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The Blow Pony controversy and who is allowed to use what words

Blow Pony in the summer of 2010

Our little queer community of Blow Pony organizers, DJs/performers, attendees and others have gotten into a big row this week, and many have been asking me to comment. Truthfully, forming a a clear opinion has been rough. I’m very much still in process about it all, but I do think it is important to address here, so I’m going to start a community conversation. I think it is also important and ok, to admit to having mixed feelings and/or evolve your opinion and I am open to discussion and refutation of my points. I may even change my mind! But I will also acknowledge my process. But this is not about me. It’s about all of us, so mostly I just want to continue the discussion. I want you, as the reader, to feel like this is a safe space to discuss and learn.

In case you haven’t been following some community members voiced concerns that Blow Pony was using the term “tranny.” Many trans and other folks consider this derogatory and there followed a heated argument about who has the right to use it, if anyone does, and who can “reclaim” it, if anyone can.

[Sidenote: I’m not sure how public this conversation, posted by Wyatt Riot, is in terms of Facebook privacy settings but I am linking to it as it seems the spirit is. It is identified as an attempt at transparency, so I think it’s meant to be public. If you can’t see it, let me know. One thing I hope this post can do is bring the discussion out of the closed circle of Facebook so I encourage you to comment below. ]

Personally, I try to stay away from it. It is a contentious term, and I respect that words have power. However, I do think who is “allowed” to use various words here is complicated. The argument is that if you don’t identify as trans, specifically a trans woman, you can’t use it…period. I’m not entirely sure about that. Gender variant people of all levels of the spectrum of cis through trans can and have been hurt by use of the word “tranny” in a derogatory way. And I don’t want anyone policing my gender identity as much as I don’t want anyone using oppressive language.

That said, in this very public advertisement of Blow Pony, I am glad they changed the name of this weekend’s event from “Night of the Ling Trannys” to “Night of the Living Homos.” There isn’t space on a public flyer to have a full conversation, and it is important for an event as popular as Blow Pony to set an example. Plus the point that various individuals were voicing that they were offended and alienated is reason enough to take a step back and think about what your club night is saying. Weighing that against Blow Pony being an envelope-pusher and using many offensive, or at least risque, words and images adds yet another dimension.

It is easy to get defensive when your personal feelings are so wrapped up in public discourse, and while this may not excuse some directions the Facebook conversation took, it can be a place to start to understand and heal, rather than condemn. I believe we have all done a lot for our community and Airick, for whatever mistakes he (and all of us) have made, has as well. It can feel disheartening to work hard and feel you’re being shot down.

[Note: next sentence was added after initial posting.] But even in our most heated moments we must not resort to derailing techniques, which are so often the tools of the oppressor. And many feel that the conversation that took place was defensive and aggressive in just this way. I also want to make it clear that I do not mean we should not call each other out when our own internalized homophobia and (cis)sexism. In fact, I think it is an essential part of how we grow as a community and a movement.

So lastly, I want to post the only “official” statement I’ve seen thus far. It is an open letter from some of BP’s DJs and performers and was originally posted (again) on Facebook by Katey Pants aka Roy G Biv (who, full disclosure, is also an occasional contributor here):

To Our Greater Queer Community:

We are DJ’s/Performers of Blow Pony. All of us are queer. All of us are radicals. Some of us are cis. None of us are transwomen. We wanted to write to express our profound disappointment and frustration with the way Airick H, Heather M, and Austin D have represented Blow Pony in the past weeks.  A little background: a couple of weeks ago Blow Pony released the Halloween party as ‘Night ov the Living T**nnys’. Many people had taken contention with the use of this word and had expressed that the name of the night be changed due to its negative political implications and that using this word is insensitive at best. This is and was a reasonable request that should have been handled with care and respect. However; instead of humbly accepting criticism about the name of the night- the responses on behalf of Blow Pony were objectively rude, defensive, silencing, and wrong.

During this time we as DJ’s /Performers of Blow Pony remained silent, hoping that Austin and Airick would respond appropriately to valid criticism and community requests. We were hoping that the owners/figureheads of Blow Pony would be true to its mission of “Blowpony [being] a QUEER social/dance. Our event and the space respects all aspects of people including race, ethnicity, gender expression, sexual orientation, socio-economic background, age, body shape, size, and ability. Homophobia, racism, hatred, fatphobia, transphobia, freakphobia, and speciesim will be met with zero tolerance” but this did not end up as the case.

We as DJ’s/Performers also do not have access to the Facebook page, its invites, or any other way that would represent Blow Pony entirely. We also have not had any creative input into the themes of the night, performer/dancer/door worker selection, or any access to collective or democratic decision making as Blow Pony.

We want to acknowledge that all of us always have work to do on battling our oppressions. A community of care is also one of accountability. Those that reached out to Blow Pony for our support were met with silencing and derailing among other mistreatment’s that are not acceptable. All of us need to work on building more inclusive communities where all bodies and identities are valued and feel safe, respected, and cared for. As DJ’s of this party we feel the need to publicly apologize for the way Airick and Austin responded on behalf of Blow Pony because those reactions were nearly counter to the way we feel and think.

We hope to continue to work with Blow Pony and outside of Blow Pony on building accountable communities of care and respect. We would like to do this first- by bearing witness to the events of this week and second by continuing a dialog on how to build these spaces. We would also like support in the form of suggestions on how to proceed in building better and more inclusive institutions in our queer community. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Katey Pants (Roy G Biv)
Mary McAllister (Mr. Charming)
Jodi Bon Jodi (DJ Emeritus of Blow Pony)
Jose Miguel (Kinetic)
Geoff Watland (Jezabelle Justice)
Zak DesFleurs (DJ Lustache)

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