Even a quick search of my blog ought to demonstrate that I have believed Transgender issues to be exceptionally important in the overall efforts that we call LGBTQ Rights. I’ve been willing to sacrifice progress on limited rights for Gays and Lesbians believing that it either has to be equality for all or it isn’t enough. And possibly without enough success, I have tried to become educated about Trans issues and have sought out Trans persons and their voices, rather than project my own ideas onto them. But the recent uproar over RuPaul and a less-than funny bit in a recent episode has shaken me to the very core. I have been so ready to lash out at others today in ways, I didn’t think I was capable of with an anger and an animosity that surprises me.
The final straw for me, was a nationally published article by a Transgender person, where the word “cisgender” was used pejoratively, in such a way as to other someone. That other person was was dismissed as “less than” because they were cisgender and not trans. It was one big “you aren’t like us and I’m going to make sure you know it” kind of thing. That did it. I was over the line.
I generally always have used the term “trans” in my writing so as to be as inclusive as possible of all who fall outside the heteronormative notion of Gender Expression. This passage from Wikipedia captures my sentiments:
In addition to the larger categories of transgender and transsexual, there is a wide range of gender expressions and identities which are contrary to the mainstream male-female binary. These include cross dressers, drag queens, drag kings, transvestites, genderqueer, etc. Some people take issue with transsexual because Virginia Charles Prince, who started the magazine Transvestia and built up the cross-dressing organization Tri-Ess, used transgender to distinguish cross-dressers from gay, bisexual and transsexual people. In “Men Who Choose to Be Women,” Prince wrote “I, at least, know the difference between sex and gender and have simply elected to change the latter and not the former.”
Cis is used to identify those persons who are not trans. I have seen “cis” used in pejorative ways as well as in positive ways. I have believed there is value at using “cis” more and have sought to bring cis into any dialogue about gender identity and expression.
This recent controversy points out how naive and/or wrong my previous intentions have been.
If I understand things correctly, a number of trans persons want to be affiliated in no way with gender variant people like RuPaul. Trans means trans and there is no room under that umbrella for anyone who is cis. I guess Gender Identity and Expression isn’t as fluid, or diverse as I had originally thought. That Wikipedia passage needs to be updated. There is no room in the trans community for drag queens.
Those who fight tooth and nail for “trans” do so partly using the argument that Gender doesn’t fit into a binary of male and female. I can buy that argument. What I guess I can’t buy into is that replacing one binary (male/female) with a different binary (trans/cis) accomplishes anything. It just replaces one social construct with another equally limiting and patriarchal construct. It allows othering every bit as much as the initial binary.
Perhaps there is no such thing as an LGBTQ community. Perhaps the “T” doesn’t belong. Lesbian, Gay and Bi: all define sexual orientations. Within each orientation are folks who are more conforming to gender and gender roles than others. Just as Straight persons aren’t all exactly the same when it comes to gender expression. Some straights are more gender expression conforming than others.
I believe that it isn’t the labels we each chose to use for ourselves or others that cause problems, rather it is the way we use those labels as weapons and tools to other one another. In the end, all of us regardless of what label we place upon ourselves ends us discriminated against because of our expression of Gender. If I am called a “sissy” or a “faggot” walking down the street, it isn’t because I’m gay. It is because I express my gender in ways counter to the heteronormative and I stand out. WE (in the most general sense) harm our progress towards full equality when we manifest and force new and equally rigid categories onto others, such as trans or cis. We are all the same queer in some deep and profound way. All of our voices matter: gay, lesbian, bi, trans, cis- all of us.
And we need each other. If we are to achieve real and full equality for all, it won’t be the word “she-male” in a less than successful comedy skit which stops us. Was the language less than ideal? Definitely. Should we be using it to separate the community and other each other? I think not.
This article by Lady J is right on the money in my opinion: