Tempest in a T-Shack :: Iconic Drag Event to Rebrand
Since its debut in 1996, Trannyshack has been one of the hottest nightlife events in town. A party/drag performance combo, the Shack has always attracted huge crowds, including celebs such as Mary Wilson (The Supremes), and Gwen Stefani.
On June 27, Shack founder/promoter/star Heklina will announce the Shack’s new name at Seattle Pride. The reason for the rebrand: The rise of a visible transgender community and the offense they take by the use of the word "tranny."
The local controversy was preceded by a similar controversy over an episode of "RuPaul’s Drag Race," where judges poked fun at male crossdressers, using the terms "she-male" and "tranny." In a later interview, RuPaul stated, "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."
Locally, however, the Trannyshack name-change decision was applauded by Kris Hayashi, Deputy Director of the Transgender Law Center.
"Heklina is a longtime friend and supporter of the transgender community," Hayashi said in a statement to the Bay Area Reporter. "We applaud her decision to rebrand her event which has also been historically inclusive and celebratory of our communities. The word ’tranny,’ like many words, has evolved sometimes in divergent ways based on geography, generation and other factors. We think Heklina made a difficult decision, but that is the best one that will continue to build the kind of unity we all believe in."
Rev. Megan Rohrer, the openly transgender pastor at Grace Lutheran Church, also shared her thoughts. "Trannyshack embraced the word at a time when drag culture used the word for empowerment," she said. "Taking the word out of use is a sign that transgender people are gaining rights and that others are respecting our feelings. In this way, changing our language is less about being politically correct and more about honoring others and making a tangible change to make a space for them at the table."
But not everyone is happy about Heklina’s decision. Gender non-conforming cabaret artist Justin Vivian Bond performed in San Francisco for years before moving to New York, where Bond gained wider acclaim. In a lengthy Facebook post, Bond attributed the name change to "harassment from a group of people who have decided that instead of learning from our queer history of re-appropriating, owning, and disempowering words that accurately describe who and what we are, a small group of vocal queers have decided to pursue a shame-based agenda."
Noted transgender activist Cristan Williams pointed out that words like "faggot" and "tranny" are "used to hurt us."