What’s In A Word? Context, Ya Fag!

June 15, 2007 ·

I know I have this obsession with words. I’ve never particularly liked Queerty.com because it’s posts on transfolk generally border on bad taste/transphobia. The most recent edition sports this headline:

queerty.jpg

When I think of the use of the word tranny, I think of the words of George Carlin:

[kml_flashembed movie=”http://lads.myspace.com/videos/vplayer.swf” width=”430″ height=”346″ fvars=”m=598001949;type=video”/]

The point being, if you are a transgender person and you say tranny, it’s acceptable because the intent isn’t negative or hateful. But if your not, it’s a bigoted and derogatory thing to say. My son is gay, and I hear him call his gay friends “homo and fag” all the time. I know he’s not homophobic, BECAUSE HE’S GAY!

“You throw that football like a girl!” The previous sentence has no “fag,” no “queer,” or any other “bad word” in it. But the connotation is that being a women are weak, frail, and unable to physically throw a football. It is the person saying the words and the context that they are used that make them “good” or “bad” words.

While I don’t suggest that anyone should use words like fag, tranny, or any other “tainted” words, I don’t think that when they are used by someone in target group the word is supposed to represent, they aren’t meant to hurt.

As always, context is king.

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  1. Yeah, thanks for this. I’ve been unsure of the status of “tranny”–I get that it’s casual and often used offensively, but I wasn’t sure whether it had reached the point of, say, “dyke” –which I’m okay with friendly non-lesbians using in the right context; it’s hard not to say “The Dyke March” otherwise.

    for whatever reason, “fag” doesn’t strike me as nearly as mainstream’d yet.

    whereas “queer,” depending on your generation and locale (mostly, i think), is pretty much at the point of “descriptive, not a slur.”–although, again, you ask some people and it’s -highly- offensive and we shouldn’t be using it at all.

    hm.

  2. Yeah, thanks for this. I’ve been unsure of the status of “tranny”–I get that it’s casual and often used offensively, but I wasn’t sure whether it had reached the point of, say, “dyke” –which I’m okay with friendly non-lesbians using in the right context; it’s hard not to say “The Dyke March” otherwise.

    for whatever reason, “fag” doesn’t strike me as nearly as mainstream’d yet.

    whereas “queer,” depending on your generation and locale (mostly, i think), is pretty much at the point of “descriptive, not a slur.”–although, again, you ask some people and it’s -highly- offensive and we shouldn’t be using it at all.

    hm.

  3. “Internalized oppression is something that I’ve seen and heard and done to myself and other women. We all do it if we have any sort of relative privilege. And a homosexual person using a slur is, IMO, a form of it, with or without context.”

    Typically though it’s not the same kind of hatred and the intent isn’t to harm you. No? There are degrees to everything. I don’t think it’s positive to use these slurs, but I don’t think has anything close to the same kind of hatred and vitriol attached to it that someone not in the target has.

    “I won’t call transgendered friends “trannies” b/c I don’t like being called a “bitch” or whatever other slur could be used to describe me, I don’t like to hear my friends refer to themselves using words and frases that The Man has coined.”

    If this were a church, I’d be screaming amen right now.

    Slut is a word that I won’t use, because I believe it’s filled with patriarchal judgment of women’s sex lives.

    “But I’m a radical feminist, so I gotsta be crazy, huh?”

    Is that a requirement now? 😉

    Seriously, I’m glad you’re here. The ruling class has always oppressed the minority by dividing them and causing division among them.

    Even though I might not agree with you, as long as the discussion is civil and positive, it can move us forward together.

    Oh, and welcome!

  4. “Internalized oppression is something that I’ve seen and heard and done to myself and other women. We all do it if we have any sort of relative privilege. And a homosexual person using a slur is, IMO, a form of it, with or without context.”

    Typically though it’s not the same kind of hatred and the intent isn’t to harm you. No? There are degrees to everything. I don’t think it’s positive to use these slurs, but I don’t think has anything close to the same kind of hatred and vitriol attached to it that someone not in the target has.

    “I won’t call transgendered friends “trannies” b/c I don’t like being called a “bitch” or whatever other slur could be used to describe me, I don’t like to hear my friends refer to themselves using words and frases that The Man has coined.”

    If this were a church, I’d be screaming amen right now.

    Slut is a word that I won’t use, because I believe it’s filled with patriarchal judgment of women’s sex lives.

    “But I’m a radical feminist, so I gotsta be crazy, huh?”

    Is that a requirement now? 😉

    Seriously, I’m glad you’re here. The ruling class has always oppressed the minority by dividing them and causing division among them.

    Even though I might not agree with you, as long as the discussion is civil and positive, it can move us forward together.

    Oh, and welcome!

  5. Well.

    Internalized oppression is something that I’ve seen and heard and done to myself and other women. We all do it if we have any sort of relative privilege. And a homosexual person using a slur is, IMO, a form of it, with or without context.

    I won’t call transgendered friends “trannies” b/c I don’t like being called a “bitch” or whatever other slur could be used to describe me, I don’t like to hear my friends refer to themselves using words and frases that The Man has coined.

    I realize that we live in fucked-up, nihilistic times where everybody’s concerned with being cool and hip and tragic and nilistic and ironic and all that crap. So I pick my battles, I guess. Dunno.

    But it does stick out to me. The oppress tend to do a lot of grunt work for their oppressors, I’ve found, and reifying these “stereotypes” in an effort to “reclaim” them is, IMO, doing just that.

    But I’m a radical feminist, so I gotsta be crazy, huh?

  6. Well.

    Internalized oppression is something that I’ve seen and heard and done to myself and other women. We all do it if we have any sort of relative privilege. And a homosexual person using a slur is, IMO, a form of it, with or without context.

    I won’t call transgendered friends “trannies” b/c I don’t like being called a “bitch” or whatever other slur could be used to describe me, I don’t like to hear my friends refer to themselves using words and frases that The Man has coined.

    I realize that we live in fucked-up, nihilistic times where everybody’s concerned with being cool and hip and tragic and nilistic and ironic and all that crap. So I pick my battles, I guess. Dunno.

    But it does stick out to me. The oppress tend to do a lot of grunt work for their oppressors, I’ve found, and reifying these “stereotypes” in an effort to “reclaim” them is, IMO, doing just that.

    But I’m a radical feminist, so I gotsta be crazy, huh?

  7. I have to agree with Sabrinastar….She-male always brings to mind lurid ads in the back of the City Paper.

  8. I have to agree with Sabrinastar….She-male always brings to mind lurid ads in the back of the City Paper.

  9. Hmm, i’ve never personally hated the word “tranny.” Though i know it upsets some of my trans brothers and sisters, so i have started to lay off of it.

    “She-male” is a different story though. I can’t think of a time i’ve ever seen this word used in an acceptable fashion. Transfolk never use it.

  10. Hmm, i’ve never personally hated the word “tranny.” Though i know it upsets some of my trans brothers and sisters, so i have started to lay off of it.

    “She-male” is a different story though. I can’t think of a time i’ve ever seen this word used in an acceptable fashion. Transfolk never use it.

  11. “Or another example…someone could be gay and believe that gay people are going to hell unless they are celibate, and that person might be open about the fact that they have homosexual attractions and don’t act on them…I’d definitely call that person homophobic.”

    I disagree. That is an actual reasoned exegesis of homosexuality in the Bible. I may not agree with it, but is believable when applied to scripture.

    Homophobia is prejudice against (fear or dislike of) homosexual people and homosexuality. It isn’t being caddy. It isn’t being bitchy. It’s hating someone because of prejudice judgments.

  12. “Or another example…someone could be gay and believe that gay people are going to hell unless they are celibate, and that person might be open about the fact that they have homosexual attractions and don’t act on them…I’d definitely call that person homophobic.”

    I disagree. That is an actual reasoned exegesis of homosexuality in the Bible. I may not agree with it, but is believable when applied to scripture.

    Homophobia is prejudice against (fear or dislike of) homosexual people and homosexuality. It isn’t being caddy. It isn’t being bitchy. It’s hating someone because of prejudice judgments.

  13. Or another example…someone could be gay and believe that gay people are going to hell unless they are celibate, and that person might be open about the fact that they have homosexual attractions and don’t act on them…I’d definitely call that person homophobic.

  14. Or another example…someone could be gay and believe that gay people are going to hell unless they are celibate, and that person might be open about the fact that they have homosexual attractions and don’t act on them…I’d definitely call that person homophobic.

  15. I think you’re splitting hairs, Marti. If a str8-acting gay guy uses something like “faggot”, etc. to describe an effeminate gay guy or if a butch gets called a man or has her gender questioned by another GLBT person it certainly is homophobia, just a slightly different flavor of it than what some might be used to from str8s.

  16. I think you’re splitting hairs, Marti. If a str8-acting gay guy uses something like “faggot”, etc. to describe an effeminate gay guy or if a butch gets called a man or has her gender questioned by another GLBT person it certainly is homophobia, just a slightly different flavor of it than what some might be used to from str8s.

  17. Becky, I said a scenario… not what you’ve heard. Without the context that you heard it in, it’s just hearsay.

    “An example that comes to mind would be a gender-normative gay man calling a feminine gay a “fag” as an insult.”

    See, that’s EXACTLY what I’m pointing out. That kind of comment isn’t anywhere near someone yelling out a window “you fucking faggot.” A masculine gay man calling someone a nelly fag, isn’t homophobic, even though it is negative.

  18. Becky, I said a scenario… not what you’ve heard. Without the context that you heard it in, it’s just hearsay.

    “An example that comes to mind would be a gender-normative gay man calling a feminine gay a “fag” as an insult.”

    See, that’s EXACTLY what I’m pointing out. That kind of comment isn’t anywhere near someone yelling out a window “you fucking faggot.” A masculine gay man calling someone a nelly fag, isn’t homophobic, even though it is negative.

  19. An example that comes to mind would be a gender-normative gay man calling a feminine gay a “fag” as an insult.

  20. An example that comes to mind would be a gender-normative gay man calling a feminine gay a “fag” as an insult.

  21. If you think that’s the case, can you give us a scenario? I’ve NEVER heard a self confessed gay or lesbian person make a joke against their own group to someone that isn’t IN the group.

  22. If you think that’s the case, can you give us a scenario? I’ve NEVER heard a self confessed gay or lesbian person make a joke against their own group to someone that isn’t IN the group.

  23. If you think that’s the case, can you give us a scenario? I’ve NEVER heard a self confessed gay or lesbian person make a joke against their own group to someone that isn’t IN the group.

  24. I disagree Marti. I think there can be plenty of situations where an openly gay person would make a homophobic remark, particularly if they must function within a homophobic environment. Context is indeed king here, as is location, location, location.

    These kinds of things are never easily generalized…

  25. I disagree Marti. I think there can be plenty of situations where an openly gay person would make a homophobic remark, particularly if they must function within a homophobic environment. Context is indeed king here, as is location, location, location.

    These kinds of things are never easily generalized…

  26. “So you don’t think someone can be gay AND homophobic?”

    In the context of calling another person a “fag?” No. I can’t see any context where someone would make homophobic comments that are openly gay.

  27. “So you don’t think someone can be gay AND homophobic?”

    In the context of calling another person a “fag?” No. I can’t see any context where someone would make homophobic comments that are openly gay.

  28. Well as a woman, I’ve told other people they throw like girls, which is a great way to show my contempt for someone thinking sex means anything as it relates to sports in that context.

  29. Well as a woman, I’ve told other people they throw like girls, which is a great way to show my contempt for someone thinking sex means anything as it relates to sports in that context.