By: Lorelei Erisis*/TRT Columnist–
Q. Why are Trans People included in the LGBT acronym? What does our struggle have to do with a person’s sexuality? Shouldn’t we be separate from that?
A. These are questions I have heard a lot, from both outside and within the LGBT(+QIKA&GQ) community. The question makes a certain amount of sense, at least it does until you stop and think it through. And that is what I’m here to do. I hope you will come along with me.
It is my very strong belief that we do belong as an integral part of the LGBT community. But I also believe quite strongly that we must stand together ourselves as Trans People under the Transgender Umbrella. I will get to that in the second part of this two-part column.
First though, let me present to you why not only do we belong as part of the LGBT community, but why we _should_ be part of that community.
I’ll take it one letter at a time.
L – Lesbian. For this we must consider the journey that trans people travel. From male-to-female and female-to-male. So many of us find ourselves as part of this community at some point in our transition. Some by strong preference, others simply by the vagaries of our society’s perceptions of gender and attraction. This could be applied equally to the gay community, but in reality, I find many more (though certainly not all) trans people find themselves passing through the lesbian community at some point in their transition.
Be it transmen, who often seem to come out as lesbians before accepting themselves as trans, finding support and comfort in that community, or transwomen, who though their attractions may not necessarily change, the social perception of it most certainly does. Transwomen who like other women go from being perceived as “straight men” to “gay women.”
Understandably, a lot of lesbians I have known find this enormously frustrating. When their partners announce their intention to transition it can play havoc with their own identities. Many fear the loss of “all the good butches.” Still others find themselves trying to be comfortable around women who have alternate genitalia and the strong issues that can trigger for them.
All in all though, I have found the bulk of the lesbian community to be quite accepting of us, if sometimes imperfectly so, and I love them for it.
G – Gay. This is a big one, and the one that makes the most people question our inclusion. Beyond referring simply to gay men, this is often a catchall for anyone who is attracted to members of the same sex. “But we’re not homosexual!” some trans folks will cry. To them I say that matters not one bit.
We may have a fairly decent grasp within our communities of the differences between sexuality and gender, but until the outside world stops beating us up because we are different, committing hate crimes against gay and trans people because we violate their inflexible ideas of the gender norm, we belong. Until people stop refusing to hire us and see gay men and transsexual women separately instead of painting us together as effeminate men, we belong.
Until the hate-filled criminals who murder our brothers and sisters stop to ask whether we’re women who have been misgendered as men or men who like to sleep with other men before they plunge the knife in, we belong.
Until we can all hold the same rights to marry those we love, serve the countries we believe in and own the democratic promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness unencumbered from the shackles of sexual orientation and gender identity, we belong.
Then there are the drag queens and the drag kings, some of whom decide to transition, but all of whom challenge society’s notions of male and female. For years, they have been the ones on the front lines. Since Stonewall and Compton’s Cafeteria, they have been the shock troops leading the way for both the gay and trans liberation movements. They have been our vanguards, and just as we should remember to respect and take care of our military veterans, we must honor and respect the work our queens and kings have done to move us all forward.
B – Bi. Here we have the full frontal collision of gender expectations and sexual attraction. For trans people, all of the aspects of the gender binary in collision are why we must stand with bisexuals. Again, there is much here that has more to do with societal perceptions than with our own realities, but we are hardly immune to those perceptions even from within our community and ourselves.
We may not alter our attractions one bit and yet find ourselves being perceived as both hetero- and homosexual over the broad course of our transition, or we may not alter our identity as “straight” though our attractions jump a gender. Or not. Unless we choose to remain perfectly celibate and un-attracted to anyone our whole lives, we can hardly help encountering the tangles of sexuality and gender that bi-sexual folks walk through themselves.
It is a matter of LGBT gospel that gender and sexuality are two different things, and that is quite correct. A lot of people need to hear that and be made to understand the difference, but if we can get past the 101 level of outsider education, we must acknowledge that the two don’t exist in a vacuum. No matter how you may identify your gender or sexuality, if you are trans, it’s likely you will have to deal with issues affecting the whole alphabet soup of our community. Whether we are Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, Queer, Intersex, Kinky, Asexual or GenderQueer, we so often share so much more in common than not, and whether it is outside perception or our own experience often matters very little.
We must stand together. We must support each other, stand-up for each other, fight for each other. For together we are strong. That is why we belong.
*Lorelei Erisis is Miss Trans New England 2009. Send your questions about trans issues to her at: email@example.com.