A scene from the movie Stonewall
An online petition has been launched calling for transgender people to be identified separately from the lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) community as, it claims, they have little in common.
According to the petition, LGB organisations and media should “stop representing the transgender community.”
It argues that trans “ideology” is different from that of the LGB community and that “LGB is about sexual orientation, trans is about gender identity.”
Initiated by a gay man identified only as Clayton, the petition has accumulated almost 2,000 supporters at the time of publishing.
Clayton writes on the Change.org page that “the ideology of the trans community is at odds with or actively hostile to that of women and gay men”, citing a number of examples.
These include the “vilification” of LGB people who express disagreement with “the trans ideology”, including “the harassment by the transgender community” of individuals such as RuPaul and feminist Germaine Greer.
The petition slates demands by transgender groups that trans individuals be able to access the public bathrooms of their choice, thus infringing on “traditional safe spaces based on sex.”
This issue has become a particularly contentious one in the US. Last week, a non-discrimination measure addressing race, sexuality, gender identity and other criteria, was overwhelmingly defeated by voters in Houston, apparently because it would have allowed trans people to use public toilets of their choice.
Also under criticism, is trans activists’ so-called “appropriation and re-writing of gay and lesbian history and culture”, such as asserting that “the majority gay white men who participated in the Stonewall riots were transgender.”
The recent film (and box office flop) Stonewall was the subject of criticism and a boycott over its “whitewashing” of the historic event by casting a white cisgender male as its lead character.
Clayton insists that while many of those involved in the Stonewall riots may have been drag queens or “transvestites”, most still identified as gay men (this claim, however, is not backed by most LGBT historians).
Furthermore, Clayton and his supporters have attacked what he says are efforts to persuade parents and health professionals to “diagnose children as young as four as transgender.”
In an interview with the conservative website, The Federalist, he went on to suggest that trans people are unnatural: “Gay/bisexual men and women just ARE—we don’t need medicine or surgery to help us become who we believe we are, which is the case with the trans community.”
He added: “I wish no harm to the transgender community; I wish them all the happiness that life can offer. But our communities, linked together in such a slender fashion, no longer have a common ground, if we ever did in the first place.”
The issue of toilets and gender remains controversial
The petition has been met with support as well as condemnation.
While many of the issues facing transgender people may be different from those faced by lesbians and gays, it’s also undisputed that there are common interests, specifically with regard to the fight for equality, human rights and access to health care.
Leigh Ann van der Merwe, Coordinator of SHE (Social, Health and Empowerment Feminist Collective of Transgender Women of Africa) told Mambaonline that she agrees “that eventually the T is going to divorce from LGB since it was a marriage of convenience all along.”
She said, however, that she found the petition “transphobic and vile to say the least.” Van der Merwe argued that it is based on the idea of “single issue struggles.”
She explained that, “I am not just a black transwoman, I am poor and have little formal education and those struggles, are synonymous to my struggle for gender recognition.”
She also pointed out that, “there are transwomen who identity as lesbian and transmen who identify as gay, whose struggle is tied up to the liberation of gay men and lesbian women.”
Van der Merwe added that, “This is just another attempt to exclude and isolate and it’s incredibly sad that the TERFS [Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists] are going to this extent!”
Chad Griffin, President of America’s Human Rights Campaign, responded to the petition by saying that it is “unequivocally wrong.”
He stated: “The hate that killed Matthew Shepard killed Zella Ziona. The bullies at school aren’t just harassing the gay kids, they’re harassing the transgender kids. The parents who could provide loving homes for the 400,000 children in foster care aren’t only lesbian parents, or gay parents, they’re bisexual parents and transgender parents. This idea that we are somehow separate and apart is patently untrue. We are one movement, stronger in our unity. We are one community, period.”
A counter petition – titled “We stand with trans people – Reject ‘Drop the T'” – has now been launched and already has close to 4,000 supporters.
Petition creator Jonathan Boniface Hexham, from the UK, writes that the original petition “is little more than thinly veiled transphobia which puts forward a whole range of misconceptions that will actively perpetuate discrimination against trans people.”