Today, I want to talk a little bit about something that to many, even many LGB people, may seem as a small matter. So small in fact that it may not have ever occurred to you. The subject I wish to talk about, is ‘trans erasure’.
What exactly is ‘trans erasure’? Well, it’s very simple – it’s the erasure of trans people from view, history or importance. It can take many forms, from LGB historians and academics misrepresenting trans figures as LGB rather than T and so ignoring their trials and accomplishments, to an LGB only organisation accepting both funding for, and a common mis-perception that they work for LGBT people (for example, the ironically named Stonewall UK). It may seem small unimportant, but then, that’s rather a symptom of the problem – because are trans people unimportant? … and therein lies the problem… trans erasure is dis-empowering to trans people, while coincidentally being empowering to those that do it, whether they realise it or not. While it could be said that this is a prime example of ‘cissexual privilege’ in operation, I don’t want to focus on that. I want to focus on the realities of it.
How many LGB people… or for that matter, queer people, take great pride in their history? Such history is often important to any given minority group… be it black history, women’s liberation, queer history, or yes, trans history. It’s not only a source of identity, but also forms part of a shared heritage… a connection to what’s come before and a motivation to move on – perhaps even a comfort to know that you are not alone and are not the first… to see how others have coped, and the things that they have achieved. Each time a trans person is recorded as going by a name they no longer go by or have rejected; Each time a trans person who’s suffered or done something amazing is misreported or misrecorded as gay or lesbian, it’s yet another attack on that history… that identity… that existence. Trans people do not deserve to be re-written out of existence, and the facts of their lives are no less significant, no less important, and no more exotic or weird than the facts of anybody else’s existence… it’s high time Trans History were reclaimed for trans people, and high time that trans people were accorded with the basic dignity and respect that anybody else would expect – while not public property as is so often sadly assumed, the details of trans people’s lives deserve to be recorded properly, in accordance with who trans people actually are. Old names are generally irrelevant, and gender identities matter! Even historically!
And what about ignorance? Is it either fair or right that trans people be ignored? When a trans teen commits suicide, is it right that it be reported by their previous name and in so doing see their identity – the very thing that they were abused over – written out and erased; their very existence as a person erased, just to fit the more convenient “gay teen suicide” narrative? I speak in this instance, for example, about such people as 18-year-old Chloe Lacey of Clovis, CA. (RIP 24th Sept. 2010)… not “Justin” Lacey as reported by many outlets, nor “he”, or “his”… Chloe was a woman, and living as a woman. To misconstrue her in such a way is the ultimate disrespect!
It may seem a small thing again to some people, but stop and consider it for a moment. The bullying that drove her to take her own life hasn’t even stopped in her death! People are STILL disregarding her identity, refusing to accept her, refusing to give her a damned break even in her death! It’s been reported as a tragedy by people who continue to perpetuate the abuse that saw her take her own life!
So what about lobbying and campaigning organisations that might fight this sort of injustice and inequity? In the US, trans people were written out of ENDA – where was the HRC? What were they saying and doing? … in the UK, gay rights charity Stonewall takes it’s share of LGBT funding from various sources, but does not represent trans people, meaning less funding for the representation of trans people. The UK government consults and holds LGBT political events without there being a single trans person present – indeed, they sometimes consult non-trans people on trans issues. Not only does this mean that trans people are getting a raw deal in fighting to end the injustices and inequality many trans people face, but they find their ability to fight hampered because of it!
Trans people exist. The T in LGBT is not a token, they aren’t less deserving, they don’t deserve a “the majority (LGB) comes first” attitude, and they deserve to be properly recognised for who and what they are; Who and what WE are. It’s only fair… but it DOES get better, and it will… and any one of YOU reading this can be a part of it even if only by ensuring that YOU continue to view trans people with the respect they deserve, and to take the same stand against any disrespect you observe that you would if you saw it aimed towards anybody else.
Together, we can work to a better future for us all, and can do so with clear conscience, ensuring that none are left behind… after all, if a trans person is good enough to unfairly ‘add to the number’ of gay teen suicides, then that same person is good enough to be equally and fairly represented and fought for.