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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Drag Club Takes the "Tranny" Out of Trannyshack

Posted By on Thu, May 22, 2014 at 4:40 PM

click to enlarge Heklina performing back in the day when the word "tranny" wasn't offensive. - ERIC HUNT/WIKIMEDIA
  • Eric Hunt/Wikimedia
  • Heklina performing back in the day when the word "tranny" wasn't offensive.

Bending to the times, Trannyshack, the popular San Francisco drag club, has announced it will in fact change its name, dropping the word "tranny" from the well-known moniker.

Heklina, Stefan Grygelko, who founded the club in 1996, posted the announcement on Trannyshack's Facebook page earlier this week, confirming that it would change its name to something less offensive.

The new name has yet to be decided, but in the meantime, here's how Heklina explained the issue:

First, a little history about the name Trannyshack, and the club itself. When I started the club (waaaaaay back in 1996) the word "tranny" did not have the charged weight to it that it has today. Simply put, it was not (arguably) considered a slur word, and not even thought of on the same level as the words "dyke" or "faggot" (two words which, maybe ironically, have somehow become less charged and have been "reclaimed" to a certain degree-for instance, leading the Pride Parade in San Francisco every year are the Dykes On Bikes. I can't imagine in this day, a contingent called Trannies On Bikes). There are people who might argue this, but I'm sorry it just was not a word thought of as a slur on the same level as today. It was just not. I considered the name transgressive, and cutting edge.

The club itself? It became a legendary San Francisco institution. A bastion of alternative drag and diversity. Every walk of life came to, and performed at, Trannyshack. Gay men, lesbians, drag kings, drag kings, M to F's, F to M's, Faux Queens, and yes, even straight people. It won every award for Best Drag show in SF every year, and is generally thought to have redefined drag on the West Coast. It didn't matter (and still does not) what gender you were, or what you had between your legs, if you were a great performer you were welcome on the Trannyshack stage. It grew to mean a great deal to a great many people.

However. Increasingly, and in the past year especially, it's become clear to me the meaning the word tranny has taken on. I've tried to avoid the issue because I've spent almost 20 years branding and promoting my club. But more and more, I am asked on the street, in interviews, and online about my thoughts on the word, and the name of my club. I've given the answer "Oh, my club is different, it means so much to so many people, it's this it's that, etc.", but it's been nagging at me. I started to talk to people close to me about the need for a rebrand. What really was the clincher for me was a post I saw on Facebook by a performer at my club. I wasn't tagged in the post, but came across it anyway. He said how excited he was to be performing at my club but, out of embarrassment, he couldn't type the name of it, and something along the lines of "you all know where it is". Ouch, OK. Time for a rebrand.

I am in the business of (hopefully) entertaining people. It's never been my intention to hurt people. I am not another Shirley Q. Liquor, wanting to offend just for sake of it. Also, on a purely business level, I don't want to be viewed as archaic, out of step with the times, like an ostrich with my head in the sand.

The name T-Shack was tossed out there and tossed right back. So now Heklina and crew will take considerable time, investing in press campaigns, focus groups and all that stuff to workshop a new name, which will come by the new year.

"As I see it, there's two ways we can deal with this. We can see this as progress and a step forward, or we can engage in fighting and divisiveness. Whichever one you choose I am going for progress, and away from hurt and anger," Heklina said on her Facebook page.

Now read some of the random comments from random Facebook users on this topic:

click to enlarge tranny1.png
tranny2.png
tranny3.png
tranny4.png

This should be a really good show -- stay tuned.


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About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Bio:
Erin Sherbert was the Online News Editor for SF Weekly from 2010 to 2015. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.

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