Thoughts on GENDA

I spent most of yesterday working the Psychic’s Thyme vendor booth at the Dyke Picnic and Womyn’s Festival here in Rochester.  It was an enjoyably warm day troubled only by gusts of wind that scattered fliers (even fliers weighted down by stones), merchandise, and the occasional tent (thank goodness I always stake ours, though I had to tamp a couple stakes back down later int he day).  It was also enjoyable to speak with the women who stopped by our booth.

At one point in the afternoon, a transwoman named Isabelle, came through collecting signatures of people willing to support the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) and encourage their state senators (as the state assembly has approved GENDA every session for the past five years) to support the bill.  I gladly filled out one of the cards (and was pleased though unsurprised that the two women working with me did likewise).

To be honest, I was disappointed when legislators — with the support of many LGB[1] advocacy groups — removed protection for gender identity and gender expression from the national Employment Nondiscrimination Act in 2007.  And on the state level, I’m pleased that organizations like the Empire State Pride Agenda recognized that the passage of the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA) in 2003 was only a partial victory at best and is leading the fight to push for GENDA now.

Truth be told, some LGB people are far too willing to ignore the plight of trans* folk.  Even this past week, I saw a comment on another blog where one person expressed a desire to divorce the LGB movement from the trans* community completely.  Addressing someone who brought up the treatment received by many trans* people, this person said:

Your constant campaign to transjack every discussion is useful inasmuch
as it demonstrates both the inherent predatory selfishness of trans
activists (even trans poseurs like yourself) and the the foolishness of
attempting to merge LGB and T. Gay people do not have to apologize for
talking about gay issues. Not to you. Not to anyone. The day “LGBT”
dies will be a great day for gay people.

I was amazed that someone who is (presumably) a part of my community could be so uncaring about the plight of trans* people — to the point of demeaning their choice to focus on their issues by referring to it as “transjacking” a discussion — shocks and dismays me.

What really got me about that “transjacking” shot was that in effect, the commenter is claiming that gay[2] people have every right to focus on gay issues since that effects them most dearly, but if trans* people do the same and focus on issues that affect them most dearly, that’s a great offense.  To me, that is a mentality of someone who thinks, “Once I get mine, everyone else can go screw themselves.”  Personally, I have a great problem with that mentality.  I want to rid the world of oppression and marginalization, not simply switch things around enough to make sure I’m on the “winning side of the game.”

Besides, as I’ve slowly worked to broaden my horizons, I’ve come to appreciate that it’s all the same fight anyway.  Understanding the arguments used against trans* people and even women helps me to better understand the underlying mentality and arguments used to promote animus against me as a gay man.  Gaining a better understanding of those common themes helps me better combat them, and I realize that whether I’m arguing against homophobia (and I admit I’m still best at this), transhobia, or sexism, I’m often effectively arguing against assumptions that influence all three.

At any rate, if you are in New York State, please see what you can do to help get GENDA passed. If you live in another state that doesn’t offer protections based on gender identity and gender expression, see how you can help change that.  If you’re lucky enough to live in one of the sixteen states that already have such protections, please consider working to get those protections established on the national level.  Your fellow humans who are trans* need our help.

Notes:
[1]  I’m intentionally leaving the T out this time.  I have a hard time believing that any group that would leave trans* people in the dust for the sake of convenience can realistically be credited as acting as trans* advocates at that moment.

[2]  It’s not clear to me if “gay” is shorthand for “gay, lesbian, and bisexual,” if “gay” simply means “gay and lesbian” and the commenter is equally willing to disregard the issues that bisexual people face as well.

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