In many ways, this has been an encouragingly fast-moving year in terms of recognition for the transgender community, from Caitlyn Jenner to the recent decision by Governor Cuomo to extend legal protections statewide in New York. But the community is facing backlash, too, from feminists like Germaine Greer’s not-“real women” commentary to Houston voters, who struck down a 2014 LGBT anti-discrimination law, goaded largely by the fearmongering rationale that the law let people choose public bathrooms based on their self-identified, not their biological birth, gender. And now a small number of gay people want to end common cause with them, too, putting up a Change.org petition demanding that several important LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) rights organizations remove the T from their missions.
Why undo such a long-standing coalition? “We feel their ideology is not only completely different from that promoted by the LGB community (LGB is about sexual orientation, trans is about gender identity),” reads the anonymous petition, “but is ultimately regressive and actually hostile to the goals of women and gay men.”
The author of the petition, a gay man, gave an (anonymous) interview to the conservative website the Federalist, playing the victim to this supposed transgender tyranny. “Any attempt to rationally discuss issues that gays/lesbians/bisexuals are concerned about regarding the trans movement is met with unparalleled vitriol, harassment, death threats, and silencing—demanding that the person commenting contrary to the trans narrative be banned from forums, for example.”
Of course, fear of this is why he remains in the closet when it comes to having this “rational discussion,” instead putting up a sniping Change.org petition.
And never mind how often transgender folks are and have been victims of violence and harassment.
The good news: His anti-T petition has been up for nearly a week and gained just a bit more than 1,700 signatories as of Tuesday afternoon, but a “Stand with Trans People–Reject ‘Drop the T’” counterpetition, started by a Brit named Jonathan Boniface, has received more than twice that so far.
Three of the major groups the anti-trans petition addressed — Lambda Legal, the Human Rights Campaign, and GLAAD — have all publicly denounced the petition, with Lambda Legal declaring, “We are fighting together for an end to discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation as well as gender identity and expression because these are all forms of prejudice and abuses of power that are rooted in hatred, fear and a lack of understanding of those who are perceived as not conforming to gender stereotypes.”
Not that there isn’t an intelligent discussion of actual issues to be had somewhere in here. As the LGBT movement matures and becomes more mainstream, the conversation also has to evolve. Do transfolks feel that some of their issues are not properly addressed by mainline LGBT organizations, and are there areas where they wish well-meaning LGB allies would back off and let transfolks have the mic when it comes to trans issues, with the LGBs (perhaps quietly) providing financial, technical, or feet-on-the-ground support? That’s worth exploring. But the impetus for it should come from the trans community.
But there is a reason why the L’s, G’s, B’s, and T’s have for so long stood as one — just as they are often targeted as a monolith. Said the Human Rights Campaign in its rebuttal to the petition: “The hate that killed Matthew Shepard killed Zella Ziona [a black transwoman who was fatally shot in Maryland last month]. The bullies at school aren’t just harassing the gay kids, they’re harassing the transgender kids.”