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PrettyQueer.com | January 27, 2015

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Trans-semantical

Trans-semantical
Sherilyn Connelly

I don’t read the comments on my articles, but I’m told that someone took issue with the phrase “dancefloor yiffing” in my previous article, leading them to assume that I don’t really know what I said. I would totally agree with them, except for the fact that they’re not right.

I do know that “yiff” refers to the conjugative act between furries. (Speaking of conjugation, let’s! yiff, yiffed, yiffing, to have had yiffed. Please write your own on the chalkboard.)  I also know that words have different meanings in different contexts.

I was fully clothed with ears and tail, and my yiffing partner was fully fursuited, all large eyes and floppy ears and a ginormous marsupial tail.

In the context of Frolic, second Saturday of the month at The Stud in San Francisco, yiffing does not require any kind of nudity, nor does it require penetrative sex or even direct rubbing of genital bits without some degree of faux-fur between them–and, really, going too far in that particular direction would miss the point.

What’s more, The Stud being pretty much as gay as you might expect a bar in San Francisco called The Stud to be, there often is a fair amount of partial-to-total nudity at Frolic–though not as much as on non-furry club nights, for obvious reasons–nor is it the kind of place where somebody’s going to get kicked out if’n they do rock out with their cock out. All that said, I was fully clothed with ears and tail, and my yiffing partner was fully fursuited, all large eyes and floppy ears and a ginormous marsupial tail.

When writing the essay I did consider phrasing it as “dry-yiffing” just on the off-chance that someone would get confused, but that extra syllable threw off the rhythm of the sentence, only a Sith deals in absolutes, and besides, I can only bend so far backwards in anticipation of anonymous Internet criticism. This is also why I rely on my friends to tell me if there’s anything interesting in article comments, and why my online diary has been flat, comment-free HTML since ’99. If anyone has anything to say about what I write in it then they can jolly well email me, and the extra clicks and keystrokes required to do so are usually daunting enough to make them reconsider.

But, jeez–words, right? Y’know what I mean? Seriously. (I promise I’m not going to say “yiff” again in this essay, by the way.) I can tilt at windmills while mixing metaphors with the best of ‘em: I once complained about this new form where two songs are squished together being referred to as “bootlegs,” because that word already means recordings which are neither sanctioned nor released through official channels. I got slapped down by someone who pointed out that they do in fact meet that criteria, and what’s more, the existence of two-songs-one-cup compilations with names like The Best Bootlegs In The World Ever meant that it was the official lingo, so I’d best just talk to the hand.

What bothered me was the newly emerging “bootleg equals song-mixed-into-each-other equals bootleg” usage, which I perceived as an attempt to redefine the word rather than simply expand it. I was willing to accept when you push one song into another song it can then be referred to as bootleg because of the whole copyright violation business, but not that all bootlegs were now, by definition, two songs squeezed into each other. I tells ya, it was on the verge of being the most worstest thing to happen to the English language since when those faggots ruined “gay,” which used to be a perfectly good word! Thankfully, another word ended up entering the vernacular to refer to the end result of two songs being smooshed together, though for the life of me I can’t recall what it is.

Segue time! My Google Alerts include the following: “call for submissions”, “‘dark room’ ‘bad movie night'” “gender outlaws: the next generation”, “sherilyn connelly” and “unthology unthank”. Kinda covers all the bases: direct references to me me me!, references to my show, mentions of books that I’m in (which hopefully include references to me me me!, because as a print snob I consider book reviews to be legitimate in a way that comments are not, even online reviews), and calls for submission for books and stuff which I can submit to and which will eventually result in Google Alerts for reviews of those books that reference me me me!. It’s the circle of Sherilyn–which is also a scene from Pasolini’s Salo, if I’m not very much mistaken. [you are very much mistaken. – red and tom]

In the first few months after it was released, Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation got a ton of alerts as  reviews cropped up all over the blogosphere. Very few of those reviews mentioned me me me!, which was no great shock. I’m still surprised and honored that Kate Bornstein and S. Bear Bergman included my essay “The Big Reveal,” it being something of an anomaly in the book’s overall theme of smashing the gender binary and creating new identities.

The essay is in praise of porn, and not only porn, but shemale porn, and how it taught me as a closeted teenager that it was possible–and maybe even okay!–to be a sexy girl with a penis. (Though I don’t watch it anymore, my affection for the disreputable genre continues to this day, since it contributed far more to my future positive self-esteem as a trans woman than anything in the commercial media ever did.)  Since it’s about my teenage years, “The Big Reveal” is necessarily about the stuff that was out there in the Bush / Clinton years, long before the current wave of politically conscious porn made for those who don’t want to lose their political straight edge just because they’re getting their rocks off.

It’s a scary enough topic that one of the reviews that did discuss my essay started with a disclaimer that it “includes the discussion of an anti-trans pejorative word that is used in a positive, reclaimed way within queer literature,” and that those who find the presence of such words emotionally triggering ought not read further, lest they be triggered. I’m very glad they did that, because, I have no desire to intentionally trigger anybody. Honest.

(By the way, that disclaimer goes double for the rest of this article. If you don’t like reading words that you don’t like, then don’t keep reading, because it’s a minefield from here on out.)

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Comments

  1. Julie Blair

    Re: BOOTLEG

    This is especially funny to me because we already had a NEW word for this come out in the last decade: “Mash-Up”. But then Glee ruined it, referring to medleys as “mash-ups”. Now people call them “bootlegs”? HORRIBLE.

    White labels for me.

    • That was my response to the ‘bootleg’ thing. Mash-up makes a million times more sense AND was the term first.

    • Glee is good at ruining things.

    • bonk

      “bootleg” is an adjective that is not specific to music, and refers to any illegal product, as in “bootleg record,” “bootleg handbag,” “bootleg alcohol,” etc. it comes from the act of hiding things in one’s boot…

  2. Abbie Cohen

    Although use of the word “tranny” in the context of describing porn seems appropriate to my personal sensibilities, those who work in the industry may have different feelings about the matter. Its substitution with the word “transsexual” sounds a little too clinical. Because it grates on me when young black men start tossing the n-word around loudly in public spaces, I am ambivalent about using the t-word to describe myself. However, just like there was something fitting about one of the soldiers in Full Metal Jacket describing himself as a “n****** on the trigger”, I sometimes find phrases such as “granny tranny” or “token tranny” irresistible when I write. What definitely angers me is the “hip” use of the t-word to describe victims or suspects on network dramas such as CSI and Law & Order.

  3. Danielle Macdonell

    “by the time I own something, it’s obsolete”

    Ain’t that the problem with being old and in the way, one can never quite keep up with the younguns. Keep forging onward M’dear, in the end they’ll only remember the well told stories.

  4. Bear

    Sherilyn, we loved your piece in part *for* its dirty-ness, and for what felt like a great and fresh viewpoint no one else was writing about. It was funny, sexy, hopeful, and thoughtful, and we were jazzed to get it.

    However: I’m so sorry about the last page of copyedits! We had no idea. I am sending a note along to Seal, so that if the book goes to a second printing (cross yr fingers) we can fix this. Thanks for being awesome.

  5. Actually I just did a video essay on why transwoman is problematic. Mainly that it’s been co-opted by misogynists passing themselves off as feminists as a word they can use that, for them and the people they’re trying to talk to, means, notwomen:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_dvr73xXCU

    • I’ve very recently started putting a space between, and I think it makes lots of sense. I was confused before by people just being like “HOW DARE YOU SAY TRANSWOMAN” with no further explanation, though.

      I like FAAB and MAAB because it focuses on assignment, and someone not being trans doesn’t necessarily mean they are cis either (ie: intersexual, or something similar).

      I do think, sometimes transwoman when paired with ciswoman and not just woman as it’s “opposite” (scare quotes are way fun btw) can be ok…. I saw your analogy of “try saying ‘blackwoman’ see what’s wrong” and it’s got me thinking about how terms like trans and cis directly relate to the concept of woman in the first place, whereas race is not usually something used to further specify something about sex or gender, though obviously in the real world there are experienced differences of what womanhood means depending on how people read your race… Not sure where I am going here. Good video, though.

      • As I say then, they proceed to wanna use that for REEL womyn. And emphasize the “female” part of that.

        After long consultation and giggling with my friends I have decided on the following three acronyms:

        Someone like Femonade is a HAFTA (Hates and Asserts Femaleness Thence Assigned.)

        Any woman cis or trans who would, all things being equal, prefer to have a penis over a vagina is an EDGE, meaning she Erotically Declaims Genital Essentialism.

        And we trans women are Female-Asserting Brazenly. :)

      • It’s important to remember that FAAB an MAAB should not be used at blanket statements. It’s problematic to refer to people as FAAB or MAAB to discuss a certain body type for example. Plus, some trans* folks, including trans womyn, identify with the “trans” portion of the of the phrases trans men and trans womyn or simply identify as trans*.

        Also, while I appreciate the idea behind this piece, there is no such thing as a genetic womyn or genetic man. They’re social constructions. Sure, a lot of us have varying body parts, but it’s our culture, our socialization, that gives them gendered meanings. Calling trans* people bio-(insert non-corresponding gendered term here) only undermines our identities. Dean Spade wrote something pretty awesome about this: http://www.deanspade.net/2011/02/03/about-purportedly-gendered-body-parts/

        • Just to clarify, when I said “including trans womyn,” I meant SOME trans womyn, certainly not all.

        • I definitely do not use or like the term bio/genetic whatever, so I think we’re on the same page. The idea that gender is social but biology is “real” persists, annoyingly.

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