You Learn Something New Every Day

For example, I was unaware that “tranny” was a slur (not that it is a word I deploy, well, ever).

Via Reuters:  Neil Patrick Harris apologizes for slur on "Live!"

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation lauded Harris’s mea culpa, noting, "It’s heartening to see a celebrity of Harris’ stature recognize and apologize for using the slur in such a timely manner, and for greater media attention being paid to its use. Many people do not realize that the word "tr*nny" is one of the most hurtful and dehumanizing slurs that transgender people hear. Most transgender people associate that word with personal experiences of violence, hatred and derision."

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. michael reynolds says:

    Good grief. This must be very recent.

  2. Boyd says:

    1) It seems to me that this term has traditionally been meant to apply to transvestites, not transgender people. In fact, the ability to change one’s sex is much more recent than the use of this term.

    2) Words are only offensive if people intend to be offended by them. Refusing to be offended is a much more powerful response than admitting that others have power over you by simply saying a particular word (hence the gay community’s embrace of terms such as “queer.”)

  3. jd says:

    1. “That word”* has always been pejorative.
    2. You may only use it if you ARE one,
    3. and then usually only among others of the same.
    See? Simple.

    *Insert one of many similar words.

  4. You’re suprised that using the diminutive form of a word to refer to someone is perceived as an insult by that person? How exactly would you respond to a complete stranger who insisted on calling you Stevie?

  5. Just nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Boyd: Good point. We should be teaching our children point number 2.
    @Stormy Dragon: Also a good point, as we engage in diminuitives as an attempt to dehumanize or diminish someone. An important power play.

  6. @Stormy Dragon: I was surprised that it was considered as problematic a word as the above statement indicates. My previous, albeit somewhat limited, exposure to the term was such that I was unaware that it was considered a slur.

  7. Tylerh says:

    Two valid sentences from my youth:

    “That tranny is a bear”

    “That tranny hums like an angel”

    How could anyone possibly take offense? [*]

    Words have context. Context matters. Anyone who says “word X is unacceptable” is engaging in the Orwellian manipulation.

    [*] keep in mind that a “tranny” is the device between the engine and the differential that determines the gear raio.