Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Comment of the Week: Capitalist Piggy On Socarides' Marriage Equality

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | August 28, 2011 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Equality Matters, Jennifer Boylan, New York Times, Richard Socarides, transgender rights

Comment of the WeekOn my post Socarides On Trans Rights: Eat Your Cake And Have It Too, regarding the New York Times letter to the editor of Richard Socarides, President of Equality Matters, disputing the op-ed by Jennifer Boylan, Projector Capitalistpiggy quotes from Socarides' letter and makes a few points:

Re "We Want Cake, Too" (column, Aug. 12):

I share Jennifer Finney Boylan's frustration with the slow pace of progress on civil rights for transgender Americans. But I think she misses the point on the transformative impact of the marriage equality movement; it is not just about marriage per se.

Marriage is, in many ways, a proxy issue, a stand-in. What we are really fighting for is recognition that gender-nonconforming people are entitled to exactly the same rights as other Americans.

The right to marry has been our focus because it is so emblematic of and such a big step forward toward that larger goal. It holds a special place in society and has traditionally been restricted in discriminatory ways. When we gain the right to marry, we gain a hugely symbolic right on the road to full equality.

Like many things with Richard Socarides, consistency is not his strong point. I find an incrementalism argument from a man who has been yelling at Obama that he is not moving fast enough on DADT to be highly inconsistent.

Marriage is, in many ways, a proxy issue, a stand-in. What we are really fighting for is recognition that gender-nonconforming people are entitled to exactly the same rights as other Americans.

I literally have no clue what the fuck this means. The fight for marriage is really a fight for the recognition of gender-nonconforming people? What? Can we say stretching an argument really far? The fight for marriage is many things - but recognition that gender nonconforming people should have exactly the same rights? Uh, no.

I guess he needs to justify his $250,000 salary somehow.


What say you, Projectors? Will the rising tide of the successful battle for marriage equality lift the boats of transgender and transsexual people seeking rights? Or is this just blowing smoke?

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Britney Austin | August 29, 2011 12:19 AM

I agree. It is a bunch of nonsense. Legalizing same-sex marriage will do a couple of things for transsexuals though. The obvious one is that for transsexuals who are attracted to the same sex they can now get married just as any natal gay man or lesbian woman could. The other thing it would do is throw out the ability for people to bring successful court challenges against transsexual marriages over disputes over the individuals' legal sex. Nikki Araguz's case comes to mind here.

But other than that, this is another example of the "Gay, Inc." community glossing over the needs of transsexuals while pretending to support them. I'd like to know how gay marriage is going to help transsexuals get medication, electrolysis, or surgery. How is it going to help them get their name and sex changed on their IDs? How is it going to prevent discrimination against transgender and transsexual people in housing, employment, and public accomodations? How is it going to allow transsexuals to serve in the U.S. military?

It's not. Time to stop the co-opting.

I think the whole idea here is that marriage is a symbol and therefore, to literally interpret same-sex marriage with instantly helping trans people get medication, electrolysis and surgery is incorrect.

If you perceive the concept of heteronormativity to include non-gender conformity as well as homosexuality and trans identity, then arguably anything that confronts heteronormativity would be a benefit for all of those things. "If homosexual marriage refutes the concept of specifically-gendered diad privileges, then therefore, it chips away at what is and isn't considered 'appropriate gender actions/institutions/behavior'."

Is it a stretch? Yeah. But I get what he's trying to say. I'd agree with him, however, if it wasn't for the fact that marriage, and the fight for same-sex marriage included, doesn't exist in a vacuum. There's a ton of normative behavior and approval included with same-sex marriage, whether it should or not. Socarides is trying to sell a terribly naive argument.

Britney Austin | August 29, 2011 2:24 AM

It's still comparing apples to oranges as far as I'm concerned. State recognition of a contract between two people isn't even remotely similar to a patients' rights concern over getting ADA-recognition of a medical condition and insurance coverage of medical treatments. I don't see how they are even remotely similar. One has to do with legal recognition of a contract and the other a medical condition.

I'm getting really tired of these lies that gay marriage and ENDA are what transsexuals need. Do they both help? Absolutely. But they don't help all that much and they certainly don't address the primary issues. People with medical conditions need medical treatment. I don't care if it is HIV, transsexualism (which is listed that way in the ICD-10), or diabetes. I could tell someone suffering from HIV or diabetes symptoms all day long that I accept them and that ABCXYZ organization is working for their societal acceptance. Yet that doesn't do much for them at all when they need medical treatments that they aren't getting.

It is all a bunch of smoke and mirrors. There is an anti-medical agenda going on. Much of the LGBT lobby has demonstrated that they don't consider transsexualism to be a medical condition. Time and time again, I see HRC and other publications refer to transsexual surgery and hormonal treatments as a choice. They routinely treat being born in the wrong body as if it is a gender variant lifestyle choice. They will consider HIV a medical condition because a retrovirus is gradually destroying the body's immune system. Yet they don't want to consider transsexualism to be a serious medical issue despite the fact that plenty of transsexuals who don't get medical treatment to correct their birth challenge instead blow their brains out with a .357 magnum.

I'm not buying it at all. Gay men need to stop telling transsexual women what they need or don't need. I'll believe the LGBT lobby is serious on transsexual issues when they start making strong efforts at getting transsexualism covered under the ADA, pushing for its removal from the DSM and treated strictly as a medical issue, and pressing insurance companies to cover the procedures. Until they start doing this, I will continue to be convinced that either a) they don't really care or b) there is an anti-medical agenda going on. I think it is both.

None of it makes any sense in the first place. LGB has to do with someone's sexual orientation. Why are gender issues, chromosomal abnormalities, and people born into the wrong physical sex being compared to this? Transsexual women are tired of having gay male politics placed inside their doctor's offices.

Enough said.

You know, I'm sure you've heard it before, but that's exactly what a lot of gay men in power say when they want to exclude trans people from the movement for their own transphobic reasons.

You accuse gay men of not fighting for trans people (which is true. Plenty of gay men could care less about trans issues), but also express that it is liminally problematic to be associated with sexual orientation-based activism.

Should the LGB movement be encouraged to drop trans people because, at the behest of some fed up trans activists, the movements have "nothing to do with one another"? Or should they continue lest they be accused (by some of these same individuals) that they are "once again using and abandoning the most vulnerable population under the movement"? So which is it?

Maybe it's an issue of trans people believing that the LGBT umbrella hasn't served them as well as they can serve themselves. "If you want something done, you've got to do it yourself." That's a fair argument, and one with plenty of evidence to back it up. But you can't have it both ways. You can't be upset that LGBs aren't doing a good enough job, want to break away, and THEN criticize the LGB community for going along with the break.

I'll say that the "breakaway trans movement/drop trans people like a hot potato" will certainly make some LGBs happy for all the wrong reasons. I'd hate, hate, hate to go along with a decision that satisfies transphobic LGBs. But I guess if it came to that, and truly trans activism would benefit by standing on its own, I could live with the break if only because it also happens to benefit the trans community.

Britney Austin | August 30, 2011 12:56 AM

The solution is a combination of working together and working separately. It really comes down to honesty. If an organization is going to call itself LGBT then it needs to actually be LGBT. That means that there needs to be a department for each of the four letters consisting of people who actually are members of those letters. Calling an organization LGBT when a board of 20 members consists of 15 of them being gay men, 4 of them lesbians, 0 of them bisexual, and 1 of them transgender. That doesn't cut it. I see examples of this quite frequently when it comes to LGBT publications. Some magazine that specifically promotes itself as serving the LGBT community instead has about 70% of its content or more directed toward a gay male audience. Despite the fact that roughly 50% of the population is female most of these organizations seem to be made up of mostly men and directed toward male audiences. That is not equality or representation.

Let's go back to the simple concept of honesty. If an organization truly doesn't represent the LGBT community, then shouldn't it stop calling itself LGBT? If a magazine directs 70%+ of its content toward gay men then it should call itself "gay" not "LGBT." Same with say an organization representing transgender and transsexual people. It should call itself TG or TS but not LGBT.

That really is what this is all about. If someone says they are going to represent someone then they need to actually do so and do it accurately. Or they need to stop pretending to represent them when their actions clearly indicate that they don't.

Sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity, and sex identity are indeed separate issues. They can be grouped together though with the acronym LGB/TTI. Maybe it seems like a lot of letters but it is better than Don Lemon trying to call everybody "gay."

Cindy Rizzo | August 29, 2011 8:40 AM

This is very easy to refute. If Socarides were correct then Massachusetts, which has had marriage equality since 2003, would not have had such a hard time passing a gender identity inclusive non-discrimination law.

Piggy nailed it. Practically ANY issue can be a 'stand-in' for another issue. It's like saying "all men are created equal" was a proxy for abolishing slavery.

Paige Listerud | September 3, 2011 2:13 PM

Frankly, even for the LGB who are fired up about the cause, I have a hard time grasping just what "marriage equality" is all about. It seems to subjectively go so much beyond having the same legal rights and protections that opposite-sex couples have--as if conferring marriage upon same-sex couples would automatically elevate them to first class citizenship and abolish all homo-hate forever. Although a significant incrementalist step, it can't do that and it won't.

In my opinion, much more than a practical issue, it is a basic question of dignity and citizenship. Putting aside parental rights, in many countries marriage is the only legal discrimination that LGB face. And unlike DADT, it goes to the core of LGB relationships, so it is more insulting.

As for homo-hate, of course it won't be abolished suddenly and forever. You can't please everybody, nobody can. But you can choose your friends and hate back people who hate you (I don't advise it, but you can). It is rather irrelevant what heteros think or feel, as long as they don't have the right to discriminate.

Now you can say: in real life you can not choose who you deal with, unless you are rich and privileged. It matters that people hate you, since it may cost your job. I agree that LGB work is not done as soon as marriage is achieved.

But these are practical matters. Dignity is a different thing, and in many ways more basic. Every trans person knows that, or why trade a comfortable material life just for being true to yourself? Likewise, LGB can have a comfortable material life and feel constantly humiliated and degraded knowing that heteros around have more rights, regardless of whether they hate or not.