To the trans friend who recently dropped me on Facebook


I’m sorry.

I’m sorry because I’m pretty sure I know why you did it–to spare yourself pain that I caused you.

I am not writing now to ask you to reconsider your decision. I’ve been unfriended by people before (including members of my own family) and I will be again. I respect that unfriending can be an act of self-care, and I know you believe, as I do, that…


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You warned me, though, that my ardent, passionate love for the show RuPaul’s Drag Race was irritating to you. You said you just didn’t get why so many straight women like me were so enamored of drag queens, especially a cis-male queen like RuPaul who casually used words that you found hateful and transphobic.

For the record, I have never used those words, but I do have an alarming tendency to repeat other Ru-isms from the show. I use “WERRK” and “GUUURRL” so often so that now my kids use them to express great approval.

Is this okay? Can I co-opt the language of a culture I admire for my own entertainment?





I am a cis-gendered straight white woman, oozing with all kinds of privilege.  In fact, I have the privilege to wear neither makeup nor dresses in my day to day life. I don’t get crap for dressing like what presents as “BOY,” unlike boys who get crap for dressing in what codes as “GIRL.” Sexism rewards me for my Chuck Taylors and jeans.

As an ally of social justice movements, being called out for my privilege hurts. Like I’ve written before, my natural impulse is to yell “NOT ALL [insert privilege here]!” With a little help from the Twittersphere, blogosphere, whatever you want to call it, I work on shutting my damn mouth and listening to what the call-outers are saying.

You never accused me of being transphobic, but I suspect you had enough when I posted how excited I was to hear RuPaul was a guest on my favorite podcast, WTF with Marc Maron. I hadn’t heard the episode yet, but I am such a big fan of both the guest and the show that I couldn’t help but announce my glee on social media. I didn’t have a clue that this show would be where Ru unloaded all of his frustration with those who object to some of his show’s content. As Ru put it:

Don’t you dare tell me what I can do or what I can say. It’s just words. Yeah, words do hurt. ‘Words hurt me.’ You know what? Bitch, you need to get stronger. You really do. Because you know what? If you think, if you’re upset by something I said, you have bigger problems than you think. I’m telling you this.

I listened to the podcast but I did not comment on it. It is not my business to offer an opinion on whether or not it is okay to use problematic words that don’t apply to me.

I did watch the discussion unfold on Twitter, where RuPaul posted:



…and where trans Drag Race contestant Carmen Carrera responded:





There is so much pain out there, and I know you have endured more than your fair share. That word is just one of many painful things you’ve endured since you transitioned. We didn’t talk about it all that much, but you mentioned that you lost a partner you loved. Your family isn’t supportive. You have trouble holding a steady job because of the harassment. Public bathrooms, which cis-folks like me take for granted, can be a nightmare.

I tried to show you how much I care about you and your journey when I asked Kate Bornstein to sign a copy of her memoir A Queer and Pleasant Danger to you. I guess I should have TOLD you myself, but (ironically in this case) words got in the way. How do you say to someone who is just living their goddamn life that you admire them like hell for doing it? For having the guts to be their authentic self? How?!

Is it transphobic of me to like RuPaul and his body of work? I don’t think so. I think it would be much worse for me to insert myself in a debate over whether or not it’s okay for someone to self-identify with a word that others find distasteful. That’s why I did nothing.

I’m sorry if you interpreted my RuPaul fandom and my silence on the controversy around the word as an endorsement of that word being used.

You didn’t need my admiration or a stupid hashtag–you just needed to know that I had your back. And in that moment on Facebook, you felt that I didn’t.

Whether you extend a Facebook friend request to me in the future is not as important to me as the fact that you know, via this blog post/open letter, that I care about you and that I regret the hurt I caused. We may never cross paths in real or virtual spaces again, and that’s okay. I’ll always be glad that I knew you, the WHOLE you, a smart and funny and talented and compassionate person.

Continue to take care.









7 Responses to “To the trans friend who recently dropped me on Facebook”

  1. Thank you for writing this. It is raw honest and I examine my conscience constantly on this. (I love Ru btw)
    I attribute the struggle to how new this is to me and my openness to doing better but I fail, often. I just want to say, you are not alone.

  2. Gillie Bishop says:

    Really? Shannon’s the enemy here? I am not very familiar with RuPaul, so I’m not sure I’m fully grasping what’s problematic about him. I gather that he’s a man who dresses as a woman, not truly transgendered, but he calls himself “tranny.” And Shannon is not a true ally because she likes the show of a guy who’s misidentifying himself?

    If we are moving toward a world where people are truly free to be who they are (and I sincerely hope we are), we need to move away from getting hung up on labels. Labels are inadequate to capture something as complex as identity anyway.

    We also need to cut each other some slack. With a few abusive exceptions, most of us are trying to do the best we can to accept and embrace ourselves and others. (And I think if you looked beneath the surface of the abusers, you’d see that the abuse is just them struggling with their own pain.) Certainly, everything you and Shannon have mentioned about your friendship indicates that she has always supported and valued you. Apparently, she is not afforded the same kindness.

    If you want to live in a world where you can go to work and walk down the street without being belittled and ridiculed, you might start by being a person who tries not to belittle and ridicule others, who gives people the benefit of the doubt and allows them to be who they are (even if who they are is a cis white feminist who likes pseudo-trannies). If you feel like Shannon needs education about the trans experience, educate her. But don’t sever a friendship and abuse her online because she’s willing to accept someone else’s label for himself.

    • Ethan says:

      If you start off a heated opinion by stating that you don’t really understand the issue, maybe you should think twice about sharing your opinion.

      You clearly have no idea what it means to be trans*, or you would not casually state that “we need to move away from getting hung up on labels”.

      Also, you used the slur that is being discussed AS A SLUR. You literally used the word as the slur that both people in this situation take issue with. You can now take all the fucking seats in the world and shut up for a really long time.

  3. JD says:

    A-FUCKING-MEN Ethan.

  4. Gillie Bishop says:

    True enough. I will quit trying to comment on the RuPaul issue, since after all the googling I’ve done and re-reading of the arguments above, I still don’t feel like I’m getting the point.

    But I stand by this: The reason we’ve been able to make any progress at all in extending human and civil rights to oppressed people is that people in the oppressor groups have gotten to know people in the marginalized ones and realized, “Hey, they’re human!” It’s keeping in mind our common humanity and forming connections with people who are different that we come to understand and accept each other. I think we all know that Shannon is a person who wants you to be able to walk down the street safely, who wants you to be able to use the bathroom of your choice without harassment, who wants you to be who you are without fear of abuse. In my mind, severing ties with someone like that is a step AWAY from the world we want, not toward it.

  5. Taylor says:

    Perhaps I’m a bit late to the conversation.

    Nonetheless, to Gillie, who seems to be a well-meaning ally bent toward a world of inclusivity and education, neither of to which I am opposed.

    What I do get tired of, however, is explaining the deep divide between gay male culture and trans individuals. I suppose it’s because I live it everyday, much as I live many of the other things mentioned, like a problematic bathroom experience etc.

    To have to have the conversation with every ally who really just is going along sometimes is exhausting. It is draining to request that special attention is paid, it’s largely culturally inappropriate to do so; so often we are labelled overly sensitive. Why is it my job to make sure I am always in the stance of education, other than ‘I need allies?’ When do I get a break, a distance from the vitriol that undermines my identity? When do I get to say Enough- even to the well-meaning folks who just don’t get what the problem is?

    The author may very well be the first to stand up for trans rights, but good lord, do I have to be the one to make the call? Do I have to rally people every time something happens? Because there is no end, really, of the navigation of the gendered world once you try to get out of it. So sometimes, it is very reasonable to wish that people who care for us will do the work that is needed to REALLY get on board with this whole gender questioning thing, because asking for help every time its needed is not realistic.

    [I speak as one of the many trans individuals out there and thus my comments are my own, and not necessarily to be taken on behalf of ;the trans community.’]

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