John Aravosis: How did the T get in LGBT?

Roundup: Media's Take

[Mr. Aravosis is a longtime activist.]

Like an ever-expanding mushroom cloud of diversity, every few years America's gay leaders and activists welcome a new category of member to the community. Wikipedia walks us through our complicated family history:

"LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered] or GLBT are the most common terms [to describe the gay community] ... When not inclusive of transgender people it is shortened to LGB. It may also include two additional Qs for queer and questioning (sometimes abbreviated with a question mark) (LGBTQ, LGBTQQ, GLBTQ2); a variant being LGBU, where U stands for "unsure", an I for intersex (LGBTI), another T for transsexual (LGBTT), another T (or TS or the numeral 2) for two-spirited people, and an A for straight allies or asexual (LGBTA). At its fullest, then, it is some permutation of LGBTTTIQQA."

In simpler times we were all gay. But then the word "gay" started to mean "gay men" more than women, so we switched to the more inclusive "gay and lesbian." Bisexuals, who were only part-time gays, insisted that we add them too, so we did (not without some protest), and by the early 1990s we were the lesbian, gay and bisexual, or LGB community. Sometime in the late '90s, a few gay rights groups and activists started using a new acronym, LGBT -- adding T for transgender/transsexual. And that's when today's trouble started.

America's gay community, or rather, its leadership, is apoplectic over the imminent passage of the first federal gay civil rights legislation, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA. ENDA would make it illegal for an employer to fire, or refuse to hire or promote, an otherwise qualified candidate simply because of their sexual orientation (gay, straight, lesbian or bisexual). (Contrary to popular belief, it is legal to fire someone for being gay under federal law and in 31 states.) You'd think this would be cause for celebration, but not so much.

ENDA was first introduced 30 years ago. In all that time, it only protected sexual orientation and never included gender identity. This year, that changed, and gender identity was added to the bill. Coincidentally, this year is also the first time that ENDA actually has a real chance of passing both the House and Senate -- but only if gender identity isn't in the bill. So the bill's author, openly gay Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., dropped the transgendered from the bill, and all hell broke loose. Gay activists and 220 national and local gay rights groups angrily demanded that gender identity be put back in the bill, guaranteeing its defeat for years to come. Many of them, suddenly and conveniently, found all sorts of "flaws" with legislation that they had embraced the previous 29 years. They convinced House Democratic leaders to delay action on ENDA till later in October. They'd rather have no bill at all than pass one that didn't include the transgendered....
Read entire article at Salon

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More Comments:

Joseph Mutik - 10/16/2007


John R. Maass - 10/16/2007

This is not an historical article, and should be posted on a more appropriate site.

Marjorie McLellan - 10/15/2007

a correction to my earlier comment.
From Salon.com:
"Susan Stryker currently holds the Ruth Wynn Woodward Endowed Chair of Women's Studies at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, B.C. She is former executive director of the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco, co-director of the Emmy-winning film "Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton's Cafeteria" and co-editor of the Lambda Literary Award-winning "Transgender Studies Reader."

Marjorie McLellan - 10/15/2007

Aravois, in his response to letters to the editor at Salon.com writes: “I'm feeling a little thrown off the bus myself at the expense of someone else.” The someone else are the many American transsexuals who also have experience living in unfriendly “locales” without legal protections. After Aravois’ essay, HNN readers would do well to read Simon Fraser University Professor Susan Stryker’s reply, “Why the T in LGBT is here to stay” (http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2007/10/11/transgender/).