Prism & Pen
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Prism & Pen

LGB Without the T? Sister, We Have To Talk

Guns are pointed directly at our heads. We need to be one to be strong.

2017 trans rights protest in Washington DC. Photo by Ted Eytan. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

They grew up in a modern, supportive, progressive family, and their process of acceptance was relatively uncomplicated. That being said, one day some other friends and I were hanging out and the topic of this person’s transition came up. There was a lot of back and forth about it. Were they just going through a phase? Maybe they were actually gay, or just searching for an identity altogether. These were all progressive, middle-aged people talking, many of them gay themselves.

A few months later, another family reached out. Their kid also came out as trans. They felt totally blindsided, and again spoke about it in the old familiar ways. Was it a phase? Our kid doesn’t realize how difficult their life will be. They won’t be happy. They shouldn’t tell anyone yet. Can’t they just be gay? Again, progressive, loving family and ultimately quite supportive.

They do to me. It’s exactly the same stuff I and many of my gay peers heard throughout our own coming-out process decades ago. So is that it? Have we become our parents? Well, my parents never really embraced my homosexuality, so no. But yes. These concerns don’t occur as transphobic to me, just confusion born of the changing nature of society and humanity, and the challenges this presents for the previous generation as they are confronted by the new stuff. It’s to be expected and is the responsibility of the newer generation to fight for the new stuff as much as it’s the responsibility of the previous generation to listen and learn about something they know nothing about.

Last week, I read a story by James Finn that alerted me up to a schism in UK queer communities between The Gays and The Trans, with small minorities of LGB people rejecting the T through neutrality or frank opposition. This really bugged me, and I’ve been turning it over in my mind ever since.

Prejudice against homosexuals is about cross-gender behaviors. The whole terminology of “sissy”, “fag”, “poof” and “dyke” is all about gender. For generations, in prose, poetry, song, performance, tee-shirt slogans, whatever medium they could think of, many gay men have declared their childhood love for dolls, dress-up and decorating while eschewing traditional male play such as competitive team sports.

I remember a time a family came to me for therapy.

The young son asked if I followed professional baseball. I explained that being a gay, Jewish New York psychiatrist of a certain age, a convergence of stereotypes rendered me physiologically incapable of watching sports. He seemed a little perplexed but accepted it.

On the occasions when guys have screamed “FAGGOT!” out of their car windows at me, it wasn’t because I was hand in hand or making out with my boyfriend (or theirs!)

It was because I was walking.

I was just walking, and there was something about my walk, my clothes, my hair, who knows, which they processed as inappropriately unmasculine.

Haven’t lesbians been outspoken, outwritten, even outbullhorned, about their enmity for those same childhood female past-times while proudly embracing their inner Peppermint Patty? Because before the world had lesbians, there were tomboys; Tom+boy = girl?

As science hypothesizes the cause of the homosexual condition, theories return to one major thing: gender, androgens and estrogens gone awry in utero. The bond between sex and gender intricately woven together.

Cross-gender behavior, dress, mannerisms, past-times and interests are deeply woven into homosexual identity, and is the basis of our romantic and erotic objects of desire. Homosexual identity without transgender identity is just internalized homophobia, no matter how gender normative you are.

I remember when I first started coming out, I didn’t like going to gay pride parades; too many drag queens. They were too flamboyant, too feminine. I didn’t want them to represent me. I was still figuring myself out, half in, half out of the closet. Being gay was more of an abstract concept still to me, and I hadn’t embraced it in all it’s wonderfulness.

I thought I’d outgrown all that. Except, when I recently told a story about a drag performer on 1970s TV who significantly influenced my childhood. Only after I published the story and reread it for the hundredth time did I fully appreciated Beverly LaSalle’s impact. How fortunate I was to have her in my life, in her fabulous flamboyant playfulness, even just virtually and for a few minutes.

If you look more carefully still, isn’t homophobia just another form of misogyny? Isn’t it about men not manifesting as masculine enough, painted and colorful, making themselves sexy, being pleasured dorsally, breaking sacred vows about masculine social barriers, communication choices. Isn’t it about women diverging from their lane as the kitten, the weaker sex or the homemaker?

Politically, LGB without the T is divisive, but personally, it’s foolish internalized homophobia in some new camo, and either way, it’s damaging to all queer people.

Thinking about those families has left me wondering what it’s going to be like for the progressive parents of 2050. What are the queer kids of today going to be confronted with when their offspring come out? What will leave them speechless and unprepared (I’m thinking it involves implants and enhancements; I’m eager to see where my predictions go.)

As the trans movement is evolving, it is growing past the epithets of “born this way” and “it’s not a choice”. I always resented the political expedient that homosexuality is “not a choice.” It’s my choice, who cares? I never wanted to be restricted by that and I don’t want anyone else to be either.

The trans movement has needed to adopt this same position to receive validity, but a new generation of young nonbinary/gender-fluid people are leading us away from that. In that, transgender is now a phenomenal umbrella community and a huge opportunity for all of us to be part of. I don’t have to choose who I am, I can choose who I want to be. I love that. We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.

So for all those non-queer straight-acting gays out there, you’re undermining yourselves, because we’re all one people and we need to stick together. Especially now, because as Melissa Ingle wrote recently in An Injustice, a community of haters have us in their crosshairs, figuratively and literally.

Guns are pointed directly at our heads. We need to be one to be strong. Some of us like sports, and some of us like pearls, but we all have one thing in common: we’re choosing our lives.

I’m blessed to be among you.



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Danni Michaeli

A psychiatrist and a dreamer, I'm always listening for the magic and wondering what we're all doing here.....