Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Building The LGBT Alliance: Transphobia in the LGBT Community Part III

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | December 15, 2009 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: homophobic behavior, internalized homophobia, LGBT history, Ronald Gold, trans exclusion, transgender history, transgender stereotypes, transphobia, transphobic

There is transphobia in the gay community in the US, and it threatens our political solidarity for the accomplishment of our political objectives, such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and marriage equality. Time spent fighting among ourselves represents time wasted in the middle of a hard battle, and a reduction in the number of troops available to get the job done. Transphobia in the gay community must be addressed -- but how?

It is clear from an analysis of this issue that it has long roots. It is not going to be stopped by wishing or demanding it away. It is not going to be stopped by pretending it doesn't exist. It is not going to be stopped by cajoling people to understand each other. "Understanding each other" would make strides in reducing transphobia, but the path to its accomplishment is the real mystery here.

Until we properly understand the forces that drive the perpetuation of transphobia in the gay community, we cannot address it. It is in place for a reason, actually many reasons, and it is those drivers that must be addressed, not the end result that we call transphobia. Despite its name, it is not a "phobia," and cannot successfully be treated as such. I have hopefully illuminated the real drivers a bit in the previous parts of this article. I have some suggestions about how to dismantle those drivers. It's not going to be easy.

This is the last of a three-part series. Click here for Transphobia In the Gay Community Part 1 and Transphobia In the Gay Community Part II.

As detailed in Parts I and II, based on my 2004 article in the Journal of Bisexuality, the roots of transphobia in the U.S. gay community include stigma for femininity in males stemming from the ancient world, the theorization of sexual orientation as entirely separate from gender identity, and increasing US political acceptance that pushes both political solidification of identity and gender accommodationism. A vocal minority in the gay community have long viewed transsexual surgery as part of a history of forced medical "cures" that were as dangerous and cruel as they were ineffective. Many in the transsexual community have distanced themselves from homosexuality and transphobic gays, whose rejection threatened an already fragile place in the world. It is these drivers that must be dismantled to combat transphobia.

Combatting Bias

As a law professor and a social scientist, one of the main ideas I must get across in my teaching of college students is the understanding that everyone has a bias, including themselves. This is not an easy task. Virtually no one sees themselves as prejudiced. We can see that others are seething pots of bias and ignorance (except for those with whom we completely agree), but we ourselves are exempt from that malady that affects all other humans.

A concept that many students have a hard time with is the notion that there is no such thing as personal "objectivity." (There is "journalistic objectivity," the worthy goal of presenting more than one side in reporting an issue, but that's beside the point here.) But in fact, as human beings with experience and memory and history, we have a point of view about everything. That viewpoint -- that's bias. Bias doesn't refer only to violent prejudices like Nazi ideology. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, bias has several meanings, including an inclination, leaning or tendency. "A swaying influence, impulse, or weight; 'any thing which turns a man to a particular course, or gives the direction to his measures'."

It is impossible to be unbiased. As a middle class, white, educated, Democrat, bisexual transgender atheist with a Jewish background, living in the Northeast US and working in education, with an 18 year old son who is about to go off to college, I have certain beliefs about life, education, politics, economics, religion, friendship and the social order. Can I truthfully get up in front of a classroom full of college students and say that what I am about to teach are simply facts, and that my background does not enter into the selection of those facts, the emphasis placed on them, my views on them and what I expect them to know for the test? Should I eliminate all bias by simply reading from the textbook and not offering my own views? That would not eliminate bias. It would simply reproduce the bias of the textbook writers, and bore the class to death.

No, the best course is to acknowledge my biases and give the reasons for them, and ask them to evaluate for themselves whether my viewpoint is valid. Of course, acknowledging my own biases is hard work, because now I need to look at whether I myself think that the viewpoint I have inherited is valid. It would be much easier not to think about it.

Seeing The Back Of Your Own Head

Some of us are better than others at seeing and understanding the other side, something my students constantly struggle with. As a lawyer, whose job it is to represents positions that I do not believe, I have learned to do this with finesse over the past twenty-five years. (My lord, has it been that long?)

Understanding the other side is not a skill that most people spend much time considering. We know what we are for. We are for civil rights, and equality and fairness to all. We oppose hate and violence and bigots and tyrants. We know why we feel these things. We know why the other side is wrong. Rarely do we consider why they are right. We have not stood in their shoes. We don't know whether they were indoctrinated as children into a twisted culture of fear and violence, or experienced deaths of loved ones, or war, or hunger, that may have turned them into what we see as bigots. Nor should this ever excuse bigotry.

But it also suggests that the solution to bigotry is not creating a climate of fear and angry denunciation, for that would not address the roots of the problem. In fact, because such anger ignores the roots of the problem, it requires the opposition to explain itself more and more, and to confirm its biases, to urge their acceptance. Angry denunciations harden positions.

Why Are Transgender People So Angry?

Although angry denunciations harden positions and make the problem worse, it is sometime impossible to avoid. Transgender people have experienced inexcusable prejudice and discrimination that is impossible to explain fully. I cannot fully communicate to you what it was like for my little six-year old boy, whom I loved as dearly as you ever loved another, to be transported to another part of the country, and to not be welcome there. To know that appealing to the law would mean to lose him forever. To call him and to be hung up on. To hear recriminations and angry words. To hear his little piping voice crack as he asked when he would see me, and to hear him cry bitterly and inarticulately as the phone went click. As I write this, separated by a decade from that time, I feel fully all of the pain and tears leak onto my computer. I have had to take a break to sob for a few minutes.

I cannot fully explain what it was like to have people point at me and laugh as I walked down the street, calling after me and encouraging other people to laugh, or threatening violence, getting dangerously close, as I walked down the street without a job, without a family, without a friend.

That's what comes up when I read transphobic literature.

But gay people have also suffered inexcusable prejudice and discrimination. Gay men and lesbian women are today being separated from dying loved ones in hospitals, paying thousands of dollars in extra taxes for a sick partner's health insurance if they can even get it at all, being assaulted on the streets, being separated from children, being stared at and threatened with violence, and killed, if they touch or kiss or hold a loved one. Historically, gay people have been put in jails and mental hospitals and tortured for being gay.

There is also homophobia in the transgender community. Some transgender people want nothing to do with gay issues, or gay people.

The anger of transgender people at transphobia in the gay community, and the anger of gay people at homophobia in the trans community, is justified. We should be angry at hatred. There are times when we must express our anger and outrage as human beings. We can only take so much. Thankfully, we live in a country where such freedom of expression is allowed. But being angry all the time is not going to solve the problem.

And my ex-wife and my son and I now have an excellent relationship, and we are all thankful that the angry, sad times are gone. We continued to communicate during the times of angry denunciation. I stuck with it, and she stuck with it, and my son stuck with it. We stuck it out and kept talking. We talked when we were angry. We talked when we were sad. We talked when we felt betrayed, and annoyed, and wishing this were over. It was almost impossible at times. But thank God we did it. He even wrote a beautiful essay here on Bilerico talking about our relationship.

Political Struggle -- or Separation -- Is A False Dichotomy

The rise of transphobia in the gay community has its roots, as I have shown, a political power struggle. Is the answer to transphobia in the gay community, then, to be found in the trans community struggling to attain and demanding more power? No, for the problem was created by power struggle in the first place. As Einstein so famously said, no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it. Part of the reason that the transgender community has so little power is that we are so little. There are too few of us and we are too separated to make effective political demands on our own.

Another possible solution is separation - transgender people leaving the LGBT sphere to dwell only within their own spaces. To separate the T from the LGB, and escape the problem by avoiding it. Yes, it is possible. Many transsexual people do this by going "stealth." They blend into the woodwork of the straight world, avoiding transphobia by constant vigilance in disavowing their history and continually erasing it. This does not, however, combat bias. It merely avoids it.

The Communication Solution

World-renowned scholar Jurgen Habermas suggests another answer. He argues that the key to liberation is not politics or economics, as many people believe. Rather it is to be found in language and communication between people. His tour-de-force writings trace the change in Western society from an aristocratic, top-down structure to a bottom-up democratic one. His contention is that the key to this long-term change lay in the change from a world in which only one group was considered to have anything worthwhile to say -- the aristocracy -- to one in which more and more people of more and more different classes and nations were involved in discussing the issues. That had a salutary effect on the growth of democracy and freedom.

By analogy, the key to long-term change in the relations between the gay community and the transgender communities lies in communication. Here I refer to "communication" in its broadest sense, that of connection. Just as interfaith groups have led to broader understanding and tolerance among people of different faiths, groups of gays, lesbians and bisexuals must communicate with groups of transsexuals and transgenders. This communication must include not only written communication, but also in-person meetings and oral communications. Issues of importance to both communities must be identified and broached. Differences and points of contention must also be addressed.

We are seeing more of this effect through the growth of online mass communication platforms that encourage participation by the population at large. The Bilerico Project is one such communication platform where gays and transgenders can communicate. Of course, one problem with such a communication platform is that airing opinions honestly about our feelings about other groups in the LGBT alliance is going to create a lot of controversy and hard feelings.

But avoiding our honest opinions creates an atmosphere of public accord and private discord, leading to events such as the removal of gender identity from ENDA in 2007. People say one thing to your face and another in the halls of power. I do not say this to excuse the airing of frankly transphobic opinion with no pretense of outreach. But though I agree with Bil when he says his publication of Gold's post was a complete mistake and should not have happened, I do believe that failing to discuss these issues honestly and openly in many places, not just Bilerico, means that many gay people will not understand why transgender people are so angry at some of these references. They, not knowing of our history and our experiences as fully as we do, will think us in overreaction.

But one platform like Bilerico is completely insufficient. There must be outreach by groups all around the nation. These cannot be simply online discussion platforms. Although, as Habermas demonstrated, free public sphere communication can have a life-changing effect on politics and economics, the reverse can also be true.

Why Online Communication Is Insufficient

The public sphere, though rife with discussion and communication today, has decayed. The growth of commercial mass media, owned by a few top corporations, has turned the critical public into a passive consumer public. The large majority of people are content to get their information from television, and perhaps a few other sources, pretending to objectivity, but rife with corporate interests. The "public sphere" is controlled by advertisers and their interests, held thrall to whatever will get the most eyeballs on board to increase advertising revenue. It is, by and large, not a space for the development of a public-minded rational consensus.

This is both good and bad news. The good news is that communication has transformed society from an aristocratic, feudalistic society into a democratic publicly-shared society. The bad news is that the bulk of our current means of communication has been co-opted by profit-seeking interests that define its content as pabulum for the masses, not through direct censorship, but through demand for audience-share. This voracious demand for audience-share means that only the most popular viewpoints can be aired. Minority viewpoints will be aired in distorted fashion so that people can engage in the universal satisfaction of disparaging them in unison. Communication outlets are forced to promote stories with scare headlines, sex, scandal and sensation if they wish to compete successfully for those eyeballs. This is not a formula for liberation in the sense that Habermas means it.

As a result, it is not sufficient to hope that the younger generation will not reproduce our conflicts and divides. There is a great deal of optimism about the younger generation, for they are growing up in a world that is somewhat more free in regard to sexuality and gender. But it is only somewhat more free. Just as the generation that was young in the 60s thought itself free of sexual hang-ups and racial tensions, but was ultimately co-opted by the system, the same forces that perpetuate our divide continue to operate, and will, despite their best intentions, operate on the younger generation. While many young people are outspoken in their support of our LGBT community, many more are silent, and that silence increases as they grow older and life pressures multiply.

How Should Building An LGBT Alliance Proceed?

How then, to create this communication among people of different sexual orientations and gender identities that will lead to our liberation as a community? My vision is that of small local outreach groups all around the nation, whose goal is increasing communication between and among gays and transgenders. I say small, because not many people will be interested in such work at the current time. I also think they must be in many places, because it is totally insufficient to have some national organization start a single sub-organization devoted to this.

I note that there are large national organizations taking this on. I can think of no better example than The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's Creating Change Conference. Every year, thousands of LGBT activists get together and spend a few days together. The conference broaches a wide-ranging diversity of topics for many different communities, including not only LGBT topics, but issues of race, class, disability and other lines of social stratification. I have not attended the conference, but I have heard many wonderful stories about how it create community across lines that normally divide people.

But can one annual conference accomplish the task of bringing us together? No, it certainly cannot. It's a start. But others have to participate. We need tens of thousands, not merely two thousand.

In order to heal our breaches, we would need people from around the nation to stand up within their current groups, both gay and transgender, and to work with others to reach out across the divide. It would require people to meet in small groups, perhaps in rooms with peeling paint and dented folding chairs and fluorescent lights. It would require people to meet in large groups, at meetings and conferences on other topics, to address the issues of the LBGT community. It may seem dismally small and pitiful and hopeless at first. But these LGBT "interfaith" groups would be the seeds for later action by larger regional and national groups.

It will not be easy to add one more thing to our full plate of activism. If we truly wish to create an LGBT community, and make it more than an often-derided acronym, we must take action to increase communication and interaction between and among us in all regions and at all levels.

Our current level of communication is simply insufficient to the task. We all talk about an alliance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and intersex people. But what are we doing to build such an alliance? Very little, compared to the task at hand.

We people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer and questioning - do we have common goals and common cause? Yes, we do. Can we retain our alliance while misunderstanding each others' histories, experiences and concerns? No, we cannot. Can we depend on a few online platforms to accomplish the work of building an alliance? No, we cannot.

Without working on our alliances, we can expect postings like Ron Gold's to surface again. We can expect incidents like removing gender identity from ENDA to surface again. We can expect our relationships within the LGBT community to get worse, not better.

The truth is that this problem we have here is not about Ron Gold, and it is not about Bil Browning. It is far, far bigger than that. We must not miss the forest for the trees.

But, you object, what is your plan? Your grand scheme for making all this happen?

My answer is that I don't have one. I'm not up to such a task. But I am up to analyzing and understanding the nature of the problem after long academic study of our history. I am up to pointing out the types of solutions that might begin to address the problem.

At this point, I am hoping only to spark a conversation, to get people talking about what such a world might be like, to understand the depth of the crevasse we are in, and to recognize that we cannot tell it to go away, we cannot apply band-aids, we cannot merely separate ourselves from the problem, we cannot add more political struggle, and successfully address this problem.

The truth is that we in the LGBT community have been doing very little to build alliance with and among each others' communities. Some people have pointed out that there is no true "LGBT community." It is time to start building one, and not living with the fantasy of one.

We must commence building our alliance, or be doomed to repeat history over and over and over again. How could you contribute, in however small a way, to the building up of that alliance? Let's talk.


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another dead old gay man | December 15, 2009 7:22 PM

You wrote: "Another possible solution is separation - transgender people leaving the LGBT sphere..."


Another possible solution which you, showing your bias did not think if, is separation of the G -- homosexual men leaving the LGBT sphere. This is what has actually happened over the past 10 years and will continue no matter what develops. The LBTQ movement needs to throw out the G and not the other way around.

BTW I am shocked that you actually acknowledged homohate within the trans and LBTQ community. You are the first Q writer I have ever encountered on this and other Q blogs who has done this.

There is no such thing as LBGTQ "community" of social/political struggle -- it is a false alliance -- a failed experiment -- the G never fit in. The same sex cis males in the LBTQ communitiy movement are queer men and not gay. Separate the G from the rest and begin a new queer beginning. Why would any non G LBTQ people WANT anything to do with Gay men anyway (politically -- this is about politics and not social life!). I have never understood why groups who feel so hated by gay men want anything to do with us. Trans scream phobia, bi's scream phobia. Queer/pan polys scream phobia. so much energy wasted on gay men that could be used to work towards your goals. Why the waste? IMO, this final schism will prove the best political move in 30 years.

You ask why groups that feel so hated by gay men want anything to do with them. Good question, and I believe that most gay men are not haters of any sort. While there are some blatant transphobes in the gay community, the majority of gay men that I have known are not against transgender people, or, for that matter, against bisexuals or lesbians. Unfortunately, however, these prejudices get perpetuated unwittingly, and that's why they're hard to erase. It's not just the case of a few bad apples who we can point to and isolate. It's in the culture now.

Your solution makes a whole lot more sense than maintaining the fiction of "LGBT". If it makes more sense for the Gs to go their separate way, that works just as well. As a lesbian who is not in a permanent war with the world, who does not have as a life goal the deconstruction of gender, and who does not want to surgically alter herself, I would only ask for the opportunity to leave with the Gs.

What I surprising, Michelle, is your insistence (and that of the first commenter above) on reading and commenting on a blog that is explicitly LGBTQ. If you wish to go, by all means go, I understand and have compassion for your decision. But I think perhaps you are not ready to abandon ship. There is, I think, value in community, even if we disagree sharply.

Norm D Plume | December 15, 2009 8:10 PM

Complete and uttter bullshit: "World-renowned scholar Jurgen Habermas suggests another answer. He argues that the key to liberation is not politics or economics, as many people believe. Rather it is to be found in language and communication between people."

So, being murdered can be prevented through language?

Postmodernism is dead and identity politics/queer theory have NEVER brought liberation. Sorry, but it is all about politics and economics. Homophobia and transphobia are products of a capitalist system that seeks to control and conquer the sexualities and gender expressions of the people who live under that system. To defeat and ultimately end transphobia and homophobia, we have to unite across these boundaries, not on the basis of language, but on the basis of a shared experience of oppression and and the shared enemy in capitalism.

The relevance of this essay is found in this concluding line: "My answer is that I don't have one. I'm not up to such a task. But I am up to analyzing and understanding the nature of the problem after long academic study of our history." You offer no solutions, just more language. Language language language. There. Am I liberated yet?

Dear Norm: I got quite a chuckle out of your comment. I do like people who speak their minds. I would note that Habermas is explicitly opposed to postmodernism, as well as the structural Marxism that you seem to espouse.

Regarding your question as to whether communication can prevent murder, I would answer that yes, communication can prevent murder. Violence is often the product of anger, rage and frustration, which can be reduced through communication. If shared oppression were all that were necessary to unite, then we would not have transphobia within our own community. I do not negate the place of politics and economics, but I do not have any faith in them on their own.

Your criticism about my failure to offer a solution is certainly justified. But this is too big an undertaking to offer a simple solution. It will require discussion, in your eloquent words -- language, language, language! Abracadabra, you're liberated!

(You might be interested to learn the derivation of "abracadabra". It's about the power of language.)

Ok- as much as I want to dignify the first response with a diatribe, I'm not going to even go there. Obviously the commenter doesn't seem to know one thing of the reality of many gay men's lives.

Dr. Weiss-

A comment and a question. Great post, again!

While the history of "forced medical cures" is hopefully long sense passed in the United States *knock on wood*, I was struck by watching a documentary about gay men who were essentially forced to have sex change operations in Iran. It was completely sickening.

Here is a link to an article about it:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7259057.stm

In this documentary, gay men were essentially given a choice- be gay, and have a good chance of being stoned or have a sex change operation. You see the way the doctors joked about cutting off the man's penis - and then you see the after effects of what happens. How the men now forced to live as women- talk about not wanting to live as women, how they are not viewed as "real women" and also how they hate their sex life.

Thank god this does not happen here in the US that I know of - but unfortunately it still does happen. I could not be begin to know what I would do in a similar situation.

Unfortunately it is still a living history happening in some parts of the world.

2. Do you have a book suggestion for Jurgen - I feel like what he describes is the mode I've tried to use in my organizing and bridge-building work in the labor movement- but would love to learn more.

Another post I'd love to see from you is something talking about the recidivism rate of folks who go through surgery. I've seen widely different numbers anywhere from 5 - 20% of people have "regrets". It would be nice to see someone talk about that from an authoritative place.

Thank you again!

I'm going to pop in here real quick and tackle the point you make about Iran's forcible surgery.

I've spent time in Iran, in Iraq, and in much of the middle east, and have some passing familiarity with it that is improved right now by the situation I'm in and by the reasons and research following that time.

A lot of us recall the statements made a while back by Iran's leader that "there are no gays in Iran". A great many people took him to task for that statement, and laughed at the absurdity of it.

There are a few things to note, however, regarding that situation, that are critical -- and after that I will link all of this to her article above to show how what she's saying falls into place.

1 - Iran's culture is extremely different from our own at this level. There are elements in it that are deeper than Islam, and work hand in hand with it, to reinforce these differences. In brief, what we think of as a gay person here in the US has no direct parallel in Iran.

2 - The enforced "surgical solution" you talk about is utterly horrific, and is something that most trans people (including myself) speak out against with great passion. Even many of the homophobic trans folk out there do this -- the reasons vary, but ultimately it comes down to a certain knowledge that we have that is being overlooked by many who think that trans folk would like that. And that's that we are aware that what we do would destroy most people if its not right. All it does is place those people into the *same* position we are in prior to our transition. And we want *no one* to have to go through that.

3 - What drives that particular idea -- that "surgical solution" is the concept of heteronormativity. The "sameness" factor, not the heterosexual factor, although on the surface that is what it seems like. Nor is Iran the only country that such a view holds power -- Singapore is another example. And in both cases, that comes about because of the separation between trans and LGB. People often think that most trans folk are straight -- and those of us who are can be very vocal and can tend to assimilationist ideas because in that way, we *are* heteronormative. This is untrue, however -- something that only the last 20 years have really allowed to be seen, since for many years the limitations placed on us were that we were "acceptable" just to get the treatment we needed. Based on studies conducted out of the University of Minnesota and over in Denmark, we now know that for transfolk it is about even among all the varied sexual orientations.

Part of what leads people to drive for a separation is the idea that the more visibly different parts of our LGBT community are troublesome -- this is based on the idea that since they look different, they will be harder to accept for others and therefore put things in risk. THis very idea -- which drove the homophile movement up until Stonewall -- is assimilationism. The same idea that led to the systems in place in Singapore and Iran.

By coming to understand, through communication and involvement on the levels Jillian is discussing, those simple factors, people will begin to see that, and we can overcome that driving force and ongoing power that underlies the idea of heteronormative restriction.

I could go into this in more depth, and talk about the class of people in Iran a bit more, discuss the cultural forces that are affecting them, describe how that system feels and functions in play to Iranian Transsexuals and Iranian trans people outside of transsexuals (who outnumber the transsexuals and are affected in exactly the same way as LGB people there), and more, but I'll save that for post down the road.

By engaging in the kid of interplay at a higher level than is often found -- by ceasing our own segregation when discussing issues that we think may affect just our group -- we will find that we are not merely very much alike, but that we are also complementary, each group aiding the other simply by the power of their presence together, creating a much more formidable presence than we already have.

And when we do that, and we use those complementary aspects, we will win all the social justice we can stand.

While it's easy for us to think the policies in iran concerning SRS have to do with a search for heteronormativity, there is a simpler answer... homosexuality is negatively discussed in the Koran while a persona equivalent to transsexuals is not (although gender normativity is). They view it as a medical procedure, and that's not so crazy since most transsexuals in the US also view it that way. It's true, they against the idea of living between genders (what we would might call two-spirit, GQ or genderfluid) nor do they agree with the idea of an Intersex identity (but then, neither do the vast majority of Intersex people in the US).

I'm not in any way defending Iran's horrific homophobia, but that doesn't also mean Iranian society doesn't have a lot of transphobia as well, because it does. This is a very specific situation which very much has to do with the Khomeini's interpretation of Koranic law. As early as 1963, he opined the Koran makes no restriction against surgical corrections of sex (including Intersex surgery) and made the fatwa after transwoman Maryam Hatoon Molkara asked him for help starting in 1975. The government doesn't totally pay for SRS although they do give partial grants to facilitate it.

As to the MTF (Anoush) in the documentary, I do believe she's very likely what we would term transgender but not transsexual. She's not at all upset about living socially as a woman, but is only agreeing to surgery to keep her relationship (which later broke up anyway). She's in a very similar situation to the most famous case of detransition, Alan Finch, who was a feminine gay boy who transitioned at 21 to basically be in a heterosexual relationship--something that would be an immediate red flag to most therapists under the WPATH standard (most likely overlooked English therapists because Finch passed so well as a woman).

Btw, the claims that Iran had more SRSs than any other country other than Thailand isn't true. The most famous Iranian SRS surgeon, Bahram Mir-Jalali, performs far, far fewer surgeries than either Pierre Brassard or Marci Bowers. Again, I don't excuse how Iran treats gay people, but I do feel a lot of this story is being vastly used out of context to make political points.

Sorry to blather, but I just wanted to say 2 last things on this issue of SRS in Iran. The people who are getting SRS because of societal pressures aren't gay men... they're overwhelmingly people who mostly identify as transgender women (there may be some GQ people as well). They just aren't transsexual women— a distinction which is increasingly blurred in our cultural preference for inclusion but which is clearer when you see it in the context of Iranian society. I believe some of the reason this story has been so often presented by the media as "gay men are getting forced into SRS" is the media's lack of understanding of the larger trans community (including the woman who made "Be like Others" and the subgroups which make up our community.

The reason this story about forced SRS in Iran has been so often repeated is because forced heteronormalcy is a common Queer nightmare (not to mention our need to demonize all aspects of Iran's society). It's exactly the same scenario found in Catherine Crouch's paranoid, transphobic film "The Gendercator" which was dropped from the Frameline Festival (a fantasy where a butch is forced to become FTM because gender variance isn't permitted in the future). The forced SRS story has been repeated by some gay activists in Iran I think as a way of publicizing the plight of Iranian gays (but, perhaps, at the expense of accuracy). And the problem is, gay people are horribly punished in Iran but, at the same time, this story has become a kind of urban myth of the Queer movement used to justify transphobia (most recently repeated in this month's issue of Marie Claire magazine!).

CP: The film 'Be Like Others' (which the BBC link is about) is not a broad social study about how many gay-identified men are getting SRS to live as women. It's a very anecdotal film about a couple of featured cases--one FTM, one MTF. In the case of the MTF, she did 'choose' to get SRS yet she did feel governmental pressure to do so (and some pressure from her mother as well). There is no policy for gay men to get SRS in Iran as a way of normalizing them. SRS is available in Iran due to a fatwa Khomeini made after a petition by a transwoman (who, btw, was given testosterone in the 80s in an attempt to masculinize her). There is no official policy gay men should get SRS and live as women, although there are a few mid-level clerics who have preached there should be such a policy. It is NOT easy for transwomen to get SRS in Iran. If your family is against it, you may not obtain it. (a recent case of an Iranian émigré who left Iran with her boyfriend because her father wouldn't allow her to get SRS... she later murdered her boyfriend in Idaho when she found out he was 'Internet cheating' on her) There are no laws protecting transpeople in Iran and, especially transwomen are still very much marginalized. I feel as if this story has been seized by Queer activists trying to somehow present 'binary' transsexuality as more accepted in society than being Queer. Yes, it's true gay men have been executed in Iran (not to mention whipped for breaking sodomy laws) but that doesn't mean they're being forced en masse to pretend to be women by the government which is trying to regularize them. That's not happening no matter how often the rumor is spread on the Internet.

Btw, if you're talking about SRS, there are no definitive studies about post-surgical regret, but the numbers I've seen quoted are around 1-2% of people who've actually had the surgery. A low number considering SRS doesn't necessarily take away the complex stigmas which still exist for transsexual people in society, other mental issues (like depression) and the degree of discrimination and loss many trans people go through just to get to the surgery. Just speaking anecdotally (as a post-op woman who is trans), I know many dozens of transwomen who've had SRS and I have yet to hear anyone who doesn't feel fortunate they were able to have this surgery. They might not be happy about every other part of their lives, but they don't have regrets about having had the procedure and the peace it brought them.

I'm not that conversant with the situation in Iran, so I thank you, Antonia and Gina, for providing your knowledge on the the subject. As regards regret, I do remember seeing a study by George Brown, MD on transition regret, and I seem to recall a 1% figure. As I mentioned in the main post, I do know a few people who have had surgery and regretted it. However, the overwhelming majority of the people I know who have had surgery did not regret it.

Yes, Capitalist Piggy, the situation in Iran is quite sickening. I listed a link to a BBC article article about it in my Part II. Habermas is a difficult read, but worth it if you can slog through. His magnum opus is The Theory of Communicative Action. There is a good intro to Habermas by Finlayson.

Let's see.. if the choice is to be surgically transformed into a transsexual gay man "trapped in a woman's body", or to be hanged....

Tricky. The noose looks like the least worst option to me, but YMMV. Certainly it's a line-ball decision.

I don't think anyone who hasn't "been there and done that" can really understand. But that's an honest opinion from someone who has - and is one of the handful who didn't at least contemplate suicide as the result. Yes, it is that bad.

Well written set of blogs these should be a must read for everyone not just those of us who read and comment here.

Even though I disagree with you on most things, I enjoy reading your posts, which are thoughtful and civil.

The above piece fails to make a key distinction; you use the term "allies" and "community" as if they are the same thing. As you admit, most gays don't hate trans people and certainly don't have a phobia about them. Even the much-hated Mr. Gold, who is focus of this week's Two-Minute Hate on TPB, explicitly states his support for full civil rights of trans people. Not exactly a hater, IMO.

The problem is not that you all want to be allies. I don't think you would find any gay people who would object to that. The problem is that you want to define gay people and the gay movement so as to include trans as part and parcel. It isn't.

If gays were to show up at the doorstep of the NAACP and demand that it be renamed the NAAGLCP, we would be shown the door. We might then argue that a lot of Black people are also gay. We might insist that Bayard Rustin, the key organizer of the 1963 march, was gay. And we might insist that many of the people who hate gays also hate African Americans. All of which would be true. But it still wouldn't mean that Black=Gay or that Black is even close the same thing as gay or that it would make any logical or moral sense for the Black civil rights movement to redefine itself. And by continuing to insist that anyone at the NAACP who resists our arrogant demands is a homophobe, we would only create more hostility.

That, IMO, is what happened with the Ts and GLBs. The only difference is that a few well-placed activists bought the argument in the 1990s and have ever since been trying to impose their decision on an unwilling GLB community.

Your comments are thoughtful as well Michelle. I can't agree that transsexuals were inserted into the movement in the 80s or 90s. They were always there. They didn't have surgery, because it wasn't generally available until the late 50s. They weren't called transsexuals, because that term wasn't popularized until the 60s. But people who lived, full or part time, in opposite gender roles, were simply considered homosexuals until a certain point of history. I reviewed this history in detail in my first post. I believe that the point of history when transsexuals started being considered a different animal from gays was in the late sixties and early seventies. This was in the US; in many countries there is still little separation made. Do you have some evidence that my history is incorrect? If so, I would be happy to see it.

Michelle,

Just curious, but how do you feel about trans* gay people, such as a trans woman who is attracted to women, and identifies as a lesbian? Is she part of your community, or is the trans* part more important to you than the gay part? Do you feel differently about people who have undergone bottom surgery than you do about people who haven't?

I am truly not looking for an argument here! I have just learned soooo much over the last few days about the differences in perspectives among and between G, L, B, and T people, and am looking to learn more!

Thanks!

Carol :)

Dealing with transphobia in the gay community is not rocket science. Members of the LGBT(etc.) community can hang out with each other regularly. As in socialize. NOT as in provide detailed educational seminars to each other about our lives and our communities.

This tell all fire hose approach to providing information is generally not well received. Heck, I'm trans and the moment I see a trans or gay activist coming to tell me their extended life history I start looking for the door. Information is best provided and acquired in small amounts over time between friends with some shared values.

A great post Jillian , as always.

May I add my two pence?

The fate of the rights and dignty of a large part of the Lesbian community is tied to trans-rights. Any other legal analysis, sch as that attempted by the conserva-queer deserter of the gay rights movement Dale Carpenter, is simply flawed and grossly incorrect.

Thos Lesbians opposed to or indifferent to trans-rights and equality do a disservice to a huge slice of the community of Sapphists, they betray the sisterhood in an absolutely shameful fashion.

Our fate, our equality, is inseperable from that of the trans-community.

Maura,

How are these tied together? Can you explain briefly, or would you have a link to something?

Thanks!

Carol :)

Dr Weiss,

Thank you for three important history lessons and a spark for a discussion that is long over due. I'm disheartened , not surprised mind you, at the negative comments thus far. Just want to take a moment to say thanks.

Melanie Davis | December 15, 2009 11:58 PM

Our problem is in the factioning of the movement, the group, the family. Only amongst ourselves do we see the differences and if you don't believe that,, ask a random group of people on the street what GLBT stands for. To our detractors and attackers, we are simply queer.

Dr. Weiss, please expand these assays into a book!

We need a definitive and scholarly history for future generations to understand our struggle. You are the “Thomas Paine” of our LGBTQQI movement (I get the 2 Q’s and the I now… Thank you)!

I am particularly moved by your son’s essay. I’m a bit older than you and raised 3 daughters, 2 biological and 1 stepdaughter. I came out to the 3 of them this past August. Communication remains open with 2 of the 3 but the 2 are still talking to the third. The third daughter (my youngest) is having the most difficulty with my “true nature!” I’ve already experienced something of a composite of you and your son’s journey (as you and he described) with my girls.

I’ve been a professional communicator, broadcaster, newsperson most of my adult life. When I was “cutting my teeth” in broadcast news way back in the 70’s we were taught to “practice objectivity” in our reporting… Get the facts and never, damn it never bury the lead!

That was also a time when big name journalists, print and broadcast began to experiment with “news analysis!” We began to “interpret” the news for our readers, listeners and viewers. This was a very controversial approach at the time because many of us felt we sacrificed “objectivity” by “interpreting” the news!

Oh, I’m an unrepentant “capitalist!” The “competition for eyeballs” brought an end to the Vietnam War while inspiring a generation to explore outer space and land on the moon! “The competition for eyeballs” helped end more than 40 years of “cold war.” This is a debate for another time though.

Objectivity… We all carry with us a “bias” throughout our own lives simply because we’re individuals. No 2 humans on this planet can ever know much, let alone everything about any other human, unless and until we become capable of “Vulcan Mind Melds.” Short of that all we have left is verbal or written communication. I’m mostly concerned with in person verbal communication. I agree with your “bottom up” approach in that we must find ways to meet and get to know each other, first and foremost in “small groups.”

Smaller groups of people just naturally tend to want to get to know each other. I’m convinced that all of us have a large degree of empathy built in. I think empathy is a major part of our human existence. Empathy seems to flourish in smaller groups quickly. The trick in organizing a larger group of people into a “movement” is getting these smaller groups to meet and actually interact.

I don’t think individual “bias” a bad thing! I think civility mitigates bias. All of today’s political debates seem to lack civility, especially on television and radio. Just like “yellow journalism” of a hundred years ago I think most people have grown weary of “confrontational” television, radio and print media (online media is print without the paper). People want answers to their questions not more confrontation. I’m convinced President Obama’s election proves this.

I believe all of us reading the awesome pages on Bilerico must start to engage others in our lives in discussion… We must make and take any opportunity, no matter how seemingly small, to engage others in polite discussion.

I was raised to be “civil.” When others engage me with a lack of politeness and civility I smile and listen as carefully as I can… I try real hard to hold back my “bias” or criticism and focus on how I might make a point without “riling up” the other person!

You know I read a wonderful book years ago… I think it’s time to read it again!

Dale Carnegie’s “How To Win Friends and Influence People.”

Yeah, it’s “trite” but it’s “true!”

I hope I’ve contributed something to this extremely important discussion!

Comments from:
New York Times

I know it’s not Politically Correct to say this, but I really don’t buy the whole “transgender” concept.

Sex is a biological thing - either your male, or you’re female (with the exception of a tiny handful of folks who are born as intersex or hermaphrodite people).

Gender and gender roles are social, they vary depending on the society you live in, or what community or class you occupy within a society.

As for this idea that there are “men trapped in women’s bodies” or “women trapped in men’s bodies” - the Nazis invented that idea!

It was the Nazis explanation for homosexuality, and the infamous Dr Josef Mengele, an aggressive proponent of the “transgender” idea, performed the world’s first (non consensual) sex reassignment surgery on gay men who were prisoners at the SS Medical Research Station at Auschwitz Concentration Camp.

The modern “transgender” concept is just latter day Nazi pseudoscience, and it’s long past time we renounce this awful concept.

Men who think they are women and women who think they are men are deeply delusional gays and lesbians (who’s delusion has deep roots in our society’s homophobia) who need psychotherapy so they can be rehabilitated and lead healthy lives as gay men and lesbian women.

— Gregory A. Butler

Queerty

Terriwill:

No. 6 · Kian: You are 100% incorrect, I don't dislike trans people. I simply do not like when persons who very clearly state that they are straight attempt to wedge themselves under the GLB umbrella. Chaz is the most famous trans person in recent memory. What statement did he make in one of the first interviews?? "we are just like any other straight couple" But in this post like previous you and the band of trans are gonna be all over any kind of post which says anything which you do not like to see. Trans people bring a lot of baggage with them, you expect to be welcomed into the GLB struggle yet many of you claim to be straight. Its the people who do not identify themselves as Gay that need to go away

Terriwill

No. 8 · spalatos: I have two major trans issues:

1- When a trans person misrepresents themselves and LIES about their true sex to lure someone into a sexual situation and then is upset if that person freaks out. This behaviour is 100% unacceptable. If you are not 100% comfortable in the skin you are going to be wearing after surgery you are not ready for said surgery.

2- When a trans person identifies themselves as "straight" I am sorry we catch too much shit from the haters out there who claim that being Gay is a choice. One of their most succesful arguments in denying us equal protections is that being Gay as opposed to being say a woman or black is a choice and therefor unlike being a woman or black who were born that way there is justification in denying us equal protections under the law. Straight Parents who support us are a tremendous asset to the community. However there is a huge difference between an ally of the Gays and someone claiming membership in the Gay community while stating they are in fact straight.

I do not hate trans persons. I hate numbers 1&2 above. I find nothing incorrect about those positions. However the trans people who post here will never accept any type of criticism. Instead they adopt behaviours and start flingiing insults that would warm the cold hearts of any rightwing nut bag lunatic……….

naghanenu:

My favorite poster today….TERRIWILL!!!!!!!!!!!!

You rock! You rock! Ive lolling all morning(wipes tears from eyes)

I am uncomfortable with transfolk..period. I am sorry. I promised myself id try but God almighty, they freak me out.

The idea that by mutilating your body and take chemicals that distort your body is just insane to me. There i said it…im sorry

naghanenu

Yes, i meant it. Im sorry but that is the truth.

Transgenderism is said to be a disorder right? Ok cool. I RESPECT THAT. I RESPECT THEM TOO. It takes courage to live your life as u should without fear of condemnation and prejudice. Doesnt mean i cant get freaked out. I mean i see a woman everyday and i think wow she's tall. Just found out she was a tranny. I WAS FREAKED. Her face was really better than some id seen and she looked like a real woman. All curvy and hot. Needless to say, good hormone therapy for her. But i cant date her. why? she has a penis. She does not have a vagina..at least i don think so. I still see her has a man. Its so weird and wrong somehow.

That said….trannies make me uncomfortable

This isn't fringe - it's part of the mainstream.

And if "trannies" freak him out, I hope he never meets someone with one of the more spectacular Intersex conditions.


Let's see... a trans man is simultaneously:

A propagator of Nazi Pseudo-Science
A straight man who doesn't belong with GLBs
Not a "real" man, but a deceiving liar
A lesbian who's deluded and mutilated

But they don't dislike him. Good job - think what they'd say if they did!

Seriously, it's the "they freak me out" aspect that comes first. People don't like to think that they're prejudiced, irrational and bigoted, so they must either
a) confront their irrational dislikes, accept them as irrational even if they can't overcome them, and move on or;
b) find or manufacture some justification, religious or otherwise, so they can feel good and even righteous about being uncomfortable around "these people".

Hence the sometimes bizarre and contradictory "justifications" put forward for racism and homophobia. Oh yes, transphobia too. There isn't even a word for the way some feel about the Intersexed - they're so marginalised, even Bilerico doesn't give them a significant voice.

Zoe,

So how would Gregory Butler feel about a man who was attracted to women, transitioning to be a woman, and still dating women? This person wouldn't be 'choosing' to 'escape' being gay, but rather 'choosing' to 'be' gay...seems thinking isn't really his strong point, eh?

And those other guys? WOW, just WOW...~

Carol :)

I don't understand the distaste for the "G" in LGBT that's been expressed above. (not implying homophobia or gay-male-phobia here) I also don't understand why some commenters are saying that gay males have such a *radically* different experience than lesbians or bisexuals or trans people that they should be categorized separately.

As has been said previously on a recent Bilerico post, gays fall into some of the same gender-spectruum "issues" that the LBs also delve into, and, of course, trans people definitionally. (quotes because they aren't negative) Isn't that basically what an effeminate gay male represents? A sort of subtle subversion of gender roles? This seems, to me, the same as the idea that lesbian gender expression is more "masculine."

Clearly, these gender-queer traits do not compare with the situation for trans people. I will admit that I don't necessarily know the terminology or the entirety of the situation for trans people, but I get the impression that trans operates on a more fundamental level than what I've outlined above.

Zoe;
Queerty is NOT the mainstream, far from it. It is periodically hostile in coment tone to Lesbians and nearly always so to the trans community. It appeals to a low common denominator in the LGBT community and primarily presents as a Gay site.

And, my dear friend, some of those same men commenting would be just as dismissive of me as a Lesbian and the women might will be given that I was once married and had children(purity, don't you know? The hard core Lesbian seps have stiffer purity rules than the Third Reich in some instances)

First, I'd like to make it clear I am not being disrespectful.

But... (and you had to see that coming)...

In the last week, there's been a great deal of commentary concerning the "T" of the GLBT "community." The majority of those comments can be distilled to a single, common, statement: The exclusion of T representation both in the community and on Bilerico, itself.

Yet, of the 30 "front page" stories on today's site, 10 of those deal with "trans issues." A full one-third.

There have been some days, especially in the past week, where trans issues have been over fifty percent of the front page.

Surely, there are other things to talk about... say... perhaps... some nationwide effort to oust Senator Lieberman from his committees and, ultimately, his seat in the Senate? Of the failure of this Congress to form and submit bills which could implement the changes our "fierce advocate" promised during his election, promises on which he's reneged post-election? Has anyone bothered to track the number of gay and gay-friendly businesses across the country that have closed/are closing their doors due to the current recession/depression, and how those closures might affect the real-life local gay communities they serve?

Does no one have a liaison within the press office of the FBI who can track local prosecutions of hate crimes, the alleged number of which has taken a drastic increase since this president's inauguration?

How about other businesses, both local and nationwide, who use the same ad agencies as NOM and the "Manhattan Declaration"... anyone contacting those businesses to determine if they support those issues, and if they're comfortable using an ad agency which is receiving millions of dollars to advocate hatred directed toward the community? And about NOM, themselves... any truth to the rumor Maggie Gallagher has her sights set on Massachusetts and overturning marriage equality via the popular vote?

How about the Congressional Travel Office denying the spouses of gay congresspeople the right to travel with their spouse, though the spouses of heterosexuals are free to do so... and the travel office citing DOMA, even though the current president issued an Administrative Order, in May, ordering those spouses to be given equal treatment?

In all the talk of national health care, as well as DOMA repeal, I've yet to see a story concerning partners where one partner's very life is dependent upon the health care of the other partner... or what happens if the healthy partner should die before the unhealthy partner. That's my story... I'm in my 10th year of heart failure, with no income (except the occasional residual, which is reducing in both frequency and dollar amount with the passing of time). If something happens to my partner, within 6 months, I'm dead... but not before losing our home and our dogs. Without the benefit of marriage, if Bill were to precede me in death, my immediate future is to be homeless, penniless and seeing our dogs gone to either the pound or - hopefully - other loving homes... all the while having to foot a tax bill for his estate.

As Jack Webb used to say, there's a million stories in the city. They all deserve representation.

Eric, I'm so sorry to hear about the difficult situation you're in. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

As far as other stories, you're right, there's a lot to talk about.

MitchInOakland MitchInOakland | December 16, 2009 7:46 AM

Great discussion, especially what, for me, is some head-turning background on the circumstances in Iran. (Thank you, Antonia!)

Nonetheless, there are still some remarkably problematic assumptions and inferences underlying much of what's being said here:

"How Should Building An LGBT Alliance Proceed? Some people have pointed out that there is no true 'LGBT community.' It is time to start building one, and not living with the fantasy of one."

Sez who? Why?

It could certainly be argued that it's just such a misguided effort to cobble together the unwilling and uncomfortable - far more than any ostensible "hate" - that's inflamed all this discord in the first place. At least, in the above quote, Weiss seems to be acknowledging that such a community would have to be built, but that it's currently a mere fantasy.

Yes, there are all sorts of rationales for "LGBT," but maybe it's time to apply Occam's Razor, and stop maintaining a position that's proved to be patently, obviously, simply dysfunctional. That would seem to solve lots of problems on all sides - even for G and L trans folks, who'd then merely be dealing with the intersection of (and membership in) two (somewhat overlapping but far-from-congruent) communities.

We're used to starting with the rationale that "Our problem is in the factioning of the movement, the group, the family." But if that "family" is merely a fantasy to begin with, that rationale doesn't fly.

And then there's the old war-horse, "Ask a random group of people on the street what GLBT stands for. To our detractors and attackers, we are simply queer."

Since when is a family obliged to allow itself or its membership to be defined by its enemies, or even merely by the presence of a common enemy? "Alliance of convenience," yes, "family," no. The enemy of my enemy isn't necessarily my friend: such a contention is as obviously fragile (and arguably flawed) as the Western alliance with Stalin proved to be at the end of World War II.

I don't want to risk being booted off Bilerico for questioning one of its underlying premises or biases, but what if we started with a clean slate -- along with a recognition that an "LGBT" (or LGBTQQI) community is currently a fantasy (or a figment of our common enemies' imagination), and that the burden of proof should be shouldered by those who think such a collective identity is a desirable goal?

We should at least be willing to consider what this discussion would be like it if we were conducting it on that (arguably more level) playing field.

One obvious retort is that we share a common history -- but GinaSF has (ironically) provided an interesting countervailing insight when she notes that "The reason [the] story [of] forced SRS in Iran has been so often repeated is because forced heteronormalcy is a common Queer nightmare"!

A common queer nightmare, indeed! - one especially alarming to those gay men whose liberation has involved first accepting themselves despite their not being "interested in girls," and then getting over the idea that their attraction for men has anything to do with femininity or that, symbolically, it's tantamount to castration.

We can argue (fruitlessly) until the cows come home about whether that fear is as great, as legitimate - or as suicidal - as the pain felt by transgender women prior to transition; I'm merely suggesting that we're remiss if we merely brush it off.

Before there's a pile-on of people attempting to recontextualize the above, please allow me to point out that I've never accepted the narrative that claims gay liberation as a subset of feminism. For me, it was a subset of the sexually-ambiguous hippie counterculture and of an ethos of "free love" and experimentation that also drew on the sexual revolution as portrayed by The Playboy Philosophy and the beat generation (in terms of the unfettering of male sexuality) but (given that one was not interested in girls) could be absolved of any charge that it was an affront or a threat to women.

Under such circumstances, the alliance (long an uneasy truce) between lesbians and gay men was predicated on our mutual sexual disinterest in each other - an assurance that sexually, we'd simply leave each other alone.

Yes, of course, drag queens and trans folk were pivotal participants at Stonewall - but perhaps the crucial word is "pivotal." As I've written elsewhere, "Stonewall was also an airing-out, the beginning of a process of emancipation that many of us gay men deeply felt would make gay men's affectation of 'womanliness,' finally, once-and-for-all, an anachronism!" After Stonewall, the high heels seemed destined for the dumpster.

Were that not the case - and in the wake if this, were there not those wonderful weekend dances at the GAA firehouse in New York - I might never have come out, and today I might just be another suicide statistic.

Are we witnessing a purge of gay men who share this narrative?

If we refuse "to excuse the airing of frankly transphobic opinion with no pretense of outreach," are we equally willing (for moral reasons, and not just because of the obvious political and financial consequences) to resist the temptation to pursue just such a purge?

I was ready to add the phrase, "Over my dead body," pointing out that I just turned 60, and even expressing some empathy for the fate that's befallen Ron Gold.

But whether he's willing to acknowledge it or not, Ron's article was clumsy and insensitive (and in some areas, just plain ignorant); by thus fanning the flames of discord, he's caused pain not only for trans people, but even for those like me who've been confronted with the fallout. I can only hope he's learned something worthwhile from this episode. (Now can I express my empathy?) ;-)

Indeed, then, maybe there's something to be said for dialogue, after all. Whether that means such dialogue is best conducted as part of an effort to shoe-horn ourselves into one "community" identity is an entirely different issue. Either way, we're all human.

At the very least, we all have a lot to think about.

At the same time, I feel no hate, and I haven't expressed any - but I dread the attacks and demands from the trans community and others that experience tells me are now likely to rain down on me nonetheless.

I'm a bisexual woman with an intersexed/transsexed history who feels affinity with bi women and lesbian women and almost none at all with transgender people. Mitch, you'll get no grief from me because I can see where you are coming from. I also understand the radical lesbian separatist points of view regarding transgenders. Naturally this makes me a traitor to them, but then the bulk of the discrimination (not all of it, but the vast majority of it) I've experienced has been from transgendered people themselves. Almost all the life threatening/destroying attempts also from them.

The vast bulk of transgender women came from privileged heterosexual backgrounds and they seem to think they singlehandedly discovered oppression when they encounter it. Stinky childhoods aside, trans people tend to be the most stubborn people on the planet because they had to be to maintain their own self of self in the face of an entire world that opposed it. Not an excuse, but perhaps it does explain why so many of them are perpetually angry and seem to totally lack any empathy for others who also are oppressed.

old and dead gay man again | December 16, 2009 9:49 AM

You did not answer me. Or perhaps other trans or queer people can answer this question(and trans/queer only please and NOT "gay" cis same sex men bleating about how they love their trans/queer family -- there are enough of those Hallmark card saccharine testimonials here thank you).

The question: if gay men are so ignorant, hateful, oppressive, etc. to trans/queer realities, then WHY do you as a trans/queer person WANT any association with gay men? As someone says below, the infighting does not solve housing or employment or other issues. So why all the verbiage and essays and books and blogs where trans/queer people outline their myriad beefs with gay men over and over and over.
Explain please. What is the point?

Because we're not the only ones who get beaten to death by people screaming "Kill the Faggot!".

Because we're not the only ones denied the ability to marry those we love in many jurisdictions.

And because oppression is wrong.

I am a gay trans man, I care very deeply about both communities and I'm very sure that I'm not the only one to feel this way. I think that gay men do get more stink when it comes to transphobia but most LBTQ blogs and news sites are run by gay men as well. Therefore, gay men are on the front lines and are more subject to criticism. Also, the lesbians can be just as transphobic, but I rarely hear their voices on blogs like this.

As someone who spends most of his social time with gay men, I want to be able to call people out on their transphobia, while still maintaining friendsips. This is not easy. But if I were to let all the transphobic comments slide (and I do let some slide in public), then I'd be miserable and start to hate myself. For my sanity in my personal online lives, I must point out the transphobia. My only solace: try not to take others' criticisms of gay men so personally. Or atleast that's what I often get told about trans criticims. ;)

Thank you for saying, Kian, that you call out your friends when they make transphobic comments. But is it transphobic to say that transgender people whose sexual orientation is "straight" don't belong under the GLB umbrella? That we don't like them when they try to wedge themselves in?

I don't know where you get the impression that this is aimed specifically at gay men? These very same discussions are happening in the lesbian/feminist communities since at least 15 years. The gay communities are only a little later.
It is also not aimed at all gay men, quite the contrary. I have never met so many supportive people as in the gay male communities.
It seems to be a certain segment of the gay male communities that have a specific problem with transgender (I'm not talking about plain transphobia of the "trans people are creepy" variety, that can be found everywhere).
That subgroup is often older than 40 years, has an activist past and came out during the 1970s/early 1980s. They all seem to share a certain "knowledge" about transgender (see Mr Gold's post), and often regard themselves as men, not gender variant people or drag queens (though I even know some who cross dress from time to time).

I have a tendency to break issues down into their simplest components and deal decisively and directly. In my role as the owner of a struggling small business, this approach is essential to my survival.

For instance, if I see an area of my business that is costing me more than it's bringing in, I have to examine that aspect of my business and consider how to improve it or whether to eliminate it entirely. Likewise, when I see an area developing a revenue stream, even if it's not necessarily consistent with my business plan, I need to take advantage of it.

The relationship between the GLB and T communities has gone beyond the point of diminishing returns, and at this point too much time and too many resources have been squandered in attempts to salvage what was inherently flawed to begin with.

The time has come for serious trans advocates to turn attention toward service directly and specifically to the trans community. Issues like DADT and marriage equality, while they do affect some members of the trans community, have plenty of support from within the GLB community which is more directly affected by them, and while I do not mean to suggest that we should be unsupportive of these efforts, we do need to be largely indifferent to them. GLB groups have these issues well in hand. We've got troubles of our own.

At risk of oversimplifying things, the major issues confronting the trans community boil down, as do most things, to a matter of dollars and cents. The sooner the trans community is able to develop economic viability, the sooner we earn the credibility and the independence that go along with it.

A great deal of emphasis has been placed on achieving the objectives of the trans community through alliances, legislation and other means that are predicated on seeking validation from sources outside the community, whether they be through government, corporate America or the GLB community. None of these entities has any real stake in the success of the trans community. To approach these entities hat in hand to beg their indulgence, or bearing pitchforks and torches to demand our rights serves only to further validate them, and gives them a power over us that they do not deserve.

Legislative efforts such as ENDA are important symbolic endeavors, but there appears to be a naive expectation that ENDA, etc. will provide a panacea for the trans community. That somehow, upon passage of ENDA, a new age of elightenment will dawn and all trans Americans will be gainfully employed in their chosen fields, with liberty and justice for al....blah blah blah. The sad fact is that nothing will change once the President applies his signature to the bill, even if, by some miracle it reaches his desk, and no one has a comprehensive plan that looks beyond ENDA, toward real solutions to issues confronting transgender Americans.

The trans community as a whole needs to be proactive in establishing itself economically by reaching out to develop and support trans owned businesses that create opportunities inside the community, and to encourage trade within the community. This approach has been successful in the struggle for African American, Latino, Asian and yes, GLB communities, and is a model that needs to be adopted by the trans community without delay.

The whole reason the trans community has developed these alliances to begin with was a lack of resources necessary to pursue our political goals. As a result, we have found ourselves in the back of the very bus we are repeatedly thrown under when push comes to shove. Trans issues are not considered to be a prioroity for good reason. We have made no real material contribution to the groups who drive strategy, thus we have no vested interest in being included.

In the words of Huey Newton, "Don't work in the restaurant. Own the restaurant. Don't work in the factory. Own the factory." We need to buy our own bus. Then we can drive it where we wish, without regard for any but our own trans specific agenda.

We don't have time to identify the causes of transphobia in the GLB community. We don't have the resources to rectify it. We need to pick up and move on, in service to our own community.

I attempted this over ten years ago with email groups dedicated to trans employment and linking trans employers with employees etc. It was ignored and failed utterly.

I also ran my own business for many many years and tried to apply that knowledge. I even took everything I had left after the transition losses and put it into an attempt at a trans themed housing collective. It also fell flat because those who came, came with all sorts of entitlement issues and only wanted to take take take and not put anything back in.

Today it is a struggling but successful women's spirituality centre and housing collective......and we own an actual bus for what it's worth.

RB, I would love to see your bus. It has been a dream of mine, ever since my hippy daze in Santa Cruz to convert a schoolbus into a groovy motorhome.

I think we live in different times for the trans community these days than we did event ten years ago. The internet has provided a means for individuals to become a part of something that until recently didn't really exist. A national trans community.

The virtual realm has proven a powerful social networking tool. The same principles can be applied toward development of relationships between trans businesses, and between these businesses and their potential customers and workers.

Yes, there are those with an unrealistic expectation of entitlement, but there are also, I believe, just as many with a firm grasp on the concept of earning our way forward with hard work and cooperation. We have the tools and the resources at our disposal to make it happen. All we need to do is get to work and git 'er done.

It's all about getting away from crying about what we can't do and concentrating on what we CAN do.

Good luck on that, you'll have to do it without me as I gave up on anything trans a long time ago and concentrate my efforts on women's rights, empowerment and spirituality.

I will have trust issues to my dying day as a result of trying to help trans people and having it returned with unending abuse, violence, death threats, outings, smears, and attempts to leave me homeless as payment for trying to keep others from that...and more.

Our bus is a 1999 International short bus with handicap lift in the back. We are using it as a multi function truck, bus and camper. It's well on it's way to being pink (we'll finish painting it in the spring)

I'm sorry that you had such a negative experience, RB. It sounds like your current efforts are more rewarding for you.

I have been met with negativism in my efforts to develop TG Works, and in my assertion that there needs to be a viable commercial community within the trans community, but I am undeterred.

So far, I have proven that we can establish a profitable (if only marginally) enterprise, and that we can offer opportunities to qualified trans candidates.

We look forward to growth in 2010, and I have been thinking of painting our fleet trucks pink.

"It's well on it's way to being pink..."

* ! *

A pink bus. That absolutely rocks so hard it hurts. Too cool!

I assume then that you have linked yourself asa member of these communities of oppression: the Disabled, POC, the Deaf, expolited child workers, women in religious tyrannies, Tamils, Palestinians, First Nations Peoples, the homeless, people with mental illness, etc, etc. I presume that you consider yourself "family" and "community" with all of these groups -- as they all experience oppression and they are all in one way or another threatened and often killed (when someone attempts to kill you using hate as a reason, its specificity, be it race, poverty, sexuality, etc. does not really matter). Why align your alphabet letter with Gay when all these other groups need and want your help? I still don't get the forced affiliation despite abhoring the men in the group you are allying yourself with. Perhaps transpeople are terrified of stepping out onto the world politic stage without the crowd of other letters around you. It is time to move. Separation of the LBGTQ is the only way forward.

Communication, whether in the larger or smaller use, certainly makes good sense.

When I posted to the Egale Canada main email list I worked at communicating within the same structure as Tobi has identified for this site. Simply to raise concerns, challenge ideas attracted the same ire that Mitch fears. (But you won't receive it from me, either, Mitch.)

The most upsetting thing I learned from that list was that, in demanding the very same things from the gay majority--and those who controlled/still control Egale Canada--that they demanded from straight society, I received from them the very same things they received from society at large.

This is the same structural issue writ large.

Reviewing biographies, it is clear that were I a gay man then I would have established a position comparable to gay people and not the same as most transsexual people. In the very organizations that declare their goal is equality and justice for "lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-identified people and their families."

I found quite interesting the divergence in views of surgery that you pointed out, Jillian, but I don't understand who has to show understanding?

If this goal of my life is the very epitome of evil for many gay men, who believe that I'm just a self-loathing gay man, what sort of empathy can I have for that? Unless my self-esteem reaches what is necessary for the solution that is greater among transsexual people than gay and lesbian people.

I, also, am sceptical of the notion of "community" or even "community(ies)" though I understand the political motivations of those who impose it. But the only model we have in front of us to do what some might still call, in the face of the evidence, a coalition is that of identity politics--transgender and transsexual people must fit themselves into a "community" of sexual orientation because a coalition is explicit of its goals and recognizes its minorities as well as its majority. This is not something gay and lesbian people, historically, have much experience with; it is not novel to point out the exclusion of transgender and transsexual people from their movement.

I suppose there is little equivalence between Canada and the United States: in Canada we have legislated equality for all gay and lesbian people including what we call in Canada equal marriage, but there is little appetite among gay people to assist in the legislative and even judicial struggle for transsexual and transgender people as they had for themselves; in the United States, in the face of public opinion in favour of legal rights for transgender and transsexual people, the gay "community" moved as one towards gay marriage, with serious political repercussions not only for transgender and transsexual people, but also gay, lesbian and bisexual people, and all Americans.

Would any of this be a matter for communication, Jillian? I had tried to be part of gay and lesbian "community(ies)" but found that socializing was reasonably easy, political common ground, unless it was of their definition, was not. O, and I found socializing with those who politics trivialized, dismissed and erased me to be not much more difficult than socializing with those where there was no political discourse.

If not, it would simply be a continuation of the present structural situation where the minority must submit to the majority.

But then this is the structural issue you have identified with respect to mainstream media in the United States--historically, media has been even more concentrated in Canada, but again, no equivalence.

Simply to declare one is straight is not to be homophobic. We recognize the right of gay and lesbian people to live the lives they wish, but we challenge the rights of transgender and particularly transsexual people to do the same?

Where is the empathy for this?

You state one of the difficulties you have in teaching university students is pointing out we all have biases; though you save yourself from retribution by also declaring some are better at handling their biases than others--yourself, of course. Though why advocating issues one is not empathetic with is the measure of that, I don't know.

Having gone back to university--social work--this past fall, I see this. However, this is little different from the issues discussed here.

The question remains is communication, as you advocate, the answer to our question.

I'm not so afraid of gay men leaving the movement they declare they have created or of transgender and transsexual people leaving, either, if the result is each population is able to formulate their needs and demands. And then is able to communicate, discuss them and come to common ground.

This would be a progressive change from the present.

Maybe you have already abandoned this site as one possible conduit for the communication you advocate? Yet, I still see you are a contributor in good standing, posting a substantial series.

Maybe, you could advocate for those whose views have been dismissed not only by the powers that be on this site but also by Monica Helms, to bring them to this site as contributors not simply as comment posters?

I don't know, but it certainly seems from yours and Tobi's posts, you feel it is a good thing for us to be exposed to the not nice opinions of others. Yet, until the structural biases are addressed--most easily on this site--all we are going to see is the same old, same old we always see: the Ron Golds but not the transgender and transsexual opinions that challenge him.

Thanks for your lengthy reply, Jessica. I sense that you are asking me a question, but I'm not sure what it is. Could you restate it a bit more concisely?

I'm not sure there is a concise way of doing what you ask, Jillian.

As a person of some authority and respect, on this site and elsewhere, you are in a position to begin just what you advocate--bring in more minority opinions.

I doubt you see your role in this light--and you have explicitly dismissed this site are one possible focus for this sort of communication.

Yet, this is precisely the structural response to the structural issues identified by Tobi: Bring into this site as contributors all those transgender and particularly transsexual people who have been dismissed and disparaged.

Our views are not as safe as those of accepted trans** writers--though your recent posts, and Tobi's, are less safe than one might have expected.

Will you advocate for the acceptance of all of us who have been dismissed as contributors to this site, and elsewhere where you clearly have presence and power?

Give it up Jessica. We are "transphobic" and "full of self loathing" and "hateful" remember?

Although it boggles the mind to think who understands the entirety of the journey from one side to the other of the gender divide better than than someone who actually went all the way and emerged as actual women (or men) without qualifiers and then lived for years, even decades successfully afterwards, certain elements of the "communities" will never acknowledge our sex, our gender, our experiences.

And the supreme irony that the outside world has little problem with us, just those who insist they can better speak for us than ourselves and have the god given right to define us in open opposition to our expressed wishes.

The hurt and damage I see more and more in your posts over recent months, Radical Bitch, which make sense from the stupendous effort you have made over the years, only saddens and disheartens me. I have looked to you for inspiration.

However, having said that, I agree with what you have characterized as the supreme irony

the outside world has little problem with us, just those who insist they can better speak for us than ourselves and have the god given right to define us in open opposition to our expressed wishes
.

It is even more ironic than this, thinking not so much of the T** people who do this, but more the gay and lesbian people who quite clearly endure this attitude, and far worse, from straight people.

I'm no longer surprised by this, but am continually amazed by the continuation of the majority/minority dialectic, or possibly the Master-Slave Dialectic in our common observation.

I hope, for a number of years yet, at least, to maintain myself in some degree of hope. As I wish for you, Radical Bitch.

MitchInOakland MitchInOakland | December 16, 2009 5:53 PM

Radical Bitch wrote, "the outside world has little problem with us, just those who insist they can better speak for us than ourselves and have the god given right to define us in open opposition to our expressed wishes," seconded by Jessica, who writes, "It is even more ironic than this, thinking not so much of the T** people who do this, but more the gay and lesbian people who quite clearly endure this attitude, and far worse, from straight people."

The attitude doesn't just come from straight people; for gay males herded into the "LGBT" corral, it's double jeopardy! As I've described, many gay men feel that their identity has been wrongly contextualized by the "LGBT community" formulation, and by trans advocates working withn the resulting paradigm. We, too, can speak for ourselves (without being hurtful or insulting), but for reasons I've attempted to explain, this is far more likely to happen outside that paradigm than within it. Within the paradigm, it's too-often a matter of others contextualizing our identity.

As for any "Master-Slave" or majority/minority dialectic (or any invidious notions of "privilege"), consideration should be given to the extent to which LGBT and feminist formulations of queer identity have become the dominant (nearly hegemonic) narratives in current discourse.

To some extent this is undoubtedly because so many gay men of my generation (along with much of our evolving pre-AIDS culture) are now simply dead, and others have moved into the vacuum. Much of this occurred under the rubric of "supportive, life-saving collaboration" by lesbians and others at the height of the epidemic, but to survivors, the experience also feels highly invalidating -- as if others moved to fill the power vacuum left by a dying liberationist culture, sometimes even while the corpses were still warm.

Under the circumstances, an analysis that promulgates the notion of "gay male privilege" becomes awfully hard to swallow, if not downright Orwellian - especially for those of us who've survived, only to find ourselves on the losing end (yet nonetheless vilified or dismissed on account of our allegedly dominant status).

(Ironically, many of our common enemies - supposedly easier for us to confront as a "united community" - must only be laughing at the squabbling that results from our being [voluntarily, no less!] jammed into a room together!)

Mitch, its interesting how you speak of

gay men feel that their identity has been wrongly contextualized by the "LGBT community" formulation, and by trans advocates working withn the resulting paradigm.

The paradigm I see is not built on sex or gender, not in the sense I understand from your statement, Mitch. Rather, the paradigm I see is build upon sexual orientation; that it is simply the only characteristic that is important.

And the beneficiaries of a focus on sexual orientation are not transgender and transsexual people, insofar as they are transsexual and transgender. As gay and lesbian people, yes, that is different--but then, gay and lesbian people are not asked on a site and environment such as this, to give up the fundamental question of their lives.

That is what is asked of transgender and transsexual people.

Frankly, I do not understand what you mean by LGBT, because the way I understand that has always been a more politically correct way of declaring GL.

As for "feminist formulations of queer identity" I can only see what many, including myself, have called transgender in the narrow sense not the all-encompassing notion which some have declared to be the politically correct way of saying transsexual.

Historically, post-Butler, I have understood the equation to be something like this

gay and lesbian=queer=transgender

As I understand the way transsexual thought is moving--not an approved subject for this site--is that, unlike post-Butlerian notions of gender play and the social construction of all of us that matters, transsexual thought sees some parts of us as actually given.

Now, this seems to threaten those gay, lesbian, queer, transgender people who believe there is nothing given not only about gender but also about sex, not fucking, but the anatomy; in the very Butlerian phrase, "sex is always already gender."

You raise the notion of a liberationist culture as if it is something that has died. This is very different from my reading of either history or the present. I often encounter, in Canada, gay more than lesbian people who self-describe as liberationist. In fact, I believe this is the natural goal, or possibly starting place, for those who identify as queer and/or transgender.

In the Canadian context, at least, as described by a self-identified liberationist in a recent issue of the magazine This Magazine when the assimilationists went home after the achievement of equal marriage (what we call gay marriage in Canada), only liberationists were left.

This is a very simplistic analysis because it simply ignores not only the straight people who were involved in this struggle--particularly people of faith--but it also ignores the contribution of transgender and transsexual people. Not an unusual erasure.

I have not taken issue with "gay male privilege" though you seem to ascribe that position to me, Mitch. I suspect these were arguments you endured from lesbians, even as you describe supportive, life-saving collaboration but "to survivors, the experience also feels highly invalidating."

Probably no equivalence, but this is precisely the experience felt by transsexual people when "helped" to equal marriage, being told it will make it better for you, but not addressing the life-threatening situation all transsexual people face.

Yes, I certainly tried to be in the same room with gay, lesbian, queer and transgender people believing their commitments to the issues I need ;as I was working on the issues they needed. The commitment being that when marriage was over, they would help on my human rights--which they have had for more than a decade.

This is not true for all gay and lesbian, nor queer or transgender people, but for too many it now seems that, having got what they wanted, regardless of their promises, tough shit for you; I have mine.

I don't try that any more--the room I now work in includes gender identity as a co-equal to sexual orientation and that it is NOT necessary for those of us who are neither gay nor lesbian, nor transgender, to be part of a common cause.

Sure as hell this isn't easy, going against every accepted notion declared on this site--or at least accepted as politically correct.

Thank you for the dialogue, Mitch.

MitchInOakland MitchInOakland | December 17, 2009 1:47 AM

Thank you, too, Jessica.

When I wrote, I was not fully aware of the depth of the schism within the "T" segment of "LGBT," so the I took "LGBT" to include all of the aspects of "T," and assumed the resulting paradigm I referenced to involve both sexual orientation and gender.

I tend to believe that gender is socially constructed, but unlike Butler, I believe that as such, it's something to be transcended rather than fetishized.

Thank you, Mitch, for the most accurate and concise description of the truth and lived experience of myself and all of the hundreds of older gay men I know. You have nailed it 100%. I use the analogy of going to war where all your friends, community and life was destroyed only to return dazed and confused to your own "community" to find it transformed beyond recognition and informed curtly that this is the New Queer LBTGQ Reality, accept it or accept the label oppressor. Almost all of us simply shut the door and carried on cut off totally from this new forced paradigm.

Whenever this topic of gay men's lived reality of the LBGTQ phenom is raised among gay men alone, there is one narrative (always the same -- it's the one Mitch described). And when with other LBTQs, there is another story. I find the gay men who most embrace the LBTQG paradigm are those who are newly out or were very isolated when younger -- those who did not live and like the urban gay male culture of pre- and during AIDS (many of the new queer gay men seem to despise fellow homosexual men).

There is a need for a discourse among gay men about this issue and how to move beyond its constricting uselessness. The problem is that since all "gay" media or blogs are now de facto queer/LBGTQ, then every time a gay man critiques or challenges the LBTQG paradigm with fellow gay men, a queer person censures this "treason" with the rationale of "policing the boundaries of queer incusivity"). Some call this progress; others call it Stalinist gameplaying. Separation of the G from the LBTQ is essential politically amd strategically, but also culturally and even emotionally for gay men. Gay men who lived the original pre-Queer paradigm gay era are still in our 50s and 60s and many could reinvent and rebuild a forward looking gay men's community to address perpetual homophobia and challenges to living openly homosexual as aging men in a very dark and uncertain world. It is up to all older gay men to realize that the LBTGQ paradigm is ending. It's time for gay men to pick up freely, move on and reimagine our own gay futures and politics together. And for the other groups to do the same.

If gay men want to separate themselves from the GLBT they will have a tough time doing it. Anyone sucked into the trans nonsense can tell you about that. And as far as political effectiveness goes, the record for transsexual people goes like this:

Before forced inclusion (at the behest of crossdressers/transvsetites) transsexual men and women managed to get rules in place that allowed for change of birth certificates in 47 states. And changes of ID in 50. Since the coercive power grab, nothing. Zero. Zip.

What has been the record for gay men since inclusion? How many victories? And how do gay men feel about transgender activists telling you that you are by default transgender, due to your de facto (in their opinion) "gender variance"?

Is it at all clear to anyone how it is for someone born with the transsexual condition to be sucked into the GLB-TG by accident of birth? Does it make sense now why those of us who tried our best to fix a birth defect resent the hell out of crossdressers speaking for us? Or worse yet, "progressive" post-modernist gays and transgenders who simply tell the whole world it is mistaken, and take our name in vain to beat others about the head with it.

I say no to the budding politicians who want to raise themselves up at other people's expense. Find a new cause to corrupt. Preachy kum-bay-ya sermons aren't going to cut it anymore.

I have my issues with self-identified Queers, but I would not say they "despise" gay men. At least not for being gay.

My experiences lead me to think that Queers believe all gay men are rich (and/or white), so their critique comes from more of a economic perspective.

I am curious as to your comments as well as Mitch In Oakland about how pre-AIDS/liberationist culture is being erased by LGBT.

From what I have gleaned from reading and conversations with older gay men, my impression is that that culture was not sustainable, and if it wasn't AIDS, it would have been reigned in by something else.

MitchInOakland MitchInOakland | December 18, 2009 8:49 AM

Below, I've copied a partial explanation of the "erasure" question.

The issue of sustainability, however, is harder to address, in light of a political and cultural climate that, since Reagan, has been hostile to the romantic bohemian tradition - in which figures like Walt Whitman or Allen Ginsberg are either dismissed as un-American(!) (by the right) or deconstructed as sexist (by both the pomo/feminist left and gender-centric identity movements alike).

It's not only pre-AIDS gay culture that gets erased, in fact, it's the entire counterculture (with its blurred gender distinctions and cheap gas for the ride to Woodstock). I hope I'm forgiven if I mourn, rather than celebrate, that transformation. Now we're left with (to quote an ancient Bob Seger song) "the same old cliches - is it a woman or a man?")

I see the AIDS epidemic as having effectively been a form of de facto genocide (whether intended as such or not) - in retrospect, the last nail in the coffin of the counterculture - so to me, suggesting that pre-AIDS liberationist gay culture was unsustainable is tantamount to suggesting that the Holocaust was evidence that Jewish culture was (or is) unsustainable. (In view of the current world situation, that may still prove to be a done deal, and as a Jew I'm none too thrilled by that prospect -- so you might only imagine how I feel about the parallel you're suggesting for my generation of gay men.) Sorry if I'm supposed to be dead, but I must respectively inform you that I'm a survivor - very much alive, and only over my dead body will anyone call me a dinosaur.

As for how this erasure relates to exclusion from "LGBT," here's what I've written elsewhere:

"Sex reassignment, in particular, triggers 'a common queer nightmare' - one especially alarming to those gay men whose liberation involved first accepting ourselves despite our simply not being 'interested in girls,' and then getting over the idea that our sexual feelings have anything to do with femininity or that, symbolically, having such feelings is tantamount to castration (or, at the very least, to the notion that there's something incongruous about having such feelings along with a male body).

"We can argue (fruitlessly) until the cows come home about whether that fear is as great, as legitimate - or as suicidal - as the pain felt by transgender women prior to transition; I'm merely suggesting that we're remiss if we merely brush it off.

"Under such circumstances, the alliance (long an uneasy truce) between lesbians and gay men was predicated on our mutual sexual disinterest in each other - an assurance that sexually, we'd simply leave each other alone. Of course, drag queens and other trans folk were pivotal participants at Stonewall (though even this is disputed somewhat in David Carter's book "Stonewall" and in a current essay, "Some Recent History, and its Mythical Transformation," by Wayne Dynes).

"But in any event, in the view of many gay men, Stonewall was also an airing-out, the beginning of a process of emancipation that many of us deeply felt would make gay men's affectation of 'womanliness,' finally, once-and-for-all, an anachronism! After Stonewall, the high heels seemed destined for the dumpster, along with all the other pre-liberation subcultures of gay subterfuge. Were that not the case - and in the wake if this, were there not those wonderful weekend dances at the GAA firehouse in New York - I myself (who found the subterfuges repellant from the git-go) might never have come out, and today I might just be another suicide statistic.

"Are we witnessing a purge of gay men who share this narrative?

"The resulting community is currently defined as "LGBT" despite the fact that this very formulation, in and of itself, in reality expunges or shortchanges the experience of a significant segment of the surviving gay male population (as I've just described). Thus, in a sense, it implicitly disparages or disregards a significant aspect of gay male history and identity.

"To say, in effect, 'If you don't like it, go form your own movement' -- but to include the 'G' in 'LGBT' -- simultaneously co-opts and excludes that countervailing narrative and the resulting gay male perspective.

"The term for this is marginalization - the worst form of marginalization, in that it pre-emptively stakes a claim to whatever legitimacy might still be connoted by the notion of a 'gay community.' Thus, to precisely the extent that the 'LGBT' effort is successful, it leaves dissenters with nowhere to go, effectively even writing our perspective out of history. At the very least, it either ignores or invalidates a significant aspect of gay male identity while laying claim to its imprimatur.

"In other words, 'LGBT' breathes up all the 'gay' air in the room. Given the resulting situation, 'go form your own movement' is a rather disingenuous, lame offer.

Certainly trans people are familiar with what *that* feels like. Unfortunately, two wrongs don't make a right - let alone magically transform the 'LGBT' kludge into a brilliant new paradigm.

"Indeed, plenty has already been said and written by trans folk about exclusion and belittling. Meanwhile, however, many gay male survivors also feel that, after flourishing in the '70s, and after surviving AIDS and finding ourselves living amid a culture decimated by de facto genocide, we were offered the sop of remaining in a reconstituted LGBT community -- and that out of a combination of weakness and an attempt, nonetheless, to be magnanimous rather than petty, we allowed the 'T's' to sign on - to hitch themselves to our wagon and push their agenda as if it had always been part of ours.

"Now the bill has come due; we're being told we must accept membership in a melded community (one unrecognizable as 'ours'), and that 'we've always been together' anyway -- even though, as I've already described, that discounts the experience of many gay men for whom accepting such a state of affars would restore a pre-Stonewall identity -- a situation we perceive, further, as literally suicidal (coincidentally, caving in to the Right's notion of who we've really been, all along!). Under the circumstances, the result is an urgent temptation to say , 'Get lost -- and good riddance!' Like it or not (and I don't like the resentment and misunderstanding I've seen on all sides!) that's clearly what we were seeing in Ron Gold's infamous piece.

No, two wrongs don't make a right - but that's precisely why 'LGBT' is problematic from the git-go. It's even more certainly why 'We're all LGBT; if you don't like it, stand aside' doesn't work. Given all the acrimony and anger we've already seen it instigate on all sides, why force the issue?

"There's an easier way. It's what I've described as applying Occam's Razor: shaving away the unnecessary assumptions to get to the simplest solution.

"Why not simply acknowledge that we're not only different communities, but that there are visceral conflicts between our respective identities? Acknowledging and accepting that would allow us all to forge ahead, seeking human rights in terms of broader moral principles, framing those issues in a way that no longer causes pain or revulsion to anyone -- and working together as individual members of separate communities (one, or more than one, as each of us feels is appropriate).

"Considering all the rancor spawned by 'LGBT,' got a problem with that?"

MitchInOakland MitchInOakland | December 18, 2009 9:55 AM

One last comment on the mutual alienation I've described above.

As I've participate in this dialogue, I've striven to understand and accept the realities other people experience -- that to me seem patently illusory -- as real to them, just as I'm aware that my own reality (that of a cis gay man, with its evident blind spot for gender and mind/body misalignment) must seem illusory to such people.

Perhaps that's why I get a bit impatient when, even having reached that point of acceptance -- and after even longer ago declared that I accept most trans political demands, not because of any ostensible "LGBT inclusivity," but as prima facie issues of human rights -- I'm still accused of hatred (the most overused word since GW Bush wore "terrorism" into the ground), and presented with ostensible scientific evidence (To mollify the scientistic among us, the scare quotes are invisible this time.) that the trans version of reality is the real reality.

To be candid, I'm rapidly reaching the point where following the endlessly proliferating complexifications of gender-centric self-identification is starting to feel to me as if I'm straining the limits of my not-insubstantial vocabulary to describe, in ever greater detail, the intricacies of the embroidery that gives such glitz and character -- such reality and... well, PRESENCE -- to the Emperor's new clothes.

I won't use any of the language that might seem hurtful enough to renew all the allegations of hate and marginalization that have been hurled about on this site.

I'll just ask one question...

Has anyone here ever heard the simple, straightforward word "naked"?

Mitch: You mention that you get a bit impatient by being accused of hatred despite your acceptance of trans political demands as human rights but not as "ostensible 'LGBT inclusivity.'" I think this is too much black-or-white thinking.

My thought is that transgender people have the right to band together with lesbians, gays and bisexuals to create an LGBT alliance. You don't need to join it, but if you disparage it by calling it 'ostensible,' and maybe other things, then people who are part of that alliance will surely wonder at your casting stones at their group. Not surprising that some might get angry.

On the other hand, you have the right to point out that the facts of history should not be revised in accordance with a later "LGBT" understanding. But it's not either your gay version of events or my LGBT version of events. History, like community, has nuances.

History is constantly being reinterpreted in the light of new understandings. Such reinterpretations must be open to question. Here's the example that springs to mind. At one time President Kennedy was the President, and a lot of people loved him and a lot of people hated him. Then he was assassinated, and everybody said he was a saint. Then facts came out to suggest that he lied about his medical conditions and his mistresses, and people reviled him for a while. Gradually, more and more understood him as a human being, not as a divisive President or a saint or a liar. None of those understandings are totally correct.

The "LGBT" version isn't correct, but neither is the "gay" version. After all, I am seeing things from the point of view of a single person with limited knowledge of what is happening. You, too, see things from your own viewpoint, and you don't know everything that happened. We each see different views of the same events. Each by itself is the mono version of the symphony recording, to use an analogy from the old days. Both must be understood in order to give our community and our history the full stereo recording it deserves.

MitchInOakland MitchInOakland | December 18, 2009 4:56 PM

Funny you should use the analogy of a musical performance... Commenting on another topic, I just recently wrote to a trans advocate:

"I'm not asking you to remain silent, only that you stop demanding that L's, G's and B's join your chorus, or even that we're uniquely obliged attend your concert."

MitchInOakland MitchInOakland | December 19, 2009 3:14 PM

The problem is that history isn't just being "reinterpreted"; it's that (to invoke an old saying) history is always written by the winners.

Take the word of a marginalized dinosaur!

Mitch, I find this interesting:

" as I've already described, that discounts the experience of many gay men for whom accepting such a state of affars would restore a pre-Stonewall identity -"

Could you explain that a little more? I haven't been around before Stonewall, so I'm not quite certain what you mean.

MitchInOakland MitchInOakland | December 18, 2009 4:31 PM

I wasn't there, either; I'm only 60, after all. I began dealing with my own sexuality around 1970, while at school in Ann Arbor, and returned home to NY around 1972 - still arguably during the immediate post-Stonewall era. I've already described my experience and its ramifications, but here goes again:

"In the view of many gay men, Stonewall was also an airing-out, the beginning of a process of emancipation that many of us deeply felt would make gay men's affectation of 'womanliness,' finally, once-and-for-all, an anachronism! After Stonewall, the high heels seemed destined for the dumpster, along with all the other pre-liberation subcultures of gay subterfuge. Were that not the case - and in the wake if this, were there not those wonderful weekend dances at the GAA firehouse in New York - I myself (who found the subterfuges repellant from the git-go) might never have come out, and today I might just be another suicide statistic."

Hi Mitch: Thanks for setting out your views on the LGBT movement. Very useful and valuable. I'm feeling, after reading your comment, that it would be wrong to demand that everyone sign on to an "LGBT" vision of the world and of history. I'm left wondering if dissenters must automatically be viewed as "anti-trans" or transphobic or anti-anything. Certainly I believe that Ron Gold is transphobic with his idea that transgender or transsexual people have no right to determine their identity. His ideas cross over the line between his own identity and mine.

You, however, are not asking, if I understand correctly, that my transgender identity be disavowed. You are simply asking that your gay identity not be subsumed under the LGBT umbrella, and reserving the right to a gay male culture without transgender people in it. I think that is your right, and I don't think it intends to demean anyone else.

When it comes to community action, however, it seems that many community organizations want to include more than gay men. I think that is their right, even as it is your right to say that you do not wish to be part of those organizations. For example, The Bilerico Project specifically states as its tagline "Daily Experiments in LGBTQ." That is the right of its founder and editors, even as it is your right to say that you do not sign on to that agenda.

So let me ask you a question. Why do you participate here, given your aversion to the LGBTQ umbrella? I do not say this to imply that you shouldn't, but it does seem contradictory to your position. How do you reconcile that contradiction?

MitchInOakland MitchInOakland | December 18, 2009 4:07 PM

Do I need to repeat myself?

After describing how "Sex reassignment, in particular, triggers 'a common queer nightmare' - one especially alarming to those gay men whose liberation involved... getting over the idea that our sexual feelings have anything to do with femininity or that, symbolically, having such feelings is tantamount to castration (or, at the very least, to the notion that there's something incongruous about having such feelings along with a male body)," I go on to explain...

"To say, in effect, 'If you don't like it, go form your own movement' -- but to include the 'G' in 'LGBT' -- simultaneously co-opts and excludes that countervailing narrative and the resulting gay male perspective.

"To precisely the extent that the 'LGBT' effort is successful, it leaves dissenters with nowhere to go, effectively even writing our perspective out of history. At the very least, it either ignores or invalidates a significant aspect of gay male identity while laying claim to its imprimatur.

"In other words, 'LGBT' breathes up all the 'gay' air in the room. Given the resulting situation, 'go form your own movement' is a rather disingenuous, lame offer.

"Certainly trans people are familiar with what *that* feels like. Unfortunately, two wrongs don't make a right - let alone magically transform the 'LGBT' kludge into a brilliant new paradigm."


I can only hope that Bil, Jerame, Alex & Co. remain open to a discussion that includes questioning the validity and viability of the LGBT paradigm, and to dialog among the various component communities, without demanding any sort of de-facto "loyalty oath" to the notion that we're truly a single community.

The fact is that Bilerico has, for some time now (in my view) been the premier site for such discussion and, indeed, for leading-edge analysis of these issues (among others), and I hope it never becomes the "Izvestia" of the gay world, trumpeting one or another party line.

Your own position, Jillian, is a bit frightening if you're claiming that such discussion doesn't belong here and ought to be squelched, or if you're now seeking to interpret the Terms of Service as implying that questioning the viability or validity of the LGBT paradigm or calling it a "kludge" (a collection of poorly matched elements hastily assembled to serve some particular purpose) is tantamount to a personal slur or a violation of the very purpose of this site.

That would be really scary!

MitchInOakland MitchInOakland | December 18, 2009 5:04 PM

I agree with you, Jillian, about Ron Gold: his piece was not only ignorant and clumsy, but gratuitously nasty. That said, I understand where he was coming from - just as I understand where trans people are coming from (in anger) when their own experiences are invalidated.

Great!, Really awesome conversations! Dr. Jillian T. Weiss, You can really get the group into some great discussions! Let us all play nicely in the sand box? Got to thank Bil and all involved in Bilerico for this forum! Got to go empty the bit bucket now since it is overflowing!

Hi there

Apologies for coming in late on the thread, catching up on my holiday reading...

1st, huge congrats Jillian for the great articles.

Some random thoughts as a trans activist of 10 years (no, that doesn't mean I'm a sucker for punishment):

The situation here in Australia, on average, is similar to the USA. I mention I'm here in Australia because while face to face dialogue at the local level is needed for sorting out differences between parts of the G L B T I and building rapport, where we agree and trust has been built sharing international learnings can be done via the net.

I'll work with anyone on their merits regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. So I don't want to throw out all of the "G" just the not-so-good bits (!)

I've found the bi community totally supportive of the trans* community - perhaps because both, each in our way, see through the assumption that is the gender binary.

Trying to build the understanding can come down to basics of persistence. We've had many cases of 2 steps forward, 1 step back. Frustrating, but I believe we're further ahead after 10 years (thank heavens).

Again, great articles and a great conversation too. Keep it going.

Sally
Melbourne Australia

Hey again, Mitch

I have seen that you wrote that before. I just felt that I didn't fully get the whole athmosphere that you are alluding to. So you as gay men felt that it was

"a process of emancipation that many of us deeply felt would make gay men's affectation of 'womanliness,' finally, once-and-for-all, an anachronism!.. the high heels seemed destined for the dumpster, along with all the other pre-liberation subcultures of gay subterfuge."

I have looked up subterfuge (

at the moment I'm reading a book on camp and the MGM musical that describes the pre-liberation subcultures as pretty self confident and sexually liberated. But as I said, I haven't been there (nor has the author, I assume). Did you get a different impression of them?

I think you said somewhere that you see gender as fluid or artificial and don't mind doing things or being in positions that are seen as tranditionally female?
But on the other hand you say that you "found the subterfuges (?) repellant from the git-go" and the high heels were meant for the dumpster.
what was it exactly then, that repelled you in those pre-stonewall subcultures?

I also wonder how the older gay men of those subcultures felt, when you younger men took over their community after stonewall and changed the rules of what it meant to be gay.
A similar thing seems to have happened during the last years with LGBT.

Again, I hope that my post makes it clear that I'm not fighting with you. I even feel like you to a degree about "taking over", as I have had several fights with younger queer activists. I want my gay subculture of 1989 back, too ;-)

(Slightly off topic: the subculture was a bit different than in the US I think, as AIDS came here some years later, when people were warned and already practising safer sex. there seem to have been many deaths in the generation about 10-15 years older than me, but not like in the US. There are still many men of that generation around. in my generation, I know nobody who is positive. AIDS has become a bigger problem with younger people though.)

MitchInOakland MitchInOakland | December 19, 2009 3:26 PM

Subterfuge: something intended to misrepresent the true nature of an activity (also called beguilement, deceit, bluff), an indirect or deceptive device or stratagem, a clever trick or strategy used to evade a rule, escape a consequence, hide something, etc.

Pre-Stonewall gay culture was riddled with subterfuges, hidden and not-so-hidden "signals" and recreations (including campy outings like drag shows, still around but arguably less central to gay life), etc.

After Stonewall, the possibilities for living out an openly gay identity made all this stuff more and more unnecessary and peripheral (an extreme benefit for those of us who found the swishy alternatives utterly repulsive), and increasingly relegated such stuff to backwaters like the American South. At least that's how it looked from NY in the 1970s.

Imagine how it feels to see all this stuff coming back!

MitchInOakland MitchInOakland | December 19, 2009 3:35 PM

PS: What I'm saying about drag, campy recreations, etc. - the reasons I'm calling these "subterfuges" - is that they went on in a closed, hot-house environment during a time when being openly, proudly gay was, in effect, inconceivable. They became unnecessary as ways to express or manifest one's feelings once being openly gay was a genuine possibility in the real world.

If trans identities are something else, let them be, really, something else, rather than folding them into an "LGBT" construct that resonates with something repugnant to many gay men who fought to throw off the need for subterfuges in their (our) own lives and culture.

Hm, ok, I get what you mean. It makes complete sense for gay men who don't feel "swishy" at all.

I'm just wondering, what about those gay men who were "sissy", or whatever it is called in english. Those who were gay, had a male gender identity but were effeminate. I guess behaving that way wasn't a subterfuge for all, because I know some younger guys who are that way since early childhood and in a much more open environment.

There is a similar history in the lesbian communities of the time, who believed that butch/femme was a sign of oppression and that liberation meant that lesbians didn't have to play roles anymore. Many older lesbians are utterly repulsed by the whole reemergence of butch/femme and drag kings and all that.

MitchInOakland MitchInOakland | December 19, 2009 5:41 PM

You've got it!

And that's the real "yuck factor" for me; gender, in other words, has nothing to do with being gay, and if it does for any of these "sissy" guys -- to me, either they're confusing a desire to be mounted and penetrated (or, as in my case, to have one's tits played with) with being "born into the wrong body" or otherwise being de facto women -- or there's a dual, overlapping identity (in their case) involving gender and sexual orientation as separate matters.

(That can remain true even if there's a statistical overlap or correlation that might otherwise be taken to indicate relationship between the gender and sexual orientation. Such a correlation could, alternatively, be taken to indicate that there are two entirely different "gay" phenomena, one involving gender "dysphoria" and one not - but the one involving gender can perhaps best [or more genuinely] be seen as a "dual diagnosis").

All this also goes a long way toward explaining why I get so upset by seeing "m4t personals" ads seeking a "passable trans woman." I read the "seeker" as inherently driven (in part) by internalized homophobia, and the "passable" presenter as a rival who jeopardizes my ability to fetch (and possibly to educate) a potential object of my desire.

Meanwhile, if a "sissy guy" whose identity is merely gay (without any gender dysphoria) is persecuted for "gender expression," the onus for misreading his presentation is on the attacker.

Of course, that in no way excuses or validates assaulting someone for actual (as distinct from misperceived) gender expression; it merely sets the political record straight, and leaves gender expression in the general realm of human rights, rather than "LGBT." (I happen to have known Marsha Johnson, and for me, her [evidently grisly, never properly-investigated] death certainly falls into this "human rights" category, as well as having involved an erstwhile friend.)

Again, we can form an alliance of convenience without having to allow our identities to be (mis)defined by our enemies. That's an integral part of what I'm saying about (gay) liberation (since it indeed addresses my sense of integrity as a gay man), and it explains (in part) why I've taken such pains to address this issue.

MitchInOakland MitchInOakland | December 19, 2009 5:59 PM

PS: I'm aware of the parallel phenomenon among some lesbians. When I tell people I got my degree, I need to clarify that I'm a gay male, not a lesbian, and that I mean the university, not the music festival. ;-)

Since my own narrative doesn't stem from a feminist analysis, I don't feel obliged to deal with that aspect of these issues. Thank goodness; that's one less headache for me to deal with!....

MitchInOakland MitchInOakland | December 19, 2009 6:01 PM

That should have read, "...got my degree from Michigan." ;-)

Mitch- I get where you draw the line now.

Actually, I sometimes wonder if the gay community is just a place where effeminate men can express themselves better, (even if because of a prejudice about gay men in general). Because I have met several straight bottom effeminate men, too. But they are somewhat more invisible.
That said, I prefer to hang out with the "swishy" guys, I'm also attracted to them, so I don't mind swishiness in the gay community at all.

I just remembered that in the early German homophile movement (1860-1935) there was a split between the guys who thought that homosexuality was an expression of virility, and who saw themselves as masculine with a sexual interest in masculine men; and between the "third gender" people who were gender variant. But I wouldn't go so far as to say it's separate phenomena. It's more like a continuum, I guess, with many poeple somewhere in the middle ground.

LGBT works for a segment of the communities and as such will probably survive. If the other segments work together on human rights issues and otherwise go their own ways, that's fine, I think.

Thank you for taking the time to explain this in detail, it was something that I couldn't wrap my brain around before.

First, I want to apologize to Jillian for a rather heated couple of comments last weekend.

I truly appreciate your series of posts and between them and Zoe's blog I feel that I have come miles in understanding.

That said, I want to situate myself here a bit. I am one of those older gay "effeminate" men. I understand much of what MitchinOakland is saying yet I do not see the pre-AIDS liberation movement in terms of masculinity being freed to be gay. I see it as more of a sexuality being freed to be gay.

A couple of other comments by gay men of my (or just post-) generation reflect the rage I felt last weekend but not where I find myself now. I do not wish a separatist movement, no matter how seemingly easy that would seem in theory. Wouldn't work and would be very dull, in my opinion. Besides, I wouldn't fit in Mitch's movement -- too old school fem, LOL.

After all these years of fighting, fighting the church, society, radical feminist separatist lesbians, HIV and AIDS, and now "T's" for the right to "be" a gay man without agreeing to walk around with my head hung apologetically low, I get angry too easy, perhaps.

I've never experienced the privilege of maleness because I'm feminine. I've never experienced the privilege of wealth because I was born poor and have remained so for the better part of half a century. White privilege I know, although I have partnered with men of color for the last few decades so I don't really get acceptance there either. And as a drag queen I got hated on by pretty much every one in the community who wasn't a fan of that form of entertainment.

I want everyone to be a part of our community and to work together. I want young gay men to not hate us "survivors" and fear us as plague-bearers and anachronisms. I want to work with my dear sisters who stood steadfast beside us during the plague years. I want us all to get along.

Thank you Jillian for furthering those causes I believe in, even when I disagree with some of your ideas I can respect and like you and fight for you as well.

Namaste

First, I want to apologize to Jillian for a rather heated couple of comments last weekend.

I truly appreciate your series of posts and between them and Zoe's blog I feel that I have come miles in understanding.

That said, I want to situate myself here a bit. I am one of those older gay "effeminate" men. I understand much of what MitchinOakland is saying yet I do not see the pre-AIDS liberation movement in terms of masculinity being freed to be gay. I see it as more of a sexuality being freed to be gay.

A couple of other comments by gay men of my (or just post-) generation reflect the rage I felt last weekend but not where I find myself now. I do not wish a separatist movement, no matter how seemingly easy that would seem in theory. Wouldn't work and would be very dull, in my opinion. Besides, I wouldn't fit in Mitch's movement -- too old school fem, LOL.

After all these years of fighting, fighting the church, society, radical feminist separatist lesbians, HIV and AIDS, and now "T's" for the right to "be" a gay man without agreeing to walk around with my head hung apologetically low, I get angry too easy, perhaps.

I've never experienced the privilege of maleness because I'm feminine. I've never experienced the privilege of wealth because I was born poor and have remained so for the better part of half a century. White privilege I know, although I have partnered with men of color for the last few decades so I don't really get acceptance there either. And as a drag queen I got hated on by pretty much every one in the community who wasn't a fan of that form of entertainment.

I want everyone to be a part of our community and to work together. I want young gay men to not hate us "survivors" and fear us as plague-bearers and anachronisms. I want to work with my dear sisters who stood steadfast beside us during the plague years. I want us all to get along.

Thank you Jillian for furthering those causes I believe in, even when I disagree with some of your ideas I can respect and like you and fight for you as well.

Namaste

MitchInOakland MitchInOakland | December 19, 2009 10:40 PM

As you'll see below, you needn't fear that I'll be hitting on you - though your comments are interesting and inspire me to respond briefly.

I've mentioned that if it hadn't been for the post-Stonewall shedding of what I've called gay "subterfuges," I might never have come out. That seems to be true of several of my friends who came out at a time of broad-based cultural and sexual experimentation.

I've even been known to say that "I always knew I was different from all the other little boys, but I also knew I was different in a way that was different from the way the fags were different.

One of the things I find disturbing about the current "LGBT" trend is that it seems to lead back around to a time (and a situation) when it's only the "hard core fags" (the swishy or hyper-butch among us) - those for whom sexual orientation is linked to gender expression or to some other mode of fetishization (leather, bear, etc.) - who are willing to identify as gay, and who have a set of readily-identifiable markers available for them to present as such.

I attribute this to two interrelated factors:

1) An increasingly conservative cultural climate (since Reagan) that (both despite and in light of the "Lawrence" decision) has made it more difficult and less likely for people to experiment with sexuality without being cognizant of the sociopolitical repercussions (hence, coincidentally, the tendency to couch gay or LGBT issues in terms of equality rather than simply personal freedom, given that the explicitly political component of the personal-freedom aspect has been mooted by "Lawrence"), and

2) The pervasive tendency of the broader culture toward commodity fetishism and colonization in all areas of identity (a feature both of advanced capitalism and of postmodern consciousness [these two elements themselves being intertwined]).

That said, Palladium, to what extent might your "old school fem" identity and presentation be an example of what I've called a "dual diagnosis" variety of gay identity - one that embodies elements of both sexual orientation and gender identity?

(A gender-conscious "butch" presentation, incidentally, might also embody these elements. In a sense, then, my view parallels that of second-wave feminists who also sought to eliminate gender (and who rejected the "butch/femme" paradigm), though unlike theirs, the rationale for males was not a specifically feminist one. I think, however, that there's something to be said for the fact that both phenomena arose during the same historical period, when the entire culture had already recently seemed to be undergoing a blurring of gender boundaries.)

Mitch, I wasn't afraid of being hit upon, LOL. I was shocked when an attractive man in his mid-40s checked me out in the grocery store yesterday.

I present as passably masculine in my daily life -- I have to since I work in a profession that frowns upon gays. Most of my life I have been far more interested in the traditionally "feminine" pursuits though, such as handcrafts, cooking, design, etc. I was considered "artistic" in my younger days and was called a fag at least 4 or 5 times a day. My friends in high school and early college were almost all lesbians.

Now I have an androgynous approach, I would say, although I have had gynecomastia (enlarged breasts) since I was 12. Today I would probably be considered trans-something. Back then I was just gay. My years and years of activism predate Reagan slightly. I remember well being sent to a psychologist to be "cured" when I was 15. The church treatment hadn't had any effect at all.

I guess that I could be called a "dual identity" something if it mattered. I'm pretty comfortable in my skin now and happy with the life I've managed to create, over all. The marriage movement stymied me since I came from the age of sexual libertinism and came of age during the pushing of the boundaries. We were supposed to be freed from such constructs as mock hetero relationships.

AIDS changed a lot and scared a lot of people away from free loving but since I didn't get it I guess I it failed to change me significantly. I've experimented sexually with women and found it to be pleasant but not my cup of tea.

That marriage might be a possibility never really crossed my radar so that might change something for me but as we all know, the ageism in the gay male community makes forming any kind of meaningful lover relationship a remote possibility at best, unless one conforms to one of the rigid role-playing groups, such as "bear" or "gym body" or whatever. I don't fit into any of those categories so my very existence seems to confuse and even anger a lot of gay men who believe above all in conformity.

I'm just me and I'm pretty happy with that. I fought long and hard and paid a high price (multiple assaults, rapes, being disowned by family, rejected by church, fired and harassed at jobs, etc.) for the right to be me, feminine and masculine combined.

My experience makes me more empathetic with the "T" community in some respects but I think I conform enough to be an insider. I've known many men who were angered by me because of their fear of guilt by association. In my younger years I seemed to attract a lot of closeted men who identified me as typically gay and therefore available. They would be fine with private relations but nothing public except ridicule. That seems to be changing somewhat and I'm happy about that.

Sorry to go on so. This thread has been very enlightening and conversation is easy.

MitchInOakland MitchInOakland | December 20, 2009 12:24 AM

With 20/20 hindsight, I should have used the term "dual identity" rather than "dual diagnosis" for males who are gay in terms of sexual orientation but most comfortable with themselves presenting as "effeminate" or implicitly (if not even explicitly) feminine or (somewhat) female.

I detest the pathologization of personality traits, and even when I've used otherwise hurtful words like "delusion" (or, more recently, illusion), I've had to contextualize my viewpoint to make it clear that I'm, in effect, living in a divergent reality from the one experienced by trans people (and expressing my observtions in terms that make sense in that reality), and not operating a psychiatric context (though I've come to realize that many trans people have long been accustomed to hearing such terms used abusively to pathologize them).

My condolences to you, meanwhile (speaking here as a Jew-Bhu who grew up in a relatively accepting family), for your having had to endure abuse in your youth via the church - and to an extent, for any extent to which your occupation (or any aspect of, literally, your walk of life) goads you into conformity.

I'm thankful for much in this life, and one of those things I'm most thankful for has been my ability and/or good fortune generally to have been able to find ways to avoid conformity (even when that's impelled me [difficult as it's sometimes been] to find an offbeat niche in which to live [and generally to have been able to find one when necessary], or to use more creative modes of camouflage). ;-)

MitchInOakland MitchInOakland | December 19, 2009 9:39 PM

Oddly enough, while I'm generally not attracted to swishy guys, I'm equally repelled by "beefcake" presentations of hypermasculinity. (My tastes in guys run to androgynous types who remain unmistakably male; e.g., I find a Mick Jagger or a Rufus Wainwright sexy, though Rufus may be a little young for me these days.) As you might imagine, I have little use for the very concept of "virility."

(Just to have fun getting myself into further trouble, here's another of my designations -- "Bear: a type of variety meat masquerading as USDA prime." In fact, for equal time, let me get myself in trouble with a certain element of young queers, too, while I'm at it: "Fag hags are the scourge of the gay community; they've transformed a revolution into a fashion statement. All shrieking pussy should be taken back to Bloomingdale's at once for a full cash refund.") ;-)

And, just to cover myself for the inevitable pile-up, I'm attracted to a variety of guys not presenting in one or another specific way, as well as to a variety of women -- though under current social circumstances (especially for a 60-year-old single guy living amidst the social consequences of a gay activist past), I generally don't act on my heterosexual promptings (except for the occasional wry comment, regardless of company).

Oh, and if I'm accused of misogyny, remember - to me that's just an irrelevant word. I generally have no problem getting along with women, as long as they aren't poaching on my turf. I love dykes (precisely because they *aren't* poaching on my turf); otherwise, in the gay world, I'm simply not interested in girls. I feel no obligation to be, either - though the (late) veteran lesbian activist Eleanor Cooper once told me I might need to consider being reprogrammed (since she disapproved of the "cute boys" formulation, and would have had me prefer "adult men").

"Reprogrammed"... Now, let's see, where else have I heard that before?... ;-)

Okay, folks, go at it; it's open season...

MitchInOakland MitchInOakland | December 19, 2009 10:57 PM

In the event that this site is being monitored by any sort of "sex police" (or even if not, for general interest and clarity) please note: As Eleanor was quite aware, my taste doesn't extend to underage, let alone prepubescent boys, but involves a sort of androgynous masculinity that (at its masculine end) is of a sort that might be seen in Michelangelo's "David."

MitchInOakland MitchInOakland | December 19, 2009 9:51 PM

Oddly enough, while I'm generally not attracted to swishy guys, I'm equally repelled by "beefcake" presentations of hypermasculinity. (My tastes in guys run to androgynous types who remain unmistakably male; e.g., I find a Mick Jagger or a Rufus Wainwright sexy, though Rufus may be a little young for me these days.) As you might imagine, I have little use for the very concept of "virility."

(Just to have fun getting myself into further trouble, here's another of my designations -- "Bear: a type of variety meat masquerading as USDA prime." In fact, for equal time, let me get myself in trouble with a certain element of young queers, too, while I'm at it: "Fag hags are the scourge of the gay community; they've transformed a revolution into a fashion statement. All shrieking pussy should be taken back to Bloomingdale's at once for a full cash refund.") ;-)

And, just to cover myself for the inevitable pile-up, I'm attracted to a variety of guys not presenting in one or another specific way, as well as to a variety of women -- though under current social circumstances (especially for a 60-year-old single guy living amidst the social consequences of a gay activist past), I generally don't act on my heterosexual promptings (except for the occasional wry comment, regardless of company).

Oh, and if I'm accused of misogyny, remember - to me that's just an irrelevant word. I generally have no problem getting along with women, as long as they aren't poaching on my turf. I love dykes (precisely because they *aren't* poaching on my turf); otherwise, in the gay world, I'm simply not interested in girls. I feel no obligation to be, either - though the (late) veteran lesbian activist Eleanor Cooper once told me I might need to consider being reprogrammed (since she disapproved of the "cute boys" formulation, and would have had me prefer "adult men").

"Reprogrammed"... Now, let's see, where else have I heard that before?... ;-)

Okay, folks, go at it; it's open season...

*lol* Mitch

Palladium and Mitch- such an interesting read about your lives.
I also enjoy it because I'm the free love/no marriage generation too. Tell those kids the truth! ;-)

(The time frame is a bit different over here, 1970s activism/experimentation lasted until the mid/late 1980s and marriage activism started in about 1990, *together* with Act Up type outing activism that strangely wasn't linked so much to AIDS activism, because the government didn't treat positive people as bad as in the US. we had a domestic partnership law pretty fast.)

Mitch- you said: being attracted to a somewhat androgynous masculinity- yep, it was the era of androgyny, and that's a factor that I still love about it. It opened up gender and gave many people a place to experiment and feel relaxed in.
It celebrated a mix of masculinity and femininity in all men and women.

I have a theory that today, with more rigid, and biologistic gender roles again, trans people need to talk "biology" to be accepted.

As you said, Mitch, there was a time when it was all more about personal freedom of expression.
I don't see why that wouldn't be enough for activism. But in today's climate, personal freedom in areas like sexuality and gender are frowned upon. So people need to put much emphasis on the biological aspects- because they have become very important for cis people too.
cis people get constantly told things about male brain and female brain and all that (men from mars women from venus ad nauseam and often without real scientific proof). to me that's part of a huge backlash against what we have gained in terms of gender/sexuality freedom.

To make ourselves legible within this context, transpeople need to adopt that type of language and plead for acceptance. As long as our narrative supports common theories about biological binary gender, they get tolerated.

But you see, as an ftm who is also gay and came of age in the sexual freedom era, I am faced with a conflict: for people to accept me today, I need to adopt current "scientific" narratives about gender that I don't share. But on the other hand, within the older, androgynous culture, my existence didn't quite make sense (if I'm attracted to men and feel "masculine" and gender is a old fashioned construct anyway, why not just live as a masculine/androgynous straight woman?)

All the talk about Mick Jagger reminds me of Lou Sullivan, the first out gay ftm who was allowed hormonal treatment despite the fact that he was attracted to men. He came from the 1970s subculture too and felt similar confusion about his own existence. He wrote in his diary:
"But the role [Mick] Jagger played [in a film] turned me on so -- I could identify with a bisexual male, that's how fucked I am... There's so much written about all kinds of sexually weird people but a female who imagines herself as a bisexual male is way beyond anything I've ever read. And so how do I cope with myself?" (Diary Lou Sullivan 13.1.1971)
(sadly, after a life in the San Francisco bath house culture, Sullivan died of AIDS in the early 1990s)

The 1970s libertarian movements were certainly a step forward and offered freedom for many people. But some "variants of human nature" weren't included somehow and that's why I am glad that we have now queer and transgender and all that, despite their flaws.


Oddly enough, while I'm generally not attracted to swishy guys, I'm equally repelled by "beefcake" presentations of hypermasculinity. (My tastes in guys run to androgynous types who remain unmistakably male; e.g., I find a Mick Jagger or a Rufus Wainwright sexy, though Rufus may be a little young for me these days.) As you might imagine, I have little use for the very concept of "virility."

(Just to have fun getting myself into further trouble, here's another of my designations -- "Bear: a type of variety meat masquerading as USDA prime." In fact, for equal time, let me get myself in trouble with a certain element of young queers, too, while I'm at it: "Fag hags are the scourge of the gay community; they've transformed a revolution into a fashion statement. All shrieking pussy should be taken back to Bloomingdale's at once for a full cash refund.") ;-)

And, just to cover myself for the inevitable pile-up, I'm attracted to a variety of guys not presenting in one or another specific way, as well as to a variety of women -- though under current social circumstances (especially for a 60-year-old single guy living amidst the social consequences of a gay activist past), I generally don't act on my heterosexual promptings (except for the occasional wry comment, regardless of company).

Oh, and if I'm accused of misogyny, remember - to me that's just an irrelevant word. I generally have no problem getting along with women, as long as they aren't poaching on my turf. I love dykes (precisely because they *aren't* poaching on my turf); otherwise, in the gay world, I'm simply not interested in girls. I feel no obligation to be, either - though the (late) veteran lesbian activist Eleanor Cooper once told me I might need to consider being reprogrammed (since she disapproved of the "cute boys" formulation, and would have had me prefer "adult men").