HBS: Play Ground for Frauds, Bullies and Self-Loathing Transsexual-Transgender People and wannabee Transsexuals
April 27, 2013
Phyllis Frye: Lifetime Achievement Award
April 28, 2013

The Right Way To Be LGB Or T?

Back in 2009 I asked the the question if there were a right way to be LGB Or T. As I consider the personal difficulties of my past few years, especially those difficulties relating to community orthodoxies externally imposed on me by others, I find myself revisiting the idea behind my now four-year-old question. And now with Suzan asking a similar themed question in her recent post HBS: Play Ground for Frauds, Bullies and Self-Loathing Transsexual-Transgender People and wannabee Transsexuals, I thought I’d revisit the queries of that old post of mine.

The questions from that old post I still believe are worth contemplating are these: Is there a right way to be gay? To be lesbian? To be bisexual? To be transgender? By that I mean, Image: One Way signare there universal constructs that many in these subcommunities of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community embrace as models for the entireties of their subcommunities?

Well, I’m not as immersed in the gay subcommunity as perhaps I should be to know what the gay “universal” constructs are, but I am aware of some “universal” models in the lesbian and bisexual subcommunities.

For example, in the lesbian subcommunity, there’s some typing in play, with labels like lipstick lesbian, Chapstick lesbian, femme, fierce femme, blue jean femme, pillow queen, butch, soft butch, stone butch, dyke, andro-dyke, sporty dyke, power dyke, bulldyke, diesel dyke…we could go on and on with lesbian labels — and that’s not even getting into the womon-born-womon and radical feminist labels that are often connected to separatist lesbianism.

Per a certain orthodoxy of being lesbian, it seems though, you must be able to be subcategorized into a recognized subtype of lesbian to be a true lesbian.

And for a second example I’m familiar with, in the bisexual subcommunity I know there are some who want to impose a 50-50 rule for attraction to the “opposite sex.” That, meaning that one is equally attracted to those who identify as male, and those who are identified as female. In this model of bisexuality, if let’s say one is attracted more to women than men, then one isn’t considered a true bisexual because one is “supposed” to be equally attracted to men and women.

In other words, there are some in the broader LGBT community who want to impose universal standards of what it is to be lesbian, gay, or bisexual on broader communities, and deviation from these standards isn’t acceptable or “allowed.”

In the trans subcommunity of the LGBT community, as well as in the T folk who don’t consider themselves as transgender or part of the LGBT community — we have similar kinds of orthodoxies. Among the trans orthodoxies there are those who could be identified as trans who seek to impose standards of “the best” way one is to identify, and the “right” way one is supposed to transition…and even if one is actually a transsexual or not.

In my transition, I’ve had classic transsexuals tell me I should reconsider transitioning because they don’t consider me to be a true transsexual, as well as trans men and transsexual women tell me to “hurry up and transition already.” In these cases, trans people (or people self-identified as classic transsexuals, women of transsexual history, etc.) appear to have embraced constructs of what it is to be transsexual and/or transgender, and have attempted to externally impose a model of what it is to be transsexual and/or transgender on me.

And, of course, it’s not just me that they attempt to impose their models on, but on the entire trans community — or trans subcommunity of the LGBT community.

To quote my friend Gwen Smith from a few years back:

It’s okay to have a construct that works for oneself. The problem is when you impose it, unwillingly, on others… We should be the *last* to impose constructs involving identity or expression on others.

And yet “we” do impose constructs on others in and out of our own subcommunities and communities.

The “should” I wish I could impose on our broader community is the one of embracing the diversity of people and experiences within all of our broader communities and subcommunities. Embracing our differences while searching for our commonalties — those are “shoulds” I could live with.

But then, I’d be imposing my construct of the perfect LGBT community on everyone too.

Enh, whaddoya’do?

15 Comments

  1. Jenna Fischetti says:

    “I am transsexual. I am not a fetishist, I am not a crossdresser. I am not a “tranny”, as RuPaul likes to claim he is. I am not any of the other things that transgender may – and often does -entail and even so, we all share the same pain of anti-trans misogyny, violence, hate, discrimination and oppression. We have all been raped for the same reasons. We have all been beaten for the same reasons. We have all been murdered for the same reason. We have all faced discrimination for the same reason. We have all lost jobs, families and friends for the same reasons. Therefore, I recognize that hate directed at them directly impacts me. I realize that my oppressors don’t care whether or not I have a medical condition or what nuanced terminology I insist that others use.”

    Cristan, I’ve read nothing on this point before which captures it quite so succinctly, and i’m grateful for the opportunity to have read it.

    Thank you.

  2. Jenna Fischetti says:

    Enh, whaddoya’do?

    You find your own authenticity and in doing so, validate the next person’s authenticity, especially when that doesn’t match your own.

    The thing you wonderfully touch on is a point I was stress in a group I moderated for 5 years. “Everyone has a point A and we’re all going to a point B. It’s just that our point Bs are not always in the same place or at the same pace.”

    What uniquely ties us all together is the process by which we shed the binary yoke laid upon us by society, and just be who our Creator intended us to be.

    Thanks for this post.

  3. Danah Gaz says:

    “It’s okay to have a construct that works for oneself. The problem is when you impose it, unwillingly, on others… We should be the *last* to impose constructs involving identity or expression on others.”

    And here’s why I’m wary of the “LGBT” umbrella grouping as well as the “transgender/trans*” grouping.

    There are a lot of facets to these groups, and I don’t necessarily relate to many of them. While this might help politically (and I’m not always so sure) – it adds a lot of confusion for, and is an additional burden in untangling myself from all of this so that I can be clear about who *I* am and what *my* story is, particularly to the cis people and straight people in my life who’d like to be an ally. I have having to lead with a definition of terms and where I fit in. No, I am not a “drag queen”, a “gay guy”, a transvestite, etc. It got super annoying after the third time.

    • Danah Gaz says:

      I meant “I hate having to lead” above – meh.

    • Cristan says:

      Do you suppose that they got the idea that you’re a drag queen from this term or do you suppose they picked that up somewhere else?

      Would you provide some examples wherein major media outlets and/or cultural opinion leaders who assert that transsexuals are drag queens because transgender means drag queen?

      I get that you believe that umbrella terms are hard for English speakers to work with, but I’m interested in the objective evidence which informed your opinion. Also, please provide some examples of other English language umbrella terms which create significant problems.

      • Danah Gaz says:

        “Do you suppose that they got the idea that you’re a drag queen from this term or do you suppose they picked that up somewhere else?” – I can’t be sure, and I’d rather not assume what’s in people’s heads.

        “Would you provide some examples wherein major media outlets and/or cultural opinion leaders who assert that transsexuals are drag queens because transgender means drag queen?” – I can’t help but point out that your question requires me to assume that people are picking this up through “major media outlets” – I have no idea if this is the case, and again, I don’t like to assume. I did however, do a quick google search for [are transsexuals drag queens] and this popped up: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20110305113934AAEtyAw
        I think it’s telling that it would even be asked. Some of the other links are pretty revealing as well, in that people *do* make that connection.

        “I get that you believe that umbrella terms are hard for English speakers to work with,” – Now you’re just being sarcastic. How’s that working out for you, by the way?

        And yes, I get that you don’t agree. How nice for you.

        “I’m interested in the objective evidence which informed your opinion.” – My lived experiences formed my opinion. My years of growing up around cis folks who automatically think that I am an authority on gay people, on cross dressers, and of course, on other transsexual people.

        But maybe in all this you do have an unstated point – Maybe if it weren’t for a culture that lumps gender variance and sexual orientation together in the first place, the “LGBT” political umbrella wouldn’t have occurred in the first place.

        • Cristan says:

          I asked about your assertion that this perception is the product of ‘transgender,’ which is why you don’t like it. What sort of evidence informed your opinion. I get that you’ve interpreted the struggles you’ve had as flowing from one word, but I’m asking about the logical leaps.

          You shared a two year old question that was answered really well. Here’s something from just day before yesterday:

          “The addition of sexual reassignment surgery with a $50,000 cap makes Duke’s student health care plan one of the most, if not the most, transgender-inclusive plans in the country,” Sunny Frothingham told The Chronicle. Frothingham is the incoming outreach chair of Blue Devils United, a campus LGBT undergraduate advocacy group.“This is a huge step forward for Duke.”

          http://www.gayrva.com/news-views/duke-university-to-offer-health-insurance-coverage-for-transgender-students/

          How do you square the enormous leaps forward in transsexual rights at every level over the past 20 years with your fact assertions? Either transsexuals have made enormous gains over the past 20 years or we’ve not. Which is it? Either these gains coincides with the wider use of transgender or it doesn’t. Which is it? Either umbrella terms are difficult for English language users or they aren’t. Either transphobia is becoming less tolerated each year or it isn’t. There’s objective metrics to be known about this term.

          Anyone can have an opinion about anything. Anyone can make logical mistakes and draw erroneous conclusions, sometimes upsetting themselves badly in the process.

          “I’m interested in the objective evidence which informed your opinion.” – My lived experiences formed my opinion. My years of growing up around cis folks who automatically think that I am an authority on gay people, on cross dressers, and of course, on other transsexual people.

          Did they think you were gay because of this term or for some other reason? Did term shape your family’s perceptions or did religion, anti-trans laws, pathologization and sensationalistic media representations shape their views? What’s really to blame here? Is a word the issue or is the issue something else?

          How would you feel if you discovered that transsexual itself was an umbrella term inclusive of bi people who don’t want to transition, but might crossdress (Type 4 Transsexual)? How would you feel knowing that the earliest known use of transgender (1965) was by medical professionals who used the term to describe only those transsexuals who had genital reconstruction surgery?

      • Danah Gaz says:

        Naturally, the takeaway from this should be that I *personally* reject the label LGBT, and the label “Transgender”. I don’t like having them imposed on *me*. You might want to reflect on what you are doing, because your response to me seems to center around trying to convince me to accept some labels I don’t want, in which case, I’m guessing you should also take up Gwen Smith on her quote – which is one I happen to agree with.

      • Danah Gaz says:

        “How do you square the enormous leaps forward in transsexual rights at every level over the past 20 years with your fact assertions?” I don’t automatically make that connection. I know that locally, the leaps and bounds made in my area over trans rights and trans acceptance have been the direct result of the profound efforts of a few committed people, such as Marsha Botzer.

        The more important question is, why in the world are you so emotionally invested in getting me to accept some labels I don’t want, and have no need for in my own life. Label yourself how you want. I’m actually offended at this point at your hard sell. I am not buying. You don’t have to agree with me. I never asked you to adopt my position. I simply stated some of my feelings. I have nothing to prove to you.

        • Cristan says:

          The more important question is, why in the world are you so emotionally invested in getting me to accept some labels I don’t want, and have no need for in my own life.

          I’m not in the slightest. If that’s the impression you’ve made, it’s not on track. The fist time you commented on Love’s creepiness, my first words to you were, “However you want to personally identify is fine with me (fine with probably most trans folk).”

          You’ve made some fact assertions about the nature of this term. I’m asking you about the reasoning which lead you to your conclusions. That’s it.

          However you choose to identify is, as I’ve said before, fine with me. However, if you assert that the term ‘transgender’ is bad because it negatively impacts someone, I’m going to ask you to substantiate that claim.

      • Danah Gaz says:

        “There are a lot of facets to these groups, and I don’t necessarily relate to many of them. ” is not the same thing as saying “transgender is bad because it negatively impacts someone” The only “someone” I said it impacts was *me*, and I’m the single most qualified person on the planet to make that sort of assessment.

        I am transsexual. I am not a fetishist, I am not a crossdresser. I am not a “tranny”, as RuPaul likes to claim he is. I am not any of the other things that transgender may – and often does -entail. I have no use for the term.

        • Cristan says:

          The only “someone” I said it impacts was *me*, and I’m the single most qualified person on the planet to make that sort of assessment.

          I could likewise assert that your rejection of the term impacts was *me*, and I’m the single most qualified person on the planet to make that sort of assessment.

          I am transsexual. I am not a fetishist, I am not a crossdresser. I am not a “tranny”, as RuPaul likes to claim he is. I am not any of the other things that transgender may – and often does -entail and even so, we all share the same pain of anti-trans misogyny, violence, hate, discrimination and oppression. We have all been raped for the same reasons. We have all been beaten for the same reasons. We have all been murdered for the same reason. We have all faced discrimination for the same reason. We have all lost jobs, families and friends for the same reasons. Therefore, I recognize that hate directed at them directly impacts me. I realize that my oppressors don’t care whether or not I have a medical condition or what nuanced terminology I insist that others use.

          My simply asserting this – the statements I’ve made above – does not make it so. I could be mistaken… even if this is what I truly believed. Worse, I could be wasting my time upsetting myself needlessly, arguing with people on the internet as to why I get upset, offended, irked, etc when someone uses this term in a way I don’t like. It’s helpful if someone, at some point challenges my logic when I make these types of assertions. If I find that my assertion isn’t actually rooted in fact and reason, but rather erroneous conclusions, I’m a just that closer to living in a way that I value: living in reality.

          People have challenged me to support, with objective evidence, that the hate directed a crossdressers affects my wellbeing (and the wellbeing of those I care for). DOR makes this point every year. I’ve lost trans friends to murder who were not transsexual and yet were murder because they weren’t cis. I’m glad that the EEOC made the ruling that would have protected people like Peter Oiler because those protections keep me, a post-op transsexual, from experiencing discrimination.

          When someone comes along to an inclusive trans blog and asserts as fact that the use of transgender negatively “impacts” them, I’m curious to know how they came to that conclusion. Thus far, you’ve done a good job at evading an actual answer claiming that I’m operating out of a need to force you to use the term and that your opinion is your opinion because it’s your opinion. I’m challenging your reasoning. If you cannot of will not support your reason, my takeaway will be that you’ve never put much thought into it, heard some separatist meme at some point that sounded reasonable on the surface and are now spending your time going to inclusive trans blog re-asserting the logical fallacy you blindly accepted on faith alone.

          Let me again state, I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU CALL YOURSELF. If you call yourself a transsexual because it’s a more precise way of referring to yourself, then I support that. That statement isn’t about internalized cisgenderism. If you (as you’ve done here) assert that you experience a “disservice” should someone use the term transgender because it causes people to think that you’re a drag queen, then that’s something completely different. That’s a logical leap which makes me, here on this inclusive trans blog, question your reasoning. If you only want to experience people accepting your logical leaps as reasoned conclusions, you need to spend more time on HBS blogs. You could assert that a crossdresser invented the term as part of a plot against transsexuals and they’d believe you. That’s not hyperbole either.

          Either you have a reasoned argument to make about the disservice you claim makes people think that your a drag queen or you don’t. If you don’t, that speaks louder than anything I could say about it.

      • Danah Gaz says:

        I don’t like the term transgender, and I don’t even like the fact that this umbrella term exists, and yet, my opinion is mine. I’d never tell you that you can’t use it. It does do a disservice to me, and your proxy claim of “it disservices me because you say it disservices you” is pretty silly. My opinions are my own. I’m not telling you how to act.

        And as far as me “sharing” the struggles of transvestic males, autogynephiles, and drag queens:

        Tell that to Anne Lawrence, who creeped me out so bad with her weird questioning of my sexual fantasies and her particular interest in my genetalia that I was actually run out of transitioning the first time because I didn’t know where to find a qualified doctor who wasn’t also creep.

        Tell that to the men with full beards and dresses who used to leer at me in the groups at Ingersoll.

        Tell that to the gay male drag queens who misappropriate the term “tranny” while engaging in the standard misogynistic and cissexist bullshit that a lot of gay men, particularly, it seems, gay white men, so seem to enjoy.

        Even with all of that I am
        A) not trying to deny you your rights.

        B) I even *actively* support the desire of cross dressers, autogynephiles, and drag queens to live in a way that affirms them. I actively speak out against violence toward them (check my web history if you like, I have an extensive one and disqus)

        C) This is the first time I’ve ever brought my ugly experiences in the Ingersoll building (where Anne Lawrence practiced as well) to light on a public forum, because it harms your movement. But there it is. Yes, I am biased. Repeatedly creeping me the fvck out and sexualizing me *actively harms me* and will tend to make me wary of you and what you represent. And if it happens enough times, I might even question what you stand for, or more importantly, not want anything to do with that. Sue me.

        D) I’m not an “HBS”‘er, at least as you’d probably consider the term. I’ll not misgender you, or abuse you on a forum. I don’t believe I am any “better” than anyone else, gender variant, or not. You’ll not that I do not try to align myself with TERF radfems either. Cathy Brennan doesn’t like me very much, nor do I care for her to. She’s a bigot. The HBSers that are sympathetic to the TERFS are bigots as well. The fact that I may echo some similar sentiments about the *men* (cross dressers, drag queens) in the movement does not make me an HBSer. The fact that I really want nothing to do with the autogynephiles in the movement does not make me an HBSer. I part ways with them in a number of ways, not the least of which is that I don’t agree with hate speech, and I don’t agree with their need to disparage non-op transsexuals.

        And yet now that you’ve outright said that my distaste for the “Transgender” label impacts you personally. Wow.

        • Cristan says:

          Please stop strawmanning me. It’s a waste of your time. I’ve clearly stated over and over again what the issue is. From my past reply:

          Let me again state, I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU CALL YOURSELF. If you call yourself a transsexual because it’s a more precise way of referring to yourself, then I support that. That statement isn’t about internalized cisgenderism. If you (as you’ve done here) assert that you experience a “disservice” should someone use the term transgender because it causes people to think that you’re a drag queen, then that’s something completely different. That’s a logical leap which makes me, here on this inclusive trans blog, question your reasoning. If you only want to experience people accepting your logical leaps as reasoned conclusions, you need to spend more time on HBS blogs. You could assert that a crossdresser invented the term as part of a plot against transsexuals and they’d believe you. That’s not hyperbole either.

          Either you have a reasoned argument to make about the disservice you claim makes people think that your a drag queen or you don’t. If you don’t, that speaks louder than anything I could say about it.

          And from my reply previous to that:

          I’m not in the slightest. If that’s the impression you’ve made, it’s not on track. The fist time you commented on Love’s creepiness, my first words to you were, “However you want to personally identify is fine with me (fine with probably most trans folk).”

          You’ve made some fact assertions about the nature of this term. I’m asking you about the reasoning which lead you to your conclusions. That’s it.

          Please stop arguing against pretend positions. Please deal with my actual question. Making up pretend positions for me to take and then arguing against those imaginary positions is a waste of your time. Thus far you’ve strawmaned me and asserted that you hold your opinion because it’s your opinion. I’m not asking about your opinion. You’ve made that clear. I’m asking about the logic which led you to conclude that the term is a “disservice” (as you put it). You claim that the term alone makes people think that you – specifically YOU – are a draq queen. I’d like you to explain exactly how that works. You’ve thus far not done that.

          BTW, fuck AL. She’s a creepy autogyno-nut who’s been investigated for sexually abusing her own clients. Seriously. Fuck her and that weirdo reparative therapy nut she’s so fond over, Zucker.

  4. It’s a funny thing people do, Autumn. It’s simply Othering people to deflect attention.

    “Yeah, I’m trans. But look at HER! She’s the kind of trans people should really be afraid of!”

    Most people don’t want to be different, or at least the most different. So they pretend like their version of whatever group they are a part of is the most socially acceptable. It helps them to sleep better, I suppose.

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