As I consider the many ways in which the Trans* Community has been targeted, specifically in the last few weeks, I have to question the role that the LGBQIA Community has played in alienating those people identifying as Trans*, GenderQueer, etc. In the last several weeks, many Lesbian, Queer, Gay, and Bisexual people have opted out of the conversations about the murders of Trans* Women of Color, about the Breakfast Club radio show boycott, about the various bathroom-related actions/bills, and about the current Administration’s changes to military policies that specifically discriminate against members of the Trans* Community who serve in the armed forces.
I have personally seen members of the LGBQ Community go out of their way to create a distinction between the Community and Trans* people. While I recognize that Trans* is a gender identity, not a sexual orientation, I also recognize that members of the Trans* Community have risked their lives and livelihood to support other members of the Community in the fight for equal rights. Not all “LGBTQ issues” have a direct effect on the Trans* Community; however, members of the Trans* Community have been in solidarity with us for decades. Gay Pride Month does not exist without the action of Trans* activists. How are we in a position to claim their efforts when it supports our right to love as we want while also denying the validity of their existence when the topic becomes one of their right to breathe?
Of course, this is not the first time that I have noted contradictory stances on topics that matter within the LGBTQIA Community. Though I typically see the race-based contradictions a little more clearly, how Lesbians – in particular – have responded to the audacity of Trans* Women (or women of Trans* experience) to exist and to fight to be respected has been utterly surprising to me. I will never deem someone’s preference not to date a Trans* woman as transphobic, but the explanations underlying such preferences can be, have been, and often times are indeed that. Personally, as someone who is drawn to masculinity, I typically am less enthralled by presentations of femininity. This is across the board, regardless of gender identity and/or sexual orientation. My reasons for this are far from transphobic, as they apply to all women. Some women identifying as Queer, Bisexual, or Lesbian have preferences that are deeply rooted in a fear of and lack of understanding about/compassion for the Trans* Community. Their preferences may not be transphobic, but they are certainly ignorant at times. And, as we all know, ignorance can cost people their lives.
When women identifying as part of the L, the B or the Q speak about Trans* women in a way that is harmful, when those women cackle and support jokes pertaining to killing Trans* Women, they create the space for other people to feel it is appropriate to do so. In a way, this is like the “token Black friend” giving his “down White compadre” permission to drop the N-word. We cannot keep carving out caveats for certain people to do and say detrimental things that have the ability to harm those standing with us on the front lines. We cannot make exceptions for certain people to do certain things because exceptions create slippery slopes.
While I recognize that comedy is sometimes characterized by its ability to make light of the darker sides of reality, I do not laugh at jokes about lynching Black men nor rape. Why would I laugh at jokes about killing Trans* women? Regardless of the circumstances. Regardless of the excuses denoted as justifications.
There are plenty of people, Lesbians of Color specifically, speaking and posting about how – essentially – violence is justifiable against people who are dishonest prior to sexual intercourse. I wonder how long those same women would have tweeted lyrics to their favorite pop celebrity’s top selling album if the woman he “gifted” an STD to had responded with violence due to his dishonesty prior to intercourse. I wonder how many of those same women have considered the ways in which they are dishonest with their partners before engaging in sexual activities with them. If we open the floodgates for violence in response to dishonesty before sex, a lot of people would lose their lives. For some reason, I doubt that most of them would be Trans* women. Again, slippery slopes.
Do not misunderstand me, I am a proponent of and for informed consent. I am an advocate for knowing who you are having sex with and what the consequences of said action might be. I am also someone who asks questions. Someone who wonders what safety issues present for Trans* Women who acknowledge themselves as such in the “heat of the moment.” Someone who wonders, to what extent, certain things have to be announced for people to feel like they have been informed. Someone who wonders how realistic it is to ignore the fact that some of the fear of the Trans* Community is less about the Community itself and more about the fear of how society will judge you should it be learned that you are engaging in sexual activities with someone whose genitalia may not match their gender identity.
It is one thing to ignore the questionable political climate that we find ourselves in. It is one thing to separate ourselves from those issues that may not directly affect our lives. It is quite another thing to turn our backs on a community that helped force and create space for us. Before laughing at detrimental jokes and shrugging our shoulders at decisions intended to harm part of our community, let’s be honest about where so many of us would have been if Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera had not resisted in a social climate that encouraged going along with the status quo.
Do not shrug your shoulders when your allies’ lives are at stake. Jokes or not. Politics or not. We have a duty and a responsibility to stand with those who stood with us.