If you’re a bigot when you’re angry, you’re a bigot all the time

By Guest Contributor Tami Winfrey Harris, cross-posted from What Tami Said

I’ve got little love for anyone who spends time cackling with Joan Rivers at other women’s looks, but Kelly Osbourne’s recent comments are putrid and nasty even for a Rivers acolyte.

From The Daily Mail [HT Celebitchy]:

Kelly Osbourne has had perhaps the most embarrassing celebrity break-up of all time. After gushing to the world how in love she was with ex-fiancé Luke Worrall it all went wrong when she found out he had allegedly cheated on her with a transsexual who is awaiting gender reassignment surgery.

Kelly claims that she was absolutely humiliated when she had to tell her parents Ozzy and Sharon that the love of her life had reportedly cheated with Elle Schneider. The 27-year-old told Glamour Magazine: ‘Having to tell them my fiance had cheated on me with a tranny who sold his/her story to the press [was the most uncomfortable moment]. It was so humiliating.’

Osbourne explained how she found it difficult to understand why male model Luke would cheat on her with a man after being together for around a year and a half.

She added to the magazine: ‘Everyone kept telling me that Luke was cheating on me, but I never believed them. It’s hard enough to get your head around someone cheating on you, but when someone is a chick with a d**k? Up until then, I’d always thought that the worst way to get cheated on would be with an ugly girl. Don’t you think?’

The singer has come under fire from Transadvocate.com for her choice of words to describe transgender model Elle Schneider.

Transadvocate.com, which was created by Marti Abernathey, recently posted an article titled “Kelly Osbourne’s Transphobic Rant: Humiliated by Chicks With Dicks and Trannys.”

The author of the article called Osbourne’s words ‘hate filled’ and Transadvocate.com also took to Twitter and said:

‘@MissKellyO People die because people talk like you did of us. You should learn what being an ally is. Seriously.’

Kelly replied: ‘@transadvocate I APOLOGIZED words can be misinterpreted please stop this it brakes my heart to think i have ever offended any1 that is lgbt (sic).’

After several more exchanges on the social website Kelly realized that Transadvocate.com had called her a ‘bigot’ and pleaded to be left alone.

She said: ‘@transadvocate all u r doing is spreading more hate this needs to stop! i apologized you accepted now please move on and stop this ugliness (sic).’ Read more …

Osbourne’s transphobic, hate-filled comments are appalling. Equally appalling are the lengths some people will go to justify bigoted behavior. Take, for instance, some comments about the issue on the Celebitchy gossip site:

  • This is a tough call…..are the terms pleasant? Nope. Should they be used conversationally? Nope. Would I have called her out for it since she was describing humiliation and heartbreak? Nope, wouldn’t have used THIS precise opportunity to call her a bigot. Girl was heartbroken — she was speaking emotionally……..just, very….PUBLICLY. So, poor choices all around, but none of this feels HATEFUL, at its core.
  • well while i agree that the phrase may be hurtful to the transexual community as a whole, as far as caring how the words might have hurt Elle, I think Kelly is right to care less. Elle slept with her fiance and then sold the story for $$.
  • She got cheated on. Of course what she has to say about the situation is not going to be complimentary.

No. This is not how equality works. Unfortunately, this sort of thinking is not uncommon. I’ve heard similar justifications for outbursts of bigotry, including racism, sexism and homophobia, that happens in the heat of passion.

When you believe that a group of people intrinsically have value equal to your own, you believe it all the time and deep in your heart. This belief is not contingent on your being in a good mood. The belief doesn’t go away when a marginalized person makes you angry or annoys you. If you have it in you to use epithets when hurt, then you have it in you all the time.

Someone who believes black people have value as human beings and that African ancestry is not a mark of dishonor would never call a black person nigger. Ever. Because if you are not racist, you will be not racist even when a black person is, say, rude to you in a department store. If you believe that women are equal to men, then a woman who cuts you off in traffic doesn’t become a whore and a bitch. Equality of gender, race and sexuality are not situational things.

Kelly Osbourne did not simply call out another woman for helping her boyfriend cheat. That would have been defensible, though hopefully she would reserve most of her ire for the person who broke his commitment to her. Osbourne attacked her rival’s gender with denigrating comments that illustrate her belief that trans women are inferior to cis women. If Osbourne doesn’t believe this, why is it particularly embarrassing to her that her ex stepped out with a woman who is allegedly awaiting gender reassignment surgery? Comments like these cannot be erased with an OMG…sorry. And it takes tremendous gall to accuse an advocacy group with “spreading hate” for calling you out on your “isms.” A better response would be a sincere apology followed by a commitment to education about trans issues. And, if I may be so bold, since Osbourne claims to be an ally to the GLBT community, I’d like to suggest a little something I wrote last year: When Allies Fail.

I would also suggest adopting a new mantra. Osbourne is likely not familiar with the call and response of the black church. If you are, repeat after me:

Bigotry is wrong…all the time. All the time…bigotry is wrong.

  • http://themadblackhatter.blogspot.com/ Cory

    I agree 100% with the premise of this article.  ”If you have it in you to use epithets when hurt, then you have it in you all the time.”  It’s really that simple.  People often try to hurt someone, especially when they themselves feel hurt, by attacking something about that other person (looks, race, weight, sexual orientation, etc.).  Well, the only way the attack has legs is if they truly believe the insult is demeaning.  If they believe it’s demeaning, then they subscribe to the belief themselves.  They are bigoted.  I had the same feelings about Steve Williams comments on Tiger Woods and expressed it on my blog  http://themadblackhatter.blogspot.com/2011/11/stevies-big-red-arse.html.  People need to stop making excuses for these hurtful, bigoted comments.

  • From a trans dude

    She IS a woman, dude. She’s not a man who dresses as a woman, she is a woman. Her medical background is not freakin’ relevant to anyone but her and those she chooses to involve.

    Seriously, this is why I have almost zero hope for being accepted by general society as a human freakin’ being. For every kind, rational person like the person who posted this, for every person who seeks to understand and be compassionate, there are at least a few people (the comments here) who refuse to educate themselves and run their freakin’ mouths.

    So, yeah, it’s great to be a trans person of color. Really, it is. It’s either find my little corner on the floor in the so very white LGBT community and slog through their shit, or slog through this shit in the anti-racism corner.

    In summary, trans brothers and sisters: we are so, so, so screwed.

  • Anonymous

    Might be worth putting up a trigger warning on this one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/galiotica Nejasna ちゃん

    I hate it when people think that saying “I’m sorry” magically erases their words/deeds and you lose every right to feel hurt or angry, or even mention anything at all. 

  • Calla81

    Overall, I think this is a very fair argument. I just have one question orginating from this line: “Osbourne attacked her rival’s gender with denigrating comments that illustrate her belief that trans women are inferior to cis women.”
    Is the idea that we all should view, treat and accept trans women as cis women without acknowledging the obvious differences? Are they all, then, just women?
    And how far does that extend (accepting people as the identies they create for themselves). If a white person decides that he was born into the wrong body and is actually black and decides to darken his skin,  adopt the lifestyle, culture and beliefs of the black people he knows, am I to agree that he’s black or trans black and view, treat and accept him as a black person? 

    • nawa

      “…adopt the lifestyle, culture and beliefs of the black people he knows…”what the hell does this even mean? you do realize that “black people” encompass everyone from Americans to Senegalese to Bajans, right?  hopefully, you also realize that each group has different lifestyles and cultures, and that there is diversity WITHIN the different nations as well.  

      • Calla81

        Fine, substitute the specifics in my comment for the more general “race/ethnicity.” My question stands. Does identity switching/ identity selection translate to things other than gender?

    • Dao

      “Are they all, then, just women?”

      Yes.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_POZN7DB2VG25LOOXENCUWHGR4Q Ellington

      Very interesting and thought filled points Calla81.

  • Varkhan

    Love this article. Great read.

    My only problem is about the department store and the traffic examples. Regardless of gender, ethnicity or age, I will still call that person a “whore” or a “bitch” from my car. Those words are devoid of meaning to me. Just empty curse words. The same way that, when I swear in my native Canadian French, I’m not assaulting the church with those curse words.
    But that is a completely different debate altogether. Again, I loved the article.

    • http://twitter.com/DYomoah Doreen

      Um… the words “bitch” and “whore” are specifically gendered insults used to dehumanize women. I don’t know how you can just “divorce” them of their meanings. As Tami said: ” Equality of gender, race and sexuality are not situational things.”

    • Brandon

      Words like “whore” and “bitch” might be devoid of meaning to you… but as soon as your speak them they’re out there for other people who may not feel the same way you do.  Words like “gay” and “retarded” are devoid of meaning for many people… doesn’t mean they aren’t offensive to people who are LGBT and/or have disabilities.

  • lizzie (greeneyedfem)

    Thank you for writing this. It seems so self-evident, but so many people refuse to acknowledge it. Just like Mel Gibson’s drunken slurs, Kelly’s words reveals her true beliefs about trans women.

    And it doesn’t matter how much she prides herself on being a supporter of the LGBT community — she isn’t. In fact, her sense of herself as someone who is “so close to the lbgt community in every aspect of my life that i forget i am not a member myself!” probably contributes to her refusal to self-examine when called out on her hateful bullshit.

    source for the quote

    • Jinx J

       ”But my ______________ is ___________________!!! I can’t be a ______________________!!!!!!!!!” 

  • Mickey

    Kelly just had a Michael Richards/Kramer moment without the mentioning of lynching transvestites and other members of the LGBT.

    • Anonymous

      I find your comment interesting, if only because Michael Richards is the go-to when actually, Tracey Morgan made very offensive anti-gay comments and stated that he would kill his child if his kid was gay, and it’s somehow erased from everyone’s memory.

    • Anonymous

      I find your comment interesting, if only because Michael Richards is the go-to when actually, Tracey Morgan made very offensive anti-gay comments and stated that he would kill his child if his kid was gay, and it’s somehow erased from everyone’s memory.

      • Mickey

        I actually did not know that Tracey said that. I just knew he made a disparaging remark about gays, but I did not know what he actually said, which is pretty disgusting. I was reading the comments about this sort of thing  on the site that the above mentioned essay hails from and most of the comments state that if bigotry is already in your heart, it’s going to come out eventually, including when one is angry. People zero in on what they believe is an inferior aspect of another person and go for the jugular in the hopes of hurting the person while reveling in their own perceived superiority. Michael Richards obviously felt superior to Blacks, Mel Gibson felt superior to Jews and Blacks (remember him telling his baby momma that if she got raped by a bunch, of n****** then it would be her fault?) Tracey Morgan felt superior to gays. It’s a vicious deal.

      • Big Man

         I don’t think it’s erased, I just think Michael Richards has a larger more iconic profile because of his role as Kramer.

        • Anonymous

          It’s weird to me, though, because Michael Richards hasn’t done anything since, but Tracey Morgan is still doing stand-up and 2 shows.

  • http://twitter.com/MalikPanama Malik

    I don’t think she knows what an apology is. Much less a sincere one. If you’re HONESTLY sorry, you don’t start getting defensive and turn the situation around to you feeling persecuted. If you don’t feel like they’ll accept your apology, just say alright and move on. I am completely ignorant towards anything and everything in the LGBT community, but even I know that ‘chick with a dick’ IS offensive and hurtful.

  • http://twitter.com/callmepartario Osama Larara

    Fifteen words everyone needs to remember, because a day will come when you will need them: “I’m sorry.  That was a shitty thing to say, and I shouldn’t have said it.”  Half-apologies like “I was angry at the time,” don’t cut it.  Full acknowledgement of your  own fallibility is key to taking full ownership of your words and actions in the future!  It’s hard to learn from mistakes you never allow yourself to admit that YOU made.