TL;DR: The Word "Tranny"

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TL;DR: The Word "Tranny"

Postby TCampbell » Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:23 pm

I'm writing this at the end of my most difficult day, in terms of audience relations, since 2006. I'm putting it in a separate thread because I want to make one definitive statement here, which I hope I can simply point to afterward.

I apologize to those, transsexual, transgender and otherwise, who normally find this forum a welcoming place, and who felt it was less so over the last couple of days, due to anything I said or did.

In case you missed it, the 2/26 strip first began with the phrase "Quebecois tranny." QUILTBAG characters are allowed to use offensive language, but in this particular case, I wasn't aware the word was widely considered an offensive slur. I have researched trans issues to some degree for the series already, though not as thoroughly as other parts of the QUILTBAG acronym. I know trans people personally as well. Nevertheless, this particular connotation did escape me. I understand that astonishes some of you, and I don't mean it as an excuse, simply as a fact.

Exhausted from a long trip and longer weekend, I went to bed shortly after the strip posted, and woke up groggy the next morning. Gradually I realized the response shaping up around "tranny," and changed it to "trans" as quick as I could with the Keenspot update system. And maybe I should've just announced the change and said no more about it.

Instead, as is often my wont, I aired some of the questions that plague me during such seemingly simple decisions. Some readers had found it in character for Lisa, and some hadn't-- so was it? If it was, was I doing the emotional truth of the series a disservice by editing it? How well should Lisa be coming off in this scene, anyway? Might have the use of an offensive slur been appropriate after all-- probably not, but if it wasn't appropriate there, where would it be? (We'd used a slur quite deliberately in Penny & Aggie with little controversy, but sent a much clearer message of disapproval about it.)

First sleep deprivation, and later overall frustration, may have made me express some of these concerns in a less friendly manner than I intended. But the responses did concern me a bit, and they brought a new question to mind: Is this a case where I need to take a stand? Offensiveness is a concern for me, and I don't like to offend people needlessly. But sometimes there is a need. I worry a lot that later chapters of QUILTBAG won't end up as resonant as they should be, if I get too scared of saying or doing "the wrong thing" in general principle. (When writing many of my best stories, I've had at least one moment where I felt like "oh, man, they'll all hate this, this will wreck my career for good.")

In the specific case of "tranny," this point is now completely moot. I am not going to change it back, nor would I be using the word again, except perhaps as the focus of an entire subplot.

Whether this day's discussion was necessary, in the long run, to make QUILTBAG as good as it can be... as beneficial to actual QUILTBAGs as it can be... well, I don't know yet. I hope so: I hope it served some purpose. And I hope none of you have any doubts that that's my ultimate goal, here.

I do apologize, once again, for not handling these matters better.
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Re: TL;DR: The Word "Tranny"

Postby Artemisia » Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:41 pm

T,

What you stepped into was a major turf war between the various factions within the Trans community. Part of the problem is the fact that where there is a clear cut definition of what it means to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, there is no definitive definition for trans. Depending upon who you talk to, being trans could include being a crossdresser, a transvestite, a drag queen or king, a transgendered individual, a transsexual individual. . .heck, Richard O'Brien- yes, of the Rocky Horror (Picture) Show- considers himself transgender even though he lives as a man and is attracted to women.

As noted in my signature, I am the owner of an LGBT blog. Here is where this gets messy. . .I am transsexual, but I do not count myself as transgender or anything other than transsexual and female. When I first started writing, I was attacked for saying 'transgendered', transperson, transwoman, transsexual, and a number of different ways of talking about transsexual and transgendered individuals.

The thing is, it comes down to the fact that our "community" is so divided that even those of us within the community end up getting attacked for not being part of the various cliques within it.

I feel sorry that you walked into a mine field. I certainly took no offense, and thought you were underlining Lisa's white, cisgendered privileged world.
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Re: TL;DR: The Word "Tranny"

Postby Alice Macher » Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:51 pm

T: This is a much calmer, more considered and more considerate response, and one which more fully shows a willingness to own your words and acknowledge their effects on others. It makes me, personally, feel a lot more comfortable as a reader of your comics. Thank you.

Now...you have your assignment, so go do your research, mister! :wink:
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Re: TL;DR: The Word "Tranny"

Postby Artemisia » Tue Feb 28, 2012 9:11 pm

Well, if T ever wants to ask questions of me, all he has to do is drop a message and I'll do my best :)
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Re: TL;DR: The Word "Tranny"

Postby unavoidablytiger » Tue Feb 28, 2012 9:44 pm

I feel the need to point out an odd similarity to something that just happened with MLP:FiM. In response to the adult fans, they made Derpy Hooves' name official in the show. And then, in response to scattered dissaproval from other fans who felt the term "derpy" (along with the crossed eyes and goofy voice) was offensive to retarded people, they removed the video and edited it to take all those things out (to the indignation of the Derpy-loving brony community).

I've been struggling with this concept for a while, and struggling to decide what I actually think about it. Sure, the whole pony name situation sounds stupid on the surface (first world problems much?) but the deeper issue is the same as it is here, with the word tranny. Where do you draw the line between innocent intent and someone else's feelings?

Is the true meaning of a word in the user of a word, the receiver of a word, or some average of all? Does my understanding of a word trump yours, or do we first decide who it matters to the most, and let them decide?

This is a pretty interesting problem, actually, and it crops up a lot in real life. This one time as a kid, I made the innocent mistake of complimenting a black girl's braids with the word 'dreadlocks' and damn near got punched in the mouth for the insult.

At any rate, I'm right in the boat with not knowing tranny was a bad word. I had to google it.
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Re: TL;DR: The Word "Tranny"

Postby Boston Tom » Tue Feb 28, 2012 10:30 pm

I've really just been a lurker (though I started reading P&A around 2005) and was finally compelled to sign up the other day, but as one of the trans people who expressed some distaste in the other thread, I want to say thanks to T for this apology. I appreciate it.

TCampbell wrote: Some readers had found it in character for Lisa, and some hadn't-- so was it? If it was, was I doing the emotional truth of the series a disservice by editing it? How well should Lisa be coming off in this scene, anyway? Might have the use of an offensive slur been appropriate after all-- probably not, but if it wasn't appropriate there, where would it be? (We'd used a slur quite deliberately in Penny & Aggie with little controversy, but sent a much clearer message of disapproval about it.)



Originally my problem with your use of the word wasn't because I feel like it's totally forbidden and should never be used. Frankly, within the context of it's use it is in character for Lisa. In a vaccuum it would make total sense to use it. However, understanding of trans issues is fairly low as a whole and that word is one that is mostly used to objectify and dehumanize us. Without any other context to draw from (as in, your idea for it having it's own subplot) the uninformed reader only sees it legitimized. It really wouldn't make sense within the current storyline for.. whatshisface... to call Lisa out on it either, so I wasn't expecting that to happen. Your feelings about the trans community and your support of our rights or whatever is, well, completely irrelevant in that context.

Oh and yeah, what Artemisia says about division within the trans community is right. I'm a trans man, and some trans women do claim that we don't have as much or any claim to offense over this particular slur as they do, because historically it's only refered to them. (thanks to greater visibility, ill-intentioned cis people have been using it to refer to us too with vigor, though!)
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Re: TL;DR: The Word "Tranny"

Postby retrophrenologist » Tue Feb 28, 2012 10:41 pm

Artemisia wrote: a crossdresser, a transvestite, a drag queen or king,

Being ignorant, I hadn't realised that these three terms have different meanings. can someone explain?
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Re: TL;DR: The Word "Tranny"

Postby Artemisia » Tue Feb 28, 2012 10:56 pm

retrophrenologist wrote:
Artemisia wrote: a crossdresser, a transvestite, a drag queen or king,

Being ignorant, I hadn't realised that these three terms have different meanings. can someone explain?


The way I see it-

Transgendered is someone who is between genders. They may or may not go on hormones or live their lives fully in the gender opposite that which they were born.

Transsexual is someone who is absolute about wanting to physically change their bodies so that they are of the sex opposite that which they were born. By and large, these are individuals who are caught in a gender/sex issue called gender dysphoria where they have the hard gender of the sex opposite that which they were born.

Transvestite is someone who gets aroused by dressing as the sex opposite that which they were born.

Cross Dresser is someone who just likes to dress as the sex opposite that which they were born

A drag queen/king is someone who makes a living performing as the sex opposite that which they were born

And autogynophiliac is someone who derives sexual arousal from wanting to or undergoing sex transition. Very rare form of paraphilia, usually screened out by professionals.

Intersexed individuals are those who have a physical or genetic abnormality with their sex.

It is possible for someone to be multiples of these. For instance, RuPaul is a Drag Queen straight out, but Lady Chablis (Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil) is both transgendered and a drag queen. These designations are also outside of sexual identity.

So, me for instance. I am lesbian, transsexual and intersexual. I am unusual for a transsexual in that I grew up in a gender neutral household back in the 1970's, and actually have little or no comprehension or memory of trying to be male. This has lead me to have problems with the trans community where the bulk of older trans people have those memories. Because, at home, I could be fairly female, I developed a secondary personality to take on the role of living in the outside world.
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Re: TL;DR: The Word "Tranny"

Postby Araenna » Tue Feb 28, 2012 11:22 pm

Artemisia wrote:
retrophrenologist wrote:
Artemisia wrote: a crossdresser, a transvestite, a drag queen or king,

Being ignorant, I hadn't realised that these three terms have different meanings. can someone explain?


The way I see it-

Transgendered is someone who is between genders. They may or may not go on hormones or live their lives fully in the gender opposite that which they were born.

Transsexual is someone who is absolute about wanting to physically change their bodies so that they are of the sex opposite that which they were born. By and large, these are individuals who are caught in a gender/sex issue called gender dysphoria where they have the hard gender of the sex opposite that which they were born.

Transvestite is someone who gets aroused by dressing as the sex opposite that which they were born.

Cross Dresser is someone who just likes to dress as the sex opposite that which they were born

A drag queen/king is someone who makes a living performing as the sex opposite that which they were born

And autogynophiliac is someone who derives sexual arousal from wanting to or undergoing sex transition. Very rare form of paraphilia, usually screened out by professionals.

Intersexed individuals are those who have a physical or genetic abnormality with their sex.

It is possible for someone to be multiples of these. For instance, RuPaul is a Drag Queen straight out, but Lady Chablis (Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil) is both transgendered and a drag queen. These designations are also outside of sexual identity.

So, me for instance. I am lesbian, transsexual and intersexual. I am unusual for a transsexual in that I grew up in a gender neutral household back in the 1970's, and actually have little or no comprehension or memory of trying to be male. This has lead me to have problems with the trans community where the bulk of older trans people have those memories. Because, at home, I could be fairly female, I developed a secondary personality to take on the role of living in the outside world.

This seems about right. Only difference in my understanding was that transgender was a gender based thing (filling the gender role that doesn't go with your sex/other gender related thing such as genderqueer) and transexual was having a dysphoria about the sex you were born with being the wrong one.
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Re: TL;DR: The Word "Tranny"

Postby Bardlp » Wed Feb 29, 2012 12:15 am

Iunno. I'm not the minority that the word maligns so I am hesitant to say anything at all about the appropriateness of it. I'm also not a real writer, so I feel hesitant to tell anyone else what I think they should be doing, but... I feel that if you didn't intend for a line to come off the way it did for a large enough portion of your readers, then you messed up and should fix it.

On the other hand, back in college I wrote a completely autobiographical story for a fiction workshop where one of the characters referred to himself as a fag. It was an intentional thing in the middle of a discussion about identity and rejecting a society that one feels rejected by. One of the other students in the class took issue with the use of the word because, according to her, "No gay person would ever use that word."

So, while I feel that there are ways to use pejoratives correctly, and I think that sometimes you need to defend your work from the "BAD WORDS ARE VERBOTEN" crowd, I think that it takes a sensitivity to the issues surrounding the slur to be able to pull it off. If you were legitimately surprised that as many people took issue with it as did, then I don't think your intent and execution lined up. No sweat off anyone's teeth; mistakes happen.
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Re: TL;DR: The Word "Tranny"

Postby Doc Harleen » Wed Feb 29, 2012 12:30 am

Good message, T. I think that we've all had days where we've been exhausted and said things in a way slightly other than how we meant them. Props for recognizing it.
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Re: TL;DR: The Word "Tranny"

Postby Valerie » Wed Feb 29, 2012 2:40 am

unavoidablytiger wrote:I feel the need to point out an odd similarity to something that just happened with MLP:FiM. In response to the adult fans, they made Derpy Hooves' name official in the show. And then, in response to scattered dissaproval from other fans who felt the term "derpy" (along with the crossed eyes and goofy voice) was offensive to retarded people, they removed the video and edited it to take all those things out (to the indignation of the Derpy-loving brony community).

I've been struggling with this concept for a while, and struggling to decide what I actually think about it. Sure, the whole pony name situation sounds stupid on the surface (first world problems much?) but the deeper issue is the same as it is here, with the word tranny. Where do you draw the line between innocent intent and someone else's feelings?

Is the true meaning of a word in the user of a word, the receiver of a word, or some average of all? Does my understanding of a word trump yours, or do we first decide who it matters to the most, and let them decide?


Well, as an MLP fan and an older sister of both mentally disabled and neurotypical kids (who foams at the mouth when someone uses "retarded" as slang), I can give you my viewpoint in it.

My younger brother is mentally retarded. He cannot care for himself. He is severely, severely disabled, and no one, ever, has any right to make light of that. End of discussion.

One of my sisters has Asperger's Syndrome. She has a condition that is very different from mental retardation. She's high-functioning. She's intelligent. But some people, especially those who don't know the difference, would label her as "retarded." As much as that word, in its slang use, pisses me off normally, you do not call my sister retarded. Her condition is misunderstood to the point where she will internalize it and think she's on the same level as my brother, and she is not. And you could probably do without the broken nose that would likely result.

My other two sisters are neurotypical. One is the Asperger's girl's (fraternal) twin. She has called the ASD girl retarded. And let me spell out right here, I am not above disciplining that sort of behavior. (I've never actually broken her nose, though.)

My mother, who is an idiot, has no objections to "retarded" as slang. She is an adult. She is the one who is supposed to be teaching my sisters what is and is not okay. She is an idiot for unrelated reasons, so we're clear, but I personally feel that her opinion on this contributes to her "idiot" status.

Anyway, getting down to the short and quick of it... A show that is aimed at small children does not need to make those children feel that certain behaviors are acceptable. Making fun of disabled people-- mentally disabled, physically disabled, any of that-- is never okay. I was about ready to smack my boss the other day because he saw my husband with his cane and jokingly asked, "Who's the cripple?" Instead, I just gave a nervous giggle and said, "That's not very nice," because my boss is much bigger than me. That probably hinted enough, though.

I do not need my neurotypical little sister, who already sees "derp" and "retarded" as acceptable, to have that idea reinforced, because it will hurt my ASD sister in the long run. That is why these common courteously rules are in place for political correctness. We have to protect the marginalized groups from the people who don't know any better. Because that's what it is. People who are racist or are sexist are not going to stop being racist and sexist. People who are completely well-meaning and have no idea that they might hurt someone? They're the problem. They don't mean to be, and I'm not angry at them; I'm angry at people who should know better and continue to validate certain word choices and behaviors. Because a lot of people, once they know that a word is offensive, will stop using it. We saw that in the thread for the "tranny" issue. There were several posts where people said, "I didn't know that was offensive. I'll try not to use it." That is the group that political correctness exists for. They aren't trying to be malicious, they just don't know.
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Re: TL;DR: The Word "Tranny"

Postby Mung » Wed Feb 29, 2012 3:06 am

My interpretation from the beginning was that this was LISA speaking. T's conception of Lisa would've used the word "Tranny" at that point. Did he realize what a hornets' nest he was jumping into there? Obviously not, but then, clearly, neither would Lisa. Lisa is also given to using "harsh" terminology (pipe cleaning? anyone?) when she's in "a mood". It seemed both insensitive, AND in character to me. I don't really see the need for an apology here since it is an "in character" phrasing.
I appreciate T for offering his explanation. It shows a respect for his readership that I have come to expect from him. He sets very high standards.
In this case, I think some members of the readership over-reacted. Of course, if T learned something to improve his writing thereby, then it's all to the better for all involved.
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Re: TL;DR: The Word "Tranny"

Postby unavoidablytiger » Wed Feb 29, 2012 9:55 am

Valerie wrote:
unavoidablytiger wrote:I feel the need to point out an odd similarity to something that just happened with MLP:FiM. In response to the adult fans, they made Derpy Hooves' name official in the show. And then, in response to scattered dissaproval from other fans who felt the term "derpy" (along with the crossed eyes and goofy voice) was offensive to retarded people, they removed the video and edited it to take all those things out (to the indignation of the Derpy-loving brony community).

I've been struggling with this concept for a while, and struggling to decide what I actually think about it. Sure, the whole pony name situation sounds stupid on the surface (first world problems much?) but the deeper issue is the same as it is here, with the word tranny. Where do you draw the line between innocent intent and someone else's feelings?

Is the true meaning of a word in the user of a word, the receiver of a word, or some average of all? Does my understanding of a word trump yours, or do we first decide who it matters to the most, and let them decide?


Well, as an MLP fan and an older sister of both mentally disabled and neurotypical kids (who foams at the mouth when someone uses "retarded" as slang), I can give you my viewpoint in it.

My younger brother is mentally retarded. He cannot care for himself. He is severely, severely disabled, and no one, ever, has any right to make light of that. End of discussion.

One of my sisters has Asperger's Syndrome. She has a condition that is very different from mental retardation. She's high-functioning. She's intelligent. But some people, especially those who don't know the difference, would label her as "retarded." As much as that word, in its slang use, pisses me off normally, you do not call my sister retarded. Her condition is misunderstood to the point where she will internalize it and think she's on the same level as my brother, and she is not. And you could probably do without the broken nose that would likely result.

My other two sisters are neurotypical. One is the Asperger's girl's (fraternal) twin. She has called the ASD girl retarded. And let me spell out right here, I am not above disciplining that sort of behavior. (I've never actually broken her nose, though.)

My mother, who is an idiot, has no objections to "retarded" as slang. She is an adult. She is the one who is supposed to be teaching my sisters what is and is not okay. She is an idiot for unrelated reasons, so we're clear, but I personally feel that her opinion on this contributes to her "idiot" status.

Anyway, getting down to the short and quick of it... A show that is aimed at small children does not need to make those children feel that certain behaviors are acceptable. Making fun of disabled people-- mentally disabled, physically disabled, any of that-- is never okay. I was about ready to smack my boss the other day because he saw my husband with his cane and jokingly asked, "Who's the cripple?" Instead, I just gave a nervous giggle and said, "That's not very nice," because my boss is much bigger than me. That probably hinted enough, though.

I do not need my neurotypical little sister, who already sees "derp" and "retarded" as acceptable, to have that idea reinforced, because it will hurt my ASD sister in the long run. That is why these common courteously rules are in place for political correctness. We have to protect the marginalized groups from the people who don't know any better. Because that's what it is. People who are racist or are sexist are not going to stop being racist and sexist. People who are completely well-meaning and have no idea that they might hurt someone? They're the problem. They don't mean to be, and I'm not angry at them; I'm angry at people who should know better and continue to validate certain word choices and behaviors. Because a lot of people, once they know that a word is offensive, will stop using it. We saw that in the thread for the "tranny" issue. There were several posts where people said, "I didn't know that was offensive. I'll try not to use it." That is the group that political correctness exists for. They aren't trying to be malicious, they just don't know.


You're the only one on here who ever talks to me Val, and I <3 you for it.

The problem I see is that not all words are universally defined. The meaning differs from person to person. Some obviously feel that 'derpy' refers to mental retardation. Others feel that it refers to when people (any people) have a dumb moment, that moment when Homer Simpson would say "D'oh!".

I liked the word derpy when I heard it, specifically because it WAS a way to refer to neurotypical stupidity without the connection with retardation. I'm disheartened that the meaning of the word is being forced into the same meaning as 'retard'.

I'm on the fence about political correctness in general, not because I feel that people should be allowed to say whatever they want about others, but because I feel that the current method of socially punishing offenders creates a lot of resentment and backlash.
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Re: TL;DR: The Word "Tranny"

Postby Lia S » Wed Feb 29, 2012 10:19 am

Now I had to look for the origin of the word derp.

Wikipedia / List of South Park Elementary staff wrote:Mr. Derp is most prominent as Chef's substitute in "The Succubus." Voiced by Trey Parker, the character commonly displays slapstick and physical camp humor, much to the chagrin of the boys. He tends to hit himself in the head with a claw hammer in attempts to make the boys laugh. In the season three commentary, Matt and Trey reveal that his namesake, "Derp," is the sound commonly made in a klutzy situation when things go horribly wrong, literally and comically, like a joke that can be "seen from a mile away." The word "derp" has become an Internet meme.


I haven't seen enough South Park to know whether Mr. Derp can be described as retarded in any meaning of the word actually I haven't seen enough South Park, period so I don't know if the meaning is changing, if it is that is indeed sad.
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