Friday, July 27, 2012

Trans Inclusion in LGBT

Anonymous asked: Random question why are trans people apart of the L.B.G.T. at all? I'm not saying it's a bad thing but the first three letters have to do with who a person is attracted to, while the T. is a body issue. Soooo whats the deal?

There's a few reasons why we're together, and the easiest way to state it to start is there's some overlap with goals, as well as perception of our separate groups by the heteronormative majority.

To begin, lets start with the obvious one, same-sex marriage. For trans people, this normally-sticky issue becomes even stickier. Some states allow you to change your gender, whereas others do not. Some states where you can change your gender, don't legally recognize it regarding marriage. Others do. These discrepancies in how it's determined by the state can and do lead to tons of problems. One of the biggest is that a single case can be judged either way, however the judge wants to lean. Does he agree with your gender change? If so, he'd annul your marriage with your wife/deem it illegal. Does he disagree with it? Then if he does, your lesbian relationship is able to be legally wed. The inverse is true involving guys. If you want to marry your boyfriend, but the state doesn't legally recognize your gender transition, too bad, no marriage, despite being a straight relationship. Since it can be ruled either way, it doesn't matter what your orientation is as a transsexual, you're likely to have someone attempt to deny the legitimacy of your relationship - and thus, we have a vested interest in marriage equality either way. Allying for the purpose of passing marriage equality is mutually beneficial, so we do.

There's more than just that though. By and large, transsexuals / transgender people are a far, far smaller minority than the gay, lesbian, bisexual portion. On our own we would have little hope of accomplishing our equality struggle. Latching onto the movement gives our actions some teeth, resulting in a give-and-take wherein we fight for LGB rights, and they fight for T rights. This gives us the benefit of their numbers regarding our issues. Of course, there's been a lot of problems with this "exchange" because often we're the first people thrown under the bus when it comes to cuts made to pass legislation. Oftentimes when trans people speak up, it's even lesbian/gay/bisexual people asking why we're even here, during these times. We're the first people to be abandoned for the sake of advancing their rights. So the exchange is, in many places, not working for trans people.

The last part which creates a perceived link is the presence of drag queens within gay communities. My understanding of drag queens is that they are almost exclusively gay males doing drag performances as a form of entertainment or art for the sake of people to watch. However, people who are trans are either passing (and therefore invisible) or not-passing, and those who don't pass tend to make heteronormative people think "omg a drag queen" or something similar. This creates a misinformed link, or opinion that transsexuals are just "really, really gay" and "taking it too far". As such we tend to be grouped in with the gay, lesbian, bisexual group anyway.

And of course, when searching for help when coming out, the LGBT organizations exist already, and as such they draw in new trans members. As the group continues to exist, and more trans people seek these support groups, it creates a perpetual motion machine where new trans people wind up in the LGBT group, perpetuating the relationship.

So there's a few reasons, as you can see, we're still allied. Unfortunately, this alliance has cost us many, many times when legislation comes to pass, and we're told "sorry, we couldn't pass the bill with public accommodations (restroom use and changing room use) so we cut it. But good news though, gays and lesbians can't be discriminated against! woohoo!" If this continues, the trans movement will be left behind; we're not nearly a large enough group to win by brute force with votes; we absolutely require our gay and lesbian allies to help get our legislation through. Without sneaking trans rights by in a comprehensive "LGBT Rights" bill I don't forsee a "Trans public accommodations" bill passing on it's own two feet any time soon.

So there you have it - my take on why trans is grouped in with LGBT as a whole. I may have missed something, but I think I nailed most of the big reasons.


(Comments are open to anonymous posting! If you have a question, please leave it in the comment section below! This blog thrives on reader questions, so please ask them if you have them! )

Friday, July 13, 2012

Trans Invisibility

Orangeban asked: "What are your thoughts on trans* invisibility within the LGBT movement?"

Invisiblity within the trans* movement is a topic which could have any one of a few different causes (or at least a combination of them). Some of them are within our control, and others require the LGB of LGBT groups to stand up. And even though some are within our control, it winds up being a lot to ask of those trans people who can affect this.

The first reason is sheer numbers. By and large, we're not a big group. There were only a handful of us, if that, at my local LGBT group (compared to the tons and tons of LG people). The numbers game means that at any LGBT support group, we will be a minority, unless it's specifically targeted at trans* people. There are just more gay and lesbian identified men and women than there are trans women and men. So, even at the outset, we're already fighting an uphill battle.

The next issue is a beef with many of the LGBT organizations out and about. In a lot of cases, the trans related issues, discussion topics, and so on are either few and far between at best, or nonexistent at worst. This stems from problem one, that we're not nearly as large a group as the LGB, so naturally, most LGBT organizations tend to give the T events, topics, etc. proportional to their numbers within the group. Small numbers, few meetings focused on our issues. (I want to give a shout out to the Akron LGBTU group at my college - they break this trend and give trans issues a larger chunk of time).

So even within these groups, we're often pushed aside because we're a minority within the minority. This deserves a mention, because right now, we're FAR behind LGB rights in terms of social acceptance, protections, rights, and so on.  We still have U.S. Senators getting away with promoting violence towards us. The murders of trans women are in many cases not appearing in the media. CeCe McDonald's self-defense resulting in jail. We are YEARS behind LGB rights, and even despite this, many LGBT organizations fail to adequately inform and educate their memberships on trans issues. I've heard many stories of lesbian, gay, and/or bisexual people being just as ignorant of trans issues as heteronormative people. Considering that they are supposed to be our allies, it's not asking much, I think, that they be informed on our issues. Especially considering we're so far behind them. We need them to be educated, and we need their support. These are still dark times to be a trans* person, and if we can't even count on the LGB part of LGBT, then who can we count on? Are we expected to be used as a voting base for gay and lesbian rights while we get thrown under the bus to advance LGB-related legislation at the expense of trans protections? This comic comes to mind. Don't be like this, seriously. If your group is like this, please don't hesitate to bring this up to them. If they worry about losing gay and lesbian membership if trans-related information and activities are increased - ask them if those who would leave were ever really trans allies in the first place. We're years behind, and quite vulnerable, we NEED those who claim to be our allies to be educated and involved.

Okay, back to the main topic. Another reason trans people tend to be invisible, is that many trans people simply cease all action within trans/LGBT circles once they've finished transition, especially if they pass. They no longer need the emotional support group, and are capable of living a normal, fulfilling life without the need for the LGBT organization. As many LGBT groups are very lesbian/gay focused anyway, and tend to serve their interests and needs instead of those of trans people, its no surprise that many decide to just stop going to these groups. Especially since they no longer need most of the support that the few trans-related events offer.

And finally, you have the last, and probably most obvious reason for trans invisibility - "stealth". Stealth of course refers to the practice of a trans person living as a cis person, actively hiding their trans status in an attempt to avoid anti-trans related issues / enjoy cis privilege. While it's obviously understandable why many trans people choose this, it has some consequences. For one, when people think of someone who's transsexual/transgender, they're usually think of drag queens, or the stereotypical late transitioners who's trans* status is apparent. That is because these are the only trans people that they "see". You have your outliers like Jenna Talackova, and Chaz Bono, but that's only recently, and even then they're seen as the exception to the rule. This is because, explicitly, of passing/stealth. It's confirmation bias. The only trans people that 'exist' are those who don't pass. Those who do pass are rendered invisible to the public, and thus don't 'exist', becoming literally invisible. That said, it's hard to ask any of them to stand up and be loud and proud when doing so is likely to result in violent action, discrimination, and other negative consequences. Once more legal protections and rights, and more social progress has been made, it will be safer for those among us who appear cisgender to speak out for trans rights.

All of the above contributes to this. We're a minority already, but many of us pass, and in doing so, we literally become invisible. This means the number of 'visible' trans people is even smaller. It's only recently that we've had much visibility, and even with the somewhat growing acceptance, many would rather hide in stealth.


(Comments are open to anonymous posting! This blog thrives on questions and prompts by the readers. If you have a question or idea you would like me to write about, please share it in the comments section below!)