Words, just words.

This week at College Insurrection we reported on a controversy involving the word “Tranny” used by a liberal gay rights activist in a discussion about whether the word “Tranny” was offensive, via Illinois Review:

LGBTQ students at the University of Chicago are circulating a petition objecting to slurs gay rights activist Dan Savage used during a exchange at the school’s Institute of Politics event last week. They said they were made to “feel uncomfortable” by a “transphobic slur” used during Savage’s presentation.

The Petition is a thing to read. It focuses on the campus concept of “safe space,” which means control of speech so that others are not offended (emphasis added):

Chicago Petition Change.org Transphobic Words

On Thursday May 22, The Institute of Politics hosted a seminar with Dan Savage, a gay advice columnist who has a history of making numerous misogynstic, biphobic, transphobic, and racist comments. The seminar was moderated by current IOP fellow Ana Marie Cox, a blogger for The Guardian. Throughout the conversation both Savage and Cox used a transphobic slur repeatedly, supposedly in the context of explaining why the word was “problematic”. When this first started to occur, a trans student repeatedly asked them not to use the slur and tried to explain why it was offensive. Cox and Savage then proceeded to argue with the student, saying they had a right to use the word. Afterwards, Savage continued to use the slur despite knowing it was making students feel unsafe and both Cox and the IOP staff did nothing to stop him. This action upset the student to the point that they had to leave the room in a state of distress.

The usage of this slur constitutes hate speech, which is frankly unacceptable. There is a difference between respecting open discourse and permitting hate speech—a distinction that the IOP does not seem to understand. Both Ana Marie Cox, as the moderator, and the IOP staff have a responsibility to stop hate speech in order to maintain a safe and accessible space for students where respectful open discourse can actually occur. They failed to do this. The IOP proudly asserts its commitment to diversity, inclusion, and civil discourse. In order to stay true to these values, we demand that the IOP publicly apologize for failing to stop the use of the transphobic slur during the seminar and assert a commitment to preventing the use of slurs and hate speech in the future.

One of the ironies, of course, is that Ana Marie Cox was the founder of Wonkette, notoriously not a safe space for anyone but liberals.

The University of Chicago Institute of Politics issued a statement seeming to defend the right of speakers to use speech that may offend others, but then fed into the “safe space” meme by appointing a special committee:

…. Last week at a Fellows seminar, a guest used language that provoked a spirited debate. The speaker was discussing how hurtful words can be re-purposed and used to empower; at no point did he direct any slurs at anyone. We acknowledge that some students found the discussion personally offensive and applaud them for strongly challenging the speaker, which was absolutely appropriate. To exclude or sanction him would not have been.

As part of our continuing efforts to provide a welcoming, respectful space to a diverse array of people, we have arranged both an end-of-year town hall and online survey for students, and our Student Executive Board has established a Diversity & Campus Community Relations Committee. We look forward to working with the entire University community to continue to fulfill our mission.

There is a split in the transgender community as to whether “Tranny” even is a slur.  Rue Paul thinks not, RuPaul: ‘I Love the Word Tranny’

RuPaul Charles has broken his silence regarding his current view on the use of the word “tranny.” ….

“Does the word ‘tranny’ bother me? No. I love the word ‘tranny,’” Charles said. “It’s not the transsexual community who’s saying that. These are fringe people who are looking for storylines to strengthen their identity as victims. That is what we are dealing with. It’s not the trans community. ’Cause most people who are trans have been through hell and high water. And they’ve looked behind the curtain at Oz and go, ‘Oh, this is all a fucking joke.’ But some people haven’t and they’ve used their victimhood to create a situation where, ‘No! You look at me! I want you to see me the way you’re supposed to see me!’”

“If your idea of happiness has to do with someone else changing what they say, what they do, you are in for a fucking hard-ass road,” Charles continued….

The title of this article pretty much speaks for itself, as some transexuals are fighting against attempts to ban the term:

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/entertainment/sydney-confidential/sydney-drag-queens-fight-transgender-warrior-indiana-kelly-edwards-over-right-to-use-the-word-tranny/story-fni0cvc9-1226912905953

There’s even a Change.org Petition in support of using the term “Tranny”:

http://www.change.org/en-CA/petitions/indiana-edwards-and-supporters-support-the-freedom-of-speech-in-australia-allowing-us-to-call-our-event-tranny-bingo-as-part-of-the-extended-trans-community-we-do-not-use-this-word-as-a-slur-and-reject-your-claims-that-we-do

I don’t know whether “Tranny” is a slur.  Perhaps it’s in the ear of the listener.

Regardless, I don’t think we’ll ever reach a “safe space.”

And that’s a good thing.

I’m deeply offended by the attempt of those U. Chicago students to regulate speech to the extent that we can’t even mention the word we are analyzing and discussing. Because I know to a certainty it will not stop there.

It never does.

Think of all the words which are not on their face even slurs that we cannot say, like Black ListBaa Baa Black Sheep,RejiggerProvidence PlantationsBlack FridayGobbledygookIllegal ImmigrantUndocumented ImmigrantMaster BedroomChink in the Armor, and even the use of white copy paper.  You better be careful how you pronounce “did you” and around whose neck you want to hang an Albatross.

Dave Weigel thinks hilarity will ensue when these sensitive souls reach the real world.

https://twitter.com/daveweigel/status/475118462998953985

I understand his point, but it’s optimistic.

My prediction: Employers cowering under the threat of lawsuits, people accused of being insensitive losing jobs, and a reign of linguistic terror where every word is a potential career-ender.

It will be the opposite of a safe space. Unless everyone shuts up.