Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

An Extraordinary LGBT Community Possible

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | May 31, 2011 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: community building, Landmark Forum, LGBT movement, trans movement

humanity_love_respect.jpg"An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity."
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.

For a long time, I have wanted nothing more than for our community to be a happy and successful family. It's not right now. Infighting, as with any family. Wonderful times, too. We worked together to get the anti-gay Don't Ask Don't Tell military policy repealed (few more steps needed on that). I took a self-development course this weekend, Landmark Education's Forum, and saw that an extraordinary LGBT community is possible.

We didn't always play well together, particularly with the failure of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act legislation to prohibit job discrimination. Marriage equality is chugging along, but some wonder whether trans anti-discrimination protections have been left in the dust because of it.

And yet, trans people have steadily been gaining ground, too, covered by more and more protective policies and laws both on the state and the federal level. Corporate policies, too, thanks to the Human Rights Campaign, though there have been rocky times with HRC, and the lesbian and gay community more generally. Bisexual and gay communities have been working more closely, too, though there's still some biphobia in the community. Communities of color have been gaining ground in the community, with active groups and happenings like the National Black Justice Coalition, the Queer People of Color conference, and the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference. Those working within the system, like HRC, and those working outside the system, like GetEqual, have sometimes cooperated well to create effective results, as with DADT repeal.

But there's still some nagging questions.

Are we a community? Are we a family? Do lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender and transsexual people belong together? Should we go with courting those in power, as HRC has done, or protesting those who stand in the way of civil rights, as GetEqual has done? Do we support one another? Should we work for civil rights together? Or are we separate and distinct, never the twain shall meet, etc.? Are gays and lesbians out to throw trans people and bisexuals under the bus? Is there a viable trans community movement, or are they all just angry waiting-to-happen and seeking to pull down the citadel?

What would our world be like if the 10 million people in our U.S. community were to create an extraordinary context for our lives and our politics, working together as one. What if we were to create together the possibility of a world of love and respect for all? Not just about us, but for everyone? Not just our marriages, but all marriages. Not just our rights in the workplace, but creating just workplaces for all?

This past weekend, I participated in Landmark Education's Forum, a weekend course which is designed to cause a positive and permanent shift in the quality of your life, redefine the very nature of what's possible, and create a future of your own design. It worked, not surprisingly, by redefining the context in which I have lived, freeing me from the constraints of the past, and creating an extraordinary vision of what is possible. What was surprising is that it worked.

We all know that context is decisive. What we don't know is how to alter that context for ourselves. But Landmark Education knows how. Very cool, and nothing short of mind-altering. I have known of this course, and the company that runs it, for a long time. They've been in business for 40 years. In fact, I took the course 25 years ago, and it had a profound effect on me then, as a law student soon to enter my new profession, and as a young person finding personal relationships difficult and trying. It made a profound difference for me then. I took it again this past weekend, because I wanted to do it with my son, Eric, now 19, and to offer him a new context for his young life that would make a difference for him.

One area I wanted to work on, amongst my various issues in work, advocacy, and personal relationships, was creating an adult relationship with my son. He's about to move on from his teenage years, and he's no longer a boy, but a man. How do I relate to this new creature?

One thing I told him, when he started college, is that I don't want to be his aunt any more. My ex insisted, when he was young, that we tell people in his community that I was his aunt. I didn't like it, but my ex didn't want him being harassed or made fun of, and I went along. I particularly didn't like the fact that this was a lie. I'm his father, or parent, or whatever you want to call it. Eric didn't feel comfortable calling me mom, which is our language's term for a female parent, as he already has a mom, but I understood his position. When we started the course this weekend, I introduced Eric to someone as my son. When the person said "oh isn't that nice that you're doing the course with your mom," he said "this isn't my mom; this is my dad." The person didn't even blink, just said "oh, okay." We went on with the conversation. After this happened several times, we both got that we had been pussyfooting around the issue for no reason. People don't care; they honestly do not care. They are far too busy with their own lives and concerns to really give a hoot. I realized that I, a staunch advocate for equality, had been operating as if I had something to be ashamed of. That was a revelation to me. I had no idea I was operating that way. I really thought I was as out as out could be. Not so. I'm now freed up to be myself. It's not that I'll be making an announcement to every person I meet, or put myself into unsafe situations, but that it's my choice -- freely chosen -- to be out or not when I deem it appropriate, instead of being driven by dread. Now that's redefining a context.

I also realized that there is something possible for our community, and more significantly, the world. LGBT equality isn't just about our rights, it's about making a better world. Yes, we deserve civil rights. But the movement for equality is about more than just taking what we deserve. It's about creating a better world for everyone. Me having my rights gives you a better world to live in. Our creation of a context for working together as a community would make a difference, not only for our community, but also for our world. Through attending the Landmark Forum, I am now able to say that I am committed to a new possibility, the creation of a world of love and respect for all. I'll still be working within my specific area of trans workplace rights, but I'll also be working within a new context, and committed to the creation of a new context for our trans community, our LGBT community, and our world.

Here's a video about the course. I think it has the potential to make a significant difference in our community. If you think it's something that could make a difference, I invite you to check it out and to do it.

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Eric Payne | May 31, 2011 2:47 PM

I've said this in the past, and have no recriminations about repeating myself, even though I'm opening myself up to tons more hate mail, from members of "our" own "community."

No, we are not a community. Nor, in my opinion, should we be.

The two thoughts/claims from the straight community - primarily the conservative religious community who seem to set government policy, even when they're not in power - that gay men and women have to confront are: 1) Being homosexual is not an innate orientation, but a conscious choice; and, 2) Homosexuality is some sort of mental illness or defect that can be medically fixed.

With the inclusion of the B and the T into our blanket description of ourselves, we're endorsing that viewpoint for the conservative religious policymakers.

Yes, I realize there is a difference between an innate orientation - the gender of the person to whom one is naturally, emotionally attracted - and picking someone with whom to get my rocks off. But the policymakers don't, or, more probably, don't want to recognize that distinction when it comes to our relationships, as recognizing they and I have something in common - the emotional bond of "love" between ourselves and the partners with whom we share our lives - humanizes us. It makes us real, and not just some ideology. So, since bisexuals, to them, show it's possible for men to have sexual relations with both men or women, by choice, their "choice" argument gains credibility.

As for the T inclusion (and here, I'm not going to use any of the various labels of T. It's not out of disrespect, it's because no matter which label is used, and by whom it's used, there is a segment of that aspect of the community that reacts, negatively. So to the reader of this I say: If you are a person who falls into the general view of the T aspect of the community, please choose your own label,) it is chosen by those conservative religious policymakers to validate the existence of a malady that can be treated through analysis or surgery.

Yes, the conservative religious policymakers are ignorant - in both the most polite and most extreme definition of "ignorance." But that doesn't change the simple fact: We've had "community" thrust upon us because, to them, we're all societal rejects based on sexual morals. We've been lumped together, so to speak, on a "Sexual Behavioral Island of Misfit Toys."

For some of us, the prospect of returning to the North Pole and Santa's workshop exist - it seems every public poll shows increasing public support for the legal validation of our relationships. It's not going to be immediate, but eventually even the conservative religious policymakers will be replaced by younger versions of themselves for whom our relationships aren't viewed as a personal threat to them.

In other words, those lawmakers are going to come to an increasing understanding and become more open to acceptance, as a whole, based on their personal viewpoints of deviancy.

And, please, reader, before the hate-mails start writing themselves in your minds, please note: I said lawmakers' persona viewpoints of deviancy. Not my personal viewpoint. Not the AMA's, nor the APA's, or even the ACLU's.

Eric I take your point now bear with me for a counter point. You have been sucked into the Christionist sanctification of "born this way is ok". Yet there are some Gay men and Lesbian women who do choose to be that way. You can deny it if you want to. But let's put that aside and move to Jefferson, Adams, Franklin and others who founded this country. Do you for a minute think a southern slave owning landed gentry was part of the "community" of Benjamin Franklin? Certainly we could classify the founding fathers into many vastly different communities. Yet they aligned together and hung together because had they not they surely would have hung separately.

Today Jillian has issued a clarion call not unlike others before her for a better world. She includes straights as well as various "bents". Let us not quibble over the term community but rather focus on freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all. I'm not particularly lovable and there are many people I don't care to associate with in my daily life. But, I will defend everyone's rights as a human being.

So what's it going to be Eric? Are you going to throw a tantrum, take your marbles go whining into the local gay bar or will you sail with the rest of us on the Good Ship Lollipop? You know I'm teasing so please tease back if you want to.

Eric Payne | May 31, 2011 4:08 PM

Just a quick note, Deena...

Gawd, you think I'd pay the prices gay bars want for a Diet Coke??? I don't drink, I'm diabetic, and I'm married... so what the HELL would I be doing in a gay bar, anyway? Jeez!!!

Humor aside: You've made some interesting comments, and I'm going to take some time to choose my words carefully before I reply, okay? I don't want to begin another round of what went on last year at Bilerico (and for those who didn't get the reference when I made my first comment in over a year... please look at the definition of what an open-sided pump shoe is, okay? Or ask Bil or Jillian; I'll send themm the reference).

Thanks Eric. I knew you had/have a sense of humor. Please know that if we do any "rounds" they will be civil from my side. I'm too ditzy to take offense so please don't mince words. Glad you decided to tackle the topic.

Eric Payne | June 1, 2011 3:03 PM

Okay, Deena... I'm back, plopped in my office chair in front of my window fan, tall glass of ice water on my desktop, ready to respond (Atlanta's had a heat wave this past couple of weeks, with daily temps in the 90s and humidity hovering around the 75% mark... so, with my heart/lung problems, I've been miserable).

You say:

Christionist sanctification of "born this way is ok". Yet there are some Gay men and Lesbian women who do choose to be that way. You can deny it if you want to. But let's put that aside and move to Jefferson, Adams, Franklin and others who founded this country. Do you for a minute think a southern slave owning landed gentry was part of the "community" of Benjamin Franklin? Certainly we could classify the founding fathers into many vastly different communities. Yet they aligned together and hung together because had they not they surely would have hung separately.

There are people who choose to engage in sexual acts primarily, even exclusively, with persons of their same gender. Does that make them "gay"? Not to me. To me, a persons sexual orientation refers to the gender of the person to whom one is drawn, emotionally. Are you male? Is the gender of the person for whom you feel the emotion of love also male? Then you are homosexually oriented. Do you also feel that emotion towards persons of your opposing gender? You are bisexually oriented. Is that emotion felt only towards persons of your opposing gender? You are heterosexually oriented.

Do you sometimes have sex with people of your gender, and other times with persons of your opposing gender? Orientation doesn't enter into the picture... you just want to get your rocks off.

Deena, your painting of the Founding Fathers and their differing attitudes/beliefs being shunted aside while they united for a "bigger picture" is, partially, accurate... but doesn't include the overall "societal picture" of the times.

Let's just assume your statement is correct concerning the Founding Fathers not being able to see darker skinned persons as part of "their" community (though there's both writings and anecdotal evidence that Jefferson and Franklin felt differently), the society of the time, as a whole, felt the same way. At that time, society condoned the ownership of certain human beings by other certain human beings.

Jillian, in this essay, makes the argument the "T" aspect of our community has always, rightly or wrongly, been lumped with the community, and the "T" aspect of the community should be embraced, if for no other reason, than that history.

But that history is a fallacy and based on a single defining belief of the people who believed: Ah, they're all just faggots.

It's a lumping together of everyone who had sex with men but who weren't born with a vagina.

It has nothing to do with the emotional aspect of love. It's all about the physicality. It doesn't even attempt to take into consideration what some "T"s have defined as being "T." It treats everyone who has sex with men, who weren't born with a vagina, as aberrant, sexually. It's the sociological equivalent of those who use a gloryhole in an adult bookstore quarter booth, and those who service the men who use them.

You continue:

"Today Jillian has issued a clarion call not unlike others before her for a better world. She includes straights as well as various "bents". Let us not quibble over the term community but rather focus on freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all. I'm not particularly lovable and there are many people I don't care to associate with in my daily life. But, I will defend everyone's rights as a human being.

Deena, I believe discrimination in any form is wrong. I believe no one has the right to put anyone else's civil rights, in the United States of America, up for a popular vote. I don't believe the need for separate laws to guarantee certain segments of the population in this country their civil rights should even be necessary, given the governing document of this country already says everyone gets 'em, period.

But what I feel and what is actually happening are two different things. Just as society lumped together "anyone who has sex with men but wasn't born with a vagina" as queer, or a fairy, or a fag or homosexual, with "x" tendencies - "x" being cross-dressing, or extreme effeminate behavior, or whatever other qualified they wanted to use, society is now beginning to note that continual lumping is no longer warranted... that there just might be more in Heaven and Earth than they dreamt in their original philosophies.

Right now - right at this very moment - society is showing a willingness to change how they feel toward gays. For the first time in history, a majority of people believe the emotional relationship between two gay persons should have an equality of recognition in legal proceedings. There's still some quibble about in what form that recognition may take place (civil marriage, separate-and-ultimately-inequal civil marriage, or simply disallowing Probate Courts from routinely dismissing provable relationships), but there's actual movement away from the stone-cold "nope, never" of the right.

I should let my chance - possibly my only chance - at equality slip away based on a definition of "community" that was forced upon me by an observers' thoughts of deviancy?

I don't think so, no.

A few years ago, Barney Frank made the decision to strip "T" protections from his ENDA bill, then being considered before Congress. I stated at that time, publicly, I supported that decision. I still do, for the reasons I've stated above. But also at that time I made another observation...

I pointed out how it was a moot point, anyway, as ENDA would never be signed into law by then-President Bush, who was in his last year in office. I pointed out the entire debacle was simply a ploy by Frank to energize "the gay vote," and that in the next session of Congress, when (at that time) it was probable a Democrat was in the White House, and probably majorities in both Houses, ENDA wouldn't even be mentioned until the next election cycle.

Sure enough...

And now, OFA is touting his "repeal" of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pursue, except...

1) The policy has not been repealed, and;

2) Implementation of repeal is dependent on authorization from the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; the Secretary of State, and the President, and;

3) Implementation has still not begun, the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs has, publicly, supported repeal... but he's also just announced his resignation from the post, a new Chair is to be in place as soon as confirmation hearings can be held, and;

4) The current Secretary of State supports repeal, but has announced they will resign from the post on December 31, a new Secretary of Defense will be put in place as soon as confirmation hearings can be held, and;

5) The President, who has stated publicly he supports repeal, did not issue an Executive Order, or even just a command order in his role as Commander-In-Chief of all the services, barring any further discharges based on an enlistee's real, or perceived, sexual orientation until such time as repeal took effect, and;

6) The President, through his Department of Justice, chose to file an appeal - on the last possible date to do so - to a federal court ruling that DADT was unconstitutional, that appeal being filed after the supposed commencement of the repeal process which the President, supposedly, supports.

I predict repeal will not take place. It's just my gut feeling. Either the new Chair, or the new SecState will not sign off on repeal, allowing OFA to run, truthfully, saying: "Look! I tried! You have to re-elect me, so I can try again!"

Thanks Eric. Yes you and I certainly differ in many ways. I love the heat. Anything less than 78 and I put on a sweater. 92 is wonderful.

I am an avowed pacifist and would like to see no U.S. troops except on our own soil and strictly for defensive readiness. I only support DADT repeal because everyone should be eligible for service in defense of the country. I suspect you may be correct about its ultimate demise.

ENDA is a non issue for me. I could easily ignore it totally or even fight against it but I won't. My reason is very simple. Discrimination in employment exists for many in the GLBT groups. I have seen it. It is abhorrent just as other forms of discrimination have always been. Yet it doesn't really go far enough. In my opinion it should state that any failure to hire or discharge based on anything other than job performance and ability is illegal. Why not cover everyone? Why throw say fat people under the bus? I know of cases where a perfectly qualified overweight person wasn't hired. I could use other examples too.

Yes you and I define gay differently. I define it as someone who is either in a relationship with someone of the same sex or is seeking one and has no intention of having a relationship with the opposing sex. No birth condition is necessary. I really wouldn't know how to apply your definition but applying mine is rather simple. As a practical matter I doubt it makes much difference. You and I would reach the same conclusion about most same sex couples.

Eric I am getting ready to go to church. My church is an evangelical Christian church you probably would not set foot in for a variety of reasons. In fact there are members of the congregation who condemn me for having sex without being married to the men. There are members who would condemn you for being gay. In my frame of reference they succeed only in condemning themselves and I am saddened by that but it doesn't deter me from anything. I am not alive to give somebody a moral blow job by sucking on whatever they stick through a biblical glory hole.

So, my question to you is simple. Will you stand up for all the rights of a multi-variant humanity? If your answer is yes I will be your ally. If your answer is no I will still support gay rights even though I'm not gay.

Eric, it might seem easier to counter ignorance with more ignorance. However, one cannot create a justice movement by starting with injustice. Bisexual and trans people have been part of the Western understanding of "homosexuality," and the "homosexual movement," since its beginnings. That was not thrust upon us, it is simply part of history. To win acceptance by exclusion is to forego justice for expedience.

Jillian I find your reasoning for keeping us all in the LGBT community a bit troubling. You say that transsexual has always been viewed as homosexuality and part of the homosexual movement. I see that as part historical error and part excuse to keep us trapped in the belief that we are part of the homosexual world. Christine Jorgenson didn't come from the Homosexual movement and she is the Grand Dame of Transsexuals in America. When she got her sex change it was equated with her actually being changed from a man to a woman we've lost that some wheres along the way to where we are now. All you have to do is look to Texas and at the Iowa GOP Platform to see it. I want to break the modern idea that Transsexual equals homosexual and keeping all of us in the LGBT community against our will won't accomplish that.We need an amicable divorce and the writing is on the wall. Lets get this done so we can all quit arguing and move on. Keep those who are LGB identified with the gay community and set the rest of us free. That is the only way the gay community can help us return to when a sex change actually meant something.

Eric, I agree 100%. The term 'GLBT' is disconsonant, disjointed, awkward, offensive, ambiguous, and grammatically incorrect. Sexual orientation are completely different characteristics. Gay people and transgender people are not the same community (obviously).

Infighting appears to be inevitable anytime you get more than 3 people together. The major LGBT groups with their focus group testing tend to have a "my way or the highway" attitude towards activism and bettering LGBT communities.

I'm a gay activist and I feel I am not a part of the so-called LGBT community.

What appears to be prevailing in the LGBT community is appalling to me:
-the ever increasing glorification of unsafe sex
-major LGBT groups and big city LGBT centers ignoring on the ground rural and suburb areas
-the over-duplication of countless LGBT groups with the same objectives
-the dumbing down of LGBT people, especially gay men
-LGBT on LGBT discriminaiton
-LGBT label segregation
-Lack of well-to-do LGBT people mentoring poor LGBT people (adults, not just youth)

I'll be releasing a vlog about these under-discussed topics this week on my vlog at jeff4justice.com

Jeff, while infighting may be commonplace among humans, it does not mean it is inevitable. When one keeps one's eyes on the prize, it is possible to look up from the arena and move together as one.

"We all know that context is decisive. What we don't know is how to alter that context for ourselves."

Context is what frames events and allows one to connect current situations to to past to establish a pattern. How is a movement to make any social or political gains without the means to identify systemic marginalization? having LGBT people work without context makes some random gay-bashing an isolated "teachable moment" rather than a series of events connected by a social climate where one is rewarded for violence against gay men.

Context provides trans people with the political realities that out needs are easily and often used to trade for LGB issues. Context allows trans people to name who and when and how we went from quiet steady advances in gaining our basic rights to being shut down and and shut out.

Do we can we have an "Extraordinary Community"? Perhaps, but it would require honesty and the same level of accountability from the LGB that they demend from every other segment of the population. You see, without context, anything else is simply ignoring pesky things like history.

LaughrioTgirl, you are correct that avoiding context is no solution and constitutes a mere erasure of history. Nonetheless, creating a context is not simply a matter of looking at history, but one of looking at and creating a future, while remaining mindful of the past. A future that is simply a reiteration of the past will give us only more of the past. A future that stems from creating the possibility of a world of love and respect for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, race or ethnicity, religion or creed -- that moves us beyond the hurts and the slights to create a new world, instead of the "Mine, mine, mine!" mentality that has held us back. The straight allies who support us, and who are necessary to the creation of this new context, they see that civil rights for our LGBT community creates a better world for all. If all we are about is gay rights, then our movement loses its legitimacy and becomes a movement of "mine, mine, mine!" Ultimately, we'll lose more people than we gain from that strategy. A justice movement cannot be created and sustained from injustice.

Stonewall Girl Stonewall Girl | May 31, 2011 6:13 PM

Good comments, Jill. You brought up some things probably all trans-parents face. It has been a long road, but with time and love and education, My daughter has no problem introducing me as her father, but often, where folks don't know and , hey, why complicate things as this is not about me... I'm simply her "parent". I may be her Dad, but I'm in the "Bridal Party", and hope to set a new standard for "father of the bride" couture. Her fiance was "mensch" enough to call me to ask for my blessing before he proposed.

As one who is in a long term same sex relationship, I guess I also identify as a Lesbian, though the majority of our LGB friends are gay men. How do we in fact identify ...rather than a letter, just "queer" to encompass the whole LGBT thing. Does "gay" refer to men having sexual relationships with men, or is it a cultural lifestyle? I tend to think from personal experience and observation that in a successful relationship between a transperson and a non trans partner, there is a certain level of bisexuality with the partner. Are my partner and I lesbians, are we part of a lesbian "culture" or are we bi, do I have a vestigial male side from the years of testosterone that have scarred me, or who really cares, as we recognize our commonalities and respect our differences?

Indeed most transpeople will identify with at least one of the LGB categories, so what is the big deal in not encouraging a LGBT umbrella?
Transpeople are the ones that can actually bridge the "gaps".

In NJ, since I've been politically involved there have been well over 200 LGBT laws and ordinances passed and LGB and T people have invariably been actively involved working together. Are transpeople interested in marriage equality? I guess the ones who have jobs and would like to get married. It's a very big concern for transpeople who are now married and who might be in danger of losing their rights. As a member of NJ's Civil Union Review Commission I can tell you there was "unity" and an opportunity for LGB and straight people to get the perspectives of transpeople and their families and these were included in the formal report. What's the problem with people working together since we actually have so much in common, especially our enemies?

As far as your comments about organizations working on the inside and others on the outside... I have always advocated for a multi-level multi pronged strategy for equality. The tricky part is that we work together in a constructive manner for overall success.

I have a question for you SG. Does your umbrella concept include straights?

Stonewall Girl Stonewall Girl | June 1, 2011 1:34 AM

Deena, my LGBT identity umbrella would include transgender people whose sexual orientation is for the opposite sex. (heterosexual)I guess you might call them "straight".

We actually have many, many wonderful "straight" allies .. and if that is what you are talking about non lgbt folks who a proactively fighting for our rights, our families and friends ... they are allies! Folks like Congressmen Rush Holt or Jerry Nadler who sponsor every piece of pro LGBT equality legislation and are always fighting for us are honorary LGBT.

Actually SG I was thinking a bit differently. Jillian seemed to me to be focusing beyond the concept of an LGBT umbrella and more on humanity. Including straight men and women would, I think, go a long way towards resolving the internal bickering. Most of the people I know and interact with daily are straight and value the concept of justice for all. Umbrellas are an encumbrance on sunny days.

Let me digress a moment. I will try to make a point without creating a flame war but odds are someone will take issue with the perspective I'm about to offer. Oh well. Women and men born straight seldom if ever have any need to demand that another person accept them as a woman or a man. Yet I see transsexuals vehemently protesting to transgender that "I am not like you, I am a woman". Recognize the flaw? Yes I understand all the history and the societal changes and I appreciate the angst. I've seen the many concerns that the umbrella concept is wrecking societal perceptions of transsexuals and on and on. From my perspective the simple fact is that society at large is now simply much more aware of the whole spectrum of "other" and the dynamics of that growth process inherently involves change. I believe everyone should embrace that and not fight over who is to blame.

Now let me return to the broader objective. Its a sunny day and I want to enjoy it with all my straight friends walking in solidarity with all my other friends for the rights of all humanity. I think that is Jillian's point. We should all simply be ourselves and support human rights not some narrow segment each of us might self identify with.

I think she makes the same mistake that many LGB aligned T's make thinking the just over 6400 Transgender identified people that took the Injustice at every turn survey constitutes the majority of the 700,000 people trapped in the umbrella. Considering those 700,000 people are mostly heterosexual crossdressers how anyone can jump to the fantasy conclusion that most T's are LGB identified is beyond me. I think the LGB would be fine to move on without the transgender label and absorb that insignificantly small portion of the umbrella that also identifies as LGB. I think it would allow Transsexuals to work on specifically addressing the issues associated with GID which could then benefit all of us to include the LGB identified ones. It would also free heterosexual identified Transsexuals from the damage that LGBT association and the confusion word Transgender causes. So in a round about way Jillian gets her wish by helping all those in the supposed community get the tools they need to improve their lot in life. Also thank you Jillian for being so kind as to make a distinction between Transsexual and Transgender. I may not see the same yellow brick road as you but I think its safe to say we all want reasonable human rights and quality of life for everyone. Can we get there maybe but are people willing to pay the price?

Stonewall Girl, you are definitely one of my heroes of the movement. You have always kept your eyes on the prize. What you have accomplished in New Jersey should be studied and emulated by those who want to make progress on civil rights.

Thank you Dr. Weiss. A well-stated call for equality for all. Thank you for speaking for our 'neighborhood' (T) of the community. The statement that most resonated with me was that you had operated as if you had someting to be ashamed of. When I first transitioned, I did too. In a way it's "You get what you pay for." If one acts ashamed, that's what people respond to. But, if I'm confident and proud, I'm treated like any other woman out there. As far as the overall topic, a good dialog so far. I feel we should act as/be a community. The "straights" lump us all together anyway, and you know what they say, "Safety in numbers" and "Strength in numbers" We are also like a family. Men & women, gay, or not. Some in bi-racial relationships. A true loving family won't throw you out for being 'different' Love and blood conquers all. We stick together. The LGBTQ Community needs to stick together. One more cliche. "Love conquers all."

Thanks for your comment, Liz. The insidious thing about shame is that it often operates in ways one doesn't expect. That's what the various "pride" movements, starting with Black Pride, attempt to address -- the internalized feelings of shame that a prejudicial society creates. But one can't simply put "pride" on top of "shame." That limits "pride" to a parade one day a year. It leads to being proud only of the more politically acceptable elements of our community, and only of the more socially acceptable parts of ourselves. It leads to wanting to erase my history, or explain it away, or justify it, or invalidate others. It leads to me thinking I'm an advocate for equality, when I'm really an advocate for hiding. A world of love and respect has no place for shame.

Jay Kallio | June 1, 2011 5:12 AM

Hi Jillian!

I agree that we can have a brilliant and extraordinary LGBT community. I have always felt that way, since starting out as an activist over 40 years ago. While we have our self hating moments, our "tall poppy syndrome", and our friendly fire infighting, that is certainly the lot of every community of people that I have ever known. In fact. I believe that compared to many other communities ours has shown a remarkable degree of mutual support and integrity of purpose, while most people at large throw each other under the bus as soon as they see a chance to get what they personally need or want, leaving others far behind.

As part of the "T" crowd, I have been really impressed by the major degree of support and generosity shown by LG activists, who, in my experience in NYC, show no signs of leaving the "T" behind. We can moan and groan when the progress seems sluggish, but I'm afraid some of our expectations of the speed and ease of the political process may be unrealistically optimistic. It takes a tremendous amount of time and effort, tenacity, and grueling persistence to create change in this society. I never expected equal rights to happen in my lifetime, but it could yet come to pass.

One issue I have not seen generally recognized as a major factor in some of the reticence on the part of a number of long time, well established LG activists to get behind T issues and efforts is that many express they are waiting for the T community to stop fighting with each other and come to a consensus, so that they as relative outsiders can be of help. Many are frightened off by the vehemence of our infighting, and they do not want to risk either inadvertently offending anyone, getting caught in the crossfire, or being manipulated by one angry faction against the other. I think that's natural, to want to stay away from what they see as a family feud, They don't know how to help, when we "T" folks cannot even make a leaflet to advertise an event, because one way or another whatever "T" word one uses will provoke a fight and backlash from the other side. No amount of financial subsidy, elbow grease, or political fervor they might wish to contribute can solve those issues and help us create supports, services, advocacy, or legislative progress until we start reaching some consensus on our T terms and goals. They cannot do that for us, we must do it for ourselves. They are waiting in the wings for when we bring them something solid to work toward.

I believe that no matter how much sidetracking vitriol is created by the various factions amongst we LGBT people that eventually we will see progress toward the more just world we want to create; that selfishness, greed, the corruption of power and narcissism will not win out over compassion and community.

When I joined this movement 40 years ago I chose it because this was where I found the people constantly raising consciousness about classism, racism, feminism, ageism, and every other "ism". Yes, right here in the LGBT community. One can argue that with the professionalization of the movement some of that heart has shifted, changed character, or aged out of some idealism, but I still hear the same refrains in LG and queer circles that are identical to the dialogues we were having 40 years ago in our firehouses, each others' living rooms, and musty, poor meeting spaces. They were all about being inclusive, addressing all the "isms" we could find within ourselves, within our groups and institutions, and struggling to be better than the society we faced outside at erasing prejudice and fighting for real equality. That essential clarion call for not just equality, but truly honoring our diversity has never been lost. We still struggle, strategize, plot and plan over how we can best fulfill those dreams. They are renewed, not forgotten, never died, and every day we edge ever closer toward the extraordinary.

Happy LGBT Pride, everyone.

So well said, Jay. I am proud of the history of our movement's involvement in social justice for all. As you say, "professionalization" of our advocacy is something to watch, and seems to have led to some tunnel vision. But this can be corrected by re-focusing on what we are really working for. Not "just us", but "justice".

To build a unified trans community and a true alliance with the cis LGB community, some people may just have to modify or even give up some personally held views that stand in the way. It's these views and beliefs that form the context of our interactions within the community. Until we can modify those, we will not be able to create the context in which a true alliance can be formed and the damaging infighting will continue.

The continual preaching of exclusion and separation because of some beliefs regarding the people associated with the "umbrella" will not end until the people doing so examine the beliefs and attitudes they hold that form the context surrounding their objections. The cis LGB community will need to look at the beliefs and attitudes they hold keeps them from accepting and allying themselves with the trans LGB and straight communities.

None of this is easy for anyone to do. It requires deep reflection with unbending honesty as its guiding principle. Until we, as individuals within a community, look to ourselves to create a personal acceptance of others even if we don't understand them, we will not be able to unite in any significant way. The old saying is that, to change humanity, start with the only person you have control over: yourself. I think this is job one for many, if not most, of us and if we can be successful at it, this will provide the context for unity. Otherwise, nothing will change.

Jay Kallio | June 1, 2011 5:27 PM

Hi Emelye

I agree that some viewpoints will need to be reframed if they wish to be heard and empowered. My sincere question is "What is the best, or necessary path to getting there?"

In my experience there is a stage of development in everyone's path that involves establishing separatism, and difference, and which drives points home that are essential for any real unity to be created. So the best way, and shortest distance between two points may be to accept that we are irreconcilably different, with different needs, goals, and understandings, acknowledge that difference, and wait and see what happens.

I am reminded of the origin of the "Dyke March" here in NYC, which actually started at a meeting of Lesbian Feminist Liberation one evening when someone (I won't reveal who, LOL) made an angry motion that we lesbian feminists were being subsumed in the Gay male movement, they were demanding all the media attention and only their voices were being heard, so we should leave the Gay Pride March and hold our own Pride March for women only. Tentatively a few others seconded the motion, a vote was held, and the very first separatist, all lesbian march was born. We rented a bullhorn and sound stage, got a permit, and when the Gay Pride March headed into Central Park for a giant rally, the women headed off in another direction, reaping huge criticism for being divisive and weakening the movement.

We refused to give in. After that debacle we were awarded several huge concessions. First of all, the "L" was moved to the front of the "LGBT" acronym, establishing the women as the first in the series of letters (ever wonder how "LGBT" was decided upon? There you have it). It was next decided that the women's contingent would lead the gay pride march, so that media attention would first be trained on the women present, and the (often more flamboyant) gay men would have to vie for attention in the body of the march. In return, the women rejoined the new LGBT Pride March, but a number of women decided to hold a separate march on a different day of the Pride week. There was a separate identity established, and when granted recognition, respect, and power, then true LG coalition unity could be pursued.

My guess is that a similar process of separatism and individuation in groups is a constant, and perhaps necessary stage in the path. It may insure that nothing of value is lost, or subsumed, due to conformity. I have found that some where down the line concessions by both sides in that process become easier and more acceptable once the differences are recognized. Those who continue to refuse to accept our common ground end up alone and essentially disempowered, but the greater good is reestablished, having been enriched through this very rocky road.

This is merely how I have observed different movement factions interact, and even though at every point in the process it looks like everything is unraveling and things are irrevocably being destroyed, in the end we have a sober, self reflective movement that is all the wiser for our rigorous travails. Not a bad outcome for a bunch of battered queers, I believe. LOL.

Happy Pride!

I really appreciate your narration, Jay, thanks. The history of our movement needs to be told and retold so newcomers can grasp their heritage. I think, perhaps, that you may have misunderstood the focus of my post. As I understand it, with the creation of the Dyke March, as a means of declaring independence and equality in the face of a patriarchal system, what you described is a community acting in a way to illustrate their independence, their unwillingness to be marginalized by a more privileged group. The butches and femmes had already unified into a community of their own. The point I was trying to make, however, is that before any communities can find true unity, which is something the Dyke March was a manifestation of, people have to be willing to move on personal issues. I was obliquely referring, in part, to the intra-trans conflict between those who reject the label of "transgender" and those who see value in it and recognize that it serves a purpose. People are going to have to get off their positions now and then in order to come together.

For those who claim there can be no movement, that community is impossible, I would say, bye bye, thanks for sharing that. When I finally, at age 50, acknowledged who I really was after decades of repression and denial, I had to move through all of the homo and transphobia I had accumulated over the years. I had to reexamine my beliefs, look at them and question their truth and utility and I had to drop, change or replace a great many of them. That's the kind of work that has to be done, I think, on a personal level, before a true context of unity can prevail.

Jay Kallio | June 2, 2011 4:25 AM

So sorry to have misunderstood you!

Ah, just to clarify, I was thinking of the transsexual community as a group that appears to need their separatist space, virtual and real, to establish a sense of individuation from any larger "transgender" grouping. And often those who identify as queer seem to need their own self identified safe space, also, where they can share their experiences and common beliefs in safety, fulfill needs, and foster a sense of belonging with each other.

Unfortunately a large part of how people create bonds is through aligning against common enemies, so too often other groups have to be demonized in order to help define them as "other", not like "us". That firms up the bond, which becomes very important. It's tribalism.

I'm older, and don't seem to need any sense of belonging to anything other than all of life any more, LOL. I'm much more comfortable being where I am now, and grateful for it!

Tall Stacey | June 4, 2011 8:37 PM

Jay I read your narrative history. Unfortunately you didn't go back far enough.

In the following comments please note that the term "transvestite" was the clinical term for gender variance prior to the emergence of the various other trans terms. In the day we were all grouped together under that T, which in turn was just a segment of Queer, the faggots.

For those of us old enough we remember that what we know today as "Pride" evolved from Christopher Street Liberation Day, the commemoration of that early morning June 28, 1969 event that motivated our community to demand our civil rights.

As the Wikipedia article on the Stonewall riots (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonewall_riots) points out, the civil disobedience began when “Those dressed as women that night refused to go with the officers.” The article goes on to describe how later that morning as events unfolded "The mob openly mocked the police. The crowd cheered, started impromptu kick lines, and sang to the tune of The Howdy Doody Show theme song: "We are the Stonewall girls/ We wear our hair in curls/ We don't wear underwear/ We show our pubic hairs". Stonewall was led by the gender community.

And before that in August of 1966 at the Compton cafeteria: “On the outer fringes of the few small gay communities were people who challenged gender expectations. They were effeminate men and masculine women, or biological men who dressed and lived as women and biological women who dressed as men, either part or full-time. Contemporary nomenclature classified them as transvestites, and they were the most visible representatives of sexual minorities. They belied the carefully crafted image portrayed by the Mattachine Society and DOB that asserted homosexuals were respectable, normal people. The Mattachine and DOB considered the trials of being arrested for wearing clothing of the opposite gender as a parallel to the struggles of homophile organizations: similar but distinctly separate. Gay and transgender people staged a small riot in Los Angeles in 1959 in response to police harassment. In 1966, drag queens, hustlers, and transvestites were sitting in Compton's Cafeteria in San Francisco when the police arrived to arrest men dressed as women.” “When a police officer accustomed to manhandling the Compton's clientele attempted to arrest one of the trans women, she threw her coffee in his face. “ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compton%27s_Cafeteria_riot) Again it was the gender community standing in the face of oppression, even in opposition to the then dominant gay organization which did not acknowledge us.

The article goes on to note that that event marked a turning point in the local LGBT movement. According to the online encyclopedia glbtq.com:
In the aftermath of the riot at Compton's, a network of transgender social, psychological, and medical support services was established, which culminated in 1968 with the creation of the National Transsexual Counseling Unit [NTCU], the first such peer-run support and advocacy organization in the world.
Serving as an overseer to the NTCU was Sergeant Elliott Blackstone, designated in 1962 as the first San Francisco Police Department liaison to what was then called the "homophile community." Again, the gender community led the way.

So why do we now face, more importantly why do we tolerate exclusion from the mainstream equality movement?

The Stonewall riot article goes on to note that "Race, class, ideology, and gender became frequent obstacles in the years after the riots. This was illustrated during the 1973 Stonewall rally when, moments after Barbara Gittings exuberantly praised the diversity of the crowd, feminist activist Jean O'Leary protested what she perceived as the mocking of women by transvestites and drag queens in attendance. During a speech by O'Leary, in which she claimed that drag queens made fun of women for entertainment value and profit, Sylvia Rivera and Lee Brewster jumped on the stage and shouted "You go to bars because of what drag queens did for you, and these bitches tell us to quit being ourselves!" Both the drag queens and lesbian feminists in attendance left in disgust.

O'Leary also worked in the early 1970s to exclude transvestites from gay rights issues because she felt that rights for transvestites would be too difficult to attain. Sylvia Rivera left gay activism in the 1970s to work on issues for transgender people and transvestites. The initial disagreements between participants in the movements, however, often evolved after further reflection. O'Leary later regretted her stance against the drag queens attending in 1973: "Looking back, I find this so embarrassing because my views have changed so much since then. I would never pick on a transvestite now." "It was horrible. How could I work to exclude transvestites and at the same time criticize the feminists who were doing their best back in those days to exclude lesbians?"

Why do I bring this? My point is that we started out unified, led by the gender people. We fragmented and fragmented again. As has been pointed out it is time to unify to the common purpose of ensuring our civil, our human right's. Now is the time to bury the "mine" hatchet's and unify our efforts. We need every ally - gay, straight, otherwise - to achieve that goal. When that battle is over we can dig up the hatchets and hack at each other all we want. But our legal standing, our rights to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness, free from persecution must be our first purpose. That need is what started this all at Stonewall and that is all that we have in common now. We must remain focused on that goal.

Make no mistake; the next 18 months are going to be tough. There will be lots of mud thrown between now and the elections, and the lame-duck session will be abhorrent. Our best chance is during the first year of the next Congress. If we are not unified to a common purpose by then we will most likely wait another eight years.

Jay Kallio | June 5, 2011 8:56 PM

Not sure whether you read my stance in earlier comments, Tall Stacey. I am very much in favor of unity, and have always worked with all the LGBTQ people who were willing to work on productive causes and projects that promote equality. I grieve that many people who consider themselves to be transsexuals want to separate themselves from the greater LGBTQ community, and many resent and revile being included under a wider umbrella. But if that is what they need to do, so be it. Arguing isn't going to change their minds.

BTW, I knew Jean O'Leary personally and worked with her for many years in Lesbian Feminist Liberation. Please do not think that Jean spoke for all lesbian feminists, she did not. Her position was very controversial. At that time there was a tremendous divide between lesbians and gay men, which was rising to a fevered pitch because the women felt shoved aside, silenced, and invisible under the dominance of male voices and posturing in the movement. Often in situations where people are deeply polarized the opinions expressed are excessive, fueled by emotion, and unreasoning. Jean's sensitivity to what she perceived as a humiliation of women by men was a product of that passionate anger the women were feeling in general, and I see some of that women's separatist anger and sense of feeling invaded in the lingering controversy over the Michigan Women's Music Festival gender segregation policy.

That is where I just bow my head and have come to conclude that the separatist position is a special case, or stage, that many people need to pass through in their evolution. I know some people get stuck there. But I need to respect that many people really, genuinely need to have a safe place with people who share their exact experience, special hardships, fears, needs, and strengths, and I accept that it may be a very necessary stage for people.

That kind of separatism happens in most areas of life that are less controversial. For example, I am a cancer patient, and I know that my cancer patient support groups are very special to me, and I would not like to see them opened up to people who have not been through that experience. There is real safety in that kind of "separatism" that is very enriching and empowering for the participants. When I look at it that way I cannot deny that experience to others, and if many transsexuals say that is what they need and want, and they are willing to do the work to create that, so be it.

I remain one of those transsexuals who, in my limited time left on this planet, simply wish to work with everyone, LGBTQ, straight, and all others who want social justice and greater equality. I see it as the more politically powerful position to take, and that is reflected in my acceptance of the "umbrella", or "alliance" term, "transgender". It works for me. But then, I'm working with limited time.

BTW, if you want to private message me on Facebook just search for my name (I post here under my real name, taking 100% responsibility for everything I say) I can explain more in depth about that debacle with Jean. She has passed away, you know...