Talking the Walk on Transgender Rights

Buzzfeed has an excellent article on the advancement of transgender rights within the Democratic Party. What sets this article apart from being just another recap of those advances is the discussion of making sure that those advances, and transgender men and women, are acknowledged by the Party and within the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual community as well:

The progress on trans issues, though significant, has happened under the radar for the most part. And, unlike steps taken by the administration on marriage and the military, movement on trans issues — including coverage in the party’s platform — rarely is trumpeted as a success outside of LGBT-specific (or even trans-specific) forums and media.

[Diego] Sanchez[,an out trans delegate from Massachusetts] posed the issue as a greater question about the LGBT community, and not just elected allies.

“There’s an accountability back to our own LGBT organizations, starting with [the Human Rights Campaign], the [National Gay & Lesbian] Task Force and the [Gay & Lesbian] Victory Fund,” he said, pointing to three organizations with a presence at the Democratic National Convention. “Every time that they say ‘gay,’ rather than LGBT, it denies me from having license to criticize the president for saying ‘gay’ because their heads say ‘gay’ when they mean LGBT.

“So, I do not fault the president for saying ‘gay,’” Sanchez concluded. “I felt that his intent was to be inclusive because his actions have been inclusive.” — “Democrats Advance Trans Rights, But Rarely Say So In Charlotte”; BuzzFeed; Sept 9, 2012

I believe that two things are going on with this lack of recognition: 1) Education on terminology 2) fear that mentioning transgender men and women will scare off support for Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals.

We don’t have any catch-all term for our group. We can say ‘gay community’ or just ‘gay’ or even ‘gay and lesbian’ and have an implication–or maybe not–that we’re including everyone.  But when you get down to it, we only have LGBT to be explicitly inclusive. You’ve got to admit that isn’t the most pronounceable acronym, and it may also be an unfamiliar one.

We, who are involved in the LGBT community, take for granted that everyone knows for what LGBT stands. People may not. Outside of our own media, it’s only been very recently that LGBT has been used frequently by more familiar media outlets. I don’t think that you would have to travel too far to find someone who would not be able to define LGBT. This may extend to our political leaders. When they say ‘gay’, they may really think that they are including everyone, but it is up to us to let them know that they are not. It is up to us to help school them in the better terminology to ensure that the T (and to that extent the B) aren’t left out of our community.

The second is the fear. This is both internal and external. We, as the LGB, fear that if we include the T that some of the rights that we’ve worked hard to acquire won’t happen. They won’t happen because the world is yet to be comfortable on the same level with transgender men and women as they are with LGBs. Well, we need to get over ourselves. We can only create that level of comfort by recognizing our transgender compadres in this fight for civil rights for all. If equality is for all, then, equality is for all; even the Ts. We shouldn’t let our fear about mentioning transgender men and women have the power that we allow it to have. Because when we don’t mention it, we give it power. When we do, we take that power away. When we do, we help to minimize the fear. We minimize it within our opponents and within our allies. That is what is going to get us all over that glorious rainbow to the land that we dream of where no one is left out of the equality equation.

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