Archive for October, 2011

Where do Trans people fit in?

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

There’s only one rational answer: They constitute a community all their own. But can such a small community make itself heard effectively on the issues that matter most to its members?

For many years – going on decades, now – the Transgender community has been lumped in somewhat clumsily with the Gay community. That appears to have been a grouping of convenience, authorized by the LGB crowd to bolster their power base and by the Trans community, to attach the Trans community to a larger, more established power base. The problem is, the Trans community and the LGB community have separate and distinct aims, objectives, and needs in the realms of both social legislation and social acceptance.

The dichotomy between the LGB and Trans communities stems, of course, from the fundamental difference between the groups at their defining roots. The LGB community is united by its defining characteristic: its members all diverge from the mainstream in that they choose relationship lifestyles other than the conventional male-female arrangement. The Trans community – encompassing transgenders and transsexuals – is loosely united by the defining characteristic that Trans people self-identify with a gender role other than that which they were assigned at birth. The LGB/Straight lifestyle issue is separate and distinct from the Trans self-identity issue.

Here, however, we hit a wall which has traditionally kept the Trans community from making the kind of advances in social awareness and acceptance that the LGB community has enjoyed over the past 20 years. The Trans community is too small to wield any real political clout. ‘Out’ Trans people simply do not add up to a big enough voter block to constitute an effective special interest group – unlike the LGB community which, quickly established itself as a voting power when it started coming out (literally and figuratively), proudly (again, literally and figuratively), in significant numbers late in the last century.

Submerged as the Trans community has been, beneath the LGB identity which predominates under the LGBT(etc.) umbrella, the Trans community’s distinct defining aims, objectives, and needs have been submerged.

Many of us bitterly recall the disgruntlement, among Trans people in the National Capital Region a few years ago, when a LGB community spokesman, interviewed by mainstream media reps following the Ottawa Pride Parade, declared that “the community’s” battle had been won and activism was, apparently, on the wane. It became shockingly apparent to Trans people that the Trans community had ridden as far is it could on the coattails of the GLB alliance, and would have to carry on alone in its fight for equal protection under Human Rights legislation, and for social acceptance.

But how?

Let us hope that a successor to former NDP MP Bill Siksay will take up his cause and reintroduce the Private Member’s Bill he championed, over the past several years, which would have entrenched gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds for discrimination under federal law.

Without mainstream support, the Trans community seems doomed to remain unempowered.

(Reposted, from a private blog.)