Why The "T" Needs To Stay In LGBT
In today's edition of "reasons why the Internet needs to take a gender studies class," an online petition known as "Drop the T" wants to have "transgender" removed from the LGBT acronym. Although this opinion is not unheard of — some activists claim that lumping everyone under one unifying acronym takes away from the individual struggles and needs of different groups within the community — this particular call to action introduces something of a different take on the subject. Rather than encouraging the transgender community to break from the LGBT acronym so it can focus on the unique issues facing trans individuals today, "Drop the T" calls for the LGB community (as they put it) to abandon the trans community, claiming it's "ultimately regressive and actually hostile to the goals of women and gay men."
Say it with me: What the hell?
Written by an anonymous group, the petition was posted to Change.org two weeks ago. Directed at organizations like the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, and The Advocate (all three of which have flatly rejected the petition), "Drop the T" urges the LGB community to sever its ties with transgender individuals out of some perceived oppression — you know, because transgender people have so much time to harass their gay and bisexual allies in between all the oppression they face themselves as the most oppressed LGBT group.
"We feel their ideology is... completely different from that promoted by the LGB community (LGB is about sexual orientation, trans is about gender identity)," the petition reads.
It goes on to cite several instances of perceived injustice toward women and gay men (but seemingly not bisexual men), such as the "vilification and harassment of women and gay/lesbian individuals who openly express disagreement with the trans ideology," the "appropriation and re-writing of gay and lesbian history and culture," and, of course, the traditional issue of bathrooms. After all, no discussion of transgender rights would be complete without wild speculations that cis men will pretend to be transgender in order to gain access to the women's bathroom. As usual, the reverse situation of a woman pretending to be trans so she can hang out in the men's locker room is never brought up — which suggests that the argument is used for fearmongering, pure and simple.
The petition uses circumlocution and questionable statistics to support thinly-veiled transphobia, most notably when the writers bring up gender dysphoria in childhood. While it's true that children often test the boundaries of gender identity in their youth, "Drop the T" cites a study claiming that 90 percent of children "grow out" of gender dysphoria — a study that is widely regarded as flawed for its use of data from children exhibiting any kind of gender nonconforming behavior, rather than children who specifically identified as another gender. As a result, the study ended up including data from children who didn't even claim to be transgender in the first place. It's not hard to see how most of the children in the sample appeared to move past gender dysphoria, even though previous research has shown that transgender children identify with their preferred gender as completely as cisgender children.
The petition goes on to perpetuate one of the most damaging myths about the trans community: That trans children could grow up to be "well-adjusted gay men and women." The implication is that supporting a trans child's gender identity somehow "turns them trans," whereas they would have "just" been gay without their family's encouragement. Not only does this suggest that there's a sliding scale of LGBT identities, in which being gay is relatively innocuous and being trans is the most extreme "choice" available, it encourages parents to reject their children's identities despite the fact that familial support is one of the most important factors in a trans child's happiness.
Furthermore, the petition's assertion that the trans community rewrites LGBT history is simply laughable. Trans men and women have fought long and hard for every scrap of recognition they have received, and they have often done it alongside their LGB allies. When trans man Reed Erickson established the Erickson Educational Foundation in 1964, he didn't just support transgender rights; he also aided gay rights organization ONE, Incorporated, and donated millions of dollars to support his LGB allies. The Stonewall Riots, widely regarded as one of the most influential events in the modern LGBT movement, were led by transgender women, although you'd be hard-pressed to find mention of them in the mainstream media. In the 1970s, Lou Sullivan represented the intersection of trans and LGB communities when he publicly challenged the perception that trans men couldn't also be gay.
Gender identity and sexual orientation may technically be separate issues, but there's no denying that members of either community face similar harassment, mental health issues, and discrimination throughout their lives. If the trans community wants to break from the LGBT community for their own benefit, it's understandable, but to forcibly push them out would merely continue a long history of ostracizing transgender individuals. Is all the infighting really worth it?
A counter-petition urging people to reject "Drop the T" and stand with the trans community has been started in response. Head over to Change.org to sign it.
Images: Giphy (4)