By Dianne Skoll
LGBT Perspectives columnist
OTTAWA — I’m slightly hesitant to write this column … please pardon me while I don my asbestos suit … there we go.
A friend of mine recently brought up an interesting point: Is the so-called “Transgender Umbrella” too wide? Do we include people who are hurting the transgender cause?
I’m thinking specifically of some closeted cross-dressers and fetish dressers. Now please don’t get me wrong: It’s absolutely, perfectly fine to be a closeted cross-dresser or a fetish dresser; whatever makes people happy and doesn’t hurt anyone else is fine with me. However, if cross-dressers go out in public in vanilla settings, then like it or not, they provide an impression of the transgender community as a whole.
I have been in situations where guys have dressed in femme clothes completely inappropriate for the occasion: A really short, tight dress, killer heels and fishnet stockings in a family restaurant. Over-the-top clownish makeup. And worst of all, boorish behaviour including ogling waitresses and making suggestive comments.
Cross-dressers need a safe space. A transgender social club meeting? Fine, go nuts… dress however you want. A fetish nightclub? Ditto. But out in public? Discretion, please.
If closeted cross-dressers want to be under the transgender umbrella in order to enjoy the fruits of activism by people who have transitioned or by gender-fluid people who are out and public, I think we have a right to ask them to represent our community in a positive way. And conversely, I think the transgender community has a right to distance itself from those who would represent us badly and jeopardize our hard-won political and civil rights gains.
“Let harmlessness be the keynote of your life.” — Alice Bailey