Calpernia Addams

Trans Language Controversy Overview: Shemale, Tranny and Who Controls Our Words

Amber responds to Calpernia

Parker Molloy, Advocate.com and The State of (Online) Trans Activism

(Pictured above is “Amber“, my years-old parody of outsiders who use words like “tranny” intending to hurt. Banning words precludes commentary, comedy, academic discussion and individually chosen and claimed identities. Banning words is burning books, one word at a time.)

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“Fuck Jen Richards” “Some dipshit who hosts a little support group for 15 people doesn’t have anything on half a million readers a month.”

Update: Eventually she seems to have been dismissed from writing for TheAdvocate.com, though now it appears a few websites focusing on women’s issues have taken her on as a writer.

Update: October 9th, 2014: A new source reveals what are presented as messages from Advocate.com freelancer Parker Molloy containing misogynistic slurs and threats to withold coverage in Advocate.com if she is not awarded a place on Chicago activist Jen Richards’ “Trans 100” list. As of this date, Molloy is still employed at Advocate.com.

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Parker Marie Molloy to journalist: “DRINK BLEACH” “CUT YOURSELF” (Click for larger image)

Update August 24, 2014: New photos reveal TheAdvocate.com writer Parker Molloy, who has been at the center of this controversy as a vocal detractor of the “slur” “tranny” as a possible trigger for suicide and violence, called an aspiring journalist a “STUPID CUNT” and then told her to “CUT YOURSELF” and “DRINK BLEACH”. Sources fearing similar attacks have privately told me this is typical of some of Molloy’s interactions with detractors. Hate, rage and hypocrisy are descriptors that come to mind regarding what I’ve read publicly and privately. Judge for yourself. By the way, telling someone to “drink bleach” is a mockery of the suicide of bullied teen Amanda Todd. Molloy received a one month suspension.

#TrannyGate 2014

I do not use or identify with the words “tranny” or “shemale” outside of discussion, but I stand against policing language, culture and the identity of others. This stance led to a massive debate on trans identity and revealed deeply troubling policies at Advocate.com in 2014

In 2014 I wrote a series of Op-Ed pieces hopscotching from my response to criticism of my work with actor Jared Leto on his Academy Award winning portrayal of trans character “Rayon”, to my analysis of being misgendered by an Advocate.com freelance writer responding to my Op-Ed, to an overview of what I view as a new wave of thought police entering the world of online LGBT activism. Additionally, several transsexual women who I admire wrote on the surrounding debate and related topics.

My primary critic was blogger Parker Molloy, writing for the separately managed Advocate.com blog edition of iconic LGBT print magazine The Advocate. After misgendering me and putting my trans identity into question in her critique of Jared Leto, I encountered a truly surprising hesitance to correct the slurs and receive a public apology when I contacted Lucas Grindley, Advocate.com’s VP and Editorial Director. Five bewilderingly slow-moving emails later, the slur was retracted as an “error”, with no public mention of the flabbergasting breach of respect that occurred. Refusing my request to continue the conversation on the phone or in person, Grindley , News Editor Sunnivie Brydum and Molloy simply moved forward as if nothing had happened.

My interactions with The Advocate reach back to the late 90’s/early 2000’s, and have been nothing but respectful. I was stunned at the attitudes I encountered from the online staff.

My response to this on the Huffinton Post unleashed a firestorm of attacks from Molloy’s supporters, including unprofessional public heckling from (VP of Advocate.com!) Grindley and Brydum on Twitter. Information poured in from private sources too afraid of similar bullying by Molloy, her online supporters and highly-placed individuals like Grindley and Brydum. These messages, sent in confidence, painted a very dark picture of Molloy’s rage, misogyny and hatred. As the debate has escalated, some witnesses have finally come forward publicly with details. I know that more exist.

Lashing out from a baseline of negative, attacking “journalism”, Molloy’s encouragement of suicide, self harm, journalistic payola and misogyny are apparently still within acceptable limits for Advocate.com, where as of October 9th, 2014, she continues to work as a writer ironically covering violence and crime against LGBT people. The continued support of their most controversial freelancer raises many questions about the journalistic culture at Advocate.com. The larger debate has raised many questions about the state of trans activism in general, especially as done online.

What more would it take for Grindley to choose to honor The Advocate’s legacy and hire writers who enhance the LGBT narrative rather than besmirch it? Do we want to wait for that next escalation to happen? Ask Advocate.com yourself: http://www.advocate.com/contact

In my writing here, I note the striking observation that many of my most ardent critics in the debate of trans identity in the media have been trans women who were socialized for the majority of their lives as heterosexual white males, and who continue to date women. This is by no means a denouncement of lesbian women, trans or otherwise. My history in the community makes it clear that I have a great connection with the lesbian community. I am simply recognizing a standout spike in this demographic amongst my critics, and am very interested in understanding why this is so.

There may be some uncomfortable ideas expressed in these articles, but the language used is measured and calm, with no malice intended. Any provably false information will be gladly removed or revised. This post is a response to and an overview of an ongoing situation, which I can reference when people ask me “what is all the fuss about?”

(Summaries by me)

Click READ MORE for summaries, context and commentary on these articles by or about me, Andrea James, Our Lady J, Jayne County, The GLAAD board of directors and related topics.

A very broad summary of the points I made in my writing: TL;DR

This is an evolving document. My mind can be changed by cogent argument, I am open to education and new information. I am not perfect. But I strongly believe the things I’ve written below, based on decades of thoughtfully considered personal experience and research.

Philosophy

I believe in building bridges between communities. I believe in knowing our history. I believe in an individual’s right to self-identify how they wish. I believe that trans actors should get trans roles, but in cases where the Hollywood machine steamrolls over that possibility, I believe in minimizing the damage and salvaging something from the portrayal. I believe in art, comedy, parody and tolerance. I do not believe in censorship, thought policing or word policing in art.

For the record: some often marginalized identities I support are LGBTQQI, non-gender-binary, non-op trans, sex-positive, sex workers, drag queens, gender rebels, gender queers, asexuals and many others.

Language

I do not care for, or use the words “tranny” or “shemale” to identify myself or others. I was glad that “RuPaul’s Drag Race” simplified things by ceasing use of the words. But I do not believe that transsexual women own the experience of gender crossing, nor the right to dictate the language of self-identification that other communities have built around their experience of gender crossing. Thus, I believe that drag queens, cross dressers and even those transsexual women who choose to, have the right to self-identify with and use the word “tranny” amongst and about themselves. Though I consider it personally distasteful, I believe people have the right to self-identify with the word “shemale”, too.

Identity

I love “drag queens”, but have never identified as a “drag queen” since my legal and medical transition in the early 2000’s because “drag queen” is traditionally accepted to mean a man who dresses as a woman for entertainment purposes. Though there are some trans entertainers who co-self-identify as such, and some non-trans women who joke that they look like drag queens, I personally have never identified as such since my transition in the early 2000’s. Though I have been called a “drag queen” by detractors because I sometimes work alongside them, working alongside someone does not confer their identity onto me. If trans women working alongside men of a different sexuality had that gender identity and sexuailty conferred onto them, my sisters who work in tech, sports or other male-dominated fields would soon find themselves in trouble. Thankfully, that is not the case.

Dictating Culture

I believe that commentators with little experience in the queer community have an obligation to be as educated and circumspect as possible when seeking to police and dictate queer culture. Ie: I believe someone only a few years into the current, hard-won, history-rich queer community has an obligation to be as educated and circumspect as possible when commenting on or policing queer culture if they have previously lived for decades under the protective, nurturing mantle of any or all of the following: heteronormative, white, perceived-as-male, upper-class privilege.

Response to my writing

The response was overwhelmingly supportive, with many expressing an exhaustion at the escalation of separatism in the LGBT population, with language policing at the forefront. But as evidenced in the comments sections of these articles, a contingent of trans women were furious at challenges to their privilege and their right to dictate queer language used by other people. Newly emboldened, it became clear that they’d been desperate to come out with their disgust toward drag queens (a classification they also apply to transsexual women who maintain a presence in the gay community), gay male culture and trans women who did not fit their narrow, historically ignorant standards.

After much mischaracterization of my writing from some who were uncomfortable with my positions but unable to respond in a civil manner, here are links and an excerpt for each piece which says something I feel is meaningful. The authors or subjects are mostly trans people with long experience in the trans and queer communities, a strong commitment to free speech and artistic expression and significant contributions to LGBT culture in the real, offline world. All of them have expressed their gender identity in unique ways. Though I may not agree with every single point these writers make, I consider these women much more “my tribe” than any hateful writer or commenter who would dismantle 50 years of queer culture in a misguided grab for individual power over our shared language and identities:

In Defense of Jared Leto

By Calpernia Addams for TheAdvocate.com

My job was to sit down with him and answer lots of questions about what it’s like to be trans and to make a recording of me reading his lines from the script. From there, Jared did Jared’s thing: A brilliant, eccentric artist created his own portrayal of a movie character, which, in this case, happened to be some form of trans. His follow-up speeches left something to be desired when it came to speaking well on the issues facing his character, especially against the backdrop of current politics and social movements. I suppose it’s doubly rare to be a gifted artist and a great political speaker. But personally, I thought Rayon seemed like a nice person and a real human being. I’ve known people like Rayon.

Anyone who’s followed my 11 years in Hollywood knows that I’ve always advocated for trans people to play trans roles. But I also refuse to shoot down powerful people who take steps to bring human trans portrayals to the screen, even if they are played by nontrans females (Felicity Huffman in Transamerica, Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry) or a nontrans male (Lee Pace in Soldier’s Girl, Jared in Dallas Buyers Club). To all indications, Georges du Fresne was not a trans child when he played Ludovic in Ma Vie En Rose, but that incredible film continues to resonate with trans people and families of trans children. Good and important portrayals can come from nontrans actors.

Sorry if that is an inconvenient truth, but there you have it.

Notably, most of the same trans lesbian women decrying my work with Jared have been ecstatically supportive of Jeffrey Tambour’s trans-lesbian “Transparent” character.

Read Full Jared Leto Article

Parker Marie Molloy’s Transphobic and Homophobic Slurs Don’t Matter, but Our Response Does

By Calpernia Addams for The Huffington Post

(Ms. Molloy has been a longtime detractor of my work directly, beginning at least when I worked on casting a trans reality series focusing on fashion and beauty, and a detractor of “drag-queen-esque” trans women overall)

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Molloy’s original Advocate.com passage misgendering and slurring me. After a few emails from me, Advocate.com did edit the transphobic slurs without comment or apology, and the original piece was scrubbed from online archives. After another email, they added a notation that the slurs were removed. After more emails, they added that The Advocate “regrets the error.” Whew!

A few weeks ago newcomer to transition and lesbian/trans issues Parker Marie Molloy purposefully misgendered me and called into question my identity as female in an op-ed piece for Advocate.com by calling me a “drag queen” and saying that I “[refer] to [myself] as ‘a transsexual.'” Apparently she’s expressed similar sentiments about Carmen Carrera and others. I was freshly returned from speaking at Oxford University and recording my acoustic LP in London, so I filed the incident under “See If This Still Matters to You in a Few Days” and resumed my busy life here in Los Angeles.

I wasn’t sure who Molloy was, but I assumed that she was another one of the nutty trans hacktivists who had been “triggered” by the buzz generated when Jared Leto thanked me in his Oscars acceptance speech. A small but vocal handful of new transitioners are particularly horrified by my love for the gay community and my willingness to cooperate toward shared goals rather than demand and grab what I want. All these angry, attacking women seem to share certain telling characteristics. Perhaps conditioned to bully and take by a lifetime of white, heterosexual, male privilege in academia and business, these women seem to relish the co-opting of yet another source of power: Often in only a year or two, they drop the mantle of white, straight, male privilege, having wrung every benefit that a 20- to 30-year-old person can from it, and take up the currently unassailable position of being a queer female with all the zeal of a new conqueror. What’s the thing they rail against when not decrying other trans people? “Cis-het privilege”?

Read Full Response to Parker Molloy Misgendering Calpernia Article

(NOTE: Molloy apologized later that “I took offense”, via Twitter, but I did not consider the apology genuine for several reasons and so I did not accept it.)

“I F*cking Hate @RuPaul”

by Andrea James for BoingBoing.net. Cited by journalistic tastemakerJim Romenesko

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Parker Molloy Expresses Hate for RuPaul on Twitter

Normally, a journalist making this pronouncement wouldn’t also report “objectively” about RuPaul that same day, but editors at LGBT website Advocate.com think this lack of ethics and professionalism by writer Parker Molloy is A-OK. It perfectly summarizes the current state of post-disruption journalism and its unhealthy addiction to Twitter, as well as the brain drain that has happened in LGBT media.

………

Among the most problematic behaviors by trans separatists like Molloy is use of the term drag queen as a transphobic slur against other trans women whose politics they don’t like, including Addams and trans model Carmen Carrera. Carerra appeared on RuPaul’s Drag Race prior to transition, so she is compromised and complicated from a separatist’s point of view. After I complained privately to Advocate.com editor Lucas Grindley about Molloy’s recent deliberate slurs against Calpernia, Grindley claimed Molloy’s attack was merely an “error.” Calling assimilated transgender people drag queens or crossdressers is a transphobic slur as time-honored as using their old names or former gender pronouns as insults. As I patiently explained to Grindley, if I publish a piece reporting that “Parker Molloy is a self-hating skin transvestite,” then tweet a half-assed non-apology, my use of a transphobic slur is not an error. It would be neither journalistic nor ethical, and more reputable editors would consider it a firing offense. Grindley has refused to speak with me by phone, and has refused to meet with me in person, and has refused to let me run an op-ed (hence this piece). I tried every avenue to resolve this dispute like professional journalists. Grindley is apparently too busy heckling Calpernia on Twitter about “Ugly Hearts,” her typically sweet and quirky song about internet bullying. Turns out Grindley is just further evidence of the heckler-as-journalist trend.

Read full I Fucking Hate RuPaul Article

Burning Books, One Word at a Time: The New LGBT Thought Police

By Calpernia Addams for The Advocate (Print Edition)

Appropriated academic lingo is the weapon of choice for in-community censors and thought police. These arriviste extremists have weaponized terminology like cisgender, created in the sterile labs of academia for use in the classroom, and plundered other established social movements for an arsenal of response-silencing buzzwords like privilege checking that all create the same result: intimidation at the threat of being labeled a bigot by someone whose oppression outweighs your own.

………

I would never impose the labels tranny or shemale onto another person. But even if I don’t love them, I must acknowledge that some subcultures use those words to mean things that are important to them — gay men, drag queens, sex workers, and even some transsexual people. I don’t own those words.

It’s one thing to decide what you wish to be called. It’s another to seek to scrub words and identities from the lexicon, to snatch them from the hands of the people who created or claimed them before you were even born.

………

These words are not yours to control. You do not use them. You do not embody them. You did not create them. And you do not have the right to dictate how other members of our vast, diverse community may use them amongst themselves. I stand against censorship. I stand against the new thought police. I stand for art and self-determination.

Read the full Burning Books One Word at a Time article

RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Danger of Overpolicing Language

By Our Lady J for The Huffington Post

“Tranny,” “sissy,” “sex change,” and “she-male” are self-identifying slang words used by gender-nonconforming people — mostly performers, artists, sex workers, and others considered to be living on the fringe of our queer community. Although we use these words playfully to relate, empower, and communicate, these words, like the word “gay,” are sometimes used to disrespect us.

When I first transitioned, I proudly identified as a “tranny” until people within the trans community told me the word was offensive to them. I complied but quickly realized that while striving to be accepted by the hetero-dominated world, the upper echelons of the trans community were trying to sweep the fringe under the rug by censoring the language with which they identify. In addition to banishing “tranny,” “sissy,” “sex change,” and “she-male” as slander, they insisted that the users of these words were the oppressors, making themselves the victims — a well-worn tool of manipulation and control.

As an artist, I love language, and I cherish free speech. RuPaul has been the number-one defender of these, and at the same time he continues to support every shade of queerness within our community, no matter the class. Drag is punk and should never be subjected to politically correct ideals. The moment it stops provoking is the moment it fails as an art form. Trans people are forever indebted to drag for the mainstream explosion of gender as we see it today.

Read the full RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Danger of Overpolicing Language article

Andrea James Interviewed by Radio Talk Show Host Rebecca Juro

Andrea granted Rebecca Juro an interview and responded eloquently to many of the mischaracterizations and false arguments put up in the wake of the controversy.

TS Madison Hinton, Sex Worker and Entrepreneur, Lays Out Her Right to Identify as a “Tranny” or a “Shemale”, and How She Feels About Being Told What Words She Can Use by “Activists”

Taking off my “classy lady” hat for a moment, all I can say is, “BITCH TRULY SAID THAT!!!” I can’t agree with every word Madison says, but she lays out these issues in an important way that will reach people uninterested by the drier writings on the topic.

 

Why was transgender punk icon Jayne County banned from Facebook?

By Amber Frost for Dangerous Minds

Punk pioneer, transexual trailblazer and Stonewall Riots veteran, Jayne County is a national treasure. However, the most recent coverage of County has not been on her legacy to punk rock or transgender history, but rather a petty bit of Internet activism. It appears the groundbreaking transexual foremother was banned from Facebook for 24 hours, presumably for her affectionate use of the word “tranny”—the exact phrase being, “I am having a party tonight and all my breeder, fag, dyke, tranny and shemale friends are invited!”

To call Jayne County an “icon” insinuates that she’s a paragon of her field, and that doesn’t quite do her justice—she just has too many fields. She came from Georgia to NYC in 1968, a draggy outsider hoping to find a more vibrant (and safer) community in the New York arts scene. New York was no picnic though, and Jayne quickly found herself fighting for gay rights in the Stonewall Riots. Before she was Jayne, she picked “Wayne County” as her nom d’arts alter-ego—a reference to her love for Detroit music. As Wayne she acted for Jackie Curtis, then onstage for Andy Warhol. By 1972 she had started an early protopunk band, Queen Elizabeth.

Read full Jayne County Banned from Facebook article at Dangerous Minds

The GLAAD Board’s “Tranny” Trouble

Andrea James bravely discusses the diversity problem on GLAAD’s board of directors: No trans men, no heterosexual trans women, and a minority of non-trans lesbian women and bisexual people. Maybe a more diverse board would better represent the actual zeitgeist of the queer population? While I like some of the work done by many of the board members, I’ve seen real shockers come out of the GLAAD board and GLAAD policy this year. Someone needs to ask these questions, and we deserve an answer.

General GLAAD Board facts, as of May 2014

• Bisexual people are significantly under-represented

• Gay men are over-represented at about twice actual ratio

• 19 of 24 members (~80%) were assigned and socialized as boys

Transgender-related GLAAD Board facts

• Transgender men are not represented

• Transgender straight people (gay/lesbian pre-transition) are not represented

• 44 percent of women are gynephilic trans women, about 11 times actual ratio

• No transgender GLAAD Board members are

• drag performers

• crossdressers

• transgenderists

• genderqueer

• All current transgender GLAAD Board members

• are white, middle-aged

• were socialized and identified as straight pre-transition

• married women pre-transition

• One current trans board member believes drag “achieves nothing of value.” Statistical source: UCLA Williams Institute, 2011.

Read the full The GLAAD Board’s “Tranny” Trouble article on QUEERTY here

 

Overview

The writing I did was deeply considered, based on nearly two decades in the community and it speaks for itself. But I’m putting up this information as a small clearinghouse and overview, after watching the poisonous backlash from a small but vocal segment of the trans population whose longstanding animosity toward so-called “drag-queen-esque” transsexual women and gay male culture has led to a thicket of Nerfy attacks on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, WordPress, Livejournal, Geocities and whatever other platform affords safe distance.

GLAAD board member Christina Kahrl joined a few hundred mostly white, younger trans women working in tech or academia in “signing” a blog post in support of the Advocate.com writer who misgendered me, calling for the silencing of myself and Andrea James. The post features numerous mischaracterizations dispelled by simply reading my Op-Eds. But yes, that’s a board member of the “Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation”, supporting someone who publicly misgendered a transsexual woman, and calling for my silencing when I sought to analyze and respond to the defamation. The original “open letter” calling for our silencing resides on a blog ironically called “freethought”.

By the by, a recent photo of my new haircut posted to Facebook on a whim has more likes than the bizarre “open letter” calling for my silencing has signatures at the time of this writing. Who will get the biggest number, my haircut or the “letter of silence”? I’m on the edge of my seat.

Just as in this video from 1973, a shameful group of people who should be building bridges is seeking de-platform, silence and reject trans women who don’t fit their criteria of who is “really” a woman or “really” a transsexual woman. Shame on these 1974 bigots, and shame on the newly arrived and newly revealed ones of today:
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