The T Word

Posted: 11/20/2010 in Girl Stuff, Queer
Tags: , , , ,

I decided tonight that I feel like a goal worth accomplishing is making the Out 100. It’s probably a bit much to aim for 2011 because I’ll be tied up with this hellbeast of a bender of The L Word, but you never know. If I get angry and motivated enough, I might just accomplish something next year.

As you probably already know, I don’t really like talking about the parts that suck about being a transwoman because I’m usually pretty guarded about my emotions and I feel like there’s enough voices out there covering that side of things that I’d rather talk about the ways that I embrace my identity, but that’s not always possible or smart. Over at the Out website right now there’s a piece about the political minefield that is the word “Tranny.” Which I have a lot of feelings about, none of which are good.

I guess that I can sympathize with people like Kate Bornstein who came up with it as being a positive word used to bridge the gap between the drag queen and transgender and it’s never fun to have to face relinquishing control of an own-language term, but in my world it’s nothing but an ugly slur and I feel like it’s really not worth the pain and effort to try to reclaim. My first problem with the word “tranny” is that I’m a transwoman and it takes the “woman” out of my identity. Literally. I’m not one of the transpeople who want to live in the space between gender binaries (at least in a physical sense anyway). I want to be recognized and respected as a woman the same as any cisgender woman and that becomes immediately impossible if I allow myself to be identified as a “tranny.”

It also carries far too many stigmas. “Tranny” is a word primarily used to refer to a pre-op androphilic transwoman who is generalized to be either a sex worker or a female impersonator attempting to lure heterosexual men into bed with them. I don’t want to have anything to do with a word whose most accepted use not only does not describe me, but is instrumental in perpetrating malicious attitudes towards myself and my sisters. It absolutely guts me to my core what my fellow transwomen face while I hide paralyzed and closeted to all but my closest friends, but I don’t fit the popular narrative. I’m a white, middle class gynophilic transwoman. I can barely fathom the crimes perpetrated against the least of my sisters without bursting into tears, but I absolutely reject both the narrative and terminology that define us as nothing more than victims and objects.

I will always be proud of having traveled the road I do now to become a woman physically, but I am not and will never be defined by that journey, singled out as being other. I was gifted something incredible before I began this journey, before I recognized myself as a woman. Recognizing that I was different and a kindred spirit, my lesbian friends gifted me with a word; a name. That word was “dyke.” They let me share in their identity and recognized me as a sister, even before I knew what I was. I can’t be hurt by it, I can’t be diminished by it because it is the truth at my core. It’s the narrative and form that I recognize as myself. There’s a certain irony that I reject one loaded name for another, but it really highlights the truth that will underscore every debate about the language used to define, demean, and empower marginalized people. There will never be a consensus about how we identify ourselves and how we allow the outside world to identify us. Kate Bornstein was recently reduced to tears over the internal debate as to whether she should stop using the word “tranny” while I can barely hold them back while the misery and hate attached to the word crashes over me like waves.

Of course what is of far more importance is that today is Transgender Day of Remembrance. Today, more than any other day, every breath I take and beat of my heart will be for every one of my sisters who didn’t make it. They’re who I need to be strong for. They are why I have to come out and make my voice heard, to somehow find that strength inside me.

  1. catmaier says:

    I myself have always viewed the word Tranny as something people use out of laziness, some to hurt others that are in fact transgendered or as a tasteless nickname many people would go to large lengths to escape. I agree that it takes the gender or sexual identity away from transgenders. (For those of you who don’t know I’m a Cisgender bisexual who leans towards girls.) There are Transdyke’s, Transqueers, Transwomen, Transmen and other identities I’m sure that others situated with their sexual orientations or gender. In my views everyone who chooses a certain Label should be honored with that practicular label. What with all of the struggles everyone must go through for such a beacon to meet them at the end of their long journey. I see the term Transgenders as a term that catches all gender and accepted orientations.

    I myself remember the first few times I met with the “Bisexuals are just confused” statements or cruel critizations by those I once called friend or lover through the years. In the beginning of it all I would start large discussions or arguments about being “confused”. I hated that word with a passion with how it took me out of an area I believe best described myself and put it into a category people would use as they decided to pick out strawberry or blueberry jam. Which is better? It’s strange that that question has come into my mind a time or two over the years, though I discovered that very large question holds no bounds over me. Why choose, if you’re with someone that you truly care for than that’s which is better at that time. I admit I’m strongly leaning towards woman at the moment and that’s where I am currently. I have no plans to change course while I’m going through my own discoveries and research on the matter.

    Though I’m being side tracked and missing the point I started writing towards. The word “confused” slowly became a joke to me. Those of you who disagree than that is your view. After years of battling against it, I discovered that some individual human’s nature is to believe in same sex or opposite sex relationship. (I’ll admit with a mixture of them it becomes messy, something that wasn’t all of a joy for me to discover.) At first, as a rebellious teenager, I would twist the words to throw them back at the individuals who were closed minded and stubborn on the subject. Making the individuals who wished to tell me how to be realize it moments too late for my own amusement. Then, as I moved past my rebellious stage, the word itself became funny to be. If the term means to not choose between women or men than that is how I should be but it shall always be funny to me. In other moments I take it as a flirtatious tease that can be fun depending on who is doing it. Recently I found that someone saying, “I’m going to make you a lesbian.” something thrilling and wondrous. If that’s how I’m going to live then the sting that usually is there vanishes into something that’s happy giddy. Course when the term is used as something insulting, I still do what I used to do and throw the words back at the individual that usually ends up with the individual spending more time on contemplation that they believed they would ever do.

    Recently I began questioning my sexual orientation as a bisexual when my sexual preference shifted from man to woman. My instinctual response to it was to analyze, research and find acceptance within my own mind. My reaction to it was probably a bit extreme for me but in the end I accept that right now I’m leaning heavily towards woman. My cisgender straight friends continue to show me how awesome and accepting they are;

    Me: Some would describe Bisexuals as confused.

    Mike: You’re not confused, you’re just leaning more towards women, a woman in practicular. You just haven’t found a dude that interests you, it’s normal.

    Me: Mike, you’re totally awesome.

    As for it being a day of Remembrance for Transgenders today, well I don’t see it as a painful thing. Some views on history state that, “If you forget the horrors of the past, than you’re destined to repeat it.” It’s not the exact statement but it comes pretty close. I remember and I honor those that have suffered, those who were lost. And I honor the them with the knowledge of the past, for I can’t experience it. But, I also see it as something amazing. I see it as a beacon of light that shines for those who are going through the same thing right this moment. May any transgenders find the strength within themselves and move forward within the testing trails of the journey before them.

    I hope my words have helped you with this day, baby. If not then I’m here for you if you need me. ❤

  2. […] The T Word, by Emma Houxbois […]

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