By Daniel Reynolds
Originally published on Advocate.com June 03 2014 1:49 PM ET
A video has surfaced online of Carmen Carrera using the T word, prompting the transgender model to reiterate her current view that the word is a slur.
The YouTube video, which has accrued nearly 20,000 views, showed Carrera referring to other drag performers as “trannies” at a spring 2011 event at Bounce night club in Cleveland. Carrera has recently spoken out against the T word after RuPaul Charles defended its use in a recent interview with Marc Maron.
The video was widely circulated among critics of the former RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant after Carrera said the T word should not be used in an interview with Xorje Olivares last week on SiriusXM OutQ.
“I don’t want to reclaim the word ‘tranny.’ I don’t want anyone to refer to me as ‘tranny,’” Carrera told radio host Xorje Olivares. “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.”
Carrera, who first came into the public eye with her appearance on RuPaul’s Drag Race, has become a lightning rod in the T word debate, with critics saying that she does not have the authority to critize RuPaul because of status as an alumna of the show. Many have also pointed to Carrera’s past use of the T word in her social media accounts as a means of undermining her credibility.
Responding to the video, Carrera posted a long note on Facebook, which explains that her position regarding the controversial term has evolved since the time of the interview in question. She says that she made this remark before her gender transition, when her only other points of reference were drag performers in the club scene. Carrera publicly came out as a transgender woman in May 2012.
“My experience started in the gay nightlife/drag life,” Carrera wrote. “I was just as consumed in ignorance about what is offensive to transpeople because at that time I hadn't found myself. I was living as a drag performer only. Respectable transwomen were not as visible and very unclear in how they defined themselves. I had no one to look up to, pre-transition. All I knew was what I learned in the club scene.”
“I had to live that experience myself in order to understand the real life struggles OUTSIDE of the LGBT community,” she continued. “I've gotten to know transgirls who live as ordinary women in society, who have blended in and don't necessarily need to be a show girl to feel accepted or feel the need to work in the sex industry. Through those women I learned how to gain respect for myself as trans and also how unfair society treats/degrades transwomen.”
“Tranny/Shemale are offensive. Period,” she concluded. “Whether you want to grow up and accept it or not. All the girls I’ve seen come out and defend these words are girls that either work in or are part of nightlife extensively. There is a real world out there. People who want to learn. I was and still am one of them. When I speak, I speak from my own experience and still, for me, my life experiences have only just started.”
After posting this note to Facebook, Carrera reached out to The Advocate to reiterate that she does not support the language she used in spring 2011. For Carrera, the posting of the old clip exemplifies the kind of resistance she has faced in her message about the relationship between language and transphobia, particularly when used on shows with a worldwide reach like RuPaul’s Drag Race.
“It just goes to show you how stubborn people are. They don’t want to learn. They don’t want to change. They’re so hard-headed. They’d rather come at me for standing up for what I believe in,” Carrera tells The Advocate. “That person … must have gone through every single video of mine on YouTube. That just goes to show you how much hate is really out there and a lack of understanding, [that someone would do this and say] ‘No, I have to discredit Carmen in some way. I have to find something on her.'”
“I’m still trying to figure out how to be a good partner to somebody,” she says. “I’m still trying to be a good stepmother to somebody. I’m still trying to make my mom proud. I don’t dedicate my whole life to being a trans advocate. But I do believe that me, and how I represent myself and how I am honest and open to everybody, I do feel like I’m doing something for the trans community. I’m not Laverne Cox. I’m not Janet Mock. ... I’m just a girl from New Jersey who has experience and lived.”