Many years ago Susan Stryker interviewed me as part of an Oral History Project, some of which wound up in Joanne Meyerowitz’s book, How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States.
We were talking about my coming out and my involvement with the National Transsexual Counseling Unit.
I had gotten involved because of Huey Newton’s dictum, “Serve the people!” and my seeing the personal as the political. I was also motivated by wanting to help other transsexuals while helping myself through the process of getting my own sex change operation.
I briefly filled Susan in about my history with SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) and having been part of the radical movements prior to coming out.
After coming out I met a man named Jerry, who was a Marine Corp deserter. He became my boyfriend/lover/old man.
We were also living underground due to my having no real identification, being part of Weatherman (not National or famous Weatherman or WUO but the larger “Weather Nation”), and because Jerry was a deserter.
The details of my life with Jerry, dealing with the FBI arresting him, breaking him out of a Naval Hospital, were treated as less consequential than my involvement with the National Transsexual Counseling Unit.
Yet these things were more important reasons for my I volunteering to work for the center than transsexualism being the reason for my being radical.
Over the years I’ve tended to look at myself as being radical, hippie, feminist, lesbian, creative etc and oh by the way I was born transsexual and had a sex change operation to treat it.
This is why I don’t really see myself as part of the “Transgender Community” even though I care about the rights and issues of those who do see themselves as part of that community.
I get angry at the lack of respect shown post transsexual people by the insistence in the primacy of transgender identity, but that anger is less a central element of my being than it is with many, who seem to obsess on it.
Which brings me back to this blog. Transsexual is just a small part of who post-transsexual people tend to be, particularly after a few years pass.
At the same time matters such as marriage equality often have greater impact than the specific wording of trans-inclusive ENDA proposals.
Hopefully post-transsexual folks have resolved their bathroom issues long before actually having SRS.
I personally think the inclusiveness of all sorts of “gender variants” in the Transgender Borg Collective works against a Trans-inclusive ENDA that would help people in transition or classic transgender folks (People who live full time as members of the sex not commonalty associated with their present genitals).
A lot of the matters regarding part time cross dressers are more about worker’s rights to do what ever they wish during their non work hours as long as they don’t show up for work dressed inappropriately or high.
Yeah I support a trans-inclusive ENDA. Pass any petitions you want me to publicize and I’ll run a link and press release as well as sign them. But it is not my issue.
Marriage equality more directly impacts my life and is my issue.
Don’t tell me I am supporting the wrong thing or throwing you under the bus because I am more concerned about same sex marriage than I am about a “trans-inclusive ENDA”. You forget I have been part of the Gay/Lesbian Communities for 40+ years and I’ve seen how little the transgender communities have contributed to either the gay or lesbian communities efforts to gain equality.
Getting y’all to even march at a Pride Day Event was like pulling teeth back in the 1990s.
The only sisters I can count on to turn out regularly in support of L/G causes are post-transsexual dykes like me. We are not exactly invisible to each other but we are just part of the general crowd at the Dyke March.
I was bothered by the general absence of the “Trans-Community”, in particular a couple of local representatives, at two events here in Dallas this last week.
The first event was the free screening of “March On” held by Get Equal. Get Equal isn’t HRC, here was the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a brand new LGBT/T organization. Where is the presence?
Then there was the rally in support of the Wisconsin State Employees this last Saturday. Non-discrimination in the work place is a worker’s issue. Where was the Transgender Community?
As anyone reading this blog knows I am far more involved in general left wing/progressive causes as well as feminist and gay/lesbian causes than I am in “trans-politics”, therefore I am more likely to show up at those sorts of demonstrations and/or events than I am at trans-specific events.
It seems to me that the self-defined “Trans-Community” is very limited in the focus of its critique of oppression in this society. Often when I hear about job discrimination it turns out the discrimination is in a field that generally has a very small percentage of women in it. An understanding of general sexism might enhance the ability to critique such a situation.
My background in SDS and the feminist movement tends to cause me to see oppression in terms of class, sexism and racism more than in terms of homophobia or transphobia.
That is where my roots are. I was extremely pleased with the reincarnation of SDS, which ended in June of 1969 if you date the Death of SDS to the Weatherman/Progressive Labor split, or to the post Prairie Fire/New Day era of the mid 1970s, when Weather people started turning themselves in and dealing with their legal issues.
(Mine were trivial and I dealt with them early on. 1971 because I had to in order to get SRS.)
Modern day SDS was involved with the rally I attended this last weekend.
Get Equal, whose function we attended last week is involved in the fight for marriage equality.
At the same time I am listening to others involved in the Transgender Community, notably Katrina Rose and Monica Roberts say nasty things about gay and lesbian people putting the majority of their efforts behind marriage equality and I am reminded how too often people in the Transgender Movement seem heterosexist.
In the past I have had people tell me I should play paper games to be able to enter a “heterosexual marriage” that is “really same-sex”. That I should defend the heterosexual marriage of my post-SRS sisters and not work for marriage equality because they don’t want to have their marriage reduced to a gay marriage.
I am also supposed to ignore how large a percentage of the alleged “Transgender Community” consists of heterosexual married male transvestites. They have their right to marry. Where are they in the push for an inclusive ENDA?
Why are people who don’t have the heterosexual privilege of marriage supposed to lay aside something they are struggling to obtain when such a large percentage of the “Transgender Community” never turns out for any sort of campaign for anyone’s rights including their own and can afford to ignore the fight for marriage equality since they already have the privilege of marriage?
Over the years I have found left wing TS/TG and post-transsexual women to be a minority with most TS/TG and post-transsexual women being either apolitical or conservative/liberal and not terribly activist.
I can appreciate the frustration on the part of Kat Rose and Monica. I feel a similar frustration with the straight post transsexual women who blow off my wanting marriage equality.
Identity politics have resulted in only those who share the identity being willing to work towards particular goals that affect only that particular community.
The situation will not improve by calling people names for not wanting to work for your cause while you continue to refuse to work for theirs.
In the past I have noticed a far greater willingness on the part of not only SDS, which is where my radical roots are, to work with others but also on the part of other left wing organizations such Socialist Workers etc.
One of the reasons so many progressive causes from workers rights to the black civil rights movement were labeled “communist” is because the Communist Party in this country was willing to work for a multitude of progressive causes.
BTW there were lesbians and gay men at that rally on Saturday.
As for reading lesbian and gay people for their focus on marriage equality… Many of us have been in the L/G movement for 40 years and are long time couples who are aging. Being able to care for each other and not become homeless should one die and government or blood relatives seize the home and possessions of the survivor is a gay/lesbian issue.
Just as ENDA is a matter of workers rights.