Earlier this month, an anonymous gay man created a change.org petition calling for the separation of the queer and transgender movements.
The petition’s title, “Drop the T,” explains simply the desire of the author to divide LGB advocacy from transgender advocacy. Both through his writings on change.org and via an interview with the Federalist, the author, under the pseudonym Clayton, offers five reasons that lesbians, gays, and bisexuals should divorce themselves from transgender people.
Clayton’s first point, regarding definitions, is the only one that has any merit – and the only one that isn’t clearly steeped in transphobia. (1) “LGB is about sexual orientation, trans is about gender identity,” he writes, acknowledging a widely accepted as accurate distinction. As he expounds, Clayton notes what many of us have experienced that “many of our enemies see us as one and the same.” Detractors of the LGBTQ movement often conflate ideas around gender identity, presentation, and sexual orientation. It could, hypothetically, cut the confusion if the LGB and T groups instead focused on educating the public specifically around gender identity or sexual orientation. Even this point, however, fails to acknowledge that there is crossover between the groups (some trans women may be lesbians, for example) and that those who are bigoted towards LGBTQ people aren’t likely to pay attention to education from either LGB or T advocates.
From there, Clayton’s argument deteriorates further into a wretched mire of transphobia. He believes (2) there is “vilification and harassment” of those who disagree with “trans ideology.” Performing a careful dance, he points to the – sometimes, admittedly, angry – responses of the trans community, without explaining what somewhat might actually say if they are “openly express[ing] disagreement with the trans ideology.” What the trans community is reacting to with anger is the dismissal of their existence, and the denial of their gender identities. This is a point of contention between prejudiced LGB people and trans community, but using that as a reason to advocate for “separate but equal” treatment seems to be backwards logic. Bringing transgender people and lesbians, gays, and bisexuals together should strengthen understanding of each other, while separating the groups will certainly foster misunderstanding and mistrust.
Blazing on, Clayton turns to transmisogyny as he bemoans (3) “men claiming to be transgender” and their insistence on using “spaces reserved for women.” This denial of trans women being women – trans women are most certainly not “men claiming to be transgender” – shows the petitioner’s bigotry, but, again, only really argues for greater understanding of trans people, rather than rejection of them.
He then (4) accuses transgender people of “re-writing gay and lesbian history and culture” as he minimizes the role that trans people have played in the LGBTQ rights movement. As a bonus, he also particularly calls attention to race, as well, saying that the Stonewall riots were led by white, gay men. This conflict over history is, again, not a reason to divest. Even if there is some question of who threw the first brick at Stonewall, this does not mean transgender people and lesbians, gays, and bisexuals need to fight each other.
And finally, (5) Clayton thinks that the transgender rights movement is pressuring parents and doctors to “diagnose” children as transgender, when those children may be queer, rather than trans. While he makes attempts at sounding official – “90 percent of children who express ‘gender dysphoria’ at a young age grow out of it by adolescence” – he does not cite the study or research from where he drew this conclusion. His original claim is also erroneous and reminiscent of past accusations about gays and lesbians: there is no secret agenda to turn children into something they’re not.
In the end, what Clayton has presented are not reasons to excommunicate transgender people from a diverse umbrella. Instead, he has provided evidence of his own personal biases and bigotries, even if they are ones that are, indeed, shared by some other gays, lesbians, and bisexuals. His desire to remove the T from LGBT just, unfortunately, illustrates the amount of transphobia that lingers, like a cancer, in the queer community.
Gwen is a writer who has an education degree, a social work background, an extensive knowledge of vegetables, and a devotion to queer revolutionary politics. She lives deep in the woods of Maine with two dogs, a magnificent partner, and an ever-growing collection of plants.