We often like to look at the LGBT community and think that it is a happy and cohesive group of people who are accepting of everyone. After all, a group that has adopted a rainbow as their symbol must be wonderful community. What we don’t usually see are the internal frictions between each group within the LGBT community, like the intra-community homophobia, biphobia and specifically transphobia.
I am a cis gendered queer woman who likes women. By definition I suppose I would fit in the ‘L’ category of the LGBT acronym. This makes it difficult, if impossible, to talk about the inclusion or rather exclusion of trans* people from the LGBT group, as that is not my lived experience. So, instead of speaking for any groups to which I don’t belong, I am going to speak about what I have seen. As a lesbian I have witnessed times that members of the LGBT community are excluded or mistreated, whether it’s because they’re lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans.* Before you say, “well that’s not true!” think about how bisexual identifying people are excluded from the Lesbian and Gay communities because “they can’t pick a side,” or “they are going through a phase.” There is not a single grouping that has not been ostracized from the greater LGBT group at some point in history.
Now, I’m not saying that we all hate each other, but what I am saying is that there is a serious rift in our LGBT dynamic that needs to be fixed. The L, G, B, and T are all separate groups with different needs, but we do have many commonalities. There are many experiences that cannot be matched by any other grouping in society. We get what it is like to not fit the heteronormative expectations society has. Many of us understand what it is like to be discriminated against because our gender, sex and sexuality don’t fit the norm. Another similarity is that we all challenge the gender dichotomy in some way. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans* people can have varying gender expressions.
A really great way of thinking about whether the T belongs in LGBT is asking if lesbian, gay, or bisexual people can be trans* and vice versa. It’s important to understand that there is a clear distinction between gender and sexuality and that a person can hold a different gender identity than their birth sex, and also identify with a sexuality of lesbian, gay or bisexual. If you are thinking about it that way, then trans* people have the ability to occupy multiple spaces within the community. They have just as much right to be included as any other group. Sadly, that is not always the case.
From what I have seen from queer spaces. there isn’t enough space if any for trans* people. If we look at Pride festivals around Canada, the people who are celebrated are typically the Lesbian and Gay groups. A friend of mine who identifies as a transman shared with me that he felt totally excluded from Kitchener Pride this year when he held hands with his cis girlfriend. Now, how is it that an environment that has been adopted as a celebration for the LGBT community be exclusionary to specific groups? As a “community” we need to educate ourselves on the individual needs, differences and similarities of each group because we share a space in society but have room to be individuals. We must also work to break down the barriers that prevent us from working together in order to tackle the greatest goal of equality.
Now I can’t tell you if trans* people want to be included in the greater LGBT community – that isn’t for me to say. What I can tell you is that as a cis gender lesbian I have seen trans* people excluded from the fight for LGBT equality, LGBT community spaces and from the overall community. And that is not okay. If the LGBT community is making space for lesbians like me, surely we can make space for every other group