I am 40 and proud to identify as a queer, tranny, fag. This doesn't sit well with my queer elders who would sooner slap my hand than hear me describing them by a word that had horrible implications when they were coming of age. Regarding my sexuality, as a gay man I grew up hearing the word fag thrown at me in contempt and would cringe every time until I decided to reclaim it. Now I use it as a run-of-the-mill term to describe gay men. Sometimes, I still hear a sideways "fag" slurred out of somebody's mouth to which I stop, snap my fingers and say, "proud to be one" or some other affirmative statement to let people know it doesn't sting. "If you're trying to insult me, you'll have to do a lot better than that because I AM a fag. (The same logic applies to the word "cocksucker" which I can't believe has been used in an attempt to insult fags. It sounds like an accurate descriptor of our behavior to me-- at least it is in my experience. But I digress/)
I may be a fag but it's not the sum of my parts. Gay boys or men can be quite clueless, misogynist and full of internalized homophobia which they demonstrate by their heterosexist interpretations of self-expression, i.e str8 acting and butch. I scoff at that because it seems so limiting to me. I believe that gender is a social construction open to interpretation. I have no problem shopping in the women's department for clothes because they often fit me better and have a better selection of cute. I've been getting my eyebrows waxed, lashes tinted and body hair eradicated long before the birth of the metrosexual. My sex is male but my gender can be either based on what I am wearing or how much of a swish there is in my step on any particular day. My gender transcends traditional either/or binary polarities because no one could tell where to place me. "Are you a boy or a girl?", says the child standing in front of me in the supermarket line. As the parent shusshes them and backpedals in embarrassment, I laugh and acknowledge that it happens all of the time. "You can't wear that because it's for girls," they chime. "Why not? Who says?" I challenge back. I gave up living by those rules a long time ago and for that reason am fully culturally competent and qualified to exercise the vernacular in the lexicon of the subculture. I was called to task for describing some long time, transgender activists in San Francisco as trannies. I live in San Francisco's Tenderloin where transgender "working girls" fought back the cops in a riot at Comptons Cafeteria one hot August night in 1966 that set off the modern gay rights movement only to be swept under the rug and usurped by Stonewall in public consciousness. There have been recent commemorative events taking place in the SF GLBT History Museum to honor these forebears of our culture which I have documented on Youtube and Amazon et al. I used the term Tenderloin trannies to describe the women who fought back that night and was taken to task by one of the three surviving members.. She is of the Baby Boomer generation and a year younger than my own mother. I respect my elders and was not offended when she brought her objections to me describing her as a trannie. That's how I describe myself so it certainly wasn't meant disparagingly. I wanted to let her know where I was coming from in my reply.
"Well thank you for telling me. I will change the term on what I have written and understand you also don't like the word queer. I will respect your feelings about this language but please understand, I'm not coming at this from the POV of some clueless fag. I've always identified more with the "girls" than the gay boys which I call fags. I've reclaimed that word and use it to describe gay men. When I was in my 20s I used to present myself very ambiguously and was always mistaken to be a girl (by design) or described as androgynous. I never took offense to the word trannie because to me, it's just a shortened version of trans-- which is the prefix for many words that apply to me such as transgender,which identifies me because my gender presentation transcends traditional binary gender polarities. I don't live in a world governed by what men are supposed to do or look like. I wear girl's clothing if I find something cute as well as makeup. I believe that gender is a social construction and can be transitional and fluid. That being said, I will respect your feelings about the words because you are coming from a different frame of reference. I just wanted to let you know that I was not being culturally incompetent because I do consider myself as having earned the right to say trannie because of where I live on the gender divide. It's clearly a generational thing and that's okay. Thank you for letting me know how you feel. I am very happy to know you.."
I'm actually honored to know her because I respect and am completely awestruck by what she and those other queens went through. She feels that it's disrespectful but admittedly, it's a kinder, gentler world for my generation of GLBTs because of what hers went through. Christian Siriano of Project Runway has brought the word trannie into vogue so much that it's thrown around on Saturday Night Live. I'm a trannie. I am more than male inside my head. On a physical/sexual level, I am very in touch with my boy parts and the way I use them to connect with men. On a mental level, I'm a combination of yin/yang masc.fem and don't feel the need to pick one predominantly in either direction. I trans-cend it. I am trans-itive. Trans-gender. That sounds pretty trannie to me.