April 24, 2013

Growing Transgender Rights Movement?

I am only in the early stages of my coming out as a transgender woman — it still feels weird sometimes to even refer to myself as a transgender woman — and so I don’t yet always feel the connection to “the community” that some other women do. For example, I have started to follow several fierce transgender advocates on Twitter (for example, @papierhache), which has led me to blogs, news sites, and community activist organizations. I’d already blogged before about the overwhelming nature of all this to a trans “newbie.”

Apparently, all this is a recent phenomena, at least according to “Transgender rights: the next big political movement,” published yesterday in the Guardian‘s Comment is Free section. The author, Rodrigo Lehtinen, isn’t familiar to me, but he’s prominent enough to have a Wikipedia stub and would appear to be one of the people looking to lead the rise of a distinct-from-LGB trans political movement.

Anyway, the article is worth a read. And if you’re the kind of person who wonders whether or not a distinct-from-LGB trans movement is necessary, just read some of the comments to the article. Talk about making the author’s point for him …

No Comments

  • I would welcome it. You might be cheered to know that my church (Episcopal) was welcoming and supportive of transgender rights, as they have been toward many areas of social justice, since the 1960s. A newly-emerged woman (as she called herself) was in my newcomer’s class – about 30 years ago. But I think it would be great if these rights were supported by an autonomous movement.

  • I think a movement more focused on the rights of trans people is definitely a good thing. But, I’m not sure that ultimately it will lead to anything helpful. As far as I’m aware, the whole reason trans people were included under the LGBish umbrella was because we were all persecuted for something we couldn’t help that was in some way, form, or fashion, related to sex. You would think that those in the LGB side of the community would understand and accept that, but I think as many have made policital progress, they’ve become all too willing to drop those who aren’t like them. Ironically, I think the sexuality of most trans people is somewhat fluid, thus including them within the LGB umbrella, but not becasue they’re trans.

    Where I do think this may be a problem, though, is the direction the trans community wants to take. There are some very diverse, and very emotional, opinions on what being trans really is. The most vocal people I’ve seen/heard seem to think it’s something to be proud of, to celebrate, and for everyone else to learn about and accept. I, on the other hand, find it to be a curse, something I absolutely despise and struggle with, and my immediate goal in life is “fixing” it through transition and to never speak of it again. Then there are those who enjoy playing with gender, challenging society’s expectations, and just having a good time, who don’t really “need” anything recognized at all. That’s going to be a really diverse community to bring together, and I’m not sure it’s going to fare much better than the LGBT community with regard to inclusiveness.

    • I am also an atheist, and there’s a common view that getting atheists to organize is “like herding cats.” You’re right that the trans community may be equally wily.

  • I’m in favor of separating the LG–and maybe just the L–from the rest of the alphabet soup. We lesbians have fought for everybody’s rights but our own since the 60s. It’s time we looked out for ourselves. Maybe it’s time for trans, too.

    • The whole LGBT idea is really a “strength in numbers” concept; but now that the movement as a whole is healthy, it will be interesting to see how much it fractures. In bad times, people band together for common cause; but in good times, people start looking out for themselves …

  • I echo transversetrans’s sentiments. It’s going to be really though trying to rally transpeople around one message, just because we are so diverse. I think the gay movement has been very effective because they’ve adopted the “we’re just like you straight people, except for the fact that we’re gay!” messaging. Great to help straight people more easily understand what it means to be gay, and it’s arguably worked to a certain extent. However, that kind of messaging really really alienated a lot of trans and gender-nonconforming people because we don’t fit into that strict box. And we’re probably the most vulnerable in the community (relatively) and need the most protections from violence and discrimination. The culmination of that messaging, I think, happened when some people in the LGBT community wanted to passed a non-inclusive ENDA in 2008. Terrible idea. http://transgriot.blogspot.com/2007/10/why-transgender-community-hates-hrc.html

    In a similar way, I think the trans community has tried to develop some kind of uniform message that is palatable to cispeople: the “trapped in the wrong body” narrative. I see that as a cousin of the straight message above: “I’m a man, except for the fact that I’m trapped in the wrong body!” It’s worked, for the most part. But what about those in the community who don’t go from one end of the spectrum to the next? Or the children who are identifying as genderqueer, bigender, or genderneutral? The messaging doesn’t work for them too much, and we’re going to face a potential fracturing of the community–in the same way the “T” is starting to break away from the “LGB.”

    I wrote a paper with a law professor on the way the trans community has developed. We noticed that there is real potential for fracturing within the community for this very reason. Especially as kids are killing themselves. Why aren’t they being protected under these laws that transpeople have fought for? http://transgenderless.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/stevie-v-tran-elizabeth-m-glazer-transgenderless-34-harv-j-l-gender-399-2012.pdf

    Sorry about all the links. I just didn’t want you going all over the place for information. =/

    • It’s funny, just yesterday I was tweeting about a fight between trans bloggers — one post-op (who considered herself a “true transsexual”) and one no-op (who the post-op considered to be an illegitimate trans person, because “no real woman would want to keep her penis”). The community itself is definitely fractured.

      Thanks for the thoughtful comments. I’ll have to read through that paper when I have a few minutes to spare. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *