Please, Stop Calling Me That

Image result for angry gay sounds meme

First off, I’m sorry for writing two angry rant posts in a row; I try to keep the tone of my blog very positive but I really needed to get this off my chest. Second, this post has a big ol’ content warning for discussion of transphobia, transphobic slurs, white supremacists, and mentions of murder and suicide. Today I want to talk about the term “trap“.

If you’ve spent enough time in various anime forums and subreddits, you’re probably (sadly) familiar with this term, but for the uninitiated: “trap” is a word used to refer to transgender women and crossdressing men, with the implication that these people look feminine in order to trick, or “trap” straight, cisgender men into sleeping with them. The term originated on 4chan in the early 2000’s, and since then has become so popular that I literally can’t look up clips of Astolfo (my favorite character from Fate/Apocrypha) on YouTube without seeing it in the first batch of results.

Astolfo is way too pure for this shit.

I hate this, and “hate” isn’t a word I use lightly. I think “trap” is a transphobic and dehumanizing slur. As a trans woman, I’ve been called “trap”, “tranny”, “shemale”, etc. online more times than I can remember, and every time I die a little inside. Because when I see this word, the message I get is: “You’re not really a woman. It doesn’t matter if it says so on your ID and you’ve been living life as a woman for five years now. You’re a man playing dress-up to get other men to sleep with you.” And depending on who’s saying it, the other message I get is, “You’re not human, and you don’t deserve to live.”

That might come off as a little extreme, but “trap” as a word reinforces some truly insidious ideas that can lead to the literal death of trans people. In 2013, a black trans woman named Islan Nettles was brutally beaten to death in Harlem. Although the killer turned himself in three days after the attack, admitting that he flew into a “blind rage” when he found out her gender identity, he was not charged with murder or with a hate crime. This is known as the Trans Panic Defense, a legal strategy that blames victims for the violence inflicted upon them just because they are trans, and it is still allowed in most U.S. states. By implying that trans people are not who they say they are, but actually deceitful sexual predators, the term “trap” reinforces these hateful beliefs, beliefs that often get real, actual trans people killed.

Image result for alluka hxh
Okay, that was a lot, and I need a break. Look at this adorable pic of one of my favorite trans characters, Alluka from Hunter x Hunter

Unfortunately, it’s really hard to have a productive discussion about this online, because there are so many directions it could go and usually people take all of them at once. Nobody wants to hear that something they say is harmful, and with today’s fractured political climate it’s hard to get people to agree on fucking anything. But I want to meet people where they’re at, and talk about some of the objections I’ve heard when saying “trap” is a slur and they shouldn’t use it:

  • It’s not really a slur: Sorry to say, but I don’t think this argument holds any water at all. The fact is that trans people are called “trap” all the time, and it’s almost always as a means to disparage or ridicule us. I mean, I should know!
  • It’s only used to refer to crossdressers, not trans people: Unfortunately, many people who use the term don’t know the difference. (A crossdresser is someone who identifies as their birth gender but just dresses as another, while a trans person identifies as/is a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth.) Because of this misconception, “trap” is often used at crossdressers and trans people interchangably. And either way, it’s still a slur.
  • It’s only used to refer to 2D anime femboys, not actual human beings: David Duke, the former leader of the KKK, tweeted “Traps are gay” when the first transgender Playboy model was announced in 2017. I doubt that he’s a closeted hardcore otaku – he’s just a bigoted asshole who used trendy alt-right lingo to make fun of a real person while all his supporters clamored for her death in the comments. “Trap” is a slur directed at real human beings just as much as fictional characters, and either way it’s harmful.
  • My friend is trans and they’re fine with being called a trap: It’s a logical fallacy to assume that one person’s opinion reflects the opinions of the entire community they belong to. I’m not the only one out there who thinks “trap” is offensive: lots of people with a much bigger platform than me have said the same thing. Trust me: the number of trans people who don’t find “trap” offensive is much, much smaller than the number of those who do.
  • This is just political correctness run amok/something about free speech and the First Amendment: Okay, I know it’s 2020 and everything is political now, but I really don’t think this necessarily needs to be a political issue. It’s just about treating others with basic human decency and respect. If someone tells you that a word you use to describe them is offensive, you should stop using it. That’s just common sense, right?
  • I don’t care/I’m just going to use it anyway: Well… idk. *throws hands up exasperatedly* Do I really have to explain why it’s important to be kind to other people?

I know I’ve said a lot in this, but I also want to add that I don’t think that everyone who uses “trap” is a bad person. Some of them are just unaware of how hurtful it really is. They may not have ever been told that it’s a slur, or they are just emulating the things their favorite subreddits or YouTubers say. But if you do use “trap”, and you’re reading this – if anything I’ve said has connected with you at all – I ask you to please stop using it. You never know who might be reading what you post, and how much of an effect those words have on them.

Image result for lily zombieland saga
All trans people deserve love and protection – even the fictional ones!

13 thoughts on “Please, Stop Calling Me That

  1. Irina February 6, 2020 / 10:19 pm

    I wrote a post about this exact thing not so long ago…The comments were not overly positive. Lost a few followers after that too

    Liked by 4 people

    • Mari February 6, 2020 / 10:23 pm

      I’m sorry that happened, but thank you for saying that 💜 it really helps to know I’m not the only one who feels this way. And those people who unfollowed you, that was their loss cause they missed out on an awesome blog!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Irina February 6, 2020 / 10:27 pm

        That’s sweet. And no. If anything I was happy to see that a lot of people were potentially a little misinformed but otherwise enthusiatic to shop support for the trans community and just for other people in general which was great to see

        Liked by 3 people

    • terranceacrow February 8, 2020 / 4:12 am

      “Lost a few followers after that too”

      I’m not sure “lost” applies here…

      Your post, like this one, was beautiful. It (also like this post) clarified the issues for a lot of folks, and some of them were even strong enough, courageous enough, and/or honest enough to say so.

      How many folks took comfort from it? Impossible to say. But I think that if the number was greater than zero, then you came out ahead.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Irina February 8, 2020 / 9:24 pm

        Crow, you always know how to make everything better! We’re lucky to have you in this little community

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Inskidee February 6, 2020 / 11:16 pm

    This is an important topic to address and I admire the bravery you have in doing so. I agree with you in every bit of the term “trap” being more crude and offensive than people make it out to be. To me, the word feels so disrespectful to the same extent of slurs like “tranny” or “fag”. I’ve always found it weird how lightly it’s thrown around like the term totally isn’t offending people or even intiating a form of trauma amongst them. It’s comforting knowing I’m not alone with that mindset 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Mari February 7, 2020 / 2:45 pm

      Thank you, but I don’t think it’s brave of me to say this. I’m just trying to say what I think is right. I don’t like hateful language directed against anyone. My only hope is that eventually people will wise up to the fact that this is not okay and change their behavior. I remember growing up as a kid, people would use the word “retard” all the time, but now people use it much less because they realize how offensive it can be to people with disabilities. Hopefully the same thing will happen here

      Liked by 2 people

      • Fred (Au Natural) February 7, 2020 / 10:15 pm

        I was called a “retard” more then a few times, not for a low IQ but for my social ineptness.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Pinkie February 7, 2020 / 3:45 pm

    I do agree with you that the word trap is something really nasty. I am in a fairy simular situation as you myself so I know how painful it can be. I will admit I have used the word in a form of self defence. One of my friends finds the term really funny and really loves to use it. Despite me being trasparant that I can not always appreciate his language. His excuses are.. “thats how people talk now.. deal with it ”

    So I started to use if defensively. Rather than see him make a joke that harms me I beat him to the punch to deny him of the pleasure…it kinda worked and he stopped doing it, but it stell felt bad. I would never use it outside the social group, Unfortunatly some of the friends I really need really protect him because of his autismn and if I get offended I should simply realise he “doesnt mean to harm he.. it’s just how he is”

    It really sucks though if people use the word,there is always some justification and it’s never not painful. Just because the other guy can’t defend himself as well as I can socially I am the bad guy for telling him he is an asshole for using that word? Things can hurt even if they are not meant harmfull.

    I fully realise that those who want to insult will continue to do so .. and to be honest.. I don’t mind those as much! Biggots will always exist. They want to harm me so all I can do is ignore it. Yet when people send these memes into the world and make it into something light hearted we lose the means to defend outselves, we become the bad guys for taking offence to non ill intended stuff. I can not avoid haters saying it and harming me.. but the good intended ones hurt me.. without the intention of doing so.. it feels avoidable and kinda hurts worse.

    Still trying to find the right way to deal with those.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Mari February 7, 2020 / 4:08 pm

      Yeah, that is definitely a tricky situation to navigate! Thank you for sharing that, I’m sure it must not have been easy.

      I can’t speak for your friend, but as someone on the autism spectrum myself I think we tend to not always pick up on social queues that tell us whether or not something is okay to say or do. But at the same time, we tend to be very empathic and feel terribly guilty if we feel that we’ve done something wrong. Your friend probably doesn’t mean any harm, and he may not know what he’s saying is wrong – but that doesn’t mean it’s not hurtful to others. I think maybe if you were to talk to him one on one, and just tell him frankly and candidly that it’s not an okay thing to call people, it might get through to him. But that can be very emotionally demanding and you’re totally justified in not wanting to talk about it either.

      Unfortunately, transphobia is everywhere in our society. Especially in contemporary politics and the media. I think a lot of people just repeat what they might see on TV or social media without realizing how much it affects other people. But it still sucks. No one should be treated so cruelly because of who they are. We all deserve a space in this community and people need to realize that.

      *hugs* I know it’s rough but we got this!💜💙

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Fred (Au Natural) February 7, 2020 / 10:09 pm

    I’m one of those people who didn’t realize that “trap” was an offensive term. I just assumed that it was a term of art in anime for a boy who could be mistaken for a girl or vice versa. I took it as a slightly humerous figure of speech for an anime trope.

    It isn’t easy for people not immersed in a culture to know these things. Take the word “queer.” I grew up thinking it was a terrible derogatory thing to call a gay person. But I hear gays using it with pride. It was even a televion series title.

    Other words are confusing too. “Goggles” is one. I had no idea it was insulting. I always thought in terms of night vision goggles, something used enhance vision. Irina corrected me.

    I am by nature blind to social nuance.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. David Boone (moonhawk81) February 9, 2020 / 8:11 pm

    A little mutual respect and common decency can go a long way for anyone. . .

    Like

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