By Daniel Reynolds
Originally published on Advocate.com May 29 2014 1:39 PM ET
Carmen Carrera has spoken out against her critics.
The transgender model and star of VHI’s upcoming show TransAmerica defended her much-debated stance that the word “tranny” is a slur that should not be used, addressing criticism on social media as well as from fellow RuPaul’s Drag Race alumni in an interview with Xorje Olivares on SiriusXM OutQ.
In the interview, Carrera addressed remarks made by Bianca Del Rio, typical of the kind she has been receiving on Twitter and Facebook, which question her authority to voice a difference of opinion from RuPaul Charles, who defended the T word in an interview last week. As a season 3 contestant on Drag Race and the most prominent transgender woman to come out of the Logo TV reality compeition, Carrera has emerged as a lightning rod in the debate, taking her criticism of RuPaul's use of the word to social media and now public remarks on the radio.
"Let’s face it, we wouldn’t know who the fuck Carmen Carrera was if she didn’t fucking get on Drag Race," Del Rio, also known as Roy Haylock, said Saturday at the Manor in Wilton Manors, Fla. "Maybe she should take what’s left of her dick and stick it in her mouth and shut the fuck up."
“I’ve reached out to Bianca, and I’ve already tried to speak to her. … But for me, it’s a lost cause,” Carrera told Olivares, in response to Haylock's biting remarks. “And it’s sad. It’s really sad. I watch the TV show, and I really ended up liking what she’s done on the Race, and I appreciate her as an artist. But now I don’t know if I can respect her as a person. I get that you’re comedy, and I get that you like to poke fun at things, but it’s like, for me, I consider you a sellout. If you’re not realizing the bigger picture here, and you choose to just use something like this to get some comedy points, or ... just because you know the majority of the Drag Race fans are transphobic, so you’re gonna throw me under the bus, just to get a good arousal from people, for me, you’re a sellout.”
“When the wig comes off, when the makeup comes off, I’m sure Bianca wants to be respected as a gay man,” she continued. “And that’s where this comes in. I’m trying to fight for respect. Just respect. All you have to do is respect me. Use the right words. If you don’t consider me a woman, then use trans woman. Whatever works for you. But don’t try to use something that’s a slur or something that’s meant to degrade who we are. … It’s a mess. I literally get nauseous thinking about it, because there’s so many issues in there.”
For his part, Haylock apologized to Carrera for his comments via social media yesterday, tweeting, “Hey Carmen Carrera, I'm sorry for my lame joke, i have now fired my comedy writer (me). love ya.” But this was by no means the end of the conversation. Many critics of Carrera have pointed out that words which were once used to demean minorities, like “queer,” can be reclaimed by a community, turning a slur into a shared term of empowerment. But Carrera disagrees, and told SiriusXM OutQ that "tranny" should not be reclaimed. As an example, she pointed to a slur regarding the Hispanic community, of which she is also a part.
“For a period of time there was kind of like this whole ‘spic’ thing, and that was really like a slur. Nobody says that anymore. Do you see Hispanic people saying, ‘Hey, what’s up, spic? That’s my spic right there.’ No. Nobody does that. And I come from a very proud Hispanic family. We’re proud to be Latino. We’re proud to be Peruvian. And my dad’s side is proud to be Puerto Rican. That’s what they want to be known for, it’s who they are, who they identify as, as a Hispanic, strong person.”
“For me? Who I am? What I’m trying to do for my cause? No. I don’t want to reclaim the word ‘tranny.’ I don’t want anyone to refer to me as ‘tranny.’ ... Because from what I’ve seen and what I’ve witnessed growing up in this scene, is that it was never a good thing. It was never to empower you. Drag queens would always be quick to say... when someone was looking too feminine, ‘Oh, you tranny.’ To try to put them down. It was never, ‘Yeah, I want to look like a tranny! Trannies are beautiful.’ Never. It was always something to be put down. And I think that by RuPaul or anybody saying we should reclaim it … for me, it’s just trying to give an excuse to use the word, because they don’t really care. They don’t really care about trans people. They don’t really care. It doesn’t affect them. They want to come up with an excuse just to use the word.”
Carrera specified that she did not believe there was any ill intent on the part of RuPaul and his defense of the T word. But she pointed out that Charles, while he defended his right to apply that word to himself or his friends, did not acknowledge the broader impact that could result in using potentially transphobic language on television, a medium that extends beyond the gay bar to an audience around the world. She also addressed the problematic association of words like “tranny” and “shemale” with pornography, and how she would like to craft an identity for herself and younger generations of transgender people that breaks away from that world and offers possible futures beyond the sex industry.
“I’m pretty sure RuPaul wasn’t trying to put anybody down, and I’ve never said that. But, I just think you should lead by example and show people, just use different words when you’re on TV,” Carrera said. “I wouldn’t want to sit up on TV and use ‘shemale’ or ‘TS’ or any of these words that are often used in escort ads and pornography. I’m trying to show people, and younger trans people, that you don’t have to identify with those words. And you can identify with female. You can identify with saying ‘woman,’ with saying ‘sister.’ You can identify with those words. You don’t have to be pigeonholed into using these words and defining yourself by saying 'tranny.'"
"Because if you Google the word ‘tranny,’ you’re going to get a whole bunch of porn," she went on. "And who wants to identify themselves with that? I’ve seen tons of my friends tell me that they can’t go to school and they can’t have a career because they’re trans. They have to sit there, and they have to prostitute themselves, because that’s all they can do with their life. That’s so sad to me. You know what I mean? It breaks my heart. ... For me, it’s like, just don’t use these words, these words are not cool. I’ve seen it with my own two eyes. And yeah, backstage at the drag show, it seems cool to call someone a tranny, because you’re not trying to be hurtful. But the whole world is watching this TV show. You can access RuPaul’s Drag Race anywhere. So it’s different. It’s a different kind of drag show. It’s a different stage. And it’s a different audience. And it’s a different time in the world.”
“I’m not here to tell people necessarily how to speak when they’re behind closed doors,” she continued. “My issue is, when you’re on a public platform, use it wisely. You know what I mean? I can’t sit here and try to tell people to change their vocabulary. I can suggest it. I can say what we can do to become better. But I can’t force anyone. You know what I’m saying? And a lot of gay people and a lot of trans people will choose to stay in their gay community and their trans community. And for them, their world, calling each other fags and trannies, they are A-OK. And it’s OK, and it’s fine. But for someone like me, and for a lot of other trans women who just want to live on this planet, just this whole planet and not limit themselves? I’m 100 percent sure that they do not want to be referred to as a tranny. They don’t. You know what I’m saying? I want to be respected as a woman, as a mother, as a wife. That’s why I transition.”
Ultimately, Carrera said that she would like to sit down with Charles and Del Rio to discuss the issue in person, rather than through separate interviews or social media outlets, hoping to help the public understand that there are bigger issues at stake than a RuPaul's Drag Race controversy.
“I think that people need to understand that this is not a Carmen versus RuPaul situation,” she concluded. “It’s not like that at all. It’s more about how we feel about the words that we use.”
Listen to segments from SiriusXM OutQ interview with Carrera below.