Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Trans Man Speaks Out Against The Trans Men Who Appropriate The "T Word" Despite The Women The Slur Is Usually Thrown At

FYI: Men can be feminists too
Trans guy Nathaniel Jospeh opposses his trans brothers appropriating the anti-trans woman slur "tra**y"

Trans woman/human rights advocate Bianca Lynne disagrees with the trans men who want to "reclaim" the T-word

There is a trend where some trans men are fighting to reclaim a hurtful perjorative that has always been used to dehumanize and misgender trans women, not men.

Bianca Lynne, a transgender woman and advocate for the human rights of trans people, responds to trans guys supposedly “reclaiming” the T word: “For trans-male spectrum folks to "reclaim" the word over the objections of people who are actually called the word seems more like appropriation. I've never ever heard trans men called "tranny" - except among themselves and by their partners. Even so, when the term is used by cis people, it is mostly used against trans-female spectrum people or to tell cis women they look ridiculous ...- like a man in a dress trying too hard.”

A trans man named Nathaniel Joseph from San Francisco speaks out against his trans brothers appropriating the anti-transsexual slur “tra**y” because the slur originated as a misogynistic way to mock and degrade trans women. He explains:

“I was confused about the use of the word at first. As a Northern California transman I do hear it thrown around in the younger brothers of my community. It never felt right to me, but at first I thought 'they are trying to reclaim the word and take the power out it as a pejorative.' I still refused to use it and thought I needed to respect others wishes to use it for themselves. However, after several ladies so passionately, and respectfully, explained its implications, history and pain it causes them I do not allow it to be said in my presence without a rebuttal.

It seems to me that it falls in line with some of the same misogyny some transmen spew. I rebut that as well. It sickens me as a transman, assigned female at birth and socialized as such, that some of my brothers are so callous and apathetic towards women's issues, causes and lives. Did they forget what it is like to walk through this world as female? It is not acceptable for cis males to act in such regard towards women, but when transmen do it it's deeply disheartening and causes more anger in me. Perhaps it's their desire to be like the cis males in our society, but whatever reasoning they have it's not acceptable!!! I have no tolerance for such transmen, and perhaps I hold them to a higher standard because our birth condition, but nonetheless it is ignorant and disgusting to see them throw women, especially our sisters in the community, under the bus to be treated with disdain, disrespect and violence.

It has been hard having my former community (LGB) turn its back on me and to see the hatred and appropriation they have for us. Nevertheless, I refuse to allow myself to mingle with anyone who treats others with malice and disdain. I am a transman, but I do not agree with anyone who treat human beings with such indignity, my trans brothers and former LGB community included. It is so disheartening that there is so much in-fighting within our own community. I refuse to be anyone's brother, regardless of our transmaleness, that is so quick to degrade women (especially our sisters).

So, thank you ladies for speaking your truth and eloquently explaining your stance and feelings on the matter. This brother stands with you, respects you and will fight alongside you to end misogyny against all women”- Nathaniel Jospeh (now this is the type of man I dream of- a feminist!)

I must agree with both Nathaniel's plea to his trans brothers to respect their trans sisters, and with Bianca’s comment as well: “For trans-male spectrum folks to "reclaim" the word over the objections of people who are actually called the word (women) seems more like appropriation”.

Exactly. Right now there is a crisis of non-trans people making the term a "dehumanizing icky put down slur". Also, the term was first made as a slur against transsexual women--it’s not for trans men to "reclaim". I oppose men (trans or cis gay men) using the term as a "campy comical pet name for each other”. The term started off as a way to objectify, sexualize, mis-gender, "other" and degrade trans women, especially in porn, on TV shows, and in sensational print media. It’s irresponsible for trans men to appropriate a term that has so much hurt and abuse against women. Also, trans people are not in the same place as lesbian people are concerning human rights/acceptance/positive visibility/understanding from society to be able to reclaim such a dehumanizing pejorative like some lesbian women have with “d*ke”. All the term tra**y does is give every bigot and transphobe an excusable way to vent their transphobia and hate by using the word. I think it’s unfair that a small subculture in San Fran of gender queer and FTM transgender people get to appropriate a word that is really alienating women. This trend has no respect for the women the term is generally thrown at like stones. The slur is associated with violence and hate. Many rap stars use the N word "affectionately", but you would never hear Rev Al Sharpton or Oprah telling the Black community "some people use it affectionately, lets respect that". Likewise, we are at a tipping point of a trans human rights movement here, we must be careful to not encourage the dehumanization of our community by following the few who irresponsibly use that word. Hell no, this is a chance for us to rise up and educate society, not a time to allow those in the trans community who accept segregation, misgendering, crumbs and "pet names" to tell us to "lighten up". We have a chance here to combat unhealthy stigma- and hopefully the majority of trans people will consider the bigger picture, and not follow the few drag queens or the few gender queer FTM guys who obsess over the words “coolness and hipness”. Accepting bigot’s hate words for us is not “cool or affectionate”


  1. In my experience on the east coast I have never heard any transman use the T word for himself, to "reclaim" it or otherwise, and to the best of my knowledge I have never once heard that word used except as a pejorative term for tranwomen. Honestly I cannot imagine why any transman would feel justified in taking the offensive liberty of "reclaiming" a word that has not been used against us. If I hear anyone use that word in my presence I will vehemently object.

    At this point in time, I consider the T word to be nothing less than hate speech. It is used to defame, degrade and offend, to try to diminish someone's humanity and dignity, to objectify, and to incite threat and violence toward transwomen.

    I can believe that there might be a time in the distant future when transwomen might want to reclaim that word for themselves in order to defuse any power it has to insult, as have other groups once they experience a substantial sense of strength and safety in the world to do so, but that should be a time of their choosing, no one else's.

    Also, not all slurs are "reclaimable", and this might be one of them. Some prove to be indefinately unredeemable, having been used in the context of extreme violence and murder, as the T word has been.

    I hope others will also take a public stand against the use of this hate speech.

  2. I am a transman and was actually called that once as a slur and hate-speech. It shocked me to no end!! I agree with Nathaniel, have we - as transmen - forgotten what it was like to walk in the female world?? I have run into transmen who seem to want to emulate cismen in manner, speech, etc. It makes me sick!! I am who I am, I do not need to copy or emulate anyone!! I can be a man and not denigrate women - trans or cisgender.

  3. I'm actually one of the many transmen that tried to "reclaim" the word. I guess maybe it was a bit ignorant and insensitive on my part. I knew only vaguely of its origins, but didn't see the harm in using it, much like the black community will use the N word with eachother but it's offensive if anyone else calls them that. That's how I saw it anyway.

    Anyway, out of respect for my female sisters, I won't use the word anymore as it's not my place to do so. I suppose I'll have to find a new word then.

  4. What a fantastic blog (I'm going to post it everywhere I can), I agree wholeheartedly. I never understood why certain people tried to use this effectively as a pet term for each other when all it does is actually allows people to apparently 'validly' abuse us.

    As a response of my own just weeks ago I created the page I have included in this comment (click my name). It would be great to get as many 'likes' as possible to send it to the top of google searches for this horrid word!


  5. Here is an awesome photo I used for my "Self-Worth Project". I just started it a month ago and already it has grown to 4,500 on facebook. The models name is Aydin Kennedy and he is an amazing human being, and more of a man to me than most men I have met. .

    The link to his photo:!/photo.php?fbid=109451422454451&set=a.102456436487283.3548.102384489827811&pid=64563&id=102384489827811

  6. I have yet to hear anyone of us here in the transman community in the mid-south use that word to identify ourselves as Transmen. Recently a Transwoman ran for mayor in our small town here. I heard that derogatory word used more than one time to describe her by the cis community. It was being used as a hurtful slur against her. It was disheartening as I guess I saw our small liberal artist enclave as much more open and accepting of people for their diversity of beingness. And no, she didn't win the election. I am transitioning before their very eyes, god only knows what they say behind my back.

    We need to stand behind our sisters, period...

  7. I personally find the T word offensive, but I understand that I can only control what I say and do and not what others say and do. I know in my heart and mind that a "tranny" is in a vehicle...I on the other hand am simply a human being.

  8. I appreciate this conversation. I'm not one to use the word Tranny, and I've never heard a rebuttle to it before. In fact in my communities both in NY and here in SF, I've heard both sisters and brothers use it just like the words Dyke and Fag are used and embraced.

    I have no interest in offending anyone and will certainly refrain from using the word Tranny.

    And, then there's what's culture and something about turning some words on it's head and using them with power - and that doesn't work everywhere. In fact I was shocked to have people who might be described as hardcore, stone butches, deny being butch and hating the term when spoken by a group of drag kings on a visit to NY in the 90s. And, this was a particular group of women and since I don't want to offend anyone I don't make assumptions about how people want to be referred to as.

    And ignorant generalities or terms used, which I can be sometimes guilty of, are generally easily corrected. Having patience and compassion with each other is totally key.

    For example, saying that "The Black Community" can use the N word with each other, is a pretty ignorant statement. And for the sake of this topic I won't get into all of the reasons why.

    I'd just say general statements don't serve anyone accept maybe this one, and I do have one that I use a lot and live by: We all have the right to self-identify, we all have the right to be treated fairly and justly and we all want to be respected.

    Please keep the conversations going!!

  9. Thank you Ashley, for posting this article.

    When I first saw the Musto blog post I was rather annoyed. As you no doubt guessed from my comment post in his blog.

    But then it got me thinking.
    And whether we reclaim the term for ourselves or not, it will always be a pejorative.

    Think of when we use it even amongst ourselves. We tend to use it in a very self-mocking way.

    You know, things like "Don't fuck with the tranny" and the like.

    That then leads to other thought processes. Like "How bad has the societal subjugation of our collective psyche been that on some level we are buying into this bullshit".

    Has our sense of self worth, on some very deep level, been battered so badly that we still look at ourselves filtered through the lens of those who would persecute us? While it seems to me that all human beings require external validation, why is it we seem to require more validation than many other societal groups? What is it about the transsexual experience that promulgates self hatred as much as the hatred we receive from the bigots?

    We seem to have associated the word "tranny" with freak on some level.

    And yes, there are those in the community that wear that label as a badge of pride. A badge of honour in some ways. Which is their right. They have earned that right the hard way. By surviving. And they are throwing that notion right back into the teeth of our persecutors.

    "Yes, I'm different. Yes, I'm unusual. So fucking what?"

    But I, like many within the community find it very insulting when others try to co-opt the term, and then figure by overusing it, it will take away the hurt and the insult. By making the term meaningless in a societal context.

    It doesn't, and it never will. At least for me.

    And unfortunately those that co-opt it tend to have an agenda of their own that usually doesn't match ours. In my view, the tendency is to further marginalize us for their own reasons. By using the T word, they are in effect, demonizing us as the bastard children of the LGB community to make it easier for them to advance their own platforms. And while they are doing that, they give us that condescending pat on the head, telling us they will help us with our issues later - once their own agenda is completely satisfied. And maybe not even then.

    An example, you say?


    I live in Canada. I was at a conference. And this is exactly what I was told at one point.

    "Yeah, we just about disbanded the LGBT caucus after same sex marriage was passed. We figured we were done. That there was nothing else to work on."

    Uh-huh. Sure. Nothing else. Nothing like maybe the same human rights and dignity that the rest of you are afforded under the law.

    Nope, nothing to see here folks, move along. Nothing to see here.See More
    16 hours ago ·

  10. I don't know if my reply is just going to make people angry but...

    I think that in an odd way this usage came about because a lot of FTM and genderqueer people want to use that word... almost to remind people that they are also transgendered people who are discriminated against? That they are part of the transgender community and all of it's history. I think if you look at the people who say it, they're going to be people who really aren't always very included in our community.
    For example, I know alot of gay (or even straight) FTMs that will jokingly call each other f*ggots. And while that word wasn't originally meant to hurt us (in the end to hateful people we're just d*kes)in our new life we are treated like 'f*ggots' and called such too. And it gives you a strange sense of belonging to a community that (vehemently actually in the gay male case) excludes you. And f*ggot is definitely a word that is used when hateful things are being done to you; I know I certainly flinch when someone screams it at me! I think it's a way of sharing those painful moments, and trying to get over that horrible feeling of being treated that way. But there is also a feeling (or a shared knowledge) that the belonging to the group that excludes you even in your shared pain... isn't real, and you're almost being a little bit ironic.

    I think young FTMs and gender queer people have a sense of themselves as being treated like freaks, and as sexual fetish objects (we actually are... like a lot you know, especially by men attracted to us), so when they heard a word with such a harsh history they feel like than can appropriate it to their, actually very lonely and harsh, current reality. I don't think it's meant to be intentionally harmful, or that they realize it 'doesn't apply to them.'
    I've only ever heard tra**y used in a deragatory (sp?) sense, even when talking about one's self. I think it's really a somewhat misguided coping mechanism for having no place that you really belong... kind of like hurting yourself for attention...
    I think most will stop saying it if they're asked, but then there will always be those that want to rebel.. because well... they want to rebel as soon as you lay down any kind of rules about what they call themselves. Again, what is somewhat a reaction years and years of being completely ignored or bullied into pre-defined identities...

    If it matters to you, I am a gay FTM and I'm 24, have been transitioned 6 years. I do consider myself a feminist, am very connected to my past as a woman and women in generally, and I vocally and publically do not stand for sexism even on an everyday basis. Yet I think I've still probably used the word tra**y before, not thinking about it as if it only applied to the women and no one on the other end or in between. I thought it just referred to people who aren't treated well by the outside world for being a transsexual... And I have a feeling that's what other people consider it to.

    I definitely appreciate being told about it's offensiveness. I don't actually get to meet with many trans-people, especially women, and will try to think harder about the words I use and what they mean to everyone.

    I just wanted to say where I think the usage comes from... basically from a lack of unity in our community... And a way of trying to belong to a community that pretty much excludes you from it's 'history'

  11. "It sickens me as a transman, assigned female at birth and socialized as such, that some of my brothers are so callous and apathetic towards women's issues, causes and lives. Did they forget what it is like to walk through this world as female?" ~ yeah that. i agree.

    no matter how much i feel more identified as male i will never forget my female history and i respect the experiences i went through as a female-bodied person. i also find it despicable that any transman would treat a woman with misogyny and cruelty. i have vowed to be the best man i can be in my future and to me, that means treating my precious sisters how they deserve to be treated, whether they be cis or transwomen.

  12. Oops! Looks like I forgot to hit post...

    My comment was that I hoping that we can be compassionate as we talk about the usage of the "T" word. Most folks I know are not using it to hurt anyone. And, yes it would be ideal for "ALL" of us to know the histories of the cultures we belong to and move into and mostly we don't.

    I think it might be interesting to have a campaign that asks for a change away from using the word tranny, and move towards something more unifying/connecting for all folks who identify as Trans.

  13. My transmale boyfriend was bullied and this dick-wad wrote, "silly tranny, dicks are for kids." on his desk at school. MANY transmen get called the word. It's not only the transwomen of the community. Hell, I've been called "tranny" as well and I'm an extremely stealth transman. It just goes to show how ignorant people can be in this world.

  14. I'm FTM. I've been called t-word. Most of the FTMs I know, especially those who are out at school, are called it on a daily basis, some even before they were out. I understand the complications with FTMs reclaiming the word, since when used not towards trans people its insulting to trans women, not men, but I think it's a unfair to say that people never use it against FTMs.

  15. I would like to thank you all for the education I have received from this page. Until now, I always thought that it was simply a short-hand slang, and even cute (I suppose it's the "y ending" that does it for me), & that any insult came strictly from the context of its use. Luckily, it has also never occurred to me to use it (& therefore I will have no awkward mental training to do!!), because I always call people by the gender they prefer. As a cisgendered person, I suppose I may never understand why someone would feel s/he must refer to him/herself as "transgendered", but far be it for me to ever say that s/he shouldn't!

    I can assure you that, from now on, I will be listening more carefully to those around me, & make corrections where appropriate!