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October 28, 2011

Why We’re “Lumped Together” In LGBT Community

Posted in: LGBT,transgender,transsexual

Image: Autumn Sandeen Headshot (11/23/2010)I receive emails every day with Google keyword searches. Many of the keyword searches are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) specific; many are trans terminology specific.

In one of those emails on Thursday, October 27, 2011 came a web search ping for this Yahoo Questions question:

Why are Trans People lumped together with LGBT when Trans People are basically Straight stuck in the wrong body?

For some reason I felt a need to take a stab at answering that question. So here’s my answer to why the the T is “lumped together” with the LGB of LGBT community:

Well, first of all, your basic presumption on sexual orientation of trans people is incorrect. According to the Task Force’s report “Injustice At Every Turn” (subtitled “A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey”), the reported sexual orientation of the 6,450 transgender and gender non-conforming study participants in the survey broke down this way: Gay/Lesbian/Same-gender = 21%, Bisexual = 23%, Queer = 20%, Heterosexual = 21%, Asexual =4%, Other (specify) 11%. In other words, transgender portion of directly overlaps the LGB portion of the LGBT community at a rate somewhere in the range of 65% to 76%.

Secondly, there is an external force that pushes lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) together as a community — the commonality of discrimination based on visible gender expression. If one thinks for a moment, the most discriminated against members of the LGB portion of the LGBT community are lesbians who, by societal sex and gender norms, are considered masculine; and gay men who, again by societal sex and gender norms, considered feminine. It’s how many lesbian, gay, and bisexual people visibly express gender identifies them as lesbian and gay. And, some in our society — despising lesbian and gay people — single out these visible LGB people for harassment and discrimination.

Trans people have the same gender expression issue — especially trans women. Male-to-female people who don’t “pass” in their target sex are also perceived to be feminine gay men because their gender expression, and are subject to discrimination as such. And, when they call trans women pejoratives, those pejoratives are often “fag,” “faggot,” and “fairy” — anti-gay epithets.

As Kate Bornstein describes it, we folk in the LGBT community are all “gender outlaws” — all lesbian, gay, and bisexual people all “violate” societal sex and gender norms by our sexual orientations and/or our gender identities. And, that “violation” of societal sex and gender norms, be it from whom we love or how we identify our gender, is the “why” behind why many of us LGBT folk are singled out for harassment and discrimination. And, we should note here that those who hate LGBT people can’t tell gay men, trans women, drag queens, and crossdressers apart — as well as not being able to tell butch women, trans men, and drag kings apart. Many in society see all those who don’t conform to societal sex and gender norms as being lesbian or gay — with all the anti-LGBT hate that goes with being perceived as lesbian or gay.

Lastly, gender variant people have been part of the LGBT civil rights movement since before the Stonewall Riots and Uprising. Drag queens and folk we’d now identify as transgender — such as Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera — were there battling for equality back in the days that the movement was called the Gay Liberation movement.

In other words, there are several reasons that LGB is “lumped together” with T in the LGBT community. And to quote suffragist Alice Paul regarding her civil rights movement — with a quote that could apply to any civil rights movement, including the LGBT civil rights movement — “I always feel the movement is a sort of mosaic. Each of us puts in one little stone, and then you get a great mosaic at the end.”

I don’t know if my answer will be rated a “best answer” to the question asked, but I know it’s the most thorough and likely on the nose answer of the ones that have been provided as of the time I posted my answer.

For me, the important thing is that I plan to be one stone in the in the great mosaic of the LGBT civil rights movement. For those of us who care about equality, being a stone in that great mosaic is a significant thing.


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