identity or expression, they are automatically outed, “this creates a chilling effect on the wide
range of government and private resources requiring identity documents, which can be as
important as obtaining medical care or as simple as using the library” (Weiss 33). The suicide
rate for trans men is 46% and 42% for trans women. (Haas, Rodgers, and Herman 2) Are you
surprised? I wasn’t. In a different conversation, Gwen explained that throughout her whole
childhood she was castigated for being too effeminate. Then, she embraced the femininity and
people wanted to deny her that, too. She asked me, “What was I left with?” I felt hollow at the
desperation of the question.
Achievements like marriage equality for the LGBTQ community represent progress, but
in many ways, the trans community has been left behind. Our culture still celebrates the binary.
Want an example? Google: “Gender Reveal Party,” and see the excitement as people reveal blue
or pink. Two options provide simplicity but also creates expectations for a person who doesn’t
exist yet. Studies have shown that overt homophobia has been slowly declining in public
discourse, but transphobia is alive and well (Teal and Conover-Williams 1). There is a difference
between sexual orientation and gender identity. American culture has come a long way in
normalizing homosexuality. If you are attracted to a person of the same sex, your sexual
orientation is less likely to be a stigma now than it was ten years ago. However, if your gender
identity does not correspond with your sex written down at birth, however, you are seriously at
risk.
In fact, the fight for equal rights has whiplashed the trans community. To illustrate that
lesbian and gay people are just like cis-gender heteronormative folks, trans people have been
further marginalized. Trans people complicate the straightforward “we are just like you”
argument and have been kept at arm’s length by the general LGB rights
movements.2
For
example, take the 2015 “Drop the T” Human Rights Campaign on change.org (“HUMAN
RIGHTS CAMPAIGN, GLAAD, Lambda Legal, The Advocate, Out Magazine, HuffPost Gay
Voices”). The statement read:
“We are a group of gay/bisexual men and women who have come to the conclusion that
the transgender community needs to be disassociated from the larger LGB community; in
essence, we ask that organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD,
Lambda Legal and media outlets such as The Advocate, Out, Huff Post Gay Voices, etc.,
stop representing the transgender community as we feel their ideology is not only
completely different from that promoted by the LGB community (LGB is about sexual
orientation, trans is about gender identity), but is ultimately regressive and actually
hostile to the goals of women and gay men.”
To equate trans rights with the overall gay rights movement is to overlook the prejudice trans
people face within the LGB community. This example of LGB trying to get rid of the “T” didn’t
get much traction, but it documents that you cannot equate trans rights with the gay rights
movement. Julia Serano, a trans activist in the Bay Area, wrote about exclusion within minority
groups in her book, Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements Inclusive. Serano
poignantly writes that “The sad truth is that we always seem to create feminist queer movements
designed to challenge sexism on the one hand, while simultaneously policing gender and
2 Serano, Julia. 2013. Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive.
Berkeley, CA: Seal Press.
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