To start, see the John Avarosis piece here…
John Avarosis gets in a rant over on Salon about passage of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act and transgender inclusion. You may want to go read the piece yourself, because I don’t plan to do a comprehensive summary here, but apparently his sticking point seems to be thus:
While he says he “supports” transgender rights — just, you now, not right now, or anytime in the near future — dropping gender identity from the version of ENDA now working its way through the House was precisely the right move, because we’ve got the votes for an LGB-protecting bill, but not an LGBT-protecting bill.
From there, we scurry down the rabbit hole. He uses that bit — which has some serious critical errors I’ll get to — to meander around the whole “problem” of including transpeople in the LGBT alphabet soup in the first place…because, as everyone knows, transfolk really have nothing in common with gay people.
Where by “gay people,” I suppose we really should say, “Gay men like John Avarosis.”
Avarosis supposes that trans-inclusion was something that was “forced” on the gay community from the outside (“outside” here meaning the evil, nasty politically correct queens running national LGB-rights groups. Since we’ve got to scapegoat someone in this, it may as well be folks running national lobbying and activist organizations; that or any transgendered or transsexual person you happen to have handy will do, thanks).
The fundamental problem in Avarosis’ line of thinking, of course, isn’t that transfolk have been somehow magically added to the queer community — they’ve been part of it all along. Including the T in LGBT is merely a recognition of the facts on the ground, no matter how hard gay men like Avarosis may want to pretend otherwise, or pretend that such recognition is being “forced” on us from above.
What do I have in common with a transgendered MTF? We’re both gender variant. We both get an awful lot of shit for that fact from the culture at large, and truth be told, from lots of gay men who really ought to know better, but don’t, as the continued promotion of this line of thinking indicates. Avarosis isn’t saying anything really new, here; he’s just trying to have it both ways – exclude trannies, but really “support” them, whatever that really means. If we’re willing to excise transsexuals and transgendered folks from the queer community on supposedly pragmatic grounds, really, who’s next? The queeny boy or the butch dyke? At what point does it become immoral or wrong to do something just for the sake of theoretical expedience?
Make no mistake, it is entirely theoretical. While the ENDA – in its current trans-excluding form – may have some chance of passing the House, its chances in the Senate are by no means assured, and there’s always the strong possibility of a Bush veto. That Bush hasn’t yet said anything about the bill doesn’t mean he’ll automatically sign it (that Bush hasn’t yet threatened a veto of the bill somehow makes it just a slam dunk for passage in Avarosis’ estimation). Bush isn’t the idiot Democrats like to think he is. He’s more than aware of who’s funding the Republicans in the next election cycle.
What this fundamentally boils down to is this: do we want a queer community that can throw its some of its members under the wheel for the sake of expedience, or the slim possibility of passage of one bill? What does that bill really do for us, if it specifically excludes legal protections for gender-variant folks who arguably need its protections most?
Avarosis tries to make hay out of the notion that black people fought for civil rights just as incrementally, but frankly, that argument really holds no water. Black people fought for – and won – antidiscrimination laws that protected everybody, including white people, by being race-neutral in their language. An antidiscrimination law that outlaws discrimination based on race doesn’t make exceptions for Latinos or Asians, which is really what Avarosis’ defense amounts to.
Finally, for those Democrats who can’t wrap their brains around supporting a trans-inclusive gay rights bill: you’re doing us no favors. Stop taking our money and pretending you support us.