Friday, January 2, 2015

Drop the "T" - If you don't mean it, don't use it. #LGBT


Like many of you, I've read a lot of articles about Leelah Alcorn over the last few days. Some blame her parents. Some blame her religion. Some blame the sham treatment designed to cure what can't be cured. Groups that typically only discuss transgender issues on the Day of Remembrance are flocking to the microphone for a chance to speak. Some of those voices are predictably trite. Some are an equally predictable inspiration.

A week ago, no one knew Leelah's name. Now it's the focus of two petitions and countless blog posts. I think it's safe to say she marks a pivotal moment for the transgender community. It doesn't matter that she wasn't the only trans* suicide of 2014 or even the only one in December. Her poignant words penned in a moment of unspeakable anguish have sparked an eagerly-awaited flame...long may it burn!


Photo by Shever


The transgender community has spent decades as the invisible outcast among outcasts, shunned by their own LGBT family, by national organizations that treat the 'T' as an accessory, by activists who don't care enough to learn even the basics of what it is to be transgender. The truth is, most professed LGBT rights organizations don't give a damn about transgender people. The proof is in the military restrictions that only apply to trans soldiers; national outrage over bigoted bakers but silence over transgender washroom rights; a dozen groups created to address trans issues because no other organization took them seriously. 

It's in the determined silence of the pro-LGBT press, covering a week of rugby players posing nude for gay rights and only a single article about a trans woman murdered while she pounded on a neighbor's door, screaming for help. It's in the fact that it took 34 years for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) to publicly admit the transgender community has urgent needs...and only after Hollywood addressed the issue first. 

Fashionable as always, HRC.

Heartbroken and spurred by Leelah's suicide post, many trans activists and allies are calling on the community to step forward and demand what they should have had all along: respect. 

I stand with them.

If you do not represent a safe place for transgender people in your life, on your blog, at your organization, drop the 'T'. If you can't publicly support the plight of the most harshly-abused and highly-targeted group in the Rainbow Community, it's time to demonstrate a little integrity and own that attitude. No more posers. No more passes for groups that wave the LGBT flag when they clearly only mean LG. No more tolerance of phony support by organizations that consider certain members of the LGBTQIA community more worthy of equality than others.

In a sea of professed support, Leelah thought she had nowhere to go. She is a symbol of our failure.    

No more Leelahs.  







18 comments:

  1. I stand with trans* recognition, rights and respect, too. Thanks for this article, D.P.

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  2. I'm part of that ignorant crowd -- I had no idea that the "trans" was silently ignored in the LGBT community! That is tragic. Until now, I was happy that people had a support group. Now I'm enraged to find it was only a sham. I'm grateful for this article as it educated me on how things really are. I will share this and be diligent in learning more. I support all minority groups, the disenfranchised who are ignored by the majority. No one should feel bullied or unloved. No one.

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    1. If you're a fan of the underdog you've found the right group, Andi-Roo! =) I think the trans* community represents the height of silent bravery. They have the highest suicide/hate-crime rates of any other LGBTQIA group and receive the least support. They put the rest of us to shame! We come out. They rebuild their entire lives as a new person, with a new name, and a new gender, often without help from anyone outside the trans* community. It should be inspiring. Instead, they're ridiculed and shunned.

      I'm proud to be an ally, working to change that. Welcome to the group!

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  3. I agree. I once went hand-to-hand with a blogger who'd call out authors for using "vaginas" and "yucky het sex" in their books, calling us "lacking in respect for our readers" because some of us would even write about sexually active bisexual men. THe same blogger defined "m/m" and "proper gay" as involving two biological penises - in her world, trans* men, pre- or post-OP, weren't legitimate men.

    In other words, she was running her blog not to support the rainbow family, but to satisfy her own kink. (I get kink. I'm good with kink. I'm not good with bigots wrapping themselves in rainbow flags.)

    I challenged her over the use of the rainbow flag all over her blog and using the Embrace the Rainbow graphic that we specifically created to draw attention to the fact that there are other people in the community who are NOT cis gay men. She took down our logo. I stopped going to her blog, which thankfully faded a little while later.

    We *must* challenge people rainbow-washing themselves who are trans* phobic, bi-phobic and misogynistic (and find lesbian or bisexual women "yucky"). The Rainbow has many colours, and just asking, "Uh, what about the others?" can create real change. At he very least, we can create awareness and educate.

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    1. I've noticed the same thing, Aleksandr! There is a lot of exclusionary behavior in the LGBTQIA community. I think the discussion of "legitimate" men and woman and "gold standard" gays and lesbians is shameful. How can a person (or group) demand respect and equality while they deny the same to someone else?

      Thanks for the comment!

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  4. It makes me so bloody angry that it takes the death of Leelah to build a community. Yeah, I support the T and the B and L and the G.

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    1. I agree, Sue! I'm not sure why her death stuck out among the many transgender suicides and murders last year, but I'm glad it did. She has sparked some important conversations. Perhaps the trans community's Matthew Shepard? I guess we'll see.

      Thanks for the comment!

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    2. Maybe because Leelah specifically meant her death as a call to arms.

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  5. I can't imagine how trapped Leelah felt, in her body and in her life. I pray that her death will not have been in vain. Thank you for a truthful post.

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    1. We'll work hard to make sure it wasn't.

      Thanks for the comment, Terri!

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