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By Gwendolyn Ann Smith
We so often think of our community as a single entity, when in reality there is a great amount of variance to be found. We have a community consisting of any number of possible Ñ and often contested Ñ groups sharing a single overarching moniker. Far from the classic example of “cross-dresser and transsexual” as the whole of the community, we live in a time when the list is a long and lengthy one.
Some of the possible groups include drag kings and queens, transgenderists, two-spirits, sissy maids, hijras, little girls, the intersexed, androgynes, bigendered, third sex, transvestite, and so on. Many of the above are just as quickly to be excluded from the overarching community as included, and many of the arguments for or against a certain group being part of the whole makes perfectly good sense Ñ yet the above an scores of other possible identities make up the whole for someone out there, leaving one unsure of even who should or wants to be included in the first place
I don’t just mean the simple categories, either. We have race to look at, nationality, socioeconomic status, ability, and more. After all, if one asks ten transgender people for their identities, you are likely to get back 15 or so different possibilities. We’re just like that.
My question is this: how do we work to reconcile all these differences, and give every identity a place at the table? How does one bind together such disparate parts of the whole, and get everyone willing to address each other civilly?
I can think of many ties that bind us, the largest being the great need for basic civil rights, with adequate hate crimes laws, employment and housing protections, and identification corrections are three fairly obvious ones. It’s simply one thing that does potentially bind us together as a community.
We share in our losses. Not just the painful, permanent losses of life, but legal an political set backs, media outrages, and injustices that affect us all. We know that each of us, no matter what, could face prejudice, discrimination, and even violence — and this knowledge serves to give us a certain sense of camaraderie.
We have victories to share as well, whether it is the gaining of yet another rights ordinance, or seeing one of our own make good. We are a community that can lay claim to brilliant artists, world-class musicians, and scientists and engineers that have shaped our world.
These are the things that help bring us to the table, that allow us to find a common ground. They’re all good things if only for that reason. We need to be one people sometimes, and be strong, and vibrant, and unified while not losing the things that make us each unique.
We don’t often do well at doing such, however.
Many of us cling to our outsider status, we revel in it. Yet being an outsider means not having a place to come in from the cold, and no peg to hang your hat on while you gather with those akin to you. It’s hard to be a group when everyone wishes to be their own person all the time.
On the opposite side of that coin, a great many of us would much rather join right in — but not within the community. Many feel that there place is solely to be found with non-transgender men and women, and while this makes plenty of sense to me, it also becomes a detriment to those who may not yet — or may never — feel ready to leave a safe harbor and explore the deep waters of traditionally-gendered society.
To me, we have no one to rely on but ourselves. we need to be able to look to each other for our mentors, our heroes, and our role models We need to reach across the table at our siblings within the community, and seek out the common grounds rather than condemning each other based on our differences.
We need to strive to be a real community, with a real community mindset about us. In the end, it may be the only thing we can truly rely upon.