Bil Browning

What IS the LGBT community? Who are we?

Filed By Bil Browning | September 09, 2008 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: bisexual, lesbian, LGBT community, queer, shared experiences, transexual, transgender

Editors' Note: Bumped back up to the top so the conversation can continue.

I said in my post yesterday that I have questions about feminist and transgender issues. I invited other Projectors to throw in their own questions into the comments and we'd use them as community discussions to provide answers. Feel free to keep leaving questions on that thread and we'll use them in other posts. Nothing is too stupid; nothing is unwelcome.

I wanted to grab the first question posted and expand it a bit because it's such a good question. Keep in mind that some Projectors will be writing from their own experience while others will be more academic. That's okay.

By putting this post up late in the day, it should stay on the front page for a while so we all have time to participate. I hope you do.

Question after the jump.

From Projector Jill:

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.)

While a couple of people left comments about Jill's question in the comment thread, I asked to expand it further:

...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?

So, what do you think? What's the commonality? Shared history? Non-gender conformity? Political power? Pipe up; don't be shy. Ask other questions too, if you need to.

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I think it's Common Enemies. Nothing brings a group of disparate people together quicker than exposing a shared threat.

In that vein, I think Gender Non-Conformity is valid. I think it's that that makes our enemy tick.

I don't even think there is an L community, a G community, a B community, or a T community. There are too many layers of class and empowerment in each group to consider any one of them a community.

There are homeless gay youth who turn tricks to survive. There are rich closeted men who pay them. Are they part of the same community?

There are "heterosexual crossdressers only" organizations. There are people taking black market hormones and getting silicone injections. Are they part of the same community?

I find it hard to believe in community when I read about, and hear, comments like:

  • (by a gay man about transsexuals)Men in women's bathrooms.
  • (by lesbians about mtf transsexuals)A man in a dress is not a lesbian.
  • (by gay men)Women are taking over the HIV/AIDS organizations.
  • (by crossdressers)I'm not confused like a transsexual.
  • (about crossdressers) I'm not a man in a dress.
  • (by heterosexual crossdressers)No homosexuals allowed
not to mention the unspoken contempt between the classes.

While we're saying "were the same as everyone else", we betray our real feelings by declaring ourselves different from each other.

It's not bad enough that there are a bunch of us locked outside the big tent that calls itself "normal". We have to divide ourselves up into smaller camps of "more normal than thou". And, by exploiting our divisions, those who control access to the big tent will continue to keep us out.

If we want to claim equality to the mainstream, we had better get it through our own heads that we are also equal to each other.

Well said, Cindi.

Every post I've seen on this thread expresses goodwill, even if views differ.

Maybe I should leave it at that. There are other views though, from the homophobia in some trans* groups - the ones who predicted 3 years ago that ENDA would never include trans people - to the transphobia expressed in some very influential Gay publications.

Both these phobics have their critics. Some elements in both the apparently homophobic trans and apparently transphobic gays are not phobic at all, they have genuine concerns. We can work with them, for they are us.

Others... make things more problematic.

While we're saying "were the same as everyone else", we betray our real feelings by declaring ourselves different from each other.

Very well said, Cindi. But how do we overcome that?

It's almost as if we're advocating "separate but equal" as a standard for our own community.

Bil, while there's stuff like this being published in The Advocate without rebuttal, we have a long way to go.

It's not just a Loony fringe either, there are mainstream voices saying the same things, albeit with more "dog whistling" rather than explicit calls for moral extermination. That latter phrase is from Janice Raymond's "Transsexual Empire" which is still the only Lesbian Theory work on Transsexuality.

The book is not the most damaging writing that Raymond has penned. Far worse is a United States federal government commissioned study in the early 1980’s on the topic of federal aid for transsexual people seeking rehabilitation and health services. This paper, not well publicized, effectively eliminated federal and some states aid for indigent and imprisoned transsexuals. It had a further impact on private health insurance which followed the federal government’s lead in disallowing services to transsexual patients for any treatment remotely related to being transsexual, including breast cancer or genital cancer, as that was deemed to be a consequence of treatment for transsexuality.
- From Lynn Conway's site

Trans* people have died as the result. And it continues. Look at Wisconsin's Inmate Sex Change prevention Act

Kallas said patients who are taken off hormones typically need counseling, drugs and hospital stays instead, suicide treatments that are more expensive than the hormones, which cost $675 to $1,600 a year. Kallas said he did not know of any other medical treatment that the state Legislature has banned in prisons.
It would never occur to you that the main argument for giving you necessary medical treatment is that it's cheaper than the cost of a funeral. That's an example of Cis privilege, but I digress.

My point is... what GLB(t) groups have made a fuss about this? Wisconsin has had full civil rights for GLBs for what, 33 years? Trans* are still waiting for the GLB movement to "come back" for them.

There's a history here. Now sometimes you have to forgive and forget, and if it wasn't still going on, we could draw a line under it. But it is, and so we can't.

My note to Chris Chrain:

So naturally, you'd support an ENDA that didn't protect Lesbians, on the grounds that "They're the ones with the gall to suggest that we shouldn't be protected in the workplace until they can as well."

If that isn't your position - why not?

I'll support an ENDA with or without Trans provisions. It's a matter of Human Rights.

But your views are repugnant to me. Unless you can say that you will work just as hard after a non-trans ENDA is passed for a new trans-inclusive one, as you did before. Somehow, I don't think that's your intention.

Chris Crain's reply:

Zoe Brain, sorry my views are repugnant to you; yours are just nonsensical to me. ENDA covers protection on the basis of sexual orientation, not on the basis of "gay male," so you can't exclude any sexual orientation, whether it be lesbian, gay male, bisexual or straight

I also don't buy into the notion that we owe it to you to work as hard for trans-ENDA as our own. Where the hell does that come from? You certainly won't get there by trying to hold our ENDA hostage.

So much for "coming back".

We need to not just air these problems, painful though they may be, with lots of finger-pointing and guilty parties reacting with aggression so they don't feel guilty.

We need to fix them, take a leaf from the South African "Truth and Reconciliation Commission". Forget the Blame Game. The trouble is, rabid transphobia is still alive and well in the GLB movement.

Interesting that you bring up the lesbian angle with Chris Crain. When he was the editor of Southern Voice, my ex girlfriend was a writer for them. She and other women who worked for him all said that he was a "chauvinist pig." (Notice the quotes.) His view of women is exactly the same as the Republicans. They're only worth having around if they can do something useful for him. Besides, if he said lesbians shouldn't be covered by ENDA, they would kick his ass.

You don't know how much I wish this could happen.

Speaking as a lesbian...

How we overcome that is to remember that we are we.

Helping each other overcome is very difficult - more difficult than overcoming it ourselves. But overcoming it ourselves is the first step.

When I am able to look at the street hustler, lesbian separatist, occasional crossdresser, circuit partygoer, married bisexual, suburban lesbian couple, transgender sex worker, and all the other people as people like me, I can model that to others.

And yes, even though Janice Raymond sees me as a part of the patriarchy trying to destroy feminism, I have to care about her. Even though Barney Frank keeps talking about "men in women's bathrooms", I have to care about him. Even though HRC doesn't see my ability to hold a job or have a place to live as a priority, I have to care about the people in HRC. I don't have to agree with their ideas, but I have to recognize them as people in the same struggle I am in.

And, like it or not, I need to care about straight people - even those who attack me. I don't have to agree with them, but I have to care about them. Rick Santorum is a human being, just like me. James Hartline is a human being, just like me. Phyllis Schlafly is a human being, just like me.

In doing so, my hope is that others will stop seeing me as mentally ill, a freak, or confused. My hope is that others will stop being embarrassed or annoyed by my existence, or feeling that I somehow "hurt the cause".

Of course, I'm not perfect at this, and sometimes I lash out. More often I offer cynical and sarcastic comments. I'm a work in progress.

I happen to be working toward ordination in the United Church of Christ. My dream is of creating space for faith communities of people who do not feel safe in traditional churches. People often ask me why I would be a part of something (Christianity) that condemns me. Yet the condemnation is not from Jesus, it is from people who claim to follow Jesus. The actual Jesus of the Bible restored people to community, reaching out to those the religious leaders wouldn't touch. It is that message, the message or reuniting people and bridging those gaps between us, that calls me to ministry. There should be no one turned away from community - whether it is a community of faith or civil community.

Of course, Jesus got killed. And I don't expect to escape emotional - and perhaps physical - harm in trying to live out this idea that we ought to care for each other even when we don't like each other. I expect some will take what help I offer, then turn around and ignore - or take advantage of - me. But I'm not going to make any of our lives better by putting more negative energy into this mix of people.

Sure, I can call out what I think is misguided policy or ideas that lack basis in fact. But I am still going to donate to HIV/AIDS and Breast Cancer research. I am still going to stand up for the rights of sex workers and guys who meet in public restrooms. I am still going to stand up for people to be recognized by their self-identified gender and for marriages to be recognized no matter with what genders (if any) the parties identify.

I do this because we are people. When I think of all of us as "we", there is no "them". And maybe, when I do this, someone will join me. And maybe, when that someone does this, someone else will join us. And maybe one day the Queer Community - including those of every religion and those of no religion - will teach people who call themselves Christians about how to live like Jesus: reaching out to all other human beings.

I don't know about Phyllis Shlafly.

But seriously, Cindi, your thinking mirrors my own, exactly. Thanks for expressing those ideas, ideas that I share, so succinctly.

Wolfgang E. B. | September 9, 2008 11:09 PM

I agree with you that we are many communities. We will always be many, simply because it's human nature to divide ourselves into small groups. But we can also be one community at the same time, like United ENDA.

I'm a gay transsexual man who has been verbally attacked by a few transsexual women, and transsexual men, and transgender people, and gays, and lesbians, and genderqueers, because I didn't fit one definition or another, or I didn't share one view or another. It's difficult not to hold grudges, and it's easy to extend those grudges to a broader group. But when it comes down to the reality of the world we live in, as others here have pointed out, most of those outside our community make no distinctions between us. We're all gay to them.

Non-trans gays and lesbians are sometimes discriminated against or attacked for gender non-conformity. Pre-transition transwomen are often mistaken for gay men. I've been mistaken for a lesbian for most of my life. I've suffered anti-lesbian prejudice and hate, even though I never identified as a lesbian, and even before I knew what a lesbian was.

If I ever decide I want to get married, as a gay man, I will be affected by the legal status of same-sex marriage. So, gay issues are my issues. And transsexual issues are my issues. And since I never want to feel like I'm forced to adhere to any gender stereotypes, transgender and genderqueer and even crossdresser issues are my issues. And because I've experienced anti-lesbian hate, lesbian issues are my issues. And because, every once in a great while, I'm attracted to a woman, bisexual issues are my issues. Did I miss anybody?

My experience aside, from a political standpoint, unity is the best strategy. Internal debates (mutually respectful ones at least) are necessary, because that's how we learn about each other, but we need to present a united front to the outside world. The rainbow flag belongs to all of us.

I think there are lots of people who, whether they identify as gay/queer or not, there's still the constant threat of homophobia based on how others perceive them. Trans people are often in this situation. Even if you are straight, you still run the risk of people trying to dissolve your marriage because they think it's a same sex marriage. You still have folks harass you on the street because they think your queer. You still have employers throw away your resume because they think your gender presentation is just bringing your sexuality into public. In so many people's minds, being gay, being gender non-conforming, or being trans, is all one and the same.

That creates a connection, but not necessarily a community. Community is based on shared understanding and mutual support, which unfortunately is frequently not a reality between L, G, B, let alone T sub-communities.

See, it's not the LGBTQ community, but the LGBTQ communities. There's no one trans community, no one bi community, and so on. Some of those communities are very isolation, and some of them are very integrated. I spend most of my time either in isolated trans communities or integrated queer/trans/dyke communities. Like any minority community, we are separated and united, depending on where you look.

See, it's not the LGBTQ community, but the LGBTQ communities. There's no one trans community, no one bi community, and so on. Some of those communities are very isolation, and some of them are very integrated.

Tobi, should integration be the goal or are we missing the target somehow? I'm not sure.

Integrated spaces are very important, we won't get the LGBTQ internal education we need without them. This blog, for example, is one of the most integrated LGBTQ online spaces I know of. I don't think I've ever seen so many trans folk and so many cis folk who haven't spent time in trans community all together.

But having some more isolated spaces can be important to. Spaces like this alone wouldn't be quite enough for me to get my trans community fix. A space doesn't need to be trans only, but trans focused spaces that is say, 80% or more trans people, have been very important to getting the support, connection, and sense of community presence that I don't usually get in LGBTQ spaces (even the integrated ones).

I think the real goal is to have more integrated spaces than we currently have, and to have everyone spend time in integrated spaces -- even if they also spend time in more isolated spaces.

Interesting point, Tobi.

While we've been rolling out state-level Bilerico sites, we've often considered creating a "trans" Bilerico or a "gay" Bilerico, etc. So far, we've decided to pursue the state-level sites just for the inclusion of everyone as versus the segregation of various groups.

What's your (and everyone else's) opinion on that decision?

... we've often considered creating a "trans" Bilerico or a "gay" Bilerico, etc...

What's your (and everyone else's) opinion on that decision?

There are already a lot of trans-specific, gay-specific and lesbian-specific blogs out there (not much for bisexual folks, unfortunately). Bilerico's strength is in its inclusiveness... with a welcome, even. I simply see developing Bilerico-G or L or B or T as the beginning of a process that will eventually (and unintentionally) erode that.

Bil wrote:

we've often considered creating a "trans" Bilerico or a "gay" Bilerico, etc.

What's your (and everyone else's) opinion on that decision?

Speaking from a personal and selfish viewpoint... please don't split.

You see, I don't identify as "queer" or "TG" or "gay". I've done some "edumacating" on "cis-gendered privilege", but the fact is, I need even more "edumacating" myself on GLBT issues. T for TG rather than TS/IS.

There's two sites that have given me whole new perspectives, ones I badly need: Bilerico and TransGriot. The first has enabled me to communicate with, and listen to, GLB and sometimes TG people, the second Trans* of colour, or rather, color.

4 years ago, I knew nothing. I was diagnosed as mildly IS, but in the mainstream of straight society. OK, girl in (mostly) boy body, but no big deal, I could live with it. Being asexual, mildly lesbian if anything, helped. When my extreme, not mild, IS condition manifested, I transitioned, because as soon as my body started normalising to the smallest degree, the relief was so immense, it shattered the denial I'd had to adopt as a survival strategy to stay sane. But before then, I was on the outside, looking in, with zero contact with any TG or GLB group. I guess it shows sometimes.

30 years ago, I'd given some minor support to "Gay Lib" - the terminology shows how far back that was. Not because I was gay, I was actually quite homophobic, and not because I was "progressive", far from it, but because it was about Human Rights. Persecution is wrong.

Now because of a metabolic and genetic oddity, I've been catapulted, kicking and screaming in protest, into some great GLBT conglomerate. Everyone on the outside, FOF etc, sees me as the Gayest of the Gay. Everyone on the inside assumes I must be on the Left. I don't get consulted.

It is not only poetic justice, but the best thing that could have happened to a rather priggish, conservative, and emotionally but not intellectually homophobic woman like myself. Someone who under only slightly different circumstances would have been a member of the Concerned Women of Whatever, because of my Idealism.

I've begun to become aware of the crap (pardon the language) GLBs have to put up with every single farnarckling day. I no longer see "gays" or "lesbians" or even "transgenders", I only see people, human beings, denied human rights. I don't care that I don't personally identify with them, any more than I identify with Cherokee, Arunta, Tinglit or Patagonians. I see persecution and injustice, and I see people. I want, I need, to be "edumacated" about GLB issues, and GLB people, big time. So I can help.

Also... I like the people here. It's a place which is not a sterile monoculture, everybody with the same viewpoint, all congratulating ourselves on how progressive and right-thinking we all are in our common views.

It is this diversity that I think is Bilerico's strength. Split into monocultures, it would lose that. So from a purely personal and selfish viewpoint, please don't split.

I am inclined to think that our common trait is the fact that we have been oppressed and mistreated because of sex. Beyond that, we really have very little in common. When I assess the diversity of my closest friendships over the years, I find that they include women, men, gay straight, lesbian, trans, etc. But those friendships are based on qualities that transcend (while encompassing) those persons' sexuality. Sometimes, C and I will stand in a crowded gay bar and remark to each other how we have very little in common with most of the men with whom we rub shoulders. When we all put down our shields and swords and go home after winning this war for sexual equality and freedom, we will all promise to stay in touch, but very few of us ever will, that is just a fact of life. Meanwhile, we must work together like good soldiers on the same side. Be assured that "I got your backs covered", ladies. And I don't mean that as would a straight man.

When I assess the diversity of my closest friendships over the years, I find that they include women, men, gay straight, lesbian, trans, etc. But those friendships are based on qualities that transcend (while encompassing) those persons' sexuality.

I completely agree with this idea, Father Tony. The personal connection is what cemented the deal for becoming a trans advocate for me. It went from the realm of conceptual to concrete reality by putting a face and a friendship out there for me to focus on.

Do you think the friendships and personal connections will outlast the common battle? Will that be what keeps us "together" in the end?

Its certain they will.

When someone is right there, its a lot harder to depersonalize them.

And that's what is done to us. Its why those of us who choose to be out should also choose to be vocal.

Oh Yes, Bil. I am thinking of my neighbor, Kelly, in Provincetown. She was a great friend who just happened to be a lesbian. Our connection went far beyond sexual identity.

We ain't all ladies, my friend. And those of us who aren't, get tired of our apparent invisibility. FTMs too, are here, queer, & fabulous. I'm sure you didn't mean anything by it but still feels like exclusion.

Hey, it could be worse. You could be visible like trans women:

* Romanticized autobiographies (Second Serve, Conundrum, Christine Jorgensen A Personal Autobiography, to name a few)

* Trashy documentaries that emphasize trans women's femininity as artificial and affected - lots of shots of putting on makeup, high heels, emphasis on talk about the trappings of womanhood, not so much on the realities of being a woman

* Movies that emphasize the above (TransAmerica)

* The stereotypes of the pitiable trans woman who "looks like a man in a dress" or the deceiver trans woman who "is indistinguishable from a cis woman," who is portrayed as a victimizer by tricking men into having sex with her...and is the basis for the defenses used when men kill us.

* Feminist polemics calling for the downfall of trans women everywhere, or at least mark us as evil and sinful in some way (The Transsexual Empire, Pantomime Dames)

* Porn, porn, and more porn based on sensationalism like "Look, a woman with a man's genitals!"

* Used as tokens in anti-civil rights campaigning: "Giving civil rights to transsexuals would mean letting rapists put on dresses and hide in the restrooms."

* Approximately one murdered a month, complete with news stories emphasizing birth names and using masculine pronouns.

Just being visible isn't a privilege, and it certainly hasn't done trans women any favors.

Are there any positive reasons for being visible? I would hope there are, or if people read your list and belied that is all there is for us, they would not consider life worth living.

Yes, of course there are. For one, countering some of the visible stereotypes. For another, having a voice.

And of course, not everyone sees trans women like that, but I think those things do inform what people think to a greater or lesser degree. These are also a bit conflicting as the documentaries and autobiographies kind of explain being trans, and while the presentations are not that great (often being sensationalized), they're not completely negative.

The idea that the list implies that life would not be worth living is kind of shocking to me.

That said, Father Tony should've acknowledged trans men, too.

Lisa, honestly, this semantic warbling of the complete alphabet does get a bit ridiculous and cumbersome and meaningless.
Sometimes, when we are en famille, as we are here, you have to understand and assume the unspoken inclusions. Just because I didn't trot out every ungapatchka variation of humanity in my comment does not mean I excluded someone. I think we need to find a sensible balance and aim our corrections at the real enemy.

Also, nowhere is it written that every comment must be all-inclusive, and that is just the sort of law that a Republican would concoct.

In this case, "ladies and gentlemen" instead of just "ladies," was what Thaniel was talking about.

It's not as important to me as it is to him, but as it is important to him, I was being supportive.

I assumed Father Tony was addressing the commenters who had posted before he did; all of which were trans women.

Thaniel, I apologize for snapping at you - I was mad about something related, but I didn't need to bring it here.

In the past, didn't we all gravitated to local community establishments due to the commonality of police harassment and society's scorn? Using the panning for gold anology, you swirl around the dirt and water in the pan and the flakes of gold will gravitate together because of their weight.

Society "swirled" us around until we all seeked out others like us to hang out together. Safety in numbers. Word of mouth kept people together and if they had to move, they would all find a new location together. We had our differences, but we all were bonded together because of our similarities and how society treated us all.

The reason we are more fractured today is that society has accepted some of us more than others. The ones who now have a level of favor with society do what they can to keep that level - regardless of how low it might be - which means they have to reject those who have not reached that same level. It is almost a "survival technique," where they cannot risk angering the power brokers by showing acceptance of those who have not garnered favor. It creates a faux hierachy that causes some of the problems LGBT people face internally.

This is why we see some LGBT (mostly L & G) get upset when they are only mentioned once in a candidate's acceptance speech, when others are not even mentioned at all. They want more and when they get just crumbs, they get upset, yet wonder why those not at the same society level are upset with them at times. It leads to the "haves" and the "have-nots."

It is important that those at the higher level need to realize that the faux level is just an illusion and that they, too, can get their asses beat in a New York minute, in places like, say, Amsterdam, for an example. This faux hierchy exists in each of the LGBT groups, with the trans community's so-called hierachy being the most pronounced.

We saw it was possible to come together for a brief moment in time, creating United ENDA, but the factions between all groups and within all groups could not tolerate unity for very long. The glue that bonded us all before Stonewall has dissolved and cannot be duplicated, until society falls into disaray. Then and only then will we come together for our survival.

The reason we are more fractured today is that society has accepted some of us more than others. The ones who now have a level of favor with society do what they can to keep that level - regardless of how low it might be - which means they have to reject those who have not reached that same level. It is almost a "survival technique," where they cannot risk angering the power brokers by showing acceptance of those who have not garnered favor. It creates a faux hierachy that causes some of the problems LGBT people face internally.

Is this the "cis" privilege others are talking about? And can someone please give a description of the term for those who don't know what it means?

Cisgender means the sex lines up with what society would expect in terms of gender, so a male-bodied man is cisgender.

Cis-gender privilege :

The Non-Trans Privilege Checklist

1) Strangers don’t assume they can ask me what my genitals look like and how I have sex.

2) My validity as a man/woman/human is not based upon how much surgery I’ve had or how well I pass as a non-Trans person.

3) When initiating sex with someone, I do not have to worry that they won’t be able to deal with my parts or that having sex with me will cause my partner to question his or her own sexual orientation.

4) My politics are not questioned based on the choices I make with regard to my body.

5) I don’t have to hear so have you had THE surgery? or oh, so you’re REALLY a [incorrect sex or gender]? each time I come out to someone.

6) I am not expected to constantly defend my medical decisions.

7) Strangers do not ask me what my real name [birth name] is and then assume that they have a right to call me by that name.

8) People do not disrespect me by using incorrect pronouns even after they’ve been corrected.

9) I do not have to worry that someone wants to be my friend or have sex with me in order to prove his or her hipness or good politics.

10) I do not have to worry about whether I will be able to find a bathroom to use or whether I will be safe changing in a locker room.

11) When engaging in political action, I do not have to worry about the *gendered* repurcussions of being arrested. (i.e. what will happen to me if the cops find out that my genitals do not match my gendered appearance? Will I end up in a cell with people of my own gender?)

12) I do not have to defend my right to be a part of Queer and gays and lesbians will not try to exclude me from OUR movement in order to gain political legitimacy for themselves.

13) My experience of gender (or gendered spaces) is not viewed as baggage by others of the gender in which I live.

14) I do not have to choose between either invisibility (passing) or being consistently othered and/or tokenized based on my gender.

15) I am not told that my sexual orientation and gender identity are mutually exclusive.

16) When I go to the gym or a public pool, I can use the showers.

17) If I end up in the emergency room, I do not have to worry that my gender will keep me from receiving appropriate treatment nor will all of my medical issues be seen as a product of my gender. (Your nose is running and your throat hurts? Must be due to the hormones!)

18) My health insurance provider (or public health system) does not specifically exclude me from receiving benefits or treatments available to others because of my gender.

19) When I express my internal identities in my daily life, I am not considered mentally ill by the medical establishment.

20) I am not required to undergo extensive psychological evaluation in order to receive basic medical care.

21) People do not use me as a scapegoat for their own unresolved gender issues.

...when I happen to wind up in ER, my privacy & dignity are not violated by a constant stream of people keen to catch a look at the Freak-of-the-Week. AND, if I am there for, say, an Arm injury, I do not have to fend off ludicrous "justifications" from the prurient as to why they "need" me to take my pants off.

Bil wrote:

Is this the "cis" privilege others are talking about? And can someone please give a description of the term for those who don't know what it means?

Cis Privilege illustrated:

Christie Lee can go to Houston, Texas and legally marry a man, but if she moves back to San Antonio, Texas, her legal marriage in Houston is now illegal. She could legally marry another woman in San Antonio though, and it would be a same-gender marriage because the State of Texas administratively recognizes her current gender as female. Harris County only accepts current gender for marriage licenses, and Bexar County only accepts original birth certificate gender for marriage licenses, not current gender.
The Christie Lee Littleton Story.

I have dual UK/Australian nationality. I'm in a situation where in the UK I could only marry a woman, and in Australia, I could only marry a man. Neither country recognises same-sex marriages.

To those who are Trans*, such legal idiocies are only to be expected. We have to cope with them every day, in matters great and small.

Cis Privilege means that the idea that such absurdities could happen in this day and age would never occur to you.

It means it never enters your head that you could be refused a driver's license, or a passport. It means that travelling over an international border, you don't face a genuine and quantifiable risk of being denied entry, and incarcerated in a holding facility where you *will* be abused and *will* be exposed to HIV. If you survive. It means you don't get issued travel documents good for leaving your country of citizenship, but not returning. It means that if mugged, it never occurs to you that if you go to the police about it, you'll likely be arrested. It means if you lose your job, there is not a 50/50 chance you'll never work again, not even at minimum wage. It means you don't have to travel hundreds of miles just to find a medic who will treat you.

These are all possibilities for us, some unlikely, some all but certain, depending on where you are. I'm lucky, I've had it easier than anyone else I know. But three of those things on that list have happened to me.

Cis Privilege means you don't know what Cis Privilege is, and are understandably dubious that it could exist.

A bit late, but I missed this until I saw Zoe quoting it.

Here's a fairly long cis privilege checklist. If you're familiar with Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, this is similar, just...longer.

Thanks Lisa - I wasn't quoting it, I hadn't seen it before. My list was of things that had happened to me, or people I know personally.

Now would be a good time to remind Bil that he can't possibly be blamed for not knowing this.

4 years ago I didn't either.

Absolutely, knowledge of this stuff doesn't come to anyone automatically.

Thanks everyone. While I know what "cisgender" means, it wasn't that many months ago that I saw it and thought, "What the hell is that?" I figured some of our readers might not have a clue either and since it's used often, we should spell it out clearly.

Thanks for the short definition, poolboi, and the longer explanations and examples, Lisa, dyssonance, Thaniel and Zoe.

One thousand starving people will band together to demand food.

One thousand starving people will fight with each other over one hundred meals.

The best way to get one thousand people to stop begging for food is to give them one hundred meals and let them fight over them.

What in the world does that even mean?

I must admit, I didn't get it either.

Melanie Davis | September 11, 2008 2:20 AM

I get it Cindi, but it may be a bit too "Eastern Philosophy" a presentation for some. :)

Actually, it's a grreat line of logic, something I usually avoid at all costs.

GLBT, as Joyce and Cindi illustrate, are themselves single digits that each represent a disparate group of people. For instance, taking the T (because I know that grouping well), we have drag queens, drag kings, f2ms, HBS, genderqueers, transsistas, transbrothas, intersexed people, preop m2fs, postop m2fs, ballroom girls and guys, nonops,crossdressers (who can be het, bi, or gay), clubkids, and ___________(I'm sure others can fill this gap in with other classifications of T). All of the above, for the most part, circulate in their own groups and with their own friends and acquaintances, and often do not mix with other T people who identify differently by age, race, equipment, or bedroom preference.

How you come out as T will indicate your group. T support groups are mainly white middle-class middle-aged M2F crossdressers and preops/nonops. It's not that they mean to be that way, I've been in many a support group meeting where everyone wondered why there were so few POCs and f2ms present; the answer is that if you have none, none will join. Pageants and ballrooms are the outing of choice for many people of color, often the children of very conservative parents who disapprove of their gender diversity, often to the point of being kicked out prior to their 18th birthdays; the ballroom becomes their home. Young people often experiment with and flout the societal rules of gender, feeling that there's no reason they can't wear a short dress and makeup, or wear men's clothes and practice masculine grooming habits if they have an F on their IDs - they don't want to sit in a circle and discuss makeup, hormone regimens and surgery options. And the folks identifying as IS and HBS have written eloquently in the past about how they differ.

That's just T. I'm sure the GLB each break down into subgroups by economics, age, skin color/heritage, belief systems, etc., in the same way.

What binds, or should bind, GLBT? The fact that our enemies hate all of us equally. A bigoted HR person doesn't care what kind of GLBT you are: you're here, you're queer, and you ain't getting hired. The guys in the white hoods and pseudomilitary militia uniforms aren't going to ask you who you actually sleep with: if you look too butch or too effeminate, death may happen. Two people who love one another and are ready to commit to a lifetime together should be able to enjoy the legal benefits and social recognition of marriage, no matter what letter's on their IDs. You might ID as a woman of transgender experience, but if the man you're with finds out you used to be Allen instead of Alice, your explanation may well fall on deaf ears and you may be the victim of a crime of passion. You might be a person who has grown up wanting the chance to serve his or her country, but you are blocked from doing so if you don't wish to hide who you are.

Another binder is the fact that GLBT often blurs the lines between each. Is the crossdresser who sleeps with men when enfemme, and a wife when in drab, not also B? How about the short, slender, limpwristed guy whose co-workers regard as "light in the loafers" - isn't he being identified by his variance from the societal norms of his gender? How about the husky, big-boned woman, about whom the others who meet her whisper "dyke"? Aren't they also T, to a degree? The marriage issue and T people certainly blurs the lines: if a preop and postop M2F couple marry, is it straight or gay? I'd say the answer is yes either way. Is a man married to a postop in a gay marriage? How about a preop? How about an f2m married to either? How about a lesbian married to either?

We're all in this together, thrown in together by those who oppose us. As one with an international relations degree, I equate it to the Allies in WW2, who were forced to be allies because they were all attacked in kind. The gays are the Americans, the lesbians are the English, the bis are the French, and the T's are the Soviet Union, when you think about it. We really don't understand each other, and in the case of the Ts/Soviets, we don't understand many of the people inside our own borders. I have no doubt that, in the future, when gay bashing is extremely rare, when prejudice in the workplace doesn't happen anymore, when marriage is between 2 people that love each other regardless of gender marker, and when anyone of age who qualifies for the military may serve, this shaky coalition will probably not need to exist anymore. But for now, we're all in it together - and in general, human beings get along best when they understand each other.

What binds, or should bind, GLBT? The fact that our enemies hate all of us equally. A bigoted HR person doesn't care what kind of GLBT you are: you're here, you're queer, and you ain't getting hired.

Very well said, Polar. I love that last line and I agree whole-heartedly. But how do we get across to each other that this tie is more important than the tiny segments we build for ourselves?

That's the challenge, isn't it? The shared belief in equal rights and safety should be enough. The knowledge that any time civil rights laws have been won at the Federal level, it's been done by a broad coalition, should also be enough. That's the true shame in what happened last year: it not only exposed the divisions of so many people, all across the GLBT spectrum, it flat drove the wedge in, and only now is it truly obvious to all what has been wrought. It exposed not just the divisions of the GLBT, but the internal divisions of each letter. And, ultimately, it happened because we just don't know enough of each other, not the issues or philosophy, but the actual people.

I doubt Barney Frank or Joe Solmonese (and those who tell him what to do) would have done what they did last year, if they had T people as important parts of their lives, not just as political activists, but as friends and acquaintances and co-workers. I don't mean in the Sarah Palin-istic sense of "I have gay friends, I'm not prejudiced", but in each of us knowing each other to the point that we don't discuss GLBT matters as the only conversation point, but that we instead talk about how badly the Bengals suck again this year, the great movie we saw over the weekend, and so forth, around the water cooler. I wonder if Barney or Joe have ever discussed the book they've just finished, or the Red Sox, or maybe how great the concert they attended the night before was, with a T person, That goes both ways, at this point, many T people are resentful and distrust gay and lesbian people in general, and aren't having that conversation, either. In fact, an unwritten rule of workplace gender transition is that the first person who'll cause you problems at work will be the gay man or lesbian woman. That needs to end, too. Hell, the "I have black friends" is still heard, and people still look suspiciously at a man and woman being close platonic friends with no sex involved.

So, the solution is.......every T taking a lesbian and a gay man to lunch? Where're you bi folks at, anyway, we really ought to know each other better, to. Certainly, we need to get to know each other better as people, as groups. And when many subtypes of T don't go to lunch with each other (when's the last time a pageant girl, clubkid, or drag queen/king was up in time for the lunch buffet, and the HBS types aren't about to sit across a table from a mere crossdresser, they're not "like us, dear"), that might be hard to arrange. More food for discussion, I guess.

One thing that strikes me as interesting about this post, and particularly the responses to it, are the degree to which our commonalities and bonds are founded in a shared enemy.

I understand where this is coming from, and I get it, but I can't help but wonder if there is an affirmative, more positive way to frame the conversation? It's not that I don't think anger can be productive, but I also think that identifying ourselves based on what we are not forces us to constantly reify those borders of "us" and "them" - and I think contributes to the perpetuation of a lot of shittiness within, amongst, and across our communities. (Transphobia, and particularly transmisogyny, within lesbian separatist communities; racism, classism, and transphobia in mainstream LG(B?) communities, sexism in gay male communities, biphobia and derision of femmes in dyke communities, and so on and so forth.)

For me, a politics of liberation is about more than just a common enemy. There are commonalities in the forces that have worked against us, no doubt, and that's important to recognize in analysis and strategizing, but I also want to find solidarity in our shared success and liberation. As I work towards expanding freedom of expression, identification, and binary-shattering thought, I do it on behalf of my own well-being, on behalf of the people I love, and on behalf of everyone pursuing self-determination.

Wow, Jo. You really struck a chord with me on this comment. As you can see, I've been working my way down the comment thread and responding. I've agreed with the "common enemy" rationale often.

But I really like the way you're reframing it. Can you expand on that a little further, please? How do we reframe that for ourselves?

As I replied in the other article, I don't think there's a perfect thread, anywhere, just a general overall need for community which lessens as the roots that drive it lessen. Technically, the closest thing to a thread is non-heteronormativity, but that thread gets stretched thin as we pull apart.

Common enemies, common goals, common perceptions from the outside (i.e. the codependence between homophobia and transphobia), common habit (gender expression, which not only transgender people transgress)... these all drive the various needs to form community, and the needs will be different to each of the needy -- and of different intensity.

That doesn't mean that I don't believe in the benefits of community. I don't believe in dwelling on all the different labels and divisions, or being intolerant of what I haven't experienced or may not understand. I suspect that there are many who feel the same, and hence we find ourselves here.

In short, you don't always have to "know nothin'" -- as long as you're receptive to listening and respecting.

That doesn't mean that I don't believe in the benefits of community. I don't believe in dwelling on all the different labels and divisions, or being intolerant of what I haven't experienced or may not understand. I suspect that there are many who feel the same, and hence we find ourselves here.

But how do we move past the divisions and labels, Mercedes? How do we truly create a community based on common bonds and experiences instead of separating ourselves? Isn't that the human condition - to constantly seek to differentiate ourselves from "them?"

Monica pretty hit the nail on the head with her comment, although I must say the end was a bit fatalistic for my taste. We have to wait until society falls into disarray before we come together for our survival? I'm thinking that's a touch dramatic and I know a thing or two about drama, Monica. ;-) The fine folks at GLAAD, The Trevor Project, The Triangle Foundation, etc. might find that a little over the top. I think it's pretty important to try to remain optimistic, even when being realistic.

Look, I understand wholeheartedly the need to feel at ease with like minded people. I understand the need to identify with a group. Starting to pick issues about a heirchy in the lgbtq (M-O-U-S-E...) community about who has more clout begins to smack of Bette Davis saying, "I (her name) will never be below the (movie) title". In different parts of the world different factions of our separate, but equal clan have more sway, more visability and a larger voice. We can work to equalize in those areas, but let's not be more divisive in the interim.

Regardless of who organized first or who has more clout with powerbrokers, politicians, celebrities, and the public, we are all united in certain ways. I think first and foremost its important to remember that we are united even though the causes that unite us may be vastly different. We have been discriminated against through some means because we are different, usually because of sexuality. We have had incredible difficulty overcoming social stigmas to be seen as an equal part of the human race. We face a varied set of unique health care issues. The list goes on...

While I may be a "G" in the acronym that has become our community, that's not how I prioritise my place either in our community or in life. I always try to remember that I am no better than anyone else on the planet (Which is a bitter pill when I think about the republican party). If I see someone getting beaten in the street I don't stop to ask how they self identify: I usually (Depending on the situation) try to intervene on behalf of the most injured person.

Maybe it is necessary at this point in time to hold onto our letters... To discuss what we think our individual letters mean and how we interrelate with other letters... To agree to disagree at times. While we are all different, I'd suggest that we try to remember what unites us as opposed to what divides us. That we remember that any person disenfranchised because of sexual discrimination can easily fall under the umbrella of our community.

Is it difficult to be a part of such a large and diverse group? Of course it is! I think often that we have become so divided that we forget the other flavors of ice cream in the parlor. I still get into discussions with every initial of the cummunity defending the place of "camp" men to those who say we're (I'm self defining as camp here -- Couldn't you tell from the Bette Davis quote?) detracting from the whole movement.
Is it disheartening? You bet. Am I going to stop defending myself from those who say I don't belong here? Not a chance. (I used to say "When hell freezes over," but I live about an hour away from Hell, Michigan and yes, it does freeze over quite frequently.) We all belong. We're all important. We're all human.

Maybe a bit over the top. I write sci-fi, so that should give you a clue. But, at times, I get the impression that it would take something that drastic to get HRC to see that they need the support of people rather than their money, especially when money becomes worthless.

A sci-fi writer! I'm sort of a huge sci-fi "geek" so I'm a fan. I loved your post, it was observative and really accurate I thought, but that ending just sort of threw me. And I understand your frustration with the HRC. To be fair though, there's so much apathy it can be difficult to get people to support moving off the sofa let alone commit time and energy to a group even if that group has their best interests at heart.
One of the things that can make me really crazy is the apathy thing among many gay people. I mean, how much time to we spend at the gym on treadmills to nowhere when we could be actively exercising in the real world? (Don't look at me, I am so not a gym bunny.)

I find myself tending to agree with Monica on this one, Steve. It might be overdramatic a bit, but it sure does feel like something dramatic will have to force us all back into a commonality that we can all accept and work within.

While I may be a "G" in the acronym that has become our community, that's not how I prioritise my place either in our community or in life. I always try to remember that I am no better than anyone else on the planet

I try not to prioritize my position either, but don't we find ourselves doing it subconsciously? As in when I was willing to ditch transfolk in the HRO? While I can look back now and see it for the stupidity it is, at the time I only saw it as helping as many people as I could as quickly as I could.

Politically, yes, it makes sense for LGBT to be recognized and treated as a group. I thank Julia Serano for pointing out in her book Whipping Girl, (she probably wasn't the first to do so), that it is in the community's best interest to include trans. If we don't include trans, that just leaves another loophole for employers, to discriminate against all of us.

As for creating websites that are geared for LG or LGBT or LGBTQA. I'm not in that particular line of work, so I haven't really thought it out. But I sympathize with your efforts and I think this site is one of the better ones. (that's a compliment, albeit a small one)

Thanks siousxie. I hope you stop by often and help us make the site even better.

*hugs for the compliment*

I think we're more intertwined than people are letting on.Drag queens are gay men and transgender all rolled into one.The same can be said for drag kings on the lesbian side.I would think it safe to say many Mtf's and Ftm's started on the path to self identity in the lesbian and gay communitys.Many post-op TS's identify as lesbian,gay or bi and the straight T's are assumed to be lesbian or gay by many in the mainstream anyways.

Great point, Amy. But if we're so intertwined, why do we keep trying to separate ourselves? Are we forcing the "community" meme while still helping to subvert it?


Community is formed historically by proximity, shared values, shared resources, and necessity of survival.

There simply aren't a lot of transfolks in the Bear community. But there are in the Gay Community.

again, scale. This is a fight that can be won on the scale of the individual or the scale of inclusion. Everything in the middle is sorta at odds with each other. And everything in the middle is where people *live* on a daily basis.

its their pocketbook.

I've read there isn't much community. I happen to find that rather silly a statement. yeah, there are differences, but are you going to tell me that the infrastructure (shared resources) isn't there for Lesbians? FOr gay men? FOr Bisexuals? (ok, Bi's and trans don't really have such).

Lesbian clubs, gay men clubs, gay businesses, lesbian businesses, etc. The infrastructure, the support system.

Here in Phoenix the first AIDS crisis locations were started and ran by transfolk, and staffed by lesbians.

That's a macroscale.

AIDs is no longer the frightening devil it once was, felling the old leadership. It should be, but it isn't.

Transfolks really still need to develop their own infrastructure -- we have a tendency to not take care of our own on the transwoman side of things, though not universally so.

I'm working on that. It will bear fruit the middle of next year.

But so long as we look at ourselves as gay and Lesbian, and Bi, and trans, and *work* that way, we wont get anywhere since we will inevitably step on each others toes. That hurts, it gets a kick back.

We need to look at it as a whole -- not in the sense of community, but in the sense that we are each other.

IT simply depends on how you look at it.

Bil sorry for the late reply as life happens in this case a new niece.I think we tend to try and group ourselves into subgroups because of how we were raised (ethnicity,financial level and religious backround) or to elevate are position as a way to prop up our egos and as a way of trying to fit into mainstream society.Education and open dialogue and an effort to not only address individual group issues but issues important to the entire lgbt like hate crimes and employment are important for fostering unity.We as a group need to overcome the belief the we must seek out those most like us and instead learn that community is made with accepting and encouraging diversity and working together on common goals.

Congratulations on the birth of your niece! Give her a big kiss for me (but claim it for yourself!).

Speaking of the best ways to increase tran visibility - that's the best one yet. A loving family member is the best advocate around!

Best wishes to her parents and to you, Amy.

First, I want to point out as a trans woman who identifies as queer and lesbian, that I get the feeling sometimes that people here talk about the L, G, B, and T as all being separate categories, and that L, G, and B aren't really acknowledged as intersecting with the T.

For that matter, I think (but don't know for sure) that the number of gay trans men and lesbian trans women - percentage-wise - is potentially higher than the rest of the population. And also, many (not all!) trans men were part of the lesbian community before they transitioned, and many trans women were part of the gay community before they transitioned.

But I want to get into something else: The argument over who organized first. Trans people were there at the beginning. We were part of the movement right at the start - not all of us, but enough of us. We were pushed out of the gay rights movement just as surely as trans women were pushed out of feminism.

And when arguments that we didn't pay our dues, do our education, that we weren't there when the gay rights movement was making its gains, it makes me deeply angry, because it wasn't our choice to step out. It was yours to throw us out. Consider the damage that was done to trans people's civil rights by keeping us out of the process, that put us in a position where we're seen as not having done enough education.

And also, it wasn't just in the 70s and 80s when we were pushed aside. It's happened in the 21st century - and while you, Bil, may feel that trans people are too angry about the way HRC treated us, I think that anger is fair and earned, and I think that the cause of that anger needs to be acknowledged: That HRC has actively worked against trans activism, that HRC has interfered with trans lobbyists in Washington - blocking access to politicians.

But it's also the goals that HRC and other organizations prioritize - same-sex marriage, for example. Very few of the goals that are pushed for in the LGBT movement are of direct benefit to trans people (and, for that matter, this does not apply to only trans people). For example, trans people specifically require access to hormones and surgery to transition, but there's no real activism on that front, to get Gender Identity Disorder/Transsexualism increased medical coverage - most companies don't purchase insurance policies that cover trans-related treatments, but this is apparently not even on the radar for organizations like HRC.

But really, when it comes right down to it - we were excluded almost from the beginning, when we finally work our way back in - we're blamed for not being involved in gay rights activism from the beginning.

This comment isn't aimed personally at anyone in this discussion. It's my answer to Bil's question.

while you, Bil, may feel that trans people are too angry about the way HRC treated us, I think that anger is fair and earned, and I think that the cause of that anger needs to be acknowledged: That HRC has actively worked against trans activism, that HRC has interfered with trans lobbyists in Washington - blocking access to politicians.

Let me be clear on this point... It's not that I don't think that the trans community has every right to be angry with HRC. I get that. Completely.

I just wanted there to be more discussion about other parts of the trans experience that I have no clue about. I've learned how angry the trans community is with HRC. I just want to expand my knowledge base with other subjects.

I don't want to diminish the anger. Saying, "Get over it!" won't solve anything. But perhaps fleshing out some of the picture for others will help HRC "get over it" themselves.

Does that make sense? I hope I'm expressing myself clearly on this one.

"But perhaps fleshing out some of the picture for others will help HRC 'get over it' themselves."
Is it rude that the first thing I thought of when I read this was "HRC needs to get over THEMSELVES, that's for sure?"
I can give you a dandy example of an ongoing problem for many of us: changing the gender on our birth certificates. Some states allow it, some don't some set up terrific roadblocks to the process. In a world where even going to Canada now requires a passport from US citizens--as well as the complications of the REAL ID Act, should *that* little piece of legislative bullying ever become common, not being able to match your apparent gender identity with that of your birth ID can result in a significant loss of freedom. We need fair trans-friendly laws on a Federal level regarding this.

Yes, this. We really need something like the gender recognition act (UK) so that trans people who can't afford or who haven't had surgery yet aren't caught in limbo until they do, aren't automatically outed on ID, and so on.

No activism for this stuff, which is a huge need for trans people.

I'd agree that this seems like a no-brainer.

Why do you think that the major orgs aren't pushing this legislation heavily? Is it "trans-shame" where they deliberatly shy away from something that could be politically negative? (You can almost hear the right wing nutjobs over the ability to change your gender on your birth certificate now!) or do you think it's mostly just a "Oh. You need that?!" kinda thing?

It would seem to me that the large orgs should already realize it's a need, so I wonder why they aren't stepping up to do battle in that arena.

I think it's probably a bit of both - it's not seen as important, and I think it's clear that some LGBT-rights organizations have deliberately shied away from activism that directly benefits trans people (HRC, specifically).

And while I agree that people would flip out over it, I really think the effect on the US would be pretty minimal for cis people and an across the board improvement in trans people's quality of life.

And I assume they're aware, I assume someone's interested in doing it, but I also imagine in today's climate getting attention might take awhile. I think it's absolutely vital with Real ID coming up.

Also: You posted a long comment here that I can't find - or was it an e-mail to me? I was confused by the way it appeared in my mailbox, and said comment isn't on this page.

That was an e-mail to you. I replied to you from the e-mail notification we get when someone posts a comment on the site.

Sorry for any confusion.

I can give you a dandy example of an ongoing problem for many of us: changing the gender on our birth certificates. Some states allow it, some don't some set up terrific roadblocks to the process. In a world where even going to Canada now requires a passport from US citizens--as well as the complications of the REAL ID Act, should *that* little piece of legislative bullying ever become common, not being able to match your apparent gender identity with that of your birth ID can result in a significant loss of freedom. We need fair trans-friendly laws on a Federal level regarding this.

Also, I think that approaching LGBT as a single community isn't accurate. We're a multitude of communities, with sometimes overlapping and sometimes separate needs - not just neatly divided into L, G, B, and T, but of course T who are L, G, and B, and also queer communities, and so on.

It's our needs that really define us as related.

(plus, accidental unsubscription - I hate that)

What are those needs? Please expand on that. Since we can all have different needs, how do we prioritize those?

Social acceptance for gender variance? An understanding that sexual orientation and gender identity are not the same thing (and many LGB people need that one) access to resources for teens, hate crime legislation, anti-discrimination protection, health care needs - not just gay men's health care (and that HRC page I linked above primarily talks about gay men's needs)?

How about the obvious similarities between violence inflicted on trans women and gay men?

How do we prioritize which of those needs should come "first" or at least what order to try to accomplish them?

Any Triage nurse could give you the principles.

Medics in Emergency Departments are faced with similar problems every day. Limited resources and needs which outweigh them.

You work on those who can be saved by immediate intervention first.
Then those who can be saved, but where the need is less immediate.
Then those not in danger, even if they are in pain.

I did a back-of-the-envelope calculation regarding ENDA. I have little confidence in it, too many assumptions, too much questionable data, but it illustrates the principles.

My calculations indicated a "break even" point of 15 years. That is, if an inclusive ENDA delayed passage by only 10 years, many more lives would be saved than if a non-inclusive version was passed immediately. But if the delay was 20 years, more lives would be saved by passing an exclusive version now.

I only took a metric of "deaths caused", not quality of life, too difficult for me to find the data.

American society is a cesspool of bigotry. Our common opposition to that bigotry is the only thing that unites us is, and then only temporarily, one issue at a time.

The most intractable forms of bigotry are the racism that EuroAmericans hold for Native Americans, African Americans and Latinos, plus misogyny and homobigotry. They all have deep roots in US history and all are mirrored in our communities.

So is what Cindi Knox referred to as the "the unspoken contempt between the classes." Working people in our communities have nothing in common with the opportunism and patronage feeding frenzy displayed by leaders of the Human Rights Campaign, Stonewall Democrats and Log Cabin Republicans or the managerial/business types who infest those groups. We can, and should, work with them on common issues but our interests are diametrically opposed to theirs.

Except on key political fights it will always be difficult and more or less pointless to try maintain unity of thought. Our communities are sufficiently different that an attempt to go beyond a narrow focus on single issues will just result in an unnecessary family brawl.

Almost without exception, we don’t pick these fights, the bigots do. That’s true of the huge battle now raging on both coasts (and in between) about same sex marriage and adoption rights. Although many people want to get married, have kids and save on taxes SSM is not the issue many of us would have picked as a center of our activities. It was thrust on by the near total opposition of both federal parties to SSM. Add to that the furor of religious bigotry spouted by Obama, McCain, and the cults, especially the mormons, catholics and evangelicals and we have no choice. We have to defend ourselves against efforts like Prop 8. Big losses in California and Florida will reverberate throughout American society and cause huge demoralization in our communities.

A single issue or narrow focus, a perspective of mass organizing and a reasonable but cutting edge program are ourkeys to victory and our only leverage with a government and courts that represent those with a vested interest in racism, homobigotry and misogyny. On the other hand, putting partisan politics before the movements’ needs and sustaining the parties that wrecked, shredded and tossed our agenda overboard is a recipe for more of the same old, same old.

A single issue or narrow focus, a perspective of mass organizing and a reasonable but cutting edge program are ourkeys to victory and our only leverage with a government and courts that represent those with a vested interest in racism, homobigotry and misogyny. On the other hand, putting partisan politics before the movements’ needs and sustaining the parties that wrecked, shredded and tossed our agenda overboard is a recipe for more of the same old, same old.

Leaving aside the political implication of party loyalty (because I think that could be an excellent thread in its own right!), how do we focus on a "reasonable but cutting edge program" that we can organize around? Who gets to make the decision of what that program will be if not the "managerial/business types"?

Bil, we need that discussion on the “political implication of party loyalty” or as I put it “putting partisan politics before the movements’ needs and sustaining the parties that wrecked, shredded and tossed our agenda overboard". I’d be particularly interesting if we had one now while election frenzy is mounting to breathtaking levels and another a few months later, when reality sets in.

“how do we focus on a "reasonable but cutting edge program" that we can organize around?”

First and foremost we need to organize the substantial human assets of the GLBT left in a national organization. A group like that, based on grassroots members, strudents, activists, unionists, etc. with a democratic (no (sic) necessary) internal life is far more likely to make good decisions than the opportunists, fakers and office seekers taht infest many
old guard groups like the HRC, Stonewall Democrats and Log Cabin Republicans.

For nearly two decades we’ve seen a long drift to he right. It bagan with cynicism and opportunism that followed the awful demoralization of the plague years and the shocking belligerence of the christers assault when they saw we were hurting. That led in turn to years of misplaced reliance on fakers like the Clintons, Pelosi, Barney Frank, and other Democrats who repaid loyalty with DOMA, attacks on SSM, DADT, gutting ENDA and ditching the Shepard Act.

That period when they could insist on our votes and then stab us in the back is coming to an end. Our communities, and in particular young GLBT folks, are part of a general radicalization, In fact, as usual; we’re in the forefront. As the pressures or war and a tanking economy foment exponential changes in political awareness, lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people will be drawn deeper into our own struggles and those of our allies. We’re ultimately compelled to embrace social rebellion simply to end the cruelty of bigots and their stooges, (aka Barney Frank and the gutting of ENDA) whose livelihoods are based on our oppression and subjugation.

What always trumps periods of cynicism and demoralization is the fact that our ancient conflict is based on the reality of oppression. 2500 years ago in the Athens of Aristogeiton and Harmodios and in the Lesbos of Sappho lovers stood and stubbornly fought to protect themselves and their unique lives. Their fight, like ours today, expands and solidifies the borders of democracy, to the benefit of everyone.

As for the program itself we need a counteroffensive against the christers and islamists; a fight to end their tax breaks, tax cuts and the funding of ‘faith based’ charities for superstitious cults, i.e., churches. We should begin an educational campaign to enforce the First Amendment to the US Constitution “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”

We need a massive campaign to demand passage of tough inclusive federal laws on employment, lending and housing law that will make it easy to win big judgments against bigots by ourselves, immigrants, women and African Americans and others.

We need a massive campaign to demand passage of tough federal law imposing harsh sentences and confiscation of the assets of organizations, cults and individuals convicted of hate crimes. We need laws that defines hate crimes to include harassment, violence and hate speech directed against the GLBT communities as well as others. We want to introduce the concept of making it a crime akin to manslaughter to promote homophobic violence and misinformation">">misinformation about HIV. However remote hate speech may be from the actual physical attacks, the law should be amended to make hate speaker’s accessories to the violence and open to lawsuits claiming damages. Such a strategy helped rub out the KKK’s">">KKK’s power in the 1980’s and 90’s.

A united GLBT left, while concentrating our energies on the needs of our communities, has to be able cultivate allies by supporting their demands for immediate and total withdrawal from the Middle East, fair treatment for immigrant/imported workers, and for economic justice.

Sorry for the stupid typos = student, strudents, strudel. I had laser surgery and my eyes are still full of floaters.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | September 9, 2008 8:01 AM

and other things...I hadn't noticed any difference at are as clear as ever and I am still waiting for answers on five to twelve.

Ganshorn, as I’ve often told you, a program for fundamental social change will never make sense to those tied to a crumbling social system overwhelmed by an economic train wreck whose sole origin is profiteering, aka theft.

People who defend profiteering, aka, theft, are as incapable of seeing why change occurs than HRM George was in figuring out those pesky Minutemen, or Louis the Last understood why the sans-coullettes were making such a fuss or why Jefferson Davis to his dying day couldn’t grasp the ideas of Frederick Douglass or… I think I’ll stop there, if you don’t get the point you never will.

It's no surprise left wing perspectives seem incomprehensible to profiteers and evoke such frantic hostility. They're meant to do that. As I said before Ganshorn if some one is boxed in by their need to be a profiteer and refuse to step out of that box to see check out the real world then attempts to educate them are futile.

When the situation ripens a bit I'm sure your questions will be answered by working people, but you won't like it any more than Geroge, and Louis and Jefferson D. liked it.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | September 10, 2008 4:22 AM

All those horrible "profits" that generate efficiency, jobs and even the availability of goods to buy. When a hurricane is coming I do not care if Home Depot made a profit on selling plywood if it saves someone's home. They took the risk to have it on hand and paid for it. Just like every store owner and other small business accepts risk that you belittle.

You, economically, have not suggested anything that works or has ever had a history of working except that brief interlude with Stalin and forced labor. Cuba survived when subsidized and now?

I do like you Bill and appreciate your perspectives. Call me Robert like all the other people I annoy. Unless, of course, you are living out a gym teacher fantasy! :)

Oooo, gym teacher fantasy! This thread has finally taken a turn into worthwhile social examination.

Melanie Davis | September 11, 2008 2:50 AM

My father has said that if the Dems get back into office, they'll tax the businesses and wealthy out of wanting to do business in this country. Then he outlined the nightmare world in which we won't have major corporations to employ the millions of Americans who depend on them.

My retort was thus: Let the greedy bastards leave. That would leave a vacuum to be filled by many smaller companies who would be LESS efficient and thus provide MORE jobs. Oh, and the largest employer in America is still America, right? So denying income to the greatest employer in America is even worse than dipping into the profits of mega-corporations who bolster their bottom line through increased efficiency by CUTTING JOBS and demanding more of the fewer employees who aren't paid any more for the additional responsibility they assume.

Screw the big guys, up with mom & pop shops. Oh, and screw that fallacy of trickle down economics, too.

"Trickle down" voodoo economics is an example of them pissing on us.

Careful, ya'll. We're getting off topic here.

Melanie Davis | September 11, 2008 3:43 AM

Ultimately it's a matter of place and time. Nobody is safe everywhere. Nobody enjoys universally accepted human rights. This is the tragedy. We can fight for our LGBTIQQA rights here in the U.S., but cross a line to the North or South, or go anywhere else across the planet and we're still vilified nearly everywhere else.

We aren't a community, we are a species, interdependent with every other species and process in this universe. Until we all get over our B.S. cultures and accept each other as the horrid and wonderful F'd-up individuals we are, we'll get nowhere.

LGBTIQQA who are you? What boxes do you want to be today? How many queer points do you have? Are you straight enough, butch enough, hot enough, young enough, long enough, skinny enough, smart enough, sassy enough, stylish enough, rich enough to be _____? GOD! Get over it, already!

Stonewall, 1969. We're all queers. All of us. Gay men, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Trans people of every stripe. We were all represented there, we were all understood to be the same, nothing has changed in that respect.

Erg, I could go on and on about how if one group is repressed, we are all repressed, but I think we should all rent "Revenge of the Nerds" and listen to the speech at the end, again.

Here's the link

Still makes me cry.

You're right. It still makes me cry, too.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | September 11, 2008 10:50 AM

You are mixing republican metaphors. "Voodoo" belonged to Bush One describing Reagan before accepting the vice presidency under him (I guess out of fear of getting nothing) and "trickle down" was what Reagan gave us. If only father and son had had single term presidencies.

Small companies are to be heralded. They provide the most employment in America, but are far from least efficient. They compete successfully with "the big guys" because they have the flexibility to provide services the bigger companies cannot offer.

And smaller companies were Gay friendly employers before large companies acknowledged we existed at all.

Five Questions, Five Posts

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?


All of them share the fact that they are not heteronormative in terms of Sexual Identity within this Culture and Society.

Outside the US, there is more likely to be a total melange of "queer" than there is to be separate groups, with all manner of shades and social factors shaping them, in such a way that they do not resemble the structure here in the US. This is due to the way that the concepts of what we think of as Gay and Lesbian and Bisexual and Transgender today developed in this country, and the method of oppression and revolt that was used.

We also share a common history, as noted elsehwere, of denied kinship. Kinship is what drove us together -- when you place people in close proximity, kinship bonds are going to form according to the particulars of the social structure and sub culture that develops.

This is, in turn, influenced by the over culture, and, in our case, the heteronormative concepts that we have available to define these concepts linguistically.

Heteronormative does not mean heterosexual norms. Those are two separate concepts, but, the heterosexual norms are part of heteronormativity.

It simply means we are not like everyone else in terms of our *expected* and *group* behaviors (although as individuals we may well be in most ways).

we are men who like men, women who like women, males that become females, female that become males, and people who like all and none of the above.

Although a huge number of transfolks hate the terminology surrounding them, that which has developed is pretty decent at expressing that variance from the norms.

Transgender mans to cross the social lines of what is expected in terms of masculine and feminine social roles. Its usually explained differently, something like "cross gender lines", but when you stop to look at what gender lines are, then that becomes the full explanation.

One of the things expected in terms of masculine and feminine social roles is conformity in choice of mate according to sexual characteristics (ie -- boys like girls).

So, in that light, all of us are transgender.

when studying LGBT persons, the social sciences are pretty much divided into two camps regarding how they address and identify the subjects. If you look at trans studies, for example, there are some camps that call them homosexuals, and some camps that do not.

This isn't always because they think transwomen are gay. ITs because of a social expectation of normative behaviors that they will not change the focus of their sexual orientation (accordingly, lesbian transwomen are actually straight men, and straight transwomen are accordingly homosexual men).

There's no accounting for trans relationships in the area of Sexual Orientation (although they are working on it at present, and U of Minn is doing bang up work right now). So they go by the basic definition, which is biological.

And piss off all the transfolk for getting their SO wrong.

Thus, in that light, all transfolk are gay in some way.

These terms, these words, these meanings exist in order primarily to explain us to the heteronormative people, and in doing so give us a common language with them from which to communicate.

They are all atypical persons, and they were all originally identified as one thing in most cultures early on. The current, modern concepts we have today are barely 150 years old. In that time we've gone from two to a baffling number of variations, always seeking to find the least common point, in order to create an accurate terminology.

Although Poltically we are untied through needs against a common enemy, socially speaking, the reason they are our common enemy is because we are all uncommon -- we are the Different.

One could almost say Queer. (thus, queer theory, Bil).

These terms, these words, these meanings exist in order primarily to explain us to the heteronormative people, and in doing so give us a common language with them from which to communicate.

Good point, Dyssonance. That's what I mean when I say I need an "elevator phrase" to more effectively advocate for trans issues or women's issues or...

We have to find a way to adequately express our commonality and the need for our own equality. We have to find a way to get that to sink into other people's minds.

What common language have you found to be helpful?

Hi Bil, :D

before I reply directly to your question here, I'd like to point out that I broke it down into five posts so that the individual responses can each be responded to separately, should anyone choose to do so.

The concepts I describe are not new, but they are reliant on an understanding of multiple fields and while I use the vernacular here, the ideas are sometimes perceived as critical.

I wanted to be sure that anyone who disagrees with my posts has the ability to address them distinctly.

Now, to answer your question:

The common language I use is the one I've spent nearly 20 years using, personally and professionally.

Its the same language that was assigned to us, since my audience, most often, is not the LGBT community, but those outside it.

In community, and in person, I tend to be a little more ghetto, while online I try to be a tad more erudite, but, in the end, what you got above is what I talk like in real life.

So the common language I use is the common language. Its enormously difficult at times, and means that I cannot use short pithy answers or be cute. I have to explain stuff, in depth, and I've done so thousands of times, literally.

I benefit from the wealth of information that's out there on our shared history. My focus is on 1850 to present day, for the most part, but I have devoured all of it, and I spend a great deal of time paying attention to people like Monica Roberts and Monica Helms, Cathryn Platine and Kate Bornstein.

And to that I add the science that comes out daily on us, both that which is helpful and especially that which is not.

I take it all, and I use it all, unabashedly, pretty much as I've done above, in a way that makes use of all our strengths socially and therefore allows me to teach others better.

Do I know what it is like to be a gay man? No. I barely have the most superficial of understandings, but I know that if being gay is a lifestyle, then going shopping is gay, buying stamps is gay, and raising your children is gay.

I have little clue what it is like to be a lesbian.

I was straight before my transition, I am straight after, and feeling my focus change and being able to have the distance from myself enough to perceive it was very bizarre.

Semantics it may be, but semantics is the art of meaning. And knowing what someone means is always critical to understanding them.

I know in the old days, no one really made a distinction between gays and transgenders, but is that still valid today?

Yes. See above. The questions' answers concerns one of scale. At a macro scale, we are bound by the commonality of our being different from the norm. At the local scale, we are individuals, not a solid mass of matter, each one distinct from the other.

Furthermore, since the subject is transfolk at this moment, note that Trans* includes GLB within it, as SO is separate from GI (Sexual Orientation and Gender IDentity).

In the end, Transfolk *have no distinction*, since if we are to fight for one of us, we must fight for all, and that means fighting for all the same things anyway.

So it is still valid.

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?

Yes. Each is still a separate group since the scale changes and each group has individual elements *in addition* to the macro aspects to deal with.

Getting into those additional needs is what causes the trouble at times.

Does that explain a lot of the frustrations that sometimes all the groups have getting along?

Yes in some ways, no in others.

The greatest degree of frustration comes from a lack of a consistent and up to date knowledge about the parts by the others, as well as a consistent lack of in depth scientifi understanding by the indivudlas themselves.

For example: the term Gay includes men, women, bisexuals, and transfolks.

Gay is not a sexual orientation -- it is a socioeconomic and political identity.

Homosexual is the sexual orientation, and what is the hallmark of that? An attraction to someone of the same sex.

Not sexual intercourse. Yet how many gay people define themselves as gay by noting they have sexual intercourse with someone of the same sex?

The lack of knowledge about ourselves is our problem. We're essentially still a fairly young set of subcultures, the age of which is practically less than 70 years old. We are still forming our own traditions, institutions, and infrastructure.

(I'm personally very big on infrastructure)

A pithy way of saying that is "we are our own worst enemy", but while Pithy, it doesn't explain how.

Are we really four different groups that just consolidated for political power?


We are one group that sees itself as four different groups allied for political power.

And we consistently fail to leverage the strengths of each to prove the point of the others.

We have two external and three internal problems.

Externally we have Denial of Kinship and Sexism.

Internally, we have Sexism, Racism, and Classism.

we really should get back to fighting all of them.

Hey Dyssonance, please do us a favor and click the "Reply to this comment" link under comments you're referring to. It'll help keep this thread a little more organized since there are so many comments now.

And I'm loving your thoughtful replies. You've touched on other questions I've asked above, which is why I pointed out the "Reply to comment" link above. I'd hate to see others miss what you have to say.

Also, this spoken word piece by Cedar is worth reading in the context of the question here.

I'm not going to pretend that I understood every reference in that piece, but goddamn it was good. Thanks for the perspective, Lisa.

In your opinion, is the "so shut up" aimed at the trans community or those who say such stupid things?

It was very powerful.

It's focusing on the experience of always being told to shut up when you're a trans person talking about real issues of transphobia and transmisogyny. Each of those different references is in one way or another trying to silence a trans person or trans people's concerns. Taken as a whole, it really demonstrates a sense of being silenced.

And yeah, all of the references are about specific instances where you might not know the background. But most of them you don't need the background to understand how it's messed up. It's interesting for me, though, having been involved both in the same areas of trans community and with Cedar in particular and knowing all those references.

You probably saw one in there about me. It's the one where someone told me that they didn't believe I was abused and tried to get me to stop talking about it because they thought that, as a trans woman, pretending I had an abusive boyfriend made me feel more validated as a woman.

How did Nixon and Kissinger put it? The enemy of my enemy is my friend. We are an amorphous matrix of competing and complementary interests.

I think we are in community with those whom we will willingly share defeat as part of the cost of doing business. I don't like this definition, but I think it is accurate.

A perfectly valid point, Greg, and one I tend to agree with.

Did you see the comment further up the thread that talks about reframing the position from one of our defending ourselves against a common enemy into something more positive? I'd like your opinion on that reframing.

"If you don't know me by now, you will never never know me..."

Looking for exclusion in all the wrong places.
I have found that being included comes from a place that most of cannot understand...

I only hope that I can live long enough to realize we have outlived our usefulness.

Learning to love because we have been given the blessing is a long journey which is sometimes elusive.

My inclusiveness comes from a higher source that gives me the serenity that 'all is well' no matter who chooses to define me politically or otherwise.

May you come to know peace in your own soul.

Learning to love because we have been given the blessing is a long journey which is sometimes elusive.

I think this is one of the most powerful statements made in the thread so far. Thanks, Joni.

Before I go back through to read all of the comments, I wanted to point Projectors to two other spots where the discussion has spread. In both places, it's similar but distinct enough to warrant pointing out.

Father Tony's "A Temporary Marriage of Convenience"


Questioning Transphobia's "Bilerico Project: Questions About Transgender People"

So, Bil, did you get enough info so far? Actually, you will not know if you got enough yet because we always learn, every day.

This is a great string.

I guess that my take like all takes is going to be rooted in personal experience. I work with a lot of kids and I do a lot of that work with LGBT kids and their families. I happen to be bi but because I am out the kids who are figuring themselves out in this area turn to me and parents who have just found out that their kid isn't straight turn to me. They view it all as related to a parent of a 15 year old lesbian will come to talk to me about the daughter but I'm not a lesbian yet somehow in their minds I am in some way related because I am not straight and my family has multi generational 'not straight' people. So I end up trying to help a parent come to grips with having a lesbian child or a gay child (I have one of those myself) or a trans child or a bi child. And I may be on the phone with a teenager trying to commit suicide and yes it has been a bi 15 year old boy living in Texas (exactly what I was and where I was at the time that I was that age) but it could just as easily be a 13 year old lesbian or the mom of a young boi etc.
We are classified and categorized by the minds around us and we are grouped together by those minds. Personally I'm ok with that.
Last night I'm the 'bi boy' in a 'gay' bar on 'bear' watching a 'leather' dance team and dancing with a 'lesbian' so she can ask me if I really think that she has a chance with this 'dyke' that is there. And she also asks how my 'gay' son (who still occasionally dates girls) is doing and if my 'straight' wife and I would like to come over to her house for a cookout. But they are having a cookout at the bar on the patio with free dogs and burgers.
So we dance together and we eat together and we work together and we struggle together. And we have buried one another together and we have held on to friends who were dying from something which we could do nothing about and we took care of those friends in shifts switching between transfolk, bifolks lesbians an gay men. I guess that it looks like a community, not everyone is in it but it is here.
We don't form community by being the same and we don't form community that encompasses everyone there will always be those who just don't want to be in it. We build community when we hold hands and hold one another, and we act and eat and dance together and when we love one another and when we bury and grieve.
That is my LGBTQA community. It is a community, not THE community and we are all different and all the same and we are this community because we choose to be. And I'm starting to sound like a greeting card.

This thread will go down in Bilerico history as one of the most-commented-on...perhaps THE most, when it's all over. And it's an important thread.

Ideologically, I would include feminist and transgender issues under our umbrella. There are so many mainstream and religious attitudes about gender that affect us all, whether we like it or not, that we can't peg ourselves on just "sexual orientation." For example, a great deal of what affects LGBT athletes in the sports world happens because of entrenched (and usually erroneous) traditional attitudes and expectations about gender is, and how gender should be expressed in sport.

Indeed, no community can be that ideologically self-contained. There are always issues that bleed across the margins. Life, and Mother Nature, are messy. If we want to be alive, we do well to move with the messiness.

On the level of daily life, however, I don't think we are a real community yet. I've said this for many years, and made myself unpopular in some quarters with this opinion. A real community is totally protective of its youth and its elders, because they are (respectively) the future of the community and the living library of that community's knowledge and experience.

Unfortunately our "LGBT community" still is laboring under all too much entrenched ageism, as well as a entrenched habit by some to exploit young people.

Also, a real community may have deep political disagreements within itself, but when it comes under fire, it knows how to put aside differences and pull together temporarily for survival purposes. It's the "lifeboat mentality." I think we have largely lost any "lifeboat mentality" that we had in the early years of the movement. When circumstances pile a lot of people together in a lifeboat, everybody has to keep from fighting and row in the same direction if they're going to live (i.e. away from the sinking Titanic). Unfortunately some of us have forgotten that we're still in that lifeboat.

In my book, these unfortunate tendencies have enough weight among us, socially, that they disqualify us as a real far, anyway. I will hope that we mature into "realness" someday soon.

This is an important thread, but it is not the one with the most comments. That goes to an item that had well over 400 comments to it.

The comparison to being in a lifeboat is appropriate, but the question is just how large this lifeboat is, and whether it is large enough to include all of us?

I would say that it isn't big enough for all of us to fit into it because of the divisions among us. All too often we look at what separates us and not nearly as often as what it is that unifies us. These divisions create an artificial hierarchy. The gay white man with ownership of a large company wouldn't even consider hiring a transgender person to work for him. So where there should be unity of purpose to work for the common good of an LGBT community, too often each of the groups is a separate entity unto itself. And the divisions are perpetuated. I would further submit that none of us will really be free until all of us are, and the sooner all of us realize that, the better off we will all be.
As Eldridge Cleaver so eloquently put it, "If you aren't part of the solution, you are part of the problem." Sadly, too often we are our own worst enemies. The next question is how to get beyond that? I don't know....
Some day, perhaps.

I bought a home made mix tape from a street vendor and heard the "Faggot" from him as I was walking away.
Being transgender I turned around and said "excuse me sir, but I may not exactly fit your conception of Fag, I am more like "Queer".
He apologized by yelling "Queer" and we parted ways.
GLBT people live on the same branch of the tree. We are different but when the wind blows we all sway in the wind.
Is it a community, like a family. Lets see, we bicker, party together and stand up for each other when one is threatened. Yep.

This post, though appreciated and informative-sparked a question
As an affirming, out member of the LGBT community and a youth advocate, I find myself wondering whether we are creating a homo-confining box, somewhat similar to the hetero-box that our forefathers tried to put us in.
Let me explain-How do we make sure that we allow youth to explore and still leave the option of 'hereto' on the table, or sexual majority.
I hope that enough work and research is being done, on the flip side, to allow for this to actually be a 'phase'.
Imagine if just because some of us may have experimented with being 'straight' in our youth, that people made us stay there and built a fence around us there...never to let us cross to the other side.
In addition, i think we leave the option open for biological females but not so much biological males. Males seem to be pigeon holed much faster and the option of having a girlfriend later in life seems to be taken off the table
I welcome feedback and thoughts

Oh yes I have to agree with this. I have been pigeon holed all of my life. The assumption is that as a male if I am not straight I must be gay, but I'm not I'm bi. So when I am with a girl some people treat me like I am confused or a traitor.

Wolfgang E. B. Wolfgang E. B. | September 10, 2008 6:06 PM

I agree, Pinksa. Labels themselves cause us problems. I've read in various places that technically, everyone in the world is bisexual to one degree or another. I've certainly known plenty of straight men who admitted to being attracted to another man at least once in their lives. We know that in prisons and among soldiers, same-sex attraction sometimes occurs among straights. Most of the people in ancient Greece were probably straight, but many experimented, and were encouraged to, especially in their youth. Gay, bi, and straight are just words--We're attracted to... well, whomever we're attracted to.

Transgender = queer. They definitely belong in the same group. I'm a natal female, and I married a natal male. That means we were a heteronormative couple. Then my spouse came out full-time as a female, out at work, to all friends and family and all the legal changes that entails. Now we are a lesbian couple. She's trans, and we are lesbians. But we're legally married! In the state of Indiana, too. We absolutely need to stick together as a group!

Almost the same here, but we're not lesbians, unfortunately. Both straight, no sexual attraction to each other at all. But Love? Oh yeah. That remains, and is as strong as it's ever been in 27 years.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | September 7, 2008 6:49 AM

For me the LGBT community began with what we once called "consciousness raising" which was an early exercise where we learned, quite simply, not to hate ourselves. In this I was lucky as I had already dealt with any "self loathing" and had the special gift of helping others get beyond the hedge. 1972 was a pivotal year for me where I was blessed to know and commune with people who ranged in age from their late teens to their mid 70's in Lafayette Indiana. Transgenders, men, women and (sadly) even chicken hawlks banded together socially because we knew we were all that we had.

Today's community is wealthier, better educated, better emotionally grounded and sadly stratified around income. We are now an interest group more than a community that nurtures it's own. Everyone is afraid of being perceived as vulnerable while many wonder why they cannot find intimacy.

There are two things, not one, that bind us together.

The first, as has been said, is that our enemies are the same.

Now call me an Idealist - and I have to be, to stay on the Right side of politics, despite the malicious idiocy so rife on the Right - but there's another thing too. We are both groups denied basic human rights.

That means that regardless of whether there's "something in it for us", and regardless of whether a gain for one group can mean a loss for another, we must help each other. Not because it's pragmatic, but because it's the right thing to do.

Case in point - the backlash against gay marriage. Two states, so far, have recognised that human right. 2 out of 50 states. As a direct consequence though, instead of 47 states recognising Trans* marriage, as it was prior to 2001, it's now only 43. In fact, every trans* marriage that has been challenged since 2001 has been voided. Not many in the GLB(t) movement know that, or choose to acknowledge the sacrifices trans* people made prior to the ENDA debacle. Not that we chose to, we weren't consulted.

Does that mean that trans* people should join the chorus against gay marriage, on the grounds of pragmatism? Not just No, but Hell No! In fact, trans* people are at the forefront of the fight, in California. As we should be.

As a transgendered person of almost 52, until recently I been hidden all my life, although it has been a part of me for as long as I can remember. I have no formal education or knowledge in the understanding of these issues. As a person born with female genitalia, but gay male in brain, heart and soul, I have always felt alone and alienated.

As an admittedly uneducated observer of this debate, I can only speak from my heart. The values of our society tend to favour fences. As a culture, we seem not to have the ability to live in a home that is undivided and less managed. I think of it like a fledgling forest which needs time to mature.

James Lovelock's "Gaia Hypothesis" recognises diversity as the variety that exists within a species ... socially, sexually, physically ... as part of the full abundance of the mystery and beauty that is us. I think until we understand that having a narrow definition of humanity (gender/sexuality), we limit the potential for joy and love in all human beings.

Human hieroglyphics are enigmatic. They are not anchored in the mind like a logical alphabet. They have the ability to recognise whole concepts and complex visions, and not just single words. I think maybe to secure our full acceptance … all of us … we need to balance our intellectual observations and our passions. How we view each other is highly coloured by our very human and personal perceptions of their value.


At best, we are more than the bearers of a common burden; we are united by wisdom and love born from a suffering of self.

The recognition that gender roles can not encompass the totality of our lives, and the fact that these tools of social structure have been used to try and chisel away those portions of personality deemed unsuitable to the community, have left us scarred but cognizant of the confines that limit the less aware.

The task before us lies in accepting the totality of ourselves and others, while teaching the balance of liberty and responsibility; we seek not to destroy those who would harm us, but to obliterate the ignorance that fuels their hatred.

This is not just a question of sex or gender; of intimacy, ecstasy, or indifference; of solidarity or isolation; it is a exploration of the equilibrium between society and self, and we have been made stewards of the standard most feared.

What unites us is not the pain, but its transcendence through wisdom; not common enemies but uncommon courage; not being despised but loving despite it. For many, the unwanted onus of self actualization in the glare of public eye would not be our first choice, but it is a responsibility we can be proud to bear.

We are the cast out stones that seek to build bridges with those who would discard us; and in doing so create foundation for a society built on strength rather than weakness. What binds us, in the end, are our virtues; not an adversary's vices.

If we can recognize and accept our variations as the individual decoration of the shared neighbor of values, we can live and work together in a community of inclusion and acceptance; thus inspiring others to leave the slums of unenlightened intolerance.

Wolfgang E. B. Wolfgang E. B. | September 10, 2008 5:47 PM

Well said, Robin!

When I see PFLAG members gathered around the entrance of a "Love" Won Out conference, holding signs and reaching out to the frightened youth being dragged in by their ignorant parents, all our divisions vanish in my mind. It doesn't matter whether those youth are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, HBS, crossdresser, genderqueer, etc. Everyone has the inalienable right to be who they are, and that, to me, is what our community is all about.

Maybe it's a reflection of my mood of late (part of the reason I haven't posted much lately), but I'm not terribly optimistic. I can overcome labels for myself and look beyond them for others, but that is an individual act. Too many people cling to their own labels for self-definition and generic labels to define the world around them and make it simpler to understand, that most people aren't interested in doing the same.

The "Drop the T" crowd has grown as unwilling to consider the possibility of solidarity as the Fundies have of considering any of the LGBT as a community that they can coexist with. At that point, further discussions don't matter. And it certainly doesn't help when the T itself has splintered into "drop the CD," "drop the genderqueer," "drop pre/non TS," "drop the GLB" etc factions as well.

Yeah, I agree with that - both parts.

I'm really frustrated with the hostile factionalizing that's been going on in the T, and it almost feels like that some people are trying to repeat the whole "kick out the radical elements to make activism easier" thing from the early 70s gay rights movement.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | September 8, 2008 9:19 AM

Zoe, as usual you are insightful, sensitive and (damn it) brilliant.

Nicky Jo, you go girl! I love your heart.

Robin, if I had to think that hard I would have never had a date.

Mercedes, work past it. Everyone stereotypes because if they had to really consider everyone as an individual they would go crazy. When you can, how you can, remember that each precious individual has something to teach us regardless. Everyone gets discouraged, but the best snap back. Looking forward to your next post.

Lisa, I am old(er). I was there in the 1970's and there was a war on with 60,000 dead. Others were singing the siren song to Gays/Lesbians for their purposes (not that we were not anti war already). We did not know where these dance masters were taking us. I am not saying there was not xenophobia out there. An example would be the purging of lesbians from the leadership of the Women's movement that occurred at the same time, but in the Gay/Lesbian movement's case? We just did not buy in to the potential violence to my lasting gratitude.

Once upon a time I was born male, or was at least perceived as such, and had relationships with other men so I proudly identified as gay. Then I had relationships with women and so I identified as bi. I later realized I was M2F transgender and had relationships with people of various genders. Since then I've come to an understanding of myself as androgyne, or neither binary gender.

I'm in a committed relationship with another woman who also doesn't identify within the binary, so I suppose we could be considered trans-lesbians, except when we're perceived by others as our birth sexes, in which case we're invisible and thus gendered het (ugh). In my 52 years I've been every letter in the lesbigaytr acronym. This is my community. I don't always agree with every one under the umbrella, but if it's raining I'll make room so we can stand under it together.

Thank you Cindi, for pointing out the manner in which the extreme right and the mainstream repeatedly lure us into defeating ourselves. Whether the issue of the day is bi invisibility, transphobia, ftm invisibility, mtf marginalization, sexism, anti-feminism, or just plain "I'm-not-that-kind-of-queer", we stomp all over each other when a law is proposed, funding is at stake, services are offered, or a pool table opens up at the local bar. While laws, funding, services, and even pool tables are limited resources, the recognition of equality and the rights inherent under such equality are limitless. When we confuse breadcrumbs for equality, we defeat ourselves.

And I can't blame anyone, except everyone. Who knows whether Ghandi or Martin Luther King would take up our cause? Where is "our" hero who will say that it is not enough to accept straight-acting "gays", who will say it is not enough to "give" us job protections, who will say it is not enough for some of us to be more equal than the rest?

Who will say to society that our rights are not granted by the people or the government, that they are inherent, and must be recognized in law and in practice if we are to consider our country to be free?

If we think we are entitled to the rights we fight for, do we fight out of selfishness and personal need, or on principle to ensure that those who come after us don't have to rehash the same fights. If we fight on principle, why does it matter who is in our community? If we fight on principle, is it the principle of equality or the principle of some equality some of the time for some people?

Who decided it was a great idea to concede that people could violate our rights as long as they were a small business owner or a small business landlord? We only let some people violate the rights of people with disabilities or people with non-conforming sexual/affectional or gender identities. Sexual identity and expression are different from sexual orientation and different from ability and creed and skin tone and spiritual faith. Is that reason enough to separate any one from the others as something that can wait behind the rest?

If we act on principle, how can we, in good conscience, have a priority list of whose rights should be recognized first, a so-called incremental strategy. An incremental strategy for rights recognition which prioritizes those groups for whom recognition is most easily attained is the least principled and most hypocritical strategy we could consider. It is partially achievable. It is not a strategy that can provide the recognition of our equality. It is a strategy which embodies inequality, cowardice, and selfishness.

Is this struggle for the recognition of rights, or is it for getting "our" rights while we can get them? Are we for equal rights, or, in our hearts, are we just desperate to be included among those with specially recognized rights, equal with some, unequal with others? If the latter is the outcome, has anything of substance actually changed? Or, has the principle of equality been used to promote inequality and beat down those who weren't privileged enough to ride in the front of the bus this time around?

Angela Brightfeather | September 10, 2008 3:52 PM

Lets leave the parsing of words behind and narrow the whole thing down to "Are you a community when you all agree that the one thing that we all experience is homophobia?"

I say yes. It is the one thing that we can all agree to stand against together and it is an overwhelming bond that we all share as victims of a society that discriminates against minorities and that has to change.

So as a community that may be different in body parts and terminolgy, we can all agree that we are affected by homophobia negatively in our lives and need to change that. That is the tie the binds us.

Everything, every point, every seemingly logical arguement and every true or untrue concept that we have of each other as GLBT people, does not hold a candle to our common fight regarding homophobia and the need to unite behind that fight.

I see this at 63 years old. If you don't see it then you are a lot younger than I and think that there is plenty of time to change things. Actually your wrong and this election cycle is proving it. The righteous right is not going away and they will get stronger if we do not point out to them in no uncertain terms that they are as wrong about being homophobic as they are about racism, women's rights and classism.

Are we a acommunity? Only if we start to act like one with a common purpose.

When I was first finding myself as Transgendered, I went to places Transgendered people were known to hang out! Either going into or coming out of the places most of us would be Harassed. The most common harassment words were "Fag, Fagot, Sissy boy, and Queer" no one called us Transgendered or even Tranny! As far as the Harassers were concerned we were "GAY" they had a right to Harass us, Beat us or Kill us! Still happens On Avenue "A" In NYC you can still get Harassed, Beat or Killed by people looking to do that to the Gay, Black, Or Transgendered. We need to band together and accept each other because we are Viewed as the same by the public! I get and will continue to be offended and very angry when we get left out of ENDA. When the "WE WILL COMEBACK FOR YOU LATER", "THE TRANS, HAVE NOT DONE ENOUGH WORK TO BE A PART OF ENDA ECT!. Personally I no longer care it I am lumped in with "Gay people" I just hate the " Child Molester, Pervert, Man In Ladies Room" Labels. Regina