LGBT Unity and Trans Solidarity Part 2: Why We Must Stand on Our Own

Trans PeopleLorelei Erisis, The Rainbow Times' "Ask A Trans Woman" Columnist.
Photo: David Meehan
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Lorelei Erisis, The Rainbow Times’ “Ask A Transwoman” Columnist.
Photo: David Meehan

By: Lorelei Erisis*/TRT Columnist–

In the first part of this column, I presented my argument for why the “T” belongs as an integral part of the LGBT Community. Why we are stronger together than apart.

Now, though, I shall present my reasons why we need to also stand on our own as Trans People, united under a Transgender Umbrella, in solidarity with the LGB communities, yet a proud and distinct community ourselves. Why we must have our own vital and visible movement, though we march as an important unit of a bigger whole.

Their causes must be our causes, just as we hope that our causes will be theirs. That as the fight for same-sex marriage and an end of DOMA win major victories, our GLB allies will lend their considerable strength and backing to the still struggling Trans Rights Movement.

We hope they will, but such is not always the case. Witness how, on issues such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and other equal rights battles, as soon as push comes to shove, transgender people are often the first thing to go.
We are told to be patient that our turn will come. But then when the laws are passed and the ink dries, we so often find that we are still waiting out in the cold.
In Massachusetts, for example, a place where I think the LGBT community is actually pretty unified, we had to wait for marriage equality to become a reality, while trans people still had no rights at all.

And yes, when it came time to pass our recent Trans Civil Rights Law, much of that machine was retooled to help us. Nonetheless, it still took a strong transgender community to lead the way and get that machine working for us.

Even at that, while my Facebook feed is filled with announcements of my gay and lesbian friends tying the knot, I, as a transgender woman, can still be asked to leave a restaurant, be removed from a bus or denied the use of public restrooms and changing areas, just because of my gender identity.

I don’t see anyone putting off their big day until I can safely go to the bathroom without fear of being arrested. But then, why should they? They are allies, but they are not us. We must take the lead if we hope for them to follow.

How can we ask the rest of the LGB, etc. community to support us if they see us squabbling so much among ourselves? Screaming and shouting about who belongs and who should lead and which issues are paramount. Transsexuals insulting Drag Queens. Drag Queens belittling Transsexuals. Post-Op disassociating from Pre-Op. Everyone heaping scorn on Crossdressers. Closeted Crossdressers and Separatist Transsexuals each claiming to have nothing whatsoever to do with the other. GenderQueer folks just stepping away from the lot of it to have their own party! And all of them arguing about who should and should not be standing under the Transgender Umbrella.

All of this in-fighting, all of this splintering of the community does nothing more than alienate our allies and keep us from fighting effectively for the things that are really important. Like, you know, basic human rights.

And hey, I’ll be the first to admit that it’s important to remember and honor our separate identities. I understand why a lot of transsexuals fear that their own issues, access to surgical procedures, proper insurance coverage and inclusion in mainstream society, to name a few, will be subsumed by the larger movement. Many do not want to think of themselves as radicals, or even anything other than “regular” men and women. They don’t want to disappear in what some folks disparagingly refer to as “The Transgender Borg.” I get that. Especially for Americans, our individual identity is important to us.

At the same time, for similar reasons in fact, I celebrate the ways in which GenderQueer people challenge the binary and a host of other gender norms, often disregarding gender altogether. I identify pretty solidly as a binary-esque woman myself, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate what they are trying to do.

I could go through the whole list of folks who fall under the Transgender Umbrella and make similar statements. I do believe it’s important for us as a community to remember and celebrate the richness of the parts that make up our whole — all the hues of the Transgender spectrum.

But we have to set aside our differences and work as one. Like it or not, as far as the outside world goes, we are all the same bunch of “others.” Whether we mean to be or not. Whether we’re radically minded or middle of the road. Whether we vote socialist, republican, libertarian or democrat. We force people to think about things they thought were settled and done. We question the accepted gender norms by our very existence, each and every one of us. And that can stir up a lot of ignorance and hate.

If we hope to be an effective part of the LGBT community, if we are going to become a strong and viable movement for social change and acceptance, we absolutely must find a way to stand united as our own community. We must figure out how to support each other, so that instead of being knocked down as parts, we can raise ourselves up as a whole.

As a distinct and unified community, we can lead. We can be accepted as a big “T” in the TLGB movement. Not a little “t” bringing up the rear.
As I said previously, together we are strong. But ALL together, we are invincible!

Slainte!

*Lorelei Erisis is Miss Trans New England 2009. Send your questions about trans issues to her at: loreleierisis@gmail.com.

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