Wednesday 27 May 2009

Gays In Ties

move along now

Some people question the propriety of adding T to LGB. "Transsexuality is a gender identity thing and the other ones are about sexual orientation," they say. And of course they're right. I happen to think that we've all got sufficiently common cause to be able to unite. And recent events suggest another good reason for Ts to be in the same room, especially with the Gs: "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer", as the Chinese general said.

Not that I view all gay men as enemies, of course. Far from it. Unfortunately, there seem to be some who have attained positions of power in equalities groups, who, now that being gay is pretty socially acceptable (or even desirable), want to distance themselves from other, less well-heeled minorities. For some are more equal than others. Thus Ben Summerskill and Stonewall's shabby performance over the nomination of Julie Bindel for their Journalist of the Year award, and the re-writing of history that's been going on in gay circles to eradicate the trans presence in the original Stonewall.

Let's call them Gays In Ties. Because it usefully lends itself to an acronym.

Here's a typical example, culled from a local forum where there has been discussion regarding T inclusion in an LGB group.

The gay community are borderline weirdoes in the eyes of the mainstream heterosexual community, but if the forum encompasses the Trans community into its constitution then it could be catastrophic to the forum. So I’ll let the Forum Members decide whether or not, our weirdo status will get better or worse?
Love you too, little man. Worryingly, no-one called this particular GIT out on this remark.

Now then, to London Pride. At last year's event, there was a bit of a hoo-ha when the Pride stewards refused to let some transsexual women use the women's toilets. A transsexual woman was subesquently assaulted in the men's toilets. The Pride GITs seemed to think that the trans people involved were somehow at fault. I covered the "Toiletgate" business at the time, starting here.

So this year, it seems that Pride have decided to organise the T element of the event themselves, assisted by one Diana Taylor. Diana has (they say) for many years been the Trans advocate for Pride and has assisted pride London in some very complex issues and is very well respected and very well connected across many Trans circles. Oddly, no-one in the sort of "trans circles" I move in seems to have heard of her. Must be in the wrong sort of circles or something.

At a meeting with interested parties including Translondon last week, it was announced that the trans contribution to the march would be a float at the back of the procession, with the theme of "Priscilla Queen of the Desert". The procession is to be headed, apparently, by another float with the cast of the stage show of the same name. "Priscilla at the front and Priscilla at the back," as the person from Pride described it, to a presumably gobsmacked audience.

Translondon have voted to boycott the event. And who can blame them?

*background image of Trafalgar Square by Thomas Bredol *


  1. As you know, Dru, I tried to be straight for years and it just wouldn't work.

    Perhaps it's an unavoidable need to be true to ourselves that the L, G and T communities share.

    Some of us have to make a greater effort than others to achieve this "truth", with members of the T community having to make the sorts of efforts which make the L and G efforts seem (to me) fairly negligible.

    I enjoyed Cornwall's first Pride last year. Cornwall is not London - or even Bristol - so joining in the march still requires a degree of self-confidence which I'd like to think we can be proud of.

    But transitioning requires so much more courage and confidence, even though there is (I suspect) an inevitability to it. So if anyone out of the LGBT grouping should be feeling proud, I reckon it's the trans community.

  2. Love the acronym, I do so hope it catches on. Personally, I thought gay was pretty mainstream these days. More mainstream than L or B I'd say. At least from the perspective of the Muggle community.

  3. Thank you, Chris. Yes, I can imagine that Cornwall is a bit more of a challenge than Bristol. Just before I 'came out', a fitter we had on board (who came from Leyland in Lancashire, where I have family) was needling me because he knew there was something odd about me but couldn't quite put his finger on it, and assumed I was gay... "We don't get many of your sort oop North," he said. Poor deluded man...

    I have a gut feeling that we have common cause; not least in the way that some people attach a moral judgement in their thinking about us, as though it's a 'lifestyle' thing. And I have found acceptance from almost all lesbian and feminist groups I have encountered, and count gay men among my friends. It's a shame that there seems to be an attempt to dominate a group and to marginalise us from within an organisation that purports to include us.

    Indeed so, Liz. I wonder why it's more OK to be gay than lesbian?

  4. As Bramble says gays are more mainstream nowadays to us muggles. I wonder if there are certain G.I.T.s (a bit like my ex bother-in-law who couldn't cope with the way we accepted his coming out) who are disappointed and just need another issue to stir things up a bit.

  5. I didn't really like it; the potato wasn't on-message enough. Maybe if I'd mashed it...

  6. Last night I went to an evening organised by 'The House of Homosexual Culture', at The Festival Hall. It was called 'Crossing Over', and was billed as a melange (as it were)of trans experience. Poems, cabaret, music, interviews and so on.

    I'm going to blog about it, for those who can read my blog...

    ...but it really chimed with what you have written here.

    Firstly it was incredibly camp. The trans experience (or at least the MfF one) that the (male) organisers had sought was a kind of Christopher Isherwood - cum( good word in this instance)- Lounge Singer - cum - trans hooker narrative. And, fascinatingly, the trans people who were there, and who seemed to be being 'represented' were chiefly ex scene gay people who had transitioned. The large majority seemed to be FtM, and I was left with the feeling that the gay organisers 'got' this group better than MtF (maybe because their sexuality - amongst those FtM people who were still attracted to men - was recognisable to them...?)

    It was a fascinating night. They didn't seem to know the difference between MtF and drag. Or between MtF and prostitution.

    Whilst I supported (I suppose) their intent in putting this event on at all (which says something positive), I felt completely out of place, sitting there in my jeans skirt and scruffy Tesco top. Every trans woman I know, I'm sure, would have felt the same as I. There was also endless declamation about pussies, fannies, c*nts, cocks, manginas (new one on me) and plenty of pictures.

    Gay people have no more insight into the trans experience than anyone else. Fact. Some get us, some don't. The - dangerous, and entirely misleading - common ground that has been forged has often been simply over non-normative sexuality. With a bit of shared sympathy because we get beaten up just like gay people used to.

    But we are NOT part of the GLB experience. I'm all for good relations, of course, but we might as well start a Model Railway Enthusiasts and Trans People Movement. Or a Hang Gliding Fanatics and Trans People Movement.

    The serious point being that the people who I want to be aligned to and with are those who stand against bigotry and discrimination on the grounds of inner gender identity. Not on the basis of a mistaken analysis of sexual predilection.

    Or worse...a parody of it. As in Priscilla...who the hell do they think they are REPRESENTING?!!! I look forward to floats with preening Queens covered in Ostrich feathers.

    It's that GAY take on cross dressing again.

  7. Sounds bloody awful, Jo. Some of the blokes at P&O tried to ID me as gay male, and assumed that I was sexually-motivated. One was v friendly until the day he came back to the group we were in in a Falmouth pub and announced that he'd been doing a bit of cottaging. "I like my men rough," he said to me, "Do you?"
    "I don't do men" I said.
    He was shocked, and was offish to the point of hostility from then...

    Back to the case in point, though...

    I really do think that we have common cause with LGB, but this isn't really the time to go through the reasons why. I am most concerned that, while a lot of gay men seem to be 'on side', there are some who want to grab all the cake on offer. T isn't the only group to feel marginalised by Pride London.

  8. I was wondering what you'd write in repsonse to my night money was on "Sounds bloody awful Jo"

    Result :-)

    You know, I'm all for Good Relations with LGB groups etc. But the longer this goes on, the more it for me exposes the underlying faultline. LGB is, and has been, just another oppressed group. And we have made common cause with them. And that 'looked' like a good fit because people pointed to the whole fucking people thing (because some transwomen are hetero like me, and want to sleep with guys, and that made everyone confused, cos wasn't I really a guy inside so that made me gay, sort of? And right, chum, you can joing our club. And that).

    But actually (as some have said) we would have done better to be associated with disability groups, because our condition is medical, it needs medical suppport, it can be treated, and we suffer discrimination because of it. Not a 'problem' perhaps, but something that causes great distress which medicine can often help relieve.

    Or we could have linked with other disadvantaged groups, ex prisoners, asylum seekers, whoever...

    In fact, in another sense, the groups which we have most in common with are anti-racist ones, in my view. People who fight discrimination against those who are born a particular way, can do nothing about that (and nor should they). Though of course, black people don't seek 'treatment' the parallel doesn't stretch that far.

    I think in some ways the common cause would have been stronger.

  9. "But we are NOT part of the GLB experience. I'm all for good relations, of course, but we might as well start a Model Railway Enthusiasts and Trans People Movement. Or a Hang Gliding Fanatics and Trans People Movement. "

    Jo is spot on.

    I've no problems at all with gays or lesbians or Bi's, and identify as lesbian myself (with a swift two fingers up to the Bindel bitch), but as far as being trans goes I see no logical affinity with minorities that are based on sexual orientation.

    As a lesbian, I might feel a shared identity with that part of the LGB "movement", were it not for the likes of Julie Bindell and her supporters club.

    I have a lot of time for people like Peter Thatchell who have, in my experience, been long-standing advocates for trans people. But until the mainstream GLB movement rids itself of bigots like Bindell and her supporters, and ditches the negaitive stereo-typical image they have of us, as far as I'm concerned they can go their own way.



  10. I commented elsewhere that I don't like boycotts. There's a negativity about boycotts that's not just unhappy but also counterproductive.

    I'm wondering where to sign up to be on the last float in the parade just so that I can go down to Angel's and hire a Priscilla Mullins costume. (Priscilla Mullins was a Mayflower puritan who became famous for refusing a proposal of marriage and marrying the messenger.)

    I mean ... boycott will lose nobody any sleep whereas turning up en masse to staff the float in jeans and tank tops (though I have to say I prefer Farhi to Tesco) with big fuck-off banners saying "Not a sterotype"... that makes a point in front of God and everybody.

    As to the major point, I think that trans people need to work in coalition with LGB people (and I say this mindful of the fact that many trans people are also LGB people, my own lesbian self included), but should not assume that there is enough commonality of interest to support an alliance. Pride is a case in point: I am proudly gay and happy to march in a parade to make it clear that other gay people ought to be proud to. I'm not especially proud to be trans, I don't especially like being identified as a transwoman rather than a woman, and I know that many of my trans friends, men and women, feel the same. I think that Pride might be more an LGB thing than a trans thing, and my experience of Brighton Pride (my favourite Pride experience) reinforces that in my mind.

    I don't like the idea of being shut out of things, but I don't think that just because I'm queered by my gender history I therefore need to be part of every queer thing on account of my gender history.

  11. Dru,
    I am a fan of your blog and don't usually comment but read this piece and thought i should share something with you i overheard in the Duke of Welling pub in Soho. It was a group of people from Pride talking and I overheard that Sister Mary Clarence is what Patrick Williams Pride Director sometimes calls himself and he is a fan of Sister Act and so Pride have been promoting the Sister act musical.

    Sister Marey Clarence is the troll on Pink News.

  12. I'm sorry I took so long to respond to your postings; I've been mulling over my own feelings and ended up continuing to feel ambivalent. I broadly agree with you, Nettie; I also get a feeling that there are elements in LGB who want to exclude T, or, what is perhaps worse, replace it with some sort of TG/DQ representation that seems to owe more to gay maleness than the 'authentic' TS experience. On the other hand, I don't particularly want to go to Pride, even as an L.

    Thanks, Soho Sauce. Obviously an anonymous allegation carries no weight as evidence; but SMC does seem to give away more about themselves than they may have intended, in what they wrote on Pink News.