I spend a lot of time thinking about my beliefs and opinions. I am constantly listening to or reading what other people have to say and redefining myself if I hear something that changes my mind. I am open to learning and willing to admit when I have held an invalid belief. This happened to me today in fact. And I think it’s an important thing for me to recognize, discuss, and apologize for.
I have often, in jest, referred to myself as a “tranny”. I have referred to my friends the same way on occasion (never without them being Ok with it, I’m not a complete asshole!) And recently I’ve found that a lot of people hate the word. “Tranny” is offensive to damn near everyone I encounter in the Trans* community these days. I really had no idea that it was seen as a slur presently. I thought it had come the same way as “queer” and I felt like reclaiming it for myself. I’ve stopped using the word around most people now but I’ve also spent the past few months thinking everyone was being overly sensitive and that freaking out over something so trivial was ridiculous… until today. There was a discussion about various Trans* related terms and what everyone thought about them. “Tranny” inevitably came up and I thought “oh god… Here we go, people are going to get overly offended.” But I kept my mouth shut and listened because I didn’t have anything of value to say. And then, someone presented an argument that struck me hard.
“… The problem is, if someone like (name excluded) is taking the word “tranny” which we know is used against trans WOMEN, he shouldn’t be doing that. It’s wrong. That’s a word that a lot of trans women here before being assaulted, raped and even murdered. Its a very serious thing…. ”
One small paragraph, worded in a way that I hadn’t seen before and I finally realized where my former thinking had been wrong, about many things. I have heard before that “Tranny” is offensive but the best anyone could ever say when questioned about WHY it’s offensive is something similar to “it’s misogynistic, you’re a misogynist for using it, it’s hate speech, why are you so transphobic?!” I was lucky enough to know better than to use the word in a situation that would earn me that response, but I saw many people get slapped down with words very similar to that. It’s hardly a sound argument against the word, it’s just an attack. But finally, someone with a level head comes along and explains why it’s considered bad. I had never considered that it is, in fact, what a lot of us hear right before violence is perpetrated against us, Transwoman specifically. The word doesn’t have negative connotations to me, but it does for a lot of people and for very valid reasons. As a human being, I need to strive to speak in a manner that is non-offensive to others. The way the word makes me feel is irrelevant if it hurts someone else. I hadn’t quite realized that fully. I certainly wasn’t going around trying to offend people, I try very hard to be a decent person, but looking back I probably have caused some harm with my words, even if unintentionally. I cannot know who I may have hurt or offended, but I can publicly apologize (well, as public as this blog actually is… Which isn’t very much at this point.) And with that, I am truly sorry.
Hopefully there is something more to be learned from my revelation than just “don’t use the word tranny.” There is something equally important I hope to set an example for. Open-mindedness. We are often so quick to defend our thoughts and opinions that we refuse to listen to what anyone else has to say. We never want to say “oh shit… I was wrong and I’m sorry” because it’s so much easier to ignore everyone else and think we always have the right answer. I’m certainly guilty of that in the past, and I see it happen every day. But look what an open mind, a willingness to listen, whether we agree or not, and the ability to apologize can do. We need to learn, and be willing to change our opinions as needed when new information is presented. Popular opinion used to be that the world was flat, can you imagine if no one was willing to listen to the theories of a round planet? It may have gone against their beliefs, but people listened. It’s scary to think people seem less willing hear someone out now than in the 6th century BC.
Being open to listening to the opinions of others is only half the battle though. You also need to be someone worth listening to. Screaming and yelling rarely do any good, accusatory tones and statements make people believe you are not worth listening to. If you have an opinion, get some supporting evidence for your statements, be prepared to explain your stance, to educate people in a civil way. Don’t tell people they are wrong, show them they are wrong by proving you are right. If we leave the house tomorrow prepared to listen, learn, and educate in a civil and respectful manner, a lot of good could happen. And from now on, I want to see more good happening. I need to see it.
This blog is going to be developing into something much more broad than I had originally planned. There are a lot of things that I feel the need to ramble about but they are not always Trans* related. So, I won’t be limiting my posting to only Trans* topics, and I welcome ideas and questions about past and future writings I may have. I’d like to eventually do a monthly (or weekly if there are enough responses) Q&A. I will answer EVERY question sent to me (unless I get thousands… That’s not very likely, but I couldn’t answer them all at that point) so send in your questions about me, my blog, a topic I’ve written about, a topic you’d like me to write about, anything Trans* related, whatever you’d like. And I will post them with answers as soon as I have enough to make a decent post.