Friday, October 17, 2008

Divided Within

Why Can't We Be Friends?

I wrote in an earlier entry, "Our Ugly Truth", about how the transgender "community" has an unfortunate tendency to divide and stratify itself - post-ops are higher than pre-ops, pre-ops higher than non-ops, all "T's" above all "CD's" (cross-dressers) and everyone higher than the transvestites. Now I've encountered yet another way we divide ourselves - the transwomen vs. the transmen.

I recently became aware of a local Yahoo e-mail group for FtM's in the Kansas City area. There is one for MtF's as well, which I joined prior to coming here, but later withdrew when there got to be too much division created by various participants. Now, as someone who has provided well over a hundred talks and presentations about Gender Identity locally, I do my best to address this from both the male-to-female experience and the female-to-male. Clearly, it is much easier for me to reference the MtF part more easily since that has been my own personal journey. I sought to enlist in the local FtM group to not only learn a bit more about their journey, but become more knowledgeable about local resources - support groups, therapists, physicians, etc.

To join a Yahoo group you access their home page and, if it is a private group - and this one is - you fill out the application box with a short blurb as to why you'd like to join. A few days later the group's owner sent me an email asking for a more in-depth explanation, which I provided even though I thought it a bit odd as I had clearly identified myself as MtF and as an advocate in the initial application. According to the owner, my application had caused a bit of a stir and debate. This was noticeable in the increase in messages for the month - which is visible on the group homepage.

Another week passes by with no further communication so I sent a note to the owner to withdraw my application. His response was that maybe I could send the FtM community information (which was also part of my reason to join) through someone else who is a member. It was yet another week before I finally got the "application denied" note from him. So I'm left to wonder why. Was it because I'm a transwoman? Was it because of something about me personally? Their homepage clearly states that "SOFFA's" are welcome. That's Significant Others (those in our committed relationships), Family, Friends and Allies. I do have local FtM friends and I am definitely an Ally. So, why?

An enduring principle, first cited by Aesop nearly six centuries before Christ, is "United we stand, divided we fall". Heck it's even the lyrics to a well-known song sung by Brotherhood of Man in the early 70's - "For United we stand, divided we fall. And if our backs should ever against the wall, we'll be together, together, you and I". It's about solidarity, it's about unity, it's about community. And yet, once again, I have to say their is no "community" within the transgender world. Amazing, isn't it? We who are so deeply marginalized by society - and even by some who are gay and lesbian - can't stand together in defense or support of ourselves.

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