Bil Browning

I don't know nothin'

Filed By Bil Browning | September 04, 2008 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: ENDA, HRC, Human Rights Campaign, human rights ordinance, Indianapolis, LGBT community, trans inclusion, transgender

UPDATE: While readers are still encouraged to join in this discussion thread, the first question resulting from the post can be found at: "What IS the LGBT community? Who are we?"

Earlier today I published a post about Sarah Palin that a few folks thought was sexist. After re-reading what I'd written, I changed the reference and put a note in the comments section that I'd flesh out my thoughts more in a separate post. This is that post.

Another bit that stands out in my mind was something I was told by Marti while we were in Denver. We were talking about a mutual acquaintance and I said "I don't think so-and-so likes me." She said I was correct and said, "So-and-so thinks your view of trans people is fucked up. And it is."

I was planning on writing this post today already based solely on the trans item, but it's a good way to blend together two issues I have with my own site. Sometimes I don't know enough to feel welcome in the conversation surrounding other posts or even my own. Two areas stand out in my mind: feminism and trans issues.

The older you get, the more you realize that you don't really know anything at all. And I don't know nuthin'.

We've had many discussions on TBP about trans exclusion from ENDA. Some have been productive and others have been bitch sessions where we let off some steam. I mentioned in a previous post that I was tired of the constant HRC bashing though and wished that trans Projectors would steer towards another direction sometimes.

I said that I had plenty of questions myself about trans issues that I wished could be addressed instead of the constant mantra about HRC. Several Projectors wrote and commented on the post saying, "What are your questions?"

While the woman I quoted in the comments section of my Sarah Palin post wasn't nearly as nice about my apparent lack of understanding surrounding sexism, it is still a good way of wrapping feminism into the fold of "Things I Do Not Know But Should."

I have questions about both of these issues. If I'm running one of the largest LGBT blogs and I'm still running amok on some of these things, I can only imagine that others are experiencing the same problem - I feel stupid sometimes.

A Bit of Background

I hardly know anything about queer theory. I know just as much about feminism. I haven't had college classes in either subject. I've not read textbooks, had in-depth conversations (off the blog) or been taught most of the standard theories.

My education has come from the school of hard knocks. I'm not an expert, although I play one on the blog. I'm just a gay guy from Indiana with a lot of opinions and a small gift for putting that on paper. It still shocks me when I get to be a D list celebrity at events like the DNCC or the Creating Change conference.

When I started the blog, I worked at a Hewlett Packard factory as the Operations Manager. I left HP after a severe manic episode that almost ended in hospitalization. Since our little family runs on a shoestring budget, I took a job at Watch World as a salesman and ended up on disability.

While I worked at Watch World, I was tapped to lead the coalition fighting for a human rights ordinance here in Indianapolis. It took a lot of soul searching and cajoling before I'd accept the responsibility; I was afraid I'd flake out at a critical juncture and let the community down. From there to here has been one helluva jump.

Trans Issues: A Short History and Some Questions

When I worked on the human rights ordinance, it was on its second turn at bat. The measure had been voted down a few months previously, but two Indianapolis City-County Council members were determined to bring it back up for a vote. Shortly after I started looking into the matter and meeting with other councilors, one thing was made obviously clear - if gender identity was dumped from the ordinance, I had enough votes for passage.

I was willing to do it.

Before I even talked about it to the sponsoring Councilors, I talked to Jerame about it. Jerame had attended an Equality Federation conference with a good friend who is heavily involved in trans issues. They'd had a heart-to-heart and he was able to ask a lot of the questions he needed to. Jerame flatly refused to let me ditch gender identity in favor of sexual orientation.

I respect Jerame and his opinions; after all, he's my number one adviser. When the topic came up with the Councilors, I didn't do it. (Not that the sponsors would have allowed it either. They agreed with Jerame.) I didn't push for a non-inclusive HRO while promising to come back later for the trans community, instead we passed an inclusive human rights ordinance.

Jerame got INTRAA - the Indiana trans group - involved in the discussion around the HRO and they sent a cute young representative to attend our strategy meetings. It was contributor Bruce Parker. He's not trans, but had been involved in trans issues for a while. Bruce joined the blog and immediately started advocating for a trans voice on Bilerico.

I wasn't willing to do it. Jerame, again, had to convince me that it was the right thing to do.

Why? I didn't have a large enough grasp of the issues around gender identity. Trans people weren't important; their issues were not my issues. I didn't feel the kinship that I felt towards gays and lesbians; I didn't know any trans people well enough to ask questions without feeling really uncomfortable. If you keep your mouth shut, you won't look stupid.

Those Pesky "Women's Issues"

I admit, I struggle with "women's issues." Mostly because I don't really consider them "women's" issues. As an example, I used a sexual reference in my post earlier today. Jerame quickly pointed to that as the reason why it was sexist. "Most men consider women only good for three things," he said. "Cleaning house, cooking dinner and sex. You hit #3."

"But I don't consider women as sexual objects," I countered. "I'm a gay man!"

"It doesn't matter. You have a penis," he told me. "As a gay man, you still 'outrank' in some people's eyes. You need to consider their filter instead of your own."

Jerame is dead on the money with that last sentence. I usually write from my own experiences because I consider that to be the most honest filter I can use.

My mother was the female influence in my life. She's a gruff older woman who's just as independent and half crazy as I am. We never talked about "women's issues" mostly because I don't think she saw things in that way. She worked as hard as any man I've ever known; I never considered her "second class" and I wouldn't have dared talk to her as if I did.

I tend to mostly not think about feminist ideas. Why? I didn't have a large enough grasp of the issues around sexism. As a gay man, women weren't important; their issues were not my issues. I didn't feel the kinship that I felt towards other gay men; I didn't know any women well enough to ask questions without feeling really uncomfortable. If you keep your mouth shut, you won't look stupid.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Several times I've mentioned to Alex or Jerame that I wanted to put up a post that just said, "WTF?" and the general consensus we've reached each time is that it wouldn't look good for me to start revealing exactly how little I actually know about feminist and queer theory. After all, how do you stay the Wonderful Wizard of Oz when the curtain is pulled open and you're revealed as just another man behind a window treatment?

This time I've decided to ignore my own advice. I'm willing to admit how ignorant I am. I'm willing to admit that I've had my own struggles with some of this. After all, this is a good group to "come out" for.

When I lobbied Rep Baron Hill in the Sheraton parking lot last Friday, I did it for trans people. He was already willing to include gay men in protections. The statistics I used to lobby him came from information readers and contributors have given me via Bilerico Project.

I've learned from this "large, happy, bitchy, dysfunctional family," as one recent commenter succinctly called us. Ya'll have become my sounding board and my teacher.

So I'd like to throw this back into your laps. When Rep Barney Frank says that "more education is needed," I tend to agree with him. Four years ago, I'd have made the same decision on the HRO. I made a sexist comment today. Obviously I still need some education and until I have answers, I can't provide them to someone else and help bring them along too.

Often I simply don't comment on a blog post or just leave a platitude if I'm over my head and don't want to look stupid. While we have thousands of visitors a day, only a small crowd join the comment conversation, so I'm confident I'm not the only one hesitant to wade into the waters.

Taking the First Step Together

If no one takes the first step, we'll all be sitting around and bitching about the same things. I'll continue to make stupid mistakes and won't be a better advocate. Instead, let's remedy this problem.

Anyone who knows me quickly figures out that I like to ask questions. By asking questions I can help frame my argument as well as learn new information.

I have a ton of questions to ask about trans issues and women's issues. I don't know the answers and I doubt any of them are pat and dry little answers that will satisfy or encompass everyone. But if it helps me to put things in perspective and clicks in my head, then I can advocate for transgender folks and for women more effectively - or at all.

If I have a million questions, I'm sure others do too. So instead of sitting around and answering questions in the comment thread of this post, I'd like to suggest a small change.

Instead of trying to provide answers, let's ask questions.

Don't be shy - ask away. I'm especially after questions around women's issues and transgender issues. No question is too stupid or too intimate to ask. We'll all take a break from our preconceived notions for a short time and put out on the table some of the things that still baffle or intimidate us. Every so often, I'll take one of the questions and put it up as an open thread.

I've learned a lot from some very smart people via Bilerico Project. If we all show as much openness and respect as we do when we're leaving questions, we could really learn a lot from each other.

We told Projectors that TBP was "an experiment in LGBTQ" when we launched. Let's think in that vein as we approach this idea. Be honest about your questions, your experiences and your doubts. We'll consider no subject taboo; instead we'll encourage our family to ask the questions they wouldn't dare ask someone else.

We'll be one community by learning what we share and sharing what we learn. That's what I want from the site; the opportunity to learn and grow further. I've come a long way from the watch salesman who thought trans people were drag queens and bisexuality was just a way to put one foot out of the closet. I want to go further.

So for my first question, I'd like to ask, "Anyone with me on this? Anyone still reading?"

To answer, leave your own question in the comments.

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.

I'm with you. It's better to have good questions than good answers. My first question is one that I think is fundamental to all further discussion. Are transgender people part of a community with gays lesbians and bisexuals, or is transgender a separate community that is being lumped together with the GLBs as an allied group? I know in the old days, no one really made a distinction between gays and transgenders, but is that still valid today? (Okay, so it's two questions.)

Now I do have answers in my own mind to these questions, but I'm curious what the community thinks. (If everyone's supposed to only ask questions, is there a way to find out what people think about answers?) (Okay, that's three questions.)

Jill, in my mind the T has always been a part of our community. When I first came out, I was very fortunately that I had many transgender people in my support network at ASU, and so I've always just assumed that everyone else "gets it" that the T isn't just a PC additive at the end of the alphabet soup. In high school, my only connection to the queer community was RuPaul and the movie "To Wong Fu." You might correctly argue that this movie isn't very representative of the queer community, but it was a lifesaver for me at the time. I guess you could say I'm a "big tent" kinda gal when it comes to my vision of community. And I'll never understand why transgender people get excluded when we're fighting for legislative rights. It was transgender people who started the Stonewall Riots. And where would we be without that moment in history?

If there's a choice between rights for everyone or no rights at all, I'll take nothing. But that's just me.

Yeah, I'll keep the questions until we run out. I'll post one up every so often for an open thread conversation. When we run out of questions, I'll put up another call for more questions!

Hi Bil;thanks for starting this conversation.
I have questions. First who am I? In part;
I'm 45 years old and have only been out/actively FTM for 2 years. Prior to that, I was out/proud butch lesbian and part of the Disability and Gay communities as an activist/advocate.

In the spirit of community, questions are important. What about the simple concept of "when one is oppressed, all are oppressed?" Where does the frustration/hatred of trans people com from? From judging a book by it's cover? Is that what happens when people "don't get", "don't understand" what "those" LGB people do "in bed?"
I've seen this in the disability community. "if you appear in a chair or using two canes, are you less knowledgeable than the able bodied person?"
(this happend over and over to friends of mine, despite the ADA)

When someone get's fired, if there's an ENDA law with no T, are they getting fired because they're LGB or because they "look differently" gendered? I imagine the scenario of the butch or fairy getting fired and fights in court saying, "no, no I'm not trans, only gay/les". How would this fight, if it happened effect community?

I see the feminist connection and have more questions. What about the woman broadcaster who was fired/nearly fired because she looked old or fat? What about Delta Burke nearly losing her "Designing Women" job cause she "gained a few?"

For me, I hope the issue is to join communities. For me, yes. GLBT and Q and Straight allies, Immigrant, Disabled. "Together we are stronger"
Thanks community; yours, Sonam Ben


LGB and T people have a shared history in terms of sexology, harassment and invisibility. The sexologists' "invert" was a combination of what we now think of as gay, lesbian, bisexual AND trans. When someone in the LGB community is harassed it is often based on their gender presentation. One does not have to be trans to be harassed or harmed because of gender presentation that is that they are too masculine or not masculine enough or too feminine or not feminine enough. Even though we tend to think that gender and sexuality are separate, gender is often used by others to determine one's sexuality.

I'm with you on this Bil. I'm a bi-identified post op transwoman and maybe, just maybe, we can both learn something from this. Trans issues, in my experience fit fully and completely within the mantra of stereotypical sex expectations in the general population. In other words, if you are born with "this" or "that" for sexual anatomy you "must" be this or that for gender identity as well as this or that for sexual identity. It's really not about choice per-se because if you ask any non-trans person when they "chose" their gender identity and they look at you like you just fell out of some weird space warp. Why should it be any different for transpeople? So, to keep in the spirit of this thread, here's my question. Would you consider a straight-identified post op transwoman to be a true and valid member of the LGBT community (if you concede there is such a thing) or not and why? This question goes straight (pardon the play on words here) to the issue of whether or not transpeople should be included in any form of ENDA. If I'm Lesbian or BI I should be included, right? But what if I'm a straight transwoman? Wrap your head around that for a while, Bil. And we haven't even gotten to discrimination issues yet. This is just the inclusion issue. Hmmm, transguys, you're up next!

Hi Panda, I think they do. Because regardless of who people are attracted to, they're still judged by their gender presentation first and foremost. But even more than that, we need straight allies. I would consider straight fag hags just as much a part of our community as anyone else.

Doesn't the answer to this question depend on what the person thinks? I've known some (relatively rare) trans people that are more than happy to melt into straight society and have nothing to do with the rest of them. I don't see why this shouldn't be their right.

But if they want to stand up with the rest of the LGBers, I really don't see why they shouldn't be allowed a seat at the table--in the end, all of us are really being targeted (to widely different degrees) because we aren't conforming to the notion of what some idiot thinks a 'woman' or a 'man' should be. In the end, we'll hang together or hang separately.

Bil, it takes a big person to admit what they don't know. But without asking questions, how do we learn?

Here's one of mine: Why is it that drag queens are trotted out by the gay communities as hood ornaments whenever there's a fundraiser but often don't get a lot of respect (and often have real trouble finding men willing to date them)?

Another is why a number of LGB people seem so reluctant to acknowledge -- and some flat-out deny -- that some of their peers are gender variant. (Don't get me wrong, being gender variant is not the same thing as being transgender -- but both have in common that one isn't seen as fitting the standard-issue expectations for one's birth gender.) To hear these folks talk, you'd think all LGB people are straight-acting, i.e. "We're here, we're queer, we're just like you."

Like Jill, I've got my own thoughts on both of these, but I'm curious what others think.

One thing I noticed with trans people is that you have picked some contributors for Bilerico more on their celebrity status over anything else. I could name a half dozen trans people or trans-knowledgeable people who as contributors could give you a more rounded view of our community from the grass roots perspective, and I'm not even including me in the mix. There are many out there who would do our viewpoint proud and I would love to see them get a wider audience. If you want to learn more, they are out there to give that to you.

Monica, it's interesting that you should say this because the ed team has recently been discussing adding more trans members to the mix. I, for one, would like to have more FTM contributors. If you've got suggestions of people we should invite to join the TBP mix, you should totally send us an e-mail. We'd appreciate the help!

Monica and all...

You are correct in your thinking that some other voices need to be heard. I like the fact that Bil has included TransYouth Family Allies in guest posts in the past, however, the "little t" in the community is so often ignored.

We find in our trainings that many people are more open and receptive to the "little t" because they don't see children as sexual beings, therefore, they get the gender identity piece a lot quicker than they do when you are trying to educate about an adult issue.

I for one would like to see this piece talked about more often. Trans children face many different and more complex issues than adults.

TYFA is willing and ready to step up whenever we are called upon.


Shannon Garcia
TransYouth Family Allies

Can we even consider childhood gender-variance, adolescent/adult gender variance, and adolescent/adult transsexualism and genderqueerness the same thing?

I'm skeptical. Young children are faced with gender roles. Older children, shortly before puberty, are faced with the prospect of body changes, and many TS people, myself included, first became aware of our gender dysphoria shortly before puberty. Adolescent/adult transsexualism may correlate with gender variance, but it isn't the same thing.

This isn't to dismiss the needs of gender-variant kids.

Not the same thing, perhaps, but:

Dealing with a lot of the same discrimination? Yes.

Here's my question: If a lesbian starts dating a transman, does that make her bi, or straight, or what? This is an issue I'm struggling with myself, seeing as I am now living with my partner, who happens to be FTM. I worked really hard to claim a lesbian identity for myself, but I also want people to affirm my partner's gender identity. If people read me as straight, does that mean that I'm no longer a part of the LBGT community? If that's the case, I suppose Bil and Alex should revoke my TBP membership card and we need to take down all the rainbow gear we have around the house! ;^)

This is not a new subject. My question, "Why do you have to change your identity because your partner is transitioning from one sex to another?" I consider myself a lesbian, but I'm seeing a trans man now. I'm not saying I'm straight now, but I have a bisexual past. Married couples stay married after one of the two transitions. That doesn't make the non-trans person decide they have to be gay or lesbian. They love the person, regardless of the shape the body takes. They love the soul.

The problem is we let the rest of society and our friends pick our sexual orientation for us based on who our partner is. It is an argument I have made for years on my identity. You can call me whatever you want. It doesn't mean I have to live in the box you built for me.

Thanks, Monica. I will say this. My partner said in the very beginning that he didn't want me to give up my identity just so that he could have his. But it's still a question for me. I recently attended an extended family function (alone - I don't want to subject ANYONE else to that) and people were asking my why I had moved to Tucson. I told them it was to be with my boifriend. And I could hear them internally saying, "hallelujah, she's seen the light." If only they knew!

just wait til they meet me :P

Well, I can't wait to meet the young man who stole Serena's heart! When will ya'll make the trip to Indy?! :)

actually she trapped me with her vagina dentata :P

That's a question that a lot of folks are dealing with, but it's not actually one that's specific to trans folk. The fact of the matter, at least how I see it, is that lesbians date men, trans or otherwise. It does happen. And straight women date women, , and gay men date women, and straight men date men (uh, I mean fuck in bathrooms).

Identity and behavior don't always match up. That doesn't mean that someone's identity is any less real. I'm a dyke and I've dated a guy. With any luck, I hope to be involved with another one soon.

Thanks, Tobi. You and I have similar definitions on this one.

In the end, we're not labels. The labels are tools that we can use to describe ourselves, so that people can get closer to understanding us. We should never allow ourselves to live our lives chasing the labels.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | September 4, 2008 8:42 PM

I'm with you, Bil!

And Jill, YES transgender belongs with LGBT. Here's a few of the many reasons why: Perhaps most importantly, the outside world makes none of the fine distinctions we're so fond of arguing about. They lump us all together when they badmouth us, fire us, bash us, and write laws that exclude or discriminate against us. Likewise, many trans folks identity as LGB or Q. Many of us have been activists in LGB fights--myself, I've demonstrated and worked for equal rights as a lesbian, been targeted as a lesbian, bisexual man, and gay man, and been forced out of a job as a queer-identified transsexual. And finally, it's the morally right thing to do to fight together rather than fight against one another. We're stronger and more effective that way.

Hey ya'll, I was just chastised by Bil for answering questions. Apparently we're only asking questions, not having a discussion. You'll have to excuse my confusion. My vagina shortens my IQ and inhibits my ability to understand things! Sorry! :^)

I swear to God I'm not going to make any jokes on that last comment.

Discussion = fine.

Answering questions? Let's save it for the discussion on each question so no one gets short shrift. Besides, I think we can make discussion out of asking the questions as some questions beg other ones.

For example, back up to Jill's question (1st comment), if the T community is separate, doesn't that mean the other segments are also free standing? I mean, is it the G & L & B & T community?

And does that explain a lot of the frustrations that sometimes all the groups have getting along? Men vs women keeps G & L at odds. Throw in trans and their touch on both sexes and a whole new set of concerns arise. Are we really four different groups that just consolidated for political power?

Seriously, let's use these questions as open threads in the weeks to come. There are a lot of good ones here.

Why is it a lot of the gay men I've met think we should just be gay? I've also met straight people who think that way.

Hi Bil!

Wow, what a post. I always had a lot of respect for you, but this one increased that respect hugely.

I'll ask one question of my own, as a straight intersexed/transsexual woman:
Can you please explain all the things I don't know about Gays? And men too. You'd think that living as one for 47 years would give me an insight, but it really doesn't.

I'll try, but just as no one trans person has all the answers for an entire group of people, keep in mind that I'm my own person too.

Bil darling.

Thanks for sharing some of your fascinating background.

I think that there is merit in assembling a team that exemplifies diversity within the gay community and the way you have done that is what attracted me to TBP in the first place. I share your willingness to say "I don't know much about feminism or the issues of trans people." Chasing dick and being in a long term relationship has taken almost all my energy and attention, so when I found a blog replete with women and trans people who were expressing themselves with intelligence, I just kept coming back here.

If you push me out on a limb, I'd say that feminism is and always will be rooted in the subjugation and subordination of women by men, and that the need for it will never go away (like the need for dikes around New Orleans) because the penis is by nature perpetually intrusive and aggressive and overpowering.

I can only guess about how the realities of transdom will eventually settle into the spectrum of human life. We ought to keep in mind that it is a relatively new thing.

There, I suspect I've said enough to offend a good number of people. Slap my knuckles with a ruler and make me sit in the corner with Bil, for I am also relatively ignorant about those planets and their spinnings.

Hi Father Tony . . . interesting interpretation of feminism you've got there. Have you been reading Andrea Dworkin or what?

For me, feminism is about equality and choice. Everyone deserves to be treated equally, and we should respect the choices people make for themselves/their bodies.

It's not what feminism is, but I think the most powerful lesson I learned from feminism was one of perspective--not the normal people versus the powerful type of imagery, but just that everyone has a bunch of stuff that they take for granted when they look at a situation. And when you take all of that stuff away (and perhaps replace it with different stuff), it radically alters the way that things look.

It's such a powerful tool for talking to people about so many things. And it's why Bil's post here is so beautiful.

I know we're trying to limit this thread to questions not answers, but I feel the need to respond to Father Tony's statement that "transdom . . . . is a relatively new thing." In fact, transgender people have been a significant, visible and *accepted* part of many cultures around the world for centuries. The only thing that's new is our efforts to define ourselves and demand equal treatment.

I think it may help everyone to talk about what we "think" or "believe" about the issues that are being discussed here, rather than stating them as established fact. As bittergradstudent also said in response to Father Tony, to do that, we each need to be aware of our own biases and the "filters" we use to interpret the world. Perception and belief do not equal truth.

How are you defining "transgendered"?
I think you are using a broad definition that includes many ways of being "trans" that I am not including. I may be wrong about my definition, so this has been a valuable discussion.

Trans or transgender doesn't have to include hormones and surgery. It is worth acknowledging that it's a western term and it's etymology is based in western medicine and pathologization (although transgender itself was an activist invention of the 90's, so I hear). But the concept of folks who don't identify with their birth assigned gender, of folks who are accepted (or pass) as the gender they identify with, etc, can be seen in examples throughout history in virtually every documented culture.

(P.S. I don't mean to be the language police, but given the educational goal of this thread, you might want to know a lot of folks (certainly not all) don't like the term "transgendered", because that seems to indicate that it is something done to us as opposed to something that we are.)

Hi Father Tony,

Sorry for the lengthy answer, but it's actually not a simple question as it might appear.

First, I just wanted to echo that trans people have been around for thousands of years in a wide variety of cultures. Vern Bullough's "Cross Dressing, Sex and Gender" gives a comprehensive look at this in case anyone's interested. Admittedly, we should be cautious in applying today's concepts to people in history, who had very different world views. For example, women posing as men are surprisingly common in historical accounts (and often tacitly accepted by their societies). Were these hetero women seeking getting freedom and opportunities; lesbians who assumed a man's role in order to take wives; people who would today consider themselves trans men; combinations of all of the above, depending on the individual? Or consider the case of an early 20th century "fairy" -- an effeminate gay man who cross-dressed regularly, but worked as a man. In his autobiography he describes himself a man who also had a "female soul." Was he simply reflecting concepts about "inverts" that were widespread at the time, was he someone who today would see themselves as a trans woman who's attracted to men, would today he see himself as a gay crossdresser (as opposed to a drag queen), would he see himself as femmy gay man who didn't crossdress. In most cases really can't say definitely because the frames of reference are so different.

That said, there's plenty of people who by their words or actions did clearly see themselves as having a gender identity that didn't match their biological sex. Even if the ability to change their physical appearance to match their internal identity is a modern thing.

The trans communities don't have a universal agreement on what "transgender" means, and who's included in it -- similar to how there can be disagreement over the term "queer." But the definition from the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association's Supplemental Stylebook on LGBT Terminology sums up on that many trans people use:

"An umbrella term that refers to people whose biological and gender identity or expression may not be the same. This can include preoperative, postoperative or nonoperative transsexuals, female and male cross-dressers, drag queens or kings, female or male impersonators, and intersex individuals. If an individual prefers to be called transsexual, etc., use that term. When writing about a transgender person, use the name and personal pronouns that are consistent with the way the individual lives publicly."

(BTW, the Stylebook is a good "5-minute overview" about LGBT basics, in case you want to give someone a quick education.)

And before some people jump all over this definition, let me note that it says it can include a particular group of people, it doesn't say it "must" include. In all the groups listed, some people would agree they fit under that umbrella, some people wouldn't. For example, most of my fellow drag queens wouldn't consider themselves trans -- but some are trans woman, some do live as women off-stage (even if they simultaneously seen themselves as gay man) and some do cross-dress off-stage akin to hetero cross-dressers (although most are loath to admit this).

There's admittedly fuzzy boundary between being "trans" and being "gender variant" -- the former being a subset of the latter. It's someone's internal sense of self that makes the difference. For example, I know butches who are far more masculine than the vast majority of men, but who definitely see themselves as being female. But from the outside the distinctions may not be clear, for example a common derogatory comment made toward butches is that they're "trying to be men." Which is why gender identity/expression protections protect more than just trans people they protect anyone -- including heteros -- who's not seen as being sufficiently straight-acting.

Thank you,Lena. I am so relieved to find that the issue is complicated and disputed rather than simple. I feel less dumb.

That it is.

BTW, George Chauncey's "Gay New York" -- a look at the pre-WWII "gay world" (no one at the time referred to "the closet") -- offers a really interesting look at how world views change. In certain immigrant neighborhoods it was apparently quite acceptable to have a male-bodied women as a girlfriend/wife and no one thought of the husband as being anything other than hetero. In a lot of ways that era was actually far more flexible in its concepts of gender and sexual orientation.

FWIW, it also points out how deeply-rooted the tension between straight-acting and visibly-queer gays is. "Queer" in fact was a term adopted by straight-acting NYC gays to distinguish themselves from those people, the effeminate (and often crossdressing) "fairies."

While it is great to open up lines of communication and encourage discussion, I think it is important to acknowledge that it is not the responsibility of trans folks, gay men, lesbians, etc to educate others. There is a disconcerting level of privilege and power that is held by the person who says teach me about your people. I understand that education about LGBT issues to straight people has been hugely important in fostering alliances and understanding. I am not saying that people shouldn't answer questions (I answered one above) but that it is one's responsibility to educate themselves about trans issues or feminist issues and that trans folks and women (in this case) are not responsible for educating you.

A very valid point, poolboi.

But in my example of my own history, it was the meeting of trans folk that helped to shape my own theories and expectations of that community. I firmly believe that I can read all the text books about transgender that I'd like, but I'm not going to learn anything until I get that personalization that changes minds.

That's one of my favorite parts of TBP - the willingess of our readers to share their personal experiences with all of us so we can all learn a few things along the way.

Seriously, I'd never have felt comfortable approaching Rep Hill if I hadn't been armed by Projectors. You know how people talk more confidentially to people they know. If I can get that elevator phrase into a local Blue-Dog dem here in Indiana, so much the better. But I don't be able to do that wihtout getting to know more trans folk than Marti!

By the way, Bil, thanks and good for you, as far as getting a word directly to Baron Hill is concerned. I've tried a number of times to get past the palace guard at his local offices and in DC, and haven't been able to get past the aides. He's definitely in a tough race again against Mike Sodrel, who's somewhere to the right of Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Do you feel Hill's educable on the issue, if he gets past Sodrel again? If you wish to answer offline, you have my email.

Baron is a nice guy, but his district - as you know - is extremely conservative. (For those of you outside of Indiana, think "Deliverance."

I can't comment on how he would vote; I just don't know yet. I can say that he was shocked with the stats I gave him and told me specifically that no trans person had ever lobbied him - only HRC. (Which by the way, he did say HRC had included gender identity in their lobbying since it was around the time that some Blue Dogs were wanting to ditch GI from ENDA.)

Baron Hill is very educatable. It's the people in his district who need the most education on gender identity. And before I can help with that, I - as a gay man who should know more of these things - need more info so I can lobby effectively.

Which kind of leads me right back to my earlier post.

The impression I got from my very brief conversation with him is that it was less a personal issue with him and more of a "how do I sell this to my constituents?" kind of thing as Bil mentioned.

I'm not up to speed on his district at all, but has anyone tried to pass any kind of HRO there? I think that those sorts of things help convince people in congress that at least some percentage of their districts are already cool with the idea. The more we get these sort of things happening on the local level, the less of an argument opponents have that members of congress are imposing this stuff from the top down and not listening to the "will of the people."

I'm not surprised that Rep. Hill stated that he hadn't been lobbied, but I can tell you that his aides have been lobbied. That's the problem we T people face: most of the time, it's hard to get in to see and meet an actual Rep; we get shunted off to the aides, often a temp or intern. You just accidentally confirmed something I have been certain of for years - that information given to Congressional aides doesn't find its way to the Congressman. That's just the way things are done.

This is why Barney's constant remarks of "T people have done a poor job of lobbying" is so maddening: T people have been going to Capitol Hill annually, since 1995, NCTE has been our supposed "voice on the Hill" for several years now (with admittedly very limited resources and personnel), and many of us have been visiting Congressional offices locally. However, getting to talk to the actual Congressman requires opportunity and a bit of trickery, sometimes. I got to know mine by having done business with him before he ran for office, and I can get in to see him. It's what we all have to do.

"There is a disconcerting level of privilege and power that is held by the person who says teach me about your people."

That's all well and good, and the standard answer in such circumstances. However, it isn't awfully helpful.

The prevalent response of the majority presented with that answer would be, "fuck you"; either because they have a complete disinterest in the topic, or because they're genuinely interested and feel put off - in spite their interest.

The truth of the matter is that it's in **our** interest to educate others. They aren't doing themselves a favor understanding our community. So we can get on our high horse, following the Marquis of PC rules, leaving the status quo of ignorance which doesn't help us. Or we can go the extra mile to receive the hand extended out to us.

Is it a pain in the ass explaining some of this stuff over and over? Occasionally. But it's a very minor cost to expand and enhance the GLBT family and our allies.

What strikes me about your response to poolboi, Grace, is your use of "us." One thing that feminist theory has taught me (I was a women's studies major in college), is how frequently universalizing claims serve to silence, marginalize, and make invisible particular groups of people.

So, in the interest of education and not falling into sexist, cissexist, racist, classist, or otherwise oppressive traps, can we (all of us engaging in this conversation, in good faith) clarify who is being referenced with "we" and "us?"

Because for some people, educating others is a pain in the ass and a nuisance, but nonetheless "a very minor cost." However, that's not the case for everyone upon whom the burden of educating falls. For some people, calling out the privilege in the expectation that someone be educated in order to be a better ally isn't about patrolling the borders of the politically correct, but about the need to prioritize between helping people understand issues and keeping ourselves, families, friends, and loved ones alive and safe.

There is only so much energy, time, and effort that any one person has in a day, week, month, year, or their lifetime. When we choose to engage in educating those who could be better allies, we are certainly working to advance a cause, but what about when that education comes at the expense of efforts that could have saved someone's life or job, or otherwise mitigated the right-here-right-now effects of oppression?

I'll give you an example from recent, personal experience. About a week ago, maybe a little more, I posted a heads-up in an online feminist community about the possibility of ICE raids in Mississippi. Someone responded wondering what the connection was between immigration and feminism. Thus ensued a very heated, sometimes bitter, and long-winded conversation about why feminists should care about issues that affect women and people who aren't "just like them," why immigration is a feminist issue, and a lot of effort was put forth into educating people about why it mattered. During the 24 hours or so in which this conversation took place, While many of us were spending time educating a few people, hundreds of people were being arrested and a community was being destroyed. I don't know what could have happened differently, I don't have very many contacts in Mississippi because I've never lived in the south, but if instead of telling someone, point-by-point, what they could have found out with a little bit of googling and reading, we had all been calling everyone we knew and letting them know about the possibility of raids - would workers have stayed home that day? Would there be fewer people in detention now? I can't say for sure, but I can say that it was more than "frustrating" or "a pain" for those people who never got the word that their lives could be destroyed that morning.

As an able-bodied, upper-middle class, college-educated cis-gendered Jewish queer woman who is usually (although not always) perceived as white, I'm more often on the ally side of the ally/marginalized community member line. And so, I often work to educate others because I recognize that action as a responsibility of being an ally and a luxury I have because it is not MY life that is being challenged and threatened by these issues, most of the time. I believe in education, but I also believe in self-education.

There was a time when my scope of feminism was mostly centered around things that I saw as sexist. My vision was moderated by all of those aforementioned identities and social positions. But I had an inkling, and heard some whispering about the whiteness and racism of the US feminist movement, so I figured I should probably read more feminists and women of color, because it sounded like something I'd care about. Lo and behold, there was a treasure trove of information out there, and I've been able to continuously educate myself about what it means to be a white feminist, and an ally to feminists and women of color, and it's an ongoing process - but my hand wasn't held by kind, soft-spoken, warm-hearted women of color making me feel good about trying to do better. I'm not saying this in an effort to paint myself as the most awesome ally ever, but to point out that it's actually not that hard to educate yourself. It's certainly harder for some than others, but if you're sitting here reading this blog and these comments, you could probably also be reading .

I work, professionally, as a community educator. I spend a lot of my working and non-working time educating people, most of the time about social challenges and issues facing groups of people I am not identified or aligned with. I believe in the power of education. But when cisguys come to me begging to have me take care of them and hold their hand while their eyes are opened up to the misogyny, fear, sexism, and general shittiness I deal with on a daily basis, my inclination is to say: "read a book. I have to walk home safely tonight, and am not comfortable being distracted on my cell phone while I explain rape culture to you." (Note: I'm not trying to characterize this post or the attitudes of people here like that, but it happens a lot and a lot of the anger that can come up when confronted with requests for education, even when you're polite and well-intentioned, is a result of a long pattern of self-absorbed assholes who expect to be catered to.)

So, yeah, sometimes it's just a pain, but sometimes it's more than just a minor inconvenience for some of "us."

That all being said, I think there is value to this thread, and as an ally to trans people and gender non-conforming people, and as a feminist (although, as previously mentioned, I have less patience for explaining MY issues than I do educating as an ally), I'm interested in doing what I can to foster greater knowledge, awareness, and education. However, I think it's incredibly important that all of us involved in this conversation remember the privilege inherent in asking to be educated, and that it's not simply a matter of being "PC" or a pain in the ass.

Hmm, my HTML get screwed up. Sorry.

The first link was to brownfemipower's post about the ICE raids in Mississippi:

Over 600 arrested, fellow workers clap and applaud as workers are taken into custody

The second link was to the blog Finally Feminism 101

Your comment is right on! Especially the "Note." I am a Women's Studies PhD student so I get to T.A. and teach "Intro to LGBT Studies," "Sex, Health and AIDS," "Gender in Contemporary Society", etc. I agree that education is quite powerful. I've had students come in knowing nothing about trans who leave the class as trans allies. The changes that happen in these classes are amazing! It is one of the reasons why I want to teach. Yet I don't want to spend all my time explaining myself and my issues to the world. I want to play guitar hero or read theory :P

Please note: I do realize that the students I teach are in a position of privilege; they have the opportunity to attend a University. There are many people who do not have this opportunity.

I agree generally with this, especially when the ignorance of those along the more powerful side of an axis of identity is voluntary.

I think this is an exception, though - I've known Bil for a while and know that he's open-minded and willing to take in what people have to say. The TBP community is also.

It's necessary work, and someone's gotta do it. And TBP is filled with people who would volunteer to explain their experiences and perspectives. Maybe this can be a call to meet half-way?

Here's one: Is there any room on this blog for moderate GLs who don't buy into the social construction theory that form that basis for so called queer theory (and not incidentally find the word queer in and of itself offensive and demeaning when applied to them)?

I believe there is. After all, the blog is about the entire community and you're part of it.

And there's more folks like you on the blog than you'd ever imagine, Greg. That's part of the reason for this post!

Forgot my own question on that one!

Greg, are you willing to learn about queer theory and offer your own explanations for why you don't buy into it? I think it would make an interesting counterpoint and would offer the diversity of opinion I'm looking for.

Hey Bil. Learn more? I hope until I'm worm food. The why I don't buy into it is actually a pretty short and boring story. I locate my reality within mainstream culture. My goal has always been to expand social and cultural institutions/conventions rather than to subvert or overturn them. So for me the more practical question is not one of convincing anyone to change their mind, but how to navigate the differences in the service of commonly identified goals.

Bil, it takes a big person to admit that they have holes in their knowledge base. I will admit that, beyond the obvious definition of feminist as someone who feels that the genders are equal in intellect and ability, I don't have a clue on the subject of feminism, either, or queer theory, for that matter. I just think all of us should be equally protected from discrimination or attack.

So, Bil, in your request for questions, I will ask this question:
As a married crossdresser, is there anything anyone would like to ask me about the life led by a married CD, or how we fit into the GLBTQ____ coalition/community/polyglot/whatevertheheck?

I hereby make myself available to answer any or all respectful questions on the subject.

Sent via e-mail from a Projector who didn't want to include their name out of fear of detracting from the feminist/trans questions. I really think it's a good question that we all need to think about sometimes:

My issue is this:
Are we that afraid to post and be wrong? If someone makes a post and somehow unintentionally offends another reader, couldn't the disputed remark be pointed out and discussed without the original poster being berated to the point of insult or personally belittled? Isn't that what the straight world does to us in the first place? Why are we so afraid to be wrong? Is it necessary that we always be letter perfect and have our idealisms lined up in a perfect row in order to post a thought? Isn't one of the best ways of learning through trial and error?

Don't get me wrong, I do know the reality of the situation. If you step one toe out of line on this or any other discussion board people tend to pounce. It's as if people love to feel the words shredding and the black of the ink dripping from their fangs. But its not as if Archie Bunker's a regular poster here either.

The question is, how much should I have to worry about inadvertantly offending someone else? Do I have the right to reason through my post and either defend it, or reconsider and recant it? I'm not particularly fond of looking stupid, but I'm comfortable with it if need be. But if the response to a comment I might make is going to be "Off with his head", then I might reconsider commenting more often.

I don't know how much I agree with this. The last time that someone got group-pounced in the comments here at TBP was Serena's post about Palin last week. And it hasn't happened in a while. It happened to a few of Michael Crawford's had that, a few of Becky Juro's, both about HRC and ENDA. Joe S's and Mattilda have gotten it as well, but they each know they have... controversial opinions and have no problem with sticking their necks out on a regular basis, so it's gonna happen.

And in each of those cases both the posts and 90% of the comments were made in good faith.

In general, I think people are respectful in the comments. Lots more than I thought they'd be at the beginning of this site, and lots more than they are on most websites. I cross-post stuff from here to other webpages, and I know that even with the same writing that this crowd is pretty tame.

Great post, Bil. My god, we need to repeat these themes regularly.

Also, maybe we can move beyond "right" and "wrong"? You know, in terms of factual stuff, some people are right and wrong, but when it comes to describing experiences and standards of propriety, it's not so cut and dry. We've already seen the internal transgender/transsexual debates on this site about self-definition, and, as Serena posted above, there isn't one feminist perspective. If a politician said that there should be no difference in the law between gay people and straight people, some of us would be pissed off and others would be cheering.

I'd liken this to Bill Richardson's "gaffe" at the HRC/Logo debate where he said that he thought being gay was a choice - a few gay people were mad, a few defended him, some cringed but said it wasn't important, some said it was important just as a sign of his preparation, and most didn't care. Even though that was the "wrong" answer (how we arrived there, I don't know), there was no answer to that question that would have pleased all GLB people.

I think a lot of this is internal - as in people don't want to make a mistake or not know everything because they feel that people will think less of them. And that's a real tragedy, since I've seen how some people just close up and turn into assholes. I participate a lot at Daily Kos as a diarist and commentator, and I've seen it waaaaaaaaaaaay more over there than here - people don't want to seem stupid so "feminism" to them becomes supporting choice and employment protections, "gay issues" is marriage, DADT, and ENDA, etc. They start to see "women's" or "gay" or "black" or "hispanic" issues (very little discussion of trans issues in those parts, sorry) in terms of bare, equalizing policy instead of a cultural and political movement because it's a whole lot safer to say "I believe in a woman's right to choose" than "I believe everyone needs to take an active and personal role in making sure sexism is eliminated in all aspects of our culture, and here's that something I think will help that."

So, in that spirit, I'll throw this stupid question: Why are there so many more visible transwomen than there are transmen?

We don't blend in as easily? It is something that we in the community see as well. In numbers, they are less. Where they came from could make a difference. Most transmen stared off in the lesbian community, so they grew up and interacted in a "repressed" community from the start. When they transition, it maybe their chance to "get away." I am not discribing all by a long shot. We have qa lot of good out and visible trans men who I'm proud to call friends.

Trans women start off with the so-called "male privilage," so they are not familiar with discrimination or being repressed. The exception would be People of Color. Being socialized as male gives some the sense that they should be "in charge," and so the corporate executive who transitions doesn't want to give up the leadership privilage so easily. They then gravitate to the activist community where they can take that corporate experience and parlay it to taking a leading role in fighting for our rights. Also, if one can't blend in well enough, then why stay silent? Being discriminated against can make many livid, to say the least. This is just my observation and not to be considered accurate by all means.

Along the lines of what Monica has said...

I've known a couple of trans men who, having intimate knowledge of the kind of patriarchal oppression that exists in our culture, are reluctant to step forward and appear to "dominate" these conversations in a similar fashion.

My perspective is that it isn't about something inherent in trans men and trans women, but about the way the larger culture of transphobia and transmisogyny interact with us.

I mean, generalizations are never consistent enough. I only know one trans woman who was and is a CEO, and she tends to stay out of community stuff. Half of the trans men I know never were in lesbian community (and that's a lot given that's where I spend my time). For understanding the way the media deals with trans women and trans men, this article by Julia Serano is a really important beginning:

Julia Serano has some really on-point commentary about transmisogyny, sexism, patriarchy, and how that plays into the visibility of transwomen v transmen. I know that Tobi already linked to one great article, but here's another one, called "Rethinking Sexism: How Transwomen Challenge Feminism" and a quote:

Trans men also enjoy significant social advantages over trans women, both because they physically tend to "pass" as cissexuals more often and more easily than trans women, and because of the male privilege they experience post-transition.

I thought a source I was looking for was in the article linked above, but I couldn't find it, so I'm not sure how to best reference other info I've read on this, but I think it's important to note that because masculinity and maleness is what is considered normative and upon which basic assumptions in our society function, it takes fewer gendered cues to be read as male than it does to be read as female. The numbers were something like 10 feminine gendered cues to 4 masculine gendered cues to pass with the majority of people in the cited study. Basically, according to studies that have been done, it's easier to pass as male than female. (Again, sorry I can't find that citation. If anyone has read it, please share the link.) That is not to discount the very real threats and dangers posed to transmen or other masculine-presenting gender non-conforming people, but just to acknowledge that because of sexism and misogyny, passing as male and passing as female are not two sides of the same coin.

The visibility of transpeople is, on a certain level, about the choices individual people make to come out as trans. However, it's also about having the privilege and ability to come out if you choose rather than be outed, so perhaps the perception of greater visibility for transwomen is, in part, about not having the option of choosing to be out as trans. If it's harder to pass, it's harder to decide whether or not to out yourself. (This, clearly, applies to other LGB folks, too. If we're flaming or dykey, we don't always have the option of staying in the closet, because people will read us as LGB or queer regardless of what we say or don't say.)

Alex, the short answer is that trans men as a whole tend to blend more easily than trans woman do. I.e. a short man stands out less than a tall woman. Also, taking testosterone creates masculine features in those born female (heavier jaw, brows, deeper voice etc.) while taking estrogen won't undo any of that, even though it does create breasts and hips and redistribute fat.

And being "visibly trans" is likely to lead one to be more of an activist -- just as being "visibly queer" will (i.e. if you're a butch-ish lesbian or femmy gay man) you're more likely to run into problems that will push you toward activism. (Note: I'm definitely not saying people are trans activists because they're not passable.) For myself, I've become more of activist because living a life in more than one gender means I don't really have the option of going "deep stealth."

There's also seemingly some differences between MTF and FTM dynamics. From what I've seen, FTMs tend to be more solitary and less like to appear in forums like this one. But I'm not really sure why, so I won't speculate.

Thanks, Bil, for your thoughtful and vulnerable post about the place/role of both feminism and transgender freedom in our political movement.

I believe that what binds us together as a political movement is oppression and the ongoing struggle to end it. Women and gender non-conforming persons and lesbian, gay, bisexual persons (whether gender non-conforming or not) all live with the burden of discrimination, bigotry, and violence stemming from our refusal to define ourselves as traditional sex/gender roles would require. Uppity women, same-gender and fluid-gender lovers, gender transgressives all challenge a male supremacy-driven cultural/sexual/social hegemony. In other words, none of us is willing to go along to get along and so, as out and proud people who refuse the "rack and pinsers" of compulsory heterosexuality and gender subservience, we bring our different but connected self-definitions into a political movement seeking freedom of self-definition for all of us. Thus, no ENDA w/out gender expression/identity. Thus, a woman's right to choose expresses a woman's right to define her life. Thus, our choices of life partners, sex partners, spouses are not to be interfered with by the state. None of this presupposes that each of us know, understand and harmonize with everything about all the rest of us. We only need to see our common and connected experiences of disrespect, indignities, insults and injuries to move forward together, building a world where each of us is respected.

Thanks for asking!

What do you want to know Bil? I'm waiting for the first question. Great post.



Thank you for making a difficult admission about this. This is the kind of step that has to be made for trans-inclusion to occur! :)

(I wanted to include a pertinent question, but my pertinence generator's apparently down this morning. >.>)

Our communities are illusions, but they're illusions that are important to us in the same way that religion and other belief systems have power over others.

The only way to have a true homogenous and strictly-defined community where everyone "belongs" and there is true consistency, would be to set up somewhere, create a guidebook of "one true way" rules that everyone has to abide by and then all conform to them and police each other to ensure consistency. Which doesn't happen (fortunately).

The more marginalized a group is, the more it will huddle together for safety in numbers. The more comfortable people become, the more they will pick at all the differences displayed among themselves. It's the need for the illusion of community that drives people together, and the lessening of that need that parcels it up into different factions and divisions.

Which is why communities will often show willingness to jettision parts of the group when they believe that some legitimization and comfort can be gained by doing so. It's what gay and lesbian people did to transfolk in the '70s, what lesbians did to "butch/femme" dykes in the politically-correct '80s, and what some transsexuals are jockeying to do to crossdressers and other people variant in their gender expression now. Similar occurrences happened over the ages between waves and perspectives of feminism (i.e. when sex-positive women were said to facilitate objectification of women), among Native groups (i.e. when treaties were negotiated), and between the middle and poorer class over the centuries.

Sorry to say it, but it really is the illusion of belonging. That is not to say that there is no real benefit to staying together -- in fact, I'm convinced there is. But if we put it under the microscope, we have to realize that there is no perfect weave binding us all together. We make it up as we go along, based on our needs.

What questions need to be answered from a non-op, married T-person? I will be glad to answer from my perspective. Bil you made your self real by taking care of yourself and preventing harm to yourself during the DNC. You exploits on the trip up the mountain were very amusing. How can I help lobby for LBGT Rights? How can I explain and have you understand my anger and frustration with the HRC?


Thanks for this great forum, Bil! As a pansexual transman who spends a lot of time trying to educate GLBT folks about these very things, I've spent the last few hours enjoying all the thoughtful posts.
I have a personal policy of answering 'most any respectful question. Like many of us, I've had to deal with my share of, as someone put it, "self-absorbed assholes" with their rude & prurient questions, to whom I reply, "Educate yourself, white boy, I'm a busy man," but clearly that's not the case here.
I had to laugh ruefully at your passing comment about how some of us won't shut up about HRC. I often feel like the resident broken record/buzzkill on that subject. My anger at HRC's betrayal has to do with the very question you first posed: the issue of our belonging to this community.
I like to point out that the way questions are phrased reveals much of the subtext & assumptions in asking them to begin with. For instance, people who ask "What causes homosexuality?" almost always have the agenda of figuring out how to *prevent* it. And when many people--not you, but many others--ask, "Do T people belong in the GLBT community?" there's a latent assumption that the subject can be debated at all--as though someone other than ourselves could decide that. Re-frame it--ask, for instance, "Do lesbians belong in the GLBT community?" and you'll begin to get an inkling of how alarming & hurtful this sort of question seems to some of us. (Not that I think you were trying to do this, by any means. I'm speaking in the abstract here.) The clear answer: YES we belong here. Just like the other letters, we are an integral part. If reasons are needed, I'd say because a) some of us are in fact G,L, or B in addition to T; and b) because it's the non-gender-conforming folks in the acronym who take the actual heat on the streets for the rest of y'all.
In my time, I've been assaulted for being perceived as a dyke AND as a fag. How many non-trans queers have taken hits for being perceived as trans? So you see, in so many ways, I feel I've paid my dues. I get livid when other GLB folks don't "get" that, or don't understand that HRC's betrayal was a slap in their face as well as mine. Rich white men like Joe S. & Barney Frank need to suck it up & stop considering my rights as a mere afterthought.
But enough of them. Let's talk about me :). It's true that it's easier for many transmen to pass than it is for transwomen. Once the facial hair comes in, in particular, and the voice drops, you're pretty much a man in society's eyes. I might suggest that there aren't necessarily *more* transwomen than transmen; it's just that you can't spot them as easily. And, sadly, a fair number of transmen I've encountered have been so annoyed by the sexism & male privilege that SOME transwomen, lesbians, and gay men (just saying what I know, here, not blaming or trying to start a fight) exhibit that they're only active in FTM-only groups. And so many people ignore us or don't even know we exist to begin with that if we only hang with other transmen, we completely fall off some their radar. So, we're here. It's just that not everyone knows how to look for us.
It's also true that for some straight-identified transmen who never spent time in the queer communities, there's no feeling of connection for them here. So we *do* have some guys who go completely stealth, & don't consider themselves part of this community. I can only say that there are non-trans people, who have homosexual sex & don't see themselves as gay, too, so it's not like we invented this sort of disconnect. I don't understand this, but then, I never wanted to be "normal" in any way, so there it is.
I could certainly go on for many more pages--just ask my friends!--but I'll stop here, & just look forward to more thought-provoking posts!

Why is there a question as to whether we (the T) belong in the community when we've been here all along?

We were there at Compton, we threw the first bottles at Stonewall. We were on the streets, and we were eventually pushed aside as not normal enough. And I don't mean just transsexual men and women, but genderqueer, bigender, transgender, trans masculine, trans feminine, trans male, trans female, crossdresser, (some) drag queens, (some) drag kings.

We've always been here, and it took until the 90s to acknowledge us, and until the 21st century to include us in national legislation. Why is whether we belong even a question?

Wait, that was the wrong question (although I'd love to see you use it too)...let me try again:

Why must trans people primarily bear the burden for educating cis people? Why do some cis people not do some of their own education to learn about the issues before the questions begin?

Why is the education itself necessary to justify equal civil rights protections?

And hmm, those sound kind of naive, but what I mean is, supposedly we have these allies lobbying at the capital (HRC) for example - why weren't they facilitating the education while trying to get us into the inclusive ENDA, for example?