Metro Weekly

Change.org petition asks to “drop the T” from equality movement

Signatories say transgender concerns need to be dealt with separately from LGB issues

Stonewall riots

Stonewall riots

An online petition wants to sever ties between the gay, lesbian and bisexual community and their transgender allies. It claims that equality organizations and media outlets often conflate concerns of the transgender community as being identical to those of cisgender individuals.

The petition, posted on change.org, had gathered 1,500 signatures as of 8 p.m. Monday, from gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals who wish to disassociate themselves with the transgender movement. The petition asks organizations like the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD and Lambda Legal, and publications including The Advocate, Out magazine and HuffPost Gay Voices to stop representing the transgender community, saying that the transgender community’s ideology is “completely different” from that of the wider LGB community and “is ultimately regressive and actually hostile to the goals of women and gay men.”

According to the petition, transgender and gender non-binary individuals have harassed or physically threatened women and gays or lesbians who disagree with transgender advocates, labeling such dissenters as hateful or “transphobic.” The petition also invokes the “bathroom issue” that generally dominates debates over transgender nondiscrimination laws, accusing transgender individuals of infringing upon the privacy of women in locker rooms, bathrooms, shelters and other gender-specific facilities.

The petition also accuses the transgender movement of appropriating and attempting to rewrite the history of the gay rights movement by casting people who identified as men or “transvestites” in the early day as transgender individuals. It is particularly critical of the three media outlets named in its petition for advancing the position that transgender individuals are responsible for the birth of the gay rights movement, including specific events like the Stonewall riots. Lastly, the petition accuses the transgender community of attempting to influence parents and health professionals to diagnose children expressing gender dysphoria as transgender at younger and younger ages, even if the majority of such children later no longer identify as transgender.

“Ideologically, it runs counter to traditional LGB and feminist philosophy,” the petition reads. “whereas feminists and gay men/women advocate for expanding and re-defining (sic) gender concepts, the trans movement is regressive, insisting upon re-asserting and codifying classic gender concepts of what is masculine and what is feminine.”

The petition authors insist they are not advocating for intolerance or prejudice against the transgender community, but believe that transgender rights infringe upon the rights of others, including “women, gay men and children.”

“At the very least, a discussion must be opened up to these issues, which for too long are being suppressed and censored — they are genuine concerns that need to be aired,” the petition says. “In the end, we feel that the transgender ideology is not compatible with the rights of women, gay men and children and ask that the organizations and media outlets mentioned above disassociate themselves from the transgender movement and return to representing their base support of gay men and lesbians.”

The right-wing website The Federalist posted an interview with the author of the petition, who is referred to by the pseudonym “Clayton.” According to Clayton, many LGB individuals are uncomfortable being associated with the transgender community, but are afraid to speak out.

“Any attempt to rationally discuss issues that gays/lesbians/bisexuals are concerned about regarding the trans movement is met with unparalleled vitriol, harassment, death threats, and silencing — demanding that the person commenting contrary to the trans narrative be banned from forums, for example,” Clayton tells The Federalist’s David Marcus, citing the closure of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, which excluded transgender women as an example. Clayton also expresses concern that parents and health professionals are forcing children into identifying as transgender at an early age.

“So many gays and lesbians were ‘sissies’ and ‘tomboys’ as kids, I think they see themselves in these children and are concerned about them being directed down an inaccurate path,” says Clayton. He also argues that there is a distinction between the LGB community and the transgender community, saying, “Gay/bisexual men and women just ARE — we don’t need medicine or surgery to help us become who we believe we are,” and advocating that the two movements part ways when fighting for their respective rights.

The LGBT organizations named in the petition issued statements denouncing it and rejecting the assertions made by Clayton. Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, called the petition “unequivocally wrong,” noting that “The hate that killed Matthew Shepard killed Zella Ziona,” referring to the most recent murder of a transgender woman of color, in Gaithersburg, in October. 

“The idea that we are somehow separate and apart is patently untrue,” said Griffin. “We are one movement, stronger in our unity. We are one community, period. And the Human Rights Campaign will not be done working until equality reaches every single one of us.”

“GLAAD stands firmly with the transgender community and unequivocally rejects the outrageous and destructive idea that the ‘T’ be removed from LGBT,” GLAAD CEO and President Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. “For decades, transgender people have worked alongside lesbian, gay, and bisexual people to advance equality for everyone, often leading the way in the movement for full equality and acceptance. Many trans people are also lesbian, gay, and bisexual — they are an inextricable and invaluable part of the LGB community. At a time when anti-LGBT activists continue to attack the basic rights and protections essential to all of our lives, we must stand together, rather than succumb to the ruin of divisiveness.”

“It is unfortunate that we even need to respond to this divisive petition because we did not wish to draw more attention to it, but let us be clear: We reject the call to divide our movement and the wrong-headed reasons offered by those supporting this petition,” wrote Lambda Legal in response. “We are fighting together for an end to discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation as well as gender identity and expression because these are all forms of prejudice and abuses of power that are rooted in hatred, fear and a lack of understanding of those who are perceived as not conforming to gender stereotypes.

“Transgender people helped lead the way for our movement’s liberation at Stonewall and even before then,” Lambda Legal continued. “We are one movement commonly seeking the liberty to be our true and full selves, to be free from acts of bias and to live our lives with dignity. When times get tough — as they have in the recent political loss in Houston, and in the many tragic instances of murder and suicide across the country — we must strengthen our community and our movement for justice, not divide it. Lambda Legal will never stop fighting for all LGBT people and people living with HIV. We will win together.”

Other LGBT activists have since created their own petition on Change.org to counter the attempt to drive a wedge between members of the community. As of Monday evening, 2,946 people had signed onto the “We stand with trans people – Reject ‘Drop the T’” petition. 

“We utterly reject the notion that the association of trans rights and issues under the LGBTQ+ umbrella is ‘regressive and actually hostile to the goals of women and gay men,’ writes the counter-petition’s author, Jonathan Boniface of Hexham, in the United Kingdom. “Further, we argue that the petition by ‘Drop the T’ is little more than thinly veiled transphobia which puts forward a whole range of misconceptions that will actively perpetuate discrimination against trans people. …We urge you reject their petition and continue to work the rest of the LGBT+ umbrella to promote the wellbeing of all those within our community.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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