Does The Gay Agenda Have Room For Transgender Rights?

Earlier this week the New York Times hosted a discussion about whether or not it makes sense to think of trans* rights and gay rights as parts of the same movement anymore. Historically, we have talked about the “LGBT movement” as if lesbian, gay and bisexual people are fighting for all the same rights and protections that transgender people are. Trans* people are often told that we already have gay pride celebrations and LGBT history month, so we don’t need things to celebrate our own history, experiences and lives. Organizations with names GLAAD (which until just this year stood for Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) and the Gay-Straight Alliance are supposed to represent us all and be safe spaces for not just lesbians, bisexuals and gay people, but also trans* people of all different sexualities. However, as they pointed out in their debate, victories are being won in the specific arena of LGB rights, including constitutional victories for same-sex marriage and the end of Don’t As Don’t Tell, trans* rights are still struggling to find a foothold. Due to this upsetting trend, and the historic erasure of trans* people’s contributions to the LGBT movement, many are left wondering if the “T” really belongs with those other letters at all.

Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera

Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera

One of the most prominent starting points of the LGBT rights movement in America is the Stonewall Riots. Unfortunately, this is also one of the starting points of the tensions between the LGB part of the community and it’s trans* counterparts. Nowadays, we know that two trans* women of color, Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson were some of the first people to fight back at Stonewall and therefore basically gave birth to the entire movement. For much of the past 50 years, however, the importance of their contributions, as well as those of other trans* women like Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, have been purposefully swept under the rug. More recently, transgender protections have been pushed aside so that LGB rights will be seen as more acceptable to mainstream society. In 2007 Barney Frank, an openly gay member of the US Congress removed transgender protections from ENDA in the hopes that that would help it pass. Several times, the gay rights group the Human Rights Campaign has come under fire for suppressing trans* voices in it’s efforts to win fights for gay rights. Most recently, they issued apologies for telling trans* activists to remove their flags from same-sex marriage rallies.

It’s not just incidents like this that make trans* people feel left out of the LGBT community, though. Many trans* people are straight, and many don’t even identify as queer. In states where you can’t change the gender marker on your birth certificate, a straight trans* woman is going to run into more issues regarding same-sex marriage than a gay trans* man. Because of this, the intense focus on same-sex marriage and even the focus that the LGB community can sometimes have on sexuality don’t resonate with many in the transgender community. Same-sex marriage is hardly a top priority when four trans* women of color have been brutally murdered in the last three months. Allowing gay people in the military isn’t a priority when the extreme poverty rate is four times higher for trans* people than it is for the general population. Many in the trans* community feel like we are still fighting to simply survive while the mainstream gay rights movement has moved on to other things we aren’t even thinking about yet.

Vigil Held For Transgender Woman Beaten And Killed In Harlem

However, these recent victories won by the LGB community have allowed for many of them to see the transgender rights movement as the “next big thing.” In recent years, and even recent months, we’ve gained many allies. On one hand, this is a welcome development. The more people fighting for trans* rights the better. On the other hand, it feels a little bit like we’re getting the table scraps that were left over after everyone was done fighting the real fight. After we win a few victories, will they move on to another, more fresh marginalized group? I want all the help I can get, but I’m not sure that I can handle fair-weather allies.


So, are trans* rights a part of the larger gay rights movement? This is a tough question for someone like me. I’m both a trans* woman and a lesbian, so both of these fights are very relevant to me and the way I live my life. For me, and the other trans* people like me, gay rights and trans* rights are both vitally necessary. I don’t want one without the other. That’s the thing that I think bothers me so much about this discussion. It, like so many other mainstream discussions about oppression, ignores the intersectionality that often exists throughout these identities. When we argue that trans* and gay rights are separate battles, we ignore the fact that many people are both. We ignore that homophobia and transphobia both have many of the same roots in sexism and racism. Many of those who want to take rights away from LGB people and trans* people want to do it because neither group fits into their idea of how men and women should act. Laverne Cox wrote in her piece for the NYT debate that the way bullies see it, there’s little difference between gay and trans* people.

When kids are bullied and called anti-gay slurs, it’s rarely because the victim seemed to be attracted to members of the same sex. It’s because the child did not conform to gender expectations based on the sex they were assigned at birth. The bullies might yell “gay,” but it’s about gender expression.

I’m definitely tired of gay, lesbian and bisexual leaders and organizations who claim to represent the lgbtq community but tell us trans* people that we have to wait our turn. I’m tired of queer “allies” who use anti-trans* slurs as if they were their own to reclaim. But I’m also tired of pretending like my trans* identity and lesbian identity are separate. While the LGB movement definitely has plenty of priorities and goals that do not apply to a lot of trans* people, many of the enemies and obstacles are the same. Gay rights and trans* rights don’t have to be tied together, but they can be. If the LGB community is going to treat trans* people as if we’re only reluctantly invited to the party then perhaps it would be better to split the letters up. However, if the LGB community steps up to the plate, recognizes all they have in common with the trans* community and puts 100% into being the kind of allies trans* people need, both sides will be better for it and rights for all of us will come a whole lot sooner.

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Mey Rude is a fat, trans, Latina lesbian living in LA. She's a writer, journalist, and a trans consultant and sensitivity reader. You can follow her on twitter, or go to her website if you want to hire her.

Mey has written 572 articles for us.


  1. It does have room for trans rights and they’re not separate battles at all. I’ve my best friend struggle with transitioning and her very unaccepting parents. She needs not only my support but the support of the whole LGBT community. Thank you so much of highlight trans people who have had a huge impact in LGBT history. My friend really needs this right now.

  2. This is so great. I was hoping AS would write about that NY Times series. Too often, big mainstream groups sweep aside intersectionality in favor of “respectability politics.” And I’m seeing more and more backlash against that attitude, both over the LGBT community’s exclusion of trans* people and feminism’s exclusion of WOC. Both groups, to me, should be on probation. This attitude of having handled BIG issues, they can now turn to trans* rights, leads to exactly the kind of fair weather allies/table scrap mentality Mey describes, which is what we don’t want. Mey put this whole article fantastically, I hope a ton of people read this! (And I wish more websites carried as much intersectional content as Autostraddle. It’s one of the biggest things that drew and kept me here after abandoning AfterEllen.) Thanks for writing this, Mey!

  3. I’m so tired of both same-sex marriage and don’t ask, don’t tell being portrayed as super frivolous concerns of the super privileged. Most people who are in the military aren’t privileged, it’s such a dangerous line of work, yes some people might sign up because they have some kind of strong calling to it, but for most people it’s simply the best (and often the only) option they have. Not facing employment discrimination and being allowed to get married are basic human rights, they’re not special privileges, they shouldn’t be treated as such – and there shouldn’t be a dichotomy between wanting to not be afraid to come out to your employer and wanting to not live in poverty. There’s just such a clear and obvious link between the two, they both boil down to the same thing.

    • I mean, it’s really easy to point out the need to focus more on issues like poverty or hate crimes without being all, “ho ho ho the privileged gays who care about marriage we’re so much more radical than that”. I grew up really poor and my family is very not middle class, amazingly we’re now doing ok – and I always wish “LGBT rights groups” cared more about the kinds of issues people like me face, I just don’t feel like I have to decide whether I want civil rights or a living wage.

      • I totally agree with you, but I think the problem Mey is talking about is not so much ‘the gays are surfing on a wave of privilege if they can think about marriage’ but more like ‘the gays are surfing on a wave of privilege if they can think of NOTHING BUT marriage’.

        The problem is also in how ‘gay marriage’ (I hate that expression, I prefer ‘marriage equality’) is marketed to straight supporters now: not ‘this is urgent because we need frigging CUSTODY OF OUR CHILDREN’ or ‘the laws that govern partner benefits have a dangerous loophole for us’, but a more personal ‘yes, we really are two people who happen to be in love’.
        There’s nothing wrong with presenting it that way where you need to be recognized in your social circle, but when it’s nationally, politically broadcast it becomes ‘Look, we’re pure too! Nothing pervy about us! We are super likeable, so allow us to be together!’, and that paves the way to sacrificing members of the community who are not seen as ‘respectable enough’.

        And then if marriage equality makes way it devolves into this sort of festival in the general public of ‘OMG ‘LOVE WON’ SO EVERYTHING IS FINE WITH THE WORLD NOW’ which lets the part of the LGBT movement that no other major issue is hindering sit back and call it a day.

        There definitely are people who are like ‘marriage equality is for the rich, fuck marriage equality’ and I see where they’re coming from (again, I think that’s because they’re disgusted by the marketing which really does sell it as a solely poetic ‘right to love’ thing and downplays its urgent social justice side), but I don’t think that’s the point of view in this piece.

        • The thing is that love is easy to sell. We tried making our messaging about rights but people respond more individual stories of love. This is true regardless of the issue and is the same technique that undocumented immigrants are using when fighting for immigration reform. It’s hard because when it comes to marriage, no one is stopping me from loving and making a commitment to my girlfriend, they are stopping us from receiving the rights associated with said commitment. But if I write a letter to the editor about our rights and don’t focus on our love it won’t be very effective. Instead I have to write something more personal, about the first time we met, the love and home we share, and the kids we want to have someday to get people to listen.

    • But consider this: Chelsea Manning was misrepresented by mainstream gay groups as a gay man in an effort to lobby against don’t ask, don’t tell. Reversing that policy would’ve done nothing to change her expulsion from the military.

  4. Mey, being trans and a lesbian myself I see the same blurry dicotomy and, from my paradigm, there seems to be either gay haters or lovers of those who are trans and not much apathy.

    Those of whom I know in the gay community seem to realy despise trans people or are really trying to help us. My SO, who is a trans lesbian, has had a gay man treat her disdainfully in a job interview and has been hatefully ostracized at a popular lesbian bar in Philadelphia to where the bar tender told her to, “be sure you use only the men’s room.” Yet she has also seen great compassion from other gay women.

    I just wish gay cispeople would attend a Trangender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) event this November. I believe it would spawn the sympathy needed to bring our LGB friends closer to understanding the plight of transpeople.

  5. Mey-
    Thank you for writing about this! I think movements in general are really abstract with regard to those they represent; The fundamental belief of feminism is “equal rights for all people” and is therefore is a pretty relatable concept. But we see the same kinds of split of interest in feminism, where we struggle to decide which specific rights need the most representation right now. Sure, we could accomplish a whole lot more if we could all get behind a specific agenda that represents the needs of a lot of different people. But how do we do that when there are so many individual rights specific to only a small group of people? I like to think we live in a society filled with compassionate human beings capable of furthering more than one specific cause at a time. But maybe I’m just a dreamer.

  6. Ahhh, such great points. I went to Atlanta Pride last weekend and was approached by a trans woman of color and the first words out of her mouth were, please don’t shoot me or beat me up. It broke my heart that she not only felt the need to start her conversation like that, but that those fears are entirely justified. She was literally just asking for food for her and her boyfriend. They were sleeping on the street and hadn’t eaten in over a day and you could tell they were both just exhausted and starving. At a time when queers from all over were flocking to Atlanta to spend all sorts of money to drink and be merry, they just wanted a meal and maybe a shower.

    Also, there are some folks really working on these issues here in the south, and I need to shout this one in particular out because it was huge and so exciting. A group called We Are Family here in Charleston, SC which is a safe space group for LGBTQ youth got Laverne Cox to come speak at the Spirit Day rally where the theme was trans* rights and inclusion. It was really great and well publicized and I thing a huge step forward for having a more inclusive movement in this area, especially towards raising mainstream awareness about the T in LGBT.

  7. You know, this reminds me of when people ask me why I am a “feminist” when I say I want equality for all people, I tell them : because feminism is humanism, and women are humans. I go on to tell them I’m also a LGBT rights and a children’s rights enthusiast.

    I very often tell people how “feminism” became very inclusive of LGBT/ african-american civil rights movements a few decades ago. Feminism went from a women’s rights movement to a movement for gender equality, no matter what gender you identify to. And since it is about gender equality, it means equality for men, specially men who express themselves in a non “gender-conforming” way. Feminism just hasn’t changed its name, but it’s evolved as a movement. A lot.

    I like my human rights movements to be as inclusive as possible. As such, I do not think it is inappropriate to have the “T” at the end of LGBT. And you know what? I wouldn’t even mind adding the good old “s” to the mix. LGBTS. Lesbian, gais, bisexuals, transgenders, straights. The same way I explain that I am a humanist if asked why I’m a feminist, I would say I stand for the equality of all sexualities if I was asked why I support gais and lesbians.

    Not that the straights need their “rights” to be defended. They don’t most of the time, if ever at all. But if we want to fight for the equality of all sexual preferences, I think the “s” belongs in the acronym, just because it puts the straights on the very same level as the LGBT. The acronym LGBT regroups all “non-heterosexuals”, to put it that way, so it kind of singles us out against the majority, in my humble opinion. I’d much rather stand together with my straight allies than feel the need to fight against the few rotten ones who make up the rules. If we want straight allies to stand for our rights, we need them to feel as if we’re sailing the same boat. I say : LGBTS.

    And I’m not very well educated when it comes to Trans history, I’ll admit. I think it is horrible how even within the LGB community, transphobia still occurs. But there are rotten apples everywhere. Being bisexual (I am) is very hard too, within the gay community, especially when you are currently dating the opposite sex. In fact, in my own experience, I find it harder being bi within the gay community than within my straight peers. I guess that it’s kind of the same for being trans? And I’ve seen 100% gay men hate on 100% lesbians, too, so there is no end to that thing named discrimination.

    Personally, I still like to look past that. I don’t mind the “T” in LGBT, in fact I rather like to have it. I would like to have the S with us too. I’m that affectionate ;)

    • Your intentions may be good, but come off as pretty naive. There is no S or A (for Allies) in the queer alphabet soup because their rights and liberties as human beings are never, ever challenged in a heterosexist society. They don’t belong in the rainbow because they never face discrimination as we do. Men, on the otherhand, are targeted and hurt by the same Patriarchy that oppress women and other genders. You’re comparing apples and oranges when comparing Feminism = Women(Other genders)+Men and Queer = Non-Hetero + Straight.

      • I don’t think I am being naive at all. I do agree that my views on the matter are unusual, sure, and I realise that there will be lots of people in the community who don’t share my ideas.

        As I mentionned above, I do realise straight people’s rights aren’t being challenged at all. I’m not proposing that there should be more straight-inclusive groups or organisations, or a Straight Pride (duh). I mean we all agree here, the straights have the gold end of the stick. We have the shitty stinky one.

        I am not unaware of the issues the LGBT are facing versus the privilege of the straight majority.

        HOWEVER. I have faced so much discrimination *within* the LGBT community regarding my heterosexual relationships. What is sad is how many gay-identified people will not regard you as “bi”, but as “currently straight”, and therefore “not gay”.

        This is why I think that the “s” should be added to the “queer alphabet” to reflect the possibility of heterosexuality not OUTSIDE of the LGBTQ, but within.

        As it has been cleverly pointed by many people this far, transgender individuals may very well be hetero. And if we are going to keep the “T” (And I mentionned I’m in the “stronger together” camp) we might wanna add the “S”, THIS is what I am saying.

        People who view things differently and who would rather leave out the T so trans people can organise their own movement and battles more freely would also see no use in the “S” and that is understandable.

        So this is it. My native language isn’t English, so at times I’m not as articulate as I wish I was.

        P.S. I disagree with your statement that the more inclusive modern feminism is not to be compared to today’s more inclusive queer world. We would have to push the comparison / debate further for me to understand your ideas on the matter. :)

    • “This is why I think that the “s” should be added to the “queer alphabet” to reflect the possibility of heterosexuality not OUTSIDE of the LGBTQ, but within.”

      Hmmm… I’m not really sure if I get where you’re coming from with this Michelle. With the exception of Trans* people, who are already the “T” in the acronym by virtue of their gender identity, I don’t really understand how anybody else in the alphabet soup can have a straight relationship. i.e. if I were to find the perfect man tomorrow, I’d be a queer woman in a relationship with a man, I wouldn’t be straight.

      From your post it sounds like some of the people around you were assigning labels to you based on your partner at that time i.e. gay/currently straight
      I have NO wish to be another person that is adding labels to your identity and I don’t presume to know you or how you identify but it feels like the product of biphobia/bi- erasure within the LGBTQ community when I hear you talking about your straight relationships. This upsets me so much as I think so many awesome bi or queer women find themselves outsiders in this community when they are in an opposite sex relationship and that makes me really fucking angry. I think you and all of the bi community deserve more respect and solidarity than you are getting from the rest of us. I don’t think adding “S” to the acronym will fix that. I think working towards a community where we all treat the “B” a little better is what’s called for.

      • Thanks for your reply, and your solidarity :)

        Due to the fact I don’t 100% master English, I often have issues wrapping up my thoughts in that language. I understand that reading my ramblings can be confusing to some extent, at times. And yeah, reading over my own posts, it made little sense.

        I’ll try to be more tidy here. What I mean is that to me, there are many incidences of heterosexuality even within the “queer world”. Or rather, within the larger spectrum of the more “misunderstood” sexualities.

        Pansexuals, bisexuals, asexuals, trans people (who can stand anywhere on the sexual orientation spectrum)… there are SO MANY different orientations that don’t get all the same coverage in the mainstream world. Lots of people outside of the “LGB” spectrum (and as you said, too often, just the “LG” spectrum without the B) are currently not very well represented or not even acknowledged. There is still a lot of hatred between the alphabet groups, and we at least all agree that this is something we need to educate people about.

        Thing is, lots of these sexual preferences, orientations, etc, include at times heterosexuality. I understand that these individuals do not identify as “straight” to begin with, most of the time. And being in a straight relationship doesn’t make you straight if you identify as bi or more vaguely, “queer”. However, the fact that “straight” isn’t even an option in the “queer alphabet” often leads to 100% gay-identified people to reject manifestations of heterosexuality / heteronormativity within the community. I’ve been told very often that I couldn’t possibly be an LGBT activist, because if I really was, I would courageously give up my comfy heteronormative life for the harsher reality the queer people have to face in order to gain their queer badge.

        If “straight” isn’t an option AT ALL when you are queer, then bi isn’t exactly one either, unless you are currently gay *within* your bi love life. I’m not sure this makes sense the way I’ve written it? :P Of couuuurse I still identify as “bi” when I’m in a straigh relationship. However, my visibility as “bi” within the LGBT acronym is completely lost because I’m seen as “straight”. And “straight” isn’t a queer option.

        Also, there are plenty of other cases, and unlabeled people who have a hard time fitting in. There are unlabeled couples who ARE straight couples in the end. And yet they feel excluded within the LGBT community. For example, I’ve heard stories about a cis boy and a cis girl dating. None of them identified as transgender. They both identified out of the gender binary. They both used both pronouns to refer to themselves. And as much as they wanted to claim a part of the bedsheet, they were too often told they were just a straight couple.

        Yes, cases like these are super duper rare. Yes, most queer-identified folks fit within the LGBT acronym. But sometimes, the lines are so blurred or so thin that some people end up feeling outcast. Not a whole lot of people, maybe, but some.

        I think we have come to the point where we need to question the very coherence of the current LGBT acronym. Proof is above. Some trans people legitimately feel like the “T” should stand on its own, within a different movement. What do we do, as a global movement? I would prefer to become more inclusive than to see the whole group shatter and reorganise into many different cells, but thats just me. I like the variety :)

        Bottom line is… we’ve all different ideas on what the LGBT movement’s future should look like. These ideas we have depend greatly on our personnal experiences and our education.

        I come from a place where I personally believe that the “LGBT” acronym could eventually be traded for something more global. The past few decades have shown that the variety of sexual orientations and genders is much broader than we first thought.

        Where I agree with you is when you say that just “adding the S” to the acronym might not help or fix anything in the short term. Heh, true, it probably wouldn’t. We can go on adding letters to the whole thing forever, in the end, it’s our global approach we need to change. When I said we needed to add the “S”, it was more like a symbolic way to say we needed to start being more inclusive of those who aren’t necessarily 100% gay-identified, in the end. And also a way to stand closer to our straight allies, who do a wonderful job on making us feel included.

        There are those who feel like many split movements would defend each smaller group’s rights more adequately. Maybe they are right, I can’t tell.

        And then there are those (hopefully I’m not alone haha) who feel like all of these people should stand together, broaden their mission, make the movement and its ideas more inclusive, and globally educate the masses to the existence of the surprising and amazing variety of sexualities and genders that exist. I don’t know if we should call ourselves an acronym at all. Maybe “People for people” would do it.

        Thanks for taking the time to show some love to the “bi” girls! It took me forever to even identify as bi. I used to really like the whole “I hate labels” frame of mind because I equated telling people I was “bi” to telling them I was a promiscuous, indecisive little shit.

        But then, I also fully understand people who won’t self-label. I fully understand people who feel confused, or left out, people who are being told they’re just faking it. It just sucks. :)

      • Also, I totally didn’t mean to recenter the Trans rights topic to a debate about bisexual erasure or heteronormativity. I apologise.

        I’m really interested in knowing how the community feels about the inclusion of the trans rights within the LGBT spectrum. I’m personally happy to have trans people active within our larger group. I love their contributions. But if some credited LGBT organisations are going to leave out trans people in order to give the LGB access to more rights more quickly, then we’re doing something wrong.

        This is a real debate we need to have.

  8. Purely from what i know (like, my sort-of-gf and one of three closest friends are both with current firsthand experiences, it’s not like i’m ill-informed), i support a clean friendly lgb/t split.

    Reason: there is very little the gay community can do for straight folks except solidarity in opposing discrimination and violence. That bit is otherwise known as basic decency though. On the other hand there is an awful lot it can do to improve the situation of vulnerable gay/bi people, which the trans folks willingly associated with the movement more often than not are.

    And how do you imagine an end to sexuality erasure – like how many times i have had to explain i’m with the lady in question because she likes kitty and so do i – not because of me having a sexual kick from her medical condition. the concept of LGBT just reinforces being trans as overriding factor re queerness without any differentiation – and you can see how serving the lowest common denominator (only focusing on homophobic violence) actually does very little to help either straight trans folks (one step forward, one step back, combating violence at a cost of invalidating their sexuality) or gay ones (lumping people with full social consequences of same-sex attraction with straights and artificially distancing them from their own (i.e. gay) community spells a disaster if i have ever seen one).

    Another issue – commitment. My policy is proportionate response. A gift requires an equal gift in return, as it says in Havamal. Words and talk deserve words and talk in support, while actions and commitments call for actions and commitments on my side, with clear, defined priorities biased towards the latter. And no i don’t believe in neat overarching ethical absolutes and serving the letter of equality rather than the spirit – that’s a recipe to serve those complaining the loudest, while those truly in need often don’t even have a voice.

    So, sorry but i can’t support this whole umbrella cause. It grates against my idea of integrity in so many ways.

  9. And let’s not forget that pre-Stonewall, trans and gender variant people were the ones doing the most demonstrating at events like Cooper’s Donuts (1959 in Los Angeles), Dewey’s Cafeteria (1965 in Philadelphia) and the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot (San Francisco 1966). All of these events happened before the Mattachine Society or Daughters of Bilitis were really doing any political action. Stonewall was part of a continuum, not an unprecedented event.

    I really recommend Julia Serano’s new book, ‘Excluded,’ which has some very thoughtful discussions about how trans people (especially trans women) do or don’t fit into queer women’s communities or the LGbtQ coalition.

  10. I think it’s important to understand that whether or not the Trans* community wants to be represented by organizations such as GLAAD is irrelevant. They are going to latch on to us harder and harder the more support for LGb rights becomes mainstream. At the end of the day they are businesses run by people who are not about to start ramping down their organizations when gay rights become more complete. It’s not the nature of businesses, even non-profit ones. They will continue to speak for us, something that I find distasteful because of my personal belief that they’ve hurt us far more than they’ve helped us.

    Any organization who accepts that the right for me to pee in a public restroom is a right that can wait is not an organization who supports me. Any organization who seeks to further public confusion between the fetish community, the performance community and those who are transsexual is an organization who is harming me more then helping me.

    Trans* need to support Trans* and this is something that doesn’t happen enough because so many of us are stealth. We won’t win rights alone, but I’m optimistic that with time and enough of us being out, the straight community will support our goals. (I could write pages and pages on the surprising difference between the support I’ve gotten from the straight community and the negative treatment that I’ve experienced from the non-Queer, LGb community, but I think that’s beyond the scope of a reply).

  11. Mey, this was an excellent article, so thank you for writing it!
    I think the question of whether to merge these communities together or have them split is kind of a silly one. The debate seems to be mainly about the best way to win legal rights, which always seems to me like a “can-we-squeeze-something-that’s-good-enough-out-of-these-stupid-straight-people” attitude.

    That’s not what I’m fighting for. I’m fighting for a society that’s truly supportive and nourishing for all its citizens, so I don’t see why my interests as a gay woman should ever conflict with the interests and rights of trans* people, gay or straight. The goal is to dismantle patriarchy and heteronormativity and racism and all forms of oppression that keep each of us from being the fullest-achieving, boundary-defying humans we can be. If we split apart these movements based on these boxy identity categories, not only are we ignoring intersectionality, but we’re only weakening what we could achieve together, if we could be truly committed to what we say we’re fighting for.

    That said, I know that I can always, always stand to be better informed on trans* issues, and I’m looking to Autostraddle to keep providing more history and news and pieces like this. Mey – thank you again. :)

    • Claire, while I understand your statement about intersectionality, Mey is discussing “the gay agenda”… in other words, the agenda of larger gay/lesbian driven organizations (aka ‘Gay Inc.) which is not necessarily the agenda of the entire LGbtQ community and certainly not addressed to the worldwide needs of people in that alliance. Moreover, “the gay agenda” has NEVER been about intersectionality… ever. Nor do those organizations which set that agenda, for instance, have virtually any trans employees (especially when it comes to trans women or trans persons of color). Imagine if you were part of a community which was either ignored or thrown under the bus repeatedly by organizations which claimed to have their best interest? You may call identity politics ‘boxy’ but it’s a reality… a pervasive and structural reality in Gay Inc. land.

      The other aspect of intersectionality is that you can find partners in struggle with many more groups and movements than initially assumed. Yes, there are a lot of historic connections between LG & t communities, overlap in membership and some common goals, but there are LOTS of groups which also fit into that coalition. Women’s groups, black groups, unions, worker’s rights, tenants rights, hispanic groups, women’s health, or disability organizations could also partner with the trans community. I guess I’m having a not-very-positive reaction to your considering one of Mey’s core questions as being silly. What’s silly is allowing the same negative patterns between communities to continue and fester as though they inherently have to change for the better.

      And yes, I think you do need to learn more about the trans community and how, before the 1990s, we were able to get a large number of positive changes into law, create services and an entire support infrastructure which is on the Internet now which benefits trans people. And this was all done without being part of ‘the gay agenda’ and, in fact, was accomplished while often being attacked by members of the gay and lesbian communities. In other words, if we’re going to be allies, please don’t characterize core questions within our community as “silly.”

      • Such good points! It’s all true. I really appreciate you taking time out to reply… I definitely shouldn’t have used the word “silly.” I think what I meant is that I hope that the movements are able to find more common ground and change those negative patterns, and in my idealist brain I can’t see how they couldn’t. In my small circle of influence, I see lots of good things happening for both LGB and T people, and I see the communities working relatively well in unity/ conjunction (with other intersectional communities you mentioned) to make that happen. But of course you are totally correct – what I’m seeing is the exception to the rule, Gay Inc. exists, and we’re not all on the same page. Trans* activists have a lot to discuss in regards to that, and I certainly didn’t mean to demean the whole conversation.

        What I should have expressed is that I hope and pray we continue to move in the direction of coalition building and educating people so that we can see our causes as common against the systems which demean and other us. But I realize not all allies understand it the same way and that I have a lot to learn.

    • While I love what you are fighting for, you make the assumption that those fighting for LGb rights are on the same page with you and that’s unfortunately incorrect. If you read the linked set of articles in the NYT and maybe talk to homosexual MtF woman and learn what they go through you might not think the argument is so silly.

      For me personally, the really great allies, the people who have stood up and said this is not right when I’ve been mistreated, have been the younger “Queer” identifying women, a bi woman and a lot of straight people, both men and woman. The older school lesbians…not so much (major understatement btw). Lately I’ve found that the vast majority of the straight people I’m encountered are extremely supportive when they find out I’m trans (either from me telling them or a lesbian outing me (happens far too often :-( )).

      I don’t find it a “stupid-straight-person” issue but instead an uneducated majority issue and the key to solving that problem is for people who truly understand what we go through to be the ones who stand up and do the educating. Organizations who, for example, seek to equate us with the fetish and drag community only feed the misunderstandings that the general public, straight and gay, have.

      If you equate “transgendered” with someone who gets sexual gratification from cross dressing and then start pushing for “transgendered” bathroom rights, understandably the general public gets confused. This is exactly what was getting pushed for by the LGBT organizations that people like myself and the original author are scared of.

  12. “Organizations who, for example, seek to equate us with the fetish and drag community only feed the misunderstandings that the general public, straight and gay, have.
    If you equate “transgendered” with someone who gets sexual gratification from cross dressing and then start pushing for “transgendered” bathroom rights, understandably the general public gets confused. This is exactly what was getting pushed for by the LGBT organizations that people like myself and the original author are scared of.”

    Lisa, speak for yourself but if you’re referring to Mey, then I don’t think she said anything of the kind. No one is stating trans people are the same as drag queens/kings or crossdressers (although there is a sizable crossover between the communities) but they are saying those persons are vulnerable to gender expression-based discrimination (crossdressers are perhaps the largest closeted community under LGBTQ) in many of the same ways as trans people and deserve protections. Nor is the need for broad-ranged gender expression protections being ‘dictated’ by Gay Inc. If you have a problem with that goal, I’m sorry, you’re welcome to your opinion but I disagree with you and am not comfortable with you somehow suggesting your “stacking order of the trans community” opinion is shared by many in thatcommunity.

    Nor am I comfortable with some of the ageist assumptions contained in your mention of who is okay with trans people. There are, sadly, many young lesbians and queers who have big problems with trans women and have not-too thinly-veiled transmisogyny. Some of them post in many of the bigger trans threads on AS. Many other younger queer cis women think of the trans women community as a totally separate community from their own and as “outsiders” they’re willing to in some ways accept but never view as equals or ‘real women.’

    • My post that you quoted was certainly not directed at Mey and that should be obvious by both the content and that it was posted as a reply to another post. That’s why it’s indented and attached to another post. I actually very much agree with the original article and am glad the author took the time to right it and open herself up to criticism from people who haven’t walked in her shoes. My post was in reply to someone who called her silly.

      Per the rest of your post, the difference is need for rights, and it doesn’t help people to understand why we need them if understanding of us is so confused.

      I don’t make an ageist assumption at all, “older school” was supposed to be “old school”, sorry for the typo. Age of people choosing to act aggressive or act supportive are all over the place. It’s attitudes…

      But again I’m speaking from my personal experiences and offering them up clearly labeled as such. Your personal experiences as a Trans woman may be very different from mine, but I felt it important to step up and mention that straight people actually can be wonderful allies.

      • “and that should be obvious by both the content and that it was posted as a reply to another post. That’s why it’s indented and attached to another post.”

        Obvious? No… pardon my denseness, but I have no idea what you’re talking about here.

  13. Mainstream LGBT organizations will continue to speak for people like me when they feel like it. Sometimes this discourse is beneficial to me as a trans woman and sometimes it’s not. I really have no choice over when they will decide to incorporate my trans issues into their agenda and when they won’t, so I kinda see all this as a moot point. But I’m certainly not waiting for any cis LGB person to help me. I’ve learned to keep my expectations low based off of past experience. Since I’m queer (pansexual, partnered with a woman) I operate in the queer community out of necessity; it’s better for me than spending time in the mainstream straight world. But I don’t expect it to be a welcoming or respectful environment for me. It’s just the lesser of two evils.

  14. Hey guys/gals/others.

    I found your post after doing some random web browsing looking for some of the backstory on this break between transgender equality and the gay liberation movement (as it used to be called.)

    Personally, I’ve favored the “queer” umbrella term for quite some time because of the way it embraces the full range of possible gender and sexual identity expression. However, I think we also need to be honest with ourselves about this. sexual identity, gender identity, and biological sex are separate phenomena.

    We are collectively fighting against those who would impose on us fixed (binary) ways of experiencing them – and, in fact, what queer has had no personal struggle at some point in his/her life trying to figure out how we want to align our sexual and gender expressions with our sexual and gender identities, despite whatever we are told our given biological sex should “determine” for us.

    That’s the ideology of our collective fight. And, “queer” is a full embrace of the full range of people who experience that. It is a term of political solidarity, despite our differences.

    At the same time, we can’t diminish our differences from each other; we need to respect them. The social and political pressures on transgender people is substantially difference from that of gay men and lesbians. In part, this is because gay men are increasingly seen as “normal” or, at least, “tolerable” in mainstream popular opinion. Acceptance has increased at the expense of acceptance or understanding of transgender or intersex experience. However, it is also because biological sex is primarily determined at birth, psychological gender identity generally forms around age 3, and sexual orientation starts to become formed at puberty (but possibly also in the lead up to puberty.) This means that the experience of sex, gender, and sexual orientation lines up with difference stages of personal identity development (who am I? who do I want to be?); and difference stages of social development (who do my parents and peers expect me to be? what am I allowed to be by wider society?)

    In other words, the entire experience of transgender people is substantially different from that of homosexual and bisexuals (and probably also substantially different from intersex individuals.) What we fight for, politically, is going to be different. The institutions we fight are going to be different. The social pressures we resist are different.

    It may be inevitable to see the separation of transgender and intersex rights from the fight for gay/lesbian rights. We have to allow this to happen. Why? Because we need society to accept not only that trans* people are, well, people, but also that parents need to consider that their child might be gender non-conforming at three (instead of only starting to get concerned at puberty), that institutions need to accommodate the transitioning, that people will transition differently (if they choose to transition at all) and not always in conformity with gender norms. In other words, the particularities of transgender and intersex experience need to be accounted for as we push forward.

    That said, I hope we can keep the queer coalition together. If for no other reason than that there is strength in numbers.

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