Transbigotry and Glee: Why Glee needs a trans character, and soon

Ok, I’m the last person I expected to be advocating for a new character in Glee. There are already too many characters. But you know what? They can’t keep retconning their ages forever. Finn and Puck, for instance, are simply starting to look too old. Glee is going to have to graduate some of their students, and bring in some new ones. One of these should be trans-identified.

Remember the epic smackdown Finn got from Burt when he used the word “faggy”?

Now, imagine a cast member tweeted that many of her friends (who are gay) happily use the word “fag” as a term of endearment. Does that make it ok? No.

Let me be clear: I have nothing against Ashley Fink. I adore her character, and from what I’ve read, she’s a really great person too. I quite admire the way she handled that rotten Rosie O’Donnell comment. I don’t think she’s trying to be offensive. I think she’s just unaware.

Re-claimed (or pseudo-reclaimed) words are complicated things.

In one way, I’m all for them. I, for instance, identify as queer. Not only does it resolve the sometimes confusing issue of being attracted to (a very specific subset of) male-identified people from time to time, but it also helps describe my rather complicated gender identity.

However, queer is a really hot-button word. A lot of my friends find it hurtful and offensive. I don’t consider it my place to use in where people who’ve been oppressed by a word are upset by it. I would use it loudly and proudly around people who are upset by it for different reasons, but I don’t want my words to hurt others for no other reason except for me to prove some arrogant point.

The hot-button word at the moment is “tranny”. And while it seems trendy with some younger people who — let’s face it — are exceptionally LGBT positive, it has still been (and remains) a term of abuse for trans people and for those who don’t fully comply with gender norms.

I’ll compare it to my youthful confusion over racism. I grew up in a nice, quiet area where a lot of people had skin of different colours. It’s not something I noticed especially. I remember a girl making a speech about her experiences of racism in our community and I immediately felt defensive. Racism? Here? No. That kind of thing was limited to crazy places like Nazi Germany or South Africa.

As I got older and learned to listen better, I learned that there was plenty of racism in our little town.

The point is, that just because my friends and I were unaware of the oppression, didn’t mean it didn’t exist. And as a white, English speaking person, I had no right to question the experiences of the minorities around me.

I have friends from all letters in the LGBTQ spectrum. But the only ones whose opinions matter when it comes to the word “tranny” are my friends who are transgender or transsexual. I’m not going to take the word of drag queens on this. I’m not taking the word of straight allies (well-intentioned and lovely as they may be, they will never, ever understand).

Glee needs to address what it addressed for gay kids, for trans kids. We need to see a ground-breaking smackdown of the word “tranny”.

Would you welcome a trans character? Do you think that Glee could do the story justice?


10 thoughts on “Transbigotry and Glee: Why Glee needs a trans character, and soon

  1. I agree. I know people who are trans-friendly in the sense that they are welcoming toward and have even dated transgendered persons, but they have no clue what is considered offensive. Glee would be a good avenue to school a wide audience.

  2. I was so saddened to see that tweet. ALso disappointed I’ve seen no one addressing the use of the word ‘hermaphrodite’ rather than intersex in the latest episode and the way it was used ‘most relavent thing about a person is people rumours about their sex, which has apparently been proved untrue and yet later in the episode there is a joke hinging on the idea they were’.

  3. Language is so powerful, for good and bad, and we are all clearly on a learning curve – you, me, Ashley Fink – everyone. As a straight ally, I am always learning. The one thing I know for sure is that I do not, nor will I ever have, the privilege of using words like “fag”, “tranny”, “dyke”, etc. because I am not living on the inside of those words. Thinking about privilege is such a helpful concept here. And while we are all learning, let’s be compassionate with each other. Clear and direct but still compassionate.

  4. Probably because of your deep hatred of Holly Holiday. She was doing an impression of some historic woman (who married a British king and got him to abdicate) and said ‘I had big hands so everyone thought I was a hermaphrodite’ then at the end of the episode the brainiac quiz the tie breaker subject was ‘hermaphrodite nazi sympathisers’.

  5. I live in England, I’m 14 years old and I’m pretty sheltered. Glee has actually taught me a lot. I am a HUGE klaine supporter, but two years ago, ask me to write “slash” fanfiction, I would be unwilling and(I REALLY hate to admit it)a little repulsed. Now, it’s no big deal. Also, until several years ago, “queer” was a word used to describe the a place in my favourite book (The Secret Garden). I didn’t get why other people looked shocked or embarrased when I tried using it to describe something – it was just a piece of vocabulary I’d picked up from a classic book. I hadn’t heard the word “tranny” until under a year ago, and only through reading these posts have I realised it can be an offensive term – it was just a word some of my friends used.

    What I’m trying to say is there’s a LOT of uneducated people – like me – out there, and having a transgendered person join Glee would be invaluble. it would help people actually ACSEPT them, rather than just know that you SHOULD.

  6. Absolutely. It’s one thing to be ok with it all in theory, but another to be confronted with the bigotry you still have because suddenly it’s not a theory, and there’s an actual person that this applies to.

    I’m pretty sure Fox will never allow it though.

  7. I think Glee should. I have heard rumours of transphobia not only as a whole, but *inside* the LGBT community. I think that this is a problem that needs to be addressed. Many people out of the gender norm are teased at my middle school, but grant it, I live in Virginia, what do you expect?

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