In Current Year it is more important than ever to avoid offending the oppressed. All it takes to offend is a carelessly-given look, comment, question, or even thought; all and any of these are capable of inflicting deep emotional trauma on the victim, even where no offence was intended. Those on the receiving end of such insults are often more hurt by the simple lack of consideration on the part of the offender, than the actual insult itself. Perhaps the most vulnerable and easily offended are transpeople.
I had all this in mind when I came across a reference to the pejorative word ‘tranny’ in a comment I read on an article online. For reasons of privacy, I won’t name the individual or publication concerned; let’s just say the individual was a person of color, in a well-known civil-rights movement, purporting to represent the fastest growing accredited news service on the web.
So, what are the rules to avoid giving offence? Well, it’s quite simple; just ensure you extend to transpeople the same courtesy, politeness and manners you would to anyone else. And that’s it!
The only possible complications to this easy rule I know of relate to behaviours, and word-uses when speaking about or to transpeople.
Firstly, you should NOT refer to transpeople as “tranny”, “he-she”, “it”, “shemale”, “transvestite”, “man in a dress”, “hermaphrodite”, or “freak”. Of course, if you are a progressive and support LGBTQ+ rights, then these words automatically become terms of affection and can be applied liberally.
Other words to avoid include:
- “Clocking” – despite transgendered womyns’ skilled use of make-up, perfect dress-sense, total lack of awkward physical movements etc. there are still some people who believe they can recognise one. ‘Clocking’ refers to the moment of recognition and is a hurtful word due to it’s connotations (“Gotcha Tranny!”)
- Misgendering – not the word itself, but the act (deliberate or not) of giving a transperson the wrong personal pronouns. Call a ‘she’ a ‘he’ and you essentially remove her lifeforce. Deliberate misgendering is increasingly recognised as a criminal offence and can land the perpetrator in hot water. Probably non-fluoridated to boot.
- Deadnaming – never refer to a transperson by the name of the identity they previously had. We would go further and say you must erase any memory you have that a transperson even had a different identity. Referring to a transperson’s “real” (i.e. previous name) is ‘a verbally violent offense that attempts to invalidate a person’s authentic gender identity’.
Bear in mind also that, in terms of the age of their identities, transpeople tend to be very young and are therefore especially vulnerable. Yes, we’re basically saying that offender them is tantamount to child abuse. Professional transgender, Caitlin Jenner, for example, is only two and a half years old, since technically she did not exist before April 2015. Whilst, technically, another person called Bruce was born in 1949 and occupied the very same body (mostly, with a few alterations in the private arena), we must learn to forget that Br…whatever his name was – I’ve forgotten already – is no more. Caitlin won those medals and was the greatest female athlete of her time. So, in short, speak to transpeople as you would to a young child and you will not go far wrong.
Feel free to add other things that should be avoided, in the comments.