An open letter, or ‘how I learned not to use the N word’

06Apr10

Last night I was stunned to read someone I considered a friend making a comment about someone he called a ‘post-op’. Now, this same friend has also used my old details in a public place and also made sleazy jokes about Lady Gaga’s genitalia, which I’ve also mentioned to him.

I read his tweet talking about Kat Von D from LA Ink, where he stated that the more he watches this programme, the more he reckons Kat Von D is a ‘post-op’. Now, what he’s supposing here is that in some way she’s masculine, but what he’s really doing is making one of the most offensive comments about trans people that it’s possible to make. Firstly I’ll deal with the term ‘post-op’ itself. This is a term that should never be used by the layman. A doctor would possibly have some reason to use it, in a sentence such as ‘post-operative care’, but nobody has any business using it. The reason? Well, it’s focusing on a person’s genital status rather than the person themselves. Think about Jewish and non-Jewish men. Would they ever be called ‘foreskin-men’ and ‘non-foreskin-men’? Or women having had a hysterectomy ‘post-uterus’ women?¬†Of course not, it’s offensive!

This brings me to another aside about using the word ‘tranny’. Someone asked me when it was ok to use this term, and the general rule is; never. It’s never ok to use this term. Some people don’t mind it and they can set their own boundaries as to its use, but no, you shouldn’t be using it. It’s a word loaded with prejudice and it’s used constantly to marginalise and dehumanise trans people. It’s also a word that comes from the world of pornography, so people using this term generally can be considered having had most of their education about trans people from pornography. Imagine someone’s opinions of women’s rights if a large proportion of their education about women came from pornography? When you think about terms such as ‘tranny’, or ‘pre-op’, think about the ‘n-word’. When can you use the n-word? That’s correct; you can’t. Some people do, but it’s people that have reclaimed that word when it was used against them. They’re the only people that can use that word and they use it in very specific terms. Just because you know of a word, doesn’t mean you can use it.

So, what was this person’s allusion with this comment? Well, what he was saying was that Kat Von D appears quite ‘masculine’. This then crashes right into the subject of oppositional sexism; predicating someone’s mannerisms, actions or behaviour to a person’s gender. It’s a lazy and ignorant attitude to call deep voices or aggression ‘masculine’ traits, and emotion, gentleness and soft voices ‘feminine’. I know plenty of feminine women that are aggressive, and plenty of masculine men that are emotional, softly-spoken and gentle. All of this aside, that part of his point is just fairly typical sexism. But what is he really saying with that comment?

We’re actually not even done yet!

Not only is he dehumanising someone by using a term such as ‘post-op’, not only is he pandering to oppositional sexist opinion, but he’s also suggesting that she’s still masculine. So even after being ‘post-op’, or what most cis people consider a trans person’s ultimate goal, even after she’s had all the operations and can go no further physically, then still she’s masculine. So he’s suggesting that there is no more that can be done to make this person more feminine. I was stunned to read such a ignorant, hurtful, hateful and terminally stupid comment come from someone I’ve met, hugged and considered a friend. I feel deeply ashamed and hurt that a person I trusted can write this filth about another human being. More so I’m upset that someone I considered a friend has joined the ranks of people that dehumanise me, that insult me without having to work out ‘what they did wrong’, that laugh at me and people like me when we deserve dignity and respect, and people that think it’s acceptable to make sleazy little comments about people for their own gain.

After thinking about this comment for a long while, I eventually sent a polite private message as a friend asking if he realised that it was deeply offensive. His response? Well to state publicly that if he ‘had to watch everything he said, he’d never say anything’. Well, if the type of thing you’re likely to say is hateful transphobic and sexist, then I’d suggest that – indeed – you should be saying nothing at all.



One Response to “An open letter, or ‘how I learned not to use the N word’”

  1. 1 R.

    Well said.


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