The LGBTQ community is often seen as a monolithic entity, with everyone working towards the same end goal. It’s certainly easy to think that way, since they’re united as a community by the marginalization they experience for their sexuality and gender expression. But that acronym itself shows the inaccuracy of that assumption. This community includes gay men and lesbians, who are linked by their homosexuality but often experience different, gender-specific forms of homophobia – for instance, while a gay man might be greeted with simple disgust and even violence by a straight man, a lesbian might instead be told that her homosexuality is “sexy” by the same man and find that he is sexually aggressive towards her despite her orientation or even because of it. Bisexuals often face marginalization in the LGBTQ community because their homosexual peers resent their option to “pass” for straight, or find that potential partners outright reject them for fear of not being able to fully satisfy them. The “queer” label that rounds out the acronym is itself an umbrella term for several other disparate groups who face similar problems in how they are treated by their society for their sexuality and gender identity; often “queer” is used as shorthand for these groups or even for the entire LGBTQ community, due to how many terms would need to be rattled off to mention all of them.
The transgender community, and indeed many of those who can be called queer due to their gender identity or representation rather than their sexuality, often face very different problems from the rest of the LGBTQ community. In fact, those who fall inside the “queer” umbrella due to variance in gender identity sometimes consider themselves part of a different community from people who are labeled queer for their sexuality. These people are generally referred to as “trans*,” which denotes that they do not identify with the physical sex they were assigned at birth. (The asterisk in trans* comes from a Google search mechanic, where an asterisk on the end of a query asks for a wildcard or fill-in-the-blank aspect to broaden the results that the search engine returns.) Someone who’s trans* may very well have to worry about some of the more visible LGBTQ issues like same-sex marriage, adoption rights, and employer discrimination, but those who are cisgender (that is, identifying as their assigned birth sex) and gay, lesbian, bisexual or some other non-heterosexual orientation probably wouldn’t have to be worried about things like the economic and physical concerns involved in getting surgery or hormone therapy, for one example.
Unfortunately, this lack of overlap between trans* concerns and the concerns of the greater queer community means that much of the time, trans* issues can be sidelined or even ignored by the LGBTQ rights movement. For instance, many states will not issue a corrected birth certificate for transgender people who have not undergone sex reassignment surgery (which some may wish to avoid as the surgery is invasive, carries the risks inherent to any surgery, and may leave the patient with less-than-functional genitals), and some will not issue a corrected birth certificate at all. Yet while most people have heard about the struggle for same-sex couples’ freedom to legally marry, far less time and effort is expended on a transgender person’s ability to be legally treated as their actual gender. Not only that, but trans* rights have sometimes been used as a bargaining chip in LGBTQ-friendly legislation: for instance, in an attempt to gain passage for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act – which would prohibit employers from discriminating against LGBTQ people – Democrats in the House stripped the provisions protecting gender identity from the bill even when they controlled both houses of Congress. To make matters even worse, trans* people disproportionately face systemic injustice. A 2011 report from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality found that their trans* respondents were much likelier to live in extreme poverty, attempt suicide, and suffer from employment and housing discrimination than the general population. If trans* people feel alienated from the LGBTQ community, or that that community does not address their needs compared to its other members, they can hardly be blamed for it.
So often, in attempts to find common ground, it’s easy to forget that there’s a lot that separates even people in the same communities. No group of people is a monolith sharing the same concerns, but unfortunately, sometimes the concerns of the majority in a group can drown out the needs of its more vulnerable members. Hopefully, with time, education and empathy, the LGBTQ community can do more to support its trans* members in their struggles for equality. The term “queer” is often used as a welcoming umbrella for many different people; better, then, to make sure that that welcome is genuine and those people find the support they need.
 Jones, Addie. (2013). Bridging the Gap – Trans*: What Does the Asterisk Mean and Why Is It Used? Available at: http://www.pdxqcenter.org/bridging-the-gap-trans-what-does-the-asterisk-mean-and-why-is-it-used/, accessed 3/26/15.
 Encyclopedia of Surgery, Sex Reassignment Surgery. Available at: http://www.surgeryencyclopedia.com/Pa-St/Sex-Reassignment-Surgery.html, accessed 3/26/15.
 Lambda Legal, 2015, Changing Birth Certificate Sex Designations: State-By-State Guidelines. Available at: http://www.lambdalegal.org/know-your-rights/transgender/changing-birth-certificate-sex-designations, accessed 3/26/15.
 Lochhead, Carolyn. (2007, September 28). House cuts transgender people from hate crimes bill. SFGate, available at: http://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/House-cuts-transgender-people-from-hate-crimes-2538277.php, accessed 3/26/15.
 Grant, Jaime M.; Mottet, Lisa A.; Tanis, Justin; Harrison, Jack; Herman, Jody L.; and Keisling, Mara. (2011). Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, Executive Summary. Washington: National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Available at: http://transequality.org/sites/default/files/docs/resources/NTDS_Exec_Summary.pdf, accessed 3/26/15.
The Marginalization of the Transgender Community by by UrbanSculpt staff writer Elektra Christensen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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