Philly Web Series NSFW to Make Transphobic Debut

nsfw web series

Some of you may know that my second job here at Philly Mag is editor of the our A&E blog, Ticket, where I report on the city’s arts and culture goings-on. Yesterday local writers Marc Cantone and Robert Yula  sent an email asking me to attend the debut screening of their new web series, NSFW, which was created and filmed in town with a legion of Philly creatives. In short, it’s a comedic show that follows what happens behind the scenes of an adult website called American Internet. Here’s a quick synopsis from the show’s website:

At first glance, the offices of American Internet are just like any other modern workplace. Cubicles, copy machines, Coffee Mate creamers in the kitchen, phones ringing and keyboards clacking. But look closer and something is askew. On an average desk you’ll find a framed family portrait, a computer monitor adorned with Garfield stickers and post-it notes, and three makes of 12-inch dildos. In their weekly meetings they discuss market penetration in the same breath as double penetration. Welcome to the world of an adult internet company.

Sounds pretty funny, huh? I mean come on, the word “dildos” is always good for chuckle. But upon further inspection I came across another word that rubbed me in all the wrong places, one that’s been debated a lot recently (ahem, RuPaul): “tranny.”


The series' first trailer features a scene where two actors stare at a poster for a made-up film called Tranny Hall, which shows a Woody Allen look-alike gazing into the eyes of a man wearing a wig and a skirt (screen capture up top.) More from the synopsis:

From the eccentric owner to the all-American mom next door, inter-office politics and love triangles to transsexual Woody Allen spoofs like ‘Tranny Hall’, and parodies of 80’s TV shows like ‘Squirter She Wrote’, American Internet is an office for a new era.

New era? Not yet, obviously. Look, I'm not the first person to say this, but clearly it hasn't been drilled hard enough into the mainstream mindset: You cannot use the word tranny. I don't care if you're gay, lesbian, a drag queen, or someone trying to get a cheap laugh on a web series. The word is offensive. It's vile, and it dehumanizes an entire community of people — much like the words "faggot" or "nigger."

Your use of the word "tranny" perpetuates the idea that transgender people are jokes, that they don't belong. It should be eliminated from our vocabulary. 

Before you debut your show next week to a roomful of people who may or may not know better, I suggest you do some last-minute editing. Strike that scene from your episode. Take the word "tranny" out of your synopsis. You have an opportunity here to open some eyes. Take it.

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  • Facebook User

    Tranny is an abbreviation of any of the following lomg ass words: transexual, transgender, transexual. The concept that it’s used by ANYONE as a slur, let alone by the general populace is an artificial one put forth only to stir the pot and allow some folks the drama platform to jump up and down and appear hurt. Sure there are terrible things done to all the transaction folks by society and those wrongs should be righted. But this isn’t one of them and it’s insulting to say it is and it’s degrading to compare “tranny” to the n-word or “faggot”.

    • Xerash

      The origin of the word is completely different to the meaning of the word now, that doesn’t make it acceptable to use, especially if it’s used in a negative or mocking manner, the word has negative connotations because of the way it’s used, regardless of whether it really means something bad doesn’t matter if it offends people (like myself) and hurts to hear.

    • Heath Clouston

      Faggot is just a pile of wood. Completely inoffensive.

      Just because the origin of a word is inoffensive doesn’t mean the current use of the word isn’t offensive. “Tranny” is used to degrade and dehumanise transgender people. It should not be used casually in the media.

    • Jules Smith

      You are right, trans* people do face a statistically disproportionate level of discrimination and violence.

      But who are you to say what is or is not a slur to another? Have you ever been harassed and threatened for your gender expression?

      I am a trans woman. I speak to other trans* people frequently. The people I’ve spoken to only see the word “tranny” being used in a pejorative sense these days, regardless of etymology.

      FYI: “Shemale” is also not acceptable.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pejorative
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shemale

      • Facebook User

        –Who are you to say what is or is not a slur to another–
        A transgendered person recently told me I have no reason to feel uncomfortable to when referred as “cis” despite my requesting she no longer do that. Of course, I see your point in that the oppressed party is the party that gets to say when something offends them. My POV is that I am over 50 and still have never witnessed anyone call anyone tranny in a hateful way. I just see inflammatory claims that it happens constantly. The only folks I’ve ever heard use tranny in person? Other transgendered people. It just seems such an artificial complaint and I wonder what the next artificial “bad” word will be…

        –Have you ever been harassed and threatened for your gender expression?–
        Sure. And I ignore it best I can and keep doing me.

        –FYI: “Shemale” is also not acceptable.–
        I wouldn’t use it, but I wonder: What’s your take on the many sex workers who apply this term to themselves?

        • MetalDog

          Are you offended by the term cis? If so, why?

        • Kathy11

          I’m over 50, a woman with a trans history and most defiantly have seen it used in a hateful way. More than once.

          Directed towards me. In the Gayboorhood. And at work.

          Hey – I wonder what’s your take on gay guys who hook and who call themselves faggots or cum buckets – does that make it OK for straight guys to call you that in a job interview? “cause all trans women should be equated with sex workers in your mind, right? And all gay guys in mine, then.

          Why do gay guys think they get a special veto on what we find offensive? Is it just a guy thing? Or is it just a gay thing? Do you tell cis women they shouldn’t find words objectionable in the comments section of the Inky?

          Is bitch OK with you?

          Do trans women get a veto on gay slurs?

          Or does power only flow in one direction? You clearly have no understanding of trans women. And want to force your limited view of what we “should be” upon us.

          Not going to happen – get used to it.

        • Jules Smith

          It is perfectly acceptable to not wish to be identified as “cis.” The transgender** individual should not refer to you as such if you requested otherwise. They are in the wrong for that.

          I’m sure you are aware that not identifying as “cis” implies some amount of gender variance. Do you consider yourself to be any form of trans*? Or do you identify some other way?

          I would find “non-trans” acceptable. However, I do not like when those who are comfortable with their assigned gender refer to themselves as “normal” (because it implies that trans* individuals are abnormal). There are other terms I’m sure you could find. Cisgender just seems to have the most traction.

          Watch out for the fallacy of “just because I haven’t observed this, it must not be occur.” I recommend you speak with more people in the transgender community to get their first-hand experiences.

          As for a trans* indivudual referring to another as “tranny”: I see this as the same as a black person referring to another black person as “nigger.” It’s more acceptable for the in-group to say it than if an outsider called them that.

          Would I ever refer to another as “tranny” or accept being called that? No.

          I am saddened that you have been harassed or threatened for your gender expression. I hope one day that will not be an issue for anyone. Your response to such behavior is excellant.

          As far as sex workers go: Many refer to themselves as “shemale” or “tranny” because that is what is expected of them by the general public. I know some trans* people in the industry don’t really mind, but I know some do. I believe that things will change within the next decade or so as information spreads.

          I realize that all the grammar and phrasing is an extremely tedious subject, compounded with how very new most of these words are. But I feel that identity is important, and being able to accurately express oneself is vital in this digital age.

          **Transgender is an adjective, not a verb, btw.

          • Chloe Sagal

            “It is perfectly acceptable to not wish to be identified as “cis.””
            No. For the same reason no one gives a shit when a white person is called ‘cracker’. Unless there was some kind of systematic oppression of cisgender people where that word was used to attack and dehumanize cisgender people, cisgender people cannot cry about cis being a slur.

          • netcrusher88

            Disagree. It’s not like calling a white person a cracker. Saying a cis person is cis is like saying a white person is white. Or that a straight person is straight. It is literally that simple.

          • Chloe Sagal

            You are absolutely correct.

        • philman

          So it’s fine for you to say “don’t call me cis” but not ok for a transgendered person to object to “tranny”? You can “request she no longer do that” but when a transgendered person makes the same request, it’s “degrading” and “insulting”?

        • Dalmax

          Facebook User – Just because YOU have never heard anyone use the term in a derogatory manner doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Personally……I am offended ANY time it is used; especially by a trans person. We already have such low expectations all too often that marginalizing ourselves with the use of that term is NOT the same thing as African Americans using the ‘N’ word on/to/with each other.

    • Facebook User is an idiot

      You don’t get to say that. You tell all the trans people who have been beaten or beaten to death while being called a disgusting tranny that it isn’t offensive. Faggot is just short for bundle of sticks, so does that mean gay people can call it offensive? What is insulting is you devaluing all of the trans people who have literally died at the hands of a cisgendered person beating them to death while calling them a tranny.

      • Facebook User

        My name is Anthony Not sure why it says Facebook user. And I have as much right as you to say what I feel. Notice which one of us called the other an idiot based on a few sentences. Do you wonder why folks aren’t swayed to see things your way? Wonder no more.

        The fact that people are wrongly targeted, beaten and killed let alone feel unsafe by bigots in our world has ZERO to do with the fact that “tranny” isn’t really used in a pejorative way by most people. I can call someone a “cat” and use it as praise or insult. “faggot” doesn’t really get used much in any way other than hurtful, unless it’s gay folks kidding around. Tranny is an abbreviation of a word, 99% of the time. I’m sorry it caused you pain, but it’s true and without the widespread usage you seem to claim, there shouldn’t be an expectation to change the usage in the English language.

        • Leslie Michelle

          I beg to differ. Anthony, 238 of us were murdered last year in hate crimes…because we are who we are. These people had hopes and dreams and the same right to life that you do. I would venture to say that for many of them the last word they heard before their skulls were caved in or they were shot or stabbed was “Tranny.” I dislike that word. It’s rude and insulting. Besides, it only works as a pejorative. You noted it could be an abbreviation for 3 different words, all with vastly different meanings – if it is being used to say we are all the same, well, I find that almost as offensive.

        • Jocelynn Boettcher

          From my experience as a transwoman, I have seen 3 words that I hate when used to describe me…tranny, shemale, and trap. Tranny and she male both hold the baggage of the sex worker scene with it, as well as are used a lot in a derogatory sense (I have even been told that I wouldn’t know a situation cause I was just a dumb tranny, or I have been told by a customer that they don’t want a tranny to touch their food, so demanded my manager to make it, ect ect ect). And then trap, being a gamer and a geek/nerd, is the worst for me.

    • MetalDog

      I’m straight and not trans, and every time I hear the word “tranny” it sounds like a pejorative. Even if I thought it wasn’t, it isn’t my place to tell other people that they shouldn’t be offended by a word.

    • sky

      so your argument is that:
      1. trans women are lying about our feelings for attention
      2. trans women are not actually hurt by the things we say hurt us
      3. ‘tranny’ is a shorter word than ‘trans’

      i can’t think of a clearer example of dehumanizing someone, by saying our hurt and feelings aren’t real, than what you’re saying here. you’re dehumanizing us because you’d rather go on insulting us than listen to what we’re saying about our own lives and feelings. like, your opinion is ill founded dude.

    • Penny Marie Sautereau

      Do kindly sod-off.

    • Link

      There is already a short form for those words, and that is ‘trans’. Why not use that instead?

  • donutemergency

    Make that a transmisogynistic debut. And Josh Middleton, it’s not just that they shouldn’t have used the word “tranny” – it’s that a “man in a dress” shouldn’t be the punch line.

  • Connie

    I’m a transsexual female ex marine parent of three. Yes, “tranny” is the same as nigger. “Shemale”, “tranny”, “HeShe”, stop it. We are the most murdered, most assaulted, most likely to kill ourselves group on the planet. Just fucking leave us alone and stop the ignorant hate.

    For crying out loud, girls have been killed or left brain damaged from beatings for using the bathroom. Just for taking a pee. Wake up, words matter.