From the Left: Let’s Not Forget the ‘T’ in LGBT
Published: Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 01:03
The “Transilience” film that Dr. Joelle Ruby Ryan of the Women’s Studies Department presented to the public in the MUB last week is something that all UNH students should see. For those that missed it, it can be found online on YouTube. It is not a Transgender 101 film; it is not something that is meant to be an introduction toward the transgender community. It the third installment of her film series that gives one the chance to see how she, as a gender outlaw and proud activist, has dealt with the challenges presented to her by a cis-supremacist society that does not value gender diversity. It is not meant to represent the trans community as a whole; no one person can speak for an entire movement, but Dr. Ryan does a fantastic job of highlighting how we, decades after the civil rights movement, still marginalize entire sections of the American populace.
There are numerous people here at the university that would do well to take a Women’s Studies class, and I encourage everyone to do so. It is a learning experience that some people are in desperate need of, as there continues to be too many people who are needlessly vicious to the department and take part in the oppression of trans minorities, while at the same time are garbing themselves in the rhetoric of “liberty” and “freedom.” How can one proselytize about our enduring “liberty” when entire social groups are shunned by society and treated as deviant outcasts? One cannot.
The fight for gender equality – and even the fight against the compartmentalizing concept of “gender” itself – is the next great civil rights struggle of our time. Yes, the LGBT community is going to score a major victory this coming spring when the Supreme Court declares the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, but we should not focus the argument entirely on those of the same sex; we should not forget our transgender comrades who have had to deal with oppression in a way that the mainstream LGBT community cannot even think of. To have a non-heterosexual sexual orientation is certainly against the grain of America’s viciously patriarchal society, but to actually be transgender puts one on a whole different level. Name changes, gender-reassignment surgery, systemic legal oppression, economic classism – the transgender community has had to face persecution and brutality in a way that no other minority has ever had to. I cannot imagine the struggle that my trans friends have to go through, but the fact that they do, and that they persevere and come out stronger, makes me indescribably proud of them. They deserve the utmost respect and support.
If there is one thing that the trans community can remind us of, it is that how desperately important it is for us to live our own truths. There is a particular kind of joyful pride at being able to inhabit one’s own skin and readily accept one’s identity. Of course, being “different” will always be difficult, but those who do – and those of us who stand side-by-side with them in unwavering solidarity – are helping to pave the way for generations that will come after and are changing the world by resolutely stating the truth, that all people are created equal, and that everyone should have the right to live their life in a way that brings them the most joy.
UNH has made excellent progress on trans issues, and I applaud them, but there are still issues that need to be faced. The Transgender Policy and Climate Committee (T-PACC) is a sub-committee of the President’s Commission on the Status of GLBT Issues and is dedicated to monitoring the campus climate for trans students, faculty and staff. It works to recommend and implement policy changes to promote an environment that reaffirms gender diversity. Thus far, it has worked with Health Services to explore resources available for trans students, and has approached the Registrar’s Office in the hopes of initiating a system change to better serve the trans community on campus by potentially changing the “sex” categories on university applications and paperwork.
Unfortunately, there continues to be a faction of radical “radfem” feminists that are extraordinarily hostile to transgender and transsexual people, especially trans women. Radfems in Western society are viciously obsessed with the concept of “woman” and involve themselves with calling out, and working to abolish, male patriarchy in the name of female empowerment. In the process, however, they unfortunately alienate those who do not adhere to a strict male-or-female gender binary. The radfem faction of feminists, and their overtly black-and-white pro-women views, unfortunately caused them to be estranged from their fellow social revolutionaries. Why is it that this rampant sectarianism has to continue to plague the feminist community? Why do the radfems continue to marginalize their trans comrades in the name of women’s liberation, when, if united together in a feminist popular front, they could be a force to be reckoned with against the patriarchy?
Everything that people do counts, and no action is too small. Whether someone is heterosexual or homosexual, cis-gendered or transgendered, makes no difference. If there is systemic oppression and rampant inequality in our world, we should work to resolve the problem together. Cis-gendered allies can be effective catalysts for change if we stand together and not just accept, but actually fight for our transgendered brothers and sisters. Activism can be as simple and everyday as interrupting an offensive joke, or calling out rude comments in public. Start where you are, and remember that your actions will have a ripple effect. Trans rights are human rights, and we all benefit when we are all liberated by the ability to be able to live our lives without fear, shame, or judgment.
Dan Fournier is a pre-medical undergraduate majoring in evolutionary biology. He considers himself to be a left-wing progressive and liberty-minded individual.