Associated Student Body Clubs and Events Board President Jeremy Diefenbacher has denied requests for interviews from the Current as students speak out in the wake of his use of the term “trannies” for transgender individuals at a board meeting.
“Shoot our trannies,” Diefenbacher said at a CAEB meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 18.
Diefenbacher made those remarks after Britaney Hilleson, the CAEB representative for Fierce, the LGBTA student organization at American River College, mentioned that Thursday, Nov. 20 is observed as Transgender Remembrance Day to call to mind transgender people who have been murdered because of their gender identity.
The student government, of which CAEB is a part, has been accused in the past of taking positions that are insensitive to LGBT students, most notably when they voted in 2008 to endorse Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California until it was overturned in federal court in 2013.
After the Current posted a story online written by John Ferrannini quoting Diefenbacher’s remarks, Diefenbacher wrote a letter to the editor saying that his remarks were taken out of context.
“Seeing as the press and the government traditionally have an adversarial relationship, his (Ferrannini’s) simple manipulations come as no surprise,” the letter said. “If anyone has been offended by quotations that the ASB correspondent for the Current has chosen to publish entirely out of context, I offer my deepest apologies.”
Diefenbacher cancelled an in-person interview with Ferrannini, requesting another reporter.
The Current provided Barbara Harvey, but Diefenbacher again declined to be interviewed when Harvey didn’t want to conduct the interview in his office.
Fierce President Brett Spencer condemned Diefenbacher’s comments.
“What Mr. Diefenbacher said was inappropriate and it should not have been said,” said Spencer. “In the broad sociological perspective, the word ‘tranny’ is generally not acceptable. The word transgender is the preferred terminology.”
Spencer said he talked with Diefenbacher, urging him to use language more sensitive to transgender individuals.
“I think that this is a big learning opportunity because I have spoken with Mr. Diefenbacher and he is aware of intent versus impact and when he should be aware of who is listening when he chooses to speak,” said Spencer.
Hilleson defended Diefenbacher, saying in a prepared statement that “I believe the quote in the Current is completely out of context.”
She did clarify, however, that Diefenbacher should have more discretion in his word selection.
“I think that he needs to learn how to be a little more politically correct and avoid a lot of miscommunication,” said Hilleson.
Hilleson said that Diefenbacher using the term “tranny” is understandable considering that he identifies as gay.
“It’s just kind of how we communicate with each other,” said Hilleson.
Tamara Dunning, who is acting as ASB student senate president, said that Diefenbacher should not have used the word “tranny” but that he didn’t intend to cause offense.
“Do I think he should not have used these specific term ‘tranny’? Yes, I think he definitely should not have used the term ‘tranny.’ He could have used transgender, he could have used other words, but I don’t think his intention at all was (to offend and hurt people),” said Dunning.
Spencer urged people not to use language that might cause animosity.
“What is important is when we as individuals choose our language we need to be aware of whether we are being culturally sensitive and appropriate in a space that’s filled with other people,” said Spencer.
“A conversation that’s in a group, in a public space, should be appropriate, it should be sensitive, and it should adequately reflect whatever culture it is we’re talking about.”