Pissed Off at Ticked Off: Trans bloggers react

International Day of Transgender Visibility was started just last year as a much-needed counterpart to the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which focused more on memorializing those lost rather than celebrating everything the trans community is doing today. Ironically, a recent controversy over the Tribeca Film Festival features problematic representations of trans women, and the ensuing discussion only further marginalized the trans community. And it all started with a little cis-directed flick called Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives. Yeah, you read that right.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that a film directed by someone outside the trans community called Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives, is well, pissing people off-- especially since it's screening as one of the "LGBT-friendly" movies at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. Rooted in the revenge/exploitation genre, the film is about five trans women (portrayed by gay men, with with one exception three played by trans women) who take revenge on an attacker and rapist.

If the name wasn't bad enough (if you don't know why "tranny" is not okay to use, read this), the trailer is worse. Director Israel Luna sets up this "comedy" with text describing the very real (and obscenely recent) murders of Angie Zapata and Jorge Mercado. Although Luna has said that the film is about upsetting the narrative of violence against trans women, the message falls flat when it's titled and promoted this way, especially after outcry from his local trans community.

Trigger warning, trailer contains graphic violence and is NSFW:

Unsurprisingly, trans bloggers are expressing a variety of opinions, from expected outrage, like Gina from Skip the Makeup's absolutely biting reaction, to gudbuy t'jane's shock:

Even more troubling is the pornographic description of their deaths. Do cis people not realize how incredibly triggering and damaging it can be having to read the detailed description of how a trans person was murdered? And then the sickening punch of realizing it was done in the aim of promoting a comedy?

Actress Alexandra Billings, the first trans woman to play a trans woman character on TV, shared that she hates the word "tranny," and was livid after seeing the trailer. But revenge films walk the line between exploitation and empowerment, and after watching the film Billings found some of the latter:

In Israel Luna's film, these women may be crass, they may be uncomplicated, they may be verbose, but coming from that community, I actually know people that actually behave, sound, and act that way. And let's face it, when you have a Trans person playing a Trans person, it just makes more sense. We don't have to act it. We ARE it.

As a working actress in Hollywood I know the box and I know how it fits and after 35 years in show business, I know what it's like to bust it open. I'm sick and tired of our community being portrayed as victims, or hookers, or having Hollywood actresses take voice lessons so they can sound more like a man pretending to be a woman. That's more dehumanizing than anything in this film.

In "Building A Culture Instead of Letting Others Portray Us," Suzan from Women Born Transsexual advocated promoting trans-made art instead, saying:

I'm bothered by this film "Ticked off…". But rather than censoring it or putting all this energy into protesting it I would rather see our energy poured into supporting our own and their art.

We actually have sisters who are musical artists. We probably have enough to put on a festival of our own. We have poets....Instead of just protesting the negative, even though it needs to be done, perhaps we should put the same amount of energy into supporting the positive.

These are just some of the opinions from the trans community voiced over the film, and eventually GLAAD issued a statement to the Tribeca Film Festival asking them to pull the film (Billings' post was an open letter to GLAAD). However, further coverage of the controversy, from the NY Time's Artsbeat to Movieline, has simply framed the debate as being between GLAAD and Tribeca or Luna, further ignoring the community that rose up in protest in the first place (and who prompted GLAAD to respond). Not only are the voices of trans people being overlooked (misrepresenting the community a second time), but now conversations about the film get derailed from its problematic transphobic aspects to debating the efficacy of GLAAD's intentions or worse, encouraging more transphobic responses (i.e. "LGBT" blog Back2Stonewall saying "After this is all over the filmmaker should create a sequel about GLAAD called 'Ticked-off Bored PC Old Queens With Press Releases'").

As Marti Abernathey wrote at the Transadvocate:

The portrayal of GLAAD as causing the fracture in this community instead of the film itself, is stunning. Many transgender people put out a call to action from GLAAD and they responded. GLAAD in this case has truly been a G-L-B-T organization with this call to action.

And although just this week Israel Luna issued a press release saying he will release a new trailer that does not include the murders of Angie Zapata and Jorge Mercado in the trailer, this doesn't change the fact that the movie's offensive title and set-up remain.

Cis media consumers (myself included), must constantly remember (International Day of Transgender Visibility or not) that they're only getting half the story when they don't seek out the voices that have been intentionally marginalized and ignored. Whether it's a transphobic news story or disgust over a film festival selection, trans voices are present and loud – it's just that many don't bother to listen. Read more about IDTV here, and share what you've been reading below.

GLAAD's Ineffective Campaign and Doing the Right Thing Even if It Isn't Easy [Trans Group Blog.]

by Kjerstin Johnson
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Kjerstin Johnson is a writer and editor in Portland, Oregon. She is the former editor in chief of Bitch. She tweets at @kajerstin

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15 Comments Have Been Posted

Really interesting - thanks.

Really interesting - thanks. There are similar issues around disability representation (including being played by by non-disabled people) in TV and the movies.

In mainstream media, the

In mainstream media, the word "tranny" is being used more often. If this is in fact offensive (which I believe it is) you can report the use of this word to the FCC online@ http://esupport.fcc.gov/complaints.htm
They want to know the date and time and channel of the program. I'm a cis-woman, so perhaps I've more faith in the government, but I believe this could help inform some that the trans community will not take this laying down. I am surprised that this has not been mentioned before actually. This is one of the routes I plan to try.
I hope that Suzan has good fortune in organizing a trans dominated festival, and inspires more of the trans community to do the same.

Trans people DO have their own festival!

Too right - feminists can't be tolerating transphobia. Get angry, but also channel that energy into supporting the community's own artistic vision.

I'd recommend checking out - and supporting - Fresh Meat Productions, transgender & queer performing and visual arts! There's an amazing annual week-long performance festival that's not to be missed: http://www.freshmeatproductions.org/

Walking the line

This may be a weird/tenuous conclusion to draw, but I see a similarity in how trans "vengeance films walk(ing) the line between exploitation and empowerment," parallel rape vengeance films. Come to think of it, it's more common to see graphic rape violence in the movies than it is to see realistic depictions of non-rape sexuality.

Thanks for the mention

As a reader of Bitch Magazine as well as someone who loves the writing of Julia Serano I consider your mention of my blog http://womenborntranssexual.com really pretty neat.

Thank you

Suzan Cooke

For what it's worth...

Why do you think the main characters are "portrayed by gay men, with with one exception"? Everywhere else I've read that 3/5 of them are transgender, and if you take a look on the film's website, Willam Belli is the only one of them who clearly identifies as male.

Queerty identifies 3/5 as transgender here: http://www.queerty.com/gay-director-israel-luna-is-sick-of-bashing-victi...

Cast bios are here: http://lalunaentertainment.com/La_Luna_Entertainment/Ticked-Off_Trannies...

And if we're looking to listen to voices from the trans community, I don't think we should discount those of the actresses involved in the film. Krystal Summers says:

I am a transgender woman and one of the lead actors in “Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives.” Our film does not promote hate or violence against transgender women. It is not a documentary, but a work of fiction and a revenge fantasy. I would never partake in a project that made light of the appalling acts of hate that we, as transgender women, encounter nearly every day. I urge you not to judge the film based on a trailer, hearsay or the recent statements from GLAAD, which received a copy of our film in February, and for weeks, supported our filmmakers. In fact, GLAAD representatives advised our film’s producer, director and cast on how to describe our film to people. The transgender community is always asking that people not judge us by our exterior and take the time to look deeper – I hope that you will do the same with our film.

(Quote pulled from the New York Times here: http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/26/ticked-off-trannies-actor-r...)

My mistake

Hi Emma,
Thank you for the clarification and links, I don't know where in my reading that got confused. I'll change my post accordingly.

Being Angry

Perhaps it's inappropriate for the overprivileged to artistically represent the underprivileged, and perhaps it's unfortunate that this flick exploits an irrational fear thereby encouraging transphobia, but I don't think one can be angry at the topic itself. No one is angry when men are characterized as more violent than females, though this too a purely a leftover artifice of gender construction. I think the main issue is, why does such fear *sell*?


"........Gina from Skip the Makeup’s absolutely biting reaction, to gudbuy t’jane’s shock:

Even more troubling is the pornographic description of their deaths. Do cis people not realize how incredibly triggering and damaging it can be having to read the detailed description of how a trans person was murdered?...."

Does Gina realize how incredibly triggering and damaging it can be having to read the detailed description of how ANY person was murdered?!? Is it more damaging to transpeople than others? Someone explain that to me.


In this case, it's likely to be more triggering for transpeople because the victims were murdered *for being trans.* Murder descriptions can be upsetting for anyone, but imagine how much more personal it is when the victim was murdered due to a quality you share with her/him.


I'm not buying that. Wow, it's more upsetting because you share qualities with her/him? Just so happens, I do too. It's called HUMANITY. Very "triggery." I don't do the The Oppression Olympics, sorry.


Wincoder are you trans? If you're not, you've simply reinforced gudbuyt'janes statement. Cis people *don't* get it.

Media Portrayal of Trans is Abominable

Media in this country as a whole has used one vicious lie after another in the course of deliberately slandering the trans community. The show "Criminal Minds" is another example where prejudice, stereotypes and outright slander are put forth portraying trans people as being predisposed to be deranged psychopathic serial killers. Even worse, almost all these shows and movies portray being trans as a severe mental illness. The track record of all forms of media, especially in movies and on television, with respect to the portrayal of trans people is <b>ABOMINABLE!</b>


i almost got that Criminal Minds job that Jackson from Twilight did. funny.

I don't love that you wrote "if you don't know why Tranny is not OK to use, read this." Just because you and a few so-called authorities on what's right & wrong say a word is not OK, doesn't make it not OK.

it just makes you loud about your opinion. I'd like to thank all the 40+ crowd for all the battles they fought and all the arrows they got hit with but guess what- I can decide what I'll tolerate being called, what i'll call myself, and what i'll call my friends. Tranny who, tranny what, tranny pie.

More transsexuals that I know of are excited about this film than worried about it.

On top of that, I think it's really substandard of you to report false info and then strike through it but leave it up when you're corrected by a reader. If you even spent 1 minute talking to me, the director, the producers you could've gotten your facts straight from the get-go but you must've skipped that little bit of due-diligence, huh?

You should see the movie and realize how bent you are over NOTHING. Everyone's entitled to an opinion but spewing misinformation kinda makes that op somehow less worth listening to.

what episode was this?

what episode was this?

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