Troons, coons, and the semantics of hate

Rachel Saunders
5 min readFeb 28, 2024
Photo by Mikhail Nilov:

Language matters, semantics even more so. How we use, and abuse, language impacts our societies in ways that is hard to quantify, and the evolution of hate speech demonstrates the minorities targeted for abuse and othering by the majority. This article uses language that is unacceptable in wider society, and all the terms are used as frames of reference only. To coin a hate word, to use hate speech, demonstrates the banality of language, how it debases both the object of hate and the person who spews it. To call someone a nigger is to debase that person, and even typing it makes me viscerally uncomfortable because of the inhumanity baked into the term. That such language evolves into euphemisms and dog whistles highlights how unacceptable such bald hate has become, yet the inherent power to shock and abuse is still present, even in the context of writing about it.

As a trans woman I have had to learn a whole new set of anti-trans vocabulary as I have reacquainted myself with social media these last two years. While tranny is still there in the background, troon, groomer, pervert, mutilator, shemale, and worse are slung around like rotten fruit. Troon mystified me for a while, and I still find such terms as troony troon darkly funny due to liking Loony Tunes as a kid. That I had to actively Google troon shows how layered the hate has become, the anti-trans rhetoric taking on the lessons from racists bigots of the 1960s and 70s. Where once nigger was the insult of choice, now it is deeply coded, the freighted hate still visible if you know how to read the language. Anti-trans language is in the awful cross-over phase, where the old slurs are replaced by insidious slander.

Fascistic language has always couched itself in concern politics, with racism, antisemitism, and homophobia having a deep swamp of language to draw upon. Pufter, bum boy, faggot and worse were slung around polite society every time gay men entered the conversation, with queer being a piquant insult for most of its linguistic history. While most slurs are never reclaimed by their victims, nigger and queer both have cultural reclamation within the black and queer communities that outsiders are barred from accessing. Much of the anti-queer backlash stems from the fact that older gay men and lesbians have baked in hatred of the term, something which I myself…