Tristan Feldman '12

A recent post on Joe My God, a prominent gay blog, concerning the suicide of LA Times Sports Columnist Mike Penner, sparked some interesting discussion via the comment section. In 2007 Mike Penner announced that he was transitioning and wished to be called Christine Daniels. Last February he announced that he was no longer transitioning and wished to be referred to as Mike Penner again. While ignoring the obvious trolls and blatantly unrelated posts, I found an interesting sentiment in the comments. One person wrote,

“This post and the first two comments are typical of the ultra-PC, head-in-the-sand approach to this issue. No problem here, nothing to see, T's are all perfectly fine and it is transphobia that is to blame for all ills.  

This person got support from his colleagues. There were no reports of harassment or discrimination. This person decided he was a woman and had the freedom and resources to follow through, then decided he was a man, and then decided to kill himself. That is not healthy, normal, or sane and it is ridiculous to minimize it or suggest that it is "society" that is mentally ill or that unnamed others were responsible for his demise. More to the point, none of this sad drama has anything to do with gay people.

It was a titanic mistake to allow unelected activists to equate T with LGB. They are not the same thing. They are very different phenomena. And there is absolutely no political benefit to LGBs in maintaining this forced marriage with Ts. We should wish them well and chart our own course.”

Another person added on:

I have sympathy for all people who face discrimination. At the same time though, I totally agree that transgender should have never been in the same group with LGB's. It's almost as bad as putting Muslim-Americans who face discrimination in our group. We are not the same. Transgender is transgender, gay is gay, and Muslim is Muslim. 

These comments struck me because the relationship between the LGB and the T community is something that has been on the back of my mind lately. I do agree that including trans people with gay people does lead to some confusion over the differences between sexuality and gender, but at the same time, the two are so inextricably linked it is hard to define them separately. In fact, it is impossible to define sexuality without getting into the realm of someone’s sex and gender identity.

I don’t really know what to say to people who say that the issues that trans people face have nothing to do with gay people. Our histories are intertwined, our needs are similar, our communities have overlaps, and if you are truly fighting for gay rights because they are civil rights what are you saying if you leave part of your community behind?

I think the problem actually lies in people who add the T to LGB without really meaning it. I have read countless brochures that are for “LGBT” individuals that don’t even address the concerns of trans people, or only mention them as a side note. This kind of treatment can lead people to conflating gender identity with sexual orientation. I think that more serious consideration of the trans community needs to take place within the queer community. Everyone should look critically at the categories of sex and gender, for no other reason then to have a better understanding of yourself and your identity. This is one of the many factors that separate the queer community from the gay community and why I’m much more proud to say I’m queer than to say I’m gay.