigo says:

    Yes he did but that came later, much later.

  88. Vicki Lester says:

    If these special little snowflakes are this upset by a word, what the hell is going to happen to them when they are faced by one of life’s real problems?

  89. BeccaM says:

    That’s the first I’ve ever heard that lesbian has to be capitalized. I mean, I’ve seen it both ways. I’ve even seen gay as Gay. But really, ‘disrespectful’? Yeesh.

    Then again, someone took it upon themselves to insist I was being deliberately insulting and hurtful to use the term I was originally taught in the 1990s for T-folks, ‘transgendered.’ And so taught by members of that community.

    I must’ve missed the staff meeting when the -ed was declared double-plus ungood.

  90. BeccaM says:

    The history and entymology of the word ‘gay’ as equal to homosexual is tangled and messy. But most accounts I’ve read are that gay was adopted intentionally by the gay male community in the 1950s in an effort to avoid the clinical and often culturally pejorative connotations of ‘homosexual.’ And also to have a word that could be used in open conversation without the straights necessarily catching on.

    Even before ‘gay’ was adopted as the general term, its use and meanings were mixed according to the applicable context. ‘The Gay Divorcee.’ ‘The Gay Blade.’ Heck, those of us of a particular age, John, probably remember the closing line of the Flintstones theme song: “We’ll have a gay old time!”

    In terms of mixed meanings though, besides meaning ‘happy’ and ‘celebratory’, even going back to the 1600s, ‘gay’ was also sometimes intended to mean ‘decadent’ or ‘frivolously extravagant.’ Or even immorally licentious.

    As ever, words change over time, as does intent and connotation. If you say you’re gay, the intent is just declarative. If you use the word ‘fag’ to describe yourself, you’re obviously trying to be ironic. If someone — child or adult — yells either of those words at someone else, their intent cannot be mistaken for anything but to declare that failing to be heterosexual is horrible and insult-worthy.

  91. heimaey says:

    I really hate the word cis.

  92. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    If they consider tranny to be hate speech, they should understand why I consider cis- hate speech. We should all be able to choose what we want to be called.

  93. heimaey says:

    I think the trans community is having a bit of a crisis if you ask me. They are becoming more vocal and they are getting more attention. They often turn this into opportunities to get angry about things that are off-topic and ridiculous and make mountains out of mole hills instead of focusing on the really important issues. It reminds me a bit of the disorganized days of the Mattachine society and early LGBT rights.

  94. Brian C. Bock says:

    It was once explained to me that Lesbian should always be capitalized and to not do so was … I don’t recall, but it was disrespectful. So, I always capitalize it. It probably has to do with its origin in “Lesbos”. But I refuse to use the words “womyn” and “herstory”.

  95. Brian C. Bock says:

    Hay liked the word “fairy.” “Radical Faerie” in fact.

  96. heimaey says:

    I think it all depends on how you use the word. For example, faggot is offensive and there’s no getting away from that. You go on to sites like Reddit and you see “OP is a faggot” and faggot this and faggot that and if you say something like you find that word offensive, then you are slammed for being too uptight and it’s your fault for letting the word hurt you. While I agree with that argument to a degree, I don’t like seeing people throwing that word around so causally. I find it offensive. I always will – I got picked on way too much and called faggot way too much to *not* dislike the word and the way it’s used so casually by the non-gay community.

    Case in point, the other day a woman called me a faggot on the street when I got in her way. Visibly upset I approached her and she said “calm down, I didn’t mean faggot as in gay, I meant faggot as in dumb.” I told her I was gay and she had no answer for me. She was with two kids and so now they’re going to grow up learning that being gay is similar to being dumb but being gay is actually worse. So it perpetuates prejudice and hate. Good job mom!

    But words like tranny are different. It has a much different history. Tranny has always had a sense of pride among a lot of people, and yes it has always been used against people too, but to me, it was never really that offensive. Even to the trannys that I know. So now we have a group of people that are trying to take that term and make it hurtful *only*. They’re co-opting it in a sense.

  97. UncleBucky says:

    Seriously, I only heard the term years ago before the Plague (as it were). It was used by in-group people, starting with trans people, their friends and then finally allies or audience members.

    The term suggested to me that this was a person in transition, rather than any particular characterization or personality. I knew it was kind of a slang term, a kind of personal self-deprecation that was similar to “queer”, which is now a term that many people have taken ownership of.

    So, what does one do? 1) If used, put it into context as a word once used but not any longer. 2) Find out from those in the audience (face to face as well as on line) prefers to use. And then use the word carefully and with good grace.

    For a couple of years I was a rep for the HRC at the Be-All Conference in Arlington Heights, IL. I really didn’t do much presentation, but I was able to listen, to share and to learn from the people who spoke to me. I learned a lot. But mostly, I became more mature in the aspects and social life of people who were in transition. No one there used the term, but I am sure at that time people were still using it in-group.

    The most important things are: 1) to ask and not be flip about terms, and 2) ease off on being offended and rather go into educative (but not dismissive) mode and help people progress.

  98. Brian C. Bock says:

    Well, being a white gay male who can hear, see and walk and has no serious health conditions (knock wood), I’m tired of being shut down for those characteristics. The word “mansplaining” for example is designed to say to males: shut the fuck up. Nice. Men can’t talk about feminist issues, even if they support them at the risk of being attacked. Similarly we get funny labels applied to us by the trans community that we never asked for and if we have an opinion about the issue, we’re attacking them. If we advocate for equality to marry, we’re attacking them. One thing that I wish all advocates, ours included, should keep in mind: DON’T ATTACK YOUR ALLIES because you don’t like the exact wording. They don’t have your secret jargon decoder ring. Save your ire for people who wish you harm.

  99. BeccaM says:

    The correct answer is “Neither.” ;-)

  100. Brian C. Bock says:

    Well, if THEY don’t get their rights, then NOBODY gets their rights. NOBODY! WTF? At the risk of being a “mansplaining” cis-gendered, abelist, white privileged, gay male, please, would someone explain to the activists that “a rising tide lifts all boats”. Marriage equality is just the current step. We’re accused by the right-wing religious nuts of having a secret agenda. Yes. Equality. That’s our secret agenda. We want to be left to live our lives. And that includes everyone. We’ve moved from “don’t jail us” to “like us” to “let us have marriage and keep our kids”. Then we’ll move to “don’t fire us” or boot us out of our houses. Progress is incremental. And it’s NEVER as fast as we’d like. The quickest way to your rights isn’t shutting ours down.

  101. Drew2u says:

    Doesn’t autocorrect learn from common words and phrases one uses? ;)

  102. OH yeah, my phone sexted to a friend once, I don’t quite recall what it said, but I wasn’t pleased :)

  103. iphone, grr,….

  104. Houndentenor says:

    For some reason people like to attack Dan for being anti-something or other at every turn. I have listened to every episode of his podcast. He has said things that people called him out on. He plays the responses at the end of later shows and sometimes even has on people to explain to him why he was wrong. He’s open to being educated but throwing glitter on someone doesn’t seem like much of a conversation. (That happened a few times a few years ago.) I’m not saying I agree with everything he says but he’s not the kind of person who expect you to. By all means disagree with him. Call his show and leave a message. Or better yet get a respected person on that subject (the kind of person who wrote a book or is well known as an expert) to contact him.

  105. Houndentenor says:

    I’m guessing autocorrect on his phone. It could have been worse. (For me it’s usually a lot worse.)

  106. Indigo says:

    It still carried the gay-as-in-happy sense in the 50s and had an undertone of foolish behavior that didn’t feel right to me as a teenager. It felt like a sleezy word for our community, not really respectable. But keep in mind that in those days, same sex intimacy was most commonly illegal and our lives were inside a low-grade criminal underground that no longer represents our community. We were criminals. Make no mistake about how it was.

  107. cole3244 says:

    savage says what is on his mind and by doing that he pisses off both sides of the lgbt discussion, that imo is a badge of honor and what makes dan a person to be respected and admired.

  108. pappyvet says:

    I also wonder if they enjoy trying to capture someone else’s spotlight.

  109. Don Chandler says:

    I didn’t like the word “gay” as a kid but I grew to like it as an adult…took awhile! Gays were never on the same page, politically. Reading stuff on the net, I get the feeling the transgender crowd is more sensitive and more varied then the gay community. it can be problematic when addressing someone…which shouldn’t be your first challenge. If it bothers someone, they should probably just point it out and explain why.

    There was a time when you couldn’t call a lesbian, “gay”, and I still don’t.

    But the internet has taught me one thing, “grow a thick skin”. I’ve been called “pee sniffer”, “f*ggot”, “lame”…it’s never very nice but I know not to react.

    I’m surprised Dan Savage is attacked for using … “Tr*nny”. First time I’ve even heard it was … pejorative.

  110. iPhone autocorrect gets worse and worse…

  111. emjayay says:

    Ummmm, is that a long and two short syllables, or a finger or toe?

  112. Excellent question. Hard to believe some student didn’t have a phone cam running

  113. So which one is the boy? ;-)

  114. Was “gay” actually negative or was it simply negative to be gay? Nuanced and perhaps not a real difference

  115. It wasn’t a panel about the word. Dan was invited as a guest speaker and the topic came up. I assume any student who wanted to could ask a question or offer an opinion. And in fact that appears to be dactyl what happened.

  116. Houndentenor says:

    I think sometimes we waste a lot of time over what words to use instead of focusing on equal rights. It’s fine to engage Savage and others over how they talk about these issues, but since he is for equal rights from trans people, why make an enemy out of him? That seems counterproductive.

  117. Houndentenor says:

    I don’t use the word any more. If people don’t want me to use a word that they find demeaning, I stop. But we ought to be able to discuss it. I assume some trans people were invited to be part of that discussion? Otherwise it’s the equivalent of “mansplaining”. Cis-gen-splaining? I can see how that might not go over well.

  118. BeccaM says:

    A lot of folks actually enjoy being angry and outraged.

  119. Janus303 says:

    In the world of trans activists there are many (and I mean many) who think it’s OK to call others “cissy” but pitch a fit if you say “transsexual” instead of “transgender” or “gender queer.” A huge double standard by people who are more interested in being offended than being accepted.

    The word “queer” gets flung around a lot by people who want to “reclaim” slurs. Well “queer” is what the jocks called me when they were beating my ass behind the school. I hate that word. I will not call someone “queer,” period. “Gender-queer” might as well be “gender-faggot.” But the fact that that word pisses me off is my problem, not the rest of the world’s. If someone uses the word with benevolent intent, it may make me bristle but I’m not going to flip out about it. If someone calls me “queer” I ask them not to, I don’t start a hashtag a la Suey Park and demand people “trend it.”

    Everyone should be putting more attention towards managing their own reactions and less attention trying to enforce their personal dictionary on others.

  120. Wilberforce says:

    I’m not sure the word has much a history of hatred, certainly not compared to the n and the f words. We have only the trans activists claim here, and given the contempt they have thrown at gay men over the past years, they might be making up the history in order to paint us as monsters. It would be perfectly in character with how they’ve treated us from day one.
    In any case, the gay community uses it with affection. If trans people can’t see that, or refuse to see it, they don’t deserve to be our friends.

  121. pappyvet says:

    Best advise Sis, I would that they were willing to follow it.

  122. Indigo says:


    When I was a young’un and a Mattachine Society admirer from a fearful teen distance. . . “gay” was sufficiently derogatory that I thought it might be better to be called “nellie” or that pseudo-scientifical “invert” but by the mid-60s, “gay” was our word for us. Thank you, Harry Hay and the Mattachine Society. We’ve come such a long way from those times, so much so that we’re often acknowledged to exist, nowadays, and even thought to merit human rights, at least in some circles. That’s remarkable, considering how it used to be.

  123. BeccaM says:

    Or to be constantly revising the Newspeak dictionary.

  124. BeccaM says:

    So it would seem. It’s also a handy excuse for avoiding both progress and engaging with people.

  125. Blogvader says:

    Outrage is big business anymore, Becca.

  126. pappyvet says:

    Uh huh. Fag , twinkletoes , pervert , sicko , c—sucking piece of s–t , child molester , going to burn in hell , disgrace to the country , your service doesn’t matter because you’re a faggot , I hope you die of Aids , and about a million other examples of hatred and a few kicks and slaps have I endured in my lifetime. But when my late husband would say ,”Hey fag come over here and give us a smooch.” I would smile. Why? Because there was no hatred there , only love. Because the realization and acceptance of understanding was there. When our good friends both gay and straight would call out “queen” there was no need to throw a chair. because the realization and acceptance of understanding was there.

    It did not matter if you were a jew or a gypsy , those showers were meant for both. What good would it have done then to pick a fight while both were waiting in the same line?

  127. BeccaM says:

    There is (and should be) a Grand Canyon-sized chasm between a word used as and intended as an epithet and a discussion about a controversy over that word. Between appropriate ‘correctness’ and unseemly ‘political correctness.’

    I don’t do trigger warnings. If that is perceived as a trigger warning, then stop reading now.

    Fer gawd’s sake, sitting on a bus or walking down the street and having some unhinged bigot scream “F*ggot” or “Tr*nny” or “L*zzie” at you — that ought to make you feel unsafe and distressed, and rightly so.

    A debate about how those words became epithets or whether they actually are inherently so, and evincing an extreme emotional response just because the discussion is happening? Where others are simply discussing the word(s) and not talking to or about you personally at all? That’s just looking to be offended, to be a victim, and to shove away would-be allies. Attacking one’s allies is foolish in the extreme.

    But then there will always be those more interested in feeling victimized and being outraged than in achieving progress.

    When I was first coming out of the closet, rather late as I’ve recounted, I had a few friends with more experience in “non-conformity” in the sexual orientation arena and who offered good advice. That advice wasn’t, “Fly off the handle if someone uses the wrong term or says something well-meaning but in ignorance.” One friend’s example was, “Don’t freak out if an old person asks you ‘which one is the boy in your relationship?’ They just don’t have any frame of reference.”

    The actual best advice: “Grow a thick skin. And always look for reasons NOT to be offended.”

  128. Jim says:

    Come on we are talking about one of the top 15 schools not just in the US but the World that is known for being even (trigger warning) nerdier the others in its tier, with a guest speaker whose mainstream fame is in large part do to the brilliant it gets better campaign where even straight people from different and diverse walks of life joined in to show support, in an auditorium like you mentioned. How could you not feel anything but unsafe?
    If you cant talk about an issue which is the end result of Outrage Inc (thanks theAngryfag) thought policing how the hell are you ever going to deal with the issue?

  129. dcinsider says:

    If you use the word homosexual, I need a trigger warning. I’m OK with fag, dyke, queen, and homo however. Please make note of this for future posts.

    Also, I am OK with tranny, but need a trigger warning for transexual.

    I realize this is going to be difficult, John, but you have no choice. You must comply.

  130. TheAngryFag says:

    Just another brick in Outrage Inc’s wall of manufactured rage. Theyu just want to play the victim card over and over until the rest of us, both the people who actually support them and the people whose minds they need to awaken, are simply desensitized to it. And they still cannot see beyond the surface of anything.

    It reminds me of something Bill Maher said in regards to racism when the Paula Deen “scandal” was erupting. He compared her to Donald Trump as both were high profile figures with television shows who have made racist comments in the past. Trumps more subtle and insidious, most notably with the birther nonsense, but because Paula Deen said the word, in the past, she had to be made to disappear. And that kind of mentality is being shown here.

  131. caphillprof says:

    It’s never a good idea for a social movement to be unspeakable.

  132. 2patricius2 says:

    Is there a video of the event?

  133. Agree. Or if the word is being spat at me – someone on stage says “you f’g faggots deserve to die.” Then yes, I’d feel a bit, well, unsafe isn’t really the word. Upset. But it’s all about tone and context. I would not be offended at all in a separate discussion about the guy who told faggots to all go die.

  134. basenjilover says:

    I don’t find word tranny offensive and did not have a negative thought at all. I agree with Justin it’s silly and ridiculous. Shameful too for attacking gay brothers and sisters.

  135. Strepsi says:

    I am a bleeding-heart liberal, but honestly how the f*** can a word make you “feel unsafe”?

    If it’s said by a guy behind you on the bus at night, or near an alley, yeah but that’s the intent and the physical danger — there is no way a college student should feel unsafe by words, espacially in an auditorium with speakers discussing the meanings of the words.

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