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Transmissions: Going it alone

By |2002-04-09T09:00:00-04:00April 9th, 2002|Uncategorized|

By Gwendolyn Ann Smith

The transgender community is a diverse one, containing any number of identities and presentations. More than this, the larger lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community contains four distinct larger categories.
I have often spoken of some of the frictions that came come up between transgender people and the larger community. This friction can be unavoidable when discussing the Human Rights Campaign in recent weeks, or the recent Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival – or quite frankly just about anything. It often seems that if there’s the possibility of friction, then there’s the probability of friction.
Because of this often frustrating and seemingly endless series of conflicts, the thought often gets floated of just going it alone. That is – rather than continuing to try and work with organizations and others who can not or will not consider trans needs as equal with their own – why not simply promote “transgender” as something separate from the larger community and avoid all these problems.
Some who promote such a viewpoint would take it father than just cutting the “T” off LGBT, but wish to subdivide transgender itself into smaller categories.
I’ll admit, the concept is attractive on the surface. Rather than deal with the confusion that can come by trying to conflate groups that may at times seem to be at cross-purposes, we would simply stand as a group with our own desires, our own political agenda, and our own solo identity.
This is where it all falls apart. When you explore our needs and goals, one finds them to be largely the same.
We generally all want one thing: to be left alone to live our lives as we see fit. That can be setting up whatever marriages we wish to enter into, or it can be changing the gender marker on our social security card. It can even go as far as being able to be ourselves without threat of violence or death.
Our goals seem to be very much in line with each other. There are few issues that affect gay, lesbian, and bisexual people that one can point to and declare them to not also affect transgender individuals in some way.
Violence and hate speech is a fine example: when I am verbally harassed, no one is calling me a “she-male” or a “tranny.” No, I’m instead labeled a “faggot” as I get pummeled, knifed, or shot. It does me no good point out the differences to those attempting to do me harm while I’m being attacked.
Some would even contend that the opposite is true: more discrimination may be faced by those who are gay or lesbian based solely on gender. Think what the average homophobe uses as their gay or lesbian stereotype, and consider how much is gender based.
This brings me back to personal identity. For many of us, identity can be a fluid thing. I initially came out as a crossdresser. I then was labeled a pre-operative transsexual. Today, I self-identify as a transgender woman, bypassing all the minutiae. In some ways, there was very little that changed as I traveled from one term to another. I know others who have moved similarly between lesbian or gay identities, and transgender identities, and plenty who – like myself – fit within more than one facet of the larger community.
This is the biggest problem with a policy of separation. In doing so, we have to limit ourselves and others within a group. This makes for smaller, less powerful groups that are less likely to make any of our needs come true. Particularly when our enemies seem able to work as a unified whole in spite of their differences.
That may be the biggest reason to be as one. As individual factions, we can be big – but as a unified whole, we can be nearly unstoppable. We have much we can teach each other, and much each of us brings to the table. To work as individual groups can only lessen our overall effectiveness, and even cause us to work at cross purposes.
The beauty of going it alone is fleeting. It’s only together that we can show our real strengths, and make the world better for all.
Gwen Smith has gone through more identites than she mentioned, and has more to come. You can find her on the World Wide Web at

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.