Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Apple "Tranny" App Is an Epic Fail

When social justice people use the word privilege, we are often accused of exaggerating the amount of oppression faced by marginalized people.  We have normalized to a great degree a hierarchy of bodies, which daily must be reified by ensuring that those that we have chosen to "other" are aware of their secondary status.  

Apple, which is notorious for having high standards for their applications, recently released “PeekaBoo Tranny” for the ipod. 

According to Bill Browning of the Bilerico:
This one made it through the process but a dictionary was blocked temporarily for including definitions for curse words and they still mark most LGBT apps as "contain age-restricted material" that requires you to put in your password to "prove" you're over the age of 17. What's next now that Apple's standards department is okay with stereotypes and slurs?
This app inserts a tranny into a photo.  One need not worry about boredom, because it is possible to purchase multiple trannys.  Now that's inclusivity isn't it? PeekaBoo Tranny even has a twitter page. 

Shortly after Browning’s article and an official complaint by GLAAD, Apple decided to remove the highly problematic application. There was no formal apology for the application.  Tranny is a pejorative and its only purpose is to dehumanize trans people. Though there is some debate in the trans community about reclaiming this word, a discussion of this nature is only possible because it is reasonably understood that tranny is perceived as a marker of outgroup status, much like the N word.

Gender in this case was used as a weapon and this app specifically implied that trans people are falsifying who they are thus making it appropriate to mock them for the sake of entertainment. The genesis of this idea is cissupremacy.  Lisa Harney, defines cissexism as “the assumption that your sex, your gender are superior and more valid than trans people’s sex and gender.” Inserting a cisgender woman into the average picture would not give rise to amusement or give cause for derision because cis bodies are not only normalized, they are expected and respected. Gender is only considered comical when it involves trans people because their identities are not considered real rather trans identities are seen as an artificial and self constructed.

The problem with transphobic actions like the ill-advised app, is that such dehumanization leads to violence because spoiled identities necessarily means inferior in the minds of many.  Though trans people have made great strides, such as Amanda Simpson who became one of the first presidential appointees to the federal government, they face high rates of violence. The high possibility of violence has led to the creation of the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which occurs every November 2oth, to commemorate those who have lost their lives due anti-trans violence. When Apple approved the PeekaBoo Tranny app, they did not think of the larger ramifications because transphobia is always paid by trans people. No apology could ever really erase their actions, but the fact that they didn’t even attempt to really address the transphobia that they engaged in, evidences that they have not learned from this experience.