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Monday, August 27, 2012

The "T" in GLBTQ!

I was recently on a private author forum on Facebook where a well-meaning blogger was asking for books to review featuring "Tranny" characters. Other well-meaning authors shared the post and my blood began to boil.

It was mind-blowing to me that anyone involved in writing, editing, promoting, publishing, reading, reviewing or discussing romances in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and or queer and or questioning realm would not know how offensive the word tranny is to the transgender community.

I use the word community loosely because I have discovered there really isn't one and people who are transgender have the loneliest battle of all the letters in GLBTQ. I don't know how people can have missed the flap over Kelly Osborne's use of the word or the rising awareness of transgender people.

But using the word tranny seems designed to offend.

In this same forum after I complained, an author commented that her own editor used it as a slur in her edits! Truly!

Rest assured the word is offensive and is mostly used as a slur, not in a kindly way. We need to be mindful of that. We need to respect all the letters in GLBTQ. I am also stunned that so few authors understand the word queer and think it is offensive. If you are going to make a living out of a genre, get to know the letters and what they mean, please.

Queer Culture has its own special issues but I am not going to stray from this topic to address it even though I get many emails from authors asking me about it. Google it!

There are some things I'd like to address regarding transgender and why sensitivity and some knowledge is essential. I have a dear author friend who is undergoing gender reassignment surgery and I know two who already have. For those who dare to think they know all about being transgender - they just. Do. Not.

Chastity Bono has done so much to educate us all about living with being transgendered. Perhaps he said it best here: "Obviously the transgender movement has not progressed in the way that the gay and lesbian movement has. But I'm an activist - that's just the kind of person I am. "
My experience with M to F transgendered people is different from F to M. They are often the targets of slurs. Transgender men live with constant fear and rejection. The two transgender men I know well came out to a group of friends who had no idea they used to be women and the reaction was horrible. Disgusting. And the group was mostly made up of gay men and lesbian women! One of the gay men suddenly didn't want to swim with them and made disparaging remarks about 'girly bits' and 'eunuchs'...

Both these men risked a lot in revealing their truths. Somehow though, little things started to make sense. They are both still afraid to use men's rest rooms. Dinner in a restaurant can prove uncomfortable. One has a penis and it is functional to urinate. The other one does not. He looks and dresses like a man but has no penis. He fears the retribution of being caught in a men's room with no dick. He fears going away on camping weekends with male friends and showering in a communal setting.

He has good reason to.

Here are the most recent statistics of transgender health issues that may give you pause.

 28% had been subjected to harassment in a medical setting

 26% had been physically assaulted in at least one health care setting

 24% had been denied equal treatment at a doctor’s office or hospital

 19% had been refused medical care due to being transgender or gender non-conforming (the rate was higher for transgender people of color)

 13% had been denied equal treatment at an emergency room

 10% had been sexually assaulted in at least one health care setting

I read an awful story where a transgender man said, “I was forced to have a pelvic exam by a doctor when I went in for a sore throat. The doctor invited others to look at me while he examined me and talked to them about my genitals.”
Facts about transgender people and health here

The transgender men I know live with fear, snickers, misunderstanding, rejection, abuse and intolerance in their quest to be who they are, who they want to be. And shouldn't they be allowed to live the lives they want? They were born this way. To marginalize them with offensive slurs, by calling them trannies will not mean they will go away...hopefully.

Because here's another statistic you probably don't know. The suicide rate in the transgender community is higher than any of the other letters in the GLBTQ. That's right.

Are you proud to slur them now?

Still want to snicker and call them trannies?

Remember the next time you want to put them down and call them he/she/it that it is hate speech. It is as offensive as using the N word.

I will conclude with this. We all need to be kinder, gentler and more understanding with one another. We need to learn more about the issue to 'get it' so I am offering up an ebook of my novel The Wine-Dark Sea
which features a transgender character, but he is M to F and is based on my friend's husband. I am proud of this novel and I am glad I met this man who fought to change his life.

My author friend whom I mentioned earlier, who is undergoing reassignment surgery, recently wrote to me. He has been forced to undergo months and months of expensive therapy and all the other things transgender people are forced to go through before they can be even considered for surgery. His last e-mail broke my heart in a million pieces. He wrote, "I've been waiting for the letter from my therapist saying I am accepted into the program...waiting for her to come up with yet another excuse about why I can't."

Gay men get to be gay, lesbians can be lesbians, queer and questioning? Have at it. None of them require a host of hoops through which they are forced to jump, by others, who may or may not have their best interests at heart. We need to be mindful of this. The private pain. Behind closed doors. The whispers, the snickers...the fear...behind whispered words. Perhaps this gives you a tiny glimpse, a start, a spark of understanding about how brave these men and women are. What transgender should stand for is 'Tall'. These people stand tall. I stand right with them. They are my heroes, my friends. Tall, tall friends
Aloha oe,

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  1. A very thought-provoking post.

    I don't write transgender stories and probably won't in the future. I don't think I could do the subject justice. I read a lot of blog posts about the hate against transgenders during the Hop Against Homophobia and it was very eye-opening.

    One thing I would point out though, is that queer can and is used as a slur in England. It was used against me on numerous occasions in school along with a whole host of other words and it was never meant as anything other than an insult.

    Different countries have different insults for people. For example, fag, commonly used in the US is rarely used over here, except as slang for cigarettes.

    I think in some cases it is not so much the word itself that it insulting, but the context in which it is used.

  2. Well said, hon. Transgender stories (in real life and in fiction) are tricky, never falling easily into a single comfortable category, but I always look forward to a new authors who try to do us justice, even if they do occasionally slip up with their terms or fetishes. So long as their intent was good, I don't mind having a conversation and trading a little education for entertainment. :)

  3. As a trans woman I really do appreciate your comments on this issue, putting the term 'tranny' in it's rightful perspective (because it IS totally a put down)... and your 'ally-ship.' Thank you, it means a lot. But, non trans people writing about trans issues do so often make me wince when I read them no matter the wonderful, supportive intentions. Here you referred to Chaz Bono as Chastity, and repeatedly misgendered the trans woman character in your book. My suggestion is please have several thoughtful trans people who respond to the characters you're writing (trans men to review trans men characters and vice versa) to review your writing, go through potential mistakes and misperceptions and to make certain you're portraying the character through a non-trans lens. Feedback from the source is important (as I certainly would do if I were writing about a person of color, someone who's differently abled or a gay man).

    My one other comment would be that, while I understand trans men get a lot of flack in the gay non-trans male community, they still get far less discrimination, stigmatization and violence than trans women do in general society. It's no surprise to me that Dancing With the Stars had a trans man contestant before they would even think about having a trans woman participant (and I understand there was a real effort to get Candis Cayne, who acted on an ABC show, as a contestant but the show flat refused).

  4. Thanks for the comments everyone. Gina, I apologize for using the word Chastity for Chaz Bono. Did not mean to offend him - or you. As for my character in the Wine Dark Sea... it is MY character and I created HIM. He is a man as the story starts and he wants to be a woman - I have identified myself as trans so believe me I am sensitive to the issue. The man in real life has gone back to being a man. It sometimes happens, but not in my book! Thanks again everyone for your comments.
    I am aware that queer can be used as an insult but it is a commonly accepted word in the GLBTQ community and like I suggested - people should Google it to understand it better, and its history.