Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Ridiculous Notion of Gay Privilege

Watching Tim Wise today has me wondering... how do we do the same thing in the LGBT community? How do we push hard against someone else, make someone smaller, less than in order to feel our privilege?

ENDA, of course, comes to mind first. The ridiculous notion of Gay and Lesbian privilege plays out in national politics, with some of our leaders saying it's too difficult to include transgender in the language. They made a division between transgender and the rest of the alphabet soup.

We divide ourselves, like the people of New Orleans. The "normal" queers can have rights but let's be sure those people can't move in on our rights. Our agenda.

That's too much.

It is ironic, because those who are against us think we're all freaks. They liken us to pedophiles and sexual deviants. As if cutting off one of our arms will make us any more likable to them.

It won't.

We say that transgender inclusion is too hard. We'll be good little queers and dress the right way, look pretty and handsome, play the game the way those in power have dictated the rules. We have, after all, already pushed the envelope to the edge by including Gays and Lesbians.

Instead of "crossing the canal" and being stronger as a whole by including everyone we shun those who not only are our allies, but they are a part of our soul.

We're not freaks, we're human beings. Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender- all just people. We've been part of society since the dawn of time. We're not pushing a "gay agenda," we are pushing a human agenda.

Watch Tim Wise again. Think hard about the words in our own community, how we fight amongst ourselves, making ridiculous lines in sand to somehow feel more powerful.

We are not part of the club of those in power. We never will be.

It truly is a ridiculous notion of Gay Privilege.

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Blogger Seda said...

And a powerful and perfect follow-up. Thank you again.

1:13 AM  
Blogger Queers United said...

Civil rights doesn't come in a bundle package unforunately. I would love to see gender identity included in a bill but if we can only get one thing we should take it and fight for the rest. If we couldn't get sexual orientation and can get gender identity we should take that and than fight for the rest.

2:08 AM  
Blogger Sue J said...

It's the legacy of civil rights in this country: someone's always being told to wait a little longer, they'll get their turn next.

8:14 AM  
Blogger j said...

As soon as we (Gay/Lesbian) moved up a bit on the pyramid we started putting down the "rest" of our community in order to stay there. Power, however small, is a strong motivator - In order to hold this small gain we must distance ourselves from the rest - by conforming to society in how we act, how we dress, etc. "We are not THEM".

"Whose on top" is the structure of our society. Transexuals,trensgendered, cross dressing, etc etc etc.... they are now at the bottom. We clutch our hard fought status tightly while dilluding ourselves into thinking we are so much further above them. And in doing so we do so much damage to all of us as a whole -

8:40 AM  
Blogger Sara said...

I think the incremental argument is bullshit.

and just one more way to divide and conquer.

11:03 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

It's not that simple, alas.

Homosexuality was taken off the American Psychiatric Association's official list of disorders thirty-five years ago. Yet as of 2008, Gender Identity Disorder is still classified as a mental illness.

There is some disagreement within the Trans community over whether GID should be removed from the list. With a diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder, some Ts have used health insurance to cover their reassignment surgery and hormone treatments.

But there's a nasty tradeoff. With LGB people officially sane, and T persons officially suffering from a mental disorder, it's impossible to say that L, G, B and T are "all in the same boat" when it comes to anti-discrimination laws. LGBs may be in the same boat, but Ts are not.

5:41 PM  
Blogger Seda said...

I find it very ironic that "queers united" is advocating dividing the queers.
It's much easier for me to connect with those who say we should stick together - and that if one person is oppressed, all are oppressed. If we insist that trans are included in ENDA, it sets us all back a short time. If ENDA is passed without including trans,trans may never be included. There just aren't enough of us to make a significant block of voters without help from the rest of the queers, and we tend to be broke due to expensive medical costs (100% out of pocket) and employment discrimination.
That's why they call it LGBT - not LGB and sometimes t.

11:52 PM  
Blogger Seda said...

GID is as much bullshit as incrementalism. Our meds should be covered the same as other birth defects. And since y'all have gotten out of the psychotic boat, I feel mighty fine when y'all invite us into the sane boat. Again, we're stronger when we stick together. All of us. LGBTQ, one word, one movement.

11:57 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

And since y'all have gotten out of the psychotic boat, I feel mighty fine when y'all invite us into the sane boat.

Unfortunately, it's not that easy, for LGB persons or for Ts. Thirty-five years ago, LGB persons persuaded the APA to eliminate homosexuality from the DSM. Ts have yet to accomplish a similar feat for themselves. And LGB people cannot do this fundamental work for Ts, much as some of us would like to. The necessary change could take years.

But until GID is no longer part of the DSM, Ts cannot make the same claim to workplace equality that L, G, and B persons do -- regardless of how much everyone, myself included, might wish this were not the case.

Again, we're stronger when we stick together.

Well, I suppose it's pretty to think so, but if LGBTQIAHMSU history is any indication, it just ain't true. When "we" stick together, "we" tend to fight like cats and dogs, and "we" accomplish nothing. (Hence the current debate over the "transjacking" of ENDA.)

2:49 AM  
Blogger David said...

Not only discrimination based on gender identity but also discrimination based on gender characteristics and gender expression are inextricably linked to rights for gay, lesbian and bisexual people.

Dare I mention the link with the rights of women?

I think Suzanne Pharr's "Homophobia as a Weapon of Sexism" clearly cuts both ways. Adrienne Rich's "Compulsory Heterosexuality" is also a must read. And aren't "we" women as much as "we" are men?

This also makes me think of those who claim to be glbitqts activists but who don't see broad issues of racial discrimination as queer issues. Aren't "we" black? Aren't "we" asian? Aren't we american indian? No Somos Chicanos/as?

Just who are "we" when "we" say "queer community"?

Here in Minneapolis, the second city to have a law banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the entire U.S., in 1973 and the first jurisdiction in North America to ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity, gender characteristics and gender expression a few months later--(in 1974) the "community" has included both bisexuals and transgender people since the very beginning.

In some ways the transgender movement is substantially ahead of the gay rights movement in securing rights whether the right to marry which they first won in the mid 70's with the first victory in North Carolina or when it came to changing gender on public documents the first legal victories were in the 60's in places like Louisiana.

The alliance with transgender people happened long ago and they are in no way "late comers" to the movement or some new thing that just popped out of the box and considering their earlier successes I noted, trans people in some ways helped legitimate the gay and lesbian movement as much as the obverse might be true and simultaneously helped seperate out the issues of gender identity and sexual orientation in the broader public mind so people understand that they are distinct issues.

Often the "perception" of being mistaken or mislabeled homosexual is as troubling to some trangender people as the "percpeption" of being mistaken or mislabeled transgender(your just a woman trapped in a man's body) is to some gay men who hate that some people question their masculinity due to their sexuality.

Of course there are individuals who cross all the lines and others who blur them to the point of being unintelligible but isn't that why after all we are all sharing the community "we" have chosen to call "queer"?

As far as civil rights not coming in a "bundle pack", the statement is preposterously ahistorical and wrong headed. Rights have tended to come "in bundles."

It is no mistake after all that the same legislation which banned race discrimination also banned discrimination on the basis of color. They are two different but closely related "suspect" classes.

That same legislation banned discrimination on the basis of ethinicity and on the basis of religion.

Discrimination on the basis of sex was added by the OPPOSITION to the bill as they percieved it as something so radical that it would kill the intitial civil rights bill but due to cooler and more thoughtful heads of those days, the bill passed with the "radical" notion of "sex discrimination" despite the machinations of the opposition to destroy the bill by aligning with what they thought would clearly not pass.

The poster who responds that we are all "freaks" in the eyes of those who are opposed to our rights is correct. Unfortunately, some among "us" see some among "us" as "Freaks" and outside of "we" as opposed to part of "we".

What hurts our unity most is our own prejudices we hold against one another.

Certainly Barney Frank's prostitute scandals did far more to set back glbtiq rights movement among our puritanical opponents than any attempt to include transgender people in the language of a civil rights bill ever has.

Personally as a gay man who has experienced job discrimination and also worked as diversity educator, I can tell you that the assertion that trans people are no more nor no less "queer" to the rest of society than gay and lesbian and bisexual people are is the reality.

Starting from the west, Hawaii, California, Washington, Oregon, New Mexico, Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, New Jersey, District of Columbia, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire & Rhode Island all cover sexual orientation and gender identity.

It appears that inclusion of gender identity remains an issue mostly in the northeast(WI and NV need to pass do still need to add gender identity to existing sexual orientation protections). Meanwhile in the Northeast, NY was the last state in the U.S. to pass a statewide sexual orientation bill without including gender identity as well and Massachusetts and Connecticut are playing catch up in trying to pass gender identity nondiscrimination protections(though court rulings in MA had included some particular transgender individuals under other parts of the law in some limited cases)

In the south and west, gender identity nondiscrimination has been passed at the same time in places such as Dallas, TX & Colobmia, SC and gemder identity has been added in cities which already had sexual orientation nondiscrimination protectionsin New Orleans, Atlanta, Kansas City, MO, etc.

It is most likely true that if we have the support of a legislator to support glb rights that they are likely open to supporting the t as well and vice a versa and this is natural in my opinion as a deeper understanding of sexual orientation leads to a deeper understanding of gender identity issues and vice a versa due to how the two issues are inextricably linked.

We identify individuals sexual orientation by the gender of those bodies their bodies respond to so naturally gender identity is closely related and the assumptions of gender congruency are linked with heteronormative presumptions.

3:28 AM  
Blogger David said...

"But until GID is no longer part of the DSM, Ts cannot make the same claim to workplace equality that L, G, and B persons do -- regardless of how much everyone, myself included, might wish this were not the case."

Hmmm... well, as many here know, the same argument about GID could be used to obtain protection from discrimination and accomadations under the ADA(Americans with Disability Act) just as do HIV positive people do if only transgender people would accept the label of being "sick" or "diseased" or "disabled".

Foucault could have a field day with this.

However, even though sexual orientation has been removed from the DSM people can still be diagnosed as "ill" when engaging in "ego-dystonic" sexual behavior sometimes based on evidence of an individuals sexual praxis or sexual identity being dissonant with their sexual orientation. And, as far as victories in legislative protection from discrimination, the APA victory may not carry as much weight as you think if you look at the vicotries trangender people have had around marriage and documents, and the relative ease of repealing laws criminalizing "crossdresssing" vs. the glb communities relatively recent vicotory of finally overturuning laws criminalizing same sex sexual behavior in Lawrence V. Texas.

And under international human rights laws both are clearly recognized as evidenced by the Yogyakarta Principles of the Application of International Human Rights Law to Issues of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

In fact, recently Bolivia just became the first country to include protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation AND gender identity in it's national constitution and numerous other countries with upcoming constitutional conventions are expected to the do the same.

It's embarassing but true that on the international scene, many countries are moving ahead of the U.S. on both issues.

Just as international queer activists are working within the frame of the Yogyakarta Principles, I think we in the U.S. would do well to do so.

Not that the U.S. has any respect for international law of late!

3:59 AM  
Blogger Sara said...


are you listening to yourself?

7:26 AM  
Blogger Seda said...

I find the concept of a GID diagnosis separating us T's from the rest of the queer community as as irrelevant, divisive, and repulsive. I truly hope that I never rationalize, especially to myself, the idea that a label applied to someone else makes that person's civil rights and value less relevant than my own.
Thank you, David, Sara, Susan, J. Your support is precious to me.

11:29 AM  
Anonymous Jonathon said...

I must confess that I struggle, as a gay man, reconciling the goals and agendas of myself and my community with that of the transgender community.

On the one hand, it seems to me that our goals are quite different. For example, gays are seeking equality in marriage, protection in the workplace, etc.

My understanding from the few transgender friends I have is that they don't want to live/exist as some "third gender", caught between male and female but rather that they want to become completely the gender their minds and spirit tell them they are. Rather than identifying as "TG", they are women and no longer see themselves as men. (Most TG friends I have are MTF.) True, there is a need for protections for "in process" TGs so that one doesn't lose one's job solely because they change their gender.

We have common issues and yet we have divergent issues, too.

I guess that I just need to learn and experience more from real-life TG people to better understand the situation, but I oftentimes feel that neither the gay/lesbian community nor the transgender community are best served by merging ourselves under one banner.

1:35 PM  
Blogger David said...

"I guess that I just need to learn and experience more from real-life TG people to better understand the situation, but I oftentimes feel that neither the gay/lesbian community nor the transgender community are best served by merging ourselves under one banner."

My personal passion for issues of the transgender, genderqueer and intersex communities as a gay man lie in a number of connections. I helped start a glb youth group for high school students in the 1980's and eventually it became clear that what we had was a "glbt" youth group because of the strong relationship in some individuals experience between the two.

The first member of the group to come out as trans came out as f to m.

I read all I could about the trans issues I could find at the time as more youth attending the group grappled with divergent issues of gender identity, gender expression, and gender characteristics.

I also recall coming to a realization that my own discomfort with how my own body doesn't meet my own perception of the masuline ideal as much as I would like had alot to do with my discomfort with some friends who were mtf. In my mind some of these indivuals had what I wanted for myself and why being so blessed(in my mind) would they mess with it?

Get out of your own comfort zone and attend a trans/genderqueer community event in your area. I think you'll soon discover why the glb and t movements are so critically interrelated and how much we really have in common!

5:04 AM  

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