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Why Is Transsexuality Included In LGBT?


I apologise for writing an article that will likely be relevant to only a few of my readers but a friend was looking for an article like this so I decided to write one. Namely: Why is transsexuality or “T” included in the LGBT cause?

I think some people will actually not realise why there is a question, because they actually equate transsexuality with being lesbian or gay. That’s… an extremely crude misinterpretation. Not all homosexuals want to change their sex, and not all transsexuals were homosexual as their birth sex (though it’s rare for a transsexual not to experience being lesbian, gay, or bisexual at some point before or after their transition).

More often the question will be posed because the questioner realises that transsexuality does not have that much to do with being lesbian or gay or bisexual in itself. L, G, and B refer to those you’re attracted to – exclusively. Lesbians are women who just like women, gays (in the stricter definition) are men who just like men, bi people like both, there’s nothing more to it.

To be homosexual you don’t need to take on characteristics of the opposite sex. Many homosexual people *do*, though I wonder if they do it in part to show their identity; or perhaps just because, as gender-variant people already due to their attraction, they have nothing to lose in society and feel more free to be gender-variant in other ways.

That said, there are plenty of lesbian women who are totally feminine, and gay men who are absolutely masculine. There’s nothing shocking or rare about this. Maybe the stereotypical homosexuals stand out more in the average person’s consciousness. But, yes, there are plenty of homosexual people who feel absolutely comfortable in a typical masculine or feminine identity as expected for their gender.


In the same way, transsexuality has nothing to do with same-sex attraction in itself. There are actually some e.g. male-to-female transsexuals who were attracted to women at first, and then after the psychological and hormonal changes become attracted to men. More often as I said a trans person experiences homosexuality or bisexuality either before or after their change, though it should be noted that homosexuality is never usually a reason for people to change their sex – it just commonly accompanies the whole process. People change their sex because their identity feels more in line with the opposite sex. Because that’s who they feel they “are” deep down. Because they can’t feel beautiful if their image is the “wrong” one every time they look in the mirror. The people they are attracted to is just a visceral consideration in all this.

So why *is* the T included in LGBT??

There are the obvious reasons mentioned above. Transsexuals almost always experience homosexuality or bisexuality somewhere along the line. Lesbians and gays, as well as occasionally turning out to have been transsexual people all along, tend to express some gender variant-behaviour besides their attraction.

I think the deeper answer though is that all the letters in the LGBT acronym stand for some sort of gender-variance. Besides whatever other gender-variance a homosexual or a bisexual might express, they are breaking the gender-norm just by having same-sex attraction. Though this is very different from transsexuality, society sees it as the same thing because it has an investment in holding people down in rigid sets of gender expression, including who you are attracted to as well as the clothes you wear or the things you do. All the letters in the LGBT paradigm are rebellion against this.

For breaking the rules of gender, everyone in the LGBT community is under attack from society. They’re all under attack from the same elements of society, which often even equate homosexuality, bisexuality and transsexuality. Therefore, we are largely subject to the same discrimination, despite being actually different. For this reason, at least, we have something in common – shared interests and experiences – and we stand to benefit from a mutual alliance.

I think we can all understand each other well too. While I haven’t found perfect acceptance as a trans person among all gay people, most seem to be on my side. There’s a sense of common cause or understanding of what it’s like to be rejected by society, a sense of camaraderie, even if they don’t always understand me entirely.

And of course I am on their side.

Well, I’m bisexual. I’m one of them.


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{ 2 comments… add one }

  • Lisa July 31, 2012, 3:24 pm

    > the bottom line is the attack is coming from
    > the same direction for all of us and all of us
    > stand to benefit from a mutual alliance

    While I agree that the majority of the attacks are coming from vaguely the same direction let’s also remember the hostility which comes from different places for different people in L, G, B and T, including intra-community hostility that flows within “LGBT” from GBT men to LBT women, from LGT monosexual (attracted to broadly one sex) people to bisexual people and from LGB cissexual people to trans* people, as well as hostility that flows along non-LGBT-indicated dynamics such as racism, classism, disablism and ageism. Mentioning this isn’t dividing the community – it’s acknowledging existing divisions which, unacknowledged, would exclude only those who are attacked, rather than holding, as we should, the attackers to account.

    Also when writing about transsexual people, it would be good if you used the language that we broadly use about ourselves, which you can widely encounter in our various writing. Few transsexual women speak of ourselves as “men who become women”, as explained in this article, written by a transman:

    This is why I question the value of phrases like “man in a woman’s body” or “male to female.” Who is to say we ever were the “opposite sex?” Personally I will never again describe myself as “born female.” I was born a trans male and my years of confusion were due to being forcefully and repeatedly told that I was something else. This body is not a woman’s. It is mine. Neither am I trapped in it.

  • Sophia Gubb July 31, 2012, 5:20 pm

    Hi Lisa, thanks for commenting :)

    I’m learning the nuances of language slowly. I remember at the beginning of my transition using the phrase “sex change” and then feeling keenly uncomfortable whenever anyone echoed that back at me because of the obvious issues that phraseology contains. “So I heard you got a sex change”… hah, is there any way to make such a massive concept as a gender transition more crude and misleading?

    I’ll try to be more rigorous with my language in future but in the mean time hold with me :)

    Love!

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