“Is the T Word the New N Word?”, is an op-ed that recently was published on the Advocate. Written by Parker Molloy (but not titled by her), the piece sheds some light on the current debate that has the trans community (specifically trans women) and the cis male drag community butting heads. Recently, there has been a lot of discussion over who can and cannot use the t-slur and the word sh*male. In the center of this all, is Parker Molloy and her continuous critique of the gay cis male drag community through shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race and RuPaul himself (a cis gay male drag queen). This discussion has sparked op-ed after op-ed from trans women, drag queens, and everyone else under the sun it seems.
The title of the article sparked a public outcry across social media from Black people, cis and trans, straight and not. This is something the Advocate has done before, with an inappropriately named piece, “Gay is the New Black”. This is a common issue in the queer community, comparing the struggle for queer rights to the struggle that Black Americans faced during the Civil Rights movement. The ‘new’ Civil Rights movement is often used to describe the push for queer recognition. New, new, new. However, that implies that there is an old. It implies that queer people of color have their rights and their only struggles are being queer.
This is of course, untrue. The push and struggle for queer rights is not the ‘new’ Civil Rights movement. Gay is NOT the new Black. Racism is still deeply ingrained in our society. There are queer people of color, queer Black people, who are facing the intersections of being queer and being a person of color. The T Work is NOT the New N Word. Implying that erases the many Black trans women who have to fight against the use of the word every day. The idea that the n-slur is ‘old’ and no longer used to oppress and dehumanize Black people is damaging. It implies that racism is “a thing of the past”, something “old”. It implies that people of color are still not struggling against racism and it implies it certainly does not impact their lives anymore. I mean, CeCe McDonald, Islan Nettles, and Monica Jones are examples of that….Right?
Racist, erasive, and clickbait (this is important) title aside. I want to bring out one of the quotes featured in the article. The article was avoided by many due to the title. However, Molloy’s piece is a well-written article that takes the words of trans women of color, Carmen Carrera and Monica Beverly Hillz, previous contestants on RuPaul’s Drag Race and highlights the transmisogyny in the drag community, from those at the very most center of it; two trans women drag queens.
In the article, Hillz recounts an episode in which she was attacked by cis gay men, for being a trans woman. This is a woman who was assaulted by the very community who is trying to defend the slurs directed at this woman, while having these slurs used in violence against her.
I had an episode a couple weeks ago where I was attacked at a club,” explains Hillz. “In a gay club, performing, and I was attacked. Even in our own community, you don’t feel safe. I was called … a ‘crazy tranny,’ a ‘tranny mess,’ and other words were thrown at me. You don’t even feel safe sometimes in your own gay community. It’s just crazy.
Carrera also talks about how the word is used as a way to dehumanize the trans women in the drag community, how the word is never used in a form of respect. The word is used to cut down a performer.
It’s not a nice word. It’s not meant to give you power. It’s not meant to say, ‘Yes, you’re transgender and you rock, and I’m going to call you tranny for short, because transgender is too long for me.’ That’s absolutely not how the word started.
So, why did the Advocate editor behind the title decide to focus on something neither of these women said? Both of them compare the slur to other slurs to point out, that yes, this word is a slur used to hurt and marginalize trans women. No where in the article is the word said to be the new n-slur, just a slur like any other slur. So why the clickbait title that erases the experiences of Black queer people? Why not focus on the violence these women have faced at the hands of the drag community with these slurs as the weapons?
Violence against trans women, especially trans women of color, has become normalized, especially in the gay community. Violence against trans women is to be expected to the point it is no longer news worthy. No one wants to click another title about how a trans woman has faced violence. No one wants to click another title about how transmisogyny is enacted against trans women, especially in the gay community. Violence against trans women is no longer seen as noteworthy. It is not unknown that trans women, especially trans women of color, face high rates of poverty, violence, suicide, and murder. However, it is something that people have accepted as opposed to potentially looking at why, even if it stares back at them in the mirror.
“Is the T Word the New N Word” erases the violence that Black trans women like CeCe McDonald, Islan Nettles, and Monica Jones experience for being both trans women and Black. As Laverne Cox so eloquently puts it, “Black trans bodies are under attack”. Violence against trans women, especially trans women of color, is so normalized that it garners less attention than comparing slurs. The idea that there may be a word as hated, vile, and harmful as the n-slur is more attention grabbing, than the very fact the trans women face violence in the very community that states they cannot be transmisognyistic because they are gay. A community that many trans women may get their start in. What kind of message is this sending? We no longer care about the violence you face at the hands of the very community that claims to support you?
As Hillz and Carrera point out in the article, as Molloy has experienced for coming out and finally saying ‘enough is enough’ in public media, the cis gay community is more than happy to defend their transmisogyny. They are more than happy to stare a woman in the fact, who has asked them to stop saying a handful of words which are used to dehumanize, sexualize, and oppress then and say no. They are more than willing to defend a handful of slurs as if their entire vocabulary has suddenly run dry. They are more than happy to defend the transmisogynistic slurs because they do not want to have to openly say what they mean, “trans women are not people. Trans women are lesser”.
The Advocate decided, in order for clicks, they would rather throw Black queer people away than their white cis gay male readership. As previously mentioned, the controversy surrounding comparing queer rights and slurs to ‘new’ racist actions is not something new to the Advocate. They decided to risk this again at the expense of protecting their gay cis male readers. Black queer people were seen as the lesser in this in an effort to preserve precious clicks as well as their shield their precious readers from a much needed lesson on the transmisogyny in the gay community. White cis gay men who attack trans women who are seen as more valuable and worthy of ‘protection’ than queer Black people. Racism and erasure is more marketable than critiquing the gay community for the transmisogyny in its ranks.