From Reddit: Why trans people should not question cis gay and lesbian people.

|||| Patience Newbury

A Redditor named TeenageDarren, on the necessity for trans people to be grateful to cis gay and lesbian people for helping them in their own struggle for social-political acceptance and enfranchisement:

[This question-and-response first appeared here in a rough draft form.]

“I think the problem is that the transgendered/transsexual community is calling out or even out [sic] outright attacking prominent gay figures in the gay community.”

Indeed. Even prominent gay cis men can be dicks if they want to.

Last I looked, cis gay men weren’t growing wings and losing their cocks. Their newfound advantage — unheard of just a few short years back — is that for the first time ever, a general cis audience will still tolerate a cis gay man appropriating queer slurs. They will give him a pass whenever his being a dick refers back to something or someone who is far more marginalized as queer, when he derisively speaks of them “in jest”.

This is the Dan Savage approach.

“And the gays are not taking it well. Thus they’re turning their back on the transgendered community and telling them to fuck off in not so gentle words.”

Here’s the thing: since day zero, cis gay men in particular — and cis lesbian women, too — have used the bodies, intellectual capital, and spirited might of trans people (and bi people, both cis and trans) to stand higher upon the vista to glimpse their ultimate goal; trans people suffocated under that weight, down close to the dirty ground. Apparently, in an Americentric world, this ultimate goal means to obtain the neoliberal right to marriage, divorce, and probate law equality — in addition to the bellicose right to be a gun-wielding solider.

Cis queer people like yourself — cis gay and lesbian folks — are turning their back towards trans people because trans people are your used condom.

Now that the climax of that sex — of securing those cis queer civil rights — is about over with (that last one per cent of the race is often the most gruelling), the condom is about to be tossed to the park grounds for a city worker to eventually pick up and dispose of it.

Trans people — homosexual, bisexual, and heterosexual trans people alike — have known this to be going on for going on for at least three or four decades.

Five and six decades ago, cis queer people knew they were boned without trans people rallying to their side, as a virulently heteronormative tyranny of a cisnormative world attacked or mocked anything and anyone which to them was read either generically or remotely queer, fey, or butch.

Trans people — both the “passing women” and the “transvestites” of the day — were first (and most often) arrested by police when raids on clandestine gay bars went down.

The Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis remained in the nooks and shadows — comfortably mobilizing, but still hidden — before a pair of street riots brought cis queer people into the spotlight. Trans people were both the gatecrashers of and the ushers to an entire civil rights era.

Trans people have said to cis queer people, ad nauseam, that pulling trans people into a post-Stonewall “gay rights” [sic] movement was a shifty act of political expedience for as long as it has principally served the policy ends for cis queer folks.

Trans people, a lot of them “GGG“, certainly had hoped for otherwise — that indeed cis queer folks would step forward forcefully of their own accord and bat for trans people in matters where trans people were needing the most urgent human rights help.

This ultimately isn’t happening in places like the U.S. In some places, however, it actually is and vows are being kept. Argentina comes to mind.

“I really think the transgendered community needs to get a clear outreach to the gay community as they need all the help they can get to secure some civil rights….”

The trans community would like to thank cis queer people like yourself for taking a pencil eraser to the annals of queer history and virtually eliminating knowledge of the Compton’s Cafeteria riot of 1966.

The trans community would like to thank cis queer people for rewriting the history of Stonewall by deleting trans people — trans women particularly [n.b., for part 2] — from the historical record; for editing the record to read that it was not a trans person, but a cisnormative gay man in drag who “threw the first shoe” to bring on the Stonewall Inn riot of 1969.

The trans community would like to thank cis queer people for initially embracing trans women in women-only culture and politics before lashing a catastrophic rage backlash against them — effecting a binge-and-purge of a lot of women in the process who had been doing a lot of good for advancing feminist world views and fighting for lesbian human rights. In the same breath, trans people would like to thank biologically deterministic cis lesbian separatists for invalidating the legitimacy of trans men even as they spoke crudely of trans women like their negroes on the plantation.

The trans community would like to thank cis queer people for appropriating the several and linguistically diverse homologous cultural words describing trans people in those respective cultures and doing so without considering the two layers of colonialism and empire building involved: the Anglo-American colonial appropriation generally and, more to the point, the appropriation of words like “berdache”, “kathoey”, “two-spirit”, “winkte”, and on and on to write a *cis-normalizing* historical narrative that gay people have been with the world since the beginning of time and in all cultures.

Trans people would like to thank cis queer people for celebrating the institutional end for pathologizing gay and lesbian people in 1973 — just long enough to then support the idea that trans people should institutionally remain pathologized. To pathologize is to hold apart at arm’s reach — there when its needed, out of sight when undesired. Even in light of peer review research finding a stronger base of agreement that trans is congenitally neurological in origin — against a much smaller, but also real base of agreement that sexual attraction is, too — cis queer people are OK with continuing the pathologizing of “transsexualism” the way that “homosexualism” was once pathologized by cis heterosexual people.

The trans community would like to thank the cis queer community for using much of the 1990s to debate the “inclusion” of trans people into a current-era, civil rights movement begun by trans people on the question of whether GLB should have an additional letter appended — holding this debate in a great big conference room during the dead of a dark winter while trans people were made to stand outside at the window so they too could shout their basic goals to virtually deaf ears. When the motion and thumping at the window got too distracting, cis queer people pulled down the Venetian blinds.

The trans community would especially like to thank U.S. Representative from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Barney Frank, for using trans people like a beneficial virus for bringing forth the emergence and near-passage of ENDA in the U.S.; for always excluding the most fundamental of human rights which trans people still lack in many U.S. jurisdictions (that of accessibly to bodily-relieving facilities without facing harm or retribution); and for being Barney’s condom.

Trans people would like to thank cis queer people for not being unified in forcefully leading the allied charge for rallying to the sometimes highly visible people who gave them the right not to be discriminated against as harshly — particularly so for the most heteronormative-articulatory amongst them who wilfully slip into a heterosexual cloak of invisibility as it necessitates.

Trans people would like to thank cis queer folks for compelling an increasing roster of cis heterosexual and cis bisexual people to push you aside to help us start taking hold of the reins for trans human rights — flustered that cis gay and lesbian people have fiddled.

* * *

Sorry, you were saying something about trans people needing to graciously and gratefully prostrate themselves before the feet of cis queer people?

* * *

tl;dr: Check yourself with a bit more historical wisdom the next time you feel good about a civil right you now enjoy which your elders did not.

6 thoughts on “From Reddit: Why trans people should not question cis gay and lesbian people.

  1. Awesome article Patience. Everything is true, even if ugly. Trans people simply are being trampled over in some places. The US most definitely. You have a definite way with words.

  2. Pingback: This (Trans)Revolution will not be streamed: A 2011 Retrospective « Cisnormativity

  3. Thank you so much for this article. It is SO frustrating when gay cis folk say that the gay rights movement and the trans rights movement are separate and erase the vital contribution of trans* people, and trans women of color in particular, from the starting of those movements. I remember this cis gay man told me once that the movements were different because he wasn’t born needing surgery so how could they be the same? I was ready to cut him.

    One thing that you might want to look at in your article though is the comparison of cis lesbians ostracizing trans women to the enslavement of Black people. While both are an egregious examples of oppression and the marginalization of oppressed communities, the enslavement of Black people is in a class of its own and one cannot compare it to, really, anything else except the genocide of Native people. Moreover, to do so is to diminish (and sometimes even erase) the history, gravity and horror of that act because in order to compare something, both things need to be on similar levels. It is similar to that foolishness that “gay is the new Black”. The oppression that Black people experience is in many, many cases today much more desperate then many white cis gay people (because the tacit assumption there is that all gay people are white).

    That being said, I would absolutely love to write a piece for y’all that analyzes the intersection of cisnormativity, racism and the vital need for trans feminine POC spaces. Let me know if you are interested!

    En la Lucha,
    Morgan Robyn

    • Thanks for your comment, Morgan. I want to address your grievance.

      Between the Reddit comment and the copy edited posting here, I conferred first with Cleopatra Jones, a co-contributor here at Cisnormativity (and writing her premier piece as we speak, soon to be posted). Cleopatra is black. As a peer, I listen to what she speaks, and she has taught me a great deal in the time I’ve come to know her. She is also where I first heard the anlaogy under question here.

      I encourage her to drop in a comment here if she has time to do so. But my recollection of our discussion about this Reddit posting was that that analogy (through simile):

      “In the same breath, trans people would like to thank biologically deterministic cis lesbian separatists for invalidating the legitimacy of trans men even as they spoke crudely of trans women like their negroes on the plantation.”

      . . . was, in her mind, not out of line. The remark also does not, as you noted, draw a comparison between “lesbians ostracizing trans women to the enslavement of Black people.” What it does not do is address the condition — the how, the why — of enslavement in the Americas. The remark, however, does address a chronic, systemic social power order in which those with the precept of an in-born right or instrument of control can talk down to others lacking that perceived in-born right, do so derisively, and by so doing, deterministically reduce the humanity of their target without the target being given a feasible option to challenge it, stand up to it, or walk away from it. In other words, the analogy drew a relationship between an abusive social hegemony in place now to one past abusive social hegemony in place within the context of a very different regime: the act of enslavement, which Eric Williams (1944, 5) noted was “an economic institution of the first importance [. . .] it forms a part of that general picture of the harsh treatment of the underprivileged classes, the unsympathetic poor laws and severe feudal laws, and the indifference with which the rising capitalist class was” using human life as a monetized labour commodity to increase the output of other monetized commodities.

      I was mindful of this when I wrote what I did, and I do not use such analogies lightly or often (if ever, come to think of it). I hope this clarifies your concern. Thank you for raising it.

      Editor, Cisnormativity

      William, Eric Eustace. 1944. Capitalism and slavery. Chapel Hill (NC): UNC Press.

  4. May I add one thing on behalf of a friend (who was a trans man)?
    Trans people would like to thank queer people for seeking their alliance during each battle for equal rights, saying “We’ll fight for your rights once we’ve won ours,” then completely ignoring them even after you achieved marriage equality.
    Disclaimer: I am a gay cisgender man.

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