“Tranny. Many people don’t know the history of the word, they assume it was an assigned hate term or slur along the lines of the “n” word. That’s not how it happened. Tranny was invented by us in Sydney, Australia in the 1970s where drag was a big deal, and still the best drag shows ever are in Sydney, Australia – they’re amazing. So a lot of trans-identified women who were assigned male at birth did drag, that’s how you made your living. And so they were transsexuals, transvestites, drag queens, and they were all doing drag to make money. They all bickered amongst each other who is better than who, “Well the drag queens are better,” “No, the transsexuals are better.” “You are all freaks, we’re better.” And on and on and on. But they worked together and they were family together, so they came up with a word that would say family and that was tranny. In Australia they do the diminutive, that’s how they come up with words. So tranny. I learned the word in the mid-1980s, late 1980s from my drag mom in San Francisco, Doris Fish, who was the city’s preeminent drag queen and she’d come from Sydney. And she schooled me in this word tranny, she said, “This way it means we’re family, darling.” “Thank you mama.” [...] So we used it and we were trannies together. And F2M was just beginning to start, the trans men were just beginning to become visible, Lou Sullivan was a neighbor of mine around the corner, and he was the first big out trans man, wrote his book. So trans men and cross dressers . . . cross dressers were also family. Transsexuals, we were all trannies and that felt good. That got into the sex industry and became a genre – there was tranny porn, there were tranny sex workers – chicks with dicks, she-males. [...] And, my only guess is that people who . . . because the only way they would have found out about the word is if they were watching tranny porn or having been with a tranny sex worker and then hated themselves so much that they turned it into a curse word. So it’s not really technically correct to say we’re reclaiming a word – it was always ours. So, many people mistake the word for the hatred behind the word and, in my generation, and I’m sure in future generations of trans people, tranny is going to be a radicalized, sexualized identity of trans in the same way that faggot is a prideful identity in the gay male community – not all gay men are faggots, but those who are are proudly fags and those who are dykes are proudly dykes within the lesbian community, trannies are proudly tranny within the transgender community. Does that mean we can’t call ourselves that because some trans woman does not want to be called a tranny? No. I’m going to keep calling myself a tranny. To the trans woman who gets called tranny, I’m sorry – as soon as . . . you’ve got to look at why you’re getting called tranny and if you don’t pass, you’re going to be read as a transgender person and then you fall back on the cultural view of trans folk which is freak, disgusting, not worth living, we can hurt you. It has nothing to do with the word, it has everything to do with the cultural attitude. So the word has stirred up a shit storm, but it’s not the word.”

Kate Bornstein on “tranny”