Fact-checking Some Memes Regarding Transsexual People And Transgender Community

Posted on 17 Jan 2011 at 5:14pm

Thumbnail link to Facebook crosspost of Autumn Sandeen's Pam's House Blend essay 'Why Transgender Activism'
Within my Facebook pages is the crossposted essay entitled Why Transgender Activism.

One of the people who read the essay on Facebook left a comment in the comment thread. The commenter said this:

Autumn, what policy changes and lobbying are necessary for the Transgender movement when you exclude the Transsexual from the equation? It may be a stupid question, but I’m unable to think of any off the top of my head

There is no doubt in my mind that the premise for the question is incorrect. There isn’t a movement to exclude transsexual people and transsexual people’s issues from transgender activism — transsexual people’s civil rights are perhaps the major focus of transgender community activism.

Below is my answer to the commenter. I’ve added links and graphics for the response here at PHB (that one can’t eas asily add in Facebook) so people can reference documentation regarding my remarks; the documentation is to show that what I’m stating has factual basis.

__________, there are many memes out on the web that many are accepting as truth regarding transsexual people and transgender community that can be fact-checked. Some of the memes, when fact checked, turn out not to be truisms.

One meme that isn’t a truism is that I see crossdressers, drag performers, genderqueer people, and transsexual people as all being the same thing. I don’t. There are distinct differences between these groups of people, which is why there are different names we use for all of these groups of people.

But that said, there is also the commonality between these groups of gender expression that doesn’t fit into western society’s sex and gender norms. All of those groups of people are subject to discrimination and sexual harassment based on the commonality of gender expression; the sociopolitical transgender community umbrella exists as a movement to work on public issues that are common between those who don’t fit in society’s sex and gender norms. Stating that there are commonalities between groups of people doesn’t mean that differences are erased, it just means that within sociopolitical arenas, people have reason to join together to focus based on sociopolitical commonalities.

Another meme is that transgender activism excludes issues relating to transsexual people’s freedom, equality, and justice. That’s verifiably not true.

As one example that challenges the veracity of the meme, here in California where I live there are people who identify themselves as transgender who worked with Equality California — a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community organization — for passage of the Equal ID Act (AB-1185) in 2009. Thumbnail link to Equality California's Equal ID ActAssembly Bill 1185 would have allowed qualified transsexual people born in California to return to the county of their birth to obtain a new birth certificate reflecting the correct gender, as well as any accompanying name change. There is law in California that implies that post-surgical, California born transsexual people who no longer live in the state don’t have standing to petition California Courts to change the gender marker on their birth certificates as California born, transsexual Californians have standing. The bill passed both state houses, and was vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger.

AB-1185 wasn’t legislation that was designed to remedy a sociopolitical issue that impacts crossdressers, drag performers, and genderqueer people, yet lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender activists all worked together to get that bill passed through both state houses. That’s what sociopolitical umbrella community activists do — these sociopolitical umbrella communities facilitate bridge building between subcommunities of a broader community. These coalitions of subcommunities specifically do work on issues that are of common interest of all, yet these coalitions also to work on issues that only effect a small number community members that fall under the sociopolitical umbrellas — sometimes these coalitions work on issues that effect a majority of the community members, and sometimes these coalitions work on issues that effect only a small minority of the community members — but these sociopolitical coalitions, formed under community umbrellas, provide the best opportunity for creating change for all of the community members at one point or another.

So, I’d argue against the truth of your premise that transgender activism doesn’t include work for transsexual people. There are many more examples than just this one example of transgender activists (along with lesbian, gay, and bisexual activists) working together to remedy transsexual people’s unresolved issues within broader society than just this one case I outlined above.

You wouldn’t have to look very hard or long to find more of this kind of example — Please take some time to do some looking for yourself to determine if the memes you’re hearing or reading can be verifiably fact checked to confirm or debunk the meme that you’re hearing or reading. I believe you might be surprised by what you discover about some of the memes you currently believe if you do some fact-checking of your own.

Another example of broader communities working for change of law or regulation for the benefit of transsexual people is the ACLU taking up the case of Illinois birth certificate gender marker updates in the case for Kirk v. Arnold. If you look at how the ACLU filed this case on their website, they filed it under LGBT Rights | Transgender.

It’s not always a perfect marriage between transsexual people who don’t choose to fall under the sociopolitical transgender community umbrella and those who choose to fall under the umbrella. It’s not always a perfect marriage between transsexual people who don’t choose to fall under the sociopolitical LGBT community umbrella and those transgender identified people who choose to fall under the umbrella. I don’t think I need to explain how badly transsexual people have been treated at times by other community members in LGBT community.

However, transsexual people’s lives have been improved by transgender community activism; transsexual people’s lives have been improved by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community activism. It’s not just theoretical that transgender activism has had positive impact for transsexual people; it’s not just theoretical that LGBT activism has had positive impact for transsexual people.

And, it’s not just theoretical that the activism accomplished under the transgender and LGBT community umbrellas will have positive impact on transsexual people into the future.
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