How the LGBT community is tearing its acronym to pieces.
Celebrity and star of popular shows How I Met Your Mother and Glee, Neil Patrick Harris is openly gay, so it shouldn’t be surprising to know that he’s one of the most outspoken and internally aware members of America’s gay community. Harris, while guest hosting on the talk show Live! With Kelly, casually uttered a few choice words that, little did he know, were extremely offensive to a portion of his audience. On that talk show Harris had inhaled an effective opposite gas to helium: a gas that lowers your voice; after the effect had subsided Harris commented: “I’ve never sounded more like a tranny in my life!”(Romano 3). Harris received an enormous amount of backlash for his comment and issued an apology. This form of ignorance and insensitivity occurs at a consistent rate from the LGB community with other LGB activists such as Dan Savage and Kelly Osbourne repeating similar offenses. If members of one community unintentionally berated and belittled members of another allied community, we as a people would reevaluate that relationship — this is the case with the LGBT community. The dynamic relationship we all picture is anything but mutually understanding.
With the recent realization of many gay, lesbian, and bisexual rights at a federal level in the U.S., it should be a given that transgender rights would follow suit. In fact, this assumption in many ways reflects a direct opposite to what is actually happening. Transgender rights are continually being left out of bills meant to bring equality to groups like theirs. Oftentimes transgender people are even further stigmatized by mainstream media sources and even members of the LGBT community itself, the very group meant to be their closest ally. The continuation of this trend could be the final nail in the coffin for the transgender community, and with increasing stigmatization and isolation of trans people it is entirely possible that this group could be swept under the rug as another casualty in the war for freedom of identity in the U.S..
To be transgender has very limited relevance to sexual orientation and everything to do with your identity as female, male, or anything in between; it makes no sense to stick this community in with three sexually-oriented communities. The transgender community would be better off as non-affiliated with the gay, lesbian, and bisexual communities. The transgender community should not simply be corralled into the corner of American ignorance of everything that strays from traditional masculinity and femininity. Transgender people should be celebrated and uplifted as their own unique community. By including the T in LGBT we are not only denying trans people a safe space free of discrimination from their LGB associates, we are diminishing attention towards trans people themselves. Transgender people make up a tiny portion of the LGBT community that is often ignored in comparison to the towering number of LGBs in the LGBT community.
In a 2015 poll by the Human Rights Campaign, likely voters were asked whether they had personally known or worked with one or more transgender people: only 35% of respondents said yes, which is up from 22% in 2014. What’s even more astounding is the amount of respondents that said they would support laws bringing equality to transgender people, which was 53%. As affirmed by the survey’s evaluation, this trend of competence is good for the community: “We know from previous polls that knowing a transgender person translates powerfully into positive attitudes. In HRC’s 2015 survey, 66 percent of those who said they know a transgender person expressed favorable feelings toward them, compared with 13 percent who did not — a net favorability of 53 percentage points. This means that the number of voters motivated to support critical laws and protections for transgender people is growing fast”(Human Rights Campaign, 3). Ignorance is the biggest hurdle we have yet to jump. Education is all we lack to bring the trans community the rights it deserves.
According to a poll from the Pew Research Center, transgender people comprise only 5% of the total LGBT community, and only 0.3% of all Americans. Transgender people compose a minority, a minority that remains unseen when placed under the ill-fit lens of the public eye. Only when we adjust the scope of the public eye can we bring justice to the transgender minority, just as we have brought justice to the black communities and the Muslim communities. The transgender community needs directed and sympathetic educated attention just as other minority communities have.
When surveyed in the same poll by the Pew Research Center, transgender adults were asked to explain their experiences with telling others of their change in identity. The amount of negative and uncomfortable experiences with telling others was significantly disproportionate to responses from the gay, lesbian, and bisexual communities. In the same survey, only 7% of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people reported their sexual orientation as having a negative impact on their life, and only 16% felt unhappy with their situation. One response in particular from a transgender adult surveyed speaks to the case of the transgender minority: “This process is difficult. Most people know me one way and to talk to them about a different side of me can be disconcerting. I have not told most people because of my standing in the community and my job, which could be in jeopardy”(Pew Research Center). The certain feeling of not being accepted finds itself rooted more profoundly in the transgender community, and with a lack of sufficient public support that feeling will never be lifted.
Ideally we educate Americans about transgender culture and history directly, but realistically we would decentralize stigmatization for these communities and bring their culture as close to the forefront of media as we could. In order to integrate the ideas of being trans into our culture we must first educate people; if we start educating children by integrating a standardized teaching program into schools, we cut future stigmatization. If we uplift trans people as their own and very unique group we decentralize attention away from the LGB community and towards the trans community. We should teach people about how to correctly interpret trans people and not continue the assumption that trans people are a more obscure form of gay people. Most people are eager for change, and all we lack to catch their attention long enough to channel their help is competence. If more people are made aware of the inequality and suffering experienced by the trans community, more people would stand up for their fellow citizens and more change would occur.
“A Survey of LGBT Americans.” Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project. N.p., 13 June 2013. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.
Bass, Lance. “Why We Shouldn’t Use the Word ‘Tranny’” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.
Campaign, Human Rights. “Survey Shows Striking Increase in Americans Who Know and Support Transgender People | Human Rights Campaign.” Human Rights Campaign. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.
“‘I Didn’t at All Mean to Offend’: Neil Patrick Harris Apologises after Using the Word ‘tranny’ on Live Television.” Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 03 Dec. 2011. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.
Romano, Tricia. The Daily Beast. Newsweek/Daily Beast, n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.