Rainbow Rant: Can the queer and transgender community reconcile?

Joy Ellison

A lesbian friend once asked me if I was sure transgender people belonged in the same community as queer people. The question hurt and enraged me, but for a long time I felt so unwelcome in queer spaces that I wondered myself.

Slowly, finally, the queer community has started to embrace transgender people as an integral part of the LGBT family. As a member of both communities, however, I love my queer people too much to lie to you: You all still have a lot of work to do before trans people can trust you.

Trans people have long memories. Chances are good we remember that thing you said five years ago, before the so-called trans tipping point introduced you to Janet Mock and Laverne Cox and you decided we had a cause after all.

We remember what you said before marriage equality passed and you started feeling secure enough in your privilege to care about our survival.

Yeah, we remember, even if you forgot.

I remember the things queer loved ones told me as I was coming out as trans: You don't look non-binary. It's too hard to use your pronouns. You're too angry.

When I'm feeling compassionate, I see queer rejection of transgender people as evidence of a deep wound for which queer people are still developing language. Many queer people fear being seen as gender transgressive and treated like trans people. Patriarchy and the gender binary damage all of us.

When I'm feeling less magnanimous, I think that some queer people – mostly white and financially secure queer people — are happy enough to sacrifice trans people to maintain their privilege.

Trans people remember not only what you said, but what you did.

In 2007, former Democratic Rep. Barney Frank, who publicly came out as gay in the 1980s, cut protections for transgender people from his Employment and Non-Discrimination Act. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) did not officially oppose or support the decision. Only after same-sex marriage was instated by the Supreme Court did HRC start to prioritize transgender issues.

We remember Columbus Pride 2017 when you cheered while police beat the Black Pride 4 for demonstrating during the Pride parade.

We remember your years of silence while trans women of color were murdered. We remember how queer people have responded to Trump's attacks on the trans community with little more than memes.

I believe most queer people do support the trans community more wholeheartedly than they once did. But I can't help myself: I'm still waiting for an apology.