Transgender woman Jamie O’Herlihy responds to drag queen Panti Bliss’ use of the word “trannie” to describe herself on Facebook.
Social media has a lot of power in today’s society. It can create one’s brand or destroy it, especially when it concerns any topical issue such as LGBT+ culture. In a recent Facebook post, the well known and beloved Panti Bliss referred to herself as a “Trannie”, causing quite the stir in the Irish transgender community. So here’s the question – is this really offensive to everyone in the trans community, especially trans women? Should Panti apologise and avoid terms like this? As a transgender woman myself, the answer is no. Here’s why:
Panti, born in 1968, has been doing work for the LGBT+ community since before I even left my mother’s womb. She’s been a strong face of the community, an activist in the Marriage Referendum and has essentially helped the Irish LGBT+ community a hell of a lot. Along with this, she is also a well know Drag Queen, or it’s more historically known name; a ‘transvestite’.
The word Transvestite means a man who likes to dress in women’s clothing, or more commonly shortened in a negative term – a ‘trannie”. This is of course a slur, that I’m sure Panti herself has had violently thrown at her by all types of homophobic and transphobic characters throughout the cities she’s visited anytime from the 90’s to this current day. She’s suffered the mental effects this word can cause and the hate surrounding it, and therefore has chosen to reclaim it in a big ‘f you’ moment to all those who once used it to mock her.
I and my sister, both transgender women, and even my transgender boyfriend have all had this word thrown at us. But does that make our experiences any worse than Panti’s just because we’re transgender? Not really. I mean, yes it’s not a choice of ours to be transgender and at the end of the day Panti can still go home and deconstruct to Rory, but does that type of situation mean we put down non-binary trans individuals who can blend into societal norms when necessary for their own safety? The answer is no. We listen to their experiences and how they handle them and respect their decisions, so surely we should do the same with Panti.
Transgender and tranvestite both begin with the same prefix – trans – and thus the same slur, trannie. It’s a shared slur and if Panti wants to use it to self-identity, as she’s already discussed how she would never call someone else this, then I as a trans woman say go ahead, sister! You reclaim that word, show the people who put you down it doesn’t hurt you. The main reason I don’t have an issue with it is because a ‘trannie’ refers to, as I said previously, a man dressed as a woman, which as a transgender woman I am not. I’m a woman. It’s quite simple really. Yes, society may get confused about the difference between the two words but that’s socoety’s issue, not the community’s.
With Panti being such a big part of the LGBT+ community in Ireland she’s an ally and would defend a trans person’s identity in an instant. She’s part of our team and for that reason we should include her. Not single her out as another oppressor in a world of actual oppressors, making trans people seem angry and hateful and like we have the power to deem certain words unusable by another.
And hey, some other transgender people may disagree with my views but that’s also okay, they’re as entitled as myself. But from a trans woman to a Drag Queen, this one’s to you Panti: I know society’s thrown us all under the bus, but now’s our time to move forward, not focus on or create the negatives. Words are only bad if we make them so and I ain’t gonna let someone else’s way of identifying get me down. As trans people that’s what we try to teach other every day! So you keep doing you Panti. Stay full of Pride, especially in this month.
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