Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Almost, but not quite

Getting it right

One of the hazards of being a minority within a group - in my case transgender within the larger gay/lesbian community - is that you are never sure just how inclusive and understanding the majority is, or wishes to be. The sellout of transgenders by the Human Rights Campaign in the ENDA disaster of 2007 was probably the most egregious example of a lack of inclusion or understanding. Two more, but a bit more subtle, examples have come across my desk this week.

The first is from The Evangelical Network - an LG (B? and T?) affinity group working with "evangelical" churches. TEN describes itself as "a group of Bible believing churches, ministries, Christian workers and individuals bound together by a common shared faith, united in purpose and witness and established as a positive resource and support for Christian gays and lesbians." By not mentioning "transgender", perhaps they've already made their statement clear. But they did include a workshop at their 2008 gathering entitled "Ministering to the Trans/Bi Community", so who knows?

What caught my eye is that TEN has scheduled its 2009 gathering for Charlotte, North Carolina. Well that's a huge message - Trans Not Welcome. Or at least understood. Charlotte - like Phoenix the year before - does not have anti-discrimination laws that offer transgender people any assurance that we will have access to appropriate restrooms, not be legally tossed out of a restaurant or hotel or allow our local sisters and brothers the dignity of keeping their own jobs. Why would I want to attend a conference in such a locale? Why would I want to spend my money in support of that economy? I simply won't, so attending this conference - regardless of the program content - is a no-starter. The 2008 conference had some intriguing speakers, too.

The other example hails from North Dakota where the legislature is considering a bill that would extend anti-discrimination laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill, SB 2278, is currently listed as still in committee hearings. It would be wonderful to add another state to the list of those that are already transgender inclusive, and especially a state not known for rampant liberalism, too. And yet.....

The bill includes "gender identity" within the definition of "sexual orientation", specifically definition 19, which states: " "Sexual orientation" means actual or perceived heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality, or gender identity or expression." While this language will likely suffice to effect the desperately needed legislation, I'm not thrilled that transgenders are essentially made a component of "sexual orientation". This is a common misunderstanding - our gender identities have nothing to do with our sexual orientation - that is very difficult to overcome and it is not helpful when we don't even get that message through to our "allies". Do they really understand? Did they have any transgender input into crafting the bill? My guess is no to both.

I've often felt that the T was simply a politically correct addition to most organizations that list themselves as being "LGBT". My experience has been that many have little or no understanding of what the transgender experience is all about. While it is personally flattering to be invited to join boards or groups or committees, the invitation usually comes with the preface of wanting/needing "a transgender" involved. "A"? One? Yeah, sometimes I feel like a token.

Transphobia is present in the LGB part of the community. And there certainly is Homophobia within the trans community. Both are sad commentaries on our alliance. The truth remains however that LGB/T groups are dominated by the L's and the G's and as such issues and needs most important to them take precedent. I just with they'd get the T part right when we are included.

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