Are we our own worst enemy? Has the LGBT lost sight of what is important?

3 Dec

From time to time the thought passes my mind that as LGBT persons, we are sometimes our own worst enemies. I’m more than old enough to be considered an OWL, and to be honest, I have no idea what what is considered proper or improper to refer to other people in the queer community anymore – even myself to a certain degree. I don’t understand how, in some regards, we have stepped backward and become as divisive and petty as the groups we often rail against for discriminating against us. I don’t understand how we discriminate against our own even.

If we just look at things during my own lifetime which basically began with Stonewall until this time we are in now, I wonder “what went wrong?”There is no denying that the group of people targeted at Stonewall are those we refer to today under the blanket term transgender. Somehow, with the advent of Pride which was instituted to commemorate that event that changed history, transgender people were left in the cold. It was GAY PRIDE – not LGBT pride. Transgender people weren’t even officially welcomed to Pride events for nearly the entire first quarter century that Pride existed. Even today, transgender people are still often considered among the fringe at many Pride events. The attitude seems to be that transgender people are too weird, confused, maybe even crazy. They just don’t fit in the same box so they are all too often marginalized.

That brings to mind what are we all called? As a kid, it was just that everyone was gay or transsexual. Then it was Gay, lesbian and Transsexual. Then gay Lesbian Bisexual and transgender. The changes may seem subtle, but they mean something because we assign those terms value. They signify an identity and belonging to a community and subset within a community. Eventually it became the LGBTQ to include the group identifying as queer. Then the LGBTQI to add in the intersexed community. Then LGBTQQI to include those whom question their identity. Then at times depending on where you live and who you associate, pansexuals, omnisexuals and letters for people I can’t even remember got included. Then the meaning of some letters changed, and by the time you figured out what was PC at any given time it had changed again. If we can’t figure out what to call ourselves, how can anyone else?

This won’t be popular to say, but dammit – we are a little too damn sensitive about certain terms and just more than a tad bit hypocritical at times. As a transsexual person, among other transsexuals I associate with, we will at times refer to to urselves or those in our community as trannies. it even occurs among our partners – we never call them on it. To anyone outside of our community, we rail against them as if slurred in the most heinous way. Let’s not beat around the bush – it can be an offensive term – but we have to consider the source and context in which it is used. It’s like when a gay man says to another “you’re so gay” but then gets incredibly offended if it is said by a straight person. If there is no malice intended, we’ve gotta lighten up.

The problem is that it goes beyond that. Cisgender is a term that is currently in heavy rotation to refer to those whom are not transsexual – or transgender – hell I can’t even keep it straight as to how big the group it is sheltering is now. All cisgender means – in simplest terms – is not transsexual. There are people that toss it around quite liberally though in a slur like fashion. It is wrong to do that. Similarly, people that are being referred to as cisgender, particularly gay males, have gone way overboard with demands to not be referred to as cisgender – even in clinical terms. It has gotten ridiculous.

Cisgender mainly gained popularity because it was an effective term to correct one particular social exchange as detailed below.

A: You are transsexual?

B: Yes.

A: But your partner is normal, not like you, right?

B: We are both normal, my partner happens to be cisgender.

It is a word that can be used so that people unacquainted with what would generally be considered proper queer speak protocol  could avoid referring to non-transsexual persons as something other than “normal” and thereby creating an awkward exchange. That’s really about all it is.

Because as a society we seem to insist on labeling everything and everyone, these terms exist and are used day to day. These very terms however also act as a divisive wedge in the community. Be honest when you look at the following questions and ask yourself how many you have heard and how often.

1) “We’d probably have marriage equality, but the damn trannies are holding us back!”

2) ENDA would go through with no problem if that took out the protections for transgenders.”

3) “Transgenders don’t belong with us, it’s not like they are really gay – they changed gender to be straight.”

4) “Bisexuals are dragging us down because they make it look like being gay is a choice.”

5) “Transsexuals aren’t real men or women or whatever they changed into – they are just confused and make us all look crazy”

6) “Gays don’t care about us transsexuals and would sell us out in a heartbeat to get even a tiny step forward for “LGB” only rights.

The list could go on and on, but those are all statements I have heard more than I can count or even imagine counting. What is sad, is those are common complaints from within the LGBT community. Here are the facts:

1) There is no national marriage equality because the conservative Christian right will not yet allow. They are fighting tooth and nail across the country to prevent it. They have a lot of money to funnel to politicians through numerous front organizations and far too many politicians are more interested in raising money to get elected than they are about protecting the civil rights of their constituents. Transsexuals can marry – either gender because of the numerous loopholes in official documents defining gender, so in essence, they are fighting for marriage equality more as a matter of civil rights and the other members of the LGBT community than they strictly are for themselves.

2) ENDA hasn’t gone through not because of issues related to transgender people, but because the basic language of the legislation is flawed, politicians fear the wrath of the big money Christian conservative PACS.

3) Many transgenders are in fact gay – an estimated 2/3 identified as LGB at some point in their life, and after surgical reassignment nearly half still identify as LGB. Either way, people outside of the LGBT community look at transsexuals as gay regardless of who they have a sexual preference for. In the transgender community as a whole, it is more of the same. A physically male identifying as primarily female is considered queer by those outside of the LGBT regardless of whether they are dating a male or female – just as an example

4) Regardless of how bisexuals may “appear”, their sexual orientation is not a choice. They cannot stop being attracted to either gender any more than a straight male can stop being attracted to women or a lesbian can stop being attracted to women. If you want to take the stance that homosexuality is an inborn trait and not a choice, that same principle has to be accepted and defended regarding bisexuals as well.

5) To say a transsexual is not who they are because they don’t have factory parts is absurd. Gender identity comes in many shades – not just black and white. What defines a woman or man? Their physical parts? The ability to reproduce? The clothes they wear? The way they look? Or is it really a matter of who they identify as on a base chemical level? Science says it is a matter of a hormonal wash while in fetal development that delivered the wrong percentages of hormones thereby causing an inborn internal conflict between the gender the brain and body develop as. It is a medical condition, there is a treatment, and the treatment is accepted as 95%+ effective. A transsexual woman is as much a woman as a genetic girl, regardless of what certain elements of the feminist Womyn’s movement would have us believe.

6) There are some gays that would sell out transsexuals to secure gay rights, but in fairness, there are transsexuals that would sell out the LGB to do the same. It is a matter of politics and greed which fosters an “I’m gonna get mine” attitude and it’s sickening either way.

As small groups on their own, the L, G, B and T can do very little if anything to effect real change. even just the LG cannot do it on their own. There is power in numbers. It takes not only every LGBT person to make change happen, it takes their friends and family. It tales money. It takes exerting tremendous pressure on those that are fighting to deny civil rights. As they say, we can stand united or fall individually. As it stands, the locked arms and laser focus are slowly disappearing. The hairpin drop heard around the world is a distant memory. History has already begun revising the story. Same sex marriage is under attack even where it has been passed. LGBT persons are still discriminated against on the job, by insurance companies, the courts, a large portion of the conservative right and sadly amongst ourselves.

It is time to stop the infighting! It is time to stop arguing over what we call each other when referring to one another as “people” will do just nicely. It is time to stop trying to cut deals to deny one group their civil liberties to secure them for another. It is time to be one united group with one mission. If we really want equality now, it has to be equality for all people – gay, transgender – ANY group that is marginalized even if they are not LGBT. We need to be about everyone being equal. If we settle for liberty for some over others, we lose no matter what.

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