in Thoughts and whatever

The anonymous author of a petition asking major LGBT advocacy groups to “Drop the T” and end their advocacy on behalf of transgender people has spoken to The Federalist.

The petition on Change.org has raised the ire of transgender community members and their LGB and cisgender allies. Two groups, the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD, have responded to the petition.

In the interview, published on Monday, the anonymous gay man outlines is reasons why he began the petition.

His primary impetus for writing the petition seems to have come from the controversy surrounding Roland Emmerich’s “Stonewall.” The controversy had been pinned on the film’s lack of portrayals for people of color and transgender people — many who were key instigators of the Stonewall Riots.

The anonymous author disagrees with this history, but then makes one major critical flaw in his argument.

Compare this statement (emphasis added):

The majority of rioters were young, gay white men, with a handful of black and Latino men, some lesbians and a few drag queens. When the brouhaha over the film “Stonewall” first ignited, I was stunned to see the transgender crowd taking sole credit for it; even more frustrating was the fact that gay/lesbian media, such as The Advocate, Out, HuffPost Gay Voices, and their journalists who should know to check their facts (and these are easily verifiable facts), allowed this myth to flourish.

It was maddening and frustrating. The identity of the individual who threw the first brick isn’t (and probably won’t ever be) convincingly confirmed, though it is acknowledged that it quite possibly was Marsha P. Johnson, a transvestite, who, it should be noted, still identified as a gay male at the time; and it should also be pointed out that the handful of drag queens who were present at the riots were not transgender as we know them today—straight men who have transitioned to presenting as women. Statements I’ve seen such as “the gay rights movement owes its existence to transgenders” are completely false.

To this statement (emphasis added):

It’s difficult for me to say why gay media has allowed this history to be re-written this way; we always acknowledged the role of the drag queens and the lesbian who called out for help for everybody else to fight back—but it seems as if this aspect has become the predominant theme, the story ends there and the fact that the white gay street kids DID start fighting back gets underplayed or thoroughly ignored.

I think there’s a general desire to find heroes in the past that aren’t the usual white guy, and I understand that completely, as a gay kid looking to find gay heroes in a heteronormative history myself. But you can’t alter history to make you feel better, and doing so by twisting a narrative so that heroic men become weak, dithering non-actors in an event is disrespectful to them and ultimately to yourself.

Do you see what I see?

The man completely undermines his own argument.

He says the majority of rioters were young, gay white men, while at the same time also admitting it was the drag queens and women who first fought back and called out for “everybody else to fight back.” THIS has been the argument of transgender people, people of color and, yes, women, because the Stonewall narrative has for so long been taken over by white men who this author even admits were not the first actors at the event that night.

He also simply just doesn’t understand who transgender people are. His explanations for it are ridiculous. Yes, a “transvestite” is a member of the transgender community. No, transgender people are not simply “straight men who have transitioned to presenting as women.” Yes, many drag queens are also transgender or later come out as transgender. No, just because an identifiable modern transgender “community” hadn’t coalesced, doesn’t mean that transgender people didn’t exist. (See our early homophile organizations; did gay men exist prior? How about prior to when there was a modern name for what it meant to be gay?)

Later in his interview he talks about the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity, again getting it wrong and somewhat oblivious to the fact that many transgender people do, in fact, identify as LGB and, therefore, would still be part of whatever imaginary “community” he’s cooked up in his head. This particular ignorance, no doubt, fuels the flaw in his thinking and argument. It’s hard to identify members of a community when you don’t know what the community looks like.

Quite ironically, the anonymous petition writer proclaims, “[Y]ou can’t alter history to make you feel better, and doing so by twisting a narrative so that heroic men become weak.” But that is precisely what cisgender people and this particular petitioner have done for decades, altering the public memory of Stonewall, white-washing away people of color, transgender people, street kids and hustlers.

This petition and continued anti-transphobic sentiment that lingers from cisgender LGB people is merely a game of control — control over who will lead our movement, who our movement will benefit, where the focus of resources and energy will go. There’s a shift occurring now after decades with the entire focus primarily on lesbian and gay people. It’s about time that our community begin to focus on the long-ignored rights of trans people and on other issues including economic justice and immigration reform, among others.

To my cisgender peers who still don’t understand it all: Honey, boo, I’m sorry that you’re no longer the center of attention. Grow up. Deal with it. Look inside yourself, fight off your bigotry and get to know people different from you. It’s the right thing to do. Fight along side your LGBT siblings — be they trans, poor, black, undocumented, etc. — and help them gain the social and legal equality you’ve received from this movement.

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