Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Transphobia In the Gay Community

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | December 11, 2009 4:00 PM | comments

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

This is Part I of a two-part series

Recently, an icon of gay activist history, Ronald Gold, posted a transphobic diatribe on The Bilerico Project. I had looked forward to learning something from Mr. Gold about our history, and I certainly did, though it is not what I hoped for. The post hurt many of our readers across the spectrum of sexual orientation and gender identity. It received literally hundreds of comments describing the pain they felt. Like many readers, I was very disturbed by the post. I woke up in the middle of the night struggling for a response.

Gold is by no means alone in his opinions within the gay community, though he is more outspoken than most. While much has changed in the last few years, this is a question as relevant today as it was seventeen years ago when I began my journey and received much negative feedback from gay "friends". It is as relevant today as it was twelve years ago when a gay friend evicted me from our shared apartment. It is a question as relevant today as it was two years ago when gender identity was stripped out of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. In fact, it is particularly relevant when we are within striking distance of ENDA, and crunch time looms large. There is a risk that legislators will fold like a cheap suit, again, aided and abetted by transphobic gay "advocates" and their enablers.

In fact, I'm glad that it was brought up now by Gold. It's well past time to address this in the larger LGBT community. Gay people against transphobia need to speak up, and now's the time.

Q: What are the sources of transphobia? Is it best combatted by telling it to go away?

A: Its source is not mere prejudice, but old and complex power relations that must be changed, a task that is neither quick nor easy, and is not accomplished by adding a letter to an organization's name. It is based in heterosexism and heteronormativity masked as "radical" critique. Gold, and the many others of his ilk, are sheep in wolf's clothing. This needs to be called out and addressed by the gay community. It should not be up to the transgender community to battle alone, thus furthering the divide.

I see many such opinions like Gold's, often in the averted eyes and cold demeanors of gays and lesbians I meet. Just a week ago, I was invited to join a meeting of gender and sexuality scholars. When I told them of my research on a possible constitutional right to have a legal transgender identity, some of them derided the idea. What if I said I was 6'2", one asked. Another suggested that it would be better to avoid the idea of rights, and just hope for policy makers to do the right thing. No one seemed to think these opinions problematic in any way, although I was left squirming in my chair. No one said a word to me at the end of the session. I thought about it all the rest of that day, and into the next, when I wrote one of my detractors, hoping to politely clue him into an understanding that this was not on. He said we'd have to agree to disagree. It was as welcoming as an iceberg.

I know there has been much progress and the LGBT community has come a long way. But we are not yet at the promised land where we judge each other by the content of our characters, rather than the color of our skin or, I might add, the stripe of our sexuality or gender.

Heterosexist Power Relations At Work

In 2004, I published my research on this subject for the Journal of Bisexuality, a social science journal published by Routledge. I concluded that transphobia within the US gay and lesbian community is not a psychological state of hatred. It is, rather, a response to power relations specifically defined by US historical conditions. This type of GL vs. T transphobic response is not seen in many other nations, and it is variable within regions of the US itself.

To the extent that identity politics has created prejudice and discrimination within the LGBT community, it might be more accurate to locate its sources in "heterosexism" or "internalized heterosexism." Despite its pose as "radical" critique of gender rigidity, its history shows that it is, in fact, an accommodationist attempt to disavow more "radical" forms of sexuality.

Gold's opinion, shared by many, is best understood as a power struggle based in heteronormativity, and its gay twin, homonormativity. In Susan Stryker's excellent 2008 article in The Radical History Review on transgender history, she notes that this term was first used to denote "the double sense of marginalization and displacement experienced within transgender political and cultural activism." The belief that transgender identity is separate and apart from the gay community derives from beliefs drummed into children of the early 20th century, with roots in the 1870s and farther back.

I will summarize the first part of my article here, with more included in a Part II. Here is a link for those of you who would like to read it in its entirety, with footnotes and quotes.

The History of LGBT Relations

While a basic sexual drive seems to exist instinctually in most human beings as a matter of nature, the forms of sexuality seem to be socially constructed. French historian Michel Foucault is famous for championing the idea that, as of the 19th century, "the sodomite had been a temporary aberration; the homosexual was now a species."

Early texts, including Greek and Roman sources, speak of same-sex desire, but do not categorize persons solely by the sex of their partners. There was no single identity, which linked all men who engaged in same-sex acts. Significantly, mirroring the distaste for effeminacy of much of modern gay male and patriarchal culture, and the separation of what we now call "transgender" culture, Greek texts satirized effeminate males, and both literary and legal texts suggested it was unmanly behavior to accept a passive role in sexual intercourse after passing a certain age.

By the 4th century, the male same-sex acts that had been so public were forced to go underground by Christianity. In keeping with earlier ideas, it was believed that any man who was led astray, rather than a distinct subgroup of men who had inclinations towards men only could indulge in same-sex behavior.

Beginning in the 12th century, this belief began to change, and the contrasting belief that there was a certain type of man who engaged exclusively in same-sex behaviors slowly began to arise. Nonetheless, it was "passive" homosexuals who received the brunt of the condemnation, leaving in place an ethic in favor of the masculine.

Passing as the opposite sex occurred fairly frequently, however, and while it was also forbidden, it was rarely punished, as it was not considered, in and of itself, a sexual crime. It does not appear that there was any necessary linkage in the public mind between cross-dressing and sodomy until the eighteenth century.

By the eighteenth century, the public understanding was that same-sex acts were connected with effeminacy and cross-dressing, that those who engaged in same-sex acts did so exclusively, that same-sex acts were confined to a specific group of people, and that the propensity towards such acts was inborn. Despite this public linkage, most men who engaged in same-sex behavior rejected effeminate practices and role-playing.

The public conception of homosexuality coincided with a growing concern with effeminacy that appeared in England in the eighteenth century. Boys typically wore girl's clothing until they were sent away to boarding school. Men's clothing was frilly in the Elizabethan Age. However, clothing became more sharply differentiated from the 1770s on. There were diatribes against fops and dandies. By the nineteenth century, men no longer dared embrace in public or shed tears.

The nineteenth century scientific crusaders, Ulrichs and Hirschfeld, furthered the linkage between homosexuality and gender by theorizing homosexual men as "hermaphrodites of the mind," with male bodies and female souls, though not without opposition. In 1910, Magnus Hirschfeld coined the term "transvestite" to refer to one who prefers to wear the clothing of the opposite sex, to distinguish it and separate it from the phenomenon of homosexuality.

Thus, from the nineteenth century unitary conception of homosexuality there developed two concepts: "sexual orientation" (sexual object choice) and "gender identity" (sexual self-identification as male or female). This scientific rationalism and medicalization of homosexuality confirmed it as a unitary, monolithic phenomenon.

The "Modern" Era

The sex/gender dichotomy was deepened when, in the mid-twentieth century, homosexuality was separated into distinct male and female forms, each of which had different stylized behavioral styles, and distinguished from cross-dressing and effeminacy. This formed a gender divide, and corresponding tensions with bi-gender intermingling and gender ambiguity.

After World War II, there were furtive movements towards political action, but these were largely separated along gender lines. The Mattachine Society, an organization for gay men, was established in 1950. The first openly lesbian organization in the US, the Daughters of Bilitis, was established in 1955. These accommodationist groups encouraged gay people to "act normal" and fit in (lesbians belong in dresses, gay men don't), and recruited prominent "experts" like psychiatrists and psychologists to comment on homosexuality.

In the context of the counterculture of the 1960s United States, the "sexual revolution" permitted these separate populations to exist openly and to enter into the arena of state politics. The struggle to obtain social acceptance and civil rights pitted these groups against one another. Gays and lesbians campaigned for acceptance by suggesting that they were "just like you," but with the single (but extremely significant) exception of partners of the same sex. This fueled the tensions between accomodationist tendencies in the gay/lesbian community and gender ambiguity. It was perceived that gender ambiguity (echoing the Greek disdain for passivity) that channeled the stigma of illegitimacy. It was not surprising, therefore, that some homosexuals sought to lessen the stigma of homosexuality by rejecting the stigma of "inappropriate" gendered behavior.

These historical circumstances led to four areas of tension: monosexism versus bisexism, gender accommodationism versus gender ambiguity, open homosexual identity versus passing as heterosexual, and a gender divide versus bigender intermingling.

Too Queer, And Not Queer Enough

Transsexuals violated the tacit social understandings of the homosexual community in the U.S. both by failing to pass and passing too much. Transsexuals, and later transgenders, were disparaged because some were "passing" as straight through embrasure of stereotypes of gendered behavior, i.e., effeminacy for MTFs and hyper-masculinity for FTMs, and embrasure of heterosexual practices and privilege by identifying their same-sex practices as heterosexuality, thus rejecting homosexual identity. They were also looked down upon because they violated cultural norms of sexual behavior through gender ambiguity, visible androgyny and genderqueerness, thus violating the accommodationist idea that they are "just like you." The resulting split has incorrectly been attributed to fear -- "transphobia," rather than social and political forces.

Gold might argue that he is not one of the accommodationists, because he is fighting for the right to act in ways that violate gender norms. He ignores the context of the times, however. In the 1960s, such an argument was radical and liberating. The argument is no longer a radical one. It is now a regressive argument. By arguing that those born male must retain identification with maleness, even if not with masculinity, his critique lags well behind the radical curve, and begins to merge with the opinions of conservative traditionalists. At one time the use of bronze tools was the latest in technology. To advocate their use today would be silly.

Gold's opinion isn't silly, however, because it is still held by many. It is a hateful ideology. It is alive and well today and often deployed against the trans community. We may yet see it rear its ugly head in the ENDA wars of 2010. I pray that we do not.

In Part II, I will discuss the more recent history of transphobia in the gay community, how it relates to heterosexism, and how it should be addressed by the gay community.

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My guess is this awesome post will get 10 comments, tops. Unfortunately people MUCH more powerful than Gold hold this position and do it openly while the transcommunity yawns.

I disagree that we "yawn". Certainly some do but the most politically disengaged person I know is a gay man. Those of us who push back against this sort of thing just don't have the numbers to make ourselves heard like the larger gay and lesbian community does. In other words, when it comes to gay rights are human rights, they want us marching with them, signing petitions and being active, when it comes to trans rights, we're supposed to STFU and hope for the best. It's the LGB community that is yawning.

I suspect that a lot of people will read this one. I can track counts of how many people click on my posts, and there's already 264, which is more than I usually get in the first few hours. You're right that it won't get as many comments as some others, but I suspect that's more because it is a bit complex and designed to make people think about the construction of homosexuality.

A lot of readers may not be used to thinking that homosexuality is constructed, and the idea itself might seem a bit like saying that homosexuals are made, rather than born. I'm not, of course, saying that. But I am saying that there is something beyond the mysterious biological, neurological and psychological forces that motivate our identities.

Our history and culture have favored the gay male over the LBTs, and what have they done with that gift? Have they liberated us from homophobia, misogyny, biphobia, and transphobia? No, they have started a party circuit and called it advocacy. They have reified misogyny, biphobia and transphobia within the community and used it to leapfrog marriage over issues of oppression.

Your writing is awesome as usual, Jill! I am sure that many people will learn something.

I've been working on my lawsuit with the NYC Department of Health - when they refused to provide a copy of my birth certificate in early October (I needed it to get my marriage license), they stirred up my personal hornet's nest.

I know there are bad precedents all oer the place, but I am hoping that the "advances in scientific understanding" argument will convince the court that the DOHMH rules for correcting sex on a birth record are archaic, arbitrary and capricious and must be changed.

The hearing on the City's motion to dismiss is this Thursday at noon (or as soon thereafter as counsel may be heard) before Justice Madden in State Supreme Court, New York County, down on Foley Square.

Thanks again for your enlightened and informational perspective!

Becki Jayne Harrelson | December 12, 2009 7:28 PM

Brilliant! I thank you, Dr. Weiss, for your essay and your comment.

I, for one, would like to agree with Weiss' claim that

transphobia within the US gay and lesbian community is not a psychological state of hatred. It is, rather, a response to power relations specifically defined by US historical conditions. This type of GL vs. T transphobic response is not seen in many other nations, and it is variable within regions of the US itself.

In Canada, I do not think that this is a major political issue; or at least in my experience and reading.

When there is this sort of problem, It seems to me that the power issues exist between some feminists and the MtF 'community'.

Not in my experience. Canada does not get a pass on its bullshit lgbt community dynamics. i have seen some of the most transphobic baloney come out of the mouths and pens of folks right here in canada. Consistently.

I completely agree. In Canada it's actually harder to gain access to hormonal transition than in the US. Hate crimes laws don't cover us, (Bill C-250, brought forward by Svend Robinson only extended protections to sexual orientation, not gender identity.) And if your birth certificate gender marker doesn't match your drivers' license, you can have difficulty getting married. (I love the logic in that one.) Also, the epicentre of transmisogynistic medical treatment was the Clark institute in Toronto. Anyone who knows the name Ray Blanchard will leave it at that.

And shall we forget Lu's Pharmacy? (they'll serve trans men but not trans women under the womyn-born-womyn trope, disrespecting both sets of identities.) Or Vancouver Rape Relief Shelter taking their case for the right to discriminate against trans women to the BC Supreme Court? And winning?!

At least in the United States there are progressive enclaves that allow trans people full employment and housing rights like New York... no, wait, New York doesn't have equal rights for the transgendered... Right, Salt Lake City. I always get the two confused for some odd reason.

Thanks for your comment, Diane. Nice to see a cross-national perspective.

Vancouver Rape Relief, anyone? (kicked out a trans woman who volunteered for them, refuses to serve trans women and returns them to the street to be abused more, walls plastered with 70's-era "Men In Ewe's Clothing" transmisogyny)

Province of Alberta, anyone? (defunded hormonal/surgical treatment for trans* folk)

Romham, Valerie and Galla point out that Canada is not free from transphobia within the gay community there either. When I made my comment about countries outside the US not having the same dynamic, I was thinking of some countries in Latin America and Asia. I wouldn't claim that there's no transphobia in the gay communities in those regions, but that there seems to have been far less than in the US. I attribute this regional differential to differences seen in political power relations. My research did not include transphobia in non-US countries, however, so please consider these remarks to be strictly my personal impression, rather than the result of any scholarly study.

Very interesting! I look forward to reading part 2.

Jillian, I have a lot of respect for you and all the tremendous work you've done on ENDA and workplace issues. But honestly, any trans person blogging on Bilerico today smells of damage control. Where have posts like this been while lots of other b.s. was written on this blog (like the one we both commented on involving Simon LeVay)? Moreover, I'm sick and tired of the smirking gay male dominated editorial board making remarks about how over-the-top disenfranchised transwomen are while they court GL insiders and power brokers. At this point, transperson's blogs on Bilerico just helps to smooth over and obfuscate the rotten, intolerant core of the people controlling this site. They need to be directly called out on their actions... generalized essays and theory aren't enough.

I am with you on this, Phoebe.

Where is the Bilerico response about Mr Gold calling us all crazy? It is just in our heads..we are delusional. I don't want to see a huge article like this. I want to see an apology from Mr Gold.

I'd like to see an apology from Mr. Gold too, Dana. But I have a feeling we're not going to. This guy has been an unrepentant transphobe for 90 years, or however old he is, and he doesn't sound like that old dog is open to learning new tricks.

I hear you, Gina, on this post smelling like damage control. Yes, I went back and forth a few times about whether posting in response to Gold's transphobic screed was a good idea or not. But there I was, 4 o'clock in the morning, with all this stuff rattling around in my head. So I did, but I'm not apologizing for Bil and the editorial board. I hope they will do something different next time when faced with the same situation, but since it's already been done, I'd have to agree with those who say that the remedy for bad speech is more speech.

Quislings know no specific gender......

Women of transsexual history and lesbians and bisexual women need to dump the gay men and their legendary sexual excesses and re-join forces with the greater women's rights movement that will and does welcome them......it's the numbers game stupid, 7% vs. 50%

I'm sorry? Why can't we all join together?

Dapper Ninja | December 11, 2009 9:34 PM

I love feminist activism, but I don't see that we need to rejoin forces with the greater women's rights movement - because, in my experience, we're already running it. I live in BC and when I go to radical women's advocacy organizations, their volunteer roster is primarily composed of les, bis, pan, transsexual and/or butch women. It's het-cis women that need to join us. Maybe it's different in the States?

Very good article, Jillian. I look forward to part two. I think Gina has a point that Bilerico is tainted right now, but I think it's better to engage than disengage. There are so many awesome trans writers who post here, yourself included, and I hope that continues to be true.

Well, I'm posting - so I politely hope that Marti may be mistaken and that many more people will weigh in! I'm also Canadian, and while Dr. Weiss's research may contradict me, I've certainly been witness to (and, I freely confess, formerly guilty of!) transphobia as a part of Canada's LGB community. However, Canadian culture - while distinct - is so closely tied to the USA's, that it is hardly surprising that we should be similar to you in this, as in so much else.

I should also, in the interest of full disclosure, declare myself a cis-gender, white male - of the gay variety. While I may self-identify as Queer, whether I would meet the requirements of others who uphold a standard of Queer idelogies and attitudes might be up for debate.

I think Dr. Weiss is absolutely correct in saying that discomfort within the gay community around Transgender issues stems from ignorance and heterosexism, one might even suggest from internalized homophobia. I am in my 50's, and it is only recently that I have come to know well people (mostly younger, but some peers) who are Transgender. Since getting involved in LGBT activism I have come to know many others. I owe them all a debt of gratitude, not only for educating me to the realties of their lives, but for their extraordinary patience with my ignorance. I have also benefited greatly from the frank exchange of views on Bilerico. The deep offensiveness of Mr. Gold's choice of language notwithstanding, I hope that may continue.

We must seem unlikely allies - on both sides - sexual- orientation minorities and gender identity minorities; it may even transpire that we'll part ways - but what a huge loss for both communities if we do! I have learned so much about the tyranny of gender from my Transgender friends and colleagues. I hope they've learned something from me about sexual/affectional flexibility! On those rare occasions when I've heard seemingly anti-gay remarks, or stereotypical misconceptions about gay men, from Transgender associates, I've always attributed them either to the individual's poor judgement or unintended ignorance, and not to all Trans folk everywhere, and whereever possible made them an excuse for discussion - the very courtesy the Transgender community has afforded me. I sometimes wonder if our falling short of being more united isn't somehow a failure to engage in empathy.

I hope that the Transgender community - despite a somewhat justifiable mistrust of the LGB - can allow us a similar latitude - especially now, when a united effort will be so helpful to all of us, when a fully inclusive ENDA seems within LGB & T America's grasp.

I think that is what it comes down to, our rights as individuals to determine our own course without the state mandating against us. My need not to be deprived of my civil liberties because of my sexual, affectional orientation, can surely make common cause with a Transgender person's right to live out their gender identity without persecution or discrimination (and - while we're at it, since they're closely allied - a woman's rights over her own body and reproductive choice!).

All of that said, I hugely look forward to Part Two!

Thanks Hugo, and good to see another cross-national perspective. As far as common cause, yes, we do have common cause. However, there is always a tension in any group between representation and individuality, centralization and fragmentation. When the smaller group's important interests become sufficiently smothered by the whole, that's when you start getting separatist movements. The Bilerico Project has been one of only two major blogs to actively welcome and seek the participation and interests of trans people. (The other is Pam's House Blend.) I think that there are always going to be tensions between the interests of Ls, Gs, Bs and Ts, but these have been dealt with somewhat fairly here more or less. But when you let a fox in among the hens, the hens may not come back to the coop for a while. It's not as easy as saying come back please. First of all, is this Gold meshugenah going to be posting again? Bil apologized for making the wrong call in the first place, but he did waffle a bit, saying there were good things to come out of it. I'm not in agreement with that, and I suspect many others feel the same. So while we have common enemies, that doesn't mean people are going to want to hang around this corner of the blogosphere. I think we'll have to see. But thanks for putting your opinion out there, and I surely do appreciate that.

Your description of the history of LGBT relations is terrific--concise yet fairly comprehensive. Thank you.

Anonymous Diva | December 11, 2009 6:33 PM

Thank you for this. I think however it is a rather unsuccessful articulation of the power-privilege complex which is occurring. While I applaud you on your history here, you fail to note a few very noteworthy cultural occurrences that have contributed to this line of thought.

First and foremost: Misogyny.

Trans women in particular, or those people who are born male who are even the slightest bit feminine are and always have been the largest and most painted targets for both homophobic and transphobic violence (which I define as a concrete, vile, hatred, irrational fear, or violence be is interpersonal or systemic against Trans people). -granted.

My understanding of Transphobia is one of FEAR --and not the system that privleges non-trans people or "Cis" (meaning same) gendered people. Cis people who are born with a set of genitals that they are happy with, and a gender expression that is comfortable for them.

As a person who transitioned in the late 90's - in my teens and 20's, deep in the 'queer' movement; as a person who formerly identified as a "gay man"... In my experience there is a deep-rooted misogyny that is laced within gay male culture Any number of times in my early transition I encountered gay men who said "OMG! Are you going to cut it off?! You want a pussy?! Gross!!!" Such a guttural and misogynistic reaction may come from a number of places; all of which are key to note as Mr. Gold recites similarly misogynistic and cissexist tropes. “You can be a MAN who has long hair. A girl in a three piece suit.”

I have seen this unchallenged belief system frequently carries over greatly to the debate around Trans people and has tainted the historical debates and tropes of "Gay Theory" about "Why Transgender" Here is my best stab at articulating WHY CISSEXISM AND MISOGYNY from gay men? An important question to be asking at this moment.

Gay men are often despite their gender expression or identity, derided as 'less than men' by cis-het male (and female) people.

It makes sense to me that if my gender identity/expression as a man is under attack for my whole life despite my deep inner sense of myself as male, that "Push Back / Fight back" makes sense.

In my experience I have watched this play out in a number of ways; one of which is the absolute rejection or distancing from what people believe I should be. For gay men –the rejection of women's bodies, identities, or sexualities; which most often looks like or is expressed through old-school misogyny (hatred of both women and disgust at women's bodies). Trans women are no exception to this --By virtue of transition we are pubicly embodying a love of women's bodies, making us suspect and targets. I must say, perhaps a current problem in ‘masculine/male’ identity construction is the Oppositional / Anti nature that almost always seems to immerge, “Eww I’m not a fag/woman” for Het men, “I’m not a sissy/woman/tranny” –for gay men.

I see this dissonance play out in any number of ways: by gym queens, the hyper masculinization and over sexualization of nearly unattainable 'perfect males' in gay male culture and any gay mag in any city is filled with this. The over-sexualization of “straight acting” and “straight” male identity –at the expense of gay men whose expression is not masculine. Something that I personally believe is exceptionally damaging to the self esteem of my gay male friends who can never conform to those unrealistic images or whose way of being is beautifully not masculine.

In an experience that can frequently lack the ongoing conflicts that cis-het men must face (between being in a misogynistic culture/having internalized misogyny and loving women / having to date women/ being confronted and called out on your misogyny.... Gay men I personally feel can at times be left "outside" an analysis about their own internalized misogyny. By being segregated by homophobia and perhaps out of 'mainstream' male-female interactions (in our adult culture this currently occurs most intimately and vociferously dating/sex/relationships) Gay men might not always have to opportunity to be faced and challenged by the internalized shit our misogynistic culture has imbibed them with. Combine these two things together: BAM! You get "I don't get why anyone who is a man would want to mutilate their bodies" which I translate to mean: "I LOVE male bodies, and reject that vagina's are beautiful or desirable, why would 'MEN' (trans women) desire those bodies or identities? It makes NO sense! I love being a man! I love men’s bodies! Men are awesome!"

To me: it is an product of a culture that worships masculine/male without any analysis of how such idolization is damaging to women and other than typical-masculine men.

Julia Serano so famously and articulately points out how our movement, and many other movements have failed to articulate the importance of femininity, how femininity is not only desirable, but necessary for our culture's survival. How masculinity is one of MANY gender expressions, and how an over-praise of such ideals only reinforces homophobia, patriarchy, and cissexism and is damaging not only to Trans people but also the majority of Gay Men (who no matter WHAT you look like or try to do, will always be stripped of masculinity upon discovery of their queerness).

As a person who "passes" as straight frequently, I see first hand how patriarchy oppresses gay men by stripping them of their claim to their TRUE Gender Identity and Expression as Men and/or Masculine/Butch. I often overhear het-cis men talk shit about gay men, caricaturize them, over simplify their identities, deny the validity of their desire and love or their claim to identify as either masculine or men is false. Berate them for their type/kind/way of having sex; while in turn on need only turn to porn culture to see how Het-Cis men idolize anal sex! IRONY! I find it disgusting when Cis-Het men try to strip gay men of their identities as men/males/masculine/butch; I see it as a symptom of Oppositional Sexism (See Julia Serano's book for a longer explaination).

But Mr. Gold's analysis similarly denies Trans people their right to claim their TRUE identity. It trivializes the complexity of everyone's identities; it reduces Trans people to an overly simplified caricature. I will take on any gay man any day if they claim that homophobia does not similarly stem from oppositional sexism and that trans-misogyny, transphobia, and cissexism do not also contribute to an overall cultural attitude and belief system that will forever damage, marginalize, and hurt gay men.

By Mr. Gold's logic ... gay men should not EVER go to the gym to buff up. They should not idealize big muscles for themselves, or seek to modify their body to better represent their true identity. They should not seek to attract the partners they desire by any pretense or modification to their appearance. By his logic, gay men should simply be "ok" with how they pop out!

It is a failed notion.

An over simplification of the complex interplay of both our identities, our sense of how we all want our bodies to look, how we wish to be interpreted, and the complexity of living in a culture that makes non-verbal communication an essential and important part of being validated as an equal member of society.

Tattoo's, piercings, Florescent Hair colors, Goth Make up, Steroids, Body Building, Gyms, Leather Wear, Role Playing, plastic surgery, make up, fashion, jobs, accessories, cars, houses, electronics, music, art work, public performance...... Humans have found ingenious ways to diversify, express, and complicate the human condition.

Trans people are no more guilty of being deluded or mutilating their bodies than anyone else engaging in any one of these common-place activities! To deride people for pursuing any of them is insane and delusional.

Welcome to the 21st century..
It's a beautifully strange and diverse place!
Thank god we are not all the damn same! I would be bored as hell if I had to look at the same 10 people every day!

You do a great job of linking issues for gay men and trans folk.

I have thought for a long time that feminism had the best understanding of why gay men were reviled in society: they're seen as traitors to "manhood" because they "take on the role" (sexually) and even act like (at least the more gender variant amongst us) women.

I also agree that we gay men have lots of issues about gender variation amongst ourselves despite the fact that IT is there.

I was very effeminate when I was a kid: I still am in some ways. But, it took a few lesbian friends (who embraced the whole "underground" butch/femme thing) and online trans friends to help me accept and be happy that I was a "girlie boy" when I was so young.

I really felt there was compassion towards gay men in this comment and I appreciate it, especially given what Gold posted a few days ago and because of the vitriol towards all gay men in a few the comments in response to his diatribe.

I haven't always understood the diversity, nuances, and/or issues of the trans community. But, these kind of comments help.

Also, thanks to Jillian for this post - I look forward to the next one.

Excellent point, Anonymous Diva, misogyny definitely plays a role in this.

california panda | December 11, 2009 6:37 PM

Thank you Jillian,
I pretty much always thought the GLB/T divide was primarily a power play thing. I understand why some gay people do that even though I don't like it. Perhaps it's a "guilt-by-association" thing. If I'm gay I'm ok because they're gay too but if I'm trans it's not ok because they get tarred with the same brush by the general public. We even have, in our own trans ranks, a similar dynamic with some "passables" avoiding "not-so-passibles" only because of the possibility of inavertent outing due to the association dynamic. It's appears to be another form of the "just like you" mentality at work. Thank you for making it clearer. Keep up the good fight.


I'm with you, Valerie, on the guilt-by-association thing. The same dynamic is also seen in terms of race and class. That's what happens when people are oppressed and there are limited opportunities out. The truth is that Ls, Gs, Bs and Ts are all oppressed. The question is whether we're getting out together or whether some are left behind to fend for themselves. Women and children first is only something you see in the movies.

I'm about to read the comments, but I wanted to first remind readers that Mercedes Allen's masterful six part series on transhistory would be a wonderful complement at this point. Here the are:

Trans Expression in Ancient Times
The Rise of Hatred (Middle Ages)
Into the Modern Age (1700s - 1932)
From Germany to Stonewall (1933 - 1968)
Stonewall and Its Fissures (1969 - 1995)
Toward the Future (1996 - 2007)

I'm curled up with a good cup of strong decaf, and going to re-read them after I respond to the comments.

Thanks for the original post and putting these up.

Well said. I for one, a gay man, always considered myself "Trans Supportive" but truly had no idea what the issues were. That all changed when I met Paul 2 years ago. I met Paul at a party, and a few weeks later, hanging out with mutual friends, we kissed. When I put m hand on his back in embrace, I felt what were very clearly bindings. I went home that night confused. I was genuinely attracted to Paul, but really was unsure of things. I decided I wanted to see him again.
From there, a whirlwind relationship started, and without question Paul was one of the best boyfriends I ever had. While there certainly were things I had to learn about the trans experience, his gender identity had zero to do with our break up and little to do with our relationship as a whole. I loved him deeply, and still have feelings for him today. We just didn't work out, nothing bad.
Paul turned me into a trans advocate. Not that he ever asked me to, but because I realized how little the LGB portion of the community cared about the T. To be honest, I think the L and G also ignore the B, sometimes even ridicule them.
Mr. Gold's comments were horrible, but this discussion is long over due, and sometimes a negative breeds a positive.

The Angry Queer

It's interesting to read your comments, Angry Queer, about your relationship with Paul, and your seeing how little the LGBs seemed to care about the Ts. Your perspective is a valuable one, and I appreciate your saying what you've seen. All of the trans participants here have seen this dynamic over and over, but it is useful to know that it can be seen from the other side, in the observations of a gay man, as well. Thanks.

I for one hope that Gold's comments have one positive outcome--we can bring these closed door nudge-nudge wink-wink thing out to the open and knock them out for good.

Bil was right when he said that Gold's comments come from another generation. I don't know many people my age that hold those same opinions... if any. For "Q" folks my age, I think we've grown up knowing transgender and genderqueer friends and don't differing gender identities as some wacky "delusion." The discussion online today generated by this post has been a powerful testament to the ability of the truth to come forward while the false assumptions are knocked out.

Anyone watch the LGBT Twitter-web today? Pretty much every LGBT blogger commented on the story and all knocked the presumptions and prejudices down and out--TKO.

Good golly Ron's piece was a horrifying read, but if we're able to unequivocally remove some misinformation out there because of it, I'm grateful for that. In his own way, Ron moved a lot of cis people a little closer to understanding transgender issues a little better, even in his ignorance of the gravity of what he was claiming.

Very true. I grew up in the in between. I did not have a lot of gay or trans friends growing up. I grew up right after the aids epidemic, and thus grew up with an entire generation above me removed from society. It took me years to understand trans issues. Now my brother is 19, and I remember at 14 his bf was gay, and another friend trans. It was no big deal. Now my brother is out of the closet too. So yes, younger generations handle it a lot easier.


Disagree about your generational comment. A lot of what Ron Gold wrote is issentially similar to what many young queer activists feel about transsexual people. That we're a bi-product of the binary system, that we're ultimately representatives of the binary system, that in a world where people could gender express as they wish, there would be no "need" for transsexuals. All that stuff is being taught in Gender Studies Departments that younger queer people attend in universities, and many of those people go on to work in GLB(t) organizations and are the future leaders of the movement. What Ron wrote is packaged in an old school way, not a Queer hip way, but the content is much the same. And contrary to what you've written, I believe he wasn't ignorant of the message he was communicating and said as much in his single response to the long comments thread. He believes it.

Btw, only a few weeks ago, you suggested Simon LeVay should write for Bilerico, even though anyone allied with the trans community would know him to be a pretty classic transphobe researcher who is closely allied to Bailey/Blanchard/CMAH. What is your responsibility or the responsibility of the woman who posted the glowing report on LeVay (as though she just discovered who he is).

That's an interesting claim considering I've never read his work and know anything about him. Sorry, I think you really ought to double check before you start making claims like this. I refuse to be lied about.

Phil, my apologies to you... I was wrong. I went back to the thread and it was, in fact, Bill who wanted LeVay to blog for Bilerico. Your comment on the thread wasn't the one I was thinking about so... very sorry for implicating you. Betty Greene Salwak, however, the author of the thread, ignored virtually everything negative about LeVay's extreme transphobe past which was being mentioned in her need to praise LeVay. I wonder if she would have done that if he had previously "proven" negative conclusions about gay people?

Let's not forget that LeVay, like Bailey, is actually *really* good in his own subject matter -- he's kick ass when it comes to gay people.

Both, however, royally suck when they step out of the sexual orienation field and into the gender identity field because they don't get it.

Furthermore, in what I call Rage against the Mattachine (that is, my personal strong dislike for assimilationism in all its for), the ideals of the mattachine's continue to be put forth in less public spaces constantly.

In the bars and homes everyday, this sport of thing is constantly spoken of -- but in the same way that hard core racists avoid speaking about their views in public, these people avoid forums like this one, and, normally, are kept out of it.

Certain recent exceptions notwithstanding.

You mention, Antonia, that Simon LeVay is kickass in the field of sexual orientation. I'm not sure I would ascribe to his work that degree of definitiveness. While I have utmost respect for your views as a colleague, and for LeVay, I feel that LeVay's work is very preliminary, though groundbreaking. The most that can be said of his work to date is that it suggests that brain structures may have some relationship to sexual desire or behavior. It cannot be said at this point whether these structures are causative, consequential, or linked by a third factor. In general, I think the scientific study of both homosexuality and transsexuality is in its infancy.

Well, one of the aspects to keep in mind is that his work in the field goes beyond merely his specific studies into neuroanatomy.

His greatest work is actually in metastudies, and reasonably direct analysis of extant work in the field -- and he's not above using his status to access preliminary studies and do further work on them on the side.

He's not as widely cited as Bailey, but then he also tends to publish less than Bailey, who lives by the p-o-d creed out of funding seeking.

I defend his work in this one small area, though, because he's good at it -- not because I like him (personally or professionally) or much of his work (like most phsyioempiricists, he's prone to essentialism where its unwarranted, and he's incredibly sexist in his work overall).

It would be nice to believe, Phil, that the younger generation is immune from transphobia. However, I don't think that is true. I do believe that there is less transphobia among younger queers, but the borderlands are by no means gone. For that, I refer to another article of mine, in the Journal of Lesbian Studies in 2007: The Lesbian Community and FTMs: Détente in the Butch/FTM Borderlands In 1998, Dr. Jacob Hale wrote about a “borderland” between butch lesbian identity and FTM masculinity, suggesting a “demilitarized zone”. While the intervening years have brought no “demilitarized zone”, the border may not have a long future. Converging trends in identity among the younger generation in their teens and twenties suggest this, such as changing meanings of ‘lesbian’ and ‘FTM’, blending of sexuality and gender, and understanding these as personal, rather than identity, differences. The socio-historical circumstances that gave power to anti-trans feminist attitudes and trans rejection of lesbian identity are disappearing. This is not to say that we are ‘post-lesbian’ or ‘post-transsexual’, but the tension between identities, the need to distinguish clearly between them, and the arguments about who is ‘really’ lesbian or ‘really’ FTM might be of supreme unimportance to the next generation. Time will tell.

As I mention there, I am speaking of the next generation years from now. Not now.

Anyway, I appreciate your hopeful take on the situation, Phil, even though I'm not there yet. I appreciate your participation as an LGBT activist in helping to move our community together and to reject transphobia.

I for one hope not. The vast majority of womyn, cis and trans, have both butch and femme in ourselves. I have more of the butch but still something of the femme. If our society equates butchness with maleness, it pressures female-identified butches, cis and trans, to choose between their female identity and their butch identity. And that makes it harder for the rest of us to express our butch sides.

Thanks for the wonderful post. Although you're happy that Mr. Gold posted his article, I like many am not. It is unfortunate that someone of Mr. Gold's stature in the history of LGBT activism has such damning views of a part of our society that already has a lot of dislike (if not hate) to contend with. Bilerico's stance of letting the article stand...is quite unnerving. Just my opinion, but if such a "view" had been posted on The New York Times or Washington Post there would have been holy hell from us gays. Even Bilerico would have demanded such an article be pulled...and apologized for. The Lgbt community has enough inner and outer strife with out having more plastered all over. We fight over who's really Gay, Bisexual, lesbian, trans, Drag, top, bottom, or even just "cute". In a time when our rights are being taken as a joke by our political representatives..we do not need any further hate...of any kind.


Angela Brightfeather | December 11, 2009 7:55 PM


Anyone looking for a concise history of the friction between the Transgender Community and the Gay Community is not going to find it, although you do a banner job of outlining a good portion of it and a few of the reasons for it. I also blanch a bit myself, when anyone mentions Foucault, because it usually takes more time to absorb the philosphy than the average person has, therefore the philosophy is hard for most to relate to. Outside of that, the real life things that comprise the millions of incidences where gay men have objected to transgender people even existing over the past 45 years of my experience with both of those communities, could not be summarized in any short form.

While the early history is interesting, the fact is that for the last 45 years of my experience, it has been a constant battle that has been waged and the high road has always been taken by the Transgender activists who have had to swallow the foul swill that has been passed of as some progress. With a demure glance down and a bending of our knee to the ground, transgender activists have had to sacrifice their own pride more times than not, just for the crumbs of equality that have been parcelled out by gays and lesbians who insist on conventionalism. They feign radicalism while at the same time they insist that transgender people be conventional before they can be accepted.

One such thing that comes to my mind and most recent is our community forgiveness of Matt Foreman. When Director of the NYS Pride Agenda and his leadership in cutting deals that cut the throats of Transgender people in NY with closed door deals about SONDA, and then follows up on our rights when he becomes the National Director of NGLTF, after personally promising to come back and get us with GENDA. Then retires.

Another is being left out of the title of the '93 march and then at the end of the march having two smirking gay men try to hustle the Trans marchers into the rear of the seating so they could not be seen in the front.

Or how about HRC's refusal eight years ago to even entertain the idea of having Transgender speakers at their fundraising dinners?

Or the fights that were fought constantly to be included in local county and city law changes to include protections for Transgender people.

then there afre things like movie stars who win Oscar's for their portrayal of Trans people, but only get to say one sentence about the discrimkination they have to suffer in their lives, because they don't have the time to say anything more. But of course, we have to be grateful for their accurate depiction of our lives.

To gay men like Mr. Gold it has always been apparent that we did not ever and should not ever exist in the GLBT rights movement.

Perhaps the worst problem out there to still be dealt with is our own Transgender people who have bought into this same argument for the benefit of their own personal acceptance and have become heterosexist themselves, while calling and labeling their own sisters and brothers in the Transgender community who have been and still are activists, as "to radical".

We need to be on the offensive with Mr. Gold and tonight while driving home and listenting to Michaelangelo Signoreli's radio show on OutQ radio, he announced that due to all this fuss on Bilerico, he will be talking about Mr. gold's post next week on his show. I immediately called him and told him that I object to giving Mr. Gold any airtime on his show and would consider it an insult to myself to let his kind of non-thinking comments be given any air time at all.

So be ready folks. This isn't over yet and I fully expect that while Mr. Gold will not make a personal appearance on the show, I am sure that there will be any number of gay men calling in about those whinning Trans folks who are such a problem to deal with.

Angela, thanks for your kind words, and for fleshing out a bit more some of the elements of the history of transphobia. You are certainly right that the history of the friction between the trans community and the gay community is long and involved, and that my brief summary here can't cover the whole story. My intent was to give a different explanation from the usual fear/phobia-based one, which leaves a big question as to "why are they afraid?" My explanation is that is comes down to power struggle.

I agree with your criticism of Michel Foucault, and I mentioned him here only because he so famously made the point, pointed to by queer theorists everywhere, that homosexuality was not a unitary identity prior to the nineteenth century.

I also agree wholeheartedly that some transgender people, perhaps even some who seek to be leaders, have bought into heterosexist ideals and therefore reject authentic grassroots trans activists as too radical, too incorrectly gendered, too anti-establishment, too demanding, too unpolished, or too unwilling to accept crumbs and be quiet.

I also heard Michelangelo Signorile's reference to the Bilerico posting. I don't object to his discussion of it at all because this subject needs to be brought up in the gay community. It isn't enough for trans people to be all over Bil. In the scheme of things, Bil is just a blogger who has a small-to-medium sized platform. I want Tim Gill hearing this. I want Joe Solmonese hearing this. I want Daily Kos hearing this. I want Rachel Maddow hearing this. I want George Miller hearing this. I want Barney Frank hearing this.

The gay community needs to own up to the transphobia in its midst that puts us in the position of begging for crumbs.

That's one of the big problems Jillian. People like Rachel Maddow and Mike Signorile don't hear us. The only time they usually ever take on issues relevant to transfolks is when it becomes so big a story they can't possibly ignore it, at least in Signorile's case anyway.

Sadly, I've yet to hear Rachel Maddow take on even a single truly trans-relevant story on her show without presenting it as if it were solely about gays and lesbians. It disappoints me greatly that she, of all people, doesn't know better and make of an effort.

Rebecca: Re Rachel Maddow - I'm still laughing about the time she described the hates crimes bill as adding "sexual orientation and sexual identity" to the law. Of course, that doesn't stop me from listening to her every day. She's amazing. But hopefully will learn more about trans issues.

Karen Collett | December 13, 2009 7:15 AM
One such thing that comes to my mind and most recent is our community forgiveness of Matt Foreman. When Director of the NYS Pride Agenda and his leadership in cutting deals that cut the throats of Transgender people in NY with closed door deals about SONDA, and then follows up on our rights when he becomes the National Director of NGLTF, after personally promising to come back and get us with GENDA. Then retires.

Well, he did try to redeem himself with United ENDA; from an article by Pauline Park: "But what I said to colleagues at the time (both publicly and privately) was that I was certain that Matt would be transgender-inclusive as NGLTF e.d. precisely because of the enormous row over SONDA. And my prediction proved right: Matt outdid himself to prove his bona fides on transgender inclusion, in particular, in his support for United ENDA, [...]"

Thank you Jillian, I always enjoy hearing what you have to say. You add a voice of sanity in an otherwise mostly transphobic world.

I had considered adding another comment to Mr. Gold's real estate, but figured what's the point of beating a dead horse. I feel sorry for him, watching him drown. I hope he does the right thing and saves himself, but I admire his stubbornness. He could have done a greg grundberg and issued a candyass apology, but instead lets the wound fester. He doesn't have a television show to save, why should he apologize?

I, for one, am glad Ron and Bilerico posted his thoughts on the matter. There is no doubt in my mind he triggered a change in certain people's thoughts about what it is to be transgendered. There is also no doubt in my mind some people reading it saw a reflection of themselves and saw how people can react negatively to such a view. It was like watching Fox News in a room full of liberal pinheads...shock TV! Yeah, what a piece of crap.

I would much rather have a bigot be direct about what they are thinking than offer their quaint little smiles and keep quiet. There is way too much passive aggressive bullshit that goes on that isn't so easy to call out.

I'm not sure, Siouxsie, that I am exactly glad that Gold was outfront with his transphobic views, but it did allow people to see exactly what is out there in people's heads, without the "passive aggressive bull" that you mention that is impossible to call out. If you do try to call it out, people are all like, "oh, you're so hypersensitive." I've gotten that reaction so much that I don't even bother to bring it up much anymore when I see gays reacting in a transphobic manner. It just makes them defensive.

Thank you for posting this. I had a private response from Mr Gold to one of my comments basically invalidating my position in a most condescending fashion.

I am tired tonight. Perchance a touch of the famed Irish melancholy? No clue.

But I am very frustrated...yes, there are Lesbians equally derisive of trans people, but by and large they are nasty pieces of work and /or bitter to the point of irrationality. Further, Lesbians come in for some of the same dismissive disdain in the power structure of LGBT politics.

I'm rambling, I know--not typical for me. Weary, disgusted, frustrated, but still--there is the bright spot of an important statement from another attorney to offer a ray of light and hope.

Again, thank you for your post.

I understand your fatigue and frustration, Maura. It is very wearying having to defend one's existence. I'm sorry to hear that you received such a condescending reply from Gold. He sounds like a nasty piece of work. I highly recommend a glass of Chablis and a hot bath. And thanks for the kind words.

I think some of us (and I am guilty too) are part of the problem. Those of us that have made a successful transition have just gone on with our lives in the str8 world, not that I'm stealth or anything but most of my friends and people I associate with are str8. I've haven't gone into the gay world in years. I don't like being associated with the drag queen/king or the cd/tv world but those are the only segment of the trans population that lgb people see. I did, in my younger years, go to group meetings and performed in drag shows while I was searching for me - where I fit in. It didn't take me long to find out I wasn't like them at all and most of my friends there knew I was different too. I never chose to transition - transition chose me and most of my friends in the lgb world that really knew me understood that. I drifted away and began educating the "real world" and forgot all that I went thru in finding me. I've spent too much time educating the public on trans issues while ignoring the gay community. Time to get back to where I found myself and do a little educating there. I owe that to them, myself - and my trans brothers and sisters.

Donna, I love what you said about "too much time educating the public on trans issues while ignoring the gay community." It's important not to forget that gay people need to learn about trans issues just as much as straight people. If gay community education is ignored, they will forget (or never learn) how much we have in common. Especially young gay people. I have kept hands off from my college's Pride group, partly because my reception was a little chilly when I got here 6 years ago, partly because I was busy trying to figure out how to be a professor, and partly because my area is law and not gender studies. Your point is well taken, and I'm going to start getting more involved to educate the gay community around me.

The LGBT community is no better than any other. Demonizing ”the other” in order to feel better about oneself is an old story and certenly not restricted to any one group. Christians against Jews, Jews against Jews, Christians against Christian: Group against group, gang against gang; nothing new here. So why should we be surprised when a long marginalized group seeks to raise itself up on the backs of another marginalized group. (like saying “I may be a faggot but I’m no flaming fairy trannie.”)

Really good point, De, marginalized groups often try to get out the oppression trap on the backs of the even more marginalized. It's not at all surprising to see transphobia in the gay community. I think your point suggests that the way to reduce transphobia in the gay community is to demonstrate that attacking trans people is not a way out of oppression. Particularly important in this fight is to note that straights rarely distinguish between gay and trans. Thus, when gay people publicly attack trans people, it's like the kidneys attacking the liver. It's making it worse for themselves.

Dr. Weiss,

I hesitate to post this, but as a transgendered person, I have often wondered why cis-gendered gay folks (G, L, and B) even support us and make common cause with us in so many ways? I am certainly glad they do, and appreciate any help we get from them, but it really never surprises me when they throw us under the bus (such as the last ENDA attempt). Our issues are primarily related to gender, not sexual orientation, tho they are tied up together.

Prolly it isn't just one reason. I think of the contributions of the drag queens and those folks at Stonewall and in the aftermath, and of general empathy for other ppl who are scorned by society, but I am hoping that you (or someone else!) can explain it to me in more detail?


Carol :)

Hi Carol - I guess you could call me a straight woman, although these days I consider myself more as a part of the gay community. I joined PFLAG the day my son came out to me as gay, and I've met the most wonderful people in my support meetings, through the years. Straight, gay, lesbian, trans, intersex, genderqueer -- kids, teens, adults, parents, grandparents. Why do I support transfolks? The same reason I support all my children, gay and straight - love. Why do I fight for equality for all? (Not just marriage, although I consider that a basic human right) -- same reason; love. I didn't get a chance to read Gold's article, but this one by Dr. Weiss was great! I hope we will not splinter into small groups for very long, because united we are strong.

Valorie, you rock! Too bad the world isn't made up of ppl like you!

Thanks for the reply!

Carol :)

Hi Dr. Weiss! :)

Thank you for the article, I will give it a read! (I also want to read at least the last two parts of the the six-part series you link to above in the another comment.) Maybe this article will help me understand the link better.

Perhaps related, I think I struggle a lot with wrapping my mind around the vast diversity of identification, experience, expression, and world-views within the trans community. My situation is prolly much simpler than for many (most?) ppl, so I read Bilerico to get a wider perspective. For better or worse, the flurry of posts and comments related to Mr. Gold's post have been yet another step in my education! Luckily for me, at this point in my life, I have been the target of so many attacks in the same vein that I don't pay much attention to them anymore, which let me focus on the comments and follow-on posts and reflect without being distracted by what he said.

Thanks for the reply!

Carol :)

You say, Carol, that you don't understand why gay people ever support transgender people because "our issues are primarily related to gender, not sexual orientation, tho they are tied up together." You answer your own point - our issues are tied up together.

I have spent much time in my academic work pointing out that sex and gender are related in important ways. To argue that they are separate and unrelated, as suggested by slogans such as "sex is between the legs and gender is between the ears," is a mistake. It may be an easy way for non-trans people to begin to understand the differences, but it also leads directly to the mistaken idea that sex (and, by implication, sexual orientation) has nothing to do with gender. While there is clearly a difference between sex and gender, these are not unrelated.

In my recent article in the Temple University Political and Civil Rights Law Review, I reviewed the history of the meaning of "sex" and "transgender" in a historical perspective, concluding that sex includes the idea of gender identity.

Transgender Identity, Textualism and the Supreme Court: What Is The Plain Meaning of Sex In Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964?


It's important that we understand that there is a relationship between sexual orientation and gender identity.

Hi Dr. Weiss! :)

Thank you for the article, I will give it a read! (I also want to read at least the last two parts of the the six-part series you link to above in the another comment.) Maybe this article will help me understand the link better.

Perhaps related, I think I struggle a lot with wrapping my mind around the vast diversity of identification, experience, expression, and world-views within the trans community. My situation is prolly much simpler than for many (most?) ppl, so I read Bilerico to get a wider perspective. For better or worse, the flurry of posts and comments related to Mr. Gold's post have been yet another step in my education! Luckily for me, at this point in my life, I have been the target of so many attacks in the same vein that I don't pay much attention to them anymore, which let me focus on the comments and follow-on posts and reflect without being distracted by what he said.

Thanks for the reply!

Carol :)

I found it most revealing last year in the SF Pride Parade that there were two new groups. 'Asexuals' and 'Athiests' both of whom stated that since they were discriminated against so fiercely in our society they felt much more comfortable joining the Queers... and were very well accepted. Of course, this was SF.
Its just another facet of minorities and subminorities trying to feel
'more important than someone, please.'

Dr. Weiss;

I really have a problem with the word effeminacy.

It is never used for one born female. And one never refers to a bio female showing noticeable masculinity as emasculate.

'Effeminate' has a strong negative connotation.

Why can't we simply refer to the behaviour in question as 'feminine'?

Good point about the term "effeminate," Hazumu. When I wrote my article in 2004, I used the term because I was referring to the hostility of the ancient Greeks to feminine behavior, and "effeminate" certainly has a pejorative meaning today. However, after thinking about it, I wish I had used the term "feminine," as you suggest. I will plan to do that in the future. Thanks for bringing up the point.

Because there is nothing remotely "feminine" about the affect of an effeminate gay male.


As always, I find your thoughts enlightening.

After living in denial for well over four decades, I am still learning our history and culture. My learning curve is still very steep.

I am fortunate to live in an area where such divisiveness based on ones sexual orientation and/or gender expression does not seem to matter that much. At least, my experience to date has been such. Just another reason to like Rochester, NY!

On a larger scale, what I have observed is that Our Community is a microcosm of our own (American) culture. We are, as Dr. Seuss would describe, The Sneetches.

There are the arrogant better-than-you Star-bellied Sneetches and the outcast Plain-bellied Sneetches. One group excludes the other based solely upon which has stars on their belly, and which ones do not. It's a wonderful way to show the foolishness of racism and bigotry without getting into someone's face over it.


I don't think it is necessary to say which group is which because all of us act like Star-bellied Sneetches - at least on occasion.

Yes, we are all different. As we point towards our differences and say that "they don't have stars upon thars," we are missing the bigger picture.

This bigger picture is this: the differences don't matter one iota.

There are larger, more powerful groups pointing towards the entire LGBT community saying "they don't have stars upon thars."

As long as we point to our differences and fight among ourselves, we will not secure our liberties.

Divisive comments and editorials only feed the flames of bigotry and exclusivity. We are keeping ourselves in the gutter.

Such bigotry needs to be discarded. Now.

Does it really matter if we are Gay or Lesbian or Bi-sexual or Transgendered? Of course not.

In the end, we are trying to secure the legal recognition of our right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

In the end, we are fighting for each other.

I agree completely with your point, Shauna. In the end, we are fighting for each other. Since the larger straight world doesn't make clear distinctions between transgender and gay, it's like the kidneys fighting the liver. Gay people who attack transgender identity (as well as transgender people who attack gay identity) are making it worse for themselves. That doesn't mean, of course, that we shouldn't try to improve ourselves by talking to each other about problems within our community. But improving and tearing down are clearly different.

jolynn weaster | December 12, 2009 10:17 AM

this happens with the upcoming conference in dallas in febuary.
titled "creating change"
i hear now that they are going to allow the TS/TG/HBS paticipates to hold their meetings in the restrooms
equality.....i dont think so!

Thank you Jillian, I look forward to Part 2. In the mean time I'm going to read your J. Bisexuality article, and also try to find that Susan Stryker article. Do you have a link to an online version?

I don't have a link to an online version of Susan Stryker's article, Lurleen, but if you drop me an email, I'll send you a copy.

dr. weiss, you are an inspiration and I hope your words will be heard be many :)

I just wanted to make a comment on language. I'd like to make a humble suggestion for precision. for instance, in my relationship with my boyfriend, one of us was assigned male at birth and one of us has transitioned to male. we are both gay males. however often when the tensions among lgb communities and t communities are discussed, "gay male" is used in a way that implies non-trans gay males, and makes the rest of the gay males invisible. the same is true, I think, for general use of the terms bisexual and lesbian.

all I ask, then, is if only non-trans gay males are being discussed, to identify them as such... not to use "gay male" and let their transition status be assumed

anyhow.. a great piece and I look forward to reading more from you. have a great day!

After reading through all of the comments, several things come to mind here:
1. There were definitely more than 10 here!
2. There must be a very large societal interface with "like types" of situations that equate with Mr. Gold's post the "T" subset of the alphabet soup.
3. It is obvious that we, as "T", are indeed upsetting the LG apple carts, politically speaking. Sorry, but reality can be so inconvenient at times. It may be a good idea for Mr. Gold - and others of like mind - to consider how inconvenient this can be for us as well.
4. I too have oft times experienced denigration by various gay men who have called me "cop out," "sell-out," and a "guilt-ridden drag queen." I should also comment here that many of the L subset have objected to my reality on the basis of my "profaning the female form" and being a female "wannabe." It is obvious that that being basically as cisgendered as the average hetro, they just do not get it about sexual identity and the need medically correct the divide between body and mind that many transgendered individuals experience since early childhood.
5. I can concur that we need to actively must increasingly extend our educational efforts into the LBGT arena as well as into the cis/hetero community as well.

I would like to thank you Dr. Weiss for your excellent post, and to those who commented as well. I particularly enjoyed your analysis of the reasons behind the political and social divide that we face. I believe that you have essentially nailed this one in a manner that I have rarely seen, and never as succinctly seen previously.

I found this to be very thought provoking and informative due to the variety and range of responses. I am also astounded at the average of civility here.

Thank you for this post. Like others here, I look forward to part 2.

You give me much to think about. As a gay cisgender male who spent nearly two decades trying to "de-gay" himself through conversion therapy and ex-gay ministries, I have spent a lot of time unpacking my experiences in the Ex-Gay World.

Nearly half of those experience had to do with correcting gender non-conformity based on my oppressors' models of masculine and feminine (which got downright silly at times with football clinic for boys and bread baking girls then changing the oil in one's own car and Mary Kay makeovers.) They attempted to remold us into proper men and women.

When I at last came out gay, I found an odd parallel in the "gay community" where men were prized and sought after for being "straight-acting, masculine men--no fems!"

I was called sissy before I was called fag, and as a result, the closet experience for me included binding and gagging my sissy self, beating the shit of the sissy part of me much like those boys on the playground long ago. I came out gay in 1999, but left the sissy boy behind in the dark.

It is not yet clear to me how the destruction of the sissy self--the gender non-conforming part that some gay men find within themselves- is connected to the negative reactions of some gay men to people who identify as transgender or transsexual. Is there a transference of issues, a visceral reaction that has something to do with the rejection of self?

As you outlined above, there are multiple reasons for the source of this transphobia among gay men. In my own case, I know that running away from my own gender-non-conformity made it harder to listen to the stories and lives of people who identify as transgender or transsexual.

Thank you for this post. Like others here, I look forward to part 2.

You give me much to think about. As a gay cisgender male who spent nearly two decades trying to "de-gay" himself through conversion therapy and ex-gay ministries, I have spent a lot of time unpacking my experiences in the Ex-Gay World.

Nearly 1/2 of those experiences had to do with correcting gender non-conformity based on my oppressors' models of masculine and feminine (which got downright silly at times with football clinic for boys and bread baking girls then changing the oil in one's own car and Mary Kay makeovers.) They attempted to remold us into proper men and women.

When I at last came out gay, I found an odd parallel in the "gay community" where men were prized and sought after for being "straight-acting, masculine men--no fems!"

I was called sissy before I was called fag, and as a result, the closet experience for me included binding and gagging my sissy self, beating the shit of the sissy part of me much like those boys on the playground long ago. I came out gay in 1999, but left the sissy boy behind in the dark.

It is not yet clear to me how the destruction of the sissy self--the gender non-conforming part that some gay men find within themselves- is connected to the negative reactions of some gay men to people who identify as transgender or transsexual. Is there a transference of issues, a visceral reaction that has something to do with the rejection of self?

As you outlined above, there are multiple reasons for the source of this transphobia among gay men. In my own case, I know that running away from my own gender-non-conformity made it harder to listen to the stories and lives of people who identify as transgender or transsexual.

I came here to learn something. What I learned is that Dr. Weiss and her supporters are allowed to make broad, disparaging generalizations about gay males, their promiscuity, their failure to do much of anything for anyone who is not a white, privileged, gay male, and offer opinions freely and safely and that is the official version of history that is supposed to assuage the anger and the offended.

Thanks for that understanding. I also learned that I really don't want to support anything "T" anymore, I don't want to march alongside, work alongside, or be associated in any way with people who think, talk, and act the way that most people on these threads have shown themselves to behave. Not because they are "T" but because they are not nice people. In fact, I am now inspired to actively work against this community, since it is clear that they have little time, respect, or interest in people like me and, in fact, are ignorant of and hatefully phobic towards people like me.

The game plays two ways.

The comments I have seen from the transgender community don't look to me that they are being mean. I think we got our feelings hurt by Mr Gold's horrific article. So now you say you don't even want to work next to us and am going to actively fight against us? Are you being serious?

Maybe this was Mr Gold's agenda. He wants T out of G BLT so that ENDA might pass easier.

Thanks for your caring and understanding of the struggles we are making in gaining basic civil rights. BASIC CIVIL RIGHTS that you say you are going to fight against.

Interesting. I have a sneaking suspicion that Palladium had come to this decision LONG ago, judging by his rhetoric, and that he was merely looking for something to reinforce this, so he could make his grand pronouncement. Don't let it fool you.

Palladium, the tone of your comment is clearly intended to wound. I have stated my opinion about why I believe that there is transphobia in the gay community. If you think that is untrue, that is fine. Feel free to explain your point of view.

As far as your threat that you intend to actively work against the interests of transgender people because we are not "nice people" -- this sounds like the workings of an immature person.

But if you'd like to learn something about your community, stick around.

The fact that you chose to answer me all that needs to be said about you and your priorities when it comes to the "community."

I am a 50-year old activist and have accomplished many things. The insulting and derogatory comments made by those who claim the "T" and their supporters tell me all I need to know about whether or not I want to ally myself with them politically. No.

I understand completely that you are allowed to trash me as a gay man in as many ways as you can think of but if I question any motivation of you and others I am out of bounds. I've played this game before with radical feminists who were anti-gay male as well.

Peace to you. You are not my friend or supporter, though.

Palladium, do you think it isn't clear to us that you already had your agenda as trans haters before you ever came and saw any comments here. It is obvious.

It is free in this country to hate others so do what you want. I believe their are more Transgender folks that support gay rights than you might think. I push for gay marriage every single time I get the chance and it has nothing to do with me. It is because gays are struggling just like we are and I want to help.

You can go to my facebook page and check my postings if you like.

Try to relax, Palladium. No one's trashing you as a gay man. This post is talking about those people, gay men or otherwise, who feel free to say that transgender people are silly and deluded people who mutilate themselves. There are important issues at stake, like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. So come on, put down the gun. You don't need it. Yes, we're a little angry right now, but can you totally blame us for being over the top for a little while?

I am a Lesbian Activist in my 50's also. The Trans-community has a very legitimate complaint. Ok, they ought not paint the Gay male community with such a broad brush. But look at the reality, the Mattachines, Barney Frank. Andrew Sullivan, John Avarosis and many more "leadership" gays have had at the trans community and opposed and/or quashed trans rights.

Not that the Lesbian community is blameless, but many of us are trying to do a very public mea culpa for that

Maura, as a transwoman in her 50s (but who also lived in the Castro in the 70s) I really appreciate your frequent interest and willingness to listen to trans issues and voices. It means a lot! Especially when compared to some other 'allies' *ahem, Jerame* who think they're helping us by telling us what we should think and be thankful for. I do see some attempts by the Lesbian community to open itself to trans inclusion, but is slooow in coming! :-)

I'm just an everyday person. My life is affected by transgender prejudice and potential malice daily. My partner is transgendered. My partner grew frustrated at first trying to help me understand the continued risks from exposure to ignorant people. I listened and related I was familiar having had a relationship with a partner in transition previous. She smiled and sighed and kept on loving me.

My partner moved from a part of the country far more tolerant of difference to my home state of near social retardation when it comes to diversity. She had to grow more confident that she would not be cornered and abused or worse.

I found Bilerico by accidental browse one day a year ago and I have not left. The reason I'm still here is the transgender perspective. The work of making language adapt to encompass change is occurring in places such as this. I need people more facile with language to develop definition that I can take and teach to the grossly misinformed people I come in contact with through work and social contexts.

As much as I love my partner, I have to see these concepts discussed back and forth from many different angles to learn how to break down stereotyping. I believe she has reason to fear job discrimination, I believe she has reason to fear harm, I'm sad that she has to feel these things, and I am sad it is the truth.

I've worked as an RN for 25 years, most of them in ER and one of my largest struggles has been to make my coworkers see the person, not pick them apart if they differ from their stated gender. It was only in the past year that our mental health intervention team started having a specific unit for LGBT persons to admit to if they preferred. I was delighted. Some of the most frequent walk outs from ER are those who do not feel that there is a place they would feel welcomed, and from reading Bilerico, I'm assured that a large percentage of them are not wanting to feel like discussing their problems with a group of others who would be very likely to be rejecting of their lives.

Please, please do not leave Bilerico now. I need you, my partner needs you and through the increased understanding your exchange of ideas brings the world needs you.

Thank you for reading


Hi Dr. Weiss,

Thank you for your blog article here, and all the other articles authored by you.

I agree that a large part of "transphobia" is truly based in misogyny and patriarchy.

It is very unfortunate that the cisgender and "str8" part of our world community, do realize that L, G & B sexual orientation(s) actually exist, within the "T" community.

The arguments/opinions/feelings seems to have become, somewhat similar to the all the recent arguments against the recent Federal Hate Crime Law... a matter about thoughts/feelings (and "thought crimes), NOT about the actions resulting from thoughts/feelings.

Here are just a few scenarios to exemplify my intent of the preceding paragraph:

1. If a Trans woman is pre-op, self identifies as feminine in gender, has naked sex with a male; how might society (peering in from outside the bedroom) define that? How might the the Human couple in bed define it?

2. If a Trans woman is post-op and has naked sex with a male; how might society (peering in from outside the bedroom) define that? How would the Human couple define that? How might the gay male (or lesbian) communities define that, knowing the "op state" of the woman? How might the gay male (or lesbian) communities define that, NOT knowing the "op state" of the one woman? How might society define that, NOT knowing the "op state" of the woman? How might society define that, knowing the "op state" of the woman?

3. If a Trans woman is pre-op, self identifies as feminine in gender, has naked sex with a womyn born womyn (as two women might), how might society (peering in from outside the bedroom) define that? How might the Human couple define that?

4. If a Trans woman is pre-op, self identifies as feminine in gender, has naked sex with another pre-op, who self identifies as feminine in gender, (as two women might), how might society (peering in from outside the bedroom) define that? How might the Human couple define that?

5. If a Trans woman is post-op, has naked sex with a womyn born womyn (as two women might), how might society (peering in from outside the bedroom) define that? How might the Human couple define that? How might the gay male (or lesbian) communities define that, knowing the "op state" of the one woman? How might the gay male (or lesbian) communities define that, NOT knowing the "op state" of the one woman?

6. If a Trans woman is post-op, has naked sex with a MTF pre-op, whose gender identity is masculine, how might society (peering in from outside the bedroom) define that? How might the Human couple define that? How might the gay male (or lesbian) communities define that, knowing the "op state" of the MTF? How might the gay male (or lesbian) communities define that, NOT knowing the "op state" of the MTF?

Other "scenarios" are possible and diversely wonderful, it seems.

Similar scenarios can be imagined by replacing "Trans woman" with "Trans man" for the other side of "Trans Avenue" MTF.

So, if one is sexually attracted to someone with the same genitalia (male), self-identifies as feminine, and thinks/feels/knows that the other partner also self-identifies as feminine... is that the essence of the "sell out"... the "you are not man enough to ADMIT that you are gay" syndrome?

I am not in agreement with the proposal that gender identity and sexual orientation are inexorably linked. I feel there can be some affect of one upon the other. It has been my observation (non-scientific) that gender identity and sexual orientation can change over time, and often does, subtly, and perhaps with not much fanfare. One can only learn, if one asks each individual, politely, and receives a reply that indicates a feeling (from each of them) that your request was not too "snoopy." Of course, one would ask, only if one were truly interested and, somehow felt, there was a "need to know." For me, personally, I feel it is rude to ask; it really none of my business.

I read Julia Serano's book, "Whipping Girl... ", and I agree almost all of what she wrote there.

There is a LOT to be learned and, more importantly, unlearned about misogyny and patriarchy.

Has anyone ever met the perfectly masculine male? Has anyone ever met the perfectly feminine female?

I have yet to meet anyone who gender identifies EXACTLY as I do, and continues to EXACTLY match me, moment to moment. How is is possible for another do so? The other would have be ME... in MY mind, ALL the time.

If gender is so complex, so intricate, and so very personal, how is it possible for ANY two people to have EXACTLY the same gender simultaneously?

By inspection of that question, is gender so absolutely binary and so fixed for all time, for all Humans?

If gender is not absolutely binary, is not fixed, at all times, and for all Humans, does gender variance REALLY, actually exist... when every Human Being is variant from every other Human Being? How can there be variance from something that is so immensely, and continuously variant?

Or is this more about "norms" and "stereotypes?"

Has anyone ever met the perfectly masculine male? Has anyone ever met the perfectly feminine female? Do they actually exist?

Who would set those "norms" and "stereotypes?" Are they really about gender? Or, are they really about the millenia of indoctrination (of a misogynistic/patriarchal) society, about "gender roles," which seem to constantly change, becoming increasingly fluid, causing it all to be, understandably, continuously confusing... to anyone.

When anyone tries to define masculine and feminine, what do those terms really mean?

Who defines them?

More importantly.... WHY?

Perhaps one day (probably not during in my Lifetime, but hopefully during the Lifetime of my grandchildren), these issues will be historical and academic.

Please keep up the great work you do, and please continue to keep these discussions going, so we can all think/feel/share and learn.

I feel:

Knowledge is Power.
Knowledge is Comfort.
Mutual Sharing is Love.

Take care, Doctor Weiss; please be and ALWAYS stay, safe and well.


I wish I could write so effectively. Thank You Jillian for the wonderfully detailed and well written post. The truth is Ron Gold's post come very close to my leaving this site and never returning.

Michelle Dolan | December 15, 2009 2:09 PM

Apathy is killing the progress we are making towards equal rights. This cannot be ignored, people. Engage, engage, engage! It is NOT ok to continue to allow & feed the infestation of discrimination, hatred and intolerance.

janice josephine carney | December 16, 2009 10:13 AM

As long as "Drag Shows" are the main form of Entertainment for gay men. Gay men will never get over seeing transgender women as being around for their amusement. I wish I could understand why so many lesbians have an issue. All I know is that in the last eight years every single lesbian that I asked out gave me a fast No way! Not one single lesbian has ever asked me out. What relationships that I have had, have been with bi sexual women or other Trans women.

Rafa Jo Chaim-Anshel | December 17, 2009 5:40 PM

Thanks for your writing, Jill. I myself have been quite aware of prejudice in the GL community towards Bi and Trans people. I think the GL community still wants to continue the Binary idea of male-female.. that's it. I've always thought that much violence against Gay Men has been because of this sense that Gay Men's gender is suspect. When I am in GL organizations that call themselves GLBT I am so aware of the lack of belonging I feel. I feel that G-d forbid, GL civil rights should be "slowed down" by Trans people. This so reminds me of the fears of darker skinned people versus lighter skinned people, or any one who "passes" in their community as opposed to those who, don't. In this case, even if one "passes" it's not enough. Thank you for more information on the social construct of these attitudes of GLBT people. It sheds a lot of light that this does not happen in a vacuum. It is historical. And in my opinion very few are educated about this, and are out for themselves, in this context of not knowing and "protecting" themselves. When I identified as a "gay man", I didn't quite fit in. I think this is because of my not even being able to be aware of my gender identity. Now that I identify as Transgender, I often still feel out of place in a community that supposedly I am included in. I have a lot to learn... thanks for teaching me.

Not nearly enough attention paid to bisexuality and bisexual behaviour - which is far more common than exclusive homosexuality - in your article.

And indeed what about transwomen who are lesbian or bisexual? Every lesbian organization of any significant size has had to deal with such women. If you are not aware of this then you should ask them.

And what about transmen who are bisexual or gay? There are transmen who are only attracted to males. One of the most famous transmen in the world has a male partner - even though he identified as lesbian before he transitioned.

Such people are a complication that has to be dealt with by anyone trying to explain transphobia in the lgbt community. And those that are transphobic in their attitudes are often biphobic too I have found.

I'm way late to the commenting table, but I just wanted to say that this is a really good piece. I have an extremely watered-down version of this argument for an English paper (compare and contrast, I'm comparing the fight for gay rights in the heterosexual world to the fight for trans rights in the queer community). I am the only queer person in any of my classes, and my college doesn't even have a GSA (I am starting one). As a transperson, it's even harder to get by. I'm really glad that I found this, because it gives me hope that I'll be able to make it.