One of the most important things to keep in mind is the issue of trust as it's seen culturally and historically in the United States.
The very term "LGBT" itself is born in part out of a lack of trust, and how that trust affects the parts within it.
Trust was what existed in much of the early parts of the movement -- trust that people who knew wouldn't out you, in a time when being outed was a criminal offense. Trust was involved in setting the assimilationism of the day -- members of the groups were trusted to not "step out of line" and "embarrass" the rest, because doing so placed them at risk.
This assimilationist strategy affected trust with those who were not readily seen as "acceptable" -- those for whom staying in the line was a lie or a falsehood. And example of this is Butch women and Femme Men. At the time, they wee all gay -- that was the word they used, because there was a great deal of trust involved that everyone would look to each other for support and succor in times of need and crisis.
The first indication of a lack of trust came when certain individuals broke away from one group to found another, and did so not long after a major, widely known break in the assimilationist pattern of the time. Those persons who were not readily assimilated -- who didn't meet the standards and the criteria of the day, due to racism, classism, lookism, and heteronormative discrimination -- had been left out of the main groups and so one day they had a kind of rebellion that caught fire throughout the United States and is generally credited with starting the modern rights movement for LGBT folks.
Participants in that event were primarily people of color, trans women, young and poor gay and bisexual men, and butch lesbians and bisexual women. All of those particular groups were involved in this rebellion, which happened at a time when in Europe the Transsexuals were the toast of the town so long as they were performers who kept to the elite classes.
That event sparked the formation of one group, and happened at a time when several other movements were sparking off after years of slow development.
One of those other early movements was Feminism. This was seen as a change from merely liberation in later years, but often was spoken of at that time using the same terms. One of the aspects of Feminism that arose in the early 1970's was the realization among a wide number of people that the culture of the US was that the society that we live in was predominantly structured to be patriarchal -- that is, that men had all the social power.
Among the themes of the day were fierce battles of personal identification and separation, and so Lesbian was added in part due to a lack of trust of the predominantly male leadership of the organizations that were starting to flourish and that had any power at the time.
This led to a further push -- the combination of "second wave" feminism with the drive for assimilationism working together with medical agencies -- to reduce the participation of Trans persons, who at that time called themselves gay or transsexual or tranvestite for the most part, in a manner that was very effective.
This led to a great deal of mistrust -- a loss of trust -- between the Gay and Lesbian community (which generally ignored and erased or put down bisexual people in part because of a large number of bisexual people who were working against L&G interests) and the community that would come to be called Trans.
In the 1980's, pressure built up enough that the trust between the LG and B created a need for a new letter in the structure, although for the most part people still called it the Gay and Lesbian movement due to a social problem the US has with dividing things into "men" and "women". So the LGB was born. This was followed a decade or so later by the active work of what now called themselves "transgender" people that we call Trans today, creating the LGBT by the mid to late 90's.
In the interim, several things were done over the years to minimize the effort and benefit to Trans folk in the areas of local legislation, history writing, and more. This led to increased reductions in trust.
So it was that by the time of the Election of a conservative power in the Executive branch, the degree of trust on the part of B and T folks with the L and G folks was very low.
The L & G had, to some extent, resolved some of the underlying issues that separated them as a result of the AIDS Crisis, which had decimated the G leadership of the movement and continues to be felt today. Lesbians had stepped in and "picked up the flag" to a great extent, and Trans and Lesbian people founded and operated many of the earliest centers and groups that sought to provide relief and comfort to the victims of that crisis.
The B continued to be generally ignored and essentially tolerated, although most folks inside and out of the broader LGB grouping figured they were just people who hadn't made up their mind. This is much like the idea that trans folks -- who are most often portrayed as heterosexual -- are just gay men without courage to live as themselves (something which erases the variety of trans experiences, inclusive of the trans men and GQ and similar).
From the mid 1970's until the present day, Trans people's needs were used as a bargaining chip. In part due to the shared discomfort between straight and non straight people with non normative gender expressions and identities (and partially roles, though not entirely, since gay people are still seen by society as a whole as taking non gender normative roles -- this is best summed up in the question "which one of you is the woman/man?" or in the casual assignment of such by others), they were seen as a way of making something seem more palatable to the public.
One of the early examples of this is the "well, better than nice young man than that guy in a dress" that was occasionally spoken in some parts of the country early on in the fight for legislative recognition.
This is, as has been noted before, an assimilationist idea, in and of itself -- a holdover from the days where "Certain gays" were allowed to be partof the club, and those that were not masculine enough were excluded, which itself is an aspect of the patriarchy present int he culture as a whole that Feminism outlines so clearly.
This sort of assimilationist mindset traces back to before the current "modern era" movement. As some have said in the past, it is, on the part of Trans folk, a kind of "rage against the Mattachine", evoking parallels with the "rage against the machine" idea of fighting against the poltically conservative policies of the US, as exemplified by the band of the same name.
In the early and middle parts of the last decade, this fight between the old assimilationist inspired movement and the trans body hit full force, with, in a matter of less than 5 years, two successive efforts to pass a national piece of legislation were revealed to be using trans people -- who had, by this time, developed a strong and fairly cohesive political will -- as bargaining chips.
The first was capped by the revelation that after inviting Trans people to speak at a lobby day, the organizers of that event (The HRC) went around and told the various congressional offices that an agreement had already been reached to drop them, and to merely humor the trans delegation (which was conducted separately from the GLB one).
The second was capped when, in front of the largest assembly of Trans persons (and one of the most diverse crowds, in terms of kinds of trans people) that year, the Head of the HRC promised that the HRF would only support a trans inclusive bill.
Six weeks later, that was reneged on.
The trust was shattered on the part of the Trans contingent. In the history of the trans movement, never before had so many trans people suddenly sat up and made their voices heard. It was, in a per capita sense, far more startling than the effects of the Prop 8 vote later on.
To underscore just how effective this sudden uprising was, Representative Barney Frank -- who received a large portion of the blame -- actually did something unheard of. He sent out statements to trans groups and public areas accessible to trans people stating that it was their fault for not having worked harder.
Something they had, until then, been willing to trust the LGB groups to do, the majority of trans people not realizing that the usual way of working on behalf of trans people was to say "well, there aren't that many of them".
This, despite the fact that it's been known since 2003 that Trans people make up 5 to 7% of the population as a whole, with 1.5% being Transsexuals and 2 to 3% being Crossdressers.
The firestorm that this touched off led to hardening of positions on the part of assimilationist sorts within the GLB. Trans people were everywhere -- the internet is absolutely a trans space, in that we use it to communicate, learn about ourselves, and share information in one of the most amazing examples of technology adoption ever.
Much of which is driven by the large number of technology skill workers within the Trans community.
This had led tot he current situation where, for the most part, trans people do not trust the leadership of the major gay organizations. There is no trust there. Even today -- three years later -- the HRC is seen more as an opponent than an aid, and one very public trans woman is often spoken of harshly as a sell out (despite not being such).
This places the HRC in a very difficult situation, as they must work to rebuild the trust, and do so from a position where even their smallest misstep is criticized even by those few trans people considered "reasonable" by the leadership.
By extension, this is applied beyond that to other organizations -- most of which had, since the late 90's, worked to some degree or other to create a stronger sense of connection witht eh Trans community, and especially under those organization which are lesbian led.
This is due to the shift in Feminism, which is still going on according to some, or over and going through a new shift according to others, which recognizes that the US version of second wave was sexist, classist, and racist, in the institutional sense. Among the events that changed that were the protests of the Michigan Womyns Music Festival, which started when a trans woman was forcibly ejected and a series of arguments came out regarding the reasons for denying trans women entry. This was a hold over from the second wave, and the reaction was strong. "Camp Trans" was founded, and thus began a reconciliation process with Feminism that is still ongoing. That process was important, as buried within the subtext of the overall discourse around it was the assumption that trans folk were just "pretending" -- so trans men were really women (and therefore allowed) and trans women were really men (and therefore denied).
The responses to much of the negative stuff by people such as Lisa Harney were phenomenal, and used the various concepts already long present within Feminism and the intersections brought to the fore by the rise of third wave to essentially shatter the arguments applied against trans folk, and giving them a strong voice and common basis of reference that was sorely needed.
Among those organizations which shifted rapidly to develop trans related information were NCLR, and Lambda Legal. This was followed by other organizations such as the NGLTF (which has been slowly working to change its name to just The Task Force but still resists).
By the time of the 2007 debacle with HRC, over 300 organizations stood for an inclusive version of the legislation, with one of the most staunch holdouts -- even to this day -- being the HRC.
The anger within the suddenly "much larger" trans community was enormous, and it was based in the utter erasure of trust that was brought out. In the aftermath of the event, discussions around the internet and in rooms focused on how some aspects of predominantly assimilationist members of what is mostly the G community still believed and supported the idea of not needing to cover trans people.
As a result of those discussions, there are gay men who say things like "There are sound public policy exceptions to not covering that", which is an identical argument to that used by the very people they are fighting.
Enter the people who were relatively new to the internet that transitioned during the time when the GL and the T were widely separated by the aforementioned forces. This group of trans folk is aroused in part by the same forces that aroused the trans community as a whole, but in their case, they begin to work against the rest of the community on the grounds of it reflecting something they dislike strongly, as they were taught in the 'dark ages": a relationship between them and cross dressers.
Their words triggered a shift among others within the trans community who harbored prejudices similar (which have long simmered within the T and for much the same reasons in terms of issues of trust among the various parts). Splitting off from the generally socially conservative "HBS" group of Trans people, they came in and created further confusion, often providing those who were looking for support from the trans community in the ideas of assimilationism.
It was a natural allying in terms of philosophy and general heteronormative goals, as it relies strongly on the idea of assimilationism that is present among these groups.
This can be broken down along gender lines as a simple statement of "there are men and there are women -- why don't you just stick with one of them?". One of the things often seen to reflect this is the phrase "men, women, and trans", which seems very inclusive, but is, in fact, ignoring the aspect that some trans people are men, some are women, and some are found along all points in between and outside. A better phrasing would be men, women, and everyone in between or outside.
Of note here is that assimilationism often possesses strong essentialist characteristics, which resemble the same ones found in the 1970's and 1980's among the second wave feminist movement in the United States. The third wave movement is based in a more existential foundation, which is inimical to the essentialist ideals (and, therefore the Assimilationist one).
This has also created a situation where much of the LBT is allied to a stronger degree than the G is with them, since they function on similar foundations and have a great deal of intersections that is seperate from the G segment.
From a gender studies perspective, this is a microcosm of the larger social situation, where the same forces are playing out on a much wider scale without the interference of the specific past history.
Ultimately, in order to rebuild trust, the onus falls on the G segment from the perspective of those whom it has betrayed (which includes the entirety of the rest). THis is not an easy task, and requires that the G segment learn a great deal more about a subjec twith which they generally feel they have nothing in common or relation -- which is Feminism.
To do that, there has to be an overcoming of the various aspects socially which support the G culturally -- privilege and the patriarchy.
For the good of all, that must happen, and it's widely seen and recognized among the LBT population, which is why they are often found saying many of the same things when confronted with an assimilationist point of view.
In our next program, we;'ll talk about Assimilationism and Essentialism and their harmfulness in more depth, and we'll begin preparing this one for wider broadcast.