Sunday, April 06, 2008

An open letter to Christian Siriano: Time to retire "hot tranny mess"

(Cross-posted from Bilerico.)

Dear Christian,

I hope you're enjoying your new-found, and well-earned celebrity. It was refreshing to see a "Project Runway" contestant who's actually as talented as they thought themselves to be. And if you're brash... well, that's part of being 21-years-old.

I saw that you recently retired "fierce," and -- as someone who's trans (I'm a crossdresser who also performs as a drag queen) -- I'd like to ask you to retire your other catch phrase: "hot tranny mess."

I realize you probably started saying it to be hip and edgy. Maybe you even meant it affectionately in a snarky sort of way -- although you clearly intend it to refer to something tacky and ugly. But think about it. If straight folks started using "hot faggot mess" as a put-down, I suspect you'd be a bit peeved. (BTW, did I mention how adorable you look when you're miffed...?). And yes, it is a put-down, just in the same way that "that's so gay" is an offhand put-down straight kids use to describe something lame. As if being gay or being trans is sucky and something one ought to be ashamed of.

Or to put it another way- somehow I doubt you'd even think about using "hot n-word mess," yes?

I also just wanted to let you know that your use of the word "tranny" is treading on insensitive ground. Yes, some of us trans people do use the word "tranny." But there's a difference when a term that's often been an epithet gets reclaimed by members of the stigmatized group as a way of saying "yeah I am a [insert derogatory term here], wanna make something of it" -- and quite another when someone outside that group decides to fling it around carelessly.

I realize you probably don't mean it as a slur -- which is why I haven't given you my "hot tranniest look" (yet...). But the thing is, usually when most of us trans people hear the term "tranny" it's said by someone taunting us, threatening to beat us up, or even kill us. (So far in the first three months of this year, three other gender variant or trans people besides Lawrence King have been killed in apparent hate crimes. But you rarely hear about them, 'cause after all, we're just "trannies" -- nobody worth giving a damn about.)

Since you weren't exactly the most straight-acting kid in the class, I'm willing to bet you had people call you "faggot" in similar circumstances, so you understand how hearing an epithet can hurt, even if the speaker didn't mean anything by it.

As a celebrity -- like it or not -- what you do and say does influence people. And from what I'm seeing, "hot tranny mess" is becoming the latest "ain't it cool" thing to say in certain circles. I'm sure you'd much rather be remembered for your stunning designs than for creating a catch phrase that thoughtlessly hurts others.

You helped start and it. You can help stop it. The next time you do a talk show, let people know that you're retiring "hot tranny mess," and why. If Leno can do that, so can you.

But if you really want to keep using the word "tranny," why not use it describe something worth admiring -- I've even got a new catch-phrase for you: "hot tranny fabuliciousness."

Yours in fabuliciousness,
Lena Dahlstrom aka Joie de Vivre

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