By: Alok Vaid-Menon
This narrative that there is so much “internal division” and “conflict” between gay people and trans people within the “LGBT community” is a red herring. It’s intentionally misleading. What it does is blame and demonize trans people (and especially transfeminine people) for being oppressed. Trans people are reduced to our anger and stripped of our politics and experiences of harm. Our rage has a history! What this narrative does is erase a long and documented history of cisgender gays, lesbians, and bisexuals pursuing political agendas that threw trans and gender non-conforming people under the bus.
Our conversations should not be about “removing the T from LGBT,” but rather about what accountability looks like for cisgender gay, bisexual, and lesbian people who stole a powerful movement for racial, economic, and gender justice and made it about love, whiteness, and the acquisition and preservation of private property.
Never forget: Trans people ARE ALSO gay, bisexual, lesbian, and queer! I repeat: trans people ARE ALSO gay, bisexual, lesbian, and queer. This separation of “trans issues” from “gay issues,” this differentiation of “gender minority issues,” from “sexual minority issues,” is only possible because of the rejection of gender non-conformity within the “gay movement” itself.
The distinction of “gay” from “trans,” and “sexuality” from “gender identity” was a conscious strategy to make the (cisgender) gay movement palatable to straight cis white middle class society. “Love” became the organizing frame instead of “difference,” because gay INC knew a politics of love would be much more palatable than a politics of gender non-conformity. This is why millions of dollars were poured into campaigns for marriage and NOT campaigns to decriminalize sex work, campaigns to end police criminalization and brutality, campaigns for housing and economic justice.
In order for cisgender gay, lesbian, and bisexual people to achieve “equality,” they had to distinguish themselves from us and reject their own gender non-conformity. Equality (read: assimilation) requires both a celebration of heteronormative white culture AND a thorough and systematic dismissal of gender non-conformity.
So the problem is not “internal conflict,” as if we just “can’t get along.” The problem is that the precarity of trans and gender non-conforming people today is precisely because of the actions and decisions of cisgender gay, lesbian, and bisexual people.
Intimate and familial violence is often the most harmful. The pain stings twice: not only being erased & rejected, but also being told that the people doing it are “your community.”
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