Bruce Parker

Invisibility and Categorization

Filed By Bruce Parker | September 24, 2006 8:57 PM | comments

Filed in: Site News
Tags: bisexual, site categories, transgender, visibility

Bry*lo* says,

Getting back to the question of classifications within the blog, I don't necessarily have a good answer. Perhaps we should be asking ourselves why an LGBT blog feels the need to have a "Transgender" category and a "Women's Issues" category at all. It appears to me to be saying, the rest of the categories are really about "gay" stuff and we need special categories for the "other" identities.

I have to admit that I had never even noticed this subtle distinction in the categories. I wonder if me not noticing this relates to my own "gay" identity. Realizing that although I have been active and involved in the transgender community for around five years to varying degrees and now truly consider it my own community but from time to time I still miss certain nuances around transgender issues particularly when they are related to the placing of the T in LGBT issues is a fascinating realization however it is not the point of my response.

Instead, I want to acknowledge "the catch 22" that we are in regarding the use and misuse of the category system. This of course clearly has meaning that transcends this blog. Visibility continues to be a major concern to all marginalized communities.

People of Color issues are rarely expressed or addressed on the blog partly due to the lack of a clear spokesperson (or token) on these issues being on the contributor list. I am aware that Bil has made efforts to address this absence and the blame for the absence cannot be thought to rest with any individual but instead with the community. After all, we are a community blog.

I have tended to use the categorizing strategy of marking pretty much every post I write as having multiple categories. However, the site has been having a malfunction with multiple categories so they get grouped under the first one I selected. Its funny how when we are dealing with issues of identity and social justice categories really matter. Some might say to me does it really matter that much where posts end up being posted. I have actually had comments like that addressed to me in regards to ensuring that gender identity and transgender friendly language makes it into documents aimed at capturing stories of discrimination from the lgbt community. These comments of course came from white gay folks who the language was directly aimed at reaching. I always want to scream in the face of this blatant privilege. "If language doesn't matter why aren't civil unions acceptable?"

I have been thinking about this most of the day and thought of a strategy that might begin to help. We (the contributors) could begin using "Tags" as a method to sort posts. This allows for increased contributor control over categorization and a larger diversity in groupings. For the time being we could attempt to ramp up the tagging system and run it along side the category system. Perhaps, eventually

However, onto Bry*lo*'s point about the frustrations of the category and the dangers of removing it.

The very existence of a transgender category presents the challenge that on an "lgbt" blog there is no category for "lesbian," "gay," or "bisexual." The separation of transgender into a distinct category packs certain repercussions for the cohesiveness of "lgbt" as a conceptual framework for organizing both our experiences and our understandings. Often times being a representative of a transgender organization leads to me being looked at like the strangest animal in the zoo. My trans colleagues and friends articulate their experience in similar ways and this categorical separation continues the "othering" that is endemic in the lgbt community.

However, the absence of a distinct transgender category would result in transgender issues disappearing into the blog. This issue of trans-visibilty in lgbt settings is a reoccurring and very present one for transgender activists. The gay folks who often are in charge of lgbt spaces tend to trot out trans issues at moments that are necessary to prove their "good liberal" motivations or to explain to outside folks how inclusive they are of the entire lgbt community. Since a large part of my work with INTRAA is to educate the gay community about transgender issues and gender identity as a concept, I see the existence of the category at this point as a necessary evil.

An evil that we won't make any progress on overcoming by renaming or removing the category, instead we should focus on restructing our larger social dynamics as an LGBT community to decenter the focus of lGbt away from being white and exclusively gay male focused. Until then I have to say that with the blogs point and audience in mind the best solution would have to be renaming "transgender" to be "transgender and intersex issues."

I am curious and would like the women and the other bisexual or queer folks to express their opinions on this. I am at the moment taken with the fact that we may need to add a bisexual category to the list.

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From my comment I just left on Brylo's post: "We have a transgender and a women's issues categories because those are topics that our contributors are interested in posting about. The categories on bilerico have evolved over the years as more and more have been added and others have dropped off or been renamed. Not all our of categories are necessarily gay related though - there are categories like Spirituality, Labor Issues, Cartoons & Graphics, Just for Fun, and Songs for Sunday. In fact, we only have one gay category - The Gay Agenda. The rest of the categories detail other areas we post about a lot (political categories) or don't necessarily fit in other categories (animal friendly). If you include lesbians under either Women's Issues or The Gay Agenda then the only part of LGBT not to have a category currently is the bisexuals. No one has requested that category yet, and I haven't really posted anything specific to bisexuals - hence, no category."

I just added the bisexual category since you requested it. :) It's not clickable yet, but that's because there's no postings in the category yet.

As for multiple category listings, you can use them - and it works! (In fact, I've been using it since you showed it to me months ago!) I also agree with your comments on using the tags. I've been trying to use them lately, but I keep forgetting them. I'll try to do better as well.

I find this post very interesting. As a straight white woman with a gay son, and a member of a religious minority, I can understand the frustration that categorizing poses. I will say that when I first started blogging here, I did try to put my posts into a category. Eventually, though, I stopped. I just write my post and click, and it goes wherever.

I personally don't know if having a separate category would help. But I do agree that there needs to be more understanding regarding trans and intersex issues. I for one still find I need clarification on some of the terms and issues.

I have been under the impression that this is indeed a GLBT blog-site. That said, I think that if people are coming to this blog they have an interest in GLBT issues and can learn from what the posters have to say. As long as what is written is clear and concise, that to me is the most important thing.

Annette, I've been categorizing your posts for you. All posts on bilerico belong in one category or another or readers can't find the posts later. I'd appreciate it if you would categorize the posts on your own though. :)

Honestly, it's refreshing to to see Trans centered like this.

Next to Trans, gay visibility just doesn't seem like an emergent priority anymore...not that it isn't still urgent, though.