I was presented with a most interesting and thought-inducing question the other afternoon, one that had never visited itself upon me until that very moment.
“If you could send one message to the world about transgender and gay people, what would it be?”
I gave very brief pause for ponder.
“That we are no different from you and your friends and family who aren’t gay or transgender,” I said. “We work at the same jobs you work at, we play in the same places you play at, we worship at the same churches you worship at, we’re black or white or copper or Asian, we get married, we raise families, we love, we laugh, we cry, we have our dislikes, we suffer, we commit crimes, we learn at the same schools…we’re just like you in every way except one: When we choose a partner, we prefer birds of a feather.”
I have given further contemplation to both question and answer in the few days since that brief exchange, because I felt I had left something unspoken. Something I had overlooked.
It was only on this International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, after reading what various world leaders had to say, that I realized where my response to the original query was found wanting.
I should have added that transgender people are not freaks. They are not a circus sideshow. Nor are they sickos with twisted, perverted minds who, if granted equal footing in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, would invade the public washrooms of our nation and prey upon little girls or grown women, as a least one of our myopic senators (see: Plett, Donald) would have you believe.
Too often I have seen and heard actions and comments that have painted transgender people as not just misfits but some sort of pathetic product direct from Comedy Central casting.
I recall, for example, one early evening at BJ’s Lounge (now Paparazzi Show/Nightclub) in Victoria, when there came a clattering of heels and considerable giggling from the stairway leading to the below-ground gay venue.
“Oh,” one of the middle-aged gay men perched at the bar announced with a lewd snicker as he leaned and looked toward the door, “here come the trannies! Here come the trannies! Weirdo time!”
As a group of crossdressers—not transgender people—pranced into the room, it occurred to me that I never expected to hear such scurrilous tripe from within the ranks of the LGBT community, but, over time, I learned that the transgender are often regarded as the runt of the litter. And often treated as such.
Still, hearing the words “trannies” and “weirdo” (and the accompanying tittering and knee-slapping by the boys at the bar) in a supposed gay safe space seemed so much at odds with everything the collective has strived for in its equal rights crusade. That was the last place I expected to hear catcalls of transphobia and homophobia. It was as shocking as it was appalling. And it was not a one-off. I could cite many such examples of homophobia/transphobia after spending much of the past eight years in Victoria’s LGBT community.
We cannot stomp out homophobia and transphobia in mainstream society if we cannot keep it out of our own front yard. How can we expect “them” to see us as “no different” when the gay collective eats its own?
Every piece of identification I carry, including my birth certificate, indicates I am female. It has an F, not a TF or an L for lesbian. Meaning I am no different than any other girl in Canada.
I do not wish, nor do I expect, to be treated differently. But before we can convince mainstream society that we are no different, the LGBT collective must convince itself of that very thing. The battle to end homophobia and transphobia starts at home, and only then can we take the fight to the streets.