I’m circulating a petition asking a local business owner to meet and discuss a situation where an employee used the word “tranny.”
I’m encountering resistance from people who would prefer I not include the word “tranny” (even in quotes) because it offends them. It is vulgar. Or its so in their face. It is not appropriate.
They don’t like discrimination, they don’t. They don’t let their kids say “that’s so gay” and they treat people equally. They try to understand transsexuals and crossdressers and by no means do they think people should make fun of them. (Dripping sarcasm is mine.)
But, do I have to use the actual words when I send out my messages? Couldn’t I use something like “the t word” or “slur against transgender people” or something less in your face?
Sure, I could. But that’s the fucking point. Brandon at 7-Eleven wasn’t even necessarily about to slander the person he described as a “tranny” - he was using it to describe the person – the black guy, the blonde, the fat lady with the glasses, the “tranny” (note how I keep using quotes?) I don’t know what he meant because he literally ran away when I confronted him about it.
But if he said “the nigger” or “the cunt with the blond hair” or “gimp who wears a backpack” or “the retard who goes to that school up the street” or any of those things — what would your reaction be?
My reaction to just writing those words is quite visceral – I feel very uncomfortable with the idea of publishing this post. I want to add a dozen disclaimers about the words to make sure people don’t think I use those words. But I also believe I need to make a point.
It sucks to be called a tranny. It sucks that a local radio station has an entire event around the word. It sucks that people don’t begin to know the right words to use to describe your identity, so they use THAT as an excuse to either use a slur or simply ignore you. I can’t describe in too much depth how much it sucks because I am not a trans woman and I’ve not had that slur hurled at me to my knowledge.
But just a week ago, I was writing blog posts about a trans woman pulled from a river. Her body was mutilated by knife wounds. She was tied to a chunk of concrete and a metal pole. And “tranny” is probably one of the lesser atrocious comments people made about her.
So in spite of my discomfort about using the word “nigger” in a blog post, I’m doing it for Cemia Acoff and the two other trans women of color murdered in April. And the lady at the grocery store where I shop. And my friends. And Trish. And because I can. And I hate the fact that I need to use dead women to make this point. Dead women of color who are trans women. Do you even begin to get the connection between them and this employee at 7-Eleven?
And for me. Because the experience of having to explain to a woman what a “tranny” is (and spell it!) was eye-opening. I said “its like using fag or cunt or nigger” and she got it. And so did I – dancing around the words reduces the impact they have on our lives and the people we love.
So you can delete the email because it offends you to read the word “tranny” and shake your head at my crass behavior.
Or you can sign the petition because it offends you that people have to hear this word every single day.
Either way, if you think the word doesn’t belong on LinkedIn or Twitter or Facebook? That’s the point.
Jacob Nash of the Cleveland Transgender Community Outreach Committee has graciously kept our blog in the loop on the community’s response to Cemia Acoff’s death. Ce Ce’s funeral will be at Temple Baptist Church 1862 Noble Rd., East Cleveland, Ohio with calling hours at 10 with the funeral to follow at 10:30am. This all happens Monday, May 6.
Jacob shared his thoughts on the unfolding tragedy and the loss of a 20 year old member of our community.
“It saddens me that many of the news outlets are still misgendering Ce Ce as well as not recognizing the hurtful nature of doing so and the affect it has on the transgender community. This could be a great learning opportunity for reporters if they would only reach out to us so we could work together to rectify the situation. This is not just a victim of a horrendous crime but someone’s child who is being dragged through the mud and the family is already hurting as it is. This needs to be stopped and people need to be educated.”
I’m going to withhold further personal comment on the media situation and remain focused on the funeral arrangements – a concrete way Cemia’s family – her LGBTQ family – can help ease some of the pain and support the folks in Cleveland who are in the trenches on this one.
Again, you can help with a modest donation to pay for the funeral expenses – TransOhio is collecting funds via PayPal.
It is my understanding that the Cleveland Plain Dealer has agreed to meet with GLAAD and local trans activists to discuss their coverage of the murder of Cemia Acoff.
Then, last night, I saw this piece which actually has some good news – the FBI working with local police have made an arrest in the murder according to the Sun News.
A Parma man was arrested this morning for the murder of Carl Edward Acoff, Jr., the 20-year-old man whose body was found in a pond on Mackenzie Road April 17.
Andre L. Bridges, 36, is being held in Olmsted Township jail following his arrest by Olmsted Township police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation Fugitive Task Force.
Note that they continue to use Cemia’s male assigned name (Carl Acoff) in spite of both the promise to work with GLAAD and the fact the FBI is involved. I’m not a lawyer or a police officer, but I assume the federal government is involved because this might rise to the level of a hate crime as defined by the Matthew Shephard Act to include gender identity. In short, the federal government involvement signals an acceptance that Cemia was a trans woman – and in spite of that fact, the Cleveland media clings to male pronouns.
For the record, Cleveland.com is the online home to the Plain Dealer and 50+ community newspapers in Northeastern Ohio.
Cleveland.com columnist Ted Diadiun has some insight – most of it craptastic – as to the “why”
First, he seems to believe that it is acceptable for a major media outlet to not be current on the AP Style Guide.
The bulk of the objections stemmed from the use of the male pronouns. The Plain Dealer generally follows Associated Press style, which at one time specified using female pronouns for someone born a male only if a sex-change process had begun.
However, several years ago, the AP changed its style on transgender references to the following: “Use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth. If that preference is not expressed, use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly.”
The transgender community knows this. Caniglia and his editors did not. The story was in the paper when they were made aware of the change in AP style, but editors hurriedly went back into the online version, taking the words “oddly dressed” out of the headline and making the references gender neutral. Along the way, in some references to the body, “he” became “it,” until that was changed — which only served to increase the ire of some readers.
Yes, it seems Diadiun finds it perfectly reasonable that “the transgender” community is aware of media style guidelines whereas media professionals are not. And apparently paying attention to details like “she” “he” and “it” when correcting style errors (factual errors really) isn’t a big deal – it was all fixed eventually, right, once the transgender community did its job of editing media reports.
He goes on
The AP style change is understandable, but perplexing.
“Where do we draw the line?” said Chris Quinn, the editor in charge of the paper’s local coverage. “What’s a cop to do when filling out the gender form of a police report? What’s a census taker to write? What about a driver’s license?”
Quinn said future stories will say something like, “Acoff self-identified as a transgender woman so, for the purposes of this story, will be identified with female pronouns.”
Well, Quinn should probably note that the AP Style Guide does not apply to police documentation, the US Census or the Department of Transportation. It applies to the media, right? The same media that would be reporting on a US Census taker who refused to use the “boxes” for sexual orientation or incidents of police misconduct involving arrest procedures of LGBTQ residents. Right? Isn’t that the point – the media relies on these sources for some facts and the style guide helps navigate their reporting and their own JOB is to pick up on discrepancies that impact the news.
I don’t even begin to have patience for Diadiun’s whining about the “tone” of the trans advocates (and allies) who complained. One need only look at a few of the hateful comments left by readers to appreciate how ridiculously petulant he’s being. We didn’t ask nicely enough and hurt the feelings of the poor humble reporters?
Let’s hope the FBI conducts a thorough investigation since we can’t seem to count on the “Fourth Estate” in Cleveland to do their job. I can’t find more information on Andre Bridges so stay tuned.
Meanwhile Cemia’s friends continue to fundraise to pay for her funeral.