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Recently, we had a main-site post, Who was the first "trap" character.

This post generated a lot of controversy for the use of the term "trap" to describe cross-dressing characters, amassing 3 upvotes, 3 downvotes, at least one offensive flag, and one favorite in under an hour. In general, "trap" refers to a male character (in the biological sense; the character's gender identity and sexual orientation are not usually implied by the term) who is mistaken (deliberately or accidentally) for a female (for instance, based on their choice of clothing). The term "reverse trap" is often applied to the reverse situation of a female dressing like a male, though sometimes "trap" is used for both cases.

This term was seen as offensive to some as a transgender slur (see, for instance, this tumblr post). However, the term is fairly standardized in the anime community (for instance, see this Know Your Meme article), and is not usually intended as a slur in this context. A Google search for "Anime traps" gives millions of results, coming from many anime blogs, fora, and other sites, and none of these seem to be deliberately using the term in an offensive way.

What should we do in this case? Should we treat the term as offensive and use a different term for the same concept? Or should we allow use of the term despite it's potential to offend some people? Also, how should we deal with similar cases in the future?

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    One important point to note here is that it seems the vast majority of the Anime community isn't even aware that the word is offensive in any context. And today we have learned the hard way that this is indeed not the case. – Mysticial Apr 24 '13 at 21:59
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    Just want to add my own thoughts to your definition: What I've gathered from anime communities over time is that a trap is not necessarily a crossdressing character (though they could be), but a male (biologically) character who is mistaken for a female. This can happen without crossdressing - it would not be odd for a male or a female to wear a shirt and jeans, but for whatever reason (looks, voice, etc.) the trap character is mistaken for a girl even while wearing such gender-neutral clothes. – atlantiza Apr 25 '13 at 2:56
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    @atlantiza That's a good point. I've edited my post to match that better. – Logan M Apr 25 '13 at 4:09
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    well, to be perfectly clear, I was one of the people who downvoted it, but I did not do so because I was offended by the subject matter. I did so because it was a "what was the first..." kind of question, and I'd consider such quetions to be not-constructive – Sam I am says Reinstate Monica Apr 25 '13 at 15:54
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This is a very difficult issue, and one I had not expected; I didn't even know the word was controversial.

That said, this is not something easy to sort out; even if we determine a policy that such words are allowed, some users will still inevitably find them offensive and vote down a question as a result, or flag the post. It is difficult to communicate to these users that the terms are allowed due to their commonness and the fact that they are not used in a derogatory manner.

However, I think it is in the best interests of the site to allow questions containing words which some users may find offensive, but which are common terms in the anime community.

We have already decided that things such as ecchi are allowed (in moderation) and we know that any user must legally be 13 years of age or older. This means we should trust them to be mature about sensitive issues. Not only that, but most people here are familiar with anime and should understand the context the word is in. If a user takes issue with such a post, they are free to comment, start a meta, or come to chat to discuss it with a moderator.

(Keep in mind that moderators can super-ping users to chat so that they can carry on a discussion about the issue. This, of course, means that any OP should be able to back up why he has chosen such a word—did he hear it once and not know it was offensive (in which case it should be changed), or is it actually a common word which is not meant to be offensive?)

TL;DR

We need to tread carefully here, but the fact is that some common terms (trap appears to be a good example) can also be taken offensively. The terms which we choose to allow may need to be taken on a case-by-case basis, but in general I think it's best to allow them if they are common in non-offensive usage.

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    It might also helpful to to properly explain these terminology as you post them, for newer users who might not be well vered in the lexicon. – кяαzєя Apr 24 '13 at 22:44
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    Anything can offend anyone. If you offended someone with your post, edit it to make it clear that wasn't the intention. If you find something you find as abusive, flag it, ideally with a custom flag, and explain exactly why do you find it abusive. – Madara Uchiha Apr 25 '13 at 5:50
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Not the same, but similar:

enter link description here

Anything has the potential of offending anyone. My advice to you is:

Don't take things personally

It may seem as if someone hit a sensitive spot, by either speaking of a fetish, a disability, or a mental state. Don't take it personally, it doesn't revolve around you, nor is it pointed at you.

However

When you do see things, don't be afraid to report them, ideally with a custom flag, and tell us why you find it abusive, remember that we're all people, we're not experts in all areas, we don't know what might offend you.

Authors

Be careful, anything can offend anyone, write respectfully, and be professional. Don't hesitate to edit to clarify that offending isn't your intention.

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It seems like the strong consensus in this case is to continue using the term "trap" but treat similar future cases on an individual basis. This is a decision that I agree with (I agree with both of the posted answers), but I'd like to focus on why, in my opinion, "trap" is acceptable to use on this site (with apologies to anyone offended by the term). In my opinion these are good criteria to look at in future cases, should any arise.

  1. The origin of the term is not offensive. The origin is (as far as I can tell) on 4chan's /a/ board exclusively to describe anime characters, many of whom are not transgender (the group at which the slur is aimed). Please correct me on this if I am mistaken. However, assuming this is correct, anyone using the term as a slur is arguably misusing the term. Admittedly, 4chan isn't really a great place to be getting our terminology from, but it seems to have stuck in this case.
  2. The intended meaning was not offensive. In this case, the intended meaning exactly matches the original meaning. The term is not being applied to any real-life people, and certainly not as a slur. If it were used in such a way, that would constitute offensive language. Even the tumblr post linked above only claims the term is, as far as I can tell, only complaining about its use to describe actual transgender people, not fictional characters.
  3. There is no equivalent less-offensive term to describe the same thing. All of the alternatives are either not sufficient or too wordy to be useful in practice. "Male character who is often mistaken for a female" is wordy and hard to follow when used in complex sentences, and also doesn't demonstrate that the trope exists. "Trap" is concise, searchable, and the mere existence of the term is sufficient to demonstrate how common it is as a character trait.
  4. The way the term is being used is its most common usage. This needs to be qualified a bit. Given that we are a site about anime, we should consider the use of the term among the anime community. Our user base isn't totally representative of the broader anime community, but it's fairly close. Most, if not all, of our high-rep users were aware of the meaning of "trap" to describe anime characters, and as far as I can tell none of us were aware that it was used outside that context, let alone as a slur. Furthermore, other anime sites regularly use the term very often, and I've never seen it claimed on any such site that the term is offensive. I do not know about the broader rates of usage of "trap", but the slur meaning must not be terribly common among the general public either if none of us were aware of it. As such, it is not likely to be confused for a slur when used on this site.

With all that said, it is worth noting that the objections to the term are not minor either. Any term used as a slur against a group of people should be used with caution. If you intend to use it, it's probably worth pointing out in your post that it is not intended to be offensive. However, we can't be expected to conform to every possible standard of inoffensiveness either, as anyone can find anything offensive. Furthermore, it wouldn't really solve anything, since a lot of the material in anime is itself considered offensive by some people. It's hard to imagine that, for instance, Maria Holic, Detroit Metal City, or Kodomo no Jikan would be considered inoffensive by anyone offended by "trap".

So, again with apologies to anyone offended by the term, it seems like we're going to continue using "trap" to describe such characters barring opinions drastically shifting, any of the above points changing, or some higher power telling us not to do so.

  • The term "trap" is offensive because it refers to a situation where a straight person is seduced by or attracted to a transgender person, then alarmed or disgusted when they discover that person's true nature. It's the same kind of thing as using "gay" as an insult, it implies that finding a transgender person attractive or having feelings for them is somehow bad. – user32 Sep 21 '15 at 14:48

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