Thursday, November 16, 2017

Trans erasure and LGBTIQqAa+ politics

Middle class white male gays & lesbians are celebrating a victory in Australia's postal survey on same sex marriage, but what does it mean for the rest of us?

I'm writing this the day after the results of Australian postal survey on same sex marriages was released. I'm glad for Australians that they will soon be able to marry the person they love regardless of gender but forgive me if my celebrations are somewhat muted.

Marriage equality is largely a boost for already privileged middle aged, middle class, Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual people. I don't want to take anything away from them & congratulate them on finally being able to marry but I must also consider other people.

I've been around long enough to see the ugly side of middle class LGB (I'm using a reduced acronym knowingly) society from both sides of the gender identity divide.

I first became politically aware in sexuality politics around 1977 at a time when the relationship between lesbians and gay men was so bitter the groups had a reputation of being scarcely able to work together. At the same time male gay society was massively transphobic, the superficially witty term "Travesty" (From Latin trāns (“over”) + vestīre (“to clothe”) via French) was commonly used for "Transvestites" (Directly from Latin trāns + vestīre) and I'm pretty sure that any nonoperative transgender person was included by them with the "Travesties". At the 1979 Auckland "Gay rights march" it was noted that this was the 10th anniversary year of the Stonewall riots. IIRC all the speakers were middle class white men and one of these white male middle class speakers said that it was of "enduring shame to our movement that we don't know the names" of the people who led that riot. Of course they didn't know the names, the first Stonewall was launched by Lesbians, "drag queens", transgender people (largely of colour), poor effeminate gays, entirely the "wrong type" of people, the people who launched the Stonewall Riots were erased from history as was the earlier Compton's Cafeteria riot.

It is, of course, to my enduring shame that I, at least on the surface, largely sided with the white male gaycentric world view implicit in these sentiments. 

Thirty eight years later this exclusion of transvestite and transgender people continues with attitudes like "Lose the T" being espoused and when the 2015 movie of Stonewall was made it centered around the white middle class males who were not there in reality. I began my pubic transition in 2015 and in that times I've been deliberately misgendered at businesses flying the rainbow flag more than once. ?There have been reports in 2017 that the people who issue the rainbow tick seem unconcerned with transphobic attitudes by businesses they endorse.

I sometimes insert a tag in a joke that LGBTIQqAa+ isn't a community but 10 different groups who each look at the other 9 and say "Thank God I'm not one of them". I would celebrate the day when I no longer feel it true enough to tell.

As a comedian I spend a lot of time in Auckland and Hamilton bars performing, waiting to perform or chilling after performing. it's ironic but I often feel more emotionally safe among the cisgender heterosexuals in these bars than I do in allegedly LGBTIQqAa+ friendly places.

When I talk to cisgender people, they know what men and women are and I can usually get them to have some understanding of my reality that I see my body as male and my brain as female and how I am working on changing my exterior to more closely resemble my interior. I've remarked in conversation several times that as a transgender person who identifies as a woman I have no conception of how difficult life and seeking acceptance must be for the gender fluid and other non-binary identities. Sometimes their reality is close enough to mine to be identifiable, other times the best I can do is listen to what they choose to tell me and thank them for trusting me with that information. My kaupapa is not theirs and their kaupapa is not mine. I can not attempt to speak for them but if any of this is of use to any of them they are welcome to use and share.

Author's note: Although I wouldn't normally use it, I've used the contraction "Trans" in the title of this page as a convenient shorthand for Transvestite & Transgender people.

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