by Margaret Price
Project Runway 4: The Season of Love. And no designer was more lovable than the prancing, snapping, flat-iron–wielding Christian Siriano, who ended up winning it all—the final runway showdown, the spread in Elle, and the $10K Fan Favorite prize. Sassing and sewing with equal velocity, the diminuitive designer and self-described "big deal" introduced us to an array of hip, new-to-many-Americans phrases: Fierce! Ferosh! A hot mess up in here! A hot tranny mess up in here!
The first time I heard the winsome Christian use his famous catchphrase, I thought, "Are we allowed to say tranny on TV now?" Had the revolution arrived while I was writing my holiday thank-you notes?
Well, not quite. A glance at the political landscape indicates that actual trans people are still awfully far from being America's fan favorites. Last November, following a pitched battle between trans activists and mainstream gay organizations, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (H.R. 3685) was passed by the House of Representatives in a form that omitted any mention of gender-based discrimination. And murders of gender-nonconforming people have continued apace, unaccompanied by mainstream media attention: During Project Runway's Season 4 run alone, the list included one in Detroit (Ashley Sweeney), one in Florida (Simmie Williams), and one in South Carolina (Adolphus Simmons).
Maybe I'm being a little humorless. I don't expect Project Runway to offer public education on federal bills or hate crimes, and I'm happy to cheer for Siriano's Vivienne Westwood–inspired skinny pants as they stomp down the runway. But, as Tim Gunn might say, I'm worried. Will Siriano's very winsomeness persuade PR viewers that saying "tranny" is the new way to win friends and influence people? That it's a term of affection rather than an as-yet reclaimed slur? That as long as you're cute enough, language doesn't matter?
Happily, there is more to the tranny story on cable TV. At the same time that Christian was flouncing his way around Bravo, the Logo network debuted Transamerican Love Story, starring MTF actor/activist Calpernia Addams. In her deathless video "Bad Questions to Ask a Transsexual," Ms. Addams assures us, "This list might seem a little bit angry … But I hope you'll bear with me as I chap your ass."
Now, that's a hot tranny mess. And I mean that in the best way.
Thanks to E., my favorite ferosh tranny bitch, who got the info about trans rights all up in here.