Mercedes Allen

TransActive III: Advocating for Trans People if Not Trans

Filed By Mercedes Allen | August 16, 2010 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement, Transgender & Intersex

(Part three of a series on trans advocacy. Part one spoke about changing the narrative used to describe trans people, and part two looked at expectations.)

trans-ally.jpgIn order to be an advocate for any group that you are not a member of and that you don't have the intimate knowledge of from life experience, a person really has to understand the damage caused by colonial thinking in order to start seeing where the boundaries are.

Colonial practices in history are fairly well understood, settling and subjugation, the taking of land and resources and rule from a distance that occurred. The thought processes that people used to rationalize and justify those practices continue to shape our society today, in ways that we are often blind to. Modern colonialism assumes that there is a right and a wrong, and that the right has a preordained blessing and/or responsibility to (at worst) control and exploit the wrong -- or to (at best) rule and "protect" (including from themselves) the wrong.

In Western society, the various sovereign structures have been largely replaced by an idea of democracy, with a lot of push-pull, spin and outright deception over what that majority will actually is, and a solid belief in the majority's right to tyrannize. But it is still a colonial mentality that leads people to idealize centralism over communalism, masculine over feminine, majority rule over minority rights and respect, conformity over diversity, one faith over all others, a narrowed and unyielding (and often badly skewed) definition of morals and ethics over free thought and the challenging of social norms, and established class and economic systems in their purest forms (i.e. extreme capitalism or extreme socialism [i.e. communism]) over balance and regulation.

Feminist struggles, LGBT issues, racial divides, marijuana reformers, the plights of the poor and the working classes and more all face a common conflict with the colonial perspective that someone knows best and needs to dominate, while everyone else should just get with the program and stop whining. Colonial thinking does not allow for uniqueness, diversity and challenges to its authority. It assumes that there is a one-answer-fits-all solution for everything.

It drives many of the divisions between marginalized classes as well, and is at the heart of the uneasy and even rocky partnership between LGB and trans. And if anything should unite all of us, it's the recognition of and deconstruction of the colonial mentality.

For a quick illustration, recall the start of the war in Afghanistan. One of the factors that garnered a significant amount of support for the war was the issue of how the Taliban treated women (I know there were more, but let's just isolate this one as best we can). The problem, however, was that womens' organizations such as RAWA which had already been doing work to address the issues weren't consulted for any kind of impact analysis or strategy to truly improve the lot of women. Instead, we'd sent the military in, and now we assume it's all better. It's not. One patriarchy replaced another, the region was destabilized, the attitudes of radical branches of Islamic Fundamentalism about women intensified as people united under a common enemy, the infrastructure that womens' organizations had built was now gone, their ability to network was largely cut off... whether you support the Afghan war or not, it's not fair to use the previous oppression of women as justification - it has only been replaced by another oppression, with the only difference being that if we're the oppressor, we can rationalize it to ourselves as being in someone else's best interest. (Note that this is less an argument about whether or not someone is "better off" under the old regime than the new, and more about whether any regime other than self-determination within a communal sphere is ideal)

Likewise, the displacement, subjugation and even genocide of Aboriginal peoples was justified at the time as "bringing civilization to the savages." There is also a parallel continuing in the debates in Western countries about the niqab and burqa.

Any time there is rushing-in-and-doing instead of listening, we are seduced into colonial thinking, and it has been done to lesbians, gays and bisexuals (sometimes by each other), it is still being done to LGBT people of colour, there is a long history of it being done to trans people, and trans people likewise have done it to each other and to sex and gender minorities that have not yet found their voice.

In order to advocate on behalf of any group that you are not intrinsically a part of and that you do not have an intimate and current understanding of, there have to be some ground rules. This is not just an LGB & T principle but something that has many applications.

1. It is never acceptable to tell someone else who they are, how they feel or what their life experiences mean.

Just because one person or a group of people in the trans community defined themselves a certain way or were okay with a particular characterization doesn't mean that all are. We're an incredibly diverse community to begin with, and not everyone has come to the same place of self-definition, or embraced a particular language to express who they are. This gets back to an earlier comment about other societies, where trans people still accept and call themselves gay men (or lesbians, in the case of trans men), in the same way that gender transgressive people here did fifty years before. The first order of business any community has when they form is to define for themselves what they are, what they need and what words they need to use to communicate that experience. Consequently, things that might have been embraced and celebrated decades ago might be patently offensive, today.

"Well, I'm not the world's most masculine man
But I know what I am and I'm glad I'm a man
And so is Lola, Lo-Lo-Lo-Lo-Lola"

2. Never stop listening.

Part of the solution to this is to always be listening and always be learning. In advocating for other communities, you cannot make absolute statements to represent that population. You can only repeat lessons learned by and about the narratives of some of them - and you will have only met some of them. This representation only happens up to but not including the point where someone with intimate experience of being a part of that community becomes available to speak for themselves. A number of trans men were there at the beginning of my transition to give insight and support, and I learned a lot from them. However, my ability to relate the transmale narrative is limited to acknowledging that I can only relate a part of that narrative, and should only be doing so if no guys are around / willing to speak their narrative for themselves.

Sometimes, that means staying in the background, finding other speakers and giving them the opportunities to tell their own stories. And sometimes that means we'll take the opportunities and only tell our own narrative without being able to show the full dimension of the community. However, from a decolonial perspective, when we wish to empower a minority, that means having to err on the side of that minority rather than our own colonial "father knows best" impulses. In part one, I talked about how one of the most effective things allies can do to help is to provide opportunities for us to speak our own narratives:

"... regardless of whether one is trans or cis, we need to assist in the telling of trans stories, either by finding opportunity, funding, or creating environments in which it is safe to do so....

"... it should be cautioned that one needs to make sure that said opportunity is something that trans people both want and are currently equipped to follow through on (and this definitely includes time, since most trans advocacy is done on a volunteer basis). If you yourself are not relating trans experience, consult with the people you are hoping to help beforehand, and make sure that someone is interested in and able to use the opportunity that you're trying to provide. I can't tell you how frustrating it is to be told, "here, I set this up for you" at a time when I barely have time to breathe and hadn't planned on having more on the plate. Trans advocates have jobs and relationships, too."

3. Mind Your Language

As I said earlier, the language we use to define ourselves is changing. The phrasing of language does far more to communicate aspects of a marginalized population than just the meanings of the words themselves. George Carlin understood the power of transforming language throughout much of his comedy, with one memorable example being his rant on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder:

"I'll bet you if we'd have still been calling it shell shock, some of those VietNam veterans might have gotten the attention they needed at the time. I'll betcha. I'll betcha."

Even so, one thing that the far right has understood thoroughly and developed a skill for and even became weaselly about was twisting language. Changing "global warming" to "climate change" shifts the idea from a global crisis to the weather getting a little warmer (who can complain about that?). Phrasing denial of spousal rights and benefits as "protecting traditional marriage" (even though there is no real protections gained by doing so) has won over centrists with warm fuzzy ideas about family and "protecting" children so that the facts can be overlooked. Equal opportunity hiring practices and aims becomes "reverse discrimination" or even "race-based hiring." Words like "traditional," "family" and "moral" have been hijacked so that by their very nature they become faith-focused and exclusionary - the territory is being staked out, and by acknowledging this language and using it in the contexts they assert, we give them province over it. If Americans aren't careful, "American," "founding fathers" and other nationalist images will soon be annexed by historical revisionists as well.

I don't mean to suggest that we need to be outright deceptive like our opponents. However, we do have to be mindful of the words we use, their contexts and implications. We will also have to be wary of acceding to opponents terms and characterizations used to colour impressions of trans people.

Part of this means putting ourselves on the other side of our language and recognizing when the words we use paint us poorly or others us. But that is also limited if we don't have a developed understanding of that narrative ourselves.

Part of this means doing your best to recognize which words people wish to be used to describe them, which words they find offensive, and which words have restrictions because they are being reclaimed -- historically used so badly that most people have had their usage privileges revoked.

4. Own Your Privilege

Part of that means realizing how developing words like "cisgender" serve as better terms to "transgender" than, say, "normal" or "real." Yes, in negative contexts, cisgender can imply privilege. The whole point of privilege is that someone who isn't a part of a minority group has had the privilege of not experiencing the negative aspects of being that minority, not having to be regularly or constantly preparing for these negative events, and not ever had to think about such things in a way that had personal implications. Having the privilege of not experiencing these things is not itself a negative, although it may inspire understandable jealousy - however, it does carry the responsibility of recognizing one's privilege, and learning to respect the experiences of others, and address them as valid, founded concerns. The better way to correct a disparity like that is to own our privilege and work to equalize it, rather than whine about being accused of privilege.

Labels are too often used to divide us into smaller warring factions. Take the general consensus but be respectful of how people self-identify outside of that as best you can, and focus on the underlying issues and needs.

But this goes beyond labels. Be aware about what words say about trans identities - of when they validate and invalidate them. Be aware of when words try to make people aware of some portions of a community as opposed to when they make broad sweeping generalizations about everyone. Be aware of the favorable or unfavorable contexts they place people in, and when your words play into far right rhetoric.

So. Sounds complicated? Sounds like trying to navigate a minefield? Sometimes it is. However, these are the skills that we need in order to reach out beyond our pocket communities. These are the things we will need to do as we build bridges with other disenfranchised or othered communities and mutually struggle against the colonial thinking that motivates and empowers our opponents, and tries to structure society to exclude us.

Sounds worth doing, to me.

(This series is not connected in any way to the organization TransActive Education and Advocacy, it merely shares part of the name.)

(crossposted to DentedBlueMercedes and The Spectrum Cafe)

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I think you forgot #5 - Be prepared for backlash and those who will never accept you because you're not trans. One of the most common refrains I hear from non-trans allies is "Being an ally to this community is particularly frustrating and difficult" and it's true.

As an ally, we have to know going in that sometimes it can be challenging and it's not all going to be sunshine and rainbows; we're not going to change any trans "problems" - that's up to the community itself. We don't "fix" things because nothing is "broken." I think a lot of well meaning allies fall into that mind trap and then get even more frustrated.

Bil, you are not an "ally" when you wade into (or are sucked into) internal major disagreements and you chose a side as you and Alex and other gay men here have done over and over and over.

The long and the short of it this trans weirdness there are those who lived through it, emerged from the other side, tried to be available to share what they learned and are trashed endlessly for it. We are the only actual experts on transsexuality, which should be self evident as those who write endlessly on the topic either never had the condition or still have not had the cure..and yet we are the ones shouted down, our bodies insulted, called crazy, self loathing and the entire litany of bs abuse.

I was being called an elitist before I had my mind and body in congruence....and endless since. Despite the fact I never made more than 24 K a year my entire life, I am constantly called classist. Even though I've been declared several times as massively sane by psych professionals, I'm constantly called insane and crazy, also from long before mind/body congruence and often by those who admit to having mental issues themselves.

And it isn't just me, it's almost every single woman of history brave or compassionate enough to care to speak up if they don't buy into the garbage that was passed as "gender theory".

You want to be an ally?........ talk to everyone, not just the loud activists when other keep telling you those activists do NOT speak for them.

The arguments you cite get down to a difference between validation vs. invalidation. You have, in the past, said some blatantly negative things about anyone who willingly embraces a transgender label, intentionally invalidating people.

I can't speak for everyone else who was involved at that time, but I remain willing to respect how you identify (validation) up to but not including the point where you seek to negatively define others (invalidation). But there's an additional problem in that you see my (and others) very existence as transsexuals who do embrace a wider community as invalidation. And, well, I'm not going to just cease to exist for your benefit, sorry.

I'm speculating, but I'd guess that most discrepancy that there may have been on the part of Bil and Alex has boiled down to this point.

Thank you, Mercedes.

Way to misrepresent! I do not need your validation, never have, never will. I will respond to those who's arguments in the great TS vs TG war have always consisted of "you will never be real", "your chromosomes remain XY (not true in my case)" and some variation of "once trans always trans. You cannot escape association with drag queens and are a bigot for expressing your total woman identity."

Do I eventually push back at that? Hell yes, I'm human. What you call my invalidation is simply separating from those who say such things and making them live with it themselves....when they have said them to me over and over and over and over.

I revisit these things because I clearly see what has been done in public perception, for example the religious right never targeted women of history until we were lumped into TG as front line troops in Da Gay battlelines. I support full equality for LGB people but that is my choice to fight for in my own manner. For about 10 years now the clear message to the public has been that surgical correction is not required. That is true for the non transsexed, it sure as hell is not for the transsexed. You force us to discuss this on behalf of those transsexed who are starting to deal with it, we will. Loudly we will tell anyone who will listen that this idea is wrong, contrary to everything known about the birth condition transsexuality and WHY we have almost nothing in common with transgenders. That you do not speak for us.

" ...or still have not had the cure... "

Holy crap. Those are fighting words, RB, in several different ways. The radical right talks about curing trans people, too. Of course their cure is for trans people to get their shit together and buck up and behave like a man (or woman)! All cured (according to them).

There isn't only one way to deal with gender issues, as in The Cure, as you call it. You're substituting your judgment for that of individuals who may have different needs and solutions.

And many people take offense at the notion that they need to be "cured", as in, they have a disease. The implications are disturbing.

If a right-winger talked about curing us, I'd be very concerned and angry.

Exactly what planet are you from?
Fighting words? The cure for somatic dysphoria (the accurate way of describing transsexuality since the gender is never the issue, it's the fixed part that causes the condition) is to correct the body. Once that has been achieved, one is cured. This is about to be enshrined finally as part of the DSM revision which will recognize an end to mind/body incongruence is achieved with body correction.

This is only "fighting words" if you are a total Luddite who refuses to acknowledge the overwhelming scientific evidence that continues to grow almost daily.

Over and over women of history (specifically) have told you that the trans horror stories don't apply. We are dismissed. I submit that if you want to know if transgender identified people are gynophobes and mysogynists, one simple has to observe how the woman identified, female bodied claimed part of their community is treated for speaking their own truths.

I am a part of the LGBt community on the B part, leaning towards the L part. I am a feminist. I can tell you from first hand experience and observation of women similar to myself, our history simply doesn't make that big a difference for those of us that view it and treat it AS history except for a few random bigots and the transgender identified. Bil is no ally of mine, he's made that crystal clear.

We paid often enormous prices to achieve body/mind congruence almost always at huge personal costs. For those unwilling to pay those costs and take the life hits that makes us elitists? Self-loathing? Homophobes when some of us are lesbian or bisexual?

Fighting words? that would be the continued total disrespect of what we achieved and our lives by labeling us against the realities of our lives AND our own mental self-sense. Men speaking for me offends me deeply as a feminist woman. I'll continue to speak out against it when I am available to speak for myself until I am silenced. I will restate something I've said over and over during the years, the only place my womanhood is ever disrespected or challenged is among those who claim community with me against my will. I don't even experience that in my encounters with radical lesbian separatists or right wing fundies.

I have no idea what you're rattling on about, RB. You have one spiel, and regardless of the content to which you are replying, you hit the "on" button, and spew forth the exact same crap.

The fact that you are railing against points that were never made is utterly irrelevant to you. I don't have the time to take apart your nonsense point by point. I run a gender support and educational organization, and my efforts are far more needed there rather than battling a paper tiger.

I touched on this in an earlier part, but good point -- it should have been here.

That can be the case, and will vary depending on how much negative history both parties have experienced, and not necessarily from each other (we're all diplomats, after all). It works the other way too, since I've had it happen as someone who works full-time, commutes from out-of-town and addresses quite a number of things that the LGB community doesn't have to (i.e. identification and medical issues), and then hear venting, backlash, accusations of selfishness etc, because I'm not out at all of the events and fundraisers. And we have people in the LGB community who will never accept us because we are trans.

There are times when the LGB vs. T history causes so much bitterness (usually due to invalidation as per 1) that folks on both sides are ready for conflict from everyone else in those communities from the first moment, and it almost becomes self-fulfilling. That's something that needs to heal with time.

Sunshine, perhaps not, Bil, but rainbows, certainly. It's all about the rainbows.

I hear your pain in your remarks, and I deeply appreciate your own advocacy for trans people. However, it's important that we not forget how far we have to go to achieve trans equality in the Big-G-Little-l world. As an unemployed bi-identified transwoman, who has applied to countless G/l nonprofits and support organizations for over two years, I remain astonished at the depth and breadth of the barriers and disparities that remain.

In all social movements, I think there is conflict between separatists and unifiers among the oppressed. I am an unapologetic unifier and urge LGBTQ solidarity across our differences. However, solidarity is impossible without equality. In this sense, there is much work to do to fix what is still broken under our little rainbow.

I find being human a fascinating experience. We are born, learn language, most learn to read and write and often fall under the illusion that "understanding" can be both absorbed and imparted through words. Communication and education (or learning) is possible through language but I would advocate that "understanding" is primarily experiential.

Let me try to explain (probably at great peril). I have on many occasions had trans friends want to go out for an evening and they would suggest going to a Gay nightspot. To them that was a "safe environment". There is something to be said for that approach since violence against trans can erupt unexpectedly but a Gay nightspot also offers little in the way of experiencing life as a woman. I usually encourage a shopping trip to the mall followed by maybe a nice meal at a restaurant. Then maybe some drinks at a local nightspot with a live band.

From my perspective the greatest gains can come from living in general society. People who shelter themselves in enclaves deprive adversaries of the direct contact from which understanding flows.

I do, however, advocate such things as protests, rallies and educational efforts. I think though that it is important in those actions to remember that the understanding by adversaries may flow negatively since conflicts can affirm the negatives an adversary may already cling to in their mind.

To this I would add that it has been one of my most difficult lessons in life to conquer emotional reactions to the words of others. We, as humans, hear and read the words of others in the context of our own extensive sets of filters. Angry or defamatory words often set off reactions of angst and animosity. It has taken me a long time to reach the point where my own emotions are seldom triggered by the words of another. Oh yes sometimes I still react emotionally and then I take a few deep breaths and realize that an emotional reaction is exactly what the other person wants. Then it becomes easy and even fun sometimes to identify the other person's "hot buttons" within their own invective.

I hope this isn't all too "off the wall" in context. To put it another way, respect from others is a result of shared experiences yet is not necessary at all when ones own experiences in life have sufficiently tempered the mind. If respect flows between people enjoy it. If it doesn't then have fun with that too.

Unless I'm mistaking what you're saying, I find a lot of your statements very naive. For example:

"From my perspective the greatest gains can come from living in general society."

As you say, from your perspective. If you don't fit whatever mold the "general society" thinks you ought to fit, they'll often either tear you down or act like you don't exist. For a lot of people, the greatest gains come from their safe spaces, because general society doesn't want them and/or doesn't have much to offer that they want.

"People who shelter themselves in enclaves deprive adversaries of the direct contact from which understanding flows."

It's not the job of people who are discriminated against to educate the people who've been excluding or bullying them. Why should people who are targets for prejudice be expected to risk further pain and humiliation and even injury and death just to try and make outsiders who bully them "understand"? Why should the onus be on them, rather than the bullies and bigots? And anyway, more often than not, people who discriminate don't want to understand -- they just want to feel superior.

Oh I'm sure you are correct - from your perspective. I don't happen to share it.

To this I would add that it has been one of my most difficult lessons in life to conquer emotional reactions to the words of others.

Yes. I'm planning to delve into this more when talking about lobbying, but can fit in with Bil's point.

The massive silence speaks volumes to bil's point. Many gays and lesbians I know have tried to understand and "ally" with trans people but have been attacked constantly for merely existing often. You need to check the role that radical gender theory is having on some trans and queer people. Many use that theory to tell gays and lesbians who we are supposed to be and what we are supposed to think to be "trans allies". Many of us have simply lost interest in any form of connection since it seems so fury and revenge based against homos who seem to be the enemy of so many trans people. Perhaps reaching out to progressive hetero groups is the way to go. Gays and lesbians who do not buy gender theory and queer politics are never going to be anything but targets of trans rage anyway so why waste any more time on us? Being labelled as cis privileged endelessly by angry trans people does not change a heart or mind of a homosexual or lesbian; it's freezes them.

BTW, not to be rude but the disappearance from bile rico of the formerly ubiquitous trans woman (Diss something) and her anger issues has made the blog much more user friendly.

I'd agree with you, but why are you talking about "gay & lesbians" ? I mean, lesbians ? These pains in the neck who complain about male privilege all the time?

Many use feminism to tell gays and heterosexual men who they are supposed to be and what they are supposed to think to be "pro-feminist allies".

Naah, gay men who do not buy gender theory and feminism are never going to be anything but targets of female rage anyway so why waste any more time on them?

Cis, white, upper-class able-bodied gay male alliance definitely has a brighter future.

I friggin' love your name, Butch.

Rule number one: Never mention her. She's like the Devil -- say her name, and she mysteriously appears.

Thanks, Mercedes, for another thoughtful post, but was it really necessary to get Lola stuck in my head? Somebody-- please make it stop...

I think that all the points you raise apply to trans people who advocate for other trans people as well.

No problem. Try this one:

Holly came from Miami, F.L.A. Hitch-hiked her way across the USA Plucked her eyebrows on the way Shaved her legs and then h--

It also shows how much the language has changed. These things used to be classics.

Agreed about when trans people advocate for other trans people, and it also applies to when trans people characterize gay men and lesbians. We can see here how it's caused a lot of issues, resentments, indifference. I say that as someone who's admittedly guilty of having done that not long ago. Once the emotions get set off, it's not easy to get it right every single time.

(Perhaps there needs to be a #6: Forgiveness)

It's also something to remember as other sex and gender minorities come out and define themselves (i.e. bisexuality, asexuality, responsible non-monogamy, and the one I expect to end up pushing a lot of our buttons as their own language develops: trans admirers). The challenge works both ways.

Or how about--

Sweet Loretta Martin thought she was a woman But she was another man All the girls around her say she's got it coming But she gets it while she can

Get back, get back
Get back to [the closet] where you once belonged...

A lot of the negative reactions from us T-People may have been because of HRC's throwing us under the bus and using us as a bargaining chip during the last ENDA vote! Stuff like that has happened so many times in the past to T-People that a distrust of non T-People has taken root. If you try to train an animal with food and the animal does not get a treat each time plus you yell at them when they do what ever it is you wish them to do. The animal will not trust you! Response of animal could be very bad! Humans respond to inclusion. If you tell a group of people that you will not be left out of something. Then it is found out that You have been left out because of incrementalism or whatever. The already wary group because of the past, may really act out! Bil & most of Bilerico have been very supportive of us T-People because it seems they wish to understand! It is more than likely that a lot of the non-T's feel that they get crap from Us T's for no reason.. LBG,s Please understand it is not you! It is because of the past.

Hey! Nice to see that I'm brought up in this thread even though I haven't even made a comment yet.

Anyway, I'd just add:

1. No one has to be an ally to any group they're not a part of, trans, gay, etc.

2. If someone's more interested in colonialism or satisfying their own ego before making change, they're not really an "ally" to begin with

3. Maybe instead of learning to separate the wheat from the chaff, we could be brainstorming ways to get more allies in the first place?

I guess it's better to know you feel that way than to not know.

I brought up the colonialism discussion because it delves into something that is a societal undercurrent affecting most or even all minority groups, and by extension gives us a vested interest in caring about each others' issues or at least the societal forces that drive them. While I see it as something that we need to be aware of within our own communities and break habits of so we can build stronger bridges, I also think that it gives a common ground to build alliances on. It's a discussion that needs development.

And incidentally, I write assertively only because I find it helps make the points, not because I think my $#!t never stinks (or that I couldn't have handled myself better on occasion). Personally, I never know how much of what I write is already obvious to everybody and how much needs more explanation. I'm just describing the whale the best I can while standing inside it.

Alex... YES! Exactly and to the point. Well written!

It may be a bit off-topic, but I was wondering: what about people who are technically more or less trans but who are not visible as such?

E.g., I was at a space where there was a person who is visible as a dyke, except I know because I discussed with hir that ze is really thinking about transitionning (female-to-male). The thing is most other people didn't know, and I know some trans people were offended by hir way not to step aside on trans issues, understanding it was a cis person talking in place of trans people.

I think it is a bit similar (but not completely, I guess) for a person who has transitionned but who is currently stealth: what are they supposed to do? Should they "own their cis privilege" (even if they are not cis) until they out themselves?

I am a bit ambiguous on this because on one hand I feel like when you talk about these subjects the position from which you are talking does matter, and on the other hand I think trans people shouldn't have to "disclose" their trans status.

Butch -

I think you bring up a really touchy subject. Since it has a very real analog within the GLB. Should/can a closited (perhaps even hetero-married) person speak out about GLB issues?

As a person who has cis privilege until I out myself as trans, I think sometimes my taking a vocal position on an issue can be complicated, since I simply don't have to deal with much of the day-to-day crap some trans folks have to. Think Femme invisibility and some of the dynamics that happened in lesbian communities between andro and butch women and women who could "pass for straight".

As far as talking about GLB stuff. That's also a little complicated. I lived as a gay boy for 5 years - very out very active and was planning a career in queer activism (lol like all my friends at the time) so was reading and learning all I could. Now... I'm a hetero woman and my opinions are dismissed as such. Although I don't have a huge problem with that since I reap a mountain of social privileges from that, so my voice in most GLB- centered discussions would likely only be a distraction.

I think it is a bit similar (but not completely, I guess) for a person who has transitionned but who is currently stealth: what are they supposed to do? Should they "own their cis privilege" (even if they are not cis) until they out themselves?

I am a bit ambiguous on this because on one hand I feel like when you talk about these subjects the position from which you are talking does matter, and on the other hand I think trans people shouldn't have to "disclose" their trans status.

Disclose? Like, for whose entertainment? Why should someone's medical history be anyone's business. As was remarked by a frequent male contributor to this blog, "why can't we just be 'people'?". Notice, I didn't say "gay" male contributor to this blog or "cis" male contributor to this blog. That is his business - not how he wants to "identify" himself but how he would describe himself.

I won't deny that there have been times when I face discrimination. It only happens if I am out to people and then it is only awkwardness, not overt discrimination I face. That is what the problem is with being out, however. One is forced by others to be someone who they would not otherwise be. I don't want to make the way I am discriminated against the person I am. I don't aspire to be trans. I aspire to be me. Please, make a distinction between the way people may be discriminated against and who they are. Plain spoken English might be of some help in all of this. For people who have had to live for years being defined by others against their will I think it is oppressive to lay new labels on them that were never asked for.

I am left with the memory of a Blue Cross ad that played in the area where I live for a while. There were a few different versions of a person, for instance, - an obnoxious person sitting on a bus who would say "let me tell you about my operation," with the stranger sitting next to the person turning away in disgust.

Hi again,

I want to add that what I wrote is in a context that goes beyond what is written here. This morning at another listserve the Newsweek article about Norrie-May Welby was linked to:

It was titled - Are We Facing A Genderless Future

It has been emphasized here how important words are. Yes, words are important and the meanings they represent are even more important. The two most important words in this discussion are "sex" and "gender". Well, it is interesting how contradictory the use of these words can be among clinicians.

Very condescendingly, Bockting says in the Newsweek article that:

"And gender isn't synonymous with sex, he says, although the
distinction may elude the layman. Sex, Bockting says, is assigned at birth based on the appearance of external genitalia."

Then Bockting goes on to say:

"We have this idea that people take hormones and undergo surgery and become the other gender. But in reality is more complicated."

Am I the only one who detects the obvious contradiction where surgery that changes the "external appearance of genitalia" becomes "gender" and not sex? Talk about shortchanging people of transsexual history, not to mention the fact that function is radically changed as well as form!

Sex characteristics are sex characteristics, not gender characteristics. Bockting says it himself but changes his story when it comes to people who have transsexual treatments. Medical treatments that alter a person's body, secondary and primary sex characteristics, is the obvious difference between "transsexual" and "transgender". "Transsexual" is not "synonymous" with "transgender". Is it any wonder people get so upset when one understands what that implies?

Essentially the article is not talking about the end of gender. It goes on at length about third genders. If people want to be pushed in that direction I don't think anyone has a reason to complain about that but for those who don't and who are against their will, without any truly valid justification it is oppressive. Permanently prefixing a person's description with the expression "trans" pushes people permanently into a third sex category, altering behavior and expression, thereby, gender, even if their sex is changed.

Jack Drescher figures prominently in the Newsweek article, as well. Many transsexual and intersex people consider Jack Drescher to be one of the principle players in erasing knowledge of our existence.

In a 2006 article,,

Drescher says:

An environmental role is further suggested in Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome. Although AIS children have male XY chromosomes, they are born looking like girls. They are usually raised as girls and most develop adult relationships with men.

Are people with AIS heterosexual because they think they are women and choose male partners? Or homosexual because they and their partners both have XY chromosomes? Either interpretation may be correct, depending on one's point of view: an individual's subjectivity vs. chromosomes. Obviously, there are limits to the questions that biology can answer.

This is a radical assertion. Since the beginning, CAIS women were born and raised as girls and grew up to live as women women. It should be easily understandable if one familiarizes themselves with women like Eden Atwood and many others how offensive this assertion is.

The assertion that the "y" chromosome and the "xy" karyotype is automatically "male" and makes one irreversibly "male" is based on ignorance. The assertion that the "xx" karyotype is likewise female is also based on the same sort of ignorance.

"Are people with AIS heterosexual because they think they are women and choose male partners? Or homosexual because they and their partners both have XY chromosomes?" "Either interpretation may be correct". No, "either interpretation" is not "correct". It is extremely offensive to say a woman is a man. That is why men like James Cantor, Ron Gold, James Foutatt and Jack Drescher, "Virginia" Prince and other people like Anne Lawrence, Janice Raymond and Julie Bindel are so offensive. This is where people of transsexual history feel they have to contend with everyone who does not share their background in their attempts to simply be people who are men or women, straight or gay or lesbian or just people who don't discriminate that way in their attractions.

Oy vey is all I can say. I enjoyed reading your article, Mercedes. The comments section, not so much.

dividing people into trans and cis merely creates a new binary where a "trinary" develops. Sex is much more diverse than a binary or trinary division.

Regarding people who are stealth pre- or post- transition and privilege, I think there has to be some acceptance that living stealth will mean that their perspective will be interpreted accordingly, but it's certainly appropriate for them to say that there are aspects in their own life that help them relate to what they're addressing.

And as always, there is a corollary to all of this, that we do have as much responsibility to be patient with those who have a clear and honest desire to help and support us as they do to keep the points presented here in mind. I obviously failed to make that point clear enough in the article.

1. It is never acceptable to tell someone else who they are, how they feel or what their life experiences mean.

THANKS for this. As a bisexual, I am so sick and tired of people thinking they are the experts in my sexuality, of believing that they know that I am just going through a phase (I've been bi all my life, and I'm 56 - it's a mighty long phase), etc. etc. and all the other ways they try to define away my sexuality because it makes them uncomfortable.

However, the comment "Should/can a closited (perhaps even hetero-married) person speak out about GLB issues?" made me go from 0 to 60 in anger in about 2 seconds. I an an out bisexual in my personal life. I work a 60-hour week, and spend most of my remaining time as a bisexual activist, advocating for mostly bi, but also LGT causes. Yes, I am married to a man. Would the queer world be better off if I stopped getting 5 hours of sleep a night in order to work for queer causes? I sure would be. That statement was total biphobia, to my point of view. I spend a lot more time working as a queer activist than 90% of the gays and Lesbians I know, but because I'm bi my help is not wanted, and my views are invalid?