Monday, June 09, 2014

Dan Savage: About That Hate Crime I Committed at University of Chicago
Let's play let's pretend, shall we? (I realize we played let's pretend earlier this week, Slog, but indulge me.)

Let's pretend that I'm standing in line at Starbucks with a straight friend and we're having an animated conversation. There are two trans activists standing in line behind us—let's pretend they're trans activists with a social media presence—and they overhear me tell my straight friend that I met a trans person earlier that same day at a seminar. "I got into an argument with it," I say to my cishet friend. "It was so full of shit. It insisted that I was in the wrong and you should've seen the look on its face when I tried to engage it in a conversation about the point it was making. Because, man, it had its head up its ass."

In less time than it would take me to order tea the two trans activists behind me would be tweeting out quotes and launching an online petition condemning the hate speech they were overhearing me use in line at Starbucks. Because referring to a trans person as "it"—not he or she or zim or zer or them or their, but it, a thing, an object—is the worst thing you call a trans person after "tranny." Some would argue that "it" is worse than "tranny" because "tranny" is sometimes used by trans people affectionately or ironically. (When I posted this picture of me in drag on Instagram, for example, Kate Bornstein, the trans activist, author, icon, and a "Savage Love" guest expert for nearly twenty years (!) wrote this in the comment thread: "Aw, see? You ARE a dear tranny!") I've heard shock jocks and bigots and bashers dehumanize trans people by calling them "it," but I have never in my life heard a trans person refer to another trans person as "it"—not in jest, not as a putdown, not once, not ever.

So "it" is an anti-trans slur and it's arguably the worst anti-trans slur. Got it? Okay, hold that thought....

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