Trannyshack No More: Founder Launches Rebranding Effort

By Parker Marie Molloy

Originally published on Advocate.com May 21 2014 1:45 PM ET

In a Tuesday Facebook post, Stefan Grygelko -- a drag queen who goes by the name Heklina Heklina -- announced that in the coming year, he will be working to rebrand and rename Trannyshack, the monthly San Francisco drag event he founded in 1996.

"Increasingly, and in the past year especially, it's become clear to me the meaning the word 'tranny' has taken on," Grygelko writes. "I've tried to avoid the issue because I've spent almost 20 years branding and promoting my club. But more and more, I am asked on the street, in interviews, and online about my thoughts on the word, and the name of my club."

"I am in the business of (hopefully) entertaining people," he writes later in the statement. "It's never been my intention to hurt people. I am not another Shirley Q. Liquor, wanting to offend just for the sake of it. Also, on a purely business level, I don't want to be viewed as archaic, out of step with the times, like an ostrich with my head in the sand."

The rebranding roll-out begins with the June T-Shack Seattle Pride Edition event.

When asked if events like Trannyshack should change their names, former RuPaul's Drag Race contestant Monica Beverly Hillz said, "Yeah, I think so,"  an April interview with The Advocate. 

GLAAD's Media Reference Guide has a section on how to write about and refer to transgender individuals, complete with a glossary of terms. Within GLAAD's transgender glossary is a section on problematic and defamatory terms. Under the defamatory heading are "she-male," "he-she," "it," "trannie," "tranny," "shim," and "gender-bender." The guide elaborates, "These words only serve to dehumanize transgender people and should not be used."

Australian trans activist Indi Kelly Edwards -- who has been pushing back against local Tranny Bingo nights -- hopes other groups will take Grygelko's lead.

"[This struggle is] frustrating, as I see a lot of gay men complain about homophobic slurs, but don't respect when transgender people push back against transgender slurs," Edwards tells The Advocate. "To me this is a double standard. Just because we are a minority doesn't mean our concerns should be dismissed. We have a voice and our argument is valid. I applaud Trannyshack's rebranding effort, and I hope this influences other events with insensitive names."

In March, Steven Grooby announced that his annual adult entertainment-focused awards show -- known as the Tranny Awards -- will be changing its name to the Transgender Erotica Awards, retiring use of the slur.

"While I personally believe, within the context of porn, that 'tranny' has its place as a descriptor in the same way many words have their place only in porn, I do understand why some people have become frustrated with its usage," Grooby wrote in the announcement. Later, Grooby offered thanks to the "extended trans adult community for their input and feedback over the last few months" and promised to produce "a show that the whole transgender adult community can be proud of."

Later that month, even controversial talk show host Jerry Springer announced that he will no longer be using the word "tranny" during  his epoynymous show, saying, "I won't use that term. I honestly had no idea that you're not supposed to use that term, so now we'll find another term to use."

For better or for worse, it seems that the world is finally beginning to sour on the casual use of a word associated with a history of violence.

Contributor: 
Parker Marie Molloy