There continues to be a dust up over “RuPaul” Andre Charles, of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and his continued use of the word “Tranny” to describe any and all Trans persons. Let’s be clear on a few things. RuPaul is a gay man who is also a drag queen. Period. By the broad overarching “umbrella” defined by the term “Transgender”, which encompasses any variety of gender non-conformity, his person and those like him are included under that parasol. He does not speak for Trans persons. The problem here is that the term “Transgender” covers too much ground; it is too broad and does not account for persons with differing notions, experiences and goals.
I have some trouble with a similar term, “Persons of Color”, which essentially means anybody who is not perceived to be white. Is there commonality in that descriptor? Most assuredly there is. However to infer that the issues faced by Latinas, Blacks, Native Americans and a host of others are uniform and completely common dismisses that there are some severe and profound differences and needs in each of those communities. Similarly we have distinct communities within the LGBTQ universe as well as within the “T” community itself. Yes there are subsets within the Trans universe (ask Facebook and their 50+ gender declarations) and we would be wise to understand those differences.
Our problem is that for the purpose of seeking our civil rights we have rolled up Trans into Transgender and then rolled that into LGBTQ. But that is a bit like saying Mohawks and Navahos have the exact same issues and concerns and use the same language to express them. Sure there is commonality but each are unique and need to be recognized as so. The idea that you can paint a group of people with one brush and not have somebody offended is a bit naïve at best.
Our second problem is indeed language. For much of the general population, and dare I say a large portion of the LGB, the words transvestite, transgender, transsexual, trans* and tranny are interchangeable terms. Alas they are not, but they sound so much alike because of that trans prefix that they are often mistaken for one and the same. I remember the first time I heard the word “tranny”, it was used in reference to an automobile, not a person. We have a habit of shortening words for convenience but in this case this shortening has obscured the difference in terms.
Put plainly, the fact that some find “tranny” offensive should be enough to consider not using the word. I grew up around people who often used the “n-word”. When I challenged them on this back in the 70’s of my youth I would get incredulous looks for these people had “almost“ no idea that they had just uttered anything but a reasonable term for a black person. Their arguments were, well “that is what they call themselves”, or “we have always used that word”. Sound familiar? And it is an equally absurd argument to continue to use a word that is perceived as demeaning and hurtful just because it seems to be convenient. How do you decide when to not use that word? How about never?
With the “T-word” though how does one differentiate? Who thinks this of themselves or uses this word? I think it is easy to sort. In the bacon and egg breakfast the chicken was involved, the pig was committed. The same goes here; if you are always “you” rather than sometimes “you” then tranny does not apply (at least for most Trans persons I know). If you are part-time in some fashion (the chicken) then I really do not care what you call yourself as long as you make sure not to call me the same thing. I am a pig you see.
I’m tired of this noise. When something is not working you need to make a change. So I am proposing that we consider adopting a new term for those of us who are not doing drag as we are not likely soon to get them to stop using tranny. I know this is a bit like setting up a new faction or party or something. Some may call it a separatist movement but I am only referring to nomenclature.
For those of us who reject “tranny” I propose we adopt the term “Novo”. That would be the Latin word for change. I found a reference with the following description:
“The Latin word for Change is Novo, Novo is defined as: to make anew, refresh, revive, change, alter, invent.”
That feels pretty comfortable and accurate to me. I am a Novo. As to that T-word, maybe you can just forget about it.