Is Transgender Umbrella too wide?

Gay Pride umbrella. (Photo: Caroline Léna Becker/Wikimedia Commons)
LGBT Pride umbrella. (Photo: Caroline Léna Becker/Wikimedia Commons)

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.

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“Let harmlessness be the keynote of your life.” — Alice Bailey

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7 thoughts on “Is Transgender Umbrella too wide?”

  1. I do agree that people should attempt to be good representative of the community at public locations. I’ve seen and experienced some of the more boorish behavior. I have also been disappointed in the lack of support for causes like marriage equality from many people I know at the CD and of the spectrum. Ot seems like they’re getting a “free ride” if they aren’t going to be a little more supportive of LGBT equality as a whole. Our detractors love nothing more than infighting and disunity.

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  2. You know what I find most shameful is that Dianne has to be afraid to post this. The gay community gained widespread legal and social acceptance only when it relegated the marginal parts of the community to the kink scene.

    When your “umbrella” becomes a circus tent, people will only laugh at the clowns. Just ask the GOP.

    If you are a male and identify as a male, but like to wear women’s clothing in your basement, you need to ask yourself if you are simply wanting to benefit from the sincere courage (with many having been killed and maimed for that courage) of those who live openly 24/7. If you are ok with that then God Bless You, because I won’t.

    And for the cowards who will fill inclined to fill my email with more hate and threats, I’m a wounded combat veteran. Fight me in public so the rest of the world can see your drivel.

    You speak for me, Dianne. Take the hazmat suit off!

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    1. Hi I am not quite sure where I fit in the trans umbrella. But I do tend to agree with Dianne. I am a crossdresser who goes out 2-3 times a week with others in all stages of transition, personally I just love the beautiful clothes nail painting & makeup & socialising with others I am taking herbal phyto-eastrogens which do work but not as aggressively as prescribed hormones so I am a bit more femme than before & like it.
      I have been beaten up & hospitalised whilst dressed so know that side of it too .
      I am married with children & open with my wife although she is not totally happy withit, but at home & at work as a mechanic! I am male, some men from work have seen me out & surprisingly only made a few comments back at work & some wolf whistles!! in gest but just don’t seem to mention it any more so like me … just accept I enjoy a part time life in femme mode…my personality is slightly femme I hate the typical mysoginist male way of life. I feel a bit like a Tom Girl !!!! & I am very grateful to have a supportive Trans community around me & would feel very hurt & abandoned if as a crossdresser/Tom Girl I were to be pushed out coz I won’t /don’t want to be a full time woman.

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  3. No asbestos suit required. Just a lot more experience in the community and within advocacy of rights. The umbrella is actually just simply Human Rights. Equality and treatment with care and respect for all. Every single Trans person starts somewhere. Every single trans person steps out in public for the first time and it is never pretty, never passable, never a problem for anyone else. If your identity cannot stand those that are not privileged with “passing” then your insecurities are your own.

    The father that wears a princess dress to make his daughter feel safe. The father that puts on a dress so that his trans daughter feels safe. The drag queen that takes the stage to try out her identity for the first time or one of my best friends who cross dresses continuously and has for years (in public) and is known everywhere in SW Ontario. She will never transition (probably) but is equally entitled to her identity. The trans women that would sell her soul to pass just once, but still has the courage each day to be who she is and get called out for it every day. They are all courageous and deserve our love and respect. They all face transphobia, and we fight to end transphobia! That is the umbrella!

    And if you are sticking a label, limits or value on someone elses identity and life because they make you uncomfortable, then you will need that suit.

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    1. Not everyone who cross dresses or does drag are trans some are just gay men doing a job and some people who cross dress has no desire to be female and are not fighting a battle so no I don’t think those people need to use transgender.Sorry but I do not agree with your statement, Yes human rights are one thing g but that’s not what the artical is about.

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      1. Some have missed the point as usual. Dianne isn’t talking about people questioning or discriminating against people who pass or not ( who cares if you don’t you still have the right to live your life.). Dianne is calling out people who put on women’s clothing and makeup them proceed to act like misogynistic pigs. Ogling women, being rude to other women is not more acceptable because you do so in a skirt. Using the good will of the trans community to find acceptance for misogyny is wrong. Period.

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  4. Back when I was little as well early on Transgender meant female brain boy body. Now in Canada transgender means every person under the gender spectrum practically. Cross dressers, Drag Queens, and every other person can call them self Transgender. Not to be rude but get your own term. I’m not living this way because it’s fun and I don’t live this way on weekends or part time or whatever my brain is female and I’m medically transitioning to feel comfortable in my body as much as I can. I think it can really mess with people who are in the beginning stages of figuring out who they are and I wish transgender meant what it did back when I found out about it.

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