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By Sean Kosofsky
All Politics is Loco
One of the most commonly asked questions from members of the GLBT community is, “Why do we include the trans community in our work and keep adding letters to the ‘GL’ in ‘GLBT?’ There is a large and quiet group in our community that feels this way, but they are too nervous to raise those concerns out loud fearing they will appear insensitive or un-PC. There is a good reason this concern exists, but there is an even better reason to dismiss it.
There is a famous quote from H.L. Mencken that goes like this: “For every problem, there is a solution that is simple…and neat…and wrong.” Basically, looking for the quick, cheap and fast solution to things is not always the best way to deal with an issue. We should be very careful not to do things in the pursuit of civil rights simply because they are more convenient. Always including the trans community should not be seen as inconvenient, it should be seen as being thorough, strategic and progressive.
The women’s movement is riddled with examples of promises broken and the same can be said for the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote that the greatest obstacle to freedom and equality was not racist whites, but instead, moderates that constantly warned blacks to “wait their turn and be patient.” The same struggle is going on in the GLBT community. There is a fear that if we include the “T” we will somehow be hindered or held back by that decision. Reality has shown us that the opposite is true. We should not be selfish in our pursuit for equality by trying to “get ours first” and leave the trans community high and dry. This is not inclusive, nor is it smart.
I can’t begin to tell you the countless times I have heard of a trans-employee being welcomed and embraced by their co-workers, while the lesbian or gay man down the hall in human resources is getting ridiculed or ostracized because of their sexuality. The religious right cannot seem to wrap their hands (or their Bible) around the transgender issue. They cannot seem to find scripture to support treating them poorly, so they resort to fear. The real fight for the religious right is on homosexuality, abortion and pornography. These issues threaten patriarchy and their world view on the way the world should work.
The fact is that some in the GLB community just don’t want any more complications or setbacks and they are misdirecting their frustration at the trans community. We don’t build enough coalitions among progressives and the one that exists between sexual minorities and gender minorities should be a model for other movements. We cannot leave out the “T” because we are the “T.” New models of organizing and coalition building are the only way to defeat the right wing. There is strength in numbers.
GLB people break gender norms nearly every day. Think of all the epithets slung at us, e.g. “Fairy, Butch, Queen.” When queers break gender norms, people notice and that is one of the leading reasons we face discrimination, because of people’s discomfort and fear of that behavior. The trans community is on board with the queer community because we have much to offer their struggle. We have truth, political power, and a growing support structure in our communities. Transgender folks are often mistaken for being gay or lesbian. We should take advantage of this and use it is an opportunity to educate. The GLB community can and should model good behavior. History will judge us accordingly.
Did we stand for principles when it was necessary, or when it was convenient? I hope our community unites behind those principles now.