I think it is really sad to see a blogger I admire, refer to transgender persons as “diseased.” For so long, the LGBT (and I like to add Q) has covered all those who fall outside the heteronormative status quo, and included those who face oppression and discrimination because of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Now, it seems like what you, Nelson, are calling for, is to close down who is accepted- and have only an LGB that covers sexual orientation?  In my opinion that would be sad and a step backwards and not forward.

Like you, I have taken heat from some trans activists, and I have chosen to support fully those within the community who own and use words like “tranny” as self expression. But at the same time, I understand that the transgender community is going through a period of evolution and trying to reach an understanding of what it means to have a voice for gender identity. Rather than cut them off or throw them out of the rainbow coalition, I’d prefer to be willing to go through the ups and downs as this journey and awareness of gender identity is worked out and fully understood.

I am in agreement with RuPaul when he says that it is a few very angry trans activists who are very loud who are causing the issue. I don’t personally wish to react to these few in a way that does harm to the whole of the LGBTQ community. At the same time, I remember what it was like as our movement came to see the need to be the “gay and lesbian” movement instead of the gay movement. I remember how hard that was, as gay men had to grapple with the ways their actions intentionally or unintentionally made lesbian women invisible and excluded. I have a feeling we have more to learn surrounding our relationship to and interactions with transgender persons. We are not the bad guys, in my book (gender reference intended) but nor are transgender persons as a whole group.

I fully grasp speaking out and expressing anger at the tactics and verbiage used by these few transgender activists. But rather than cut them off, don’t we assist everyone by being participants in a dialogue?

Someone once told me after spending a week at a conference with a very angry transgender person, that they thought this individual was simply out of his/her mind. This person wanted to be referred to as “it” rather than with a gendered pronoun. Can you imagine that? Talk about having a low self esteem to want to be equated to inanimate objects rather than grapple with gendered pronouns that don’t fit his/her self understanding. Even “they” while grammatically incorrect, is a far more self-affirming choice than “it.”  We came to the understanding while talking about this, that individuals like this may have an immense amount of anger, confusion, and who knows what else. It reminded me of the X-men, where these mutants have trouble and don’t understand how to accept and embrace their differences and often lash out at others, even those who should be open to understanding.

I remember telling a transgender friend once that I found it so hard to grasp- transgender that is- because so much of my identity was connected to my body. I can’t even imagine what it must be like to believe that my body was wrong for how my insides felt. For me, my entire sense of gender seems to be about my body. But this wonderful person reminded me that I did have the experience of feeling different from others around me. Those straight others didn’t know what it was like to not have their experience any more than I didn’t know what it was like to have a transgender person’s experience. And for me it clicked. I finally got it.

Everything, and let me repeat that for emphasis, everything, we experience as non-discrimination and homophobia is based on gender expression. Straight people are perfectly happy to let gay people exist in the shadows as long as we are invisible and hidden. What gets their goat so to speak, is when we are visible and visible as happy, fulfilled, human beings. This confronts all of the status quo ideas about how maleness and femaleness is expressed. There is no longer one way to be a man, or one way to be a woman.

Gender norms still dominate in ways that most of us are barely even aware. In fact some may say that the use of gender re-assignment surgery is a step towards gender conformity rather than a way to accept gender non-conformity. But that is one major reason why I oppose splitting off anyone and deciding who should be excluded. Many young trans persons are not seeking gender re-assignment surgery, or having some surgery but not other. Truly, these individuals are confronting what we know as gender expression! In so many ways the LGB are more alike T than different, in my opinion.

Another transgender friend once told me that for as long as she had been out as trans, the goal had always been to quietly and secretly just fit in. Stay off the radar and draw no attention to oneself. That was the modus operandi. But is that really living, to do so in the shadows and hiding? Certainly gay men and lesbian women can understand that, as being like our closet.

The T of LGBTQ covers so much and the T isn’t in my opinion, simply for Transgender. For me, transvestites, transexuals, drag queens… many fit under the T. I think some transgender persons want that to change. They want to own the T as being for transgender alone. But transgender doesn’t fit into some nice little box either. The gender binary doesn’t work and nor does seeing transgender as some easily defined category.

This period of awareness and evolution of understanding of transgender as gender identity has been going on for a while and still has far to go as a journey. But in my opinion, we are all in it together if we really believe in battling heteronormativity and the status quo. It won’t always be a smooth ride. We will face skirmishes and arguments. We will all end up with our feelings hurt from time to time. But most important is the creation of dialogue. We can’t create dialogue by cutting some out of the conversation. Transgender is no more a disease than being gay or lesbian is a disease. Our commonality is that we are all individuals who confront heteronormative constructs of gender. We are strongest when we embrace our commonality even as we struggle through growing pains.

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