15 October 2007

The Angel Gabriel (Part Two)

Angel

Not only does this idea offer a more expansive definition of what we really are, but it also better explains why we are oppressed. Homophobes don't merely hate us because of how we make love. Rather, they hate how we make love because it violates our expected gender roles. Really, we are hated for gender transgression! For example, when I was ten and was taunted for throwing a ball "like a girl," I'm quite sure those school-yard bullies did not suspect me of actually sleeping with members of the same sex. They bashed me for not being "boy" enough. That goes for almost all of us. Whether we face prejudice for being too "butch" or too "femme", or for being cross-dressers or androgynes, or for simply being perceived as Gay or Lesbian, we are all ultimately disliked for the same basic reason: Transgressing our expected gender roles. Sexual transgression in the bedroom is just one aspect of that . . . so just as all Gays (sic) are in a basic sense Transgendered, all homophobes are first and foremost "transphobes."

This new understanding is revolutionizing researchers' conception of sexual orientation as just one aspect of a larger kind of difference. And I believe that if we're smart, it could revolutionize the way LGBT people look at ourselves, both as individuals and as a movement. The modern Gay world was born out of a limited 19th-century psychological concept: Namely, that some people, "homosexuals", are inherently attracted to members of the same sex. We accepted that limited idea, and built our identities and our movement around it . . . now, however, 21st-century research has produced a new concept: That the root of our difference is not merely how we make love, but the larger fact that we exist between the two genders in a variety of gender-atypical ways, some sexual and some not. This idea has immense implications, because if the ultimate cause of our oppression is gender transgression, then shouldn't it also be the focus of our identities and our movement? Shouldn't we stop being the LesBiGayTrans-whatever movement, with a new syllable added every few years, and simply become the Trans movement?

I think we should. And ultimately, I believe we will. Once we stop thinking of ourselves as oppressed by what we do in bed, and start thinking of ourselves as oppressed because we occupy a space between the socially-expected norms of the two (sic) genders, the sexual differences between us will fade into unimportance, and our common humanity will emerge into the light. If that's not a higher form of liberation. I don't know what is!

It certainly would be liberating. However, I know better than to believe Lesbians and Gay men will find it easy to think of themselves as Transgender people! On the contrary, the concept will be harder for them to accept than for the Straight population! Among most Gay and Pansexual folk, transphobia is rampant! We're extremely self-conscious about how society perceives us, and that's understandable. Society can be brutal when it comes to enforcing its gender rules; if you're perceived as a gender-bender outside of a theatrical context, it often results in persecution of some kind.

Homosexual men and women have been burned by widespread myths that we all secretly desire sex changes, and that we all have a fondness for cross-dressing. How many times, as a child, was I falsely accused of wearing women's lingerie? I can't count them all. I know from experience that we get confused with transvestites and Transsexual persons on a regular basis, and we're punished for that reason! Consequently, we obsessively try to observe the heterosexist mandate that a man be "all-man" and a woman be "all-woman". Fear of guilt-by-association makes many of us shun very masculine women and highly effeminate men, even while we conceal our own "butch" and "femme" traits.

To a large extent, that's what the supermacho "clone" look of the 1970s was all about: Buzz-cut hair, lumberjack shirts, button-fly jeans, "miner '49-er" handlebar mustaches and rippling muscles. Gay men wanted to show a heterosexist world that we were as capable as any Straight person of conforming to gender stereotypes (if only in appearance)! Defensively, we got into the habit of saying the only difference between homosexual and heterosexual humanity was our bedroom habits. As Gabriel Rotello so eloquently points out, that's a lie; but even if it were true, those habits would be enough to brand us as gender non-conformists. Nothing defines gender conformity more precisely than heterosexuality, and that'll be the case for as long as hetereosexual folk continue to constitute a majority on this planet!

Rotello said it in a nutshell: Since Lesbians, Gay men and (to a lesser extent) Pansexual people fall outside the predominant male-attracts-female sexual dynamic, Straight people overwhelmingly perceive us as challenging traditional gender roles; there's simply no getting around it! We may draw sharp distinctions between gender identity and sexual practice, but our persecutors don't. We can boast of being Gay "he-men" and Lesbian "girly girls" until the cows come home; the minute our sexuality becomes known, we're gender outlaws!

Congressional representatives who favor excluding Transfolk from ENDA seem to believe bigots are more accepting of homosexuality than transsexuality. Wherever did they get such a crazy idea? Hetero-bigotry is always triggered by non-traditional expression of gender, regardless of what form it may take. That's why passing a version of ENDA that doesn't protect gender expression is a total waste of time, just as Rotello argues.

Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank has long been considered a hero by LGBT Americans. By championing this non-inclusive ENDA bill, he's shown himself to be anything but heroic! Really, he's no better than a hatemonger . . . in the name of political expediency, Frank has imposed super-pariah status on Transfolk, and that's worse than reprehensible! However, in so doing, he's snatched the covers off of Gay and Bisexual Americans' dormant transphobia. Here's what lies beneath those rumpled sheets, culled from the comments section of media critic Keith Boykin's blog:

I don't get why Transgender is even attached to Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual people! As someone else said, a lot of them don't consider (themselves) Gay, just that they were born the wrong gender. It's a completely different issue . . . I'm not saying Transgender people are wrong or anything, if they feel they should be someone else, then all the power to them. But I wish someone could explain clearly why it's considered by some to be even close to the same thing as Gay or Bi.

There will always be purists out there for just about every issue known to man . . . and those same purists will never be satisfied with anything . . . if this (Gay-only) bill gets passage, it will be monumental for millions of people . . . the Transgendered will live on to fight another day . . . in the meantime, Gays and Lesbians need the equal protection this law will provide . . . people should leave that altruistic bullsh*t at home, and try to think more reasonably . . .

This kind of uninformed, homocentric commentary has been proliferating in the Gay blogosphere ever since this ENDA controversy broke! It exposes a high degree of denial about Gay identity, a lack of moral principle in our political strategy, and a deeply divided community of activists. I predict this rift will spawn a Transgender Rights struggle that's increasingly distinct from the Gay Rights movement.

That's exactly what should happen, too! For years, Transgender persons have complained that Gay organizations marginalize them; the Human Rights Campaign's support for the gutted version of ENDA certainly validates that complaint. The "T" in LBGT must split off, go its own way, and reclaim its own voice if issues of specific importance to Transfolk are ever to be prioritized! Hopefully, though, this split in the movement will be temporary. Trans-activists can and should reunite with their Lesbian, Pansexual and Gay brethren at some future date, but only after we all begin to understand and acknowledge what we have in common. We're not there yet!

We must learn to reject the tyranny of "all-male" and "all-female" concepts of gender. We must accept the evidence that exists within ourselves that God created genders that exist between male and female. We must dare to own those genders! Once we do, we'll finally have the "umbrella term" that Gabriel Rotello was looking for years ago. We'll abandon imprecise descriptions like "homosexual", "Lesbian" and "Gay", repudiate derogatory epithets like "tranny", "d*ke" and "queer", and come together under the name that best describes us all: Transgender! People who transcend gender, per the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition. People possessing "Fullness", the power of androgyny! God's people, with souls designed in His image, like Adam's soul before his female essence (Eve) separated from it. When that happens, we'll surely be a force against ignorance and injustice more powerful than anything the world has yet seen!

GNOSTIC GOSPEL OF THOMAS 22: 1-7
Jesus saw some babies nursing. He said to His disciples: "Those nursing babies are like those who enter the kingdom. They said to Him: "Then shall we enter the kingdom as babies?" Jesus said to them: "When you make the two into one . . . when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female . . . then you will enter (the kingdom)."

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