Michael Hootman wonders if our community is too diverse to all live under the same acronym.
As a gay man I support equality for women as, I hope, would the rest of the community. However, if it were suggested that a ‘W’ be added to LGBT, I’d say that while we should certainly help the cause of feminism, women’s experiences, the battles they have to face, are just too different for them to be linked to the LGBT cause in a meaningful way. Similarly, I support transsexual rights but believe that the differences between loving someone of your own sex and feeling that you’re born in the wrong body are far too great for a genuine group cohesion.
I am happy with my sexuality – it’s an important part of my life and something that is patently not a problem. This instantly puts me at a remove from transsexuals who consider their condition a medical problem, one that quite often needs to be corrected through surgery and hormones. To make it perfectly clear: I’m not saying that this means transsexuals are in some way inferior, I’m pointing out an important difference. Namely, most gay men don’t feel that they suffer from a ‘condition’ that needs treating; most transsexuals do.
It’s probably best if members of a group have a commonality of experience, or are at least able to relate to each other. I can imagine, to some extent, the sort of struggles lesbians must go through. Even if it’s just the experience of walking hand-in-hand with their partner down the street. Or being denounced as suffering from a moral sickness by religious bigots. But I’m afraid I find it hard to get into the head space of, for example, a man who was born in a woman’s body or to understand what he must go through on a daily basis.
I was recently at a focus group of about a dozen gay men and when the subject came up, at least one professed ignorance of what the term ‘transsexual’ meant. Given that some LGBs don’t even know what being transsexual entails, it seems that many won’t have any insight into trans lives which can lead to some transsexuals feeling marginalised. Not due to transphobia – though this certainly exists in the LGB community – but due to an experiential chasm. Like a lot of gay men I use the term ‘LGBT’ but without consciously thinking about the T’s, simply because the condition is so far from my experience or frame of reference.
I think the LGB community should help the transsexual community, should share spaces, resources and give moral and practical support. But the gulf between loving someone of your own sex and suffering from what is essentially a debilitating physical condition is perhaps too large for the majority to understand the minority. As a marriage I’m not sure LGBT is working out.
I think it might be time for LGBs and the Ts to go our separate ways. Perhaps what’s needed is an amicable divorce. So, no fighting over who gets the Breaking Bad box set. And we’ll stay in touch, really. In fact we’ll possibly see more of each other, and maybe even get on better, the second the decree nisi drops onto our respective doormats.
express has asked for responses from figures within our community stay tuned as these come in.
Article | Michael Hootman
After graduating in psychology, Michael Hootman became a freelance arts journalist writing on film and theatre. He has had a number of short stories published and, after getting his own page on IMDb, can technically describe himself as a film producer.