Really wonderful read to understand issues surrounding transgender people. Respecting and calling for the inclusion of transfolk in any GLBTQ rights actions is something I have cared about for many years. Probably 15  or more years ago, a FTM transman emailed me after reading something I had written in a Usenet newsgroup. I hadn’t really said much, but still he thanked me because few people (at least in that newsgroup) would speak up for transfolk. For me, it wasn an opportunity to begin to build a relationship and learn more, because quite frankly, I didn’t really understand Transgender at all. I had a reasonable understanding of what it meant, and I could relate to what it felt like when others didn’t feel that you had the right to be as you were, but past that I didn’t get it. There was nothing in my personal history, my self identity- nothing- that helped me really grasp how someone could know that their birth gender was different from their truegender.

So, we began an email conversation and I was able to ask many questions and really ponder the answers provided, and while I  still can say that on some level I don’t get it, I do totally get that my lack of any self-identified  sense of understanding is all about me and not about transgenderism. For me, so much of my sense of Gender is tied to my body. So I don’t have anything personally to grab hold of to say, I understand that- when others know that their gender is not identified with their body/anatomical sex. But over time, I have spoken to enough folks that I don’t doubt that this is true. I will be forever grateful for the interactions I had, even though they were only email. They began to open my eyes in ways that had never happened before.

I think in the GLBTQ activist community, sometimes just called LGBT, there isn’t enough appreciation for the fact that our collective communities need to join all of us together. And by all, I don’t mean just gay men and lesbian women. We rarely hear the term “sexual minorities” anymore, and maybe that is a good thing, but I can’t help but wonder if for many, the BT of LGBT is really silent and/or ignored. Recently  I had an exchange on Facebook with a lesbian who was angry that more people weren’t turning out to support Marriage Equality, and why were we not as a community making this a top issue. Several expressed that national non-discrimination, hate crimes and other protections provided more for the entirety of the LGBT communities, but she argued on, that we needed to stop being selfish and stick together. A little further on, she expressed that she really didn’t care about transgender rights. So much for letting go of selfishness. Huh?

Although I don’t really think she was wrong. I do think that many of us, activists and non-activists alike are not aware of the ways in which we get focused on non-inclusive issues, and often fail to ask, can our push for equality cover more/ include more? There are probably at least 2 (or many more) reasons behind this.

First, when any of us get involved in activism, we start from our own experience and our our viewpoint. Just becoming engaged and willing to put yourself out there on the front line takes some guts and initiative, so it makes sense that the place we start is with whatever we know most personally.

Then, there is a certain mindset that if you are going to be progressive and an activist, you are by default inclusive of everyone (except homophobes and anyone not like you). This “us vs them” mentality has a place and serves some good, but also comes with some baggage that at some point, becomes more damaging that useful, but we don’t always understand the need to drop it when that time arrives. But my real point here is that with a default expectation, we aren’t necessarily free to so openly admit that we don’t understand something (like transgender, or any number of things.) To give voice to that might suggest we aren’t inclusive.

Time for me to head off to work. Check out the blog attached and leave me your comments!

TransOhio Symposium shatters new ground for Midwest transpeople, queers « Stuff Queer People Need To Know.

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