It is a simple fact that if members of a community stop socializing together, we soon stop co-operating and standing together as well. Pretty soon we stop thinking of ourselves as being part of the same community - and not long after that, we start acting like rivals - or worse yet, enemies.
The word appropriate to this discussion is "cohesion" which is defined by Wikipedia as: "Community cohesion refers to the aspect of togetherness and bonding exhibited by members of a community, the "glue" that holds a community together. This might include features such as a sense of common belonging or cultural similarity." I also like the following definition, but that may be because I spent some time in the military - "Cohesion (military): the bonding together of members of an organization/unit in such a way as to sustain their will and commitment to each other, their unit, and the mission (Cohesion the Human Element in Combat, William Henderson, 1985)."
Whether we like it or not, in our fight for equality and recognition, we as a community are in the middle of a war. And no, I am not exaggerating - there are groups and religious fundamentalists who are only too pleased to call it that, and often do. Ever hear of the "culture war?" Yes, that would be the one. It is a war which, ever since 1977, has spread around the world, in which reactionary elements seek to crush those demanding their freedom and equal treatment, and the harshness dealt out by these reactionaries varies by degree. In places such as Iran, Iraq, Jamaica and Uganda, just not conforming to religious fundamentalist prescriptions of what is "normal" can get you killed.
Oh, it is a war all right - a war in which there are daily casualties, very real victims of hate crime, state-sanctioned oppression and murder, and of violent intolerance - a conflict in which reactionary elements constantly grasp for anything at all which can be used as a weapon against equality, diversity and freedom. It is a war which has been forced on us, not over territory, or belief, or for political gain - but simply because we exist - because our existence offends their conservative sensibilities, and the goal of which is our complete annihilation as a distinct social group with any rights or equalities.
To fall back to the military analogy again, cohesion is vital if there is to be any co-operation, co-ordination and success in any civil rights campaign.
In a community without cohesion, we drift away from each other. On our own, each concerned only with our own well being and our own issues, to the exclusion of others, we form smaller groups - which have weaker voices - all too often going unheard in the crazy mull that is politics and activism. Small isolated groups which easily fall prey to predators - those who seek to capitalize on the lack of cohesion, fealty and mutual concern and interest. It is an old tactic, "divide and conquer" - to isolate one's rivals, to corner them and then to close in for the finish. It is this which gave rise to the slogan, "United we stand, divided we fall" - and yes, it is one of the oldest tricks in the book. We see it every day - in the marketplace, bullying in schools, political maneuvers - and even on Discovery Channel - where predators separate their prey from the strength and protection of the herd.
That's a bit dark, some of you are saying. Well, maybe - but that's because it's a bit true *wink* and you know it. So what can we do? How can we turn this puppy around? By now you are probably a little annoyed and most likely a little upset too, and I think your mind is probably racing through a thousand possibilities. The things we do, the things we did, the things we want to do, the things we think will work, and the things we think won't.
I invite you to look at the accompanying picture and think about what it represents. One man is there, standing under a huge rainbow flag, holding it up. He could be a member of one of several of the different sub-groups of what makes up the community represented by that single flag - a flag that is by definition a symbol of our unity. He is not just holding up the one color that represents him - he is supporting the whole flag. And now, it is not just a "gay flag" - it represents us all.
If groups such as "Stonewall UK" and those who follow its example in the USA and Canada and elsewhere, want to continue bashing and abandoning the trans community, then they should find themselves another goddamn flag and stop using that one. It doesn't just belong only to them, it belongs to all of us as well.
I have now pointed out the things I see that are essentially wrong with the status quo, and the dangers they present to us all - and now that you are thinking about ways to improve cohesion in what is also YOUR community, I have achieved my aim with this article - and will leave it up to YOU to decide what YOU can do about it.