In the last few weeks the question for me has shifted from, "What do I think about the words 'tranny' and 'she-mail/male'?" to "What do members of the trans* community think and feel about those words?" As a self-avowed, practicing homosexual I'm okay self-identifying as a faggot from time to time — but I know some people are not comfortable with that word and I don't use it around them. I also know that when someone calls me that to create a dynamic of inequity because they're straight or see themselves as more masculine I shut it down.
I recently read an article that pointed out the sharp different between Justices Kennedy's and Scalia's approaches to gay people. Scalia consistently uses language that suggests there is no such thing as gay, just people doing gay things. When gay people say things like "Someone just putting on a wig," to describe trans* life, we're doing the same thing that was done to those whose shoulders we stand on — ignoring the existence of trans* identity. To Justice Scalia we get gay married but not real married.
Telling trans* people to not be so sensitive is the same as principals and teachers telling the 15 year old gay boy — who may not be out to anyone, including himself — to not be so sensitive and just deal with the harassment. So quick and so right to denounce bullying of gay and lesbian teens, we then turn and ignore a group that says, "Hey, this is harmful to us."
On Facebook I've seen discussion from one particular friend who seems like he's beating a dead horse but may actually be changing minds, and I've seen others spout off in opposition to trans* people. I haven't said anything because I feel like I don't have a voice; I'm not trans*, so my opinion on the words doesn't really matter any more than the straight bully's to the gay kid in rural Florida.
I love the Castro, I love Hell's Kitchen, the West Village, and on occasion Gay Chelsea. I can love those gayborhoods because when majority voices told gays to get over themselves and buck up, to ignore the violence against them, to just toughen up they did — by challenging the problem and making their voices heard.
Are we going to unplug our ears or keep ignoring our past?