RuPaul approves ’tranny’

by Daniel A. Kusner

The Dallas Voice

Sunday February 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.

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