I’ve been wondering where this catchphrase came from, and I was just informed tonight that it comes from Christian, who won this season of Project Runway. The problem for me is not that it’s being co-opted by the mainstream, although that shit does bother me, a bit.

What really gets my goat is that people think it’s okay that he says that because he’s gay. I know people say stuff like, “it’s okay for gay people to use the word ‘fag’ because it’s empowering, it’s like they’re reclaiming it,” or likewise for other slurs for minority groups. But look, the gay community, whether or not it’s lumped together with the trans community in LGBT, is not the same! The identities are completely different. It’s kind of funny and cute when I call myself a tranny among my friends (I have tranny magic, you know) but it irks me that Christian can get away with using what I consider a slur on primetime television just because he’s part of the acronym that trans folk are inaccurately included in.

It’s a problem because even within the so-called LGBT “community” there is prejudice against transfolk. We don’t need the people who could be our best allies saying potentially damaging things about us. We don’t need to see discrimination within a community of the oppressed. It’s also a problem because it perpetuates the stereotype of transfolk as drag queens, which is how the vast majority of Americans probably see us.

Great, just what I need: stereotypes being perpetuated about one of my social identities that makes me the most vulnerable. Now that the thing’s being adopted by the mainstream, it’s like the whole “gay is not a synonym for stupid” thing all over again. I thought we weren’t even done with that battle! I’ve heard the argument that he was talking about transvestites, not transsexuals, but I don’t think it’s a valid defense. The umbrella term for all these folks is transgender, and I think “tranny” is pejorative shorthand for any of these identities. I’ve also heard the argument that the mainstreaming of the phrase isn’t going to hurt anyone. Like shit it won’t — it’s not like we need any help being singled out, targeted, and ostracized without “hot tranny mess” being slung around. It makes it acceptable to reject gender non-conforming people.

I don’t know about this shit. I might be too uptight about it, I don’t know, but in all honesty, it’s hard not to be uptight when you have experienced physical danger as a result of your social identities and people who have the power to be allies and speak out are instead potentially — and indeed probably — worsening the situation with their actions. It’s not an easy world to live in for anyone by any means, so shouldn’t we be helping rather than hurting one another? What visibility is bad visibility? Can’t we start being more aware that what gets said on television gets indelibly imprinted into the consciousness of viewers?

I really doubt anyone really cares that much about transfolk, but that’s why people in the mainstream media have such an important role to play. They have the capacity to make people care and enlighten them to new ideas. Like some bloggers before me, I’m not expecting Proj Run to be some kind of gender identity and expression education hour, but at least show a little respect. After all, Margaret Price rightly notes in bitch mag’s blog that during the season, we saw three murders of gender non-conforming folk in the United States. Hot tranny mess indeed.

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