In my adult life there has been so much progress on gay rights. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, while deeply flawed, was an acknowledgement that maybe, just maybe, a solider’s sexuality has absolutely nothing to do with how fit they are to serve. It is illegal all around our nation to discriminate in housing and hiring based on sexuality. Same sex couples can finally get married in many states in our union. “We’re queer, we’re here, get used to it” is finally sinking into the brains of many straight folk. We have come so very far.
Which is why it is sad to me that there are still people in the queer community that narrowly define what it means. More importantly, they allow the straight community to define us. The mostly non-threatening, slightly femme, white, gay man is the poster child for us to the rest of our country. They dominate the narrative, and they dominate the advocacy groups despite the fact that the movement itself was kicked off by trans* women of color.
The white, cis males of our larger community have had to deal with their share of lumps too, but in making headway suddenly they have forgotten that there have been large groups of us fighting along, or even ahead, of them all the while. The specific issues of other groups are unimportant to them now. Rape crisis outreach for lesbians, particular those of color? Forget about it. Health care for trans* women? Stop riding our coat tails. Simple acknowledgement of bisexual and pansexuals, or of non binary-conforming gender queer folk? Ewww, that’s gross and weird.
Which is not to say our hands are clean of all this. Trans* folk in general, and trans* women in particular, can be guilty of gate-keeping: “This one is not trans* enough,” “this one tries too hard,” “why aren’t you trying to pass? ” Some days, many days, I simply cannot afford to be Christine. I work with the public and outdoors. If my make up fails, if my five o’clock shadow is showing when I am at a door, suddenly the conversation turns into a discussion of me, and not the issue that I am knocking on the door over. I know it is not my fault, and yet because of the prevailing attitudes in our little culture I often feel that I am a fraud or worse because of it.
“How can we be in, if there is no outside?” That’s a line from Peter Gabriel’s song Not One of Us. It sums up a lot of the attitudes above. We are so desperate to identify with something, someone, that we have to exclude others to shore up that identity. It is true of almost any group and it is counter productive when that group is already disenfranchised. We need to get over these attitudes if we are going to make the final push toward universal acceptance. We out it to each other, to ourselves, and to the larger society we are trying to improve.