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Queen Emily has a PhD and is not afraid to use it. She also blogs at Questioning Transphobia.

This author has written 7 posts for Hoyden About Town. Read more about Emily Manuel »

19 responses to “Obnoxious pantomime alert: “trAnnie””

  1. Li

    The form response being sent out by the Opera House is revolting as well.

    This is what one of my friends received back:

    “Dear [Name]

    Sydney Opera House and Trevor Ashley wish to apologise to those offended by the title of the play “TrAnnie”.

    The title “TrAnnie” is a play on words. It is a play on the musical Annie and combines the letters of Trevor’s name into the title. It is also a play on the fact that the central character is transsexual.

    The show, while being a comedy, shows the transgender character in a positive light and hopes to encourage greater understanding of the transgender community.

    Trevor Ashley said, “Although I appreciate that the word may brush some transgendered people up the wrong way, the intent is not to harm, but to take the sting out of what I’m sure could be a painful word for some. Being a part of the GLBTQI community for many years, we are people who can reclaim words that have been used in harmful ways towards us in the past.”

    Your comments are appreciated and we thank you for taking the time to write.

    Kind Regards”

  2. Xanthë

    Thanks very much, Emily, for posting the link to Chai’s note. In truth, I really didn’t want to know more about this at all, but reading that note has helped. I had the misfortune to see that ‘trAnnie’ poster image a couple of days ago on my FB feed, without knowing where or what it was about, let alone that it was being produced in the Sydney Opera House shortly, and I had to avoid going full on HULK SMASH and defriending everyone who’d had anything to do with posting it and laughing about it. And I’m pretty laid back about most stuff, but seeing this being joked about by so-called ‘friends’ on FB was utterly hurtful, but not exactly unexpected either, from similar, past experience.

  3. Mindy

    Oh wow Li, that response really is awful.

  4. The Amazing Kim

    The title “TrAnnie” is a play on words. It is a play on the musical Annie and combines the letters of Trevor’s name into the title. It is also a play on the fact that the central character is transsexual.

    Is it really? Gosh, how subtle!

    Rage smash things

  5. Mindy

    I have sent them a ‘concern’. Lets see if I get the same form letter.

  6. Jo Tamar

    Here is the “concern” I have just sent.

    I also complained about their form response :)

    I am cynical. I do not think this will do any good. But I am keeping my fingers crossed.

    Emily, thanks for putting up this post. This has made me soooo maaaaaadddddd.

    Hi

    This complaint (not merely a “concern”) relates to the show “trAnnie”.

    I assume that you did not realise when you made the decision to put on the show (because the alternative is to assume you did know and made the decision to go ahead anyway), but “tranny” or “trannie” is widely considered to be a horrendously derogatory term for a transexual or transgender woman.

    While it is true that some trans* women are making an attempt to reclaim the word, it is not a word which can be claimed by anyone who is not a trans* woman (being gay doesn’t count) without being extremely offensive.

    I am horrified that an organisation like the Sydney Opera House is condoning such offensiveness.

    The marketing for the show doesn’t get any better than the name (for example: “his/her” and an implication that trans* people are pedophiles? Really?).

    I have been to the Sydney Opera House many, many times. In light of the SOH’s support of this show in all its offensive glory, I will be disinclined to do anything in the future that would be of any financial benefit to the SOH.

    I have seen the form letter you are sending in response to “concerns”.

    In your form response, you say that the show “shows the transgender character in a positive light and hopes to encourage greater understanding of the transgender community.”

    Have you consulted the “transgender community”? Has Trevor Ashley? Because, from the show description, there is absolutely nothing positive about the portrayal of “the transgender character” – for one thing, you refer to only one transgender character, which suggests there is no portrayal of any “transgender community” at all – and every member of the “transgender community” I know considers that this will be detrimental, if anything, in “encourag[ing] greater understanding of the transgender community.”

    A show that would truly show a trans* character in a positive light and encourage greater understanding of trans* PEOPLE (which is more important than trying to “understand” a trans* “community” as some monolith, which it is not) would be one which focused on the actual lived experience of trans* people and which portrayed trans* people sensitively (and preferably as played by trans* people), including but not limited to use of appropriate pronouns (poor use of pronouns is far from the only or biggest problem, but use of inappropriate pronouns is a bit of a tell as to the real thrust of the show).

    Playing a marginalised group for laughs is offensive. That is what “trAnnie” is really about.

    The fact that the name incorporates some of the letters of Trevor Ashley’s name is a laughable excuse for such offensiveness.

    Finally, even if it turns out that “trAnnie” does what you say it does in relation to trans* people and the trans* community, that does not excuse the fact that it is named and marketed in a way that does precisely the opposite.

    I have sent this to “Policies and Procedures” because I believe that an organisation like the Sydney Opera House should, if it does not already, have a policy about staging shows which do not have content which is offensive and/or harmful to marginalised groups, or which are marketed in a manner which is offensive and/or harmful to marginalised groups.

    Please do not send me your form response in response to this email. If you cannot send me a response which actually addresses the complaints I have made, I would prefer to receive no response at all.

    Thank you.

    Kind regards,
    Jo Tamar

  7. Mindy

    This is what I sent them:

    I am concerned that the Sydney Opera house is showing a musical that not only mocks transgender people but also uses, in its title, a slur that has been directed against transgender people and used as an excuse for violence against them. Regardless of his membership of the GLTBI [eta: sorry Q's how could I forget you!] community, Trevor does not have the right to mock other members of that community, or cause them pain or humiliation. I am stunned that anyone thought this was a good idea. [signed Me]

    This is the cut and paste they sent me of their response letter:

    Sydney Opera House and Trevor Ashley wish to apologise to those offended by the title of this play.

    The title “TrAnnie” is a play on words. It is a play on the musical Annie and combines the letters of Trevor’s name into the title. It is also a play on the fact that the central character is transsexual.

    The show, while being a comedy, shows the transgender character in a positive light and hopes to encourage more understanding of the transgender community.

    Trevor Ashley said, “Although I appreciate that the word may brush some transgendered people up the wrong way, the intent is not to harm, but take the sting out of what I’m sure could be a painful word for some. Being a part of the GLBTQI community for many years, we are people who can reclaim words that have been used in harmful ways towards us in the past.”Thank you for your email and feedback.

  8. MrRabbit

    Trevor’s response about being part of the LGBTI community and so therefore he is reclaiming the word seems to me part of a greater problem regarding many queer men’s attitudes. They seem to think that because they are queer (men) they can speak for all of us (especially trans and cis women) and appropriate our experiences. This is because they, as men, feel universal. Queer = queer man by default, so all queer experiences are theirs to use as they will.

    There’s also a tendency by some people who are members of one oppressed group to use the lives or conditions of another oppressed group and it’s okay because they are not a white middle class cis man. (“Evelyn, Evelyn” is a good example of this. It’s okay cos I’m a woman!)

    I’m a writer and I do think it’s important to write characters who are “other” than myself but I have a responsibility to do it with respect. I have a responsibility to research, to not mock or misrepresent. Trevor Ashley has failed to do these basic things.

    (I’m a white queer cis woman with a disability. To put what I say in some sort of context since my comment name gives no clue.)

  9. Jamie

    As a trans woman, nothing makes me feel so secure as knowing gay men are there to reclaim tranny for me, because I certainly know that I wouldn’t be able to myself, and let me tell you, it’s a word I just can’t accept the loss of.

    Thanks Trevor!

    (Yeah, sarcasm, if it wasn’t obvious. :P )

  10. tree

    Sydney Opera House and Trevor Ashley wish to apologise to those offended by the title of this play.

    translation: Sorry you’re offended and don’t appreciate artistic humour.

    Although I appreciate that the word may brush some transgendered people up the wrong way, the intent is not to harm

    translation: Actually I don’t care whether or not I harm any trans* people. My ‘ancient eldritch power called “Intent”’ is fucking magic.

  11. jshoep

    I see they’ve changed “sex change surgery” to “gender reassignment surgery”, as if that makes the whole thing better. *rolls eyes*

  12. Jo Tamar

    I received a response noting that I did not wish to receive the form response (that’s something! at least someone is reading!) and telling me that Trevor Ashley and the SOH had apologised “to those offended”. The email was from the head of Patron Services, which suggests that this whole debacle is being noticed by management. That is something.

    The email thanked me for my email and feedback. (HA!)

    It did not address my “concerns”.

    I wrote back and asked if the apology was public and online, whether there would be any changes made to the show or the marketing, and with some further questions about policies about productions which are offensive (to the point of being harmful) to marginalised groups.

    Let’s see what the next step is… (I am not holding my breath).

    I’m starting to wonder whether this is something we should be drawing to the attention of artists who have staged, and might stage in the future, shows at the SOH, and who might be allies. Tim Minchin? Miriam Margolyes?

    The problem is that the SOH just has, and will always have, such pulling power. *sigh*

  13. Bridget

    It doesn’t matter how eloquently and logically you point out how wrong and hurtful something is or who you point it out to. Various government departments or ministers responsible for perpetrating discriminatory practices, Libra commercial anyone? etc. All you ever get is an excuse as to why what they have done was never intended to offend despite the fact that it clearly will and has.
    What is hurtful is when people under the LGBTIQ umbrella sell out the T so that they can get giggles at our expense. They aren’t sorry, they don’t care and they are not accepting or inclusive yet they seek acceptance themselves from wider society.

  14. Savannah

    I have started an online petition to have this show cancelled.

    Please sign the petition and share it with your friends.

    http://www.change.org/petitions/cancel-the-play-trannie-cancel-the-sydney-opera-house-showing-from-6-22-dec-2012

  15. tigtog

    Savannah, I wish you luck and I’ve signed the petition. I doubt its efficacy however – I don’t think there are enough of us to make an impact on their demographic calculus. It’s still worth standing up for, and this time I could well be wrong. After all, previous campaigns against the Parrot have got nowhere, but this time around at least there’s been a temporary result.

    /cynical

  16. Mindy

    The show is still on, but the title has been changed to “Little Orphan Trashely”.

  17. tigtog

    Well at least that means that the posters won’t all be up around town with the slur ‘trannie’ all over them.

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