Trans Representation in the Mainstream LGB Rights Movement: What’s Next?
This is a very quick post, one intended as more of a “things to think about” piece. I’ve been seeing, like dominos, state laws “banning” marriage for same-sex couples falling before federal scrutiny. It certainly is a pleasure–at least knowing that these kinds of biased statutes don’t stand a chance much longer. So I’ve been seeing the “what’s next?” question posed by mainstream groups witnessing their cash cows becoming normalized elements of everyday law.
Pardon me if I’m a killjoy, but there is something troublesome about the “what’s next?” question. LGB rights groups have been at the center of the debate regarding the quality of life for the entire LGBTQI community, and I’m wondering whether it’s such a great thing that after marriage is an afterthought, the Ts and the Qs and the Is get in their headlights. Why now? Because you’ve exhausted one speciality item for the big lesbian and gay market and now you need something new, liberal, and exciting? Where have you been before this–certainly not interacting with grassroots TQI groups struggling to make ends meet. I should know–I worked in a national LGBT advocacy organization.
This “what’s next?” question is actually quite shameful, as it commodifies the lives of TQI people into neatly summed parts of a juridical whole. Of course TQI people need the attention, need the legal rights, need the chance to fight the overwhelming odds against them. But tell me: How do you plan on shoring up the poverty, the HIV/AIDS rates, the rampant discriminatory language and general confusion about gender identity, expression, and all the parts in between? Through litigation or lobbying? You hope to normalize a community that has more often than not feared being normalized?
So, in answering “what’s next?” be mindful of the histories you’re attempting to appropriate into the narrow discourse of legal rights. Take care not to situate yourself amongst groups that have actually been doing the day-to-day, face-to-face, smelly, greasy, grimy work that it takes to understand the difference between an ideal client and an honest-to-god human being.