*Gabourey Sidibe has apologized for her repeated use of a transphobic slur while appearing on the January 23rd broadcast of “The Arsenio Hall Show.”
The Oscar nominated actress was talking about living in New Orleans while filming “American Horror Story: Coven” when she said the word “tranny” no less than five times in under a minute:
Gabourey Sidibe: There was a bar that we would frequent and every time we’d go, when we were leaving every single time there was always like a gang of cops arresting trannies.
Sidibe: Specifically trannies.
Arsenio Hall: Yeah…
Sidibe: And I don’t know what goes on with trannies but that tranny on tranny crime needs to stop!
Arsenio Hall and audience: [Laughter]
Sidibe [chuckling]: It is tearing our nation apart!
Although police treatment of transgender women of color has been an issue around the country, Sidibe’s use of the term “tranny,” the tone of the segment and the way the segment was packaged and presented on “The Arsenio Hall Show’s” YouTube channel has many upset.
Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, told The Huffington Post:
“Using the word ‘tranny’ isn’t OK anymore. Using it to make fun of people is definitely not OK. And using it to make fun of any kind of violence is just plain wrong. I know she meant it in fun but that’s the problem in this case. It’s not just that she used the word ‘tranny’ but that she’s making fun of violence in a city where the police have a history of committing violence and discrimination against trans women of color. It’s the kind of thing that trans people listen to and say, ‘This is someone who is not thinking about our lives. This is someone who is making fun of our problems.’ Gabby is someone who has approached lots of different social issues with grace and class and so this is just such a disappointment.”
Allyson Robinson, an LGBT movement veteran whose consulting firm Warrior Poet Strategies specializes in LGBT inclusion, echoed Keisling’s sentiments in an email sent to The Huffington Post.
“It’s tremendously disappointing to see Sidibe put her prejudice so callously on display like this,” Robinson wrote. “If she isn’t aware of the poverty, violence, unjust detention, and inhuman incarceration trans women (and especially trans women of color) face, it’s time she educated herself. Sitting down and learning about it from the people at the National Center for Transgender Equality or GLAAD would be a good place to start.”
And Jean-Marie Navetta, Director of Equality & Diversity Partnerships at PFLAG National, sent a long statement to The Huffington Post, writing in part:
“I don’t know [Sidibe]. I will always give people the benefit of the doubt and assume that they weren’t thinking and just need some education. We all deserve that chance. We all need the right to redeem ourselves. And I believe this for her, in spite of the fact that it felt very mean-spirited and horrible to me, especially since she has been the point of much ridicule for her differences. It has often been those who are also different — like trans people — who have defended her. I hope this is a learning experience.”
After hearing about the reaction, Sidibe apologized on Twitter:
Sidibe is certainly not the first celebrity to use the slur.
Lance Bass, Kelly Osbourne and Neil Patrick Harris all came under fire for using the term at one point or another and all three stars almost immediately offered apologies. In fact, Bass and Osbourne each wrote blogs calling for an end to the use of the word in the wake of outrage from the gay community.
The Justice Department found in a recent study that “trans people across the U.S. experience three times as much police violence as non-transgender individuals” and that “even when transgender people were the victims of hate crimes, 48 percent reported receiving mistreatment from the police when they went for help.”