Over the past week I was happy to report a few great news items from the UK and USA affecting the pink community there. Top of the list was that former "Terminator" actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the governor of California (who is a Republican, by the way) signed a bill into law that inaugurated "Harvey Milk Day", in memorial to the now world-famous gay rights campaigner immortalized in the movie "Milk".
In addition to the Milk bill, Schwarzenegger ratified another bill affecting same-sex couples legally married outside of California which ensures that gay couples who wed before the passage of Proposition 8 in November retain their status as "married", while those who wed after the measure passed will retain all rights of marriage save the name. This means that married same gender couples moving to California need not register as "domestic partners" to have their relationships recognized.
Schwarzenegger also signed a bill that will expand funding for domestic violence programs targeting the gay and lesbian communities.
The "Governator", who has very publicly shown support to the gay community in California, particularly during the Proposition 8 issue last year, has also vetoed several other bills, which do not affect the gay community perse' - but just the transgender community.
I have to point out that at the same time, he vetoed a measure to direct the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (LGBT Prisoner Safety Act) to consider sexual orientation and gender identity in the housing of inmates, which the governor said occurs already.
Schwarzenegger also vetoed a measure (the Equal ID Act) allowing transgender people who have left the state to request a new birth certificate reflecting their change in gender. He said a recent court ruling made that legal, making a law unnecessary.
Okay, so if these laws were "unnecessary" then why were they considered necessary by the lobbyists who put them across the table? Why did they pass all the way through local government to actually arrive on the governor's table?
While the Equal ID Act echoed a landmark case - Somers v. Superior Court, in which a California appellate court ruled it unconstitutional to deny a transgender person born in California but living out of state the ability to petition a California court for a legal gender change. It has been said that ratifying the Equal ID Act would have alleviated any confusion in the statutory language of the ruling itself.
Let's do a tally:
California now has "Harvey Milk Day" *pass*
Bill to ensure status of same sex unions recognition *pass*
LGBT Prisoner Safety Act *fail*
the Equal ID Act *fail*
That's gay rights affirmation 2 vs transgender rights 0.
What are we to think about this? Is Arnie marginally pro-gay while being blatantly anti-transgender? Perhaps I'm reading it wrong, but that's how it looks to me and I just can't think of any other reason.
Reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, Schwarzenegger's spokesman Aaron McLear said: "The bill is symbolic of the importance of the gay community to California, which is why he signed it," McLear said, adding that Schwarzenegger wanted to "honor that community." It is the only such day of recognition for a gay or lesbian person in the United States."
"The only such day of recognition for a gay or lesbian person in the United States."
Gay or Lesbian.
Why are the rest of us never included in these matters? Are gay and lesbian people the only ones they think of? Are the rest of us invisible? Don't we count? Or are we to just understand that we "fall in automatically" under "G" or "L? Isn't this why our rights always seem to come second? Isn't this why proposed new laws in the USA meant to benefit the entire GLBTI collective were altered a few short years ago by removing that annoying little "T" to try and ensure passage? That's all right, just exclude the transgender - we'll worry about them later?
Is it because they think transgender people are gay and confused? Is it because they think bisexual people are gay, confused and "unwilling to commit"? I have often pointed out that we as a community frequently know as little about each other as the bigots do. How many gay people off the street even realize the difference between being gay and being transgender? How many know the difference between transgender and intersex? How many care enough to find out?
In the UK, a group calling itself "Stonewall UK" - named after the Stonewall riots which sparked the GLBTI rights movement worldwide speaks for the entire UK GLB community - but which excludes the entire transgender community from everything it does. The irony is that the Stonewall riots were started by transgender people in defense of gay men being brutalized by police - and this group commits acts of transphobia while supposedly working to counter homophobia. Stonewall UK is not alone in this, there are today many gay rights activists who openly do exactly the same. Even my spell-checker in Word underlines "transphobia" in red as an "error", while accepting "homophobia". Some groups patently ignore the existence of trans issues, while some are blatantly hostile to the transgender community. One prime example is UK columnist and lesbian rights activist Julie Bindel - who openly berates feminine gay men and butch gay women, attacks the transgender community and advocates "ex-gay" therapy for them while working for the acceptance of the lesbian community.
Last year's London Pride had a few notable transphobic features - the main one being where Pride organizers had security guards at public toilets insisting that transgender women be turned away from female toilets and use the male facilities. This became known world-wide as the "Toiletgate" scandal.
This year there was more drama where a transgender group withdrew from the London Pride over non-inclusion issues where the transgender participants were allocated a spot only at the very back of the parade.
Why is it that never mind how hard transgender, bisexual or intersex activists fight for global "gay rights" for the entire collective, it is usually the gay and lesbian factions which receive the recognition, rewards - or turn against the rest of the community or as in the above example, even sell out the transgender community? To put it more succinctly, why in the fight for our global human rights and equality, is it usually the transgender community that ends up getting sacrificed on the altar?
"Gay or lesbian" they say. I am starting to feel left out. I may be female and in a lesbian relationship, but I am also a post-op transsexual woman.
This is the sort of thing that sickens me. If I as a transsexual woman can immerse myself in activism for the rights of the entire pink community - and not just the group of which I am a part, then why can't they? Never mind the transgender, or the bisexual people. Why worry about the rest of the community? After all, do bisexual people care about the significance of "Harvey Milk Day"? Do transgender people? Should we?
I can tell you now, if Harvey Milk were asked that, he would tell us we should. And if we should be relevant enough to value and feel a part of a day which bears his name, then we should be important enough to be included in the global community - which is why we are today the GLBTIQ - or Pink Community.
Homosexuality was removed from the DSM in 1973. Transsexuality and other transgender so-called "disorders" remain in the psychiatric manual. This year a well known UK gay activist who co-ordinates international GLBTI advocacy efforts, tried to help the global transgender community by arranging worldwide protests in countries where transsexual people are classified as mentally ill - to have this stopped.
Now, bear in mind that this is a gay man trying to help transgender people in their fight for equality. Was it appreciated? No. In a three month long email cat-fight, he was shouted down, insulted and his sincerity and worthiness was questioned. "Who does he think he is?" some trans-activists asked, "- This gay man interfering in trans issues?" The result? He withdrew - and I don't blame him one bit. For the foreseeable future it seems we transsexuals will still have to be content with being classified as mental patients in order to access surgery. Not for the first time will I get to point out the irony that it's funny how surgery can cure a "mental illness".
This sort of in-fighting is damaging to the rights movement for all of us as one community. What makes us one community? The fact that we are all surrounded by - the same pointing fingers. This should unite us, shouldn't it? Well?
Transgender is not a sub-class of "gay", just as sexual orientation is not gender identity. Bisexual is also not exclusively gay either. And intersex is also in a physical category of its own. Although we all stand together for our fight for acceptance and human and civil rights and equality, we are not all quite the same - but we can be united in our diversity to fight for our common goals. The problem comes in when we forget who we are - and what we need - and stop caring about each other.
As for the activist, he should be thanked for his dedication to the whole GLBTI community instead of getting slapped in the face for it and accused of "interfering". It would seem that some transgender people would rather themselves remain classified as "mentally ill" - and decide the same for their brothers and sisters, just so that they can have access to "free" medical treatments.
Well I have news for them - it's not free - in order to receive it, you have to admit that you're mentally ill.
I am a transsexual woman, I have had three painful and expensive surgeries to make my body match my female mind and personality - but even before I had these surgeries and still had a male body - I was NOT mentally ill. The distress caused by being trapped in the wrong physical gender and having to live a lie can cause other mental issues and ancillary "disorders" in some people - but the root of being transgender or transsexual is not a mental illness. The very fact that they perform gender reassignment surgery is an admission that this is a physical problem and not a mental one - or we would all end up making people like Julie Bindel right.