Entertainment » Television

RuPaul approves ’tranny’

by Daniel A. Kusner .
Sunday Feb 1, 2009

This week, the blog Planetransgender demanded that Dallas Voice cease using the terms "drag queen" and "tranny." They say the words are derogatory and inspire bigotry, which could result in the violent murders of our trans brothers and sisters.

Since journalists should act as guardians of free speech, the demand was way excessive. Besides, we've all seen the word "queer" go through transition - thanks to one television show. And it wasn't "Queer as Folk."

The phenomenal popularity of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" made wrinkly hetero dudes like Regis Philbin and David Letterman say "queer" without flinching. And without a hint of disparagement.

Is it possible to reclaim "tranny" and "drag queen"?

We're already there.

Last March, "Saturday Night Live" player Amy Poehler said the word "tranny" about 20 times in "Project Runway" spoof. And the effect was like "Queer Eye." The next morning, people started answering their cell phones with the greeting, "Tranny?"

In the past, GLAAD deemed "tranny" as offensive. But thankfully, words evolve. And GLAAD is far from perfect.

Which brings us to RuPaul.

On Monday, America's sweetheart kicks off "Drag Race," a female illusion competition-reality show that's one part "America's Next Top Model" and one part "Project Runway."

"Judge Judy is my favorite TV show. And there's part of her there, too. I'm the Judge Judy of the show," RuPaul says from her home in Los Angeles.

"There are more things to do in this life than to try to correct people with how they should refer to you. That’s your problem. That’s not their problem,"

Since Planetrangender says "drag queen" is also off limits, we asked if RuPaul agreed.

"Okay, Let me put on my Judge Judy robe," RuPaul says. "People really need to get a life. And quit taking every opportunity to be offended by the world. Years ago, political correctness made it unbearable for anyone to have a laugh or be free. You can't make the whole world 'baby safe.' That's really the uneducated approach to dealing with issues.

"There are more things to do in this life than to try to correct people with how they should refer to you. That's your problem. That's not their problem," she continues.

Years ago, RuPaul was roped into another controversy because she's been very supportive of Shirley Q. Liquor, a drag comedian and former Texan, who was condemned by GLAAD for promoting "ugly racial stereotypes." Not that Shirley defamed gays. GLAAD caved to pressure because "Grey's Anatomy" star Isaiah Washington (a black dude) was being spanked for saying "faggot." In short, GLAAD agreed to a prisoner exchange.

"We are obsessed with trying find areas where we get offended," RuPaul says. "And people who identify as being victims have a hard time accepting a new identity. They hold their 'victim identity' in place. And they continue to look for people or organizations where they can point their finger at and, in essence, confirm their victimhood.

"When I look at Shirley Q Liquor, I check in my gut and say, 'Is that person coming from a place of love or is that person coming from a place of fear?'

"My gut is that Shirley is coming from a place of love. You can't you do an impersonation that well and come from a place of fear. You have to be coming from a place of love. When we say 'tranny,' or 'drag queen' or 'queer,' we've taken the word back and owned it again. And that it's coming from a place of love and respect," RuPaul says.

I point out that, so far, the term "drag king" isn't offensive to anyone. How could it be? So if "drag king" is acceptable, and "drag queen" isn't, then Planetrangender appears Nazi-like in their rigid definitions. Perhaps the key is about being gender fluid and not gender specific.

"I totally agree," RuPaul says. "And I'm going to leave you with something Judge Judy would say: 'Sticks and stones may break my bones. But words will never hurt me.'"

On Monday, "Drag Race" premiers on Logo. Feb. 2 at 9 p.m.

Copyright The Dallas Voice. For more articles from the community newspaper for Gay and Lesbian Dallas, visit www.dallasvoice.com


  • Kelli Busey, 2009-02-01 16:37:50

    Ether the Dallas Voice showed it’s true colors and quit hiding behind the "Instant Tea" shadow or you attributed this story incorrectly. I am a defender of gender diversity. I beleive just like snow flakes everyone if given there freedom will become whatever shade of the rainbow is natural for them. Herein lies the controversial aspect of the Dallas Voice attempting to justify there unethical use of defamatory verbiage. The request is for the Dallas Voice to stop using "Tranny" with disregard to the GLAAD Media Reference Guide, 7th Edition which defines Defamatory Language "fag," "faggot," "dyke," "homo," "sodomite," "queen," "she-male," "he-she," "it," "tranny" and similar epithets. The criteria for using these derogatory terms should be the same as those applied to hate words for other groups: they should not be used except in a direct quote that reveals the bias of the person quoted. So that such words are not given credibility in the media, it is preferred that reporters say, "The person used a derogatory word for a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person." Secondly. Why do you consider a man the authority on transgender people? Would you consider it a fair judgement of lets say Rick Warren that you should not be allowed fair and just treatment? Would you think it would be unethical for me to promote Rick Warrens view of homosexuality as what you can "Own"?? Or is it the person with the largest stick wins like the time GLAAD intervened? "Okay, Let me put on my Judge Judy robe," RuPaul says. Exactly when RuPaul is done impersonating a woman for money he puts on men’s clothes. Thirdly. You take this issue which peoples well being in there daily lives is at stake and put in your entertainment section. This is a more than perfect example of transgender sterotyping for money. I hope that this helps you to understand as normally I am found working grass roots GLBT efforts regardless whether it benefits Transgender or Gay people. Marriage equality has been a huge concern of mine because so many of my personal friends and allies were so hurt by the removal of rights of the few by the majority. Sound familiar? Kelli Busey Transgender Woman of Faith planetransgender

  • , 2010-03-30 17:33:48

    "Sticks and stones - words will never hurt." And so therefore we should tolerate people using, say, the "N" word when talking about people of African descent, because it’s *only* a word? Let’s put "political correctness" into perspective, too. People of ethnic and racial minorities are covered by anti-discrimination laws and have been seen in an increasingly favorable light by the media and the general public, starting in the late 60s. Gay people are starting to be covered by such laws and are being seen in an increasingly favorable light by the media and the general public starting in the 1990s. Trans people are still a bargaining chip in ENDA and it’s still okay to make fun of us in the media for a cheap laugh despite our having the highest per capita hate crime rate of any minority group. In other words, it’s not a matter of political correctness, it’s a matter of survival. And when you don’t have the luxury of taking off your drag and blending into a larger community, then of course it gets very, very personal.

  • Leynda Erwin, 2010-04-26 09:52:33

    Mr Writer; Have you no concept of hurt? When you choose to listen to someone who doesn’t live the life of those to whom referent is made, you do a grave disservice. When you write about derogatory terms, you really should ask the people to whom the term is used against and by. I certainly wouldn’t use the epithet Ni**er as I consider it highly derogatory, even when used by those who think it is only theirs to use. And in my much younger days I would use it, used it against a white boy for acting as an ignorant fool. I wouldn’t (and never have)use the terms derogatory for Hispanics, Children of Israel, French, Chinese, Japanese, or any other name you may think of. I learned that most do not fit the stereotype the term engenders. Considering the term "Tr**ie", I am not a car part, and do not like it that a drag queen thinks IT can say that I am something I am not. Hey Ru! How does it feel to be reminded that you came from a time when you were an "it" instead of a human being? If you don’t like it, don’t do it. I am a human being, a woman with a birth defect, and all those who write like this reporter, and those who say it’s a choice, are trying to put me into a grave by denying me the medical aid I and mine need, and treating us as animals to be abused and put down. Make up your collective minds: Are we human? Do we deserve to live a life of love and productivity? Would you hate your child for trying to be herself? Do you truly know what it means to really love from the heart? Are YOU human? Stop. Feel. Think. Ask. We want you to learn, because then you will help us achieve our denied rights. ENDA is only a small portion of our needs, to stop the bigotry, the prejudice, the hate, the abuse. Will you join us for love, or the others for hate? Choose. And know you are responsible for the answer to these questions, and how you relate to us from now on.

  • , 2010-11-15 19:39:53

    Perhaps instead putting on his Judge Judy robe, how about Judge Wapner’s? Ru, I really wish you would actually sit with a reporter and show that you understand the difference between a drag queen, and a transsexual woman. I’m not doing an impression, Ru. I was doing one for many years, prior to my transitioning and surgery, but I am not doing one now. I’m waiting. Ru. Tick tock, Final Jeopardy theme time. Time’s up. I think I will speak for myself, thank you very much.

  • , 2010-11-15 22:22:46

    RuPaul is a tool who doesn’t speak for the trans community. Just because he is fine with degrading transpeople, doesn’t mean we have to take it. It is NOT a word to reclaim. Since words are just words, let the f*g and the Dallas Voice shove it. We are not here to be degraded anymore.

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