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What’s going on here?  Recently, a group of transwomen temporarily took over the U.S. Conference on AIDS to shout “We are not gay men!”  As a transwoman who admittedly did not attend that event, here is my explanation.

In my county, we have a monthly meeting known as the Transgender Roundtable, sponsored by an organization known as VCS.  It has been discussed at these meetings in recent months that in a number of ways, the “T” is being viewed and treated separately from the “LGB”.  The interest level is much higher when articles on transgender are posted on VCS’s Facebook page.  Trainings advertised as being for LGBT issues are tending to become mostly focused on the T issues.  Indeed, the training for transgender issues needs to be different because transgender identity is different from LGB orientations.

We are regularly telling the cisgender world that transgender is gender identity and it is not sexual preference or orientation.  Lesbian, gay and bisexual on the other hand all describe sexual preference or orientation.  And yet we wonder why so many in the straight, cisgender world do not seem to catch on.  Does regular exposure to the phrase “LGBT community” contribute to the lack of understanding?

I certainly do not want to make a mountain out of a molehill.  But within the transgender community (which does fit the definition of community), we are always talking about language and nomenclature.  We stress the importance of PGP’s and discuss whether it should stand for “personal gender pronouns” or “preferred gender pronouns”.  We discuss the use of transsexual versus transgender, the shades of meaning between gender fluid, gender non-binary, gender non-conforming, gender creative, gender queer and agender.  Someone is no longer said to be “passing”; the preferred term now is “blending”.  The term “sex reassignment surgery” is passé in favor of terms such as “gender reassignment surgery”, or “gender confirming surgery”.  I have been part of discussions about the usage of “marginalized” versus “minoritized” and still others prefer to use “oppressed”.  And these are just some of the examples as we endeavor to develop accurate terminology, whether for use by the general public or for personal communications with members of the transgender community.

The general purpose of language is to communicate.  The more accurate the word usage, the better the communication.  People in marginalized, minoritized or oppressed groups are particularly sensitive to misuse of words to describe their group or members of their group.  And so we should be here.

I am going to provide the primary definition of “community” and two words that I have considered as possible more accurate alternatives.  Definitions have been taken from an online dictionary.

Community:

  1. a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
  2. a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

Alliance:

  1. a union or association formed for mutual benefit, especially between countries or organizations.
  2. a relationship based on an affinity in interests, nature, or qualities.
  3. a state of being joined or associated.

Coalition:

an alliance for combined action, especially a temporary alliance of political parties forming a government or of states.

We can see that alliance and coalition are similar.  But a coalition is a particular kind of alliance, one designed for combined action.  It also is more likely to be temporary.  “Coalition” pinpoints the nature of the LGBT relationship better than the more general “alliance”.

Furthermore, when we look at “community”, definition 1 doesn’t apply.  There is neither a common location nor sharing of a particular characteristic.  What about definition 2?  A feeling of fellowship?  Not necessarily.  Common attitudes and interests don’t apply, either.  The only thing that applies is common goals: in general, civil rights and social justice of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender individuals.  But even here, the particulars aren’t always the same.  Bathroom bills don’t apply to cisgender people, even if they are L, G or B.  And the concept of same sex marriage becomes much more complicated in transgender lives.  Besides, difficult marriage issues faced by the transgender population are almost always with cisgenders, not other people of transgender identity.

I haven’t forgotten about the takeover of the U.S. Conference on AIDS.  The transwomen who demonstrated were a group of #TransLivesMatter activists.  Bamby Salcedo, the group leader and spokesperson explained that for at least ten years, the transgender community has been recommending that HIV positive data be collected specific to the transgender community.  But after initial indications that the transgender community would be given consideration, the Federal Government’s ambitious new plans to combat the HIV epidemic lumps transgender women in with men who have sex with men (MSM).

http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2015/09/17/3701612/transgender-aids-protest/?ref=yfp

Thus the protest and the chant: “We are not gay men.”  And we aren’t.  It is bad enough to be marginalized in society.  But we are also still marginalized within a marginalized group.

It is similar to how I feel when I click on the link to a transgender article in Huffington Post and end up in the Gay Voices section.  From what I have seen, cisgender gay men generally do not want to be called transgender; cisgender lesbian women generally do not want to be called transgender.  I take no offense at that.  And I do not want to be considered a gay male.  If I was a gay male, I would have come out as gay and not gone through all the time and expense of counseling, hormones, name and gender marker change, hair removal, new wardrobe and so on.

So at this point, I will start referring to the LGBT Coalition.  LGBT Community is dropped from my vocabulary.

Any comments?  Any who will do the same?  What else can we do so the general public understands how T is different from the LGB without losing the political coalition’s efforts on behalf of mutual social justice needs?

And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole. But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour. – Matthew 9:20-22
God bless,

Lois

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